Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Other Teddies

I've been reading Edmund Morris' biography The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, which is very nicely written and only occasionally shows judgmentalism on the author's part.  One surprise was that the corrupt conservatives and corporations had opposed the Spanish-American War while the progressives supported it.  Teddy was responsible for so many things, from civil service reform to trust-busting to the national park system, so many of which are difficult to imagine without his energy and competence behind them.  But there were some things that might have gone otherwise. 

When Teddy was a wee boy of six, he founded the Roosevelt Museum of Natural History in his bedroom and populated it with animals many of which were dead.  This led to the memorable threat by the cook: "Either the muskrat goes, or I do!" His constant dissections and taxidermy led to him to smell of arsenic.  (This was an era when a kid could go to the chemist's shop and purchase a pound of arsenic, no questions asked.)  In any case, he was home-schooled and then went to Harvard, fully intending to be a scientist and naturalist.

1. At Harvard he met a late Victorian Valley Girl, Alice Lee, and fell head-over-heels in love such as no human has before experienced.  But she didn't like his smell and turned down his proposal unless he would give up his stinky plans.  He did, and decided to go into politics.  So, what if he hadn't met her or if she had someone else going?  Prof. Theodore Roosevelt, eminent naturalist, instead. 

2. Alice Lee and Roosevelt's mother both died within minutes of each other in the same house while Teddy rushed upstairs and downstairs between their bedrooms.  It was this crushing tragedy that drove him to Dakota, where he threw himself into a cattle ranch, built up a powerful physique, and learned to associate as equals with common people.  Suppose this hadn't happened.  Teddy remains a snobby East Side patrician and has modest local political success [He was an assemblyman in Albany at the time, but had already been rejected for Speaker by the Machine.] 

3. On his way to a roundup in Dakota Terr., Teddy and his horse were swept off their feet into a turbulent, ice cold stream.  SUPPOSE he had tried crossing a hundred feet or so downstream.  He would have been quickly swept into a stretch of river from which there was no way up the steep banks, and would have drowned. 
4. While hunting stray horses one day, he came to the town of Mingus, Montana, named after founders Minnie and Gus.  As he approaches the hotel he hears shots.  Entering, he finds a drunk shooting at the clock while everyone else wears fixed grins.  The drunk spots him and announced that "Four Eyes" is setting them up.  Teddy grins and takes a seat in the corner by the stove, but the drunk follows him.  "Didn't you hear me?  You're buying a round for the house."  Teddy says, "Well, if I must, I must."  He stands up, looking past the man, as if to comply; then lets loose with a right to the jaw, a left to the gut, and another right.  The guns discharge.  The drunk falls and hits his head on the bar.  SUPPOSE the discharging guns had cut our Teddy down?  

5. Later, his boat was stolen from his ranch and he [as deputy sheriff] and his ranch foreman built another boat and set off after them down the ice-choked Little Missouri.  The ranch foreman is a Maine woodsman.  He knows boats and rivers.  They catch up with the thieves.  They catch one man, at the campfire.  When the other two show up from hunting with dinner, one surrenders immediately; but the other is Redhead Finnegan, a wanted man.  He stands for a time with his rifle dangling wondering if he has a chance.  Roosevelt walks in on him, and he sees he does not, and surrenders.  SUPPOSE, Finnegan had said the hell with it and started a gunfight at close quarters? 

We'll skip over some dull possibilities from his terms on the civil service commission, as police commissioner of NYC, and as assistant secretary of the Navy.  These would consist mostly as missing connections with other important people. 

6. As Lt. Col. of 1st US Vol. Cav., he sails to Cuba in a wallowing freighter, the Yucatan.  On sunset 13 May off Egmont Keys, the Yucatan narrowly avoided collision with the Matteawan.  The latter had 3500 pounds of dynamite resting in her bow, intended for the experimental dynamite gun.  SUPPOSE....

7. At Las Guasimas and again at Kettle Hill/San Juan Hill, bullets were flying.  SUPPOSE....

As near as I can tell, ol' Teddy, like all the rest of us, was a very improbable person. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Headline of the Day

"The Difference Between a Big Mac and Marlboro Light"--headline, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aug. 23


The floor is now open for suggestions.

