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The Oxford Mark Twain: The Gilded Age (1873)
The Oxford Mark Twain: The Gilded Age (1873)
by Mark Twain
Edition: Paperback
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Age Defining, Oct. 2 2012
It is not often that one gets to define an age, but that is precisely what Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner did with "The Gilded Age". As Ward Just points out in his introduction, "The Gilded Age" is "the first (novel about Washington) of consequence in American writing." The full title of the book is "The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today", and it was published in 1873. Charles Warner was a good friend of Mark Twain and this is the only novel which Twain collaborated with another writer, and it was also the first novel which he wrote which was not based on his own life and travels.

The novel is focused on a poor Tennessee family, whose patriarch tries to improve the status of his family by making money on land he has acquired. Never satisfied with the amount offered, he dies failing to sell the land, and the story continues with focus on his adopted daughter Laura. In addition there is a parallel story about two men seeking their fortunes through speculation. The first of these stories is largely by Twain, while the second one is by Warner. While those characters are the focus, much of the action takes place in Washington D. C., and the satire of the government and those involved is timeless.

"The Gilded Age" is certainly worth reading, as is everything Twain ever wrote. I don't personally consider it among his best, but as the novel which defined an age and the only book which he co-authored, it has a unique place in history, both of Twain's writing and of the country. Twain's gift for satire had not yet reached its peak in this novel, but it is still very good, and one can only imagine what changes there would have been if Twain had authored this book by itself. The Oxford Mark Twain edition includes an introduction by Ward Just and an Afterword by Gregg Camfield, and both have insights to offer into the book and the environment which faced the authors while writing it.

Mike: A Public School Story - From the Manor Wodehouse Collection, a Selection from the Early Works of P. G. Wodehouse
Mike: A Public School Story - From the Manor Wodehouse Collection, a Selection from the Early Works of P. G. Wodehouse
by P G Wodehouse
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.03
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unique Character, Sept. 29 2012
"Mike" was first published in the U.K. on September 15, 1909. I believe it is the longest of Wodehouse's school novels, and it was republished in 1953 in two slightly revised parts titled "Mike at Wrykyn" and "Mike and Psmith". Mike Jackson is the main character in part one, and covers Mike's life at Wrykyn, a public school as have all his brothers before him. The Jackson boys are known for their cricket, and Mike is the youngest, and most talented, of them all. In the second part, Mike is sent, against his will, to a new school, Sedleigh. There he meets Psmith, a student who is in a similar position. This part covers their strategy of rebelling against things in general, and the events that end up accepting their positions and their new school.

This novel is very much like Wodehouse's other schoolhouse novels. A strong focus on sport, in this case it is cricket, which is his most common choice. There are also the usual interactions and misunderstandings between students, and of course a bit of rebellious behavior which causes friction with the faculty. In many ways "Mike" is unremarkable. Wodehouse has other stories, starting with his very first, which doesn't cover at least some of the ground here. What makes it worth reading to Wodehouse enthusiasts is the character Psmith, one of the more memorable characters that Wodehouse created. Psmith only appears on four stories, starting with "Mike" and going on to "Psmith in the City", and on to Psmith Journalist, before finishing with "Leave it to Psmith". The character of Mike Jackson appears in the same four books, but he is not as nearly as unique a character.

"Mike" is the 12th book that P. G. Wodehouse had published, and it is the last of his school stories, though he would use these characters as he transitioned to other types of stories. Some of these attempts did not work so well, but it did culminate in the excellent "Leave it to Psmith". I would recommend this book to those who love Wodehouse, but if you are looking for a good place to experience him for the first time, "Mike" is not the best choice. I would say that the second half of the book is clearly better than the first, but overall I round it down to two stars.

by Christopher Hitchens
Edition: Paperback
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inarguably Good, Sept. 25 2012
This review is from: Arguably (Paperback)
Christopher Hitchens had a mind which is sorely missed. Whether you agreed with what he was saying, or were on the other side of the issue, one had to respect and respond to what Hitchens had to say on the subject. "Arguably" is a collection of his essays (107 in all) put into six sections of the book, and which cover a wide variety of subjects. There are certainly a few here which are not going to be considered controversial, but the vast majority are Hitchens as he usually was, strongly opinionated on controversial subjects, and always with a significant stack of facts to back his positions; positions which he was not afraid to voice in the bluntest terms. In other words, this is Hitchens at his best (when you agree with him), and at his most difficult (when you don't).

