Finished: 06/22/21

Grade: A

In a lawless North Texas, after the civil war, aging newspaper barker Captain Kidd is tasked with returning a young girl who had been captured by Kiowa Indians to her birth family.

Is there a term for novels about cantankerous old men reluctantly agreeing to take care of a precocious young girl, and then slowly growing to love her over time? Elderbait? Grandpacore? Chicken Soup For Your Dad’s Soul?

Whatever you want to call it, News of The World is a strong entry in the canon. A showcase of simplicity in storytelling set on the well-worn backdrop of the American West. Sort of what would happen if you took a background character in your favorite Western and said “Ok, enough about sheriff John Brown and the Tennessee kid, what’s that guy’s story” An easy adventure, with enough depth to give you that feeling of gaining something. A really solid novel. And now a major motion picture. Go figure!

Finished: 6/4/21

Grade: A

Space faring psychologist Kris Kelvin, arrives on the planet Solaris, a world completely dominated by a mysterious living ocean, to find that the station’s crew have been seeing strange visions of personages from their past. When Kris’ own past comes back to haunt him in the flesh, he strives to determine the purpose of these psychic intrusions and wrestles with the very nature of reality itself.

Most planets in science fiction tend to be some variation of “Earth but purple” with aliens that are “Humans but with more arms.” In Solaris, however, the alien aspects are alien to the point that any earthly reference feels impossible. Lem presents this cosmic mystery with a realism that could trick you into thinking you are reading a genuine anthropological study (complete with long tracts of self-referential academia).

This one is A CLAZZIG and it’s really fun.

Finished: 5/21/21

Grade: B

A bio-graphic novel detailing the origins of the Grateful Dead in San Fransisco, from their early shows, to playing as the house band for the acid tests, and culminating with their performance at Woodstock. Hang out with Jerry and the gang as they reinvent their sound, take LSD, and scuffle with the police.

I don’t care about the Grateful Dead. I have tried to get into their music twice before and it just doesn’t click. As my friend Nick says: “I bet if we were high, and watching them live, then we would get it.” Maybe. The truth is that I only read this book because I am drawn to Noah Van Sciver’s art style for some reason I don’t understand. I went to Secret Headquarters twice and both times this was the only book that stood out to me, so I bought it.

And It’s Fun! Like a good old fashioned bio-pic. I don’t think I’m walking away with a new understanding of what made The Grateful Dead so special, but the ground level perspective of the narrative puts you right in the swirling epicenter of the hippie movement and it was fun to live in that world for a while.