Friday Forgotten: The Way the Future Was by Frederik Pohl

The Way the Future Was by Frederik Pohl, © 1978, Ballantine hardcover,  autobiography

It’s funny how books find a person. I used to stop by Fred Pohl’s blog every now and then, and he had the cover of this book up as a permanent header. Then one day Steve Davidson posted something on his blog about SF (or sci-fi, or science fiction, take your pick) fandom and that led me to some other comments which led me back to this book.

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I decided I wanted to read it. It wasn’t easy finding a (free) copy, as the local library had one in the catalog but they couldn’t locate it. I was finally able to get it via inter-library loan.

Once in my hands, I read it in a day or so, which is pretty quick for me, being a Slow Reader and all. The book begins with Pohl’s early interest in science fiction, beginning, as it did for so many, with a comic book. Later came the pulps and digest magazines and he was hooked. I know the feeling, I loved the Winston science fiction library books, but it was Astounding Science Fiction that really got me hooked.

Most of the book focuses on Pohl’s memories of becoming a fan, then the creation of fan groups, early efforts at writing, his first job as an editor and his career as SF writer and magazine editor, the latter mostly at Galaxy and If during the 1960’s. I found it all fascinating.

Then as the events in the book approach the time he was writing it (1976), he begins to wander into various editorial asides on such topics as cryogenics, UFOs, politics, handicapped children and other topics that are obviously close to his heart – or were at the time – but were of little interest to this reader. I skimmed the last fifty pages with little feeling that I was missing anything. There is much of interest here for the science fiction fan, but much that strays from what most will want to read.

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If you haven’t already voted, please, do it today!

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Current Reading: Tuckman, Harris

The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman, non-fiction. I’d heard about and read about this book for years, perhaps decades, so I thought it finally time to read it. I’d read a book or two about the Civil War not long ago, and thought a jump forward to WWI might do.

What I found was an extremely densely packed book so full of dates, facts, names and places that it was nearly overwhelming. It’s hard for me to evaluate Tuckman’s much-praised writing, what there is of it inserted between the avalanche of facts on every page. I suppose this just wasn’t the type of history I wanted, as Guns of August could well be a textbook instead of pleasure reading. I’m glad there wasn’t a test, because I didn’t finish the book.

The Happy Birthday Murder by Lee Harris, mystery. All you need to do is go back a post or two to see my review of this one for Forgotten Books on October 26. I need not say more, except to say again this isn’t an author or series I much cared for.

How about you?
What have you been reading lately?

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I received some nice things for my birthday, including – surprise! – books. Take a look.

So, lots of good reading ahead!

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Friday Forgotten: The Happy Birthday Murder by Lee Harris

The Happy Birthday Murder by Lee Harris, mystery, a Fawcett Book published by Ballantine Publishing Group © 2002. Christine Bennett Mysteries number 14. Edition read: ebook.

I’d not read any of this series, and picked this book solely because of the title. You see, today, Friday, is my birthday, so I thought something with the word “birthday” in the title would be appropriate. 

There are cozies, and cozies. Agatha Christie wrote cozies, and most would say Dorothy Sayers books are, and Chesterton’s Father Brown Stories, and many others. Mostly, anything not hard-boiled, or thriller, or dark and gritty, or serial killer might be labeled as a cozy by many.

This book is certainly a cozy, any violence is off stage. Characters are amateurs, setting is emphasized, but this book is what I’d call “cozy light”.

In this fourteenth of the series, Christine Bennett investigates 2 separate deaths that occurred within days of each other 12 years ago. Bennett learned of these deaths, by sorting through boxes filled with momentoes of her late aunt. Thinking her aunt had gone especially out of her way regards notes to the bereaved, Bennett wanted to meet those people. In talking with them, she discovered a small clue not noticed by the police twelve years ago: the two victims shoes had been switched, thus tying the deaths together.

What began to bother me about the book was the role Bennett plays in it. She’s a teacher, yet acts and functions as if she were a licensed detective, which she is most definitely not.

It seemed to me there was a lot of filler, and lot of talk without action, a lot of telling instead of showing. I finished the book, but I think I might have done a better job of choosing a birthday-themed book.

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Current Reading: Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

My reading has been slowing down during the nice Fall weather, we’ve been outside more and getting the garden ready for Winter. So, just one book this time.

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou – non-fiction. In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work.

The book tells the story of the rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar biotech startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end, despite pressure from its charismatic CEO and aggressive threats by her lawyers.

