Ken and Robin Consume Media: An Extra Moon and a Bottle of Wine
December 13th, 2016 | Robin
Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.
An African Millionaire: Episodes in the Life of the Illustrious Colonel Clay (Fiction, Grant Allen, 1897) Pompous, avaricious diamond magnate becomes the repeated victim of a wily master-of-disguise con artist. Episodic caper tale, told from the point of the view of the marks, wields a wit as sharp as Vance or Wodehouse in its delightful trashing of capitalist mores. What a sad reflection on the gatekeepers of CanLit that I had to learn about this Kingston-born author from my arch-Chicagoan partner in crime!–RDL
French Foreign Legion 1831-71 (Osprey Men-at-Arms 509) (Nonfiction, Martin Windrow, 2016) Although the discussion of the Legion’s organization, history, and equipment (in special detail) is up to the Osprey standard, this volume really stands out for its use of period art. Well-selected contemporary sketches, paintings, and even photographs bring the subject to life. –KH
Jacob’s Creek Moscato Rose (Wine, Australia, 2015) It is a Thing I Always Say that rose does not exclusively belong to the summertime but rather embodies the celebratory spirit of the holidays. Moscato is sweet; rose is usually sweet and this bubbly, ultra-quaffable frizzante is super sweet. A treat on its own or can cut through the fat coating all those festive snacks leave on the tongue. Inexpensive, and at 7.5% ABV lets you drink nearly as much of it as you want and still remember the lyrics to Good King Wenceslas.–RDL
Pirate Utopia (Fiction, Bruce Sterling, 2016) Alternate history diverges in 1919 with the arrival of the Pirate Engineer in d’Annunzio’s poetic-Futurist dictatorship in the Adriatic city of Fiume, although lots of other changes bubble up at the same time, such as H.P. Lovecraft becoming an advance-man for the U.S. Secret Service. Sterling never really advances his plot, preferring to curvette around the larger question of the appeal of fascism, but this trip to slightly-alternate Fiume is worth booking. The John Coulthart design and illustrations kick the book up to Recommended. –KH
The Pnume (Fiction, Jack Vance, 1970), Stranded spaceman Adam Reith frees himself from alien trophy hunters with the forced assistance of a young woman they have been keeping in a chemically induced prepubescence. The final installment of the series formerly known as Planet of Adventure sounds some minor key notes, with an unusually complicated (for Vance) relationship taking focus over pulp action.
The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (Nonfiction, Peter Frankopan, 2015) Perhaps better subtitled “The Same Old History of the World From a Different Perspective,” Frankopan’s book re-centers the story of the West on Persia and Central Asia, rather than on the Mediterranean. China remains a sideshow, the Huns are but noted in passing, and even the Persian Empire is rather under-rated. So why Recommended? Because where Frankopan does focus — e.g., the early medieval slave trade, the Anglo-Persian oil contest, and currency fluctuations throughout — he brings capacious research and yes, a different perspective. –KH
What If the Earth Had Two Moons? (Nonfiction, Neil F. Comins, 2010) The sequel to Comins’ What If the Moon Didn’t Exist? continues his tradition of smuggling astrophysics in as alternate history. More a book of planetary mechanics than anything else, it still provides ten great set-ups for SFnal worlds and (usually) justifies the pulpier sort of parallel. Sadly, the Counter-Earth moves into a Lagrange point, ruining that particular lovely madness. –KH