Ian Fleming – From Russia with Love (1956)
"It is perhaps not surprising that in 1956, when Fleming wrote the book, he could imagine only two roles for women in the intelligence services: torturer or seductress. But it is a testament to his abiding influence that even in the '90s, his was still the popular image. The idea that women like me might be leading investigations, running sources or even running entire intelligence services was unimaginable. But this book isn't about reality. With its exotic scenes in Istanbul, its struggle to the death with a psychopathic killer on the Orient Express, it is sheer escapism. And reading it again, even now, when I know so much more about how things really are, I'm with JFK in thinking this is one of the best of the Bond books."
~ My Guilty Pleasure - NPR and
OTHER BOOK REVIEWS -
Jeffrey Rosen - Conversations with RBG (2019)
"It’s not for nothing that Ginsburg and her favorite Q&A partners (of whom Rosen is second only to NPR’s Nina Totenberg) sell out law school auditoriums, amphitheaters, even Little Rock’s Verizon basketball arena. But readers who come for RBG’s Greatest Hits will end up getting something richer: At its best, “Conversations” makes you feel like a student in the world’s coolest law school seminar, with Ginsburg and Rosen deftly leading you through constitutional clauses and case law to elucidate how the court works and why it matters."
~ bddailynews.com and
Amazon BooksAgent Running in the Field (2019)
"At 288 pages, Agent Running in the Field is a miniature compared with le Carré’s great cold war novels, and it lacks the ruthless clockwork precision of, say, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. But it is a very classy entertainment about political ideals and deception. There is a terrific scene set in a park, in particular, in which we gradually realise that all the bystanders are part of a huge team of “watchers” marshalled by the spies to observe a secret conversation. The author leaves the reader to draw the disturbing inference that this – in the age of ambient corporate and state surveillance by ubiquitous technology – is simply the way we all live now. "
~ The Guardian and
Amazon BooksLarry Beinhart – The Librarian (2004)
"The key figure, and virtually the only innocent, in the game of hardball politics is David Goldberg, a college librarian who gets eased into a second job cataloguing the papers of billionaire developer Alan Carston Stowe and then suddenly learns that Col. Jack Morgan, of Homeland Security, is sending four underlings to kill him because he’s found out a dread secret. The good news is that David’s alerted to the plot by Morgan’s sexy wife Niobe, somebody he’s already paying special attention to. The bad news is that he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to know and has no obvious way to find out in the five days before the forthcoming election ends the historic contest between hard-riding figurehead Augustus Winfield Scott and his come-from-nowhere Democratic challenger, Sen. Anne Lynn Murphy. Both candidates field organizations bent on decimating the opposition, but Scott’s America-first minions, David gradually realizes, have in reserve “one-one-three,” a knockout punch as diabolical as it is legal. The man-on-the-run plot is proficient persiflage; the bonus here is another dose of anti-Administration satire from the author of American Hero (1993), filmed with its target changed from Bush 41 to Clinton as Wag the Dog. "
~ Kirkus Reviews and
Amazon BooksKurt Vonnegut – Welcome to the Monkey House (1968)
"Drawn from both specialized science fiction magazines and the big-circulation general magazines which Vonnegut had been one of the few science writers to sell, the collection includes some of his most accomplished work from 1950 to 1968. The title story may be his most famous—a diabolical government asserts control through compulsory technology removing orgasm from sex—but Vonnegut’s bitterness and wit, not in his earlier work as poisonous or unshielded as it later became, is well demonstrated. "
~ nopagegetsleftbehind.wordpress.com and
Amazon BooksThomas Berger –Neighbors (1980)
"Neighbors is a 1980 novel by American author Thomas Berger. It is a satire of manners and suburbia, and a comment on emotional alienation with echoes of the works of Franz Kafka. Earl Keese’s character and situation begin realistically but become increasingly fantastic. Keese is an Everyman whose life is swiftly turned upside down. As he scrambles to reclaim his sense of normalcy and dignity, he comes to think that everyone, including his family, is against him. "
~ Wikipedia.com and
Amazon BooksStephen King - The Gunslinger (1982)
"The Gunslinger is a quiet, meditative novel; as inauspicious a way to start a sprawling epic fantasy series as I've ever encountered. In Roland Deschain, the titular Gunslinger, there's a superb, violent, powerful and thoughtful protagonist – Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name by way of Robert Browning's poem, Childe Rolande to the Dark Tower Came. He's cold and dark, and we see him wander through dusty western towns, shooting and fucking his way towards his nemesis, The Man in Black. This is Randall Flagg, whom you might remember from The Stand (though he is never called by that name here). He's a Very Bad Man. It transpires that he's been a part of Roland's life, in various guises, since the Gunslinger was a child, and that's he's responsible for some horrible things. Roland has to find him, catch him and kill him. That's what a Gunslinger does."
~ The Guardian and
Amazon BooksDaniel F. Galouye – Simulacron 3 (1964)
"Simulacron 3 is the story of a virtual city (total environment simulator) for marketing research, developed by a scientist to reduce the need for opinion polls. The computer-generated city simulation is so well-programmed, that, although the inhabitants have their own consciousness, they are unaware, except for one, that they are only electronic impulses in a computer. The simulator's lead scientist, Hannon Fuller, dies mysteriously, and a co-worker, Morton Lynch, vanishes. The protagonist, Douglas Hall, is with Lynch when he vanishes, and Hall subsequently struggles to suppress his inchoate madness. As time and events unwind, he progressively grasps that his own world is probably not "real" and might be only a computer-generated simulation. "
~ Wikipedia and
Amazon BooksLarry McMurtry – Lonesome Dove (1986)
"A love story, an adventure, an American epic, Lonesome Dove embraces all the West legend and fact, heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers in a novel that recreates the central American experience, the most enduring of our national myths. Set in the late nineteenth century, Lonesome Dove is the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana and much more. It is a drive that represents for everybody involved not only a daring, even a foolhardy, adventure, but a part of the American Dream the attempt to carve out of the last remaining wilderness a new life."
