Last Update 5/15/22

The House on Stilts by R.H. Hazard, Armchair, 2021 (originally published in 1910)

A detective and a reporter pursue a bank robber to a fictional Caribbean island ruled by a Spanish governor. Their efforts to arrest the villain and his henchmen are hindered by the presence of a voodoo queen and the fact that the thief has somehow gotten himself appointed as governor of the island. This is awful from beginning to end. The writing is juvenile, the dialogue silly, the plot makes no sense, the characters are barely humanized, and the descriptions of the island or anything on it are inadequate. On top of all that, there is serious misogyny all through the story, incidents where it is clear the author was making up things when he didn’t understand how international law or other institutions work, and it is possibly the most blatant and virulently racist book I have ever read. And despite its packaging as a lost race SF novel, it is really neither. 5/15/22

A Hero of Our Time by Mihail Lermontov, 1840 

This very early Russian novel is episodic in nature and chronicles the life of Grigory Pechorin, a young man who is a kind of blend of hero and anti-hero. Romantic quests are his prime motivator, but he is not always successful, and when he succeeds, he doesn’t always like the results. The first half of the novel is better than the second. Pechorin eventually becomes habitually depressed and comes to a predictable and premature end. Much shorter than most Russian novels, and with a fairly simple plot structure. I went through a Russian literature spell in high school but this was not among the books I read at the time. 4/10/22

Reginald by Saki, 1904

This was the author’s first book, a collection of fictional sketches about Reginald, a young man who has little respect for the foibles of society. Each of the sketches – they are all a thousand words or less – describes his reaction to and generally snubbing off one convention or another. They are humorous with a frequent bitter twist that would be more obvious in his later work. The author, actually H.H. Munro, would later write much better stuff, until his career was ended by his death during World War I. There is a sequel. 1/26/22

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