Books (#SFWApro)

THE DOCUMENTS IN THE CASE by Dorothy Sayers and 19th-century detective writer Robert Eustace is Sayers’ only non-Peter Wimsey mystery novel, an epistolatory thriller in which the dreary affairs of a middle-class couple and their attic boarders are thrown for a loop when the family head dies from a toxic mushroom, which his son insists is No Accident. The mystery bits are good, but too much of this is just a dull domestic drama and the meditations on God and Nature aren’t as mind-blowing as Sayers thought.
HELEN AND TROY’S EPIC ROAD QUEST by A. Lee Martinez is a comic fantasy in which a female minotaur (“I’m not cursed, I’m an enchanted-American!”) and a Model Minority Asian American find being in the wrong place at the wrong time has them geased to obtain the magic artifacts that will give a Dark God his new avatar (“Gods are all bastards—imagine what a god the other gods cast out must be like.”) which requires wrestling a cyclops, ducking an orc bike gang and visiting a dragon preserve. Verges awfully close to sitcom but doesn’t cross over the line, though Helen’s No Man Can Love a Freak Like Me is very Cinema of Isolation.
GIANTS FROM ETERNITY by Manly Wade Wellman is an enjoyable pulp romp in which a meteorite sends slime oozing across the midwest, mutating everything until a scientist resurrects Edison, Newton, Pasteur, Darwin and Madame Curie (it says something about her standing at the time that she’s treated with the most awe) to search for a counter-weapon. Dated by the cancer metaphors (this was when the only solution for cancer was to cut something off) and a rather odd mix of researchers, but fun nonetheless.
THE THIRD ARMADA GHOST BOOK ranges from the whimsical (Leodhas’ “The House That Lacked a Bogle” is one of the better humorous ghost stories), the seemingly straight mystery “Proof” (which unfortunately suffers on rereading as I know the ending) and the creepy “Out of the Earth”, plus “Brownie” and “The Rocking Horse Room” (neither one scary, but both good ghost tales).
THE FOURTH ARMADA GHOST BOOK seems to be a deliberate change of pace as most of the stories are from the 1970s, with a few exceptions such as Benson’s “The Bus Conductor” and humorous poet Ogden Nash’s surprisingly creepy “The Three D’s” and more specifically kid-focused (given the series ran two more collections, which I don’t have, that may have been a smart call). A good collection, if not great, but I must say “Let’s Play Ghosts” totally threw me (it looks like it’s going in one direction, then veers off).
RUBBLE: Unearthing the History of Demolition by Jeff Byles looks at demolition both historically (firebreaks against the Great Fire of London and Baron Haussman’s ruthless renovation of Paris) and more contemporary efforts such as the demolition of the World Trade Center remnants post 9/11, the destruction of countless public-housing projects and the reversion of parts of Detroit to wilderness (on the grounds that letting the city shrink is the optimum solution to a shrinking population). Mixed in is the evolution of wrecking technology (the iconic wrecking ball is now largely obsolete), demolition as visual spectacle, economics within the profession (China soaks up a lot of leftover metal from demolished US homes) and the view of architects on all this (“A book lasts forever—in our profession, our creations are lucky to last 30 years.”). A good cultural history.

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