Reading Room

 

Actually, I don’t need too much room to read.  Aside from what I read off the monitor in the computer room, all my reading is done in the living room.  There was a time when I read in the cafeteria at work, with all the attendant noise, but I find that my attention is diminishing, and I now need silence to read.

This past year all my reading, with Art Browne’s one exception, was from paper and ink, physical books. The son has a new Kindle, so both his Sony Reader and his Kobo are available.  Perhaps in 2015 I’ll save some money and download a few titles.

The following is a display of what I read in calendar year 2014, along with my usual comments and trivia.  I exceeded 2013’s displayed list of 31, and managed to finish 34.

I’ll start with the two ‘James Axler’ series, as I did last year.  I finally stopped buying them and still had five titles to read, to clear up my backlog.  When I read ‘my’ last one, I noticed that I was a full year’s releases behind.

James Axler

Deathlands – Nemesis, Chrono Spasm, Sins of Honor

nemesis  chrono-spasm  sins-of-honor

Outlanders – Savage Dawn, Sorrow Space

savage dawn  sorrow-space

Eric Flint – Grantville Gazette V

grantville gazette V

 

 

 

Lee Child – Running Blind, Echo Burning, Without Fail, Persuader, The Enemy, One Shot, Bad Luck and Trouble, The Hard Way

The Minutia V post that I recently published, where I claimed that ‘One Shot’ was my next Jack Reacher novel to be read, was originally written about two months ago, and I have finished it and two more recent titles since.

running blind  echo burning  without fail

persuader  the enemy one shot

bad luck and trouble  the hard way

Clive Cussler – The Chase, Inca Gold, White Death

the chase  inca gold  white death

John Scalzi – The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale

the ghost brigades  the last colony zoes tale

Dan Brown – Inferno

inferno

 

 

 

James Rollins – Excavation, Subterranean, Amazonia, Ice Hunt

In another case of not looking for contradictions, but still finding them, I read in Subterranean, the following passage;

“We had been following the twisting cave through the mountain, winding ever higher, trudging beside the stream which coursed through it.  I could feel the muscles in the backs of my legs burning from the constant uphill strain.

Suddenly it opened into a gigantic cavern.  We must be near the outer mountain surface, because there were thousands, perhaps millions of bats, nesting here.  We had to withdraw.  Because of the dust, the mould, and the overpowering ammonia smell, we could not slog through guano, sometimes feet thick in places.  We decided to wet pieces of cloth, hold them over our mouths and noses, and climb into the rushing stream to let it quickly carry us past the hazard.”

While it’s interesting imagery, and literary gimmickry, I doubt that caves and caverns are formed like this in the granite of the Andes.  Even if they are, the glacier meltwater stream could kill them from hypothermia and impact with rocks, before they could climb out.  Ignoring both of those quibbles, the story says they are moving upward.  Which way is the stream moving?  Rapidly downward, in compliance with gravity!  Riding the rapids will just get them back where they started.  Oh well.

Excavation  Subterranean

Amazonia  Ice Hunt

A.H. Browne – The Saloon at the Edge of Everywhere

This is the first published tale from fellow-blogger Art Browne, over at PouringMyArtOut.  While suitable for teens or young adults, it’s fun, and still has a thing or two to say about social morés.

saloon

 

 

 

Alena Graedon – The Word Exchange

word exchange

 

 

 

Max Berry – Lexicon

lexicon

 

 

 

Gregg Loomis – The Julian Secret, Pegasus Secret

julian secret  pegasus secret

Steve Berry – The Templar Legacy

templar legacy

 

 

 

Ryk E. Spoor – Grand Central Arena

A strangely named man tries to write an epic Space Opera as an homage to the great E.E. (Doc) Smith – and fails.  I’ve read Doc Smith.  This ain’t it!  It does not have Doc’s crisp precision and vision.  While interesting and enjoyable, this overly long tome contains lots of action and social statement, with a happily-ever-after ending.  It is full of physics impossibilities (Vaguely attributed perhaps to God – or gods.), but no explanations.

grand central arena

 

 

 

Anthology – Science Fiction of the Fifties

This book contains 22 short stories by some of the masters, only a couple of which I read in my teens.  The themes include some things we still worry about, and some we don’t; overpopulation, ecological collapse, social demand for uniformity, and miscegenation.  The stories are from the 1950s; the book was published in 1979, and priced at $4.99.  I didn’t purchase it until 1999, and paid $1.99.  It sat on a shelf for another 15 years before I finally got around to it.

