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RAMON (Santander, SPAIN)

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Van Gulik R:Phantom of the Temple
Van Gulik R:Phantom of the Temple
by Gulik Robert Van
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars curious piece of detection, 3 July 2006
When young judge Dee is called to a backward province to take charge of a court, he is to face some nasty surprises. The former judge has died, some phantom is said to wander in the building, and the case gets more and more entangled with every step: international problems appear (there's a cold war with Korea)and also the peace of the temple where he has to search.

While a very curious piece of detection, the plot is somewhat difficult to follow, maybe the super natural apparitions play a role in it.

The tale is based loosely on real facts, and the judge is a curious institution, because he is also governor, administrator, military and police chief, etc... A likable portrait of middle age China, which will make you like to know more about that great country.

Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange
Restless Spirit: The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange
by Elizabeth Partridge
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fotographer of men and love, 26 Jun 2006
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I found this book in Amazon connected to the work of Weegee, another of the great photographers in the 30's of the XX century. She was comissioned by the Goverment to make the real situation of the country known, and achieved it. And that with a personal disadvantage (she had a lame leg), a divorce etc etc.

I knew Lange's work, but didn't know it belonged to her, much less that it was done by a woman when being a woman, a photographer and an morover, an ambulant photographer was an act of sheer madness and revolutionary zeal.

Lange's work, simply mirroring the actual facts of the Great Depresion in the USA, particulary of the poor displaced farmers, is a monument to photography, both technically and as a personal and political compromise with the poor and excluded. One wonders how she could take those photographs of poor, miserable, dirty people and still take some of the beauty in their simple faces, the children, the smiles of carefree kids.

Lange makes her point known: people are poor, they are suffering and deserve help; but without degrading them, with utter respect for them as people and human beings.

The photographs are superb: the light, the selection of characters, the perspective... that black and white of the early XX century pictures. But besides, it is a song to human dignity.

No wonder she is now among the greatest social photographers of all times. One wonders why nobody is making now her kind of job.

The Green Odyssey (World of Tiers Series)
The Green Odyssey (World of Tiers Series)
by Philip Jose Farmer
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars humorous classical SF, 31 May 2006
This is a book written in the late golden age of SF. It is so somewhat unconventional: the hero is stranded in a planet where mankind has evolved culturally backwards. Its inhabitants have fallen back to barbarism, and their technology and culture are a mix between the middle ages and roman empire. In this setting, our hero is enslaved after his ship crashes. He has to pine as pleasure boy and valet to the local tirant's wife, has a wife and a child of his own and is desperate to leave. When he hears of the landing of a strange vessel in a far away kingdom, he puts up a plan to scape. This means "sailing" the sea of grass for many days. Suddenly a catastrophe assails them and he barely makes it. In the end, we will understand all the strange things that happen and the meaning of the sea of grass, the floating islands...

This novel is witty, ironic and without complexes. The hero is clever, but not a genious. He is agile but not superman. Virile, but not a super macho and is cowed by women. In the end, they will have the day.

Boy it for a spot of good entertainment, or if you want another point of view of SF.

by Robert Silverberg
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars classical SF of the 70s, 30 May 2006
This is a classical SF story of the 70s, when the genre was being redefined. Many of its features remind me of other novels by PK Dick, Clifford Simak or even J Vance: atomic energy, eternal life, genetic engineering, overpopulation, psychical powers, mutants among us, etc.

The novel is cleverly written in four moments, each of them led by a sepparate character, and in the end they converge in a simple but surprising and open twist which in itself leaves you baffled.

The argument is not very original but the author makes good use of it: the Earth is overpopulated, and the colonisation of Mars and Venus has only begun, only that they don't want anything with the mother planet. A new creed is being developed, which worhisps the atom and atomic energy, a vague sincretism of cristianity, islam and budism. But adds a new element to previous religion: this religion is bent on achieving eternal life for everybody, and so gain more and more adepts. First, we know about an unbeliver who sees light, then a traitor who is sent to venus after his treason, and gains that planet for the heretic branch, then a missionary to Venus who in the end is left to change his fidelity, and the final completion of all the plans.

