Recent Reviews

Men of Affairs

by Roland Pertwee

The entrepreneurs are running wild in post-WW I London, and the entire metropolitan police force is either on strike or has been struck deaf and blind. Our co-hero, fortunately, has found an absolute double to mislead the bad guys, enabling him to escape the villains' claws while #2 is put through every torture imaginable short of waterboarding.

Plus a spy or two in the opposite ranks.

I regret being unable to finish the tale, but human flesh is only so resilient.

Reviewed on 2015.01.21
by Dai Alanye

The Man Who Rocked the Earth

by Arthur Train

A remarkable work of hard science fiction from 1915, a collaboration between Arthur Train, a lawyer and popular author, and Robert W. Wood, a celebrated physicist and inventor. Train was acclaimed for his humorous stories about the fictional lawyer Ephraim Tutt, "the best-known lawyer in America." Among Wood's other honors, he received the Henry Draper Medal of the National Academy of Sciences for his contributions to astrophysics in 1940, and the lunar crater Wood was named for him.) It's as if John Grisham and Stephen Hawking wrote a novel together.

While much pre-"Golden Age" sf seems all but unreadable today, the prose in this book, like the works of H.G. Wells (who is mentioned within, and whom I suspect was an inspiration) flows smoothly, with a plot that doesn't feel dated.

The world is at war when a message comes that fighting must stop, or he'll tilt the earth on its axis. It's dismissed as a hoax, but then it happens. There's too much exposition and some loose ends never quite get tied up, but it's still a very interesting novel.

There is a sequel, "The Moon Maker," from 1916, but unfortunately it does not seem to be online anywhere. Search turns up only used copies of a 1958 edition and e-editions from for-profit publishers available.

Reviewed on 2015.01.21
by Leah A. Zeldes

The Best Made Plans

by Everett B. Cole

This novelette seems perfectly calculated to appeal to the teenaged-boy readers of Astounding Stories in 1959. An intelligent young man with special powers practically singlehandedly foils the elaborate, long-term plot of a usurper to the planetary throne, aiding his schoolfellow, the rightful claimant. Pure space opera.

Reviewed on 2015.01.21
by Leah A. Zeldes

Upon a Tide of Wintry Morn

by Rae Lori

This is less a short story than a connecting incident between two novels. It is of the vampire/elf/shapeshifter genre, but nothing particularly magical happens.
There are some odd usage errors: within is used for in, apart is used for a part, and concave (an adjective) is used instead of the noun curve. The author has an almost Lovecraftian skill for piling on vague adjectives.
Presumably, the novel that preceded it explains the significance of the events of the piece. I didn't see their importance.

Reviewed on 2015.01.21
by Lisa Carr

The Flood

by Emile Zola

A well-translated, powerful and relentless story of a French farmer satisfied with his crops on a beautiful day, with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren at the farmhouse when the river overflows its banks and slowly destroys people, animals, and homes.
The descriptions are beautiful and horrible. The story reminded me of Poe's Descent Into The Maelstrom.

Reviewed on 2015.01.20
by Lisa Carr

Parlous Times

by David Dwight Wells

Nicely written 1901 novel of romantic intrigue: A young diplomat from South America, attached to his country's British legation, more or less accidentally becomes entangled with three women a lovely, now unhappily married woman out of his past; a prim, titled and wealthy young English lady; and a pretty Irish lass of uncertain repute amid a treasonous plot to bribe national officials. He's honorable but very naive, and his refusal to believe any ill of the Irishwoman, with whom he fancies himself in love, draws him deeper into the mess.

While it's easy reading, enjoyment of the novel requires understanding of period societal standards and sensibilities no longer valid today. Some other aspects, such as the government's reluctance to prosecute the plotters, seem a trifle unbelievable. Beyond that, it's a good read.

Reviewed on 2015.01.20
by Leah A. Zeldes

A Safety Match

by Ian Hay

The author paints a charming, Louisa May Alcott-like picture of a poor rector's family and the eldest daughter who acts as mother to her siblings, but it all goes downhill when she enters into a loveless marriage of convenience to aid her struggling family. Her husband, a much older man known as an unyielding man of business, has no idea of how to relate to his child bride. The predictable fallout is much less well fleshed out, as well as less appealing.

Reviewed on 2015.01.20
by Leah A. Zeldes

The Czar's Spy

by William le Queux

There's no real spy in this 1905 thriller, but rather a complex criminal conspiracy across England, Scotland, Italy, Finland and Russia. While some of it touches on conditions in Czarist Russia before Bloody Sunday, the spying going on has little to do with official espionage.

Gordon Gregg, an Englishman living in Italy and serving as an acting consul, becomes the victim of a hoax when a visiting countryman invites him for dinner on a luxurious yacht. On board, he finds the photo of a lovely young woman, torn in pieces. Then he returns to shore to find the consulate's safe burgled. The yacht, meanwhile, has set sail for parts unknown.

Later, Gregg meets the yachtsman in Scotland under a different name, and finds out the young woman of the photo holds a deadly secret, to both her and his own peril.

The mystery holds to the very end, and while the solution and denouement are a bit of a letdown after the high action of the rest, the plot is very absorbing and the writing good.

Reviewed on 2015.01.20
by Leah A. Zeldes

The Communist Manifesto

by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

I am not really subscribing myself to any political wing or ideology. The reason I've decided to pick up this book is to evaluate the communistic era and try to see communism from Karl Marx's point of view.

I have read Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler and many other right and left-wind literary works. Once again, I am not subscribing myself to any form of politics. I am reading the book just out of curiosity, and overall; it is quite interesting.

Reviewed on 2015.01.19
by Samuel Alayev

Martin Hewitt, Investigator

by Arthur Morrison

Good cases, all about seemingly impossible crimes swiftly resolved by an observant detective.
But in some cases you can see the solution too early.
The narrative is dry, the tone is monotonously grave.
The characters are sketchy and the plots are always too straightforward, the detective never knows mistakes or doubts.

Reviewed on 2015.01.19
by Lena

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