Mad Tausig Vs the Interplanetary Puzzling Peace Patrol

Hey, great news! My pal Goopymart–the guy with whom I collaborated on Files Are Not For Sharing–just illustrated a new book: Mad Tausig Vs the Interplanetary Puzzling Peace Patrol.

Actually, two (count ’em: two) of my friends were involved in the creation of this book, as another buddy of mine, Darkpony is a co-author. Sweet.

The book is full of puzzles for kids: crosswords, anagrams, cryptograms…even some newer kinds like Sudoku, and a bunch of original kinds too. A little advanced for Squiggle, but the sort of book I would have loved when I was nine or ten (as a devotee of both GAMES magazine and science-fiction). Readers work to unravel riddles and stop the Mad Tausig (holder of the world record for “Most Evil Inventor”) from hatching his master plot. And, of course, Goopy’s drawing are hilariously absurd, as always.

Fun stuff. Check it out.

Books: March

There’s a whole subgenre of literature starring minor characters from classic works. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Wicked. Wide Sargasso Sea. And, of course, my novella “Alive In Here,” which retells Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope from the point of view of the Garbage creature (available upon request).

Likewise, Geraldine Brooks’ latest novel tells the tale of Mr. March, a character plucked from the pages of Little Women. In Alcott’s novel, March has left his four young daughters in the care of his wife, Marmee, while he fights for the Union in the civil war. The girls bravely soldier on in his absence, their spirits occasionally buoyed by his inspiration letters. In March, we learn that those letters are little more than fictions. Yes, the events Mr. March writes about are real, but the optimism that infuses every word is something that he no longer feels.

As in Little Women, Peter March is here portrayed as a preacher, and it is his firmly held beliefs as an abolitionist that lead him join in the battle against the confederacy. The courage of his convictions, however, is battered as he reaches the front lines and witnesses the true horror of war. Worse still, he finds few of his comrades-in-arms share his idealism–most fight not out of revulsion of slavery, but simply because they have been at war for so long that they’ve forgotten how to do anything but.

Though most of the novel parallels the events of Little Women (Mr. March occasionally stops to write letters, allowing the reader to gauge where he is, chronologically, with the narrative in Louisa May Alcott’s book), it doesn’t confine itself to the same time frame. In fact, much of the book takes place when Mr. March was but a traveling salesman, long before he met Marmee and sired his gaggle of girls. Brooks also tweaks some of Alcott’s characters–not revising them per se, but adding additional depth. In Little Women, the mother was always around her children, and behaved accordingly; in March, there are a number of exchanges that take place exclusively between husband and wife, and well as scenes from their courtship, that cast Marmee in a new light, and show that she, like Mr. March, often put up a brave front to shield her daughters from her true feelings.

Having never read Little Women, I was worried that I wouldn’t “get” most of March (as might be the case if you read Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead without knowing the basic outline of Hamlet). As it turns out, the story is so distinct from Alcott’s novel–in terms of tone, explicitness, and its account of Mr. March’s time away from the family–as to seem almost unrelated to the classic that spawned it. Brooks’ novel so completely transcends the high-concept premise as to make the back-references to Little Women seem as more of an afterthought than the original motivation.

At any rate, don’t let unfamiliarity with the source material deter your from from reading the Pulitzer-Prize winning March. It’s a brutal account of two concurrent wars: the American civil war, and the clash between Mr. March’s deeply-held idealism and the sobering reality in which he lives.

Books: Yendi and Teckla

In the week since I finished Jhereg I’ve plowed through the next two volumes in the Vlad Taltos series. I’m not really a “two books in a week” kind of reader these days, but as each of the novels is just a shade over 200 pages and written in the same breezy, compulsively readable style of the first, getting these two off my “to read” pile was as easy as knocking back beers.

Yendi manages to avoid seeming like a sequel in a couple of ways. First, it is set a number of years before the events of Jhereg. Second, it doesn’t duplicate the plot of the first book, instead spinning a more straightforward adventure / fantasy yarn: Vlad, a younger man and still fairly inexperienced in the business of organized crime, finds himself in a turf war with a neighboring Boss trying to horn into his territory. And, third, the narrative actually has a romance component. The story lacks some of the inventiveness of Jhereg, but the first set the bar on “clever” pretty high, so it can certainly be excused for failing to clear it.

