Saturday, November 28, 2009

I finished two books over the Thanksgiving break.

The first is Dzur by Steven Brust. I'm a big Brust fan and have read all of his books. Dzur is a good read, but not one of the best of the series. Like most of the later books in the series, it uses an unconventional structure. This one is structured around a meal the main characters has. Each chapter starts with a re-telling of part of the meal and then continues into the main story. It was also the latest book in both chronological and publication order, rare in a series that jumps back and forth in time.

Of course the book will be almost unreadable by anyone who hasn't read the series, even though they tell self-contained stories.

The second book was Pale Horse Coming by Stephen Hunter.

Pale Horse Coming falls into the category of what I call tough guy noir. Pioneered by Mickey Spillane, the books feature characters that are constantly upping the stakes in toughness, until the toughest bastard is the one left alive. Hunter does add some emotional depth and variety to his tough guys, which does make the book more compelling.

The story features an isolated prison farm in rural Mississippi during the 50s, featuring brutal treatment of the inmates and a mysterious secret that ends up explaining some its isolation and brutality. It's a page turner, with some off putting parts. It's set in the 50s and the racial language used is period accurate, which reads as fairly shocking to modern ears. Also, towards the end there is one chapter that is basically gun porn and isn't really necessary to the rest of the story at all.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Yesterday I finished Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy.

I was going to write something about this book, but then I re-read what I wrote about Whitethorn Woods and realized that I felt exactly the same about this book. This one is centered around a heart clinic, and involve return appearances of many characters from some of her other books. The short vignette feel of the interlocking stories isn't my favourite, but it's still an enjoyable read overall.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I just finished Plastic Fantastic by Eugenie Samuel Reich, a well done non-fiction book about the scientific frauds of Jan Hendrik Schön.

Schön had appeared to be a prodigy, one of the most prolific publishers of breakthrough scientific papers in physics in the late 90's/early 2000's. His papers on organic crystals were viewed with suspicion by some, but when he moved on to publish papers on single molecule transistors, his lack of expertise in creating phony data in this field finally got him caught.

It's an interesting story, told from somewhat of a distance since Schön has never totally come clean about what he did.

Yesterday I finished They Fought For the Sky by Quentin Reynolds, continuing my readings about the first world war.

This is one of the definitive books telling the story about the use of airplanes in WW1, including the development of offensive capabilities. It goes beyond the usual stories of the top few aces, like Richthofen, and covers somewhat the men behind some of the planes as well, thought the focus is on Tony Fokker.

Nicely written, and a nice addition to the First World War, which didn't discuss the air war at all.