In case you haven’t noticed – I’m slowing down the pace of the book club, limiting the selections to a single title a month in order to – hopefully – give you all enough time to read and participate in the discussion. In a couple of weeks, we’ll be discussing James Enge’s fantasy debut Blood of Ambrose that Dr. Who‘s Paul Cornell describes as: “rich, witty, aware of its genre’s traditions but not bound by them, with a new surprise of plot or turn of phrase every moment.”. Looking ahead to August, I wanted to pick an SF title, preferably something character-driven, something clever and engaging and, well, altogether wonderful. And as I was considering the possibilities, my gaze fell on THE perfect book sitting on my book shelf. Character-driven, clever, engaging, and wonderful, it won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 2003. August’s book of the month club pick…

The Speed of Dark, by Elizabeth Moon

The Speed of Dark

From “Corporate life in early 21st-century America is even more ruthless than it was at the turn of the millennium. Lou Arrendale, well compensated for his remarkable pattern-recognition skills, enjoys his job and expects never to lose it. But he has a new boss, a man who thinks Lou and the others in his building are a liability. Lou and his coworkers are autistic. And the new boss is going to fire Lou and all his coworkers–unless they agree to undergo an experimental new procedure to “cure” them.”

As a rule, I tend to steer clear of books I’ve already read but this is one of my absolute favorites, a beautifully written, enormously touching, altogether tremendous story that you don‘t have to be a fan of science fiction to enjoy. Allow me to reiterate and underscore: Even if you generally don’t read science fiction, do yourself a favor and pick up this book. Like I said, I don’t usually choose novels I’ve already read but, in this case, tradition is trumped by a desire to introduce as many new readers as possible to this exceptional work.

Discussion on The Speed of Dark will begin Monday, August 3rd and we’ll be joined by author Elizabeth Moon.

Hey, you know who’s great?  My buddy Carl. Not only is he a terrific sounding board for story ideas and run-throughs of prospective jewel heists, but he’s incisive, humorous and guaranteed to go off on at least one hugely entertaining rant a day. Oh, and he’s also very informative, a wealth of reality show trivia and topical web links. And so today, I present a couple of items from the Need to Know file, compliments of Mr. Binder….

The first is The Greatest Movie Review Ever! Roger Ebert’s take on the latest Michael Bay two and half hour oeuvre, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. His review begins: “ “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments.” – and then he really lets loose. Brilliant!

The second is list of The 13 Most Unintentionally Disturbing Children’s Toys, put together by the fine folks at I got to get me one of them remote controlled yodeling lederhosen.

55 thoughts on “June 24, 2009: August’s Book of the Month Club Selection. And – BEST. MOVIE REVIEW. EVER!

  1. Hey Joe

    Pretty high commendations for that book.. Perhaps I’ll join in for August’s BotM. Will it be at the end of August? (I’m writing my MCATs in august and will likely be cramming for that right up until I do so…)

    Do you not usually re-read books? I’m one of those people who will read a beloved book over and over (and over).. It usually drives my dad crazy ’cause he can’t figure out why you’d want to read (or watch) something over again.

    Have you been following the situation in Iran? It seems to get worse everyday….

    Well, back to studying bio 😛

  2. Wow, just…wow. That “The 13 Most Unintentionally Disturbing Children’s Toys” is simultaneously horrifying and utterly *hilarious*

  3. Hello Joe:

    Right. I am absolutely sure of it this time. You are conspiring against me and all of the people on this thread whose questions you never answer. We patiently post questions right after you have answered a bunch of other questions, certain, that this time will be the one in a million (or is that 14 million) chance that you will answer our questions. Yes, Joe, we know about you. Like Canada’s lottery regulars, we return almost daily to offer a question that will pique your interest in the hope you will answer it. But you never do. Again and again we are thwarted. Well, enough is enough. Next time I return, I am going to buy so many tickets, er, I mean, I am going to ask so many questions that you will have to answer at least one. So there, smarty. The game’s afoot, as Sherlock Holmes would say. I urge all my fellow ignorees to follow my lead and post a minimum of one question. Then Joe will regret messing with us.


  4. Holy Crud. BotM club time again? Time to figure out where I put Blood of Ambrose and get busy….I’ve been reading several books more or less simultaniously, grabbing whichever novel has been handiest. And love that Elizabeth Moon has had a work selected. The links were also amusing, with the singing lederhosen and the evisceration Ernie dolls creeping me out the most. Just what I need to see before attempting to head to bed.

