The Dark Wing — Walter H. Hunt
To listen to some (well, Thomas Easton) at Boskone, Hunt writes military science fiction that has merit, as opposed to, say, Drake or Weber. I'm not sure what I was expecting going in, but this wasn't it. The difference seems to be that Drake and Weber write military fiction in a science fiction setting, while Hunt writes science fiction in a military setting. The problem is that that definition also describes Star Trek. The book is very derivative. He lifts the ships and weaponry from Trek, the interstellar drive system from Star Wars, the politics from Pournelle, and the enemy from the Master of Orion computer game series (alien space eagles!). Even the plot would fit well in the Trek universe.
He also does a few things I found annoying. First was the overuse of apostrophes in alien names. I hate that. Another was the deus ex machina level of technology some of the villains have. Finally, he uses a literary trick that seems to have no other purpose but to deliberately confuse the reader. The trick is similar to having a pair of villains named, for example, Frank and Joe. Frank and Joe appear here and there in the book, manipulating various characters behind the scenes to achieve their nefarious purposes. Then, at the end of the book it turns out that all the while there were actually two sets of villains named Frank and Joe, with neither set having any connection to the other. What a coincidence! Meanwhile none of the characters know anything about the villains except that someone's doing some manipulation.
It says something about how much of a sucker I am for SF in a military setting that I still plan to read the sequels to this at some point.
Sweet Thursday — John Steinbeck
Where does discontent start? You are warm enough, but you shiver. You are fed, yet hunger gnaws you. You have been loved, but your yearning wanders in new fields. And to prod all these there's time, the bastard Time. The end of life is now not so terribly far away — you can see it the way you see the finish line when you come into the stretch — and your mind says, "Have I worked enough? Have I eaten enough? Have I loved enough?" All of these, of course, are the foundation of man's greatest curse, and perhaps his greatest glory. "What has my life meant so far, and what can it mean in the time left to me?" And now we're coming to the wicked, poisoned dart: "What have I contributed in the Great Ledger? What am I worth?" And this isn't vanity or ambition. Men seem to be born with a debt they can never pay no matter how hard they try. It piles up ahead of them. Man owes something to man. If he ignores the debt it poisons him, and if he tries to make payments the debt only increases, and the quality of his gift is the measure of the man.
As previously noted, Cannery Row is one of my favorite movies, and I identify way too much with Doc. The movie was combined episodes from both Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, along with a whole subplot involving baseball which appears nowhere in either book. Huh. Thursday is, I think, the better of the two books. For me that may be because it focuses far more on Doc than Row did, but it's also because there's a central plot, as opposed to Row's series of vignettes. There are also some memorable passages, like the one quoted above.
Now if they would just release Cannery Row on DVD.
Mars Needs Moms — Berkeley Breathed
Breathed's latest children's book. Great fun, as usual.
The Bill James Gold Mine 2008 — Bill James
James' latest baseball abstract. Lots of interesting tidbits.
Thud! — Terry Pratchett
This was my original Pratchett, so I wanted to reread now that I have a much greater familiarity with the Discworld. It's also terrific in its own right, so there was that, too.