Friday, May 17, 2013
In The Warlord of Mars, John Carter picks up the action where The Gods of Mars leaves off. He is on a quest to rescue his Martian wife,
mother of his son and beloved Princess of the Land of Helium. She has been trapped in an intricately designed revolving prison cell with two other women. Once the inner door opening has revolved passed the outer opening a year must pass before the women can be rescued.
Carter is suspicious that there is another way to get in, but he has no idea what or where it is...but not to worry, he is able to follow a suspicious character to a remote location where the suspicious character meets with some other characters who are up to no good, and Carter is able to follow them to the hidden passage which will lead him to his wife...or will it? He must pass many treacherous obstacles, fight many battles, don devious disguises but he is relentless and incredibly clever throughout the journey. He is a hero of heroes, but the deck certainly seems to be stacked against him this time...
The culture of the times and the turn of the century confidence of businessmen in the United States inspired a sense of superiority that caused the US Weather Bureau to discount the predictions of the Cuban weather forecasters as "poetic" and overly dramatic, though it is in fact more accurate than the predictions the US Weather Bureau distributes. The US Weather Bureau is trying to live down a series of moral scandals among their employees of the recent past as well as live down some pretty inaccurate forecasting errors.
So Isaac Cline represents the new breed of weather forecaster and takes himself very seriously. He is assigned to the Galveston office in 1899 and has a number of weather forecasters working for him. He does not doubt that what he knows is all there is to know about storm forecasting and therein lies his "fatal" flaw. He does survive the killer hurricane, but thousands of others do not. Perhaps some might have fled in time to outrun the terrible storm, but because there were not warnings about how huge and powerful the storm would be, residents do not register fear until it is too late to leave. Erik Larson does a terrific job of introducing many ordinary citizens of Galveston, others on ships at sea, and even some in Cuba who are living ordinary lives, not suspecting the nearness of disaster until the devastation is well upon them. Larson compares Cline's autobiographical reminiscences to multiple other accounts, and comes to the conclusion that though Cline is competent, his remembered accounting of the events of that fateful day just may be a bit self-serving.
Monday, May 6, 2013
Spencer Black, the younger son, becomes a brilliant student and admired surgeon, but develops an unlikely hypothesis about birth defects. What if the abnormalities of some human bodies is really the natural body trying to remember and recreate an original form from eons past? What if creatures we think of as mythological are actually part of humanity's ancient past?
Dr. Black becomes fascinated with carnival "freaks," and eventually uproots his family to travel with a carnival, befriending and even operating on some of the members of the carnival family. He becomes obsessed with proving his hypothesis, adding wings to dogs and horses, and perhaps even experimenting with human patients.
The second half of the book, the Codex Extinct Animalia, encompasses the detailed drawings from Dr. Black's research. The comprehensive illustrations include the musculature and skeletal systems. Also included are explanatory texts preceding the detailed drawings with extensive labels which would ostensibly be of assistance to the medical students whom Black hoped would use his work as a reference text.
I received a copy of the book from LibraryThing. It is macabre, a little eerie, and the illustrations are fascinating to peruse. I can only imagine how deliciously creepy the movie version would be!
Nero Wolfe is a detective that is such a genius that he solves most of the crimes his clients bring to him without ever leaving his office. He is an outside the box thinker kind of like Perry Mason, except Perry has to leave the office every once in awhile. Nero's confidential assistant Archie Goodwin does the traveling for him, enabling Nero to give his prize orchids the attention they require, and at the same time never miss a meal prepared by his in-house chef.
Archie is also the narrator of these very cleverly constructed tales. The dialog is witty, the vocabulary is occasionally challenging, but that is just part of the fun.
In this particular tale Nero is hired by an annoying young man, Llewellyn Frost, to solve the murder of a co-worker of his cousin, both models at a prestigious fashion house in New York City. The victim eats a piece of candy from a gift box at work, and in no time at all, drops dead. Nero makes quick progress in the case but not in the direction that the young man expects. Nero's methods irritate some of the older Frost relatives. It is not long, surprisingly, before the young man wants to fire Wolfe. Nero refuses to be fired. Before long, another member of the Frost family has guaranteed that his fee will be paid. Even the NYC Homicide detectives come to talk the nuances of the case over with Nero, off the record of course!
Author Rex Stout has written scores of Nero Wolfe detective stories and each is unique, surprising, and results in an unexpected resolution of a complicated case, which of course Nero suspects all along, but waits to reveal it all The Nero Wolfe Files by Kaye, (Google Affiliate Ad)til Archie has collected the evidence to prove it.
