Musings from Brian J. Noggle
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Book Report: Dead Low Tide by John D. MacDonald (1953)
This John D. MacDonald paperback original, written over 50 years ago, centers on a man working for a construction company whose boss commits suicide with a harpoon gun. The protagonist's harpoon gun. And it doesn't look like suicide after all. Circumstances and the individual plots of the individual people have hemmed him in as the suspect, though. But when the woman friend who the protagonist discovers too late he loves is found in a canal, the police have to turn him loose. For vengeance.

I hoped for a bit of bloodshed at the end, but there's no burst of gun violence. It wouldn't suit the characters, of course. MacDonald created another interesting little town with its own people, problems, and story. I like MacDonald. A lot. I was recently saddened to realize I will eventually have read all of his books.

Books mentioned in this review:

Friday, December 04, 2009
Book Report: Homegoing by Frederik Pohl (1989)
I'm reviewing these books out of order; I read this book when I went through a recent sci-fi set including Solaris and Lovelock. So apparently it was not only a sci-fi set, but also a single word title sci-fi set.

This book centers on the return of a human rescued in space by the Haklh'hi. The young man was raised from infancy by the herd-like aliens. As they return him, they behave a little suspiciously, sending him into a civilization that has slipped after global warming and nuclear wars to determine how warlike the survivors remain. Unfortunately, the aliens have only prepared the boy by showing him old television shows, so the reconnaissance fails. And the Haklh'hi plans are not as benign as they've let on.

An interesting read, something to keep you puzzling what the final twist will be. At which time, you will say, "But of course."

Books mentioned in this review:

Thursday, December 03, 2009
Book Report: Wildtrack by Bernard Cornwell (1988)
This is a very early thriller from a very young (from the book jacket photo) Cornwell. Probably precedes his success with historical novels, but this very book could be a historical novel of sorts since it deals with a veteran of the Falkland Islands War.

A disabled veteran, winner of the Victoria Cross, finds that his boat--the one thing he missed most--has been beached during his absence and stripped of gear. The probably culprit: a roughneck employed by the television personality who purchased the veteran's father's home. The guy is drawn into the television man's circle when the television man wants to produce a documentary about the veteran's heroism. The whole thing turns complicated when agents of the television man's former father-in-law look for revenge against the television guy for the accidental death of his wife in a yacht race. The television guy is going to race again and eventually the veteran gets involved.

It's a convoluted plot with a meandering pace. The book includes a lot of nautical detail, which sort of gummed it up since I was not that interested in it much. Perhaps the historical novels have similar pacing issues except that I'm interested in the details.

It's clear to see why Cornwell ended up in the genre where he did. Historical novels suit him better than straight ahead thrillers.

Books mentioned in this review:

Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Talk About Instant Savings
I received two Forbes subscription renewals in the mail the other day. The same day. With a $40 difference in a six month subscription rate.

First, a congratulations on my recent move and an offer to renew at $59.95 for 26 issues:

$60 for 26 issues.
Click for full size

In another envelope, an offer to renew at $19.95 for 26 issues:

$20 for 26 issues.
Click for full size

As you know, I take a larger number of magazines than I can read in a contemporary fashion. And you know one of the factors that makes me decide which ones to let expire?

How stupidly the circulation department treats you.

Forbes doesn't rival Fortune and other Time-Warner magazines in trying to trick you. Yet.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Book Report: Millennium by John Varley (1983)
As an anonymous commentor said when I reviewed Ben Bova's book of the same name, the novel Millennium by John Varley, based on the short story "Air Raid" by the same, is better than the film Millennium, based on the short story "Air Raid" by John Varley. You know, he's right, but it's a strange odyssey from the short story to each. According to Wikipedia:
    We had the first meeting on Millennium in 1979. I ended up writing it six times. There were four different directors, and each time a new director came in I went over the whole thing with him and rewrote it. Each new director had his own ideas, and sometimes you'd gain something from that, but each time something's always lost in the process, so that by the time it went in front of the cameras, a lot of the vision was lost.
Ergo, the timeline is as follows: In 1977, Varley writes the short story. In 1979, he begins on a screenplay. In 1983, the novel comes out. In 1989, a movie based on a revised screenplay comes out. Based on the special effects, I would have guessed that the movie was closer to the novel than the X-Files' television debut. But there you go.

An air crash investigator finds some anomalies with the crash. A time traveller from the future leads a team to recover people scheduled to die in air crashes and replace them with semi-living bodies to repopulate the species or something. Their goals intersect and create a paradox. The book interweaves their point of view, whereas the movie retreads the timeline a bit to turn the story from the investigator's tale to the woman's testimony.

The book has more depth and detail, as indicated, with the futurists from further in the future and not knowing the source even of the time traveling apparatus that lets them go back. Additionally, the characters are fleshed out, the robot is not a poor C3P0 clone, and there are real questions of free will and manipulation of time. Plus, the woman is harder and more crazy. However, it ends with in a fashion similar to Arthur C. Clarke's Rama series, where the Deus ex Machina is not a Machina at all.

An enjoyable read, and it made me watch the film again. You know, I haven't told you how I came to view the film. In 1996 or so, I had a membership at Blockbuster and was wont to go rent a film or two to pass an idle evening (before I got addicted to reading as heavily as I do now). So I was browsing, and I thought the film's box and teaser were interesting enough to warrant watching. I was disappointed with the film. Then, in 2007 or so, I was browsing Euclid Records in Webster Groves and found the DVD, and I thought, "Hmm, that looks interesting." It was only when I started watching it that I realized I'd seen it a decade earlier. Now, with the viewing after reading the book, I'm up to 3. That's probably more times than Cheryl Ladd and Kris Kristopherson have seen it combined.

Sick, I know.

Books mentioned in this review:

Monday, November 30, 2009
Fellow Milwaukeean Also Undorses Brothers
John Nolte, formerly of the northwest side like yours truly and now of Big Hollywood, agrees with my assessment of the forthcoming Brothers:
    The budget for ”Brothers,” per director Jim Sheridan, is $25 million, which probably doesn’t include marketing for promotion and … well, tell me again how Hollywood is driven by profit and not ideology? We’re a month away from 2010 so it’s hard to argue “Brothers” went into production before everyone was well aware that every single war film flopped miserably.

    But who does the snob Sheridan choose to blame in advance should his war-themed film flop? Not his own bonehead decision to jump into a genre with a 100% failure rate, not the investors who dove in with him … no, he blames We The American People....

Sunday, November 29, 2009
The Secret
How does a couple not on the guest list bypass White House security to get into the premises to mingle with the President and all the President's men? However does one get through a tight net composed of the Secret Service, the military, and "You asked for miracles, Theo, I give you the FBI"?

By being swarthy, communicating with terrorists, and arguing for Jihad when told they're not on the list. Same as everyone else.

Somehow, this thought was more wry and amusing before I wrote it. Sorry.

To say Noggle, one first must be able to say the "Nah."