Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Network Effect, by Martha Wells

 Murderbot is back! I just had to...

Spoilers \/ \/ \/

Dear reader(s) know I love me some Murderbot. And in this one, number 5 in the series, I get not two, but three of the killing machines! 

But how? Well, software for one, and a surprise for another. No, despite the spoiler warning above, I still won't tell you. But it was awesome and makes me wonder if I should read #6.

As usual, our lovely curmudgeonly Murderbot and his don't-touch-me-dirty-human self gets a bunch of stupid humans out of trouble. But gets into trouble himself. Who gets him out of it? ART returns, as does the surprise. Alas, no humans save him, but they love him and care for him and like him and wanna hug him. But they don't. 

I'm wondering where this'll go with #6. Will he go off with ART and come back? Or will he not return to the humans who love him? We'll see.

Spoilers, up there ^^^

Murderbot is a great sci-fi series, from an author who apparently is a fantasy author. Brava, ma'am!

Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Trial, by Kafka

 I finished this yesterday morning, but forgot to post about it. 

Spoilers below:

Holy shit! The ending. WTF?! 

This whole thing, Jeez. Bureaucracy. Crazy. No idea what the charge is. Or was. Or if the trial had started. Or not. Or what the hell the lawyer(s) were talking about. Or the court officials. 

And most of the people Joseph K runs into work for the courts. Like in some countries I've lived in. Oy. 

The women, though. Again, male writer. A product of the author's age, or written this way purposefully? 

I told my wife The Trial is as much a dystopia as We or even 1984. Only not as far developed, K's world, I mean. But she reminded me that this book could be a critique on the justice system in Kafka's country at the time. Then we couldn't decide if that was France or Germany or ???  Or I could simply accept Hannah Arendt's theory that "no man is free from guilt."

I liked it, overall. I have to accept that a) the author didn't want his book(s) published (supposedly) and 2) that the author didn't want K, or the reader, to know what the crime was. Ugh.

Spoilers above ^^^

Not sure when/if I'll read another Kafka. This one was a family book club choice from my SIL, so I thank her for this choice. Wikipedia puts this book in four genres (sub-genres?): philosophical, dystopian, absurdist, paranoid fiction. I think I can agree on all counts. Phew!

Friday, May 27, 2022

Money in the Bank, by Wodehouse

 Another great read from the Master. Interesting that the wife and I were talking recently about some authors' inability to write women. Specifically we were discussing Hemingway, his Maria in Bell Tolls was ugh. So plastic, subservient and boring. 

But Wodehouse, no. His female characters have pluck, have personalities, lead themselves equally in most cases. Mrs. Clarissa Cork, woman on the savannah, killer of beasts, she was spectacular. Ditto Anne Benedick. Yet, Mr. Wodehouse still writes them with a care that I appreciate; I still want my characters to fall in love and live happily ever after. This he does so well. 

I got this book recently in a great deal from a bookstore in Oregon. They popped up on Abebooks with several Collector's Wodehouse editions in great shape and low price. So I bought four. Of course. And now I have to stay away from their presence on the website for fear of buying more. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022


 Not a big poetry guy, but there are two poems that I just can't get enough of: Goblin Market and Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. What do we do with poems? Italics? 

When I start Goblin Market (every year or so), I wonder: Did Rosetti not follow her English teacher's rules? 

“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—"

Where's the rhymes? Now, Childe Roland, that's another thing altogether.

MY first thought was, he lied in every word,  
That hoary cripple, with malicious eye  
Askance to watch the working of his lie
On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford
Suppression of the glee, that purs’d and scor’d;
Its edge, at one more victim gain’d thereby. 

That's the start of perhaps the best poem in English. (Idylls of the King may be a contender.) 

No, I don't read a lot of poetry. Yes, I read these two poems often. What do you think?

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Honey for the Bears, by Anthony Burgess

 Another great book by Anthony Burgess. Why is he only known for A Clockwork Orange? Yes, yes, that book is brilliant. But I'm batting 1.000 for 3 books so far. And I'll keep coming up to the Burgess plate as long as they are this good.

Spoilers below:

Paul Hussey (Gussey, по-русски!) is bringing several dozen hi-tech dresses into Leningrad to sell, with the intent of giving most of the money to his best friend's (his very best friend's) wife. The Soviets have other ideas, though, as one would expect in the early 1960s. 

His wife is ill when the book opens, and except for one fun night with a bunch of drunk westerners, she's out of the picture, hospitalized. Sadly for Paul, it is in the USSR that he discovers not only his wife's indiscretions but also realizes he's not too sure about his own sexuality. (Thankfully, that's not a big part of this book.) 

He doesn't sell the dresses, but still leaves the USSR without them, regretting not giving one Russian mother the white one for her daughter's wedding. And his shadows, agents/comrades Karamzin and Zverkov, prime examples of the species, are done so well I wonder if Burgess had spent time in the Soviet Union and been pulled into secondary. 

