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review 2018-04-28 01:31
Voodoo Planet wouldn't get published today but was Hot Stuff in 1959
Voodoo Planet - Andre Norton

Rating: 3.5* of five

 

A novella really, and a weird cross between science fiction (space travel, other planets) and fantasy (magic, telepathy). A true old-fashioned one-sitting read.

 

Dane Thorsen, Free Trader of the ship Solar Queen, returns to your screens as a tag-along to Captain Jellico's eagerly anticipated vacation to Khatka. He has corresponded for some time with Asaki, a Ranger of very high status on Khatka, in his other-hatness of xenobiologist. Asaki has headed up the creation of a no-kill big game reserve on his homeworld, which happens to be in the same system as the Solar Queen's penalty planet of Xencho. (In Plague Ship, the Solar Queen was "sentenced" to spend two years as a mail carrying ship for one of the huge trading corporations, Combine.)

 

Since space travel takes extended amounts of time, all spacers have hobbies; Jellico, a long-time spacer, has become a renowned xenobiologist due to massive time to study and experiment aboard ship as well as freedom to explore many different planets as a trader. The Khatkans are descended of African Terran roots (they sound like Maasai to me) and happen to land their colony ships on a planet with very African climate and geography. Keep in mind this book was published in 1959 by a white librarian lady. This was some avant garde stuff!

 

Add in Grand Master Norton's already extant Negro (in the parlance of the times) characters, explicitly stated to be normal members of the Solar Queen and Spacers' Guild crews, and you have jaw-droppingly ahead of her time thinking evident here. Asaki is explicitly stated to be Jellico's equal. He is regularly deferred to by the Queen white and Asian crew members. There are 21st-century authors who don't do as well as Grand Master Norton does in this sixty-year-old tale.

 

The story, well, the story is the story and it's creaky. No notion of satellite mapping, no personal computing power, etc etc blah blah blah. The plot seems to be a bit, well, slapdash; are we fighting a sorceror, a crafty mind-gamer, an interplanetary smuggling ring, our PoV characters' personal nightmares? Sorta kinda alla the above. In just over 100pp, that is way too much to handle effectively.

 

But hellfire, y'all, it's not like stuff coming from mighty modern pens is perfect, and this lady was born 106 years ago, so what say we smile for the fun turns of phrase (particularly love her regular use of "Not so!" for the much less sparkly "No.") and the amazing inclusiveness of her vision? Let's carp less and crow's-foot some smile, hmm?

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review 2018-04-22 21:49
A nostalgic re-read after 45 years
Plague Ship / Voodoo Planet (Ace Double, D-345) - Andre Norton

Rating: 3.5* of five

Why not more stars, as this is a sentimental favorite? Because I'm rereading it at closer-to-70-than-4o instead of closer-to-10-than-20. It's dated, of course, but it's still a thumping good read for its wonderful interconnectedness to the other parts of Norton's universe: the Forerunners, the Salariki (a catlike people from Planet Sargol), the gems so bewitchingly described...after all, gems are perfect high-value low-bulk trade goods...the horrible, misery-sowing religious professionals, the Patrol, the finny rockets.

As I'm rereading at a time in life where I've had more and vastly enriching experiences translating ideas from page to screen, or at least trying to, I kept looking for the modern technology to slot into the story. It was surprisingly easy to do. Also surprisingly easy was gaying it up. When the <I>Agatha Christie's Marple</i> adapters showed the way to tart up a fairly drab story, by today's TV standards, was to chuck a gay subplot into it, I was galvanized. Heck fire, most of it was already there already! Like with Dame Agatha's stuff, Grand Master Norton's practically has footnotes saying "re-interpret this passage, 21st century storyteller" and wowee toledo does the Solar Queen (heh) have the goods.

The cover of the edition I'm posting is the one I had as a youth. The Kindle Megapack is more convenient, of course, but I still sigh wistfully at the laughable cover art from an era when we hadn't even been to the Moon yet.

Had I been consulted, I'd've told Reed Hastings' people to skip rebooting <I>Lost in Space</i> (which was a dog in 1966 and is a prettier dog in 2018) and instead *make* an episodic entertainment of the Solar Queen chronicles. Someone should...all the elements are there. The youthful, handsome protagonist Dane leaving school, joining the crew he bonds with, growing as a man and as a trader with lurches forward and swattings backward.

