More books

Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things. Short stories by someone who can actually write stories. Not going to say any more, it’s good.

Jerry Pournelle’s Faulkenberg’s Legion. Surprisingly readable (maybe most of what I can’t stand about the Pournelle / Niven collaborations are Niven). The tactics and personalities are certainly cardboard, but of thicker material than David Weber’s excruciatingly bad “Honor Harrington” pap. Pournelle is a frustrated historian and seems to have actually studied military history.

John Christopher’s Spirits trilogy is great pre-teen reading. I remember reading the middle book of his Tripods trilogy when I was visiting my grandparents in Idaho; my grandmother ran the small town library in Plummer and for a couple of weeks I got first crack at any newly-arrived titles that took my fancy. I read Rendezvous with Rama, another great book whose title I forget about gardens on the moon, more Heinlein, then a bunch of John Christopher’s stuff. Unfortunately, not all of the books were in (either she hadn’t ordered them, or they were out on loan during my visit), so I read Tripods in the order 2, 3 and 1. It was still damned good.

Anyway, about 35 years ago I read the first book in Christopher’s Spirits trilogy, The Prince in Waiting, and it ended on a bloody cliffhanger, and there weren’t any more. Since the books were printed in Britain I thought they were nearly unobtainable in the US (certainly the libraries I went to didn’t have them, neither Grandma’s or the one in my home town). A few weeks ago I found a full set in a used bookstore and picked them up. Literature this is not, but it’s still good fun, and a fast read, the written equivalent of comfort food.

Charles Stross has a new book out in his Laundry universe (Lovecraftian elder gods meet Unix geeks wielding Palm Pilots and microprocessor-powered pentagrams), The Jennifer Morgue, and it’s pretty good, too. It’s a very conscious send-up of James Bond, with humor and horror and some twists that I didn’t expect at all. Recommended. [I didn’t like the short story, Pimpf, probably because I’m in the stupid video game industry and I’m sick of the premise. Still, if you want a hackneyed premise propped up and made palatable, Stross is your guy. Kinder words were never… awrk!]

Miscellany: A great book on manufacturing processes (from 1945) joins the shelf next to the textbooks on coal mining, welding and nuclear power plant engineering. Fascinating stuff (like how to make a flat surface if all you’ve got are some suspect roundish surfaces, how gears are cut, and ever wondered how they make wood screws?)

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