Book Review #16

The Whenabouts of Burr

I just got back from a short time travel trip.

I recently visited the website of a female author. She has written 5 or 6 Young-Adult Sci-Fi books, all centered on Mars – ‘The Tunnel on Mars, A Ranch on Mars, Subduing Mars, etc.’  The post I read was her book-review of Time And Again, a seminal time-travel novel.

I told her that I was also fascinated with time travel stories. I showed a bunch of them in my post of books read in 2016. I remembered a somewhat different time-travel book, and suggested it to her. Later, I went back in time, dug it out of my hoard of old Sci-Fi books, reread it, and decided to do a book review of it.

The Book: The Whenabouts Of Burr (1975)

The Author: Michael Kurland

The review: The time travel in this book isn’t – quite. It’s a story about parallel Universes, and alternate Earths, created by different choices at significant historical nexus points, like the Aaron Burr/Alexander Hamilton duel. Like a deck of cards skewed sideways, each reality is just over nine hours from its neighbors. The more levels you travel through, the further back in time you go.

It’s a great device for the author to make sociological comments – a fun game of “What If”. In some levels, Burr lives, but becomes an exiled political outlaw. Some levels have benevolent, supportive democracies, others have restrictive tyrannies. On some worlds, Europeans did not reach the Americas, and the natives have developed their own civilizations.

The sharpest social comment/warning comes from the author’s description of Prime Time, the world which originally developed the Temporal Translation Technology. The people have become like professional Victorian tourists, slumming, and gaily gadding about the alternate words, observing. The entire society has become effete and static. There is no interest, or challenge, nor further research or advancement through struggle, because they now steal/import all discoveries and new technology from the other ‘Earths.’

Published only a little over 40 years ago, it’s not as old as many of my books. It was a fun re-read, and a warning reminder of how Western society may be going. I got back in time to publish this post, and I’ll move forward, to have another ready in a couple of days. See you then. 😀

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2018 List Of Books Read

I read a book, once….  Others, I’ve read more than once.

My GP sees me so seldom that she forgets who I am, because my “yearly” physicals are often 18 to 24 months apart.  I continue to accrue a lengthening list of medical specialists for myself, the wife, and the daughter.  Because of this (and normal physical deterioration), available free time for reading diminishes.

Next year, instead of a list of books that I managed to read, I may just put up a list of all the medical appointments I had to drive to.  This past year’s list is down to 21 books – I think.  I’m too tired to check.  Someone add them up, and get back to me.  These are the ones that I managed to get through.

Eric Flint/Griffin Barber – 1636: Mission To The Mughals

Mission to the Mughals

This series was interesting Sci-Fi when it started out.  I’m done with it.  Now it’s just a 700 page excuse to publish a little political history of India around the time of building the Taj Mahal.

Chris Ryan – Stand By, Stand By – Zero Option – Greed

Stand by, Stand by

Zero Option

Greed

A very British men’s action series.  Not bad if you’re into that sort of thing.

Gregg Loomis – The Cathar Secret

The Cathar Secret

More suspense and plot development than any of the above.  A good way to waste an afternoon.

Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child – The Pharaoh Key

The Pharaoh Key

A suspense/action tale good enough to sink your eyeteeth into, but not deep enough to need to munch your molars.

Tom Clancy’s Commander In Chief

Commander In Chief

Tom Clancy is long dead, but his ghost writers continue to grind out the pot-boilers and royalties.

Michael Kurland – The Whenabouts Of Burr

The Whenabouts of Burr

This is a re-read from 1975.  I was reminded of it because of a conversation with a lady author who said that she liked time-travel Sci-Fi, as I do.  It’s actually more of an alternate universe/history story, with minor temporal displacement.  I’ll publish a review on it soon.

Blake Crouch – Dark Matter

Dark Matter

This one is another alternate universe story like the above, but with no time travel.  I’ll publish a review on it also, in a couple of months, to compare the viewpoints and construction.