~ Prize Winning Fiction and
Amazon BooksJohn Le Carre - The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963)
"The Spy is the story, to put it very simply, of a complicated act of deadly triple-bluff perpetrated by the British Secret Service against its enemies in the German Democratic Republic, as communist East Germany was then known. At its centre is Alec Leamas, sent, he believes, on a clever under-cover mission of revenge but in fact the unwitting tool of even cleverer British brains with other motives. So much so relatively straightforward, but one of the sheer pleasures of the grade one espionage novel is in unravelling its multifarious complexities and Le Carré handles the unspooling web of narrative and motive with exemplary poise."
~ William Boyd - theguardian.com and
Amazon BooksDaniel O'Malley – The ROOK (2012)
"Daniel O'Malley's contribution to the growing field of high-octane paranormal spy thrillers is filled with smart flourishes. The Checquy is a centuries-old institution, with a command structure modeled after chess pieces, and clever bits of its history occasionally pop up in the background. (There's a reference to at least one British horror classic; a more astute reader might be able to find others.) As Myfanwy regains her footing, she realizes that her previous self was shy and unassertive, but she decides to take a much more aggressive approach as she resumes the hunt for the traitor (or traitors) within the organization. Good thing, too: on her first day back at the office, she supervises an interrogation that reveals the return of the Grafters, a secret society of Belgian genetic engineers who first tried to invade England back in 1677."
~ Ron Hogan - Shelf-awareness.com and
Amazon BooksPhilip Roth - The Plot Against America (2004)
"It is an alternative history in which Franklin D. Roosevelt is defeated in the presidential election of 1940
by Charles Lindbergh. The novel follows the fortunes of the Roth family during the Lindbergh presidency, as antisemitism
becomes more accepted in American life and Jewish-American families like the Roths are persecuted on various levels.
The narrator and central character in the novel is the young Philip, and the care with which his confusion and terror
are rendered makes the novel as much about the mysteries of growing up as about American politics. "
~ Wikipedia.org and
Amazon BooksJoab Stieglitz – The Old Man's Request (2018)
"The Old Man's Request is an occult mystery and work of horror. In a summoning gone awry, five men
brought forth a creature from a parallel dimension occupied by ancient beings. During the ritual,
the circle was broken and one was killed and the creature was released into the realm of men and it has
continued to kill.
The last living member of the group that botched the summoning, planned and assemble a team of gifted
individuals to tackle the job of sending the creature back to its own plane of existence. Russian
anthropologist Anna Rykov, Doctor Harry Lamb, and Father Sean O'Malley take on the dying man's request."
~ DC Bebop review and
Amazon BooksUrsula K. Le Guin – The Lathe of Heaven (1971)
"The Lathe of Heaven is one of those books for which the term mind-bending was invented. Ursula K.
Le Guin’s 1971 novel about a man whose dreams can alter the very nature of reality is a masterful
examination of the mind’s ability to shape our perception of the world around us and our powerful
need to change that to fit our desires. While it shares thematic similarities to a lot of Philip K. Dick’s
work in its discussion of alternate realities and the untrustworthy nature of our perceptions, Le Guin
makes it uniquely her own by imagining how an effort to manipulate reality (even with the best of
intentions) can have disastrous consequences. At turns contemplative, moody, exhilarating and terrifying,
The Lathe of Heaven is one of my favorite science fiction novels of all time and an absolute must-read."
~ Andrew Kaufman - top-science-fiction-novels.com and
Amazon BooksMario Vargas Llosa - Who Killed Palomino Molero? (1998)
" In Peru during the 50's, a young Air Force cadet is found murdered and mutilated. The half-breed cadet, Palomino Molero, was draft-exempt yet joined the military anyway. Why? For love, it seems--love for the colonel's daughter, a love that for a number of reasons (race, class rank) cannot be. But is it reason for slaughter? It falls to two absolutely hapless hick Civil Guards--Officer Lituma (the narrator) and Lieutenant Silva--to investigate the case, and it's on their wheels that the fun zooms. Silva is lust-crazy for a particular local (quite hefty) married woman, and spends most of his time thinking, talking, and dreaming of her. Meanwhile, he "interrogates" various witnesses and suspects in the cadet's murder, getting them to answer questions he never asks, to make connections he's too sex-woozy to have formulated. Through it all, though, Lituma is convinced that Silva is another Sherlock Holmes. "
~ kirkusreviews.com and
Amazon BooksJames Barret – Our Final Invention (2013)
"Computers already perform essential tasks in our national infrastructure and daily lives, including several beyond the capacity of the
smartest individual—e.g., playing chess or competing against humans on Jeopardy. While dazzling, these accomplishments are too specialized for
the artificial intelligence the author and the many philosophers, scientists and entrepreneurs he interviews have in mind. Within decades,
computers will operate at the speed of a human brain and become rational, allowing them to learn, rewrite their own programs to learn better,
solve problems better, make decisions and perhaps create more computers like themselves. Having reached this level, they have achieved artificial
general intelligence. Inevitably, working on their own without human input, they will exceed human intelligence by factors of 100 and eventually
thousands, achieving artificial superintelligence. "
~ KirkusReviews.org and
Amazon BooksTom Rob Smith - Agent 6 (2012)
"Agent 6 is the third in Tom Rob Smith's trilogy about a former MGB agent, Leo Demidov. It opens
with a flashback to the younger Leo in 1950, a committed secret policeman of 27 who has just discovered
the of a young artist. Polina Peshkova has committed no crime beyond wanting to keep for herself some
private space, but like millions of others in the Soviet Union, she is sucked into what Evgenia Ginzburg
described as "the whirlwind" of arrest, interrogation and punishment. Her mistake has been to leave a
single sooty fingerprint on her writing desk, and this is enough for Leo to deduce that the diary may
well be hidden in the chimney. The consequences of the investigation begin a journey that will strip
from Leo the satisfactions of career, status and certainty."
