2012 Mystery/Detective/Spy Reads – So Far

Continuing recap of what I’ve been reading this year, we look now at the Thriller category. Below are the forty-nine mystery/detective/spy novels I’ve read this year.
Books I enjoyed and am likely to read another by that author get a B. C means it was okay but I wouldn’t go out of my way to read another of that author’s output. Those that get an A are my best reads in this field this year, so far. It’s damned difficult to determine which series I like best but the Walt Longmire reads (Craig Johnson), coupled with the TV series that is faithful to the characters if not the story lines, would be hard to beat.

American Assassin; Flynn, Vince; A
Transfer of Power; Flynn, Vince; A
The Ranger; Atkins, Ace; B
Crossroad Blues; Atkins, Ace; B
The Lost Ones; Atkins, Ace; B
Force of Nature; Box, C.J.; B
Cold Wind; Box, C.J.; B
Nowhere to Run; Box, C.J.; B
Below Zero; Box, C.J.; B
Blood Trail; Box, C.J.; B
Free Fire; Box, C.J.; B
In Plain Sight; Box, C.J.; B
Out of Range; Box, C.J.; B
Winterkill; Box, C.J.; B
Savage Run; Box, C.J.; B
Open Season; Box, C.J.; B
The Third Option; Flynn, Vince; B
Kill Shot; Flynn, Vince; B
As the Crow Flies; Johnson, Craig; B
Hell Is Empty; Johnson, Craig; B
Junkyard Dogs; Johnson, Craig; B
The Dark Horse; Johnson, Craig; B
Another Man’s Mocassins; Johnson, Craig; B
Death Without Company; Johnson, Craig; B
Kindness Goes Unpunished; Johnson, Craig; B
The Cold Dish; Johnson, Craig; B
Trickster’s Point; Krueger, William Kent; B
Iron Lake; Krueger, William Kent; B
The Colonel’s Mistake; Mayland. Dan; B
Dead or Alive; McGarrity, Michael; B
Death Song; McGarrity, Michael; B
Nothing But Trouble; McGarrity, Michael; B
Slow Kill; McGarrity, Michael; B
Everyone Dies; McGarrity, Michael; B
The Big Gamble; McGarrity, Michael; B
Under the Color of Law; McGarrity, Michael; B
The Judas Judge; McGarrity, Michael; B
Tularosa; McGarrity, Michael; B
The Fallen Angel, Silva, Daniel; B
Portrait of a Spy; Silva, Daniel; B
Full Black; Thor, Brad; B
Foreign Influence; Thor, Brad; B
Operator; Vinjamuri, David; B
Blood and Honor – audio book re-listen; Griffin; W.E.B.; B
Honor Bound – audio book re-listen; Griffin; W.E.B.; B
Leavin’ Trunk Blues, Atkins, Ace; C
Stalking the Angel; Craig, Robert; C
The Monkey’s Raincoat; Craig, Robert; C+
Lullaby Twins; Craig, Robert; C
Black List, Thor, Brad; C

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2012 Science Fiction Reads – So Far

Continuing recap of what I’ve been reading this year, we look now at Science Fiction. Below are the thirty-three science fiction novels I’ve attempted to read this year. As with Fantasy, there are several at the bottom of the list annotated DNF which stands for “did not finish.” I generally give a book no more than two chapters to convince me to continue on. These didn’t.
Books I enjoyed and am likely to read another by that author get a B. C means it was okay but I wouldn’t go out of my way to read another of that author’s output. Those that get an A are my best reads in this field this year, so far.