The Russia of Burgess's book is a Russia I recognize. The food, the drink, the government agents. The Russians. Paul's teeth play a major role and the departure scene, Leningrad to Helsinki on the Alexander Radishchev, is one of the funniest I've read that isn't in a Wodehouse or Sharp. 

Spoilers above.

Like I said, Burgess is genius. I have yet in my Kindle Tremor of Intent and The Doctor is Sick. Unsure which of those, when I'm ready to read him again, will be next. And I must complement the publisher and whomever designed the cover: Respectable English gentleman with sputnik (spoot-nick, not spyut-nick) as his head. Nicely done.

For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Hemingway

 Not my favorite of Hemingway's books. Not by a long shot. "Read" this one on Audible. 

Spoilers follow.

Set in '30s Spain. War. Right up my alley, falling between the Wars as I like. Some interesting parts to this book. The author gave us the feeling of Spanish in his dialogues; thee, thou, wouldst, those sorts, in line with the informal you (tu) of español. 

The guerrilla warfare part of this long novel was great. Could come from a textbook on asymmetric warfare. I don't know enough about the Spanish civil war (beyond the wonderful, and perhaps my favorite Picasso, painting Guernica), but one doesn't have to know that much to read this book. 

But good God, ok, I get it Robert Jordan, I mean, Roberto: you love Maria. OK. ¡suficiente! Dear God by the end I was praying for her death. 

One thing I like about Hemingway's writing (A Clean Well-Lighted Place...so perfect!) is he doesn't follow the rules. None of this "dump the adverbs; show don't tell; use verbs other than say." Every single dialogue in this book except maybe two times IIRC used "he said" or "she said." Once I remember "he insisted" and there was another one I took note of but can't recall now. Refreshing.

Still, that too-perfect love crap--if I had read it cold not knowing the author I would have immediately known it was a male author. So unrealistic. Great ending though! (No, my prayer was not answered.)

Spoilers done.

This is on my Classics 50 list, so that's one more off the list. Still 40-something left, but also still four and a half years!

Friday, May 13, 2022

The Double, by Jose Saramago

 This is my first Saramago that I've read. My wife loved Blindness. I couldn't get into it years ago when I attempted it. But this one...


There's no real chapters. There are breaks between scenes, but not always. Sometimes the POV changes within one of these sections. But otherwise, this is pure stream of consciousness stuff. Not even dialog. Or, rather, dialog is separated by commas, all within the same paragraph. Very strange. 

The Double deals with two identical people. Not twins. Not closely similar. But the exact same person. A scar that one of them gets when younger, the other one has. Everything the same. Yes, even the penis. 

There are women involved, and yes, each one sleeps with the other's woman. But the ending...unsuspected. It really shocked me.

Spoilers done.

While reading this, another Saramago came up in Kindle deals: The Cave. Certainly a future read.

Monday, May 9, 2022

The Clicking of Cuthbert, by PG Wodehouse

 Wasn't sure what I'd think of a golf story. I mean, I've learned a lot about quidditch, I mean, cricket, from Wodehouse stories. But golf? Golf is a boring game. Yes, I know there are techniques one must master in order to be good at the game, but still, boring. Baseball possibly more boring. Don't care.

But these stories are funny. Mostly due to the situations these golfers get into, and mostly due to women. Golfers attracted to women-golfers, or supposed golfers. Or women finally finding the man she loves, reminiscent of the romances she reads, on the links. 

This book really is a series of short stories, the common thread being "the oldest member" of a particular golf club. Not my favorite Wodehouse, especially after reading Laughing Gas. But still...

The names of the clubs. I had to research some etymology. Wodehouse uses "niblick" quite often. I guess you golfers know this, but for us non-golfers, a "niblick" is a "small, narrow-headed iron golf club," and has been in use in English since the mid-1800s. There was also, IIRC, a "mashy niblick," but of course now I can't find a website about it. What we really need is a website of all the golf terms found in Wodehouse. 

I only read this due to the FB Wodehouse Book of the Month club. Otherwise I would not have chosen this book. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

 I never would have read this, but my wife speaks so highly of it, so thought I'd give it a try. 

Holy crap! This is literature. Don't think of Bradbury as "just" a sci-fi author. This man could write. The descriptions, especially of the carnival, are so well done that I would put this guy, or at least this work, up there with Master and Margarita

There were some scary moments, and I can see that when this was written (early '60s), this would have been read by young kids (13-16) who would have understood all these "big words" that the same generation today won't understand. Absolutely lovely. 

I was one of those of my generation (I'm in my mid-50s) who (probably) only read Bradbury's short story "The Veldt" (or something like that). I recall that story being good, but I was in my teens, so who the hell knows (don't ask me what I think about Stranger in a Strange Land nowadays, or God forbid, Ringworld). 

This. Book. Rocks. Read it. You'll love it. 

In other news, wife and I will probably watch the movie this weekend. I know nothing of it, so this'll be fun.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab

 Great book. I'm on a roll.  Spoilers : Adeline "Addie" LaRue has a problem. She's being forced to marry. This is 1600s Fr...