Books finished in 1995

1: 1/1/95: The Magic and the Healing by Nick O'Donohoe
Pleasant, but not earthshaking parallel worlds story. Owes debts to Herriott and Zelazny.

2: 1/7/95: Pigs Don't Fly (But dragons do...) by Mary Brown
Ack! Took 161 pages to gather all the characters and turn the fat naive competent girl into a thin naive competent girl. Took the rest of the book to get rid of all those characters and present (explicitly!) the moral of our tale. I have no idea why I finished this book.

3: 1/14/95: Silent Songs by A.C. Crispin and Kathleen O'Malley
Fifth book of the StarBridge series. I haven't read any of the others and probably won't. Formula Bad Guys come to take over the world. Redeemed in part by some interesting, fairly realistic characters and relationships despite the PC multiculturalism. The real problem here is the fact that the cultures which are very important to the story just aren't that interesting.

4: 1/14/95: Significant Others by Armistead Maupin
Another pleasant foray into the lives of Maupin's San Franciscans.

5: 1/20/95: Hexwood by Diana Wynne Jones
Could have used tightening, but this has an intricate almost surreal plot that keeps you guessing to the end. A refreshingly inexplicit mysterious SF tale with a wealth of charming Britishisms

6: 1/27/95: The Alphabet of Grace by Frederick Buechner
Three essays spanning the activities of a single day in the life of Buechner. The Grace is God's Grace, but could just as easily refer to the human grace with which Buechner presents his thoughts on the fundamental questions.

7: 1/28/95: Bowling 200+ by Mike Aulby & Dave Ferraro with Dan Herbst
I actually started this immediately after finishing the Beuchner. Well, I do bowl on a church league. Maybe that explains it... Yet Another Bowling Book.

8: 1/31/95: Liavek by (ed) Emma Bull & Will Shetterly
Stories in a shared world by some of my favorite authors. The individual stories are all good, but taken together they paint a much smaller picture of Liavek than the Appendices imply. Too many recurring characters and recurring locations. There are 2 more books in the series (published by Ace and available from SteelDragon Press) so perhaps the later volumes are more even.

9: 2/6/95: Mysterium by Robert Charles Wilson
A mysterious archaeology find sends a chunk of Northern Michigan to an alternate Earth. The ideas are interesting and enticing, but the plot and characters are thin. There's enough about Gnostic Christianity to make it obvious that Wilson did a lot of research, but not enough for me to figure out what it's all about and why it yielded the societal changes he portrays.

10: 2/10/95: Sure of You by Armistead Maupin
The last in the Tales of the City Series. This is the most reality-based and novel-like of the bunch. These characters are real people with real motivations in real situations.

11: 2/12/95: Xanadu 3 by Jane Yolen
Fantasy short stories by many newcomers and a few old hands. Just as good as the last two volumes.

12: 2/15/95: The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
Stephenson has a fascinating vision of a future shaped by nano-tech The themes of how to create a society which is as utopian-seeming to its children as to its founders is an interesting one, and his idea that teaching children to be subversive is the way to achieve it is intriguing. Technical inconsistencies were distracting. (The primer has automagic real-time integration of 3rd-party actors into the story-- Humans don't work in realtime. Nano-critters are vulnerable to heat, and yet the drummers consume the ashes of a final computation to get back the results...) The other problem is that he really doesn't motivate the regression back to Victorian social mores. I still don't believe that women would be interested in going back to their Victorian roles. Still, all in all, a fun book.

13: 2/18/95: SeinLanguage by Jerry Seinfeld

14: 2/25/95: The Tangled Lands by Will Shetterly
A big little SF cyberpunk novel with a fantasy quest embedded within it via the device of a fantasy RPG under construction. About Love and Conscience and Godhood and getting on with your life. I guess this is in the same world as Cats Have No Lord, but that doesn't seem to be a prerequisite to this, though I'm sure I missed some in jokes from not reading that one first.

15: 3/11/95: Liavek: The Players of Luck by (ed) Will Shetterly and Emma Bull
The tapestry of Liavek grows a bit richer in this second volume. Some of the stories here take up from the first volume, and there are a few stand-alones. John M. Ford's entry is notable as an inspired bit of culture building. Didn't lose any of the charm of the first volume, and managed to stay away from the excessive emphasis on setting that I think (in retrospect) was the main failing of the first.

