Pandora's Star

Hamilton, Peter F. Pandora’s Star. New York: Random House, 2004.

Reason read: in honor of science fiction month, science fiction week, and science fiction day. all those things.

I have read many different reviews calling Pandora’s Star “epic,” a “space opera,” and “sweeping.” I have to wonder if that is because the book is so freaking long. And. And! And, it doesn’t have a conclusive ending. That’s right. You read over 900 pages only to find you end up hanging off a cliff. Yup. Pandora’s Star takes place in a time when re-life is a common occurrence. Individuals spend time in a womb tank and be reborn following a rejuvenation policy at age sixty-five; or they can modify their DNA and clone themselves. Memory edits are common. They can buy smart memories to give themselves an instant education while they boss around their e-butlers; or they can dump memories in a secure store for nostalgia’s sake. OCtattoos allow one to smell what other’s are up to. Can you just imagine?
This is a world where farms are mechanized. Native plants are destroyed and factories produce everything the inhabitants need. Power plants and super conductor cables rule the landscape. Domesticated beasts like tands, galens, longtrus, finnars, and barntran are as common as the Silfen alien population. Just look out for the armored six legged monster called the Alamo Avenger or the furry Yeti-like creature, the Korrok-hi. Departments like Planetary Science, the Alien Encounter Office, and Emergency Defense are necessary.
This is the best line in the whole book, “Astrogration, move the wormhole exit to geosynchronous height above the third planets daylight terminator” (p 191).
Ozzie Isaac, inventor of the gateways speaks in poetry. My favorite things about him is that he can switch his retinal inserts to ultraviolet. That’s just way cool. He’s only one of many, many interesting characters. My advice is pay attention to everyone you meet. Sooner or later they all come back into the picture.

Author fact: Hamilton has written an impressive list of books. I’m only reading two.

Book trivia: Pandora’s Star in continued by Judas Unchained. Phew, I say. Because otherwise how else would I figure out how it all ended?

Nancy said: Pearl said a lot about Pandora’s Star. She said she couldn’t praise it enough, that it was not to be missed, that the characters are three-dimensional, and that it compared to Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Space Operas” (p 210).


March Same As It Ever Was

This March will mark my eighth time running the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race. When I lived in town I would watch the runners race by, seemingly effortlessly. I could spy on them from my third floor apartment; while I sipped coffee I wondered what it would be like to able to run six miles knowing believing I couldn’t run a single one. Look at me now, Dad.

Here are the books I’m reading for the month of March:

Fiction:

  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear – in honor of International Women’s month and to check off a category from the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge list (a cozy mystery).
  • Miss Mole by E.H. Young – in honor of Young’s birth month.
  • The Calligrapher by Edward Docx – in honor of March is Action Hero month.
  • On the Night Plain by J. Robert Lennon – in honor of Yellowstone National Park.
  • Pandora’s Star by Peter Hamilton – in honor of sci-fi month.

Nonfiction:

  • All Elevations Unknown: an Adventure into the Heart of Borneo by Sam Lightner, Jr. – in honor of the first time Mount Kinabu was ascended (March 1851).
  • Baghdad without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia by Tony Horwitz – in memory of the March 2003 bombing of Baghdad.

Series Continuations:

  • Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland – to continue the series started in January in honor something I can’t remember.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • The 21: A Journey into the Land of the Coptic Martyrs by Martin Mosebach (started in February).

September Psycho

I don’t even know where to begin with September. It was the month from hell in more ways than one. The only good news is that I was able to run twice as many miles as last month. That counts for something as it saves my sanity just a little bit more than if I didn’t do anything at all.

Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • In the City of Fear by Ward Just
  • Jim, The Boy by Tony Earley
  • The Shining by Stephen King

Nonfiction:

  • Thank You and OK! by David Chadwick
  • Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks
  • Ayatollah Begs to Differ by Madj Hoomin
  • Agony and Ecstasy by Irving Stone

Series continuations:

  • Tripwire by Lee Child
  • Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • My Life on the Line by Ryan O’Callaghan

Foundation and Earth

Asimov, Isaac. Foundation and Earth. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, 1986.

