Tag Archives: Mike Resnick

Books Reviewed 2015

Here is  housekeeping post, collecting all the books reviewed here in 2015.

Looking back at this list, I see that this year saw Terry Pratchette’s last book (a wrenching experience), and new novels by old favorites Stross, Perry, Macguire, Holt, Gaiman, among others. I also read older but still good histories by Goodwin and Graeber. I read several books about banking, Papal and otherwise, and overlapping works about Italy, fictional and (supposedly) real.

Over the year, I reviewed a sampling of important books about contemporary digital life, including cryptocurrency, the “sharing economy”, social media, and “mind change”.   These works covered a spectrum from enthusiasm to dark worry, giving us much to think about. There are many more I did not have time or energy for. (I will say more on this topic in another post)

Throughout 2015 I continued my ongoing investigation of the question, “what is coworking?”, including reviews of two recent (self published) books about coworking by practitioners. (More on coworking in another post.)

Shall I name some “Best Books” out of my list? Why not?

Fiction:

There were so many to pick from. I mean, with Neil Gaiman in the list, how can I choose? But let me mention two that are especially memorable

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Very imaginative and well written, and, for once, not so horribly dark. This book lodged in my memory more than others that are probably equally good.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Published a few years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. A wonderful, intricate story. The flight of the parrot is still in my memory.

Nonfiction:

There were many important works about digital life, and I shall try to comment on them in another post. But three books that really hit me are:

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
From several years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. Highly influential on the ‘occupy’ and other left-ish thinking. This is an astonishingly good book, and long form anthropology, to boot. Wow!

Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
An exlectic little self-published book about “home coworking”, which I didn’t know was a thing. Kane walked the walk, and made me think in new ways about community and coworking.

Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
Unexpected amounts of fun reading this short book. It does an old, graying nerd no end of good to see that at least some of the kids are OK. Really, really, OK.

List of books reviewed in 2015

Fiction

A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen
Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick
Candy Apple Red by Nancy Bush
Chicks and Balances edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers
Corsair by James L. Cambias
Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright
Diaspora by Greg Egan
Distress by Greg Egan
Electric Blue by Nancy Bush
Forty Thieves by Thomas Perry
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
Mort(e) by Robert Repino
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey
String of Beads by Thomas Perry
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine ed. by Jonathan Strahan
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick
The Future Falls by Tanya Huff
The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt
The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Ultraviolet by Nancy Bush
We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
Witches Be Crazy by Logan J. Hunder
Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Non Fiction

Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner
Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
God’s Bankers by Gerald Posner
LaFayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx
Live Right and Find Happiness by Dave Barry
Merchants in the Temple by Gianluigi Nuzzi
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield
Mindsharing by Lior Zoref
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
No More Sink Full of Mugs by Tony Bacigalupo
Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling
Pax Technica by Phillip N. Howard
Peers, Inc by Robin Chase
Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
Speculative Everything by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Age of Cryptocurrency by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
The Next Species by Michael Tennesen
The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik and David C. Thompson
The Social Labs Revolution by Zaid Hassan
The Ugly Renaissance by Alexander Lee
Twentyfirst Century Robot by Brian David Johnson
Women of Will:  Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays by Tina Packer

 

Book Reviews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Housekeeping: Books Reviewed in First Quarter 2015

These are the books reviewed here in the past quarter.

Non Fiction

Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner
Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols
Live Right and Find Happiness by Dave Barry
Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling
The Age of Cryptocurrency by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik and David C. Thompson
The Social Labs Revolution by Zaid Hassan
The Ugly Renaissance by Alexander Lee

Fiction

Candy Apple Red by Nancy Bush
Electric Blue by Nancy Bush
Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
Mort(e) by Robert Repino
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey
String of Beads by Thomas Perry
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick
The Future Falls by Tanya Huff
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Ultraviolet by Nancy Bush
We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler

 

Book Reviews: February Fiction

Some miscellaneous fiction for February.

Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey

Yet another former South Florida journalist turned novelist, Dorsey’s stories are definitely in the “bunch of South Florida whackos” genre, a la Dave Barry’s description of Carl Hiaasen.

