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Showing posts from July 22, 2003
Right now, I'm in the middle of two books: Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett and War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges.

Pratchett is the popular author of the Discworld series and this is one of those. I've read the first three in the series and this one is number 11 or something. I got it for free as a give-away at the recent American Library Association annual conference in Toronto. Watch for a review when I'm done.

Hedges book is something completely different. I got it on the recommendation of a friend who reads a lot of history. I'm only a short ways into the book but it's totally engrossing. Hedges is a reporter who has written from many of the world's hot spots over the past couple of decades. He's vehemently anti-war and his book is a tightly argued, well-written meditation on the meaning of war and why is fascinates us. More on that one, too, when I'm finished.
National Geographic Guide to Civil War Battlefield Parks. National Geographic Society, 1992, 160 p.
Civil War Sites: The Official Guide to Battlefields, Monuments, and More. The Globe Pequot Press, 2003, 306 p.

These two guides function best if used as companions. The National Geographic Guide gives very brief synopses of each battle, arranged by state. If you're looking for Spotsylvania, for example, you look up Virginia, then find the battlefield. You get some facts about the battle then the brief narrative of the battle's highpoints.

The other quide, prepared by the Civil War Preservation Trust, is more of travel guide to the battlefields. Each battlefield has an entry that gives a description, hours, admission fees, and directions. The arrangement is not strictly by state. Rather it is by region, then by state within the region. Thus Virginia is near the front of the book in the "Middle Atlantic" section and Illinois is near the end in the "Midwest" sec…
Barnes, John. The Sky So Big and Black. Tor, 2002, 315 p.
Morgan, Richard K. Altered Carbon, Del Rey, 2002, 375 p.

The only thing these two books have in common is that they are both science fiction. One is by a well-known, highly published author. The other is a first novel by a former school teacher. Guess which one is better, more compelling, and much more enjoyable? Easy question. I wouldn't be asking if it wasn't a trick question. Hands down, Altered Carbon, Morgan's first novel, is the better of the two.

Barnes has written a number of books, many of which have been well-reviewed. This is the first of his that I've read and based on it, I have to wonder why he gets published. This book is dull, boring, without many redeeming values. It is derivitive of Robert Heinlein - unfortunately of the later Heinlein, not the Heinlein of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stranger In a Strange Land, or The Puppet Masters but the Heinlein of such dreck as Time Enough for Love or To…