1992.02


Stay Out of the Basement: Creepy but annoying

Stay Out of the Basement by R.L. Stine

One of my kids loves Halloween – she starts celebrating in September – and, since she wanted to read some horror for children during October, we listened to a few of R.L. Stine’s GOOSEBUMPS books together. Each is a standalone short novel with a pretty hefty scare factor.

Stay Out of the Basement (1992) is the second novel in the series (which contains dozens of stories) and there’s no reason to read the first one first. It’s 144 pages long in print format and just over 2 ½ hours long in the scholastic audio version we listened to which is narrated by Elizabeth Morton.

Margaret and Casey’s father is a botanist who’s been fired from his university for some reason the kids don’t know. But that has not stopped his research program. Though, now that he doe... Read More

A Deepness in the Sky: Might have been interesting at half the length

A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge

A Fire Upon the Deep was a big success for Vernor Vinge, winning the 1993 Hugo Award. Seven years later, he followed up with A Deepness in the Sky, set 20,000 years earlier in the same universe, and this captured the 2000 Hugo Award and John W. Campbell Award. I came to both books with high expectations and was eager for a big-canvas space opera filled with mind-boggling technologies, exotic aliens, galactic civilizations, and a big cast of characters. Sadly, the first volume didn’t engage me, and I’m afraid the second didn’t either. At 28 hours, this audiobook became a chore about halfway through, and I mainly forced myself to finish it because I wanted to be able to write a review of it as... Read More

Green Mars: Revenge of the lab rats

Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

It took me about 200 pages to get into Kim Stanley Robinson’s Green Mars (1994), the first sequel to Red Mars, and even after I connected with it I found myself working through slow patches. Although the inside cover of the edition I read describes KSR’s novels as “thrilling,” I would describe this novel as dense, philosophical, purposeful, detailed… Well, a lot of words come to mind before I’d mention a fast pace.

When Green Mars begins, the surviving members of the First Hundred live in hiding on Mars. Earth, meanwhile, suffers from overpopulation, inequality, political instability, and many ecological problems. The transnats have taken over most of the... Read More

Sin City (Vol. 2): A Dame To Kill For by Frank Miller

Sin City (Vol. 2): A Dame To Kill For by Frank Miller

Frank Miller’s SIN CITY series is famous for its hard-boiled crime noir stories, characters and black-and-white artwork. In the second volume, A Dame To Kill For, Miller gleefully tackles that most classic of noir tropes, the seductive and deadly femme fatale. Ava is her name, and when she beckons, men cannot resist. Our lead this time is Dwight McCarthy, a photographer who is trying to live a clean, modest life in that cesspool of vice, crime, and violence known as Sin City. But four years ago he was involved with Ava, a dame with a perfect body and hypnotic eyes who can make men do her biddin... Read More

A Different Kingdom: Rich with details and surprising maturity

A Different Kingdom by Paul Kearney

A Different Kingdom is a reprint of one of Paul Kearney’s first novels, first published in 1993. The good news is that this doesn’t read like an early novel in an illustrious career: it actually reads like something a well-practiced author would produce after a lot of hard work.

A Different Kingdom is set in the picturesque countryside of Ireland and the farm where Michael lives. Alongside this, perhaps on top of it or layered throughout it, is a fantasy world where other creatures live, creatures that seem to spring out of our own myths and legends. The fact that this other world is set in a landscape that has thrilled many (myself included) with beautiful myths and legends is just perfect. This is a book for dreamers.
When the wolves follow him from the Other Place to his family’s doorstep, Michael must choose between locking the... Read More

Reflex: Exciting sequel to Jumper

Reflex by Steven Gould

Reflex is the second book in Steven Gould’s JUMPER series. Ten years have passed since we left Davy and Millie. Now they’re married and Davy works occasionally for the National Security Agency. On one of his trips to Washington D.C. to meet with his contact there, he gets drugged and kidnapped by a group of people who want to use his powers for their own evil purposes. As they work to get Davy under their control, Millie uses her skills as a psychologist to search for him. She needs some help from the government, but she isn’t sure who she can trust. There seem to be leaks in high places.

Just like Jumper, Reflex is pretty compelling reading for the most part. Davy’s experiences as a captive are fascinating as we watch the bad guys use operant conditioning to try to bend him to their wills. This eventually starts to pall, however, because Davy spends almost the en... Read More

The Singing Sword: Storytelling is about the details

The Singing Sword by Jack Whyte

In some ways, The Singing Sword, second in Jack Whyte’s A Dream of Eagles (Camulod Chronicles in America) series, is just like The Skystone. The Roman Empire is in retreat and soldier/ blacksmith Publius Varrus chronicles the early days of Caius Britannicus’ Roman villa. Arthur is still nowhere in sight.

Whyte has a great talent for outlining battles and duels, but his passion is for world building through dialogue, particularly dialogue that allows him to explore the ideas of this time as they might have been created at the time. Still, progress is steadily made, however patiently. Publius is tempted by another woman, while alliances with the Celts are made and the colony — now named Camulod — s... Read More

The Captive: Characters to care about

The Captive by L.J. Smith

The Captive is the second book in the Secret Circle trilogy by L.J. Smith. In this book Faye tightens her hold around Cassie, blackmailing her over her love for Adam and forcing her to betray Diana. At the same time the Circle learns that a dark power is on the loose and killing, and Cassie begins to suspect that the crystal skull recovered from Black John's articles is behind the deaths.

L.J. Smith has written a number of trilogies in the YA paranormal arena, and excels at the format. The middle book of her trilogies draws upon and builds the characters introduced in the first novel, while laying the groundwork for the main thrust of the plot that will be delivered in the final book. There is little overall resolution to any of the plotlines in The Captive. In fact, it ends on something of a cliffhanger, so you might like to have the third book to hand prior to starting, or else risk frustration at wanti... Read More

Wolf Speaker: A great adventure

Wolf Speaker by Tamora Pierce

Wolf Speaker is the second of Tamora Pierce's "Immortals Quartet" concerning fourteen-year-old Daine, a young woman who possesses "Wild Magic," giving her the ability to communicate with animals, heal any animal wound, and in this book, to gradually change her form into any animal she wishes. Pierce jumps straight into the story without hardly any background information, so if you are unfamiliar with the fantasy realm of Tortall, I very highly recommend that you don't begin your journey with this book: start with Wild Magic, or even better The Lioness Quartet, Pierce's first books concerning Tortall.

Daine and her mentor Numair have been sent abroad in order to investigate the disappearance of several of the Queen's Riders... Read More