Tag Archives: Sci-Fi

Read 2 (2015)

2015 Reading List

In reverse order these are the books I’ve read this year. Some of them have been reviewed on my Book Reviews page and most of those, If not all of them, have also been posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Currently reading: Daring (Kris Longknife) by Mike Shepherd

  1. The Cost of Victory by Jay Allen: 3 of 5 stars
  2. Liaden Universe Constellation III by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: 4 of 5 stars
  3. Phoenix in Shadow by Ryk E. Spoor: 4 of 5 stars
  4. W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton: 4 of 5 stars
  5. The Spellsong War by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.: 4 of 5 stars
  6. The Elysium Commission by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.: 4 of 5 stars
  7. Infinity Beach by Jack McDevitt: 4 of 5 stars
  8. Monsters of the Earth (The Books of the Elements #3) by David Drake: 3 of 5 stars
  9. The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child: 4 of 5 stars
  10. Steadfast by Jack Campbell: 4 of 5 stars
  11. Dragon in Exile by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: 5 of 5 stars
  12. Balance Point by Robert Buettner: 3 of 5 stars
  13. Shadow of Freedom by David Weber: 3 of 5 stars
  14. Survivor by Mike Shepherd: 4 1/2 of 5 stars
  15. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough: 4 of 5 stars
  16. Paradigms Lost by Ryk E. Spoor: 3 of 5 stars
  17. The 47 Ronin Story by John Allyn: 2 of 5 stars
  18. The Better Part of Valor (Confederation #2) Tanya Huff: 4 of 5 stars
  19. Valor’s Choice (Confederation #1) Tanya Huff: 4 of 5 stars
  20. The Clone Apocalypse by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #10): 2 of 5 stars
  21. The Clone Assassin by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #9): 4 of 5 stars
  22. The Clone Sedition by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #8): 4 of 5 stars
  23. The Clone Redemption by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #7): 4 of 5 stars
  24. Madness in Solidar by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #9): 4.5 of 5 stars
  25. Castaway Planet by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor: 3 of 5 stars
  26. Undercity by Catherine Asaro: 4 of 5 stars
  27. The Clone Empire by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #6): 4 of 5 stars
  28. The Clone Betrayal by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #5): 4 of 5 stars
  29. The Clone Elite by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #4): 4 of 5 stars
  30. Antiagon Fire  (The Imager Portfolio #7) by L.E. Modesitt Jr.: 4 of 5 stars
  31. Imager’s Battalion by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #6): 4 of 5 stars
  32. Princeps by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #5): 4 of 5 stars
  33. Carousel Seas by Sharon Lee (Archer’s Beach #3): 4 of 5 stars
  34. Scholar by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #4): 4 of 5 stars
  35. The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower: A Biography of C. S. Forester’s Famous Naval Hero by C. Northcote Parkinson: 4 of 5 stars
  36. The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton (A Commonwealth Novel): 3 of 5 stars

Re-Reads:

These are books I’ve read before and re-read during July and August when I had no new books on hand. It does not include my re-reading of all of the Liaden books to get myself set for Dragon in Exile.

  1. A Rising Thunder – David Weber
  2. Shadow of Freedom – David Weber
  3. The Shadow of Saganami – David Weber
  4. Watch on the Rhine – John Ringo, Tom Kratman
  5. A Cruel Wind (A Shadow of All Night Falling; October’s Baby; All Darkness Met) – Glen Cook
  6. Dread Empire’s Fall: The Sundering – Walter Jon Williams
  7. The Thin Man – Dashiell Hammett
  8. The Glass Key – Dashiell Hammett
  9. The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
  10. The Dain Curse – Dashiell Hammett
  11. Red Harvest – Dashiell Hammett
  12. The Truth of Valor – Tanya Huff
  13. Valor’s Trial – Tanya Huff
  14. City on Fire – Walter Jon Williams
  15. The Way to Glory – David Drake
  16. The Far Side of the Stars – David Drake
  17. Ambassador of Progress – Walter Jon Williams
  18. Target (Vicky Peterwald) – Mike Shepherd
  19. The Warmasters – David Drake, David Weber, Eric Flint
  20. Paying the Piper – David Drake
  21. In Fury Born – David Weber
  22. Night’s Master – Tanith Lee
  23. The Birthgrave – Tanith Lee
  24. The Gods Themselves – Isaac Assimov
  25. Judas Unchained – Peter F. Hamilton
  26. Pandora’s Star – Peter F. Hamilton

Read

Having just finished reading David Drake’s Monsters of the Earth, I find myself at a loss–I have no more unread books to read. As I have no more unread books this seems like a good time to quickly list what I have read:

  1. Monsters of the Earth (The Books of the Elements #3) by David Drake: 3 of 5 stars
  2. The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child: 4 of 5 stars
  3. Steadfast by Jack Campbell: 4 of 5 stars
  4. Dragon in Exile by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: 5 of 5 stars
  5. Balance Point by Robert Buettner: 3 of 5 stars
  6. Shadow of Freedom by David Weber: 3 of 5 stars
  7. Survivor by Mike Shepherd: 4 1/2 of 5 stars
  8. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough: 4 of 5 stars
  9. Paradigms Lost by Ryk E. Spoor: 3 of 5 stars
  10. The 47 Ronin Story by John Allyn: 2 of 5 stars
  11. The Better Part of Valor (Confederation #2) Tanya Huff: 4 of 5 stars
  12. Valor’s Choice (Confederation #1) Tanya Huff: 4 of 5 stars
  13. The Clone Apocalypse by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #10): 2 of 5 stars
  14. The Clone Assassin by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #9): 4 of 5 stars
  15. The Clone Sedition by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #8): 4 of 5 stars
  16. The Clone Redemption by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #7): 4 of 5 stars
  17. Madness in Solidar by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #9): 4.5 of 5 stars
  18. Castaway Planet by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor: 3 of 5 stars
  19. Undercity by Catherine Asaro: 4 of 5 stars
  20. The Clone Empire by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #6): 4 of 5 stars
  21. The Clone Betrayal by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #5): 4 of 5 stars
  22. The Clone Elite by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #4): 4 of 5 stars
  23. Antiagon Fire  (The Imager Portfolio #7) by L.E. Modesitt Jr.: 4 of 5 stars
  24. Imager’s Battalion by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #6): 4 of 5 stars
  25. Princeps by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #5): 4 of 5 stars
  26. Carousel Seas by Sharon Lee (Archer’s Beach #3): 4 of 5 stars
  27. Scholar by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #4): 4 of 5 stars
  28. The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower: A Biography of C. S. Forester’s Famous Naval Hero by C. Northcote Parkinson: 4 of 5 stars
  29. The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton (A Commonwealth Novel): 3 of 5 stars

The above list is in reverse order of how I read them. It does not include the books I have re-read (including the Liaden series in preparation for Dragon in Exile, just out this last week). Between Goodreads and Amazon.com I’ve got a couple of hundred books on my recommended list, but I don’t have any of them here. Hmmmm . . . what to do? I think I’ll go through my wife’s three dozen or so books waiting to be read, and see if I can spot something I’d like to read–can’t sit around for seven weeks waiting for Constellation 3 to appear.

Book Reviews

To Be Read Shelf:

The Horse Soldiers by Harold Sinclair

Doctor Who: The Legends of River Song

The Winds of Winter by George R. R. Martin

Currently Reading:

Treachery’s Tools by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

Spheres of Influence by Ryk E.Spoor

Book Reviews – 2016

Ratings follow Goodreads standards:

  • 1 Star – Did not like it
  • 2 Star – It was OK
  • 3 Star – Liked it
  • 4 Star – Really liked it
  • 5 Star – It was amazing

October

The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944-1945 by James D. Hornfischer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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A Call to Arms (Honorverse: Manticore Ascendant, #2)A Call to Arms by David Weber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Shattered Spear (The Lost Stars, #4)Shattered Spear by Jack Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Gentleman Jole and the Red QueenGentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Warrior WomenWarrior Women by Paula Guran
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

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X (Kinsey Millhone, #24)X by Sue Grafton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good story. Gets a bit convoluted and slow in the middle but finishes up fine.

