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Keith Oatley: Therefore Choose

Picked up this novel in Canada last fall and just got around to reading it. It's primarily a novel of ideas, not something that usually grabs me. The ideas are ok - three individuals - two German and one English - who come together before WW 2, are separated by the war, and meet after the end of the war. Interesting concept, but unfortunately there's a lot of philosophical talk that doesn't ring true as dialogue. And the most interesting character - a free spirited Irish female psychiatrist - is dropped near the novel's conclusion. I expected more from this and didn't get it.

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Miyuki Miyabe "all she was worth"

I picked this up since it was pretty cheap and I thought the cover was cool. It is sort of a police procedural set in Tokyo with several side trips to Osaka, and indeed the ending may too literally follow these conventions since it ends rather too abruptly for my taste. It dfeinitely picks up around page 50, then there are some other interesting twists and turns. However, the last 50 pages adds in one twist too many where the story becomes too unbelievable for me and thus boring. Another major problem is that it reads like a hybrid mystery/lecture on the evils of easy credit, sort of like someone had been given the task of popularizing a civics text book! Hard to believe it won so many awards in Japan. On the whole, I wouldn't recommend it.

Just started Julia Glass's Three Junes. Not bad.

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Yes, though I began reading Dick about a decade before that (I read my first one in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1967 or so, "The Zap Gun") I was delighted to see so many spring into print. I've read everything except a few of the volumes of letters, and the children's book. In a way, I like the mainstream novels the best, perhaps "The Man Whose Teeth Were all Alike" or "Mary and the Giant" are my two favorites.

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Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II

Mitchell Zuckoff

Near the end of World War II, a plane carrying 24 members of the United States military, including nine Women’s Army Corps (WAC) members, crashed into the New Guinea jungle during a sightseeing excursion. 21 men and women were killed. The three survivors--a beautiful WAC, a young lieutenant who lost his twin brother in the crash, and a severely injured sergeant--were stranded deep in a jungle valley notorious for its cannibalistic tribes. They had no food, little water, and no way to contact their military base. The story of their survival and the stunning efforts undertaken to save them are the crux of Lost in Shangri-La, Mitchell Zuckoff’s remarkable and inspiring narrative. Faced with the potential brutality of the Dani tribe, known throughout the valley for its violence, the trio’s lives were dependent on an unprecedented rescue mission--a dedicated group of paratroopers jumped into the jungle to provide aid and medical care, consequently leaving the survivors and paratroopers alike trapped on the jungle floor. A perilous rescue by plane became their only possible route to freedom. A riveting story of deliverance under the most unlikely circumstances, Lost in Shangri-La deserves its place among the great survival stories of World War II.

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Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. Not as good as it's reputation, of course, but better than I remembered.

I'm sort of half-tempted to read the full, expanded version (from 1991), which is 60,000 words longer. However, I suspect the editors did Heinlein a huge favor. :P

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Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. Not as good as it's reputation, of course, but better than I remembered.

I'm sort of half-tempted to read the full, expanded version (from 1991), which is 60,000 words longer. However, I suspect the editors did Heinlein a huge favor. :P

That's usually the case, but in this case, I think the expanded version is much better. I read it when it came out in '91, and thought the additions made the novel flow a lot better, and cleared up some dangling questions.

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Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein. Not as good as it's reputation, of course, but better than I remembered.

I'm sort of half-tempted to read the full, expanded version (from 1991), which is 60,000 words longer. However, I suspect the editors did Heinlein a huge favor. :P

That's usually the case, but in this case, I think the expanded version is much better. I read it when it came out in '91, and thought the additions made the novel flow a lot better, and cleared up some dangling questions.

Hmmm. That is interesting. Well, I have probably at least 200 books to tackle before this, but maybe someday...

Three Junes is actually pretty interesting, for a book that sure looked like an Oprah book club pick. Not to totally dis' Oprah -- she had some challenging novels on her list -- but a few too many of them were one step above The Bridges of Madison County, esp. Wally Lamb. Couldn't make it past the first 20 pages of She's Come Undone.

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I guess it is hardly surprising that the quality of the books in my stack are going down when I am specifically going through the ones that I expect to leave behind.

Nonetheless, this one was a disappointment -- Seafaring and Civilization by De Souza.

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To me, this was basically like reading a history book based on Wikipedia entries. Shallow in many places and without a coherent central argument. On the plus side, it is short.

Then I read The Colossus of New York by Colson Whitehead. My gut feeling about Whitehead is that he has been struggling to live up to the hype over his first novel (The Intuitionist). However, he has at least kept going, and didn't get totally frozen on a follow-up novel a la Ellison (who to be fair certainly kept writing *and publishing* non-fiction). This isn't a novel at all. It is probably best described as prose poem about Manhattan that sort of riffs a bit on E B White's Here is New York. I think the earlier sections are the best ones where he indulges in a melancholy reverie. I wonder if he is/was aware of Ben Katchor's work, since some sections seem very much in that same vein. A quick read, but absolutely a disposable book.

Speaking of Ben Katchor, Cardboard Valise has finally been published: Valise. I don't feel as deep an attachment to Katchor's work as I did 10-15 years ago (probably for the simple reason you can't find his strips in the alternative weekly papers anymore at least not in Chicago), but at one point it resonated strongly with me.

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