Steve Berry – The Columbus Affair

The Columbus Affair

Christopher Columbus and his navigator were both secret Jews, escaping the Inquisition…. and they hid the Temple Treasure in the New World??!  Okay, you’ve got my attention and interest.

Isaac Asimov – The Rest Of The Robots

The Rest Of The Robots

I thought that I had read every Asimov story in the Foundation series, about robots.  Turns out that I was wrong.  This book was published in 1964.  It contains 8 short stories, and two novellas about the positronic predecessor to Star Trek’s Data character.  I was able to purchase a Kindle version, and wallow in classic Asimov.

E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith – Imperial Stars

Imperial Stars

This is another Sci-Fi re-read.  This is the first in a series of 12 books.  In 1976, after the death of Doc Smith, his younger author friend, Stephen Goldin took notes, and drafts, and conversations/discussions with Doc, and assembled the story line as he felt Doc would have.  Performers from the interstellar Imperial Circus are used like James Bond, as intelligence gatherers and executioners.  Goldin has his own books, but he did well with this lot.  They still have Doc Smith’s feel to them.

E. C. Tubb – The Temple Of Truth – The Return – Child Of Earth

The Temple of Truth

The Return

Child of Earth

I read the first 27 books of this never-ending series years ago, but ‘life’ caused me to give it up.  When I heard that another author like Stephen Goldin above, had brought it to a post-mortem culmination after Tubb’s death, I bought the final 7.  I read four of them in 2017, and the final three last year.

James Rollins – The 6th Extinction – The Kill Switch

The 6th Extinction

The Kill Switch

A couple more rollicking-good men’s action books.  ‘The Kill Switch’ is the first of a series within a series, where the hero, introduced in a previous book, is an ex-Army, now-paramilitary, who has brought along his K9 partner, which the Government was just going to destroy.

Clive Cussler – Lost Empire

Lost Empire

All the old, well-known authors are increasingly, farming out the sub-series.  Grant Blackwood, who wrote this one for Cussler, also wrote Kill Switch, above, for James Rollins.

David Ignatius – The Quantum Spy

The Quantum Spy

One of the new type of secret agent books.  As you might guess, while there is lots of travel, suspense and physical action, much of the plot revolves around the World Wide Web, hacking, and code-breaking.

Nan Yielding – Things I Never Learned In Sunday School

Things I never Learned in Sunday School

The very-Christian wife of an author decided to do some research to prove the inerrancy of the Bible.  Along the way she turned up so many mistakes, contradictions and unprovable claims, that she turned herself into an Atheist.  I ran into her blog-site one night, and she was pleased that I had read her book, and gave it a recommendation.

James S. A. Corey – Caliban’s War

Caliban's War

This is the second book of a grand Sci-Fi series, recommended to me by my buddy BrainRants.  It is/was available as a series on SYFY, which I can’t access.  Even if you’ve seen some/all of it, I still suggest that you try the books.

I Spy With My Little Eye

Pirate

I’m going to get my chance to pace the poop-deck, (Heh, Heh, I said poop 😆 ) and do my best pirate impersonation.

When eye wrote of having an impending eye operation, eye expected to be given a couple of weeks warning, so that we could adjust our sleep schedules.  We are unlike most retirees, staying up late partying reading, and sleeping in.

Eye got 93 hours – less than four days – notice.  A lovely tech named Olivia (Suddenly eye’m surrounded by Olivias.) called, at 11:30 AM, Thursday, January 3rd. to say that eye had surgery scheduled for 8:00 AM, Monday, Jan. 7th, and to be at the hospital by 6:00 AM to register.

It was bad enough getting the wife to a local hospital by 6 AM for her two knee surgeries, but this hospital is an extra hour and a half drive away.  We’ll have to be ready to leave by 4.  I might as well just stay up. I could peacefully sleep through the operation, but the wife would need sleep to drive me home.  Then I need to be back at the same hospital by 7:30 the following morning, for assessment and removal of my pirate eye-patch.