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A Night Without StarsA Night Without Stars by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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September

The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 by Ian W. Toll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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Project Elfhome (Elfhome, #4.5)Project Elfhome by Wen Spencer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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August

Alliance of Equals (Liaden Universe, #19)Alliance of Equals by Sharon Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, here we go again. Another fine read in the Liaden Universe – over too soon.

Korval is once again dealing with the Department of the Interior only this time they are far away from both Liad and Surebleak. There are two major threads and one minor one running through the story.

The minor thread, at least in terms of words and pages, concerns the fates of Daav and Aelliana who are in the care of Uncle and Dulsey – and, of course, Korval’s “damned meddling Tree” through its unripe pods. The results promise more action in future stories and several personal complications forthcoming.

The second thread, not minor, except in its use of previously minor characters involves Korval’s response to Theo’s “creation” of Admiral Bunter during her run in with the DOI at Jemiatha’s Jumble Stop. This thread involves Tolly Jones, Hazenthull Explorer and Tocohl Lorlin and their attempt to help the Admiral. It seems to split into two threads of its own late in the book, one of which is left untouched.

The third thread, and the major one in the story, is about Dutiful Passage and its quest to forge new trade links for Korval out of Surebleak. The main concern of this story is not, however, the doings of Shan and Priscilla but of daughter Padi. Padi is Shan’s apprentice trader and in this story she begins to come of age as a trader in her own right. However, she is also haunted by her fears stemming from her time at Runig’s Rock and must learn to deal with them.

No story spoilers from me – I shall not divulge the outcomes of any of the above except to say that I really don’t want to wait until next May to find out what happens in The Gathering Edge.

Alliance of Equals is the latest in a thirty-year line of books and stories, a universe rich in characters and their histories. If you’re familiar with this universe, you’ll find this a worthy edition.

If, however, you’re new to Liad and Korval a few words of warning. The Liaden Universe is addicting. It consists of eighteen other novels and three collections of short stories – and you’ll want to read every one – soon.

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July

Death’s Bright Day by David Drake — 3 of 5 stars

Rebel by Mike Shepherd — 3 of 5 stars

A Study in Sable by Mercedes Lackey — 4 of 5 stars

Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold — 3 of 5 stars

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds — 3 of 5 stars

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold — 4 of 5 stars

June

The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks — 2 of 5 stars

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds — 3 of 5 stars

Leviathan (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier #5) by Jack Campbell — 4 of 5 stars

Undaunted (Kris Longknife, #7) by Mike Shepherd — 3 of 5 stars

Dark Intelligence (Transformation, #1) by Neal Asher — 3 of 5 stars

May

Silence (Serrated Edge, #9) by Mercedes Lackey — 3 of 5 stars

April

The V’Dan (First Salik War, #2) by Jean Johnson — 3 of 5 stars

The Terrans (First Salik War, #1) by Jean Johnson — 3 of 5 stars

Phoenix Ascendant by Ryk E. Spoor — 3 of 5 stars

March

The Dragon Never SleepsThe Dragon Never Sleeps by Glen Cook
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“He lies ever upon his hoard, his heart jealous and mean. Never believe he has nodded because his eyes have closed. The dragon never sleeps.” –Kex Maefele, speaking to the Dire Radiant

So opens Glen Cook’s tale of a self-perpetuating human military society. The Guardships have solved the problem of succeeding generations losing the idealism of a founding generation — memories are periodically recorded and impressed on a new clone when the original dies. When an individual of sufficient merit retires/dies, his or her memories are uploaded to the Guardship (and to Starbase) where they electronically continue to live. Should the Guardship be destroyed, it is re-created by Starbase along with its original crew.

The Guardships have guarded the human empire (Canon Space) for some four thousand years, but change is coming. Humans, artifacts (genetically engineered clones) and aliens, from within and outside Canon, have teamed together to overthrow the Guardships. Interstellar war on a grand scale forces change, in some cases long overdue, on the Guardships and Canon.

The story centers around:
The Guardship VII Gemina and two of her crew: Hanaver Strate and Jo Klass;
House Tregesser and Lupo Provik;
Aliens: Kex Maefele, Amber Soul and Seeker and the artifact, Lady Midnight.

There is plenty of action, intrigue and character development.

I have read this book a couple of dozen times since I got it back in 1988 (yes, my paperback copy has begun to fall apart) and found something new each time.

My biggest disappointment is that Cook never wrote a sequel.

Yeah, I’m writing this brief review because I just finished re-re-re-reading it yet again.

P.S. And like Lee and Miller’s Agent of Change, this story contains a Turtle.

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February

Imperfect Sword (The Lost Stars, #3)Imperfect Sword by Jack Campbell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another good story in the series.

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January

A Little RebellionA Little Rebellion by Jay Allan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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An Ancient Peace (Peacekeeper, #1; Confederation, #6)An Ancient Peace by Tanya Huff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book; I really liked this book; I really wanted to give it four stars, but I can’t. Why not?

Spoiler

Zombies, bloody alien zombies — no, no, No!

 

Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942Pacific Crucible: War at Sea in the Pacific, 1941-1942 by Ian W. Toll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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ThunderbirdThunderbird by Jack McDevitt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another good McDevitt story, told on a “human” level of individuals rather than governments, fleets or armies. I was a bit disappointed in the ending until I realized how many loose ends there were. He really can’t end the story here, can he? There has got to be another book in the works.

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Grand Central Arena (Grand Central Arena #1)Grand Central Arena by Ryk E. Spoor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Book Reviews – 2015


October, November and December

 

Unrelenting (Kris Longknife, #13)Unrelenting by Mike Shepherd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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No More Heroes (In the Wake of the Templars, #3)No More Heroes by Loren Rhoads
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(In the Wake of the Templars #3)  Another good read. Better than #2 but not quite as good as #1. Then again I tend to like first books in a series better than the others because they introduce new characters and worlds.

The ending is both neat and in character, although with less violence than you would have anticipated after reading #1.

Spoiler alert!

I, however, have a bias against time travel solutions to problems. They have a “deus ex-machina” quality to them at odds with the hard work done by the characters leading up to the ending. I would have preferred an ending without the journey back to bring Templar females forward to the main time-frame. A little more work in #2 and the author could have pulled this off.

I did enjoy the stories and recommend them: a good “beach read” or cold evening read in front of a fire with a glass of wine (or something stronger) to hand.

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Kill by Numbers (In the Wake of the Templars, #2)Kill by Numbers by Loren Rhoads
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(In the Wake of the Templars #2)  Again, a good read. A little adventure and character development, but seems to be a placeholder between the first and third books.

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The Dangerous Type (In the Wake of the Templars, #1)The Dangerous Type by Loren Rhoads
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(In the Wake of the Templars #1)  An enjoyable read, entertaining. Not quite what I expected from the blurb on the book. Space Opera, but on a small scale of individuals, not large ships, fleets and empires.

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Raising Caine (Tales of the Terran Republic #3) by Charles E. Gannon 3/5 Stars

Trial by Fire (Tales of the Terran Republic #2) by Charles E. Gannon 3/5 Stars

Fire With Fire (Tales of the Terran Republic #1) by Charles E. Gannon 3/5 Stars

 

July, August and September

Kris Longknife: Tenacious by Mike Shepherd 4/5 Stars

Kris Longknife: Defender by Mike Shepherd 3/5 Stars

Kris Longknife: Furious by Mike Shepherd 3/5 Stars

Kris Longknife: Daring by Mike Shepherd 3/5 Stars

The Cost of VictoryThe Cost of Victory by Jay Allan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another good read in military sci-fi. Less character development than in “Marines” but more fighting in a smaller time-frame.
Also introduced are what appears to be a “secret government” running the Alliance and, at least, some of its enemies, the remains of an alien presence on an Alliance world and familial complications for Sarah.
It’s a good “beach read” but there are too many grammatical, punctuation and usage errors–could have used a good editor and galley proofing.

Re-Reads: These are books I’ve read before and re-read during July and August when I had no new books on hand.

