Book Review #17

Dark Matter

It is no paradox that I like to read stories about paradoxes. In my list of books read in 2016, I included several time-travel novels. More recently, my Book Review #16 – The Whenabouts of Burr, was not really about time travel, but a voyage across parallel, but slightly different versions of Earth.

I recently read another alternate Earth novel. It was

The book: Dark Matter

The author: Blake Crouch

The review: This book is also about alternate Earths/Universes. The narrator is a man who might have been a great physicist, married to a woman who might have been a great artist. Instead, he is a university science professor, and she runs a graphic design studio out of their home, as they raise a beloved 10-year-old son.

He is kidnapped by Himself from a parallel existence, who never married or had a family, but instead invented/designed a device to make this transposition possible. He is thrust into the other’s frenetic life, while the imposter takes over his peaceful existence.

The ‘Burr’ book makes inter-dimensional travel possible by an electronic device that limits which realities are available. It is largely a discussion about social and political alternatives – USA vs. Russia vs. China – disguised in a roman a cléf.

This book is about infinity, quantum entanglement, and the definitions of ‘reality.’ The device is mostly an elevator-car-sized sensory deprivation chamber, because quantum theory says that merely observing an action, changes the outcome. Essentially, the traveller becomes Schrödinger’s cat. He got some help from a biologist friend who developed a serum that shuts down the section of the brain that accepts the remaining input.

Instead of electronic controls, where you end up when you open the door is controlled by the psyche, the subconscious. You go where you unconsciously want or feel to go. It takes him several months, in and out of the box, to train his mind to return to where he started from.

Just when the reader thinks that it is “Happily Ever After” time, the writer throws another curve-ball at reality. While there is only one ‘his world’, and ‘his wife’, and ‘his son’ to return to, decisions that he made during the months that he was gone, caused other versions of him to split off, and 110 of them return, most of them ready to kill to get the prize. How do you surprise, outthink, and win out over yourself??

I found that this was a great, thought-provoking Science Fiction novel, about something that may become science fact in the all-too-near future. What are you reading? 😕

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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. 😀

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.

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??

Flash Fiction #94

Antiques

PHOTO PROMPT © Mary Shipman

HARD-TIME MACHINE

They’d spent a wonderful week at the little lakeside tourist town when he finally succumbed to curiosity about the sign. It read;

TAKE A TRIP IN A TIME MACHINE
Shuttle Leaves At
9:00AM 11:00 AM 1:00PM 3:00PM

The psychedelically-painted hippie love-bus dropped them off at a moribund factory, next to another bright sign declaring;

Welcome to Terri’s Temporal Temple
Come on in and see how your
ancestors lived 150 years ago
(And our Amish neighbors still do)

It was a cute come-on for a ratty little antique shop, but the tour was educational. Our pioneer ancestors worked hard! Vive technology!

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Flash Fiction #75

Dr. Who

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

THE GRASS IS GREENER

Oy, just back it up half a mo.  That there grass was green and mowed when I climbed in this thing an’ you did the flashin’ lights and sound-effects thingy.  And where in the bloody ‘ell did them skyscrapers come frum.  They wasn’t in mah bleedin’ front yard when I came outta the house a few minutes ago.

Where are we?
Wha’, “When??”  Right now!
“When are we??”  Like we moved in time, like?
We did?  How’dya know?
“The lights and sounds did it, and you made ‘em?”
How could you do that??!
“Cuz yer thuh doctor?!”

DOCTOR WHO?!

Tardis

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

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.