Thursday, June 18, 2009

New Word: crypto-invention

Crypto-invention: noun. An invention that is just so useful, or so blazingly obivous that somebody, somewhere simply must have already created it, if only you could find it.

A classic crypto-invention is toddler pajamas made from velcro, with matching velcro bedsheets. This is commonly held to be superior to bungee cords because bungee cords often leave marks on the skin.


Books I read in May

The books I read in May, along with some comments. The lateness of this entry is strongly correlated with the timing of Finals Week at the Major Regional University where I am engaged as a professor.

Fast Ships, Black Sails -- eds. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer: 5/1/09 - 5/10/09

An anthology of SF/F stories about pirates, with lots of stories about wannabe pirates, ex-pirates and people who live in pirate infested waters, but surprisingly few stories about pirates and acts of piracy. The few that there are tend to be really good.

Sunborn -- Jeffrey Carver: 5/11/09 - 5/17/09

John Bandicut and his team of crack interspecies commandos promptly escape into.... no, wait.... John Bandicut, a loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the powerless.... no, that's not it either. Oh, the heck with it. John and his alien pals are whisked across the Galaxy yet again to stop a terrible disaster from happening, and to save the sentient stars inhabiting the Orion Nebula.

The Element of Fire -- Martha Wells: 5/17/09 - 5/23/09

Treachery has weakened the magic holding back the powers of the fae from the city of Vienne. They mount an invasion and put the royal palace under siege, primarily because no one thought to lay in a supply of grape-shot for the cannons.

The Alchemist's Apprentice -- Dave Duncan: 5/23/09 - 5/25/09
The Alchemist's Code -- Dave Duncan: 5/26/09 - 5/29/09

Imagine the Hollywood pitch: "It's just like Nero Wolfe, only Nostradamus is Nero Wolfe, and he collects rare books instead of orchids. And Archie is this Italian dude (has to be, they live in Venice) who is best friends, with privileges, with the hot courtesan who lives across the street from them. Oh yeah, and magic works!" I can see the HBO series already!

Blood Engines -- T. A. Pratt: 5/30/09 - 6/2/09

Sorcerers are real, and they secretly run the world in an organization amazingly like how you think the Mafia works if you haven't even read The Godfather or seen the movie. But this is a parallel Earth, because the entire population has had a nice-ectomy.

Despite my purposefully snarky descriptions, all these books are good, and definitely worth reading. Note for e-book aficionados, The Element of Fire is available for free on, and Blood Engines is free from the publisher at the Suvudu Free Library. The latter was an especially good tactic, since as soon as I finished Blood Engines, I immediately bought the other three books in the series on my Kindle. I didn't do that for The Element of Fire because I already own all of Martha Wells' non-tie-in novels, and they are all highly recommended.