STAR TREK: BEYOND

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Star Trek: Beyond takes a while to get started. Part of the problem might be the script by Simon Pegg (who also plays “Scottie”) and Doug Jung. Justin Lin’s direction is adequte. Cinematographer, Steph F. Windon (veteran of the Fast & Furious films), delivers an action-filled big screen. The strength of the movie rests on Chris Pine as James T. Kirk, Karl Urban as Doctor McCoy, Zachary Quinto’s Spock, John Cho as Sulu, and the recently deceased Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov. And, once again, the talented Zoe Saldana is underutilized as Lieutenant Uhura. I found the fighting scenes tedious and the MacGuffin silly. But, other than that, watching Star Trek: Beyond is a good way to stay cool and eat popcorn. GRADE: B-

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #381: THE BIG BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

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The Big Book of Science Fiction edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer weighs in at 1,178 pages. Yes, this is a Big Fat Book. Like the 1950 Groff Conklin anthology similarly titled The Big Book of Science Fiction, this 2016 version attempts to embrace the whole spectrum of SF with 99 stories. Despite the large number of stories, many readers will wonder why some of their favorite SF stories are missing. Like Ann & Jeff VanderMeer’s previous massive anthologies like The Weird and The Time-Traveler’s Almanac, you get a huge tome of stories to work your way through. The Vanderveers include more “international” SF stories than you’ll find in most SF anthologies. The list price of this volume is $25, but I was able to buy it on AMAZON for $15.94. A bargain! If you’re looking for a hefty anthology that maps out Science Fiction of the 20th Century, this book delivers. How many of these stories have you read? GRADE: A-
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
INTRODUCTION, Ann & Jeff Vanderveer
Yoshio Aramaki, “Soft Clocks” 1968 (Japan) – translated by Kazuko Behrens and stylized by Lewis Shiner
Juan José Arreola, “Baby H.P.” 1952 (Mexico) – new translation by Larry Nolen
Isaac Asimov, “The Last Question” 1956
J.G. Ballard, “The Voices of Time” 1960
Iain M. Banks, “A Gift from the Culture” 1987
Jacques Barbéri, “Mondo Cane” 1983 (France) – first translation by Brian Evenson
John Baxter, “The Hands” 1965
Barrington J. Bayley, “Sporting with the Chid” 1979
Greg Bear, “Blood Music” 1983
Dmitri Bilenkin, “Crossing of the Paths” 1984 – new translation by James Womack
Jon Bing, “The Owl of Bear Island” 1986 (Norway) – translation
Adolfo Bioy Casares, “The Squid Chooses Its Own Ink” 1962 (Argentina) – new translation by Marian Womack
Michael Bishop, “The House of Compassionate Sharers” 1977
James Blish, “Surface Tension” 1952
Michael Blumlein, “The Brains of Rats” 1990
Jorge Luis Borges, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” 1940 (Argentina) – translation by Andrew Hurley
Ray Bradbury, “September 2005: The Martian” 1949
David R. Bunch, “Three From Moderan” 1959, 1970
Octavia Butler, “Bloodchild” 1984
Pat Cadigan, “Variations on a Man” 1984
André Carneiro, “Darkness” 1965 (Brazil) – translation by Leo L. Barrow
Stepan Chapman, “How Alex Became a Machine” 1996
C.J. Cherryh, “Pots” 1985
Ted Chiang, “The Story of Your Life” 1998
Arthur C. Clarke, “The Star” 1955
John Crowley, “Snow” 1985
Samuel R. Delany, “Aye, and Gomorrah” 1967
Philip K. Dick, “Beyond Lies the Wub” 1952
Cory Doctorow, “Craphound” 1998
W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Comet” 1920
Jean-Claude Dunyach, “Paranamanco” 1987 (France) – translation by Sheryl Curtis
S. N. Dyer, “Passing as a Flower in the City of the Dead” 1984
Harlan Ellison, “‘Repent Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktock Man” 1965
Carol Emshwiller, “Pelt” 1958
Paul Ernst, “The Microscopic Giants” 1936
Karen Joy Fowler, “The Lake Was Full of Artificial Things” 1985
Sever Gansovsky, “Day of Wrath” 1964 (Ukraine) – new translation by James Womack
William Gibson, “New Rose Hotel” 1984
Angélica Gorodischer, “The Unmistakable Smell of Wood Violets” 1973 (Argentina) – first translation by Marian Womack
Edmond Hamilton, “The Star Stealers” 1929
Han Song, “Two Small Birds” 1988 (China) – first translation by John Chu
Alfred Jarry, “The Elements of Pataphysics” 1911 (re-translation by Gio Clairval; France)
Gwyneth Jones, “The Universe of Things” 1993
Langdon Jones, “The Hall of Machines” 1968
Kaijo Shinji, “Reiko’s Universe Box” 1981 (Japan) – translation by Toyoda
Takashi and Gene van Troyer
Gérard Klein, “The Monster” 1958 (France) – translation by Damon Knight
Damon Knight, “Stranger Station” 1956
Leena Krohn, “The Gorgonoids” 1992 (Finland) – translation by Hildi Hawkins
R.A. Lafferty, “Nine Hundred Grandmothers” 1966
Kojo Laing, “Vacancy for the Post of Jesus Christ” 1992 (Ghana)
Geoffrey A. Landis, “Vacuum States” 1988
Tanith Lee, “Crying in the Rain” 1987
Ursula K. Le Guin, “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow” 1971
Stanisław Lem, “Let Us Save the Universe” 1981 (Poland) – translation by Joel Stern and Maria Swiecicka-Ziemianek
Cixin Liu, “The Poetry Cloud” 1997 (China) – translation by Chi-yin Ip and Cheuk Wong
Katherine MacLean, “The Snowball Effect” 1952
Geoffrey Maloney, “Remnants of the Virago Crypto-System” 1995
George R.R. Martin, “Sandkings” 1979
Michael Moorcock, “The Frozen Cardinal” 1987
Pat Murphy, “Rachel in Love” 1987
Misha Nogha, “Death is Static Death is Movement” 1990
Silvina Ocampo, “The Waves” 1959 (Argentina) – first translation by Marian Womack
Chad Oliver, “Let Me Live in a House” 1954
Manjula Padmanabhan, “Sharing Air” 1984 (India)
Frederick Pohl, “Day Million” 1966
Rachel Pollack, “Burning Sky” 1989
Robert Reed, “The Remoras” 1994
Kim Stanley Robinson, “Before I Wake”1989
Joanna Russ, “When It Changed” 1972
Josephine Saxton, “The Snake Who Had Read Chomsky” 1981
Paul Scheerbart, “The New Abyss” 1911 (Germany) – first translation by Daniel Ableev and Sarah Kaseem
James H. Schmitz, “Grandpa” 1955
Vadim Shefner, “A Modest Genius” 1965 (Russia) –translation by Matthew J. O’Connell
Robert Silverberg, “Good News from the Vatican” 1971
Clifford D. Simak, “Desertion” 1944
Johanna Sinisalo, “Baby Doll” 2002 (Finland) – translation by David Hackston
Cordwainer Smith, “The Game of Rat and Dragon” 1955
Margaret St. Clair, “Prott” 1985
Bruce Sterling, “Swarm” 1982
Karl Hans Strobl, “The Triumph of Mechanics” 1907 (Germany) – first translation by Gio Clairval
Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, “The Visitors” 1958 (Russia) – new translation by James Womack
Theodore Sturgeon, “The Man Who Lost the Sea” 1959
William Tenn, “The Liberation of Earth” 1953
William Tenn, “Ghost Standard” 1994
James Tiptree, Jr., “And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side” 1972
Tatyana Tolstoya, “The Slynx” 2000 (Russia) – translation byJamey Gambrell
Yasutaka Tsutsui, “Standing Woman” 1974 (Japan) – translation by Dana Lewis
Lisa Tuttle, “Wives” 1979
Miguel de Unamuno, “Mechanopolis” 1913 (Spain) – new translation by Marian Womack
Élisabeth Vonarburg, “Readers of Lost Art” 1987 (Canada/Quebec) – translation by Howard Scott
Kurt Vonnegut, “2BRO2B” 1962
H.G. Wells, “The Star,” 1897
James White, “Sector General” 1957
Connie Willis, “Schwarzschild Radius” 1987
Gene Wolfe, “All the Hues of Hell” 1987
Alicia Yánez Cossío, “The IWM 1000” 1975 (Chile) – translation by Susana Castillo and Elsie Adams
Valentina Zhuravlyova, “The Astronaut” 1960 (Russia) – new translation by James Womack
Yefim Zozulya, “The Doom of Principal City” 1918 (Russian) – first translation by Vlad Zhenevsky