~ berniegourley.com and
Amazon BooksWalter M. Miller, Jr. - A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960)
"A Canticle for Leibowitz is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American writer Walter M. Miller Jr.,
first published in 1960. Set in a Catholic monastery in the desert of the Southwestern United States after a devastating
nuclear war, the story spans thousands of years as civilization rebuilds itself. The monks of the fictional Albertian
Order of Leibowitz take up the mission of preserving the surviving remnants of man's scientific knowledge until the day
the outside world is again ready for it."
~ Wikipedia and
Amazon BooksKurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse-Five (1966)
"Kurt Vonnegut introduces his seventh novel, “Slaughterhouse-Five” (Delacorte), apologetically, calling it a failure.
Coming from most writers, an apology like that would be inadequate; a writer can always take a vow of permanent abstinence
from writing, and there is a shortage of cabdrivers. Mr. Vonnegut’s penitential gesture is objectionable because it implies
that he might have succeeded in solving a problem that he properly represents as insoluble. In 1945, a German prisoner of
war, he lived through the American and British bombing of Dresden, in which a hundred and thirty-five thousand people died—nearly
twice as many, he notes, as were killed by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, whose devastation was at least officially honored by
a Presidential announcement. “Slaughterhouse-Five” is Vonnegut’s tribute to the strain imposed on his conscience by the fact that
he survived, and by his increasing awareness, since the war, of the scope and variety of death. The vibrant simplicity of the book
to which he finally surrendered his emotion makes his apology seem disingenuous, like Alexander the Great putting himself down for
not dedicating his life to untying the Gordian knot. Besides, any book that is touted as a “masterpiece,” “long-awaited,” and
“twenty years in the making” can’t be all bad if it turns out to be just a neat hundred and eighty-six pages long."
~ Susan Lardner - newyorker.com and
Amazon BooksFrederik Pohl - Gateway (1976)
"Gateway is without a doubt one of the most entertaining and readable books on this list. It’s a page-turner in the best sense of the word, with an ingenious set up, a relatable main character, a dash of humor and a sustained sense of tension and suspense that keeps you on edge throughout. Add to that Pohl’s gift for clear, concise and engaging writing (something Science Fiction is not always known for) and you have a highly satisfying read that is able to entertain while also displaying the wonder and imagination that Science Fiction IS known for. Frederik Pohl represents a middle ground when it comes to Sci-Fi writers. He’s not too “Hard,” not too “Soft,” and he has just the right combination of grand ideas and compelling story lines to make his work instantly compelling – and Gateway is one of the best examples of his gifts as a storyteller. "
~ top-science-fiction-novels.com and
Amazon BooksWilliam Gibson – Neuromancer (1984)
"Neuromancer is not truly where it all began. Cyberpunk predates the publication of the novel by several years and was already a growing phenomenon. The film Blade Runner, loosely based on a 1968 novel by Philip K. Dick, was released in 1982, establishing a similar asethetic. But Neuromancer was the breakout hit. It won both the Hugo and the Nebula award (and the Philip K. Dick award, which does not, contrary to Wikipedia, have the same cachet). Gibson coined the word "cyberpunk" earlier, but Neuromancer is the novel that put it into the popular lexicon. "
~ Eyrie.org and
Amazon BooksBruce Gibney - A Generation of Sociopaths (2017)
"Millennials are killing everything from the American mediocre dining experience to Donald Trump’s chosen form of exercise. Given this propensity for destroying everything America holds dear, one might be forgiven for assuming that any work offering a collective psychological assessment of an entire generation would focus on the one that seemingly murders American institutions with impunity. Generation X venture capitalist-turned-author Bruce Gibney turns the tables on this millennial blaming with his work, A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America. Gibney offers an explanation for the disintegration of the American economic and political system that rests on the backs of the generation that raised millennials: baby boomers. "
~ Eric Morgenson - ActivistHistory.com and
Amazon BooksDee Brown – Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970)
"Surely revolutionary at the time that it was released, and even now, still an incredibly incisive look at how white American politics, backstabbing, greed, and genocide decimated the American Indian population, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West is not a comfortable read. Wounded Knee is relentless in its documentation of the betrayals and battles suffered by the United States’ indigenous populations, from the Comanche to the Blackfeet to the Kiowa."
~ BookWanderer.com and
Amazon BooksDavid Fromkin - A Peace To End All Peace (1989)
"'A Peace to End All Peace'' is about the dissolution of the centuries-old Ottoman Empire at the close of World War I and the consequences of that breakup for the Western powers, the Soviet Union and, to a lesser extent, the peoples of the Middle East themselves. On a still larger scale, the book concerns the political origins of the present-day Middle East. It concludes with the piecemeal territorial settlements of 1922, when political lines were drawn that bear a striking resemblance to the boundaries of today. "
~ NYTimes.com and
Amazon BooksJohn Twelve Hawks - Spark (2017)
"Jacob Underwood is dead. At least, he thinks he is.
Suffering the after effects of a traumatic accident, Jacob believes he is dead, just a spark existing inside a body, but unable to fully interact with anything around him. Emotionally detached and living in a shadowy, silent world, Jacob is the ideal assassin. When a new hit is assigned to him, Jacob must prepare himself - and his journey will change both his self, and how he sees the world around him.
John Twelve Hawks is an interesting character - he rose to fame following the publication of his 'Fourth Realm Trilogy', and yet the real identity of the author is unknown. His fear of publicity, fame, and putting details in the public domain, are used wonderfully in this novel, and really help to build the world.