16: 3/14/95: Par Bowling: The Challenge by Thomas C. Kouros
A methodical and comprehensive treatment of the sport of bowling. It could do with a good edit or three, but if you can wade through the repetitions and earnest entreaties and colorful metaphors, the meat of this book is very meaty.

And to continue the Bowling -> Spirituality connection:

...prior to the 5th century A.D., the Germans annually held a spiritual ceremony in which a club, shaped like a bowling pin and known as a "kegel," was set up on its flat end and each subject attempted to knock it down by rolling a rock at it. Those successful would be cleansed of their sins for a year by the priest who was in charge of the proceedings.

[There were arguments about the right number of pins.] Martin Luther, the 16th century religious leader came to the conclusion that nine pins was the ideal number. From writings and biographies, it is apparent Luther was quite impressed with the game, even building a bowling lane for himself and his family.

17: 3/16/95: The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars by Steven Brust (Repeat)
A retelling of a Hungarian fairytale. Wonderfully intricate story. A real work of Art, but a readable one that is accessible on at least 6 levels (and probably more like 366).

18: 3/20/95: Repetitive Strain Injury: a Computer User's Guide by Emil Pascarelli and Deborah Quilter
Like most popular works written by MDs, this book is mostly about recovery from severe injuries versus prevention. However, the chapter that categorizes all the various subclasses of RSI and the material that can be applied to prevention are worth reading through the repeated entreaties to "Ask your doctor".

19: 3/21/95: Configuration Management for Software by Stephen B. Compton and Guy R. Conner
Good accessible overview of the discipline. Too much lean towards Defense Standards for my taste. Not really detailed enough to teach you how to do SCM, but good enough to tell you what SCM is all about.

20: 4/2/95: Startide Rising by David Brin (Repeat)
Well realized SF universe and an engaging adventure story. Kind of reads like a fatted up short story or two. The interesting parts are not the main plot (will Streaker survive/escape), but all of the peripheral stuff (uplifted dolphins/chimps, the orphan/bootstrap status of humans, the progenitors, the stagnation of the galactics). On these topics, there is just enough to tease; no resolution.

21: 4/3/95: The Giver by Lois Lowry
Simple thought-provoking utopian novel pointing out the joys of diversity and individuality. Ill-defined Sci Fi elements distracting to this SF reader, but largely unnoticed by my non-SF-reading wife. This young adult level book is well worth reading and passing on to others. An award winner (Newberry?)

22: 4/4/95: The Wizardry Compiled by Rick Cook
Computer geeks in Faerie. Cute and fun. This one is a sequel, and I'll probably track down the first book. The plot is moved along by some Big Coincidences and Stupid Human Tricks, but this thing isn't meant to be taken too seriously. Thanks to Rebecca Allen in r.a.b for the pointer.

23: 4/9/95: Club Passing: A Juggler's Guide to Social Interaction: Part One by Schofield, Popper, Brolly, Tomlinson
Nice clear little book presenting club passing from the bottom up. There's enough stuff in this book's 86 pages to keep me busy striving for decades. Some of the tricks look so impossible I suspect they're jokes!

24: 4/10/95: Callahan's Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson (Repeat)
Robinson has shocking insight about our society. The stories in this book, all written before the mid seventies will still give you pause. One hell of a thinker and storyteller. I think I read this book for the first time when I was in junior high, and I know 90% of it went over my head.

25: 4/15/95: Swords and Deviltry by Fritz Lieber
I can't believe I hadn't read Fritz Lieber before now. After reading this first Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser book, it's clear that virtually all the sword and sorcery fantasy I've ever read has been partly in tribute to or in imitation of Lieber. Great fun.

26: 4/20/95: With the Huckleberry Christ: A Spiritual Journey by Kristen Johnson Ingram
An antidote to the media's presentation of radical christianity. Ingram retains the mystery and the discipline of the Christian faith without coming off as a wacko, and without resorting to the moralizing that we've come to associate with "Christians". Ingram's faith infuses her life with wonder and support. A strong witness.

