Dave Robicheaux, Lousiana detective

I stopped by to see my friends at Tomorrow Pictures the other day. Drew was busy working with some footage from Australia down in the editing room, so rather than interrupt his train of thought I just hung out in his office and took the opportunity to browse his bookshelf, looking for something I hadn’t already read. Crusader’s CrossCrusader’s Cross looked interesting, and when he returned he let me borrow it.

I’m very glad he did, and thank you Drew. It’s always fun to find another author who’s work I enjoy. I’d put James Lee Burke‘s character in the same sort of genre as others I’ve recommended before; if you enjoy crawling around cleaning up the underbelly of society in Florida with John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee and Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford, you’re likely to enjoy spending time in Louisiana with Dave Robicheaux. He’s another rough-around-the-edges, no-nonsense detective with plenty of personal daemons to make things interesting.

One thing I don’t like about finding new authors’ series’ is realizing that I’ve just started in the middle. I’d rather meet the characters in the “right” order, learning about them as they grow in the author’s imagination. To save you that sort of frustration, here’s a list of the Dave Robicheaux novels and the years they were first published:

Consider that a shopping list — for yourself or a loved one who enjoys a gritty crime-fighter.

It’s been a Harry Potter week

On a lighter note, I read book 5 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – last weekend and saw the movie this past week. The book was, of course, much better than the movie. I understand that parts of the book needed to be cut to fit a script into a reasonable length, but what was left was pretty disjointed. The most disturbing though were the parts that were mostly cut, but little bits left in with no context or explanation. Much of the rest of the night was spent discussing the movie, and filling parts in for my wife who’d not read the book.

Yesterday and today I read book 6, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and this afternoon started the final one, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I may not get to sleep tonight, there are plenty of pages to go.

[nope, didn’t make it through that night. but I did finish Sunday afternoon. Very Good Book.]

Bio of a Space Tyrant

Before last week’s vacation, we stopped by the used book store to pick up some light “mind candy” for the trip. I was looking for some of John D. MacDonald‘s books that I’d not read yet, but there weren’t any of those on the shelf. Nor were there any copies of Cell available either.

I did pick up one of Randy Wayne White‘s books that I didn’t have yet, and then I slipped around the corner to the Science Fiction section. There I found a complete set* of Piers Anthony’s Bio of a Space Tyrant. It’s been twenty years since I last read them, so what the heck.

Bio of a Space Tyrant, book 1 - RefugeeThe series chronicles, mostly in first-person, the life of Hope Hubris. Hope, the son of a poor coffee farmer, lives through many difficulties and rises through various occupations, ranks and positions in his society – one which is basically a mirror of earth, spread across the solar system. It’s an interesting look at (one author’s view of) the Earth’s political landscape of the 1980’s.

I’m about halfway through, having spent almost no vacation time actually reading. They’re quick-read books; I can knock off one in an evening or two if I’m not busy with other things. It’s not a bad series, though I must say it’s one of those things that is better in one’s memory than in actuality. The action is ok, the storyline is a little juvenile, and the prose gets a bit repetitive, especially in the earlier part of each of the books where Mr. Anthony reminded the user of what had happened in previous volumes.

Mind-candy, remember? Fun, a reasonable diversion, but nothing that the Literature professor’s going to assign.

* I now see, in the Wikipedia entry, that there was a sixth book released in 2001. I didn’t know about that one, and it wasn’t in the used book store. So no, I guess I don’t really have a “complete” set.

Fifteen Books to Jump-Start 2007

Tim Sanders, author of the excellent books Love Is The Killer App and The Likability Factor, suggests a few books for us to read in the upcoming year. It looks like a good list to me, most were already on my to-read soon list. In addition, here are some from my book list that I recommend:

  • Love is the Killer App, by the aforementioned Tim Sanders.
  • The Victorian Internet, by Tom Standage. A very interesting look at a technological communications revolution which in many ways was a pre-cursor to the recent and current Internet-fueled changes.
  • The World is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman. I can’t recommend this book strongly enough, for adults currently in the workplace but even more for college- and high school-age students who will be in the workplace of tomorrow.
  • Going Live: Getting the News Right in a Real-Time, Online World, by Philip Seib. An in-depth look at the impact of always-on news reporting on “real” journalism.
  • Everything Bad is Good For You, by Stephen Johnson. A controversial and thought-provoking assertion that popular culture, including video games and television programming, is more intellectually challenging than typically though and may even be helping society become smarter.

So there you have it, fifteen (10 on Tim’s list, 5 on mine) books. That should be enough to keep you busy through the first quarter, and just might educate and inspire you throughout 2007.

New CSI for an Old Crime

I read a fascinating book this weekend, Ian Wilson’s Murder At Golgotha. Subtitled “Revisiting the Most Famous Crime Scene in History,” it’s an interesting look at Jesus’ crucifixion and other events during Holy Week from a forensic and analytic perspective.

While not proving the Bible to be 100% factually correct (neither completely possible nor necessary at all, for believers), Wilson’s book reviews all the testimonies and compares them with other historical and archeological documents as well as scientific examination of artifacts to show how they corroborate each other and helps clear up some possible misunderstandings that have crept into our culturally passed-along understanding.

Everything’s Connected, if You Look Far Enough

One of my favorite nonfiction authors, Steven Johnson, has an article in today’s New York times: The Long Zoom. He writes about Will Wright’s still-in-development game, Spore, and the way it can help people take a set back to look at the bigger picture and how their actions are connected into it.

Spore’s players will get to experience firsthand how choices made on a local scale — a single creature’s decision to, say, adopt an omnivorous lifestyle — can end up having global repercussions.

Those connections, between one’s actions and the consequences that aren’t seen right away, are a big part of maturity. Johnson posits that perhaps games like this one would be g good educational too, and I agree. Exploration is a powerful tool for learning.

Connections are always interesting, and the next book I’m starting is in it’s own way connected. Recommended by Alex Lindsay (or was it Emery Wells? It was one of the TWIM guys), The Victorian Internet is about the rise and decline of the telegraph, and offers the promise of connections to today’s online experience.