Monthly Archives: September 2013

Look What’s in the Warner Library!

Warner Library serves Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. Visit your own local library and see what gems you can unearth

(2013-09-22 001Title: Voyage of the Iceberg: the Story of the Iceberg that Sank the Titanic

Author: Richard Brown

Publication Information: New York: Beaufort Books, 1983

ISBN: 0-825-301-874 (i.e. 978-0-82530-187-2)

Library of Congress Classification: GB2595

Dewey Decimal Classification: 551.34

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Icebergs
Arctic regions

I came across this book wandering in the library stacks. Having read it many years ago, I really liked it, so I decided to pass on my experience.

I used to describe this book as about the sinking of the Titanic from the iceberg’s point of view, but the Titanic plays a small part in the story. The book is about how an iceberg is created in the far north, only Brown selects the most famous iceberg in history to tell the story. Icebergs are created from calving in Greenland. The Atlantic currents carry them down the North American coast, passing Labrador and down to the Great Banks, where this iceberg encounters the Titanic.

As the iceberg travels, we are told what the iceberg “sees” going on along the shore. Cultures, animals, explorers–and some history–is what we learn about as the iceberg travels down to its encounter with fame–er, imfamy. It’s history of the area as well as natural history which, if you like to learn new things, you will find this book of interest.

The book is only 152 pages. Some might not like it, but it is an easy read, and I thought it was a hoot.

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Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove, Household Gods

Tarr-Household Gods (2013-09-01 026)Title: Household Gods

Author: Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove

Publication Information: New York: Tor Fantasy, 2000

ISBN: 0-812-56466-9 (i.e. 978-08-1256-466-2)

Library of Congress Classification: PS3570.A655

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Hotelkeepers—Rome—Fiction
Time travel—Fiction
Carnuntum (Extinct city)—Fiction
Rome—Social conditions—Fiction
Rome—History—Empire, 30 B.C.-284 A.D.—Fiction

This is probably the best book I have ever read that puts you in ancient Rome.

I do not like Harry Turtledove’s writing. Why, I do not know. I read his Agent of Byzantium years ago and I just did not like it. Besides, he writes an alternate history of the American Civil War, where the south won. It just does not appeal to me.

Judith Tarr’s name is listed first, and this is the only book I’ve read of Tarr’s to date. Whether it was her doing most of the writing, a collaboration of the two, or Turtledove supplying the research to Tarr (he has a Ph. D. in history), the book is a page-turner. Anyone who wants to learn what life was like in the second century near the Roman border in Austria, this is a must read.

Nicole Gunther-Perrin, a divorced mother of two, lives in Los Angeles and works at a law firm in the last decade of the 20th century. Her husband, a professor, ran off with one of his students half her age; they married. Nicole got the custody of the children, but the child support is usually months late as ex-hubby is busy traveling around with his youthful bride.

We learn a lot about Nicole before she makes her trip back to Rome. She hates her job, hates her life, and is basically burned out on everything. Ironically, the best time she remembers having is being on her honeymoon and visiting the ruins of Carnuntum, a Roman city in what is now Austria. She admired the ruins and the Romans. Having bought a statue of Liber and Libera, Roman fertility deities, while there, she prays to them for a simpler life, a life that would take her away from the one she is suffering through.

She gets her wish and wakes up in Carnuntum. She inhabits a woman’s body which she knows is an ancestor of hers. She’s now an innkeeper and tavern owner. She has two children and a slave. Thus Nicole must come to grips with Rome in the second century on the frontier. Her education starts right away as she watches a woman coughing up black mucus in the baths, and watching it disperse in the water. Immediately she fears tuberculosis. This is just one surprise for her as plague, a barbarian invasion, and the inevitable return of Roman rule affect her and her family.

Her visit to Rome gifts her with the Latin language. Her mind is intact, and she puts her knowledge of the law to work. After an incident where she is wronged, Nicole writes to Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher emperor, informing him that he is ultimately responsible as the head of the Roman state. Her letter merits an audience with the emperor, which is quite interesting.

The book simply does not end with her return to Los Angeles. No, we get to see how her experience in the past has changed her for the better. Her entire attitude shifts and, because of that, she finds that her life isn’t all that bad, and is getting better. At least it is much easier living in Los Angeles than in second century Rome.

I loved this book. I can remember so many of the details even though I read it several years ago. It is a big novel at 664 pages, but well-worth the effort.

Richard Brown, Titanic with Zombies

Title: Titanic with Zombies

Author: Richard Brown

Publication Information: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

ISBN: 1-479-20-739-X (i.e. 978-1-479-207-39-8)

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Zombies—Fiction
Titanic (Steamship)—Fiction
Plague—Fiction
Shipwrecks—North Atlantic Ocean—Fiction

Okay, this is a cute book. It’s not a great book, but it is enjoyable.

I read this book on my Kindle. The drawings of the characters, especially the zombies, adds to the fun. Richard Brown wrote an interesting slant on the sinking of the Titanic—that while the ship sank, a plague broke out on the ship that the infected died and returned as zombies.

How do zombies end up on the ship? A poor, young Irish woman is infected by someone on the dock; he injects her with the virus before she boards the ship. She chases her attacker but he gets away. This is the most improbable part of the plot—who developed the virus, why and to what end—is never really explained. Also, the book ends with Charles Lightoller, the highest-ranking officer to survive the sinking, in London on the witness stand at the British Board of Trade inquiry. Big surprise that he has no plans to mention the zombies.

The prose is somewhat irritating in spots. Having written stories (unpublished) years ago, I used to do this as well. The following passage is one I bookmarked because it stood out:

“The water was up to his [Lightoller’s] waist now, and so cold he felt like he was wearing a pair of ice undies. If he didn’t get moving soon, he might never be able to have any more children, or worse yet, see the ones he already had ever again.”

Ice undies? Lightoller thinks of this while trying to escape a bunch of zombies as the ship sinks and he’s on a water-filling deck. One Amazon.com critic called this a “rolling of the eyes moment,” and I did.

Lots of historical figures known to be on the ship appear: Lightoller, Margaret Brown, Thomas Andrews, Madeline Astor, John Jacob Astor IV, Captain E. J. Smith—to name a few. One problem I did have is that some of the corpses that were found floating in the Atlantic were still moving although dead. The temperature of the North Atlantic Ocean at that time of year is below freezing; could a frozen zombie move? Perhaps more accurately, how could a frozen zombie move? This is splitting hairs, since we know that there are no zombies, after all, how could desiccated bodies even stand let alone walk? Also, if they could move, this means that the zombies were still able to infect the living who were pulling them out of the drink. (Sequel?)

It cost me 99 cents. It was a quick read and fun. Another Amazon critic could not finish reading the book because of the gore. Who in their right mind buys a book with zombies on the cover and does not expect blood, biting, disembowelments, eating of flesh and all the rest?