My Review of The White Dragon

The White Dragon (Pern, #3)

The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is the third novel in the Dragonriders of Pern series, and it was nominated for a Hugo award and placed third in the Locus award for Best Novel. Back in the first novel, Dragonflight, Lessa was fighting against the people who took over her family’s domain. But as a consequence of that fight, a young man named Jaxom becomes the Lord Holder of that domain (called Ruatha Hold). Normally a Lord Holder would stick to administering their domain and stay out of the affairs of dragons and their riders, but he manages to impress (i.e. bond with) a very unusual white dragon who has an ability to always navigate through time.

I have this as part of the three-volume set The Dragonriders of Pern which includes the first three novels in the series.



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My Review of Dragonquest

Dragonquest (Pern: Dragonriders of Pern, # 2)

Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Science Fiction aspects begin to peek though here in the second novel of the series. But the main focus is on conflict between the Oldtimers, the Dragonriders who were brought forward in time to help deal with the threat from the thread, and the contemporary Dragonriders. So it is mostly a generational conflict, but it does help move the story along. The science fiction aspect enters when they consider the possibility of trying to eliminate the thread at its source, which is another planet in the solar system.

I have this as part of the three-volume set The Dragonriders of Pern which includes the first three novels in the series.



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My Review of Dragonflight

Dragonflight (Pern: Dragonriders of Pern, #1)

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is the first novel in a classic series, and various books in the series have own a bucketful of awards. This novel reads like a fantasy, and you think that is what it all is about until later in the series when it becomes a science fiction theme. Dragons in this case are winged beasts who can breathe fire and burn the “thread”, a deadly enemy that periodically falls from the sky. Lessa, a young lady, has certain mental powers that she puts to work getting revenge on the people who invaded her family’s domain, and tries to use those powers on the Dragonriders when they come around. This brings her to their attention, and she become a Dragonrider herself. While I like it a lot (and so do many others when you look at the awards McCaffrey earned), I would not recommend it to someone who does not enjoy fantasy. The science fiction aspects do not come out until later in the series.

I have this as part of the three-volume set The Dragonriders of Pern which includes the first three novels in the series.



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My Review of Diction: Italian, Latin, French, German…the Sounds & 81 Exercises for Singing Them

Diction: Italian, Latin, French, German . . . the Sounds & 81 Exercises for Singing Them

Diction: Italian, Latin, French, German . . . the Sounds & 81 Exercises for Singing Them by John Moriarty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


One of my hobbies throughout my adult life has been singing, and most of it has been in other languages. That becomes a bit tricky if you never learned to speak any of them, and that is where Moriarty comes to the rescue. He helps you learn the correct pronunciation for the most popular of the foreign languages. It won’t make you the world’s foremost authority, but you won’t embarrass yourself.



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My Review of Double Star

Double Star

Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is unusual for Heinlein in that the protagonist is not one his super-competent engineer types, but instead a down-on-his-luck actor. He is shanghaied by a spaceman, and soon find himself on Mars, being asked to impersonate a popular politician. His main qualifications for this is that a) he is an actor, after all; and b) he resembles the politician enough to pull it off. But because “The Great Lorenzo” has no technical skills at all, this book is about human nature and not science and engineering. This is middle period Heinlein, when he had mastered his trade, but before things got out of hand. This is a good read, and was the first of his books to win a Hugo award.



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My Review of Got A Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane

Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane

Got a Revolution: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane by Jeff Tamarkin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Back in the pre-historic period before the Web swallowed everything there was an e-mail list called 2400Fulton, named for the address of the mansion where the Airplane were based, in San Francisco. Jeff Tamarkin was one of the regulars because he is not just a writer, but a fan with a deep love for the Airplane. I also have a deep love, and while Surrealistic Pillow was my first album of theirs, I quickly got Takes Off. But then After Bathing At Baxters permanently changed my brain. I wore out several copies of the vinyl, then copied it onto audio cassette, and finally CDs came out. It is still my favorite album of theirs, and possibly my favorite album of all. So when Jeff wrote this book, I had to get it.

I have a theory that some groups have so many geniuses that you cannot keep them together for too long. The Beatles are an example in my mind, and so is the Airplane. The stretch of albums from Surrealistic Pillow to Volunteers is hard to match, let alone beat, and the shards that came out of the band had brilliant moments as well. There were some very good albums by Jefferson Starship, and Hot Tuna is still gigging and worth seeing if they come to your town. But nothing compares to the Airplane. There is a quote from Bill Graham to the effect that when they were “on”, no group in the world could beat them. I loved this book, though I imagine you have to be a fan before it will it will be meaningful to you.



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My Review of What Technology Wants

What Technology Wants

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is an interesting read if you don’t mind a bit of teleology. Kelly conceives of technology like an organism, which he calls the technium: “The technium is a superorganism of technology. It has its own force that it exerts. That force is part cultural (influenced by and influencing of humans), but it’s also partly non-human, partly indigenous to the physics of technology itself.” His purpose in this book is to trace the ways technology has developed in the past and use that to project where it will go in the future. Since we will be living in that future and relying on that technology (barring a disaster), this is a book that repays the attention you give it.



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My Review of The Lord of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkien vs the Modern Age

The Lord of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkien vs the Modern Age

The Lord of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkien vs the Modern Age by David Brin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


David Brin is a believer in progress, and pretty consistent about it. His Star Wars On Trial also makes many of the points he makes here in this essay. Tolkien’s fantasy is a rejection of progress and modernism that makes it frankly reactionary in the true sense of the word. That could be possibly explained in part as a reaction to World War I, the first mechanized industrial experience of slaughter, and that would be understandable. I have read the novels and enjoyed the movies, but I also like Brin’s take because I fundamentally believe that the future will be better, and that there was never a past Golden Age.



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My Review of Thor Meets Captain America

Thor Meets Captain America

Thor Meets Captain America by David Brin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This novelette was nominated for a Hugo award in 1987, and is a pure fantasy in the “Alternate History” genre. Gregory Benford was editing an anthology called Hitler Victorious and asked Brin to contribute. Brin could not think of any event that if changed would have allowed the Nazis to win, but he came up with an ingenious story that tried to explain why the Nazis did so many pointless but hugely evil things. This novelette was later turned into a graphic novel called The Life Eaters



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My Review of Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence

Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence

Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence by Denise Kiernan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is the quintessential “bathroom reader”, a collection of short biographical sketches of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence. We sometimes forget in hindsight that there was a lot of risk and danger in this since they were essentially committing treason against the lawful King, and that kind of thing can get a guy killed. Even without that, it involved material risk. So this book is not a “must read”, but neither is it a waste of time. If you are a history buff, this can be enjoyable.



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