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, December 23, 2015


The author sent me his short story to read and review:

Bravo to veteran sci-fi writer Rhett C. Bruno who sent me his 20 page space saga. Well not really a saga, but it did remind me of Arthur C. Clarke’s 1968 novel, 2001: a Space Odyssey. I think that only an accomplished writer (like Mr. Bruno seems to be) can keep my undivided attention on such a short story. Since outer space goes on forever, it seems logical that a ship on a lengthy voyage would need a lot of people in suspended animation to take over the ship’s duties as their predecessors died off. In this story, there are 999 humans in various stages of growth in life chambers watched over by the ship’s computer, Dan. The one awake human (the 1,000th human aboard) is Orion, whose 25 year reign as ship's monitor is about to end. Will he let it end?

Orion is the sixth monitor of the interstellar Ark, Hermes, and Orion has about 23 hours left before he turns 50 and has to pick his successor to assist Dan in the ship’s daily duties. Then Orion must lay down in his chamber and go back to sleep until he turns 70 and gets recycled... “sucked up through a dark hole in the innards of Hermes.” There he will most likely become fertilizer for the crop growing somewhere on the ship. The ship is heading towards the star system Tau Ceti that the Pervenio Corporation on Earth (I’m assuming) says has a 83% chance of supporting life. This star system is assumed to have a planet that can support human life. The trip will take a 1,000 years until it arrives at it’s destination.

Orion witnesses the birth of a child, who will be put in a chamber to grow and mature as a possible monitor of the future. He has picked out his replacement (#2781, a female) but seems reluctant to lie down in his chamber while Dan wakens his replacement. Does Orion want to live? Possibly, but he knew that his time as the ship’s monitor would ultimately end. He really wants to put a space suit on and go outside to see space as he has never seen it before. Will he go outside or lie down in his chamber like a good company man? Read this hunky-dory short story for will only take a half hour or so.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: This has to be my shortest review ever, but you have to keep in mind that the story was only 20 pages long. Oh to be that talented...and say so much in so short a time. I think Rhett C. Bruno’s work has to be read in earnest now and in the future. Good job!

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Hugo Award winner John Scalzi (Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas) has written an intriguing novel set in the future where the world is beset by a paralyzing virus for about five million people. The rest of the population suffer flu-like symptoms or die. The paralyzed victims are trapped in their immovable bodies. This is known as lock in. But is this novel about the virus or another way to tell a murder mystery? While I was fascinated with the unusual virus, it gradually morphed into a somewhat baffling and at times insipid story. It was almost like the story had a virus and was changing its modus operandi as I read the novel. The murder part was good, but I thought that there was going to be a conclusive theory on how the flu came about and how to protect the world from future attacks. I don’t want you to think that I didn’t enjoy the novel...because as I was thinking these thoughts, the novel re-kindled to my utmost satisfaction. After reading and reviewing Old Man's War (see my review of 11/21/2010) and The Android's Dream (see my review of 12/4/2010), I should have known that Scalzi wouldn’t let me down. Okay, so what is this story about?

First of all, the reader has to know what the Hayden syndrome (named after the U.S. First Lady) is. The millions who contracted the paralyzing variety of the flu lie in a carriage totally immobile but still have an active brain. They are known as the Haydens and need a caregiver to take care of their bodies. The Haydens can take on a pilotable robotic body (also known as a threep) or use an integrator (a real human) to occasionally move about and communicate. A integrator is a person who had a neural network put in his/her brain so they can let a Hayden ‘borrow’ their body for awhile. The integrators are licensed and regulated practitioners who can not be forced by a Hayden to do something they don’t want to do. A Hayden needs to be somewhat wealthy to afford a robotic body by the Sebring-Warner Company. Despite the Haydens being paralyzed, they are considered another class of citizen whether they are in their carriage, in a robot, or in an integrator’s body. Far out, right? The government has spent 300 billion in research to help find a cure for the Hayden victims. Now a recently enacted law (the Abrams-Kettering Act) has curtailed the Hayden research causing bitter reactions from the Hayden community. How can anybody come up with this surreal storyline? Scalzi can.

