The Blog's Mission

Wikipedia defines a book review as: “a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review”. My mission is to provide the reader with my thoughts on the author’s work whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. I read all genres of books, so some of the reviews may be on hard to find books, or currently out of print. All of my reviews will also be available on I will write a comment section at the end of each review to provide the reader with some little known facts about the author, or the subject of the book. Every now and then, I’ve had an author email me concerning the reading and reviewing of their work. If an author wants to contact me, you can email me at I would be glad to read, review and comment on any nascent, or experienced writer’s books. If warranted, I like to add a little comedy to accent my reviews, so enjoy!
Thanks, Rick O.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


What is a Footfall? Would you believe that it's an asteroid pulled by a spaceship and then dropped on a planet! It's the ultimate "dinosaur killer" heaved at Earth by elephant-like creatures with tentacled multiple trunks, four clawed feet, and a tail. They are the Fithp! They have traveled eighty years from Alpha Centauri to get here, and they mean to stay. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wrote this entertaining space invasion novel in 1985, and it remains a classic sci-fi novel.

The Fithp's spaceship, Thuktun Flishithy (Message Bearer), is spotted by U.S. astronomers in Hawaii. The ship is seen moving through the rings of Saturn and heading for Earth. The Americans, led by Congressman Wes Dawson, take the position that the invaders are friendly, while the Russians, of course, assume they are hostile. All communications from Earth to the invaders goes unanswered; therefore, the U.S. and Russia decide to meet the Fithp in Earth's orbit aboard the Russian Space Station, Kosmograd. The delegation of Russian, American, Nigerian, and French personnel await the meeting totally unarmed!

Message Bearer finally arrives and destroys Kosmograd and captures or kills all aboard. From here on, we have two groups of Earthlings: the Captives and the Earth humans. The Fithp proceed to destroy all dams, major installations, bridges, and highways via laser cannons, dropped rocks, or strikes from their Digit ships. They land a herd of Fithps in Kansas, the U.S. food belt, with the thought that the Earth people will passively surrender. By the way, The Fithp's odd idea of surrendering is to lay on your back, feet and hand up, while one of the Fithp places his foot on your chest! Too much pressure and you are dead.

After the U.S. military in Kansas is destroyed, the Americans and Russians decide to nuke the Kansas Fithp herd, which surprises the invaders, since radiating your own area is unconscionable to their way of life. The Fithp strike back by dropping Footfall in the Indian Ocean, destroying India, and causing a constant salt-water rain. All of this happens early, so I'm not giving away any spoilers.

As the novel develops, we find that the Fithp are not as smart as we thought. If you had a mile long spaceship, would most of it contain a giant mud room in which to bathe? Do the aliens have a mating season? We find that the Fithp were pets to the Predecessors of their home planet eons ago. The herd evolved after the Predecessors damaged their environment and became extinct. They left the herd all their knowledge on stone cubes, somewhat like Moses. From here the story takes off, ending in victory, or defeat for the Elephantine herd? This will be determined 485 pages later in this wonderful tale.

If you noticed, I only mentioned one character in the book, Wes Dawson; that's because there are so many important characters. The good news is the book has a dramatis personae in the front of the novel. You will meet the Discoverers, the Washington and Soviet people, Survivors, Jayhawks, and the entire Fithp herd. This is a 26 year old novel that is better than most current sci-fi books that I've read.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Larry Niven has been nominated many times for Hugo and Locus awards, winning the Hugo award for his famous Ringworld in 1970. He later wrote seven more Ringworld novels, the first of which begins in the year 2850! Mr. Niven was an adviser to Ronald Reagan's famous S.D.I. anti-missile system. This pair of authors also wrote the classic novel Lucifer's Hammer in 1977.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

And Then There Were None

This is a guest review from my eldest son, Deron:

After years of enjoying Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple on PBS, I've finally read my first Agatha Christie novel, which is also her most popular. The novel is set on the private island of Mr. and Mrs. U.N. Owens off of Devon, England where one by one the ten guests are murdered. Their host is mysteriously absent. The guests are the only ones on the island and are unable to leave. Therefore, one of them is the murderer. Possible suspects are winnowed from the innocent chapter by chapter.

