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Book Review: Blonde Bombshell by Tom Holt (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

February 27, 2013 2 comments

Image of white bomb on blue background headed toward Earth.Summary:
A sentient bomb is hurtling through outer space toward Earth, better known to the bomb creators as Dirt.  You see, Dirt’s music is making the inhabitants of Ostar (a canine species) completely loony.  But the bomb stops in its tracks and orbits around Dirt to try to figure out whatever happened to the *first* bomb that the Ostars sent out.  Dirt doesn’t seem to have any sophisticated defense system to speak of, so what gives?  Meanwhile, Lucy Pavlov, the creator of new computer programming protocols that led to a leap in technology, is seeing unicorns in her forest.  Also a bank security executive is trying to figure out just how, exactly, money is teleporting out of banks.  In between getting very drunk and trying to forget about that one time aliens stole his dog.

Review:
This made it onto my TBR pile thanks to multiple comparisons to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, which is one of my favorite series.  I can completely understand why the comparison is made.  The book is witty, zany, and consists of a hilarious imagining of outer space and aliens.

The plot is complex without being confusing.  It revolves around three people (well, one is a bomb) who are connected in mysterious ways they just don’t know yet.  It kept me guessing, managed to surprise me a few times, and had some delightfully creative elements, such as the fact that the bomb can create probes to send down to Earth that appear to humans like organic matter.  Or even the fact that the bomb can sit there and slowly decide whether or not to go off.  Clever.

I also appreciated an imagined future where people have handheld devices that are given a simple name rather than compounding a bunch of words together.  The former makes more sense since in reality that is what companies do.  (For instance, Google Glass or iPad as opposed to handheldpersonaldevice.  Don’t laugh. I’ve seen something very similar to that in scifi).  In this book the iPhone device is the Warthog.  With no further explanation given.  This is scifi done well.  The reader can tell what a Warthog is from how the characters use it.  Holt never over-explains.

The characters were rather two-dimensional, but that works well for the humor, not to mention for the fact that one of them is a bomb.  If a character has a good heart but is a lazy drunk because aliens stole his dog, well that’s enough for the reader to know in a book like this.  Motivation enough is present for the characters to be recognizable as people and to move the plot forward.

As for the humor, I found it quite witty, although not quite as gut-wrenching as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It plays on slapstick, situational humor, and pop culture references for the most part, with a dash of insight into human nature, romantic relationships, and dogs.  I particularly enjoyed the unicorn probe who takes a nasty turn for the violent and insists that there is data in human records showing unicorns exist.  I also really enjoyed the scenes where a couple first starts to fall in love, hilariously so.  All of which is to say, if you generally enjoy a Douglas Adams style of humor, you won’t be disappointed.

Now, I was a bit let-down by the ending.  I didn’t really like the final plot twist.  It kind of….creeped me out a bit and left me on a bit of a down note instead of the delightful upswing I felt throughout the rest of the book.  I think other people might enjoy it more than me.  It really depends on your feelings about people and pets and having pets.  It’s not enough of a let-down to keep me from recommending or enjoying the book.  It was just enough to keep it from 5 stars.

Overall, this is a delightfully witty piece of scifi with a unique plot.  Recommended to scifi humor fans, particularly those who enjoy Douglas Adams.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Book Review: The Call of the Wild by Jack London

January 11, 2011 12 comments

Wolf howling at the moon.Summary:
Buck is a spoiled southern dog enjoying a posh life when one of the family’s servants steals him and sells him away to be a sled dog for the Alaska gold rush.  Buck soon goes from an easy life to one of trials and tribulations as the result of humans fawning over a golden metal, but it might not be all bad for him in the wild Alaskan north.

Review:
How did I make it to be 24 years old without having read this American classic?  My shame was somewhat alleviated when my dad told me he was in his 20s too when he read it for the first time.  Honestly, I can see why this book is talked about so much.

Jack London understands animals.  He doesn’t present them as talking to each other the way humans speak, but he does present them as sentient beings with unique personalities and ways of interacting.  It’s not easy for them to understand what humans want, and yet humans expect them to figure it out.  Of course, London also highlights the wildness at the heart of every tamed animal.  That is part of what makes them amazing, beautiful creatures.

I can’t say too much more without spoiling the book.  I can say that I rarely cry for a book, but I cried for this one.  Animal advocates would do well to simply encourage people to read this book.  I have a hard time imagining anyone not sympathizing with animals more after reading it.

Beyond that, London’s writing is vivid, the story complex and engrossing.  I highly recommend it to everyone.

5 out of 5 stores

Source: Audiobooks app for the iTouch, iPhone, and iPad

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Book Review: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

December 13, 2010 6 comments

Person looking into river.Summary:
Ned Henry is a time-traveling historian at Oxford, who has unfortunately been assigned to Lady Shrapnell’s quest to recreate an historic church.  For the last…god knows how long, he’s been searching for the bishop’s bird stump in the 1940s.  He finds himself suffering from time-lag and is promised a vacation in Victorian England where Lady Shrapnell can’t find him.  Of course, the Oxford historians need him to take care of one teeny tiny little incongruity caused by fellow time-traveling historian, Verity, who just so happens to be as beautiful as a naiad.  Of course, that could just be the time-lag talking.

Review:
Wow.  Wow.  I literally hugged this book multiple times as I was reading it.  I love it that much.  You know that old Looney Tunes cartoon with the abominable snowman who finds Bugs Bunny and then scoops him up and rocks him saying, “I will hug him and love him and squeeze him and call him George” ?  If I was the abominable snowman, this book would be my Bugs Bunny.

It is incredibly witty in that highly intelligent manner that expects you to be educated to get the joke.  Multiple references to classic literature, historic events, and more tossed around as quips and comparisons to events characters are currently going through.  It also features the put-upon hero, Ned, who maintains a good sense of humor about the whole thing in that lovely self-deprecating way that makes me wish the character could pop out of the book and be my best friend.

Additionally, I love history as long-time readers of this blog know.  History was one of my two majors in university.  I was the 7 year old girl who sat around watching war movies and PBS documentaries.  I also love scifi.  Hence, the entire concept of time-travel is one of my all-time favorite things, and Willis handles it so intelligently and beautifully!  I love that time travel is something only the academics do since everyone else finds it dull once it’s discovered they can’t loot from the past.  It makes so much sense!  I love the implication that non-academics are quite happy with shopping malls while Ned and Verity go traipsing around through the past navigating a world distantly related to our own.  One of my favorite moments is when Ned discovers that Victorians actually used exclamations like “pshaw” that are found in Victorian novels.  It’s a historian’s dream come true!

Finally, a significant portion of the storyline revolves around cats.  Adding an extra layer of awesome to this is the fact that cats are extinct in the future, so Ned has never encountered one before.  He makes the initial mistake of thinking cats are like dogs.  Any cat lovers, I’m sure, can envision the hilarity that ensues from this little thought process.  Also, seriously, Willis clearly understands animals perfectly.  The mannerisms of the cats and the bull dog, Cyril, are written to a T.

Put together humor, time travel, history, and animals, and this is the perfect read.  If you enjoy any one of those things, but definitely if you enjoy more than one of them, you absolutely must give this book a chance.  I haven’t loved a book this much in years, and I just….I just want to spread the love.  I also want to go re-read it right now.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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