A Rising Thunder – David Weber

Shadow of Freedom – David Weber

The Shadow of Saganami – David Weber

Watch on the Rhine – John Ringo, Tom Kratman

A Cruel Wind (A Shadow of All Night Falling; October’s Baby; All Darkness Met) – Glen Cook

Dread Empire’s Fall: The Sundering – Walter Jon Williams

The Thin Man – Dashiell Hammett

The Glass Key – Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett

The Dain Curse – Dashiell Hammett

Red Harvest – Dashiell Hammett

The Truth of Valor – Tanya Huff

Valor’s Trial – Tanya Huff

City on Fire – Walter Jon Williams

The Way to Glory – David Drake

The Far Side of the Stars – David Drake

Ambassador of Progress – Walter Jon Williams

Target (Vicky Peterwald) – Mike Shepherd

The Warmasters – David Drake, David Weber, Eric Flint

Paying the Piper – David Drake

In Fury Born – David Weber

Night’s Master – Tanith Lee

The Birthgrave – Tanith Lee

The Gods Themselves – Isaac Assimov

Judas Unchained – Peter F. Hamilton

Pandora’s Star – Peter F. Hamilton

End Re-Reads

Liaden Universe Constellation: Volume IIILiaden Universe Constellation: Volume III by Sharon Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Phoenix in ShadowPhoenix in Shadow by Ryk E. Spoor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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June

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton 4 of 5 stars

The Spellsong War (#2 Spellsong Cycle) by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. 4 of 5 stars

The Elysium CommissionThe Elysium Commission by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A mystery with a bit of action on-world and off-world, twists and turns. A good, fun read a bit like the Alex Benedict stories of Jack McDevitt.

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Infinity BeachInfinity Beach by Jack McDevitt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another good read by Jack McDevitt. It’s a first contact novel and a good one. Suppose the Chinese and the Spanish had met at Panama and someone died. A botched first contact.
The story here is similar. Humanity has, for the most part, given up on exploration having contacted no one in the centuries since the discovery of FTL travel. A private vessel makes contact with another lifeform and messes it up. People die on both sides. The humans hush it up.
Years later the sister of one of the dead learns of the cover up and decides to right things. A second attempt at first contact. Puzzles abound and others don’t want the past re-opened and someone, or something, is lurking in the woods.
A good story, well told.

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Monsters of the Earth (The Books of the Elements #3) by David Drake 3 of 5 stars

The Forgotten Room by Lincoln Child 4 of 5 stars

Steadfast by Jack Campbell 4 of 5 stars

 

Dragon in ExileDragon in Exile by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dragon in Exile is a switching yard for storylines. It takes a rather large number of stories and brings them up to date and then puts them on to other tracks combined with other characters headed in a new direction.
If you’re new to the Liaden Universe, this is not the book for you. You may find it an interesting read in and of itself, but you will have missed so much–Advice?–go to korval.com and read the information on reading order and then get the other books as stand alone novels or in the onmibus editions. Of course, if you don’t want to follow my advice, go ahead and read this book–you’ll find yourself getting the other books anyway and then you’ll re-read Dragon in Exile anyway.
Val Con and Miri are in the story throughout and, although there is little character development dealing with them, are clearly acting as the chief executives of a large multifaceted interstellar organization and delegate many tasks to others while still seeing action.
Pat Rin and Natesa (and the Juntavas) put in their appearances but are largely in the background. Theo is hardly here at all. The same is true for Shan and Priscilla.
Rys and the Bedel figure prominently and should have large parts in the succeeding stories. Syl Vor is discovered of a talent. Hazenthul Explorer’s character is slightly deepened and goes off on a storyline of her own accompanying Jeeves’ daughter, Tocohl, on a task dealing with Admiral Bunter. Ren Zel seems to “gain” a new power which hints at a future pivot point. Yulie Shaper appears several times and so too do the people who want to turn back the clock on Surebleak.
We get some new pairings: Quin and Villy, Audrey and Luken (guessed right on that one) and Kareen and Kamele. Kareen and Kamele? Yes, two formalists in a pairing which is not as odd as it first seemed to me. Kamele and self-defense also work.
The Uncle’s decision to use two birthing units has proven to be if not a stroke of genius, at least, necessary. I’m quite anxious to find out what happens when they get back to Jelaza Kazone and find Kamele “waiting” for them. (Maybe, they’ll hitch a ride back with Theo and Bechimo?)
–Interlude–Mist, two-year-old Siamese female, was sleeping on my legs (I’m in my recliner with my laptop.) and just woke up suddenly from a rather active dream. I now have several scratches and a bit of blood on my shins and calves. She has moved to resume her sleep with her brother, Smoke, on the couch.–End Interlude–
Constellation 3 has stories dealing with this time in the Liaden Universe–get it in August.
At any rate, Dragon in Exile was a good, fun read and over too quickly.
PS–Once you read the book, if you haven’t yet read Chimera, read it. It’s a short story dealing with events in the last couple of chapters of Dragon and, as of two minutes ago, it’s still posted on baen.com.
PPS–Also read Eleutherios in the Baen “Free Library” for more information on the Bedel.
PPPS–Oh, yeah, there are more than enough storylines for the, I think it is, six remaining contracted books Sharon and Steve have.

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Balance Point by Robert Buettner 3 of 5 stars

May

Shadow of Freedom (Honorverse: Saganami Island #3)Shadow of Freedom by David Weber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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Survivor (Vicky Peterwald, #2)Survivor by Mike Shepherd

My rating: 4 1/2 of 5 stars

Good book–do you know what I hate about good books? I read them too quickly–started yesterday and finished this evening. And the next one in the series isn’t coming out until next year.

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The Wright BrothersThe Wright Brothers by David McCullough

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I began this book on the 22nd and finished but two chapters that day, the amount of detail was so great. I thought that, at maybe a half a chapter a day, it would take me a couple of weeks to finish. However, the detail merely enhanced the writing and sense of adventure and discovery conveyed by the author.
Orville and Wilbur, quintessential Americans, modest, hard-working and with an almost single-minded belief in themselves succeeded in doing what none had done before (even with government funding)–flew a powered heavier-than-air craft.
With brains, hard work, perseverance, help from family and a few friends and acquaintances they taught the world to fly. Bravo.

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April

Paradigms Lost by Ryk E. Spoor 3/5 stars

The 47 Ronin Story by John Allyn 2/5 stars
A good story but not well told. It should have been exciting; it was not.

A Confederation of Valor by Tanya Huff: The Better Part of Valor (Confederation #2) 4/5 stars

A Confederation of Valor by Tanya Huff: Valor’s Choice (Confederation #1) 4/5 stars
I’ve previously read #s 3, 4 & 5 in the series:
The Heart of Valor 4/5 stars, Valor’s Trial 3/5 stars & The Truth of Valor 3/5 stars.

The Clone Apocalypse by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #10) 2/5 stars
Grumble, Grumble, Grumble . . . not the proper way to end a series.

March – 2015

The Clone Assassin by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #9) 4/5 stars

The Clone Sedition by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #8) 4/5 stars

The Clone Redemption by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #7) 4/5 stars

Madness in Solidar by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #9) 4.5/5 stars

Book Reviews - Castaway PlanetCastaway Planet by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Takes place in the “Boundary” universe but long after the previous stories. Swiss Family Robinson, w/Friday, and a touch of Mysterious Island thrown in.
I liked the islands and the general story, but you just “knew” that the parents wouldn’t die, Friday wouldn’t die and neither would any of the girls–at least, in the first book of the series.
Unfortunately, from my point of view, it got a little pedantic in things like telling how they made vinegar, quicklime, etc.
But, still, a good story–save it for a beach read.
As an aside or postscript to this review another part of the story is available elsewhere. Baen Books has a “Free Library” of novels, short stories and sci-fact articles. One of its Free Stories 2015 is “Disaster” by Ryk E. Spoor. It tells the story of the Outward Initiative, the interstellar from which the castaways came. It’s a good read.

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February – 2015

Undercity (Major Bhaajan, #1)Undercity by Catherine Asaro

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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The Clone Empire by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #6) 4/5 stars

The Clone Betrayal by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #5) 4/5 stars

The Clone Elite by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #4) 4/5 stars

January – 2015

Antiagon Fire (Imager Portfolio, #7)Antiagon Fire  (The Imager Portfolio #7) by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Imager’s Battalion by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #6) 4/5 stars

Princeps by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #5) 4/5 stars

Carousel Seas by Sharon Lee (Archer’s Beach #3) 4/5 stars

Scholar by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (The Imager Portfolio #4) 4/5 stars

The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower: A Biography of C. S. Forester's Famous Naval HeroThe Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower: A Biography of C. S. Forester’s Famous Naval Hero by C. Northcote Parkinson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A biography of Horatio Hornblower written as though he lived as a real person and not someone who only lives in our imaginations.