Eye’m posting this note a day ahead of my normal schedule, just to give you the heads-up that I threatened promised.  Just after midnight, eye’ll click publish on my regularly scheduled A To Z Challenge.  After that, eye may not post for a few days, or a week.

Eye’ll see you here soon…. I hope.   😎

Fun With One-Liners

Comedy

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again….
….It

I began speed reading, and last night I read “The Da Vinci Code” in 15 minutes….
….I know it’s only 4 words, but it’s a start

How do you make headlines?….
….with corduroy pillows

Police arrested two teenagers today. One was drinking battery acid. The other was eating fireworks….
….They charged one, and let the other off.

I was going to start up an Apathy Anonymous support group….
….then I thought, Why bother?

I’m trying to come up with a Theatre pun….
….but it would just be a play on words.

I’m not stubborn….
….my way is just better

What’s the most reactive fish in the ocean….
….2NA

What’s brown and sticky?….
….a stick

As a kid, I was made to walk the plank….
….because we couldn’t afford a dog

I have a pet tree….
….kinda like having a pet dog, but the bark is quieter.

I hate those new parents who do all that baby talk….
….Yes I do! Yes I do!

As a scarecrow, people say I’m outstanding in my field….
….but hay, it’s in my jeans

I went into a pet shop and said I’d like to buy a goldfish. The clerk said, “Do you want an aquarium?”….
….I said I didn’t care what star sign it was

My boss told me that I intimidate my co-workers….
….so I just stared at him until he apologized

I love telling Dad jokes….
….He loves them

There are so many scams on the internet these days….
….For $19.95 I can show you how to avoid them

It’s okay, Password….
….I’m insecure too

I went to a can crushing convention….
…seeing all that metal destroyed was just soda pressing

Christmas always sucked when I was a kid….
….I believed in Santa Claus, but unfortunately, so did my parents

I’ll never forget the last thing my Grandpa said to me….
….are you still holding the ladder?

I saw two blind people fighting. I said, “I’m rooting for the one with the knife.”….
….they both ran away.

I invited my math teacher to my house. I told her to get here at ten past one….
….so she turned up at eleven.

I know it’s you going around stealing enclosures….
….whether I’m right or wrong, please don’t take a fence.

I told my friend that I was selling my car….
….he didn’t buy it.

 

2017 Books Read

That title is a calendar reference, not mathematical. I did not read two thousand and seventeen books – I’ve probably read twice that many in my lifetime – just not all last year.

With the daughter’s power wheel chair missing, the wife’s two knee replacement surgeries, more visits to more doctors, and the discovery of yet another crossword puzzle site, my book reading fell off significantly. From 51 books in last year’s post, I was down to about 25 in 2017.

I also reread a few old sci-fi books that I didn’t count, and a few on the list are 700/800 page – one even 1200 page – super-books, the equivalent of 2 or 3 books each. Here’s what occupied some of my time

Charles E. Gannon -Commander Cantrell In The West Indies

1636 Commander Cantrell in the West Indies

Another in the ‘1632’ series about a modern Tennessee town transported back in time, and how the inhabitants struggle to survive, both politically and literally.  Sadly, it’s all alternate history, and no real action, just a reason to sell another 800-page blah book.

Mark Greany – The Grey Man – On TargetOn Target

The Gray Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the ghost writers for the now-deceased Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Jr. series, this author has one of his own action series about an ex-CIA assassin, forced to go independent.

Tom Clancy’s – Full Force And Effect – On Target

Full Force And EffectUnder Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Clancy’s name is the one that still attracts readers, but Mark Greaney and Grant Blackwood are two of 3 or 4 contract writers who pump them out.

Lee Child – Night School

Night School

After four years, I’m caught up.  It has been a most enjoyable series.  There will be one more Jack Reacher book this year, one more Dan Brown novel, and one more Ilona Andrews ‘Magic’ book in 2018.

Ilona Andrews – Magic Binds

Magic Binds

I got out of ‘Magic’ Sci-Fi about 30 years ago, but this series has lots of diverse character and plot development, thought and planning, and action.

