Monday, May 26, 2008

Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor

Originally published in 1938, Address Unknown is a short story or novella that is immediately engaging and eventually haunting. Told in a series of letters between two business associates who are really like brothers, it chronicles the rise of nationalism and Hitler in Germany in 1934. Martin Schulz moves his family back to Germany after having lived in San Francisco where he was co-owner of an art gallery with Max Eisenstein. The two carry on a correspondence with Eisenstein, a Jew, becoming very concerned over the policies of Germany and Hitler. Eventually, Martin requests that Max no longer write him since he is afraid of losing his position in German society and politics. The story climaxes when Max asks Martin to help track down Max's sister Griselle. Max's letters to Griselle have been returned address unknown after she openly proclaimed her self a Jewish actress. In a turn of events and twist in plot that is reminiscent of O'Henry, the book leaves the reader with shock and questions as to what is really morally right in that world and even today.

According to Charles Douglas Taylor, Kressman Taylor's son, in the forward to the book, Katherine wanted to write "about what the Nazis were doing and show the American public what happens to real, living people swept up in a warped ideology." It gives evidence that we as a people were aware of what was happening in Germany and how we chose to react or not react to the situation. A must read for any introduction to the study of the Holocaust.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rash by Peter Hautman

It is the latter part of the 21st century and Bo Marsten is living in the USSA (United Safer States of America). The society has change into one where it is better to be safe than free. One needs a helmet to take a walk, 50 pounds of pads and protective equipment to run a track race, and french fries and beer are outlawed as are body piercings and tatoos. The rules are so stringent - 3 strikes and you are out that more than a quarter of the population are serving time in penal camps. Clearly the camps are what makes the economy run. So when Bo is accused of afflicting his classmates with a rash after he lost his temper and stopped taking his Ritalin-like medicine that teens must take, he is sent to a prison camp in the tundra of Canada. The camp, surrounded by polar bears, is run by McDonalds and produces pizzas. The guards are corrupt and Bo is tapped to play on the illegal tackle football team whose goal it is to defeat the team from the CocaCola plant. Clearly the intent is to see which team can more brutally attack the other. But wait Bork, the A.I., Bo has been creating for his science class is determined to spring him from the camp. Each time Bo logs into his WindO, a computer like device that knows your every move, Bork offers him legal advice. In some hair-raising turn of events, Bo attempts to leave the camp and return home.

This novel is difficult to categorize. It is a great football story, a unique entry in the genre of dystopian literature, and a very successful satire on the state of our society and where it might be heading. Hautman is brilliant in his description of the world as we might come to know it. Remember, it wasn't too long ago when bicycle helmets weren't required. Shopping at a mall is easily done by looking at holograms that show all sides of a product. How ironic, too that safety laws are being enforce by Phillip Morris, Co?

The laughs are there, but the discussion of life in the U.S.S.A. in 2o74 will linger long after the laughter stops. Don't miss this book!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Where are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark

Time for some fluff reading and Mary Higgins Clark's 2008 novel. Where Are You Now follows much the same and predictable format of Clark's previous mysteries. In short chapters, she introduces a plethora of characters who all have a connection to the central premise. Charles "Mack" Mackenzie has been missing for ten years. However, not a year has passed that he hasn't called his mother on Mother's Day. Not even his father's death in the World Trade Center collapse has brought him home. This year is no exception and his sister, Carolyn, is bound and determined that she is going to find her brother. She will leave no stone unturned to find him. Her search involves the landlord's apartment where her brother last lived. What is it that they are hiding. Leesey Andrews has disappeared from a Greenwich Village Club that is owned by Nick DeMarco, a roommate of Mack's. Are the two connected? And Bruce Galbraith, another roommate, has hurried his wife Barbara off to Martha's Vineyard. Is he trying to hide something? Add to these subplots the acceptance of Mack's mother of his disappearance and her desire to get on with her life. She shows this determination by setting off on a vacation to the Greek isles, accompanied by family advisor Elliott Wallace. Throughout the investigation Carolyn finds herself in a life-threatening and dangerous situations. This was one of Clark's better efforts. She skillfully pulls off a couple of startling twists that eventually solve the mystery. This is an easy and enjoyable read.... a good beach or vacation novel.