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The Abyss Beyond Dreams by Peter F. Hamilton (A Commonwealth Novel) 3/5 stars


 

Book Reviews – 2014


December

Andromeda’s War by William C. Dietz (The Prequel Legion Series #3) 4/5 stars

Shattered Shields by Jennifer Brozek (ed) 3/5 stars

Damnation by Jean Johnson (Theirs Not to Reason Why #5) 4/5 stars

Heritage of Cyador by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. 4/5 stars

November

Coming Home by Jack McDevitt (Alex Benedict #7) 4/5 stars

The Clone Alliance by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #3) 3/5 stars

October

Hardship by Jean Johnson (Theirs Not to Reason Why #4) 3/5 stars

Rogue Clone by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #2) 3/5 stars

The Clone Republic by Steven L. Kent (Rogue Clone #1) 4/5 stars

Hellfire by Jean Johnson (Theirs Not to Reason Why #3) 3/5 stars

An Officer’s Duty by Jean Johnson (Theirs Not to Reason Why #2) 4/5 stars

 

Book Reviews - A Call to Duty (Honorverse: Manticore Ascendant, #1)A Call to Duty by David Weber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to enjoy this book more than I actually did. While not as good as Weber’s usual endeavors, it was better than Zahn’s A Call to Arms in the Beginnings anthology.
The story is set in the early Kingdom era before the Manticore Wormhole Junction and Manticore is friends with Haven (pre-People’s Republic). A “pirate” group with possible government support is attempting to steal two for sale Havenite warships. At the sale Haven, and others, attempt to set up an anti-pirate alliance, or, at least, pave the way for one.
It is also the coming of age story of one Travis Long. Travis is ignored by his mother; his brother is a minor member of the peerage; and, Travis is on the road to delinquency and criminality. He is saved by being in an RMN recruiting office while his friends are engaged in robbery and gun-play.
Travis enlists looking for limits and boundaries. His sticking to the rules attitude clashes with the easy going attitude of both his fellow recruits and instructors and gets him into trouble. The same occurs when he is finally posted to a ship.
Some of his superiors see promise in Travis and eventually he is posted to a ship with officers and enlisted personnel who take things a bit more seriously and Travis begins to fit in. He has a big part in “saving the day” at the end of the book. Travis is now destined to bigger and better things: college and OCS (and another book or two).
The action section of the book is the last third which contains the warship sale at the Secour System. At Basilisk (On Basilisk Station) Harrington runs the action and at Marienbad (Secour’s inhabited planet) the action is run by lower ranking officers (as the ship’s captain is a captive of the pirates) with major input by Travis. The entire section reminded me of Basilisk.
It’s a good book, well worth reading but, unless you’ve just got to have it now, wait for the paperback edition.

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Book Reviews - Guardian (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, #3)Guardian by Jack Campbell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

#9 in the Black Jack Geary Saga. A good, quick, fun read.
Black Jack gets the First Fleet back to the Alliance with the Dancers and the Kick battleship. Dancers want to go to Kansas. Black Jack and Tanya escort them with the Dauntless. The rest would be telling . . . chuckle.

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Book Reviews - Perilous Shield (The Lost Stars, #2)Perilous Shield by Jack Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another good story by Campbell. This continues the story of the Independent Midway Star System following the overthrow of the Syndicate government by CEOs Iceni and Drakon. The questions asked in Tarnished Shield are as valid now as ever. But the story is concentrating on the development of two relationships: Morgan and Malin (with a twist) and Iceni and Drakon. And, of course, how do you turn a totalitarian dictatorship based on power and fear into something free and honest without degenerating into chaos?
I know the third book in the series, Imperfect Sword, has already been published but I have avoided reviews and snippets until I get a paperback copy, but I . . . can you say constitutional monarchy?

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September

Book Reviews - Chill Factor (Weather Warden, #3)Chill Factor by Rachel Caine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Light, fun, another beach read. The used book store where I bought this did not #2 and #4, so I bought #3 and #5.

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Book Reviews - MarinesMarines by Jay Allan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gang member of the future slated for execution saved by the Marines. Endures training and battle. Earns decorations and rises rapidly in the ranks. Formulaic but fun; nothing deep, standard military sci-fi.

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Book Reviews - Touched by an Alien Touched by an Alien by Gini Koch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A romance novel in sci-fi/fantasy guise. But, a quick and fun read.

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Book Reviews - Ill Wind (Weather Warden, #1)

Ill Wind by Rachel Caine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Light, fun, another beach read.

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Book Reviews - Wood Sprites (Elfhome, #4)Wood Sprites by Wen Spencer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wood Sprites is the fourth volume in Wen Spencer’s Elfhome series.

This is the story fraternal twin nine-year-old girls. They are smart, inventive and not quite what they seem. They learn that they are adopted and only partly human. This story occurs at the same time as Tinker and Wolf Who Rules. Parallel to but not intersecting the other books.

To tell more would spoil the story. This was my second favorite of the series just behind Tinker. A very good read.

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Book Reviews - Beginnings: Worlds of Honor 6Beginnings: Worlds of Honor 6 by David Weber

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to like this book; I looked forward to reading some of the history of Manticore, Haven, et al. The stories were very uneven. Even the stories by Zahn and Weber were not better than “C+/B-” grade.

The first story, By the Book, by Charles Gannon was difficult to read and had no visible connection to the universe of Honor Harrington. A lot of work for very little, if any, return.

A Call to Arms by Timothy Zahn was a much better story. An early RMN incident involving a mercenary invasion force and Axelrod. I generally enjoy Zahn’s stories but this one just didn’t seem to flow very well. It was as though he tried to copy Weber’s style in describing battle sequences and not quite succeeding.

In Beauty and the Beast Weber tells the story of how Honor’s parents met. He pays more attention to Alfred than to Allison and one gets a much better understanding of his character than that of her mother. This is the best story of the lot. However, Allison and Alfred seem to undergo an almost treecat like bonding and I don’t remember any of this being alluded to in any of the other Honorverse stories. The idea just doesn’t quite seem to fit.

I enjoyed Best Laid Plans. Weber tells the story of Honor/Dances on Clouds and Nimitz/Laughs Brightly. It’s a quick and fun read, but . . . There is too much of Stephanie Harrington’s character thrust into Honor and the story is missing too many pages. It is too quick, too pat and seems to have been edited to fill a limited space rather than tell the story properly.

Joelle Presby’s Obligated Service tells the story of Grayson a Midshipwoman/Ensign from Burdette Steading. It just doesn’t seem to gel. Too many people who had no idea about what was really going on and not a clue stick in sight.

If you haven’t bought it yet and still want to read Beginnings, wait a few months and browse the used book stores. I read three other books while reading this one.

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– – – – –

Book Reviews - A Soldier's Duty (Theirs Not to Reason Why, #1)A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enjoyed the story and finished the book in a couple of days.
Ia is a precog who has set it as her duty to save the future. She is a a half-breed, a combination of a human mother and a, usually, non-bodied father. She can see into the futures, can show them to others and has other ESP powers. Coming from a colony world with very heavy gravity she joins the marines so that she can shape those futures into one that promises safety for the human race and alien races.
The storytelling is good, although the dialogue leaves a bit to be desired. We always know what is going to happen and the only real mystery is the how of it. The series is already five books in length and I doubt I’ll be able to read them all, knowing what the future holds in each. I’ll buy the second one though, used, and see if Ia can keep my interest. If not, I’ll wait for the final book to be written, buy it, and see how things turn out.

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Read too many books over the summer and will try to catch up over the next couple of weeks.

April 2014

Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton (ISBN: 978-0-345-52667-0) Del Ray – Imagine your smartphone, your cat’s (or dog’s) AVID chip, RFID tags, the Internet and gene therapy all combined and evolved a century into the future. Threads of instant communication, surveillance, hacking and human nature Book Reviews - Great North Roadare woven by Hamilton into another plausible hi-tech future.

Slowly beginning as a murder mystery, the back-story of which is filled in with flashbacks, it progressively becomes an intra-family corporate battle, before eventually becoming a confrontation between species which could cost the lives of millions.

The characters are well-drawn, believable and the reader’s perceptions of the change quite rapidly with each additional flashback; this is especially true of the protagonist – Angela – convicted of a mass-murder she did not commit.

