Tuesday, January 24, 1995


by Jean-Paul Sartre
translated by Lloyd Alexander

An engaging novel of philosophy. The long passages of pure angst and self-examination, where everything is reduced to pure existence, were fairly hard to slog through. But passages wherein Roquentin is dismantling the élite, or arguing against pure humanism, were great. Also, The Autodidact is a great character. And it did have a surprisingly happy ending. A book worth talking about, and well worth revisiting some day.

four stars

Monday, January 16, 1995

K2: The 1939 Tragedy

by Andrew J. Kauffman and William Lowell Putnam

The apparently infamous story of Fritz Wiessner's expedition to K2 in which climber (and financier) Dudley Wolfe and three Sherpas died. It contains new evidence on the story, notably Jack Durrance's diary. Durrance has heretofore been the scapegoat. The book also contained many appendices, like the official report, climbing charts, and so on. The book's writing style is childish: misused words, jumpy, rambling at times. Near the end it got repetitive, like a schoolchild attempting to meet an essay's length requirement. What annoyed me most was its noncommittal stance on its own argument. The book ends with a series of questions that the text ostensibly provided answers for! However, on the whole, it was an informative and surprisingly engaging book. I for one was convinced that Fritz's oft-proven faulty memory is a poor indicator of what happened, whereas Durrance's diary seems to be straightforward and reliable.

three stars

Sunday, January 8, 1995

More Whatdunits

by various authors, edited by Mike Resnick

The second volume of mystery stories begun by Mike Resnick and solved by various writers - editors this time. The stories therein:

"Worthsayer", Stanley Schmidt. Very well written, with a truly unexpected twist solution (an original explanation of precognition).

"For Love of Juoun", Jane Yolen. Enjoyable, with a different slant on the subject than most of the other stories.

"DragNeuroNet", John Gregory Betancourt. A tight, traditional investigative story, except the detective is a robot, one of the first. Ingenious and clever.

"Bauble", David Gerrold. A 'bittersweet mood piece', just what was asked for, and well-crafted.

"Ashes To Ashes", Beth Meacham. Another intricate detective procedural. Good.

"The Lady Louisiana Toy", Barry N. Malzberg. Written in a flowing, hermetic style, with a dreamy, detached tone, this story stands out from all the others. I liked it, but couldn't quite understand it.

"Alien Influences", Kristine Kathryn Rusch. This story shared the same problem as the one above; it too is dreamy and detached. I liked this one better.

"The Pragmatists Take a Bow", Thomas A. Easton. Good, but the ending left me unsatisfied.

"Sincerity", Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Too rushed to be enjoyable and not all that clever: The Manchurian Candidate in six pages.

"Dark Odds", Josepha Sherman. My favorite story because the hero, though clever, is never in control of the situation.

"Things Not Seen", Martha Soukup. Very clever, very intricate, and satisfactorily played out.

"Windows of the Soul", Susan Casper. Built in a necessarily contrived manner around Resnick's odd problem, but good character interplay makes up for it.

"The Whole Truth", Susan Shwartz. Another story that adds a little too much to the plot asked for, so it ends like the first chapter of a serial rather than a story. Good otherwise.

"Way Out", Jody Lynn Nye & Bill Fawcett. A clever, appealing story about the existence of UFOs and the detective hired to verify it.

"The Killer Wore Spandex", Brian M. Thomsen. Very enjoyable.

"Catachresis", Ginjer Buchanan. Her name is spelled 'Ginjer' and her story is a forced kind of zany surrealism that is neither funny nor informative nor appealing.

"Flight of Reason", Tappan King. A good story with a satisfactory ending.

"She Was Blonde, She Was Dead---And Only Jimmilich Opstromommo Could Find Out Why!!!", Janet Kagan. Fun, doesn't take itself seriously, but justifies the whole plot. Great.

"The Ugly Earthling Murder Case", George Alec Effinger. A standard procedural with a minor twist ending. Also enjoyable.

three stars

Inspector Imanishi Investigates

by Seichō Matsumoto

A post-war Japanese crime novel.  Plotwise, it's very complicated and tightly-woven, replete with subtle clues and red herrings. But stylistically, it's plodding. Probably due to the translation, the writing is choppy and repetitive. And perhaps because of the culture, perhaps because of the period, the process of investigation is laughable at times. Examples: the overheard word "Kameda" is instantly assumed - for no apparent reason - to be a person, and the police proceed to look for such a person, assuming he's in Japan; when Imanishi talks to a very guilty-acting suspect, he allows the man to tell the police what he knows the next day, instead of taking him into custody then and there. In short, some of the investigating is carried out as if a retarded and exceptionally naive five-year-old is at the helm. But overall, it comes through with an intricate murder scheme and some subtle police work. And it's also intriguing as a diary of Japanese thought and cultural activity of the time.

three stars