Archive for April, 2018

Review: Unexpected Stories

Friday, April 27th, 2018

I’ve often talked about my love of SF short story collections, and this small collection fits the bill.  It is only two stories, but they would be at home in any reasonable showcase. Octavia Butler is quite brilliant, and acquits herself well in these early tales.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the collection is the faint praise that Walter Mosley gives the stories in his forward.  From what he says these are a couple stories of primarily academic interest.  And he’s correct, in a sense. Butler later writes much more important and deep works.

I found it is powerful to look at these stories as expositions of craft.  Deep thoughts don’t matter if you can’t hold a reader’s attention. Butler’s craft is unparalleled. She gors on to bigger things, but these are diverting, interesting, stories with real meat.  It is only her later triumphs that dim the praise.


Review: A Colony in a Nation

Sunday, April 15th, 2018

In A Colony in a Nation, Chris Hayes made me reframe my thinking on several topics that I thought I’d thoroughly understood. It’s always hard to lead people to seeing things new ways, and more so when you have an interest, some study, and strong opinions.  The topic here is how people – mostly white American people – treat people different from them.  The topic is incendiary and the sides dug in.  Hayes is in the midst of this as an MSNBC commentator and journalist, and it is tempting to dismiss his views from that bias.  I think that would be unwise.  Agree or disagree with his conclusions, he repeatedly shifts the camera to reveal facts one knows from a new perspective.  Every chapter of this made me reconsider ideas I thought I understood completely.

Part of this is his eloquent and effective writing.  He corrals ideas effectively and channels the reader’s impressions powerfully.

Finally, and crucially, Hayes resists any urges he might have to suggest quick fixes.  He’s looking at the system that makes up our society and admits his complicity without condemning himself – or anyone else – for being part of it.  Despite that, he does not leave anyone off the hook either.  It’s a powerful position.

A must.

Review: Hunt for the Skinwalker

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

I read a lot when I was a kid, reinforced by being pretty good at school.  When you read all the assignments you get sent to the library to “read quietly.” Reading quietly was a treat for me – a way to explore the world from a small town.  I read lots of stuff, including things like collections of ghost stories and UFO investigations.  I also read histories of science and Norse mythology.  Don’t judge me.

Hunt for the Skinwalker would fit nicely on the bookshelf of my past next to say this charmer.  It purports to be a scientific investigation of a bunch of UFO/ghost stories coming out of a Utah ranch investigated by a set of folks called the National Institute for Discovery Science. It’s a book of common conspiracy and UFO stories and the unconvincing investigation that follows.

I wound up reading it based on a mention from The Desert Oracle.  The Oracle is an unflinchingly weird view of art, rumors, and craziness in the western deserts. As a tour of the particular rumors that form in the desert, Skinwalker is a fine example.  Beyond that there’s not much here.

I do have to say that “skinwalker” is a cool name for an Navajo shapeshifter.  So, two things.