Survivor (Uplift Trilogy – re-read); Brinn, David; A
The Wild Girls; LeGuinn, Ursula; A
Ready Player One; Cline, Ernest; A
The Old Man and the Wasteland; Cole, Nick; A
Matter; Banks, Iain M.; B
Shadow Ops: Control Point; Cole, Myke; B
Mockingjay (The Hunger Games); Collins, Suzanne; B
Caliban’s War; Corey, James S.A.; B
Leviathan Wakes; Corey, James S.A.; B
The Works of E.E. “Doc” Smith – re-read; Smith, E.E. “Doc”; B
The Door Into Summer – re-read; Heinlein, Robert A; B
Gravity Dreams; Modesitt, L.E. Jr.; B
Timegod’s World; Modesitt, L.E. Jr.; B
In Endless Twilight (The Forever Hero); Modesitt, L.E. Jr.; B
Dawn for a Distant Earth (The Forever Hero); Modesitt, L.E. Jr.; B
The Silent Warrior (The Forever Hero); Modesitt, L.E. Jr.; B
The Ecolitan Operation (The Ecolitan Matter); Modesitt, L.E. Jr.; B
The Ecolitan Succession (The Ecolitan Matter); Modesitt, L.E. Jr.; B
Ecolitan Prime (The Ecolitan Matter); Modesitt, L.E. Jr.; B
Archform: Beauty; Modesitt, L.E. Jr.; B
The Mote in God’s Eye – re-read; Niven, Larry & Pournelle, Jerry; B
Insurgent (Divergent); Roth, Veronica; B
Divergent; Roth, Veronica; B
How I Proposed to My Wife (An Alien Sex Story); Scalzi, John; B
Redshirts, A Novel with Three Codas; Scalzi; B-
The Dig; Siemen, Michael; B
Article 5; Simmons, Kristen; B
After the Golden Age; Vaughn, Carrie; B
Interstellar Soldiers; Anderson, Joseph; C
New Beginnings (Vitalis); Hanstead, Jason; DNF
The Passage; Cronin, Justin: DNF
The Quantuum Thief; Rajamiemi; Hannu; DNF
Heroes Die; Stover, Matthew; DNF
The Lodestone Trilogy; Whiteway, Mark; DNF

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2012 Fantasy Reads – So Far

Got interested in a recap of what I’ve been up to this year. Let’s start with Fantasy. Below are the fifty-four fantasy novels I’ve attempted to read this year. You will note that are several at the bottom of the list annotated DNF which stands for “did not finish.” I generally give a book no more than two chapters to convince me to continue on. These didn’t.
Books I enjoyed and am likely to read another by that author get a B. C means it was okay but I wouldn’t go out of my way to read another of that author’s output. Those that get an A are my best reads in this field this year, so far.

False Covenant (A Widdershams Adventure); Marmell, Ari; A
Thief’s Covenant (A Widdershams Adventure); Marmell, Ari; A
Heir of Nevron (Riyria Revelations); Sullivan, Michael J.; A
Rise of Empire (Riyria Revelations); Sullivan, Michael J.; A
Theft of Swords (Riyria Revelations); Sullivan, Michael J.; A
Alif the Unknown; Wilson, G. Willow; A
The Spirit War; Aaron, Rachel; B+
The Legend of Eli Monpress; Aaron, Rachel; B
The King’s Blood (The Dagger and the Coin); Abraham, David; B
Range of Ghosts; Bear, Elizabeth; B
The Galactic Mage; Daulton, John; B
Child of the Sword (The Gods Within); Doty, J.L.; B
Pock’s World; Duncan, Dave; B
Ill Met in the Arena; Duncan, Dave; B
Against the Light; Duncan, Dave; B
Tricked (The Iron Druid Chronicles); Hearne, Kevin; B
The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood); Jemison, N.K.; B
The Killing Moon (Dreamblood); Jemison, N.K.; B
Prince of Thorns; Lawrence, Mark; B
Princeps (Imager Portfolio); Modesitt, Jr., L.E.; B
Scholar (Imager Portfolio); Modesitt, Jr., L.E.; B
Imager (Imager Portfolio); Modesitt, Jr., L.E.; B
Imager’s Intrigue (Imager Portfolio); Modesitt, Jr., L.E.; B
Imager’s Challenge (Imager Portfolio); Modesitt, Jr., L.E.; B
The Soprano Sorceress (Spellsong Cycle); Modesitt, Jr., L.E.; B
The Spellsong War (Spellsong Cycle); Modesitt, Jr., L.E.; B
Darksong Rising (Spellsong Cycle); Modesitt, Jr., L.E.; B
Lady-Protector (Corean Chronicles); Modesitt, Jr., L.E.; B
The Steel Remains; Morgan, Richard K.; B
The Academy (The Central Series); Rawlins, Zachary; B
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children; Riggs, Ransom; B
The Crimson Sky (Keepers of the Hidden Way); Rosenberg, Joel; B
The Fire Duke (Keepers of the Hidden Way); Rosenberg, Joel; B
The Silver Stone (Keepers of the Hidden Way); Rosenberg, Joel; B
The Death of Niranji; Rosenberg, Joel; B
The Shadow Roads (Swans War); Russell, Sean; B
The Isle of Battle (Swans War); Russell, Sean; B
The One Kingdom (Swans War); Russell, Sean; B
Raven’s Shadow (Blood Song); Ryan, Anthony; B
Strangeness and Charm (The Courts of Feyre); Shevdon, Mike; B
The Road to Bedlam (The Courts of Feyre); Shevdon, Mike; B
Sixty-One Nails (The Courts of Feyre); Shevdon, Mike; B
The Rook; Siemsen, Michael; B
The Other Normals; Vizzini, Ned; B
Among Others; Walton, Jo; B
Swords and Deviltry; Lieber, Fritz; B-
Odd Thomas; Koontz, Dean; C
House of Shadows; Neumeier, Rachel; C
The Anathema (The Central Series); Rawlins, Jr., I.E.; C
The Mongoliad; Bear, Greg et al; C+
Wielder’s Awakening; Christensen, T.B.; DNF
The Alchemist of Souls; Lyle, Anne; DNF
Sharps; Parker, K.J.; DNF
Thinblade; Wells, David A.; DNF

