Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Report #84 - Farside by Ben Bova

8 of 52
page count - 367

This had a higher page count than I'm trying to concentrate on but I've always enjoyed Bova's work and have found him an easy read.

As much as I like Bova I found this book to be longer than it had to be.  A lot of points were repeated to the point of annoyance.

That said, I enjoyed it.  This is the kind of science fiction that I'm always interested in; there are no aliens, for a start, it's about people, people trying to make a living, trying to accomplish something.  With that comes conflict and opposing interests.

The book confines itself to the moon but travel throughout the solar system is part of the reality of the setting.  This kind of near-earth SF is fun to read because it's the next logical step in human exploration.  Our technology today does not include interstellar travel. We don't have a warp drive, but if we wanted, we could travel about the solar system today.

I think Bova is doing humanity a favour by telling stories that still embraces the "What If..." spark of SF but keeps it close to home.  Perhaps he's trying to inspire people to make the "giant leap."

Ben Bova

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book Report #83 - Cinnamon Skin by John D. MacDonald

7 of 52
page count - 304

This is a much-beloved series, however, it is the penultimate book and I felt like I jumped in at the wrong place.

Travis McGee is a very likable guy but he came off a bit flat for me.  I think it was because McGee was a well established character and the book was written with a fan in mind.  It felt like a comfortable place to get reacquainted with an old friend not to be introduced to him.

We were going through a very cold period in Edmonton and I wanted to read a story set in a warm climate.  Florida fit the bill perfectly.

The novel was about tracking down a serial killer one who goes as far as being in a close relationship with his victims.  I liked the uniqueness of this kind of murderer but I was never taken by the story.

I'd give the book two stars - knowing full-well that I was coming at the series from the back end which was a disadvantage.

I have some other MacDonald novels on my shelf and I'll certainly give them a go.  Just not right away.

John D. MacDonald

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Report #82 - Homeworld by Harry Harrison

6 of 52
Page count - 155

Published in 1980 it is chilling just how accurately Harrison predicted surveillance methods.

The main character, Jan Kulozik is an electronics engineer, one of the privileged elite who went about his life oblivious about the structure of his society.  An unfortunate sailing accident and risky rescue propel Kulozik into a plot to overthrow the ruling elite and restore democracy to humanity.

Set in a distant future London where interstellar travel has been a reality for generations, the story takes place mostly on Earth.  It felt like a Cold War thriller and was just as scary and dangerous as one.

The book was hopeful and bleak all at once.  It was wonderful.  I read it in two sittings.  Luckily this first novel was collected in paperback in 1994 with the title, "To The Stars." I'll be ripping into the next two installments very soon.

If you like underground spy thrillers and movies like Blade Runner this book will satisfy you.

Highly recommended.

Original book cover
Harry Harrison

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Report #81 - Fifty-Two Pickup by Elmore Leonard

Book 5 of 52
Page count - 239

After the adventures of Max Fisher from Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, I just had to pick up a classic Elmore Leonard.

Published in 1974 it still stood fresh and believable 40 years later.  What I love best about Leonard's writing is how delves into the world of the criminals, something I find fascinating. 

Harry Mitchell, owner of a Detroit auto parts manufacturing business, is targeted for some classic blackmail.  His affair with a younger woman was filmed and shown to him along with their demands for money.  But the bad guys have targeted a man who decides to fight back.  Harry knows that if he pays, the bad guys will not just go away.

The book was a fun read.  One of the things I like about reading older books is how they can be a snapshot of the past.  Technology is a fun one; it's easy to forget how important payphones were or how different life was without the Internet.  In the opening scene Harry is shown the movie from a portable screen and home projector.

I was a few chapters in when my wife mentioned the line at the bottom of the cover: "Soon to be a Major Movie!"  An INDb search brought up the 1986 production starring Roy Scheider and Ann-Margret.  I'll have to track it down and watch it.

If anyone is interested in the vintage paperback book itself, leave a comment and I'll contact you for a mailing address.

Elmore Leonard

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Report #80 - The Max by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr

Book 4 of 52
Page count - 220

I can't help it; I just loved this series.  Max Fisher, aka The M.A.X. Finds himself in prison.  But, just like always, he makes the best of it from sheer blind luck and arrogance.

I've never come across a character that was as much fun to read.

Bruin and Starr are a great writing team.

Ken Bruen
Jason Starr