This collection was published originally in September of 2011, with Hitchens writing a brief introduction in late June as he was suffering from oesophageal cancer from which he would pass away six months later at the all too young age of 62. The essays had been published over the course of years in a variety of publications. The subjects dealt with cover a wide range, from religion and politics, to why women aren't funny, and everything in between. The material ranges from columns, to book reviews, to book introductions.

Hitchens was one of the few members of the media who had actually visited the "axis of evil", along with many other places, and this most certainly contributed to his insights on many subjects. Hitchens was not the least bit tentative to express his opinion, but unlike other talking-heads, Hitchens was able to do it and still be credible on a subject. Though certainly liberal on a majority of subjects, Hitchens had no problem blasting Kissinger, then turning around and backing President George W. Bush in the "War on Terror", only to then proceed to ignore the administration's position on water-boarding and calling it what he considered it, "torture". The result is that the reader can trust that the opinion they are reading is sincere, and not simply a position taken to support an ideological ally.

I ended my first paragraph by saying that Hitchens was at his best when you agree with him, but the fact is that if you are open to views different than yours, then often Hitchens is at his best when you disagree with him. He certainly had the ability to infuriate and madden listeners and readers, but he also had the ability to make people understand a different point of view, even when he fails to convince them that he is correct. Christopher Hitchens is a voice which is missed.

The Return of the King
The Return of the King
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.81
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Age Of Man Begins, Sept. 7 2012
This review is from: The Return of the King (Paperback)
As the last volume of the trilogy, the reader gets an end to the story, and in fact "The Return of the King" has several places where one could end, but for those who want to continue on past the end of Sauron, past the end of the War, etc., the story continues to the end of the Third Age. "The Return of the King" was originally published on October 20th of 1955. "The Lord of the Rings" was the last recipient of the International Fantasy Award for Fiction in 1957, it was also nominated for the Hugo for all-time series in 1966, and was nominated from 2002 through 2008 for the Prometheus Hall of Fame award, before winning it in 2009. As with the previous two volumes, this one contains two books.

Book V is titled "The War of the Ring" and it returns to the story of all those outside of the Ring Bearers. It starts with Gandalf and Pippin arriving at Minas Tirith to deliver the news to Denethor and takes us to the start of the battle in front of the Black Gate of Mordor. This book tells the story of a large number of characters. Only the ring-bearers are absent as characters, though they are certainly in the thoughts of those who fight the war.

Book VI is titled "The End of the Third Age", though it has also been called "The Return of the King" and similar to Book IV it is starts out focused on Frodo and Sam, with the specter of Gollum tagging along. Starting with Sam's daring rescue of Frodo, it continues with the two trying to make their way to Mount Doom. However, the changes less than a third of the way through the book, when their quest comes to an end, and the rest of the book involves all the characters again. Unlike many modern books and movies, the action doesn't end with the climax, and Tolkien takes his time telling the story of the aftermath of the war.

As with the previous books in the series when compared with the movie I personally prefer the book, though I have enjoyed the all the movies as well. However long the movies are, they are but condensed versions of the books, and if left unread, you will miss out on many significant characters and events, as well as be unaware of the changes made by those creating the movies from what was written originally. The movies were a valiant effort to bring this epic to the screen, and they honor Tolkien's overall story, but to fully appreciate what Tolkien created, you need to read the books.

