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review 2017-07-22 13:02
The Andromeda Strain ★★★☆☆
The Andromeda Strain - Michael Crichton

Put together the most meticulous plans and bring together several brilliant and creative minds, but still nearly come to disaster through mistaken assumptions and mechanical and human errors, and be likewise saved by random leaps of logic and mechanical and human errors. Perhaps the most fun part of reading this, for me, is how plausible this seems, because all the characters involved behave like real humans do. Plus, having been written in 1968, Crichton is writing about cutting edge/futuristic technology that is now hilariously dated. Imagine a disaster nearly caused by

a communication failure, because an isolated team is relying on alerts that are transmitted to a machine that prints on a continuous roll of paper, but the paper gets jammed and nobody notices because the guy who’s supposed to check it just looks for software failures rather than mechanical and thinks, well, no news is good news.

(spoiler show)

 

Paperback, picked up at a used book sale. Good thing I didn’t try this on audio, as I expect that the frequent displays of lab test results and technical readouts would be horrible on audio. What would they do, just read line after line of figures?

 

I read this for the 2017 Booklikes-opoly challenge, for the square Tomorrowland 33: Read a book set in space or tagged SciFi on GR or a book that includes robots or cyborgs. The SciFi tag applies to this book.

 

Previous Updates:

7/8/17 - BLopoly pick

7/14/17 – 40/288pg

7/18/17 – 107/288pg

 

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review 2017-07-16 16:22
Dead Bolt ★★★☆☆
Dead Bolt - Juliet Blackwell,Xe Sands

This second book in the Haunted Renovation mystery series was a fun enough, but distressingly heavy on Romance and light on Mystery. There were still some interesting tidbits on historical homes, though. I’m going to try the third book, but if it continues to emphasize goofy love triangles and sexual “tension”, then I’m outta here.

 

Audiobook via Audible subscription; Xe Sands’ performance is excellent as usual.

 

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review 2017-07-11 14:07
The Time Machine and Other Stories ★★★☆☆
The Time Machine and Other Stories: Library Edition - H.G. Wells,Ralph Cosham

I haven’t read HG Wells since I received a collection of his stories for my 16th birthday. Of course, what I mostly remembered was The Time Machine, and being fascinated by the Eloi and Morlocks but bored by the rest of it. This particular edition is an audio collection of 10 stories of various quality, including The Time Machine. I expected that my experience with TTM would be entirely different as an adult, but was surprised to find that once again, the section following the encounter with the Eloi and Morlocks was a snoozefest, this time with a little eyeroll over the giant crab things. The difference is that I felt a little sorry for the Morlocks this time around, rather than sharing the narrator’s visceral disgust. I was much more interested in the author’s theories regarding the evolutionary outcome of the current (late 1800s Britain) political, social, and economic climate. I wonder why it never occurred to him that the oppressed industrial workers would revolt and take over as the balance of power shifted with the ruling class becoming increasingly weak and ineffectual with indolence and soft living?

 

The remainder of the short stories were mostly entertaining. Standouts were The Country of the Blind, The Man Who Could Work Miracles, and The Flowering of the Strange Orchid. The Cone was satisfactorily gory.

 

Stories in this collection:

  1. The Time Machine
  2. The Country of the Blind
  3. The Diamond Maker
  4. The Man Who Could Work Miracles
  5. Aepyornis Island
  6. The Flowering of the Strange Orchid
  7. The Cone
  8. The Purple Pileus
  9. The Truth About Pyecraft
  10. The Door in the Wall

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. This is the first time I’ve borrowed a book in the playaway format, and I didn’t like it. For one thing, I had to supply my own battery. For another, the rudimentary playing controls made navigating through the short stories somewhat difficult. And lastly, I’m just plain old spoiled by reading apps on my phone, and appalled by how quickly technology becomes obsolete. It wasn’t that long ago that we would have been delighted by an audio coming already loaded in a (sort of) portable digital format, rather than having to keep inserting the CDs into our heavy Sony Walkman/Discman.

 

Ralph Cosham provides a very good performance. His somehow old-fashioned stylings really fit the stories.

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review 2017-07-08 16:14
Full Dark, No Stars ★★★☆☆
Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King,Craig Wasson,Jessica Hecht

Four novellas/long short stories on a theme of secret second or inner lives: the horrible person under the affably smiling member of your family or community. Overall enjoyable, as SK always is, but it didn’t suck me in or stick with me later the way his best stuff does. Although, I got into a conversation with a friend, who was insisting that she believes she would recognize evil in a person, that she doesn’t believe it could be concealed. I pointed out that Ted Bundy fooled everyone he worked with in his “public persona” from law enforcement to professors to politicians, and even his many girlfriends, until it all fell apart and his secrets were out. But anyway, I did reference the stories in this book as we argued about it, so there’s that.

 

1922: Just weird, but with SK-style graphic goriness that makes it worth reading. One of the things I love about SK’s style is his use of all five senses in his descriptions of action, scenes, and characters. It’s really immersive.

 

Big Driver: Disturbing for sure. It's a revenge tale, and as the main character notes in her inner monologue, those are always a satisfying fantasy. But the ending is, well, not very satisfying. Not believable. Seems like a copout.

 

Fair Extension: Shorter than the others, but it's a fun little tale of revenge (again) but this time for perceived injustices, where Envy is thoroughly exercised to its logical conclusion. It's fun, and sort of funny.

 

A Good Marriage: I think this is the best of the four stories. It's creepy and plausible to start, because of course there have been killers whose mask is so good, even their close family and friends have no idea. The ending was less plausible and a little weak.

 

Audiobook, purchased via Audible. The performances by Craig Wasson and Jessica Hecht are excellent, especially Wasson’s. I read this for the 2017 Booklikes-opoly challenge, for the square Adventureland 26: Read a book tagged genre Adventure or Thriller on GR.

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review 2017-07-07 03:05
Good Kings Bad Kings ★★★☆☆
Good Kings Bad Kings - Susan Nussbaum

Proponents of privatizing public services argue that, by managing operations like a private business, these services can be provided much more efficiently. So what is the natural outcome when residential/custodial care is outsourced to a corporation whose board demands a healthy profit, and profits are driven by keeping as many beds filled for as little cost as possible? The goal is certainly not to try to support families with disabled children, to keep them at home instead of in residential care. It’s not to prepare those children for living as independently as possible when they reach adulthood, becoming contributing members of society. Oh, and if that same company holds government contracts for residential psychiatric care? Perhaps there’s a profit motive for assigning psychiatric diagnoses to children with behavioral problems?

 

This was an interesting book with some interesting things to say. But it is grim reading, and I was outraged at the way the author chose to end it. I don’t expect or even want happy endings, especially in a book so determined to strive for realism. But there is no sense of resolution, no looking forward, no… anything. It just stops, like the author got tired of writing or the publisher refused to print more than 465 pages.  

 

Audiobook, purchased via Audible. The performances by a cast of readers were the best part of this book. They breathed life into the characters as each told his or her own story. This is one good exception to my dislike for first person present tense. The writing style, in this case, fit the story being told perfectly.

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