27: 4/22/95: Sleeping at the Starlite Motel: and Other Adventures on the Way Back Home by Bailey White
Wonderful stories. Too odd to not be true. Not as laugh-out-loud funny as Mama Makes Up Her Mind, but more contemplative. Still some wonderful laughs though.

28: 4/30/95: Bring Me the Head of Willy the Mailboy by Scott Adams
Hee Hee. Visit Dilbert's home on the net.

29: 4/30/95: Silicon Snake Oil by Clifford Stoll
It is, perhaps, a bit absurd to put a review of this book in my homepage, but I'm of the opinion that absurdity is not necessarily a bad thing.

Cliff writes the first high-visibility book questioning the sanity of the panacea status being accorded the net in particular and computers in general. The book could have been half as long, but Cliff is interesting enough to listen to to keep me going through the chatty bits.

We who are used to enthusiastically embracing intriguing what-ifs from the marketers and advocates of high techiness need to think about this book long enough to get over any inclination to take Cliff's barbs personally. We have grown dangerously eager to accept a computerized solution to any problem as the logical course even when there are more appropriate low-tech solutions to the problem. And to accept incomplete or flawed computerized solutions as the only ones even when the job could be done better.

30: 5/6/95: Slan by A. E. Van Vogt
Great classic space opera. This was recommended to me by a friend at work (Hi Beth!). I've only ever read one other Van Vogt book, The Weapon Shops of Isher, and on that huge sample, it seems that his view of the universe is fundamentally flawed. My take on it is that he sees humans as fundamentally rational creatures who do not take actions which they have not thought out to their full logical conclusion. I've always tried to be that kind of person, but I know how badly I've failed, and how badly those around me fail. There certainly is a deeply seated desire for rationality and consistency in our makeup as humans, but it seldom rules our actions. Life with humans is not a game of chess.

31: 5/7/95: Lady Slings the Booze by Spider Robinson
Robinson does with aplomb what Harry Turtledove failed miserably at in The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump: the noir private eye novel done funny and sci fi. Robinson is on my "buy anything you see by him" list since I read Night of Power after seeing a recommendation by Rebecca Allen in r.a.b. If you haven't read that one, read it!

32: 5/9/95: How to Buy Your House and Do It Right by Sue Beck
Adequate introduction to what's involved in the process of purchasing a home. Maybe I'll get around to applying it someday...

33: 5/11/95: Swords Against Death by Fritz Lieber
More fun with Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser

34: 5/13/95: The Callahan Touch by Spider Robinson
Continuous narrative with the feel of the old shorts. Callahans resurrected as Mary's Place just in time for a new batch of outlandish characters to walk (and not walk ;-) through the doors.

35: 5/21/95: Crossing Boundary Waters: A Spiritual Journey in Canoe Country by Andrew Rogness
A Lutheran pastor who's lost track of how to live life, takes a three-day canoe trip for some serious self-examination. This is his account of the trip and what he learned. It was probably more valuable for him to write it than for me to read it, at least from the place I'm in now. The book reads well, and is interesting and thought provoking, but it seems too well engineered to be a completely true account. It feels like a book I might write if I become a better writer than I am.

36: 5/28/95: Stardance by Spider and Jeanne Robinson
Wow! This is the best SF novel I've read in a looooonnng time. It would just belittle it for me to try to explain. It's about dance and transcendance and the human condition. A plot bigger than the solar system with characters and execution to match. And it just keeps getting bigger through the course of the book. My friend Beth pointed out that they could have stopped after practically any chapter (and surely after every section) and it still would have been complete and satisfying. Stunning. Read it.

37: 5/28/95: Callahan's Lady by Spider Robinson
Not as earth-shakingly wonderful as some of the others, but still great fun.

38: 6/13/95: Time Pressure by Spider Robinson
Hippies, time travel, world-wide conspiracies, sex! What more could you want in a SF novel? Has loads in common with another book I've read recently, but it would be a spoiler to say which one. (you tell me, Beth. ;-)

39: 7/1/95: Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
Informal talks on Zen meditation and practice. Suzuki has a sane and calming voice, and makes clear that the teachings of Zen can be applied by people of any religious faith.

