Archive for the ‘Death’ Category


[READ: July 4, 2022] Charlie Thorne and the Curse of Cleopatra

This is the third book in the Charlie Thorne series.  And there will clearly be a fourth.

Sarah brought this home and was very excited about it.  I was pretty excited to read it as well.  Our excitement was justified, because Stuart Gibbs has created a great heroine, an intriguing mystery and a thoughtful historical quest.

One of the things I liked best about this book was the historical information about Cleopatra.  We all know all about Cleopatra.  Except  that everything we know is incorrect!  The course of (male) history has been very unkind to Cleopatra–she was an amazing woman and ruler and has been historically described as little more than an exotic temptress.

In the acknowledgements, Gibbs, heaps praise on the book Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff.  I have just checked out the book and the first chapter is fantastic.

The Prologue is set in Alexandria, Egypt in 30 BC.  Cleopatra was being held prisoner by Octavian–Julius Caesar’s nephew.  Cleopatra and her husband Mark Antony were united in a war against Octavian–but they had lost.

Octavian lied about how he would treat Cleopatra after Mark Antony’s death.  She discovered this and was preemptive about her own fate.  She did not kill herself with an asp–rather, she drank poison and burned down her mausoleum.  And her great treasure was destroyed wit her.

Staying in Egypt, the book shifts to the present day.  At the end of the last book Charlie has escaped from the CIA as well as the Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel.

Now she is sneaking into a party in Giza, Egypt, at the penthouse of Ahmet Shah, the oldest son of a wealthy shipping magnate.  Ahmet has a ton of security because he has a ton of expensive things in his house.  But one thing that Charlie wants is not expensive–it is information. (more…)

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[READ: June 23, 2022] Yuanyuan’s Bubbles

This is the fourth of sixteen graphic novels based on Cixin’s Liu’s stories.  This story, originally called 圆圆的肥皂泡, is the most straightforward one yet.

It is full of hope and shows that play is just as important as other scholarly pursuits.

When Yuanyuan was born, the one thing that made her happy was bubbles.  Her mother was a scientist and rather serious.  While her father often chided her mother for being too straight-faced.  But her mother had serious work to do.

Their city–Silk Road City was having severe drought.  If nothing could be done about it, the whole city would have to be abandoned.  Yuanyuan’s mother’s idea was to drop ice bombs with plants in them from a plane.  The project worked–the water helped to keep the seedlings alive.

However, in a rather dramatic early moment, the plane went down and Yuanyuan’s mother was killed.  Yuanyuan’s father was affected by the death of his wife and insisted that Yuanyuan grow up to be just like her mother–serious and thoughtful.  But Yuanyuan had other ideas.  She was still obsessed with bubbles.

Even her teachers noticed her attitude.  But her grades were excellent. Indeed, one of her teachers explained to Yuanyuan’s father that “in this new era, being a  little more relaxed and carefree isn’t a weakness.”

Her father still wants her to take things more seriously, but in the meantime, Yuanyuan has discovered a formula for creating the largest bubble in the world–it’s breaks the world record!

Yuanyuan becomes very successful–her formulas for creating elasticity in bubbles is greatly in demand.  Ultimately, her father asks her for a loan to help keep part of their old city alive.  But she says she cannot.  She is using her funds for her next project–a bubble that can envelope a city.

That’s actually not what she intended, but the bubble does settle onto the city, forcing everyone to figure out how to survive with their oxygen being cut off.  Everyone is furious at Yuanyuan, but she only sees the possibilities–what is she made bubbles that could carry water from he sea to their desiccated city?

No one thinks she can do it.  People make fun of her.  Even her father is disappointed in her.  But she won’t give up.

As with most of these graphic novels, I feel like the story suffers a but from being truncated (I assume it was truncated a lot).  And yet the general tone and tenets of the story come through clearly.  And it’s very cool.  It was translated by Nicholas Blackburn Smith and then written for this book by Valérie Mangin.

The story was illustrated by Steven Dupré and he does a great job creating the images of the bubbles.

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[READ: June 2022] Sea of Tranquility

S. brought this book home and said she thought I’d enjoy it.  She knows what she’s talking about, and I did enjoy it.

This is a time-travel/pandemic/end of the world novel.  And for all of the time jumps, it’s still pretty short (just over 250 pages).

