Friday, July 27, 2007


Author: Emma Bull
Published: 1994

Set in the shared universe of the Borderland, the main character, Orient, has a gift for finding things. This talent gets him drafted into a police investigation. Clues are followed, elves are implicated, innocents die, and the guilty get caught.

This novel followed Bull's Bone Dance which had very clear gender bending issues and themes. With Finder I found the same themes, though more subtle. The main character is male, yet is teased several times for not being a manly-man. Whether this is because of his talent, his friend (female elf), or his borderline emotional stability, is not clear. The cop is a strong female character who is very much in control of her emotions and the investigation. The two have a bit of a fling, yet it is Orient that is left hearbroken. A refreshing change of roles, I must say.

Two books down, two thumbs up. Looks like I'll have to read all the rest by Ms. Bull.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Complete Food and Nutrition Guide

Author: Roberta Larson Duyff
Published: 2006

Published by the American Dietetic Association, and book one of three towards my summer reading goal.* It is a hefty tome, close to 700 pages, and more complete than one might need. But if you are confused about how to navigate through a supermarket, or what appetizers might be a healthy choice in a Greek restaurant, perhaps this is just what you need.

Well written, nice amount of bullets, sidebars, and myth-busting factoids to keep it interesting. One criticism is the book makes the FDA sound like it can do no wrong. So, bring a shaker of salt (just not too much, have to watch sodium intake).

The information on nutrition was interesting and prompted some meal-time changes on my part. We eat healthy anyway, but one statistic worried me. Calcium is good for teeth and bones, we all know that. The body deposits calcium to build those bones and teeth, but only until about age 30-35. Okay, I can deal with being past the deposit stage.

But wait, the body still needs calcium all through one's life. If it doesn't get enough, it starts leaching it out of the bones! Thus, the bones become porous, as in osteoporosis. Thirty years after your bone-account is full, you fall, break your hip, and die.

Um, why didn't someone tell me this in my 20's when I could have been saving more! Back then my fluid intake consisted mainly of beer and coffee! Oh, and by the way, alcohol and caffeine inhibit the body's ability to absorb calcium. Well, I probably wouldn't have listened back then anyway.

So, the lesson for today: Drink your milk, eat your yogurt, and sip your soy smoothies every day!

*The theme of the summer adult reading program at the local library is "Gray's Anatomy". My goal is three books on health, nutrition, and exercise.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born

Author: Harry Harrison
Published: 1985

Packaged in a trilogy for the famous series, this book recounts the beginnings of James DiGriz, intergalactic rogue. Equal parts satire and silliness, the novel was very amusing. What I like about Harrison is he doesn't (in the two books I've read) write hard SF. No explanation of FTL, no excuses for mixing high tech with medieval style societies. It's just plain fun to read.

Maybe that's why I write in a similar way. I want to create something I'd want to read.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Liquid From The Sun's Rays

Author: Sue Greenleaf
Published: 1901

When I visited the Library of Congress I wanted to find a SF book that couldn't be found elsewhere. Liquid From the Sun's Rays is not the first SF book written by a woman, but a very early one that is not in the utopia/dystopia category so popular around the turn of the 19th century. And very obscure (here is the closest relevant link I could find).

The story reminded me of gothic fiction, not because of elements such as horror and ghosts, but more of the many turns of the plot, stock characters who die and re-appear, as well as mysterious events and letters.

I had to read quickly since I had limited time (you cannot take books out of the LOC). The key element was "Memory Fluid" (aka "liquid from the sun's rays") which not only killed all the bad bacteria in one's body (bestowing very long life) but also restored to one all the memories from one's previous lives. This became a problem for someone who in a previous life was known as "The Kansas Plunger", a notorious confidence man who cheated thousands out of their money. The question is, can this man who admits to his past life crimes, be held responsible for them?

Alas, this is not what takes up most of the novel. There is a coup in a former-Mexican state (which has been annexed to the U.S.), issues regarding giving the "Memory Fluid" to anyone else, a strange case of love unrequited, another fluid that allows levitation, and a lot of talk about light, the divine, the universal, past sins, and so on (getting the drift here?)

In the end, the artist-previously-known-as-the-Kansas-Plunger is convicted, but the judge dismisses all charges. Love is still unrequited, some die, some live, and the coup is defeated.

Strange eh? But that is not the most interesting part of this book. The dedication is enough to make one wonder, not only about the novel, but about the author. It read:

"With sorrow in my heart
much pity for the weak
who put obstacles in my path
wishing my life a perpetual
slough of despair
I respectfully dedicate this volume"

Now, tell me there isn't a story behind those sentiments!