The Fellowship of the Ring
The Fellowship of the Ring
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.99
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5.0 out of 5 stars The War Of The Ring Begins, Sept. 2 2012
The Fellowship of the Ring:

Though receiving mixed reviews, there is little doubt that "The Fellowship Of The Ring" stands as starting a new era for fantasy literature. Prior to its publication (July 24, 1954), fantasy adventures were aimed at young readers, including Tolkien's previous work - "The Hobbit" which was published nearly 17 years prior. While "The Fellowship Of The Ring" still centers on the adventures of the child-like Hobbits, the material is much darker and more serious than its predecessor. Tolkien also showed that one can deal with serious themes (machine vs. nature) in fantasy writing.

Tolkien preferred the name "The War of the Ring" to the eventual title of "The Lord of the Rings", and he wanted it published in a single volume as part of a two-volume set which would have also contained "The Silmarillion", but Tolkien did not have much influence at that time, and so the Publisher dictated that the single work would be divided into three books, the first of which is "The Fellowship Of The Ring". Each of the three volumes is then divided into two books, though this volume also contains a prologue entitled "Concerning Hobbits" which summarizes the events in "The Hobbit" as well as provides background material about what type of beings Hobbits are.

The first book is titled "The Ring Sets Out" and covers the events of Bilbo Baggins leaving the Shire after his birthday, the transfer of the ring from Bilbo to his nephew, Frodo Baggins, and the adventures of Frodo, Samwise Gamgee (Sam), Merriadoc Brandybuck (Merry), and Peregrin Took (Pippin) as they escape from the shire and travel to Rivendale. In addition, the reader is introduced to Gandalf, Strider/Aragorn, Fredegar Bolger (Fatty), Farmer Maggot, Tom Bombadil, and Glorfindel. The reader is also introduced to the Nazgûl, who and pursuing the ring. The events in this book take place over numerous years, though once the hobbits leave the shire it is a shorter period of time.

The second book is titled "The Ring Goes South", though it has also been called "The Journey of the Nine Companions" and covers the time at Rivendale. There we learn about Saruman turning on Gandalf and imprisoning him at Orthanc, and we meet the other members of the fellowship, Boromir, Legolas, and Gimli. In addition there is Glóin (Gimli's father whom the reader would have met in the Hobbit), and Galdor. The book then covers their travels, from the failed attempt to cross the Misty Mountains at Caradhras through their travel through Moria, to the forest of Lothlórien where they meet Celeborn and Galadriel. The book ends with the breaking of the fellowship at Amon Hen. Frodo and Sam have left the others, and an Orc attack is causing confusion with the remaining members.

As much as I enjoyed the movies which were based on these books, they are simply do not capture significant pieces of the story. Wonderful characters are lost, as are nuances and events which are simply cut out. Some things are changed in the movies, perhaps to make them easier to follow, so while I can certainly understand why one might enjoy the films, I would suggest that you do not deprive yourself of the opportunity to enjoy the books and the original story.

The Two Towers:

Which Two?

I remember reading an article where the author discussed which towers were possibly the two towers referred to in the title of the second novel of "The Lord of The Rings". Candidates included Ortanc, Barad-dûr, Ecthelion, Minas Morgul, and Cirith Ungol. One could have included the Hornburg in the list as well, but this particular discussion did not include it. The author discussed several pairs of options, but for me the answer was simple, as it indicates at the end of authorized Ballentine edition of "The Fellowship of the Ring" that it is Ortahnc and Minus Morgal and that is where the action is focused for most of the two books contained in the "The Two Towers". However, if you watch the film, it strongly points to two towers as Orthanc and Barad-dûr. To confuse matters more, there is a letter from Tolkien to Rayner Unwin where he states that the two towers are Orthanc and Cirith Ungol, but remember that it wasn't Tolkien that split the work into three volumes and he was never happy with the title, and apparently he changed his mind later as he is the author of the note I mentioned above. Of course, to enjoy the book it really doesn't matter which two towers the title actually refers to, but it was an interesting discussion.