The novel is a bit outdated (who could have gessed?) but has stood the times and is a very good read. It seems that the bleaker the vision, the more real it becomes. Silverberg is a good writer, and a good craftsman.

Good read for SF fans and all new to the genre.

Our Friends from Frolix 8
Our Friends from Frolix 8
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars cannot understand it, 29 May 2006
Philip K Dick is recognised as a master of SF. However, I can never come to an understanding with any of his works. I believe that his books and stories make much better films (take Minority Report, Blade Runner, Total Recall...) than literature. This, for me, is a high praise, but this is a book!

In this novel, the "new men", mutated strains of men - the superbly talented and the "unusual" (precogs and telepaths) - have seized power and normal humans are being socially left behind and excluded. There's a resistance movement going on, but obviously without a very bright future.

There are two paralel tales: a poor workman and his son, who are sucked into the greater conspiracies, and a Thors Provoni, a kind of Messiah and new man renegade who has gone to search for help from the planet Frolix 8, and for whom everybody awaits like Godot. When those chaps come and help the normals...

My problem whith this book is that I cannot understand the ultimate Dick's meaning. This, like manyo of his other tales is full of misfits, mutants who don't get any clear advantages from their mutations, conspiracies... I dont' understand the end of the story, or what all this means - probably because the author wanted it to mean nothing at all, wanted it to be a reflection of a world in which he felt an isolated misfit among "superiors" ¿or maybe he felt he lived in a higher level of reality?.

All this makes a good material for a SF novel, but the author gets it muddled and after all you don't understand the ending.

That's why I'm giving 3 stars, not because it's a bad book, but because I don't think it works so well as a SF story.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 30, 2013 5:30 PM BST

Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow
by Peter Hoeg
Edition: Paperback

4 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good idea, not very well used, 29 May 2006
This is a very peculiar thriller. A woman (Miss Smila) is a half breed inuit/danish girl. She was born and brought up in Greenland, and so her feeling for snow is keen an different. When a child in the neighborhood falls from a roof she smells something fishy and starts an investigation on her own, which carries her far and away.

This is what makes the novel so fascinating: the ability of the main character to see where other's don't see, to derive information from different sources. She is a misfit - a clever and gifted misfit - but takes advantage of that. In my job I have to use cold and ice and physics and find this novel most inspiring: gives you a sense that nature is well done, everything fits in her.

The novel has action, sex, love, mistery, investigation... I'd like to give it 5 stars, but there's a flaw: I don't think the author has had a good idea in the way to solve the plot, to wrap all the information in a clever final twist. The first 80% of the novel are tops, but towards the end the action becomes muddled. This is very important in mistery, so I have to give it 3 stars. However, this is much better thant most of the hidden templarian mistery novels that flood the market nowadays.

This means that you can take it with you for a vacation, but won't make you remember that summer because of it.

The Shape of Water (Inspector Montalbano Mysteries)
The Shape of Water (Inspector Montalbano Mysteries)
by Andrea Camilleri
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter Montalbano, 27 May 2006
This is the first in Montalbano Series. Camilleri is one of the few writers who has had 5 books in the top 10 in Italy at the same time.

Montalbano is a policeman who lives in Sicily, because he loves the land and its people. Montalbano lives in Vigatá, a village that resembles the author's native town of Porto Empedocle, a part of the Montelusa province, another name for Agrigento. So he lives where Pirandello was born and shares some of his "absurd" universe.

In this case he has to investigate the shameful death of an important local politician (don't forget that Operation Clean Hands was taking place at the time when the novel was written). As he investigates, he has to understand and remember that things are not always what they seem. Like water, reality can be shaped to take another meaning. He will know about the politician, his family, his political "friends", the other families...

Justice is hard to come by, and always with toil. The Mafia is always in the background, but without the glamour of the Padrino series: for Camilleri, the Mafia is a disease and has no likable feature.
A good read, if only to understand how politics work.
Another good thing is that even if the publisher advetises it about a novel of crime and food, this is no turist guide but a dive into reality.

