Category Archives: Book Reviews

Bloodsucking Fiends

Bloodsucking FiendsBloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore
Publication: Harper Paperbacks (2004), Paperback
Date: 1995
ISBN: 0060735414 / 9780060735418
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Review updated February 27, 2007

Christopher Moore is regarded as one of the better American humorists writing today, and the popularity of his novels Lamb and Fluke seem to support that. Bloodsucking Fiends is the first book of his that I’ve read.

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More Short and Shivery: Thirty Terrifying Tales

More Short and Shivery: Thirty Terrifying TalesMore Short and Shivery: Thirty Terrifying Tales by Robert D. San Souci

Ever since I was a little kid I’ve enjoyed reading scary stories; and now as an adult, I still do. In fact, I have Alvin Schwartz’s trilogy, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, read by George Irving, on my MP3 player, and I still listen to it from time to time.

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Anansi Boys

Anansi BoysAnansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

You’d think that the premise of Anansi Boys — that the old gods are still alive and interacting with humanity in unusual ways — would be tired, and that several of the plot elements in this novel (I won’t give them away) would be clichéd. However, Gaiman, in his usual way, manages to breathe fresh life into these elements and the premise and create a mythology which is relevant and entertaining, while telling a story which is essentially about identity, brotherhood, and about finding one’s father. The pace of the novel is quick, but I didn’t feel cheated at the end in any way. Gaiman’s use of humor — some of the passages I laughed out loud at and shared with my wife — is, in some ways, very typically British and reminiscent of Terry Pratchett. Bill Bryson, and Douglas Adams (I was, at times, reminded of The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul).

Strongly recommended.

Guns, Germs, and Steel

Guns, Germs, and Steel

In Guns, Germs, and Steel, historian Jared Diamond attempts to answer the question of why some societies succeed over others. More specifically, he sets out to discover why the European civilization apparently managed to spread out over most of the globe, conquering along its way, while the societies and civilizations on other continents — the civilizations of Africa or the New World or Australia, for example — did not. The perennial example that Diamond uses in his book is the fall of the Incan empire to the Spanish Conquistadores: the Conquistadores brought about the fall of the Incas in a decisive battle where thousands of Native American warriors died, but not a single Spanish soldier did, even though the Spanish were vastly outnumbered. Diamond suggests that the Spanish victory was due to their superior weaponry and their superior political organization.

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DispatchDispatch by Bentley Little

Many of Bentley Little’s novels contain some element of high satire; in The Store, for example, he pokes fun at America’s obsession with more goods at continuously low prices, and at the willingness of various communities to sacrifice their character and local economies for the spurious good of a “Big Box Store”. In The Policy he takes a swipe at the pervasiveness of the insurance industry in our lives. And in Dispatch, his target is the person who cheats by continually writing letters of complaint and those whose sense of power outweighs their sense of right and wrong. In this book, the main character is a man whose correspondence not only gets him free French fries and passes to a local amusement park, but also influences global politics in good and bad ways.

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The Sandman: The Season of Mists

The Sandman: The Season of MistsThe Sandman: The Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman

In this volume of The Sandman, Neil Gaiman starts to really bring Morpheus and the rest of the Endless into context for us, setting them up alongside the gods of Asgard, the deities of the Egyptian Nile, fairies, incarnations of Order and Chaos, and more. The Endless really are incarnations of abstract ideas; unlike the deities, though, the Endless do not depend upon the beliefs of human beings for their continued existence. Here, Morpheus descends to Hell to pardon an old lover of his that he had damned ten thousand years ago out of spite; once there he discovers that Lucifer has decided to shut down Hell. Lucifer hands the key to Hell over to Morpheus, who must now decide what to do with it.

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that Neil Gaiman is one of the most imaginative and innovative storytellers writing today. His imagination and ability to bring the ideas and motifs of ancient myths to life in a way that modern readers can understand is admirable. And Morpheus, the “Prince of Stories”, is one of his greatest creations, both as a concept (the Lord of Dreams, whose realm is partially the source of all dreams that human beings dream and partially the construct of all dreams) and as a character. All of the Sandman series of comics are worth picking up and adding to your library.