The story starts twenty five years after the flu commenced. Chris Shane (the narrator of the story) is a Hayden in a robotic body. His father is a Hall of Fame basketball player and now running for the Senate from the state of Virginia. Chris is on his first day as an FBI agent solely investigating crimes involving Haydens. His veteran FBI partner is Leslie Vann who was previously an integrator. They get a report that someone just threw a love seat out of a window from a room in the Watergate Hotel. They go to room 714 and find a dead body on the floor with his throat cut. Local police have already subdued the man that was sitting on the bed in the room and sent him to the precinct. The alleged killer is Nicholas Bell, a licensed integrator. Apparently the dead man was using Bell’s body and was killed by Bell. Or did he commit suicide? Or was he killed by someone else, or was someone else using Bell’s body and killed the man? Or did someone invent a new type of neural network? Very confusing. Shane and Vann go downtown to interview Bell and take over the case. Bell says that he doesn’t think he killed anyone and doesn’t know why he was tased by the local police while he was sitting on the bed with his hands up.

Bell’s lawyer, Samuel Schwartz (also a Hayden in a robotic body) shows up and is distressed by the way his client has been treated. Schwartz tells the FBI agents that Bell was integrated at the time of the murder. Schwartz argues that Bell didn’t murder anyone, it was his client who did it. Schwartz tells the FBI agents that Bell can’t tell them who the client was that was using his body because it’s a integrator-client privilege. He says, “Like attorney-client privilege, or doctor-patient privilege, or confessor-parishioner privilege, and I’m not going to argue it, since the courts have already done so, and have affirmed, consistently, that integrator-client confidentiality is real and protected.” They have to let Bell go for the time being. By the way don’t think that I’m giving the story away because I’m only up to page 40. The ensuing chapters enlighten the reader regarding who the murdered man was and why he was there, how big business (concerning the Hayden people only) was involved and who murdered the man and why. So basically the story started hot in the beginning, cooled somewhat in the middle, then grew blazing hot to the conclusion. I liked the story and love the way John Scalzi writes. I highly recommend this novel.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Don’t you just love books involving robots or androids? Well Scalzi’s novel took me to a different level or element of robotics. Imagine a paralyzed person living a normal life in a robot’s body...even if the robot is destroyed, the brain just goes into a new droid body. As long as the caregiver or nurse takes care of your body, you are free to go about your business.   

One of my favorite novels pertaining to robots is Dan Simmons’ Ilium. It’s the wacky story of The Iliad being told in an alternate history form on Earth and Mars. It tells the story of resurrected 20th century Homer scholar Hockenberry comparing the real Trojan War to the one being reenacted on Mars. Also included in the story are the Greek Gods and Moravec robots from Jupiter heading to the scene of the play after they notice all the commotion on the two planets. It was a trip reading that novel!

But the robot novel generally considered to be the best ever written is Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. It’s a brilliant collection of nine short stories that informs the reader what a relationship between robots and humans should ideally be like. The novel was made into a movie starring Will Smith in 2004.

The book reveals Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. Now would you like to see them? Of course you would, so here they are:
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or allow a human to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by humans except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.
From the movie, I, Robot:

Monday, December 7, 2015


The author sent me a copy of his novel to read and review:

Has Hugh MacMullan III come up with the new Travis McGee? The author likens his character, Ryan O’Brien, to John D. MacDonald’s famously admired salvage consultant. Really? But wasn’t McGee a U.S. Army vet, not the ex-Marine that O’Brien is? Didn’t McGee (I feel like I’m in Ireland) live on a houseboat while O’Brien lives on land and owns a small noisy sailboat? Okay, it’s close. But I think the author could develop his character into being a combination of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt and Mickey Spillane’s PI Mike Hammer . Wow, that would be something. Since the author has now introduced us to Ryan O’Brien’s first adventure...where does he go from here?

I can see O’Brien in future novels working with FBI agent Ayers or becoming a PI and working with Detective Smyrl. There is no way that I see O’Brien working at Sam Barrett’s investment banking firm. Will Clemmie remain O’Brien’s girlfriend in future novels? Whatever the author chooses, I think he has to implement two characteristics for O’Brien in his future novels: Pick a weapon for O'Brien and stick with it (such as Mike Hammer and his Colt .45 named Betsy) and drop this Marine Corps theme (this coming from me, also a ex-Marine). The continuous reference to O’Brien’s Marine Corp background was starting to become a distraction to the story. That issue should be ‘put to bed’ in future novels (yes, I still love my idioms). I think the author is on track for success but has to make some decisions about his character in the next novel.

The story opens with Ryan O’Brien sailing the Delaware River at night with his dog, Smokey. He is days away from joining an investment banking company named Howell and Barrett after a four year stint in the Marine Corps. He hears yelling and sees lights from a nearby remote island called Chester Island. O’Brien sails to the Island to find out what’s going on. He is captured by a man named Max, but overpowers him. Max tells O’Brien that he just screwed up a Homeland Security operation. The leader, known as ‘Bama, is on his way to Max. O’Brien decides to flee after his dog, Smokey, is apparently shot and killed. After he and his boat are fired upon, O’Brien swims across the Delaware River to safety. Wet, hungry, and hurting, he comes to a church run by Rev. Jameson and Sister Alberta. They provide food and a bed.

