Bryce W. (Calliope) - , - Reviews

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Alas Babylon
Alas Babylon
Author: Pat Frank
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 14
Review Date: 5/10/2010
Helpful Score: 2


As a basically morbid and paranoid person, I quite enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction. I'm happy to report that Alas, Babylon, one of the first books in the genre, did not disappoint.

The book centers around Fort Repose, a Florida community that manages to survive after a nuclear attack wipes out much of the United States. Specifically it centers on Randy Bragg and his family and neighbors as they try to live and thrive against all odds. I enjoyed reading about the problems and solutions they faced -- Are armadillos edible? How to get more salt? What do we trade when money is worthless? -- and would have welcomed even more details.

I see moments inspired by Alas, Babylon in many modern-day dystopian and post-apocalyptic works, from the reboot of Battlestar Galactica to S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire and beyond.

I notice many negative reviews of this book center around its supposed racism and sexism. Perhaps those reviewers overlooked the fact that this book was originally published in 1959, and for its time, seemed to be remarkably progressive. White characters and black characters work side-by-side, as equals. A female cabinet member becomes Chief Executive of what's left of the USA. If women seem to swoon more than realistically plausable and the N-word is bandied about quite frequently... well, 1959 was still 1959.


And the Ass Saw the Angel
And the Ass Saw the Angel
Author: Nick Cave
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 5/10/2010


As a basically morbid and paranoid person, I quite enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction. I'm happy to report that Alas, Babylon, one of the first books in the genre, did not disappoint.

The book centers around Fort Repose, a Florida community that manages to survive after a nuclear attack wipes out much of the United States. Specifically it centers on Randy Bragg and his family and neighbors as they try to live and thrive against all odds. I enjoyed reading about the problems and solutions they faced -- Are armadillos edible? How to get more salt? What do we trade when money is worthless? -- and would have welcomed even more details.

I see moments inspired by Alas, Babylon in many modern-day dystopian and post-apocalyptic works, from the reboot of Battlestar Galactica to S.M. Stirling's Dies the Fire and beyond.

I notice many negative reviews of this book center around its supposed racism and sexism. Perhaps those reviewers overlooked the fact that this book was originally published in 1959, and for its time, seemed to be remarkably progressive. White characters and black characters work side-by-side, as equals. A female cabinet member becomes Chief Executive of what's left of the USA. If women seem to swoon more than realistically plausable and the N-word is bandied about quite frequently... well, 1959 was still 1959.


The Bernini Bust (Jonathan Argyll, Bk 3)
The Bernini Bust (Jonathan Argyll, Bk 3)
Author: Iain Pears
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 19
Review Date: 8/18/2009
Helpful Score: 2


A small paperback that sat on my bookshelf, completely overlooked for years. I wish I had gotten to it sooner, because it's a delightful mystery! The pacing is quick, the characters are fun, and you are bound to pick up a few interesting art-related facts while piecing together all the clues.


Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 371
Review Date: 11/8/2011
Helpful Score: 1


While Gladwell delivers another book filled with interesting observations and anecdotes, for me Blink was not nearly as successful as The Tipping Point.

In Blink, Gladwell talks about the power of the first impression, in making decisions with good understanding if not complete information and the effectiveness of "small slicing." But he also talks about the dangers of all those things and lists many, many situations where first impressions go terribly awry. In The Tipping Point, there was a clear action item: Here are the personalities that make an idea/movement/product "tip" and here are steps you can take to capitalize on those personalities. I think it's the immediate workability that makes The Tipping Point the stronger book. In the wrong hands, Blink can be used to wave away every mistake and bad judgement a person makes.


Cell
Cell
Author: Stephen King
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 704
Review Date: 8/18/2009


A very creepy premise -- "What if some unknown force could turn most of the world into walking zombies, using their cellphones?" A great, truly scary opening followed by a road trip from and into hell. You'll look at your blackberry and iphone a little more suspiciously after this.


City of Dreams: A Novel of Nieuw Amsterdam and Early Manhattan
City of Dreams: A Novel of Nieuw Amsterdam and Early Manhattan
Author: Beverly Swerling
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 56
Review Date: 6/21/2010
Helpful Score: 3


City of Dreams takes readers through 130 years of the early history of New York City, following a few specific families through their generations as they fight, marry, grow apart and grow together.

Edward Rutherford has become the master of this particular storytelling conceit, often following families through many hundreds of years of history. He tends to focus on historical detail and accuracy, while Beverly Swerling is more interested in the dramatic and emotional interactions between her characters. At some points the book feels a bit like a "historical soap opera," but the drama is usually pretty engaging. You'll find many, many damsels in distress, betrayals, hidden treasure, murders, torrid affairs, arson, espionage, and many, many, many amputations.

