Books

Bosch burnout?


Since our recent Bosch binge, I’ve been reading the novels. The first one I had to set aside for a bit was the author’s experiment with a second PoV, but that was minor compared to my issues with book 14, Nine Dragons.

I’m used to Bosch being reckless and breaking the rules; that’s kind of the point, after all. What’s different in this one is that he’s being careless and stupid. Repeatedly. I think the author was trying to show that the extremely-personal stakes are pushing him beyond all limits, but instead it comes off as “leaking brain cells out his ears”. Case in point:

He’s in Hong Kong, and needs a gun. Convenient Local Resource gets him a clean, untraceable 9mm pistol, with one loaded mag. But Harry can’t rely on an unknown gun, so he grabs a pillow and blanket from his ex-wife’s place, and tests the gun by wrapping it up and firing it twice. Inside a moving car. On a crowded street. Without warning the driver or other passenger.

Um, how does that even work? Won’t the slide get caught up on the blanket, making the second shot impossible? Also, where did the bullets go? And how’s their hearing after that? Were the blanket and pillow flammable? And, and, and…

Later he wipes down the gun and leaves it at a homicide scene, conveniently forgetting that he had previously handled the magazine and ammo without gloves.

That was not the last time I put it down, wondering who kept throwing idiot balls at Harry.

No school like the old school…


Dinking with parody O’Reilly covers reminded me of the one I’m in:

I wasn’t involved at all with the book, and I was, as they say, “just another Perl hacker”, but I did have one thing going for me: I ran tut.

tut.cis.ohio-state.edu was our “big iron” back in the day, a multi-user Unix box that had the dubious distinction of running both BSD and SysV Unix, at the same time. It was one of the few machines that was more for research than instruction, and among its many hats were: Usenet backbone site, GNU mailing list to Usenet gateway, anonymous FTP site, anonymous UUCP site, and (for a while) Compuserve’s tape-based Internet email relay.

[seriously; Karl Kleinpaste would drive 9-track tapes over to their office and back]

In its FTP/UUCP capacity, it hosted all the GNU software, and Perl. Because the official distribution method was Larry posting multi-part shar archives to Usenet, until it got too darn big.

Anyway, my only appearance in the book is my old email address on page xxii, as the UUCP contact address. This was still enough for me to get support email a few times, from people who didn’t want to bother “the big names”.

Fun facts:

“The text of this book is set in Times Roman; headings are in Helvetica®; examples are Courier. Text was prepared using SoftQuad’s sqtroff text formatter. Figures are produced with a Macintosh™. Printing is done on an Apple LaserWriter®.”

You’ve come a long way, baby.

Oh, and when I dug my copy out of a box, I discovered two things: it’s signed by Larry and Randal (something I forgot decades ago), and it still has the original postage-paid mail-in card. I’d be tempted to send it in, but they moved their headquarters sometime after 1991…

Bosch botch


He went back inside and got his other gun out of the hallway closet. It was a forty-four with grips and safety configured for a right-handed shooter. The cylinder also opened on the left side. Bosch couldn’t use it because he was left-handed.

I realize I’m 25 years late on this small but entertaining sample of “mystery-writer gun-writing”, but when my sister was out here for the holiday weekend, she mentioned that she really liked the series of novels she’d been reading recently on her constant international flights, about an LA detective named Bosch.

“Oh”, I said, “like in the series on Amazon Prime?”

“There’s a series?!”

We ended up bingeing the first two seasons. She downloaded the other two to her iPad before heading out of the country again.

Having noticed my interest, a few days ago Amazon flagged a low price on the Kindle edition of 5 of the early novels, plus the first in a related series. Annoyingly, the discount was on books 1, 5, 6, 7, and 8, but at least books 2-4 were under my $10 cutoff, and the average price came to $5.75 for all eight.

Skipping down the page a bit, we get to:

And he could have taken it to a gunsmith and had it reconfigured for left-handed use, …

When applied to a double-action revolver, this statement is roughly equivalent to “jack up the license plates and change the car”. Harry Bosch would need more than a homicide detective’s salary to find a pistolsmith who could transpaw a .44 revolver.

Left-handed revolvers do exist, today, but any left-handed cop back in the days before semi-autos took over the market got the standard model, and built up muscle memory on how to reload it quickly.