I believe that the second volume of a trilogy is the most difficult one to evaluate. The reader is coming into a story which has already begun, and left with no real ending. In the case of "The Two Towers", Tolkien navigates those difficulties quite well. Though certainly one should read "The Fellowship of the Ring" first, there is a brief synopsis, and while each of the two books in the volume leaves the story hanging a bit, they are certainly reasonable places to leave the story off. "The Two Towers" was originally published on November 11th of 1954.

Book III is titled "The Treason of Isengard" and covers the stories of all the characters except Frodo and Sam (who are the subjects of Book IV). It starts where Book II left off, with Aragorn hearing Boromir's horn. This book introduces numerous new characters such as Treebeard, Éomer, King Théoden, Lady Éowyn, and of course Grima Wormtongue. It is a tale rich in characters, and in large battles, heroism, and last ditch efforts. The book ends with victory against Saruman, but that is over-shadowed by the coming battle with Sauron and the forces of Mordor, as well as the lack of knowledge of what has become to Frodo and Sam.

Book IV is titled "The Ring Goes East", though it has also been called "The Journey of the Ringbearers" and by contrast with Book III there are very few characters. Frodo, Sam, and Gollum are the main characters of this book, though we do meet Faramir during the tale of the ring-bearers as they take the ring to Mordor. This book as a darker ending than Book III, as the book closes with Frodo having been poisoned by the venom of Shelob and has been taken by the enemy, with Sam struggling to rescue him.

As with the first book in the series when compared with the movie, I personally prefer the book, though I have enjoyed the movie as well. However long the movie is, it is a condensed version of the book, and you will miss out on many significant characters and events, as well as be unaware of the changes which were made for whatever reason. The movies were a valiant effort to bring this effort to the screen, and they honor Tolkien's overall story, but to fully appreciate what Tolkien created, you need to read the books.

The Graveyard Book
The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.91
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5.0 out of 5 stars Grave Circumstances, Sept. 1 2012
This review is from: The Graveyard Book (Paperback)
Neil Gaiman has proven that time and again he can write the most incredible and unique fantasy stories. He has done so with comics and graphic novels, as well as novels aimed at adults: "American Gods", "Anansi Boys", etc. and in stories aimed at younger readers, such as "Coraline". These books are not only tremendous wonderful to read, but have been nominated for, and won, numerous awards. "The Graveyard Book" is yet another example of his incredible work. Aimed at younger readers, this book is still enjoyable for adults to read. "The Graveyard Book" was originally published on September 30th, of 2008.

Undoubtedly one of the reasons for his books success is that Gaiman is not afraid to give his readers something different. In this case, we have a story for younger readers that is based on the premise of a toddler's entire family being murdered and the killer coming after the toddler. Yet in spite of such a dark and scary beginning, Gaiman is able to keep a lighter feeling in the writing. He also avoids the traditional happy endings, which means that the reader dare not take for granted how a story will end.

The novel starts with Jack (a.k.a. the man Jack) in the process of killing off a family, the last member of which is a toddler, who has escaped his cot and made his way out of the house. Jack searches for the toddler, but the child has wandered into a Graveyard, where the Owens decides to protect him, and other key denizens of the Graveyard agree to help. The child is given the name Nobody, and the Graveyard becomes his home. Each of the chapters introduces Nobody to different aspects of his home and those that inhabit it. Information which is important for the final confrontation between Nobody and those who want him killed.

The book is like a collection of short stories which have been turned into a novel, and indeed the fourth chapter had been published in the anthology "M is for Magic" and "Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy, and in the form had won the 2008 Locus Award for Best Novelette. The novel itself also has accumulated a large number of awards, starting with the American Newbery Medal and British Carnegie Medals for Best Children's books, the Locus Award for Best Young Adult book, and the Hugo Award for Best Novel. It was also nominated for the British and World fantasy awards.