The world itself is a dystopian future, one in which privacy is long extinct, and all thoughts are monitored for deviations against the norm. Jacob Underwood, the main character, fits in well in the world - his lack of emotions making him able to carry out assassinations without much fear of detection. "
~ TheBookBag.co.uk and
Amazon BooksRyunosuke Akutagawa - Rashomon (1914)
"The author’s gifted and tortured soul is visible throughout this amazing collection of stories. It is divided into four sections: (1) A World in Decay, (2) Under the Sword, (3) Modern Tragicomedy and (4) Akutagawa’s Own Story. These sections correspond to four periods of Japanese history as well as four creative styles which took birth from Akutagawa’s fertile imagination. In the first section, stories (most of them retelling of old legends) set in the Heian Period (A.C.E. 794 – 1185) are included. This was Japan’s classical era; a time of peace, prosperity and opulence when art and culture flourished. But as is common with most ancient kingdoms, it declined and power slipped from the hands of the aristocrats into the hands of the warlords. It is this twilight period that Akutagawa uses as a backdrop for his stories of degeneration and decay. The title story of the collection, Rashomon, encapsulates the entire misery of the country in the symbol of the gate of the capital city of Kyoto."
~ nandakishorevarma.wordpress.com and
Amazon BooksJorgen Brekke - The Fifth Element (2017)
" Forgoing the historical excursions that tangled the first two cases of Trondheim’s Inspector Odd Singsaker (Dreamless, 2015, etc.), Brekke mingles the immediate past, present, and future to produce an even more tangled, but deeply rewarding, tale... The intricately linked plotlines will appeal to puzzle fans. But it’s Brekke’s prodigious powers of invention, his ability to keep coming up with unforgettable characters and indelible episodes, that lift this above his own earlier work and most of the heavy Nordic competition."
~ KirkusReviews.com and
Amazon BooksCarl Bernstein & Bob Woodward - All the President's Men (1973)
" In the course of a gripping narrative, rather like a good detective story, we are treated to gossipy peeks behind the scenes of power in Washington (Ken Clawson of the White House staff hysterically upset not because the Post was about to print a story saying he had confessed to writing the infamous "Canuck letter," but because his confession had been given one night to Post reporter Marilyn Berger over drinks in her apartment and he was afraid the story might reveal that, too; Clawson was a Nixonian family man, after all). More important, we are treated to a detailed description of the process of diggin"
~ Ron Dorfman - Chicago Tribune and
Amazon BooksDashiellHammett - The Maltese Falcon (1930)
" is the Hammett novel that jumps from the pages of its genre and into literature. It's the book that
introduces Sam Spade, the private detective who seduced a generation of readers, leading directly to Philip
Marlowe. Dorothy Parker, never a pushover, confessed herself "in a daze of love" such as she had not known
in literature "since I encountered Sir Lancelot" and claimed to have read the novel some 30 or 40 times."
~ Robert McCrum - TheGuardian.com and
Amazon BooksFyodor Dostoyevsky - The Idiot (1868-9)
"is a novel by the 19th-century Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was first published serially in the journal
The Russian Messenger in 1868-9. The title is an ironic reference to the central character of the novel, Prince (Knyaz)
Lyov Nikolaevich Myshkin, a young man whose goodness and open-hearted simplicity lead many of the more worldly characters
he encounters to mistakenly assume that he lacks intelligence and insight. In the character of Prince Myshkin, Dostoevsky
set himself the task of depicting "the positively good and beautiful man". The novel examines the consequences of
placing such a unique individual at the centre of the conflicts, desires, passions and egoism of worldly society, both
for the man himself and for those with whom he becomes involved. The result, according to philosopher A.C. Grayling, is
"one of the most excoriating, compelling and remarkable books ever written; and without question one of the greatest.""
~ Wikipedia and
Amazon BooksAnne Fortier - The Lost Sisterhood (2014)
"Diana Morgan has focused her career as a philologist (one who engages in the study of
literary text and written records), on the Amazons, the legendary warrior women of ancient
Greece—and with good reason. They’re rooted in her own family history. Before disappearing
without a trace, Diana’s grandmother used to regale her with stories about the lost tribe
of warrior women. Her grandmother even went as far as to suggest that she was an Amazon
herself, leading the rest of the family to doubt her mental capacity. Diana’s scholarly
work at Oxford University centers on the discovery and dissection of the Amazon race;
however, other professors warn her that she is committing career suicide if she continues
to focus on a part of history that most regard as completely fantastical."
~ BookPage® Review by Elisabeth Atwood and
Amazon BooksPeter George: Red Alert (1958)
"SAC ATTACK!: Every minute of every hour of every day, there are American bombers
in the air, loaded with H-bombs, ready to fly into action at the mere spark of the right
radio signal. These are the planes and the men of the Strategic Air Command. What happens
once that signal flashes is described vividly in this tensly dramatic novel. The command
came to the men of the 843rd Wing, high in the air near the Soviet border. Asking no
questions, obeying their standing orders, they headed straight towards their assigned
targets. Had America already been attacked? Or was it the action of a single determined
general, and unauthorized by the Pentagon and the president? RED ALERT is the story of the
two tensest hours in human history. Is the basis for the Stanley Kubrick film, "Dr.
Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb." Not to be confused
with the later screenplay/novel by Peter George and Stanley Kubrick. This story is very
different from that book and the film.""
~ FantasticFiction.com and
Amazon BooksPhilip K. Dick: The Minority Report (1956)
"is a 1956 science fiction short story by Philip K. Dick, first published in Fantastic Universe. In a future society,
three mutants foresee all crime before it occurs. Plugged into a great machine, these "precogs" allow the Precrime
Division to arrest suspects prior to any infliction of public harm. When the head of Precrime, John A. Anderton, is accused
of murdering Leopold Kaplan, a man whom he has never met, Anderton is convinced a great conspiracy is afoot.""
Amazon BooksAnne Rice – Interview with a Vampire (1976)
"Interview with the Vampire is a debut gothic horror and vampire novel by American
author Anne Rice, published in 1976. Based on a short story Rice wrote around 1968, the
novel centers on vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac, who tells the story of his life to a
reporter. Rice composed the novel shortly after the death of her young daughter Michelle,
who served as an inspiration for the child-vampire character Claudia. Though initially the
subject of mixed critical reception, the book was followed by a large number of widely
popular sequels, collectively known as The Vampire Chronicles."
