Hi there!  So sorry, I’ve been MIA for a while.  There are reviews that have not been posted, I’m still awaiting my editors corrections.  School has also started for me, and this masters program is time consuming.  That’s not to say I haven’t been reading or seeing films.  I wanted to take this time to quickly give an update of some books I’ve read.  I’m not, at present, going to give a full review but wanted to highlight some really good reads and mention some decent efforts.

I’m a HUGE fan of the Dune series by Frank Herbert.  If you have never read the first novel, you should.  It’s a difficult read.  It’s challenging on a number of levels; the writing style in and of itself, the political ideology that is an undercurrent throughout the series and the simple fact that it creates a language and world that takes some getting used to.  If you are not usually a fan/reader of “speculative fiction” or science fiction, this may take even more time to get used too, but it’s soo worth it.  When Frank Herbert died he had plans to write a seventh and final novel in the Dune universe,  for which six were already published.  His son and co-author Kevin J. Anderson picked up where dad left off and have written a plethora of prequels and “inter-quels” and continue to do so.  I just finished reading the first of the prequels – “The Butlerian Jihad”.  It takes place several thousands of years prior to do the original Dune and tells the legendary tale of how the Thinking Intelligent Machines took over humanity; how the evermind (A.I on crack) took over the Thinking Machines and ultimately how the humans fought back.  The “Butlerian Jihad” is only briefly mentioned in the original cannon which left the story open for interpretation for Brian and co.  It did not have the same flair of writing genius that is present in Frank Herberts Dune but, to be fair, it was never marketed as being written by Frank himself.  The authors do a fine job at telling a good solid sci-fi tale that involves the creation of many of the ideas, places, elements and “houses” (family genealogy) that play pivotal roles in the cannon.  It’s a relativity large novel (600 ish) pages, that kicks off a trilogy; that sets the stage for two more trilogies ontop of the original six novels.  So be fore warned, get into if you want to get into Dune; but not if you want just a good standalone sci-fi novel.  However; read the original first; it’s timeless and amazing.

Next up; Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff.

This brief review may be a little unfair due to the fact that I haven’t finished it yet.  Truth be told I didn’t get very far, only 53 pages out of 364.  It was tough.  It felt like you had to know about Egyptian politics and that era to truly know what was going on.  It delved right in; head first.  Then it got easier, gave a little back history and told of Cleopatra’s education (which was utterly fascinating) but then went right back into the war between someone and someone else (names that were thrown around as if I was supposed to know who they were).  I didn’t know what came first, I was lost in time; literally.  Maybe the writing will/would become more understanding and easier to follow as the story progresses; but I got lost too much and therefore got lost in some other books.  Not saying it’s bad, but hard.  I have every intention of picking it up once more in the future.

3rd – Disciple of the Dog – by R. Scott Bakker

Bakker is the philosophy turn auteur of another sci-fi / speculative fiction series that has intense reviews on both sides of the coin called the “Prince of Nothing” trilogy.  I have these in both Soft-cover trades and on my nook; and I have yet to read them.  So I picked up one of the three(?) non fantasy novels and thought I’d give it a go.  Disciple is the story of, in the wanna be vain of Dashiell Hammett, Disciple Manning private eye and all around dick.  Manning doesn’t forget a thing, literally, he has medical mystery that doesn’t allow him to forget anything he has ever heard.  This makes for interesting conversations with himself (and for the reader) as he re-hears the conversations he has with people in order to make decision on what those people were “really” telling him or “really” saying by re-hearing their intonations and nitpicking the words they chose to use.  A girl has gone missing after being “enlightened” by a cult, and Manning is on the case.  He is a bitter misogynistic misanthropic philosopher that, I must admit, I enjoyed.  The mystery was rather dull, but I think that was the point; it was more about how Manning (and I really think the author) feels about people and events.  It was a while and several books ago that I read this so pin-pointing what I didn’t care for isn’t coming back with much clarity but I do remember not caring at some point near the end.  I will be giving his other non sci-fi book a chance to see if I’m on the mark about the authors ability or if Disciple just didn’t do it for me for another reason that I can only vaguely touch upon.

4th – Devil You Know – by Mike Carey

This one was fun.  Mike Carey is a wonderful comic book writer who has authored some of my favorite titles such has Lucifer, Unwritten and some interesting runs on my all-time favorite comic “Hellblazer”.  This book (which is the first of four, so far) is, as it is being hailed, the lessor known “Dresden Files”.  The Dresden Files are a really wonderful series (of which I listened to the first two of on audio, read wonderfully and articulated expertly  by Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Spike” and Smallville’s Brainiac” James Marsters (highly highly recommend)).  I digress.  “Devil” follows Felix Castor – out work, wit slinging magician sometimes exorcist.  The story starts with Felix trying to scratch up some rent money by doing a harmless kids birthday party which ends up with Felix showing a bunch of kids the ghost of a dead child that has some history with the birthday boy.  The next “gig” which Felix gets caught up with is a ghost at a historical artifacts archive; this leads into some really interesting territory.  Gangsters, werewolves, furies and demons all join in the fun alongside with office romances and a little sex slavery to spice things up.  Felix lives in a world where ghosts are known to exist and the humans are even getting used to seeing them, but still need a little expert advice when they get unruly.  It’s fun and well written in a light prose fashion, all while never becoming “stupid”, and there are little teases that make me want to pick up the next one in the series.  This was a fun little book that made me a little giddy to go back and read his “Lucifer” comic series.

5th – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

Holy crap this book was amazing!!  HeLa cells, they may mean nothing to you or may ring a bell if you took a chemistry course in either high school or college.  Whether or not you know what HeLa represents, body is most likely very thankful for HeLa’s existence.  In the 50’s a poor black woman went to John Hopkins Hospital due being in pain, she had cancer.  The hospital treated her and took a little sample of her cells.  These cells became the most most important cells in biological history and still are.  Nobody knew, including her family, the story of HeLa (Henrietta Lacks), or at least the whole truth, until reporters and authors gained the trust of the remaining family.  The Lackses were lied to, cheated, taken advantage of in a myriad of ways so were wary of people calling asking about Henrietta.  The story is fascinating.  The family history to the ethics of whether or not your cells belong to you after you dispose of them in a doctors office (they don’t by the way, you fore-fit them when you leave the office).  This is a book that I must do a full review not only for myself and you all out there but it’s the only way to give true respect to one of the finest books I’ve read in a long time.  An absolute must read!!

That’s it for now.  Aside from school readings, I’m currently in the middle of reading “A Discovery of Witches” which I’m enjoying.  The next Dune prequel “The Machine Crusade”, and Lincoln & Child’s new series “Gideon’s Sword”.  Hopefully I’ll have some more reviews up soon and it won’t be a long of wait, I promise.

Thanks for staying with me.

all the best – Dustin