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Content by Eric D. Knapp
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Reviews Written by
Eric D. Knapp "Cluck" (New Hampshire, USA)

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Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell
Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell
by Pat Murphy
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 12.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Fun, July 1 2004
This was a fun little jaunt, using various quantum theories to pull characters and plot twists into the story. This kept things interesting, and the mechanism worked well due to small interspersed chapters from the "Bad Grrl's Guide to Physics", which explained the concepts to those who weren't already familiar with them (which, in all fairness, most people probably were).
A few things bothered me, though. First, the re-use of names, book titles, characters and concepts was very distracting for the first half of the book. As the end drew near, these circular references actually helped the story along, but at the beginning they were simply irritating. I almost put the book down around page 100. However, I stuck to it, and am glad that I did. Overall the book is an easy read and it's worth it.
A last nit-picky criticism would be that Murphy sometimes gets lazy with descriptions, using the same words several times within a few paragraphs, and never really stretching to create any empathy through images. Still, while descriptions are weak, the characters themselves, and their actions, are realistic and colorful.
This book was just a few potentialities away from being a five-star book. It was enjoyable enough to make me grab a copy of Murphy's "There and Back Again".

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback
13 used & new from CDN$ 0.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'll be buying more Phillip Dick novels..., June 21 2004
This is my first Phillip K. Dick novel, and in my opinion "Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said" deserves high praise. For starters, it wins the fight against one of the most difficult opponents that a sci-fi novel could face: Cliché. Simply put, this story is based on an overused plot-the man who loses his identity and struggles to regain a sense of self. Cliche is a tough monster to beat, and most sci-fi novels are devoured by it boots and all. Going into this novel (which I read on a recommendation from a friend) I had low expectations, because I for one am sick to death of this particular premise. However, Phillip Dick somehow managed to actually win the battle against this tired fiction formula, and won me over in the process. He actually found, somehow, a unique way of telling the story. A very unique way.
It deserves kudos for this alone. Not the snack, but the regard and esteem.
Apart from being pleasantly surprised at Dick's ability to pull this story off, there is a lot more that deserves commendation, too... there's a like-him-hate-him anti hero, a wonderfully fleshed-out policeman (two, actually), and a manically bizarre "mini-heroine" that pops up to simultaneously help, hurt and hinder the protagonist, Jason Taverner.
Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was Dick's writing style. The story is written upon a fine line between poetry and prose that often lulled me into a false sense of security. He managed on several occasions to make me say "wow" due to some particularly inspiring turn of phrase, or through some witty and poignant philosophical observation... in fact, some of his descriptions, in their poetic simplicity, created such vivid images in my mind that I am inclined to compare them to Bradbury's classic Fahrenheit 451, which contains one of my favorite pieces of descriptive text of all time.
All-in-all, "Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said" is an easy read with very realistic characters, a healthy dose of political and philosophical impact (which is what sci-fi is all about after all), a delightful plot-twist at the ending (I loved the ending), and an overall quality and completeness that many novels lack. The ending (did I mention that I loved the ending) was ripe with potentialities as well, an amalgam of hidden possibilities and quantum probabilities. Basically, the premise of the book (that a man is sucked into some alternate reality where he does not exist) is caused by something that does not fully cease to occur until somewhere in the epilogue (That will make more sense after you read the book. Pay attention at the end, and wonder just what is real and what isn't. It's fun).

If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor
If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor
by Bruce Campbell
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.79
68 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars I laughed, I cried..., May 24 2004
Well, I laughed mostly. Still, thinking back to my college days when I did a lot of work in film, I did feel like crying on occasion. I think it was sympathy pains. Bruce Campbell, despite his mighty chin (which is so big and sharp you could probably use it to open a can of beans), had a rough start. Reading about how he and friend Sam Raimi managed somehow to complete "Evil Dead" was empowering to me (I mean, if that actually worked for them, maybe I have hope after all).
This book is not a literary masterpiece, nor is it a study in grammarian excellence. This book is a raw and honest portrayal of Hollywood's "B" side. It is magnificent because Bruce Campbell still thinks like a B actor, even though he's a fairly mainstream cult attraction at this point (with a cameo in Spiderman!). The perspective offered in this fun (and easy) read is refreshing and interesting. It really does give a glimpse into the life of an actor in "blue collar hollywood".

