The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Late Winter Book Post

Posted on | February 21, 2020 | 1 Comment

– by Wombat-socho

Well, technically it’s early spring here in Las Vegas, but I’ve been dragging my feet on getting this done for literally months, for which I apologize. For once in my life I’ve been too tired, busy, depressed, and/or sick to read, which pretty much NEVER happens, but this last month or so of tax season has gotten me back in the saddle. So, for your reading pleasure:

The Last Straw – John C. Wright
John C. Wright’s review of the execrable movie The Last Jedi reminds me of the legendary quip by Mary McCarthy regarding Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: “This is not a book that should be cast aside casually. Rather, it should be thrown with great force.” This is not to denigrate Mr. Wright’s review, which is a work both hilarious and depressing, but the movie it reviews, which is truly one of the worst things to come out of Hollywood since the all-female Ghostbusters. The Last Straw is hilarious, because Mr. Wright is a fine writer with a keen eye for the ridiculous (and oh, Lord, there is so much ridiculous about TLJ) and is a skilled wordsmith on a par with Chesterton, but it is also depressing, because for every stupid sentence of dialogue, every witless/wasted character, and every cringe-inducing meaningless action scene, he shows us what could have been in the hands of competent writers working for a producer who loved the original Star Wars trilogy – an outstanding action movie, with young characters we could have cherished, exchanging witty banter while fighting desperate odds for a meaningful victory. Unfortunately, we got Rian Johnson’s hideous bastardization of a beloved franchise. Console yourself with this book; unlike the movie, it is well worth your time and gold-pressed latinum.

The Compleat Martian Invasion: Earth’s Defense Awakens – John Taloni
There’s a subgenre of steampunk, or perhaps more correctly, Edisonades, which is made up of sequels to H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. These range in quality from the truly awful Edison’s Conquest of Mars to the tragic early issues of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with a detour sideways into parallel worlds with George H. Smith’s The Second War Of The Worlds and Larry Niven’s Rainbow Mars. I am pleased to say that John Taloni’s entry into this subgenre is a good read, having a lot more in common with Moore and Niven. The plot involves a mission to recover Dr. Cavor from the Moon and its hostile inhabitants, and the creation of a corps of female space fighter pilots using the liftwood technology developed by a certain Serbian super-scientist. Meanwhile, John Carter and Dejah Thoris fight the Tripods on Mars, the mysterious Time Traveller makes an appearance, and the crowned heads of Europe unite behind their cousin Louise, Queen-Empress of England…or do they? This is a fun little book, entertaining brain candy that’s worth the borrowing from the Prime Lending Library.

The Last Dance – Martin L. Shoemaker
In the ancient mists of time, back in the 1930s, many SF novels were what’s now called “fix-ups”, collections of short stories knitted together to create a coherent novel. These days, with SF novels often being mistaken for doorstops, this isn’t as common, but Martin Shoemaker pulls it off nicely with The Last Dance, which frames several mysteries in the setting of a court-martial of what at first appears to be the 22nd-century version of Captain Bligh – Captain Aames, a martinet whose harsh criticism and rigid standards nonetheless attract a crew of spacers who would do anything for him, while giving the powers that be the cold shoulder. Shoemaker does an excellent job of writing a series of hard-SF mysteries while peeling back the onion of Captain Aames’ personality…and the old wound that helped make him the hard, unforgiving officer he is. Aames sounds like an unlikable asshole, but Shoemaker manages to make you see him as his crewmen see him, and that is a very different man indeed. Excellent book, highly recommended, especially if you like near-future hard SF.

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin – L. Jagi Lamplighter
As has been observed elsewhere, Ms. Lamplighter’s series of books about Rachel Griffin at Roanoke Academy have a very superficial resemblance to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter tales, but to dismiss them as just another knockoff of Rowling’s series would be a serious mistake. Jimbo’s review covers all the territory I would have, so RTWT. Then go read Rachel’s adventures. Well worth the time and money.

Komi Can’t Communicate – Tomohito Oda
I’ve become greatly enamored of this manga, which tells the story of Shouko Komi, a beautiful young girl who’s admired by all her classmates, who believe her aloof manner only enhances her beauty. What they don’t know is that Komi is desperately lonely and has enormous trouble saying anything to anyone , including her family. (There are indications that she may have inherited it from her father, but whether she’s merely excessively shy, autistic, or has some other problem is never explained.) This trouble begins to end when her classmate Tadano, perhaps the only ordinary boy in a class filled with weird kids, manages to engage her in conversation using the class blackboard. She expresses a desire to make one hundred friends during the year, and Tadano voews to help. A lot of us have had problems talking to other people, so it’s easy to sympathize with Komi, and the fact that none of her classmates except Tadano (and maybe “big sister” Onemine) have their heads screwed on straight makes for ongoing hilarity and occasional creepiness. I’m up to the fifth volume and am waiting with bated breath for the next one to come out in April. Highly recommended.

Today’s Menu For The Emiya Family – TAa
Bought this manga because I’m a fan of the mobile game Fate/Grand Order, and I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s kind of nice to see the various people and Servants of the series getting along and enjoying each others’ company – it reminded me somewhat of the parody Carnival Phantasm in that regard – but on the other hand it’s really just an illustrated cookbook with some useful recipes if you like Japanese food. The art is good, the story is somewhat lacking, and you already know the characters.


One Response to “The Late Winter Book Post”

  1. - Superversive SF
    February 27th, 2020 @ 1:44 am

    […] From: The Other McCain: […]