Amazon BooksHarper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
"To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on that gut instinct of right and wrong, and distinguishes
it from just following the law. Even the titular quote: "Shoot all the blue jays you want, if
you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird" is in itself an allegory for
this message. Being in itself a generic message, the idea of 'doing what's right' obviously
has a different meaning depending on when and where you're reading the book."
Zoë Heller - What Was She Thinking? (2003)
"This is one of those disquieting novels that proffers its apparent theme then cunningly reveals itself to be
about something else altogether. As its title and first pages suggest, its surface plot concerns a tabloid-pleasing
sizzler of a scandal. Sheba Hart, a 41-year-old pottery teacher, arrives at a dreggy north London comp trailing the
kind of tarnished glamour that sets the school's sex-starved males mildly abuzz. The suitor who presses his case
first is 15-year-old Steven Connolly, a reasonably gormless lad with mild artistic proclivities, a cabbie father,
and a home on an estate."
Richard K. Morgan - Altered Carbon (2003)
"In the far future universe of Richard K. Morgan's debut novel Altered Carbon, human consciousness
has been digitized. Every human being is implanted at birth with a cortical stack, which records
every second, every thought, every experience. If you have the money (or purchase the right
insurance policy), you can be brought back to life after you die by the simple expedient of
implanting your stack into a new body, a process known as sleeving. The penal system no longer
stores live criminals, but only their digital selves. Travelers beam their minds across space
via needlecast, and wake up in new sleeves. Wars are fought by troops whose minds are downloaded into
bodies on-site -- troops like the Envoy Corps, the enforcement arm of the despotic UN Protectorate,
which rules Earth and its colony worlds with an iron fist."
K Dick - Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968)
"Philip K Dick's vision of a dystopian post-apocalyptic earth is a seminal work
of science fiction, created in 1968 it was way ahead of it's time and predicted
such technology as the video phone. There are many ideas subtly played
throughout the novel, while on the surface we've got the examination of the
human condition which asks questions about identity and altruism, we've also got
the religious theory of Mercerism - a pseudo-religion that offers many a clearly
false hope." ~
Anthony - SF Book Reviews.
Anne Tyler - The Accidental Tourist (1985)
"'The Accidental Tourist' combines comedy and tragedy without veering into farce or sentimentality. It's a novel
that runs deep and showcases her ability to make the everyday both entirely recognisable and extraordinary. This novel,
full of wisdom and writing that sneaks up on you with its brilliance, its insights, and its sheer humanity, gave me back
my appetite for reading - while its author became an enduring professional role-model."
~ independent.co.ukMichael Haneke - The Piano Teacher (1983)
"In Michael Haneke's 2001 adaptation of Elfriede Jelinek's novel, the role of the piano teacher
is played, with a chilling impenetrability, by Isabelle Huppert. Her performance allows us to apprehend
her character's intense inner life, but from a distance. The actual novel is far more terrifying. Jelinek
plunges us into the mind of Erika Kohut, a repressed piano teacher and failed concert pianist who
self-harms and joylessly engages in sexual voyeurism."
~ theguardian.comRichard Condon - The Manchurian Candidate (1959)
"In The Manchurian Candidate author Richard Condon takes a clever idea and nearly runs amok with it.
The idea is that during the Korean War Raymond Shaw and ten other men on an Intelligence and Reconnaissance
patrol were captured by the Chinese, brainwashed, and then released, convinced that Shaw had heroically saved
them (save two, who didn't make it) after an (imaginary) engagement with the enemy. It's a feat of bravery
that earns Shaw the prestigious Medal of Honor -- just as the Chinese intended."
~ Complete-Review.comDelacorta - DIVA (1997)
"This short novel is a light-hearted but hard-edged trip through the seedy underside of
Parisian life and the business side of operatic music. It seems pertinent to point out that
the book was later made into a stylish movie in 1981, which has since gained cult status and
remains a favorite of this reader. As the movie was so widely known (perhaps not so much any
more?), the novel is perhaps a bit of a curiosity as one of the few works of its author,
Delacorta (nom de plume of Swiss author Daniel Odier), to have been translated into English.
The movie diverged from the book in the protagonists it focused upon, as well as in its more
romantic storytelling. "
~ John Q McDonald - The Thumbnail Book ReviewsJoseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness (1899)
"In 1890, Joseph Conrad, an officer aboard the Roi des Belges, sailed up the River Congo into
the hinterland of the Congo Free State, in effect the private fiefdom of King Leopold of Belgium.
Eight years later, just as details of Leopold's genocidal regime began to become public, Conrad's
experiences there inspired him to write Heart of Darkness, as powerful a condemnation of imperialism
as has ever been written, and still a deeply unsettling read more than a century on."
Amazon.comLarry Niven - Protector (1987)
"The novel comprises two phases in the same space that are separated by 220 years of time. Its central
conceit is that Humans evolved from the juvenile stage of the Pak, a species with a distinct adult form
("protectors") that have immense strength and intelligence and care only about younger Pak of their bloodline.
A key plot point is that transition to the protector stage is mediated by consumption of the root of a particular
plant called Tree-of-Life, which cannot be effectively cultivated on Earth."
Amazon.comNeil Gaiman - American Gods (2001)
"In what is one of his most celebrated works, up there along with Sandman, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is one
of the best books of its genre. The real dilemma presented us however is understanding just which genre Gaiman was
writing. This is not a negative opinion of his writing ability, suggesting that he doesn’t seem to have any idea
what he is doing. Just the contrary, American Gods manages to broach several genre barriers all the while making
it look as if Gaiman was creating his own genre."
Fantasy Book Review,
Amazon.comRob Thomas & Jennifer Graham - Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (2014)
"Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in
the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She's traded in her law degree for her old private
investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by
catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case."
