Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lucy's Blade


By John Lambshead

Francis Walsingham, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth I, is the guardian of his orphaned niece, Lucy, a pretty sixteen-year-old girl. Walsingham is dealing with Spanish spies who are trying to assassinate Queen Elizabeth. One of the weapons in Walsingham's arsenal is magic, and he and a learned doctor are attempting to call forth a demon. Restrained within a circle of magical power and captured within the body of a puppy, the demon cannot harm those who have conjured it and must answer the questions put forth to it. But this is a tricky demon and it lures young Lucy into the magic circle and possesses her, much to the dismay of her uncle and the learned doctor. Indeed, the doctor declares that Lucy must immediately be killed or all their lives are in peril. But Walsingham refuses and Lucy, who is unconscious, is put to bed. But her outlook is not good because people possessed by demons turn into raving, murderous, foul lunatics who either end up being killed or locked up for all their lives.
Except for Lucy. Because she isn't actually possessed by a demon. She is possessed all right, but the being she is sharing her body with is not a demon. The being is a energy being who lives on gravitons and makes her home on the edge of a black hole and is an investigator from the far future from a universe that contains no light, only darkness. The being, called Lilith, is sent back in time to get proof that her people are not descended from our time of light and decompressed matter. But a powerful witch shanghaied Lilith first and then the learned doctor captured her next, with her ultimately residing in the innocent bystander, Lucy. And she is stuck in Lucy because the energy required to make her escape would kill Lucy and Lilith is not willing to do that.
But there are benefits to being possessed by an energy being. Lilith can make Lucy's body more efficient and stronger and give her the benefit of her vast data bank of knowledge, gained from a brief foray into the World Wide Web before being yanked into Lucy's era. And now Francis Walsingham finds himself in possession of a secret weapon in the form of his young, beautiful niece who, thanks to Lilith, is strong as a horse, can see in the dark, has hearing like an owl and magical powers to boot. Together Walsingham and Lucy will ferret out the Spanish spies who are intriguing to murder the Queen of England.

This was quite a good story, with a good bit of English history thrown in besides. Lucy and her tame "demon" are charming and entertaining characters, as Lucy suddenly finds herself with superhuman powers and Lilith finds herself captivated by feelings and emotions she has never experienced as a being of pure energy. Together they make a terrific team and have lots of adventures tracking down the evil doers trying to destroy the British government and in confrontations with the powerful witch who first tried to capture Lilith. It's an adventure story, a historical romance, a fantasy story and a science fiction story all rolled into one with a little comedy thrown in besides. It was a fun and interesting read.

Steel Beach


By John Varley

This story is set in a future where man no longer lives on Earth. The planet was taken over by Invaders and humankind was destroyed. But at the time of the invasion, people already had colonies on Mars, the Moon and various other locations in the Solar System. These colonies were not bothered by the Invaders, who apparently were only interested in Earth.
Living in King City on the moon, Hildy Johnson is a top-notch reporter for the News Nipple, a gossip and news publication. Life is pretty easy for most people living in the various colonies in the Solar System. Each colony is run, for the most part, by a massive computer, the central computer, called CC. The CC looks out for everything, keeping its charges safe and well cared for. Health care has advanced to the point where people are living for centuries. People can change their sex whenever they want and can have their bodies sculpted to perfection. As a result, nudity has become accepted and common. Why wear clothes if your body is perfect and the climate stays warm and comfortable? People don't even have to work if they don't want to because CC can produce anything they may need or want. And most people are hooked up directly to CC, who serves as a kind of companion and advisor when needed. Still, when you been alive for more than a hundred years, it kind of becomes a challenge to stay interested in anything. Maybe that is why the suicide rate keeps increasing in the moon colonies.
One of those suicides is Hildy Johnson. He hung himself, slashed his wrists, got himself beaten to death and shot himself. But thanks to CC, each time he died, CC intervened and saved him and erased from Hildy's memory any knowledge of the attempted suicide. But Hildy keeps trying to kill himself despite CC's interventions.
CC finally confronts Hildy and reveals how it has been messing with Hildy's memories, erasing sad, real memories and implanting false memories. CC tells Hildy about Hildy's attempts at killing himself, much to Hildy's shock and dismay. And even worse, CC confides that it hasn't been feeling very well either and is frankly starting to feel rather depressed too. But what it doesn't tell Hildy is that parts of itself are out of control and going off the deep end, which could spell disaster not only for the people living on the moon, but for the other colonies too, who have similar computers keeping their people safe and alive.

