observe the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, it's nice to have
unusual topics to read about instead of the same handful of generals
and battles. This book, originally published in 1941, and the winner
of the Pulitzer Prize for History, has just been reissued by the New
York Review of Books in a handsome paperback edition (though I have
to ding it for nor including the 16 pages of contemporary
illustrations found in earlier editions). As the title suggests,
Reveille gives us a detailed portrait of Washington DC and its
inhabitants during the War Between The States. In 1860 most of DC's
major buildings were still under construction. The Executive Mansion
was on a swampy flat that locals blamed for the annual malaria
outbreaks. There were no theaters or operas, but plenty of brothels
and places to gamble. Well-heeled residents took picnic lunches and
opera glasses down to Virginia to the view the Battle of Bull Run.
Over time the city was fortified by a thirty-seven-mile-long ring of
fifty forts and defended by the Army of the Potomac. DC was tangled
in contradictions regarding slavery. Escaped slaves from the rebel
south were employed by the government as manual laborers, but those
from neighboring Maryland—still loyal to the Union, though a slave
state—had to be captured and returned to their owners. After
emancipation, the army formed its first “Negro regiments,” though
even a black officer could be ordered by a streetcar conductor to
ride on the less-comfortable outside of the trolly, even in the
rain. For free citizens, the war soon meant a period of unparalleled
prosperity. Northern states, unable to spend their money in the
south, bought their necessaries from DC. Newly-rich investors were
happy to finance theatrical entrepreneur John T. Ford's theater,
named after himself, which featured the very latest improvements in
acoustics and ventilation, not to mention a special double box seat
for whenever the president attended. At nearly 600 pages, this is a
hefty read, but if you're going to read a book about the Civil War
this summer, make it this one.
a child of the 70’s, there are things I remember and some things I
want to forget. The two authors reflect back on those times with
this marvelous book. Remember Marathon Bars or Freakies cereal?
The toys, fads, and downright bizarre things that strangely made
sense at the time are listed in alphabetical order like an
encyclopedia, which makes better sense than grouping by subject.
The authors have a keen sense of the subject matter and maybe
readers should feel sorry for them. The descriptions have a snarky
edge that makes one laugh out loud at times, while also muttering,
“I remember that.” They also discuss if the item is gone for good
or has been revised. Admittedly, some of the stuff covered is a bit
of a stretch and not really worthy of coverage (I’m talking to you,
Debbie Gibson), but that’s a minor quibble for a great nostalgia
It is a
matter of fact that, during World War II, Isaac Asimov and L.
Sprague de Camp, who also happened to be scientists, worked under
fellow science fiction writer Robert Heinlein at the Philadelphia
Navy Yard. If official sources are to be believed, they spent their
time conducting chemical tests on products intended for naval
aircraft in order to make sure they met specifications. But in
Malmont's novel that’s just the cover for a top-secret project to
have some of America's biggest imaginations turn their talents
towards the sort of superweapons they created for pulp magazines.
This book is not Robert Heinlein, Laser-Wielding Nazi Hunter;
Malmont has not “pulped” his characters. Instead, he extrapolates
only a little to create an engrossing and entertaining tale.
Accompanied by failed writer (and failed serviceman) L. Ron Hubbard,
the team sets out to find a supposed superweapon left behind by
Nikola Tesla. I have read several of the biographies and
autobiographies Malmont draws upon for characterization, and his
portraits of the leading characters are spot-on. Heinlein's troubled
marital life was made worse by the fact that he had given up writing
because after Pearl Harbor “rocket ships and aliens seemed so
frivolous.” de Camp was an upper-class adventurer with a true gift
for words. Asimov was an eager, sometimes dangerously naïve, youth
prone to showing off his genius-level intelligence. And we see the
weird religious and scientific experiences that would eventually
lead Hubbard to Scientology. For all its exotic science (and there
is enough of that to satisfy anyone who enjoys the hero's writings),
several of the book's best scenes, including one involving chemical
dye in someone's food, are twists on actual events. Remove the
superweapons, and this book is still fairly accurate historical
fiction. Malmont even provides a workable explanation for the
mystery of “The Philadelphia Experiment,” where a Navy ship seemed
to disappear into thin air.
Gregg Hurwitz’s latest pulse-pounding thriller, is a tour de force
in all respects. Hurwitz, whose thrillers have run the gamut from
big-scale adventure tales to more introspective, almost
claustrophobic psychological suspense, hits this one out of the park
in what is a mixture of the two. Harlan Coben on steroids,
opens in truly shattering fashion with a young boy being abandoned
on a playground by his father. Years later that boy grows up to
become Mike Wingate, a father himself now with a deceptively simple
and happy life. Anyone who knows thrillers knows that the old
Faulkner quote that “the past isn’t dead; it’s not even past” is
never more true than in tales like this. And, sure enough, Mike’s
past comes a calling in the person of a mysterious visitor to his
car dealership showroom who gives a whole new meaning to the word
creepy as he boasts of his many surgeries. Truly chilling stuff
that sets Mike off on a downward spiral into a netherworld of denial
brilliant simplicity to Hurwitz’s writing here, sparse and often
provided in present tense. As a result, You’re Next has the
sense of a writer scraping ambitiously for more, something great,
and finding his way there in almost magical fashion. The book
resonates emotively, moving in a way not seen since John Hart’s
brilliant The Last Child. All great thrillers make you
think, but this one makes you feel as well.
wars have been around for longer than almost anyone can remember,
and they have given civilization more than a few hard knocks: now
the world is divvied up into armored city states, with heavily
guarded gates and job descriptions like "farmer-soldier." Almost
nothing is older than the wars, and few things are almost as old.