In Bad Blood, John Carreyrou tells the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley. I enjoyed this a lot, and so did Barbara. Incredible they could have gotten away with this for so long. A nod to George Kelley whose review of this brought it to my attention.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

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Friday Forgotten: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein – military science fiction. Originally published in 1959, my copy (shown) is the 1961 Signet edition.

Certainly not forgotten by the science fiction community, nevertheless not often read any more.

This one is considered a classic by the science fiction reading community, though those who have only seen the film, which frankly is not very good, may disagree. I decided to reread it after reading Jo Walton’s Brief History of the Hugo Awards. It’s one of several older SF novels I’m revisiting.

This novel follows a future world paratrooper from his entry into bootcamp though his first battles and onward as Earth fights alien races for dominance in space.

If this was published today, I doubt this would be as popular as it was in the Sixties, but at the time it was highly thought of and won a Hugo award. I enjoyed reading it again. Worth the time.

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Current Reading: Krueger, Dionne

Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger – mystery. A new Krueger book is always cause for celebration here, as he’s one of my favorite authors. This was, no surprise, a good one, with all of the characters, setting and strong plotting we’re used to in a Krueger novel.

When a liberal Senator’s plane crashes into a swampy area not far from Aurora, home of Cork O’Conner and his family, Cork is called out to help with the search for the plane, any survivors, and possibly the plane’s black box. But before much searching can get underway, the FBI shows up and pushes everyone else away. The plane wreckage is found, no survivors. The black box is missing. Everyone who started the early search is questioned in an extremely accusatory way, and then people begin getting injured and some just disappear. The tension mounts as the locals try to find out what is really going on, why there seem to be government black ops agents in the area, and why everyone is being threatened. Good one.

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne – mystery. This was short-listed for one of the major awards, so I thought I’d try it. A woman and her husband and child are living a peaceful life on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula when word comes of a prison break that changes their lives. Turns out the woman is the daughter of a kidnapped girl decades before who grew up in the marshes, off the grid. The escapee is her father, who killed two guards in his escape. She is determined to find him and bring him to justice, but her emotions are torn as she moves into the area she’s so familiar with from her youth, knowing all the while she doesn’t know what she will do when she finds her father.

Parts of this are atmospheric, the setting, as far as I could tell, well-drawn, the character interesting, but the novel as a whole didn’t click with me. Other readers will probably like it better.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

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Forgotten: Fanuilh by Daniel Hood

This is a revised version of a post that originally appeared in The Broken Bullhorn

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Fanuilh by Daniel Hood, Ace Books, April 1994

A successful blending of mystery and fantasy.

Here’s something a little different, this is both a mystery novel and a fantasy novel. The title character Fanuilh is a minature dragon, the familiar of the wizard Tarquin, who is stabbed to death.

Liam Rhenford, a young man just arriving to become apprenticed, discovers the body and the extremely distraught dragon. Together they set out to find the murderer. After initially being a suspect, the two work with a tough old captain of the city guard to solve the crime. Suspects include an actor with a beautiful sister, an herbalist who has a mysterious mistress, a wealthy merchant who believes he has been cheated and a girl who provided the wizard with virgin’s blood for a spell.

Hood does a good job giving the reader all the elements of both fantasy and mystery. This is the first of five novels in the series featuring Liam Rhenford and Fanuilh, and it’s quite good. Hood’s books are quite enjoyable, though the series is a bit uneven with some books stronger than others. That’s typical of series.

I found these to be somewhat reminiscent of Joel Rosenberg’s D’Shai and Hour of the Octopus, also very good mystery-fantasy blends that I highly recommend to anyone who has not read them.

The Rhenford & Fanuilh series:

  • Fanuilh – (Ace, April 1994)
  • Wizard’s Heir – (Ace, July 1995)
  • Beggar’s Banquet – (Ace, April 1997)
  • Scales of Justice – (Ace, March, 1998)
  • King’s Cure – (Ace, December, 2000)
Posted in Books & Reading, Friday Forgotten Books | 6 Comments

Meet Dexter

I mentioned on Monday that we got a new cat. Here he is.

We’d had to put Belle, our fifteen-year-old female, down due to ill health. We were very sad and missed her terribly, but decided we needed a new cat to put the purr back into the house.

So Sunday we went to a local shelter and found ourselves this handsome boy. He’s four years old, was named Simba at the shelter, but we have re-named him Dexter. Maybe it’s for a favorite fine jazz player of mine, Dexter Gordon or it could be for Colin Dexter, author of the Morse books. Doesn’t matter, we like the name for him.

So say hello to our new guy, Dexter. He’s good sized at 9 pounds, a real lover and he’s making a nice adjustment to his new home. We expect him to be here a long time.

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