Those who have read enough science fiction will recognize the competing alien intelligence; there are several hints early in the story to clue one in on what humanity is actually facing on St. Libra but Hamilton makes working through the nine hundred pages worth the effort.

It’s a good detective story; it’s a good story on finding one’s family and it is a good first contact story.

I do, however, have a few things to quibble about. First, Hamilton allows himself gets too bogged down in technical verbiage and details – these slow the action to where I would scan, not read, to where the action picked up again. Second, the flashbacks, which flesh out the characters and their motivations continue too far into the story; they slow the action at the end and left me feeling how much more I would have liked the book with three-dimensional characters early rather than the one- and two-dimensional characters they actually were. Third, to paraphrase the Austrian Emperor in Amadeus – too many words, too many words.

Still, what can I say; it was a great read. I began the nine hundred page book on Easter Sunday (4.20) and finished it on Monday (4.28). I’ll re-read it again next year, knowing what the characters’ motivations are from the start and not hurry through it to find out.

Book Reviews - The First Casualty (Jump Universe, #1)The First Casualty by Mike Moscoe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Military sci-fi story seen thru the eyes of professional soldiers and unlucky draftees of opposing sides. Fast, interesting and interesting characters on both sides. Not quite as polished as his later work.
I have a bias toward early books in series as new characters are introduced and gradually fleshed out. The same is true in this series. I enjoyed The First Casualty (1) more than The Price of Peace (2) and both more than They Also Serve (3) but, all three books were worth reading.

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Book Reviews - HazeHaze by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Enjoyed the book, but not one of Modesitt’s best. Totalitarian federation meets society protecting itself with orbiting nano-tech barrier surrounding planet. Federation agent penetrates barrier and is “openly” shown what is going on-he goes: Huh? Chapters are back and forth in the agent’s life-back is better. Well, maybe only two and a half stars, not three. Buy used.

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Book Reviews - Tarnished Knight (The Lost Stars, #1)Tarnished Knight by Jack Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book in Jack Campbell’s new series in the Black Jack Geary/Alliance-Syndicate Universe. I enjoyed the Black Jack Lost Fleet stories, even though I think they would have been better as a trilogy.
The Lost Stars series takes the view of the survivors of the opposing side, the Syndicate, as they struggle to throw off their former rulers and find their own way in the universe. The prime question here is: How does one replace a corrupt totalitarian system with an honest workable system without descending into chaos? And, how does one do so when all one’s training and instincts come from that corrupt totalitarian system?
Gwen Iceni and Artur Drakon are former Syndicate CEOs who have cooperated in throwing off the Syndicate yoke in the Midway Star System. They must learn to trust each other and install a new political system which gives the people a buy-in.
They must do this while keeping power without becoming “new” Syndics, without allowing their planet to come apart, without allowing Syndicate operatives to re-take the system. They must balance these needs while keeping the good will of Geary and the Alliance, defending themselves from the Enigma alien race, etc.
Fun and, I believe better written than either the Lost Fleet and Beyond the Frontier series.

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Book Reviews - Phoenix RisingPhoenix Rising by Ryk E. Spoor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good sword and fantasy read. Murder, vengeance, justice, humans and non-humans sharing a world. A youngwoman’s quest and the journey to become herself.

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March 2014

Neutrino Hunters by Ray Jayawardhana (ISBN: 978-0-374-22063-1) Scientific American/FSG: Most of the books I read have to do with Science Fiction/Fantasy, History, Mystery and Science – after all, I can’t feed my brain pablum all the time). In high school I enjoyed physics and chemistry, but not the math that came with them. Arithmetic was fine, Algebra I and II and Geometry were awful. I stopped at Trig and never got into Calculus. There Book Reviews - Neutrino Hunterswent my career as an astrophysicist or cosmologist, but the subjects still fascinate me.

Ray Jayawardhana talks about physics without the math, except for the ubiquitous E=mc² of Einstein. “RayJay” tells stories (short biographies, anecdotes, history and science) involving the usual, and not so usual, suspects having to do with mathematics and particle physics over the last century and a half. There is sufficient history and background in the book that those of us who last attended science classes nearly half a century ago can understand what is going on without taking refresher courses. The search for the neutrino is told as a multi-generation detective story from Wolfgang Pauli’s attempt to account for missing energy in beta decay measurements to today’s attempts to find the mass of three (or possibly four?) neutrinos and anti-neutrinos. In addition there is a timeline and a glossary to help keep track of things without having to page back through the book if something is missed. For those who want, there are notes following the glossary for further reading. The information density was sufficient that I felt I was learning but not so dense that I became lost in esoterica.

It’s a good, fast paced, almost easy, read. Three sessions on my exercise bicycle, with a little Doctor Who on the TV in the background and I’m finished. Darn. Note to self: get a copy of RayJay’s Star Factories: The Birth of Stars and Planets – soon.

Working God’s Mischief (Book #4 of The Instrumentalities of the Night) by Glen Cook (ISBN: 978-0-7653-3420-6) TOR: Good book!

February 2014

Dreamwalker by C. S. Friedman (ISBN: 978-0-7564-0888-6) DAW: I found this to be a rather conventional parallel worlds novel told from the point of view of an American teenager.

Book Reviews - DreamwalkerJessica Drake finds that she is not genetically the child of either of her parents; her dreams are of interest to others; she, and others like her, are targeted for murder; her brother is kidnapped and taken to another Earth; Jesse and friends to the rescue. Formulaic.

This story seems to serve as an introduction to a trilogy or, possibly, longer series. However, neither the storyline nor character development are up to Friedman’s earlier efforts (Coldfire/Magister trilogies). It all seems rather simplistic; I found that I didn’t really care about any of the characters nor about what was happening to them, and this after about four hundred pages. There is, however, some hope as Jesse is going to try to find her real mother and learn about this dreamwalking thing of hers. Perhaps Friedman will get enough feedback from the readers of Dreamwalker that she will treat the remaining books in the series as serious adult sci-fi/fantasy and not something to palm off on the YA market.

I’ll probably end up getting the next book in this series but I will not pre-order it sight unseen.

Other C. S. Friedman books I’ve read:

The Coldfire Trilogy
1. Black Sun Rising
2. When True Night Falls
3. Crown of Shadows

The Magister Trilogy
1. Feast of Souls
2. Wings of Wrath
3. Legacy of Kings

In Conquest Born (Favorite)
The Wilding
The Madness Season

Carousel Sun by Sharon Lee (ISBN: 978-1-4767-3623-5) Baen: This is the sequel to Carousel Tides and while an interesting Book Reviews - Carousel Sunread is not quite as good a story (of course, this comes from a person who usually finds the introduction to new places and characters more interesting than a continuing story). There are a few new characters introduced (both fey and natural human) and the relationship between Kate and Borgan gets a bit deeper. The conflicts in this book are not as intense as those in the first book and the conclusion is less satisfying. If these characters were taking a trip across the country, this book would be a rest stop along Highway 1 on the California coast. But still, I liked it. Next stop: Carousel Seas.

August 2013 – January 2014

A Liaden Universe Constellation – Volume 1 (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3923-0) and Volume 2 (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3944-5) by Sharon Lee and Book Reviews - LUC 2Book Reviews - LUC 1Steve Miller: These two volumes are a series of short stories set in the Liaden Universe. Most are essentially backstory to the events chronicled in the Liaden novels. How did Val Con become brother to a Clutch Turtle? What are the origins of Miri Robertson and Natesa the Assassin? Taxi anyone? Daav and Clarence, Daav leaves Delgado; water balloons? I found the second volume to be the better of the two books – I liked the stories better and didn’t care for the Lute and Moonhawk stories in Volume 1. Advice? Read the novels first and then the LUC stories.

Below are links to the story of the origin of Jeeves, Korval’s butler, and Kara ven’Arith’s story after Theo left the Piloting Academy on Eylot as a “nexus of violence”.

Val Con, Shan and Jeeves

Kara ven’Arith

The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind – (ISBN: 978-0-7653-6619-1) TOR: Another Richard and Kahlan story which is essentially a continuation of the Sword of Truth series. A machine is discovered which foretells bad things about the future. Too long on description and too short on action. If you have to have it, buy it used.