Teckla, the third book in the series, takes place after Jhereg. This book does suffer from some sequel-itis — the central story is about yet another turf war, just as Yendi before it. It’s also the gloomiest of the three by far, with Vlad moping about for the final half of the story. I hated the fourth and fifth Harry Potter books for exactly this reason, but at least when Vlad gets depressed he goes around stabbing people in the heart with stilettos — a vastly superior coping mechanism to whining, if ya ask me.

As I mentioned before, each of the books is entirely self contained. You could read them in reverse chronological order and everything would still make perfect sense, though Jhereg is indisputably the best introduction to the series. And all three can be found in a single volume, called The Book of Jhereg. If you’re like me you’ll have a hankering for more Brust the moment you finish Jhereg, so you may as well get the compendium to ensure that you don’t go hungry for a moment.

Books: Jhereg

One nice thing about getting older: it’s easier to pick out a book that I know in advance I’ll enjoy. I just select any novel that I read before 1997 and vaguely remember liking the first time; my lack of long-term memory (which appears to max out at about a decade) ensures that the ending will still be a surprise.

And so I recently reread Jhereg. Actually, I was doubly sure I would enjoy it, as I’d read it twice before — once shortly after its initial release in 1987, and a second time in the Peace Corps, some 10 years ago. It’s not one of my all-time favorite works of literature or anything, but it certainly lends itself to rereading: it’s short, it’s funny, it’s clever, and, despite the fact that it’s the first in a series of novels, it’s self-contained.

Though set in a fantasy world (and fond in the “Fantasy” section of your local bookstore), Jhereg is more of a mystery novel. In fact, it’s really two separate mysteries. The first revolves around a thief named Mellar, a former member of the Jhereg high council who embezzled an obscene amount of money and then promptly vanished. Another member of the council contacts the book’s protagonist, Vlad Taltos, and charges him with the task of tracking down the missing man and funds. Though this proves to be fairly easy, Vlad must still unravel the intricacies of the heist, to learn how and why Mellar committed the crime.

The second mystery is inverted and stacked atop the first. Because, you see, Vlad isn’t a private detective — he’s an assassin. He has been hired to bring Mellar to the authorities, but to very publicly kill him, to ensure that no one ever dare steal from the Jhereg again. To that end, Vlad must endeavor not to solve “the perfect murder,” but rather to plan an execute it. And Mellar does his best to make Vlad’s task difficult, setting up a Doomsday device of sorts, which prevents Vlad from striking even though he knows exactly where to find his target.

The is a rich backstore to Jhereg — about the 17 ruling houses, the difference between sorcery and witchcraft, and a complete bestiary of exotic creatures that inhabit the world — but author Steven Burst only reveals what you need to know to understand and enjoy the current chapter, never letting the narrative get bogged down in lengthy exposition. There is plenty of humor in the story (mostly witty repartee between Vlad, his assistant, Kragar, and his familiar Loiosh) but this isn’t one of those “comic fantasy novels,’ a la Terry Pratchett or Piers Anthony — though the characters joke around, their work is (literally) deathly serious. And Burst has written each of the nine books in the series such that no one book is a prerequisite for another, and each can be read, understood, and enjoyed independently.

I’m not really a huge fan of fantasy novels, so don’t let the genre deter you. Jhereg is a light, funny, inventive, and engrossing book, and one I look forward to reading again in 2017.

Books: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Shortly after Mr. and Mrs. Girl visited Seattle, Maggie wrote about her husband’s hithertofore secret addiction to Harry Potter on her website. I dropped her a note to sympathize:

Me: If we’d known our spouses shared the same affliction we could have gotten them going on Harry Potter and then slipped off to catch a movie.

Maggie: The Queen too, eh?

Me: And how. Fortunately she has lots of friends who also suffer the ravages of Pottermania, so I am spared the coerced conversations. But if she ever decides to attend an event that starts with some word coined by J.K. Rowlings and ends in “-con,” we should get together, the four of us, and stage a group intervention.

Maggie: If you think Bryan would help us stage a Potter intervention, you’re nuts. They’d be much more likely to overcome us, tie us to a sofa, and read aloud until our eyes glazed over.

