Sep 12, 2019

Billy's Books 24: Circe

Today's review is actual fiction. I guess it's more fantasy, but certainly not my usual science fiction. It's a novel seen through the eyes of a lowly nymph, Circe. A nymph is a Greek immortal, but much less than a god. Circe's father is a proper god, Helios, the sun: the guy in the chariot that crosses the sky every day. What a temper has he! (Like so many gods.) Circe encounters a few other gods in this book (Apollo and Athena, for example), and some notable mortals as well, most famously Odysseus.

Please excuse my butchering of the pronunciation of so many (ancient) Greek names and words. I think I incorrectly say Circe's name throughout. You're welcome.




It should be noted that there is some violence (sexual and otherwise) in this book, but it is not explicit. PG-17?

Perhaps this quote sums up the entire novel:
Penelope said, "What is a witch then If it is not divinity?" 
"I do not know for certain," I said. "I once thought it was passed through blood, but Telegonus has no spells in him. I have come to believe it is mostly will." 
She nodded. I did not have to explain. We knew what will was.

A recurring theme is the chasm between mortals and gods. Since gods can do so much with a wave of the hand, they draw satisfaction from inventive forms of destruction. She appreciates that mortals work to create instead, especially their handiwork. Circe is intimate with another mortal, a thousand generations her junior:
"I want you to know, if you go to Egypt, if you go anywhere, I want to go with you."
Pulse by pulse, his life passed under my fingers. "Thank you," I said.

Aug 12, 2019

Billy's Books 23: Star Wars: Thrawn: Treason

Star Wars: Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn

The fourth book in the Thrawn series, occurring some time before the Rogue One movie, and after the related Alphabet Squadron book reviewed earlier.
A lot of the intrigues are about the Imperial allocation of funds. Secret Project Stardust (The Death Star) is Director Krennan's baby, while Thrawn is trying to protect funding for his advanced TIE Defender project. That Thrawn is assigned to solve the problem of supplies getting destroyed in transit is a political maneuver unto itself, but leads to his investigation wherein he discovers corruption.


Jul 21, 2019

Billy's Books 22: The Pioneers by David McCullough

The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David McCullough

This is not so much a review as one quote from the book. It's a scene where George Washington gets very angry. Being President of the United States, how does he handle himself?


Jun 28, 2019

Billy's Books 21: Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed

Yes, another science fiction novel. This one occurs shortly after Return Of the Jedi (destruction of the second Death Star, the Emperor’s death, etc.).



Did I mention Operation Cinder? After the Emperor died, the remains of the losing Empire began a scorched earth campaign, basically genocide for as many Rebel planets as they could hit. Our formerly Imperial protagonist, Quell, struggles to face up to that reality. It's a tough sell, mentally, for she still thinks of the destruction of the Death Star(s) as acts if terrorism. Great mental gymnastics.
Here's an amusing  quote I found from elsewhere in the book:
"Never really got on with my parents, but my grandfather understood life, I figure. Always talked about serving alongside the clone troopers, how it taught you what matters is heart. Doesn't matter if you all look alike -- inside we're all different."

Jun 13, 2019

Billy's Books 20: Electric Forest

Electric Forest by Tanith Lee

This seems to be a variation on Frankenstein set in a Brave New World. I say Tabitha Lee instead of Tanith Lee. Please forgive me. I was recovering from a cold.


I'm now convinced that this is feminist literature. I wouldn't dare to draw any conclusions as to the meanings or lessons, but the content and imagery are substantive and rewarding nonetheless.

An ugly woman (her nickname is "Ugly") is given a new, attractive body by a rich, condescending mad scientist named Claudio. She must still carry her old haggard body around with her for survival. It's a burden she must never forget. She is named Magdala, as in "Mary of Magdala, a thoroughbred whore," as he constantly reminds her. An example of a supporting character is a woman named Nada. That should be enough right there, for 1979.

So many great quotes in this book! Church memories on planet Indigo, where they "pray to the letter T":
"While they sang, the little children had inflicted surreptitious hurts on Magdala, and she had never been able to concentrate. Christ took no notice, which was not surprising, for he too, apparently, was a good-looking man."

May 10, 2019

Billy's Books 19: The Hate U Give, Master & Apprentice

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Star Wars: Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray

These two books just barely relate to each other, but I found a way, dangit. Both feature teenagers as prime characters, both of whom are tenuously associated with sometimes wearing hoodies and Jedi robes (with hoods). Like I said, it's pretty tenuous.


I forgot to mention in the review that The Hate U Give is not just murder and racism, but also has a sense of humor. It's written for teens, after all. At a certain point, they are discussing names ("normal" vs black). One of the characters' names is Seven, and his friend mocks him, asking, "What is your middle name? Eight?"

Master & Apprentice is staged mostly the planet Pijal and its moon. They have an interesting culture that favors modesty, or at least one that shuns showiness. The princess and other rich people wear bland fabrics that reveal just a bit of fancy peeking through. The idea is that inner beauty must be sought out. In one scene a nobleman's garments are torn, revealing too much gold linen. He curses that they are ruined, such a display would be gauch!