Esio Trot ★★★✬☆

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Title: Esio Trot
Authors: Roald Dahl
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Short Story
Pages: 14
Words: 4.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Mr Hoppy is a shy elderly man who lives alone in an apartment, tending to his many plants, which have been the centre of his life since he retired from his job in a bus garage several years before. For many years, he has had a secret love whose name was Mrs Silver. She lives in the flat below his, and he frequently leans over his balcony and exchanges polite conversations with Mrs Silver, but his courage fails him whenever he prepares to hint at his true feelings for her.

Mrs Silver has a small pet tortoise, Alfie, who is the centre of her world. One morning, Mrs Silver mentions to Mr Hoppy that even though she has owned Alfie for many years, he has only grown a tiny bit and has gained only 13 ounces in weight. She confesses that she wishes she knew of some way to make her little Alfie grow into a larger, more dignified tortoise. Mr Hoppy suddenly thinks of a way to give Mrs Silver her wish and win her heart.

Mr Hoppy tells Mrs Silver that he — in fact — knows a way to make a tortoise grow bigger. He writes the following words on a slip of paper, and lowers it down to Mrs Silver:

ESIO TROT, ESIO TROT,

TEG REGGIB REGGIB,

EMOC NO, ESIO TROT,

WORG PU, FFUP PU, TOOHS PU,

GNIRPS PU, WOLB PU, LLEWS PU!

EGROG! ELZZUG! FFUTS! PLUG!

TUP NO TAF, ESIO TROT, TUP NO TAF,

OG NO, OG NO, ELBBOG DOOF.

Mr Hoppy explains that these magic words, when whispered in Alfie’s ear three times a day, will cause Alfie to grow bigger and bigger. Mrs Silver is doubtful, but agrees to try. (The words are, reversed, Tortoise, tortoise, get bigger bigger! Come on, tortoise, grow up, puff up, shoot up! Spring up, blow up, swell up! Gorge! Guzzle! Stuff! Gulp! Put on fat, tortoise, put on fat! Go on, go on, gobble food!)

Over the next few days, Mr Hoppy carries out the second part of his plan. He visits every pet shop in the city, and buys many tortoises of various sizes, but none that weigh less than 13 ounces. Mr Hoppy brings all the tortoises back to his flat and installs them in a makeshift corral in his living room. Next, Mr Hoppy builds a special tool to help him snatch the tortoise from Mrs Silver’s balcony. He fastens a handle to the end of a long metal tube, and a tiny claw at the bottom. By pulling the handle, the arms of the claw gently open and close.

The following day, when Mrs Silver left for work, Mr Hoppy selects a tortoise from his living room that weighs exactly 15 ounces. He carefully picked Alfie up from the lower balcony, and exchanged him with the new tortoise. When Mrs Silver returned home, she faithfully whispers the magic words in Alfie’s ear, but does not notice that an exchange has been made.

Over the next 8 weeks, Mr Hoppy continues to switch Mrs Silver’s current pet with a slightly larger tortoise, but she still does not perceive that her pet is growing in size. One afternoon, Mrs Silver comments to Mr Hoppy that Alfie seems a bit bigger, but can not tell for sure. Suddenly, Mrs Silver notices that Alfie can no longer fit through the door to his house, and exclaims to Mr Hoppy that his spell is sure to be working. Mrs Silver runs inside and weighs her pet, and is surprised to find that Alfie now weighs 27 ounces, more than double the weight he was before. Mr Hoppy summons his courage and asks Mrs Silver if he can come down and see the effect for himself. Mrs Silver, in raptures over her pet’s transformation, gladly grants his request.

Mr Hoppy runs down the stairs, nervous and excited to be on the brink of winning Mrs Silver’s love. Mrs Silver flings open the door, embraces Mr Hoppy, and expresses her admiration for Mr Hoppy’s magical spell. However, the tortoise cannot fit in the house now, so Mr Hoppy tells Mrs Silver to say the magic spell properly. On the next night he secretly replaces this tortoise with one slightly smaller one. His part works splendidly, and Mr Hoppy, suddenly emboldened by Mrs Silver’s warm smile, asks Mrs Silver for her hand in marriage. Mrs Silver delightedly accepts Mr Hoppy’s proposal, then adds that she thought he would never get around to asking. “All due to Alfie!” she cries.

Mr Hoppy secretly returns all the tortoises in his living room back to their respective pet shops, telling all the owners that they didn’t need to pay. Mr Hoppy and Mrs Silver are happily married a few weeks later. The “original” Alfie is bought by a girl called Roberta Squibb after he is returned to a pet shop; moreover, after many years, he does indeed grow to double his size before.

My Thoughts:

You know, I ended up thinking the EXACT SAME THING as I did when I read this in ’12. An overly complicated solution to something that could have been sorted out in 5minutes. That’s not necessarily bad, but I was hoping for a new revelation (as it were).

