Book Reviews: Outback, Mars, and College

“Hope you had a great weekend!”
“I had a weekend. . .”

The Doom Loop!
This book deals with boredom in the workplace; too bad there was no advice on dealing with the boredom of this book.
Which is not to say there isn’t some good stuff in here, if you’re into this type of business stuff. From a symbolic logic standpoint it’s interesting seeing how the four variables work despite their simplicity. It’s basically the psychology of the workplace.
It’s the presentation that doesn’t work for me. I actually think it could have been even shorter than its 100 or so pages, once you take out the diagrams. For one thing, there was too much repetition. Despite being intrigued by the premise at the start I quickly grew bored. This would probably only be helpful to human resources people.

Fear is the Rider
Female photographer in the Australian Outback shares a drink at a way station with an architect. He’s so smitten he follows her off the main road, picks her up when she’s attacked and her car is stolen. His sedan versus her land rover on a small track, like a submarine battle in the dust. There’s also scenes in an abandoned mine, a closed-down hotel, a bunch more road, and a walk to a cave of the Dreamtime. In addition to the wacko after them, they have to make it through heat, dust, sand, and a huge fire.
For something claiming to be a novella, it sure reads longer. Toward the end I felt as bogged down in the sand as their car, even though I read it in a little over an hour late at night. . . which I wouldn’t have, had I known this could easily fit in the horror genre. Would have liked at least one sentence to explain why the Man was after them; not a whole psychological profile, just enough to make this emotionally worthwhile.

Keep Mars Weird
In a future Earth that appears to be like Harrison Bergeron’s, a guy who is clearly a stickler for following the rules gets into a fight over a girl he thinks he loves but blew him off; he can choose his punishment: jail or Mars. Since the advertising says that Mars is such an awesome party place to be, he chooses that option. Might have been better off in jail. The reality of space travel—cheap space travel—is just the first step in showing him how wrong he is. The ride from the spaceport to downtown New Austin is a huge second.
There was one info dump near the beginning; thankful for the info, but not so much at once. In general this story was a good idea, good sentiment. Appreciate the parallels to the present situation with income inequality and corporate greed, and especially advertising, media, and scholastic brainwashing. But the story itself could have had more to it, been better. The dialogue was there, but at times too snarky for its own good, especially Leonard. On the other hand, there were a bunch of tiny gems that could easily be missed, like “The University of Austin’s prestigious Willie Nelson School of Natural Pharmaceuticals.” And there is a spot about halfway that could be the dictionary definition of how you do a cliffhanger.
By the end of this part of the story—it’s a continuing serial, by the book and you get updated as new parts come out—the protagonist is completely brainwashed into being everything he was fighting against; the bad part is it took so little, even discounting sleeping with the gorgeous daughter of the main bad guy.

The Semester Of Our Discontent
A newly minted college professor at an exclusive university clashes with the evil department head, so of course he turns up dead. Is her cousin the poetry teacher guilty? Why won’t she explain about the design that keeps showing up, especially as a tattoo on her body?
The story is a little longwinded; when I got to chapter 8 I was surprised to find how much there was left. I did like the main character; witty always does it for me. There’s plenty of fun dialogue, aside moments that have nothing to do with the plot. But here’s another example of my pet peeve, where no clue is given as to who the murderer might be. We read mysteries to see if we can figure out who it was before the detective in the story, but the author needs to play fair and give us a chance, more than “it’s the person you last suspect.” I also have to agree with the protagonist that the secret her cousin and others was keeping was not worth all the crap that happened, especially spending weeks in jail.



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