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Shaker Lane
Shaker Lane
by Alice Provensen
Edition: Library Binding
54 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bittersweet & Poignant, not a young child's book, January 9, 2003
This review is from: Shaker Lane (Library Binding)
This book tells a sad tale of "progress and civilization" overtaking a peaceful rural town.
The town originally began when two widows started selling plots of their vast land a half acre or so at a time, when they became unable to tend the fields themselves. The ladies "sold them cheap." Slowly but surely, the town grew bit by bit, with kindly rural folk moving in. Eventually, a smell rural town developed.
The people, most with little education, lived simply, and tended to strew their property about their yards: old iceboxes, wheel-less cars, assorted broken down farm vehicles. Soon the surrounding folks began to heckle the place. Still, the people of Shaker Lane were good, honest, decent folk. Multi-generation families lived there. They helped out anyone who needed it, and looked after one another. Everybody knew everybody. It was a peaceful place to live.
Inevitably, the Powers That Be decide to build a dam on the nearby pond, which will flood Shaker Lane. The people will have to move. One by one, they go. Sadly.
Once the dam is built, and the lands adapt, the new building begins. Concrete, stucco, and asphalt in place of wood and metal. Brand new modern homes, with manicured yards, backyard patios, basketball courts, and built-in swimming pools. "Single family homes" without the grandparents, cousins, uncles, etc the previous residents had. Lots of loud, new, fancy automobiles. Progress.
What had been an idyllic, peaceful town full of kindly neighbors who helped one other is now a "modern" semi-suburb lived in by an entirely different sort of people. The old (and elderly) residents have given way to the young. Seeing it now, "You wouldn't know the place," we are told.
A well-told story, not for younger children, even though it looks like a children's picture book. The story is quite sad, poignant because of the harsh reality of these situations, as they have been happening as "suburbs" creep farther out and out. Progress.
The illustrations are beautifully rendered in a soft way. The book is hard to classify, although recommended.

Time Machines: The Best Time Travel Stories Ever Written
Time Machines: The Best Time Travel Stories Ever Written
by Bill Adler Jr.
Edition: Paperback
31 used & new from $0.70

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, eclectic, fun collection of time travel tales, January 8, 2003
This is what a theme-based anthology should be! The title is slightly misleading since not all of the tales involve time "machines" although all are tales of traveling through time in one way or another.
Some fine authors are represented in the 22 stories here: Edgar Allen Poe and Rudyard Kipling, John W. Campbell and Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling, Connie Willis and Larry Niven, Jack Finney and Anthony Boucher. And more. When Adler picked these tales, he chose well. Earliest story is from 1850 (Poe), most recent from 1997.
There are tales of people visiting the dinosaur era, all sorts of people visiting Important Historical Events, a hilarious tale of an agent from the Marriage Prevention Bureau (they send people back to interfere with what would end up being bad marriages), a strange story about a test pilot ending up in the extreme far future, a story based on the "What if I had..." daydreams people tend to have, another strange tale about finding ways around "can't change the past," a story about time travelers who set out to find "missing" aliens they know MUST be somewhere, or somewhen.
My favorites: Jack Finney's charming classic "The Third Level" about a man taking a "wrong" turn in New York's Grand Central Station and ending up in the past, "The Twilight Zone" episode "The Odyssey of Flight 33" where a commercial airliner finds itself going into the past, even as far back as the dinosaur eras, and a charming buddy-story about two very intelligent, capable college professors who go back in time simply to drink, chat and be merry with historical figures. There is a (what should be frightening) tale about a three year old girl who figures out time travel and uses time travel for her hide-and-seek games.
My beef: Ray Bradbury is indeed in this anthology with "A Touch of Petulance," when I had expected "A Sound of Thunder," considered a classic of classics. Still nice to see a Bradbury tale, even if his characters didn't step on that butterfly.
Sources/bibliography are included, so the reader will know when and where the stories came from. That's something I expect, and appreciate, when an anthology provides them. Not just in the pre-index but at the beginning of each story when possible. Adler's paragraph size comments (at the beginning of each story) were nice as well.
Recommended for people who like time travel stories. These are fantasy-type science fiction stories where the people have fun moving about through time.
Highly recommended for fans of time travel stories. These stories are "fun" tales without much of the high-tech technobabble about physical realities and limitations.