One of them is a traveling circus. Admission is whatever you can
barter, but to join the act and live forever -forever by the
standards of a war-torn world, at any rate- first you have to die.
Genevieve Valentine invites us to admire a unique performance in her
debut novel, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti. Her
prose is elegant, navigating freely and gracefully between narrative
voices and time periods. Mechanique unfolds in a strange
world, fascinating to observe but emotionally arid; her characters
and their stories are interesting but not truly compelling, being
subject to passions and imperatives that even broad-minded readers
might find difficult to empathize with. This is a strong first work,
however, and well worth reading.
Some stories in this uneven collection successfully blend romance
and steampunk; others force the romance without much development.
“Chance Corrigan and the Queen of Hearts” is one of the successful
ones, with a well-developed romantic subplot. “Absinthe-Minded
Archaeologist” is a thin tale requiring the archaeologist to be more
myopic than justified by the absinthe (he even prepares the drink
incorrectly). “The Problem of Trystan” is a nice love story, but
burdened with exposition detailing its delayed setting, which
features Queen Diana appointing Viceroy Reagan over the American
colonies. “Clockworks” is literally a story of the heart; a
steampunk pacemaker makes it the strongest blend of steampunk and
romance. “In the Belly of the Behemoth” is a strong tale of a
steampunk Civil War. “Automata Futura” entertainingly blends
together a number of Victorian elements. “Love Comes to Abyssal
City” is post-apocalyptic retro steampunk with a creepy Big Brother
flavor. “For the Love of Byron” is a moving romance in the New
World. “For Queen and Country” is well balanced and amusing.
“Grasping at Shadows” has a lost city/Lovecraftian element along
with the romance. “Go Forward with Courage” is another well-done New
World story. “Her Faith is Fixt” is a gentlemanly adventure with a
twist. “Kinetic Dreams” is a confusing mash of time travel and
alternate timelines. “For the Love of Copper” takes the time to
develop a romance intertwined with the steampunk elements.
“Cassandra’s Kiss” doesn’t have much going on. “Dashed Hopes” is a
heart-wrenching story somewhat weakened by humorous contemporary
references. Generally entertaining, but not as strong throughout as
the editors’ previous collection, Steampunk’d, featuring some
of the same authors and characters.
Jacobson has already distinguished himself in the crowded serial
killer sub-genre of thrillers. But his smooth and seasoned approach
reaches new heights in Inmate 1577, a stunner of a tale that
is structurally flawless.
Henry sat deathly still in the corner watching the life drain from
his mother’s body. He stared at the blood seeping from her pulpy
wounds, poking forth from between strands of matted hair.
are witnessing the birth of a monster is hardly in doubt. The
distinction lies on the twisty, turny path on which Jacobson takes
this particular monster, leading ultimately to secrets long buried
in Alcatraz of all places. Those secrets will be unearthed in
typically professional fashion by Jacobson stalwart FBI profiler
Karen Vail who returns to San Francisco from wine country following
the discovery of the latest victim.
moves deliberately along a circuitous path lined with secrets,
surprises and subterfuge that have been a staple of the genre since
Will Graham pursued the Tooth Fairy with help from Hannibal Lecter
in Thomas Harris’ true masterpiece Red Dragon. Like Harris,
Jacobson builds the suspense to a pulsating crescendo that will
ultimately bring the walls down upon Vail, not quite literally but
in immensely satisfying fashion.
16-year-old Declan’s main interests are black metal, video games,
porn—and Neilly Foster, the cutest girl in school. Neilly may be
popular and beautiful, but she has her own problems: her boyfriend
just made out with her best friend. And although she supports her
father’s upcoming marriage to his same-sex partner, she spends a lot
of time defending him to her less enlightened peers. When Neilly
and Declan find out that their parents (his dad, her mom) are about
to get married—and that they will soon produce a new little
brother or sister—the two teens bond from a shared sense of shock
subject matter that touches on masturbation, death of a family
member, and the inevitable pain involved in combining two families
into one, this is essentially a light-hearted, often funny read.
The chapters narrated by Declan are stronger than those narrated by
Neilly, but even so, this is a book that should appeal to both boys
and girls—especially those from blended families.
follow up to The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Henry Holt, 2008) is
not quite as strong as the first offering, but still well worth the
read. There were two other teens in the car crash that caused
Jenna’s near-death and amnesia: Locke and Kara. Jenna believed
that they had died in the crash, but Locke narrates the story of
what actually happens to them. They find themselves living in a
United States 260 years in the future, a country no longer united
and filled with strange technology and unfamiliar people—some of
whom would like to use Kara and Locke’s scientifically generated
bodies for their own purposes.
The Fox Inheritance problematizes some of the
ethical questions that were brushed aside perhaps a bit too quickly
at the end of the first novel: What does it really mean to be
human? How much original genetic material must remain before a
person crosses the line into becoming something else? Fans of the
first book will be clamoring for this next installment.