Amazon.comHarry Bates - Farewell to the Master (1940)
"The story is told from the viewpoint of Cliff Sutherland, a free-lance picture reporter, who is present when a
mysterious "curving ovoid" ship instantaneously appears in the grounds of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Two days later, "visitors from the Unknown" emerge: a "god-like" person in human form and an 8-foot (2.44 m) tall robot
made of green metal. The former only manages to state "I am Klaatu and this is Gnut" before he is shot and killed by a
lunatic. Klaatu is buried nearby. In the days that follow, Gnut remains motionless, while laboratories and a museum are
built around it and the ship. Both prove impervious to the investigations of scientists."
Amazon.comROGER ZELAZNY - Nine Princes in Amber (1970)
"The first novel of the series, which would eventually span ten volumes (but all of which together perhaps have no
greater a cumulative word-count than a single Terry Goodkind book), introduces us to Corwin, the long-lost heir to the
throne of Amber, the "true" Earth beneath which all other worlds, including our own, belong to the realm of Shadow.
Exiled to our world years before by his brother Eric, Corwin's tale begins in a hospital where he awakens with total
amnesia and is forced to piece his identity and destiny together with only the scantiest of clues. Reacquainted with
two siblings, his sister Flora and brother Random, Corwin learns, gradually, of his true identity even as Eric, fearing
his return to Amber, is sending thugs and killers after him. Corwin and Random return — through magical means that
Zelazny disdains to explain fully so as, one assumes, not to rob the story of its poetry — to Amber. There Corwin's
memory is restored through an ordeal involving a magical Pattern, and the fight against Eric is quickly joined after that."
Amazon.comKen Kesey - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962)
"Kesey uses a risky narrative device. The story's told by Chief Bromden, a longtime mental patient who has been electroshocked
and overmedicated, leaving his perception wavery and confused. At times lost between a dream state and reality, Chief is hampered by
fear and his vision that the real world is controlled by a massive, metallic superstructure he calls the Combine. Everyone believes,
incorrectly, that Chief is deaf and dumb; his perceived disability allows him to move essentially unseen throughout the ward,
witnessing private conversations. This means he can tell us everything that's happening, although sometimes he tells it slant."
Amazon.comWilliam Goldman - Marathon Man (1974)
"Okay it's the mid-seventies and times aren't so great in the United States. Watergate, Vietnam, recession, inflation, energy crises,
oil embargo, dramatic increase in crime, Richard Nixon and Disco.
People were tired, wearing double-knit polyester leisure suits, angry, afraid (of everything) paranoid, and feeling spiritually bankrupt. So along
comes William Goldman with Marathon Man. A grim, violent, paranoid thriller. People ate it up."
Amazon.comJoseph Heller - CATCH-22 (1961)
"Catch-22 tells the story of one Captain John Yossarian, an Air Force bomber pilot in WWII. While lots of people might think of him as a
hero for his brave service, Yossarian sees past all the pomp and patriotism and understands war as something else entirely: sheer madness. The
book condemns both war itself and the powers that carry out this systematic carnage. It's famous for its satirical tone, fractured narrative,
and linguistic flourishes—all of which reflect the nonsensical nature of the military enterprise that has Yossarian feeling hopelessly stuck.
And that phrase—hopelessly stuck—pretty much sums up the whole novel. These boys, as the title suggests, are in a classic catch-22."
Amazon.comJohn Wyndham - The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
"For those of you still in the dark as to this novel's plot: it all begins when the sleepy little country hamlet of Midwich,
a town the book's narrator goes to great pains to describe as utterly nondescript, experiences a bizarre phenomenon. For a full day,
every living thing is rendered unconscious by a mysterious force that forms a perfect circle enveloping the whole town. With a few
obvious exceptions (someone killed falling down stairs, etc.), everyone wakes up from the ordeal — which will soon be referred to as
the "Dayout" — none the worse for their experience. Until it is revealed that every woman of child-bearing age in Midwich is pregnant."
SFReviews.netGlendon Swarthout - The Shootist (1975)
"It's 1901 and an end of an era. With the dawn of the new century, we meet a lone man who has outlived his time. And as his days grow shorter, we witness that they run in parallel with the dying of the Old West. Receiving only resentment and greed from others, he bravely decides his own fate and punches a statement onto his own legacy and for the West of the past. Reading "The Shootist" you quickly realize you have a great book in your hands.
Famed and labeled as a "gun man," a"man-killer," an "assassin," or a"shootist," 51 year-old John Bernard Books rides into El Paso to get a second option from the town doctor. Unfortunately the news is the same, he has an advanced case of prostate cancer and can expect an excruciating death in a few weeks."
Vintage Hardboiled ReadsDavis Grubb - Night of the Hunter (1953)
"When the actor James O'Neill played the title character in a stage version of The Count of Monte Cristo, it was a piece of "good bad luck," his son Eugene O'Neill later said. James O'Neill could never escape the shadow of the role that made him famous.
A related kind of "good bad luck" befell Davis Grubb in 1955, when a movie was made of the novel he had published two years earlier, The Night of the Hunter. So vivid and menacing is the film, which stars Robert Mitchum as the sinister predator with l-o-v-e tattooed on the knuckles of one hand and h-a-t-e on the other, that most people have forgotten all about the novel.
That's a shame, because The Night of the Hunter is a gorgeous gut-punch of a book, a crime novel and ghost story and morality tale all rolled into one, an ugly-beautiful book that makes you leap at shadows and shudder when the sun goes down."
Julia Keller - NPR BooksC.
J. Cherryh – The Morgaine Saga (1976, 78 & 79)
"The first books in the series were published in the late 1970s, and later packaged into one large volume, but the adventures of Vanye and Morgaine were
left unfinished. A few more works followed in the same series, two graphic novels and an ‘interactive’ novel, but none were able to match the effect of the
originals and have largely been forgotten. For many, myself included, that is a good thing for it is the original three novels (and the associated omnibus) that
stand the test of time. They are without doubt some of the best Science-Fantasy works ever produced and can be compared to the greatest books in either genre.
