Gerrold, David. Alternate Gerrolds: An Assortment of Fictitious Lives.

Dallas: BenBella Books, 2004.

David Gerrold isn’t nearly as well known as he should be, especially within the science fiction community — even though he’s won any number of awards. Trekies know he wrote “The Trouble with Tribbles” while still in his early 20s, and fans of alternate history novels have a special place in their hearts for The Man Who Folded Himself, but his name probably would draw a blank with most SF readers under the age of forty.


Published in: on 30 January 2015 at 12:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Crichton, Michael. Sphere.

NY: Knopf, 1987.

Crichton’s debut novel, The Andromeda Strain, was pretty good, but on the basis of the half-dozen later books of his that I’ve read, he seems to have gone continually downhill from there. The basic plot here is that what appears to be a huge spaceship has been discovered a thousand feet down in the South Pacific, and it’s at least three hundred years old, so it must be alien, right?


Enright, John. Pago Pago Tango.

Las Vegas: Thomas & Mercer, 2012.

This is one of those books where the plot of a mystery, though competently worked out and interestingly written, nevertheless takes a back seat to the setting and the characters. The place is American Samoa, a fifty-five-square-mile rock a long, long way from anywhere, which the U.S. acquired in 1900, thanks to the need of the U.S. Navy for a coaling station. But only a tiny fraction of the population has ever been palangi (white) and the needs of everyone else were mostly ignored for a very long time — except for inflicting fundamentalist Christianity on the popultion.


Abercrombie, Joe. Half a King.

NY: Del Rey, 2014.

Abercrombie has established a major reputation in a relatively short time with his gritty “First Law” fantasy trilogy and the three sequel volumes, all set in the same world and with lots of overlapping characters. There are no shining, pointy-eared elves in his bloody-minded stories, and no wise wizards.


Penny, Louise. Bury Your Dead.

NY: St. Martin, 2010.

Most authors of mystery novel series will write a “road trip” story sooner or later, set someplace outside their characters’ usual haunts, and this is Penny’s. But that’s only one layer of the plot and she always includes several.


Published in: on 17 January 2015 at 6:44 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Dougherty, Martin J. The Ancient Warrior, 3000 BCE-500 CE.

NY: St. Martin, 2010.

Since I do a lot of military history, I’m regularly asked to recommend the best “first book” for beginners who want to adopt an organized approach to the subject. I generally come up with something by John Keegan, but now I have a new title to suggest.


Published in: on 14 January 2015 at 11:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Pratchett, Terry & Jacqueline Simpson. The Folklore of Discworld.

NY: Random House, 2008.

There’s a whole aftermarket of sort-of nonfictional works orbiting around Sir Terry’s bestselling Discworld books which use his invented universe as a means to explain the Roundworld we actually live on. The subtitle of this one is “Legends, Myths, and Customs from the Discworld with helpful Hints from Planet Earth”


Published in: on 10 January 2015 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Grahame-Smith, Seth. Unholy Night.

NY: Grand Central, 2012.

This author is also responsible for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so I frankly wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I picked up the book. But the flap copy got my attention. It’s sort of a “what if” story. What if the Three Magi weren’t the “wise men” we know from the Christmas pageants?


Katzev, Richard. A Commonplace Book Primer.

Portland, OR: The Author, 2011.

When I was a developing book-nerd in high school more than fifty years ago, I rather self-consciously began writing down brief extracts from the books I read, the thoughts or observations that really got to me. I eventually got too busy with Real Life to keep it up, but when I came into possession of my own computer c.1980, I started keeping notes again.


Published in: on 5 January 2015 at 8:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Kuhn, Shane. The Intern’s Handbook.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

As novels about hit men go, this one is pretty original. John Lago is preparing to retire at twenty-five, having been a highly trained and very successful employee of Human Resources, Inc. since he was twelve. At age eighteen, “Bob,” who runs the show, began sending him out as an intern to law firms and big corporations, tasked with eliminating one or another bent executive (often on behalf of his career competition).


Published in: on 2 January 2015 at 7:23 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,