Khadaji’s Whatcha Reading Thread - May 2021 edition

Or did it…?

:: spooky, dramatic crash of horns ::

Finished The First Rule, by Robert Crais. Frank Meyer, an old comrade of Joe Pike’s, is brutally murdered in a home invasion along with his wife and two small children. Pike is out for vengeance, with assistance from Elvis Cole. Quite good, but there’s an odd moment when a friend of theirs seems about to betray them for personal gain, then that seems to get forgotten.

Next up is more Cole/Pike LA-noir goodness with Crais’ The Sentry.

Finished Starlight Detectives: How Astronomers, Inventors, and Eccentrics Discovered the Modern Universe , by Alan Hirshfeld, which I found much more interesting than I expected. My favorite part was about Robert Bunsen. He did a lot more than invent the burner I used in high school Chemistry.

Now I’m reading Pavane by Keith Roberts, an alternate history in which Elizabeth I was assassinated and the Spanish Armada won. (It’s a collection of shorter works set in this universe.)

He didn’t even invent that – he just popularized it. See my chapter on him in How the Ray Gun Got Its Zap!

But he DID do a lot of spectroscopy.

How the Ray Gun Got Its Zap! is now on my TBR list.

Thought that was even more boring than The Man in the High Castle.

I read that ages ago. Some interesting ideas, but, as SCAdian notes, often boring.


I thought the overarching story was the best part of the book. It ends with stories about regaining control and slowly rebuilding. I really liked the description of a pre-Z food label with ingredients from all over the world in one of the final chapters. And there was a really nice chapter halfway about the experiences of a soldier who had learned to fight zombies one headshot at the time. The story about the body-guard for the rich and callous also made an impression.

I loved the way the overall story worked (impressive given that there is no central protagonist) but there was no defining climactic moment. No definitive battle, showdown, or great discovery that pushed us toward victory. The way it was told was more realistic but not great storytelling, IMO.

Contrast it with the movie, which, though inferior in many ways, has a clear victory point when the hero injects himself with the disease and the world has discovered a way to “hide” from the Zombies. I was expecting something more along those lines.

Just finished The Messenger and just started Artemis by Weir.

Also as alternate futures have been mentioned I am watching ‘for all mankind’ on AppleTv which I am really enjoying. Worth a look, and looking forward to their ‘Foundation’ series .

Finished Pavane by Keith Roberts. I thought it was too long, but I did the enjoy parts of it, especially the setting and ending.

Now I’m reading Damn Particles: Physics Cartoons, by Sidney Harris.

Currently reading Neil Peart’s " Roadshow: Landscape with Drums: A Concert Tour by Motorcycle", next on the list is his “Traveling Music: The Soundtrack to My Life and Times”.

Try John Brunner’s Times Without Number – Spanish time travellers 400 years after the conquest of Britain.

Finished Damn Particles: Physics Cartoons , by Sidney Harris, which I enjoyed.

Now I’m reading Buyout, a science fiction mystery by Alexander C. Irvine.

I finished two books that were good, but not great.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle is billed as a romance, but isn’t really all that much about romance. The main character’s life-long friendship with her best friend is more of the focus of the book. I really enjoyed reading a book that focused so much on friendship, but I think the four main relationships in the book weren’t fleshed out very thoroughly: we are told that the main character and her bff have a great friendship, that the main character and her fiance have a lackluster relationship, and that the bff and her boyfriend have a fabulous relationship. But the way they actually come across in scenes, like the way they talk to and interact with one another, doesn’t always seem to match this sentiment. I sometimes struggled to believe that the main character and her fiance were as bad as they seemed, that the bff and her boyfriend were as good as they seemed, or that the best friends really were as good for one another as the author said they were.

I also read The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan. This book was supposed to focus on a famous psychiatric experiment, but the author ended up having trouble with her research and ultimately didn’t unearth enough content for an entire book, so the book goes on long, sometimes chapter-long tangents about other psychiatric-related history and stories. But even though it was disorganized, I did find it interesting overall.

My current nonfiction pick is Factfulness by Hans Resling, which details all the way that the world is much better than it was a couple hundred years ago, and even a good deal better than it was just twenty years ago. It’s backed by a whole bunch of statistics about things like poverty levels, access to drinking water, infant mortality rates, female education levels, etc. So far, I’m enjoying it.

I’m also enjoying my current fiction pick, American Royals by Katharine McGee. The premise is that back when George Washington first came to America, rather than becoming president, he sets up a monarchy and becomes king. The story takes place in modern-day America, if modern-day America were to have a royal family. It focuses on the royal children and their friends, who are around college-aged, and mainly focuses on crushes and friendships rather than, you know, battles or major events. And to be honest, that’s why I’m enjoying it. I’m not big on stories that are brimming with action, I really prefer books that focus on human relationships and emotions and can portray them realistically and insightfully.

Oh, which reminds me. I also started to read The Broken Girls by Simone St. James, but I didn’t like it, so I didn’t finish it. The story takes place in two different timelines. In present day, the main character just has a weird relationship with her boyfriend and father, that feels pretty distant and devoid of real emotion. Similarly, the story in the past takes place at a boarding school, but all the girls in the story seem to have this emotional distance from one another and their “friendships” seem a bit hollow. And with the combination of all the characters feeling emotionally distant from one another, plus me feeling emotionally distant from all the characters, I just didn’t care about what happened in the story at all.

New thread: Bring on the rainbows! It’s June!

Finished Buyout , a science fiction mystery by Alexander C. Irvine. Not bad. It had an interesting premise, but there was a lot of “Had he but known” in it, and the main character seemed implausibly gullible.

Now I’m reading Benchmarks Continued: F&SF “Books” Columns 1975-1982, by Algis Budrys.