More mini reviews. I’m beginning to like these short takes. Be warned, you might see more. This time, a short story about a boy and a book about the Loch Ness monster. Enjoy.
Year of the Big Thaw
By Marion Zimmer Bradley
A Gutenberg Project Ebook
Superman. That’s what I thought about as soon as I finished this short story. A boy is found and raised by a caring farmer and his wife who tell no one about the boy’s appearance and let everyone guess as to where he came from and how he came to live with them.
This is an interesting little story and if you’re a fan of Marion Zimmer Bradley, I suggest giving this very brief story a try; it’s only about 25 pages. I always forget that she wrote more than fantasy along the lines of The Mists of Avalon, that being my favorite of her works. But I know she’s written a lot of science fiction, most of which I haven’t touched. I should read more of her science fiction and thanks to the Gutenberg Project, where I found this little beauty, I’m going to make that happen.
If you’ve read some of Zimmer Bradley’s science fiction, suggestions on where I should start?
By Steve Alten
Zachery Wallace is a marine biologist who is called back to Scotland to help out his father who has been arrested for murder. How does a marine biologist help an absentee father who is accused of murder? By proving the Loch Ness Monster exists, of course. Yep, Angus, Zachery’s father, claims a monster ate the man he’s accused of killing and Zachery needs to get over his fear of the water, a great trait in a marine biologist, and anger directed at his father, to prove his innocence.
I read this book in October 2012 as part of my regular creepy Halloween reading. It fit the bill. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad. It was silly and entertaining. I always enjoy anything Loch Ness related so that was a plus. And it was fun. The story is farfetched but I read it in one afternoon curled up on my couch so I don’t have much of anything bad to say about it but I’m writing this review months later and not much of the story remained with me either. If you like stories like this, I say go for it. Spend a weekend and entertain yourself with a story of the Loch Ness monster, if you like that sort of thing.
Sometimes, I like to go old school with my books. This book was one of those occasions. I should start off by telling you that The Thirty-Nine Steps is a serial story that appeared in a magazine in and around 1915 or so. I found it interesting for that reason; the fact that it was an old school spy thriller took it over the top though. However, there’s a reason for my telling you this up-front but the valuable lesson learned will be shared in a moment.
Richard Hannay is an ordinary man trying to settle into his London home after years away in South Africa when a neighbor, Franklin Scudder, corners him and tells him that he’s uncovered a German plot to assassinate a Greek Premier and he needs help hiding out. Soon after agreeing to hide Scudder, Hannay comes home to find him dead. From then on, Hannay is running from everyone. He can’t go to the police, he doesn’t know who is really chasing him, and he doesn’t know if any of it is real or not. Running is his one and only option.
Lesson learned: if you are going to read a serialized story, read it that way. Each chapter is a complete story, in a way. There’s a distinct beginning, middle, and end. Yes, you can say that of most novels but it’s especially true in this case since each chapter was run by itself it needed to reintroduce the characters and story in subtle ways. When I tried to read this book all in one sitting, it didn’t work. I started to wonder if I would even finish it because it wasn’t working for me. So, I started and ended each chapter at lunch. And it clicked! The book started working and I was in love with it. It became exciting to see how Hannay was going to get out of his predicament and who he would meet up with next. It was my lunch reading and I couldn’t wait for it.
It’s a man on the run thriller, one the first of its kind from what I remember reading about this story. The story itself is a great distraction too. I got caught up and was happy to see things work out in some cases or be left wondering about the next set up.
Warning: if you’re going to read this, go one chapter at a time and let the story play out. It’s so much better that way. And try it you should. You can get it from The Gutenberg Project for free so go and do that.
The Thirty-Nine Steps
By John Buchan
A Gutenberg Project Ebook
I used to read a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories. Of course, this was years ago and I think I must have overdid it because I avoided Conan Doyle for years. Like the plague. Then I came across a few short stories when purging the shelves and thought it would be nice to take a look again, and it turns out, I still like me a bit of Sherlock and his handy sidekick, Doctor Watson. Feeling confident, I downloaded The Sign of Four from The Gutenberg Project and decided I would get re-acquainted with the duo. Not so much joy ensued.
Here’s the general overview: a man has gone missing, a treasure has been misplaced, and Sherlock is asked to stick his nose in and sort out the conflicting mess. It’s wildly more complicated than that but I’ll be honest, I couldn’t get into this one and barely trudged to the end. The mystery was bland to me and this is supposed to be one his most revered Sherlockian works. People supposedly love this one and to a high degree I might add.
I may not have had much interest in the actual mystery but what I did find interesting in this story was the drug use. Yep, right at the start Sherlock is getting high on cocaine (I have so little opportunity to quote the Grateful Dead let me revel in it!). It made me wonder why anyone would hire someone who seemed, at least here, to be mildly stoned for most of the day to solve a mystery. Also of interest, we get to meet the future Mrs. Watson.
I want to tell you more but I fear that my boredom with the story will cause me to give too much away. Besides, there are many favorable reviews of this book out there that if you like Sherlock, google it then read it. It might do wonders for you. If I may though, I’d recommend The Hound of the Baskervilles. It’s still my favorite.
The Sign of Four
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Gutenberg Project Ebook