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Influential Books

Nila identified her top ten influence. (http://nilaewhite.wordpress.com/) That got me thinking about my influences. The following, in alphabetical order for no particularly good reason, are the books I remember affecting my judgment.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown, 1971
Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen, 1995
The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice. Mark Twain
History is written by the winners. – Alex Haley
Dee Brown was my first crack for me at reading history from the First Americans viewpoint. I keep looking for the other side so I was not surprised by Loewen. I’ve taken much enjoyment comparing history book accounts of the same event, e.g., the Vietnam War and written more than a few commentaries. The only fiction I remember attempting to capture the spirit of the thing is Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Gap Into Conflict: The Real Story and Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet.

Casino Royale, Ian Fleming, 1952
Yes, I was taken by the 007 character and I have always fondly recalled his passion for martinis, a passion I admit to. What I remember most was the cruelty and novelty of the villain’s inquisition of Bond. What influenced me is the clarity of the writing, how I was drawn in and held from beginning to end. And, that, since bad people exist, eradication can be the best option. Balancing this notion with Thou Shalt Not Kill has never been so clear cut as Bond made it seem. Still, I wish it was.

Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 1961
The funniest book I’ve read not excluding M*A*S*H and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker books, which are classics in their own right. Serving in the U.S. Army at the time I read it, all I needed to do was look around me to find the veracity of his tale. His later books did not move me as this one did. War is ridiculous; the participants are mad or will be, but it just keeps happening. It’s what happens when old men are in charge and not balanced by old women and young people. See Afghanistan, the U.S.A., Syria, et al.

Hawaii, James Michener, 1959
Over and over I read critiques that describe the opening chapter as superfluous. I disagree. Beside constituting the most beautiful description of geologic force I’ve ever read, the chapter sets a powerful ambiance for the struggles of the characters in the book. Telling history through the eyes of the immigrants, the good and the bad, struck me as the most useful tool available to understand what happened, how it could happen, and what it means that it did happen. The closest competitor to this achievement is James Clavell’s Tai Pan although Clavell didn’t bother with the geology.

Hyperion, Dan Simmons, 1989
Until the last few years, I never read reviews of books before I read the book so that discovering the riff on the Canterbury Tales contained herein was a genuine pleasure. I read Chaucer during my basic training at Fort Ord. The book was hard cover, translucent vellum pages, the type maybe Palatino Linotype, and seem perfectly apt for medieval literature. The presentation sticks with me a half century later. Anyway, Simmons became the first I encountered who used this trope and used it well. His execution fits snugly in my mind with a short story I encountered in one of my high school English books whose title I remember as Fourteen Men From Company K. The story is told as the narrator tours their barracks, after the war, and each bunk/soldier contributes and advances the story. I have been unable to find that tale under the title I remember or any other search pattern. The trope, though, I’ve used in my own writing.

Rudyard Kipling, Complete Verse, Rudyard Kipling, 1940
Recognizing that Kipling is out of favor due to his view of empire and manifest destiny, this personality flaw seems to me be depriving folk a heroic poet. At least of a dozen of his poems lay behind the same number of my short stories. My favorites of his poetry include:
The “Mary Gloster”
The Houses
The Truce of the Bear
Gunga Din
Pink Dominos
My Rival

and on and on.

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein, 1961
Begin with the title of his first chapter, His Maculate Conception, and go from there. Here was a man who understood the nature of religion. Most significant, he reminded me that sex is neither dirty nor sinful. As a bonus, I got my all time favorite idol, Jubal Harshaw. Oh, how I long to have three amanuenses, preferably female, at my beck and call to transcribe the momentous philosophy, sociology, triviality and the great American novel churning in my mind!