Andromeda’s Fall by William C. Dietz – (ISBN: 978-0-425-26234-4) and Andromeda’s Choice (ISBN: 978-0425256244) Book Reviews - Andromeda's ChoiceAce Science Book Reviews - Andromeda's FallFiction: Party girl on vacation; Emperor assassinated by sister; Empress kills those associated with former Emperor; party girl’s family killed and party girl targeted; party girl escapes and joins Foreign Legion. Good story of the Legion of the Damned.

Story continued in Andromeda’s Choice and she must deal with the person she has become as well as what remains of the person she was – and, of course, the person she wants to become (projected trilogy).

Once in a Blue Moon by Simon R. Green (ISBN: 978-0-451-41466-3) ROC: This is the latest in Green’s saga of Hawk and Fisher (or Rupert and Julia, if Book Reviews - Once in a Blue Moonyou prefer). A century has elapsed since the end of the Demon Prince; he has returned and so must other legends. There is nothing deep here; there is just good story-telling, action and adventure, and a good deal of Green’s not so tongue-in-cheek humor. If you haven’t read any of the Hawk and Fisher stories it is still a good read, although you’ll miss a lot of the allusions to what has happened in the previous stories. A good, fast read that is perfect for a winter evening’s fire or a summer’s day at the beach.

If you’d like to read all of the stories: Blue Moon Rising, Swords of Haven and Guards of Haven (each has three stories), Beyond the Blue Moon and then Once in a Blue Moon. I’ve also enjoyed the Deathstalker books, the Nightside series and Shadows Fall and Drinking Midnight Wine. My wife loves the Nightside books and also enjoys the Ghost Finder novels.

Book Reviews - Invincible (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, #2)Invincible by Jack Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuing the story of Black Jack Geary after the defeat of the Syndicate Worlds. Black Jack’s Alliance fleet has made contact with the Enigmas on the far side of Syndicate space. Now they meet two more alien races. The Kick are herbivores, fear/hate predators (like humans) and build very large spaceships. The Dancers have more in common with us, at least intellectually. It’s a fun read.

Although it is supposed to be the number two book in this series it is really Black Jack #8. Hornblower and Bolitho, Harrington and Longknife.

Most of the books are good, a few are not and some are excellent.

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Book Reviews - Dreadnaught (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier, #1)Dreadnaught by Jack Campbell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Lost Fleet war is over and the Syndicate Worlds have been defeated. Now we have the politics of the Alliance and what happens to the peace.
Geary’s married and again sent out. Now he goes to find out about the Enigmas, the aliens encountered by the Syndicate Worlds.
Geary, and the Alliance, must learn to deal with both the Enigmas and tread warily with a weakened Syndicate government and those worlds seeking independence from Syndicate control.
A fast and enjoyable read.

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The Lost Fleet: Victorious by Jack Campbell (ISBN:  978-0-441-01869-7) Ace Science Fiction

Doctor Who: The Wheel of Ice by Stephen Baxter (ISBN: 978-0-425-26122-4) Ace: The Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Zoe, stop at a mining colony in orbit around Saturn. Equipment failures, blue dolls and a billions of years old intelligence add up to mystery and danger for the colonists and the Doctor and his companions.

Starhawk by Jack McDevitt 3/5 Stars (ISBN: 978-0-425-26085-2) Ace: Starhawk is the latest story of Priscilla Hutchins set in the Academy universe. Humanity Book Reviews - Starhawkhas faster than light travel and communication but almost no one to visit or talk to. McDevitt’s stories in this series deal with first contacts and how the actions of individuals affect others. It is a large universe but lacking in civilizations at our technological level. There are ruins on many worlds hinting that technological civilizations are short-lived; there are hints of others which are beyond us; there are hints that the universe is out to get us – and everyone else too.

Starhawk is really a prequel to the other Priscilla Hutchins stories. In it “Hutch” gets her interstellar license and begins her career hauling people and supplies to human outposts in our near stellar neighborhood. It is the story of individuals and their choices, motivations and actions as well as the behavior of commercial businesses and government. The main action revolves around the morality of terraforming an earthlike planet (and killing all other life present on said planet while doing so) and how far some will go to stop it.

While I enjoyed reading Starhawk, I did not feel that it was one of the better books in the series. It felt as though it had been written to fulfill a contract not an author’s idea. The previous book in this series, Cauldron, takes us so far that is seems the author couldn’t add any more and had to go back to the beginning. The rest of the series is well worth reading but each builds on the previous books. I think you’ll find them more enjoyable if you read them in chronological order: Starhawk, The Engines of God, Deepsix, Chindi, Omega, Odyssey and Cauldron.

There are no armies, navies or space battles in this series. It concentrates on the actions of individuals not empires, but there is still plenty of drama and good storytelling. I also like McDevitt’s Alex Benedict stories as well as his stand alone novel Ancient Shores.

The Reach of Rome by Alberto Angela 4/5 Stars (ISBN: 978-0-8478-4128-8) Rizzoli Ex Libris: This is a history of the ancient Roman world during the Pax Romana Book Reviews - The Reach of Romeof the second century AD (Anno Domini) or CE (the Common Era or Christian Era). Using a coin, a sestertius, Alberto Angela takes us on a tour of the Roman Empire and the people who inhabit it. As the coin journeys with and between people we are told about what they are doing while possessing the coin, a bit about their situation and life in general and how their lives color the tapestry that is Rome. Weaving the weft of historical fact with the warp of poetic license the author tells a story about life nearly twenty centuries in the past. Reading about a chapter a day keeps the individual stories interesting and fresh without getting too bogged down in the details. Well worth the time spent – next summer I’ll find a copy of his book A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome.

The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon 4/5 Stars (ISBN: 0-671-72104-6) Baen Fantasy: This was originally published as three separate Book Reviews - The Deed of Paksenarrionnovels – Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, Divided Allegiance and Oath of Gold in the late 1980s. I purchased this book, used, at Camelot Books in Fountain Valley, California. It is the story of “Paks” and her journey from proposed pigfarmer’s wife to paladin. The story is well-written and fast-paced. A young girl’s dreams are eventually fulfilled, although she experiences a great deal of pain (both physical and emotional) along the way. There are the usual gods and demons, villains and heroes, mistakes and lessons learned. The one quibble I have about these kinds of stories is women as warriors, fighting as knights and mercenaries; given our own histories and how few women have actually fought in armies alongside men, I have difficulty believing that it could happen in other low-tech societies. But, be that as it may, I suspend my disbelief and preconceptions and continue reading these types of stories and enjoying them. Read on!

A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen 4/5 Stars (ISBN: 978-1-250-02946-1) Thomas Dunne Books: James Book Reviews - A Street Cat Named BobBowen is a recovering drug addict and street musician in need of a friend and a good reason to improve his life; Bob is a stray cat in need of a friend – a match made in London. You meet someone; you learn to trust someone; eventually you learn to need and love that someone.

Two people who need help, helping each other. A good story, well told.

Trade Secret by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller 4/5 Stars (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3930-8)Baen Books: Set in the Liaden Universe a couple of centuries prioBook Reviews - Trade Secretr to the Daav, Val Con and Theo stories, Trade Secret continues the story of Jethri Gobelyn ven’Deelin (from Balance of Trade). Jethri, a Terran, must find his way through and place in Liaden society. Jethri needs to learn Code as well as Liadens raised to it, become a pilot, master the skills of a trader, deal with the Uncle, defend himself in a duel of Balance and make himself a place among people so different from his birth family.

Another good story; I had skipped Balance of Trade in reading the other Liaden books and found myself needing to go back and correct that error.

Dragon Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller 5/5 Stars (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3798-4) Baen Books: Taking place in the Liaden Universe this is the Book Reviews - Dragonshipfourth story in Theo Waitley’s saga. Bechimo, self-aware ship, Theo, Win Ton yo’Vala and Clarence O’Brien set out to do market research on a new trade loop and run into a “pilots in peril” situation and the DOI; Kara joins the crew and Bechimo becomes a travelling norbear embassy and gains a Captain. The Uncle helps Daav and Aelliana; Kamele leaves the safety of Delgado to rescue Jen Sar from the clutches of Korval on Surebleak. And, while resting at their “safe spot” hole in space, Bechimo and crew encounter Cantra yos’Phelium’s Spiral Dance and a child of the Tree. Thus, setting the stage for several more Liaden books.