Always a fun read; no wonder they are still available to a devoted mystery-reading public, even after all these years!
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Early in Book 1, her creator Kanin gives her the choice of dying from mortal wounds sustained in a Rabid attack, or choosing immortality on earth as a vampire. She chooses immortality and Kanin mentors her in the difficult choices she will face as a vampire. He tells her it would be a mistake to maintain attachments to human friends in her former life, but it is a lesson hard for Allie to learn.
In this second book, Allie is again alone and searching for Kanin, who she knows is in terrible straits. She has the unfortunate ability to experience the horror of the torture he is going through in her dreams, which are absolutely terrifying. She has left behind the human ragtag group she had met and protected, even falling for the son of the radical leader of the "family." When they finally arrive at the city of Eden, the only city left with no vampires among the population, Allie is turned away. She is now following the faint pull of Kanin's blood intent on reaching him while he is still alive. She finally arrives in what is left of Washington, D.C. Allie knows none of the history, but we realize she has stumbled across the Lincoln Memorial, and eventually reaches what is left of the White House. The pull of Kanin's blood is strong, but she is shocked to find, not her creator, but her nemesis and blood brother, also a creation of Kanin's. Jackal and Allie are both feeling the pull toward Kanin, and for different reasons, decide to join forces to seek not only Kanin but a means to create a cure for the devastating disease that threatens to wipe out the human population, which of course would mean the end of the vampire food supply.
This saga is intricate and well crafted, lots of bad guys, scary guys, incredibly chilling circumstances and some surprising heroes along the way. Great story, and great ending, with a surprising twist that sets up book three. I'm guessing it will make a great film series, so be watching for that...but read the books first, people!!
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Book Two picks up the story as Zoe and Noah are on the run, desperate to escape the grasp of Zoe's grandfather, who has previously interrupted Noah and Zoe as they came close to finding out the details of her grandfather's involvement in the death of her brother. Noah escapes, but Zoe is reunited with her parents, who see that she receives drugs which cause a loss of the memories involving Noah and her brother, replacing them with benign memories.
Noah "knows" that if he can take Zoe away from that fake world, their love will be strong enough to see them through, not realizing how long and difficult their road will be. Zoe suffers from head aches as she withdraws from the powerful medicines she had been taking, and only has Noah's word for it that they had been in love. While Noah lived in LA he had influence via his blog on the growing anti-GAP (genetically altered people) culture, but he loses his ability to influence others when logging on would alert Zoe's powerful grandfather and the thugs who work for him of their location.
The posters and ever present newscasts make it clear that they must change their appearance and keep a very low profile. They can trust no one, as the bounty on their heads makes the temptation to turn them in pretty overwhelming for anyone who might realize who they are. They are hungry and tired; winter is coming, when they stumble across a fundamentalist family who shun technology and live off the land in Utah. This may be the break they need. But the longer they stay the more they realize that all in this household is not as it seems. There is conflict in the family and tension between Noah and Zoe. They must leave suddenly, travelling to an urban environment in a "borrowed" car. Existence is even harder here, but they meet a brother and sister who live in an abandoned factory and give them a place to stay. The brother and sister seem to have some secrets too.
Zoe and Noah continue to struggle with whether or not they are in love, but Noah is sure of his loyalty to Zoe, even as he wonders if he has done her any favors by removing her from the safety and comfort of her parents' home.
The author does not sugarcoat the difficulties that a couple on the run in an increasingly totalitarian society would have, but she is true to the angst of their young love and the comfort that Noah draws from his upbringing in a Godly home.
They seem to have overcome against all odds by the end of the book...but wait, a new and unexpected disaster is introduced at the end of the book, preparing an eager readership for Book 3 in the series.
I received Perception as an e-book from Net Galley, and ordered this sequel as soon as I got the chance. Check it out!
Monday, April 22, 2013
In this book John Carter returns to the planet Mars after 10 or 12 years back on Earth. He returns to a different region and before he knows it, he is in one life and death battle after another with mysterious creatures who are potentially deadly foes, but for Carter's incredible and tireless fencing skills. He comes to realize that he is in the very place that the Martians he had met on his previous trip believed to be paradise...the sought after destination of those whose life has come to an end. But Carter realizes that it is a horrific scam that generations of Martians have perpetrated on the naive masses, exploiting and enslaving all who take the last trip down the Iss River.
Carter and a few others eventually escape and return to his Martian home and family. But he finds unrest and more battles to be fought, eventually returning to the mock "last resting place," and battling to save loved ones who have been taken captive!
It's always something, and it's fun to read!