Thursday, April 30, 2015

Shark Skin Suite

By Tim Dorsey

Serge Storms is a strange and dangerous man. Very intelligent and creative, he is a bad guy's worse nightmare. He toys with them and tortures them and eventually kills them, in twisted and sickening ways. But, really, Serge isn't a bad guy himself. He just prefers to cut out the middle man and be judge, jury and executioner all in one.
Meanwhile, young attorney (and former flame of Serge's) Brook Campanella has gotten her first big case involving the shenanigans of a large banking institution and mortgage foreclosures. She and another young attorney have brought a class action law suite against the bank. But their investigation gets a little too nosy and Brook's fellow attorney ends up dead. Fortunately for Brook, Serge Storms is about to walk back into her life and deal some street justice to the bad guys.

This was my first time reading a novel by Tim Dorsey and it seemed rather similar to the books written by Carl Hiaasen, some of which I have read. Dorsey's book had its amusing moments and also paints a vivid image of life in Florida. I did find the plot a bit hard to follow and I didn't care for the elaborate and creepy ways the hero, Serge, used to take out the bad guys. Too gruesome for me. Overall, I liked the book but not Serge's Rube Goldberg death contraptions.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Code of the Lifemaker

By James P. Hogan

Millions of years ago, a robot star ship came to our solar system and set up a self-replicating factory on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. This factory was intended to process the natural resources of Titan and build other factories to do the same thing. But there was an burst of radiation and several programs of the factory computers were corrupted and the factories began to produce erratically.  Over millions of years, the machines evolved and self-aware robots came into existence. They arose from primitive roots and developed civilized societies. At the time they are discovered by humans, they are at a level equivalent to Europe's Medieval age. They have kings, armies, and a state religion but no advanced technology. They are ripe for exploitation by humankind.
Which is exactly what the people from Earth intend. Some argue that the robots are mere machines and all that that implies. But some of the crew of the space ship from Earth see the robots as living, intelligent individuals who should be treated with the same respect as any person.
Who will win this argument? The fate of the robot people hangs in the balance. Will they end up exploited as slaves by humankind? Will Big Money win out over compassion and decency?

An interesting idea, machine intelligence. Hogan's robots are very human in their thinking except, perhaps, a tad more logical. I found the robots interesting and I wish their story had been the main focus of the book. Instead, it is all caught up in the politics and power struggles of one group of humans against the others. Too much of the story was about them and not about the robots. Also, there was quite a lot of techno-babble, quite boring for non-tech types like me and also quite meaningless, like this example:

"Set the HG centerline to blue zero," Clarissa said, glancing sideways. "Then use the coarse control to lock the scan-base and select your profile analysis from the menu on S-three."

So while I liked the parts dealing with the robots, the rest of the story was a little too dry for my liking.  And by the way, it is spelled "coarse" in the book, not "course". I don't know if that is an error or not. Maybe there really is such a thing as a coarse control.

Pretty in Plaid

By Jen Lancaster

Jen Lancaster is famous for her memoirs of her young adult life. This time she goes back even further to share her childhood years.
Always a character, her childhood story is full of funny and silly anecdotes, as young Jen gropes her way to adulthood and responsibility.

This was such a fun, amusing read. I don't know if all her tales are true, I would like to think so. But even if they are not gospel, they were still worth reading and good for a chuckle. I think maybe this is the funniest book in her string memoirs. Well done!

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

By Alan Bradley

Precocious child chemist and amateur detective Flavia de Luce has been sent to school from her home in Britain to Canada.
Flavia is once again plunged into a mystery on her first night at the school when a burned body falls out of the fireplace chimney in her bedroom. So naturally Flavia has to investigate this. But her investigation reveals that Miss Bodycote's Female Academy is a very strange and peculiar institution, with sinister students and teachers and that much is expected of Flavia beyond the ordinary studies.

I don't know why I picked up this book. I didn't care for the first one I read and I didn't like this one either. At least Flavia is not as bratty as she was in the other book, maybe because she is away from her family.
I didn't grasp what the deal was with this boarding school or a lot of other details in the novel. It seemed like a rather confusing mish-mosh and I didn't understand the mystery or the reasons behind it.
I gave the first book a rating of fair, but I disliked this one even more.