Book Reviews: Geocaches, Rush Songs, and Wacky Animals

“What the eye don’t see, the heart don’t grieve.”
“Ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know won’t hurt you. Out of sight, out of mind.”
“Gotcha,” she sighed.

The Advocate’s Geocache
A death certificate—dated to happen in the future—is found in a geocache. That’s an interesting premise right there.
I’ve done some geocaching, which is what got me to read this book. For those who don’t know, you go online to find some spots near you, then go out and find them in the real world, like a scavenger hunt. It can be fun, trust me. So can this book, with the funniest moment being the woman who named all her kids after country stars; that’s as hilarious as you’re gonna ever find, yet also so sad. Also sad is she got pregnant at 15, then 17, then 18. . . all different fathers.
There was a geocache code I solved before the characters did, but other than that I simply let it flow, as the characters were fun to get to know, the dialogue between them amusing. An enjoyable read, but with one huge problem, if you’re paying attention, which unfortunately I was. Trying my best not to spoil it, but it has to do with the date on the death certificate. . .
Wish I hadn’t started on the 7th book.

In a nutshell, this is a collection of short stories supposedly based on songs by the rock group Rush.
My original thought was to base this review on two criteria: the usual “how good a book was it?” and “Do I recognize the song this story is based on?” But that took a big hit when I saw in the preface: “If you had read the stories in another publication, you probably wouldn’t even notice the Rush connection.” Sadly true, and I don’t understand it. Isn’t the connection with the songs the whole point of this book? Who are they expecting will buy this other than Rush fans?
So that part was a bust; on to the other part. A few stories in and I’m already feeling the dread. Not only does the first story bear little resemblance to the song, it has no payoff, no real ending. Huh? The second one wasn’t any better. Then the third. . .
I have to admit I almost gave up at this point. I remembered what the preface said about appearing in other publications, but at this point I didn’t think there was much possibility of that. For instance, with Rush’s most famous song, Tom Sawyer, there were so many places they could have gone, done honor to the original; instead we get a quasi-comical story about a Jewish filmmaker going to the Arab world to get funding for his next film. I’d like to think Tom Sawyer was smarter than that. . .
It wasn’t till we arrive at the story based on Losing It that there’s one that matches the song; not that the story was that great, but it actually made sense. On the other hand, there’s a fantastic story about a racing legend at a gathering of racers and cars in the future, though I have no idea how it pertains to Marathon. Another great story involves a serial killer in 1940s Hollywood obsessed with his hair; I’ll let you figure out which song that comes from. Then there’s a story with shades of Harrison Bergeron, 1984, Fahrenheit 451. . . but not The Trees. To my shock, the Fritz Leiber story that inspired Roll The Bones proves that I can dislike something written by such a master.
The one entry that made this entire book worthwhile for me was the story that came out of Mission, though at first I thought Countdown would be more appropriate. The tale of an injured astronaut and a kid with a dream was heartwarming, and even though I love the song this might have improved on it; it’s that good.
Mercedes Lackey has a nice story about magic in Chicago, inspired by Freeze. One of the highlights was the Red Sector A entry, given a sci-fi twist with lines directly from the song.
The last story, a novella by Kevin Anderson, is billed as a sequel to 2112, but it’s actually much more than that, going back to fill in a lot of the stuff that was left unsaid during the song. I can see why this was placed at the end, because it has a final twist that breaks your mind so hard you couldn’t read anything after it. All I can say about it is. . . damn you, you magnificent bastard!
Okay, the final tally. There’s too much here that’s not worthwhile to give it a good score, but the few gems still make it worth it.

Cheats and Deceits: How Animals and Plants Exploit and Mislead
I remember attending a seminar at the LA Zoo on this very subject, which is what got me to check this book out; otherwise I would have stayed far away from it, biology having been my worst subject ever. I particularly remember the gecko who looked the same from both ends, as well as why zebras have stripes. Unfortunately for me, most of this book is focused on bugs and birds, as can be readily seen from the many close-up photos of insects; yucky.
I soldiered on, and found some things of interest, particularly how birds use sound to trick; even humans can fall for it, as in the case of a drongo scaring a two-year-old into dropping a worm so the bird could fly down and snatch it up.
There’s a few points the author makes that are spot on, like how nature is not meant to be harmonious, with most animals genetically inclined toward survival and nothing else. One I particularly liked: If a predator loses the battle it goes hungry for a while, but if the prey loses, it dies. But the most important as far as this book is concerned—without this there would be no book—is that while it seems more logical to run away when something’s coming to eat you, a lot of animals don’t do this and resort to other means for survival, those covered here.
In the end this is a pretty comprehensive study of some of the tricks insects and birds use to survive, but it feels too scholarly for non-scientists. I imagine this book will go over very well in the scientific community, but since it seems to be geared toward the general public, I don’t think it hit the mark for which it was aiming.

This Is Your Destiny
A fantasy story with an intriguing premise, this is part of a much larger series, but you don’t need to have read anything else; it’s confusing on its own.
Basically some scheming gods/beings get locked away by magic hundreds of years ago, but there are humans who can open the portal to let them out. We follow one of them as he goes off in search of another, following the dictates of a mischievous ball of energy rather than his sage grandmother. Other characters are introduced who have no bearing on the story, which seems odd for a short novella-length story. The loan shark angle irritated me; wish the author would stick to the main storyline, but for all I know it plays a part in the rest of the series.
Ends at what is no doubt a jumping point to another story, enticing you to read on. That would have been irritating had I not known it coming in.



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