Me: No no, by “group intervention” I meant you and I could get intervention for both of them at the same time. I figure we could get better rates that way.

Maggie: Bulk-rate Harry Potter intervention … now there’s a potential gold mine.

Me: Hey, yeah. We could stage a fake convention called MuggleCon or ConWeasley or somesuch, and people would urge their Potter-addled loved-ones to get all dressed up and go. And then, after everyone arrives, we would seal the doors and have a bunch of specialists would come in and intervene the shit out of everyone. PROFIT!

Maggie: However, as a conscientious business partner, I should point out that we could make a lot more money just organizing Mugglecon, and then robbing people blind for stuffed toy owls and boxed lunches. Of course, it would be tough to shower away the stench of shame afterwards…

The sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, had been released at the time I wrote this, but I hadn’t read it. Nor did I plan to. I’d read the first five books, but Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix was so dreadful that I swore off the series forever.

But then I found myself between novels, and Half-Blood Prince was laying around our house, and I figured I’d just read a few chapters to tide me over until my next trip to the library. And then …

Um, intervention for three, please.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is easily the best of the series, and the first I thoroughly enjoyed reading. And I’ll tell you why, too: J.K. Rowling’s publisher finally decided to assign her an editor. Her fourth and fifth books (Goblet of Fire and the aforementioned Order of the Phoenix) were released at the height of her popularity, at it was clear that no one dared edit The Sacred Word of Potter; as the result the books were long, rambling, unfocused, and boring. Worse, Rowling decided to make Harry act like a teen in the last few books, apparently forgetting that everyone hates teens for good reason. Half-Blood, on the other hand, while only slightly shorter in length than the previous book, has a much tighter narrative, one in which every scene actually advances the storyline (unlike earlier novel, where entire chapters could have been excised). And Harry stops acting so insufferable, so the whole thing doesn’t come across as a 800 page LiveJournal entry.

I’d recommend you read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The problem is that I cannot, in good conscious, recommend you read all the books that come before it.

So here’s my Harry Potter Reading Plan, similar in spirit to my How To Watch The Star Wars Prequels primers.

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The book is relatively short and you’ll breeze through it in a couple of bus rides, so you might as well read it. It’s enjoyable in a “kids book” kind of way, even though I was pissed that the “logic puzzle” the kids have to solve doesn’t make a goddamned bit of sense. The movie was also okay, though if you’ve seen any of the Lord of the Rings flicks you are bound to be disappointed. Just read the book, you pansy.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: If you read the first novel, you’ve already read this one too, as it has pretty much the same plot structure. The film too is rather lackluster. My advice: skip them both, read the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Wikipedia entry and call it a day.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: I actually liked this one quite a bit, and it was my favorite before I read Half-Blood Prince. Rowling starts introducing darker themes, and drops the standard Scooby-Doo plotline that she structed the first two novels around. The film is also pretty good, so take your pick.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Oh dear, here’s where everything goes pear-shaped. Entirely too long and utterly lacking in internal consistency, Goblet of Fire contains a couple of important revelations, but the story arc as a whole is sound + fury = nothing. Paradoxically, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the best of the four movies, so watch that instead.
  • Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix: AVOID. There’s no film yet but the Wikipedia page is exhaustive, so just read that.

Follow the above steps, read the surprisingly, um, readable Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and against your better judgement you’ll find yourself actually looking forward to the next and last book in the series, due to be released next year. I know I am.

Now, if I could only get this stench of shame out of my clothing.

Books: Hard Case Crime

Last year I embarked on an ambitious project to read the finest contemporary fiction, an endeavor I dubbed The 2005 Booklist Project. And it worked, for a while: I read House of Leaves, perhaps my favorite book of the last decade; I read other experimental fictions such as Cloud Atlas and The Time-Traveler’s Wife, as well as more traditional narratives such as Blindness and Oracle Night. And I loaded up my bedside table still more recommendations; Wicked, Gilead, Life Of Pi, etc.

And then, like a drinker who resolves only to drink only the finest Bordeaux and Pinot Noir, I rediscovered the joy off getting buzzed off of a $4 bottle of drugstore merlot. Or, in this case, I discovered Hard Case Crime.

