Author Archives: george

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #415: POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY By Adrian McKinty


Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I thought I’d celebrate by reviewing Adrian McKinty’s new Sean Duffy mystery, Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly. Sean Duffy is a police detective in Belfast. It’s 1988 and Duffy is investigating the bizarre murder of a drug dealer who is shot by crossbow. The drug dealer’s Bulgarian wife disappears and Duffy’s leads dry up. But when the IRA try to execute Duffy, the story really gets cranked up. Duffy has some relationship problems with his girl friend, Beth. The shifting alliances within the police establishment come into play, too. I’ve enjoyed the Sean Duffy series with Rain Dogs (with its impossible crime motif) as my favorite. My other reviews of the Sean Duffy mysteries are  here,  here,  here, and here. GRADE: B+
THE SEAN DUFFY SERIES:
The Cold Cold Ground (2012)
I Hear the Sirens in the Street (2013)
In the Morning I’ll Be Gone (2014)
Gun Street Girl (2015)
Rain Dogs (2016)
Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly (2017)

ARABELLA OF MARS By David D. Levine


I’m not a big fan of steam-punk SF, but I’d read enough positive reviews of David D. Levine’s Arabella of Mars to order a copy (plus I liked the cover artwork by Stephan Martiniere). Levine creates a Mars of 1812. There is a British colony on Mars. Arabella, her older brother Michael, her father and mother, and her two younger sisters live in an uneasy association with Martian tribes. After an incident where Arabella is hurt, her mother (who hates Mars) insists on returning to London with her children. Arabellas’s father, knowing his wife’s dislike of the red planet, agrees but negotiates to keep Michael on Mars to help him operate the family plantation. His wife agrees and leaves for Earth. Yes, the scenes of “sailing” through Space in wooden ships seems a bit wacky (I found Levine’s explanations unconvincing). But if you suspend your skepticism, Arabella of Mars accelerates into an entertaining adventure novel. Arabella decides she has to return to Mars so she disguises herself as a teenage boy. The mysterious Captain of a Mars Trading Company ship, Diana, hires Arabella because of her skill with clockwork mechanisms. Yes, sometimes the action feels like C. S. Forester’s Hornblower books (or Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin seafaring novels). Only set in Space between Earth and Mars. If you’re in the mood for a fun adventure, Arabella in Mars will take you on one. GRADE: B

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK [Blu-ray]


An R-Rated DC animated feature? That’s what Justice League Dark delivers. Plenty of spooky stuff brings the Justice League into the action. But they’re confounded by events like a series of mysterious deaths. Bruce Wayne receives a message to contact John Constantine, the abrasive practitioner of mystical arts. Constantine, his former lover Zatanna, and Jason Blood also known as the demon Etrigan join Bat-man on a quest to discover which Dark Magic mage is behind the series of deaths. If you’re in the mood for a very different kind of Justice League adventure, you’ll fine Justice League Dark an entertaining change of pace. GRADE: A-

THE GENE: AN INTIMATE HISTORY By Siddhartha Mukherjee


Siddhartha Mukherjee’s astonishing The Gene: An Intimate History provides fascinating history as well as the science behind the greatest scientific breakthrough in biology. I found the story of Mendel’s peas completely astonishing. Who would have guessed the extent of the impact of Darwin’s The Origin of the Species would have on science and social movements? But the story of the gene really gets moving when American biologist James Watson and English physicist Francis Crick discover the DNA double helix. Sequencing the human genome, learning how to manipulate genes, possible genetic cures for cancer and other diseases, and the prospect of illegal genetic abuse by terrorists and rogue nations are all part of story of The Gene. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s writing style is clear and concise. He explains complex ideas and procedures with jargon-free language. The Gene: An Intimate History is one of the best books on Science that I’ve ever read. Highly recommended! GRADE: A+
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Prologue: Families 1
Part One: The “Missing Science of Heredity” 1865-1935 15
Part Two: “In the Sum of the Parts There Are Only the Parts” 1930-1970 87
Part Three: “The Dreams of Geneticists” 1970-2001 201
Part Four: “The Proper Study of Mankind Is Man” 1970-2005 253
Part Five: Through the Looking Glass 2001-2015 327
Part Six: PostGenome 2015– 415
Epilogue: Bheda Abheda 485
Acknowledgments 497
Glossary 499
Timeline 502
Notes 505
Selected Bibliography 551
Index 555

KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS [The Criterion Collection]


A couple weeks ago Diane and I saw The Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. Cap’n Bob, Deb, and others pointed out the plot of The Gentileman’s Guide to Love and Murder sounded a lot like Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949). I saw Kind Hearts and Coronets back in the Sixties and had completely forgotten about it. So I picked up this deluxe Criterion Collection edition and watched it. Yes, The Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder follows the basic plot of Kind Hearts and Coronets with some significant changes. The comedy of dispatching the family members standing between our “hero” and the Dukedom is much funnier. And, of course, The Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is a musical. And, the ending of Kind Hearts and Coronets is NOT the conclusion of A Gentileman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

The Criterion Collection includes extras like the American Ending to Kind Hearts and Coronets, the Original theatrical trailer, a feature-length BBC documentary on the history of Ealing Studios, and a rare, 70-minute talk-show appearance by Alec Guinness from 1977. Very nice box set! GRADE: A

KONG: SKULL ISLAND


I set the bar fairly low for Kong: Skull Island. But I was pleasantly surprised by Tom Hiddleston (as a SAS tracker) and Brie Lrson (as an award-winning photo-journalist) getting into some serious monkey business in this movie. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts cranks up the suspense and the explosions as his movie amps up. John Goodman’s character persuades a U. S. Senator (Richard Jenkins) that the Government needed to explore a mysterious island in the Pacific “before the Russians do.” It’s 1973 and the Vietnam War is winding down. Samuel L. Jackson plays Preston Packard, a bitter Lieutenant Colonel who tells Brie Larson, “We weren’t defeated in Vietnam, we just gave up.” Well, he’s not giving up on Skull Island when Kong wrecks havoc on the expedition. There are plenty of gruesome creatures to churn your stomach like the “skull crawlers.” The battle scenes are eye-popping! If you’re looking for an entertaining popcorn movie, Kong: Skull Island is the best one around right now. GRADE: B+

FORGOTTEN BOOKS #414: SISTERS OF TOMORROW: THE FIRST WOMEN OF SCIENCE FICTION Edited By Lisa Yaszek & Patrick B. Sharp


Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Woman of Science Fiction reminds me of the fine movie, Hidden Figures. Women were involved in Science Fiction from the beginning and Sisters of Tomorrow presents plenty of examples of short stories, poems, journalism, editorial content, and artwork that women produced from the early decades of the 1920s to the 1950s. Lisa Yaszek and Patrick B. Sharp provide supporting information on these women to put their efforts into context of their times. The untold stories of women’s impact on the new genre of Science Fiction engaged me. The only SF story in this collection that I’d read previously was C. L. Moore’s classic “Shambleau.” If you’re interested in Science Fiction history and the story of women’s role in it, Sisters of Tomorrow does a remarkable job of enlightening readers. I also really like the cover artwork by Milton Luros that first appeared on the cover of the November 1950 issue of Future 2.4. GRADE: A
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
• Acknowledgments
• Introduction: New Work for New Women
1. AUTHORS
• Clare Winger Harris—“The Evolutionary Monstrosity” (1929)
• Leslie F. Stone—“Out of the Void” (1929)
• Lilith Lorraine—“Into the 28th Century” (1930)
• L. Taylor Hansen—“The Man from Space” (1930)
• C. L. Moore—“Shambleau” (1933)
• Dorothy Gertrude Quick—“Strange Orchids” (1937)
• Amelia Reynolds Long—“Reverse Phylogeny” (1937)
• Leslie Perri—“Space Episode” (1941)
• Dorothy Louise Les Tina—“When You Think That . . . Smile!” (1943)
2. POETS
• JULIA BOYNTON GREEN
• “The Night Express” (1931)
• “Evolution” (1931)
• “Radio Revelations” (1932)
• VIRGINIA KIDD
• “Untitled” (1933)
• LEAH BODINE DRAKE
• “They Run Again” (1939)
• “The Wood-Wife” (1942)
• “Sea-Shell” (1943)
• TIGRINA
• “Defiance” (1945)
• “Affinity” (1945)
• LILITH LORRAINE
• “Earthlight on the Moon” (1941)
• “The Acolytes” (1946)
• “Men Keep Strange Trysts” (1946)
3. JOURNALISTS
• ELLEN REED, FRAN MILES, HENRIETTA BROWN, LYNN STANDISH, AND LAURA MOORE WRIGHT
• Ellen Reed, “Natural Ink” (1942)
• Fran Miles, “Oil for Bombing” (1944)
• Henrietta Brown, “Marine Engineering in the Insect World” (1945)
• Lynn Standish, “The Battle of the Sexes” (1943)
• Lynn Standish, “Scientific Oddities” (1945)
• Laura Moore Wright, “Sunlight” (1946)
• L. TAYLOR HANSEN
• “Scientific Mysteries: The White Race—Does It Exist?” (1942)
• “Scientific Mysteries: Footprints of the Dragon” (1944)
• H. Malamud, I. Berkman, and H. Rogovin, “A Protest” (1943)
• L. Taylor Hansen, “L. Taylor Hansen Defends Himself” (1943)
4. EDITORS
• MARY GNAEDINGER
• “Editorial Note” (1939)
• “The Editor’s Page” (1940)
• “The Editor’s Page” (1943)
• DOROTHY STEVENS MCILWRAITH
• “The Eyrie” (1940)
• “The Eyrie” (1940)
• “The Eyrie” (1941)
• LILITH LORRAINE
• “Cracks—Wise and Otherwise” (1943)
• “Training for World Citizenship” (1946)
• “The Story of Different” (1950)
5. ARTISTS
• Olivette Bourgeois
• Lucille Webster Holling
• Margaret Johnson Brundage
• Dorothy Louise Les Tina
• Dolly Rackley Donnell
Conclusion: Challenging the Narrative, Or, Women Take Back Science Fiction—Kathleen Ann Goonan
• Notes
• Bibliography
• Index

THE LOVECRAFT SQUAD: ALL HALLOW’S EVE By John Llewellyn Probert


Lovecraft pastiches are published almost every week. I have a stack of them that continues to grow. John Llewellyn Probert’s The Lovecraft Squad: All Hallow’s Eve introduces Bob Chambers of the FBI’s secret Cthulhu Investigations Division. As strange dreams and unearthly visions affect Chambers and others, the center of demonic power seems to emanate from the abandoned All Hallows Church. Chambers and a number of others with “powers” and abilities take up residence in the haunted Church. Sure enough, a lot of creepy things happen! There’s a wild chase through the Nine Circles of Hell. Yes, The Lovecraft Squad: All Hallow’s Eve shenanigans are all rather silly. But, if you’re in the mood for this kind of eldritch silliness, you’ll find the creepy factor more than acceptable. A sequel, The Lovecraft Squad: Waiting is in the works. GRADE: B

THE DREAM-QUEST OF VELLITT BOE By Kij Johnson


Vellitt Boe is a professor at a woman’s College. The wrinkle is this College is located in H. Pl Lovecraft’s Dream Lands. When one of Vellitt Boe’s students runs away with a Dreamer from our world, Vellitt Boe volunteers to bring her back. The other wrinkle is that the runaway girl’s “grandfather” is one of Lovecraft’s mad, sleeping gods. If he awakens and finds his granddaughter missing, he may just destroy the College and the neighboring lands…literally. Kij Johnson’s descriptions of the Dream Lands Vellitt Boe must travel are colorful and deadly. Boe must find a “key” to the Gate that will bring her to our world where her search will continue for the runaway girl. I enjoyed the oddness and surprises in The Dream-Quest of Fellitt Boe. I’m hoping Kij Johnson writes more adventures of Vellitt Boe. I’ll be first in line to buy them! GRADE: A-

For the informative podcast Steve recommended, you can listen to it here.  Thanks Steve!