Just books

Due to our activities last weekend and my current travels, no movies to review …
EXPEDITION TO THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON by Mark Hodder has Richard Burton and Algernon Swinburne (whose last steampunk adventure I reviewed here) rushing across Africa to beat a Prussian-backed Richard Speke to an Ultimate McGuffin, despite Burton’s fear the British government won’t use it any better than the enemy. In alternating chapters, Burton finds himself half-amnesiac in Hodder’s alt.version of the Great War, knowing there’s a reason he’s living outside his normal timeline but unsure what … This is very good until the cliche ending and I’m not sure where it goes from there, but I’m still ready to pick up the next volume.
PARADISE LOST is, of course, John Milton’s epic poem about the fall of man in which a defiant Satan vows to bring down God’s latest creation as payback for getting thrown out of Heaven, Eve eats an Apple and Adam gets a look at his descendants’ future (culminating in learning that God will redeem us for Adam’s sins). While Satan is indeed the closest thing to an epic hero here, I can’t see the claims that Milton makes him look to good—the poet is constantly reminding us that Satan’s bold talk is either to buck up the troops or hide his own worries.
SURPRISED BY SIN: The Reader in Paradise Lost by Stanley Fish argues that Milton’s reminders are meant not only to subvert Satan’s grandeur but to make us see we’ve been gulled by his heroic rhetoric (Puritans, Fish says, hated rhetoric as a tool for influencing us without appealing to reason). Fish argues that Milton pulls similar tricks to invite his original readers to judge prelapsarian Adam and Eve by our own standards, then remind us that before the Fall, they were truly innocent. The biggest section of the book analyzes the Fall, arguing that in Milton’s eyes, there was no “explanation” for eating the Apple other than free will (and that not eating, far from a life of submissive passivity, was a constant, active embrace of God’s will). Very interesting.
KISS THE BOYS AND MAKE THEM DIE by James Yardley introduces supergenius investigator Kiss Darling, (“the supergirl with a wow IQ and a dynamite body” according to the cover copy) who gets caught up in an Egyptian revolutionary’s scheme to take over the middle east. This 1970s book was meant to kick off a series, but I can see why it didn’t (only one more book followed): For all her genius, Kiss spends all her time getting ogled, getting kidnapped or falling in love with the villain, while her lecherous drunk of a boss gets the action (and the action’s kind of mundane, lacking any real style or pulp thrills). Unimpressive (and the lecherous Arab stereotypes don’t help either).

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One response to “Just books

  1. Pingback: And books | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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