  5. Hey Joe,

    Thanks for the heads up on the next book selection. Sorry I’ve been a little absent of late from the BOTM. Not that I add anything of value!

    I’ve been reading the Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn. It came recommended to me by a friend and after Googling discovered that it’s a pseudonym for my favourite childhood author, Gillian Rubenstein. I still have her books Space Demons and Skymaze in pristine condition on my shelf in my office. How did I not recognise before finding your blog that I loved Sci Fi/Fantasy?

    Take care.

  6. Okay, this did it for me: “Lou and his coworkers are autistic.” My son is nonverbal but autistic. So this book has peaked my interest. I will try my very, very best to read it. I go to my ladies book club on Sunday this week once again not being able to get the book read. I’m surprised after 2 years (or maybe more) they haven’t kicked me out. I think they feel sorry for me because they know it is the few times I get out of the house away from my son for fun, a break I desperately need. Let’s see how well people with autism are displayed within the book. Most are stereotypes, like Rain Man.

    Thank you again, Mr. Mallozzi, for letting my hijack your blog in an attempt to get support for Lou Diamond Phillips. In case you haven’t heard, he won for his charity.

  7. I understand that Roger Ebert has the right to his own opinion, but after I see Transformers on Friday, I’m going to have a few words to say to him. If someone is going to review anything – movie, book, whatever – the least he can do is get facts straight. As a huge fan of the first movie (and I grew up with the toys with my brother) I was bothered right away that Ebert kept saying Deciptibots. They are NOT Decipbots, they’re DeciptiCONS. Then he goes off to talk about Sam Witwicky’s parents (who were stupid in the first movie but that is what made them funny) and he said they were the parents of Shia LeBeouf. I noticed that a few times, Ebert would mix the names of characters with the names of the actors. Even if someone who is reviewing a movies hates that movie, do us all a favor and pay attention to the facts and get stuff straight. I never go by the reviews of critics. I have my own opinions and am perfectly capable of making them. I don’t need someone to tell me what to think of a movie or a book until I watch or read it. I didn’t mean to go off on you Jow, but there is my opinion and I will let you know what I think of the movie Friday night, if I remember.

  8. I just got back from watching Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen, and it was great. I will admit some of it didn’t flow well and there are some dull moments, even during the action sequences, but for the most part, Ebert is a f*cking retard. It was all explained crystal clear why they were going to Egypt, at points they even reiterated so much that it wore thin. Sam explained it to the Autobots, then the Decipticons figured it out, then Sam informed the US soldiers, who in turn told the Pentagon.
    Like I said they did throw on the brakes just to insert a couple jokes, which were funny, but had nothing to do with the storyline. But I thought they did a good job sticking with the Transformers mythology, so to speak. Although they did have to make changes to adapt it to the current generations audience. If you are familiar with Michael Bay then you know what you are getting into. Tons of explosions, slow mo, big battle sequences. It is a must see, no home theatre system will even come close to a theatrical viewing.

    On the topic of Roger Ebert, I think he is way past his time, he needs to walk away while he kind of has his dignity. The times change and so does society, the days of The Sound Of Music, Citizen Kane, and Casablanca are over. It’s about what the fans want, and rightfully so, since we PAY to watch movies, and don’t get PAID to degrade them. I don’t know how this guy still has a job, when all he does is bash the movie industry who write his cheques. The current generation prefer the eye candy over a deep story, and if they are willing to put up the money for it, why not? I don’t know a single person who would be willing to watch or not watch a movie because of what one single person says. And if you are about to direct me to the portion of his entry that shows the European reviews, let me direct your attention to the US reviews of “Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy”. I would also like to reinforce my point that pretty much anybody that disliked Transformers either, never watched the show, played with a toy, or is over the age of 50. But their kids will absolutely love it!!

  9. Hey,

    Just wondering, you mentioned you would pick up Battlestar Galactica a few months ago. Have you got round to that yet?
    I love both BSG and Stargate, I’m not picking favourites here or anything, but I would love to know what you think about BSG.
    Also the composer for BSG is quite incredible. Not so much in season 1, but from season 2 the soundtrack is amazing (particularly episode 12 of season 2).
    I’m not saying he’s better than Joel (Endless Horizons is orgasmic) but please keep your ears open when watching it 😀

  10. My 3:30-am-roll-out-of-bed-check-the-net-en-route-to-the-bathroom eyes read that line as “Hey, you know who’s great? My hubby Carl.” My half-asleep brain instantly thought, “Aha! The truth comes out!”

