There’s a good reason for the solid non-blogging going on around here lately: I’ve been reading. You know, like, books. You might find something of interest among the group, so here are some brief reviews. The linked titles lead to Amazon.com, where you can either order the hard copy version, or download the Kindle version; some of these books are also available via Apple’s iBooks app. The ratings are my subjective assessment, where 1 star is any text of any Obama speech on the Constitution, and 10 stars is the Bible.
- Knox’s Irregulars, by J. Wesley Bush, or, as I know him, John. It’s a little strange to read a book by an author you knew before he became an author. I’ve never met John, but I’ve followed his various blogs and Facebook postings for years, and he’s shown kindness by pretending to read some of my stuff. He’s something of a Renaissance man, with many interests, talents, and skills, and so it was not surprising that his personality and background permeates his first novel. Knox’s Irregulars is a good representative of an increasingly underrepresented literary genre: hard science fiction. It’s also possibly the only representative of legitimate science fiction that has as its underlying and undisguised theme God’s grace expressed through a reformed Christian theology. Intrigued? You should be. It’s a good story and well-written, set on another planet, in a distant future that has many disturbing similarities to our present. The attractive tech comes in the form of combat suits, ala Iron Man. (Did John Steakley invent this genre with Armor?) My rating: 7 stars
- Hammerhead, by Jason Andrew Bond. Well, how about that? Another hard sci-fi novel. This one has nothing to do with sharks, or least, not the kind that live underwater. The attractive tech in this book is a combat helicopter capable of doing intricate maneuvers at mach 3 speeds, but the real interest is in the disparate team of good guys who grudgingly seek to undermine a global plot to, you know, end life as we know it. Characters are painted with rather broad brushes, and the plot requires you to suspend belief at several key junctures, but overall, a good way to spend some time. And don’t be surprised if you see this one translated into the big screen in a movie starring The Rock. My rating: 6 stars
- Dead Iron: The Age of Steam, by Devon Monk. I have to admit that I’m smitten with the idea that a woman would write a steampunk zombie werewolf novel with some majick, a witch, and possible dwarvish folk thrown in for good measure. Now, my pal Mike S. wasn’t too impressed with the book, but I think this was also his first encounter with the genre and he had different expectations. Me? I’m all about steampunk zombie werewolf novels, and if you are as well, grab a copy. It’s well set up for a sequel, too. My rating: 8 stars
- Working Stiff, by Rachel Caine. I have to be very careful here, because I don’t want to give any spoilers about the main premise of this novel (which is also likely to be the first in an ongoing series). At one level, it’s a murder mystery, full of unexpected twists and turns, but what really sets it apart are the peculiar circumstances that come to define the novel’s primary character. This one also has some plot holes big enough to drive a hearse through, but overall, it’s quite entertaining. My rating: 7 stars
- The High-Beta Rich, by Robert Frank. I threw this one in to prove that I’m not a complete philistine when it comes to literature. Frank is a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and his particular beat is covering the lifestyles of the rich, famous or not. And by “rich,” I mean “filthy, stinkin’, over-the-top, life’s-not-fair, who-needs-a-lottery-ticket” wealthy. It’s interesting in a voyeuristic way to read about the excesses of the rich, but there’s an oddly pleasing schadenfreude that accompanies the recitation of how some of them lose their wealth. And that’s what this book is really about – the up-and-down cycles that are becoming increasingly common and extreme. (Beta in the title refers to the financial variable that describes the volatility of a stock vs. the market as a whole; the higher the beta, the more the stock’s price will swing as compared to the market.) The author lays out a good argument for why the fortunes – forgive the pun – of today’s wealthiest Americans have implications not just for them and those they employ, but for all of us as taxpayers and citizens. There’s some intriguing and sometimes frightening insights as to where we may be heading as a society. It’s a short book, easy to read, with just enough juicy stuff to keep you going through the more academic portions. My rating: 7 stars.