Reason read: to finish the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.

The hunt is on for planet Earth. Former Councilman of the First Foundation Golan Revize sets out with historian Janov Pelorate and a woman named Bliss. It is centuries after the fall of the First Galactic Empire and the future of humankind lies in the ability to form a new empire. But where? Golan is convinced neither the First Foundation nor the Second are stable enough for success. Instead, he hangs his hope on using Gaia. Before that can happen he must find Earth, the planet that has been lost for thousands of years. It is not going to be easy. In some cultures of the galaxy, it is a superstition to utter the word, ‘Earth.” One must say ‘the Oldest’ instead.
Interestingly enough, even though Bliss is a friend and a helper, she is without paperwork, and she is not part of the travel log. As a result, problems regarding immigration arise. She is seen as “entertainment” for the two men who are the only ones accounted for on the spaceship.
Foundation and Earth is heavy with philosophical questions like, is a toe tapping in time to music part of the action, acting as an in-time accompanying drum beat or a response to the action of music being played?

Quote I liked, “It’s easy to deduce something you already know” (p 53).

Author fact: Asimov wrote more than 440 books during the course of his career.

Book trivia: Foundation and Earth is the last book in the Foundation series.

Nancy said: nothing specific about Foundation and Earth.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


September Summer

It feels like it’s still summer. Never mind the nights are getting somewhat cooler. Never mind that we are back in school. Never mind there is a seasonal hurricane ripping its way up the eastern seaboard. Never mind all that. I’m still in summer mode. I started the month off by a good 3.24 run. Yes!
Here are the books planned for the month:

Fiction:

  • The Shining by Stephen King – in honor of King’s birth month.
  • In the City of Fear by Ward Just – in honor of Just’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • Thank You and OK!: an American Zen Failure in Japan by David Chadwick – in honor of September being Respect for the Aged month.
  • Foreign Correspondence: a Pen Pal’s Journey From Down Under to All Over by Geraldine Brooks – in honor of International Reading Day.
  • The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: the Paradox of Modern Iran by Hooman Majd – in memory of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980.

Series continuation:

  • Tripwire by Lee Child – to continue the series started in July
  • Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov – to continue finish the series started in January.

Early Review:

  • My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life by Ryan O’Callaghan. If you have been keeping score, I started this last month.

For fun:

  • The Miracle on Monhegan Island by Elizabeth Kelly – because of the title.

August Gusted

When I look back at August my first thought is what the hell happened? The month went by way too fast. Could the fact that I saw the Grateful Dead, Natalie Merchant (4xs), Trey Anastasio, Sirsy, and Aerosmith all in the same month have anything to do with that? Probably. It was a big month for traveling (Vermont, Connecticut, NYC) and for being alone while Kisa was in Charlotte, Roanoke, Erie, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Colorado. And. And, And! I got some running done! The treadmill was broken for twenty days but in the last eleven days I eked out 12.2 miles. Meh. It’s something. Speaking of something, here are the books:

Fiction:

  • African Queen by C.S. Forester
  • Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas
  • Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object by Laurie Colwin
  • Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes

Nonfiction:

  • American Chica by Marie Arana
  • Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge
  • Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson

Series continuation:

  • Die Trying by Lee Child
  • Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov

Early Review cleanup:

  • Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm
  • Open Water by Mikael Rosen

Foundation’s Edge

Asimov, Isaac. Foundation’s Edge. New York: Doubleday, 1982.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.

