Tag Archives: harry harrison

Bill the Galactic Hero: The Planet of the Robot Slaves by Harry Harrison

Bill the Galactic Hero: The Planet of the Robot Slaves by Harry Harrison: I don’t know where the title came from, since there aren’t really any robot slaves anywhere. Bill of the ever-changing military rank is stranded with a few others on a planet inhabited by metal creatures, Virginians, Romans, and various characters from Arthurian legend. It is, in a word, silly. Extremely silly. But I would expect nothing less from Harrison. I don’t think I could read multiple books in a row from this series but it’s a nice diversion from time to time.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Assorted book reviews

I’m behind on my book reviews again. Here’s another bunch.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (unabridged audiobook read by Bernadette Dunne): Since the movie was so popular, I probably don’t need to mention that this is the story of recent college graduate Andrea Sachs and her year of servitude to Runway Magazine editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly. As her time under the thumb of this self-possessed, uber-demanding witch continues, Andrea finds all the things she used to cherish – her family, boyfriend, and best friend – slipping away from her. It definitely had its funny moments, but all in all I wasn’t too impressed with Andrea. She was snobbish and I was simply not convinced that she or anyone else believed her constant torment as Junior Assistant was really worth a vague possibility that Miranda could get her any job she wished at the end of it (her dream is to work at The New Yorker). I found myself repeatedly wondering why she didn’t just quit already. Still, it was a decently light and fun way to pass an otherwise intolerably long commute. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie now. I hear Meryl Streep is absolutely delightful.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (unabridged audiobook read by Justine Eyre and Paul Michael): An interesting take on the Dracula legend told mostly in the form of letters from various people who hunted him. Though a bit slow and academic in some places, by and large it’s a fascinating psuedo-history lesson.

Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos: Innumeracy is not the inability to count, but rather a lack of a general grasp of numbers and how they work. Its dangers, and they are many, are generally outlined in this book, though it is not nearly as alarmist as it could have been. The target audience is mostly the innumerate and those numerates who are curious or concerned about innumeracy. Though I was familiar with all the mathematical concepts covered, I did learn some new things and discovered some new ways of looking at information. Though far from dense, the writing style is not quite as accessible as I’d hoped, and I suspect most innumerates and math-phobes will pass it by. Which is a shame.

Bill the Galactic Hero by Harry Harrison: The first in a series of loony escapades of a country bumpkin turned soldier. In truth it felt more like a prequel, explaining the origins of Bill’s involvement with the Troopers, his two right arms, and his tusks. It was a very quick read and definitely had its funny moments, but it would probably be funnier to someone who doesn’t deal with painfully inane bureaucracy in real life. I have a feeling the next books will be better now that the characters are established.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (unabridged audiobook): This is the story of Jonathan the American and Alex the Ukrainian, who are both writing novels and sharing them with each other chapter by chapter. The stories switch off regularly: first a portion of Alex’s novel about his time working as translator for Jonathan as they journey through Ukraine looking for a woman who saved Jonathan’s grandfather from the Nazis during WWII. Next is a chapter from Jonathan’s novel about his ancestors in Ukraine. Lastly is a letter from Alex to Jonathan to discuss their novels-in-progress. There were two readers: one playing Alex and reading his novel and letters, and the other reading Jonathan’s novel. Alex’s frequent malapropisms are quite funny, in no small part due to the talented reader, but the back-and-forth of translation often leads to an obnoxious amount of repetition. Jonathan’s novel is, sadly, a complete waste of time. I’m not sure how much of this is due to the awkward, boring reader and how much is simply overwrought prose.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: It is extremely rare for me to get emotionally attached to fictional characters. As much as I enjoy reading, it’s more a pastime than a driving need to dive back into the tale. Not so with this book. I adored the characters. I was entranced by Clare and Henry’s relationship, and fascinated by Henry’s genetic disorder that causes him to travel through time without any control over when or where he ends up. I cried – no, sobbed – at certain moments with a depth of feeling I haven’t had for fiction in a very, very long time. I highly recommend this book.

Animal Farm by George Orwell (unabridged audiobook): I’m pretty sure I saw the animated film at some point in my youth, but the book is far better. Orwell is brilliant as usual. And it certainly didn’t hurt that the reader was very engaging.

Anybody Can Write by Roberta Jean Bryant: Bryant believes that above all, writing should be fun. That if a writer isn’t enjoying his/her own story, neither will the reader. She accepts the reality of many drafts and much rewriting, but sees that part of the process as rewarding as the initial creative spurts. All in all it’s an engaging read that didn’t really inspire me. Included are several “Wordplay” exercises, none of which interested me very much. Of course, every writer is different, so perhaps this book would be just the trick for someone with another style.

The Stainless Steel Rat Goes to Hell by Harry Harrison

The Stainless Steel Rat Goes to Hell by Harry Harrison: This is only my second Stainless Steel Rat novel, but I think I need to go back to the beginning and check out the first few in the series. Not only were there loads of characters and references to past events with which I was unfamiliar, this SSR story felt tired and forced. I felt like the author was just throwing in new twists and calamities for the heroes in order to boost his pagecount to novel length. There was no real flow to the plot and many of the events that either saved the day or ruined it seemed too convenient to be believable, even given a wide suspension of disbelief. Don’t get me wrong – I still enjoyed the SSR’s witty banter and sarcastic commentary, but overall I felt like the story was a little too aimless and random.

Originally posted on Bookcrossing.

The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted by Harry Harrison

The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted by Harry Harrison: How I love a light sci-fi romp from time to time. While there were times when I wanted to pelt the author with copies of Strunk & White for his excessive use of sentence fragments, the story itself was fun and a quick read. I liked the over-the-top characters and nearly Star Trek-like world of the Individual Mutualists. There’s loads of Stainless Steel Rat books at the library – I’ll have to pick up some in the future.

Originally posted on Bookcrossing.

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