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Well, as always, I received some very nice books for Christmas (that’s almost always all that I want), most from my wishlist and a few surprises. Here’s what I received:
So that’s how I made out for Christmas. Some great stuff in there.
I anticipate getting a decent number of books for Christmas (what else would one give to the Bookworm as a gift?), but I’ve also acquired quite a few new ones this month due to travels, holiday sales, and complimentary review copies (which will be appearing here on the blog in January). I got to go to the warehouse location of Second Story Books in Rockville, MD, which I hadn’t been able to visit in years, so that led to some excellent finds. So here’s what I’ve picked up since the last acquisitions update:
Here’s a link to a video of a kid who gets books for Christmas and isn’t altogether pleased….
(I’ve tagged this one as “comedy,” because it really is pretty funny, but it’s also pretty disturbing, especially how the parents aren’t particularly concerned about the child’s reaction. It reminds me of the story a friend told me years ago about some kids who were acting up in Walmart. Their mother shrieked “If you don’t settle down and behave, I’m going to make you go home and read!” The kids were horrified and aghast by this threatened punishment and immediately settled down.)
A new interview with classic Doc Savage cover artist James Bama has just been published here. At 84, he’s still alive and kicking.
Here’s a link to a collection of many other Doc Savage covers.
Remember the old Ace Doubles, each of which included two novels/novellas printed back-to-back and upside-down, each with its own front cover? I love those, and am happy to report that Wildside Press has started a new series using this concept. Wildside Double #7 includes two science fiction novellas set in the same universe: Slaughterhouse World by Ardath Mayhar and Knack’ Attack by Robert Reginald. Both are fun science fiction tales involving humanity’s battle against an implacable alien race, the Knackers, with whom we cannot effectively communicate and who view humans as a culinary delicacy. I’d consider both works to be in much the same vein as the old Heinlein juveniles, in that they would appeal to teen readers but can still be appreciated by adult readers.
Minor plot spoilers follow.
Slaughterhouse World: Ardath Mayhar’s novella describes the (mis)adventures of an ordinary grunt, Joel Karsh, who is one of the few survivors of a human military unit operating on the eponymous “Slaughterhouse World,” which is a planet the Knackers are using as a processing center and transshipment point for human flesh. Joel just wants to survive and make it back to his rendezvous point, but along the way, he may just find a way to give humanity the edge it needs to win the war.
Knack’ Attack: I was initially concerned about the dialect in which this story is told – it’s a first person account by a fifteen-year old genetically-modified – in what way(s) we’re not sure, though she can’t eat “standard” food – human girl who has lived her entire life on a rural alien world. She speaks in kind of a “folksy” voice with lots of quaint expressions and contractions peppering her dialogue and thoughts, but it didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of the story as I’d initially feared it might. As I read, I found myself mentally pronouncing each word phonetically and that worked just fine and didn’t slow me down. In any case, this is a coming of age story about a young woman thrust into a situation requiring courage, wisdom, and leadership far beyond her years if she and her fellow settlers are to survive the Knacker invasion of their world. We also learn more about the aliens themselves and what’s going on in the larger war effort.
Despite the fact that the premise of both stories is one involving a pretty horrific situation – humanity is losing a war to an alien race that eats us – these are classic, fun, wholesome military SF tales. Since these are stories of courage, survival, and coming of age, I think they will especially appeal to teen readers.
I enjoyed both novellas very much and recommend them to anyone looking for some fun SF adventures. Don’t expect convoluted plots or hard science. These are rousing adventure stories. I give this duo of novellas a very solid 4 stars out of 5 and am very much looking forward to more tales of the Human-Knacker War
Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers
I should note that before I read this first volume in the Dexter series, I recently watched the first season of the Dexter TV show on DVD, and I enjoyed that very much. This first book covers the events of the roughly the first half or so of the TV show, which was relatively faithful to the book, though I like some of the subplots and nuances they added to the show (I won’t provide precise spoilers on what’s in the TV show vs. what’s in the book).
This review will contain some minor plot spoilers, so be forewarned.
You’d get this much from reading the back cover, but Dexter is a blood spatter forensic analyst for the Miami police department. He also happens to be a serial killer, though one who only hunts and kills other serial killers, which, I suppose, makes him an oddly likeable anti-hero.
The problem with the book, in some ways at least, is that it uses a first person narrative structure throughout. On the TV show, the viewer sees Dexter on the screen, and he’s weird and awkward and clueless and maybe kind of stumbling and fumbling around when it comes to human interactions, but we see him as a person and want to like him, because he is so awkward. When the reader is inside of Dexter’s head in the book, we can see how truly alien his mindset is and how he rationally, coldly, meticulously calculates each and every one of his actions in public. And that’s both scary (which is all to the good I suppose) but it’s also distancing. I kind of like the Dexter of the TV show. I don’t much care for the Dexter of the book.
I was actually kind of disappointed in this one. It’s not a terrible book by any means, don’t get me wrong, but it’s kind of meandering and the actual resolution of the plot – such as it is – is unsatisfying, particularly since the TV show took the same elements and wove them together in a much more satisfying manner. I hate to keep comparing the book with the TV show, but both concern the same characters and the same major plot points. And the TV show is just better, with some subplots and additional nuance added in that really enhance the story over the book version. I give this one a very lukewarm 3 stars out of 5. I wanted it to be much better. I don’t think I’ll continue reading the rest of the books, but I am looking forward to Season 2 of the show.
Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers