PALINDROME 656 by C. F. Waller

palendromeIs this not the ugliest book cover you have ever seen?  Good grief.   Apparently, thank Buddha, there is a somewhat better version put out later.

This is hard sci fi, and I totally loved it.  It stars a kickass ‘enhanced’ chick named Hannah Reinier.  Get it?  That’s a palindrome.  Her official category number is Palindrome 656.  The first number is her batch code, and the next two are a counter.  She is number 56 of batch 6.

The book starts off in 2549, with a ghost ship — that would be space ship, folks, not an ocean-going vessel – arriving at the Cern Space Station after a ten-year voyage to Europa, one of Juniper’s moons.  When the authorities board her, after receiving no answer to their transmissions, they find only one person out of a crew of 16.  That’s not a good sign.  Kind of like when you have an aquarium of guppies and then eventually all you have is an aquarium of one really fat guppie.

We learn the story in bits and pieces from our narrator, how twenty years before this expedition, (so that would make it thirty years ago) another ship went to Europa to mine a kind of algae which grew under the ice.  That ship never returned, and this expedition went out to investigate what happened and to bring home some samples of the algae.

At this date in history, the world is divided into four parts:  the two big powers – the Union, which was the Americas, the Empire, which was Europe and the former Asian countries, Oz, which was the former Australia and New Zealand, and Abysinia, which was the African continent.  The two biggest players, the Union and the Empire, were making a joint venture of this investigatory flight to Jupiter.

Hannah is a pilot and an assassin.  And in spite of it all, we root for her all the way, because we love seeing a Chick who is Large and In Charge.  It is a wonderful tale, told in a manner to keep you turning pages and hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.  Hannah has a lot of personal rules, the first and foremost of which is “Don’t touch me.”  There is “Nothing is as good up close as it is far away,”  “If you’re ranking things, all that matters is time”, and  “Death is always ugly”, and my fav, “No matter how many you take, you will need the one you left behind.”   She is a nicotine addict, and will do an awful lot of ugly stuff for a cigarette, because as she says, “Nicotine is a strong second to hate as a motivator.”

OK, the edition I read could have used another proofreading run-through.  I think this is self-published or indie — VERY indie published.  Things like “line up in cues to…” and “this is you ‘re answer”  and “if you hadn’t noticed your sitting on an Empire ship” tend to grate after a while.  The indication of a good story is if you can more or less ignore the boo-boos and carry on reading.  I’ve abandoned books with a ho-hum story line and which had a lot of typos, because I just couldn’t stand it.

And here is a later cover.  Only slightly better.  Why do artists depicting female persons draw them with hardly any clothes?   Nowhere in this book does she describe herself wearing a mini top, shorts and hooker hose.  And is that a garter belt on her leg?  Oh, please.   And why do they depict them standing with their shoulders back farther than their butts?  Oh, wait, I know.  It’s the …… OK,  Male artists.  Never mind.

Palindrome-finished

Great book.  Lousy cover(s).   I am looking for more by this author.

 

 

UP, BACK, AND AWAY by K. Velk

51PXCcaQBUL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_YA fantasy, not something I usually read, but dang if it wasn’t a pretty nifty tale.  It is a story about time travel, another genre niche which I don’t usually care for, but it turned out to be a fine story which kept me turning pages

A fifteen-year-old boy meets an elderly professor in a bike shop, which offers antique bicycles.  The professor has a heart attack, and calls young Miles to his hospital bedside to confess that he is a time traveler, and needs Miles to go to 1928 England for him and bring back a girl who is there ‘out of time’, who doesn’t belong in that time period.

On telling the plot, it does seem like a flimsy excuse, and how is Miles to actually accomplish this?  Well, turns out there is a portal in the Vermont woods, which Miles’ family will be conveniently visiting shortly.  Miles insists on hauling his antique bike with him so he can secretly take it through the portal.

He goes through the portal, bangs his head on a low branch, and wakes up in 1928 rural England, where a young lad takes him to the local doctor for treatment.  He gets a job at the great house, (you know, like Downton Abby, and comes face to face with the British class system, circa pre-WWII.