The reader is treated like an intelligent, thinking, feeling human being and is given a story with that in mind."
Read Review: An Sionnach Fionn - http://ansionnachfionn.com,
Amazon Books and
WebsiteElmore Leonard – Out of Sight (1996)
"THE oldest unsolved mystery on the books, human love, is the case to crack in ''Out of Sight,'' Elmore Leonard's new novel,
in which the cop is a lady with a gift for meeting Mr. Wrong and the robber is a guy who just might have been, in a
different life, Mr. Right. It begins auspiciously with a prison break, a group of convicts tunneling out of the medium-security
Florida pen where Jack Foley, a career bank robber, is doing time after his third major fall. "
~ Ralph Lombreglia - New York Times. Link:
WikipediaDavid Lagercrantz – The Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander novel (2015)
"Without ever becoming pastiche, the book is a respectful and affectionate homage to the originals. Two of the new characters deliberately nod to the Pippi Longstocking books, which were one of Larsson’s inspirations for Salander; and the Swedish title, Men Who Hate Women, of the first Millennium book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is alluded to in a number of references to misogny and maltreatment of women. There may still be arguments about whether continuation novels should be written at all, but Lagercrantz could not have fulfilled the commission any more efficiently. The novel leaves much to be said between Salander and Blomkvist and so surely increases the chances of the sequence continuing on towards the 10 books that Larsson is said to have originally imagined."
~ Mark Lawson - The Guardian. Link:
Larsson – Millennium Trilogy (2005~2007)
"This trilogy is an absolutely gripping read. Even though crime fiction may not be my first choice, every now and then I stumble upon a book which grabs my
attention and these were definitely examples. Larsson writes a very intriguing story set at a fast pace, making you want more as quickly as possible. The fact
that the some of the characters are loosely based on his own experience make it even more interesting, and successfully intertwines various different angles
into the novel: the sex trade and violence and abuse against women, the abuse of power by those in control, and the cover-up by the government of secrets it
doesn’t want anybody to know. The fact that the novel is based in Sweden and also well away from what we might imagine to be a stereotypical setting for a
crime novel, also makes quite a difference to the books. If you are looking for a new, thrilling read, then I definitely recommend the Millenium trilogy." Emma Brooks - The Vibe.
Amazon Books and
WebsiteBlott On The Landscape - Tom Sharpe (1975)
"The novel Blott on the Landscape by Tom Sharpe is a fine English comedy. It feels realistic
even when the situations escalate into outrageousness. The eccentric, misplaced, or merely
crooked personalities blunder through their crises with often risque mutual attraction and
repulsion. The action is fast, the plot tight, and the deceptively straightforward style
well laced with wit... Blott on the Landscape, like Tom Sharpe's works generally, is not
for young or tender sensibilities. There is skullduggery of an adult nature. The psychological
and legal maneuverings escalate hilariously, and Sharpe is capable of considerable mayhem as the
"normal" procedures spiral out of control. A very funny novel."
~ Read Review: ~ Robert Wilfred Franson - troynovant.com and
Amazon BooksAll You Need Is Kill - Hiroshi Sakurazaka (2004)
"Hiroshi Sakurazaka has written a grim story. Main character Kiriya Keiji is stuck in
an unending nightmare of war and death. Where other people would break, however, Keiji
is determined to break out of his personal hell and pay those alien invaders back for
all the pain they inflict on him and his comrades. Reliving the same two days countless
times, he struggles, learns, adapts and kills. " ~
Read Review: Reading Lamp Blog Spot and
Amazon BooksRosalind Cummings-Yeates – Exploring Chicago Blues:
Inside the Scene, Past and Present (2014)
"Exploring Chicago Blues is presented in two parts. It begins with a history lesson, tracing the
origins of Chicago’s blues scene to The Great Migration, which brought massive numbers of African
Americans north between about 1915 and 1970. It was during these years, Cummings-Yeates notes,
that the blues took root in Chicago, transforming from an acoustic, country-tinged sound to the
more electric, urban tones we recognize today. The book then takes a look at the state of Chicago
blues in modern times." ~
Read Review: Chicago Review of Books and
Amazon BooksDashiell Hammett – The Thin Man (1934)
"Steven Marcus, editor of Hammett for The Library of America, said "In a few years of extraordinary
creative energy Dashiell Hammett invented the modern crime novel." In referring to The Thin Man
"His last novel, The Thin Man, a ruefully comic tip of the hat to the traditional mystery form,
introduces Nick and Nora Charles, the sophisticated inebriates who would enjoy a long afterlife
in the movies." So, call me a heretic. I didn't find anything particularly appealing about Nick
and Nora. I am going to watch the movie since I'm leading a book discussion for "Adapted For the
Silver Screen". With the book, I found Nick to be a bored man who married a younger wife. He quit
his profession, drinks too much (constantly), and flirts too much. Nora just seems bored with her
life, looks for excitement wherever she can find it, and, again, drinks, flirts, and pushes Nick
into trouble." ~
Read Review: Lesa's Book Critiques,
Castaneda – The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968)
"OLD YAQUI. The book was The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge
(1968). With its sequels, A Separate Reality (1971) and the current Journey to
Ixtlan (1972), it has made U.S. cult figures of its author and subject an
anthropologist named Carlos Castaneda and a mysterious old Yaqui Indian from
Sonora called Juan Matus. In essence, Castaneda's books are the story of how a
European rationalist was initiated into the practice of Indian sorcery. They
cover a span of ten years, during which, under the weird, taxing and sometimes
comic tutelage of Don Juan, a young academic labored to penetrate and grasp what
he calls the "separate reality" of the sorcerer's world." ~
Read Review: Time Magazine (1973) - erowid.org,
Amazon Books and
WebsiteDashiell Hammett - The Maltese Falcon (1941)
"Raymond Chandler, who has yet to appear in this series, once said: "Hammett is all right. I give
him everything. There were a lot of things he could not do, but what he did, he did superbly." He added,
in a summary that helps define Hammett’s achievement: "He was spare, frugal, hard-boiled, but he did over
and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have
been written before." He also gave his characters a distinctive language and convincing motivations in a
genre that had grown stereotyped, flaccid and uninvolving. The Maltese Falcon is the Hammett novel that
jumps from the pages of its genre and into literature. It’s the book that introduces Sam Spade, the private
detective who seduced a generation of readers, leading directly to Philip Marlowe. Dorothy Parker, never a
pushover, confessed herself "in a daze of love" such as she had not known in literature "since I encountered
Sir Lancelot" and claimed to have read the novel some 30 or 40 times."