Excursion to Tindari (Montalbano 5)
Excursion to Tindari (Montalbano 5)
by Andrea Camilleri
Edition: Hardcover

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars things are not what they seem, 27 May 2006
This novel belongs to the Montalbano series. Comisar Montalbano is a policeman with a hunting instinct: when a case or a clue scratch his instict, he cannot give it up.

In this case, he has to work on two different cases: a young man killed in his doormat and the disappearance of a retired couple which had made a trip to Tindari.

As the research goes on, he is faced with darker and darker findings: the mafia, the fight among the different clans, the new computer-based crimes, the total lack of respect for human life and dignity.

The plot is not the best in the world (and the author doesn't need it either) but the atmosphere captures the reader from the beginning.

The good thing about Camilleri's novels (both Montalbano and the "historical" series)is that they are humorous, ironic, lighthearted, and at the same time bitter, rebel, unsatisfied. Montalbano and his men know that they cannot beat the mafia: it is too deeply engraved in Sicily, its politicians, institutions, in the people. But however they go on working for the sake of decent people, feeling a deep concern for innocence, justice - if only poetic- and truth. Montalbano, an ex rebel of year 68, whose political simpathy leans "neither right nor center" is not very liked by police authorities and has a peculiar love story with a genovese girl friend. He enjoys sicilian cooking, landscape and people. However, the author doesn't fall into italian folklorism.

Camilleri's novels are also a constant homage to his revered master Luigi Pirandello and all the good sicilian writers like his friend Sciascia.

Good read. Unputdownable.

Little Nemo, 1905-1914 (Evergreen Series)
Little Nemo, 1905-1914 (Evergreen Series)
by Winsor McCay
Edition: Hardcover

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolute masterpiece, 19 May 2006
Little Nemo in Slumberland is a masterpiece and a cornerstone of comic art, so much that many books on History of Art include it among the remarkable works of graphic art of the modern times and of course of the XX century. In fact, that's how I came to know Little Nemo.

The story of each strip is simple enough: little Nemo is to visit the palace of King Morpheus: he is carried there, but is never able to reach the end because of the morning or Flip, a goblin who keeps on waking him up. Some other times, he reaches there, and becomes a friend of the King's daughter, then they have adventures together. Some other times, he makes a tour to Mars or about the US. There's even a chapter about Shanty Town, a poor quarter of town that Nemo heals with his magic wand.

The drawing is intrincate, detailed, very art nouveau: it is still in debt with older art tendencies and the brutality and simplicity of the XX century was still to come. The colour is fantastic, vivid, uniform. The creatures are always new and always magic. So much that it sometimes becomes baroque and difficult to read. And the variety of the script, the storyboard, etc. make it a surprising enciclopedia of what was still to come.

Morover, Windsor Mc Cay was a precursor of what comic art was to be: different size of the drawings, astonishing perspectives, the mix of dream and reality, the compression of a whole intrincate story in a single page... It's a wonder how he could achieve all that week after week!

This book comprises most part of the strips published, with an introduction about the author, samples of some of his other works etc. That makes it very good value all in all, if you like graphic art and above all you have an idea of knowing little Nemo. If you read only a part, you'll die to real all of it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 27, 2010 12:13 AM GMT

Murder of Quality
Murder of Quality
by John Le Carré
Edition: Paperback

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars murder in the old style, 18 May 2006
This review is from: Murder of Quality (Paperback)
I think this is one of the first Le Carre novels, and Smiley appears in it for some reason or another, even if it is not a spy novel.

Murder has happened at a private school. A boy has been killed.

Based on this premise, Smiley has to become acquainted with the small inner life of this school, its apparent grandeur and fashionable respectability, and its mean everyday life which hides behind the surface. Investigation is a way to expose the inanity of British society in the 50s before the great crisis of the 60s.

Very well written as all Le Carre works, this is your novel if you like Agatha Christie, if you prefer murder in the parish yard instead of the gutter crime of the black series.

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