The Hobbit
The Hobbit
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 7.81
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There And Back Again, A Hobbit's Holiday, July 22 2012
This review is from: The Hobbit (Mass Market Paperback)
"The Hobbit or There and Back Again" by J. R. R. Tolkien was published on September 21st of 1937. It is the success of this book that paved the way for "The Lord of the Rings". "The Hobbit" is definitely geared towards younger readers, and it received favorable reviews from papers in the U.K. and the U.S., and it was nominated for the Carnegie Medal, as well as the New York Herald Tribune Children's Spring Book Festival Award in 1938.

"The Hobbit" is often over-shadowed by "The Lord of the Rings", and this is especially true when one treats "The Hobbit" as the prequel to "The Lord of the Rings". To consider it as such is both fair and unfair. It is fair, because clearly the events in "The Hobbit" took place prior to, and are key to the "The Lord of the Rings", and of course there are common characters in both stories. However, it is also not fair in that "The Hobbit" clearly was written for a younger audience, and even when reading one of the revised editions, where some passages were altered to better fit with "The Lord of the Rings", the overall tone of the work is much lighter. There was a brief attempt by Tolkien to rewrite "The Hobbit" in the same style, but he soon gave it up because it destroyed what was so good about the original. As a result, it would be better to consider "The Hobbit" as the children's telling of the events which took place prior to "The Lord of the Rings" and not attempt to hold it to the same standard.

Another thing that people have noted about the two stories is that at a high-level outline the two stories are very similar. The adventures both start in the Shire and are initiated by Gandolf, they travel to Rivendell, they go through caves and have to deal with the goblins/orcs therein, they meet elves on the other side, there is a huge war between numerous armies, and of course they return to the Shire to find things changed that they have to put right. Of course, that is an overly simple way to look at either of the two novels, especially "The Lord of the Rings", even though it is true on the surface, but it is an interesting observation.

As beings that are roughly half the height of a man, Hobbits make an ideal hero for a children's story, as it gives them a hero with whom they can identify. The story has a fair amount of humor in it, and a light-hearted feel through most of it, though certainly as an adventure there is a fair amount of peril, whether from the trolls, worgs (wolves), goblins, spiders, and even the wood elves, not to mention the dragon, Smaug the Magnificent. Despite being accessible to younger readers, older readers can still enjoy "The Hobbit" as well.

Berserk Volume 1
Berserk Volume 1
by Kenturo Miura
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.74
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Black Swordsman Comes, July 19 2012
This review is from: Berserk Volume 1 (Paperback)
"Berserk" is a series of Manga written and illustrated by Kentaro Miura. This first volume was published originally on November 26th of 1990. In volume 1, the hero, if you can call him that, is Guts, the Black Swordsman. With no setup, he appears out of nowhere and appears to be on a mission to hunt down and kill those who prosper under the Apostles, and of course to kill the Apostles as well. In doing so, he saves Puck, an elf who was being tormented, and who attempts to accompany Guts, in spite of his desire to go alone.

The first arc of this Manga series takes up three volumes, so not surprisingly the first volume leaves the reader hanging at the end. It includes three parts, the first being "The Black Swordsman", in which Guts and Puck are introduced, Puck is saved, and Guts takes on the Apostle of the city of Koka, and reveals his desire to take on the members of the Godhand.

In "The Brand", Guts moves on with Puck following along against Guts' desire. In his travels, he is offered a ride by a friendly priest and his daughter. Initially Guts refuses, but when they insist he decides that if his presence causes them to come to harm, it is not his concern. Not surprisingly, those who are after Guts attack, and the carnage continues. At the end it is once again Guts wandering on foot with Puck following behind.

