Anglo-Saxon


I suppose my eyes passed too quickly over the extended title because when I came to the end, I was surprised to see this was intended for part of instruction at the Jefferson founded University of Virginia, which he intended to include instruction in Anglo-Saxon as part of its curriculum.

I have not Jefferson’s apparent talent for picking up languages, but I remember reading about him harassing the supposed translator of Ossian for the original Gaelic texts (who always put him off because, of course, they didn’t exist).

I almost purchased a recent book about the University and its Jeffersonian founding, but better, I thought, to keep reading what the man himself wrote than what others have written about him, having read enough of the latter in recent years.

Raiders From The Rings


A decent, exciting yarn: pretty standard fare for sixties pulp science fiction (if you remember that most of it wasn’t written by Heinlein or Dick).

I am mostly thinking back to how many of these stories of conflict within the solar system use aliens as a deus ex machina or science fiction magic. From Agent of Chaos to the more recent Leviathan Wakes.

Richard Blade: Slave Of Sarma


I knew about Richard Blade because the first fifteen or so pages of the first Doctor Who novelizations I ever read contained an essay by Harlan Ellison extolling the virtues of the good Doctor vis-a-vis Star Trek and Star Wars and a teaser for the Richard Blade novels.

They are basically Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars novels, but with more modern pseudo-science (a fancy computer sends Blade to Dimension X, which seems normally to be a series of worlds teeming with swordplay, derring-do, and beautiful women; and also with a less chivalrous attitude towards women (did we have to know that Blade made the captured princess pee in front of him and his new friend, because they couldn’t let her out of their sight, because I know that I could have done without; likewise with Blade’s rapturous self recommendations of his own sexual prowess).

Honestly, they are not as fun as Burroughs’ planetary romances. The action doesn’t feel as lively and while Blade may be less of a goody two shoes than Burroughs’ two dimensional protagonists, he is also a grade A prof.

Surfacing


A beautiful book. Perhaps not as rapturously good as the Washington Post‘s review, but beautiful. A poet’s book, as befitting a collection of essays by a poet.

The tent pole pieces, which appear at the beginning (making the latter third a tad disappointing), are fabulous. They are both about visits to archaeological sites of Stone Age settlements. One is in Alaska and the results are inspiring local people to rediscover their cultural history. The other is in the Orkney Islands and is about to be destroyed by erosion. If nothing else, it makes you want to visit a dig site.

‘The Goblin Emperor’ By Katherine Addison


Not a new story, but an old story well done. The unexpected and unprepared heir to a great empire suddenly finds himself on the throne. This story has some steampunk elements, so the emperor and all his first choice heirs die in an airship accident (?), propelling young Maia to the throne. There appear to be no humans in this fantasy world and this new emperor of an Elven empire is half-goblin.

Naturally, he is a good person, which surprises many and leads to great loyalty by some, while others resent him for his (minor, in my opinion) upsetting of apple carts.

One nice touch: he is not preternaturally gifted at politics. He is frequently in over his head and does not act too much wiser than his eighteen years.

Looking forward to the sequel.

‘Creation’ By Gore Vidal


The tale of Cyrus Spitama, grandson of Zoraoster (yes, that one) and uncle (or great uncle, more likely) of Democritus (yes, that one), who also knew the Persian emperors, Darius and Xerxes, and met the Buddha and Confucius.

Vidal knows that the chronology is not exactly right, I assume, but merely wanted to be able to use his character as thread to address power, family expectations, religion, politics, and, yes, creation.

I picked this particular book because I so enjoyed Julian, but Creation lacks the same quantity and quality sort of wickedly fun, learned name dropping that made that earlier book about the ancient world (albeit, late ancient) such a blast.

I suspect Vidal also thought that Creation was more philosophical than it was.

However, I am glad I read the long version. I gather that when it was originally published, the editor took out a couple hundred pages, thinking it too long. I don’t know which parts were cut, but I can’t imagine losing so much of it.