A Century of Fantasy, 1980-1989
A Century of Fantasy, 1980-1989
by Robert Silverberg
Edition: Hardcover
55 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not one of Silverberg's better selections, January 8, 2003
This book is a collection of eighteen fantasy stories, from some very distinguished and well known authors. Unfortunately for me these stories have already been covered in almost every other fantasy anthology book available.
Still, there are some noteworthy tales here. While there are a few fantasy-fantasy stories (knights and dragons and minor magic) most of the stories are contemporary tales that, not fitting into the general "fiction" category, ended up as "fantasy." Many times such tales get classified under the "science fiction" category. Many in fact I do recognize from "Analog", "Science Fiction and Fantasy", and "Asimov's" magazines.
Included tales that struck my fancy are "The Edge of the World" (Michael Stanwick), about three bored contemporary teens who decide to descend the abyss at the edge of town. Good sense of wonder in this one (it really does seem to be the Edge of the World since there is an endless stairway that winds its way down, and down, and down endlessly), and the protagonists are real and believable with lots of angst, and confusion about life (and not the Edge itself). "Wong's Lost and Found Emporium" (William Wu) is about a strange shop where you can find things that you have lost; and not just that charm bracelet you lost at the beach but perhaps lost hopes and dreams as well. Not as cliche as it sounds.
The authors participating are (last name only for space): Zelazny, Haldeman, de Lint, Bishop, Martin, Kushner, Foster, Silverberg, Tiptree, Wu, Ellison, Bear, Springer, Le Guin, Norton, Stanwick, Card, Niven.
A Minus: the publishing rights/agency credits are given, but not the sources/bibliography. Each story here came from somewhere else; Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov's, Locus, Interzone, etc. Not a mention of any resource. Some of us like to know this stuff.
It's clear that the publishers of this book elected Silverberg to cough up a fantasy anthology, and he wasn't quite up to the task. Usually he makes better selections when he edits such a book. In fairness I will say that most of the stories here have won, or have been nominated for, the various yearly awards (World Fantasy, Hugo, Nebula, etc.)
If you have three or more contemporary fantasy anthologies, chances are you already have all of the stories in this book. If you do not, and are looking for sword and sorcery, this book isn't it. If you are looking for "contemporary" style fantasy, this may suit your taste.

Dragons & Mystics Calendar (2003)
Dragons & Mystics Calendar (2003)
by Michael Whelan
Edition: Calendar
2 used & new from $9.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Stunning Calendar, January 8, 2003
Once again, Michael Whelan has graced us with a beautiful calendar. This year, there are five winged dragon pictures, with seven non-dragon "Mystics" pictures.
The calendar page (date section) lists the usual US, UK, NZ, Canadian, and Australian holidays and Days of Importance. Phases of the moon are listed, as are the previous/coming month in the lower corner (the previous/coming months being something left out of far too many calendars these days). Each calendar page features a grayscale sketch in the background, and the day squares are large enough to make legible notes.
The calendar is on thick, glossy paper. This year's (2003) pictures, by name, are: Crown of Shadows, The End of Nature I, Goldwing, The Reach, Dragonsbane, Hope, Mountain of Black Glass, Dragon Prince, Arkady, Stronghold, The Narrow Way, Amazing Dragon. High quality, beautiful colors, crisp and clear images, very frame-worthy.
My personal favorite this year is the stunning "Crown of Shadows," a black-clad male figure holding aloft a black sword. The figure's eyes are glowing, and there is a faint female form behind him, underneath the erupting volcano. Also worth mentioning are "The Reach," a young female hanging from a heavy chain (grasping the chain, not chained to) and reaching down for something. Behind her seems to be the dilapidated inside of a tower (this was the cover for Zettel's sci-fi book "Kingdom of Cages.") "Arkady" features a young woman standing in the forefront, with a twisting arch far behind her. The blue shades in this picture are amazing. "The End of Nature" is a woman walking along flat treetops, with no ground in sight.
A calendar is something that hangs on your wall for a year, and is something you glance at every day. Why not have something beautiful and distracting?
Highly recommended.