The last section is "The Guardians Of Desire, Part One", in which Guts comes into a city where those in charge are conducting an inquisition, and he is identified as one who is conspiring with the heretics. He battles against the forces of the inquisition, and is eventually helped to escape by a mysterious man who then asks him to destroy The Count (another Apostle). This section ends in a cliff-hanger.

I am no expert on Manga, but I found there were many interesting things here. There is almost no good characters or actions in these stories at all. The hero may be good deep down, but in his quest to destroy the Apostles leaves little, if any, room for caring about anything else. Guts tries to isolate himself from everyone, pushing away those who want to help him, in particular Puck. On the other hand, Puck will not allow Guts to isolate himself, and one gets the sense that Guts appreciates Puck following him, even though he voices opposition, as if he is afraid to let anyone get close to him.

I find it difficult to rate this story, as at this point we know next to nothing about any of the characters. In addition, there are things which are difficult to accept, such as the sword. The sword is impossibly large and the physics of wielding it also make it an impossible type of weapon, and given the dimensions it would be impossible for Guts to even draw it from its sheath because his arms are not long enough. The weight of such a sword would make it difficult to move, let alone swing. On the other hand, the story is sufficiently intriguing to make me want to pick-up the next two volumes in the series so that I can at least complete the first arc of the story. Based only on what is contained in this volume, I give it four stars.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel
The Yiddish Policemen's Union: A Novel
by Michael Chabon
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.51
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mishegas Shtick, July 18 2012
"The Yiddish Policemen's Union" by Michael Chabon, was originally published on May 1st 2007. The story is set in an alternate reality, where the U.S. agreed to implement the Slattery report, which provisioned land in Alaska as a temporary refuge for European Jews in 1940. That decision led to the Sitka settlement in 1941 (in the story), and Israel was destroyed in 1948, but the story itself takes place in a modern day world resulting from that history. There are other significant historical changes hinted at in the story as well, but they are not important to the overall plot. The other key factor is that the temporary refuge is about to end, after a 60-year period, and it appears that it will not be extended.

The story itself is a detective story, and the hero is Meyer Landsman, a homicide detective, who is investigating the murder of an unknown man (initially) who was known as a chess player. Landsman's partner is half-Tlingit (Alaskan native) half-Jewish man named Berko Shemets. Landsman's ex-wife (Bino) is promoted to be his commanding officer, and the interesting character list goes on and on from there. Chabon creates wonderful characters that are not just two-dimensional figures and each is a distinctive character to the reader. In addition, the entire world is textured and contributes greatly to pulling the reader into the world he has created.

This book received a number of awards, including the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best SF Novel, and the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for Best Novel. It was also considered for the British Science Fiction Association and the Edgar Allan Poe Awards for Best Novel. Chabon has also won the Pulitzer Prize, though that was for "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" and not this book, but it does speak to Michael Chabon's skill as a writer. I definitely recommend this book as it has a good mystery, a unique and interesting alternate history, and a lot of humor, which makes for a very enjoyable time for the reader.

The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents (1904)
The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents (1904)
by H G Wells
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 40.24
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3.0 out of 5 stars Early Collection Of Stories From Wells, July 17 2012
Technically, "Select Conversations With An Uncle" which was published earlier in 1895 was Wells' first collection of stories, but the stories from that collection have largely been forgotten, while this collection, "The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents", contains a few stories which have long been remembered as early classics. The fourth of four books published in 1895, this collection contains 15 works of short fiction which were originally published between December of 1893, and March of 1895, mostly in "Pall Mall Budget" (or "Pall Mall Gazette"), but there is one story which was published originally in "Black and White" and one from "The St. James Gazette".

The collection opens with "The Stolen Bacillus", a short story which can definitely be considered science fiction. In this an unnamed visitor of a Bacteriologist preys on the Bacteriologists ego to boast about the dangerous strains of bacteria he has on hand. The visitor turns out to be an anarchist who steals a vial with bacteria to use as a weapon, resulting in a chase, with a surprise ending. Published originally in "The Pall Mall Budget" on June 21st of 1894, this story predicts the fears of terrorists using biological weapons.

