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.

Friday, October 28, 2011


The reviewers have been way too harsh on this novel by the great Arthur C. Clarke. Readers must remember that Clarke was 90 years old when he started this book, became ill, and turned over his unfinished manuscript to 89 year old Frederik Pohl. I liked the book. Okay, there were some reoccurring themes, such as the skyhook elevator, the solar Yacht race, and the concept of an older controlling species as in the Space Odyssey novels.So what! For some readers, this is the first Clarke novel they've read. Days before Clarke died, he saw the final product and approved it. That's good enough for this reader.

The story centers on Sri Lanka in the near future. The main character is Ranjit Subramanian, a young math addict. His ambition is to solve Pierre de Fermat's Last Theorem in the short form, using only what was known to math in the year 1637, unlike the 150 page modern proof by Andrew Wiles. He enters college as a young man concerned about world violence. Unfortunately for Earth, so are the Grand Galactics, located thousands of light years away. Ranjit, visiting friends aboard a cruise ship, is kidnapped by pirates and when rescued by an unknown country, is mistaken for a pirate. While he spends two years in prison, he solves the Last Theorem. He is rescued by his childhood friend Gamini Bandara, now a member of the United Nation's 'Pax Per Fidem' (Peace Through Transparency). Ranjit becomes a famous professor, marries his childhood sweetheart Myra and has two children. All is well.

All is not well! The Grand Galctics have seen the nuclear explosions on Earth and decide that the humans must be liquidated. They dispatch the aliens known as the One Point Fives in a massive armada navigated by another A.I., the Machine-Stored. Earth is being spied upon by a third alien race, the Nine Limbeds. It will take the time equal to a full human generation to travel to Earth from their planet.

The last two-thirds of the book deal with the rest of Ranjit's life, Earth's effort for world peace, and the long voyage of the Grand Galactics closing in on their target. What will happen? Can Earth get a pardon or is it doomed? The ending is unexpected and thrilling. Unlike 2001: A Space Odyssey, the ending is very understandable. I'm sure there would have been a sequel had Clarke not died. The pipeline of Clarke novels is closed, but now is the time to catch up on all his wonderful previous novels.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Both Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl are Science Fiction Grand Masters. Clarke was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998. Some of Clarke's famous novels include the four 2001: A Space Odyssey books and Rendezvous with Rama. Clarke was a confirmed atheist, and as per his will, he wanted no religious rites or icons at his funeral.

Friday, October 21, 2011


John Varley states that this book is not a part of his novels and short stories known as the Eight Worlds future history. I say it is, and one day he will tie all these tales together in some kind of chronological order with a final book in this series. Having read Varley's Gaea and Red Thunder trilogies, I expected more of the same. No way! This book explodes with new thoughts and innovations unlike any of the previous seven Varley books I've read and enjoyed.

If you saw the play The Front Page or the movie His Girl Friday, you will remember the heroine was a lead reporter named Hildy Johnson. Well, he (or she) is back along with the crusty Editor who doesn't want him to quit. Varley has also added a reporter named Brenda Starr. Remember her from the eponymously titled comic strip? Only the time period is 199 years after the aliens kicked us off the Earth! The aliens evicted the humans to the Moon and other planets so they could give the Earth to the non-polluting whales and dolphins. No one can describe the aliens since anyone who has seen one has been killed.

On the Moon, the editor of The Nipple wants to do a Bicentennial Commemoration of the invasion of Earth. He puts the suicidal Hildy Johnson in charge of the project, who does his best to avoid this assignment and spends most of his time trying to commit suicide, scooping the competition on other lunar stories, and building his period house in a Disneyland known as Texas of the 1800s. The infrastructure of the Moon and the health of the humans are controlled by a central computer known as The CC. Halfway through the story, Hildy changes to a female, a routine operation on the Moon, while some of the other characters in the book also change their sex from time to time. Wouldn't you get bored with your body if your life span was at 200 to 300 years? Only a splattered brain was incurable, although The CC was working on a remedy for that.

This is not your normal world. How about: dinosaur farms, microscopic nanobots in your body, slash-boxing as a sport, or children born in jars? Then, enter the mysterious Merlin, a.k.a. Mister Smith and his Heinleiners, their starship and nullfields. What's a nullfield? Don't ask. When Hildy, Mister Smith, and The CC collide, the result is what was known as The Big Glitch! This clash with the Lunarians and The CC is monumental and tragic resulting in a unexpected ending.

