Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller. Saltation.

NY: Baen Books, 2010.

“Saltation,” the authors tell us, is “that which proceeds by leaps rather than by smooth and orderly progression.” That describes Theo Waitley, certainly. The “space academy” is a science fiction trope that goes back at least to Robert Heinlein’s classic Space Cadet, but Lee and Miller ring a number of new changes on it.

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Tatsumi, Yoshihiro. Abandon the Old in Tokyo.

Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2006.

This collection of manga was originally published in Tokyo in 1970, and I gather the Japanese also have long considered it a bit odd. The thing is, a quarter-century after the end of the war — one generation, which had grown up in its wake but without the direct experience — social change was beginning to make major inroads on the Japanese psyche and was not widely welcomed by the previous generations. Partly, people recognized the need for change, but they were afraid of it, too.

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Bell, James Scott. Plot & Structure.

Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2004.

I’ve been writing fiction, mostly bad, since elementary school, which was nearly sixty years ago. I decided in college that while I knew I had some innate talent, it wasn’t sufficient that I could support myself by writing. That may have been a lost opportunity or it may have been recognition of reality, but while I have, in fact, sold a couple of things over the years, and while I’ve done a considerable amount of academic and career-related writing, when it comes to fiction I’m mostly a hobbyist.

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Published in: on 24 May 2014 at 1:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Crais, Robert. Suspect.

NY: Purnam, 2013.

This is an unusual sort of police procedural because one of the two main characters isn’t even human. Scott James is an ordinary patrol officer in the LAPD, except that he’s about to make the jump to Metro, en route to his goal of joining SWAT. He and his partner, Stephanie, are in their car off their usual beat when they stumble into a hijacking and multiple murder; Stephanie is killed and Scott takes three bullets.

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Block, Lawrence. Writing the Novel from Plot to Print.

Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 1979.

Lawrence Block has now been writing and selling fiction for close to sixty years. He started off with gimmicky short stories for the pulps, spent some time cranking out sex novels (which were practically PG by today’s standards), moved gradually into westerns, and then shifted into crime and detective fiction. It’s for the latter that he is now best known, of course, especially the gritty Matt Scudder stories, the droll “Burglar” series starring Bernie Rhodenbarr, and the adventures of Keller the hit man.

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Published in: on 19 May 2014 at 5:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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Amis, Kingsley. The King’s English: A Guide to Modern Usage.

NY: St. Martin, 1997.

[I’ve re-read this book and completely re-written an earlier, much shorter review.]

Back in the late ‘50s, when I was (I think) a sophomore in high school, I was wandering the shelves at my local public library branch and found myself browsing through Kingsley Amis’s debut novel, Lucky Jim — in the mistaken impression that it was that famous novel by Joseph Conrad that my English teacher had recommended to the more advanced readers. It was a confusing mistake; it wasn’t set in Malaya and it apparently had nothing to do with shipwrecks. It was also much funnier than I expected from a 19th-century Polish/English author. But I read it anyway, and became a lifelong fan of the peculiarly Amis view of the world.

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Published in: on 16 May 2014 at 2:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller. Fledgling.

NY: Baen Books, 2009.

A decade and a half ago, before they were picked up by Jim Baen, I stumbled across Balance of Trade, which was about the eighth of Lee and Miller’s “Liaden” novels and (I think) the third by internal chronology. It was an exciting story, with terrific characters, very high-quality space opera indeed, and I was immediately hooked.

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Connelly, Michael. The Gods of Guilt.

NY: Little Brown, 2013.

Connelly has generally been a very good writer of crime thrillers for several decades, but sometimes he seems to get a little lazy. It’s happened in a couple of the otherwise successful Harry Bosch novels, it happened in the two previous “Lincoln lawyer” episodes — The Reversal (2010) and The Fifth Witness (2011) — and, yes, it happens again here.

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Published in: on 11 May 2014 at 4:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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Silverberg, Robert. Sailing to Byzantium: Six Novellas.

NY: Open Road Media, 2013.

The advent of electronic publishing sometimes makes it difficult to work out the provenance of a new book. I have the Kindle edition of this one and since Open Road bills itself as a “multimedia content company,” it’s hard to tell whether this anthology of six of Silverberg’s very best longer (but non-novel-length) stories also exists in a three-dimensional format. Be that as it may. . . .

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Published in: on 9 May 2014 at 4:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Rankin, Ian. The Falls.

NY: St. Martin, 2001

Rankin’s fans, of whom there are many, have gotten to know DI John Rebus of the Edinburgh CID quite well over the years. He’s a talented detective, and his superiors know it, but he’s also a determined non-team-player, and they know that, too. Often, he’s a loner, unwilling to share evidence or ideas, but other times, with colleagues whom he likes and trusts (not many of those), he’ll open up. DC Siobhan Clarke has even become something like his apprentice; she’s university-educated and in most ways follows the rules — but even though “she wasn’t a born outsider in the way she sensed John Rebus was, she’d learned that she liked it on his side of the fence.”

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Published in: on 4 May 2014 at 4:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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