Tuesday, January 22, 2013

no man is an island, except Jesse Stone

Title: Trouble in Paradise
Author: Robert B. Parker
Bookmark: nookmark

I celebrated figuring out how to check out library books on my nook by continuing the Jesse Stone series, though I sometimes wonder why.  I guess I hope he'll mature as it progresses.

Plot first, then gripes.

Bad guys plan an epic heist: isolate the Rich People Island off the coast of, but under the jurisdiction of, Paradise, Massachusetts, where Jesse Stone happens to be Chief of Police.  Later, said bad guys execute planned heist (and a few locals who get in the way).  Jesse handles the situation as he always does: saying as little as possible, and generally being more clever than people give him credit for being.  Oh--and having sex with far more women than might seem reasonable for a guy who should be more busy with his job.  One of his officers notes this, and buys him an extra-large bottle of multi-vitamins to show his concern.

Now the gripes.

Jesse's kind of an alcoholic.  Fine, I get that, whatever.  He's divorced, and carries a lot of related baggage.  Sure, ok.  He also carries an inextinguishable torch for his ex, who moves to Boston and becomes a weather girl to (in my opinion) continue to cruelly string him along.  She makes me a little crazy.  Jesse's mooning over her makes me a little crazy.  Seriously, dude--get with Abby.  She's better for you.  Move the frick on.

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posted by reyn at 6:32 PM


Johnny Hardboiled

Title: Black Jack Justice
Author: Gregg Taylor
Bookmark: unrelated receipt

Several years ago, a friend gave me a CD loaded with some podcasts.  Most didn't do much for me, but there was an entire folder of fun from Decoder Ring Theatre.  My favorites by far were the brilliant adventures of Black Jack Justice, who was always ably assisted by his partner: Trixie Dixon, Girl Detective (she had cards printed!).  You should go listen to them.  Now.  And make a generous donation; they're Canadians, so they could probably use the money, and they've certainly earned it.

Taylor's novel gives us a brand-new adventure set in Jack and Trixie's past.  It is, in fact, their very first meeting, and the story of the first case they ever cracked together.  It crackles with the same wit, energy, and trademark banter of the podcast episodes, and delves a little deeper into the darkness of classic pulp fiction (and I should know).  I loved it.  Front to back, it was solid, non-stop, fun.  Jack and Trixie even take turns narrating, just as in the episodes.  If there was another book, I'd buy it, too.

posted by reyn at 6:16 PM


caterpillar hookah, indeed

Title: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Author: Lewis Carroll
bookmark: nookmark

I found it free on Project Gutenberg.  I was curious.  I read it.

I am no longer curious, either about the story or about what it might be like to take drugs, because I surmise that reading this purported children's book and trying to make any sense of it creates an effect very similar to that brought on by ingestion of mild psychoactive substances.

But I did enjoy the pun-riddled scene with the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle, especially the following exchange:
"Why did you call him Tortoise if he wasn't one?" Alice asked.
"We called him Tortoise because he taught us," said the Mock Turtle angrily: "really you are very dull!"

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posted by reyn at 6:01 PM


Thursday, January 10, 2013

crab walk

Title: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer
Author: Siddartha Mukherjee
Bookmark: nookmark

I got a nook for Christmas, and while I thought the most appropriate choice for the first thing to read on it would either be The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy or anything by William Gibson, this is the first thing I bought, and the first thing I read.  I regret nothing.

Cancer is kind of a big deal for me.  Twelve years and eight days ago, it killed my mom.  She had been diagnosed a little over two years earlier with inoperable, incurable, stage IV lung cancer.  She still fought it all the way down.  We all did.  That's how we react to cancer.  With everything we have, every moment, every day, until it's over.  One way or another.

And that's how it's always been.  Mukherjee's book is brilliant.  He takes us through history's understanding of cancer, starting with the ancient Egyptian physician Imhotep who, in what may be the earliest identification of cancer, listed as its therapy "There is none."  We march relentlessly through the ages, meeting some of Mukherjee's own patients (he is also a practicing oncologist), and the celebrities of cancer research and treatment.

The book is a tome, even in digital form, but it's well worth the time.  It has been meticulously researched and written specifically for the layperson, reading like a novel, but with an all-too-real impact on our world.

Honestly, as I read it, I wondered how I could write a review that would do it justice, and I'm not sure I can.  Perhaps it's too fresh in my mind.  I just finished this afternoon, and when I reached the final pages, and a heartfelt understanding of the battle fought by cancer patients, I remembered Mom.  I remembered other family members who have survived cancer, and I remembered the role reversal that took place when I nursed Mom through her final months.  I can never forgive cancer for the suffering it caused my family, but I understand it better now.  That's something.

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posted by reyn at 6:56 PM


the end is the beginning is the end

Title: Childhood's End
Author: Arthur C. Clarke
Bookmark: some random receipt.

The morning after Christmas, I drove through a blizzard and developed a scratchy throat and runny nose.  By that night, I was thoroughly miserable.  I started reading the first thing on my hosts' shelf that looked serviceable, and picked it up again the next morning at 4 when I couldn't sleep and had already shoveled the drive.

Being sick gives you plenty of time to read.

I finished reading this book almost two weeks ago.  I'm still not sure how I feel about it.  It covers a couple generations of time on Earth.  The aliens arrive the first night.  Despite their instant influence on our global economy, politics, and propensity for bullfights, nobody actually sees one of the Overlords until almost one hundred years later.

I don't know whether the foreword (which I read from the same volume several months before I started reading the rest of the book) or a Wikipedia article (I tend to read those for books and TV shows I don't actually get to experience first-hand) spoiled it for me, but I'm going to spoil it for you: the aliens look like demons.  Twelve feet tall, dark exoskeletal bodies, horns, wings, tail, the whole nine yards.  Well.  Four yards, I guess.  They're not that tall.  Here's the kicker: that's not even the weirdest part of the book.  Not even remotely close.

To summarize without spoiling anything, the Overlords have been dispatched to our scrappy little corner of the universe as administrators of our evolution.  No shit!  They've hit their own evolutionary dead-end (they don't sleep, are essentially immortal, read at incredible rates, can process information from several channels simultaneously, and are ridiculously intelligent), so now their entire race serves this function all over the damned galaxy, making sure that other races are ready to take The Next Step when the time comes.

Then, naturally, Our Time Comes.

It's all very strange, and as intriguing as some aspects of those next steps sound, I'd just as soon it happens after I'm out of the equation.

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posted by reyn at 6:34 PM