Golan Trevize is convinced the second Foundation is controlling events on the planet Terminus. Instead of having him imprisoned or executed for treason, Mayor Harla Branno sends him on a quest – find the second Foundation if you are so convinced it exists. I dare you. For she too, secretly thinks there is a second Foundation but can’t say it out loud. Trevize simply must find out for her so the catch is he cannot return until he finds evidence one way or another. To help him with this quest Trevize is assigned a partner, professor of Ancient History, Janor Pelorat. Only Pelorat has another motive. He wants to discover the mythical planet of Earth…which sets up the next book in the series. Earth has been removed from the archives of the Galatic Library on Trantor.
Trevize and Pelorat discover the second Foundation does exist on the planet Trantor. Turns out, Trantor has similar fears about the first Foundation. So the battle of misconceptions starts.

Author fact: Asimov died in Brooklyn, New York.

Book trivia: Foundation’s Edge was Asimov’s first book to become a New York Times best seller. It also won a Hugo and Locus Award.

Nancy said: nothing specific about Foundation’s Edge.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Creature of Habit August

Last month (okay, yesterday!) I whined about how I have been feeling uninspired writing this blog. I think it’s because I haven’t really been in touch with what I’ve been reading. None of the books in July jump started my heart into beating just a little faster. “Dull torpor” as Natalie would say in the Maniacs song, Like the Weather. Maybe it comes down to wanting more oomph in my I’mNotSureWhat; meaning I don’t know if what I need or what would fire me up enough to burn down my yesterdays; at least so that they aren’t repeated tomorrow. I’m just not sure.
Hopefully, these books will do something for me:

Fiction:

  • African Queen by Cecil Forester – in honor of the movie. Can I be honest? I’ve never seen the movie!
  • Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas (EB/print) – in honor of August being Friendship month.
  • Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object (EB/print) by Laurie Colwin – in honor of August being National Grief Month.
  • Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen (EB/print) – in honor of August being Frazen’s birth month.
  • Beauty: the Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley (EB/print) – in honor of August being Fairy Tale month.

Nonfiction:

  • Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge (EB/print) – in memory of Florence Nightingale. August is her death month.
  • American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood by Maria Arana (EB/print) – a memoir in honor of August being “Selfish Month.”
  • If there is time: What Just Happened by James Gleick – in honor of Back to School month.

Series continuations:

  • Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov (EB/print) – the penultimate book in the Foundation series.
  • Die Trying by Lee child (AB/EB/print) – the second book in the Jack Reacher series.

Early Review:

  • Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm (started in July).
  • Open Water by Mikael Sturm.

July Mistakes

So. I never posted what I hoped to accomplish reading for July. Whoops and whoops. To tell you the truth, I got busy with other things. What other things I couldn’t tell you. It’s not the thing keeping me up at night. Besides, if I’m truly honest no one reads this blather anyway. In my mind the “you” that I address is really me, myself and moi; our own whacked out sense of conformity. Let’s face it, my reviews are as uninspiring as dry toast carelessly dropped in sand. It’s obvious something needs to change. I just haven’t figured out what that something is or what the much needed change looks like. Not yet at least. I need a who, where, what, why, and how analysis to shake off the same as it ever was. It’ll come to me eventually.
But, enough of that and that and that. Here’s what July looked like for books and why:

Fiction:

  • Killing Floor by Lee Child – in honor of New York becoming a state in July (Child lives in New York).
  • Alligator by Lisa Moore – in honor of Orangemen Day in Newfoundland.
  • Forrest Gump by winston Groom – on honor of the movie of the same name being released in the month of July.
  • Aunt Julia and the Script Writer by Mario Vargas Llosa – in honor of July being the busiest month to visit Peru.
  • Accidental Man by Iris Murdoch – in honor of Murdoch’s birth month.
  • Blood Safari by Leon Meyer – in honor of Meyer’s birth month.
  • By the River Piedra I Sat down and Wept by Paulo Coelho – in honor of July being Summer Fling Month.

Series continuation:

  • Forward the Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Yes, I am behind.
  • Blood Spilt by Asa Larsson.
  • Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. Confessional. Even though there are two more books in the Barsetshire Chronicles I am putting Trollope back on the shelf for a little while. The stories are not interconnected and I am getting bored.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm. I only started this. It will be finished in August.