(and, no, this is not like the very-right-handed target grips you sometimes see; Harry got it from someone who hoped he’d use it to kill bad guys, and he puts it into his standard carry holster specifically so he has something to hand over before crossing the border into Mexico)

(update: …and the cop at the border smirks at him when he sees Bosch sign the form with his left hand after turning in a right-handed gun, sigh. Fortunately, none of these details are actually important to the story; it’s just a bit of flavor text to establish that a cop can easily work the system and manage to be armed in Mexico)

The Penguin is a Harsh Ebook


Apparently the rights have finally been sorted out, and last week Penguin released Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress for Kindle. TANSTAAFL applies, but they kept it under $10.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents…


…that Penny’s story is over. Richard Roberts’ fifth tale of Penny Akk, Junior Supervillain, has finally been released, and it was worth putting up with his publisher’s three months of ominous silence.

In order:

Everything but the anthology containing Summer Of Lob is on Kindle Unlimited.

Steaming pile of saga?


Raymond E. Feist is starting a brand-new epic fantasy saga, and I couldn’t care less. Back in the day, I really liked the Riftwar books, but the more of them he wrote, the less I liked them, and every time I’ve tried to re-read one of the early ones, it just didn’t grab me. I’m not even sure I bothered finishing the Serpentwar books; I found one of them on my shelves, but I remember nothing about it, and I was surprised to discover that wasn’t even the halfway point (30+ books now?).

In any case, my eyes were glazed over before I was halfway through the blurb for King Of Ashes, “Book One of The Firemane Saga”. It reads like a trope salad topped with boggle-dice names, and is the exact opposite of a compelling hook.

Stone Unturned


If you like Lawrence Watt-Evans’ Ethshar novels, Stone Unturned is a good one. The only quibble I have with it is that I wish he had put just the year at the top of every change of PoV, not a full date, to make it obvious that the characters are separated by time. It rapidly becomes obvious, but why bother obfuscating?

Recent reads


Foreigner, C.J. Cherryh

I got interested in the characters and situation, then it skipped forward a hundred years. I got interested in the new characters and situations, then it skipped forward two hundred years. At this point, I decided not to get too invested in the third protagonist, and of course that was the one who lasted the rest of the book. Unfortunately, his story was less interesting than the other two, and so was he. When it petered out, I took a look at reviews of the second one, and decided that I didn’t care enough about a thinly-disguised story of high-tech white colonialism backfiring because they just can’t understand the native black culture.

Od Magic, Harrowing The Dragon, Alphabet of Thorn, The Book of Atrix Wolfe, Patricia A. McKillip

Always reliably entertaining, McKillip’s backlist is getting more reasonably priced on Amazon. None of these really jumped out at me as exceptional, but they’re all good. I have a few more on my ‘overpriced’ Kindle list, and if they ever drop below $10, I’ll buy them.

Shadows & Reflections: A Roger Zelazny Tribute Anthology

A bunch of good authors either writing their own stories in one of Zelazny’s worlds, or earnestly attempting to emulate his prose style in their own worlds. Honestly, it made me wish they’d just written their own worlds in their own styles. Especially Brust.

A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction, Terry Pratchett

An oddball mix of material from across his career. For some of the early stuff, the commentary is better than the story.

Times Three, Robert Silverberg

Three time-travel novels. Not his best, but well worth the cover price.

A Dirty Job, Christopher Moore

The last truly fresh Moore novel I read was Bloodsucking Fiends. Several years ago, I gave up on this one in the first chapter. This time I was more in the mood for it, but not enough that I’d pay $11+ for the sequel. Maybe $7 on a good day.

Northwest Smith, C.L. Moore

Classic SF short stories that I’d only ever seen a few of. Good stuff, but it made me wish she’d written at least one story where Smith didn’t run into some sort of Lovecraftian horror, and just dealt with the SFnal side of his universe.

The Planetary Adventures of Eric John Stark, Leigh Brackett

More classic shorts from another of the legendary women of SF that the current gatekeepers like to pretend never existed. Maybe because she wrote about strong men and feminine women…

Norstrilia, Cordwainer Smith

I’d only ever read The Ballad of Lost C’Mell, not realizing that she’s a major player in this novel. Good stuff, of the sort you just can’t get outside of indie any more.

I’m still waiting on the final Pennyverse novel, currently in small-press limbo. Meanwhile, I’ve got Poul Anderson’s The Corridors of Time and C.L. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry downloaded and ready to go. In the queue to buy are Gordon R. Dickson’s Dorsai! and Theodore Sturgeon’s Selected Stories.

Change of plans!

New Ethshar novel released three weeks ago.

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”