Book Reviews: UCLA Basketball, Great Sci-Fi, and Grammar

Usual conversation when I’m right:
“Shut up!”
“You support censorship?”

Dead Wrong
So after finishing the series and even starting the author’s semi-sequel, I finally got around to reading the one that started it all.
Having read the subsequent adventures of Calledine and Ruth and particularly Imogen, it was a bit of a relief to have the background story filled in. In this one they search for a serial killer who believes his victims shouldn’t have fingers, and in one case intestines, before they’re killed. Calledine’s cousin, his mother, the reporter he can’t stay away from, all come to greater clarity, and for the most part the story is told in the same well-thought-up style of the others.
But the one thing that makes me like this book less is that when the killer is revealed there had been no clue given by the author. Even the cops don’t figure it out; they see the perpetrator on a security video, and it’s the last person they were expecting. This is my foremost writing peeve, and has been mentioned by writers as famous as Larry Niven: Don’t cheat the audience. Had this been the first I read in the series I may not have continued, despite the writing being pretty good.

The Scoop on Good Grammar
This author does love her puns, as evidenced by the title: there’s a photo of a scoop of chocolate ice cream at the start of every chapter. Since I don’t like chocolate, good thing there’s other yummy treats too.
But despite the cuteness of the frame in each chapter—paintings, San Francisco, baseball, etc.—it’s just as dry as any other punctuation guide; it doesn’t take long to get to the point where I’d rather do something else than continue reading this, especially since I won’t be graded on it at the end of the term. I did use the link for the Rodin Museum, but the frames weren’t all that interesting in general. It’s certainly not worse than any other grammar guide, but with its (not it’s) publicity claiming “learning becomes enjoyable!” it sets expectations it doesn’t meet.

The Silver Ships
In a future where Earth has been used up and humanity has fled to the stars in giant colony ships—Firefly, anyone?—a tugboat captain who’s smarter than all the others rescues an alien vessel in distress. His life changes after that.
I found myself enjoying this right away, the writing style conversational except for the science-y parts. Even better are the characters, all of whom abound with humor. A whole civilization of French people? Well, at least the babes. I don’t know who I love more: Renee, Genevieve and Pia, Terese, Dr. Mallard, Andrea, or Major Tachenko. (I might give the edge to Terese because she’s a redhead and the sauciest of a saucy bunch.) Even the AI is amazing.
There’s a scene where they’re trying to convince the political leaders of New Terra to help, knowing one of them is an ass who will do anything to sabotage them. The way they take him down is more than just effective, it’s hilarious. There’s plenty of intriguing uses of psychology here: the media and how the New Terrans accept the “aliens,” the way both races bond over telepathic games, etc., and all are wonderful to read. I even love the names of the ships: a tanker named Thirst Quencher, a tug named Little Shove. This author has put a lot of thought into the little moments, and there isn’t one misstep in the entire book. That may change in the sequels, but this one is an example of simply excellent science fiction, the best I’ve read this year.

Back from the Dead
Being a UCLA alum it’s almost required reading to go through anything written by those famous who came before us, though mostly it’s written by or about Coach Wooden. I’ve read Kareem’s books too, so it’s only right I do the same to the other great of the many greats in UCLA basketball, Bill Walton.
In a flash I was through the first few chapters; it’s a surprisingly easy read.
The one glaring moment came about halfway through the book, where he’s made no mention of a girlfriend, let alone marriage. While I don’t need to know about such things, it’s a bit jarring when you suddenly come across a passage saying “Our first child was born.” Even if things didn’t work out, a simply mention of “I got married over the summer” would have made things a lot easier. There is mention of a second wife, but this is after the kids are born.
For me personally, the most difficult part was the chapter on Coach Wooden’s passing. I remember I was in Denmark when I first found out he was ill; I also remember tweeting, “Don’t go yet, Coach, the world still needs you.” More to the point, I was unaware of the memorial in Pauley and all the tributes until I read it here, which was rather heart-wrenching.
One note: this story is not the squeamish. While stated in matter-of-fact tones, some of the descriptions of Mr. Walton’s numerous injuries and especially the subsequent surgeries had me cringing and skipping ahead. But what struck me the most, though not until I was finished, was how modest Mr. Walton comes across. Though he lists his accomplishments as they happened, there’s no sense of the overwhelming success he’s had in both basketball and life. There’s no “Aw shucks” here, more of a straightforward retelling, though in no way boring. His time as a broadcaster, Deadhead, and cyclist among other things are full of humor, and is just as great reading as his triumphs in overcoming tremendous pain and bad people.



One thought on “Book Reviews: UCLA Basketball, Great Sci-Fi, and Grammar

  1. Pingback: 15 Fave Books of 2015 | LoganBruin–An Unauthorized Autobiography

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