What startles me as I type this list is I didn’t finish any nonfiction in July. I started the Holocaust memoir but haven’t finished it yet. No nonfiction. Huh.


Forward the Foundation

Asimov, Isaac. Forward the Foundation. New York: Bantam Spectrum, 1994.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month. If you are keeping track then you know I am off by a month or two.

In the beginning of Forward the Foundation Hari Seldon is forty years old and a professor at Streeling University. He is still trying to define psychohistory as something more than a mathematical way of analyzing society to predict the future. There are those who expect his predictions to save the Empire. Luckily, he is not alone in his efforts, but surrounded by key characters from the previous novel (Prelude to Foundation):
Dors Venabili, acting as guardian in Prelude to Foundation, is now Seldon’s wife but still insists on protecting him wherever he goes. When their granddaughter, Wanda, has reoccurring dreams of Seldon’s death it is reason enough Dors needs to be extra attentive to Seldon’s safety. We learn she has superhuman skills and never ages.
Raych is twenty years old at the beginning of Forward the Foundation and Seldon has adopted him as his son.
In Prelude to Foundation Yugo Amaryl had been a heatsinker in the Dahl Sector, the lowest rung on society’s ladder, but Seldon had seen something in him worth saving. In Forward the Foundation Yugo is now a respected mathematician, intellectual, and budding obsessive psychohistorian. For all intents and purposes he has become Seldon’s right hand man.
Eto Demerzel, Emperor Cleon’s First Minister and the “person” responsible for Seldon meeting his wife, steps aside to let Seldon take the position. After ten years as First Minister he grows sick of it and finds a way to retire. Fast forward twenty more years and Seldon is now seventy. As the empire dies Seldon finds himself struggling to keep up with the demands of researching psychohistory.
Asimov has a subtle and sly humor that threads its way through Forward the Foundation. One of my favorite moments was when Seldon was describing mathematical symbolism using water themes – rivers, rivulets, and currents. After listening to this Amaryl replies to Seldon “dryly.” Oh, the irony. My second favorite moment was when librarians were described as “the oldest Guild in the Empire.” Exactly.

Quotes I liked, “A paradox arises only out of an ambiguity that deceives either unwittingly or by design” (p 32) and “People tended to avoid the humiliation of failure by joining the obviously winning side even against their own opinions” (p 31).

Author fact: Asimov wrote or edited over 500 books.

Book trivia: The “Zeroth Law” comes up in Forward the Foundation. Instead of applying to the laws of thermodynamics it is in regards to robots and first appears in a different Asimov story called “Runaround.”

Nancy said: Pearl said the Foundation series should be read in order.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Sacrificial June

June was all about giving up various elements of my life for the sake of family. I’ll go off the book review protocol to say one nice gesture threw off a myriad of plans. Because of one nice gesture I:

  • sacrificed a camping trip,
  • postponed my first trip of the season to Monhegan,
  • cancelled plans with my mother,
  • lost four training days,
  • lost hours of sleep but gained a kink in my back due to sleeping on an air mattress,
  • got behind on reading and writing end of year reports,
  • spent more money than I budgeted due to a cancelled flight,
  • missed a day of work, and
  • have no idea if I actually helped or not.

Anyway. Enough of that. On with the books:

Fiction:

  • Book of Reuben by Tabitha King
  • Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • Sun Storm by Asa Larsson

Nonfiction:

  • Soldiers of God by Robert Kaplan
  • From a Persian Tea House by Michael Carroll

Series continuations:

  • Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • Because of the Cats by Nicholas Freeling
  • Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian
  • Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

Short Stories:

  • “Shadow Show” by Clifford Simak
  • “The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above”
    by Sherman Alexie
  • “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis
  • “The Answers” by Clifford Simak
  • “Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
  • “What You Pawn I will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie
  • “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx
  • “Harrowing Journey” by Joel P. Kramer
  • “Ado” by Connie Willis

Prelude to Foundation

Asimov, Isaac. Prelude to Foundation. New York: Spectra, 1989.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.