Hard Case Crime is relatively new publishing house, one that specializes in new and vintage “hardboiled” pulp fiction novels. I’ve always been a fan of the genre (as a teen I read scores of Earl Stanley Gardner and Mickey Spillane), but, in the last decade, I had found my noir in cyberpunk, steampunk, Frank Miller comics, and films in which the cinematography is best described a “caliginous.” Hard Case Crime novels, though, are the real deal, full of deeply-flawed protagonists who reach for a .45 or a fifth of whiskey at the drop of a hat, and make unironic references to molls and mooks.

About half of the books in the series are reprints of classics for the form, and the others are brand new works by contemporary authors (though typically in the classic hardboiled era and tone). As most Hard Case Crime novels are around 200 pages, full of dialog, and compulsively readable, I can usually plow through an entire title in two evenings. Here are the five I have read since discovering the line:

  • 361 by Donald E. Westlake: 361 was my first, and a perfect introduction to the series. It’s a reprint of a classic by one of the masters of the hardboiled form, and served as a good primer on the genre. The hero finishes off a bottle of liquor on about every third page, tangles with the mob, and carries around a piece as nonchalantly as you or I might carry around orange Tic-Tacs. 361 isn’t especially well written, but I was nonetheless putting holds on every available Hard Case Crime novel at my local library moments after finishing it.
  • Plunder of the Sun by David Dodge: I don’t know if it’s because I spent a few years in South America, or because I had never read a “treasure hunt” novel before, but I enjoyed Plunder quite a bit. Like an Indiana Jones sequel written by Raymnd Chandler, Plunder has an archeologist hiring a petty criminal to help him locate a lost Incan fortune. Dodge manages to cram a surprising amount of ancient South American history into the book, too — enough that you feel like you’re learning something, but not so much that the story ever becomes academic. Plunder is a reprint, and recommended.
  • The Colorado Kid by Stephen King: Yes, that Stephen King. Apparently the editors at Hard Case Crime sent a few novels to King and asked if he would supply cover blurbs; instead he said he opted to write an book for the series. Colorado Kid is polarizing — lots of people hated it, many thought it pretty good. I’m in the latter category, though I’ll concede that the book is essentially a 70-page (and perhaps 20-page) short story padded out to 180 pages, the first third of which is undisguised throat-clearing.
  • Grifter’s Game by Lawrence Block: Block is one of my favorite modern dark mystery writers, but, honest to God, I can hardly remember a thing about this book, even having read it only few months ago. I don’t recall disliking it, but I don’t recall thinking it was anything special, either (despite its winning an Edgar award). Chalk it up as forgettable — though that’s not exactly a scathing indictment in a genre as light as this one.

    Fade To Blonde by Max Phillips: The copyright date on Blonde in 2004, but Phillips has the classic noir style down so pat that I had to double-check online to convince myself it wasn’t a reprint. He’s especially skilled at writing snappy patter, and the characters routinely exchanged banter that made me wish I was even half as clever with my own ad-libs. The story is kind of weak (and falls apart near the end), but the atmosphere, pacing, and dialogue are top-notch.

I get most of my Hard Case Crime novels from the library, but the books are exclusively paperback and typically only cost around $6, so I’ve purchased a few as well — and then, having read them, immediately give them to friends I thought would appreciate them. Hard Case even has a subscription program, where you get two novels a month for seven bucks. (I would sign up for that in a heartbeat if I hadn’t joined one of those “12 CDs for a penny!!” deals as a youth and found myself hounded by Columbia Records for years thereafter, instilling within me a lifelong fear of commercial “book clubs”. Man, there’s a Hard Case Crime novel idea right there: “CLUBBED TO DEATH: He signed on for the twelve CDs … and he never knew peace again!”)

Books: The Time-Traveler’s Wife

Note: This review is part of the Booklist 2005 Project.

The Time-Traveler’s Wife is full of surprises, but three of them are exceptional.

The first comes a few pages into the novel, when you discover that the titular time-traveler isn’t some aging jock reminiscing about the glory days or a widower who often gets lost in memories of happier times, but a man who can literally travel through time.

“Oh,” you say upon this realization, “Judging from the cover and the blurb on the back, I thought this was contemporary fiction or romantic drama, and that the phrase ‘time-traveler’ was metaphorical. But apparently not.” So you shift gears and adjust yourself to the fact that you are reading a sci-fi book.

