Friday, August 26, 2011


Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

Using the same literary technique that Max Brooks used in World War Z to document mankind's war against the zombies, Daniel Wilson documents the robot uprising that threatened the human race with extinction.

We created them to make our lives easier. They cleaned our houses, they drove our cars, and they were integrated into every aspect of our existence. But when they all simultaneously became self-aware and were no longer interested in serving their creators but in eliminating us instead, a war started that nearly wiped us out.

Robopocalypse is written as a history. You learn on page one that we already fought the war and won. The fun in reading this book is not waiting to see how things turn out at the end but rather to know the outcome already and then in a very creative way, to go back and see how things got there. If it weren't for World War Z, this book would seem wholly original in its style. Nevertheless, it's still a great book. Wilson, who has a PhD. in Robotics, has done an excellent job of writing a story that doesn't seem to be that far fetched anymore.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Thursday, August 25, 2011

At Home - A Short History of Private Life

At Home - A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson

If someone were to tell me about a book that was written chronicling the history of the home, describing how it and the hundreds of items it usually contains arrived at their current state of being, my response would at best be ambivilance. If they then told me it was written by Bill Bryson, I'd open up my wallet and buy it.

I don't read much non-fiction, but I've read everything Bill Bryson has written and will continue to do so. His books are some of the funniest out there. The first book by Bryson that I read was I'm a Stranger Here Myself . . ., a memoir about returning to America after 20 years of living in England. I was reading that one when my wife was expecting our first child, and I made the mistake of reading it while she was laboring to give birth. My bursts of laughter were not appreciated by my wife while she was trying to go to her happy place during contractions. Lesson learned. With the remaining births, I made sure I was reading something deadly serious.

At Home . . . is not one of Bryson's "funny" books. With this one he uses his wit and dry sense of humor more sparingly, but consistently. This felt more like a history lesson being given by a favorite teacher. What did people go through before the modern toilet? When did we finally start washing ourselves regularly (at least us Americans). Why do forks have four prongs and not three or five? Why do men's jackets have three useless buttons at the end of each cuff? And whether it's true that the brassiere was invented by a man named Otto Titzling. Bryson did all the research so that you don't have to.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Five

The Five by Robert McCammon

In his latest book, The Five, Robert McCammon incorporates his obvious love for music into a supernatural thriller that showcases his tremendous talent as a writer. The Five is the name of a relatively obscure rock band living a not-so-glamorous lifestyle on the road. They haul all of their equipment, t-shirts, and CDs with them from show to show hoping to sell enough tickets and merchandise to pay for a good meal and a decent hotel room each night. But for The Five, money isn't what's important. They're a group of similarly-minded people who have formed a family around their love of music.

The world that they understand is about to come crashing down on itself for the members of The Five though when a former Marine Corp sniper, Jeremy Pett, recently home from Afghanistan, and losing his battle with internal demons, sees the band's latest video on TV. The song is anti-war and the video portrays a U.S. soldier having to make a very difficult decision while in battle and making a terrible mistake. That video sets Pett on a mission to eliminate The Five.

The Five is an excellent book! It's got all of the elements that I hope for when I read a book. The story is compelling, the characters are multi-dimensional, and as a bonus with this one, it revolves around a subject that I have a lot of fond feelings for - rock music. It's a very, very, good book but I should warn that there are a few pages that are hard to read. Not that the words are hard to pronounce, but that they're gritty and graphic. The scene is essential to the story, so it needs to be there, but still, I felt like the warning was necessary.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Map of Time

by Félix J. Palma
(The Map of Time trilogy #1)