It is a clever mashup of history and modern times, and if the story line of finding a girl “out of time” is a little odd,  perhaps even hooky, it is still a fun read.  There are some convenient exceptions to what one can bring through the portal from the future, and we meet some interesting characters, there is the feel good denouement in the 1928 story, and then a feel good ending in modern times.

This is a fun read, and by no means is it a fictionalized treatise on the physics of time travel.  It is just a story, and a lovely one at that.

 

JAMIE QUINN MYSTERY COLLECTION by Barbara Venkataraman

MysteriesThese are more of the Jamie Quinn, domestic affairs lawyer series.  I already talked about one, Death by Didgeridoo, here.   This box set contains that book, plus two others, The Case of the Killer Divorce, and Peril in the Park.  These other two are more like long stories, or really short novellas, but continue the story of Jamie Quinn and her search for her father whom she has never seen, and her romance with a nice new man in her life.  All this, mixed in with some cozily cozy mysteries, which are not very mysterious, but still fun reading, nonetheless.

Nicely written, warm characters, a pleasant feel to the whole thing, one of those kinds of books that make nice reading right before you fall asleep at night.

I don’t really have anything else to say about it, since to do so would be to give away too much.  Read them yourselves.  They’re fun.

CONUNDRUM by Susan Cory

conundrumIris Reid is an architect.  Her graduating group is a bunch of nasty, greedy, ambitious pricks.  Gee, are all architects like this?  I hope not.

At the graduation party, a quiet, nerdy genius of whom everyone (with the exception, natch, of Iris) is wildly jealous, falls off the balcony of the party condo and dies.  Police determine that he had drugs in his system, and so became disoriented and tumbled over.  Iris is sure that is wrong, because the young man never took drugs, ever.

Fast forward twenty years, and Iris is finishing up the design and construction of a multi-kabillion dollar house for a classmate who abandoned architecture to become a businessman.   Yeah, gee, how nice for her.  Let’s see, another classmate is a star writer for a shelter porn mag, who may feature the house on the cover of her mag.

A class reunion is scheduled and a dinner party will be held in the fancy schmancy house. Iris’ boyfriend back in college, a horn dog if there ever was one, and with whom she broke up right before the party, and with whom she hasn’t spoken  in those intervening twenty years, calls her to set up a meeting to discuss an old school he wants to convert to condos in San Francisco.  He never shows for their meeting, and is found murdered.

Then the guy she built the house for is found dead in his wine cooler room.  So now we have three deaths – the student, Will the ex boyfriend, and the millionaire house builder.  Hmmm.  Couuuuuuulllllldddd they be connected?  Can we say obvious, boys and girls?

An OKAY mystery, not all that great.  The over-the-top annoying fellow student and his over-the-top snarky unpleasant wife turn out to be involved in the events, no big surprise, and the dead skirt chaser ex boyfriend, too.  Geez, telegraph much?

The actual writing, that is the grammar and style, not bad, just the story was pretty simple.  Naive.  Simplistic.  Amateur.  Not even in that cozy mystery kind of way, just not very well done.

But you will notice, I did read the whole thing, so it couldn’t have been all that awful.  The author is a residential architect.  I think she should stick to architecting and leave the mystery writing to others with a better feel for it.

You know, now that I think about it,  fleshed out and improved, it would have made a decent literary fiction offering with the murders, maybe less of them, as a surprise near the end, instead of the murders being the reason for the book.

Oh well, what do I know.  I am only a poor peasant who reads too much.

GILGAMESH THE KING by Robert Silverberg

gilgameshI wanted to read this because I wanted to know more about him, and I thought a fictionalized account of his life would be more interesting than just hieing myself off to Wikipedia.

[OK, I lied.  I download this book because I got confused between the Sumerian Gilgamesh and the Hindu god Ganesh, which is the one I was actually interested in.  Well, come on, there are enough similarities in the names, with the G and the esh, right?]