Dragons & Mystics 2002 Calendar: The Art of Michael Whelan
Dragons & Mystics 2002 Calendar: The Art of Michael Whelan
by Michael Whelan
Edition: Calendar

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful! A fine selection., January 11, 2002
This year's (2002) calendar is a stunner. The main theme is the dragon (the winged, clawed European variety) with five non-dragon pictures.
The calendar page (date section) lists the usual US, UK, NZ, Canadian, and Australian holidays and days of importance. Phases of the moon are included, as are the previous/coming month (something far too many calendars exclude these days). The calendar page also features a grayscale sketch in the background. The day squares are large, plenty of room for scribbling notes.
The calendar is on thick, glossy paper. The pictures, by name, are: Dragon Lake, Snow Queen, Weyrworld, Erosion, Prudence 2, Dragon Flight, Dragonsdawn, Verge, Shonto's Garden, White Dragon, Renegades of Pern, Dragon Lord. The size and quality makes every plate frameworthy.
My personal favorites in the calendar are the striking "Snow Queen" (a woman wearing an elaborate mask, main colors are white against astonishing blues) and "Erosion," an almost indescribable image of a lone figure on a precipice looking up at a streetlight with stormclouds in the distance. "Erosion" has amazing colors, and draws the viewer's eyes to the blazing horizon behind the figure.
A very distracting calendar. Recommended.

by Allen Steele
Edition: Hardcover
56 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat predictable yet very enjoyable, September 15, 2001
This review is from: Chronospace (Hardcover)
The foundation of the story is very simple: time-traveling historians and their surly "timeship" pilot go to 1937 to witness the Hindenberg zeppelin disaster. Except, of course, the Hindenberg lands without any problems, and all of the passengers and crew safely disembark in Lakehurst, New Jersey. So what went wrong? Did one or all of them do something to cause a paradox?
In the "present" of 1998, there is a government scientist, Murphy, who innocently writes an article for a popular science fiction magazine. He suggests that perhaps UFOs are NOT extraterrestrial spies in their spaceships at all, but merely time travelers in their time machines. While this is blasphemy to many hardcore UFO buffs, the article still manages to attract some unwelcome and unexpected attention for poor Murphy.
Intersperse some non-UFO "angel" sightings, an X-Files type government agency, secret aircraft testing at Area 51, hardcore skeptics, an anti-Nazi German Resistance movement, plausible science, New Age crystal-meditating Whitley Strieber adherents, no-nonsense military generals and budget-conscious bureaucrats.
The story arcs come together beautifully, and although parts of the book are rather predictable time-travel fare, the book manages to remain a page-turner. Allen Steele artfully creates situations and locations that are familiar and believable, only to slowly reveal that some of these events are happening in a parallel timeline, an alternate wordline.
Unfortunately, I too must point out that the editing is poor and there are quite a few typographical errors and missing words. Some of these mistakes occur at some relevant points in the story and almost entirely change the gist of things; missing words during some important dialog, typographical errors regarding among other things, dates. Shame, shame.
Perhaps Allen M. Steele is testing the waters a bit here with this novel. While an outright sequel may require some deft maneuvering, I'm hopeful the orbiting space lab, "Chronos Station" and the characters in it may be reappearing in future books by this talented author.
Fun and lighthearted time-travel science fiction fare.