THE BLACK WIDOW By Daniel Silva

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Daniel Silva’s latest spy novel, The Black Widow, updates John Le Carre’s classic, The Little Drummer Girl (1983). ISIS attacks in Paris and Brussels leads intelligence services to attempt to penetrate the terrorist network. Gabriel Allon, Daniel Silva’s master spy for 16 books (I’ve read most of them), recruits a doctor who can speak French and Arabic. Natalie agrees to the perilous mission and becomes transformed into a Palestinian woman cover who is a “Black Widow.” Black Widows are women whose husbands or boyfriends have been killed and want revenge. After Natalie is trained, she’s placed in a French clinic near a Muslim neighborhood. Within a short time, Natalie is approached by an ISIS recruiter. Her story is believed and soon Natalie is sent to the ISIS headquarters in Syria. Before long, Natalie finds herself caught up in the next terrorist attack. The Black Widow is 528 pages long (which qualifies it as a Big Fat Book) but the pages fly by as Silva ratchets up the suspense. If you’re looking for a Summer Spy Novel, I recommend The Black Widow. It’s intense! GRADE: B+

BLACK MAN, WHITE HOUSE: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE OBAMA YEARS By D. L. Hughley

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Comedian D. L. Hughley “translates” the Obama Years in the White House with wicked political commentary in Black Man, White House. Hughley uses the device of “quotes” from the major players in this political drama: the Clintons, the Bushes, Mitt Romney, Joe Biden, Sarah Palin, John McCain, and dozens of others. D. L. Hughley has had comedy specials on HBO and Showtime. Hughley’s first book was I Want You to Shut the F#ck Up. Chris Rock haled it as “the best book since The Hunger Games. Black Man, White House is just as good. GRADE: B+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Prologue: Democratic National Convention: July 27, 2004
1. Senator Obama, 2004–2006
2. Becoming the Nominee, 3007-2008
3. Winning the White House, 2008
4. The Inauguration, January 20, 2009
5. Senate Supermajority, 2009
6. Making Appointments, 2009
7. The Beer Summit, July 2009
8. Hear Cares, July-October 2009
9. Wins and losses, October 2009-January 2010
10. The Shellacking, February-November 2010
11. OBL & BS, November 2010-July 2011
12. Ready for Romney, July 2011-May 2012
13. Long Hot Summer, June-September 2012
14. Winner and Still Champion, September-December 2012
15. Second Chances, January-December 2013
16. Packing the Bags, 2014-2016
Index

GHOSTBUSTERS

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Joe Morgenstern, in his movie review of Ghostbusters (2016) in the Wall Street Journal, concludes his assessment with this line: “Busting ghosts used to be a lot more fun.” I found this remake of Ghostbusters mildly entertaining. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones (all Saturday Night Live cast members) combine forces to fight para-normal creatures. Chris Hemsworth (The Mighty Thor!) plays their hunky, dumb blonde secretary. The flaws in the movie are caused by a weak script with too many “slow spots.” And way too much “action” with the proton packs. The women fire their weapons so often it just gets tedious. But, on the plus side, the cast is good and there are some funny lines (though not enough of them) to keep the audience semi-satisfied. GRADE: B-

YUGE!: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump By G. B. Trudeau

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In addition to 30 years of Doonsbury comics featuring Donald Trump, Trudeau also includes a handy treasury of Trump insults! Yes, you too can use 500 words from Trump’s tweets to berate others! Trudeau has captured the essence of Trump in these comic strips. In fact, like Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin impressions on Saturday Night Live, Trudeau uses the actual words of the person he’s mocking. And the subjects are actual: Trump University, Birther-controversy, Marla Maples, Trump as a middle-school bully, Trump’s bromance with Chris Christie, and much more! If you’re looking for something to laugh at this week of all weeks, Yuge! could be the answer to your humor needs. GRADE: A
DOONSBURY

THE BALLAD OF BLACK TOM By Victor LaValle

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Just as Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft County, the book that kicked off H. P. Lovecraft Week here, tells the stories of African-Americans drawn into the Lovecraft Universe, Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom features an African-American hustler who finds himself looking at Cthulhu. The lead character starts out the story as Tommy Tester, a resident of Harlem in 1924. But a tragic event transforms Tommy Tester into Black Tom, a man with fabulous powers. The Ballad of Black Tom is one of TOR Books’s “novella” series of paperbacks. It weighs in at 150 pages. But the story it tells is a powerful one. I hope Victor LaValle is working on more tales of Black Tom. GRADE: B+

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #380: THE HOUSE OF CTHULHU By Brian Lumley

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The contemporary writer who has embraced the Cthulhu Mythos most ardently is Brian Lumley. He has written dozens of stories with Lovecraftian themes. The House of Cthulhu features wizards and spells and books of forbidden knowledge: all the trappings Lovecraft loved to play with in his stories. Lumley’s stories are like potato chips: you can’t just stop with one. Cthulhu shows up in several of these stories to wreck destruction on those foolish enough to summon him. If you like classic story-telling with magic and menace, you’ll enjoy The House of Cthulfu.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Introduction 11
How Kank Thad Returned to Bhur-Esh 33
The Sorcerer’s Book 57
The House of Cthulhu 87
Tharquest and the Lamia Orbiquita 104
To Kill a Wizard 124
Cryptically Yours 142
Mylakhrion the Immortal 162
Lords of the Morass 173
The Wine of the Wizard 219
The Sorcerere’s Dream 248

THE NIGHTMARE STACKS By Charles Stross

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The Nightmare Stacks is the seventh novel in Charles Stross’s Laundry series. The Laundry is a super secret British Intelligence agency who focuses on Lovecraftian threats to our world. You don’t have to read the previous books in the Laundry series to enjoy The Nightmare Stacks. Our hero is a mathematician named Alex Schwartz. Alex had the bad luck of invoking higher level math that opened a dimension so V-symbiots infected him. The result: Alex is now a vampire. But, that’s okay. The Laundry has uses for vampires, werewolves, and other strange creatures.

The existential threat in The Nightmare Stacks revolves around an invasion of Leeds by an extra-dimensional army armed with basilisks and dragons. The Laundry’s assets are spread thin in Leeds so Alex is called upon to engage the enemy forces. If you’re a fan of the Laundry series, you’re going to enjoy this latest romp. If you’re looking for some fun Summer reading, The Nightmare Stacks would make a great Beach Book! GRADE: B+