Sunday, December 29, 2013

Favorite Book Number Seven

The Journeyer by Gary Jennings (Link to Amazon Books)

"I have not told the half of what I saw and did."

Easily the most fun historical fiction I've ever read, The Journeyer by Gary Jennings chronicles the life of Marco Polo, from Venice, to the court of Kublai Khan, to China, to India and back to Venice.

A rich, frequently irreverent and hilarious tale, it also has its share of tragedy, violence and horror.

Marco is portrayed as clever but inexperienced as a young man, often making spectacular mistakes out of ignorance and getting himself into remarkable feats of trouble.

In his middle years, he shows better judgement and intelligence, and ends up working under the patronage of some of the most powerful people of his time.

In his final years, he is wise and tempered by time and loss, but few will listen to him or benefit from his experience, because his tales are too unbelievable.

This book made me laugh, informed me, got my heart beating faster, made me think, terrified me, occasionally grossed me out, and made me cry so hard I distinctly remember it being one of my most intense moments of grief ever inspired by a mere story.

The third act is particularly spectacular, with a climax and denouement that haunts me to this day.

The Journeyer by Gary Jennings is one of the most interesting and eye-opening books I have ever read.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Favorite Book Number Eight

Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard

 "Man is an endangered species."

Yes I know the movie was one of the worst films of all time. Yes I know L. Ron Hubbard was the father of Scientology. But before the movie and before the religion, Hubbard was one of the more influential writers of the First Golden Age of Science Fiction, often recognized as the period from 1938 to 1946.

Part space opera, part action-adventure, part mystery, part political thriller, part family saga, part psychological suspense... I could keep going all day. The book is a doorstop. One thousand and eight pages of everything you can jam into a story, including the kitchen sink.

The book, at it's core, is the story of Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, one of the last remaining descendants of the human race after Earth was wiped out by a devastating alien invasion. The antagonist, Terl, is a Psychlo, a member of the race that slaughtered mankind and turned the Earth into a backwater mining colony. The story follows the clash of these two beings, a stubborn young human who has no idea what he is up against and the supremely clever and amoral alien who will stop at nothing to satisfy his ambition.

Trying to explain the plot of a thousand page book is nearly impossible. I will say this: The book is so over the-top-outrageous, so vast in scale and scope, so overpopulated with a cast of thousands of characters, combined with Hubbard's "Fuck you, I'll tell the story however I like!" attitude, it makes for a very interesting and unusual read.

If you love science fiction "yarns" and don't take yourself too seriously, this is the saga for you.

P.S. It's so much fun, it makes the entire Star Wars franchise feel like a sad, deflated balloon.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Favorite Book Number Nine

Aztec by Gary Jennings (Link to Amazon Books)

 “Of all that I have possessed in my life, my memories are the only things remaining to me. Indeed, I believe that memories are the only real treasure any human can hope to hold always.”

I picked Aztec one day, having no idea what I was getting myself into. Incredibly, it was the title that appealed to me. Simple and intriguing, promising an adventure through an incredible time and place in human history.

What I got, was the most powerful, haunting and gut-wrenching fictional biography I have ever read. Aztec chronicles the life of Mixtli Dark Cloud, a man possessed by insatiable curiosity and ambition, during the horrific downfall and destruction of the Aztec Empire.

Epic in scope, covering nearly a century of adventure, discovery, heartache and tragedy, Aztec is an uncompromising, brutal and intense glimpse into a time when human life was worth very little.

A warning: Aztec is better suited to those with a very strong stomach.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Favorite Book Number Ten

 Darwin's Blade by Dan Simmons (Link to Amazon Books)

"Stupidity kills. Absolute stupidity kills absolutely."

Back in 2000, before the various incarnations of CSI ruined our fascination with forensics, there was Darwin's Blade. Dan Simmons, known more for his Science Fiction and Horror work, jumped genres and created a brilliant suspense thriller about Darwin Minor, a specialist in forensic accident reconstruction.

Featuring a protagonist who is both intelligent and funny, but also brash and deeply wounded, Darwin's Blade tells the story of Darwin's investigation into a series of fatal accidents. Common sense would dictate the accidents were too unpredictable and elaborate to have been staged, but Darwin suspects otherwise.

The book contains my favorite anecdote of all time. Darwin recounts an incident involving a school bus accident where public perception and supposed common sense turned out to be completely wrong. Yay, science!

Graphic, intense, and unpredictable, Darwin's Blade is an intelligent and thought-provoking thriller.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Let's Get Things Started With a Top Ten List

To commemorate the resurrection of this blog, I will be posting My Top Ten Favorite Books of All Time. Between now and Christmas I will post one book per day, starting from Ten, all the way up to Number One.

I will describe the book, and explain why I chose it as a favorite. Please keep in mind these are my personal favorites. I make no claim that these books are "The Best", whether in their genres or otherwise.

So sit back, relax and enjoy as I share with you my favorite books. I hope my list will inspire you to check some of them out. I look forward to your comments.