Speaking of faith, science, and science fiction

One recent episode of the radio program Speaking of Faith is an interview with paleoanthropologist, fiction author and person of faith Mary Doria Russell. She is a fascinating person. During the interview, she described her Catholic upbringing, how she became a humanist for two decades and has most recently converted to Judaism.
During the program, host Krista Tippett mentioned that Ms. Russell had described herself as an ‘agnostic Jew’ and asked her to elaborate on that. Ms. Russell answered, “The God that I almost believe in is the Jewish God” and went on to explain why she feels Judaism best reflects her own view of God. I love that quote!
After listening to the podcast of this interview, I immediately went and bought two of Ms. Russell’s novels: The Sparrow and A Thread of Grace. I’m reading The Sparrow now and liking it so far.

The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber

I haven’t posted about a book in quite some time. A couple of reasons: I haven’t been reading much lately, and I haven’t read anything that really captured my attention. I’m glad to say that The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber has broken that stretch. This book passed several of my criteria for a good thriller:

  • Characters were well fleshed out
  • Only a couple of times did I read something and think “Ah, this will be important later”. Given the complexity of the plot, that’s pretty good.
  • I also didn’t guess much of the conclusion–just a couple of pretty obvious points. I was looking forward to seeing how the various plots and characters would come together
  • Finally, most of the plot lines came together very well. The only part that I thought was handled poorly was the part of the brother Paul–though he was an interesting character nonetheless.
    • All in all, a very enjoyable read.

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

I just completed The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King. This is the first in the series of novels about an elderly Sherlock Holmes and his young female apprentice.
I browsed across this book in the Pflugerville public library quite some time ago, and when I saw that it was about Sherlock Holmes, I checked it out for Katie who is a big Sherlock Holmes fan. Katie has since read all of Ms. King’s novels and takes part in an email list for fans of the novels.
It’s difficult to re-use an existing character–especially one so well known as Sherlock Holmes–but Katie thinks that Ms. King has captured the essence of Holmes quite well, even though she sets her novel thirty years after the original stories and gives him a female partner. I didn’t enjoy the novel as much as Katie–as the sexual tension and budding romance between Holmes and his companion didn’t do as much for me as it did for Katie, but I enjoyed the novel all the same.

Call of the Wild by Jack London

I just completed the Librivox audio edition of Jack London’s Call of the Wild. I loved it; it’s just over the top.
On a side note, this was the first Librivox audiobook that I’ve tried. I certainly like the principle of making free audiobooks of works that are in the public domain, but there were some problems with this recording. Each chapter was read by a different person. This wasn’t a problem, but the quality and volume of the recordings varied widely.

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

I just completed the unabridged audio edition of Plainsong by Kent Haruf. I have to say, this was one of the very best audio books I’ve listened to. I particularly liked the portrayal of the main characters. Two of the characters, for instance, hardly speak or express any emotion, yet the author makes them deep and very believable.
The novel recounts a few months in the lives of some residents of a small farming town on the high plains in Colorado. I recognized in the characters aspects of my Kansas relatives and people I know from my youth in rural Texas. Haruf does an excellent job of portraying these characters.