Last Update 4/22/17

The Irish Vampire by Sharon M. Gallagher, McFarland, 2017, $35, ISBN 978-1-4766-6580-1  

Arguably the two most influential early writers of vampire fiction were Bram Stoker and J. Sheridan le Fanu, both of whom were Irish, hence this book. Charles Maturin is also covered, although his use of the vampire is more peripheral. The author summarizes the European vampire tradition as it existed at the time these men lived and speculates about how it influenced their own fictional treatments of the subject. This is more of a scholarly analysis than a book for the casual reader but it has some general entertainment value as well and is not paralyzed by the awkward and abstruse language that sometimes afflicts academia. 4/22/17

Battleship Bismarck by Baron Burkard Von Mullenheim-Rechberg, Naval Institute Press, 1980

The Bismarck's short operational life is one of the most fascinating stories to come out of World War II. I have read several other books on the subject, but this is I believe the first to be written by an actual crew member. The author was a gunnery officer assigned to the ship. He provides a good deal of detail that I had not encountered before. His occasional skepticism about the actions of the German high command and Hitler may or may not have occurred after the fact. There are also a good number of unusual photographs. For World War II naval buffs. 4/13/17

Saving the World Through Science Fiction by Michael R. Page, McFarland, 2017, $35, ISBN 978-1-4766-6309-8

James Gunn was one of the writers responsible for my lifelong love of SF. Scenes from The Joymakers in particular are still vivid in my mind even though I haven't read the book in more than fifty years - a situation I will have to correct soon. Most of his classic work has been out of print for decades, although he has started writing novels again recently and they have all been entertaining. He is also the author of some very important non-fiction about the field and has edited some first rate anthologies. This is a look at his life and works, both fictional and otherwise, and his efforts to bring serious critical attention to genre fiction. This was the best author profile I've read in a good many years. Although the prose is a bit dense at times, the insights into the stories struck me as accurate and enlightening and the biographical data was all new and interesting to me. The price tag is stiff for a paperback, but this time it's worth it. 3/18/17

Wonder Woman Psychology edited by Travis Langley & Mara Wood, Sterling, 2017, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-4549-2343-5

I am routinely suspicious of the value of the various pop psychology books that are associated with movies or comics or other peripheral sources. They are generally more interesting for their commentary on the source material than for their applicability to anything else. This one is about Wonder Woman, so obviously there is considerable discussion of feminism. The essays examine things like Wonder Woman's upbringing, the philosophy of her culture, her role in the modern world, the thinking behind the creation of the comic book series, and other issues. Several of the articles were entertaining, a few informative, and a few I found slightly silly. With the new movie hovering on the horizon, this might attract more readers than would otherwise have been the case. 3/15/17

Monsters in the Classroom edited by Adam Golub and Heather Richardson Hayton, McFarland, 2017, $39.95, ISBN 978-1-4766-6327-2

This collection of essays examines the value and strategies of using monsters - drawn from mythology, modern culture, and other sources - as elements in the teaching process. As you might expect, the individual essays vary a good deal in approach and even basic philosophy. Some of them outline courses I think I would enjoy attending. Others seem to me to lack real substance. The rationale for some is better constructed for some than others as well. In a couple of cases, it seemed more like a game than an actual educational suggestion, while others I thought would be very worthwhile. Mostly of interest to educators looking for a new twist. 3/5/17

Shield of the Republic by Michael T. Isenberg, St Martins, 1993

I confess that it took me three months to read this very long history of the US Navy from 1945-1962. It was not really the author' fault, because the subject matter is itself very dry and does not lend itself to a narrative style except in a few places. There are some interesting descriptions of actual naval incidents, but much of the book deals with the political side of things, and while I was somewhat interested in that as well, the amount of detail exceeded my interest level. 2/23/17

Dimensions of Madeleine L'Engle edited by Suzanne Bray, McFarland, 2016, $35, ISBN 978-1-4766-0-6435-4

A collection of essays about a writer best known for her fantastic fiction for younger readers. I confess that I have only read two of her books so I skipped around a lot in this collection, although some of the commentary on books I hadn't read did catch my attention. The articles are varied and quite well written, although the prose is a bit dense at times. The book also covers her short stories, religious writings, and poetry, none of which I have seen except for one of the short stories. Apparently L'Engle has been largely ignored in the scholarly press, which I find rather puzzling given her prominence as a young adult fantasist and the high regard in which her works are held. Hopefully this book will help address that shortcoming. 1/3/17