Great Books

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Ring of Five Dragons by Eric Van Lustbader

I'm reading a fantasy triology by Eric Van Lustbader. Earlier I read a lot of his Ninja novels, which were gripping stories despite the gratuitous sex. This story strongly holds my interest and, yes, the gratuitous sex persists but now it's between humans and alien species. Despite this, the story is artfully unfolded and lays in little points of mystery to keep one reading. The characterization is excellent. One even feels empathy for some of the conquering alien individuals. There are some unusual turns of plot. Van Lustbader can write fantasy as well as he writes blood and thunder. These books contain elements of both.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh & Lincoln

I've read Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code" which I thought was so excellent that I went out and read everything else Dan Brown had written. As a result of my sparked interest from "The DaVinci Code," I read a book called "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" which is basically a long documented research work including the Knights Templar and thePrieuré of Sion and their mission. I found it fascinating and very convincing. It was convincing because of the extensive documentation of facts in the book. (Bible passages have even been cited in this work.) As I went through this book, I found myself wondering if Dan Brown had read it before he wrote "The DaVinci Code". This work made me very curious as to what the Vatican has in its secret archives on this matter. Unfortunately, that data was denied the authors. This book contains some interesting photographs, too. If you were electrified by "The DaVinci Code," this book is a must to read.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Power Of One by Bryce Courtenay

This is a compelling story of a boy (Peekay) born in South Africa, who had about everything going against him. He was English in an Afrikaans-dominated society, and he was bullied. He refused to buckle under or be demoralized by his tormenters. He discovered that loyalty, strength and courage can be generated within oneself—the power of one. This is a story of his struggle to rise to the top as a welterweight champion and of his achievement. It is set in South Africa of the 1940s. The local color and history are fascinating and informative. I found this book a hard one to put down once I started it. I highly recommend this novel for its originality. It’s an engrossing tale.

Shogun by James Clavell

Shogun is a tale of sixteenth century Japan. It has power, violence, action, drama, love, suspense and subtlety. It is a thoroughly engrossing story. This book not only gives one an insight into the Japanese culture, it imparts understanding of what Japan is and why. I gained such an affinity for Japan when I read this book. It is undoubtedly a classic.

Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaason

This story takes place in Florida at the time of Hurricane Andrew (the one that caused such devastation). I recommend this book primarily because it is so funny. The plot is zany and the characters are zany, especially the colorful, eccentric ‘Skink’ (an ex-governor of Florida who lives in the wild). I found myself frequently laughing aloud as I read along. Carl Hiaason is a newspaper columnist in Florida, and he was born and raised in the state. He deplores the ravaging of the environment and he uses the medium of his books to make a statement about it. He is very cynical, but he’s also very funny. After I read this book, I went looking for more books by this author. I found he also wrote Striptease, which was made into a movie. (That book is far better than the movie, I might add.) Stormy Weather is a highly entertaining read.

Nine Princes In Amber by Roger Zelazny

I highly recommend this book because it is just simply fun. The reader finds drama and intrigue spiced with humor. Nine princes and four princesses with a sibling rivalry bar none illustrate Zelazny’s understanding of everyday people. His mixture of the common with the incredible is an aspect of Zelazny’s writing that I really enjoy. Amber is the real world of which our present day Earth is but a shadow. The royal brothers and sisters have powers to travel through Shadow worlds and communicate with each other via trump cards. In Nine Princes In Amber, the reader is introduced to this family via Corwin. We find him, when the story opens, on Shadow Earth without a clue to his real identity. As he gets clued in, so does the reader. This tale progresses through four more books. I read this in the 70’s before all of these books had been published. I found it very hard to wait until the next one was released. In fact, I found that the fifth one was first published in three parts in one of the science fiction magazines of the day. I sat in the library one afternoon and read all three installments of it, as the library wouldn’t let me check out its periodicals. Zelazny spins a good tale with the occasional twist, throws in plenty of action and his own brand of humor (such as one of the princes hang-gliding through Shadow until he reaches Las Vegas, where he blows mucho bucks). It’s just simply a lot of fun to read. The Amber Series is one of my favorites.

Triplanetary by E.E. Doc Smith

Triplanetary is the first book in the phenomenal science fiction epic known as The Lensmen Series. In Triplanetary the battle lines are drawn by the forces of good and evil (to simplify the concept) for control of the universe. Earth is the main battlefield. As the story unfolds, the reader discovers that the sinking of Atlantis, the fall of the Roman Empire and any catastrophes that have befallen Earth are moves in a lethal, but universal chess game waged not only on the physical level, but on a mental plane as well. A major strategy becomes clear as one reads further into the series. That is the development of two family lines to the exact point in time when a union between these two families will create the superhumans who will triumph once and for all for the side of good. In Triplanetary the reader is acquainted with these two families through the major characters of the story; their line is traced as the time line of planet Earth develops. This is a rollicking good read with plenty of action.

The Covenant by James Michener

From the seventies through independence in the nineties, South Africa was probably the most talked about, most maligned and most scorned country in the history of Earth. How did this political pot come to the boil? How did the Covenant come to be? Follow the history of this troubled country from the arrival of the first white men at the Cape of Good Hope through to modern times in a completely unbiased account presented as only Michener can.

Additional Comment
This is the story of South Africa, covering six hundred years from the time before the first Europeans arrived, up to 1980 and the conflicts occurring at that time. In true Michener fashion, he creates several family lines from the various cultures present there, and the reader sees the development of the country and its culture through the interaction of these families. We see Van Riebeeck arrive and the establishment of the Cape Colony. We see the immigrations of the French Huguenots, the English, the German, the Scottish, the Irish. We travel with the Afrikaaners on the Great Trek to the interior. We relive the Zulu and Boer Wars. We experience all their joys and sorrows. We discover how apartheid was started. Michener weaves the adventures and conflicts surrounding these fictional families into the historical background to make a truly fascinating story . This is such a pleasurable way of learning the history of this country. I had a particular interest in this book as I was living in South Africa when I read it. However, I truly feel that it’s the best of all Michener’s novels. It is a wonderful and well-told epic.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov is one of the great science fiction writers of the twentieth century. Foundation is a story set in the future about a society comprising a million worlds across the Milky Way. The old empire is crumbling into barbarism. The Foundation, which is dedicated to art, science and technology, is created in the attempt to forestall thousands of years of chaos and anarchy. Foundation is the beginning of a short trilogy that recounts the grandeur of a galactic civilization and the clashing of two mighty forces to control its destiny. Asimov created a lasting science fiction classic that is well worth reading.

Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card is a master storyteller and one of my favorite authors. He can write about even mundane subjects and capture a reader’s interest. The subject of Seventh Son, however, is not mundane. Card sets this story in frontier America, and he casts a spell over the reader. He magically weaves fact and fiction to produce a story that draws the reader in at the outset. Alvin Miller is the seventh son of a seventh son, which is a powerfully magical mechanism. He was born to fulfill a mission, to be the greatest maker in a thousand years. Throughout his life he must sidestep traps set by the Unmaker in order to achieve his purpose and to out-create the spread of devastation. Card is a master at creating ethical or moral dilemmas that his characters must confront or suffer the consequences. Seventh Son is no exception. The story continues in four subsequent novels that acquaint the reader with not always well-known facets of American history while ensnaring the reader in Card’s web. I highly recommend this book (and its sequels).