Tea With the Black Dragon, R.A. MacAvoy, 1983
Modern fantasy so well written that I became a fan of the author and the genre.

The Faded Sun, C.J. Cherrryh, 1978-1979
The best human-introduced-to-alien culture I’ve read. The world building excels. The notion of a matriarchal society that works continued my continuing education of what it means to be a woman.

The Human Comedy, William Saroyan
All humor is based on pain. This was my introduction to the pain of staying home. I have seen it again, too many times again, prompting me to introduce the John Conlee song: They Also Serve every chance I get. The story also includes the lines that perfectly describe my feelings. Two very young boys, memory says about 6 and 4, enter a library. The older of the two explains the what and the how of the books to be found there. They walk the stacks and the older points out to the younger in so many words: “all these books, these here and these here and these over here. All these books. And all of them say something.” I get that feeling every time I enter a library or a book store.

The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Leguin, 1969
Continuing where Heinlein left off, a compassionate examination of sex, gender, and its consequences. Don’t know how many times I have tried to imagine our own history if we were like the androgynes of Gethen. Am certain the elections of the past 20 years would have been drastically different.

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (I read the Ballentine 1965 edition)
I missed a week of language school in 1966 as I read the trilogy. I attended class; I just didn’t learn anything. I won’t attempt to compete with the fine words already compiled. I’ll just note that it was my introduction to fantasy. I’ve been scrambling ever since to find something that could so grip me. It is my personal standard against which all else – so far -suffers. Not wanting to compete, my novels attack the genre through a side door.

The Republic, Plato, sometime after 347 BC
First time through, in high school, I was sold. Second time, in the 60s, not so much. Subsequent readings leave me feeling he had so much right that what I consider wrong is merely grist for my own speculation on how I would go about building a society. Where I differ mostly is that I would never put old men in charge.

View From a Height, Isaac Asimov, 1963
In the Introduction, the Good Doctor likens science to an orchard. It used to be small, but now it’s grown so huge – this was in 1963; it hasn’t gotten any smaller – that no one person can tend it all. But the Good Doctor believes we can look down on it ‘from a height’ and perhaps see patterns. This resonated for me then and even more now. My library is 80% non-fiction. Looking for patterns.
Then, in 1963, there was a man in my unit, a draftee, with a Masters in some kind of Math from MIT. He was working on 201 files, the Army’s individual biography for each soldier. The man had no friends; no one spoke his language. He spent his time reading, eating, sleeping, and updating 201 files. Fortunately, for his sanity, he could use his weekends to visit the MIT campus.
I know a man who learned COBOL earning a Masters degree in the subject. Seven years ago he lost employment because all he knows and all he wants to know is COBOL. Too much specialization. These days, no programmer knows just one language. If he does, he faces this man’s dilemma/situation.
Another side of the conundrum, with so much specialization, with each person learning more and more about less an less, how do we get a decent peer review of the work?

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The Rattler

Been too hot to write. The evap cooler went on the fritz as well so we spent our time with ceiling fans doing their damnedest to cool us down a bit. Back to normal now.

In the midst of our mini-heat wave, we had a visitor. On the computer at the time, I hear TLWSHLWM calling to me to hurry up; there’s a rattle snake on our back porch. Looking through our bedroom window I espied the critter and heard it as well. TLWSHLWM seemed to think it was my responsibility so I set about doing something.

SPOILER: Confirmed PETA folk should read no further.

Went to the garage to obtain a shovel, a very nice long distance weapon. Exited the garage door into the pen that abuts our porch. The snake greeted me with continued rattling. Resting against the floor to ceiling window of our bedroom, the snake declared its intention to defend its piece of the porch.

Then, I remembered the pellet pistol I purchased several years ago. TLWSHLWM did not approve of the purchase but I have hung on to it all these years suspecting it would come in useful at some point.

I went inside, retrieved the pistol, loaded it with its single-shot pellet and returned to the porch. The snake rattled. It hadn’t stopped rattling for some eight minutes now. I moved to where I had a clear shot and took it; blowing out a good portion of the neck immediately below the head. The snake is still rattling, though, and seems to be trying to reset itself to strike pose but having difficulty doing so.

Back into the house for the pellets I had left on the counter. Guess I thought I could dispose of it with one shot. Re-loaded, I took position and fired a second time. This time I removed half the snake’s head causing body control to be eliminated. Using the shovel, I move the nearly dead critter out into our desert. When I dropped it, there was a meager rattle; so, I performed the final separation of head from body. The rattle ceased.

