Well, I looked at my Kindle this week and decided to go through it and read some of the short fiction and non-fiction that's been accumulating ... and YOU get to pay the price for it! Here's a bunch o' mini-reviews of the e-books that I've perused this week.
Heechee Rendezvous by Frederik Pohl. The third book in Pohl’s Heechee Saga, which began with the Hugo Award-winning Gateway, is an excellent sci-fi novel. The only problems are that you really need to have read the first two books in the series (or be familiar with Pohl’s Heechee Universe) to really know what is going on, and the story’s ending came on a little too quickly for my tastes. Good characterization and a good denouement to the series.
Beyond the Farthest Star by Edgar Rice Burroughs. A fun, if rather dated, sci-fi tale much along the lines of Burroughs’ Barsoom series. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the two episodes in this book were meant to be the precursor to a new adventure series. Tangor just didn’t get the push needed to join the ranks of John Carter, David Innes and Carson Napier in ERB’s pantheon of heroes. I would recommend it to fans of old-style science fiction and pulp adventures, but it will probably fall flat for fans of more modern science fiction styles.
Arctic Fever by Bruce Barcott. Excellent non-fiction about global warming, centering on the effects climate change is having on the food web of the Arctic, from plankton to people. Recommended.
A Flash of Inspiration: A Collection of Very Short Stories by Indie Authors compiled by Helmy Kusuma. A fascinating format for story-telling is shown to best effect in this collection. All of the stories are one-hundred words or less, and the way that particular challenge is met turns out to be some great reading. There are a lot of funny and poignant short tales, and I cannot recommend this e-book more highly.
Get Published by Infinite Ideas. An excellent primer and guide for the world of conventional book publishing and self-publishing. The only drawback is that it doesn’t really cover digital publishing options, such as Amazon Digital Text Platform and Smashwords.
God in the Machine: A Short Story by Thea Atkinson. Very interesting and atmospheric short story. Within two paragraphs, you know exactly where you are and what you are seeing through the characters’ eyes. Recommended.
After Shock: The Blast That Shook Psycho Platoon by T. Christian Miller. Excellent look at the unseen effects that explosions have on our troops, causing brain injuries even through the protection of armored vehicles. Recommended.
The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin by William S. Burroughs. Short but interesting overview of the unique technique that Gysin pioneered to give new meaning to previously written works. The technique has been used by people ranging from Burroughs himself to Frank Zappa.
Queer by William S. Burroughs. Typical Burroughs, this time relating quasi-biographical William Lee and the alternative lifestyle he pursued while living as a virtual expatriate in Mexico. Definitely recommended.
Out of a Dark Mind by Ian Woodhead and Laurie Ricard. Some pretty good short stories in the horror genre, definitely very British. Like most short story collections, some are great, some of blah. None are exceptionally bad in any sense of the word. “Lumps” is my favorite story in the collection.
The Whisker of Hercules by Kenneth Robeson. A Doc Savage pulp adventure, the134th in the long-running series. Doc and his five aides face off against some crooks that seem to have actual Herculean abilities. It is standard Robeson and very enjoyable.
Aces High and Shadows of My Mind by Kristina Jackson. These two are both fairly short ghost stories, both set in the environs of Great Britain. The first suffers from a lot of typos and one missing point of explanation (at least in my mind, but I’m not going to spoil the story my relating what I thought that point was here). The second is a fairly well-written ghost story with some unique paranormal twists. Both are available free on Smashwords.
THE BAD (WELL, REALLY JUST MEDIOCRE):
The Civil War: A Brief History by Charles River Editors. This touches on the high points of the conflict much like a Senior High School term paper would. I’m trying to understand why, out of all the pictures in the book, the only one with any identification was that of Abraham Lincoln. But then, I’m sure most people recognize General McClellan from his position on the five dollar bill...
The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook Presents: A Magical Christmas Menu Sample by Dinah Bucholz. Plain Christmas fare with little hint of Hogwarts in them, right down to pedestrian naming. The recipes at least appear to be working one.
The Boy Scouts with the Motion Picture Players by Robert Shaler. I’m a fan of old juvenile fiction series, such as Tom Swift, Rick Brandt, The Radio Boys and the like, but this particular book was pretty dull. By their nature, they’re usually a tad dated and full of too much exposition, but this one was just plain boring. This was the first book in this particular series that I’ve read, and it didn’t exactly endear me to reading any more of them.
Struwwelpeter: Merry Tales and Funny Pictures by Heinrich Hoffmann. I decided to read this simply because a line of one of the rhymes had been used in a story during Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol comic book. The rhymes are interesting but make little sense. They are also very much akin to the more bloody versions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales ... I guess European children have different sensibilities. The book is very short and as such may be worth a read for the aficionados of the strange.
THE UGLY (ACTUALLY THE REALLY BAD STUFF):
Rock and Roll: A Brief History by Charles River Editors. I’d expect high marks on this one if I was turning it in as a grade school term paper, but nothing more. At least it had some good pictures. I suppose you could easily use this book to make a proper outline to write a proper essay on the subject.
The Game by Kevin Tomsett. This book is basically fifteen minutes to an hour of your life that you will never get back. The closest analogy that I can make to what I think the author might have been shooting for is “Grey’s Anatomy meets The Most Dangerous Game.” The story is about an erstwhile serial killer picking victims, and unfortunately there are so many flaws in the process that it defies all belief and logic. The poor punctuation and grammar does not help matters, but I can usually forgive that on indie books. It does score on one point: You WILL remember it and you will tell people about it. Much like you would tell people of a raging fire in the next room or an oncoming hurricane. I’ve heard that the author is re-writing it, so hopefully the next draft will be more enjoyable - the plotline has potential, but needs some energy to direct it.
If I Did It by O. J. Simpson. This is the single worst piece of fiction/non-fiction I’ve ever read in my life. You can hear the smarmy self-righteousness in every word. I haven't used my speed-reading skills since I got my Kindle, until I started this book. There’s no point in saying anything else other than AVOID THIS BOOK!
That's all for this week. Next week, I'm thinking of reviewing some old time radio shows and a couple of comic book series, but as always, we'll see what happens. Take care, folks!