Jerry Reed Gives Us The Bird

So the other day I discovered that my wife Jane, the country music fan in the family, had nevertheless never heard Jerry Reed's song "The Bird"; and it occurred to me that you might not have either. While sitting in a bar, a fellow meets a guy with a bird that sings like Willie Nelson...and it goes on from there. Here it is, with Reed's trademark guitar fireworks and goofy lyrics. Even if you're not a country fan, you ought to give it a listen. … [Read more...]

Review: H.M.S. Surprise, by Patrick O’Brian


Last week and the week before I reviewed the first two books in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series of sea stories, Master and Commander and Post Captain, two books I enjoy greatly, but which have pitfalls for the unwary reader. In those reviews I tried to highlight those pitfalls, and explain them; so that, being forearmed, as it were, readers who had tried O'Brian and failed to appreciate them might try, try again and make it through.H.M.S. Surprise, one of my favorite books of all … [Read more...]

Review: Post Captain, by Patrick O’Brian


Post Captain is the second volume of Patrick O'Brian's well-known Aubrey/Maturin series; and as with my review of Master and Commander I'm writing this with an eye to those who have tried to read O'Brian and have failed. Most fail in the first book, for reasons I noted last week; but some last to the second, and here again the failure is understandable.Do not get me wrong: Post Captain is not a bad book; I've read it with enjoyment a number of times, most recently this past week. But it's … [Read more...]

Review: Master and Commander, by Patrick O’Brian


J.R.R. Tolkien was the first great literary discovery of my life, and the author of the book that I've returned to more often than any other. I fell in love with his work when I was nine, and have never fallen out of it.Patrick O'Brian is the second great literary discovery of my life; I first made his (literary) acquaintance sometime in the mid-90's, and have loved his work ever since.Some of you are now nodding your heads, some of you are shaking them, and some of you are wondering … [Read more...]

Review: Ancient Shores, by Jack McDevitt


Recently I sang the praises of Jack McDevitt's "Alex Benedict" series, and a reader suggested that I try his earlier novel Ancient Shores. And I did; but I didn't like it.I don't usually write negative reviews; if I dislike it I ignore it. In this case I feel I have to, since it came up in the context of a largely positive review of some of McDevitt's other book.Ancient Shores takes place "present day", when a farmer in North Dakota finds a fully rigged, perfectly preserved sailboat … [Read more...]

Review: Full Fathom Five, by Max Gladstone


Full Fathom Five is the third book in Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence, following Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise.Gladstone has invented a world where "gods" are real and where "soul" is a kind of energy that can increase, decrease, and be transferred from one person to another. People generate soul-stuff naturally over time; Gods receive soul-stuff from their worshippers, and provide comfort and services in response.At some point in living memory, someone figured out the science … [Read more...]

Review: The Citadel of God, by Louis de Wohl

The Citadel of God, by Louis de Wohl

Louis de Wohl spent a considerable time in the middle of the 20th century writing historical novels about the great saints of the Catholic Church. I've read a number of them, and have found them to be uniformly well-written, entertaining, and informative. I wouldn't call them truly top-notch—they are a little lightweight compared to the historical novels I'm seeing these days, and they are certainly romanticized—but as a first look at one of the great saints, they aren't bad.One thing they … [Read more...]

Jack McDevitt: Antiques in Space!!!

A Talent for War

Recently I re-read Jack McDevitt's "Alex Benedict" series, which begins with A Talent For War and continues through four more volumes to Firebird, with Coming Home due this fall.Alex Benedict is an antiques dealer on the planet Rimway about 9,000 years in our future. 9,000 years is a long time, ample opportunity to accrue just oodles of lost civilizations, abandoned space stations, derelict space ships, and similar archaeological treasures, and they are all out there just waiting for an … [Read more...]

Review: Going Postal


So last night I finished reading Terry Pratchett's Going Postal to my wife and kids. Going Postal is in an odd category: it's a full-fledge novel that I have only ever read aloud. I read it to Jane when it was first released, and now to Jane and my kids. Jane and I loved it on the first reading, and I'm glad to say that it held up on the second reading.In fact, I might go so far as to say that Going Postal is one of Pratchett's best, and it's certainly one of my favorites, in part because … [Read more...]