50's SciFi

 

 

 

Uncle John’s Slightly Irregular Bathroom Reader

We all know what this one is.  One- and two-page articles full of interesting trivia, useful for a short stay in the small room.  Despite that, I read it in the living room.   😀

Uncle John

 

 

 

That’s enough reading about what I’ve been reading.  Rest up, and return soon.

Community Writing

I may have invented another new English term.  As opposed to “Committee Writing”, where two or more authors collaborate on a book, or books, Community Writing is when a group of authors each produce a book or books in a large series, by themselves.

About 1974, I read a science-fiction book titled The Guns of Terra 10, by an author named Don Pendleton.  Heavy on both sidearm and particle-beam weapons, and light on character development, it wasn’t the worst book I’d ever read, but, having been spoiled by the likes of Asimov and Heinlein, it was well down the list.

Several years later, I was attending a Christmas get-together at my sister’s.  The gals were cooking, setting tables and general women stuff.  The guys were downstairs in the rec-room, watching an exciting (Yawn!) hockey game.  I stayed in the living-room, hoping to score a snack before the real eating began.

I spotted a book that one of my nephews was reading and tried a couple of chapters.  It was by Don Pendleton and was number 15 in a series about an ex-army Special Forces who was waging war against the Mafia, who had destroyed his family.

Liberally stocked with things that go boom, but with much better character portrayal, it wasn’t long before I was haunting second-hand book stores to acquire the series from the beginning.  It took a while for word of mouth to let the series take off.  Pendleton wrote about 56 of these books before he, or his publisher, decided to farm them out.  They were being released on a monthly basis to keep up to the now-popular demand.

A group of 8 or 9 production writers was engaged to write individual books.  All Pendleton had to do was create story arc, co-ordinate timing and establish limits.  At about book number 85, some genius saw the limitations of a protracted fight against the Mafia, and “killed” the hero off, to have him reborn as Colonel John Phoenix, scourge of terrorists everywhere.

As well as the 250/300 page, numbered books, there were dozens of 450/500 page Superbooks.  I quit buying after number 216, and 30 or 40 of the Superbooks.  Finally dying off, the numbers approach 400.  To support the hero, Pendleton invented a three-man domestic team, and a five-man foreign-soil team, headed by a fox-faced Canadian, eh.

They were so popular that two other authors were handed the task of writing a series about each.  One guy got to 36 books, and the other to 52, before interest or writing ability died.

Besides ennui, one of the reasons I gave up that series was the discovery of another.  Jack Adrian dreamed up a series about a four-man, two woman, survival group in post-apocalypse America.  He wrote the first couple and then let his hired guns write about these hired guns.  The author name used is James Axler, but none of the 8/9 pet writers is named that.

The writing in the Pendleton series is so smooth and even, that all the books might have been written by the same person.  Not so with the Axler series!  It’s hit and miss.  Some are great.  The Mars Arena contained every literary reference imaginable.  Both Tom Sawyer and Mark Twain showed up, smooooth!  Hell Road Warriors, on the other hand, contained historical and geographical errors, as well as questionable technology.  Also, every chapter, sometimes almost every page, contained English usage errors.

This series is essentially about the man on the outside.  Adrian then dreamed up another series, set another hundred years in the future, basically about the man on the inside, who wants to get out.  Another group of 8/9 writers was hired to pump these babies out each month.  There is a bit of cross-pollination.  Occasionally one of the A-series writers produces a B-series book, and vice-versa.  At last count, there were 112 of series A published, and exactly half of that, 56, of series B.

Having followed the older series for ten years, and the newer one for five, through a total of almost 160 books, I’ve finally decided to stop buying them.  They’ve both become soap-opera-ish, especially the newer series; multi-dimensional sauroid space aliens called Annunaki, from Earth’s unseen twin planet Nibiru, controlling Man’s development for the past 30,000 years with the help of an evil dwarf named Sindri.  Every old superstitious story is woven in to sell more books.  Fun’s fun, but I’ve had enough.

I’m eight books behind and no chance of catching up.  I have 10 Clive Cussler books, and about twenty others to read, including the two “Locator” novels, and Pouringmyartout’s e-book, Saloon at the Edge of Everywhere stranded on Kobo.  My son has introduced me to some nice new books, including the 1632 series(?).

This started as a stand-alone book, positing a small Virginia town, suddenly stranded in 1632 Germany.  Having established the parameters, the author, Eric Flint, has invited other writers like David Weber, Virginia DeMarce (the irony), and Marilyn Kosmatka to take a bite out of his little universe and write connected stories from their literary viewpoint.  The print copies since 2000 number 26.