This is nearly the twentieth novel about Serge Storms, whacko supreme, Florida heritage buff, protector of the weak, and nemesis of evildoers.

This story centers on fallout from the mortgage crisis, among other wickedness. We are also treated to a fond tour of Key West. Also, the death of newspapers, movies set in Florida, and the usual zooming around the state.

The best part is lot’s of slapstick and goofy dialog.

Dorsey has toned it down some from his earlier books, but these books are notably violent and gory, mostly fictionalized from actual events from Florida. I guess we are supposed to be OK with it because the recipients are clearly horrible people who are supposed to deserve torture and death.

 

The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick

Yet another story from the master in his extensive “Birthright” future history. This is classic space opera with aliens, spaceships, and galactic warfare, with Resnick’s trademark wit and social commentary.

Honestly, this isn’t the greatest story ever, with a plot centering around a commando raid by a diverse crew of misfits. Resnick has used this familiar theme many times, and executes it in his trademark “talk, talk, talk” style, which is too prevalent in his late works. But even the worst book by Mike Resnick is worth reading.

The best part of the book may be in his endnotes which recount the four decade history of his writing in this future. I haven’t read all of this, but I’ve read and enjoyed most of his stories for all this time.


  1. Dorsey, Tim, Shark Skin Suite, New York, HarperCollins, 2015.
  2. Resnick, Mike, The Fortress In Orion, Amherst, NY, Pyr, 2014.

2014 Year So Far (Housekeeping)

A housekeeping post, the year to date.  This will help me compile a year end summary.

Some Major Topics Discussed So Far in 2014

Some favorite old topics have appeared a few times:

  • The NSA Narrative
  • The “Future of Work” (and the future of workers)
  • Wearables and Personal Computing (including Google Glass)

A new topic has emerged. Originally, this was a side note to discussions of electronic trading. But the Cryptocurrency narratives have flourished, as has my own story about them. In particular, I have pointed out the way the basic technology supports multiple, radically different, cultural narratives. I have compared the “narrative” surrounding a number of cryptocurrencies, including:

  • Bitcoin
  • Dogecoin
  • Mazacoin
  • EtcCoin….

I think these posts need to be collected and organized into a solid essay on this topic.

Books Reviewed in Q1 2014

Fiction

Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel by Jacqueline Koyanagi
Crash by Guy Haley
Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute by Jonathan L. Howard
Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett
Ripper by Isabel Allende
The Doctor and the Dinosaurs by Mike Resnick
The Misfortune Cookie by Laura Resnick
Tiger Shrimp Tango by Tim Dorsey
Traveling Sprinkler by Nicholson Baker
When It’s A Jar by Tom Holt
Wikiworld by Paul Di Filippo

Non-fiction

A Novel in a Year: A Novelist’s Guide to Being a Novelist by Louise Doughty
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Body of Work: Finding the Thread that Ties Your Story Together by Pamela Slim
Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution by Fred Vogelstein
Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love by Richard Sheridan
Knossos And The Prophets Of Modernism by Cathy Gere
Minotaur: Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaeology of the Minoan Myth by Joseph Alexander MacGillvray
Mysteries Of The Snake Goddess: Art, Desire, And The Forging Of History by  Kenneth D. S. Lapatin
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
Schliemann of Troy: treasure and deceit by David A. Traill
Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread – The Lessons From A New Science by Alex Pentland
The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times by Adrienne Mayor
The Lost Tomb by Kent Weeks
The Riddle of the Labyrinth by Margaret Fox
Tone deaf and all thumbs?: an invitation to music-making by Frank R. Wilson
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

 

January Science Fiction Roundup

This installment: plucky females and alternative realities.  How can we go wrong?

The Misfortune Cookie by Laura Resnick (Daw, 2013)

The latest in a series featuring Esther Diamond, a hard working, not-yet-famous actress in NYC, who attracts supernatural troubles like a magnet.  This particular story involves troubles in Chinatown.

Esther’s life is enlivened by (as far as we can tell) unwitting and unwilling encounters with supernatural events, including irruptions (what a fine word, I don’t get to use it often) of spooks, vampires, and so on.  She has good friends including the strange, wizardly Max (several centuries old, due to an unrepeatable alchemical accident) and his pseudo-canine familiar, not to mention elements of the mafia and other city folk.

She also has a tumultuous romance centering on the uberattractive police detective Lopez.  This isn’t going so well, through little fault of Esther’s.  These hellish adventures are taking a hellish toll on her love life, that is for sure.

Resnick’s stories are well written and humorous—just plain great entertainment. They display what surely must be autobiographical knowledge of the life of wannabe actors in NYC.  (I can’t help but think of another very NYC writer, Laura Anne Gilman.  Esther could easily be roommates with Bonnie.)

The Doctor and the Dinosaurs by Mike Resnick (Random House, 2013)

Mike Resnick is a great and prolific author of science fiction for many decades. (Obviously, Laura was a useful contribution, too.)  His stories often exploring the theme of exploration and frontiers, informed by considerable historical research.  I must say, my favorite of his worlds might be Walpurgis III (1982).

This story is the third set in an alternate Wild West, with Doc Holiday teaming up with Tom Edison and Teddy Roosevelt.   (He has written a number of “alternative Teddy Roosevelt” stories.)  In this case, they must deal with the (historically accurate) lunatic paleontologists Cope and Marsh, who are unwittingly stirring up (not historically accurate in this time line) supernatural troubles.  Tom Edison provides some serious Steampunk firepower, and Teddy comes along—just because he’s never done paleontology or hunted dinosaurs before.

Overall, this not one of his best stories. The plot is thin and transparent and I don’t honestly like the characters.  The hard-nosed banter may or may not be authentic, but it is repetitive and boring. And Steampunk doesn’t excite me very much.

Still, Mike Resnick on his worst day is better than most, and this is certainly readable.

Ascension: A Tangled Axon Novel by Jacqueline Koyanagi (Masque Books, 2013)

A somewhat odd space opera, set in an economically depressed interstellar society.  The action is a bit difficult to follow, with several sudden leaps that are only explained in retrospect.  Perhaps this was intended to keep the reader on her toes, knowing that we have not the remotest clue what is coming next.  If so, it succeeds.

The future world turns out to have several strange technical twists, including some sort of parapsychological abilities (not really explained) and routine contact with cross-dimensional civilization, i.e, across the multiverse (also not really explained).  The future world also features inscrutable political troubles, and quite a variety of family structures.

But this isn’t really a story about the future world, it’s about one woman (Amanda) struggling with a slowly fatal autoimmune disease, a burning love of spacecraft, and dripping desire for love and family.  By the way, the dynamics of the families are more complex and dramatic than I’m used to. But family is family.

One gathers that the protagonist is at least a bit autobiographical, which implies much about the author.  If you don’t like horny lesbian inner dialog, you won’t like Amanda or this book.

I kind of liked Amanda, myself.  And I was very happy for her to find a family in the end.

Best Amanda quote:

“I’d have loved my biggest problem to be whether my suit matched my tentacles or not.” p. 183

(You have to read it in context to fully get it.)

When It’s A Jar by Tom Holt (Orbit, 2013)

The latest in a long line of stories from the multiverse, this is sor of a sequel to The Doughnut (2012).

The “multiverse” affords a lot, indeed, infinite, room for an author to play in.  Holt is a doyen of this genre, and his stories take full advantage.  They are informed by folklore, wordplay, and only the shallowest knowledge of science or business. His protagonists are sympathetic “ordinary guys and gals”, just trying to get along and find love.  Other characters are cartoonish—funny, in their two dimensional ways.

The story, such as it is, develops as Maurice tries to cope with life in London in the face of irruptions (enough, Bob) of supernatural phenomena.  It is obvious that something big is happening, though neither Maurice nor the reader have much of a clue. We then pop through quite a few multiverses in an incomprehensible careen.  I’m not going to spoil the plot, if only for the very good reason that I don’t understand it.

Generally, I love Tom Holt’s stuff.  His works are whimsical archetypal hero stories, with humorous wordplay and wry references to world literature. I mean, I loved Barking (2007) and most of his work from the ‘90s is brilliant.

But really.  This one gives no quarter to the poor reader.  Far too much whimsy, not nearly enough story.  Terrible ending. And the love story sucked.