Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters aka Barbara Mertz

Crocodile on the Sandbank

Plot: This book is the first in the Amelia Peabody Mystery Adventures written under the pseudonym Elizabeth Peters. Our heroine, Amelia Peabody is an uptight victorian feminist who discovers the wonders of Egyptian Archeology. The book begins with Amelia inheriting a fortune from her father. This financial freedom allows her to see places which she has only read about, leading her to Egypt. There she encounters the rest of the players in this mystery, Evelyn Forbes, brothers Radcliffe and Walter Emerson, and Lucas (Evelyn’s distant cousins). Evelyn becomes Amelia’s travel companion as they navigate through Egypt. Upon reaching their first stop in Cairo, Amelia and Evelyn meet the Emerson brothers, who are a pair of archeologist. Quickly a romantic love-interest blooms between Walter and Evelyn, but just as quickly Amelia and Radcliffe loathe each other. Amelia and Evelyn eventually join the Emerson at their archeological site. Although Amelia and Radcliffe do not get along, they each have a mutual respect for the others love for archeology. However, things get complicated when Evelyn’s distant cousin, Lucas, shows up unexpectedly and propose marriage to her. As the romantic entanglements develop, a mummy suddenly begins nocturnal visitations, frighting the workers and halting the excavations. Amelia is called upon to support her friend and to solve the mystery of mummy harassing the camp.

Pros: The author takes a humorous and fun tone more then scary or mysterious. She takes each of the characters to the extreme, making them humorous and silly. There is really nothing objectionable found in this book, with possibly one exception. There are references to Evelyn’s soiled reputation and a brief question about what it was like having it soiled. But I expect that unless you know what is being discussed, a young reader may miss it completely.

Cons: Its not a serious book. so if you are looking for serious book on archeology and its adventures, you have come to the wrong place. Some readers may find, particularly male readers, Amelia’s feminism to be offensive or at least distasteful. Throughout the book you will find Amelia bullying other men and making references to how women are treated as second class. I personally find this feminist trait to be a character enhancement of Amelia, but you may not.

Overall: Its a fun story and well worth the read.


The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

Once I would have said that I leaned Libertarian in my political views. Then I started hearing more about what Libertarian actually believed. From what I can tell, it’s far more than a free-market small government attitude. I started realizing that the underlying philosophy was aggressively anti-God. It just so happened that some of my beliefs overlapped tenents of Libertarianism. So, when I heard that this book would demonstrate the world as a libertarian saw it (and I like some of this author’s other works), I decided to give it a try.

End result: Good story, terrible philosophy.

Briefly stated, the philosophy is that when left alone, men will naturally choose to develop a society in which everyone works together. Government is evil and non-government is good. Unfortunately for that point of view, mankind has a thing called: sin nature. In a perfect world, Libertarians would be right, but as Judges points out, men choose to do what is right in their own eyes and that is often a detriment to others.

Libertarians miss the fact that the government has a legitimate purpose as a restrainer of tyrants, bullies and shysters. Without a strong government (and I still believe in a small limited government) we would be back in the Middle Ages with lots of petty tyrants abusing the locals and trying to usurp one another’s power.

As to the book, the story is quite good. The story is told in retrospect by one of the main characters. The moon was turned into a penal colony. But, if one stayed on the moon too long, they would be unable to return to Earth as changes in their body would prevent it. So, after a person’s sentence was finished, they were stuck on the moon. Soon a colony of free people developed. Without any form of government, this colony “developed” into a wonderful place. Unruly people were spaced. Of course everyone agreed with the decision because it was “obvious” that these people deserved it for violating the understood social contract.

As an aside, Heinlein falls into the trap of assuming that their is no government outside of the people on the moon. But, that’s not true. The environment is truly a harsh mistress. Stupidity and a failure to get along will result in the entire colony dieing a brutal and sudden death. So, while there isn’t a fickle and tyrannical man made government, there was still a restraining inhibiting man’s inherent selfish desires. Failure to do one’s part could lead to a rupture or other cataclysmic event in the life support systems…. So, it is wrong to imply that mankind could live in freedom and harmony without a government. Besides, since evil governments are made up of men, the evil nature of the government must be a result of the nature of men. That point is a bit to subtle for the author.

Anyway, back to the story. 🙂

So, this story is about the struggle between an oppressed colony on the moon and their exploitative masters on earth. The main character Manny and his two compatriots architect a revolution from earth with the assistance of their friend: the world’s only self-aware computer. The story spends as much time discussing the nature of the conspiracy against earth as discussing the lifestyle of life on the moon.

Personally, I found the story to be quite exciting though it *is* a style that would probably annoy others. The story is an action story, but it is presented in a recitation of facts manner. In my mind, this works and of course plenty of others agreed, but your mileage might vary.

As for negatives, you have my opinion of the philosophy. Still, there is a small amount of profanity and the moral character of the family lives is problematic. They have strange open marriages and all sorts of odd stuff that is portrayed as acceptable because “it works.” A major underlying philosophy of the book is pragmatism: whatever achieves my goals is OK. gag….