Steve Perry – Patriot Threat

The Patriot Threat

A Dan Brown type of author, with a wide range of plot ideas, very enjoyable, but with just not quite the same OOMPH.

James Rollins – Blood Line – The Eye Of God

Blood Line

The Eye Of God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Steve Perry, above, a good, solid action/adventure author.

Clive Cussler – Plague Ship

Plague Ship

While not dead, like Clancy, Cussler is old enough that he is co-writing with his son Dirk, and a couple of other commercial writers, as well as establishing the story arc and parameters, and letting them loose.

Will Adams – The Lost Labyrinth

The Lost Labyrinth

A fresh young writer who isn’t likely to die before I do.  His books (so far) are about action and intrigue around Middle Eastern archeological sites.

E.E. (Doc) Smith – Subspace Encounter

Subspace Encounter

A re-read that I downloaded a cover for.  I also re-read his ‘Skylark’ series, The Skylark of Space, Skylark Three, Skylark of Valeron, and Skylark Duquesne.  This year I hope to re-read all 12 of his ‘Family D’Alembert’ series.  While not as prolific as Isaac Asimov, Doc still pumped out almost 50 novels in four different series.

E.C. Tubb – Earth Is Heaven – Melome – Angado – Symbol Of Terra

Earth Is HeavenMelome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AngadoSymbol of Terra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I lost this series about 20 years ago, after reading the first 26 episodes.  I recently thought of it again, and found that there were seven more available on Kindle.  The original author wrote to number 31 before he died.  He left notes for novel number 32, which his estate hired another commercial writer to assemble.  The story arc almost got the hero home to Earth, so he wrote a happily-ever-after finale to this epic tale.  I read four of them in 2017, and plan to finish the other three this year.

James S. A. Corey – Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes

Recommended by BrainRants, this is the first of five books, being made into a television series on SYFY, which I can’t get here in Canada.  The hero ‘acquires’ a slightly outdated destroyer spaceship, and renames it Rocinante, after Don Quixote’s horse, establishing the whole ’tilting at windmills’ flavor of the story.

Robert Asprin/Linda Evans – Tales Of The Time Scouts II

Tales of the Time Scouts II

Another adventure into the paradoxes of time travel.  This is actually 800 pages of two related stories in one (large) book.

Thomas Cathcart/Daniel Klein – Plato And A Platypus Walk Into A Bar

Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar

Another recommended book, although, with apologies, I can’t remember the nice gentleman’s name.  (Stand up Sign in and take a bow.)  This one explores the philosophy and psychology of jokes and humor.  I can’t find its companion, ‘Aristotle And An Aardvark Go To Washington’ in Canada.  I’ll wait till the next time we order something from Amazon, and add it to the order to get free shipping.

Well, that’s (more than) enough about me.  Besides my output, what did you read last year??

WOW #23

Cinderella

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo

No! Wait!  That’s ‘The Magic Song’ from the 1950 Disney animated feature, Cinderella.  What I wanted to talk about was

Bibliobibuli & Librocubicularist

This is a pair of pretentious, $12.50 words that even I wouldn’t use except as a blog-theme, to make fun of.  I recently stole liberated them from another bibliophile’s word-nut’s post.  He claimed that bibliobibuli was a person who reads too much.  I don’t know how anyone could read too much, as long as your regular chores are getting done.  Poor little, provincial Dictionary.Com doesn’t even recognize it.  From its apparent Latin roots, bibliobibulum would be the singular.

Librocubicularist apparently applies to a person who reads in bed.  That is something which I just don’t do.  A young man asked his girlfriend in her boudoir, if they could have sex.  She replied, “I am not prone to object.”  I do my reading sitting up, if not in the easy-chair, then at the computer monitor.

‘Getting lucky’ at my age, means getting a whole eight hours uninterrupted sleep, something my dog and my prostate generally deny me. The wife regularly reads in bed.  So much that I think I’m getting a tan from the glow of her Kindle.  It’s just that my skin is turning an odd shade of blue, instead of brown.

