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review 2017-07-22 21:00
British and Zanny in Space
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

I would call this sci-fi on mushrooms. Funny, but very weird.

On a side note: I've never been afraid of rats, but I might reconsider.

 

 

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review 2017-07-05 20:25
Mightier than the Sword
Mightier than the Sword - Vincent Chong,K.J. Parker

"Do you have to make a lot of decisions like that? I suppose you must do."
"All the time," I said. "And each one is truly bad. All that can be said for them is that the alternatives are even worse."

K.J. Parker is at his best in the novella, and, as always, I was captivated by the sharp wit and darkly ironic humor as well as the satirical worldbuilding and characters and finished the novella in a single reading session. Parker reminds me a bit of Wodehouse in the way he builds sympathy with the narrator through a chattering first-person narration. In this case, our narrator is an officer in a Rome-like empire whose ruling faction is beset by murderous intrigue-- think the Julio-Claudian era -- while also squabbling with and/or conquering its neighbors. In recent years, the empire has fallen prey to attacks by a mysterious unknown enemy with unknown goals and desires, and this enemy's ships have been seen again.
Capitulating to the orders of the emperor's wife--who also happens to be his aunt--our narrator sets off to help the various abbeys and monasteries to help shore up their defenses against the mysterious invaders.

While I think Parker is very gifted in characterization, he's not big on character development, which is one reason I so prefer his short fiction. In this case, we get plenty of time to get to know the narrator and his compatriots, including his romantic interest, without feeling stifled by the characers' staticness. The most rounded character, partially because the story is told in his voice, is the narrator himself. I found him highly sympathetic, a realist yet an optimist who is fond of books and sees himself as a coward despite his insistence on leading from the front.

The only thing that really bothered me about him was how he seems to hold his wife's inability to have children against her, as if she should have provided a disclaimer before accepting his desperate proposal.

(spoiler show)



As always, the story is a satire, and chock-full of quotable quotes. For example:

"Does it say something about the nature of the beast called Empire? The idea is that Empire protects the towns and villages and little farms from the enemy, and in order to do so recruits soldiers, so that the towns and villages and little farms won’t be laid waste, and grass won’t grow in abandoned streets and good productive land won’t be smothered in weeds and briars. But if the act of protection brings about the destruction it was designed to prevent— well. I’m not a trained philosopher, so I’m not qualified to comment."

If you're looking for a short, enjoyable novella with more than a tang of satire, then Mightier than the Sword is well worth a look.

~~I received this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Subterranean Press, in exchange for my honest review. Quotes were taken from an advanced reader copy and while they may not reflect the final phrasing, I believe they speak to the spirit of the novella as a whole.~~

Cross-posted on Goodreads

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review 2017-06-01 20:27
Babbitt (Lewis)
Babbitt - Sinclair Lewis

I was wary of this novel of 1920s America, given what very little I knew of it, which was only that its title has become a metaphor, now fairly little-used, for an entirely conventional and complacent middle-class man. I thought that it would be very satirical, and very much of its time and place, and both of these things are true. However, though some of the zing may have gone out of particular references, there is a clear and universally comprehensible movement of the spirit of the central character into attempts towards more liberal attitudes both personal and socio-political, and then back into his cage, but with more self-awareness. It is that self-awareness that helps him in the last chapter to deal with his (mildly) non-conformist son.

At first I found the plan of the novel a little too methodical. At least up to the 60% mark, the chapters seemed just to be ticking off satirical bullet points: Babbitt's conservatism and conformity at home; Babbitt's conformity at his real estate workplace; Babbitt's conformity with his "Booster Club" associates; Babbitt's conformity at church; Babbitt's conformity with the rough fraternity of commercial travellers on the train, etc. etc. However, seeds were planted: Babbitt's best friend Paul is given the role of foil, a man profoundly unhappy in those same circles - and it is a violent incident involving Paul that sets Babbitt off on his hesitant journeys into self-determination.

A man is at the centre of this novel, and its women, although not unsympathetically portrayed (except for obvious caricatures) will not give any great joy to the modern female reader's heart. The wife and the mistress are both essentially mirrors for particular aspects of Babbitt's character and aspirations; indeed most of their value to him appears to be in how well they listen to and mirror him. One minor character actually calls herself a feminist, but she is given no platform. To be fair, most of the supporting male cast are there to reflect back aspects of Babbitt too (or, fitter-in that he is, to provide something for him to reflect), so I didn't find the novel misogynistic in any way.

I was a little startled by the sudden end of the novel (Babbitt's eldest son elopes with his girlfriend and drops out of college in favour of a manual job - and in the very last sentence Babbitt is about to support him in the face of conservative family wrath). But actually I think Lewis was right to stop there, point made. A Babbitt may not be able to change himself, but at least he can learn a little and support the next generation.

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review 2017-05-19 03:28
Binkders Keepers
Blinders Keepers - John Rachel

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Title: Blinders Keepers
Author: John Rachel
Publisher: Literary Vagabond Book
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Five
Review:

"Blinders Keepers" by John Rachel

My Thoughts...

Wow, this author never disappoints...he knows how to keep your attention as he did with this satire read. There was a good opening, plot, with hilarious humor[laugh out loud], metaphors, insanity, adventure,surprises, political atmosphere of the white house...as we are given this satire of this 'young man [Noah]with one idealistic mindset of it will all come out in the wash.' What a journey this was for this young man who will leave his hometown in Missouri and end up getting mixed up accidentally that propelled him into being a fugitive. My thoughts about what was going on with Noah was that the 'root of all of his travails was just one study misunderstanding!' We find Noah is being sort after by every intelligence agency in the country.

The secondary characters are for the most part down right entertaining that will definitely keep you turning the pages so see what is going on next.

This is one story that the reader will see that almost nothing and no one seems to be who they are. Definitely the reader will be left in a thought provoking state. Now, I will stop here and just say this is one you will have to pick up and see for yourself how well this author brings it all out to the reader.

Be ready for a long read that will have you switching around from scenes to scenes with characters that will have 'things to say in quite a memorable way.' In the end "Blinders Keepers" was just a well written novel for one to sit back and let the insanity unfold.

Thank you to the author for letting me read your novel and my giving a honest opinion of the read.

 

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review 2017-05-09 07:24
Cats, Cats, Cats
Cats, Cats, Cats - Andy Warhol

Call me a philistine, but I never quite understood the whole thing about Warhol's soup labels or Monroe's portrait.  They're cool, but not my idea of art in terms of Art of the Ages.

 

But boy, do I love his cats!  This short, 10 minute read is full of Warhol's gorgeous, whimsical drawings of cats and this is the art I can get behind.  If I were amongst the money-to-burn crowd, I'd bypass Warhol's Mao and opt for his Meow.  (Sorry, had to be done.)

 

Each exquisite feline is coupled with a quote of Warhol's, and while they're not bad, the cats are better.

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