Monday, August 29, 2011

Around the World in 80 Days

And here I continue my reviews of Verne's novels with the classic Around the World in 80 Days.
It starts detailing the character and nature of one Phileas Fogg, an eminently respectable gentleman of the most exact and regular habits. He is wealthy, although no one knows where he gained his fortune, and he has no living family. He usually spends his day at the Reform Club, a society composed of other wealthy and respectable gentlemen like himself, although none are quite as machine-like. He spends his time at the Reform Club reading the daily papers, and playing whist, at which he is very proficient. He has just hired a French servant, to replace his old one(the other servant being discharged for preparing his shaving water several degrees Fahrenheit off). The new servant, named Passepartout, is very pleased with his new master, because he has always wanted to settle down quietly. That is, until Mr. Fogg returns home earlier than usual, bearing the news that he and his servant are going to travel around the world in 80 days, on a wager. They bring little luggage, Mr. Fogg bringing only a carpetbag full of bank notes, as they will buy what they need on the way.
 So they travel to India. They ride an elephant and rescue a young Indian girl who speaks English. She travels with them. It turns out she had relatives in China, and since they are headed in that direction already anyways, she goes with them.
In China, Passepartout is separated from Fogg and the girl, so he manages to work for food until he bumps into them again. The Indian girl continues with them, as her relative apparently moved, and is no longer in China.
 Throughout all this, they are pursued by a London detective, who is absolutely convinced that Phileas Fogg is the bank robber he was hired to catch.
They sail to America, where they get into a street fight. After that, their train is waylaid by Indians, but they manage to escape.
But all this had delayed them somewhat, and by the time they in England again, it remains to be seen if they'll make it in time or not.
And then the detective manages to procure a warrant, and Fogg is put in jail until he can be tried.
But it turns out that the real bank robber was captured weeks before, and that Fogg had been detained for naught.
Despite their best efforts, it seems that they are late. Fogg does not bother going back to the Reform Club that evening as it would be useless. The next morning, he proposes to the girl, and they resolve to be wed at once. But Passepartout, on going to procure a preacher, discovers that by some freak incident of time, they were actually one day early, but they have mere minutes to reach the Reform Club before they really do run out of time.
 Meanwhile, back at the Club, Fogg's friends are watching the clock slowly tick towards the time when the money is theirs. Just as the last seconds roll past, Fogg bursts in. And so he has, indeed, been around the world in eighty days.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The War of the Worlds

H.G. Wells' classic, The War of the Worlds, starts out promising great adventure and excitement, but the real danger is to the reader rather than the character. Losing a grip on reality is not what I had in mind for a good read. If you are easily depressed, then this book is not for you. I, happily, can sit hear and say "It was really depressing," without feeling anything of the sort, but it really is a rather gritty story. Besides, the story(told from first-person) usually gives things away, by alluding to things that haven't happened yet. If this is the best job that one of the Fathers of Science-Fiction can do, I am very disappointed. But I digress.
 So a couple of men see a bright light flashing across the sky, some sort of comet or meteor, which lands on earth.
The next day, people from around that part of England gather around the pit where the projectile has landed. The missile is smooth and metallic, very large, and not at all like previously documented meteors. Then, the lid on the the meteorite begins to turn slowly. When opens, horrible creatures from Mars emerge. They are at first very sluggish and slow, due to Earth's greater gravity and air pressure. The crowd runs, screaming, in all directions away from the pit.
The narrator, the main character, stays hiding in the brush nearby, transfixed by fear.
And the Martians are unleashed! 
They come out in horrible walking machines! And burn everything in sight! The English countryside is in ruins! They unleash a choking black smoke! Sickly red weeds grow everywhere, threatening to choke out every last bit of plant life!
Oh look, they're all dead. Well, that was easy.
Because apparently, Martian immune systems are underdeveloped, considering that they are, after all, merely brains. So they are all dead.
But, an odd mark has now appeared on Venus. Like a crater. Oops. So much for the Venusians.
So, yeah. The Martians invade, they destroy, they die. Then attack Venus.
I wouldn't really recommend reading it. I don't know about any of H.G.Wells' other books, because I haven't read any yet. But I hope to eventually.
Maybe those will be better.

Dyke Darrel the Railroad Detective

This is the heading of the newspaper column describing the railroad robbery. This is what immerses Dyke Darrel, the amazing and successful detective, into a great mystery.
When it turns out that the person murdered during the robbery was Dyke's friend, nothing can stop him from plunging headlong into the clues, unearthing every bit of evidence until the villains are brought to justice.
It is almost like Sherlock Holmes, only infinitely more amusing. Sherlock Holmes rarely goes through such perilous adventures as Dyke. Holmes never needed to rescue his kidnapped sister. Indeed, despite the villains being obvious from the start, the ending still manages to surprise.
Even when things are at their blackest, the intrepid detective manages to pull through. He escapes innumerable perils, all in his quest to hunt down every last one of the railroad robbers.
It is definitely worth the read. I can barely say anything about the book at all, for fear of ruining it, so all I can say is this: Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot might be the brightest Belgian egghead who ever adorned a mystery novel's pages, and Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes may be a pop culture icon, but they don't have anything on Dyke Darrel, Railroad Detective.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Punctured Poems

This book, Punctured Poems, by Richard Armour is a short little book full of "famous first lines and infamous second lines". Two-lined poems accompanied by a picture and some "footnotes" make up the contents. The first line of each poem is the first line of some poem written by another poet. The second line was added by the author of this book. I laughed so hard.
My favorite was this:
John Milton, "On His Blindness"
When I consider how my light is spent,
I'm glad utilities come with the rent.

Several of the poems are rather rude, but most are in good fun. So I was glad to spend four dollars on it at the used bookstore.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Longing

The Longing came early this year
thick heavy and sharp.

No relief is in sight
until I am old.

I want to be old quickly, quickly!
Give me patience with my passion.