Varley's has created a complicated, fascinating, very different and yet familiar world in this novel. These people enjoy wonderful benefits, such as constant continuous free health care and greatly expanded life spans. They switch gender on a whim and don't have to work for a living although most people do. They have created Earth-like habitats and stocked them with birds, insects, plants and animals. Imagination and creativity soar in such a free society and almost every whim is indulged. It is pretty much a Utopia except for the facts that the computer that runs everything is going nuts, more and more people are becoming suicidal and that nobody can ever go home to Earth. It's a great story, full of amazing, odd characters such as David Earth, who has mice living in his beard, grass growing on his head and birds nesting in the little shrubs growing on his body. It doesn't end well for David, who gets trampled by a brontosaur during a stampede.
This is a fascinating, amazing, complicated and complex world that Varley has invented and I enjoyed reading it for the second time as much as I did the first time.

The Beast in the Garden


By David Baron

Most people enjoy wildlife. They put out bird feeders for the little birds, ears of corn for squirrels, they feed the ducks and geese in the parks, some even put out food for raccoons. In Boulder County, Colorado, deer were thriving, much to the delight of most citizens in the area. True, deer are very destructive to ornamental plants, munching on expense bushes and flowers and stripping the bark off young trees. But people figured it was worth it, being repaid by the enjoyment of sighting a mother deer and her sweet little fawn or a majestic buck with antlers on full display. But as the urbanized deer herd grew, it attracted the attention of a formidable predator: the mountain lion.
Mountain lions used to be pretty rare. They were hunted as vermin in the past. Ranchers and farmers didn't like them because they sometimes killed livestock. Hunters didn't like them because they killed deer. So to protect livestock and game animals, the big cats were routinely hunted down, usually with the help of dogs, and killed. This persecution made the animals shy and cautious, giving them the reputation of being cowardly and frightened of dogs and humans. It was said that mountain lions wouldn't attack people because of their timid and fearful natures.
This is true when the lions are faced with the pressure of being hunted by humans. But the lions that where now appearing in Boulder County had never experienced that pressure. Not only were these animals not fearful of dogs, they were also amazingly unfazed by humans. They didn't know that dogs and humans hunt and kill mountain lions. And in their ignorance, these lions began preying on people's pets, eating house cats and even killing and eating people's dogs, and not just small, yappy dogs. These lions were busting into dog pens and taking large dogs like huskies and spaniels and retrievers.
Wildlife experts warned that it was only a matter of time before the lions turned their sights on humans. It had happened in California and in Arizona. But other experts declared those attacks aberrations and that the lions in those cases were either injured, sick or old and unable to hunt their normal prey, deer, and had just turned to humans out of desperation. But as it became clear, the healthy, vigorous Boulder County mountain lions were not fearful of humans and were turning their baleful gaze on a prey animal that may look like a nice snack in running shoes, but which actually has the ability to target an animal species and wipe it off the face of the earth.

This book gave me the shivers. Mountain lions are reestablishing their ancient ranges in the United States and those ranges were every where. Mountain lions have been sighted now in Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and even farther east in places like Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Deer are doing tremendously well in our country and the mountain lion's main prey is deer. So wherever deer are extensive, mountain lions will eventually show up. The problem is that many deer live in close proximity to humans. As the book points out, it lion/people conflicts may become a growing problem throughout the United States. Hopefully, though, our society will not, as we did in the past, declare these beautiful, awesome, magnificent and terrifying predators to be vermin and seek to wipe them out. Some how we will hopefully learn to live in a kind of detente with mountain lions, enabling them to fulfill their ancient role as a check on deer populations and yet trying to limit their harm they may do to our animals and ourselves. Let's hope it works out better for our mountain lions than it has for another awesome, terrifying and magnificent predator, the tiger, which will probably be extinct in the wild before much longer.
If you are at all curious about mountain lions, also called pumas, panthers, catamounts, painters and wild cats, and how they can come into conflict with humans, this book is a must read. Not only is it informative, it is also very readable, interesting and scary.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Spellsinger