Early in January, I will post my yearly list of books read, for 2017. You’ll see that I have not been reading too much.  How is your reading going?  Have you been reading too much, or has life made it ‘too little?’  Do you read in bed?  Do you do it prone, or propped up with the 27 pillows that many women seem to have?

2017 A To Z Challenge – N

*Challenge2017

Our Canadian Postal Code is N2N 3B4.  When asked for it, to prevent mistakes due to misheard pronunciation, we tell people that it is, “Not too new, three before.”

For the letter

letter-n

I downloaded these prompts;
negotiate, no, new, news(papers), notes, not my problem, Niagara, night, name, nothing

In no particular order;                   

I have already composed and published a post about ‘It’s Not My Problem’ here, for anyone who wants to (re)read it.

I live about an hour and a half drive from Niagara Falls, Ontario.  It’s an unusual year that I don’t take the wife, the son, or both, for a day or a weekend there.  I published a 100-word Flash Fiction about it here,  including a great photo of the night-time colored lights on the American side, buried in the comments.

I’m so old that nothing is new anymore.  I’ve seen it all, done most of it, forgotten a bunch, and been caught at very little.

I’ve written about my lack of memory, a problem that I partially solve with copious notes.  See – prompts, above.

I’m sure like many others, my wife is addicted to the word no, and doesn’t even realize it.  (and I’m not gonna mention it)  The first word of response to any question or request, is likely to be, “No.”  Maybe it comes from raising children or grandkids. “Do you want me to put the rest of this stew in a Tupperware container, and put it in the fridge?  We could have it for lunch one day next week.” “No.  I want to save it for a lunch next week.  Put it in a Tupperware container and put it in the fridge.”

For no reason, other than that I never have, I continue not to reveal my first name on my blog-site.  I kinda discussed this back on M’s misidentification post.  Call me Ishmael Archon.

Several years ago, the Waterloo Region Record newspaper switched to being a ‘morning’ paper, guaranteed to be to your house by 5:30 AM.  When it was an afternoon paper, it was delivered by reliable school-kids after class.  Now, it is delivered to me by a Jamaican Negro in an old truck.  Since the son works midnights, he has the car, and the driveway is empty.

Rasta-Man rolls down the hill in neutral, rolls up our slanted driveway and puts the brakes on, flings the paper out the driver’s window left-handed, and rolls back out of the driveway. He’s only touched the house with the paper twice in that time.  Once, it landed on my porch roof, and the other time he pitched the heavy Saturday edition through the porch railing, snapping one of the support spindles.  I have found it in two different gardens, stuck up in our magnolia bush and so far under it that, like the porch roof delivery, I had to use a broom to get it.  Often it lands at the garage corner – right where the eave drips after a rain, or a snow melt.  Fortunately, they come in a plastic bag, although I’ve had to defrost an ice-coated paper.

Last summer, he must have taken vacation. On the first Monday, I called circulation because I didn’t get my copy.   Someone drove one out to me.  We don’t get mail home delivery, but I have a mailbox for things like newspapers.  Tuesday, as I went out to look, something made me look in the box.  Sure enough, there were Monday, and Tuesday’s papers, and so it continued for two weeks.

One time, at the auto-parts plant, I was invited to join the Labor team who would negotiate a new contract.  I politely declined.  It takes a particular type of person, and my boredom level is quickly reached.  Diplomacy is also defined as tact, or restraint, or good manners.  Like diplomats, people who negotiate Labor contracts have to get used to repeatedly saying ‘nothing’, for days, weeks, even months, until finally someone cracks.

One year, we mistakenly elected a big ‘Buffalo Biker’ as union president, to lead the team. We thought that he would frighten the opposition.  He screamed and yelled and stomped around the room, and pounded on tables….but, that’s not the way you successfully negotiate.  It was the worst contract we ever attained.  😳