There is a strong online presence to these books, with a website and very active discussion page where fan-boys, and –girls, submit detailed short stories about mentioned characters and occurrences, to flesh out the narrative.  Flint reads them all, chooses the best, edits and accumulates them, and publishes them in print as The Grantville Gazette, I thru XII.

This is a different type of Community Writing from the above, and the wealth of detail makes the stories, and the people in them, as real as your neighbors, and a treasure trove of historical social study, from war, politics and religion, to love and marriage.

Out Of Touch

The good little New York, Jewish son called his momma every day while she wintered in Florida.  One day, in the middle of a conversation, he realised he couldn’t hear her.  He began clicking the hang-up button, and shouting, “Momma!  Momma, are you there?  Can you hear me?”  A technician, obviously aware of a problem on the lines, cut in and said to him, “I’m sorry sir.  You’ve been cut off.”  He replied, “I know, but should that affect my hearing?”

I don’t know how you “connected” people do it.  We were cut off from reality for a couple of days, (no smartass comments, please) and I was amazed at what I’ve grown used to, and reliant on.  The third novel of the Jack Reacher series arrived as an e-book, from the library.  The wife downloaded it to her laptop, and proceeded to put it on the son’s old Kobo, so that I could read it at my convenience.

The Kobo accepted the download, and she directed it to present it for reading.  “Restarting,” and then, nothing!   She plugged it back into the computer, but the computer wouldn’t even recognize it.  Took the little pin out, and poked it in the Reset hole in the back, poked it in the hole twice, three times, pushed it in and held it for ten seconds.  Did I mention, Nothing??!

Took it over to the electronics store.  The “Expert,” who was only a fetus last week, did exactly what we had done and then shook his head.  Apparently, the Kobo site mentions, “bricking,” where all the programs, and downloads, and commands, somehow run together, and jam the unit.  Even leaving it for six months for the battery to run down for a cold reboot, might not unjam it.  We decided to buy another one.  We thought of trading up, but decided to take a brand-new copy of the five-year-old tantrum-thrower.

We took it home.  The wife downloaded the Kobo library program to it.  It said, “Restarting,” and froze!  Damn, damn, damn!!!  The wife went to lift her laptop, and couldn’t hear the fan running in the cooling pad.  (See damn, damn, damn, above!)  Back to the electronics store the next day, for a no-charge replacement, and a $25 cooling pad.  Third time’s the charm, and I’m finally reading Reacher.

I took the wife to a Podiatric appointment Monday.  When we got home, she tried to phone the daughter.  No dial tone!  That meant that somebody, whose name is ME, had to ensure that every phone in the house is firmly on the hook.  Sometimes, the cats order pizza, while we’re out.  All phones a-okay, must mean it’s a Bell problem outside, so the wife punched in 611 on her cell phone, to reach Bell.

The home phone is Bell, but her mobile plan is with Telus, so she got the Telus office.  We’ve had problems with Bell services before, so we know the drill.  Again, ME, went around the house and unplugged all the phones except the last one used, (we know that one works!) including the DSL computer modem.  She dialled 310-BELL, and prepared to play the game.  Unplug all phones, including computer feed.  Done!  Plug back in a phone you’re sure works.  Done!   No dial tone.  The problem’s probably outside, but Bell has no other complaint, or work being done in our area.

The computer feed was working, but the phones weren’t.  How, and why unplug it?  Imagine two pipes, coming to a tee, and feeding the same tap.  Okay, then why unplug the computer?  That line may be affecting the phone line.  We need you to be home.  When would it be convenient to send out a tech?

We have appointments Tuesday and Thursday.  Could you come on Wednesday?  Sure, no problem.  The son works midnights, and hopes to sleep all day.   And if the problem’s  outside, why do we need to be home?  Bell might have to enter the house.  Okay, we hope to not see you on Wednesday.

We went to a chiropractor Tuesday morning and Costco in the afternoon.  When the son got up Tuesday evening, he told us that Bell had fixed the problem externally, and then rang the doorbell about 2:00 PM, which set the dog off, which partly woke him up, to hear the one phone ringing.  He trudged down the hall to the computer room, and heard the dog barking on the phone.  The repair tech was still outside.

