Books, Mystery, Review, science fiction

Review: Bureau of Substandards

This is actually going to be a triplet of reviews and a gripe. I spent most of yesterday under the weather (no, that’s not a gripe, that’s life, and I take it when my body says ‘rest now or else’ because else is usually pneumonia with me. I rested, and read) and I was having one of those restless, nothing felt right days. You know what I mean. You pick up book after book, only to discard it again as it’s not working for you. I actually did that with both paper and ebooks, which was weird.

I have my Handbook of Technical Writing at bedside, along with a pulp novel titled “Have Gat, Will Travel” which is why I bought it. I have a stack of others, but those two were the ones that got opened. Technical Writing is going to be an ‘absorb in small chunks’ book, but very useful. The pulp novel is, well, pulpy. I didn’t get far with it (it’s also terribly brittle, being older than my First Reader).

On the kindle app, I finally gave up on Kal Sprigg’s The Shattered Empire. It’s a big, fat, Weberian space opera, and I just can’t get into it. The first book was satisfying, but in this one, there are so many characters I don’t remember back stories for, and every time I get into a story-line, the author shifts POV. I think if I could sit down with it and just read… but I am stuck on reading in little bits, so there you are. I do suggest this author to fans of the Honor Harrington series, though.

And on to a gripe. I bought two Heinlein’s in ebook a week or so ago. I have some that were published by Baen, and I have been slowly ‘porting my Baen library into my Kindle cloud, for convenience sake. Which meant I had the Expanded Universe, I Will Fear No Evil, and Farnham’s Freehold on my device. To my dismay, the copy of Farnham’s Freehold was absolutely riddled with errors, to the point of really being unreadable. I can dull my inner editor a bit, but not that much. Stick to the Baen copies, folks, even if you find a deal on Amazon. Expanded Universe is clean, tightly formatted, and very readable.

Next up, I grabbed an Agatha Christie I have in ebook, Secret Adversary. This one is a lot of fun, and if you have never read any of hers but Poirot or Marple, this one is a very different tale. It evokes Wodehouse far more than stuffy British mystery, and it will leave you wondering which one the villain is until very close to the end. But mostly, it’s two young characters who are a delight to get to know. This one took me out of sick and into a post-war Britain most charmingly.

I picked up Codename: Winterborn and tried to get into it, with much confusion over what was going on and who all these people were… I’ll try again when I’m not sick. I picked up Emerson Hough’s The Girl at the Halfway House: A Story of the Plains and put it back down, really not in the mood for semi-poetic exposition set in the end of the Civil War. I picked up the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett and put it back down, same problem as the Heinlein: horrible typos. Egg flog, for egg nog, for instance. Grr… Picked up The Worlds Of Edgar Rice Burroughs, which I have been savoring like a box of chocolates, and hit a real stinker of a story, Apache Lawman. Stilted dialogue, stiff characters, and OMG is this story going anywhere? I’ll skip this one by Ralph Roberts and go on to the others which are much better. Ah, well, doesn’t every anthology have to have a stinker? Makes the rest smell better.

Finally, I dug into my archives of books-I-had-bought-and-forgotten. And there, I found Sabrina Chase’s short story collection, the Bureau of Substandards: Annual Report and hit gold. It’s not a terribly long collection, (and I’d like more… I can bring bribes to LibertyCon? LOL) but the stories evoked several things to me. One, you all know I’m not a big TV watcher or film fan, right? Well, the one series of movies I adored as a teen were the Indiana Jones flicks, and this evokes them. It also evokes a show that was one of my kids’ faves, and I enjoyed, while trying not to see the chinks in the walls of the stories. I loved the premise, and Chase hits directly on the connection between Warehouse 13 and Indiana Jones with an early scene in a certain warehouse with a scorched box… Anyway. You will like them. Go read it.