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Review: Triple Header!

Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs

A great cover that captures the original art of this era.

I think I have mentioned before that I do the vast majority of my reading on electronic devices. At the moment, that’s a cell phone, a tablet, and a device that used to be a cell phone and is now my reading-in-bed gadget. The tablet is too heavy for me to comfortably skooch under the covers (it’s winter, and cold!) to read for a bit before sleep. However, since I read on the phone while out and about (standing in line at the grocery, waiting at a table for food to arrive, etc.) on the tablet while at school (in between classes. In class would be rude), and the other device only at home, I find that I’m often reading three books at a time. Not counting the physical books I have been reading for school.

On the phone, I have been reading Allan and the Holy Flower, a H. Rider Haggard tale originally published in 1915. It’s ideal for reading out and about, as it’s not particularly mentally demanding. Like many Quartermain stories, it centers around a quest for something of value, in this case a fabled orchid. We get a glimpse of the Victorian mania for collecting and exploring as young Stephen hires Allan to help him locate and plunder this flower, which is also the god of a remote and bizarre tribe, along with a white goddess. It’s good, silly fun, with improbable rifle shots, a giant monkey fight in the jungle, and inhuman feats of strength by Quartermain. The true hero in the book, though, is his right-hand man in Africa, the shaman Mavovo. He is the only one who seems to know what’s going to happen.

On the bedside device I read Mackey Chandler’s The Middle of Nowhere, the third in the April series.  I knew I’d lose a little sleep doing this, but it was worth it. Chandler, who I have reviewed before, always delights me with a solid story, lavishly constructed settings, as his space station Home becomes ever-more independent, and this time we go to the Moon. The author is obviously a devotee of Heinlein, so his moon rebellion did not surprise me that it was coming, but the execution of how, and why, is very well done. The heroine of that episode is not April, but her friend Heather. We also follow April’s adjustment to returning Home from Earth, with a new bodyguard, and her friends back on earth, the retired spy Papa-san Satos and his family. Chandler weaves the threads of his diverging storylines into this tale effortlessly, making it a compelling read of space exploration and what-ifs? that I enjoyed. Compare it, if you must, to Heinlein’s Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Ringo’s Live Free or Die series.

Although this book is far more mature in storytelling than the first one, and no longer suffers from the editing errors that plagued the first two in early editions, there are still some formatting problems in the ebook. Mostly, it was a case of the missing quotation marks, and I was deeply enough into the story to skim right past them. I think you will find it forgiveable though, in light of the pacing and characters that will grab your attention away from the minor flaws.

The tablet book I started last night will be read in sips. I have been anticipating this book for a very long time, and want to savor it, to make it last… Ever since Mike Resnick, the editor, revealed the cover on facebook, I had been drooling over it. I bought it, tucked it away, and brought it out ever so often to gloat over, but didn’t think I had time yet. Last night waiting for something, I started in on the first story, by the redoubtable Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs hits me seriously in the nostalgia button. I adored the Tarzan books, the men and women of Mars, Pellucidar only slightly less so… When Baen created this anthology of all new tales I was in. Rusch’s story of Tarzan in a war-torn interlude is excellent, harking not only to the jungle-man’s physical skills, but raw intelligence, as well. I had to skip the second story, because it is one of the few authors in the world I simply cannot read, and normally even an anthology with that person in it I won’t buy, but this collection was a must have. I am saving the stories to be pulled out singly rather than my usual read-through. If you are a Burroughs fan, you must have this. And the cover is divine!


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