- May 31 - King Library Opens at 1:00 PM
Like most Americans, I knew little about the Mexican-American War (1846 -1848), and so I sought Eagles and Empire to learn more about this important but frequently overlooked chapter of American history. If proof of impartiality is that you offend everyone equally, David A. Clary must be one of the most impartial historians around. From the duplicitous American government to the Mexican government’s callousness towards its own citizens, from comic-opera figure Santa Ana to the American volunteer army’s refusal to be disciplined, this is a tale in which everybody comes out looking deplorable. And no one receives a less flattering portrayal than the Texas Rangers, who, if even half of Clary’s indictments are true, did not start out as honorable lawmen, and who might well prefer that this chapter of history should remain obscure. The one faction that does come out of Clary’s account with their reputation largely intact is the American officer corps, many of whom went on to become household names in the Civil War. Clary’s Eagles and Empire is an important read, but not always a pleasant one.
“May you live in interesting times” is said to be an old curse, and this book brings that idea to life. Horrifying, repellent, and yet fascinating, The Corpse Walker is one of the more troubling books you are likely to read. Journalist Liao Yiwu has traveled China for a number of years, interviewing survivors of that country’s tumultuous 20th century. There are tales of sickening brutality, inspiring courage, unbelievable tyranny, steadfast loyalty, and these elements often occur in the same tale, sometimes even from the same person, in this hellish portrayal of life under Communism. Those with an interest in history and foreign cultures will also be absorbed by the stories of changing times and peculiar (to a Westerner) vocations, such as the corpse walkers of the title. When an individual passed away far from home, the corpse walkers would tie the dead body to themselves and literally walk the body, as if it were a life-size marionette, back home, to create the illusion that the dearly departed was merely taking one last stroll back to say farewell to friends and family. Discover just how alien another human culture can seem through this disturbing but engrossing read.
Have you ever wondered what science fiction would be like if it was written by a lawyer? Okay, me neither. But the answer turns out to be, “pretty good.” John C. Wright’s Golden Age trilogy feels like a hero’s epic from classical mythology, and has elements of adventure, intrigue, and philosophy. Wright has carefully constructed a highly detailed and interesting future society in which artificial intelligence mediates all aspects of life, and then he delves into the ethics and ramifications of a human society which lives in symbiosis with artificial servitors who are wiser and smarter than the people are, and where the dividing line between human and machine is obscure, and unimportant. Follow Wright’s protagonist as he crusades across this fascinating world, falling from grace and fighting his way back to triumph. The volumes of the trilogy are:
Many people avoid history because they’re afraid it’s just a list of facts and dates, and sometimes it can be. But in the hands of a skilled writer, history can read like a novel. Karl Friday is just such a skilled writer, and The First Samurai, his tale of an ambitious noble’s rebellious bid for power, is reminiscent of a James Clavell yarn. Friday is a historian who has figured out the trick of how much detail to leave out and how much to include, so that his books are both highly informative and highly readable.
Didn’t find the book you were looking for in the San Jose library? Your San Jose library card still may be able to get the item for you, even if we don’t own a copy. Our two services, Link+ and ILLiad (also called "interlibrary loan"), allow you to request items from cooperating libraries across California, or even farther away. Link+ is especially quick and easy to use, and includes all sorts of unusual and fun subjects. Some things I’ve enjoyed through Link+ include:
Buffy Goes Dark, a collection of scholarly essays about the later two seasons of the influential cult favorite TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Zothique, a rare old collection of eerie short stories by Lovecraft-circle author Clark Ashton Smith.
And The Jennifer Morgue, an installment of Charles Stross’ seriocomic tales about sorcerer/spy/computer technician, Bob Howard.
So if you don’t find what you’re looking for in our catalog, click on the “Search Link+” button, and you may be able to get it from one of our neighbors.
In the 60s and 70s, Larry Niven wrote a succession of Known Space stories which are considered some of the classics of science fiction, combining interesting hard science with fast-paced adventure. Now, like a visit from a dear old friend, he has returned to this fictional universe, in a set of collaborations with Edward Lerner. The new stories, with familiar characters, include: Fleet of Worlds; Juggler of Worlds; Destroyer of Worlds; and Betrayer of Worlds