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.

Monday, November 21, 2011


The premise of this book is exciting! Then you read it and realize it's barely worth remembering. The story begins with a volcano in Yellowstone National Park blowing up, then the scene switches to Pompeii for the two-thousand year celebration of Mt. Vesuvius's 79 A.D. eruption. What a start! What's going to happen next? The answer is pretty much nothing. I know Frederik Pohl is a science fiction grand master, but he drops the ball with this novel, because he fails to run with the idea and create a classic novel.

The empathy I felt for the characters was nil. There wasn't any character development for any of the book's participants. Basically, the book is another terrorist  motif inspired novel set in the year 2079. The story's main characters, Brad Sheridan, Brian Bossert, a.k.a. Gerda Fleming, go through some interesting times working for the Pompeii theme park, but fail to excite the reader. The security people of the park and elsewhere seem to be omniscient-like without any validation of their powers. The theme park itself becomes less desirous when you learn that most of the park is actually virtual reality.

What happened in America after the Yellowstone eruption is left to the imagination. Mr. Pohl lets the reader know that America is no longer a super-power and the dollar is almost worthless, but that's it! We know people like Brad Sheridan indentured themselves to countries in Europe, but not why. It seems to me that more time should have been spent on the events after the U.S.A. eruption to set the seed for the exodus of Americans to Europe. Why would they sell themselves with a bond to pay off?

Then we have the issue of the Pompeii Flu. The pernicious virus seems to have originated from the "Stans" of Russia. These are the new countries that separated from Russia and became criminal safe havens. I'm surprised that James Bond didn't make an appearance! Nothing involving the terrorist and their activities is original or unpredictable. Paraphrasing Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, "This book coulda been a contenda"!

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Frederik Pohl is also a Lecturer and teacher in Future Studies, concentrating on environmental issues. He has written many trilogies and his famous Heechee novels have won him many honors during his brilliant career.

Friday, November 11, 2011


It took almost ten years for Laura Hillenbrand to write her second book, and it's a doozy! Wow! I thought Seabiscuit was a great maiden book, but this second effort destroys the sophomore jinx. It tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a Lieutenant in the Army Air Force during World War II. It's so realistically written that I felt that I was right there in the prison camps with the Lieutenant. This is a story of extreme mental fortitude and courageous actions in the face of hopelessness.

Louis goes from a juvenile delinquent, a high school track star, a Olympic runner, a bombardier, a prisoner of war, a post-war alcoholic to a Billy Graham inspired speaker in 406 delightful pages. The side characters are real and play important roles in Louis's life. They include his brother Pete, Marine officer William Harris, and B-24 Liberator bomber pilot Allen Phillips, who shared most of Louis's horrors. Laura Hillenbrand draws you into one calamity to the next at a furious pace. This book is hard to put down. It reads like a fiction novel, but it's all true. This is non-fiction at it's best.

While on the Green Hornet, a B-24 Liberator, in a bombing raid, Louis's plane gets shot down over the Pacific. He, along with his pal Phil and tail gunner Mac, float on a raft for 47 days while drifting west towards Japanese held islands. They are constantly surrounded by sharks; they are strafed by Japanese aircraft; and they are starving. Mac dies, while Louis and Phil are picked up by the enemy on the island of Kwajalein (known as the execution island). This starts two and a half years of misery from Kwajalein to Ofuna to Omori to Naoetsu, all prison camps from hell. Geneva Convention rules don't work in Japan. Here they meet the monster, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, the most hateful disciplinary officer in Japan, known as The Bird. This part of the book is troubling - how can anybody beat another human senseless day after day? This is what Louis experienced. The Bird hated him!

The good news is that Louis Zamperini is alive and well at 94 years old. He may well be the indestructible man. He still has all his wits and a zest for life. He did 75 interviews with Laura, presented her with a 65 pound scrap book, and provided most of the photos for this book. This was the most awe inspiring book that I've read in a long time. If anything, this book should be read for the sake of American history.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars.

Comment: As a young Marine in the early sixties, I sat with veterans of these island campaigns at a camp fire in Camp Lejeune during a training exercise. They told me stories that sent a cold chill down my back. I still can't think of Kwajalein, Tarawa, or Iwo Jima without thinking of these brave Marines I met.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


John Varley's Millennium is a distinctly different type of time-travel book, and I enjoyed it. It's not as good as The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, but what can compare to that all-time classic. The only comparison is that both novels were made into movies (I only saw the 1960 movie that starred Rod Taylor). This novel has an unusual plot. People from the future go into the past via a gate and exchange doomed crash victims with replacements called wimps. Since the Earth of the future is a dying planet due to thousands of years of wars and pollution, the people from the future built a spaceship to carry the healthy humans from the past to another planet or to a future Earth millions of years from now. The people from the future couldn't go because they didn't live long due to the poisoned air that they evolved to breath. So Earth's future was really its past.

The biggest concern during these "snatch" operations was to avoid paradoxes. One little mistake could change the future and eliminate mankind forever. For example, if you went into the past and killed your father, you wouldn't have been born and therefore unable to kill your father. Changing anything in the past could cause the catastrophic erasing of man. So when the future time travel team lost two stunner guns, one in 1955 and one in 1980, the panic was on, or you know what hit the fan!

The guns were lost on two separate plane crashes during the removal of the crash victims before the accidents occurred. The guns are used to stun the passengers so that they can be transferred through the gate and into a holding pen while the wimps take their place. The head of the future snatch team is Louise Baltimore, and the head of the past crash investigation team is Bill Smith. The two other meaningful characters in the book are the Big Computer and Louise's robot, Sherman (like the tank). Can Louise go back into the past and find these stun guns before Bill Smith?

The story seemed to flow easily enough, although certain things didn't make much sense or add anything of value to the book. For instance, when Bill Smith's group discovers that the crash victims all ate chicken during the flight - so what? And when Smith discovers that some of victim's watches ran 45 minutes fast and some ran backwards, I didn't understand what that meant. Anyway both matters were quickly dropped and never came up again. Other than that, the book was well written and thought out. I especially like the way most chapters were titled the Testimony of Bill Smith or Testimony of Louise Baltimore, as if the story was a trial in front of God...maybe it was. John Varley continues to make me happy with his ability to make all his scientific theories comprehensible.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: The theory of time travel has always been a puzzlement to mankind. Would the laws of physics even allow travel to the future or the past? Causing paradoxes would be very feasible, thus creating potentially perilous situations. Great authors have dealt with this subject in some respects, such as Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, and Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle.