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Missing in Action

t's been near a month since I posted, and that's just plain sad.  what could have caused this you might ask?  a mixture of weather that's so beautiful i couldn't bear to sit inside, weather so hot and disgusting my braid couldn't do anything but attempt to stay cool, a growing video game addiction, an overwhelming pile of library books, and a bit of burn out.

Hopefully all that's passed. what's most unfortunate is that overwhelming pile of library books? not a lot of winners. sigh. Just like last summer, all I wanted to do was read favorites that I already own. so i did.

and cooking? sure, been doing plenty of that when the mercury isn't boiling out of the thermometer, but not much in the way of recipes: whirl up some pesto in the food processesor, toss it with some pasta and grilled chicken or shrimp. my Basil plant is out of control, I've made pesto 3 times already!  and next week I'll be swimming in ripened tomatoes. Can you say Caprese?

I don't enjoy saying that books weren't winners, and maybe they just weren't winners for me. so many losers in a row however, got me mighty discouraged.  Lessons learned: don't keep saying "add that to my ILL list" in conversation with the nice librarian, and what your buddies at the library like you might not like.

Declare, by Tim Powers - a cold war spy story with some occult thrown in. Powers does occult far better than he does spy. The book takes place in 1941, when Andrew Hale is a British Agent who infiltrates the ComIntern in Paris, meets up with Kim Philby, and all sorts of strange things start the happen, and in the 1960s, when Andrew is reactivated to find out exactly what happened to Philby. A metal ankh Andrew wears saves his life more than once, a strange half human creatures he meets around Mt Ararat begin to expose the truth to him. If you know your biblical mythology, you know where this is going. and it is, but it isn't.  Powers has the gift for turning pockets of forgotten time into the best story you ever heard. unfortunatly, Declare is not the best example thereof. The beginning of the book was great, the end was excellent, but the middle was muddled and suffered from putdownableness.

The Stress of her Regard, by Tim Powers - far better than Declare, and the enjoyment faults were all mine. Taking place in the early 1800's, we start with Michael Crawford who is about to marry the beautiful Julia.  Julia is thrilled to leave behind her provincial family and her clingy yet antisocial twin sister. The couple is married, and in the morning, Crawford is horrified to find bloody Julia, brutally murdered, lying beside him in bed. Knowing he will be found guilty of murder, Crawford runs.  Meanwhile,  Percy Shelley and Lord Byron are up to their regular shenanigans, wooing women then leaving them, enjoying themselves in Europe, and getting involved in secret societies.  Crawford eventually hooks up with them only to learn that Julia was killed by a lamia, or vampire, and who now sees Crawford as her legal husband. And she is very jealous, and will kill anyone who shows loves for Crawford. Already involved with Shelly and Byron, the Lamia is slowing killing their families and loved ones. The only way to kill the lamia is to do so while the Graie (remember them from Mythology? three old hags who shared one eye?) are awake, but blind.  I wish I had paid more attention to literature class in high school, so i could have known more about the livse of Shelley and Byron before reading this. Sure, i know Mary Shelley, who doesn't, but I never read her husband. The Stress of her Regard is a great book for students of literature and mythology, and a good book for everyone else.

Hominids, by Robert Sawyer - the easiest, quickest, and least cerebral read of the group. It's not an insult to Sawyer when I say this book isn't cerebral, it's just that unlike Powers, Sawyer connects all the dots for the reader. All you have to do is read, he'll do all the thinking for you.  THe premise of Hominids is great - through a quantum computing experiment gone wrong, a portal is opened to a parallel universe in which Neanderthals are the primary hominid, and homo sapiens were wiped out generations ago. The Neanderthals lean towards hunting gathering rather than agriculture, which along with a strictly maintained population size, makes their world very much in peace with nature and the earth. The Neanderthal earth is Sawyer's ideal world: everyone is happy, everyone is safe, no one is unemployed or hungry, no one is cruel or greedy, there is very little crime, there is culture, but no religion.  A perfect vehicle for Sawyer to preach about all that is wrong with homo sapiens and our society. This is where no thinking is required on the place of the reader, because Sawyer will bash you over the head with his "Neanderthals are the perfect peaceful creature, and you horrible disgusting humans killed them all and did a million other horrible things!" again and again and again, until you are blue in the face.  All that said, this was a good, easy read, which was much appreciated after those two Powers novels that made my brain nearly melt. This series has three books, and I might just read the next one, just to see the damage Sawyer can do. Not the best reason to read a book, but hey.

speaking of my brain melting, I borrowed a copy of Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver from a friend, and I'm already running into familiar names: Enoch Root, the Waterhouse family. . . not to mention a 10 year old Ben Franklin.  This book is going to kick my ass, and I verily think I'm going to enjoy it.  Having survived his Cryptonomicon, at least now I know what to expect with a Stephenson style brain melting ass kicking.

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