Last Update 4/28/16

An Asimov Companion by Donald E. Palumbo, McFarland, 2015, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-7864-0923-9

This is a concordance to the large subset of Isaac Asimov's SF that includes the Foundation series and the Robot series, both of which Asimov rather shakily linked together toward the end of his career. It is a list of all the characters, places, and some other distinctive items with an explanation of how they fit into the overall universe, and with a reference showing which story or stories they appeared in. This isn't really the kind of book you read straight through, but I jumped around a lot and found nothing that contradicted my memories, and a lot of things that I had forgotten. The short entries are well written. 4/28/16

Adoring Outlander edited by Valerie Estelle Frankel, McFarland, 2016, $35, ISBN 978-1-4766-6423-1

I have read only the first book in the Outlander series, which I thought was well written but which did not much interest me as a story. I know people, however, who devour each book when it appears, and this collection of essays is likely to please them. I skimmed through the articles and only read a few in depth. Some donít actually deal with the stories at all but rather with the writing process, the online community of fans, etc. Others deal with genre issues and depictions and other aspects of the background of the story. There is not a great deal of discussion of the stories themselves, actually. Should appeal to its target audience but has limited interest for those outside the fold. 2/28/16

The Phantom Major by V. Cowles, Ballantine, 1966 (original Who Dares Wins)

During the battle against Rommel in North Africa, an unconventional British office named David Stirling organized a commando group that struck behind enemy lines in daring raids, destroying dozens of aircraft, harbor facilities, vehicles, and so on in a string of attacks which the Germans and Italians were unable to contain. Although sometimes forced to return without accomplishing their goals, they had a rate of success so astonishing that Rommel took special note of them. This is a detailed account of their adventures, mostly during 1942. It's an aspect of the war that is rarely discussed in such detail. 2/25/16

Wizards vs Muggles edited by Christopher E. Bell, McFarland, 2016, $39.95, ISBN 978-0-7864-9930-4

This is a collection of academic essays about Harry Potter fiction and fandom. They concentrate on social issues like gender roles, honesty, responsibility, and similar themes, drawing on the books by Rowling as well as various interpretations of them. I really have no interest in Potter fandom so a number of these essays held no interest for me, although I imagine they might for someone with other tastes. A couple of the commentaries on the books seemed interesting enough that I read them through and a few more I skimmed because they didn't seem to be saying something new, and the academic style is not entertaining enough to read for itself. This one mostly passed me by but others might find it more useful. 2/9/16

Botswana by Anthony Sillery, Methuen 1974

Iíve been reading mysteries by Michael Stanley for a while and they made me interested in Botswana, formerly Bechuanaland, so I hunted up this short history. It was a British protectorate just north of South Africa and was largely spared the turmoil of the Boer Wars and the repression of the apartheid regime to its south, evolving into a democratic society that made allowances for the tribal structure. The book is forty years old so itís a bit out of date, but a little googling on the internet reveals that it continues to make steady progress and although itís quite small Ė only about two million people Ė it sounds like a great place to visit. 1/21/16

Michael Moorcock by Mark Scroggins, McFarland, 2016, $39.95, ISBN 978-1-4766-6307-4

Michael Moorcock is obviously a major figure in both science fiction and fantasy and a book devoted to discussing his work is welcome indeed. The bulk of his work was in fantasy, however, so it's no surprise that this appreciative examination focuses primarily on that genre. The author discusses the multiverse and how the various series fit into it - or at least as much as can be determined. He traces the evolution from the straightforward sword and sorcery adventure of the early books to the more nuanced fantasies from later in Moorcock's career. He is primarily concerned with novels here, so the short fiction is relatively unexamined. I found this to be an enjoyable read, with an occasional interesting insight. It would have been nice to have a checklist of his work - or at least his books - but that's the only serious fault I could find. 1/4/16

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