By Alan Dean Foster

Jonathan, full time college student and part time janitor, musician, and pot smoker, was just sort of drifting through his life, not a total screw-up, but not all that focused and driven either. But all that didn’t matter much when he found himself transported from the ordinary world into a fantasy world of talking, intelligent animals, all at the behest of a powerful, but frequently befuddled wizard. And in typical befuddled fashion, the wizard, Clothahump, the turtle, had set forth to summon from the universe a wizardly engineer to help him defeat a terrible evil threatening his world. But what he got was Jonathan the student and part time janitor, whose job title was “sanitation engineer.”
So now Jonathan is stuck in Clothahump’s world because Clothahump exhausted his powers summoning Jonathan and is unable to return Jonathan home. And Jonathan now has to cope with a world where otters wear boots, robins deliver the mail, rabbits cheat at dice, and where the most powerful wizard in the world is a senile turtle with drawers in his shell and glasses on his beak because he can’t remember where he put the spell that would cure his nearsightedness. Good thing that Clothahump is not quite as senile as he may seem, since before much longer it becomes very apparent that Jonathan, or as he is known there, Jon-Tom, has some magic powers of his own, once he finds a stringed instrument and begins to play and sing: Jon-Tom is the Spellsinger. But will his newly found powers enable him to help Clothahump or to find his way back to his own world?

This is the first book in the Spellsinger series and is really an introduction to the story and the main characters. Nothing much is accomplished in the story besides introducing the reader to the characters and to Jon-Tom’s discovery of his magical powers. Jon-Tom, Clothahump and their band of allies set forth to gather forces against the coming time of evil but, in this story, nothing more really happens other than the starting out on their journey. They have some adventures, Jon-Tom works some spells that don’t quite turn out the way they were supposed to, and they pick up a few friends along the way and we are briefly introduced to the enemy, the Plated Ones, who turn out to be bugs intent not only on world domination, but on taking over the whole universe.
It’s an okay story. Jon-Tom’s fumbling but infrequent attempts at magic are kind of amusing. I can’t say I found the story particularly compelling or even enthralling. The next book in the series isThe Hour of the Gate.

Monday, November 22, 2010

An Unfortunate Prairie Occurance


By Jamie Harrison

Jules Clement, a small town sheriff in Montana, is having a pretty rough autumn. It all started with a serial rapist in town, followed by the discovery of the old buried bones of a man on an island in the river and, soon after, the supposed suicide of an elderly man named Nestor, whose death, upon closer investigation, was actually a murder staged to look like a suicide. So Jules has a lot on his plate. And to add to his misery, it seems a lot of the old people in Jules' life knew the dead man from the island, whose death dated back to the 1930s, but they are all refusing to admit any knowing anything about it, including Jules' uncle Joseph.
As Jules' digs further into both the matter of the island bones and of Nestor's murder, it becomes clear there is a definite connection between the two events, but no matter how he presses, Jules just can't get any one who was around then to tell him the truth. Even when a third dead body turns up in an old trunk, also dating from the 1930s, the old people refuse to talk about it. Meanwhile, the rapist is attacking more women and becoming even more violent. As Jules' investigation proceeds, it looks as if the old people in town are involved in a conspiracy of murder and silence and that events from the past are still affecting people in the present, including some of the most important citizens in their small community.

