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, September 21, 2011


This is Gene Wolfe's third installment of our favorite amnestic Roman mercenary known as Latro, Lewqys or Lucius depending on whether you are Egyptian, Phoenician, or Persian. Latro's tale is based on the author's translation of a papyrus scroll found in a 2,500 year old sealed vase in a land once known as Nubia.

In book one, our hero became an amnesiac due to a head injury in a Grecian battle. Latro has to write down his daily activities every night lest he forgets them. He has a habit of duplicating information while defining previous unclear events. His head injury also gave him the amazing ability to see and talk to various Egyptian Gods and mythical monstrosities. This is a historical fantasy of the highest degree.

The story follows Latro and his hired wife, Mytsereu, along with their many companions as they sail south to Nubia and beyond under the orders of the Persian Satrap,  the occupying Governor of Egypt. They are to gather information from their expedition, especially about the gold mines, and report back to the Satrap. During this trip we meet many wonderful characters, Gods and Goddesses, mythical monsters, and furious warriors. Latro gets in and out of many sticky situations that he will soon forget unless he writes them down or is reminded of them by his friends. The book's ending implies that there is a book four in the future, although Mr. Wolfe is 80 years old and writes other series. I'm only bringing this up because there was 20 years in between this book and Soldier of the Mist.

This is a very pleasant book that is so good that it could stand alone. I thought this was a unique way to write an original historical fantasy. Now I know why the great Neil Gaiman said, "Gene Wolfe is the smartest, subtlest, most dangerous writer alive today"! If you haven't read a Wolfe book yet, I suggest you start with this one.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Gene Wolfe is a multiple winner of the Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards. Even though he had polio as a child, he later served in the Korean War. As a engineer, he helped design the machine that makes Pringle's Potato Chips. He now lives in Barrington, Illinois.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lucifer's Hammer

This is a remarkable post-apocalyptic novel written in 1977 by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. It certainly challenges the 1957 novel On the Beach by Nevil Shute. The only difference is that Earth is destroyed by a comet, not by a nuclear war as in Shute's book. Although, Niven does have Russia and China exchanging warheads after the comet hits Earth. The other disparity is that mankind attempts a rebound of civilization versus the suicidal ending of On the Beach. Anyhow, this was a very enjoyable novel that precedes all the current "end of the world" disaster books and movies. Which novel is better is a matter of conjecture.

Once again Niven has a dramatis personae in his book, which means..."Hello to numerous characters"! Wow, how about at least ten main characters and dozens of side characters, all fully developed. It means you, as the reader, will really care what happens to these people whether good or bad. That is a talent of Niven's that I've noticed in his other novels. The only flaw is with his Dr. Charles Sharps character, the Science and Project Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratories. After the comet impacts, he disappears from the story and never returns. I wonder if that was done on purpose or an oversight.

The story begins with Tim Hamner, a amateur astronomer, along with a similar sighting from a youngster named Brown, discovers a comet heading towards Earth. The odds of this Hamner-Brown Comet hitting Earth are millions to one. Harvey Randall, a Documentary Producer for NBS television, decides to do a TV series on this event. The comet's name gets changed to Lucifer's Hammer by Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show. The U.S. and Russia send four astronauts in orbit to study the comet. The U.S. Senator Arthur Jellison, the man behind the space program, retreats to his California ranch. As the comet rounds the Sun and approaches Earth, the unthinkable calves, changes course, and strikes Earth in many places!

The rest of the novel deals with the catastrophic events that happen after the strike, man's reaction, and ultimately man's survival. There is so much happening that you really have to read this great book yourself. All of the human elements pertaining to survival are completely believable. And kudos to Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle for keeping the technical stuff out of the book and just tell the story. I don't remember what man's attitude was when the Kohoutek Comet passed Earth in 1973, but if another stray comet approaches Earth, one would hope it will not be as cavalier as Lucifer's Hammer was.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Halley's Comet passes every 75 or 76 years, but the Kohoutek (or Kouhoutek) Comet has a course so far from Earth that we will only see it every 75,000 years! The next time it passes, man may not be living on Earth.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


I struggled with this book for about 75 pages, then I got it, then I lost it again, then I didn't understand what all the commotion was about at the end. I thought all the flip-flopping between centuries and all the technical jargon made this novel taxing. It's not a bad novel. It's just not what I expected from the great sci-fi writer Poul Anderson. The idea that the human race could be controlled by a Cybercosm (a network of artificial intelligences) is not new, but it's motives are. The idea that a A.I. system would care if we explored the heavens or got along with each other is doubtful.

