Category Archives: net galley

Cutting you off

The Water knife

By

Paolo Bacigalupi

A NetGalley Review

 

The Southern USA has lost its battle with water profligacy and has become the desert it once was.

The Colorado River is even more embattled than it currently is and water is in such short supply that control over it is maintained by armies of private mercenaries who cut supply to towns as legal battles are waged.colorado 300px-ColoradoTexas_Watershed

This story is an extension of the current situation in the Southern States where already the Colorado River shows signs of running dry as is documented by Peter McBride and the National Smithsonian Magazine.

They say:

The Colorado River is the seventh largest river in the U.S., … It is also one of the most diverted, silted, and heavily litigated rivers in the world. The farmers and residents of the rapidly growing western states rely on the river for irrigation, drinking water, and electricity. This demand has permanently altered the river’s ecology. http://www.petemcbride.com/coloradoriver/

Beginning in the 1920s, Western states began divvying up the Colorado’s water, building dams and diverting the flow hundreds of miles, to Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and other fast-growing cities. The river now serves 30 million people in seven U.S. states and Mexico, with 70 percent or more of its water siphoned off to irrigate 3.5 million acres of cropland.

Climate change will likely decrease the river’s flow by 5 to 20 percent in the next 40 years, says geoscientist Brad Udall, director of the University of Colorado Western Water Assessment. Less precipitation in the Rocky Mountains will yield less water to begin with. Droughts will last longer. Higher overall air temperatures will mean more water lost to evaporation.

The Colorado no longer regularly reaches the sea.

Invasive plants, such as salt cedar and cattails, now dominate the delta, a landscape of seemingly endless mud flats where forests used to stand. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-colorado-river-runs-dry-

When we visited California ourselves we saw the dry and arid dust bowls that were created by the diversions – areas that were once farms in a desert. We also saw Californians watering lawns daily or twice daily in temperatures of over 30 degrees and planting water thirsty plants rather than aloes and agaves and cacti which would survive better as this is their native habitat.  So the outcome proposed in this book is, in many ways, not such an extension of what we can expect to be reality in not so many years in the future.

The self-contained blocks described in the book were an interesting application of modern technology which permits water recycling and conservation – we ourselves could have a grey water system installed from our rainwater conservation but at the present we don’t need to.

And we already see buildings like  the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design with six stories, 50,000 square feet, that won’t use a single watt of electricity from the grid, nor a drop of water from downtown Seattle – using ground pumps for heating and rainwater.

There is also a set of regulations in existence that govern a living building design but with water being provided by rainwater rather than river water

So the book started well but then got repetitive as we needed to move from what is a very real tomorrow possibility further into the future. I got bored around 50-60% through so I have downgraded this from 4 stars to 3.

 

Congregate if you dare

A NetGalley review of

The Congregation

by

Desiree Bombenon.

A congregation of the abused, strong in their determination to channel their emotional hurt into something positive –  for them – but in reality a destructive act of great consequences.

A story of just what lengths people will go when they have been hurt by those they trusted. From the child battered by a parent; to a child abused by a person in a position of trust suh as a priest or social worker; to a wife beaten on a regular absis by her abusive controlling husband; all will go to extreme lengths to demonstrate just how damaged they are by what has happened to them.

The legacy of such tragedy goes on echoing down the generations and the Roman Catholic Church still has not fully answered for its sins – or so those in the Congregation would attest.

In Chicago, there were a number of allegations of sexual and physical abuse in the RC church carried out by priets of varying ranks. So much so that  Andrew Greeley wrote The Priestly Sins (2004), a novel about a young priest from the Plains States who is exiled to an insane asylum and then to an academic life because he reports abuse that he has witnessed.

Fall from Grace is a 1993 novel by Father Greeley. It is a story of sin and corruption in leading Irish Catholic families in Chicago and the cover up of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. [Wikipedia]

It is clear from records now released that the RC church including Jesuits and schools in Chicago hid the behaviour of priests such as  Donald McGuire and Daniel McCormack who are now convicted. So the setting was very important for this novel.

