Tuesday, December 27, 2011

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Having just returned from a year-long term as a Special Consultant to Miskatonic University's excavation of the Plains of Leng, I find that, in my quest to recover the Shining Trapezohedron, I have sorely neglected my duties viz. reviewing the books. With my antiquated ibook (retrofitted for steam power) fully repaired and ready for duty, and with a long backlog of tomes to record judgement upon, I should begin at once, but I regret to admit my critical faculties are rusty, especially after having to deal with shoggoths. Nevertheless, I shall endeavor to get back in the habit of regular postings. Until then, a few capsule reviews, for your delectation:

Reamde by Neal Stephenson
I really wanted to like this one, but I don't. That doesn't mean it isn't a good thriller, but that's all it is. The speculative flights of fancy expressed in Stephenson's previous work (especially the recent Anathem) have given way to an untamed sprawl of complex (and frequently implausible) plotting and rather pedestrian characterization. This is not a book of deep thoughts, and from Stephenson that is a disappointment.

Packing For Mars by Mary Roach
Very much in the vein of her previous books (such as Stiff, a humorous and informative primer on the various afterlives of human cadavers), full of funny and interesting anecdotes and lessons about the practical aspects of keeping living things, mostly people, alive and healthy in space. There is almost an entire chapter devoted to zero-g fecal collection. Enough said.

Holidays in Heck by P.J. O'Rourke
Holidays in Hell was the first O'Rourke book I ever read, a viciously funny tour of various military situations around the globe. This is a banal, unfunny tour of a Republican taking his family to various vacation destinations. O'Rourke's humor and sensibility have ossified over time, and the stench of the 2nd Bush Administration hangs over the stale jokes like - well, like zero-g fecal collection.

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