by Tanith Lee
Edition: Paperback
40 used & new from $0.17

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dark, mesmerizing, incomplete, July 29, 2001
This review is from: Vivia (Paperback)
A haunting tale told in a calm, hypnotic voice.
The story is of the darkly beautiful Vivia, daughter of a feared and powerful warlord. A strange and deadly plague decimates the survivors of a bloody war, and Vivia, seeking to escape death, hides in the secret grotto deep under her father's castle. There, in the silent darkness, a presence seduces her and changes her, ensuring that Vivia's striking beauty and youth be a part of her forever. (I hesitate to say "vampire," since this was a somewhat nontraditional vampire story.)
Left alone to discover her powers on her own, Vivia hides again, and this time is found by the warrior prince, Zulgaris. An alchemist as well, Zulgaris is first drawn to Vivia's beauty but soon realizes that she harbors powers that he himself wants to make use of.
Vivia, for all of her experiences and abilities, mutely accepts everything that is done to her. Still unsure of exactly what her powers consist of (although she knows she has magic), she allows herself to be mistreated and experimented upon. The death she so feared during the plague is the death that now will never touch her. She can escape death, but not the cruelties of life. She must learn to take control of her own destiny.
Definitely not a tale for the timid. There is a lot of violence, and rape occurs throughout the novel. The language in some parts contains more vulgarity than is probably necessary. Tanith Lee's voice is ethereal and tells Vivia's story vividly. Tanith Lee impressively brings forth Vivia, who is detached from life and indifferent to life, although she scorns death. Vivia is not a likable character; she is cold, cruel, aloof, silent, and while not "weak," she meekly allows people to mistreat her. It was hard to accept that a person with such raw magical power (or anyone, for that matter) would simply allow herself to be so abused, and abused she is. Vivia the character, despite all that happens to her, elicits no sympathy. It's the haunting way that this story is told that redeems the book. The ending is vague and leaves room for a sequel.
For those who are Tanith Lee fans, and for those who like violent dark fantasy.

Papal Bull
Papal Bull
by Dean Sullivan
Edition: Hardcover
5 used & new from $0.77

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tries hard to be funny, July 12, 2001
This review is from: Papal Bull (Hardcover)
Subtitled "A Humorous Dictionary for Catholics"
This book, based on a potentially good idea (a fun religious dictionary), falls somewhat short of expectations. It seems that when the author came up with the idea of writing this book, he made a list of "religious" words (from "abbey" to "Zion") and then quickly made up definitions for them (most of them during Mass, he claims). None of them made me laugh, although a few made me chuckle. Includes cartoony illustrations.
A few examples:
Apostasy: The difficult process of giving up one set of beliefs in favor of another - such as converting to the metric system.
Canon Law: The principle that whoever has the canon makes the law.
Devil: Evil with a capital D.
Evil: Four-fifths of the Devil.
Free Will: A gift from God that you will pay for later if you use it incorrectly.
Incense: Holy smoke.
Lot: How much salt there is in a pillar.
Martyr: A religious person who gets stoned.
Mount of Olives: A hill located near the Straight of Vermouth.
Papal Bull: A letter from the Pope that is in-falli-bull.
Satan: An angel who got fired.
Wine: The grapes of Mass.
Not a serious book, it will still make a cute gift for your Catholic friend going though First Communion or Confirmation.

Polgara the Sorceress (Malloreon)
Polgara the Sorceress (Malloreon)
by David Eddings
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.98
168 used & new from $0.01

