Tag Archives: Thomas Perry

Book Review: “A Small Town” by Thomas Perry

A Small Town by Thomas Perry

The latest from perennial favorite Thomas Perry, isn’t his best.

This story is a simple, violent tale of revenge. Actually, it seems like a revenge fantasy more than a realistic story.  If you like this sort of thing, fine.   I like a bit more than pointless violence in stories.

I’ve read most of Perry’s work, and have been a fan for decades.  His best work is some of the finest in the English language. Unfortunately, this is not one of his best, and frankly, should not have been published in this form.  Frankly, this book feels unfinished.

There is no plot to speak of, and certainly no drama.  The action is contrived and predictable.  Very, very predictable. The characters are shallow and confusing.  The main mystery is why these people are acting so stupid.

And if you just like the pure spectacle of gun play, explosions, and gory death, in loving detail, there isn’t really any.  It’s violent but hardly explicit.

In short, if somebody else submitted this as a manuscript, many editors would send it back for more work.  But the big name will surely sell, so it was rushed to print.

If you miss this one, you won’t miss much.


  1. Thomas Perry, A Small Town, New York, The Mysterious Press, 2020.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Year End Roundup for 2019

This New Years marks close to six years of blogging every day.  I write ‘em, a few of you click on ‘em.

The Traffic Stats Were Weird

The total hits on this blog increased again, up more than 10% from 2018.  As before, there is a huge amount of “long tail” in this traffic, with hits spread widely over the thousands of posts from the last 8 years.

But it isn’t clear exactly how many people actually look at this blog.  The stats I get are defaults from wordpress, so I don’t really know much about them.

This year saw a couple of mysterious blips.  I don’t know how much of this is real traffic, and how much of it is artifacts of the data collection.

Early in the year, the daily hits dropped dramatically.  This approximately corresponds to the European data privacy requirements, and the dearth of hits from that region suggest that the blog is either not available to some people (not being compliant in some way I don’t know about) or accesses are not reported (not having permission to collect that data).   I dunno.

But then, around August, traffic picked up.  Really picked up, to 100 hits per day.  During this burst, it tended to be bursty, with a few days of high traffic, as much a 300 hits per day, and then several days of low traffic.  From the imperfect information I can see, the bursts might be from Hong Kong (perhaps scraping the internet to make a copy to be used inside China?)

Then, around November, traffic dropped off again and has stayed low.  This drop approximately coincides with the increasing troubles in HK, so perhaps this reflects a cut off of Internet access there.

I really don’t know.

The Usual Stuff

The blog continued to cover the usual stuff.

Cryptocurrencies, the Future of Work (and Coworking), Dinosaurs, Birds, Robots, the Ice Is Melting, Renewable Energy.

I blog about anything that interests me and is worth the trouble.  I try to have something useful to say, though sometimes it’s mainly a link with “this is cool”

Many of the things I discuss are from current academic papers, which I cite and generally try to read at least the abstract and always point to the original sources.

“Coworking – The Book” and other Writing

My 2018 book “What is Coworking?” continues to sell like hot cakes–if nobody had ever heard of hot cakes.  I think it sold a couple dozen copies.  My plans for a new villa are on hold…. : – )

Writing is hard.  Selling books is even harder.

Speaking of writing, I also contributed an article to a local free paper, which I really like the title to:

  1. Robert E. McGrath, Think Heliocentrically, Act Locally, in The Public I: A Paper of the People. 2019. http://publici.ucimc.org/2019/04/think-heliocentrically-act-locally/

I archived a report on the 2013 Alma Mater project.  Versions of this report was rejected by several conferences and journals.  A problem with working outside the box is that the journals of boxology won’t publish your results.

  1. Robert E. McGrath, A Digital Rescue for a Graduation Ritual. Urbana, Illinois, 2019. http://hdl.handle.net/2142/105503

Onward

This blog will continue in the same vein, and daily posts will continue at least for now.


Band Names

In a continuing homage to Dave Berry, I have identified a bunch of phrases that would make great names for a band.  In general, these phrases are taken from actual, real scientific and technical papers.  So I am not making them up—just repurposing them.

Here is this year’s crop.

gerbil’s casket
Preen Oil
Carolina Preen Oil

Carolina Junco
Dark eyed Junco
Arctic Albedo

Mean Surface Albedo
Arctic Amplification
Amplified Arctic Warming
Surface Air Temperature
Snow Cover Fraction
Buckypaper
Pacific Pumice Raft
Sichuan Mudslides
  (also a great name for cocktail)
Soft Exo Suits

The Weddell Gyre
Giant Miocene Parrots
Eocene Whale
Chicxulub ejecta
Perching Drones

Perch And Stare Mission
Due to a lack of sunlight in Scotland

Blogging Birds Of Scotland
Huddle Pod
Cuddle Pod
Giant Hopping Tree Rats
Kangaroo Ancestors
Prehistoric kangaroos

Tiny Pronking Robots
Computational Periscopy


Books

As always, I have continued the weekly review of one or more books that I read this year. This year I wrote about a total of 73 books, 24 non-fiction, 49 fiction.

Some Favorite Books of the Year

Fiction:

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Angels of Music by Kim Newman

Non-Fiction

Breaking and Entering by Jeremey N. Smith
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer
You Look Like A Thing And I Love You by Janelle Shane

All the books reviewed (in no particular order)

Fiction

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear
Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear
Grand Union by Zadie Smith
Equoid (2013) by Charles Stross
Toast (2002) by Charles Stross
Speak Easy (2015) by Catherynne M. Valente
Six Gun Snow White (2016) by Catherynne M. Valente
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash
Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré
Anno Dracula 1999 Daikaiju by Kim Newman
The Princess Beard by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw
The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey
Amnesty by Lara Elena
Outside Looking In by T. C. Boyle
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Noir Fatale ed. by Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell
Inland by Téa Obreht
The Origins of Sense by Adam Erlich Sachs
Fall by Neal Stephenson
Gather The Fortunes by Bryan Camp
Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente
No Country For Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
European Travels for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss
The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald
Revolutionaries by Joshua Furst
Someone Who Will Love You in all Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq
Unto Us A Son Is Given by Donna Leon
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Angels of Music by Kim Newman
The Burglar by Thomas Perry
Grim Expectations by K. W. Jeter
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
Macbeth by Jo Nesbø
No Sunscreen for the Dead by Tim Dorsey
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Infernal Devices  by K. W. Jeter
Fiendish Schemes by K. W. Jeter

Non Fiction

Lakota America by Pekka Hämäläinen
The Laundromat by Jake Bernstein
You Look Like A Thing And I Love You by Janelle Shane
They Will Have To Die Now by James Verini
Hollywood’s Eve by Lili Anolik
Proof!  By Amir Alexander
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone
The Next Billion Users by Payal Arora
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
Places and Names by Elliot Ackerman
Eyes in the Sky by Arthur Holland Michel
American Carnage by Tim Alberta
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
The Ice At The End Of The World by Jon Gertner
Dinosaurs Rediscovered by Michael J. Benton
Devices and Desires by Kate Hubbard
Stony The Road by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
The Rise and Fall of Alexandria by Justin Pollard and Howard Reid
Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
Breaking and Entering by Jeremey N. Smith
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee” by David Treuer
Brilliant Green by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllenben
Before and After Alexander by Richard A. Billows

 

Round Up For Q1 2019

This quarter started the sixth year of daily blogging!  “It may not be good, but it sure is persistent.”

Coworking Reposts

During the quarter there were weekly posts about coworking and freelancing in the “What is Coworking? The Book” blog.  Some of these were reposted in this main blog, which has higher traffic.  Check out the blog and the book!

Whatever is Interesting

As usual, I continue to blog about whatever is interesting including dinosaurs, robots, birds, bees, and, of course cryptocurrency and blockchain technology.

On the latter front, the second annual Crypto Tulip of the Year Award was announced.  Congratulations to “The ICO“!

“Congratulations to ICO technology for setting a new standard for Tuipi-ness!”

Band Names

As usual, I occasionally suggest good names for a band.  These are taken from or adapter from actual titles and phrases in readings and articles.  This quarter ‘s bands are:

Perching Drones
Perch And Stare Mission
Due to a lack of sunlight in Scotland”
Blogging Birds Of Scotland
Huddle Pod (or how about Cuddle pod?)
Giant Hopping Tree Rats
Kangaroo Ancestors
Prehistoric kangaroos
(Pretty much anything with “kangaroo” in it!)
Tiny Pronking Robots
Computational Periscopy

Books, Books, Books

And last but not least, I continue to read and review books.  Here is the list of the 19 books covered this quarter for this quarter.

