Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Page 18: Daemon

This is another first.  I'm reading a book that is so good I need to talk about it even before I finish.  I am currently about half-way through Daemon by Daniel Suarez.  This is a technothriller that should appeal to all you geeks out there, especially all you gamers, and I know one in particular who should read this book even though his first choice is non-fiction.

A 'daemon', as defined in the book, "is a computer program that runs continuously in the background and performs specified operations at predefined times or in response to certain events."  In this book the 'daemon' was created by one of the most brilliant computer game programmers in California.  He has recently died from brain cancer and certain events the 'daemon' finds begin to trigger specific actions.  His 'daemon' is so good it can kill, speak, make contact through a computer game, and all sorts of other amazing things.  The scary part is that everything in the book is possible with current technology.  The 'daemon' is such a threat to national security that even the National Security Agency is called in to help find and stop it.

I'm going to start Googling many of the terms that are used by Suarez to get a better understanding of all the technical computer acronyms and words he uses.  Even though I have not finished this book, and don't like to write about a book until I do, this is one that I think many of you will be glad to read. It will give you an entirely different perspective on the potential of computers, the internet, and all the intricate connections with the real world that already exist.  Hang on for a fast-paced ride.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Page 17: Three New Books

Instead of writing about a specific book or books I have read, I thought I would try something a little different.  The summer book announcements are coming out from Amazon and others.  In a recent email I discovered books by several of my favorite authors that will be available between May and November.  Of course there are many new books coming out, but here are three that I am very excited about.

Let's take them in order.  The first is Innocent by Scott Turow scheduled to be released on May 4th.  Turow writes great legal thrillers and one of his best was Presumed Innocent published 22 years ago.  You may have seen the movie starring Harrison Ford as Rusty Sabich who was accused of killing his mistress.  His nemesis, lawyer Tommy Molto, is back again in a similar role.  Both Publisher's Weekly and Booklist have written reviews of  Innocent that may be found on Amazon.  The abbreviated version of the plot is that Rusty is once again charged with murder, this time his wife Barbara, and Tommy Molto is an opposing attorney.  The main difference now is that after 22 years Rusty is a chief appellate judge.  Since Presumed Innocent was such a great book, I am really looking forward to reading Innocent.

The next book, scheduled to be published May 25th, is one I have been waiting for with great anticipation since it is the last of the Steig Larsson trilogy that follows The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire.  This book is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.  If this is 75% as good as the other two it is worth reading.  Check out my very first blog for more on the first two books in the trilogy.  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest continues the story of Lisbeth Salandar, the computer hacker who shows an uncanny ability to take care of herself in very dangerous situations, and journalist Mikael Blomkvist.  If you have not read the first two books, I strongly urge you to do so right now or you will not appreciate the linkages and superb plotting of Larsson. Check out the reviews to learn more of the details.

The third book is The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva scheduled for publication on July 20th.  Israeli spy Gabriel Allon returns in another of Silva's outstanding spy thrillers.  This is the ninth book in his series and each of them has been better than the previous one as Silva continues to hone his craft.  Here is a review of the book from Amazon:

"It has been six months since Gabriel's showdown with Ivan Kharkov.  Now, having severed his ties with the Office, Gabriel has retreated to the Cornish coast with only one thing in mind: healing his wife, Chiara, after her encounter with evil.  But an unspeakable act of violence once again draws Gabriel into a world of danger when an art restorer is brutally murdered and the newly discovered Rembrandt on which he is working taken.  Gabriel is persuaded to use his unique skills to trace the painting and those responsible for the crimes; but, as he investigates, he discovers there are terrible secrets connected to the painting, and terrible men behind them.  Before he is done, he will have undertaken a journey through some of the twentieth century's darkest history-and come face-to-face with some of the same darkness within himself."

I can't wait for these books to come out and eagerly await their publication.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Page 16: Walking to Gatlinburg

Walking to Gatlinburg by Howard Frank Mosher is the first book I have read by this author and I plan to check out his previous books.  I guess it is the old adage of 'so many books, so little time.'  This book is a gem.  It takes place during the Civil War, but is not about the war like some of the great books by Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote and James McPherson.  Also, novels by Michael Shaara such as The Killer Angels and the rest of his work as well as those written by his son Jeff give us a pretty good account of what the war was like.  Walking to Gatlinburg, although taking place during the Civil War, is not primarily about the Civl War.

The book uses the Civil War as background for the story of Morgan Kinneson and his search for his older brother Pilgrim who goes missing in action at Gettysburg. Morgan sets out on an unplanned odyssey from his native Vermont to the Great Smoky Mountains.  The stops he makes along the way, the adventures he experiences, the dangers he must surmount, and the people he meets are the meat and potatoes of this story.  I think the review by Publishers Weekly provides one of the best summaries of this book.  Here is the link: http://www.howardfrankmosher.com/books/walkingtogatlinburgPublishersWeekly.html

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Page 15: The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon

The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler is a historical mystery about the Jews of Lisbon during the massacre of 1506.  The book is based on a manuscript discovered by the author while he was staying in Istanbul in 1990 researching Sephardic poetry.  The owner of the home he stayed in is owned by a descendent of Jews who fled the persecutions and killings in Spain and Portugal during the 15th to 18th centuries.  Fortunately for the Jews the Turkish Sultan offered them sanctuary in Constantinople.  Some of them made it, others did not.  While staying in this home during renovations by the owner, the author recounts how workmen found a cement vault in the basement with some very old manuscripts.  They turned out to be an account by Berekiah Zarco, who lived through the 1506 persecutions in Lisbon, and recounted his story of the mystery of searching for his uncle's murderer.

This book includes a very graphic account of the murders of Jews and the burning of their bodies (dead and alive) in the main square of the city.  Berekiah was a teen at the time, but possessed the wisdom and determination of one much older as he tried to solve the mystery of his uncle's murder.  This  is a first hand account of these terrible events that also provides rich and colorful descriptions of the city, the Jews, New Christians, Old Christians, the Dominican friars encouraging the murders of Jews, and the culture and customs of the period.

This is a first class mystery and historical novel.  The fact that it is all true, and based on the manuscript of the man who lived it, is even more awesome.  As usual, I don't want to say much more about the story itself or the people involved.  Please read this book to find out for yourself.  Here is a quote from the back cover of the paperback edition:

"The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon is an international bestseller and an extraordinary novel that transports the reader into the universe of Jewish Kabbalah during the Lisbon massacre of April 1506.  Risking his life in the streets seething with mayhem, a young manuscript illuminator, Berekiah Zarco, tracks the killer of his uncle, a renowned kabbalist, among Christians, New Christians, Jews, and his uncle's fellow kabbalists, whose secret language and codes at turns light and obscure the way to the truth he seeks.  A marvelous read and a challenging mystery in the tradition of The Name of the Rose, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon compels and entertains."