Anyway, despite all the problems or rather because of them, I recommend that you read this book. Learn more about what a Libertarian thinks. And while your learning, enjoy a legitimately good story.

Eagle Strike by, Anthony Horowitz

Eagle Strike

Plot: As a note, reviews of the first three books have already been written, you may find them in the archives. It will give you background on our character.

Eagle Strike begins where Skeleton Key left off. Alex Rider is now trying, once again, to become a normal schoolboy.

He almost secedes when he accepts a friend’s invitation to go on a two week vacation with them. All goes well, until Alex sees the assassin that killed his uncle, Ian Rider.

His friend’s father is almost killed in an explosion in their rental home, the police say it was a leaking pipe, but Alex knows it was no accident, and sets out to find out to kill the man who set the bomb. Thinking it was set to kill him instead. He finds and follows the man until caught, and is forced to participate in a bull fight. His choice was fight the bull or be shot, he chose the former.

He of course lives, and continues back home while his friend stays with her father in the hospital. Back in Brittan, Alex suspects a multimillionaire of evil intentions and bring it to the MI6’s attention. They do not believe him, considering the man’s reputation for good, so it is up to Alex to discover the truth behind the mask.

Negative: From what I recall, there is nothing terribly negative, there is implied swearing, but the word is never actually said. Some people are killed, a man drowned in coins, our hero is forced to go through a rigged obstacle course. Nothing graphic, but certainly not for the very young. (below age 10)

Overall: Overall, rating this book from 1 to 10, ten being highest, I would definitely, without a doubt, give this book a 10. 🙂 I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end, a thriller of a book, I hope you have time to get your hands on this and the three before it. (and the others after Eagle Strike, in the Alex Rider series)

101 Years’ Entertainment, Edited by Ellery Queen (Part 6 of 6)

101 Years' Entertainment: The Great Detective Stories of Over A Century

Part 6 of 6

I’m not big on short stories, mysteries excepted. After reading this book, my horizons have been broadened, and I’m going to go find some more fun short stories to check out. Unfortunately, this anthology includes a selection of “mystery” stories that are more like horror, or fairy-tales gone amok; so I can’t recommend the whole batch of 50. That said, there are too many stories for one review: this is review 6 of 6, the (more than ten) short stories which are clearly NOT mysteries; with few exceptions, horror stories.
• The Clock, by A.E.W. Mason
• The Silver Mask, by High Walpole
• Suspicion, by Dorothy L. Sayers
• Treasure Trove, by F. Tennyson Jesse
• Philomel Cottage, by Agatha Christie, p. 2
• The Mad Tea Party, by Ellery Queen, p. 4
• The S. S., M.P. Shiel, Prince Zaleski.
• The Two Bottles of Relish, by Lord Dunsay, Mr. Linely
• The Most Dangerous Game, by Richard Connell
• Faith, Hope, and Charity, by Irvin S. Cobb

I’m not bothering to recap these, because they are, by and large, that type of horror story that makes you shiver but is so stupid that, the second your brain kicks in, you start shaking with uncontrollable laughter. Three were reviewed in other sections anyway. And with that we wrap up a review of 101 Year’s Entertainment. I didn’t like it overall, but there were some good things to recommend, and an interesting lesson in history to be drawn.

The volume as a whole has several strengths. First, the historical aspect of each story is mentioned in some way, either in the story itself (set during 1800s England or what have you) or the editorial comments. The different genres within detective stories and mysteries are all given their turn, and the eras of each are evident by the context. Also, the different writing styles create a genre-within-a genre effect; the colorful language of the 1920s contrasting vividly with the refined philosophy of the 1840s. Most interesting of all, variety. There are all kinds of stories here, from the philosophical (The Problem of Cell 13) to the probing (The Criminologists’ Club) and the downright problematic (The Mad Tea Party).

It’s the problematic variety (mainly the stories above) that get to you after a couple hundred pages. Yes, there are some fine stories, and they are interesting to read in comparison to the other stories. Really, though, what is entertaining about justified mass murder (The S.S.), or torturous deaths (The Silver Mask and, more variously but still equally gruesome, Faith, Hope, and Charity)? Can’t we have variety and quality? The editor obviously thought so, but then, the editor’s taste leans toward the macabre (note, his own story gets into the “Criminals Win” and “Non-Mystery” categories); and therein lies the biggest problem with an anthology like this. Its totally up to the editor’s tastes as to what does and does not get included. And this editor, sadly, falls into his own category of “Doyle-imitators”; a mystery writer wannabe whose style is not entirely without merit, yet also without talent (and often without even that first qualifier, “mystery.”)

I don’t recommend the book, though if variety is the spice you want in your reading life, some of the short stories mentioned hereto would be a good place to start (I suggest parts 2, 3, or 5 of this review for a list: the stories above are, as I mentioned, more in the realm of terrifying stupidity than of stupefying mystery). Overall, however, the idea behind the book has led me to broaden my horizons in the short story realm. That bit of wisdom, however, can be easily shared without having to trudge through (all) the above. 🙂