The second surprise comes 100 pages later, when you realize that The Time-Traveler’s Wife is an contemporary fiction / romantic drama, in addition to being a sci-fi novel as well. “That’s certainly ambitious,” you think. “But there’s no way the author will be able to pull it off successfully.”

The third surprise is that, somehow, she does.

Henry De Tamble is the time-traveler, albeit an unwilling one. At seemingly random moments in his life he is abruptly flung to some other date — usually in the past, occasionally in the future — where he arrives, naked, onto or close to some scene relevant to his own life. Sometimes he winds up in his own house, and whiles away a few hours hanging out with a younger version of himself. Sometimes he goes far enough back to visit his own mother, who died when he was a boy. Usually he goes back and meets up with one Clare Abshire, the woman he will eventually marry.

He rendezvous with Clare so often that her entire childhood comes to revolve around his visits. Then, iat the age of 20, she bumps into the real-time Henry and, recognizing him as the man who will some day become her husband, invites him out for drinks. One thing leads to another, and the two are eventually hitched.

I’m a sucker for time-travel stories, but only those that get it right. By that I mean that the story needs to have an internally consistent set of rules that the universe adheres to, even when folks are popping into the past and theoretically influencing their own present. Sadly, very very few time-travel stories have met my high standards — Twelve Monkeys is honestly the only one that leaps to mind. In most, the sort of causal loop described above (Henry and Clare get married because Clare knows that she will eventually marry Henry) would pretty much torpedo the entire premise.

But author Audrey Niffenegger has done the near-impossible with The Time-Traveler’s Wife, writing a near-flawless time travel novel that sets ground rules and then scrupulously sticks to them. I would have liked it for this alone, and the fact that the literary romantic fiction half is pretty damned good too is icing on the cake.

Best of all, this is the kind of book that can be safely enjoyed by pretty much anyone: those who typically steer clear of sci-fi will appreciate it as contemporary literature; those who favor Greg Bear over Don DeLillo will groove on Niffenegger’s intriguing and well-executed ideas. In fact, I can see The Time-traveler’s Wife becoming my default suggestion when asked for a recommendation, and one that I foresee loaned out more often than it sits upon my shelf.

Counterpoint! The Queen’s succinct review: “The frickin annoying love story ruined the book for me.” Such a romantic, that gal o’ mine.

Books: Blindness

After I raved about House of Leaves, a reader suggested I check out Blindness by Jose Saramago, describing it as “another freak-out book.” I wasn’t really in the mood for another freak-out book, honestly, but I found Blindness at the library and brought it home with the intention of putting it on the bottom of my “to read” pile. But then — whoops! — I read the first chapter, and all of my queued up books were forgotten.

Blindness tells the tale of a great epidemic that sweeps through a small town (and perhaps the world, though the scope of the book is provincial), leaving its victims sightless but otherwise unaffected. The first few chapter trace the web of contagion as the disease is transmitted from one person to the next; then, about a third of the way through, the focus shifts to a small group of the infected who are struggling to survive while quarantined in an abandoned mental institution along with scores of similarly afflicted inmates.

The book was originally written in Portuguese, and translated into English. And I have a confession to make: I have an irrational aversion to translated novels. No matter how accomplished the “About The Authors” blurb claims the translator is, I always feel that I am missing out, that something must have surely been lost in the shuffle. Why can’t these author just learn to speak English as second language more fluently than most of us speak it as a first? You know, like Nabokov did. That said, the language in Blindness is rather stark and straightforward, almost Hemmingwayian, so this aspect of it didn’t bother me as much as it otherwise would.

What I did find somewhat irksome — until I grew accustomed to it, at least — was Saramago indifference to punctuation and grammatical rules. Entire conversations in Blindness are often contained in a single sentence, written in a “He said this and then she said that and then what do you mean?, he replied” manner that eschews quotation marks or any other devices that would aid the reader in determining who said what. Some have pointed out that this style mirrors the plight of the protagonists — that we, the reader, must suffer like the sightless, unable to determine where those voices are coming from in the absence of any visual cues.