Let me say that again: There are many amputations. Also: purging, head trauma, violent disease, and violent-er deaths. This book is not for the faint of heart, but then again, neither were the 1700's.


Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World: 2A Novel
Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World: 2A Novel
Author: Donald Antrim
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 3/22/2010


Darkly funny satire with a most unexpected ending. Not for the faint of heart, but a good read if you have a twisted sense of humor.


The Elves of Cintra (Genesis of Shannara, Bk 2)
The Elves of Cintra (Genesis of Shannara, Bk 2)
Author: Terry Brooks
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 62
Review Date: 6/22/2009


This series makes an effort to link Terry Brook's seminal Shannara series to his Word & Void series and it is a remarkable feat. This series combines classic fantasy elements (elves, magic, etc.) with more "real world" sensibilities (guns, vehicles, known American geography) and it's a great blend. The characters are likable and real. At times, the danger is palpable. Definitely recommend.


Faerie Tale
Faerie Tale
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 9/16/2009


A creepy mix of fantasy and horror. Definitely a book you stay up late to finish.


The Great Stink
The Great Stink
Author: Clare Clark
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.7/5 Stars.
 31
Review Date: 10/24/2008
Helpful Score: 3


Victorian-era London, deep down in the sewer systems. The whole book is gross! Gross, gross, gross... but fascinatingly so. You'll read this book in one setting, but then need to wash your hands afterward.


The Honk and Holler Opening Soon
The Honk and Holler Opening Soon
Author: Billie Letts
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 328
Review Date: 12/5/2007
Helpful Score: 1


If I need to read something comforting and uplifting, I'll pick up this book. There's nothing difficult or surprising about it, but it's like chicken soup on a sick day.


Interview with the Vampire (Vampire Chronicles, Bk 1)
Interview with the Vampire (Vampire Chronicles, Bk 1)
Author: Anne Rice
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 4/1/2008


I didn't experience the same Goth urgings my friends did, so I never read this in high school. I just finished it and I ask myself "What's all the fuss?" Interesting actions and characters broken up by long stretches of pure boring. Purple prose galore. Am not interested in the rest of the series.


The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 5712
Review Date: 11/16/2007
Helpful Score: 1


This struck me as Midnight's Children Lite. This was fine to read for twenty minutes at a time on the subway, but I didn't take much from it, either emotionally or culturally.


The Last Witchfinder (P.S.)
The Last Witchfinder (P.S.)
Author: James Morrow
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 19
Review Date: 6/27/2008
Helpful Score: 2


An interesting historical fiction novel; heavy on the "fiction" aspect.

A nice example of a strong, intelligent female character. Some of the sillier aspects of the plot can be forgiven on that basis alone.


Lives of the Monster Dogs
Lives of the Monster Dogs
Author: Kirsten Bakis
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 24
Review Date: 7/24/2009
Helpful Score: 1


Bakis creates an interesting Frankenstein-ian situation, where sentient bipedal dogs rebel against their creator and attempt to join modern American society. Lovely and bittersweet.


Mister Posterior and the Genius Child
Mister Posterior and the Genius Child
Author: Emily Jenkins
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 19
Review Date: 11/17/2008


An enjoyable and unusual coming-of-age story. Perfect if you are or were the "outsider" child.


Neil Gaiman's 1602
Neil Gaiman's 1602
Author: Neil Gaiman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 7/29/2008


Interesting spin on the Marvel universe. Some characters work really well in this new time period; Magneto is especially good.


Phoenix and Ashes (Elemental Masters, Bk 4)
Phoenix and Ashes (Elemental Masters, Bk 4)
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 119
Review Date: 3/30/2008
Helpful Score: 2


In the middle of a fantasy novel about magic and romance, I encountered some of the most realistic and honest writing dealing with the horror of WWI. Welcome and surprising. Not the most accesable novels in this series, but one of the best.


The Portage to San Christobal of A. H.
The Portage to San Christobal of A. H.
Author: George Steiner
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 11/17/2008
Helpful Score: 1


30 years after the end of World War II, a group of Israeli Nazi-hunters discover Adolph Hitler in the jungles of South America.

The "what if" premise of this book is fascinating. The book itself is very difficult to read; partly because the narrative style is very abstract and partly due to some very emotional passages. Definitely leaves you thinking.


The Prestige
The Prestige
Author: Christopher Priest
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 3/22/2010


Read this great book and then watch the equally excellent movie. Filled with interesting characters and situations and an unusual, misleading narrative style. Sometimes, you're not sure what direction is up or down.

I zipped through this book in a day and a half, I was so anxious to find out how things turned out.


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