A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel
A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.34
33 used & new from CDN$ 8.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Rich and delicious imagery drizzled over braised mutton, May 11 2004
I never would have thought that so much could be built from such a simple premise, but Haruki Murakami manages to wrap a small woolen mammal into something much larger: a conspiracy that draws together powerful forces and interesting personalities as our protagonist is sent (somewhat against his will) on a wild sheep chase. The title is perfect: this is a book about a quest to find a sheep: both literally, figuratively and spiritually.
The plot can be confusing (and even somewhat boring in the first part of the book), but it pulls together nicely at the end. The real enjoyment, however, comes from the descriptive qualities of Haruki Murakami's writing. He is able to capture an immense quantity of personality and flavor in even the most off-hand observations. This technique was so successful in capturing my attention as a reader, that any other minor shortcomings are easily overlooked. In fact, I finished the book happily thinking "wow, what a great book!" and could only really criticize pieces upon reflection.
Combined with the plot (yes, somewhat confusing) and the characters (which seem flat on the surface, but are very "real" and likable), this descriptive quality made A Wild Sheep Chase a real joy to read.

by Sheri Tepper
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars One of Tepper's better reads, May 2 2004
This review is from: Fresco (Mass Market Paperback)
I enjoy Tepper for both the strength of her women characters and for her ability to create new myths and religions from sci-fi settings. In some of her works, such as "Grass", "Raising the Stones", etc., this skill presents itself in a blending of fantasy worlds with an interstellar edge. In "Fresco", she uses these same skills to expose the myths and rituals of our own planet, politics and religion.
The story uses a battered woman as the only honest choice as liaison between Earth and a benevolent alien race. She finds strength in her new freedoms from her husband and evolves as a character from her new friendship with the inhuman ambassadors.
Throw in some conflict caused by human-hunting alien dissidents and a meddling right-wing government faction, and the whole book becomes a stew of colorfully marinated satire and social commentary. I would recommend any of Tepper's works, but to some her typical works sometimes seem to derive from an overly feminist cause. "Fresco" presents the authors beliefs of equality in a more global manner that entertains us and makes us think, and makes us laugh at the simple solutions that our alien suitors develop for some of our most complex social, international and economical problems.
Another reviewer commented that The Fresco lacked the subtlety of Tepper's other works, and I have to agree to a certain degree. However, I think the "heavy-handedness" is a deliberate attempt to illustrate from an alien's perspective just how many social, economic and political problems our world has, in an attempt to create an enjoyable satire for her homo sapient readers.

by Ben Jonjak
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.60
6 used & new from CDN$ 12.40

5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Example of Indie Writing, April 18 2004
This review is from: Roland (Paperback)
Roland is the latest work from a prolific independent writer, Ben Jonjak. Like most of Jonjak's work (at least the small bit of which I've seen) Roland is pure energy. It's gut-wrenching honesty thrust into your face with reckless-yet-heartfelt abandon.
Despite the book's disclaimer that the author doesn't care about typos, etc. (and I personally dont care much about them either) I took a half-star away for the sheer quantity of them. But then another half-star was added because the author (according to the jacket) is a wolf and as such it must be fairly difficult to type (although, from the author photo, I would say he looks more like a German Shepherd).
What I loved about Roland was the raw emotion and the non-traditional viewpoint of Roland's life that we are given. Rather than following typical "rules" of writing, and giving us perfectly timed plot-points and carefully paced story-lines, Roland is presented as small snippets describing various aspects of Roland's life. If you were to empty a case file of a psychotic, paranoid schizophrenic... well, you just might find this book.
It read like a series of short-stories, and I found myself skipping ahead and reading chapters out of order. It remained enjoyable nonetheless, and is a testament to how a writer needn't always follow form to create an excellent book.
A small warning: it is not for the easily offended or weak-of-heart. Or maybe it is, as the book is full of keen observations about human fallacy that hold some value, even if the lessons may be painful to some.
My only real criticism is that the intensity of those lessons may be too much. That is, the book may hold more value if the observations were handed to us more subtly, making us think about them each a bit more. For example, the following was given a whole chapter, although it could have presented in a much more subtle way:
"The people who surrounded the water cooler recognized the joke and recognized its affiliation with the TV program. They didn't recognize Fred Bartlett's cleverness because there wasn't any, but they recognized what they generally accepted in place of cleverness and so they laughed. Not because they were moved to laugh, but because the moment called for it."
By harping on a point for too long, the "Unconsidered Negative Effects of TV Imprinting" becomes something overly associated with the insane Roland and is therefore less of a statement about our true society.
Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who likes to think for themselves, doesn't mind some blunt and often negative energy, and who appreciates the quirkiness of true independent writing.

Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451
by Ray Bradbury
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
34 used & new from CDN$ 3.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Still 5 Stars in 2004...? Really? Yes!, April 10 2004
I first read F451 in high school... and was moved by it. This was a book that at once fueled my teenage-born desire to fight "the man" and inspired me to become a science fiction author myself.
So why am I writing this review now, more that a decade (sadly, much more than a decade) after high school? Well, I just read F451 again. It is now April, 2004. I am amazed at just how accurate Bradbury's future is. If the "slaves to our TV's" accusation doesn't strike close enough to the bulls-eye, just look at the role of war in F451 and then turn on CNN and watch for 5 minutes.
Bradbury has hit the nail on its proverbial head; in his verbose-yet-eloquent style he has painted a horrible and terrifying future where man fears and scorns knowledge and wisdom. It has gotten to the point where firemen no longer put out fires, but start them--to burn the books which embody everything that is dangerous to a society that fears free will.
Reading this again, now, I couldn't help resurrecting a memory. I was at work in the high-tech field (before the crash)... I make a habit of either reading or writing during my lunch hour, and a coworker had made a comment along the lines of "why on Earth would you read a book when you can get all the entertainment you'd ever want online?". Reading F451, I remember this person, and imagine them in a "parlor" with their fabricated online "Tv walls" that cater to their egos and their banal desire for raw and stupid entertainment.
My advice to those who don't typically read, those who have siblings or offspring who do not read, and those who think anything that isn't digital is unworthy of their attention: Read this book. The main story (sans afterword, etc.) is only about 160 pages long. There's no excuse. read it.
Those who do read (and especially those who write): this is a classic for a reason, and Bradbury's poetic quality is very enjoyable. He creates only a few characters in this book, but from the start you have such depth in the lead man (montag) that you feel pity for him as his wife's stomach is pumped, and you understand why he is drawn to the spirit that is Clarisse. Because you will have the privilege of reading this far beyond the time in which it was written, you will both fear the "hound" and relate to it. You will also relate to the TV walls and (unless you live underground in isolation) you will begin to fear what the modern media has become.

Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life
Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life
by Spencer Johnson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.24
277 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I'm Worth More Than Cheese, March 29 2004
If you want a book that you can:
a) Buy in bulk, so you can distribute them to all of your employees just prior to a massive lay-off, in some selfish attempt to feel better about it,
b) Use as evidence that you are a capable manager, when in fact you've run a company into the ground to the point where you need to resort to above-mentioned layoffs
..then buy this piece of junk. It makes a rather profound statement about learning to get on with your life after something bad happens to you... which in and of itself is well and good. But it wraps it up in the wrong package, twisting a fairly harmless philosophy around. That it, instead of teaching people the value in working through a loss, they try to convince people in advance that it is OK to expect a loss and not to fight it when it happens.
It's corporate brainwashing of the kind that science fiction writers have been warning us about for decades.
I'm not being a comedian: I know of at least three large companies that did (a) and have had conversations with executives that boast (b). That is why this book is still a best-seller... not because it has any literary merit, philosophical worth, or any value whatsoever. Too bad there isn't a "zero" star rating.

Ship Of Fools A Novel
Ship Of Fools A Novel
by Richard Russo
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 16.51

4.0 out of 5 stars Great despite a lack of closure, March 11 2004
If Ship of Fools had more of a conclusion, it would have been at the top of my list. However, Russo seems to have grown tired toward the end, and the pure energy that fills the first 805 of the book is lost.
Still, Ship of Fools is full of excitement and discovery. Despite being set in a cliche (the "colony of people who live on a ship and have never set foot on a planet" cliche), Russo manages to pull of a highly original series of events. All of them surround the discovery of a mysterious vessel, which keeps a singular focus within the story. However, the events themselves range from death to inner conflict to paranoia to sympathy. Ultimately, it is a tale of exploration that is approached from many levels, grounded in the most obvious exploration -- that of the ship.
If only it had an end, it would be a 5-star book. When I finished reading it, I immediately went online to order the sequel... I just assumed there was one, and was devastated when I learned otherwise.
I would still recommend this highly to those looking for an interesting story about discovery and exploration, and anyone who enjoys reading because it makes you think. For those who look to sci-fi for space battles and combat and three-breasted she-beasts... well, while there is a cloud of danger and some action, this probably is not what you're looking for.

Timecross'D: A Love Story Out of Time
Timecross'D: A Love Story Out of Time
by Sean K. Thompson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 23.22
14 used & new from CDN$ 7.58

5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Time Trip, March 8 2004
As an author of a time-travel book myself, I'm familiar with the
amazing potential that time travel offers to a story. There is
potential for the speculative application of philosophy, religion, and
science. There is the potential for plot-twists and surprises. There is
also the potential for pure confusion and, as a result, unreadable
stories. Timecross'd accomplishes the first two, and escapes the third,
in an action-packed time adventure that is both fun and exciting. I
recommend it highly.
The story involves the aptly named "loop" -- a time machine which is
the temporal equivalent to the portal in the movie "Stargate" -- which
is used effectively to create "loops" in the plot's timeline. The love
story is always present, though it often takes a back seat as the
characters involved forget their emotions in an effort to focus on
survival. This book has everything from nazis to Shakespeare, however,
and despite what you are looking for in a book, there is a good chance
you will find it here. The only thing that I felt was out of place was
a slightly awkward love scene in pre-history. Overall, the story
progressed rapidly and kept the reader interested in the delightfully
dysfunctional cast.
I also feel that the subtitle and cover detract somewhat from the
quality of the book. I had passed this book up on several occasions
because the cover gave the impression of a romantic comedy. After
seeing that several readers recommended my own book "Out of Place Out
of Time" in addition to Timecross'd, I picked it up and was
delightfully surprised to find a thoughtful and adventurous story that
offers far more.

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