31 July 2011
Alice Mary Norton, Allen Weston, Andre Alice Norton, Andre Norton, Andrew North, Classic Science Fiction, Plague Ship, Science Fiction, Solar Queen
Plague Ship (Solar Queen Series #2) by Andre Norton (aka. Andrew North; Andre Alice Norton; Alice Mary Norton; Allen Weston) — 2940011809583 – ****
Genre: Science Fiction
Time to Read: 6 Days
The Free Traders of the ship the Solar Queen are on a mission to win trade with the newly discovered planet Sargol, which is inhabited by a feline-like race that holds closely to ceremony and is slow to trust the humans. After arguments with a Company trade ship, a sunset hunt for the planet’s naval monsters and some tough negotiations, it is time to blast off. When the Solar Queen heads for home, however, her crew finds that they have left Sargol with more than they bargained for. As senior crew members begin to fall ill, the ship’s younger recruits–including the ship’s apprentice cargo master Dane Thorson–must find out what has caused this alien plague and stop it before the Solar Queen can be blasted from the sky as a plague ship.
To date, I haven’t read much space science fiction. I enjoy the genre on screen, but no books have really grabbed me. At least not until this one.
Plague Ship was a little slow to start, but as soon as it got rolling, I didn’t want to put it down. It was published in 1956, but it has none of the somewhat tiresome old-fashioned social stereotypes. This may be due to the fact that it had an all male cast (so no lone female had to be saved every time the main character turned around), or perhaps to the fact that it was written by a women under a masculine pen name, but for whatever the reason, Alice Mary Norton’s masterpiece has a classic feel without the strange narrative voice I tend to run into with books from that era or the eye-rolling remarks other writers of that period used to belittle any character that wasn’t a male human Caucasian. It is simply good writing. The rules of her characters’ “world” (universe, in actuality) are extremely well planned. The plot is full of twists that truly are twists. It is full of suspense that keeps you reading to the end, even if the first half of the book is more an exploration of an alien world than it is a story about a “plague ship.” It’s a good, quick read for anyone who likes science fiction, or for anyone looking to try it out.
As a side-note, this is book two of a series called Solar Queen, but it doesn’t seem like reading the books out of order will be a problem. This one volume contains the full plot of the story, so you aren’t jumping in somewhere in the middle, and you don’t have to scramble for the next book right away. That being said, I am hoping to locate the other books in this series in the future, simply because I enjoyed Plague Ship so much, and because I have read that her characters get even better as the books progress.
Check out Andre Norton’s website (and learn more about her life) here!
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23 July 2011
1893, American History, Chicago, Chicago World's Fair, Daniel Hudson Burnham, Erik Larson, Henry H. Holmes, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, Nonfiction, The Devil in the White City, The Devil in the White City: Murder, The White City, True Crime, World's Columbian Exposition
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson – 9781400076314 — *****
Genre: Nonfiction; American History; True Crime
Time to Read: 9 Days
The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (also called the World’s Columbian Exposition) was supposed to be one of the most shining moments in the history of Chicago and the United States, but the fair was haunted by a killer who used it as a hunting ground for young woman who had been newly loosed upon the world. The Devil in the White City brings readers back to the days before, during and after the fair, telling of the creation of that history-making exposition and outlining the horrific murders that went on during what was supposed to be the best World’s Fair in history.
I don’t normally read nonfiction, but something about this book caught my attention. I had heard that it was excellent, and that Erik Larson does not write like the stereo-typical history author, so I put it on my list of books to read. By the time I picked it up, I was excited to give The Devil in the White City a try, and I was by no means disappointed when I did.
The book yo-yo’s back and fourth between the creation of the Chicago World’s fair under the watchful eye of its head architect Daniel Hudson Burnham and the increasingly horrific yet ingenious actions of murderer Henry H. Holmes. Larson also puts in little tidbits about other major historical events and persons at that time (for example, he discusses Holmes’s interest in the newspaper articles about the White Chapel murders by Jack the Ripper and mentions how one of the men who worked on creating the White City–a man by the name of Disney–would go on to tell his son Walt about the fair and inspire him to create his own magical city). It also tells about some of the things invented for the World’s Fair that are common place today, and about the way the decisions of the Fair’s construction board changed the future of our country.
I am a fan of history, and I found this book wonderful brain food. I literally didn’t want to put it down, and I found myself actually learning about history in a way that all my past teachers would envy. The Devil in the White City reads like a really good documentary. One of those ones that you watch because there’s nothing else on, then find yourself glued to. I actually caught myself reading with great anticipation–Will they get everything done before the fair opens? Will they catch the killer?–even though I knew that everything had already happened in real life and I had a good idea of what was coming.
My only (minor) complaint about this book is the way Larson handles foreshadowing (if we can call it that in a history book). It isn’t in the least bit subtle, and he has a tendency to do it so early that I caught myself thinking that he’d left out the foreshadowed event (after all, to a history buff, maybe the things he eluded to were common knowledge, and there was no need to explain it any further). Unfortunately, I grew impatient in some cases and looked up the events that he foreshadowed, spoiling the parts in the book when he actually got to them (if it can be considered “spoiling,” since it’s all based on historical events).
I would certainly recommend The Devil in the White City to anyone with an interest in American History, True Crime, architecture and world events. I must also say that, if you are thinking about trying out nonfiction for the first time, this book is an excellent place to start. It doesn’t quite read like a novel, but it is, in some ways, even better than a make believe tale.
Check out Erik Larson’s website!
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23 July 2011
Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Friar Tuck, King Raven Trilogy, Little John, Series, Stephen R. Lawhead, The Red King, William Scarlet, William Scatlocke
Tuck (King Raven Trilogy #3) by Stephen R. Lawhead — 9781401685393 – ****
Time to Read: 11 Days
In this conclusion to Stephen Lawhead’s King Raven Trilogy, Bran ap Brychan (aka Rhi Bran y Hud) and his comrades travel to meet with his kinsmen in hopes that they might help him and his Grellon reclaim his kingdom while Lady Merian–going against Bran’s wishes–does the same and Abbot Hugo seeks to purge the forest of the King Raven once and for all. Tuck–named for the fat friar who is one of Bran’s closest advisors–is full of adventure and peril as the King Raven and his men struggle for their lives and their homes, tricking their enemies in true Robin Hood style along the way.
I must confess that this third novel in the King Raven Trilogy was a slower starter for me than the others. It once again shifted point of view and–after my initial uncertainty upon starting Scarlet–I found that I missed Will Scarlet’s narrative voice (It was not, however, in the Friar’s point of view, instead returning to the third person that Hood was written in). I also have to note that it began to feel a little long toward the end, which may be in part because I haven’t committed to a series in some time, and I was ready for a change of pace.
That being said, however, Tuck was an extraordinary conclusion to Lawhead’s re-imagined Robin Hood series. Too many series that I’ve read have had unsatisfactory endings or ones that were too neat, like a glued jigsaw puzzle. Tuck did not let me down, and it left me wanting to visit more of Stephen R. Lawhead’s books in the future.
(Please forgive the delay in my posting of this review. My new eReader makes it too easy to move on to the next book, and I quickly get lost in it and forget to blog! I promise to get better. There will be two more coming very soon!)
Check out Stephen R. Lawhead’s website!
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