The Other McCain

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

The Doom That Came To Complex 34

Posted on | February 22, 2022 | Comments Off on The Doom That Came To Complex 34

— by Wombat-socho

It seems I haven’t done any book posts since last fall, when I spent three posts trashing one of the worst lists of combat SF ever posted anywhere, so I’d better get cracking, because I have a lot to talk about. 
Ceterum autem censeo Silicon Valley esse delendam.

One of the subgenres of SF that has fascinated me since childhood has been the Cthulhu Mythos, which Steven King had the wit to realize was the true beginning of American horror, slasher films notwithstanding. Leigh Kimmel takes the old tentacles out for a new and surprising spin in The Space Race Trilogy, which somehow successfully folds Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff into Lovecraft’s mythos, and makes it work. Only two of the stories actually involve our legendary Single-Combat Generals, but I understand Kimmel has a slew of stories set in the timeline where Gus Grissom survives the Apollo 1 fire, with major consequences for the history of America in space, and I intend to look into them. Both Kimmel’s slim anthology and Wolfe’s beefier take on the early days of our space program are available on Kindle Unlimited.

Mike Williamson’s That Was Now, This Is Then is that rare beast: a sequel that is actually better than the original, in this case A Long Time Until Now. This is not to slight the original book, which was pretty damn good, but the sequel recalls Lieutenant Sean Elliott and some of his original team to Afghanistan, where the humans from the future want them to go back in time again to retrieve other groups of humans stranded in the past. The problem is, some of those groups don’t want to go back, and the future humans have some dark secrets they’re hiding from Elliott and his people. That Was Now, This Is Then also contains some interesting meditations on the responsibilities of a small-unit leader, centered on the recovery of another American squad that went native. Like the original, very much recommended. 

I don’t know why I haven’t read more Dave Freer; considering his excellent work on the sequels to The Witches of Karres, (The Wizard Of Karres, et seq.), the excellence of Cloud-Castles should not have surprised me. This hilarious tale of Augustus Thistlewood’s arrival on Sybill III and the results of his well-intentioned attempts at philanthropy reminds me somewhat of Wodehouse’s classic Bertie & Jeeves tales, except that in Freer’s story Bertie isn’t completely witless* and Jeeves is a young street urchin on the make. Sybill III is populated by descendants of a prison transport crash, who apparently were the kind of criminals even Australia couldn’t tolerate, who eke out an existence on a sizable  alien anti-gravity plate and various drifting clumps of vegetation, all floating in the upper atmosphere of this moon orbiting a brown dwarf. A fun story with lots of humour, also available on KU.

I went to considerable trouble to get Volume 17 of Komi Can’t Communicate, what with the USPS mangling the first shipment and outright losing the second one (I had no idea the route from Phoenix to Tonopah went through the LA railyards) before finally getting a copy at a Reno Barnes & Noble. It was worth it, though; the Itan High School cultural festival is underway, and the manga takes a hard swerve into romantic comedy as Rumiko Manbagi (former gyaru) comes to the horrible realization that both she and Komi are crushing on Tadano – and precisely because they’re friends, Komi won’t allow her to just bow out gracefully. A long conversation between Komi and Rumiko ensues, and for once Komi isn’t using her notepad. Less serious is the second volume of Higehiro, in which Yoshida, the salaryman who’s taken in runaway Sayu only to have her run away again, finds Sayu in a nearby park with his junior colleague Mishima. It could almost be a harem comedy, but the chad Yoshida resolutely resists Sayu’s busty (and underage) blandishments while encouraging her to go get a job at the local convenience store – which brings another young lady into the mix. 

Finally, it’s not just family loyalty but enthusiasm for a very interesting book that compels me to plug my aunt Pat’s So Far From Home, a collection of letters to and from my paternal great-grandparents, Daniel Donovan and Nora McCarthy. I cannot, as a linguist, fail to recognize what an immense amount of work went into this book. In addition to transcribing the letters, Dr. O’Malley had to do more than a little translation as well, since our ancestors in County Cork often wrote in something closer to Gaelic than English; in addition, the extensive footnotes help explain the context as well as expanding on the history of rural farmers in late 19th century Ireland, something as unimaginably distant from most modern Americans as peasant life in pre-Revolutionary Russia. Despite all the scholarly labor that went into it, this is still a very readable book, made up as it is of letters from ordinary working people, whether they were farmers, midwives, or immigrants working in the shoe factories and upper-class households of late 19th century Massachusetts. Well worth your time and money, especially if you have Irish immigrants in your family tree. 

*In fact, he proves to be a Doc Savage in the making, and Briz (his Jeeves) grows up in a surprising fashion as well. 

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