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Friday, June 10, 2016

May Reading Roundup Part 2

6. Transit by Ben Aaronovitch. What if you could travel to another planet simply by boarding a train. This is the future that the seventh Doctor Who and his companion Bernice Summerfield confront in this New Adventures novel. The only problem is that, by creating wormholes through normal space, the designers have given entry points for beings from another dimension. The action takes place all over the solar system, from Earth to Mars to Pluto, and all places in between. The Doctor will not allow these beings to take control of our worlds and our lives. But can he prevent it? The action, and the reasoning behind it, may be a little difficult to follow at times, following as it does the English literary style of the New Weird. But the story is fun, told at an epic scale, and features a young black woman who is a descendant of the classic Doctor Who character, Brigadier Leftbridge Stewart.

7. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I also read this classic novel on my Kindle. We meet a mole who decides that, instead of keeping his home underground tidy, he would rather go boating every day with his friend the water rat. He and Rat get along famously, and make a new friend in Toad. But whereas Mole and Rat make rational, thoughtful decisions, the Toad always wants to be the center of attention. He follows the latest fads, but never takes the time to master any skills. Thus, when he discovers he likes driving automobiles, he drives them too fast, and crashes them. Rat and Mole try to intervene, and prevent him from ruining his reputation, and losing his wealth through his extravagance, but Toad escapes from them, and gets into even more trouble. It's a fun novel, which has been adapted many times for TV. It amazes me how powerfully this simple story has affected generations of readers and viewers. Sadly, my version didn't come with any illustrations, such as in the edition pictured above. Maybe I'll have to watch a TV version, and see how others adapted it for the small screen.

8. Artemis Invaded by Jane Lindskold. This is the second of a two-part series about a planet that has been lost by galactic civilization. After society climbs back from its crash, one young man from a powerful family discovers Artemis, a world created by prior generations as a pleasure planet. Technology does not work there, and his shuttle crashes before he can land safely. But he makes friends with a young lady, a hunter, who has a psychic connection with a puma. In this second novel, other members of the man's family land on Artemis. They seek to control the natives and exploit the technology of a former age. As some of this technology involves powerful weapons, this is of concern to all. But the biggest dilemma is faced by Adara, the young huntress. During the events of book one, she came into psychic communication with the planet's consciousness. Artemis offers her stronger powers, and a means to defend her world against the grasping avarice of the man's family. But to accept Artemis' gift means opening herself up even more to Artemis. Will there be anything of Adara left is she accepts these offered powers? Or will she become simply a human extension of the planetary consciousness? 

A building in Oxford, the historic university
Gerald will later attend.

9. Gerald Eversley's Friendship by James Welldon. This is an ebook which I read in the PDF format on my computer. It's a nineteenth century English novel written by a Church of England priest. The title character attends St Anselm's on a scholarship, as his father, the vicar of a small country village, could not have afforded to send him. There he makes a friend in the rich son of an English lord. While Gerald is introverted, and makes few friends, he slowly gains the respect of his peers through his scholastic efforts, as well as his sterling character. He eventually gains a scholarship to Oxford University. But while it seems like his life is a smooth rise to the top of society, it is anything but. His growing knowledge of the world around him makes it difficult for him to believe in the tenets of Christianity, which separates him from his parents. And another setback, the illness of someone he loves, looms in his future. Ultimately, the friend he made the first day at St. Anselm's school that will save him from committing a terrible folly. But then, that is the power of friendship.

Dinosaurs live not only on isolated Central American plateaus,
but also in Natural History Museum in Oxford, England.

10. The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle. A family member once told me that, while he would never read any story I wrote, he would watch a film version of any book I wrote. The numerous film versions of The Lost World demonstrate how var a film (or for that matter, a TV adaptation) can veer from the original novel. I've seen several versions, and none of them bear much resemblance to Doyle's classic novel, at least in my memory. Actually, this novel reminds me of the trilogy of novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, beginning with The Land That Time Forgot. It's the story of Professor Challenger, who leads an expedition to a Central American plateau. There dinosaurs live, along with a few primitive humans, and a race of intelligent, aggressive apes. But no creatures are more aggressive than the pterodactyls, those dragons of the prehistoric age. It was interesting to read the Sherlock Holmes stories, so grounded in nuts and bolts of normal Victorian life, and then read this flight of fantasy by the same author. But then, while Burroughs' novels are more fantasy than science, Doyle writes a quintessential science fiction novel. To honor him, Michael Crichton gave his sequel to Jurassic Park the same title as Doyle's classic novel. A few years ago, I read Dinosaur Summer, which author Greg Bear fashioned as a more direct sequel to Doyle's. Only instead of Doctor Challenger, his heroes are real life people like special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, and the men who made the original movie "King Kong."

11. The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie. A young man travels from Africa to England. Although he attended the best schools in England, he travels under an assumed name. He does so because he left England to escape large debts. He also wishes to keep a low profile. He undertakes this journey for two reasons. He must deliver the memoirs of a deceased politician to the publishers, while evading the agents of government factions who wish to see the manuscript destroyed. He also seeks to return a collection of letters to a lady, a member of the aristocracy, who would see her world erupt in scandal should they reach other members of society. But on his first day in England, he is attacked in his hotel room. That night, the letters are stolen. The following day, he delivers the memoirs to an agent of the publisher, only to later learn that the man to whom he delivered the manuscript was an imposter. His efforts to reclaim the manuscript and the letters will lead him to Miss Virginia Revel, the woman implicated in the letters, and take him to a grand English manor house known as Chimneys. I found this novel impossible to put down. I read the final half of it one evening. The recent TV version featured Miss Marple, and told an entertaining story. But this novel, which Agatha Christie wrote two years before she created her classic heroine, seemed far richer.

Well, there you have it, the list of books I read May. It does not attempt to address all the individual issues of comics I read, aside from those collected in book form. It was a good month for reading, and I can say that, for all their differences, I enjoyed them all a lot. That being said, I hope for a full return to health next month, and less reading. While I enjoy having virtual adventures on the printed page, I prefer to have some real life adventures as well. Still, if I had to be sick, I couldn't have wished for better books to keep me company.

Dragon Dave

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