    Still…I’m not so sure there wasn’t some truth in my subconscious misperception. 😉

    Oh, and MY hubby came home tonight with the same exact information regarding Transformers – too long, too stupid. Shame…I was looking forward to it. Maybe on DVD.

    However, I must disagree with Ebert when he says, “although never in the history of science fiction has an alien been harmed by gunfire.”

    Obviously, he’s never watched Stargate: Atlantis. 😛

    Oh, speaking of Wraith (which I was), and more specifically Todd’s alterego, Chris – and even more specifically his cousin (I believe that’s the relation) – I got the biggest kick last night as I was reading Wolverine First Class #15 (Wolvie’s flashback to the ’80s book), and came across this:

    Kitty: “I want you to fix it so my friends and I can meet Thor!”
    Wolverine: “I told you, I don’t know the guy!”
    Kurt: “Thor, the Thunder God?”
    Kitty: No, Thor Heyerdahl.”
    Wolverine: “Actually, that I could arrange. He owes me for helping him build the Kon-Tiki.”


    Almost 4 am, better get back to sleep!


  11. Do you ever read biographies or autobiographies? Not the ‘my mum dropped me on my head as a baby then I became a reality tv star’ kind but ones like Michael J Fox’s which are humourus/intelligent? If you were going to read an autobiography who’s would it be?

  12. i didnt read the whole review because im gonna see the movie soon, i really liked the first one so who knows. the thing that i dont get is that these people who makes these movies are obviously smart enough to understand what went wrong with the first one, so why did they repeat the same mistakes again? i find the hard part to be all the action and CGI but the story that accompanies it is easier to create. Im guessing for such big movies they dont have much time to think of something good.

  13. Found in a “retro” shop in Mechelen, Belgium this June….definitely a contender for “scariest doll in the world”…

    Guaranteed to give your little darlings nightmares for years to come!…

    Deeds xx

  14. Elizabeth Moon = excellent writer. I’ve enjoyed many of her books. I’ll have to refresh on this one for the discussion.

    My memory isn’t what it used to be; maybe I can start re-reading fave books… naw. Too many new ones still unread.

  15. My absolute favourite line from the Guardian’s review is:

    “Like watching paint dry while getting hit over the head with a frying pan!” (Bradshaw, Guardian)”

    I must admit, Michael Bay films sit somewhat uncomfortably with me. I walked out of Armageddon after about 5 minutes and only re-watched it when it came out on DVD. Even then it involved a lot of stop-starting until the film finished.

  16. OK, I’ll cave to the August selection. That one fits my usual “can’t put it down” genre.

    Good thing we have Carl on the lookout…

  17. Joe,

    I read a novel years ago that I am now trying to find the name of. Can you or anyone reading this help?

    The story is about a space faring naval fleet. The lead character is a young man who isn’t prepared to deal with problems that occur on his first tour of duty out of the academy. He firstly ends up as captain after the death, due to accident or health problems of the higher ranking officers. He then has to fend of mutiny by executing by hanging a lower ranking officer as punishment. This is all then made worse by the fact the all singing and all dancing AI computer goes nuts.

    Does it ring any bells. The story was one of 3 books or a trilogy.

    Thanks Frances.

  18. Hmmm, Mr Ebert let go alright,,but he said something like in the history of sci-fi never has an alien been hurt by gunfire, Does he not know of the replicators, thats pretty alien, and guns worked on them. What planet was he on when that happened,??,(Ha ha) 😯

  19. Hi again Mr M!

    Wow, very high recommendations for the BOTM!

    HRH and their Imperial Majesties and I are off on holidays on July 6th, heading to the South of Spain. I have 3 books packed (ambitious I know) but I have decided to pack this too! I am deperately finishing up Zoe’s Tale and am half way through Camp Concentration, trying to finish before I go. Is there anything worse than bringing a half finished book on holiday – finishing it on Day 2 and watch it languish on the table for the rest of the break? All new books at start is the rule!

    Loved the creepy toys.. Would make a few additions such as the creepy “My Little Pony”….Here have some minature plastic horse-like doll with psychadelic hair colour…and you can brush it!?!?! Would LOVE to have been at the pitch for that one!!
    Also – don’t knock Dr Drill’n’Fill…..he’s a *cough* useful educational tool….

    When do you guys break up for hiatus?