This is a typically well written book by John Varley. His character development has always been second to none. He also continues his trend of having prominent female characters. Varley has the ability to make his innovative technology easily understandable. This novel has his usual sexual situations, but they don't get in the way of the story. My final conclusion? Great book!

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: John Varley has won 10 Locus, 3 Hugo and 2 Nebula Awards. Many of his novels are of the trilogy genre or related themes. If you want to read one of his stand-alones, grab a copy of Mammoth. It's fabulous.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


This is the latest delightful tale from Gene Wolfe published in 2010. Although only 300 pages, it seems to be a larger tale than it is. Maybe Gene Wolfe is really a sorcerer or a warlock. Every time I read a Wolfe book, I'm surprised by his style and ingenuity. There are a few parts that remind me of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which is a good thing.

The entire book is composed of letters written mostly by our lead narrator, an ex-con named Baxter Dunn, to his twin brother George. Baxter was recently released from prison and is asking his brother for some much needed money. His luck changes when he discovers an abandoned house. He decides to hire a real estate agent to find the house's owner. He'd like to live there rent-free in exchange for much needed repairs to the house. Realtors Doris Griffin and Martha Murrey inform him that the previous owner, Zwart Black, has left the house to him in his will. He later finds out that a certain Mr. Skotos has left him valuable real estate and a large bank account. Who are these people, and what did they want in return?

This peculiar house has many rooms, some without entrances, some without exits. The strangest of people and animals arrive and disappear. As he tries to unravel this mystery, he meets a werewolf, a changeling pet fox, a pair of strange butlers, a dwarf and a host of eccentric people. Some of the supernatural creatures in this novel are somewhat unique and original. The ending is unpredictable and is climaxed by some unanswered questions. Does this mean a sequel?

Although Gene Wolfe is 80 years old, his mind remains forever young and imaginative. This novel displays Wolfe's great storytelling abilities, and even though this is not quite a five star novel, it is highly recommended reading for any  fantasy fan.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Writers Neil Gaiman and Patrick O'Leary admit that they have been inspired by Wolfe and consider him to be the best writer alive. Early in his career, Gene Wolfe was able to communicate with the great J.R.R.Tolkien; I wonder if he got some helpful guidance.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Last Night in Twisted River

All the prerequisites are here for another vintage novel from John Irving. Guess where the novel begins. New Hampshire, of course. Is a bear involved? Yes. Are there deadly mishaps and lost loved ones? Yes and yes! These are the staples of a John Irving book; The man stays with what works for him. It works for the reader too for the most part, though there are a few items that are a little fuzzy. John Irving is known to write with a seemingly bizarre fear of losing a child that tends to confuse the details of a loved one's death and the aftermath.

The story begins in Twisted River, New Hampshire with a young man drowning, an American Indian woman killed when mistaken for a bear, and the murder suspects, a logging camp cook and his son, taking it on the lam from the law. The journey takes us to New England, Iowa, Colorado, and Toronto, Canada over a period of nearly fifty years. Their sojourn seems to have been avoidable if only the cook and his young son, Dominic and Daniel Baciagalupo, hadn't run, but then there wouldn't have be a story. The cook's best friend is a crusty, tough logger named Ketchum, who will be the Baciagalupo's eyes, ears and adviser in New Hampshire for the next 47 years.

As time passes, Daniel becomes a famous writer using the pen name Danny Angel. Dominic and Daniel change their name's many times as they move from place to place to elude the constable from Twisted River. The fact that Daniel is a writer who happens to be writing a story within this story is a clever technique common to an Irving story. There are many delightful characters in this novel, such as Six-Pack Pam, Carmella and Lady Sky. The final conflict between the Baciagalupos and the retired, homicidal constable is somewhat predictable but still exciting.

The hero of this novel, Danny Angel, nee Daniel Baciagalupo, attended Phillips Exeter Academy and The University of Iowa Writers Workshop with Author Kurt Vonnegut as his teacher. Guess who else went to these schools and had the same teacher? You guessed it...John Irving! The reader will wonder if John Irving might really be the person who hit Injun Jane with the eight-inch cast-iron skillet. Anyway, I highly recommend this novel.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Some of John Irving's bestsellers include: The World According to GarpThe Cider House Rules, and The Hotel New Hampshire. He won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1999 for The Cider House Rules. Simon and Schuster will publish Irving's next book, In One Person, in the summer of 2012.