05/07 On the Bookshelf . . . “Finch”

Finch

When I interviewed Jeff VanderMeer last October at the World Fantasy Convention, I was primarily interested in only one of the two books he’d released around the time, Booklife.  (He was on a rare double-book tour across the country.)  I’d heard about his new fiction book, Finch, and when he talked about it during the interview, it certainly piqued my interest: a small nugget of contemplation that has been growing month by month, with the Hugo Award nomination, and then an award nomination for best cover — and it truly is a beautiful cover.  Thankfully my contemplation is now done with, as I have a copy to review and am very much looking forward to reading this fascinating-looking book that has garnered many positive reviews.

“John Adams” by David McCullough (Simons & Schuster, 2001)

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When it comes to the business of writing American history, two names that rank high are Stephen E. Ambrose and David McCullough, though there are some very important differences between these two authors who profess to report history as it really happened.  Stephen E. Ambrose is currently up on charges of plagiarism, while David McCullough won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography Truman, and he has just won it again this year for John Adams.  To receive such a prestigious awards tells one that McCullough is definitely doing something right.

And in John Adams he certainly doesn’t hold back, as the reader is transported to within the confines of John Adams’ mind, as the reader is taken on a journey that he or she has never taken before with the second president of the United States.  Much is revealed about Adams’s life that wasn’t so widely known before: his beginning friendship with a man known as Thomas Jefferson, and how the two eventually became enemies, Adams’s courageous trek over the Pyrenees, and how in the winter of 1778 his voyage on the frigate Boston is one to shock all.

The audiobook is read with the commanding deep tones of Edward Herrmann, one cannot help but get caught up in the complete history of this man who is forever remembered in history, but revealed in a completely new light for the first time under the skillful penmanship of David McCullough.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally published in June/July 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“The Company” by Arabella Edge (Simon & Schuster, 2001)

The Companystarstar

In Arabella Edge’s The Company the reader is taken on a most unusual journey, sadly the journey ends up being a boring one.  Our main character, Jeronimus Cornelisz, is a psychopath, though of course not many people know that.  He is also an alchemist and an apothecary: poisons are his love.  From a young age he has been obsessed with killing and controlling people through poisons and potions.  Now he is throwing that all away, and with forged papers, is joining the crew on a ship of the Dutch East Indian Company, the Batavia, which is to transport goods to one of its Dutch colonies.  Apart from a beautiful woman who Cornelisz is interested in, there is also a Dutch governor aboard and with him an untold amount of riches.

Soon a plan is forged between Cornelisz, the captain, and some of the crew to mutiny, get rid of all the unwanted people (but some of the women they will keep) and take the chests of gold for themselves.  Except Mother Nature has a change to make in their plan: an obscured reef that the Batavia will have its hull ripped open.  And those who survive will have to make do on an uninhabited island.  The problem is none of them know they have a psychopath within their midst.  While partially based on a true story, The Company does not really go anywhere, even though it has a remotely interesting story.  But then there is the cliché of the uninhabited island along with one of the members of the crew being insane.  It results in a somewhat doomed plot, but then if murderers and desert islands in the key of Treasure Island are what you like, then The Company may well be the book for you; just don’t expect too much.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally published in June/July 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.