News and views:

First up, I am not going to be a reluctant New Yorker much longer. Z. got a tenure-track job near DC, so we are going home. We may have to live in Virginia (The horror! The horror! And believe you me, Heart of Darkness references are not much misplaced with respect to certain aspects of Virginia.), but we'll be in the greater DC area. I will greatly miss my colleagues and the wonderful fans of NY, people like [ profile] cesperanza, [ profile] astolat, [ profile] geekturnedvamp, and many, many others. Also, I'll miss my 24-hour gym and the St. Agnes book sale. But I won't miss the crowds or the noise.

I celebrate by drawing down on my to-review pile; what, you didn't know I was a geek? Nonfiction, sf and mystery )

Coming soon: review essay on becoming a pornographer.
rivkat: Rivka as Wonder Woman (Riley gun)
( Oct. 31st, 2002 01:20 pm)
Because I'm a sick puppy, I googled "big gay alien," and 9 of 10 nonduplicative entries were about Clark Kent. The 10th was about Jar-Jar Binks. Make of that what you will.

Warning: lots of books ahead. What I've been reading (aside from copyright casebooks):

The AFLAC Duck v. Tim Hagan for governor: the district court just issued its opinion, saying that Mr. Hagan could continue to use his "TaftQuack" commercials, which accuse the current governor of "ducking" the issues and feature a Taft-headed duck saying "TaftQuack," which apparently sounds a lot like "AFLAC" and the quack of the AFLAC duck. Right result, but the court is seriously, seriously confused about the difference between copyright and trademark law. In that it doesn't get that there is one. In that, I suppose, it's like many ordinary folks, but a federal judge should know better.

Churchill: A Study in Greatness, by Geoffrey Best. I bought this biography because "A Peace to End All Peace" left me wanting to know more about this Lion of England, but I didn't want a really huge book. My mistake. While this short biography is informative enough in a general way, for reasons of length and/or copyright it doesn't include nearly enough of the words of the great man himself. Best maintains, I'm sure correctly, that Churchill was a great writer and speaker. But he rarely ever shows that. He even paraphrases, rather than quotes, Churchill's famous statement that "If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons." Churchill is a fascinating character, but you might do better with a slightly longer, more quote-y book.

Borders of Infinity, Lois McMaster Bujold. Well, all you guys who wrote in about "A Civil Campaign" were right. Bujold knows how to write good space opera with a bit of wince in it. Her heroes do what's right, but sometimes that's not the reason they're doing it. "Borders" is really three previously-published short stories, connected by a framing narrative that doesn't really explain the reason the first story should be lumped in with the second and third. But that's okay, because each novella is interesting and fun.

I do have to say that Miles Vorkosigan (a dwarf) seems to see so much action with big and tall women that I'm reminded of "Humbug," in which a dwarf tells Mulder that he'd be surprised how many women find his stature attractive. Mulder's great response, of course, is that he might be surprised by how many men do, too. I'd like to see Miles's reaction to *that*.

Skimmed: Smallville tie-in "Strange Visitors." While I was bored by the VotB (Villain of the Book), the writing was pretty clean and enjoyable, and we got some Magnificent Bastard as a bonus.

Started to read but gave up in disgust: David Weber, Honor-something-or-other. Honestly, what is it with this guy? I started another book that his publisher put up for free, as a way of introducing readers to their back catalogue and, Baen hopes, getting them to buy new ones in the various series represented. Anyhow, the preachy narrative style bored me, and it was no different in the bookstore. I don't require dialogue within the first five pages, really I don't. I like Faulkner. But Faulkner didn't tell me up front who were the good guys and who were the bad guys -- I emphasize "tell," because there was precious little showing. I jumped about 2/3 in to see if anything changed, and there was more dialogue, but it was still all White Hat/Black Hat. Snidely Whiplash and Dudley Do-Right had more complexity of character. Also, apparently there's some sort of cat mentally bonded to the heroine, Honor Harrington. He's created a Mary Sue without even having real characters amongst whom to plop her down!

Anyhow, the Baen Free Library might be fun for anyone with some time to kill. As a matter of fact, it includes one of Bujold's novellas, "The Mountains of Morning," contained in "Borders of Infinity." There's also a Niven/Pournelle offering, some Mercedes Lackey stuff, and others of that ilk. James Schmidt's "Telzey of Amberdon," one of the early versions of what we now know as Lara Croft, was one of my childhood favorites.

Telzey's a Mary Sue too, but that's okay because I met her when I loved and identified with that kind of character. In fact, I think my first real break with Mary Sue came with Diane Carey's Star Trek books, where even I could tell that this nitwit girl/ensign/whatever-will-you-please-just-go-away! was interfering with the story I wanted to read, which was about Kirk and Spock. And McCoy, Scott, Uhura and the rest. But mainly Kirk and Spock.

Diane Duane's first book with Ael T'something, the Romulan commander ("My Enemy, My Ally"), and the one with the glass spider both skirted the Mary Sue borders (at one point, someone even says that Scott would marry the glass spider if only it were, um, physically possible), but she had such great stories to tell that I didn't mind. Her recent extensions of the Romulan books were, however, dreadful. I hope it's just the ennui of a writer dragged back into a universe she was finished with, but her most recent non-tie-ins have been bad, too. It's also quite possible that, given that I formed my emotional bond with her before puberty, the books were always bad, but I recently reread the Romulan attack on the Enterprise scene in "My Enemy, My Ally" and still thought it was nicely done. You can get "The Wounded Sky" for a penny plus postage and "My Enemy, My Ally" for $0.85 on Amazon, though you should really go through Bookfinder and see if you can't get it for less postage, because Amazon really squeezes there.

What will always be *the* Star Trek book for me (as in "*the* woman") is Barbara Hambly's "Ishmael." Itself a crossover with another Paramount series starring Mark Lenard, it's got amnesiac Spock in late 1800s Seattle, a crew desperate to find him back in the present day, Vulcan scholars, Klingon scholars, the physics of pool and the mathematics of blackjack, Uhura and Sulu drunk and telling silly stories, and so much more. Well, follow the link and you can see my and others' reviews. Also available dirt cheap!

Speaking of *the* woman, and I promise to stop rambling soon, did anyone else think that USA's "Case of Evil" was flawed at its foundation by the idea that Holmes could fall in love early in his career?



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