Book review: All the Birds in the Sky

In the aftermath of the 2016 elections, the lead up to November 8th, I had been reading a lot of political history of the latter half of the 20th century. After The Donald won, I needed a change.

While I have often found modern SciFi a bit hard to get into, I steeled myself and asked a High School friend, Chuck Serface for a couple of recommendations. First up was “All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders, ¬†which appeared on my Kindle as if by magic.

That night, when I picked up my Kindle at bedtime, I fell into a trance, reading the entirety of the first “Book” (the novel is broken into 4 “Books” in a fairly natural divisions). I usually nod off after 15 minutes or so, strong praise indeed.

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What I’m Reading – Lew Archer Novels

As a voracious reader, who primarily focuses on Science Fiction, I do branch out. One genre that I enjoy is the detective thriller. This penchant can be traced to my love of the Doc Savage stories of my youth, and has jumped into some more or less serious threads of what I read. From the flippant Stephanie Plum novels (a guilty, fun pleasure) to the work by J.A. Jance, I have enjoyed many a cliff hanger stories.

However, lately, I have become hooked on the Lew Archer novels by Ross Macdonald (pen name of Kevin Millar). Set in Southern California, and beginning shortly after the war, they stretch for 20ish years, and are lively depictions of the changes that the boom years brought to that part of California.

The principal character, Lew Archer, is a private investigator, a lone gun, whose marriage failed, and who hung out his shingle after being an LA Cop. Unlike the friction you find between many TV private eye’s and the police, you get the impression that the local constabulary appreciate, and respect Archer.

The stories often start with a missing person, or someone desperate for help, and the first person narrative draws you in, and holds your attention for 250 or so pages, almost always with a surprising twist at the end that keeps you guessing.

One thing that I enjoy about these stories is that they don’t telegraph the antagonist. You often are truly surprised in the outcome, or that the obvious villain isn’t the culprit, yet, the obvious villain is rarely unbloodied at the end.

One of the books that I just finished, The Wycherly Woman, was a classic example, where you thought you had it figured out, and then WHAM, it was a total surprise at the end. Additionally, this one was set in the San Francisco Bay Area, and having grown up there, it was a pleasant read about places I know well.

Millar’s writing style is crisp, his vocabulary is deep, and he does a fantastic job of engaging the reader in these page turners.

You could get wrapped up in a far worse series of novels. I have been through 10 or 11 of these, and have thoroughly enjoyed each one of them. Highly recommended.

Kindle Unlimited

I have a kindle, and I enjoy it. I haven’t always had a Kindle, I started as a Sony reader fan, and then an iPad user, but I succumbed to inevitability, and bought a Kindle.

I like it. I do prefer a eInk reader to a tablet, and today, you have to work really hard to live in this space and not use a Kindle.

I buy lots of books. Most are just throw-away pulpy fiction that I enjoy reading. Like the Doc Savage series (modern), or The Destroyer series. Mostly they are a couple of bucks, I enjoy them and delete them from my Kindle.

I have also borrowed a couple books via the Prime lending library. I wish I had something to say about that, but really, it is trivial to borrow, read, and “return“. Very uneventful.

Now I am struggling with joining Kindle Unlimited. Looking at the books included, much of the pulpy fiction things are there. So it would probably save me a few bucks (but not much, and I rarely spend more than $10 a month on those throw-aways.

But the convenience of Unlimited is tempting. Grab a book or 5, and try them. If they suck, you aren’t out any money.

The ethical qualm is how little of that $10 goes to authors. You have to read some percentage of the book for them to get any money, and the fee paid to them is low. Why should I care?

Good question. Unlike the average Slashdot user, I don’t subscribe that the near zero marginal cost of an e-book means I should pay pennies for it. I know how much effort it is to write, edit, and package even an e-book. I believe that the written words are the value, not the paper, ink and distribution costs.

Herein lies the problem. Kindle Unlimited appears to be a bad deal for authors. They are pressured to participate, but, like Spotify, the amount of subscriber or advertiser money that trickles to them is minuscule.

I prefer to spend the few bucks, have more of that go to the authors, and hopefully, they will continue to write things I want to read.

So, while Kindle Unlimited seems awesome, and a great deal, I will continue buying books, as I believe that will help the authors make a living, and thus not have to go back to a day job to put food on the table.

coda

Yes, I still use Spotify. However, I have bought many albums based on things I have found there. I find that if I really enjoy (read: replay songs) an artist, I will buy their album(s) to help support them.

What I am reading – Matt Drake novels

I have admitted to being a fan of the Doc Savage stories in the past. Fun, targeted at teenaged boys, and quick reading, they are the classic adventure stories. I read all 181 original stories, as well as all the modern additions.

I have been searching for a similar series of stories, and am currently tasting the Matt Drake series by David Leadbeater. Not really in the Doc Savage mold, but more of an Indiana Jones on steroids, searching for relics, and fighting with organized mobsters (governments or whatever) to save them from evil plans.

Good action, somewhat believable plots (as long as the idea of Norse gods being real and 500M years old isn’t too far fetched).

Not sure I will stick with the whole series, but it has started well.

A Guilty Pleasure – Doc Savage Stories

I thought I had written about this before, but apparently, searching my archives, I haven’t. Today’s the day I guess.

It is no secret that I have a voracious appetite for reading. It started young, when I was in High School, and was heavily Science Fiction oriented. It was escape from some reality, and I doubled down.

My introduction to Doc Savage came much earlier than that though In grade school, my dad gave me one of the paperback reprints for Christmas. I read it, but since i hadn’t developed a passion for the printed word at that point, I really just read it and put it down.

Fast forward until I got my first e-reader. I was googling around looking for things that were free (i.e. in the public domain) to load up on it, and I found a link to the 162 Doc Savage novels. Not sure where I found it, but I grabbed it, and loaded them up (later, I learnt that they were not in the public domain, but copyrighted, and owned by Conde Nast publishing. However they just sit on the rights and don’t make them available for purchase. Boo.)

I whipped through them quickly, enjoying the tales immensely. They were quick reads, they were written to attract the attention of a 15 year old boy, and unlike the comics and superhero stories, there was nothing magical.

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