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Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Beyond the 50 Book Challenge: Update 1
Yes, it's been far too long since I updated my progress on the 50 Book Challenge. So, I'm going to break up the update into a few, smaller and hopefully easier to digest posts over the next day or so.

62. God's Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It by Jim Wallis

We've all seen people with the braclets asking "What Would Jesus Do"? This book by Christian author Wallis sits down and asks that question from a political perspective--what role, if any would Jesus play in the political landscape of America today? And while the book tries to be "fair and balanced" in skewering both sides of the political aisle, I did find that Wallis has a lot more to say about the current administration and the right than he does the left. Not that the left gets off easy in the book or is painted in a better light, mind you. But there is more time spent on showing the shortcomings of the right. But I will give Wallis credit--if either side is doing something right, he calls attention to that as well.

63. Star Trek: New Frontier - No Limits edited by Peter David

For the first time, Peter David opens up the playground of the New Frontier to authors other than himself and the results are pretty much hit or miss. A lot of your enjoyement of the stories here will depend on if you like the characters involved in the short stories collected here--at least one short story per character in the New Frontier universe. All of them take place in the past so as not to contradict the current stories David tells and David himself fills in the story of Calhoune and Shelby's honeymoon (which has been referenced in several stories since it happened off screen as it were).

64. The Zenith Angle by Bruce Sterling

A fast-paced, enjoyable read by Sterling. Not as heavy as some of his other novels like Heavy Weather, but an enjoyable read. It's about the security of computers and computer networks in the wake of 9/11. Now, reading that, you might think--OK, how do you get an interesting story out of that? All I can say is, Sterling does it by giving us a character who goes to work for the government to help create a fully stable, secure network that is inpervious to outside hacking and attack. And he also shows us the affect this has on our hero and his personal life--to the point that our hero nearly loses his wife and son in his devotion to keeping America secure.

65. The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr

I'll be honest here--I've never had much use for Sherlock Holmes stories written by authors other than Conan Doyle. So, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about this one by Carr, though the man is great at creating historical novels. And the estate of Conan Doyle did request that Carr write this novel...so I figured it'd be worth a try. And ya know, it's hit or miss. Carr does a great job of capturing the narrative style and feel of Conan Doyle but the plot doesn't feel like a typical Holmes mystery. I know that Holmes did help the English government on occasion in the stories, but the scope of what Holmes does and the mystery related here are stretch credulity a bit much in my mind. So, if you're gonna read it, read it to have a fun romp with some familiar characters (and Carr does bring in a LOT of Holmes lore) but if you want to see why Holmes is such a beloved and popular character, check out the original Conan Doyle short stories.

66. Doctor Who: The Tomorrow Window by Jonathan Morris

I stopped regularily reading the eighth Doctor line of BBC novels after the arc in which the Doctor lost his memories and was consigned to Earth for nigh on five books. Basically because I felt as if the books had some opportunities for great storytelling and were passing on them in favor of stories that just didn't quite seem up to snuff as it were. So, this was my first eighth Doctor novel in quite a while...apparently as the series is winding down and preparing to welcome in the ninth Doctor novels. Morris starts out saying that this book is for Douglas Adams, but later tells us it's not intended as a pastiche and that he could never copy Adams' style. Well, for not trying to copy Adams' style, Morris succeeds in doing exactly that..copying the style of Adams. Yeah, it works for the most part and there are some funny moments but the book ends up too episodic in nature and the joke starts to wear thin by half way through. Once the denouncement came, I'd lost much interest in what was happened and why and the running gag of no one mentioning the word Gallifrey to the Doctor gets old fast. Also, it seems as if every Doctor Who novel I've picked up these days has to have this self-aware "old TV show" that is a subtle jab at Doctor Who and its fandom...honestly, can't we get away from this trend?

67. Ilium by Dan Simons

One of the nominees for this year's Hugo award. Simons is well respected around the SF community for his Hyperion novels (which I've never been able to get into them, for what it's worth). Illium is a well done novel that carries on four or five plot threads that slowly come together in an interesting way, just in time to leave you wanting more in the next book. Yes, this is part of a duology and so not everything is concluded or wrapped up here.

68. The Third Secret by Steve Berry

An entertaining, fast paced, quick read that seems a bit more timely since it deals with the death of a Pope and the succession of a new man to the office. Berry's third novel (and the second of his I've read) is a lot better than his first. The plot keeps moving at a crisp pace and the revelation of the deep, dark secret hidden by the Catholic church is nicely done even if you can kind of guess it about 50 pages before our heroes figure it all out.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 8/02/2005 09:19:00 AM | |
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