So the whole fictionalized life thing is really about Gilgamesh, who was a king of legend in ancient Mesopotamia, and the story comes to us from  an Akkadian poem that is considered the first great work of literature.   Gilgamesh is generally seen by scholars as an historical figure, since inscriptions have been found which confirm the existence of other figures associated with him in the epic. If Gilgamesh existed, he probably was a king who reigned sometime between 2800 and 2500 BC.  The Sumerian King List claims that Gilgamesh ruled the city of Uruk, one of the prominant cities of Sumer,  for 126 years. According to the Tummal Inscription Gilgamesh and his son Urlugal rebuilt the sanctuary of the goddess Ninlil in Tummal, a sacred quarter in her city of Nippur.

Gilgamesh is part god, — actually two parts god, and one part human.  He feels the gods enter him, and speak to him.  If you took my advice and read THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND by Julian Jaynes, like I told you to, you would have a wonderful alternate take on the somewhat supernatural aspects of Gilgamesh’s life and beliefs.  2500 BC would of course be in the period that Jaynes claims the mind was still unevolved and operated in two separated spheres, giving human awareness a kind of schizoid experience, with the person hearing voices as voices of the gods.

This epic tale is operatic quality, what with the kings and the wars and the battles.  Hey, you don’t get to annex other lands simply by asking politely.  Takes blood, guts, (preferably the enemy’s), and a fair amount of machination, intrigue and well, let’s call a spade a shovel here, murder.

Gilgamesh’s father, the king Lugalbanda,  dies when Gilgamesh was 6 years old.  He watches as the personal servants and retinue of his father follow  the body down into the burial pit, to be entombed along with him.  He is pretty sure after seeing this that he never wants to die. I know, right?  When he is just a preteen, he flees into exile to the city Kish where he grows into manhood and becomes a powerful warrior.  It turns out that the king of Kish and the goddess in charge of his own city, Uruk, conspired to have him return to his city and become the king there.  The priestess of the goddess Inanna is a real bitch, and wishes to manipulate Gilgamesh.

He does many good works, but is lonely.  A wild man is discovered in the hillsides, and is cleaned up and taught civilization and becomes the friend of Gilgamesh.  They go on adventures together to find and destroy demons.  Ahhh, what a life!  He friend dies of a wasting disease, due to the machinations of the Inanna priestess, and Gilgamesh, distraught with grief, becomes terribly afraid of dying, and so sets off alone on a journey to find how to avoid death.  In true quest fashion, he has many adventures, meets up with people who can help him and learns a valuable lesson.

Part of his quest involves an old legend of a terrible flood, a man who was told by the gods to build a large vessel and put the seeds of all life on it to survive the flood.  In return for this service, he was granted eternal life by the gods.

Gilgemesh finally learns that his city Uruk is about to be taken over by a rival, and so hurries home to save the city.

This is all told in the form of Gilgmamesh as an old man writing his memoirs, and is basically , in addition to being a thrilling tale of action and adventure, is about politics, the treachery of man and gods,  and the necessity of accepting death as part of life, because when the gods gave man life, they also gave man death, and kept the eternal life for themselves.

It is interesting to note that the flood narrative in the Epic of Gilgamesh was appeared at least a thousand years before the tale told in the bible. As a matter of fact, many ancient civilizations have a flood narrative.

Gilgamesh1Gilgamesh2

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Now about the revered Hindu god Ganesh.  He comes a lot later, more near the tenth century.  He is the god with the head of an elephant.  I know, right?   It is said that the goddess Parvati, wishing to bathe, created a boy, Ganesh,  and assigned him the task of guarding the entrance to her bathroom. When her husband Shiva returned from one his interminable battles, he was denied access by Ganesh and killed the boy in a fit of petulant rage, striking his head off with his sword. Parvati was understandably upset and so to soothe her, Shiva sent out his warriors to fetch the head of the first dead creature they found, —  of course, that would be MY first thought of what to do.  Well, the first dead creature they came upon happened to be that of an elephant. The head was attached to the body of the boy and he was brought back to life. The elephant’s head symbolizes unmatched wisdom and the gaining of knowledge through reflection and listening. And because of his role as his mother’s doorkeeper, he is often placed facing doorways to keep out the unworthy.