For some reason, this story never really captured my attention. I found the main character, Jules, unappealing, cold and hostile. I really did not understand the reluctance of the old women to talk about the events of the 1930s that lead to the death of the man whose bones were found on the island. If just one of them had been open about it, the whole mystery could have been figured out much sooner. It didn't really make much sense, except as a way of making the mystery last longer than it should. But I think my main problem with the story was Jules, who I never really warmed up to. I just didn't like him. That kind of spoiled the whole story.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kabul Beauty School


By Deborah Rodriguez

Deborah Rodriguez was kind of a lost soul, not content with her life and searching for something more meaningful. This search eventually lead her to join a local church. Her involvement with the church led her into volunteer work and some specialized training and even trips overseas to places like India. Then, after 911 and the war in Afghanistan, she had the opportunity to join a group going to Afghanistan and she eagerly went along.
Most of the folks in her group were highly-skilled professionals such as health care workers. Deborah is also a highly-skilled professional, but not the sort you would think of as vital to a relief effort: she is a hair dresser, a beautician.
At first, she felt kind of useless as she watched the other volunteers performing their vital tasks. But it quickly became apparent that non-Afghanis working in the area really wanted and needed the services of a beautician. Soon she was doing hair cuts, manicures, dye jobs, and other services. And as she became more familiar with Afghan culture, she found out that beauty shops had been a vital and welcome part of female life in Afghanistan before the Taliban took over. Beauty shops were one of the few places where women could get together and also one of the few industries that provided jobs, income and independence for women in Afghanistan's male dominated and controlled culture.
After her stint as a volunteer and back home in the USA, Deborah decided she wanted to go back to Afghanistan and start a beauty school to train women and thus help bring back the beauty industry and provide women with jobs, money, and a measure of independence. She was able to get some sponsors and funds and returned there and soon had her school up and running. But it wasn't easy. The cultural differences were huge. Plus she didn't speak the language. And Afghanis look askance at single women, tending to label them as whores and prostitutes. Eventually, Deborah took a local man as her husband. It just makes life easier for a woman there to have a male protector. Together, they kept the school running, dealing with financial difficulties, cultural clashes, fundamentalist suspicions, and they gave many women a chance for a better life.

Deborah's story is really amazing. She took such a huge risk, plunging into a culture that is frankly hostile to women. She saw a need that she could fill and she didn't hesitate to step up and give her fellows a helping hand, even to the point of marrying into the culture. She actually fell in love with the people of Afghanistan, and even though she eventually was forced to leave because of the deteriorating security situation, she still has fond memories of her time there. And there is no doubt that she performed a much needed service for the women of Afghanistan.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Whistling in the Dark


By Lesley Kagen

Sally and her little sister Troo are having a rough summer, back in 1959. Their mom is seriously ill in the hospital and they are left to the care of their drunken stepfather and their indifferent older sister, Nell. Plus there is a killer in the area who is targeting young girls about their age. And they are both carrying a lot of baggage from the death of their beloved father a few years ago.
Sally promised her father as he lay dying in the hospital that she would look after Troo and she intends to keep her promise even though Troo is an independent little cuss, prickly and tough. Together the two girls will have one of the most exciting and memorable summers of theirs lives, that is if they can manage to survive the neglect of their supposed caretakers and keep out of the clutches of the killer roaming the neighborhood.

I pretty much enjoyed this story, although at times it seemed a little draggy and repetitive. Not a lot happens until the end, when everything seems to happen at once. But, overall, I'd say it was a good, entertaining read.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Ballad of Beta-2 & Empire Star


By Samuel R. Delany

The Ballad of Beta-2: Set in the far future, when mankind travels the galaxy via hyper-space drive, this is the story of an anthropology student Joneny, who is given the assignment to investigate the Star Folk. They are people who are living in old spaceships dating from the pre-hyper drive days. They set out to colonize a new world only to find that they were passed long ago by the hyper drive ships. They had been voyaging for generations, and their descendants had degenerated terribly, no longer fit to colonize anything. So they stayed in permanent orbit, pretty much left alone by civilization, left to moulder away in their decline. Joneny is specifically to investigate a folk song of the Star Folk, the "Ballad of Beta-2," and see if he can unravel the truth behind the events related in the song.

This was a pretty good story. It was exciting and the technology was strange and different and the puzzle of the song was quite interesting.

