Sunday, July 20, 2008

Stealing Athena By Karen Essex

Wonderfully researched, the story transverses the time of the Napoleonic Wars when a young heiress marries the British Ambassador to Constantinople and Greece two millenna earlier. The Ambassador, Lord Elgin, is determined to get permission to deconstruct the Parthenon and Athena’s Shrine, his beautiful and charming wife, Mary, helps him to obtain the firman . This will eventually cost him his fortune, his wife’s fortune and eventually his marriage. Two thousand years earlier, Apasia, a female philosopher and courtesan assists Pericles in defending the idea of building the exquisite monuments for the glory of Athens.
The descriptions of life in early Greece are fascinating; the powerful notion that the Greek Gods rule all aspects of life and that Athena was responsible for all good and directly punished all bad played a central part in the theme. Interestingly, the novel described a trial in Athens where Apasia is accused of insulting the gods, the manner in which she is accused and her limited defense because she was a woman. Mary Elgin is also tried in court for adultery and as an "unfit" mother.
The author, Karen Essex, has taken characters out of history and put them into a splendid tale of romance and adventure. This was an excellent read! Ms Essex’s other novels include very strong heroines.

Foundation and Earth By Isaac Asimov

Asimov’s extraordinary and remarkable "Foundation" series is a masterpiece of science fiction. It started as a trilogy and was first published in 1951.

Mankind has escaped Earth and has colonized the Galaxy; there are hundreds of thousands of worlds peopled by billions of people. A galactic Empire has been formed with great technical achievements and great cultural differences. A professor of Mathematics, Hari Seldon has worked out a plan that he calls "psychohistory which, if followed ,will enable the leaders of the Empire to see and understand and predict things that will happen in the future. The Empire has ruled for 12,000 year but it is dying and Seldon through psychohistory foresees a "dark age of 30,000 years. In order to preserve knowledge and technology he pulls together the best minds and places them on a remote planet. He calls the sanctuary the Foundation.
"Foundation and Empire"\
"Second Foundation"
The Next two novels deal with the experiences of the fledgling Foundation, the rise of the Empire and the founding of a second Foundation and battle between first and second Foundation.
Asimov, also, wrote other amazing novels; he wrote a "robot" series wherein he created the laws under which all robots must act and in this series he took us back in time to when mankind first developed interstellar travel and began to escape Earth. The characters, the stars and planets, and the different cultures including a world where all activity was conducted by robots, become a hazy background in the later written additional two "Foundation" novels.
It is such a pleasure to read this authors novels and short stories. Other science fiction authors owe a lot to Asimov for his creative ideas.

Foundation's Edge By Isaac Asimov

This is a reread that I recently finished along with the conclusion to the "Foundation" series.

The Queen's Gambit By Walter Tevis

Only some one who loves the game of chess could have written this delightful story of an eight year old orphan who learns chess from the janitor of the institution she was placed in when both her parents were killed in an accident. By the age of sixteen she is competing for the US open Championship and she goes on to play international Masters and Grand Masters. The intriguing part of the novel is the authors ability to bring the reader to the chess board so each move and the strategy for the following moves is shown to the reader. The girl, Beth, is clearly a chess genius. She studies and plays all the masters and can play the games in her head with out a chess board. The story of her growing to an adult and her many chess matches unfolds with excitement and suspense and a certain amount of pathos. This was an excellent novel; I wanted to get my board and follow the games.