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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, May 29, 2005

More Miscellany

Here are five more books I've been reading recently. Good books all. Take a gander.

Gunpowder Empire by Harry Turtledove. New York: Tor, 2003. ISBN: 0-765-34609-5

In this book Harry Turtledove takes his penchant for exploring alternate universes a step further. Suppose we developed a device that would allow us to travel between alternate universes? Suppose we could travel to any alternate history that we could discover? Such as one in which the Roman Empire still exists today, but civilization never rose beyond the level of muskets and cannon. That's where our teen-age characters find themselves, and naturally they get stranded there while there's a war on. Entertaining reading for both young adults and "regular" adults.

The Collected Jorkens, Volume 1 by Lord Dunsany, edited by S.T. Toshi and with a forward by Arthur C. Clarke. San Francisco and Portland: Night Shade Books, 2004.

The 18th Lord Dunsany (1878-1957) was one of the great fantasy writers of all time, doing much of his best work in the early decades of the 1900's. In this book, the first of three, I believe, are collected many stories ostensibly told by one Joseph Jorkens, a nondescript member of an obscure London club, who nevertheless tells the most amazing stories, all of which he claims to be the unvarnished truth. These stories still read remarkably well today, despite the somewhat old-fashioned tone and ambience surrounding them. This particular collection is a reprint of a 1931 volume originally titled as The Travel Tales of Mr. Joseph Jorkens, most of which had originally appeared in various periodicals (such as the Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, the Saturday Evening Post, etc.) during the 1920'a and 30's. Highly recommended!

Legends II: New Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy, Edited by Robert Silverberg. New York: Del Rey/Random House, 2004. ISBN: 0-345-45644-0

The first Legends anthology was published in 1998. Now comes this second volume. The idea is simple: ask leading fantasy authors, generally famous for a series of interconnected tales and novels, to write an original story, novella length, that comes out of the fantasy series, but has not previously appeared in print. This volume contains a new Alvin Maker story by Orson Scott Card (alone worth the price of admission), a new Pern story by Anne McCaffrey, a Shannara story by Terry Brooks, an Otherland follow-up by Tad Williams, a Riftwar tale by Raymond Feist and several more, including stories by Silverberg himself, Robin Hobb, George R. R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon, Elizabeth Haydon and Neil Gaiman. A must-read for fans of any of the included authors.

Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity by Lawrence Lessig. New York: The Penguin Press, 2004. ISBN: 1-59420-006-8

Lessig is the lawyer who argued the famous Eldred vs. Ashcroft case before the Supreme Court, the case which attempted (unsuccessfully, unfortunately) to declare the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act unconstitutional. This was the law that the Walt Disney people paid Congress to pass, to keep poor Mickey Mouse from entering the public domain, by extending copyrights for another 20 years, to a total of 95 years. Lessig makes an excellent and IMHO incontrovertible case for why this was a bad idea. Bad for America, bad for just about everyone except the large media conglomerates. Essential reading for anyone interested in copyright, or in Internet file sharing and related issues.

Lepidoptera of the Pacific Northwest: Caterpillars and Adults by Jeffrey C. Miller and Paul C. Hammond. Morgantown, WV: Forest Health Technology Enterprise Team, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, 2003.

Believe it or not, this book is a federal government document. Many books on butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) show pictures of the adult insect, but few also depict the immature caterpillar stage. This book does just that for 239 species out of more than 2000 that are known to inhabit the Pacific Northwest. Beautifully illustrated in glowing color, each page depicts both the caterpillar and the adult forms. Brief narrative text describes each form (immature and adult), as well as their "ecology"—the type of plant life the caterpillars feed on, habits of the adult (nocturnal, diurnal, etc.) and the typical habitat in which they are found. End materials include lists of the common and scientific names of host plants, host plants arranged by species, a glossary, list of references, and indices of common and scientific names. A wonderful resource book that ought to be in every NW library, but probably won't be, since it isn't available through normal book purchasing channels.

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