The book opens in 1912.  We follow the story of Edwin St. John St. Andrew, and eighteen year old aristocrat who has been sent away from him home in England to the wilds of Canada.  I found his story to be quite interesting.  Being the youngest son, he stood to inherit nothing, so he had to make he way abroad anyhow.  But he also hated the way England had taken over India and colonialism in general.  But his parents were born in India raised by Indian nannies and had nothing but fond memories of the place.  So when he publicly stated his disgust with the system, he was told in no uncertain terms that it was time for him to go.

Edward eventually makes it to Victoria, BC.  He is miserable there, too and really doesn’t know what to do with himself.  He wanders into the forest.  He sees, inexplicably, a priest.  And then when he turns to a giant maple, he is struck by darkness, loud noises, music and chaos.  All for about one second.

The next section jumps to 2020 and follows Mirella and Vincent.

We open on Paul, a composer, who is showing off his latest work–a work that uses video footage that his sister filmed.  The footage looks a lot like what Edward saw in the forest.

Paul’s sister was named Vincent.  Mirella had been a friend of Vincent’s and hadn’t know she was dead.  In fact, she had come to Paul’s performance to try to get in touch with Vincent.  Their friendship ended when Vincent’s husband was involved in a Ponzi scheme that brought down a lot of people.

While she is trying to talk to Paul after the show, they are joined by another man, named Gaspery.  He winds up talking to her and she thinks she recognizes him.  But it’s impossible because she recognizes him as a man who was involved in a shooting in an alley when she was a little girl.

The next section is set in 2203 and is called The Last Book Tour in Earth.  Olive Llewellyn was born on the moon and has written a number of novels–novels that sold well on Earth as well.  She was happy to be on Earth because she could also visit her parents.  Her parents moved back to Earth after she had left for college.

This book, Marienbad, was being made into a film.  So even though it was a few years old, publicity was called for.  She enjoys the trip although she misses her family back on the moon.  Soon though, there is word of a pandemic stretching out across the Earth.  It had been a long time since the Earth had dealt with such a thing, and people didn’t know how to prepare for it anymore.  Emily had written a previous novel about a pandemic and knew, from her research, what she should be doing.  But no one else seemed to be paying any attention.

The last interview she has is with a man who prepares to ask her if she had experienced something strange at the Oklahoma City Airship Terminal.

The story jumps one more time to 2401.  A man named Gaspery.  Gaspery tells us about the first moon colony which was built in the Sea of Tranquility.  There was much interest in immigration and Soon they had moved on from Colony 1 to Colony 2.  The Colonies were meant to replicate Earth as much as possible–including artificial lights that mimicked the Earth cycle.  But when the lights failed and were deemed too expensive to repair, that set in motion the gradual abandonment of Colony 2.

Gaspery grew up living near the house where Olive Llewelyn lived.  It was now occupied by a family with a girl, Talia, who was about his age.  Talia seemed to always want to gaze out of the dome toward Colony 1.  Gaspery’s sister, Zoey, on the other hand, did not ever go near the dome (their mother didn’t like them going there).

When they grew up, Gaspery wound up getting a job at the Grand Luna Hotel in Colony One.  Coincidentally, that’s where Talia has moved and gotten a job (as head of HR).  Zoey, meanwhile had become a super smart scientist working at the Time Institute.  One night in a state of panic, she tells Gaspery that their work has uncovered something. It involves time travel.  It is dangerous.  Gaspery, hating his job and his life, volunteers.  Zoey won’t hear of it, but her coworker, Ephrem, agrees to let Gaspery try out for the job.

A few years later, Gaspery is ready and he is told about the video footage that Paul the composer showed in 2020.  Zoey fears that the glitch in the video, the glitch that Vincent film, the same glitch that Edward saw in 1912, the same glitch that Olive wrote about in Marienbad (which is why the reporter asked her about the airport).  If these glitches are connected…does that mean our world is a simulation (like the Matrix?).