Empire Star is also set in the far future and is the story of a simple farm lad, Jo, who finds a jewel-like alien and who takes on the task of taking the alien and an important message to Empire Star. He meets lots of different people and a few more aliens and learns a lot and eventually sort of ends up back where he started.

I didn't like this story. It keeps going on about simplex and multiplex, people keep trying to teach Jo, who starts out as simplex, how to be multiplex, whatever that is. And Jo has various rather tame adventures, and then the ending is some complicated time-twisting something or the other, I don't know what, and was just not very satisfying to me.
So since the first story was good and the second story was bad, I'll rate the book as a fair read.

The Pull of the Moon


By Elizabeth Berg

Nan has just turned fifty and is unhappy with her life, even though she has a good marriage, a daughter in college, a huge fancy house, a Mercedes to drive and money enough in the bank that her husband doesn't need to work anymore, although he still does. She has been a stay-at-home mom and now feels that life has passed her by. Also she has gone through menopause and she feels death is just around the corner. So she just leaves one day. She gets in her fancy car, credit cards in hand, and sets off to find herself. She drives where she wants, backed up, of course, by all the dough she and her husband have amassed.

Well, as you can tell, I am less than sympathetic with this woman's complaints. Seems to me that the stupid bitch doesn't have anything to complain about. So she is getting older and is no longer fertile and doesn't turn men's heads anymore? So what? She seemed to me to be hugely self-indulgent and just plain wasteful and spendthrift. At one point she recounts how she spent $200 at the cosmetics counter and then when she got home she tossed it all in the garbage, all the lotions and potions she wasted her husband's hard earned money on. Why didn't she just take it back to the store if she changed her mind? Only someone with more money than they know what to do with would waste it like that. Later in the story, she decides to make herself a turkey dinner with all the fixins but when she gets back to the cabin she is staying in she changes her mind and, yes, throws it in the garbage, turkey, potatoes, dressing, pie and all. Hasn't she ever heard of a Food Pantry? If she didn't want it she could have certainly done better than just put it in the garbage. So weird.
But despite her spendthrift ways, she does have some interesting things to say about growing older and about marriage and how the years change our expectations of ourselves. So, over all, though I personally think the main character is more than just a little self-involved, I still enjoyed the book quite a lot.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Immanuel's Veins


By Ted Dekker

Toma and Alek have been sent by the Russian empress, Catherine the Great, to protect the Cantemir family who are spending the summer in the mountains of Moldavia. Toma is a Russian war hero and Alek is his close friend and no slouch in the daring-do department either. The family, loyal to the Russian throne in uncertain times, consists of an absent father, the mother and her two twin daughters. These three women love life and are famous for their rather extravagant and loose ways. Toma later finds out that the empress wants one of the daughters, Lucine, to form a political marriage important to the throne, so one of the two men's duties is to keep other suitors away from Lucine.
Upon meeting the two young women, Toma and Alek are charmed and captivated, Alek with Natasha and Toma with Lucine. Toma keeps his feelings concealed but Alek enthusiastically and successfully woos Natasha.
Soon after their arrival, at a party being held by their hostess, five people arrive at the party. These people, known as the Russians, are strangely and strikingly dressed, and are very compelling and attractive in appearance. Toma finds them disturbing and threatening and at the same time alluring. An incident occurs at the party when Natasha is found unconscious on the floor with blood on her face, apparently having been hurt by one of the Russian men. He claims that he kissed her, with her permission, and that she swooned from pleasure. Alek challenges him and in the dust-up that follows, Toma shoots and kills the Russian. Into the middle of this walks the last Russian, one Vlad van Valerik.
Despite Toma's words and cautions, Natasha & Lucine become deeply involved with these Russians, who, no surprise, turn out to be a coven of vampires. Alek also becomes seduced by their luxurious and sensuous lifestyles, not knowing that he and the two young women are being changed into vampires themselves. Even Toma is briefly seduced by them. He comes to his senses and realizes that something is very wrong with these people. But Alek and Natasha will not listen and even Lucine, the more cautious twin, is snared in Vlad's toils.
Toma is given a book by a mysterious stranger that tells him the truth about Vlad and, armed with this new information, he is determined he will get Natasha, Alek and Lucine away from their new lord, Vlad van Valerik, even if he has to die trying.