    Talk soon


  20. HA HA HA HA HA HA Not gonna lie, I have one of those flying monkey things. We also have one in the office and it drives me nuts. I should send it to you.

    The weirder part is how I got it.

    Two of my friends got married in a most unorthodox way and at the end of the ceremony we were instructed to reach under our seats, pull out the monkey that had been gaffed to the bottom and let the bugger fly.

    I feel I should mention my complete loathing for monkeys.

    Thanks for the list, I’ve had a crap week and that made me laugh so hard I was crying. I want some yodeling lederhosen. Simply genius.

  21. I’ve just put a hold on Speed of Dark (I like that title). Have to get it from another library (so what’s new). I really want to be able to participate in BOTM. The only BOTM novel I think I’ve read was months later so I didn’t get to be in on the discussions and that sucked. Of course I have to finish the latest Janet Evanovich first, which is freakin’ hilarious.

    Cheers, Chev

  22. “The humans, including lots of U.S. troops, shoot at the Transformers a lot, although never in the history of science fiction has an alien been harmed by gunfire.”


    Goa-uld, Jaffa, Wraith, Replicators…

    Aliens all, Roger…

  23. I don’t really pay all that much attention to movie reviews. Invariably I like the movies the critics hate, so I guess it’s thumbs up for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

    Cheers, Chev

  24. @caitlyanna that was so annoying when he mixed up their names, even the picture is captioned as “Megan Fox and Sam Witwicky”. How can people take him seriously when he doesn’t know what he is talking about??? I honestly don’t think he watches the movies anymore, he just hires people for 1/10th his salary to watch the movie and tell him what happens.

  25. @ Moe Moe – Regarding your comments yesterday about Wraith reproduction…

    I think most bee/wasp reproductive biology can be applied to Wraith – especially embryonic development in cells (or pods, in the case of Wraith), males from unfertilized eggs (females from fertilized), stored semen, and even some sort of ‘royal jelly’ that allows a Queen to develop in the first place.

    As far as the stored semen aspect – well, I would say that a virgin Queen, upon maturity to both feed on humans and take command of a hive, would naturally mate. Exactly how this happens is up to one’s imagination. Like most creatures mate? Or would there be some process that involves the hive ship itself? All in vitro fertilization?

    Hey, for all we know, it’s all done with a sturdy handshake!! 😀

    (Adds a whole new meaning to Todd’s offered hand to Samantha in The Seer, eh?? 😉 )


  26. The Roger Ebert review sounds delish! I was feeling a little shadenfreudish this morning!

  27. I actually own this book – it’s part of my embarrassingly large “to be read – someday” collection. Maybe now I’ll finally get around to reading it!

  28. Oh, and just for the record…

    I don’t sit around thinking about Wraith reproduction all day…



  29. Since you’ve cut your BOTM selections down to one a month (or one a time period, whichever), I may actually have the time and lucre necessary to join in. There are so very many books, and only one lifetime.

    As for the Transformers review, if Roger Ebert hates it, I probably will enjoy it, at least on a thoughtless, escapist, visceral level. Which is usually what I watch movies for, anyway.

    The toys? The reviewer obviously doesn’t have children, doesn’t have experience with children, and doesn’t understand their love of slime, absurd ugliness, and unexpected surprises. Which might apply to Roger Ebert, btw.

  30. As a long time reader and only a couple of comments here and there, I’ve got to say how glad I am that you’ve limited the BOTM reads! I’ve tried but continue to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of books. I cannot seem to keep up. I do attempt to read most of them and have enjoyed most of what you’ve introduced me to, I’m just never finished reading in time to comment. Thanks. Perhaps now I can actually participate. I’ll pick up “The Speed of Dark” this week.

    I read a couple of weeks back that you had read some of Neal Stephenson’s work – I’d like to plug “Snowcrash” as one of my all time favorite books. I hope you pick it up one day and enjoy as much as I did.

  31. @F-fae-glasgow – I believe you are thinking of Midshipman’s Hope in the Seaforth Saga by David Feintuch.

  32. Okay… could you please answer the following question… PLEASE? PWETTY PWEASE? I just had a conversation with a friend and we noticed that Kavan Smith disappeared from the IMDB casting list for the SGA-movie. What happened? Someone on IMDB got it wrong? Or is he really out? Please, just for once, answer one of my questions. Seriously, I know some really nice and great people who’d also like an answer (straight, please… as in “Yes, IMDB got it wrong.” or “No, I’m sorry, Lorne will not appear in the SGA-movie.”) to this question. PLEASE?