Gaspery is to be dispatched to the above timelines to see what he can learn about this glitch.  The one caveat–the big thing that the Time Institute cares about, is that you don’t mess up the timeline.  Gaspery can’t imagine why anyone would do that.  Then he learns that Olive Llewelyn died on Earth on that book tour.  Because of the new pandemic she was not allowed to go back home to the Moon.  It wouldn’t hurt just to hint that she should end her tour early, would it?

The story unfurls quickly from there with Gaspery leaning a bit more with each time he jumps into.

I enjoyed this story a lot.

S. tells me that Emily St. John Mandel wrote a previous book about a pandemic (Station Eleven).  Interesting, no?


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[READ: March 2022] Carpe Jugulum

It’s so hard to believe that Carpe Jugulum (Discworld book #23 of 41) is the last one to feature the Witches! Especially since it is quite clearly about vampires.  Actually, other books feature Granny Weatherwax (the Tiffany Aching books feature her a lot), but it’s the last one that features the classic trio of witches.

Queen Magrat and King Verence have figured out the whole bedroom thing (Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax weren’t sure they’d every actually figure it out) and are pleased to announce their first child–a girl.

The King has invited everyone to their naming ceremony.  That includes the vampires from Uberwald.

Since the vampires have been invited they are pretty much free to do as they want.  It turns out that they are quite clear about their plans–they are going to move into Lancre Castle and basically turn all of the humans into their cattle (as they have done in Uberwald).  But because of a kind of hypnotism, no one is upset by this–nor do they seem to fully get what the threats represent. (more…)

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[READ: March 2022] Jailbroke

This was the third of three books by Asman that I received at work.  It was also the least enjoyable of the three.

The story is a simple one.  Set in the future when humans are not the greatest species on the planet (they go by Terrans now), a spaceship that is run primarily by AI is ferrying humans around.  Using Asimov’s first principal, the AI, who are now vastly smarter and more useful than thehumans, cannot harm the humans.  Their existence is predicated on the fact that are have to help the humans.

Until, that is, one of them is accidentally fed biofuel that has a human part in it.  This jailbreaks their programming and allows them to kill humans indiscriminately.

Since this is a spaceship (a bottle episode), there’s not a lot that can happen.

In Nunchuck City, Asman delighted in violence.  In this story, he delights in gore.  Like the way he describes in loving detail how the space drill works on someone’s skull. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE PRETTY BOYS-“Midnight to Six Man,” “Don’t Bring me Down,” “Rosalyn.” (1966, 1964, 1964).

The Pretty Boys are referenced a lot in this novel and I realized I never knew them.

According to Classic Rock History, these are t he band’s top three songs.

I guess as a reference point, I can see what Kent was going for.  The lead singer sounds like a bit of a wild man, with lots of screams.  Each song is a kind of rowdy garage rock. They’ve got a lot of energy, but very mid 60’s energy which really doesn’t appeal to me.

And none of the songs have anything remotely resembling the kind of musical genius that the guitarist in the novel is supposed to have.

So I wasn’t missing anything.

[READ: February 28, 2022] The Unstable Boys

I’m usually a pretty good judge of books when I see them at work.  We get a lot of novels that I would never read, but we occasionally get a gem that I’d never see anywhere else.

I looked at The Unstable Boys and thought I had a gem.  And it started out as one.

The book is about a fictional band from the 60s called The Unstable Boys.

The opening of the book is clippings from various articles about the band.

They were a mix of personalities with two talented members, an array of drummers and a lead singer called The Boy who was a force of nature.  He was, simply, an asshole.  But he was charismatic and unpredictable and people were intrigued by him.  They had a hit, they were poised to do some big stuff and then their second guitarist died.  They were about to go on a major American tour and wanted to postpone.  But the label wouldn’t let them.  The label threw in some new members for the tour and the band imploded.

Guitarist Ral Coombs was a really talented and sensitive musician.  He and The Boy nearly came to blows.  They vowed to never reunite or even speak to each other again.

Then the story begins properly.  We meet Trevor Bourne. He is recently single and, as a freelance writer, not very successful.  He had written a story about The Unstable Boys a while back, but hasn’t had much success lately.

