Who is Northwest Smith?

Northwest Smith is an entirely fictional character, but that does not stop him from being a voracious reader (his full-time job and various "monkey hustles", as he so quaintly calls them, are responsible for that). When he finds something he likes, he shares with others, being the generous and erudite soul that he is.

From the Desk of N.W. Smith

06/19/05: while doing some modifications to my own t-shirt and buttons, I found this hilarious t-shirt design in the "Military" section. It's part of the Native Press store at the Cafe Press website. Click to see a much larger and better scan of the product. Reminded me of the book Custer Died for Your Sins: it's a little dated in places (much of it was written in the late 1960's thru early 1970's), but the anger is genuine and the humor is biting (the explanation of why anthropologists are the greatest curse the white man has ever inflicted on Native Americans made me laugh so hard I pulled something), but like the t-shirt you'll either love it or it will p*ss you off.

06/10/05: Just got done with Neutronium Alchemist: Conflict, the fourth book of Peter F. Hamilton Reality Dysfunction series.

This is an amazing series that, among other things, turns around a spectacularly spiritual event occurring in the 26th Century: amidst nano-technology, bio-engineering, various forms of telepathy, living starships and space stations, bizarre alien races, and super-weapons including anti-matter and a star-killing bomb, the souls of the dead begin to occupy the bodies of the living with the goal of replacing humanity utterly with the approximately 900 billion spirits trapped in a bleak, chaotic after-life! And that's just the central plot line, amidst a literal cast of millions, with a main and supporting cast now easily into the hundreds!

Originally published in the UK as a trilogy, each of the sprawling 1500 page volumes (the total length of J.R.R. Tolkien Lord of the Rings, to give you a little perspective!) were broken down for USA publication into two books, resulting in a six-volume science fiction epic that tips the scales at 4500 pages!

Despite this great length, and that aforementioned big cast of characters, Hamilton has written a clear, propulsive narrative that hooks you hard enough that you literally don't want to stop reading (I typically polish off 100 to 200 pages at a sitting with these books). And it's not just a well-told space opera: all the characters have evolved over the course of the series so far, some positively, some negatively, and some in both directions at once! If anything, there is an underlying theme of the importance of "growing up": of facing your responsibilities, about making tough choices and living with the consequences. There are also occassional touches of humor and satire, both of which are welcome given the often grim battle between the living and the possessed.

06/04/05: Look at the size of that b*st*rd! Ten-feet from his back paws to the top of his head in the picture to the right. It's a liger (half lion, half tiger), and technically it's the biggest of the big cats: when he's full grown (yup, still a cub), he'll be a good twelve feet when he "stands" like this and tip the scales at 1200+ pounds. Sucker eats 20 pounds of chicken or beef a day and can eat 100 pounds at a sitting if you let him . . . and I dare you NOT to let him, buddy . . . in fact, I double-dog dare yah . . .

It was this picture to the left that reminds me of a series of heroic fantasy novels by Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron (7 in all, though the first three and second trilogy are published in single volumes) called the Gandalara Cycle. In it, a normal human being finds his soul transported to the strapping young body in an alternate world that's mostly desert, were his companion animal is a big, saber-toothed cat that bares a striking resemblance to Junior over there (see, there IS a connection here). No sooner does this person take up residence, though, then he is plunged into a series of intrigues and adventures that seem to be related to what the previous owner of his host-body did to make a living. But there are bigger things at state than this one person's neck, and the hero sets out to deal with those problems as well.

Unfortunately, this series is out of print: the cover links below are to Amazon, where various used copies are for sale from various individuals and stores.

05/28/05:Just finished Sharpe's Sword: another ripping yarn! Nobody writes battle scenes and makes the strategies and tactics of Napoleonic warfare so easy to understand as Mr. Cornwell. I played dozens of Napoleonic wargames when I was in college, just about all of them from SPI, from two hour blood'n'thunders to 1500 counter, 3-map monsters that took as long to fight as the original battles: never truly understood what the hell was going on. But six books into this series, and I'm critiquing Wellington!

Starting up on Sharpe's Trafalgar next.

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