Prelude to Foundation begins the entire Foundation series chronologically. On the planet Tranton Hari Seldon is alive and well. He has just given a speech on mathematical formulas that could potentially predict the future of mankind. That’s when the trouble starts. The last galactic emperor has gotten wind of this phenomenon and he wants in. Seldon’s advance predictions could potential stabilize his dynasty. Seldon needs to go into exile in order to escape Emperor Cleon’s clutches. As Seldon puts it, “if a psychohistorical analysis is made and the results are then given to the public, the various emotions and reactions of humanity would at once be distorted” (p 17). He needs time to develop his notions further and perfect his psychohistorical technique so that it becomes mathematically valid predictions. With the help of mysterious Mr. Hummin Hari is spirited far away with Historian Professor Dors Venabili. Together they travel to different lands of intolerance like Mycogen where they discover a society that despises hair on adults. Another carries a severe prejudice against women which is ironic since Dors has the responsibility of protecting Seldon.

Best quote, “What is important is what people will or will not believe can be done” (p 497).

Author fact: I’ve already told you twice that Asimov was a professor of biochemistry. The “new” fact is Asimov supposedly coined the word “robotics” in his story, Liar!

Book trivia: Chronologically, Prelude to Foundation is the first book in the series.

Nancy said: nothing specific.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


“Shadow Show”

Simak, Clifford. “Shadow Show.” Strangers in the Universe. New York: Berkley Publishing, 1950.

Reason read: June is National Short Story Month.

The show of life must go on, even though one of the key actors has passed away. Bayard Lodge, Chief of Life Team 3 with psychologist Kent Forester, must figure out how to keep their play going. Much back and forth debate is given to the question of who did the dead man embody? What was his part? Just who would be missing from the group? Unfortunately, the end was predictable but it was entertaining read all the same.

Author fact: Simak won awards for his short stories but none for the ones I am reading for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Strangers in the Universe is a very thematic book.

Nancy said: Pearl considers “Shadow Show” one of Simak’s best and shouldn’t be missed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


“The Answers”

Simak, Clifford. “The Answers.” Strangers in the Universe. New York: Berkley Publishing, 1950.

Reason read: June is National Short Story Month.

The Dog, the Human, the Spider and the Globe are exploring an abandoned village. They had stumbled upon it quite by accident and the discovery took them by surprise, especially the Human. So much so that he decides to stay behind. The ever loyal Dog leaves him some provisions, including his own food. The role reversal is telling.

Quote I liked, “There was more to the human race than gadgetry” (p 103).

Author fact: Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula.

Book trivia: Strangers in the Universe was Simak’s first collection of short stories.

Nancy said: Pearl said Simak’s short stories shouldn’t be missed. She mentions “The Answers” as one of his best.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


June Not Jumping

This has become a morbid joke but I’m not going to the island so there is no chance of me jumping off anything this month. There is time for books, though. Here’s the list:

Fiction:

  • Book of Reuben by Tabitha King – in honor of June being the month when a lot of people (my sister included) like to get married.
  • Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – in honor of Suicide Prevention Day being in June in some states.
  • Sun Storm by Asa Larsson – in honor of Larsson’s birth month being in June.

Nonfiction:

  • Soldiers of God by Robert Kaplan – in honor of Kaplan’s birth month being in June.
  • From a Persian Tea House by Michael Carroll – in recognition of Khomeini’s death in the month of June.

Series continuations:

  • Because of the Cats by Nicholas Freeling – to continue the series started in May.
  • Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the never-ending series started in January.
  • Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in April.
  • Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian – to continue the series started in May.

Short stories for National Short Story Month:

  • “Shadow Show” by Clifford Simak
  • “The Answers” by Clifford Simak
  • “The Life and Times of Estelle…” by Sherman Alexie
  • “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie
  • “Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
  • “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis