Sunday, June 15, 2014

Twitterature for June 2014-There's a reason this blog is called "eclectic"

I did a post like this before, but I forgot to use the phrase "Twitterature", which is not only a wonderful word but also very difficult to say. Just try it. Go ahead. I'll wait.


It's Twitterature time over at Modern Mrs. Darcy and I'm joining in on showing off my magnificent reading. (Seriously, though, I think I officially have too many books on my TBR list.)

I'm kind of "in between" books right now, which is a hazard of getting books via holds at the library.

First off, here we are about five weeks in, and I'm still only halfway through The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This book explores the complex relationship between Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the press during their times as president, particularly McClure's Magazine. Goodwin deftly describes the backgrounds of all the main players and how their experiences led them to being the forces that began labor reform during the Gilded Age. I've always been fascinated by this era and by Roosevelt, and it's been interesting to see how he was in the right place at the right time to correct some of the most egregious abuses in businesses at the time. While I've often heard him criticized as a "socialist", his ideas were very moderate, particularly for the time period he lived in, when it was the norm to force small children to do extremely dangerous work for little pay. It's a huge book, but entirely worth the read.

I just finished this book and will be posting a longer review at a later time, but needless to say Douglas Preston has naturally come through and once again written an intriguing speculative thriller. Melissa Shepherd is a brilliant programmer at NASA that has created autonomous AI for a trip to Saturn's moon Titan to study the Kraken Mare. But when the AI goes berserk during testing, "Dorothy" escapes into the Internet. With the FBI and some ruthless algo traders from Wall Street hunting her down, Melissa and former CIA agent Wyman Ford must find Dorothy before the others do-and before Dorothy decides humanity doesn't deserve to live. It's a perfect "AI gone wrong" book with a fun twist. And of course, Preston gives a shout out to other books, mentioning Lincoln Child's "Third Gate" and Slappy of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps books. (The trio recently wrote a match-up between Agent Pendergast and Slappy-I'm looking forward to seeing how this ends.) I particularly enjoyed it when Dorothy came across a copy of the Bible. I won't say more for fear of spoiling it, but needless to say I don't think any speculative fiction writers have gone this route before.

If Lovecraft is the father of weird fiction, Robert W. Chambers is the kooky godfather. The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast has recently started reviewing the first story in this anthology, The Harbor Master. (You can subscribe to them for only $6.66 every 3 months, which is hilarious.) A young scientist working at Bronx Park is sent to a far Canadian town to meet a man who claims to have two great auks-birds who by all means should be extinct. When he arrives, however, he finds more than just the auks and their grumpy owner. He also hears story of a strange half-man, half-fish called the Harbor Master who upsets boats on the water, and seems to have a fixation on the auk owner's pretty nurse...

One can speculate that this was among the stories that inspired The Creature from the Black Lagoon. It has all the hallmarks of it, but Chambers has a bizarre sense of humor that comes out in the climax of the story.

I've just started the next part, in which the young scientist has been sent by his new employer (and arch-enemy) to Graham Glacier, along with a sailor who claims to have seen not only mammoths and other extinct creatures, but something that "no Christian oughter see". I'm looking forward to finding out what Chambers came up with this time. The whole anthology can be found here at Project Gutenberg.

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