If you were to walk the streets of London at the end of the 19th century, the topic of conversation you’d most likely hear people discussing would be either the recent grizzly killings of prostitutes by the elusive Jack the Ripper, or time travel. The later is all the rage due to two things. First, is the recent publication of a book by a first-time novelist named Herbert George Wells called The Time Traveler. The second is all of the handbills currently circulating throughout the city advertising actual trips in time to visit the year 2000. They’re advertisements for a company called Murray’s Time Travel which claims to have created the actual machine described by H. G. Wells and have now begun taking people to visit the future.
Andrew Harrington couldn’t care less about time travel. He’s the son of a wealthy business owner and has just fallen in love with Marie Kelly. Unfortunately for him, the mortality rate for people in Marie’s line of work has been rapidly increasing due to The Ripper. When Marie becomes the latest of Jack’s victims, time travel takes on a whole new meaning to Andrew. Is it really possible now to travel backwards through time and is it possible that he could do it and save the life of the woman of his dreams?
The story that ensues is fantastic! Félix J. Palma is a Spanish author and I think this is his first book translated into English and published here in the U.S. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that he was picked up by a publisher here. He has written a book that defies an adequate description. The book was probably one of he most enjoyable reads I've had in a long time. It contains three parts, each with its own set of loosely associated characters and a storyline surrounding time travel. Andrew’s and Marie’s is only the first of the three. My description of the story makes it sound like this is a science fiction book, and would only be enjoyed by those who read that genre. It’s definitely much more than that. To say much more would give too much away. So I’ll just say that I highly recommend this book to everyone – wife, parents, brothers, sisters, wife’s book club, brothers-in-law who read one or two books a year.
Read this one.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

A German Requiem

A German Requiem by Philip Kerr

In this his third book featuring Bernie Gunther, the ex-Police Officer, now private investigator, Philip Kerr picks up a few years after the conclusion of The Pale Criminal. World War II has ended and Germany is now the occupied country. Germans are having to deal with the different zones controled by The United States, England, the Soviet Union, and France. On top of that, a new kind of war is simmering, the Cold War. And the Soviets have begun the process of isolating the eastern zone under their control.

Amidst this new climate, Bernie Gunther has been hired to try to find the true killer of an American soldier. The story is a typical crime mystery and as I said when I reviewed its predecessor, Gunther is not the most endearing protagonist in the genre. But Kerr's way of describing that part of the world during such a dark period in history keeps me continually intrigued with this series.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Devil Colony

by James Rollins
(Sigma series #7)

I look forward to reading all of James Rollins's books once he announces them. But when I read on his blog that his latest was going to reveal a secret about the founding of our country, a secret tied to the Book of Mormon, the anticipation level went up a few notches for me. As an LDS person, and one who has read the Book of Mormon numerous times, I couldn't help but smile at the thought of what Rollins might try to do.

The adventure begins in the Uintah Mountains of Eastern Utah, where two Native American teenagers are searching for a cave, a cave they've been warned against entering by the elders of their tribe. What they find in that cave sets off an explosion, but it's a unique explosion, one that gets the attention of Painter Crowe and the others working for Sigma - a covert division of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and one that sets off a chain reaction that could end life on earth as we know it.

Now, let me give my opinion about the ties to the Book of Mormon and the beliefs of the LDS church that are described in the book. The belief of members of the LDS Church is that the Book of Mormon is a record of the ancestors of the Native Americans who were themselves descendants of one of the lost ten tribes of Israel and who left Jerusalem approximately 600 B.C.. In The Devil Colony, part of the historical aspect of the book centers around a tribe of "pale skinned" Indians who came from the East, who kept records on golden plates in a writing that has its roots in the Hebrew language, and who possessed some sort of magical power that scared the other tribes and ultimately led to their being killed off.

In the book, Rollins explains that there are two different sets of beliefs within the LDS church. One is the belief that all those currently referred to as Native Americans are descendants of those Israelites whose history is contained in the Book of Mormon. He tells how DNA testing of these tribes has thus far shown that that isn't the case, instead tying their lineage to Asia. But he also describes the more current set of beliefs among many, including myself, and that is that the people and events contained in the Book of Mormon, represent only a small and possibly isolated portion of the Americas.

To his credit, Rollins obviously did his research on the what the Book of Mormon is and how it came about. He did mess up in one paragraph when he referred to Joseph Smith as John Smith a couple of times, but I forgive him for that since he got it right everywhere else.

Bottom line is it was a lot of fun to read. His stories are always fast-paced rides that I devour quickly, but this one was even more enjoyable because of the Mormon angle and because a lot of it takes place here in Utah, on the campus of BYU, and other places I know well.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