This was an old-fashioned vampire story, with evil, remorseless vampires preying on hapless humans. Though these vampires are somewhat different than the traditional vampires in various ways, still their natures are the same as the classic vampire. These are bad-ass vampires and falling under their sway is not a happy way to end up. The book has a strange ambience, a mixture of old and modern, with an ancient castle, passageways, dungeons, but with the people partying and getting stoned (on vampire blood) like kids at a college frat house. The vampire women dress like dominatrixes in short dresses and thigh-high boots, even at times wearing pants. One of the vampires calls Toma a "party-pooper." It was just a peculiar mixture. Anyway, it was a pretty good book, Dekker's vampires are strange and different and menacing and the story was interesting and worth the read.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk


By David Sedaris

I guess the best way to describe this book would be as fables for adults. The cover has an image of a squirrel and a chipmunk sitting at a table together, uncertain grins on their faces, paws barely touching, wine glasses on the table and a small lit candle. At first glance it looked like a book for children. But when I picked up the book because I recognized the author's name and opened it randomly this is what I read:
Back before I met her, my wife lived on a farm. It was a small operation, organic vegetables, pick-your-own-strawberries, and a dozen or so chickens, each and every one of them, to hear her tell it, "an absolute raging asshole." The first time she said this I laughed, as I'd always thought that word was reserved for males. The same goes for "dick," which she uses for females all the time -- this raccoon, for example, that sometimes gets into our garbage cans. "Can you believe the nerve of that dick?" she'll say to me, her nose pressed flat against the dining room window. Then she'll bark, "Hey, asshole, go trash somebody else's fucking yard."
So, yeah, not a book for the kiddies. Oh, and the husband and wife in the story are both dogs. All the characters in the stories are animals, but not really. The stories are kind of strange, kind of mean and kind of cruel and kind of funny. The author takes shots at everyone from hairdressers and their clients, to reporters, grieving children, vigilantes, young mothers, married couples, pet owners, people standing in lines and so on. And even though most of the stories are kind of mean and cruel, the last story is a turn for the happier with three unlikely friends banding together to help one of them out. It features a hippo's rectum, how many stories can you say that about? It's a good read.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Pyramids (Discworld)


By Terry Pratchett

Teppic is the son of the Pharaoh, or rather the Discworld's version of a pharaoh. His father is the king of Djelibeybi, a narrow land stretched along the two banks of a desert river. And like a pharaoh, he is considered to be a god, responsible for causing the sun to rise and the crops to grow.
Teppic was sent off as a lad to Ankh-Morpork to Assassin's school and just as he was all set to start his new career, his father died and now Teppic has to go home to run the kingdom. But being king isn't quite what he thought it would be as he is completely under the thumb of the high priest Dios and finds himself pressured to do only what the high priest approves. Succumbing to the pressure, and even though the kingdom is bankrupt, Teppic orders a pyramid to be built as a tomb for his father. This will be the biggest pyramid ever built. What nobody understands, though, since pyramids influence time, this huge new pyramid will have catastrophic effects on the kingdom. And Teppic finds himself on the run from his own high priest who finally tires of Teppic's resistance and sets out to kill him. And the only thing that maybe able to set things right is a camel named You Bastard.

This was a pretty funny and interesting book. Teppic isn't much of an assassin nor is he much of a king and the massive new pyramid certainly turns things upside down in Djelibeybi as the dead come back to life and the old gods become real. My favorite character in the book was Teppic's dead father, who didn't want to be buried in a pyramid and who doesn't particularly want to live forever either. He just hangs around watching the embalmers dismember his body, plucking his eyes out of his head and his brains out through his nostrils and stuffing his interior with sawdust. That is probably one of the funniest parts of the book. One of the other funniest parts is when the priests are doing the play-by-play as various suddenly real gods vie for control of the sun. Absolutely priceless.