The novel switches back and forth between the early days of the moon occupation and the drama of moon/earth tensions centuries later. It seems that Lunarians want absolute sovereignty from the World Federation and Peace Authority, the chief honchos on earth. The Lunarians are genetically altered humans that were bred for survival in low gravity.

The early part of the story mainly concerns Dagny Beynac, her children, Anson Guthrie and his company Fireball Enterprises. They control the moon's activities and provide earth with many minerals and innovations. Dagny's children find a new planet, but keep it a family and Fireball secret. Why a secret? What's to be learned from it? The Beynac family die off as the centuries go by with their secret intact. Later Anson Guthrie, now a downloaded robot, and some Lunarians depart for Alpha Centauri for eternity.

The other part of the story is about a powerful Lunarian, Lilisaire and her agents, Ian and Aleka, chasing down the centuries old secret of the Beynac family. They believe the secret will hold off earth's invasion of people and give the moon its independence. They are pursued by the Cybercosm and its agent, Venator. Will the mystery of the Beynacs be solved? Will the information gain the moon its freedom? Is the secret about the unknown planet or something completely different?

I thought the novel was well written with good character development, but was filled with too much nonsensical technical language. Since it's a Poul Anderson book, I still recommend this work.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: Poul Anderson was the winner of seven Hugo and three Nebula Awards! He died of cancer on 7/31/2001 at the age of 74.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Warlord Chronicles

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

The Warlord Chronicles is Bernard Cornwell's interpretation of the story of King Arthur. The trilogy is comprised of The Winter King, Enemy of God, and Excalibur and is told from the perspective of Derfel Cardan, a man that Britain's greatest druid Merlin plucked as a child from a death pit to become Arthur's most trusted warrior.

Cornwell's is not the romanticized version of Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur or T.H. White's The Once and Future King. The historical Arthur is thought to have lived around the year 500, just after the Romans had abandoned Britain and the beginning of the Dark Ages. Cornwell stays true to that time. There are no knights in shining armour, but warlords in old Roman armour. There is no magic, only superstition and coincidence. There are no stone castles, but forts made of wood and earth. Decay is in the air. The Roman cities crumble, and knowledge of their construction and repair fades.

The story begins with Uther Pendragon, King of Dumnonia and the High King of Britain, nearing death. His grandson, Mordred, is his heir; however, Mordred is only a baby. Arthur, a bastard of Uther, takes an oath of loyalty to Mordred and is chosen as Mordred's guardian. Until Mordred is old enough to rule Dumnonia himself, Arthur is effectively the king.

Arthur dreams to unite the various kingdoms of Britain and push out the invading land-hungry Saxons. This is the story of Arthur. Over and over again, just when you think that Arthur's dream is to become a reality, the dream is shattered due to his own weaknesses, his sense of justice, the machinations of kings and those closest to him, the conflict between Christians and pagans, or most often his oath of loyalty to Mordred. Certainly, for a moment there is Camelot, but even then dark clouds are on the horizon.

I highly recommend these books. As usual, Cornwell excels at describing the battles and the single combats. His take on characters is refreshing. For example, Lancelot is considered the greatest warrior in the land, not because of any actual accomplishments, but because of his ability to control his image, manipulate others, and pay the bards to sing his high praises; in truth, he is a coward. I've read many versions of the Arthur story. While it is difficult to rate one version against another as they are often so different, this is one of the best.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Cornwell considers the Warlord Chronicles to be his favorite.