  33. @ for the love of Beckett – Certainly I have missed something – did you, too, lose a pet?? My head’s been all over the place the last couple of weeks…I’m so sorry if it missed my attention. {{{hugs}}}

    @ Tammy Dixon – *whistles innocently*



  34. Both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson have died today. A mighty blow to the entertainment world…


  35. I’ve got one of those flying monkeys. It was free with a whole lot of magnets I ordered from ThinkGeek. And it’s very annoying whenever my younger siblings find it.

  36. “The humans, including lots of U.S. troops, shoot at the Transformers a lot, although never in the history of science fiction has an alien been harmed by gunfire.”
    Well, we all know that’s false!

  37. Ebert had me laughing the whole way through that review. At certain points, I thought I was reading a Rodney Dangerfield routine. Take these Decepticons®, please!

    I can easily forgive his lack of awareness regarding the use of conventional weaponry against aliens in the greater lore because
    he really had me going when he quoted a speech by John Turturro: “Oh, no! The machine is buried in the pyramid! If they turn it on, it will destroy the sun! Not on my watch!”

    Hope he got a lot of money for that gig because it sounded like something straight out of Wormhole Xtreme.

  38. Hi Joe! Lately I’ve been lurking and not posting, but I have to join in on the positive comments for “Speed of Dark.” It’s one of my absolute favorite books. Elizabeth Moon is wonderful!

  39. Apologies if this is a repeat comment. My browser seems to have eaten the first one.

    “Professional movie critic” sometimes seems like an oxymoron, and possibly more often than not I’ve disagreed with Roger Ebert. (I’m sure he’s remorseful.) Still, that movie review is one of the most hilarious pieces of criticism I’ve ever read, half-inaccurate or not. One of many great lines: “Faust made a better deal.” – Re. someone else’s comment on Ebert, I’m well under 50, and I still love Batman, but that doesn’t mean I automatically love any piece of crap that’s based on the original character. If anything, it makes me a more discriminating viewer/reader. – The review is a Rant among Rants, and I hope Carl enjoyed himself thoroughly while reading it (as it seems you did, as well). I’m saving it for many future references.

    The feature is also a keeper, very funny and downright zany in parts — a toy that shoots ammo (whatever) from its nipples, for kids? Gimme a freakin’ break. And for any kid who might like all that stuff, you could probably find one (one hundred, that is) who don’t. (Again re. a comment that the article writer doesn’t understand children. “Which children,” I wonder: the ones who are destined to become scarier than Lawrence Taylor within smelling distance of a QB, or all the rest, who are just as different from each other as are adults?)

    I’m very much looking forward to reading The Speed of Dark. It was highly recommended to me about three years ago, and I have a copy; but like so much else in life, actually reading it was put on hold. No procrastination this time.

  40. Ha funny about transformers… still want to see it though. SOOOOO one thing

    The two major titles in my opinion for episode 19 is either hope or duel, I am seriously leaning toward hope, considering it is one of those, oh yeah it almost shares a title with atlantis but not quite(To me it sounded like it was a “Oh yeah that’s cool, you have a good eye”, and if you said one of the episodes was hope, I would not even think about the one letter thing, it’s something only Carl could notice and therefore given the circumstances, my guess is that episode 19’s title is hope.

    So am I right?

    Come on, it’s not like this is a spoiler, it’s just a title!

    Thanks so much,
    Major D. Davis

  41. A hand held yodeling Lederhosen? I thought all boys had one?

    Okay, I’m sorry, that was tacky.

  42. Joe,

    Thank you for answering my question. My daughter was thrilled with your response and brought up something I hadn’t thought about…rehearsals or takes that weren’t used. RDA “must have been sick to death of the SMELL of Fruit Loops by the end of it!”

    Thanks again for the response.

    Mary A. Milan
    aka moms2398

  43. Joe, et al.,

    I took my two children and my husband to “Transformers” last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was a bit disappointed at the language and increase sexual innuendo…esp. since the first one wasn’t so full of those things and my 6 year old son LOVES the first movie and has been wanting to see the movie since it was announced. There were a couple of scenes that were intense for him (the brain thing and the other girl, for those of you who’ve seen it), but he did enjoy it, citing a couple of the fight scenes as his favorite (he’s such a boy).

    Of course, I’m no Roger Ebert, but that’s not always a bad thing.

    Mary A. Milan
    aka moms2398

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