40: 7/2/95: The Sword of the Lictor by Gene Wolfe
Just stunningly beautiful prose. These books are so richly textured it's simply mind-boggling.

41: 7/3/95: A Knot In the Grain by Robin McKinley
Several stories set in Damar, and one set on Earth. These exhibit McKinley's ability to write a simple but moving story. This book is probably marketed toward the young adult crowd, but these are stories that anyone can enjoy.

42: 7/12/95: He Who Shapes by Roger Zelazny (Double)
Paired with The Infinity Box for their common theme of: people shouldn't mess in other people's heads.

43: 7/12/95: The Infinity Box by Kate Wilhelm (Double)
This story is disturbing as only Kate Wilhelm can make a story disturbing. It has a hefty dose of "even good men are scum and they can't help it" which I hadn't noticed in her work before. The thing is, she makes it really hard to disagree with her.

44: 7/13/95: Press Enter _ by John Varley (Repeat Double)
This story is absolute classic and should be read by every aspiring computer scientist (with a copy of The Hacker's Dictionary at hand to decipher the geek-speak that proliferates.)

45: 7/13/95: Hawksbill Station by Robert Silverberg (Double)
After the major theme effect of that last double, I'm not too sure why this and Press Enter _ are together unless it's for the shared theme of "You're not paranoid if they really are out to get you".

46: 7/15/95: Cocaine by Pitigrilli
1920's tale of an Italian's decadent journeys in Paris. Recommended by a friend who compares it to Bright Lights, Big City which I have yet to read. The translation by Eric Mosbacher made me wonder how faithful it was. This is definitely a British edition in any event.

47: 7/18/95: The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
Becky got this from the library based on Nancy Pearl's recommendation. Nancy get's another point. (write that down Lizabeth) This is a great book. The style is a fairly circuitous first person narrative, and the characters are just fascinating. The story of how Fabian Vas (the title character) came to murder the lighthouse keeper of his small Newfoundland town, and what happened as a result.

48: 7/21/95: StarMind by Spider and Jeanne Robinson
Decent cap to the trilogy begun with Stardance. First half is wonderful high-end Robinson, second half kind of loses it, forcing too many events against probability. The closing image is cool, but we wouldn't have lost too much if they'd stopped after Stardance. Despite being disappointed with this book, I'm looking forward to future collaborations from the Robinson family.

49: 7/23/95: Sailing to Byzantium by Robert Silverberg (Double)
This story is troubling, touching on the pointless unknowability and uselessness of life.

50: 7/23/95: Seven American Nights by Gene Wolfe (Double)
This one is more tragic than anything; I think I just didn't get it.

51: 8/4/95: The Last Defenders of Camelot by Roger Zelazny (Repeat)
When Zelazny is good, he's very good, and most of this collection of shorts is evidence. "For a Breath I Tarry" is a masterpiece of the genre, and the title story is a wonderful continuation of the Arthurian legends. "Stand Pat, Ruby Stone" is one that has stayed with me since I first read the book. No past tense, Zelazny stays with us.

52: 8/6/95: Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Set in the unknown corridors beneath the New York Museum of Natural History where people are turning up gruesomely dead. The science involved has just enough of a ring of truth about it to make it intriguing. The book is a pageturner, and comes off as having been written with an eye toward the silver screen. Don't let the tagline: "Aliens meets Jurrasic Park" keep you away. It's actually pretty good.

53: 8/7/95: Plain and Simple by Sue Bender
Bender, an artist, became obsessed with the Amish on seeing some of their quilts. This is the story of how she went to live with an Amish family and how that experience changed her life and her art. The message of priority on the doing rather than the achieving is stirring.

54: 8/12/95: The Same Place but Different by Perry Nodelman
Written from the first person POV of a teenage boy in Winnipeg, this is a Faerie meets Mundania tale. The story is standard (baby sister stolen, go to Faerie to win her back), but includes interesting twists. I wish I hadn't read the "about the author" on the dustjacket and learned that Nodelman is a scholar of childrens literature and this is his first book for children. I had some problems with the jargon used by our hero being a little too hip/not hip enough, and some supporting characters being moved more by the writer's whim than their own. Still an engaging read.

