Sunday, September 29, 2013

Zone Yellow

By Keith Laumer

Brion Bayard is an agent of the Imperium. When his world is invaded by an army of intelligent, evolved rats, Bayard is the man on the spot. He travels to the alternate universe the rats originated from and attempts to understand what has caused them to launch an assault on the Imperium. What he finds is a convoluted tangle of disease, politics, and double-dealing. But nothing that Bayard can't handle.

This story was so confused and disjointed. At first you are supposed to hate the rat people, who are portrayed very negatively (they eat their wounded comrades while the wounded are still alive). Then they are portrayed as the downtrodden dupes of a mysterious leader who has overthrown the rightful ruler, a young and appealing royal girl rat. The evil villain war lord rat who invaded the human world suddenly becomes the hero rat who helps defeat the usurper. It was all rather convoluted and not in a good way. It just didn't make a lot of sense, and unlike many of Laumer's novels, was not the least bit amusing. Just a huge waste of time.

Ladies' Night

By Mary Kay Andrews

Grace Stanton is a successful lifestyle blogger. Indeed, she is so successful that she and her husband live in a large home in a gated Florida community, all paid for by her blog. Grace, a decorator by profession, doesn't really pay as much attention as she should to the business aspects of her blog, as becomes painfully clear when her marriage falls apart. It turns out that her much more savvy husband has put everything in his name and Grace, who stormed out when she found hubby getting a BJ from her assistant, is now without a means of support. She ends up moving back in with her mother in the apartment over the bar her mother runs. Plus she has been ordered to undergo counseling by the divorce judge because she drove hubby's fancy car into their swimming pool. Seems like things can't get any worse but they do when it becomes clear that hubby and girlfriend are determined to sabotage Grace's efforts to start a new blog and rescue her floundering career.

This was a good read. I enjoyed it a lot more than I should have, given the over-the-top behavior of hubby and girl friend and various other characters in the story. So even though I found the several of the characters rather unbelievable, I still liked the story, it was quite entertaining and I liked the pacing, with the main character and the new love not falling into bed together immediately.

Eighty Days

By Matthew Goodman

November 14, 1889 -- Two women set off from New York, one heading east and one heading west. Their goal: get back to New York in less than eighty days.
Inspired by the Jules Verne novel, Around the World in Eighty Days, Nelly Bly, intrepid woman reporter known for her investigative journalism,  and sponsored by her employer, the New York newspaper The World, set forth by ship, headed to Europe in a trek around the world. Getting wind of Bly's excursion, the magazine Cosmopolitan decided to send one of their female writers off on a similar trek, only their writer, Elizabeth Bisland, would start out by heading across the U.S. by train to California, there to board ship for the Orient. Their idea was that Bly, upon arriving on the West Coast would have to deal with the harsh Midwestern winter weather as she traveled east back to New York which might slow her down drastically, maybe even stall her for some time.
Bly and Bisland were alike in some respects. Both were young women in their twenties, unmarried and obliged to support themselves. Both were talented and evocative writers. Bly was a reporter, not afraid to go undercover to expose abuse and corruption. Bisland was not a reporter, she wrote genteel magazine articles about literature and poetry. Bly set forth with only one small piece of luggage and only one dress and a coat but Bisland took several pieces of luggage with her and several dresses suitable for various occasions. But both women had this in common, that they were going to experience and see things they never dreamed of and it would a very rewarding and enlightening experience.

This was a great and exciting read. The author really made the two trips come alive. Bly came back convinced that America had all the other places of the world beat. But Bisland came back enriched by and appreciative of what other cultures had to offer. I particularly enjoyed the picture painted by the author of those cultures before they became changed by contact with the rest of the world. A real trip back in time, I almost felt like I'd been there and seen it all for myself.