We asked for a specific day and time, for a specific reason.  It was nice to get our phones and computer back a day early, but, while it was super-efficient, it was bureaucratically unreliable.  Just as we were preparing dinner, the phone rang.  It was Habibi – sorry, “Kevin” – wanting to clean my ducts.  Oh joy!  It’s a good thing we’re on that Do Not Call List.

We don’t Facebook.  We don’t Twitter, and we can live without telemarketers.  I was only without my blog, and the internet, for a little over one day.  No reading others’ posts, no comments, no likes, no online crossword, no definitions, no translation, no MapQuest, no researching arcane trivia.  I was going mad, I tell you, MAD!  For a disconnected old curmudgeon, apparently I need a lot of connecting – but I’m not getting a Bluetooth.  Even Putin thinks they’re gay.

Now that I’m back online, anybody got a comment?  Wanna click my Like button?  Anybody??  I’m feeling very lonely, and unloved, and disconnected over here.

 

 

Two Centuries

It seems like only ten months ago when I reached my first 100 posts, and was worried that I was not coming up with new ideas, and wondered if I would ever reach the 200 mark.  So, here it is, ten months later, and with the enthusiastic support of some of my readers, I’ve reached the double century mark, and am wondering if I can come up with enough ideas to get to the third.  Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.  That’s a French phrase, meaning pull your thumb out, quit your whining, and get writing.

This is the third new century I’ve seen arrive.  I transitioned from the first half of the 20th century, into the first half of the 21st, and I’m using that fact to pump out the occasional “remember when” post.  I realized the other day that I am within a couple of months of my 69th birthday.  Damn! 69, that’s almost 70!

When I was younger, birthdays were just numbers.  I had a brother-in-law who went berserk when he turned 50, a month before I did.  Fifty is the same as thirty.  Sixty-five is the same as fifty, just with more aches.  But 70 is not the same as dead.  I am seeing my mortality a little clearer.  Thankfully, I was blessed with good genes.  My mother was 92 when she died.  My dad had had bronchitis for years and was 85 when he passed on.  With good diet, a little exercise, and the wife coddling me as I deserve, I should still be here irritating you for years.

Actually, I started this post when I had published number 180, and realized that I had another twenty tucked away in a Word file.  With this one, and at least one more rattling around in my empty head, I know I’ll clear two hundred; it’s just that some of the stats I plan to brag about may be a bit off.

My followers continue to accumulate, although nothing like my more talented and famous fellow-bloggers.  They also have passed a century mark.  Count is around 140, although, sadly, I believe two have died, and a couple more have disappeared from the blogging scene.

BrainRants survived a year in Afghanistan, and we survived a year on short rations of his wit and wisdom.  The world’s most famous commenter, John Erickson, built himself a blog cabin, although for medical reasons, he drifts in and out of regular posting.  H E Ellis has received some kind of significant promotion.  I think she’s going to end up being the governor of New Hampshire, or maybe Jodi Picoult’s publisher.  Too busy to publish regularly herself, she’s still full of great ideas and help for other bloggers.

At the risk of appearing the obsequious cur that I am, I would like to state that there is not a day when I do not acquire, from the blogs I read, some new piece of information or viewpoint, or opinion, or support, emotional or technical….except when I get distracted and don’t read your blogs for a couple of days….or a couple of weeks.  My brain finally thaws out, and I try to get caught up, usually causing information overload and a headache.  I lie quietly on the couch, and take two bowls of chilli, and soon I feel normal (?) again.

I’ve received six more blog-awards, first one from SightsNBytes, then one from Benzeknees, then four all at once from Benze, that blew down here on a Chinook.  I had great fun with the acknowledgement posts.  I was going to put all of the logos on my sidebar, but another blogger opined that it just looked messy, and detracted from the importance of the posts themselves.  I proudly put up the Rants’ Army badge just to warn potential trolls.  I know a guy with a handgun and a tank, and who eats a lot of beans.  Mess with me, and, one way or another buddy, you’re in big trouble.

The quality of my writing has improved a bit….right?  C’mon guys, work with me on this.  I have increased the amount of comedy I post, and have begun publishing book reviews.  Okay, two so far, and counting.  I have learned how to insert photos, and even videos into my posts.  I just bitch and whine until the wife puts her Kobo down, and comes and does it for me.  Hey, we all got our strengths.  That chilli ain’t gonna make itself.

I assume that you, my readers, are also enjoying the entertainment, amusement and self-improvement.  This stringing words and thoughts together can be quite addictive.  I’m focussed on number three hundred now.  You guys go ahead without me.  My right hip is a little stiff and sore today, but I’ll get there!