Books That Changed My Life

Not being given to hyperbole, let me define exactly what I mean.

I’m not talking about books I just liked a lot.

I’m not talking about books that I was exposed to so young that they didn’t change my beliefs or interests however much they shaped me.

I’m not talking about books that deepened an already nascent interest.

These are books that changed the direction of my life. The change was not a gentle, unrecognized pushing of my life along a new vector. These books were violent nudges. Continue reading “Books That Changed My Life”

Lord of the Green Planet

Emil who?Petaja-LordGreen

I didn’t know either. I’ve even seen the name on Ace Doubles at a local used bookstore. I would have guessed, given that I live in an area with many of them, that he was a Finn. John Clute’s Science Fiction Encyclopedia entry on Petaja confirms he was an American of Finnish descent.

It also mentions that his best known work is a science fiction series based on the Finnish epic poem, the Kalevala. Ian Watson was later to do a two book series based on that work too: Lucky’s Harvest and The Fallen Moon. But, of course, Watson’s and Petaja’s series weren’t the only thing inspired by that Finnish saga. One J.R.R. Tolkien was a fan of it too. Thus, in some sense, Finland’s influence on modern Anglophone fantasy is rather like Jamaica’s influence on global popular music — way out of proportion to its size. Continue reading “Lord of the Green Planet”

Five Against Arlane, or The Tom Purdom Project, Part 3

A modern ruler could do almost anything, apparently, if he didn’t tamper with the medical care his subjects were used to.

Purdom-ArlaneThis 1967 novel, half of an Ace Double, was the first of Purdom’s stories set in this universe of travel between planets at relativistic, i.e. slightly slower than light, speeds, where most of the travelers between the stars are traders, and where humans have managed to greatly extend their lives with medical care. Follow up stories were 1970’s “A War of Passion” (which I have not read yet) and 2010’s “Haggle Chips” which I reviewed in part 1 of the Tom Purdom Project.

As the cover blurb says, this is a “revolt against the mind tyrant”. Continue reading “Five Against Arlane, or The Tom Purdom Project, Part 3”

The Tom Purdom Project, Part 2

The imprudent title of this post refers to my intention to read the complete science fiction works of Tom Purdom.

Like most such reading projects, it will probably not be completed in my lifetime — not because of the time involved but because of my desultory ways and easily distracted personality.

The first entry of the Tom Purdom project is a review of his recent collection, the only one of his career so far, Lovers & Fighters, Starships & Dragons. I actually became aware of Purdom about ten years ago, so I’ll briefly review, or at least list, stories of his I’ve read to date and that aren’t included in his collection.

His “Romance in Extended Time” from the March 2000 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction was my first encounter with Purdom. While I recall liking it, I have not found any notes recording my detailed reactions. It is part of what Purdom refers to as his Casanova in  Space series. He talks about their inspiration and the details of writing them in entries four and five of his engaging literary memoir. Continue reading “The Tom Purdom Project, Part 2”

Am I an Unlicensed Therapist?

At the Daily Telegraph is a curious piece about “bibliotherapists”.

… bibliotherapists will serve up suggestions suited to your particular tastes, guiding you to enchanting books you may not be aware of.

Perhaps here is an untapped revenue stream for all us amateur book reviewers looking to monetize our blogs for a bit more than the value of a few review copies.

The School of Life in London offers this service for ” £80 per consultation”.

I, of course, will entertain invitations from any one willing to form a cartel of book reviewers to corner this nascent but valuable market.


Skull in the Ashes

untitledI’m not usually a true crime reader. The only reason I picked this book up was because it’s set in Iowa, and I spend a fair amount of time in parts of the state. By itself, that wouldn’t have made me read it, but I was curious about the “gold rush manhunt”, and that was the best part. It was a quick enough read, I’m not sorry I picked it up.

Review: Skull in the Ashes: Murder, a Gold Rush Manhunt, and the Birth of Circumstantial Evidence in America by Peter Kaufman, 2013.

As long as you don’t take the “birth of circumstantial evidence” bit too seriously, this is an entertaining true crime book. Or, at least, so it seemed to me, but I seldom read in the genre. Continue reading “Skull in the Ashes”