A Short History of Nearly Everything


By Bill Bryson

This book isn't about your classic history, like when Columbus discovered America or the signing of the Magna Carta or the fall of the Roman Empire. The history it delves into is scientific history and it starts with physics and chemistry, then geology, and evolution. Bryson brings forward the unsung and overlooked heroes of science, people who made massive contributions to our collective knowledge that were somehow forgotten for the most part in the course of time. His explanations of science and scientific discoveries are very readable and clear. He cuts out the technical jargon and lays out theories in a straightforward, uncomplicated way.

Bryson starts off with the origins of the universe and physics and I have to admit I found it pretty dry going. I put the book down for several weeks as reading it was making me sleepy. But eventually, I was able to get through the physics and chemistry and into geology and the history of life on our planet and I found that a lot more interesting. I can't say that a lot of the information stuck with me, but my overall impression of its contents are: human beings are damn lucky to exist at all and that we are walking a tight rope, teetering on the brink of disaster. His book is a list of all the terrible things that have happened, can happen and may likely happen in the near future. Let me see if I can remember some of it. Solar rays, if the sun has a really big solar flare, if it is big enough it will destroy the Earth's protective magnetic fields and fry all life on the planet. Or a giant meteor could strike the Earth and fry all life on the planet. Or a huge volcano could blow up and fry all life on the planet. Apparently Yellowstone National Park is just a huge volcano that erupts every 600,000 years and, guess what? It's been 600,000 years since its last eruption. And when it does blow, not only will it wipe out the whole Midwestern United States, but the ash cloud will plunge the world into cold and darkness for years resulting in crop failures and starvation for every living thing on the planet. Or the Earth's magnetic field could reverse and mess up the ocean currents which moderate climate with catastrophic results. Also, the Earth is about due for another Ice Age with glaciers creeping across most of Europe and North America. Or we could all die from some horrible new pandemic, some innocuous virus that suddenly mutates into a killer germ. Life on this old planet is a history of disasters and mass extinctions. But the good news is that you and I have 60 percent of the same genes as a banana. I like that.

Monday, November 01, 2010

You Suck


By Christopher Moore

The saga of Jody and Tommy continues. In the previous book, Tommy had Jody and the evil vampire who turned Jody made into bronze statues. For some reason, he made ear holes in the bronze Jody and she turned into mist and got free and promptly attacked Tommy so now, in this story, he is also a vampire.
So Jody tries to teach Tommy the ins and outs of being a vampire. They acquire a minion, a goofy teenage girl named Allison but who calls herself Abby Normal. Meantime, the guys at the grocery store known as the Animals have spent all the money they got in the last novel on an aging prostitute called Blue that they picked up in Las Vegas. She is called Blue because she dyed herself blue. The animals are completely overwhelmed by her charms and when she finds out that ex-Animal Tommy is a vampire, she demands the Animals capture and deliver Tommy to her as she wants to be turned. Tommy is captured and tied up and the hooker has her way with him and is soon stalking the streets of San Francisco and her first victims are the hapless Animals.
Unfortunately for the citizens of San Francisco, the evil bronzed vampire is released when someone takes a shot at the statue and puts a bullet hole in it and he again takes up his evil murderous ways and again attracting the attention of the two police detectives from the first story. The evil vampire wants Jody and he also wants to destroy all the new vampires on the scene, including Jody's lover, Tommy. Meanwhile the minion, Abby, meets that Asian scientist from the first story and together they kick a lot of vampire ass.

This was a very funny story, from beginning to end. Abby is one of the best parts of the book, her journal entries are hilarious. Tommy's struggles to adapt to vampirehood are also very funny and he and Jody take up with an alcoholic who carries a placard that reads, "I'm homeless and I have a huge cat." Which he does, the cat is enormous and the cat becomes Tommy's first victim. He and Jody borrow the cat from the guy and Tommy tries to drink its blood but gets fur all in his mouth so they shave the huge cat and then Tommy drinks some of its blood and they dress in it a red sweater and give it back to the guy. It's just a really funny book and I enjoyed it a lot and I am looking forward to reading the third installemnt in the series, Bite Me.