Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Door Number Three

By Patrick O'Leary
John Donelly is a man with some serious baggage from his childhood with a bitch of a mother and a distant father. So naturally he became a psychotherapist.
One day an attractive woman, Laura, comes to see him for therapy. But she has a condition: what she tells him has to kept a secret. He agrees to this condition and she proceeds to claim that she was abducted by aliens as a child and raised under conditions of unintentional cruelty and deprivation, due to the aliens not understanding how to take care of a child. Now she has been released by the aliens and she will be allowed to stay on Earth if she can convince one person that her story is true. And the person she wants to convince is Donelly.
As a therapist, Donelly is quite familiar with the detours the human mind can take to avoid dealing with the hard facts of life and he figures Laura has constructed this elaborate fantasy to deal with her past childhood trauma. But as they spend more time together and he starts to have feelings for her, it becomes apparent that her story is not a fantasy and that these aliens, the Holock, do exist.

This book was more than a little confusing. First Laura is a suffering woman, forced by aliens into doing things she doesn't want. Then she is a murdering monster out to destroy the human race. Then she is the love of Donelly's life. And the aliens, first they are inimical and heartless monsters, feeding off human dreams, then they are pathetic losers, trying to ensure their survival by engineering humanity's demise.  And it turns out they aren't really aliens at all, but a new life form that evolved after humanity died out as a result of World War III. Plus there is the time travel and people "blipping" in and out and the dreams and aliens attacking people in their dreams. And for some reason, religion seems to protect people from attacks by the aliens. Also the U.S. government knows about the aliens and is in cahoots with them. And meanwhile, Donelly finds out some things about his childhood that he didn't know or had forgotten. There is just a whole lot going on in this story. It was a bit too much for me. I liked the Donelly family story best. The aliens and Laura and the time travel, all that kind of left me floundering, unable to figure out who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. And, even after finishing the book, I am still not sure. The author sure does have quite an imagination and the book is thought provoking.  So even though it left me confused, I will still say it is a fair read.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Rider at the Gate

By C. J. Cherryh
Set on an alien planet much like Earth, with mountains, prairies, oceans, rivers, forests and animals, humans have settled into walled, scattered communities and are maintaining a limited technology, equal to about the early 1900s, with limited access to telephones, electricity, and motor vehicles, trucks mainly. Because, although this planet is bountiful and fertile, its animal life is telepathic and the effect on humans is not good. So people wall themselves away from contact with the wildlife and try to maintain a grasp on their sanity. Except for the riders.
Native to the planet is a large omnivore resembling horses which the people call nighthorses. Nighthorses are attracted to human intellect and are able to bond with a chosen human, who becomes the nighthorse's rider. Riders travel with truck caravans as guards against the native wildlife and riders also serve as buffers between wildlife and the human towns, using the nighthorse telepathy to send any curious wild creatures running.
The problem with having nighthorses in your community is that they broadcast human and nighthorse images indiscriminately. So when a nighthorse rider is killed, her fellow rider and lover is grief-stricken and his grief is broadcast throughout the community, which turns on him and sends him out into the winter with only his nighthorse for company.
The rider, Guil and his nighthorse, Burn, driven away from humankind, set out to discover what really happened to Guil's lover, the woman who was killed while guiding a truck convoy through the mountains.

This sounds like an exciting premise for a book: one man and his telepathic horse, struggling to survive the winter storms of an alien world and also track down the truth behind his lover's death.  Yet somehow it just fell short. Most of the time I was just bored with it. Part of the problem was the author doesn't tell you up front what the deal is with the native animals and the nighthorses, the telepathy and how it can drive humans to the brink of insanity and how fearful the people are of that happening. So for much of the start of the book, I had a hard time figuring out what was going on with these people. The Guil character comes home to his village and is greeted with the news of his lover's death and instead of sympathy and compassion, he is driven out into the cold and shot at in the process. It just didn't make any sense. And then this "rogue" that everyone is so terrified of, I didn't get until almost the last third of the story that the rogue was a nighthorse; I kept expecting some kind of hideous monster to come charging out of the forest, instead of just a confused and anguished nighthorse.
This book might appeal more to readers who really like horses. I am not a fan of horses, I don't dislike horses but I don't care to socialize with them either. I am no more inclined to climb on the back of a horse than I would be to climb on the back of rodeo bull. To me, they are both large scary animals to be viewed from afar. But if you really like horses, then a book where the rider has a mental bond and communion with the horse might be an enjoyable read.

Lawrenceville Stories

By Owen Johnson
Set in the late 1800s, this is a collection of humorous stories about the antics of a group of schoolboys at the Lawrenceville School,  a prep school located near Trenton, New Jersey. The author was a student at Lawrenceville School and some of the incidents related in his stories may have some basis in reality.
Whether that is true or not, the stories give an inside look at the recreational life of the students, much of which revolved around sports. And for the main characters, much of their time is spent trying to acquire money or pull off pranks.

This was an OK read. As I said above, one of the main endeavors of the students was sports, and quite a few of the stories are concerned with this, which made it rather boring for me, since I am not interested in sports or stories about sports. Also, many of the stories were about boys running scams on their fellow students, which, while marginally more interesting than the sports stories, still didn't hold much appeal for me. I think maybe I am the wrong audience for this book. I don't think it was a bad book, it just wasn't my kind of read.