The first is:
You can't put pickles on a Marlboro Light. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Quote of the Day

Mr. DeLay, the Texas Republican who had been the House majority leader, crowed that he had been "found innocent." But many of Mr. DeLay's actions remain legal only because lawmakers have chosen not to criminalize them.
-- New York Times editorial on the Justice Department's decision to drop its investigation of Tom DeLay


Who can contest such insightful logic?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bill Joneses

Quote of the Day

"That four-eyed maverick has sand in his craw a-plenty."
-- Three-Seven Bill Jones, regarding Teddy Roosevelt at the annual cattle roundup along the Little Missouri, Dakota Territory

(Three-Seven Bill Jones is not to be confused with Hell-Roaring Bill Jones, Texas Bill Jones, or any of the other men in western Dakota calling themselves "Bill Jones")

from the Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt

[Hell Roaring] Bill Jones [the sheriff] was a gun-fighter and also a good man with his fists.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Reviews of Up Jim River


The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction has a review of my baby. 

Flynn has been writing excellent sf novels for years, but many readers didn’t sit up and take notice until his novel Eifelheim was nominated for the 2007 Hugo Award.  Since then he has published a handful of truly superior novels, all delicately balanced in that elusive sweet spot between commercial and literary sf. My favorite of these remains The Wreck of the River of Stars, a novel so outrageously, tragically, gorgeously romantic that you’d swear Cordwainer Smith came back from the dead to sit at Flynn’s elbow while he wrote it. But I’m not even going to attempt to justify this bias in any rational way, and readers with a yen for wide-ranging space opera may prefer Flynn’s last two efforts.
The sweet spot between commercial and literary, heh?  Not commercial enough, or I'd sell more.  Not literary enough or...  Oh, well.  He likes UP JIM RIVER save for the inevitable let-down of a second book.  Perhaps I should have used a different suite of characters. 

Meanwhile some web reviews. 
The great strength of these books is Flynn's prose, which is delightful to read.
-- In Which Our Hero
The January Dancer blew my mind, it is hard for a second volume to live up to that. Where January Dancer was an epic Saga Up Jim River is more of a good mystery quest. Some of the turns feels a bit to easy and could have been more of an obstacle for the characters to overcome but it is a good book to listen to. The ending gives closure but is also a great setup for a third book.
-- Cybermage
The language isn’t quite flowery but there is a certain cadence, a rhythm, to it that lends it a near mythic quality.  In the passage above is the obvious, though obscured, reference to to Yeats; Second Coming and it is these half-remember, or incorrectly remembered bits of our own past that enhance that same sense of myth.  Whether it be the great “sky gods” which count both Einstein and Planck amongst there number, the mysterious “mighty condrians” , or the wonder and mystery of “True Coriander” Flynn truly does an amazing job of scattering bits of our present and past across the universe creating an odd pastiche and strange amalgamations that are both familiar and wholly strange.
While the first two thirds of the novel are a planet hopping mystery adventure the final third most closely resembles a quest narrative as our now fully formed party of adventures takes a great journey into the wilderness in search of secrets from the now ancient past.  There are even talking swords!    Flynn’s ability to turn science fiction on its head, to give it the sound and feel of fantasy or myth is difficult to describe without experiencing it for yourself.  Several reviews of Flynn’s work have compared him to Tolkein which is an apt one as he displays a similar ability to weave our own past and present into a mythology and world wholly his own.  If you are looking for something a bit different then I highly highly recommend you give Michael Flynn a try for some truly wondrous reading.  Also, on a last note, I must say I’m a bit tired of cliffhangers!  Hurry up with that next book Flynn because I really want to know what happens next!
-- King of the Nerds!

Alright.  Who am I to disagree with so many others.  Tolkien?  Forsooth.  And not an elf in sight. 

Almost done with In the Lion's Mouth.  Or it is almost done with me. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Is This Some Kind of Trend?


It's Always in the Last Place You Look
"You Cannot Pea Serious! Doctors Amazed to Find Vegetable Growing in Pensioner's Lung"--headline, Daily Mail (London), Aug. 12

See this previous post:  http://m-francis.livejournal.com/tag/fir%20trees%20in%20lungs [2nd item]

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Commemoration of St. Teresia Benedicta of the Cross

Edith Stein was born in Breslau on 12 October 1891, the youngest of 11, as her family were celebrating Yom Kippur, although she stopped practicing Judaism at age 14.  She was a brilliant student, with an interest in philosophy and in women's issues. (She became a member of the Prussian Society for Women's Franchise.)

In 1913, she transferred to Göttingen University, where she studied under Edmund Husserl.

During WW1 she volunteered as a nurse.  She looked after the sick in the typhus ward, worked in an operating theater, and saw young people die. Afterward, she followed Husserl as his assistant to the German city of Freiburg, where she passed her doctorate summa cum laude, after writing a thesis on "The Problem of Empathy."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Brow-beaten

Quote of the Day
"That an art has become confined to high-brow tastes is a sign that it is dying."
-- Brandon Watson

http://branemrys.blogspot.com/2010/07/on-symptom-of-deteriorating-artistic.html