First Lines: The Boys from Brazil

It is 1974, we are in South America, and witness Josef Mengele sending several SS-officers on a mission, which, if successful, should bring about the Fourth Reich. Elderly Nazi-hunter Yakov Liebermann gets tipped off, and we follow him while he tries to figure out what is happening, and then, trying to stop it.

My problem with Ira Levin’s 1976 thriller The Boys from Brazil is, quite frankly, that it was written in the 1970s, and I read it in 2017. Knowing what I know, a thriller about Mengele cloning Hitler (96 times), and arranging for these clones to have an upbringing similar to Hitler’s so that they would grow up just like him, well, it just does not have the same bite. I mean, cloning is not, as it would be in the ‘70s, indistinguisable from magic. Mengele is dead. The posed threat just is not that threatening anymore.

That said, it was a cracking read. You get pieces of information, you try to figure out just what the heck is going on, and it all slowly falls into place, and you are all, like, well I’ll be damned. That was fun. Then Mengele goes out to save what there is to be saved of his masterplan that is falling apart, and we get to worry about Liebermann. Sen from our technological advanced point of view, it is adorably cute to see there prehistoric Luddite cluelessly go about their business. The Boys from Brazil might be dated and not have aged terribly well, but it sure was entertaining me.

Book read
Ira Levin — The Boys From Brazil
First line
Early one evening in September of 1974 a small twin-engine plane, silver and black, sailed down on to a secondary runway at Sao Paolo’s Congonhas Airport, and slowing, turned aside and taxied to a hangar where a limousine stood waiting.

First Lines: Time and Time Again

Ben Elton’s Time and Time Again got me.

There are plenty of reasons why the book should not work: most importantly, the story is completely bonkers — it’s 2024, the word is in shambles, and a former special-ops soldier gets involved in a plot set up by Sir Isaac Newton to travel back in time to 1914, in order to prevent the Great War from happening, which should Make Everything Great Again. As we all know, time travel is never that simple.

Also, our main hero seems a bit underdeveloped. He’s basically James Bond on steroids, but with loads of baggage. You see: he lost his wife and kids. Which makes him a Big Sad. All. The. Freaking. Time. Anyhow, he gets talked into going back in time. Which leads to a (probably well-researched) romp through 1914’s Europe, with lots of attention to detail and what-ifs and alternate history scenarios. But that whole set up takes a lot of time, leading to a somewhat rushed finale.

And that finale, that’s where he got me. Turning the whole thing upside down, time and time again.

No, Time and Time Again isn’t a particularly great book. But despite its flaws, it is very entertaining.

Book read
Ben Elton — Time and Time Again
First line
In Constantinople, on a bright chill early morning in June 1914, Hugh Stanton, retired British Army captain and professional adventurer, leant against the railings of the Galata Bridge and stared into the waters below.

First Lines: Unidentified Funny Objects 5

Unidentified Funny Objects 5 contains, again, a series of humours Sci-Fi/Fantasy stories. This time, my favorites were “The Trouble with Hairy”, in which David Gerrold explores using computer models to solve traffic congestion. Afterwards, they all agreed it had been a bad idea. Laura Resnick’s “The ? Files” is a gloriously convoluted X-Files/Star Trek/Wars/Doctor Who mash-up. “The Mayoral Stakes” by Mike Resnick is about rigging an election, which doesn’t sound that exciting, but the twist at the end is damn near genius. Then there’s “Kaylee the Huntress” (Tim Pratt), in which Kaylee reluctantly answers the heroes call to arms. Finally, I cannot not mention Paul R. Hardy’s “Customer Service Hobgoblin”, in which we find an almost forgotten lesser god working in the call center where now all prayers are received.

Unidentified Funny Objects 5 is available from UFO Publishing, and at most places books can be ordered.

Book read
Unidentified Funny Objects 5 (edited by Alex Shvartsman)
First line
Chad, the last Peruvian chullachaqui in captivity, pissed in the middle of the grassy field, in full view of the gathering crowd. (from My Enemy, the Unicorn by Bill Ferris

First Lines: Hatchet

Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet was the very first book I had to read in English while being in high-school. Having to read books quickly made it chore, and I used to not mind reading at all. Upon finishing high-school, I didn’t have to read anymore, and I was back to reading whenever I got the chance.

There are not a lot of books I read in high-school that I really need to revisit. But when I came across Hatchet for an Euro in a local thrift-shop, I couldn’t resist. I can vaguely recall liking this book about a boy surviving a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness.

Without having to worry about catching things like themes and motifs and all the other stuff teachers like to obsess aboot, it is, however just that: a story about a boy going down in a plane crash, and surviving out in the woods with nothing but his hatchet. Quite nice, but nothing special, really.

Book read
Gary Paulsen — Hatchet
First line
Brian Robeson stared out of the window of the small plane at the endless green northern wilderness below.

Seen Live: Hanson

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Hanson MMMBoping their way into out hearts with their break-though Middle of Nowhere album. Along with the 25th anniversary of the brothers being in a band together, this was enough reason to launch a Middle of Everywhere Tour, with a stop at Amsterdam’s finest venue, Paradiso.

The queue for getting inside was doable, the support act Lewis Watson forgettable, but oh my gosh, Hanson was great. It took a couple of songs before the sound guys got it right, but from then on, it was awesome. Kicking off with a string of up-tempo, R&B-flavoured rock songs (including their second single “Where’s the Love” and one of my favorite album cuts “Look at You”), it wasn’t until song eight (fan favorite “This Time Around”) that a slower song was played. From there one, the intensity fluctuated a bit, but starting with their latest single “I Was Born” (from the upcoming compilation album), it was a smoking end stretch. Especially the one-two kick of “MMMBop” into “If Only” (perhaps my all-time favorite Hanson song) kicked my ass. During the latter song, you could feel the ground shake.

Hanson — I Was Born (live at Paradiso)

It was joyous. It was intense. There were quite a few screaming fan-girls. I am still not sure whether or not I was standing just behind my former colleague Berry. Afterwards, I was completely wrecked, but it was totally worth it. Even The Missus, who upon going in only knew that one song, left very much impressed. Good times.

Seen live
Hanson + Lewis Watson at Paradiso, Amsterdam on June 2nd, 2017
Setlist Hanson (Spotify playlist)
Already Home / Waiting for This / Where’s the Love / Look at You / Tragic Symphony / Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’ / Been There Before / This Time Around / Weird / Go / Deeper (acoustic) / Juliet / Strong Enough to Break / Penny and Me / Watch Over Me / With You in Your Dreams (acoustic) / On and On (acoustic) / I Was Born / A Minute Without You / Get the Girl Back / MMMBop / If Only / Fired Up / In the City // Rockin’ Robin (acapella Bobby Day cover) / Johnny B. Goode (Chuck Berry cover) / Lost Without Each Other