I don't know if modern (under-45) readers would have the patience to mentally update the old tech (space ships with mag-tape computers?!) but I'd say this series is a decent place to test the tepidarium of Papaw's stories.

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review 2018-04-20 16:09
Wild in Love (The Maverick Billionaires, #5) by Bella Andre and Jennifer Skully
Wild in Love - Jennifer Skully,Bella Andre

 

The beauty of The Maverick Billionaires series is that it not only entertains, but it inspires. The collaboration of Andre and Skully packs powerful messages of love and courage in tempting stories of alpha males and determined females. Wild in Love is Daniel's chance at a happy ending. Daniel is looking for the perfect girl. What he finds is a wounded soul that speaks to his heart, but is determined to keep her's closed off. Tasha had the perfect life, only to find it wasn't as perfect as she believed. Now a loner with a crack in her heart and the weight of the world on her shoulders, she sets about atoning for the sins of others, as she creates a new life for herself. Will the man who dreams of perfection, find his dream girl in the woman that's forgotten how to dream? In life there is no perfection. Happiness lies in being true to yourself. Powerful tale of redemption and second chances.

 

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review 2018-04-20 00:00
Wild in Love
Wild in Love - Bella Andre Wild in Love - Bella Andre The beauty of The Maverick Billionaires series is that it not only entertains, but it inspires. The collaboration of Andre and Skully packs powerful messages of love and courage in tempting stories of alpha males and determined females. Wild in Love is Daniel's chance at a happy ending. Daniel is looking for the perfect girl. What he finds is a wounded soul that speaks to his heart, but is determined to keep her's closed off. Tasha had the perfect life, only to find it wasn't as perfect as she believed. Now a loner with a crack in her heart and the weight of the world on her shoulders, she sets about atoning for the sins of others, as she creates a new life for herself. Will the man who dreams of perfection, find his dream girl in the woman that's forgotten how to dream? In life there is no perfection. Happiness lies in being true to yourself. Powerful tale of redemption and second chances.
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review 2018-04-07 06:30
A limited portrait of a monarch and his age
Suleiman the Magnificent - André Clot,Matthew J. Reisz

By nearly every measure, the sixteenth century bore witness to a remarkable number of extraordinary monarchs.  Rulers such as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I of England, Francis I of France, the Habsburg emperors Charles V and Philip II, Ivan IV of Russia, ‘Abbas I of Persia, and the Mughal emperor Akbar reshaped their realms through their ambitious policies and forceful rule.  Yet even in this august group the name of Suleiman stands out.  As sultan of the Ottomans, Suleiman led the empire during what is generally regarded as the pinnacle of its glory and power.  Under his rule the empire flourished and extended its control over three continents.  Yet in spite of this Suleiman has received far less attention form biographers than most of his contemporaries, present more often as an opponent or an ally in many accounts than as a figure worth of attention in his own right.

 

Given this, Andre Clot’s biography of the sultan is to be welcomed.  A longtime journalist, Clot divides his book into two parts.  The first is a straightforward narrative of Suleiman’s life that addresses on the political and military aspects of his reign.  This section focuses heavily on Suleiman’s interactions with Christian Europe, even to the point of having an entire chapter addressing the sultan’s relations with Francis I.  The second part of the book is an examination of the Ottoman empire during Suleiman’s reign, one that describes the economy, urban life, and culture that existed during his reign.  Though the two sections compliment each other, each part stands alone to the point of being able to be read separate from the other, a lack of integration that ultimately weakens the effort to present a rounded overall picture of Suleiman and his times.

 

In the end, the focus and structure of the book prevent it from achieving Clot’s stated goal of providing a fuller understanding of Suleiman and his empire.  The Eurocentrism of Clot’s narrative slights the considerable campaigns Suleiman conducted on his eastern borders against the Safavids, to say nothing of his considerable contributions to the empire’s internal development in such areas as the law.  Mixing the two sections might have counterbalanced this, but their separation inhibits an easy understanding of his role and impact within the broader empire.  These problems limit the usefulness of Clot’s book, which is recommended for anyone seeking to learn about the sultan only because of the disappointing lack of anything better.

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