Sloan, Robin. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2012.

This marvelous book is the nerdiest, geekiest thing I’ve read in ages. It reminds me strongly of Neal Stephenson’s masterpiece, Cryptonomicon — not in subject matter but in its attitudes and in its apparent desire to cram in every subject from computerized cryptography, library ladders, and the early history of printing to the visual analysis of sweaterized breasts, scale model cities, and anthropomorphic knitting needles. Actually, I’ll bet Neal has read this book. And I’ll bet he loved it.


Published in: on 21 March 2018 at 8:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Penny, Louise. The Nature of the Beast.

NY: St. Martin, 2015.

This is number eleven in the series featuring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Quebec Surete, one of the most recognizable cops in Canada (he’s often in the papers) and now retired to the tiny, off-the-map village of Three Pines, down near the Vermont border. And this one includes a large swath of genuine history that most people, even most Canadians, have never heard of before.


Gauld, Tom. Mooncop.

NY: Drawn & Quarterly, 2016.

Gauld is a new author/artist for me, but I definitely like his style. He’s been published in various newspapers for awhile now, and this appears to be his third graphic novel. Every community needs law enforcement and in the lunar colony, it’s provided by a nameless young man with a glass helmet and an anti-grav patrol car (which doesn’t always work).


Published in: on 14 March 2018 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gallagher, Stephen. The Bedlam Detective.

NY: Crown, 2012.

I kind of hate to admit that I’ve never heard of this author, since this is his fifteenth novel, and I confess I picked it up mostly because of the title, but I definitely lucked out. It’s a very original sort of murder mystery, with adroitly painted characters and a thoroughly believable setting. It’s the fall of 1912 in the southwest of England and Sebastian Becker is on a case. He used to be a homicide detective in London, and then went to America, where he became a Pinkerton undercover agent (and learned how to use a pistol because “they’re all gunslingers over there”) and also met and married Elisabeth, a Philadelphia girl. Nowadays, he’s an investigator for Sir James, the Lord Chancellor’s Visitor in Lunacy, who takes an official interest in any man of property whose sanity begins to appear questionable.


Penny, Louise. The Long Way Home.

NY: St. Martin, 2014.

For the past couple of books in this stellar series, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, head of the Quebec Surete’s homicide division, has been struggling to save both his job and the Surete itself. And it all ended with the arrest of the premier of the province and with Gamache being forced to personally kill his boss. It was all just too much and though Gamache won, finally, he also retired to a cottage in the almost Brigadoon-like village of Three Pines, where most of the series has been set.


Silverberg, Robert. Dying Inside.

NY: Ballantine, 1972.

Robert Silverberg has been one of science fiction’s most active authors and editors for most of the past fifty-odd years and his work falls largely on the “intellectual” end of the SF spectrum. He’s done fantasy and space opera, but his most important books are those that investigate the human mind and condition, and often with only a relatively thin science-fictional skin. This one began with the title, originally a New York-Jewish idiom, and the author decided it referred in his case to a character with something literally dying inside him. Not an organ but an unusual mental ability, like telepathy.


Published in: on 6 March 2018 at 9:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Sawyer, Robert J. End of an Era.

NY: Tor, 1994.

Sawyer is the best-known Canadian author of science fiction — one of the most successful Canadian authors of any kind, actually — but I’ve always found his books rather uneven. Some are absorbing while others (like the “WWW” trilogy) are almost unreadable. This early effort is right in the middle of the pack.


Zarr, Sara & Tara Altebrando. Roomies.

NY: Little, Brown, 2013.

Lauren Cole of New Jersey has just graduated from high school and is headed for UC-Berkeley in a couple of months. She’s an only child, living with her neurotic mother, her father having left them years before when he discovered he was gay. She can’t wait to escape to the West Coast. Elizabeth Logan of San Francisco is also headed for Cal, which is only twenty-five miles away for her, but it’s still an escape. She’s one of six kids, the other five all being very young, so that she’s more or less an assistant parent. She loves her family but she can’t wait to get away, too.


Published in: on 28 February 2018 at 1:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Thomsen, Brian M. & Martin H. Greenberg (eds). A Date Which Will Live in Infamy: An Anthology of Pearl Harbor Stories That Might Have Been.

Nashville, TN: Cumberland House, 2001.

As a working archivist & historian for fifty years, and a science fiction junkie for rather longer than that, I’ve always been a sucker for the alternate history yarn. Change one tiny, believable thing and what are the consequences? (And the tinier and more mundane the change, the better.) The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has long been a popular “point of departure,” if only because what actually happened seems like such a confluence of coincidence and serendipity in retrospect. The Japanese basically caught every good break it was possible to catch.


Penny, Louise. How the Light Gets In.

NY: St. Martin, 2013

This is the ninth in the author’s award-winning series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Quebec Surete. I had been reading my way straight through them, and mostly enjoying the experience, but when I first embarked on this one a couple of years ago, I found I had to stop a third of the way into it, put it down very carefully, and just walk away. Penny seemed to be tearing her principal characters to shreds and I couldn’t deal with that. I was too invested in the series.


Published in: on 23 February 2018 at 8:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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