The other issue that drives tis story is the church’s stance on homosexuality. Apparently, it is OK to have such thoughts, but not to act on them.  Between 20 and 60 percent of all Catholic priests are gay, according to one estimate cited by Donald Cozzens in his book The Changing Face of the Priesthood. This is a higher percentage than in the general population and there has been much speculation that a gay lobby exists within the Vatican power brokers. Nevertheless, being known to be gay in the priesthood, is a recipe for blackmail and so we see in this story also.

These are both very important issues and either would have made for a great thriller by other authors, but this story lacks tension and insufficient complications and mis-directions to provide for a really satisfactory read. Thi is sad as the auhor has picked a great possibility but has not followed through. We found out the perpetrators too early and the hero/heroine had too little to do to unravel the plot.

So this is a light version of a conspiracy novel that would work for those not familiar for the genre and wanting an introduction but for me lacked depth.

 

Play ball with me

Hail Storme

by W.I. Ripley

A NetGalley Review

The characters just rip up a storm in this book – literally and figuratively – all puns intended..

This is the first book in the Storme series and as such introduces you to the characters of Wyatt Storme and here, his mysterious buddy Chick, who claims to be just a skip tracer but turns out to be something more, and really has such useful skills I hope he stays for the rest of the series.

As the first novel in a series it is set not that long after the Vietnam War or Second Indochina War, 1954–1973 (or what did the US call it? They certainly didn’t admit that their soldiers were at war – just supporting or advising?). In any event it left significant numbers of Vets as they began to be called traumatised and with PTSD – often unrecognised – which left them liable to nightmares and flashbacks that hindered their ability to maintain a successful life outside the military after returning home. This fact is still not always admitted.

Over 20 years, more than 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and more than 150,000 were wounded. Yet the US were not the only troops fighting – we hear little about the Australians, the New Zealanders and the South Koreans who also fought.

Public opinion was initially in favour of the intervention and thus the majority of those fighting volunteered rather than were drafted and this included those in minority races as well as white Americans.

Here are some facts – not too many though:

  • 9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the official Vietnam era from August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975.
  • 2,709,918 Americans served in uniform in Vietnam.
  • Vietnam Veterans represented 9.7% of their generation.
  • 8,148 soldiers were killed in Vietnam.
    • 75,000 were severely disabled.
    • 23,214 were 100% disabled.
    • 5,283 lost limbs.
    • 1,081 sustained multiple amputations.
    • Of those killed, 61% were younger than 21.
    • 11,465 of those killed were younger than 20 years old.
    • Of those killed, 17,539 were married.
    • Average age of men killed: 23.1 years.
    • Five men killed in Vietnam were only 16 years old.
    • The oldest man killed was 62 years old.
    • As of January 15, 2004, there are 1,875 Americans still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

So Wyatt Storme came back from the war and made a career in American Football which seems to be a very rough sport indeed from the tactics her learnt to subdue opponents. but the violence on the field became too comfortable and led to a lifestyle that is all too common amongst the rich and famous. Eventually however, he realises that his football tactics are emulating his fighting in the Vietnam War tactics far too freely and gives up his career – with the usual footballer injuries of course.

He is still full of testosterone and chivalry it seems and can’t let a wrong go un-righted and so gets involved where others would not in a local dispute that ends up with people dying. “People talk about what they want and who they are: few are concerned with duty and responsibility – the things we must do to be what we are.”

I did enjoy this book and read it very quickly – within 24 hours as the style is easy and uncomplicated and you did want to find out just what was going on and who was involved and who was the goody and who the baddy – and this seemed to change as you read on.

I did bookmark the stuff about male clothes in this book as there seemed to be a fascination with what people wore: oxblood loafers came up several times – which seems to be a shade of red that is popular; not sure why Haggar slacks/pants are mentioned as they are a style of trouser that is very casual and rather baggy but add in the oxford cloth shirt and you have a preppy style that is very popular in the US. Florsheim shoes are also still available and again a very classic look.

London Fog raincoats – or trench coats are not sold in the UK but seem again to be a very traditional style. It is interesting that although this book was first published in 1993, the clothing ranges are still current – in the US, I doubt if they would be in the UK. Now I just was fascinated by Gglen plaidlen Plaid and so found myself a photo of it:

Not forgetting that the Rep or Repp tie is again a preppy essential – the diagonal striped tie.rep tie