The Other McCain

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Books…And A Smittypalooza?

Posted on | July 16, 2014 | 23 Comments

– by Wombat-socho


I didn’t get much reading done last week, what with a lack of money for new books, a lack of time to stop by the library, and a lack of spare time to actually read what I did pick up last week thanks to the truck breaking down for a day – which, thanks to Northern Virginia’s idiosyncratic transit network, meant a day and a half wasted on bus and Metro riding that I could have spent reading.


Anyway, I finally got around to Variable Star, which is billed as a collaboration between Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson. For those of you unfamiliar with the backstory on this, apparently RAH had written the outline in 1955, but never done anything else with it. When it was found (less its last page) after Virginia Heinlein’s death, Robinson was asked to finish it in his own style, which he did, and the result is something that’s neither fish nor fowl. As Nicholas Whyte said in Strange Horizons, “This is, frankly, not a great book.” I have to agree with him; with its many references to events and characters from Heinlein’s other works, and shameless Tuckerizations, it’s amusing for people who like that sort of thing, but the opening chapters are painful to read and the deus ex machina that saves the day is downright infuriating. Also, contra Whyte, the book seems as obsessed with sex and sexual relations as any of Heinlein’s later, lesser works, which is an annoying distraction since it all seems rather forced and gratuitous, a signal by Robinson that he, too, is hep, cool and with it. It’s not nearly as bad as For Us, The Living, but that’s damning with faint praise. If you really like Spider Robinson and view him as the obvious heir to Heinlein’s legacy (I don’t) then you’ll probably enjoy the book; if not, then you might want to read it once and move on.


And then we have Iver Cooper’s 1636: Seas of Fortune, which is a different kettle of tropical fish altogether. In the old days, Seas of Fortune would probably have been called a fix-up, since it began as a series of short stories, but here forms a pair of short novels dealing with a USE colony in the Guianas (and a refugee marrano from Brazil who plays an important role) and the Japanese colonization of America’s Pacific Coast with exiled Christians under the rule of daimyo Date Masumune, who was not himself Christian. Both stories are entertaining, but whether they’re worth almost nine bucks is another question, especially since the paperback is less expensive. What’s up with that, Baen?


Finally, a couple of short stories. First, Sarah Hoyt’s The Price of Gold, which is an amusing little romantic fantasy that dances along the edge of horror without falling in. The plot concerns a secret high school for magicians, the misfit boy who apparently can’t do magic at all despite his parents both being wizards, and the precocious girl whose magical skills are exactly the opposite – she’s so good, not even her teachers know what her limits might be. When the misfit boy disappears, and nobody else seems to care, our heroine sets off to solve the case – and finds the boy may have a talent their teachers aren’t equipped to appreciate.


Much less sweet (and considerably more frustrating) is Marko Kloos’ Measures of Absolution, a story set in his Frontlines universe that returns us to the hostile slums of Detroit which we previously saw in his debut novel Terms of Enlistment. This time the story is from the POV of Andrew Grayson’s squadmate Corporal Jackson, who finds out why her squad almost got wiped out – but the question is whether she’ll survive to let anyone higher in the chain of command know. I’d have been a lot happier with “Measures of Absolution” if it hadn’t ended abruptly at AN EXTREMELY DRAMATIC POINT, but as it is, it’s a good read but immensely frustrating. Maybe we’ll get to see the rest of the story after Marko finishes AngelsAngles of Attack. Maybe we won’t. In the meantime, if you don’t mind being left hanging, it’s a good story.


Finally, on a completely unrelated topic, it’s been a while since we all got together for drinks, snacks, and goodnatured hijinkery, and frankly, I don’t care to wait for CPAC. How many of you would be interested in getting together someplace in DC or Northern Virginia for beverages (adult & otherwise), nibblements and conversation? We can either follow the example of the recent Northern Virginia Moron Meetup, which reserved a private room and pre-ordered trays of appetizers after people chipped in money, or we can just pick a bar, restaurant, or lounge someplace and agree to meet there at a certain day & time. This would probably, tentatively happen in mid-October or later. Let me know what you think in the comments.


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Comments

  • Pingback: Political Rift » Books…And A Smittypalooza?

  • http://www.thepiratescove.us/ William_Teach

    I actually liked Variable Star, but not care much for For Us, The Living. I thought VS was a throwback to much of Heinlein’s early short story and novel work.

    A couple great books are the 3 book series (so far) by Adam Yoshida, A House Divided, The Fiery Trial, and Shall Not Perish. These will appeal to Conservatives in terms of the politics of the day and how the country has split.

    The Voodoo Plague series by Dirk Patton was fantastic, for those who love zombie books.

    One really fun one I read a few months ago is Indexing, by Sean McGuire, an interesting take on nursery rhymes mixed with police work.

  • Matt_SE

    I’d love to meet up in Northern Virginia…but my Lear-jet’s in the shop. So sorry.

  • JeffWeimer

    I might be up for it. We haven’t had a Smittypalooza in YEARS.

  • slp

    Try reading on the bus or Metro.

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  • Anon Y. Mous

    Weren’t you going to discuss Andy Weir’s “The Martian”? Or did that already happen and I just missed it? I liked the book and was looking forward to your take on it.

  • John Farrier

    I recently read Lines of Departure, Marko Kloos’s latest novel. It’s excellent.

    I tried the Ring of Fire series several years ago, but it didn’t grab me.

  • Nashville Beat

    I’m up for another Smittypalooza (preferably in Northern Virginia). I attended one a few years ago and would enjoy the opportunity to see old friends and make new ones.

  • Quartermaster

    So, drive your Bentley over.

  • Wombat_socho

    Covered here, though you might have overlooked it on account of all the blood and thunder.

  • Wombat_socho

    I used to be able to do that, but lately I get motion sickness when I try. :(

  • Wombat_socho

    Southwest has very reasonable fares to and from Dulles. ;)

  • Anon Y. Mous

    Heh. Thanks.

  • http://www.unifiedpatriots.com/ JadedByPolitics

    I would love to joint a Smittypalooza in N VA as well and which ever way the masses decide to go, high end or hey buddy buy me a drink I am in :)

  • Matt_SE

    Although the Bentley’s in good shape, I have no driver!
    Juan cut himself manicuring my hedges, bled all over my mink lawn, and I was forced to have him beaten. (you can’t let “the help” get away with these things, you know)

  • Quartermaster

    My wife has been that way all her life. I think it’s because of the constant refocusing of the eyes while the vehicle is in motion.

  • missred

    I am up for a Smittypalooza – in N Virginia!

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  • Eric Ashley

    V,S, IMO, took Heinlein’s aim, and reversed it. Heinlein aimed to make some guys the bad guys and SR just made them misunderstood.

    Could be wrong, maybe Heinlein planned that all along.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    I have the same problem unless I’m driving.

    I’m the guy who has to put down his newspaper to yell at the girls texting while they drive.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    I’ll have to send my avatar and toast your health at home. But I’d love to be able to teleport right on over.

  • http://fritz-aviewfromthebeach.blogspot.com/ Fritz Riedel

    NOVA/DC isn’t far out my way.