Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Cat Who Saw Stars

The Cat Who Saw Stars, by Lilian Jackson Braun is the 18th of the series I have read to date.  It's numbered 21 in the series but, generally, this isn't the sort of series where you have to read them in order and I'm not letting the fact that I'm missing a few titles keep me from getting on with it.  The first few, yes, where the general timeline of what is going on is important to understand but by this point they are pretty much stand-alone stories with just a few references to what might have happened in the past.  And to tell the truth, every time I run across such a reference, I can't remember if that was one I read about or not.

Regardless, these books are hardly the height of literary mystery and regular readers of this blog will know I read them more for the setting and the characters than for the riddle of the mystery itself.  The town of Pickax in the county of Mooseville has such a rich texture of interesting characters that it's always fun to go back and visit.  This novel find the protagonist Jim Qwilleran, move to his beach house in Mooseville, on the shores of a huge lake (although it is never stated exactly where these novels take place, it is generally thought to be in Northern Michigan and now we find ourselves on the shores of Lake Superior).  Mr "Q" plans for a 4 week vacation there but a series of circumstances leads him to cut it short after only two.  As usual, Mr Q visits friends, gathers stories for his twice-weekly column in the Pickax newspaper, performs community functions, and pays attention to his cat's odd behavior which is always a predictor of criminal activities somewhere.  This time the cat (Koko) finds a missing backpacker's body buried in the sand along the beach and he manages to push postcards off a shelf which contain important clues pertaining to a boat "accident" that the locals have chalked up to alien abduction.  Sounds quirky eh?

It is and it isn't.  I was disappointed in this one as are many other fans of the series.  Ms Braun's age is not listed anywhere but she has to be getting on in years and many have speculated that this one was written by a ghost writer.  Indeed, much of the phrasing seems off and the plot felt flat to me.  The mystery elements seemed almost unrelated to the real story and Koko's clues were just plain uninteresting.  I really didn't care who dunnit and I wasn't even sure there had been a crime committed until the end.  And even then, Mr Q and his cats didn't solve it but rather were told what happened by a bit character within which the criminal had confided.  Odd.  But I'll keep at these novels because, at this moment I still have 6 more on my shelf still to be read (hopefully not written by ghost writers).

"Death Ship," by Richard Matheson was the next short story in The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century.  I know Mr Matheson more as a horror/science fiction author ("I am Legend") than pure sci-fi and, indeed, this story demonstrates that very nicely.  Here we have a space capsule sometime in our future carrying three astronauts who are researching planets suitable for human habitation when they come across a crashed capsule just like theirs and containing the dead bodies of...themselves.  How they deal with this and speculate on possibly having traveled through time to see their own futures and, most particularly, how they try and prevent what might be their fates, is nice subtle horror writing.

Next up: The Grays by Whitley Strieber.

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire