Recent Recreational Reading

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Been a long time since I reviewed any recreational reading, so here's what books I've read for fun the last few months. It can take a while after release before I get to something (there are nearly 30 waiting to be read right now), so some of these might be out of print or remaindered by now. I know in some cases the sequels are out because I've got them.


Firestar by Michael Flynn tells two parallel but connected stories, of a public school being taken over by a corporation, and of the return to manned space flight - specifically, single stage to orbit. If you ever had the dream of going into space, or if you're young enough and still have it, you will love this book. The private companies in space part is starting to happen - If I weren't forty-something, fat and with health problems, I'd be looking for stuff I could do that might take me up.

Days of Infamy by Harry Turtledove is not what I hoped, the next book in his series that started with the South holding off the North in the Civil War, but a new series that starts basically in our own timeline, with the difference that the Japanese landed two divisions on Oahu in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor and took the Hawaiin Islands. He doesn't flinch from the realities of war or from how the Japanese treated their subject populations or prisoners of war. He also seems to have a good grasp of the parts played by luck, planning, and skill in battle. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Field of Dishonor and Honor Among Enemies are a couple of books in the story of Honor Harrington, modeled upon Horatio Hornblower (who was, in turn, modeled after Admiral Nelson of Trafalgar fame). I resisted this series initially, because it seemed likely to be a ripoff of the Hornblower series, but when the first in the series was re-issued I decided I should give it a try, and am glad I did. I'm now picking them up as I see them. They are quite enjoyable action/adventure stuff.

Over the Wine-Dark Sea and The Sacred Land are historical fiction by Harry Turtledove writing as H.N. Turtletaub. They are respectively, the first and third in a series about a couple of Greek traders from Rhodes, late in the fourth century BC. Not for the easily offended, because he shows the culture of the Hellenistic world as it existed at that time. The books tell of successive yearly trading voyages, the first in 310 B.C. to Greater Hellas (what is now southern Italy), the second (The Gryphon's Skull) in 309 BC to various poleis on the Aegean, and the third in 308 BC to Phoenicia. They are set against the canvas of the documented events of those times and places - for instance, the Carthaginian siege of Syracuse in 310 BC. Many actual historical figures make appearances. It also gives one an appreciation for modern law enforcement and rule of law.

Conventions of War by Walter Jon Williams is the third in a series of a far future where humanity has long been subordinate to the Praxis, an empire founded by the Shaa, whose technology was so far in advance of anything that there was never any serious challenge - until the last Shaa dies and there is civil war among the inheritors of the empire. It was fascinating to watch the evolution of the military from ceremonial to war footing. This tells of the end of the civil war, and perhaps Mr. Williams was getting a little bored, because it wasn't as good as the first two, but still very worth reading.

Curious Notions by Harry Turtledove is the second in a series of Alternate Reality stories he has written. In this case, America is under the German heel from a not quite World War I analog. It is not a sequel to the first, but a separate work tied together only by the thread of the same basic civilization travelling the alternate realities. Quite well thought out and believable, it tells the story of a young man who grew up in San Francisco of a reality of the future not too unlike ours, who assumes the identity of a stereo salesman in another San Francisco, which events have not treated kindly. Quite enjoyable.


Polaris by Jack McDeavitt is a science fiction mystery. Sixty years ago the Polaris was found, her crew mysteriously vanished. The story deals with the resolution of that mystery. Fairly absorbing, but there were times I was wanting him to get one with what was going to happen, and the resolution seems forced, as well as somewhat unlikely.

Legacies and Scepters by L E Modesitt Jr. These are the first and third in telling the story of a vaguely nineteenth century analog society facing an external technological threat. Modesitt being Modesitt, the main protagonist has special powers. I liked the first (and the second) more than I did the third.

Emerald Sea by John Ringo is not an easy book to describe the setting of. It is the sequel to another book, There Will Be Dragons. Good action/adventure yarn, and yet there was one action taken by the protagonists that turns out to be a little too much in the way of a magic bullet. I do intend to read future books in the series.

Luna Marine and Europa Strike by Ian Douglas. Military science fiction, plain and simple. Second and third in the series that began with Semper Mars. Alien technology is discovered in various caches throughout the solar system, and tells the story of the political and military manouevering that results. I do intend to continue reading his stuff.

Crown of Slaves by David Weber and Eric Flint tries to do too much with one book - it should have been at least two. A little too much tell and not enough show for my taste, as well. I'll keep reading the Honor Harrington stuff, but probably not any sequels to this, which is set in the same universe.

Noise by Hal Clement. As I said about Poul Anderson a year ago, there is something profoundly sad about one of the great masters of hard science fiction being reduced to this sort of book for his last work. There are flashes of his old brilliance, but that is all. Read Mission of Gravity or Iceworld or any of a dozen wonderful books he gave us. I found myself pushing just to get through it, not caring about the story, the characters, or anything else about it. If you picked up this book and did not like it, do not judge him by it.


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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on September 23, 2006 1:00 PM.

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