Are any of the guests really innocent? We meet each in turn. Some are there to work, like Mr. Rogers as a butler and his wife as the cook, while others were invited for a vacation. We learn early on that every guest has either been directly or indirectly the cause of the death, but not necessarilly the murder, of others. Each guest has eluded justice...until now.

The nursery rhyme "Ten Little Soldiers", framed on the wall of every guest's room, figures prominently in the story. The rhyme describes the deaths of ten soldiers and foreshadows those of the guests. For example, "Ten little Soldier boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine." The poem ends with the titular "...and then there were none." Besides the methods of murder, other clues can be found in the rhyme.

I don't normally read mysteries. I want to solve the mystery, before the murderer is revealed. A great deal of concentration is required, since every sentence might contain a clue or a red herring, and I'm a little too lazy to keep it all straight in my mind. But, every time I finish a mystery, whether I solve the crime or not, I find that I enjoyed the ride. This is no different with this novel. As with a good magician, there is enjoyment to be had in being deceived.

I especially enjoyed the literary device of the rhyme. Through the rhyme, she practically hand delivers clues that a lesser writer would not want to reveal so early in the novel, and then she delivers a whole new layer of mystery. You might expect that as each guest dies, the mystery would simplify, but instead it only becomes more confounding.

I didn't figure out who the murderer was. However, a good mystery writer provides enough clues for you to ascertain the murderer, and Christie does. The denouement was admitedly much more complicated than I would have expected, but one can still identify the murderer. In retrospect, there were clues I missed and words I misinterpreted. Hopefully, when you read this novel, you won't.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Comment: According to this, this book is the #7 top selling book of all time. I haven't actually met anyone that has read this book. I suppose this is because Agatha Christie is not in the public eye anymore as compared to someone like J.K. Rowling, who is also on the list.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Ken Follett's sequel to The Pillars of the Earth is 1014 pages of unforgettable reading. I can't remember when I enjoyed a sequel better. This book is set two-hundred years after the first novel. There is, however, a flaw in this novel that is a little annoying. There are way too many calamities, seemingly every ten pages or so. This, coupled with the Black Plague running amok, witchcraft trials, and everybody seeking revenge, had my head spinning. If you like lots of characters, this is your book. There are at least six or seven major characters and thirty minor characters. With all of these people involved, you really have to give Ken Follett kudos for character development. I felt love or hate for each one of them.

The novel starts with four children witnessing a murderous conflict between a knight and two men at arms. The knight buries a secret letter and seeks asylum at the famous monastery at Kingsbridge, where he becomes a monk. The children Merthin, Ralph, Caris and Gwenda are forever tied together. Their trials and tribulations along with their families and the monks form the plot.

As with the first book, the clergy are fighting for power. This time they are led by the evil prior Godwyn. Edmund Wooler leads a township looking for commerce and independence from the church. We have the battle between the good builder, Merthin, and the bad builder, Elfric. There are love stories: Merthin and Caris and Gwenda and Wulfric. We have the horrible Ralph Fitzgerald, later to become the Earl of Shiring. Then we have the "common sense" medical theories of Caris versus the blood letting monk doctors. Finally, there is  Prior Godwyn's sidekick, the scurrilous and conniving Philemon fighting for power and advancement.

The book gives the reader a good idea of how it must have been to live in Medieval times. Can you imagine being bled every time you got sick? Being accused of heresy by a enemy could get you quickly hung? If you were clergy, grab the wrong shirt tails and face failure. Any noble had life and death power over the peasants along with unlimited taxation. As Charles Dickens wrote of a different time in A Tale of Two Cities, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

There are too many sub-plots to describe, so my advise is to get hold of a copy and start reading. I found this book to be the fastest thousand page book I've ever read. Is it better than The Pillars of the Earth? No, but I think it's close, which is saying a lot. I think these books are the best novels that Follett has ever written.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Ken Follett is a Welsh writer who has appeared four times on the N.Y.Times best seller list as number one. His current work is Fall of Giants, the first of three books. Some of the thrillers he has written include Eye of the Needle and Night Over Water.