(“Curse you Red Baron.” As Snoopy would say for not having them written and published and me retired with plenty of time to read.)

Necessity’s Child by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller 5/5 Stars (ISBN: 978-1-4516-3887-5) Baen Books: Clan Korval is on, but not of, Surebleak; Book Reviews - Necessity's Childthere is a need for Korval to integrate, to mesh, with the people already there – not just the Bosses. Nova’s son, finds purpose and a sister in attending the new school system being established. The Bedel, the kompani (think gypsies), must find their way in a rapidly changing world and a DOI Agent must survive. Kezzi, Syl Vor and Rys Lin pen’Chala try to find their way on a world turned upside down.

Again, Lee and Miller, give us interesting situations and characters to care about – good stroytelling.

July 2013

Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee – (ISBN: 978-1-4391-3395-8) / Baen Fantasy: Story of Kate Archer who comes home to Maine worried about her missing grandmother. Kate ran away from her “guilt” to die and returns to save her grandmother and gather up her past and future. No one is who he, or she, seems to be on the surface. A good read.

The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campbell: Good space opera; hero saved after a century frozen in rescue capsule has to live up to demigod status. Now on to book two: Fearless.

June 2013

A Rising Thunder by David Weber (ISBN: 978-1-4767-3612-9) Baen books: The Star Empire of Manticore is now involved in a two front war with the Mesan Alignment and the Solarian League. A former enemy, the Republic of Haven, is now allied with Manticore, after finding out they as well as the Manties have been duped by the Mesans. The Andermani too have a bone to pick with the Mesans after assassins target their ruling family. Beowulf’s decision to vote on a possible withdrawl from the Solarian League has the potential to ignite a splintering of the League and galactic free-for-all.

Another good read from Weber showcasing human greed, heroism and venality.

and Shadow of Freedom by David Weber (These are a part of Honorverse series of stories, a space age take on the Horatio Hornblower (C.S. Forester) and Richard Bolitho (Alexander Kent/Douglas Reeman) novels.

Masters of the Battlefield by Paul K. Davis–I couldn’t finish the book. Dry and descriptive but not good storytelling.

The Magic Engineer by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. – (ISBN: 0-812-53405-0) / Tor / Fantasy: Story of Dorrin, an exile from Recluce. Dorrin Book Reviews - The Magic Engineerstruggles to find himself on Candor as a smith and a healer whose real interests lie in engineering; he wants to build machines. Dorrin’s efforts parallel the story of Cerryl (The White Order and The Colors of Chaos). Cerryl appears in Dorrin’s story as Dorrin appears in Cerryl’s. Both ultimately achieve some, if not all, of what they want.

Many Recluce stories are “coming of age” stories, as are Cerryl’s and Dorrin’s in the three books above. I enjoyed them all; some find them repetitive. If you don’t read these stories there is a great deal of Recluce’s world that you will miss out on.

The stories were not written in internal chronological order. While the author might want you to read the books in the order he wrote them, I think that they should be read according to their internal chronology. This is available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Saga_of_Recluce; it also includes a synopsis of the entire series to date.

Earth Strike (Star Carrier Book One) by Ian Douglas/William H. Keith, Jr. (ISBN: 978-0-06-184025-8) / eos / Science Fiction: Conventional techno/sci-fi story about 25th century Earth and its struggle against a half-billion year old galactic empire. The Sh’daar, and their subject species, fear that humans will soon reach a point where they transcend from the physical realm, which the Sh’daar find anathema. The most interesting part of the story is how the subject Turusch function in both the physical and psychological and how communication is established with them. I picked up this book at Book-Off in Lakewood, California for $1.00; guess I’ll have to look for the other three.

Scion of Cyador (The Saga of Recluce #11)Scion of Cyador by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The continued adventures of Lorn from Magi’i of Cyador (read first) set early in the Saga of Recluce. This duology is the coming of age story of Lorn, a Mirror Lancer and son of Kien, a high-ranking Magus. A well-told story, although the ending is telegraphed way too far in advance.
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Next on my list to read: The Magic Engineer

Other L.E. Modesitt, Jr. books I’ve read: (In order of how I found them stacked in my garage. And, yes, I purchased most of these books at used book stores in southern California. )

  • Adiamante
  • The Sorrano Sorceress – Good (Spellsong Cycle)
  • Imager’s Intrigue
  • Wellspring of Chaos – (Recluce)
  • Imager
  • Colors of Chaos – (Recluce)
  • The Ethos Effect
  • The White Order – (Recluce)
  • The Eternity Artifact
  • Ordermaster – (Recluce)
  • Mage-Guard of Hamor – (Recluce)
  • The Order War – (Recluce)
  • The Towers of the Sunset – (Recluce)
  • Darkness – (Corean Chronicles)
  • Imager’s Challenge
  • Legacies – (Corean Chronicles)
  • The Chaos Balance – (The first Recluce/Modesitt book I read; purchased at Book-Off in Costa Mesa, California for $1.00.)
  • Fall of Angels – (Recluce)
  • Archform: Beauty – started but couldn’t get interested in enough to finish.
  • Naturalorder Mage – (Recluce)

Eight Million GodsEight Million Gods by Wen Spencer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Japanese anime as reality; just ask Nikki. Our heroine is a quick-thinking girl with a compulsion to write – and who finds out that what she writes becomes real, and dangerous. Fun and well worth a few hours in the sun or curled up on the sofa. If you like this story and haven’t read any of Spencer’s other books, try Tinker.
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  • Tinker – Best
  • Wolf Who Rules – Good
  • Elfhome – Good
  • Endless Blue – OK

May/June 2013

The Instrumentalities of the Night series: Think of Medieval Europe and the Near East with an approaching Ice Age. Oh yeah, magic and God/gods (all gods) are real.

  • The Tyranny of the Night
  • Lord of the Silent Kingdom
  • Surrender to the Will of the Night
  • Working God’s Mischief – March 11, 2014

Used bookstores I shop at:

Camelot Books in Fountain Valley;
Book-Off in Costa Mesa, Westminster and Lakewood

(If you know of any other in the HB, FV, CM area – bicycling distance – please let me know.)

Thanksgiving Week

Thanksgiving Week – Nine Days

My wife, Diana or Di, to her English family and Charlie to the rest of us is still teaching. This year she had the whole of Thanksgiving Week off. A good week to relax and veg-out.

Saturday – relax, watch college football, and fix spaghetti for dinner.

Sunday – as above, but pro football and took Charlie to have a mani-pedi.

Monday – relax, we went to MNF dinner at Mike and Sandy’s (nice tradition as Mike and I have been doing this for somewhere around thirty years).

Tuesday – took Charlie to her “pain management” doctor and had one of her “heavy” meds dosage reduced—less med in the same number of pills for the same cost.

Wednesday – one of Charlie’s good, retired friends came over to visit for several hours and I then took Charlie to another doctor’s appointment.

Thursday – the two of us had a quiet Thanksgiving dinner together: turkey, mashed potatoes and peas. Her brother called and was quite chuffed that he had prepared a good batch of roast potatoes. I’ve found that a 16-pound turkey has plenty of meat for the two of us for dinner and several days of leftovers—oh, yes, gave the cats a bit of turkey, too.

Friday – quiet day with leftovers and football and Charlie grading English class essays (7th & 8th grade). When I see her doing this I give quiet thanks that I was able to retire when I did.

Saturday – basically a copy of Friday except I started out watching Premier League “football”—Go Arsenal!

Sunday – should be a copy of Saturday except for the angst of Charlie having to go back to work tomorrow and the Grey Cup is on this afternoon.

The above list is not an exhaustive one. There was grocery shopping to do, including the purchase of cat and bird food. Clothes washing, dishes, general cleaning, etc. that needed to be done. The gardener came by yesterday and the front yard and backyard gardens are beautiful, if lacking in summer flowers.

Charlie finished reading the latest Aloysius Pendergast book, Blue Labyrinth, by Preston and Child. She is now on the patio reading Relic and drinking her second cup of tea. We actually have dark clouds overhead so, maybe, we’ll get some of that promised rain this week. (Maybe, even today.)

I’m a half-dozen chapters into Heritage of Cyador by Modesitt and it promises to be a good read.