Had to wash the porch. The blood splatter was considerable.

That was Monday. Last night some other critter absconded with the carcass. Adventure officially over.

TLWSHLWM has decided having the pellet pistol is not a bad thing after all.

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The Graduate

Consider the state of today’s youth. Do you end up with a nervous feeling, a vague, unsettled, chill that creeps down your spine?
Sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, I do.

And then I come across a story like this one. There is a young man on the East Coast who graduated from high school last week. Since he’s been old enough to push a mower, he’s been doing lawns in his neighborhood, now for more than 5 years. He saved most of what he earned building a tidy little nest egg.

Shortly before his graduation his mother told him he deserved to treat himself to a reward. So, he did. He bought his father a road bike, a good one. His dad had a bike, more down for maintenance than it was up for use. One story says the bike cost $1100; another says it was just $700. Neither Dad nor son will comment on that. He didn’t buy it as birthday present or for Father’s Day. He just bought it to say ‘thank you’ to a man he loves and respects.

We know the young man. He’s a grandson and a grand son.

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Information Alert

This week’s issue of The New Yorker is devoted to sf including pieces by Anthony Burgess, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. LeGuin, China Mieville, Margaret Atwood, Karen Russell, and William Gibson. There are also a handful of short stories. More fun than any magazine I’ve picked up in a long while.

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The Superman Complex

a. A fact that has been verified.
b. Conformity to reality or actuality.
c. A true statement

For many years I struggled with this concept. Got caught up in the relativism that seemed to me inherent in the notion. Listened to the religious and the politicians claiming truth to be on their side – much as if truth is god and we all know that god is on their side – but never able to to provide an answer that satisfied me.

Until I managed to disassociate Truth from some Platonic ideal that just has to exist out there somewhere. We can debate the truth of a proposition but we cannot debate truth. We can debate the justice of a particular act but we cannot debate justice. And we can debate the American Way ad infinitum and never reach agreement.

The trouble is: there are many folks out there believing they have these concepts sewed up and comfortable in their pockets. They know with the certainty of the faithful that they know truth and that knowing is behaving. If you know the truth than all your thoughts and all your actions conform to what you know and you can go to bed at night with a clear conscience.

For example, thou shalt not kill. There seem to be billions of people who say this is true. These are the same billions of people who are more than willing to kill all those who do not believe in the precept. Yet, they know they have the truth of it all.

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Memorial Day Weekend

Some Gave All
Billy Ray and Cindy Cyrus

I knew a man called him Sandy Kane
Few folks even knew his name
But a hero was he
Left a boy, came back a man
Still many just don’t understand
About the reasons we are free

I can’t forget the look in his eyes
Or the tears he cries
As he said these words to me

All gave some and some gave all
And some stood through for the red, white and blue
And some had to fall
And if you ever think of me
Think of all your liberties and recall
Some gave all

Now Sandy Kane is no longer here
But his words are oh so clear
As they echo through out our land
For all his friends who gave us all
Who stood the ground and took the fall
To help their fellow man

Love your country and live with pride
And don’t forget those who died America can’t you see

All gave some and some gave all
And some stood through for the red, white and blue
And some had to fall
And if you ever think of me
Think of all your liberties and recall
Some gave all

And if you ever think of me
Think of all your liberties and recall, yes recall
Some gave all

Some gave all.

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It occurred to me this morning that every male in my side of the family – that is all who share the same surname, have served in the armed forces of the United States since the family immigrated from Europe in the 1850s.. Two of us retired from the army while our other forebears served tours as enlisted folk.

That changed with our son. He was the first to earn a commission. He was the first to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He still serves We attended his promotion to Colonel last winter. He is well known.

He will not be the last of our family to serve. Our grandson, his oldest son, enters West Point this summer. Another grandson appears on his way to the Merchant Marine Academy.

TIME magazine ran an article last year about the composition of today’s army containing the observation that the services have become a rather closed community. Most of those on active duty today come from the South. Many of those entering the service academies are sons and daughters of grads of those institutions. Our family seems to follow the trend.

This is not a good thing. If only one segment of the population sees service to the country as a legitimate option, then the commentary on who we are as a people turns fairly negative. Out of 535 members of Congress, 121 have served in the military. Neither the sitting President nor the Republican nominee have served. Yet these are the folks who determine when the services will be committed to war. A mismatch between the decision makers and the tools they wield does not bode well.

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