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The Girl



by Thomas Harris

The Girl ran right out and bought this when it came out. She was a big fan of Silence of the Lambs and was interested to see what the next act would be. The mark of a great horror novel, for The Girl, is its ability to make her nauseated. Harris has achieved this before, with Silence of the Lambs but unfortunately not with Hannibal.

Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter has been around for three books now, starting with Red Dragon, where the good doctor helped the FBI agent who caught him to catch another serial killer -- not without a price, of course. And of course in The Silence of the Lambs, he helps young FBI agent Clarice Starling, also for a price, before making a bloody, brilliant escape.

Hannibal takes up seven years later. Lecter is living the (lovingly detailed) good life in Florence, while Agent Starling is being hounded out of the FBI for a botched raid that wasn't her fault. Lecter's most interesting enemy, Mason Verger, an old victim of Lecter's with the wealth and sadistic bent to actually hunt him down, sets up Starling as bait to draw him out of hiding.

Some of the most horriying moments come, not from Hannibal, but from Verger and his scheming. The political in-fighting and sexual harrassment that rain down on Agent Starling will be sadly familiar to many working women, and rang most true of nearly anything in the book. By the end, however, Harris take the plot right out the window, sacrificing an sense of realism he might have built up over the preceding hundreds of pages. The Girl had to re-read the end several times just to convince herself she was reading what she thought she was reading.

The phrase most often heard at the end of reading Hannibal is likely to be "What the hell was that?" It's a very interesting book, and has its moments, but it's ultimately flawed by Harris' attempts to one-up his own creation. Hannibal peeks behind the curtain, and there's no Great and Terrible Oz back there, just a sad and strange little man.

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The Wheel of Time

by Robert Jordan

This gigantic epic (eight 700-page books and counting) is being hailed by some at the next Lord of the Rings The Girl does not necessarily agree with that, it being such an enormous set of shoes to fill, but it ceratinly has something that keeps readers coming back for more. The Girl is stuck at the beginning of Book Four, but the story thus far has been absorbing and varied.

As the epigram to each book says: "During the Third Age, the Age of Prophecy, the world and time hang in the balance, in peril of falling under the Shadow." A young man named Rand and his friends from his home village of Two Rivers are tapped by the great forces in the world to go out and save it. One of them may be the Dragon Reborn, the man who will bring change and chaos and the end of an age, something no sane person would want to be.

One pleasing difference between this and TLOTR is the number and strength of character of the women characters, although Jordan seems not to have spent much time around actual women, given that their only reaction to annoying events seems to be to cross their arms under their breasts like a disapproving Nurse Ratchett, and that many of the young women fall suddenly and unconvincingly in love with Rand--without the slightest warning, build-up, or even good reason. On the other hand, The Girl wanted to smack nearly ALL the main characters, male and female, repeatedly. The Geek Posse says it does improve as you go through it -- as does his writing. That much is clear even in the course of three books.

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To the Stars!

by Harry Harrison

This is actually a trilogy, comprised of Homeworld, Wheelworld, and Starworld. The Girl wasn't sure what to expect from this series after the hijinks of Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series. This is a much more serious work -- the main character is repeatedly betrayed, exiled to what amounts to a penal colony, and separated from the woman he loves, all because he thinks the rigid society ruling Earth needs a change.

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I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream

by Harlan Ellison

This is a collection of Ellison's short stories, including the incredibly creepy title story. Ellison introduces each story, and his opinionated prose is almost as much fun to read as the stories. Almost.

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To Say Nothing of the Dog

by Connie Willis

This won the Nebula Award and justifiably so. Willis returns again to the time-travelling Oxford historians, in what can only be described as a Victorian romp -- though it is unclear whether it takes place before or after the events of Doomsday Book.

The Historians are being run ragged by Lady X's "historically accurate" reconstruction of the now-razed Canterbury Cathedral. Ned and his colleague Felicity are being sent all over the time stream to look for a hideous Victorian decoration known as the "bishop's bird-stump." In the course of their quest, the must deal with lovelorn Oxford students, missing cats, water-logged dogs, punting on the Thames, the first-ever jumble sale, lovelorn silly girls and avoiding the destruction of the entire time-stream as we know it.

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The Ophiuchi Hotline

by John Varley

Eh, so-so. Despite an intriguing title, it proved to be more about espionage and genetics in an opressed Solar system than about Ophiuchi. However, it's at least twenty years old, so...

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