Thursday, July 01, 2004

Someone e-mailed me to say that this is a somewhat "amorphous" blog. He's right. There are political blogs, OTR blogs, movie blogs, and all kind of blogs devoted to specific topics. Not this one. It's amorphous. Or, as I prefer to think of it, stream-of-consciousness. I just write about whatever is on my mind when I turn on the computer.

And today it's Max Byrd's novel SHOOTING THE SUN (Bantam 2004). Back in the late 1970s or early '80s, Byrd wrote a handful of Chandleresque private-eye novels that I liked quite a bit. FLY AWAY, JILL and CALIFORNIA THRILLER are a couple of titles that come to mind. Then he turned to historical fiction, concentrating on some big names and producing titles like GRANT, JACKSON, and JEFFERSON. I wasn't interested in those. But when SHOOTING THE SUN turned up on the NYTBR's list of notable books a while back, I thought I'd have a look.

It's a historical novel, all right, but it's a sort of "alternate universe" book. The idea is that Charles Babbage sponsors an expedition to the Great Southwestern Desert in 1840 to take photographs of a total eclipse that has been predicted by his Difference Engine. No one else seems to believe the eclipse will take place, but the photos will prove that the Difference Engine works and win Babbage some much-needed financial backing.

The expedition into the desert includes a beautiful young scientist, Selena Cott, along with an artist, an explorer, a petty mathematician, a crusty wagonmaster, a suave overseer, and assorted others. It becomes apparent early on that there's more to the expedition's purpose than just getting some photographs, and there are a few twists in the plot as it moves along. Plenty of accurate historical details, interesting characters, and graceful writing. I'd say check it out. But I liked the p.i. novels more.


Unknown said...

Bill, if this is an "amorphous" blog, then I'm digging your brand of "amorphous." JT Lindroos's mention on Rara-Avis steered me here a few days ago... and I'm glad I stopped by. This is like the bar you never want to leave. Thanks!

Jayme Lynn Blaschke said...

Well, Bill, if "amorphous" doesn't work for you, you could always go the microbiologic rout and start calling it an "amoebic" blog. THAT will get 'em scratcing the ol' noggin.