Wednesday, July 21, 2010

This Week at the Library (21/7)

Recent reading:

A Walk Across America, Peter Jenkins. A disillusioned college student in the early 1970s decides to walk across North America to see if there's anything in his home country worth staying for. The memoir covers the first leg of his journey, from Connecticut to New Orleans, and sees Jenkins rub shoulders with quite a few characters and brave perils both natural and manmade. Enjoyable for me, but I identified with the author as a restless university student, and live in the southern portion of the US where Jenkins spent much of his early walk.

The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton, is a 1960s science fiction story wherein the US military attempts to contain an extraterrestrial virus that they caught for use in biowarfare. The story opens in a desert town occupied only by corpses, a wandering old man, and a crying child, but soon shifts to a military laboratory. Crichton loves details, and incorporates fictional research papers and computer readouts into his text,  something I don't see often .

Stargazer: Three is the third in Michael Jan Friedman's Stargazer series, one which gives two of his officers background  and sees young Picard and his crew attempt to return a misplaced lieutenant from a mirror universe to her proper time, while avoiding a flotilla of hostile starships. While fairly unremarkable, the book has a few moments.

Travels with Charley is John Steinbeck's account of touring the United States in an RV during the sixties with his poodle Charley.  Steinbeck introduces the memoir by fighting a hurricane and musing that American authors should be familiar with the character of the country: his own familiarity is decades-out of date. He sets forth on that note. While he seems to enjoy the trip despite grumbling disappointment with the increasing artificial sameness of American culture, it ends on a low point.

Deep Space Nine: Betrayal, set in the television show's opening seasons, has Commander Sisko, Major Kira, and Constable Odo running circles, attempting to conduct a trade conference in the midst of a terrorist campaign attacking the station, while pugnacious Cardassians posture nearby. The book appears to be a prelude to the season season. Fair A-story, while the B-story concerning a young Cardassian deserter hiding on the station stole most of my attention.

The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir is my first serious read from this author. Weir's biography of the Virgin Queen centers on court life, resulting scandals, and foreign affairs. Enjoyable, justified the reccommendation I received.

Walking Towards Walden is a quasi-travelogue detailing the journey the author and two of his friends took to walk to Concord via the wilderness, avoiding roads during a day-long journey. The book is fantastically rich, as along the way the authors muse on mythology, philosophy, and history, connecting themes to their own struggle.

Hornblower and the Crisis, CS Forester's last work in the Hornblower series. The novel is incomplete, but promising and seems like it would have been excellent. The novel includes Forester's notes on how he intended to develop the book further, along with two short stories set at the beginning and end of Hornblower's career in the Royal Navy.

Pick of the Week: A Walk Across America and Walking Towards Walden.

Upcoming Reads:

  • I'm making steady progress with Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution. Though its size is formidable, the narrative itself flows once I commit. I may be able to finish it this week.
  • La Belle France is a general history of France. I checked it out last week when I intended to have a "France"-themed week in honor of Bastille Day. The size of Citizens forced me to modify my plans somewhat, but this history looked like a proper survey and I still intend on giving it a go.  I've read its opening chapter and am hooked.
  • Don't Know Much about Mythology or The End of the Beginning, the latter of which is an alt-history by Turtledove beginning with the successful invasion of Hawaii on the part of Imperial Japan.
  • I'll probably also read a Star Trek book. I'm not  sure which just yet, but the most likely contenders are Christopher L. Bennett's The Buried Age featuring a post-Stargazer Picard and Michael Jan Friedman's Saratoga,  an account of Benjamin Sisko's reunion with his shipmates from the titular ship, which was lost at the Battle of Wolf 359 along with Sisko's wife Jennifer.  Bennett wowed me with Greater than the Sum, and Friedman is an old favorite.


Future Potentials:

  • My home library has finally received a copy of the third book in the Darth Bane trilogy, Dynasty of Evil. I'd intended to read it last week, but forgot to check it out. Someone's snatched it up in the meantime. I've shaken my fist in mock anger and will bide my time.
  • Alison Weir's Captive Queen, a biographical novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine checked out three days after the library received it and two days before I visited the library to check it out. I am on a roll. 
  • The Lost World, Michael Crichton. I've never watched the second movie in the Jurassic Park series, so Lost World should be a fresh new story. It was missing when I visited the library today, intent on checking it out.
  • The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War is said to focus on the role Theodore Roosevelt's naval posturing had on American-Japanese relations. I'll look at it when my hands are not quite so full of France. 
  • Crucible: McCoy sees a version of Doctor McCoy stuck in Earth's 20th century where he must live out the rest of his life. The idea of a 24th century doctor, with more enlightened values, experiencing the horrors of the 20th century is intriguing, or was enough to get me to purchase a copy. I'm curious as to whether the author will try to work in the Eugenics Wars.  While in TOS-canon they were related to World War 3, a pair of books released in the past decade or so retconned them to make sense in light of late 20th century history. This book is part of a trilogy, but I went after this one for the "24th century humanist in the 1960s south" story.

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