The next day, O’Brien talks to his uncle Ryan (Is he going to be a permanent sidekick? Why couldn’t he have a different name?) in Florida, and the uncle says that he is coming up north to see if he can help find out what is going on. After Uncle Ryan comes from Florida, they try to go back to the island and retrieve Ryan O’Brien’s bullet riddled boat and tow it back to O’Brien’s boat club (the names are confusing and similar, so bear with me). But a female state trooper named Bardeaux arrests Ryan O’Brien because one of the men on the island was shot dead on the night in question and O’Brien’s driver’s license was found at the scene of the murder. Also she says that he resisted arrest.  

Bardeaux takes O’Brien downtown and turns him over to State Trooper Detective Smyrl. O’Brien tells the Detective the whole story and he kind of believes him. But Bardeaux will not drop the resisting arrest charges. O’Brien has to stay at the trooper headquarters overnight while Smyrl checks out his story. Bardeaux comes for O’Brien during the evening, but he hides in the ceiling. Was she there to kill she working for the bad guys? This is just the beginning of Ryan O’Brien’s first adventure. The rest of the story is enjoyable, although somewhat predictable. I think Mr. MacMullan III needs to find a way to make the chapter endings more cliffhanging-like.

While the story and plot were good, true excitement and suspense were missing for the most part. I think that if the author takes my advice from the first and second paragraphs and develops a perpetual character and adds a little pizzazz to his chapter endings...he just might have a hit on his hands. With that said, I do recommend this novel, but don’t expect it to be the 22nd Travis McGee novel.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: I try to read all genres of books (and I do), but the funny thing is that while I was in the Marine Corps (1963-1967 active, 1968-1969 reserves), it seems to me that all I read were Detective or spy type novels. I must have read all the Matt Helm books (later played by Dean Martin in the movie version) and a lot of Ian Fleming and John le Carre novels. Maybe that’s why Hugh MacMullan’s novel has such a heavy military flavor (the author is also an ex-Marine).

Anyway, I still like those type of novels, but in recent years I’ve wandered away from them and now prefer the classics. Although it does seem to me that I latch onto a particular genre and stay with it for several years then move on to the next genre. Oh Well! There are just too many books to read!

I always remember that The Twilight Zone show where a bank teller (Henry Bemis played by Burgess Meredith) is in a vault reading a book when the atomic bomb drops. He has very bad eyesight with thick glasses. When he comes out of the vault and sees what happened, he is stunned that he alone survived. Then he finds a library with loads of books on the steps. It’s Utopia! All he ever wanted to do was read. Now he can spend the rest of his life reading. Then his glasses fall off and sad. That episode was titled Time Enough at Last.   

Saturday, December 5, 2015


This is the second email review done by past contributor, Deron O...this time for John Adams by David McCullough:

This was a rare book where I didn’t want it to end. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before about a biography. While the biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson that I recently read were very good, this book was in a different league.

Of course, it has the greatest ending a book can have. On the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, of the signers, only Adams, Jefferson, and Charles Carroll were still alive. Jefferson was the author of the declaration and Adams was its primary defender during its ratification. Both Jefferson and Adams passed away that same day, July 4th. I can think of no more appropriate ending for two of America's greatest patriots.

I had forgotten that Adams defended in court the British soldiers at the Boston Massacre. And, he won. The worst was that two of the eight soldiers were convicted of manslaughter (a lesser charge than what they were accused of) but as punishment only had their thumbs branded. Apparently, it was really a mob of Bostonians hurling clubs, screaming insults, and urging the soldiers to fire that caused the soldiers to shoot in self-defense. Samuel Adams turned it into the Boston Massacre to foment outrage against the king.

Throughout the book, it amazed me how vicious the politics were back then. Today’s politics actually seem tame in comparison.

It was also interesting to learn that the date on which the Declaration of Independence was signed is still in dispute. While Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin said years later that it was on July 4th, it seems that it was really on August 2nd. Independence was declared on July 2nd in a closed session. The Declaration’s text itself was ratified on July 4th. There was no day where all were available to sign the Declaration. While most signed on August 2nd, others were away and signed when they could.

Adams had presumed that July 2nd would be Independence Day and wrote it would "be the most memorable epoch in the history of America.” So, I guess he wasn’t always right, but still, a pretty smart guy.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: I loved this email was written with passion!

Paul Giamatti as John Adams in the television miniseries: