Scalzi, John. The End of All Things.

NY: Tor, 2015.

Scalzi’s first book, Old Man’s War, was first-rate, not only as military SF but as a study in interstellar and interspecies political conflict. The first couple of sequels continued the story in linear fashion and were also pretty good. Then the series seemed to lose its way for awhile, finally devolving into a lengthy run of semi-independent stories, each with its own theme within the future that the author built around the Colonial Union.

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Published in: on 16 February 2019 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Neuvel, Sylvain. Sleeping Giants.

NY: Del Rey, 2016.

The advance information I saw on this book was a bit confusing. The reviews were good, but the blurb was basically, “A little girl accidentally discovers a giant, glowing, metal hand buried in South Dakota, and when she grows up, she becomes a physicist and is put in charge of studying it.” I had no idea what to make of that, but what the hell. Del Rey doesn’t often publish crap, right? Well, I’m writing this review on not too much sleep, because I stayed up much of the night to finish it. It was an absolutely absorbing story.

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Feiffer, Jules. Kill My Mother: A Graphic Novel.

NY: Liveright, 2014.

Feiffer is an amazing cartoonist with amazing longevity. He started drawing for publication shortly after World War II, became Will Eisner’s assistant at the age of seventeen, and his work was showing up in New Yorker, Esquire, and Playboy while Eisenhower was still in the White House. He won every artistic award there is, including an Academy Award, and then branched out into novels, stage plays, and screenplays.

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Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller. The Gathering Edge.

NY: Baen, 2017.

The twenty “Liaden” novels are first-rate space opera, now reaching the level of true epic storytelling. It’s not really a series, in the sense of a linear string of sequels, though. There are several overlapping narrative arcs, spread over a period of several centuries, though most of the main protagonists are members of Clan Korval — the House of Tree and Dragon.

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Hayward, James. Myths & Legends of the Second World War.

Thrup, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 2003.

The heroic evacuation from Dunkirk, the British stiff upper lip during the dark days of the Blitz, the willingness of British civilians to give shelter to refugees from the Continent — those are all a matter of history, right? Not so much, as it turns out. The BEF was horribly under-trained and ill-equipped to deal with the invading Germans and there were many units who threw down their weapons and sprinted for the beach. What we would now recognize as PTSD was a major problem during the bombing of London and so was the black market, and so was theft from bodies in bombed houses. And most British wanted no part of non-English-speakers fleeing from Hitler — especially if they were Jews.

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Published in: on 24 July 2018 at 8:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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Kay, Elliott. Poor Man’s Fight.

NY: Skyscrape, 2015.

This space opera epic is the debut work by an author I discovered through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. It was a free read and I wasn’t expecting a lot — but I was surprised and delighted at how good it is. It includes some of the most hair-raising, throat-grabbing, headlong, blood-and-guts adventure writing I’ve read in years. It will remind you a little of Heinlein, and a little of Corey, and when you reach the 80% point, you should plan on putting the rest of your life on hold for awhile, because you aren’t going to want any interruptions.

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Robinson, Peter. Sleeping in the Ground.

NY: Morrow, 2017.

Robinson’s first-rate mystery series featuring DCI Alan Banks of Yorkshire has always been heavy on police procedural details when it comes to crime-solving, and this 24th episode is no exception. Banks is coming home from the funeral of a woman he hasn’t seen in forty years — the first girl he was every really in love with, back in college — when he gets word there’s been a shooting at a country wedding on his patch.

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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.

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Hill, Paul. The Anglo-Saxons at War, 800-1066.

Barnsley, Yorkshire: Pen & Sword, 2012.

Ever since doing my undergrad history degree in the 1960s, I’ve had a strong and continuing interest in both the early medieval period and in pre-gunpowder military history, so I was pleased to happen upon this well-written work by a noted expert in both subjects. Hill is a well-known lecturer and past curator of the Anglo-Saxon museum at Kingston-upon-Thames, where a number of the Saxon kings were crowned, and he’s produced several previous volumes on closely related topics.

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Published in: on 14 February 2018 at 2:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Card, Orson Scott. Ender’s Game.

NY: Tor, 1985.

There’s a rather short list of really important modern science fiction novels, the books that influenced the next generation of both readers and younger authors. This is one of those novels. The original novelette version was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula and the novel-length version won both those awards. It’s also a book that hardly anyone who’s read it shrugs off. They tend either to love it, for a whole bunch of reasons, or to hate it, for a whole bunch of other reasons.

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