I’ve written the first eight chapters of my book, two more full chapters and two partial chapters farther on in the story. My goal is a hundred thousand words but I’ve got more story than that in my head and will have to do a “bit” of trimming.

Downloaded Annie Lennox’s new album, Nostalgia, marvelous. I’ve got 18,000+ songs and tunes on iTunes and have music playing in the house most of the time—on Apple TV and playing through our stereo. (Still waiting for Diana Krall’s Wallflower.)

The OC Register is again a no-show today—haven’t had a copy delivered since Thursday a week ago, but I still get their emails. The LA Times hasn’t missed a day or been late. (This really bugs me as the Times does not cover Orange County high school football. It’s playoff season now.)

School Teacher Alert

—and anyone else who has ever had a “pointy-haired” principal or boss: Today’s Dilbert (with apologies to Scott Adams).

Principal: Would you like some feedback on your (teaching) performance?

Teacher: No.

P: You’re supposed to appreciate feedback because it makes you feel valued.

T: How does listening to you belittle me about things you don’t understand make me feel valued?

P: Well, I don’t know. It must be an indirect thing.

P: Maybe we should just try it and see how it feels.

T: Whatever.

P: I don’t actually watch you (teach) work, so I’m mostly guessing about the things you do wrong.

P: I accuse you of being slow and disorganized!

P: Is it working yet?

T: Yes. If that makes you go away.

I don’t know if this accurate for your current situation, but, if you’ve been a teacher long enough, you’ve had at least one, and maybe several “pointy-haired” principals. (I know I have. I, of course, won’t mention any names, but, if you’ve taught with me, you will probably name the same ones.)

Etc.

Charlie’s sister, Tricia, has confirmed that she’ll be here for Christmas. (She lives in England.)

Sunday Morning Company

Sunday Morning Company

The cats are keeping me company: one on the back of my chair, from which position he sometimes washes my hair, and the other atop her castle.

And, as I look around at all I possess and think on all I am thankful for one thing stands out: Charlie, without whom nothing else seems to matter.

And, one more note, Charlie reports that it is now raining.

A View of History from a Science Fiction Perspective

History

We call the time before the invention of writing pre-historic—history it seems comes from writing.

Writing was first invented around six millennia ago. It appeared in China, India, Egypt and western Asia. People wrote on (in) clay, wax, wooden slats, parchment, papyrus and, eventually, paper and carved in stone. It spread across the civilized world because it was too convenient, important, to not use. Those who could read and write, or commanded those who could, controlled society.

The ability to count, record, plan and allocate allowed (mandated?) the creation of water empires in the valleys of the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates, Indus and Yellow rivers. No longer was a person’s memory and good will a limiting factor in the matter of logistics.

A great deal of our knowledge, or what we believe, of these early civilizations comes from the writings they left behind. However, this knowledge is skewed. It is knowledge dominated by religion, government and the wealthy. Little is really known about the lives of the ordinary people—ninety plus percent of the populations of these societies. And a lot of what we know of the lives of ordinary people is conjecture based on ruins and what was written about them by the upper classes, who seem to quite often despise those who were neither educated nor wealthy—although their societies would have collapsed without the labor of these “lower” classes.

What would our view of these societies be if we had a written record for them as we have for ourselves over the last two centuries?

History Unwritten

Three of history’s seminal figures: Buddha, Socrates and Jesus left no writings behind. What we know of them, or think we know of them, is based on the writings of others. Everything we “know” about these men was filtered at the very start by views, beliefs, biases and experiences of those who wrote the books. We must also take into account what these men hoped to accomplish with their writings.

Assuming that the followers of Buddha, Socrates and Jesus were good people, interested in accuracy, what were their agendas?

Is the Socrates of Plato accurate? Is the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John accurate? Did he really exist, at least as the person shown in our current Bible? Remember, there are early books which, for one reason or another, have not been included in the Bible.

Would what we “know” of these men be different if they wrote about themselves and their beliefs? If there were contemporaneous accounts of Jesus and Buddha would they paint a picture of these men different from that portrayed by their followers—written long after their deaths?

History Destroyed

Libraries, and other storehouses of knowledge (and history), have been destroyed by flood, earthquake, fire and war. The Library of Alexandria, housing tens of thousands books, or scrolls, is one such example. Fire from the Roman civil war, from which Caesar emerged as sole ruler of Rome, destroyed parts if not all of it. Aurelian’s taking of the city while suppressing Queen Zenobia of Palmyra may have damaged it. Following the banning of paganism by Theodosius in 391, more damage and destruction. The Muslim conquest in 642 may have been the end.

However much truth there is in these accounts of the Library’s destruction, it no longer exists. What might our view of the ancient world be today if the treasures it housed were available to us?

Science Fiction and Fantasy History

Much of what happens in science-fiction and fantasy occurs in the future. In each of these stories the author has to breath some life into his (or her) world/universe. Asimov’s Foundation Series, Smith’s Lensmen, Herbert’s Dune, Weber’s Honorverse are just a few examples of created worlds whose history is us. It is after our time when these worlds diverge.

If you are interested in alternate history—our history to a certain point and them bam—there is plenty out there. Change one event, use historical trends and characters and see how the world would have turned out. America loses the Revolutionary War, the South defeats the North, aliens invade during World War II. These and many others are out there waiting to be read (and written). They all demand some type of history.

Even if you create your own universe/world from scratch you still have to give it some history to flesh it out. Very few of us can write a story that has no context.

Which brings me to Jack McDevitt. Many of his stories deal with a humanity that has spread to the stars and been there for millennia. His protagonist is Alex Benedict, an antiquarian. As an individual who deals in old and rare artifacts, Alex must deal with history.

Alex Benedict, and his “sidekick,” Chase Kolpath, hunt down various antiques and sell them for large amounts of money, generating a healthy income. There is danger, of course, as they deal in valuables and secrets. There is murder and attempted murder, but there is none of the large-scale violence and wars associated with much of science fiction. These stories are mysteries.

Alex has a copy of Churchhill’s Their Finest Hour and other valuables. Most of what happens involves history that happened after the twenty-first century. In these instances McDevitt must invent the history, the people, the events and the artifacts. But all of this future history must follow logically from our own history or else the reader will lose his ability to suspend his disbelief.

McDevitt’s ability to weave history and today and its trends into a coherent whole along with non-superhuman characters is half the charm of the stories. The other, of course, is a richly detailed future universe with interesting characters faced with a mystery or two and, occasionally, a crisis.

Today as History

In his newest book, Coming Home, Chapter Twenty-Six (Spoiler Alert), McDevitt gives us a glimpse of what Benedict’s universe has of ours and what they make of it.

  • Most poetry has disappeared but Shelly remains,
  • James Thurber’s name remains, but none of his writings,
  • Only six of Shakespeare’s plays are known, among them The Merry Wives of Windsor,
  • Only seven Hollywood films survive, among them Casablanca and Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein,
  • Dracula was apparently a physician,
  • Superman and Batman got their start in the twenty-fourth century.

If this, or something like it is what survives of our society, what will people make of us? How accurate will their perceptions be?

Is this kind of sampling what we have of our ancient world? Is it as accurate?

Did Ramesses defeat the Hittites at Kadesh or was he forced into retreat? Do we just believe Egyptian propaganda or are the claims of Ramesses accurate?

Were the Egyptian pyramids built by thousands of slaves or by thousands of Egyptian farmers during the seasons their land was flooded by the Nile?

Does Plato tell us of the real Socrates or just a Platonic version of him?

What of the stories of Jesus?

Do we believe that Nero and Caligula were monomanically evil because they were or are they victims of bad publicity, books written by political enemies?

 Family History

For most of my forty years of teaching in junior high I taught History. I told my students that it was the most important subject because it was the only one that told them about their family.

Where are we without our families? We are adrift in the world without an anchor. We are orphans among six billion strangers.

History teaches you about your family—the human race. You are related to everyone else whether you realize it or not. Every stranger you meet is a cousin, maybe a cousin a hundred times, or a thousand times removed, but a cousin nonetheless.

Only by realizing this, and acting on it, will we be able secure our future. No new collapse of society, no new Dark Age, no future interpretations of our lives and civilization without sufficient evidence to either praise or damn us.

As Rodgers and Edwards wrote for Sister Sledge: We Are Family. Let us treat each other as family.

History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity.
Marcus Tullius Cicero