There are a number of other fascinating stories about Ganesh, who is the Lord of Good Fortune who provides prosperity, fortune and success. He is the Lord of Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles of both material and spiritual kinds. Interestingly, he also places obstacles in the path of those who need to be checked.  Another story about him is how he came to have a broken tusk.  One popular version is that he broke it off himself in order to write down the Mahabharata, one of the world’s longest epic poems, as it was dictated to him by the sage Vyasa. In the process of writing, Ganesh’s pen failed and so he snapped off his tusk as a replacement in order that the transcription not be interrupted. The broken tusk therefore symbolizes sacrifice and Ganesh’s role as patron of the arts and of letters.

ganeshOK, so now do you see why I got confused?

ON LUCKY SHORES by Kerry Donovan

lucky shoresAnother offering by an author I like a lot.  He has got three DCI Jones police procedurals, and a really nifty paranormal/supernatural/sci fi, The Transition of Johnny Swift,  and now this action/thriller novel.  If you want some info on his other novels, just enter his name in the search window on this site, and it will give you the links to my opinions on those books.

Donovan was born in Ireland, lived in England, and now resides in France, so we have to say he is a British writer, writing about British things.  That is, until now.  This book is set in the United States, in the mountains of the west, Colorado, I think.  Geez, I really do have to start keeping notes.

Anyway, my lack of mental storage notwithstanding,  Chet Walker is a young man, a wannabe musician with medical training (you don’t come across that combo any too often) on a walking road trip through the remote areas of the USA looking for inspiration and fame.  He is almost run over on some isolated logging road,  but the car tumbles off the side of the road, and Chet rushes to the aid of the driver, who after delivering some mysterious messages for his daughter who lives in the small town up ahead, dies before help can arrive.

For some reason not really clear to me, the Sheriff of the town seems to have taken a real dislike to our boy, maybe because of the long hair maybe because he doesn’t have a job or much money and seems like a drifter.  Well, duh, he IS a drifter.

He gets a job playing his guitar in the local watering hole, meets the lovely daughter of the dead man,  discovers the town seems to have all kinds of secrets, not the least of which is the local hotshot surgeon.  In the local high falootin’ hospital.  Wow.  Small rural western town has a big deal hospital.  How convenient.

So it seems that the dead guy stole a whole barrel full of money belonging to the town and immediately high tailed it for parts unknown, never to be seen again until that fateful day when he died on the mountainside.  Also turns out he was quite the artist.

All of this merges together with a love story, bullets, conspiracy, land grabbing, music and medicine.  Why is it that none of this interesting stuff ever happens to me?  OK, I could do without the bullets and shootings, but …..  Oh, well, like that old expression that when you are at home you wish you were out having an adventure, and when you are out having an adventure, you wish you were home.

Have fun with this one.

RELATIVE MALICE by Marla Madison

relative maliceA horrendous murder of four members of a family, and the baby missing.  Homicide detective Kendall Halsrud is in charge after her partner, and experienced guy of many years, has a heart attack and undergoes heart surgery.

The estranged brother of the slain husband (See what I did there?  Slain husband.  Don’t I sound professional!)  hires his firm’s  head of security to help find the baby, who may still be alive.  The security guy, Nash, is a former cop with a history with Kendall when a sting went bad and she got gut shot.  So she is not his biggest fan, and when he asks to work with her, she is less than enthusiastic at the idea.

However, the case is going south.  They think they have the perp, and it is not looking like the baby, if ever found, will be found alive.  There are suspects, live suspects and dead suspects, and no trace of the baby, and the two begin to work together.  With the help of Kendall’s kooky neighbor, a computer hacker on parole, they investigate the world of perv – specifically pervs who prefer babies, and on another tact, (or is it tack?)  (It’s tack. Ego veni, googli, inveni.   I came, I googled, I found.)  they delve into the adoption business.  In both instances,  people sell babies to these groups.

Really good police procedural/detective story with some unforeseen (at least by me) twists and turns, good writing, and frankly, Gentle Readers, that is all I ask of a crime novel.   I’m not looking for Infinite Jest here, just a nicely-written, entertaining puzzle.  And that is exactly what I got.  Good read.