Archive for book reviews

American Gods

Posted in City with tags , , , on Thursday, March 12 by City

Time to write a book review. Like BigDog, I don’t read bad books, or at least I immediately put it down once I realize it’s bad. The last book I put down? Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the West. But that is a trick question, because I only put it down due to the fact that it’s a huge book and the library fines started rolling in heavy. Who knew that a guy name Meri could be such a sweet adventuring dude? Well that’s another trick question because everyone knows Meriadoc Brandybuck was a sweet adventuring dude/hobbit.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

americangods

I picked the book as I do every book, by closing my eyes and throwing darts at the Nebula Award winner list. I’m closing in on double digits there so I figure I might as well keep going. A sidenote is that the British born author wrote the creepy children’s novel Coraline that I recently enjoyed in the theater.

So anyway, the book follows a guy just released from jail and is heading to his home in the Midwest. He gets mixed up with some extraordinary strangers who persuade him to work for them. Slowly he learns that he is following several modern day versions of gods from the old countries and that there are many more like him. Mostly they are based on intermingled versions of gods from Norse, Greek, Far East and Native American types. The old gods don’t fare well in America but they never-the-less battle for souls and power in a modern country who would rather worship technology than He who controls thunder. When the modern gods of the media and technology decide to put an end to the old gods once and for all, each god must take a side because the a war that has been building in this country is nearing.

“They’ll win”, said Whiskey Jack flatly. “They won already. You lost already. Like the white man and my people. Mostly they won. And when they lost, they made treaties. Then they broke the treaties. So they won again. I’m not fighting for another lost cause.” Then he said, “Paul Bunyan.” he shood his head slowly and he said it again. “Paul Bunyan.”

“Paul Bunyan?” Shadow said. “What did he ever do?”

“He took up head space,” said Whiskey Jack. He bummed a cigarette from Wednesday and the two men sat and smoked.

“It’s like the idiots who figure that hummingbirds worry about their weight or tooth decay or some such nonsense, maybe they just want to spare hummingbirds the evils of sugar,” explained Wednesday. “So they fill the hummingbird feeders with fucking NutraSweet. The birds come to the feeders and they drink it. Then they die, because their food contains no calories even though their little tummies are full. That’s Paul Bunyan for you. Nobody ever told Paul Bunyan stories. Nobody ever believed in Paul Bunyan. He came staggering out of a New York ad agency in 1910 and filled the nation’s myth stomach with empty calories.”          -pg 352

On the BigDog rating scale I give it a 5 to 8. Which I think means it is a 5 out of 10 for dificulty to read, and an 8 out of 10 for enjoyability. I gave it only a 5 for readability because while I kept it in my hand longer per day than any books I’ve read recently, it was 600 pages which I think puts it out of the sub 5 score range  (let the record show this rating scale needs some refining). I gave it an 8 for enjoyability because it has most everything I enjoy in a book: gratuitous sex scenes, god on god violence, and a protagonist with a penchant for gloomy social commentary.

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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

Posted in City with tags on Friday, August 22 by City

This Hugo Award winning novel written in 1966 by Robert A Heinlein, who may have been the most influential science fiction writer to bring the genre to the mainstream since HG Wells, it is the story of the next great revolution for independence. It is set on the Federal Authority’s (similar to the UN) penal colonies on the Moon in 2075. The story revolves around Professor de la Paz- a rational-anarchist, Wyoming- a political revolutionary, and Manuel- an engineer born and raised on the Moon as a free man. Together they collude to gain independence for their beloved Luna from the Authority, who keeps the residents there as a perpetual indentured servants unable to leave because of the irreversible physical changes of living in the Moon’s low gravity field.

 

Story mostly told by main character, Mannie, who speaks Lunar dialect. Basically a futuristic version of English, sounds like Chinese person learned English second language. Drops word “the” and most sentence subjects. Believe is actually taken from Russian sentence structure. Still makes sense. Mind own business.

 

Yes, I was writing in Mannie’s dialect above. It is annoying for awhile, but you get used to it. Authors love to take these stylastic “freedoms”, I guess you just have to live with it. All in all, I think it made him more interesting and therefore more “real”.

 

The book has a lot of standard Heinlein theme’s. There are many unusual social relationships – like the polyamorus line marriages and the Loonie’s (Lunar people) respect for women derived from the relatively few females that live on the moon. And the usual interesting structures of law. For example on the moon, there are no police or laws. The Lunar Authority basically let the people that inhabit the moon do what they want. So the people have developed a strong sense of “be a part of society or don’t”, which means if you offend someone and they can throw you out of the pressurized airlocks, they will. Hopefully you have enough people to rely on to come get you if you were wrongly thrown out, if not, well, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

 

Another noteworthy point about the book is that it first coined the term TANSTAAFL, “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” as the Loonie’s motto, which turned into a legitimate economics term that’s used all the time now when studying economics. Of course The Man has changed it to TINSTAAFL to avoid the use of double negatives.

 

I plan on reading some more Heinlein. Stranger in a Strange Land is the only other book by him I have read and it was real good too. He is able to set a story in an environment in the near future that isn’t the social norm, but makes you question if it isn’t more appropriate than the norms we have today.