55: 8/14/95: The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison
Another from the historic SF files. Slippery Jim DiGriz, master criminal, is convinced to use his powers for good. Fluffy, but fun.

56: 8/15/95: The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge by Harry Harrison
Sort of Gomez and Morticia Bond Save the Universe.

57: 8/19/95: The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World by Harry Harrison
DiGriz chases a time-traveling villain. Fun seeing him in action in the 20th century. Getting pretty formulaic by this poing.

58: 8/22/95: The Turing Option by Harry Harrison and Marvin Minsky
Good as an accessible overview of AI theory, and up to a point, an interesting story, but the plot deteriorates and there is no real climax or resolution of the conflicts. Even the AI bits peter out about half-way through.

59: 8/29/95: Time Travelers Strictly Cash by Spider Robinson
A collection of short stories, essays, and speeches. This just reinforces what I like about Robinson: his ability and insistence on taking on real live uncomfortable issues in a gripping, thought-provoking, and often funny way. Fluff this is not.

60: 9/1/95: Witch Blood by Will Shetterly
I'm a sucker for smart-ass heros, so this one was fun. There better be a sequel, cause the end is abrupt and only resolves about half of what needed to be resolved. This book bears some striking similarities to Brust's Brokedown Palace.

61: 9/3/95: Atlantis: Three Tales by Samuel R. Delany
Oooooh. This book gave me the same feeling I get whenever I see a transcendent work of art. The first tale is straight (pun intended) fiction set in 1920s New York City, and it is Delany at his best. Just wonderful. The second and third tales are memoir in the same vein as that found in The Motion of Light In Water.

62: 9/7/95: Walkabout Woman by Michaela Roessner
Fascinating glimpses of aboriginal culture and commentary on the desolate landscape of White society in contrast.

63: 9/15/95: Kaleidoscope Century by John Barnes
Unpleasantly filled with violence and rape. It is appropriate and necessary to the story, but I found it unpleasant while I have read similar accounts in other books by other authors without qualm. I guess my objection is not that Barnes' depiction of an amoral character is unpleasant to read. It could hardly be anything else. I guess I just wanted something more from a book than a depiction of the absolute corruption wrought on the protagonist by his absolute power welded to a mildly interesting conspiracy/alternate history/time travel/immortality tale. I guess the short version is that it just wasn't my cup of tea.

64: 9/20/95: Zodiac by Neal Stephenson
Stephenson's most even book. Set in and around Boston, the story of a gonzo (what else?) environmental activist. Exciting, interesting, and surprising from start to finish. Well worth reading.

65: 9/23/95: The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
Reflections on the process and absorption of writing and art. As always, Dillard's writing is awesome to behold.

66: 10/9/95: Otherness by David Brin
Interesting mix of SF stories and straight science essays dealing with the title concept. Strangely high concentration of stories regarding pregnant women. Seems like I did read that his wife had a baby not all that long ago...

67: 10/15/95: Timescape by Gregory Benford
Another US SF writer with genuine science chops. This story about communicating with the past is heavily laden with commentary on the politics of doing science in the 20th century. The book is longer than it really needed to be. A novella would have covered the subject handily.

68: 10/15/95: Naming Nature by Mary Blocksma
Diary of Blocksma's mission to become introduced to the world around her by learning the names of the critters and plants around her Michigan home. Her enthusiastic amateur approach is refreshingly unstuffy without being overly spoonfed. Part field guild, part inspiration, part reflection, an engaging and inspiring book.

69: 10/21/95: Liavek: Festival Week by (ed) Emma Bull & Will Shetterly
Thouroughly enjoyable and engaging stories. This one makes so many interesting changes to the fabric of Liavekan life that I can hardly wait to read the next volume.

70: 10/22/95: Sister Light, Sister Dark by Jane Yolen
Yolen's grasp of the myth/fairy tale form is wonderfully evident in this book with interleaved sections of story, myth, pseudo-future history, and folk songs.

71: 10/25/95: White Jenna by Jane Yolen
Continuation of story and style from Sister Light, Sister Dark. Excellent sequel.

