Sunday, January 17, 2010
Books Read So Far This Year
Pirate Latitudes, by Michael Crichton
First book of the year and overall I enjoyed it for what it is. Crichton generally always delivers an action packed romp with likable characters, atypical villains (his weakness) and general bits of info parcelled throughout the narrative. I've heard a number of complaints online about this or that factoid of his being off-but generally I say so what. Nobody is going to be right all the time on the small stuff or even DNA in amber-its a story-so what? Let it ride, if you're going to pick up a Michael Crichton book you know what you are getting, why complain?
With every Crichton I have read there is generally an inciting incident that moves the plot giving us the whys and wherefores and making us intrigued. You don't get that this time and I can't help but think its because Crichton died before HE could submit this. The jacket says it was found in his files. And this is the one weakness to me about the book. It starts slower than it should have-its all setting but even then it's so slow. I am sure if Crichton had lived he would have put a "movie" inciting incident to go with it as well as fleshed out a few more scenes but no real complaint from me on anything else in that regard.
The book is divided in 5 parts and by the time part 2 is going you should be hooked, Pirates, I mean Privateers from Port Royal are out to take a Spanish galleon in a tiny harbor guarded by a deadly fortress, the crew must execute am Entebbe like raid just to survive. Much more to it than this of course but I was thoroughly hooked.
If you like action and Pirates, its a great book. Little more on the graphic side compared to Eaters of the Dead and Timeline but I recommend if you get past the 1st part.
Flatland, by Edwin A. Abbott
Math is not my thing, and this book is the darling of fictionalized mathematics for its unique view on multiple dimensions as well as a biting satire of the Victorian class system. I cannot understand the fascination with period decorum and manners give me a lusty broadsword any day.
But Flatland also takes a surprising look at objectivity and what we think we perceive, even if you believe yourself above others-even a god in your own universe. Mr. Abbott must be given a dimension of credit for his revolutionary concepts, as Flatland was written in 1884.
The Aztec: Man and Tribe, by Victor W. Von Hagen
This was published back in 58 and it does seem a tad outdated in a number of places in comparison to some more recent texts, but it still has a very concise format
easily allowing me to quickly look at this subject or that.
I'm currently working on a short story within the Aztec realm and while I readily admit The Aztec's by Nigel Davies is a superior book, it jumps around whereas Hagen's lets me easily look up subjects grouped in one heading rather than 3 in four different places.
Midnight Sun, by Karl Edward Wagner
This is the collection of short stories by KEW about his immortal sorcerer/swordsman Kane, yes that Cain. I have read these before but was really in the mood lately to give some of them another annual go round. They are all excellent examples of Heroic Fiction, though Kane is hardly a hero by the standard definition.
To listen to an excellent discussion on Heroism visit Writing Excuses my favorite podcast going with Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells and Howard Taylor.
The only stories I don't supremely admire and love are the ones where Kane is outside the ancient fantastical realm and in ours-Those modern stories are terrible IMAO. But the rest of these S&S tales are among the very best. I Highly recommend The Dark Muse, Cold Light, The Other One and Lynortis Reprise.
This Land: America 2,000 B.C. to 500 A.D. edited by Wayne May
This is the fourth This Land series and is a collection of articles and essays from the Ancient American magazine, a publication devoted to the strange and curious finds of archeology predominately found within North America. Things always go in rounds for me and this book is also divided into 5 parts. See if any of these intrigue you, The Mound builders, Giants in the Adena Timeline, OOPARTS-Out of Place and Time Artifacts, Ancient Copper Mines of Upper Michigan and Afterthoughts.
Mr. May has a fantastic collection of lost history that opens the vistas of imagination, articles are culled from current feature writers and some from archaeologist writing their discoveries in mounds spread throughout the Midwest and then even some re-telling the legends of Native Americans and the evidence that these "myths" did happen at least in part.
I was also honored to have Mr. May give me a back cover endorsement for my own speculative historical novel Heroes of the Fallen His work has given me a vast amount of background for painting that forgotten world. I appreciate it very much Wayne-Thank You.