~ Robert McCrum - theguardian.com.
James Grady - Six Days of the Condor (1974)
"The novel that inspired the Robert Redford film Three Days of the Condor.
Sandwiches save Ronald Malcolm’s life. On the day that gunmen pay a visit
to the American Literary Historical Society, he’s out at lunch. The Society
is actually a backwater of the Central Intelligence Agency, where Malcolm
and a few other bookworms comb mystery novels for clues that might unlock
real life diplomatic questions. One of his colleagues has learned something
he wasn’t meant to know. A sinister conspiracy has penetrated the CIA, and
the gunmen are its representatives. They massacre the office, and only learn
later of Malcolm—a loose end that needs to be dealt with."
Ernest Hemingway - The Sun Also Rises (1926)
"The Sun Also Rises endures as one of the most popular and significant books to emerge
from American literature of the 1920s – along with Hemingway’s friend F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece,
The Great Gatsby (published only a year earlier in 1925), which examines postwar life stateside, The
Sun Also Rises is generally regarded as a definitive guide to life in the hedonistic, confusing, and
fascinating post-WWI era."
Kim Harrison - UNDEAD POOL (2014)
"Witch and day-walking demon Rachel Morgan has managed to save the demonic ever after from shrinking,
but at a high cost. Now strange magic is attacking Cincinnati and the Hollows, causing spells to backfire
or go horribly wrong, and the truce between the races, between Inderlander and human, is shattering.
Rachel must stop the occurrences before the undead vampire masters who keep the rest of the undead
under control are lost and it becomes all-out supernatural war. However, the only way to do so is
through the ancient elven wild magic, which carries its own perils"
~ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
Jim Butcher - SKIN GAME (2014)
"Now if you are reading this book, you know what to expect in a Harry Dresden story,
Jim Butcher piles up the comedy (Parkour), terrific action sequences, crafty plot
twists and some neat character reappearances. Firstly why I think this book rocks
so much is because of Nicodemus and the Denarians. As far as the villains of this
series go, Nicodemus and bunch are pretty much at the top of the sociopathic heap.
What makes Nicodemus IMHO so intriguing is that he's a willing partner with Anduriel
and so far has been the one guy who rivals Harry in his determination! Johnny Marcone
is another fascinating rival for Harry but he's the subject for another book review."
~ Fantasy Book Critic.
Goldman - The Princess Bride (1973)
"There are actually two stories here. The first is the supposedly abridged
version of S. Morgenstern's darkly humorous take on the archetypal fairy tale of
high adventure in pitting good and noble young innocents against the treacherous
forces of evil. The second recounts the transformational events that led William
Goldman to write "The Good Parts" abridgement and screenplay of The Princess
Bride in which the forces of good (the creative storyteller) triumph over the
forces of evil (corporate suits who control the purse strings). There's a fairy
tale story here, too, equally archetypal, concerning the reconciliation of a
father and son and the quest to regain a seemingly lost gift. It, too, is a
humorous story with shadowy overtones. Both tales leave us not quite sure if
there's a happy ending. " ~
SF Site: A review by David Soyka .
Adams - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1978)
"Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway,
Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher
for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the
last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor. Together this
dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s
Guide and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers." ~
Skolnick - Geek to Guitar Hero (2013)
"Alex Skolnick. Metal fans know him as the lead guitarist for the band
Testament. Jazz fans know him from his band AST – Alex Skolnick Trio. I first
saw and heard him in 2006 when he played with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I
remember sensing an immediate connection with him, though at the time I didn’t
know why. I’d see him play with TSO a few more times, really enjoy his playing,
and each time sense there was something more to this guy than great guitar
Teachout – Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington ’ (2013)
"Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth
century—and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his
closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out
of high school to become one of the world’s most famous musicians, a showman of
incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the
nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some fifteen hundred compositions,
many of which, like "Mood Indigo" and "Sophisticated Lady," remain beloved
standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers,
concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic
2013 National Book Award Longlist.
Gaiman – Ocean at the End of the Lane’ (2013)
""Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that
come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult
closet," Neil Gaiman writes in his slim, dark dream of a new novel, "The Ocean
at the End of the Lane." "But they are never lost for good." Who we used to be
sometimes seems like a faint shadow of who we are now, but Gaiman helps us
remember the wonder and terror and powerlessness that owned us as children."
BENJAMIN PERCY - The New York Times.
Stewart – First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High
"The nation's first black public high school, Paul Laurence Dunbar High, opened
its doors in Washington, D.C., in 1870. But more than 140 years later, Dunbar —
like many urban schools — has fallen on hard times. The crumbling,
brutalist-style building is often described as a prison, and graduation rates
hover around 60 percent. But it wasn't always that way. Once upon a time, the
yearbook read like a Who's Who of black America." ~
NPR Staff article, and
audio interview link.
Harrison – Ever After (2012)
"With Ever After, Harrison has presented an emotional, game changing entry into
what is already one of the best urban fantasy series out there right now. Rachel
is much surer of herself in this one, and while she does have her moments of
indecision and some healthy self-doubt (things get pretty bad at times), she’s
at the top of her form magically and she’s not afraid to let her demon flag fly.