Sturgeon, Theodore. More Than Human.

NY: Farrar, Straus, 1953.

Edward Waldo, whose name was changed to “Theodore Sturgeon” after his divorced mother remarried, began his writing career in the late 1930s; he was a close contemporary of the other greats of science fiction’s Golden Age, like Heinlein, Asimov, and Clark, though rather more highly regarded by literary critics than they were. He also had an enormous influence on the next couple of generations of SF writers.

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Block, Lawrence. Ronald Rabbit Is a Dirty Old Man.

Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2000. (Bernard Geis, 1971).

Back in the early ‘60s, at the dawn of his writing career, Block — one of the best suspense and mystery novelists in the business — turned out a handful of pseudonymous erotic novels to pay the bills. When his “real” books began to sell, he drifted away from that line of work until 1971, when he thought he’d give it another shot, this time under his own name, and that he would do it in the epistolary style, like Richardson’s Pamela, but with several voices.

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Published in: on 29 October 2012 at 7:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bujold, Lois McMaster. Brothers in Arms.

NY: Baen Books, 1989.

By internal sequence, this is the sixth volume (but the second or third one actually written) in the adventures of Miles Vorkosigan, now in his mid-twenties, and both a lieutenant in the Barrayaran military (in Imperial Security, actually) and “Admiral Naismith” commanding the 5,000-man Dendarii mercenaries. And if none of this means anything to you, stop right there and go and read from the beginning of the series, because if you start here, you’ll have no idea what’s going on.

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Published in: on 27 October 2012 at 6:35 am  Comments (1)  
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Crombie Deborah. Mourn Not Your Dead.

NY: Scribner, 1996.

Crombie writes entertaining British mystery novels, but the plots so far don’t especially stand out — even though they’re not bad. In this one, a thoroughly unlikeable senior police office is murdered with a blunt instrument in the kitchen of his suburban home and Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and Sgt. Gemma James have to investigate. He was a pompous, sanctimonious tyrant who had no end of at least low-grade enemies

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Published in: on 26 October 2012 at 6:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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Crombie, Deborah. Leave the Grave Green.

NY: Scribner, 1995.

Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid kind of grows on you. He’s a rising star at Scotland Yard but he takes the tube to work and hasn’t forgotten his rural Cheshire roots. His assistant, Sgt. Gemma James, is even more appealing as a character — a bright, tenacious redhead who struggles to combine ambition with single motherhood on an inadequate salary, and who has growing feelings about her boss that she doesn’t know how to deal with.

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Published in: on 25 October 2012 at 5:04 am  Leave a Comment  
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Gerster, Georg. The Past from Above; Aerial Photographs of Archaeological Sites.

Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005. [orig. publ. in Munich, 2003]

Aerial photographs began being taken in the mid-19th century, from tethered hot-air balloons, but it was a very iffy business. Among other things, the balloon gondola had to include a darkroom because the glass plates of the time couldn’t wait the photographer to return to earth. The invention of the airplane in the early 20th century made things much simpler in a technical sense, but also more complicated when it came to politics and borders.

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Pratchett, Terry & Baxter, Stephen. The Long Earth.

NY: Doubleday, 2012.

It might be an interesting experiment to hand this book without the cover or title page to an experienced SF fan and ask them to identify the author. Except for a rather weak joke here and there, I personally would never have guessed that Sir Terry had anything to do with it. And, as an unshakeable Pratchett fan, I’m inclined to put the blame on Baxter, who has built one corner of his career on partnering with (or leeching off) Arthur C. Clarke, another elderly author with a far greater reputation than his own.

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Crombie, Deborah. All Shall Be Well.

NY: Scribner, 1994.

This is the second outing for Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid of Scotland Yard, and it’s quite as enjoyable as the first one. Kincaid lives on the top floor of a three-flat building in Hampstead and below him is Jasmine Dent, only a decade or so older than he but dying of lung cancer.

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Published in: on 19 October 2012 at 8:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Crombie, Deborah. A Share in Death.

NY: Scribner, 1993.

My wife’s taste in mystery novels runs to “cozies,” from Agatha Christie to Martha Grimes, while I prefer somewhat more contemporary settings (and more believable plots). Crombie has become a favorite of hers, though, and the reviews have been good, so I promised to give her a try. This debut effort is not especially innovative — which I expect is part of its appeal — but it’s very nicely done.

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Published in: on 18 October 2012 at 6:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ireland, Bernard. Naval Warfare in the Age of Sail.

NY: Norton, 2000.

The sudden popularity in the 1990s of Patrick O’Brian’s sea stories set in the Napoleonic wars quickly spawned a whole cottage industry of nonfiction books to provide context and technical explanation for readers who were a little shaky on the difference between a marlinspike and a dolphin-striker. And if the book was heavily illustrated, all the better. Ireland has been writing in this field for a long time, including a lengthy relationship with Jane’s (the publisher), and this is one of the better entries in the post-O’Brian competition that I’ve seen.

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Published in: on 17 October 2012 at 6:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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