72: 10/27/95: Orbital Resonance by John Barnes
Yikes! This boy can write! pos-def. Social engineering contrasted against the random kind we're all used to. His engineered society is the most convincing alien society I've read in ages. I've been characterizing this to friends as Ender's Game crossed with The Dispossesed .

73: 11/4/95: Redwall by Brian Jaques
Ugh. It's okay, I guess. Total formula fantasy peace-loving hero overcomes evil bad guys and grows up in the process story. There's way too many exclamation points in this book for me to consider reading any more of the series. (And the fact that it's aimed at kids is absolutely no excuse for hack writing.)

74: 11/15/95: Cascade Point by Timothy Zahn (Double)
Neat hard-science premise with some deep non-superman characters who manage to fumble their way into big trouble and think their way out with no evidence of Mr. Author pulling the strings. Very nice.

75: 11/15/95: Hardfought by Greg Bear (Double)
Nice twist on the military SF story. Can Bear write a story that doesn't span aeons?

76: 11/17/95: It's Obvious You Won't Survive By Your Wits Alone by Scott Adams
More fun with Dilbert.

77: 11/24/95: Brightness Reef by David Brin
There's good stuff here, but it sure could have been tightened up. Brin loops through half a dozen viewpoint characters with half a dozen loosely connected subplots. If you were waiting for the exciting sequel to Startide Rising, it looks like you'll have to wait for the other two books in this planned trilogy before you get it. Hopefully Mr. Brin will make good on his intention to plan better next time and give us something more dense next time he sets fingers to keyboard.

78: 11/26/95: Cards As Weapons by Ricky Jay
This book from the author of Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women is actually a good tutorial in the art of card throwing. The instructional photographs are sure to get your attention. My aim is improving. Watch your back.

79: 11/26/95: Happy To Be Here by Garrison Keillor
I started this a long time ago and couldn't get through it, but flew through this time. Keillor's writing is like some people's verbal sense of humor in that it takes a while to figure out how seriously to take him. The hard-boiled Arts Administrator is a riot, and who could not love his treatise on Shy Rights (why not pretty soon?)? There're even a few things on baseball in here which actually gave me some inclination to watch or play a game (which a pastor friend says is the last step before conversion to Christianity ;-) Great stories.

80: 12/1/95: Bowling by Gene Kirkham
Very basic book. Has clear photos, especially of the hook release which I hadn't found decent pictures of before. (high grammar that) Talks about how to make various spares in general terms (no board counting here) capped off with a decent glossary.

81: 12/8/95: The Dreamstone by C.J. Cherryh
A friend reccommended this as a good book by Cherryh, and he was right. Lyrical epic fantasy in the tradition of Mallory and Tolkein. Realistic characters dealing with sometimes fantastic situations.

82: 12/10/95: Does It Matter? by Alan Watts
The title sounds like another player in the baseball game with Who on first. This is Watts talking about human behavior from a mid 1960's North American perspective. They are sometimes rambling essays on everything from the environment to clothing to kitchen design to drugs and religious experience. He has a gift for stating the absurdities of our personal habits so that we see how absurd they are. Surprisingly little out of date here.

83: 12/18/95: The Book of Qualities by Ruth Gendler
This is a book of page-long prose poems describing the personalities of ficitonal characters who exemplify various emotions. It's very funny in places, and thought-provoking throughout. Some very nice word art.

84: 12/22/95: Telempath by Spider Robinson
In spite of his tendency to bring characters back from the dead, Robinson has written some of the most thoughtful and optimistic books about the human condition that I've read. He takes advantage of the fact that science fiction is the only genre where it's reasonable to write a wildly optimistic view of the survival of our species and maintain something resembling credibility. This one was just what I needed to read right now.

85: 12/28/95: Kayaking the Full Moon by Steve Chapple
Saga of a family expedition down the Yellowstone River from the Park to the Missouri River. Mostly a very personal history of Chapple's Montana laced with rare scenes on the river. Still it was fun reading about all the silly things these yuppies attempting to return to their roots did along the way. Becky got this book for me since we spent a lot of time playing tag with the Yellowstone as we drove to the Midwest last fall. We even had the same experience of Glendive, MT as Chapple did.

jeffy's books 1995
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