Fiction

Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq
Unto Us A Son Is Given by Donna Leon
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Angels of Music by Kim Newman
The Burglar by Thomas Perry
Grim Expectations by K. W. Jeter
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
Macbeth by Jo Nesbø
No Sunscreen for the Dead by Tim Dorsey
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Infernal Devices  by K. W. Jeter
Fiendish Schemes by K. W. Jeter

Non Fiction

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
Breaking and Entering by Jeremey N. Smith
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee”by David Treuer
Brilliant Green by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllenben
Before and After Alexander by Richard A. Billows

 

Book Review: “The Burglar” by Thomas Perry

The Burglar by Thomas Perry

Perennial favorite Thomas Perry gives us yet another fast paced thriller, set in his native southern California.

The Burglar in question is a young Angelina career thief, names Elle (what was her mother thinking?).  In the course of “business” (in someone else’s house) she accidentally walks into another crime. (This must be a common problem for professional intruders.) This presents a dilemma to a thief:  should she report the crime, and if so, how can she do so without exposing herself to prosecution or worse?

As it happens, the police may be the least of her worries. She has somehow attracted the very deadly attention of some very dangerous people.  Who are they, and why are they trying to kill her?

While a professional burglar normally tries to just keep hidden, Elle is forced to unravel this mystery.

This is another fine read from Perry. The action is fast paced and laced with the latest in over the counter spy technology, which is fun to read about. (And, as far as I can tell, Thomas has researched the topic, so the stuff he tells you about—believe it.)

I’m less familiar with “analog” than digital burglary methods, but there is a lot of useful warnings here.  You probably have more confidence in your windows and locks than you should.  (And, as Elle muses, “the only potential intruder that couldn’t figure out how to get in a closed dog door was a dog.”)

Elle is interesting, and her ability to hide and run in her home city are admirable.  Most of the other characters are only sketched.  (That probably reflects the sociopathic isolation of the professional thief.)

I can’t say the plot exactly make sense. On the other hand, the exact motives and shady plans don’t really matter.  There are lots of ways you could get into theses dangerous situations, so the basic idea works even if the specifics are far fetched.

And once again, nasty stuff happens in Santa Barbara, which is the only SoCal location I know well enough to easily visualize the locations.  Fortunately, there haven’t been very many bodies washing up during my visits there.

Long story short:  this story is what you expect from Perry, which means it’s a good read, fast moving, with a touch of technical savvy and a tone of local color.


  1. Thomas Perry, The Burglar, New York, The Mysterious Press, 2019.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Blog Roundup 2018: Books Reviewed

A regular feature of this blog is the Sunday Book Reviews, short reviews of books I read this year.  Most of the books were new or recently published.

This year I reviews 58 fiction and 18 non-fiction books. (This doesn’t count the many articles and reports I comment on throughout the year.)

This years reading included lots of favorites including Thomas Perry, Charles Stross, Joe Ide, Donna Leon, A. Lee Martinez.

There are also some new favorites I discovered this year, including Nnedi Okorafor, Edgar Cantero, Theodora Goss, Vivan Shaw.

Some highly recommended* books:

(*This is a highly unsystematic selection—these are all definitely worth your time, though there may be others in my list below that are even better.)

Non fiction

Stamped From The Beginning  (2016)  by Ibram X. Kendi
The Fighters by C. J. Chivers
Ada’s Algorithm (2014) by James Essinger
Crash Test Girl by Kari Byron

Fiction

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017) by Theodora Goss
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw
Circe by Madeline Miller

The Whole List

A list of all the book reviews (in no particular order…)

Fiction

A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman
Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk
Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Armistice by Lara Elena Donnelly
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Celestial Mechanics by William Least Heat-Moon
Circe by Madeline Miller
Constance Verity Saves The World by A. Lee Martinez
Dark State by Charles Stross
Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
French Exit by Patrick DeWitt
Good Guys by Steven Brust
Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? By N. K Jemisin
I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing by A. D. Jameson
I Only Killed Him Once by Adam Christopher
Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Kismet by Luke Tredget
Koko Uncaged by Kieran Shea
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
Make a Nerdy Living by Alex Langley
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Noir by Christopher Moore
Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne
Open Me by Lisa Locascio
Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams
Red Waters Rising by Laura Ann Gilman
Robots Vs Fairies edited by Dominick Parisien Navah Wolfe
Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Street Freaks by Terry Brooks
Tell The Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry
The Book of Phoenix (2015) by Nnedi Okorafor
The Cackle of Cthulhu edited by Alex Shvartsman
The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp
The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
The Final Frontier edited by Neil Clarke
The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley
The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross
The Man From The Diogenes Club by Kim Newman
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
The Pope of Palm Beach by Tim Dorsey
The Song of Achilles (2102) by Madeline Miller
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell
The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon
There, There by Tommy Orange
This Body’s Not Big Enough For Both Of Us by Edgar Cantero
Versailles by Yannick Hill
Who Fears Death (2011) by Nnedi Okorafor
Wrecked by Joe Ide

Non Fiction

Ada’s Algorithm (2014) by James Essinger
Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
City of Demons by Paul French
Crash Test Girl by Kari Byron
Darwin Comes To Town by Menno Schilthuizen
Failure is an Option by H. Jon Benjamin
How To Plan A Crusade by Christopher Tyerman
Nothing edited by Jeremy Webb
Ours To Hack And To Own edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider
Stamped From The Beginning (2016) by Ibram X. Kendi
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
The Earth is Weeping (2016) by Peter Cozzens
The Fighters by C. J. Chivers
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte
The Tangled Tree by David Quammen
The Wordy Shipmates (2018) by Sarah Vowell
Totally Random by Tanya Bub and Jeffrey Bub
When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney

Sunday Book Reviews

Housekeeping: First Quarter Roundup

This quarter saw the usual discussions of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and sociology.  There are an increasing amount of academic studies of this technology (finally!), which are producing important findings.  Not that the enthusiasts are paying attention.

There is also a constant stream of discoveries and studies of dinosaurs and ancient birds, which I enjoy reading.


And, as usual, I regularly review books I have recently read.

Fiction

The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell
Good Guys by Steven Brust
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
The Cackle of Cthulhu edited by Alex Shvartsman
A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
The Pope of Palm Beach by Tim Dorsey
The Man From The Diogenes Club by Kim Newman
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
Dark State by Charles Stross
The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry
Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams
Celestial Mechanics by William Least Heat-Moon

Non fiction

How To Plan A Crusade by Christopher Tyerman
The Earth is Weeping by Peter Cozzens
Ada’s Algorithm by James Essinger


The ongoing list of great names for a band continues, inspired by Dave Barry. Here are a bunch, mostly taken from real scientific or technical papers.

The Adversarial Patches
Psychedelic toasters (this one has probably has already been used)
Judicious Design of Nanofins
        (or perhaps, Righteous Design of Nanofins or just Nanofins)
Rapid genome downsizing
Diffusivity of Water in Air
The Gymnosperms
SETI-XNAV
Pulsar Positioning System
Galactic Positioning System
Mushroom Body
A Spritz of Octopamine
Hebbian Learning
Neuromodulator
The Possible Ecologies of Mars
Ornament Evolution

 

 

Book Review: “The Bomb Maker” by Thomas Perry

The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry

Perennial favorite Thomas Perry has produced another tense thriller, in typical smooth style.

The story is about the LA bomb squad, and features a number of really, really tense bomb scares.  If you can’t make defusing a bomb scary and dramatic, you should probably give up story telling!

The particular story is implausible.  The never-identified Bomb Maker seems to be determined to kill off the LA bomb squad itself, rather than kill or terrorize the city. To do this, he builds nasty devices that are designed to trick the technicians. He leads them into traps with bombs that look familiar, and if the technician follows their training and experience, he or she will trigger the bomb and die.

This premise makes for a great story, with lots of dangerous puzzles.  I’m not sure it makes much sense, though.

In the last decade, Perry has begun to take greater care that his novels are not blueprints for crime or invitations to dangerous activities.  (His earlier works were lovingly detailed, to the point that one worried about copycats.)  So, not making sense is probably a good thing, no?

In this case, he does a good job of describing the logic of the bombs and the responders’ thinking and actions, but leaves out the how-to details.  The main thing you learn from this is that you should not touch a possible bomb, and your should get away from it as fast as possible.

He also takes care that the life and motive of the bomber and his sponsors is not romanticized.  In fact, this particular crew of bad guys is not so much evil as benighted.  No one would want to be this guy, and the sponsors are as unpleasant as they are inscrutable.

This approach is a nice solution to the “don’t do this at home” problem.  From this book, you can’t do it at home, and most people wouldn’t want to.  You might be inspired to join the bomb squad–but I’m sure the training will adequately filter out the unqualified.

It wouldn’t be a police procedural without interplay between the police, the mayor, and the press. This part of the story is pretty trite, but, unfortunately, that may be just because things really are that dumb these days.

Overall, this book lives up to what we expect from Perry.  A well written, can’t put it down, thriller, set here and now.


  1. Thomas Perry, The Bomb Maker, New York, The Mysterious Press, 2018.

 

Sunday Book Reviews