Much of the novel plays out like a modern-day adaptation of Lord of the Flies, when men, severed from their old lives (here by the loss of a sense, rather than geographically) revert to their bestial natures. Indeed, the middle third of the book is mighty grim, so much so that, at one point, I almost abandoned it, wondering why I was voluntarily subjecting myself to something so depressing. Fortunately, the story already had its hooks in me, leaving me no choice to persevere.

I did not find Blindness to be a “freak-out book” — not on par House of Leaves, at any rate. For one thing, I was unable to suspend my disbelief enough to completely buy into the premise. But, to be fair, Saramago doesn’t try to make the narrative believable, choosing instead to write the story more as an allegory. (None of the characters have names, for instance.) Consequentially, I felt a few steps removed from the action. And while it bummed me out at times, freaked out I was not. Still, an excellent and gripping read, and one I would recommend.

Books: Gringos

Gringos is a novel. It is by Charles Portis who lives in Arkansas, where he was born and educated. Thr book is about brightly painted walls and men in hats reading books. Just regular men wearing hats, not the 80’s pop group “Men In Hats.” If I had to describe Charles Portis I would agree with Ron Rosenbaum of Esquire who called him “perhaps the most original, indescribable sui generis talent overlooked by literary culture in America.” Though, to be honest, I have no idea what “sui generis” means …

Okay, okay. I didn’t finish Gringos like I said I would. but that’s okay, because you didn’t either. So everyone gets another week before the review — huzzah!

Books: CivilWarLand In Bad Decline and Eastern Standard Tribe

Note: These reviews are part of the Booklist 2005 Project.

The Queen read CivilWarLand In Bad Decline before I did, and when I finished the first short story in the collection I was eager to discuss the book with her. “What did you think of it?” I asked her.

“Eh,” she said. “It was kinda repetitive.”

“Repetitive?!” said I. “Are you kidding? This is one of most original books I’ve read in a long time, and the author, George Saunders has a remarkably distinctive voice. I’m really enjoying it.”

The Queen just shrugged — her way of saying, “Come talk to me again when you realize I’ve won this argument.”

So I read the rest of the stories. And, yeah: kinda repetitive.

The stories in CivilWarLand remind me of those found in Barrel Fever, the first book by humorous David Sedaris. Before he started writing exclusively about himself and his family, Sedaris cranked out a couple of very funny fictional stories (including one of my all-time favorites, “Glen’s Homophobia Newsletter Vol. 3, No. 2”), full of cynicism and characters that act in widely inappropriate ways. But unlike Sedaris, most of Saunders’ narratives have a science-fiction cast, set in a near future where business life and American life have become synonymous and the public vernacular has become infested with self-help affirmations and corporate jargon.

In almost all cases, the protagonists in the tales are average people struggling to stay afloat in Saunders’s dystopia. And while each provoked me to laugh out loud a time or two, I did feel like I was reading the story over and over again by the time I reached the novella “Bounty.” It didn’t help that, halfway through “Bounty,” I realized that I had read it before, ten years ago when it first appeared in Harper’s.

An reviewer advises suggests that you read no more than one CivilWarLand story per month, and while that might be a little overboard, I’m inclined to agree that spacing them out somewhat is probably wise. Still: very funny in small doses.

Also set “five minutes in the future” is Cory Doctorow’s Eastern Standard Tribe (which you can read for free, along with all of his other works, at While humorous, the setting for EST is much less absurd than that found in CivilWarLand, and the author seems more intent on provoking thought about the ramifications of our current technology than in waylaying the reader with non sequiturs in the hopes of generating belly laughs. But then, having laid the groundwork for a philosophical thriller, the book abruptly becomes conventional, alternating between a rather standard swindle story and a conundrum lifted straight from ‘Catch-22’ (so much so that even the novel’s main character remarks upon the similarity).

EST is short, which is both its failing (in that it doesn’t deliver on the promise of it’s opening chapter) and its saving grace (as once the plot devolves into something unremarkable, the hasty conclusion keeps it from outstaying its welcome). I quite enjoyed Doctorow’s writing style and there were plenty of great ideas to be explored in this book (even if, ultimately, I felt like they got the short shrift), and I look forward to reading more by him. If Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom is as good as I’ve heard, EST will have served as a nice appetizer.