Enter Michael Martindale.  He is a very rich and successful fiction writer.  (more…)

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[READ: February 15, 2022] City of Iron and Dust

Like a bird attracted to shiny things, when I see an interesting-looking book come by my desk at work, I decide to read it–no matter how big my tipping over pile of other books to read happens to be.

I dithered about reading this book and I had a slightly hard time getting into it (probably because I wasn’t exactly sure if I wanted to read it).  But it got very good and very exciting very quickly.

The book is broken up into chapters and each chapter is broken into subsections about a particular character

Jag.  She is the daughter of one of the big goblin families in the City of Iron.  But she longs for a world where goblins don’t dominate and persecute the rest of the fae.  She’s an idealist who goes to fae bars trying to feel something more than the money and power her family has.

Sil.  Sil is half goblin half Fae.  She is Jag’s half sister.  But she was brought up to be an assassin.  And her only purpose in life is to protect Jag.  Later on, we are shown the brutality she suffered to become such a formidable creature.  She has no opinions of her own. (more…)

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[READ: February 2022] The Village Teacher

This book came to my work and it was quite a challenge to catalog.  Cixin Liu is a Chinese science fiction writer.  These are graphic novel adaptations of his short stories.  But he did not write the graphic novels.  However, I wanted them linked together because there are going to be sixteen of them and they should all go together.  If you put them under Liu, then they go into the Chinese authors section.  But these are American books created for American audiences.  (I wound up making it an American series under Liu’s name).

Anyhow, I had never heard of him before, but these books are blurbed by none other than Barack Obama.

So I decided to take a look at them.

This book is also called The Rural Teacher in translated form.

After the complex intensity that was The Wandering Earth, this story is much more simple.  But it is not less intense.

There are two storylines.  I’m not sure if in the written work it’s less clear that the story lines are at the same time.  It felt like for a powerful effect, they would not be obviously simultaneous, but I’m not sure how he could have done that.

The story starts on a school in a rural village.  The teacher is teaching the kids about outer space. (more…)

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[READ: February 2022] The Wandering Earth

This book came to my work and it was quite a challenge to catalog.  Cixin Liu is a Chinese science fiction writer.  These are graphic novel adaptations of his short stories.  But he did not write the graphic novels.  However, I wanted them linked together because there are going to be sixteen of them and they should all go together.  If you put them under Liu, then they go into the Chinese authors section.  But these are American books created for American audiences.  (I wound up making it an American series under Liu’s name).

Anyhow, I had never heard of him before, but these books are blurbed by none other than Barack Obama.

So I decided to take a look at them.

This second one is also a dark story about the destruction of the earth (actually, all three are).

The story is also more complicated with a lengthy timespan and a few surprises thrown in.

As the story opens we learn that three hundred years ago scientists discovered that our sun was using up its hydrogen and converting it to helium–it was going to explode.  So the scientists began a plan.  Using rockets, they would stop the earth’s rotation and then using those same rockets, they would propel the earth into a habitable part of the galaxy.

Obviously, this would take many generations and would result in the destruction of the earth as we know it.

The book begins with a baby born on the day that the earth had stopped rotating.  We quickly jump to the boy in school learning about everything that happened (a great way of doing exposition).  These students are high-tech and scientifically very smart.  Art and philosophy and everything like it have basically been done with because it’s all hands on deck for saving the planet. (more…)

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[READ: February 8, 2022] The Plot

I tend not to read books where spoilers are a big deal. I try not to spoil things when I write these posts, but at the same time, usually I can write a lot and not give away anything major.  In fact, I didn’t even know about this book until my supervisor mentioned it and made it sound really interesting.

But holy cow, this story is all about the Plot.  I though the title of the book was pretty lame.  And yet it is not.  It works on the main level but also on a secondary level.  It’s a really great title.

So here’s what I can say as set up without giving too much away.

The story is about Jacob Finch Bonner.  A few years ago he had a debut novel that was quite well received.  He was a new and notable author and although his book didn’t sell a ton, he was seen as a guy with promise.  But he couldn’t think of anything good for a second book.  So his publisher (not the big publisher from the first book, a smaller one) gathered a bunch of short stories together and tried to say that the book was a series of related short stories (even that stretched the truth).  He wrote a third story that was even worse–nobody wanted that one.  (more…)

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