The next story is "The Flowering of the Strange Orchid", another science fiction story, in which a man (Winter-Wedderburn) is tired of having an uneventful life and purchases some orchids from a collector who died, one of which is a very unusual specimen and provides him with an event in his life which he so desperately wanted. Published on August 2nd of 1894 in "The Pall Mall Budget", this story is an early example of using a previously unknown species as subject-matter.

Next up is "In The Avu Observatory", which was published on August 9th of 1894 in "The Pall Mall Budget". This story, like the one before uses an unusual species as subject-matter. In this case it is a large bat-like creature which attacks an astronomer's assistant during a night when he is alone making observations.

"The Triumphs Of A Taxidermist" was published on March 3rd of 1894, and unlike the previous stories this one is not really science fiction. Here it is a narrator telling of a conversation he had with a Taxidermist, who admitted he had created "new species" in order to satisfy his clients.

"A Deal In Ostriches" was published on December 20th of 1894 in "The Pall Mall Budget". This story is also not science fiction, but it is a clever story (again told by a taxidermist, but not clear if it is meant to be the same one) about how an Ostrich was worth three hundred pounds.

"Through A Window", published in "Black and White" on August 25th, 1894 is like an early version of "Rear Window". Here we have a man (Bailey) who is immobilized due to an injury who watches a manhunt through his window.

"The Temptation of Harringay" was published in "The St. James Gazette" on February 9th of 1895. This fantasy story is about an artist who is desperate to paint a subject he has created in his mind, but who cannot get it right. The Devil comes to him and tries to buy the artist's soul with the promise of a few masterpieces.

"The Flying Man" was published in December of 1893 in "The Pall Mall Gazette". This is a story told from the point of view of a lieutenant who is explaining how he gained a reputation among the natives as "a flying man".

"The Diamond Maker" was published on August 16th of 1894 in "The Pall Mall Budget". In this science fiction story, the narrator relates the tale of a man who has invented a means of making his own diamonds.

"Æpyornis Island" was published on December 27th of 1894 in "The Pall Mall Budget". Similar to the two stories earlier, this one again uses an unusual species as subject-matter, though in this case the story is much better thought out and developed. Here the narrator tells the story of how he found the bones of an Æpyornis.

Next up is my personal favorite in the book, "The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes", which was published in "The Pall Mall Budget" on March 28th of 1895. In this story, the title character (Davidson), after a lightning strike, is not able to see what is in front of him, but instead sees a tropical scene. Over time he eventually recovers, but later he meets someone who tells him a story which describes what he had seen perfectly.

"The Lord of the Dynamos" was published on September 6th, 1894, in "The Pall Mall Budget". This is another good story, about a poor foreign laborer who comes to worship the large Dynamo where he works.

"The Hammerpond Park Burglary" is a clever story about a thief (Teddy Watkins) who is trying to steal Lady Aveling's jewels. It was published originally in "The Pall Mall Budget" on July 5th of 1894.

"A Moth - Genus Novo" was published in "The Pall Mall Budget" on March 28th, of 1895. This is another good story about two rival scientists who have a professional feud, which is ended by the untimely death of one of them. The other then is tormented by a new species of Moth which he is unable to capture, and which nobody else is able to see.

The collection closes with "The Treasure In The Forest", which was published in "The Pall Mall Budget" on August 23rd of 1894. This is the story of two men (Evans and Hooker) who overhear a discussion of a treasure, and then make the mistake of trying to rush ahead and recover it first.

This is far from the best collection of Wells' short stories, but it is interesting because you can see some of his development as a writer between the earliest stories in this collection, and those which were written later on. This is true even though it isn't even two years between the publication of the first and last stories. Though some of these stories would be considered speculative fiction, many of them are fairly standard short stories.

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