Tuesday, August 24, 1993

Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

Achebe is a Nigerian writer completely new to me.  This book is about a fierce, proud tribesman who sees his way of life being destroyed by white colonialists, and his own people complicit in that destruction through inaction.  At first I found it simplistic and shallow, but grew to appreciate the psychological subtleties.  Each portrayal of each character is full and internal to that character.  The story really begins halfway through, when the whites arrive.  The first half is character building.  A fine morality tale.

four stars

Friday, August 20, 1993

The Butcher Boy

by Patrick McCabe

A young English punk narrates in slang & bad grammar the events of his life leading to the inevitable, final, horrible climax. It was fabulous, excellent, great, funny, horrifying, sad. A cross between Clockwork Orange and Chronicle Of a Death Foretold, the whole book is peppered with great, funny images like "two newspapers wrestling" on a deserted street. A great book.

Thursday, August 5, 1993

Quest To Riverworld

various authors; edited by Philip Jose Farmer.

A collection of stories about Riverworld, ranging from so-so to quite thought-provoking:

"Up the Bright River" by Philip Jose Farmer. About his own quasi-famous ancestors, apparently. The best story, or would be, if it didn't end abruptly.

"If the King Like Not the Comedy" by Jody Lynn Nye. Richard III vs. Shakespeare. Clever and enjoyable.

"Because It's There", Jerry Oltion. Admunsen & Peary fly to the South Pole. Very good.

"A Place Of Miracles", Owl Goingback. Very short but moving piece on Sitting Bull.

"Diaghilev Plays Riverworld", Robert Sheckley. Nice story of the art critic and impresario forging new art in a new world; some irritating incongruities in the telling.

"Secret Crimes", Robert Sampson. Pinkerton, Cleopatra, Tiberius: suspense, well done in just a few pages.

"Hero's Coin", Brad Strickland. Short but thought-provoking. What makes a hero?

"Human Spirit, Beetle Spirit", John Gregory Betancourt. So-so. An interesting point of view, anyway.

"Nevermore", David Bischoff & Dean Wesley Smith. Poe vs. the hack writers. Fun.

"Old Soldiers", Lawrence Watt-Evans. Patton in gladiatorial games. Great build-up, but a disappointing ending.

"Legends", Esther Friesner. Medea vs. the mystery woman & her own sons. Great.

"Stephen Comes Into Courage", Rick Wilber. An okay story, but it could've been about anyone, really.

"Riverworld Roulette", Robert Weinberg. Enjoyable battle-type adventure story with Bowie & Crockett vs. the Nazis. Nice.

"Coda", by Farmer. Also thought-provoking. Probably the best story of the lot. The mystic/nutcase Alfred Jarry finds an Artifact and is tempted to leave the Sufi Rabi'a's teaching.

three stars

Tuesday, August 3, 1993

God Knows

by Joseph Heller

The story of King David, portrayed as a wunderkind whose time has passed, who has lost his God; Solomon is a moron, Bathsheba a schemer. It was funny and touching. It mixed Biblical speech with modern slang to humorous effect. David's references to many things modern, although "now" in the book is when he is seventy and thus it's still Biblical era, did throw me a bit. What I liked best was how human the characters were, how Heller took apparent discrepancies in Scripture and made them into symbolic, meaningful, complex and human acts. Also, the disjointed chronological order of the book resembled the ramblings of an old man looking back, each story reminding him of another. All in all, a very solid book.

four stars