Read Recently — November 2004 — First!

The First Books of November (no relation to the first Robin of Spring, or the first Batman of fall)!

Time Management for the Creative Person by Lee Silber

The cover to this book promises “Right-brain strategies for stopping procrastination, getting control of the clock and calendar, and freeing up your time and your life.” Nope, nope, nope. Not for me, anyway; I’d say that for me this book was worse than useless: now I’m out the time it took to read it, and I can’t say that I’m managing my time any better than I was before. Stupid book, not recommended.

The Wandering Taoist by Deng Ming-Dao

Some years ago I read the book The Seven Bamboo Tablets of the Cloudy Satchel, the third book in the trilogy of which this is the first. This is the life story of Kwan Saihung, the wandering Taoist of the title, and also Deng Ming-Dao’s sifu, or teacher in the martial arts. The story also serves as an introduction to some of the more esoteric taoist practices, and a reasonable adventure story set in China in the early 20th century, if you choose not to believe a word of it. A good read.

Lion’s Blood: A novel of slavery and freedom in an alternate America by Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes, who collaborated with Larry Niven on Dream Park, is one hell of a writer–I mean, he produced three Larry Niven novels that were actually worth reading! Now that’s talent! [Permit me to don fireproof clothing] His StreetLethal series was also interesting SF in a sort-of cyberpunk future, but with a black hero (Barnes is black; the black American experience tends to mark his work). In Lion’s Blood, he posits a world in which Europe for a number of reasons never developed a civilization and Africa is split between the Egyptians and the Empire of, I believe, Abyssinia, though I may be misremembering that and it doesn’t matter anyway since the whole story, except for a bit at the beginning, occurs in North America. Islam is a major world power, and Christianity is a minor footnote to history–a religion for slaves.

Aidan O’Dere is enslaved as a child, but has the good fortune to be raised on the estate of the relatively benign Wakil Abu Ali, who uses his great political power to allow his slaves some freedoms–to keep their European names, for instance, and to worship as they please. But even so, the whites are seen as lazy and childish, unfit to administer themselves. Aidan develops a friendly relationship with the Wakil’s younger son, Kai. But can slave and master ever truly be friends? And will Aidan ever get the freedom he wants so badly that he might even kill for it?

Barnes creates an interesting alternate world (among the acknowledgements is Guns, Germs and Steel, so you know he’s not just pulling his view of history out of his fundament), including a motive for southern racial slavery to still exist, even though the political situation is incredibly different than what happened in our world.

And, really, a world in which Shaka Zulu is going to war with the Aztecs is a world worth checking out, yes?


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