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Companion book to Belgarath the Sorcerer, July 12, 2001
Read this after you read "Belgarath the Sorcerer," since this book picks up where BtS left off.
Queen Ce'Nedra of Riva, having finished reading Belgarath's autobiography, decides to visit her distant in-laws in the Vale of Aldur. Once there, Ce'Nedra's true mission comes forth: she wants Polgara, the immortal sorceress, to "fill in the gaps" of Belgarath's autobiography and write her own story. Of course Polgara dismisses this idea as childish, until Polgara's mother, the divinely wise Poledra (undoubtedly THE most powerful and respected person ever) simply orders her to do it. Reluctantly but obediently Polgara pens her tale...
Born and raised in the Vale of Aldur, Polgara and her twin sister Beldaran were raised by the other sorcerers, since the twins' parents were not there. Polgara was the dark one, quiet and brooding. Beldaran was the light one, sunny in appearance and disposition. Polgara went through a misfit teen stage and lived in a tree for years while bright and happy Beldaran lived in a quartz castle surrounded by love and affection. Soon though, Beldaran, who is mortal, was betrothed to a prince destined to become a powerful king. Polgara, accepting responsibility, cleans up her act and begins the long trip to immortal supremacy. Along the way she learns to harness her godlike magical powers, falls in love with an Arend and gains the title of "Duchess of Erat," is briefly "owned" by a wealthy Nadrak merchant, loses loved ones in wars, pines for her sister, oversees a long line of nephews, and of course, gets exasperated with her father, Belgarath.
Polgara, who came across as cold, scheming, strict, and "waspish" in the Belgariad/Mallorean, here is quite different. She seems warmer, more compassionate, more approachable, more tolerant of people, a bit silly, and still quite serious about what she obviously considers to be the most important virtue, Sobriety. Not quite the same Polgara from the First Ten books. This one is more "girlish" in a giggly sort of way. Polgara the Woman of PtS seemed more realistic than the icily calculating Polgara the All-Powerful Sorceress of Belgariad/Mallorean. Two similar but different Polgaras, and I'm not sure which one I liked better.
Belgarath is even more of a bumbling dunderhead here in PtS than he was even in "Belgarath the Sorcerer," yet Polgara's exasperation and unwavering love for him is still evident. Poledra, who was born a wolf, lacked any real warmth yet remained acceptable in her "wolfishness."
A very poignant part of Polgara's story is her deep and genuine love for the charming Ontrose, a Wacite Arend nobleman. This was very moving, and a bittersweet memory that Polgara had cherished for countless centuries. A disappointing aspect of PtS was the briefness of Polgara's tale of her stay with a Nadrak. This was mentioned briefly in Belgariad/Mallorean, "the time when Polgara was owned by a Nadrak." Now, talk about intriguing! Polgara being led around on a leash and SOLD (although for a goodly amount of gold) to Belgarath? I wanted more; the Nadraks are one of the more interesting tribes of Eddings' world, and while being "owned" is nothing like slavery, it was an interesting position for Polgara to be in. I was looking forward to it and was quite disappointed that the entire ordeal was covered in only a few pages.
The Eddingses should be commended for making the voice of Polgara different from the voice of Belgarath. I'm not saying that Polgara's book was "feminine" or that Belgarath's story was "masculine," just that the two books had two different (although sometimes similar) souls. While not as joyous in temperament as "Belgarath the Sorcerer," PtS was still an enjoyable read. Now if only the Eddingses would grace us with the tale of Beldin!
Recommended for Eddings fans, and for fans of general Fantasy.

The Doctor Is Sick
The Doctor Is Sick
by Anthony Burgess
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.74
113 used & new from $0.01

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mindblowing, July 12, 2001
This review is from: The Doctor Is Sick (Paperback)
I bought this book after being mesmerized by "A Clockwork Orange"
While nothing like ACO (except for Burgess's masterful use of language), this book was every bit as riveting.
Dr. Edwin Spindrift, a linguistics professor in Burma, is diagnosed with a brain tumor. He, accompanied by his oddball wife, goes to London for medical treatment.
In the hospital, the mellow Spindrift meets a whole assortment of people: unique patients, arrogant insensitive physicians, cold uncaring nurses, rude orderlies, distant medical technicians, and the people who love them. Confused, bored, and exasperated with painful medical tests, Spindrift "escapes" the brain ward to disappear into nighttime London.
Misty and cold "civilized" London is very alien to the doctor, who has grown accustomed to sunny tropical Burma. Fascinated and horrified at the same time, Spindrift wanders the dark recesses of a Modern Western City in search of... something. Or maybe he's just running.
Spindrift runs into some very strange and utterly believable people. He finds himself in unusual, bizarre situations, every one of them genuine and real. More at home with language and words than with people, Spindrift is nevertheless spellbound by the alien Londoners with their colorful speech and habits.
After numerous adventures (or misadventures), he finds himself back in the stark, bright, antiseptic hospital. The hospital being so very alien in its own way, Edwin Spindrift PhD wonders just how many of those bizarre memories were real... in retrospect, things seem so amazing.
The story is a bit dated yet enough has remained the same (proof that some things may never change) that Spindrift's wild trip is still understandable and imaginable. It's a story of perceptions, or false perceptions. TDIS was one of those rare books that I had to set down sometimes to THINK about what I had just read. I hadn't done that with a book in a long time. I enjoyed not only reading this book, but thinking about it, too.
A very sly tale. Highly recommended.

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