Of course, being a short story of just 14 pages (with pictures mind you), it’s hard to get to the bones of the story, as it doesn’t have any 😀

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Sector Thirteen ★★★☆☆

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Title: Sector Thirteen
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #0.6
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF Short Story
Pages: 20
Words: 9K



Synopsis:

Ciaphas Cain battles alongside the planet’s custodians against the tyranid foe on the agri-world of Keffia.

Picking up what seems to be the relatively light duty of reprimanding a tavern/brothel where several of his men became drunk and disorderly, Cain is unpleasantly surprised to find that the place is actually the central nest for a Genestealer infestation. Awakening the mob of infected, Cain and company retreat to the local enforcers headquarters where they hole up under assault from the horde who manages to break in. Retreating upstairs and eventually to the rooftop, Jurgen spots re-inforcements in the form of Cadians arriving and driving off the Genestealer horde. Later at a ball, Cain’s reputatation is enhanced further by Divas who states that if Cain had not uncovered the infestation in the brothel then every regiment would eventually be infested and the war lost.

My Thoughts:

Cain once again runs away like a coward and ends up saving millions of lives and being the living embodiment of a Hero of the Imperium. Not sure what that title actually gets him though.

This was a little short story and I must say, reading one short story really hit the spot. Pick it up, 30 minutes later I’m done and yet I’ve still got a complete story under my belt. There’s a reason why the short story has survived the Sandersonization of the SFF world.

I’m happy with the time I spent here.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Fight or Flight ★★★☆☆

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Title: Fight or Flight
Series: WH40K: Ciaphas Cain #0
Authors: Sandy Mitchell
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 22
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

A short story of Cain’s first assignment as a Commissar and how Jurgen was assigned as his aide.

My Thoughts:

Who would have guessed that such a short story would have spawned over 10 books in a series? In the foreward Mitchell tells how this was supposed to be a one-off for a Black Library anthology but that Cain ended up being so popular that he ended up getting a whole novel to himself, which then morphed into a whole series.

Not bad for a short story in a franchise fiction mega-series.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Emma: A Fragment

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Title: Emma: A Fragment
Series: ———-
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Classic
Pages: 26
Words: 7K



Synopsis:

A young girl, Emma, is sent to a boarding school by her rich father. When the bill comes due, no such person as the father appears to exist and his place of residence doesn’t exist either. After being spoiled, Emma is now in the hands of the school teacher.

My Thoughts:

I am not rating this because its an unfinished piece and only 26 pages long. The story had potential and I would have liked to have read the full thing. But since that didn’t happen, well, I just don’t feel comfortable rating this.

I do have to wonder if Frances Hodgson Burnett read this before writing A Little Princess. The main difference, if I remember correctly, is that the girl in Burnett’s book is a capable, upbeat and positive girl. Emma here seems sulky and shy and not of the best character.

On second thought, it’s probably just as well there isn’t more to read. I know that Bronte would drag her readers through the wringer.

The Iron Star (WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #11.5) ★★★☆☆


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Title: The Iron Star
Series: WH40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #11.5
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 58
Words: 10K



Synopsis:

From the Publishers & Me

Set between the events of Only in Death and the forthcoming novel, Blood Pact, The Iron Star follows Colonel–Commissar Gaunt and the Tanith First and Only across an unknown and mysterious warzone. Here, they face the their old foes, the Blood Pact. But how are long–dead Ghosts able to fight at Gaunt’s side against the enemy, and who are the watchers? The key to it all lies in unravelling the mystery of the iron star.

This short story ends with Gaunt waking up from surgery after being rescued by the Tanith from the Blood Pact. He’d been tortured almost to death and only the efforts of the Ghosts keep him from crossing the bridge into death.

My Thoughts:

I knew this was a short story but for some reason I had completely forgotten that Gaunt had been taken by the forces of Chaos in “Only in Death”. So while I knew this was some sort of dream, I was pretty confused without the salient fact of HOW Gaunt was on death’s door.

I really should have read this immediately after Only in Death instead of waiting my usual time between books in a series. Abnett was aiming for the discombobulated, drugged out feeling and by george, he did an admirable of conveying just that. I was weirded out the whole time I was reading this.

For 58 pages I think these couple of sentences covers all that needs to be said.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Ghost ★★★✬☆


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Title: The Ghost
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 23
Words: 6K



Synopsis:

Publishers Description

The gold strike which led the fortune-hunters to Murrayville brought with them the usual proportion of bad men and outlaws. Three months after the rush started, a bandit appeared so consummate in skill and so cool in daring that all other offenders against the law disappeared in the shade of his reputation. He was a public dread. His comings were unannounced; his goings left no track. Men lowered their voices when they spoke of him. His knowledge of affairs in the town was so uncanny that people called him the ‘Ghost.’

My Thoughts:

Oh, this was a fun little story! The town drunk is just playing a part but it’s obvious from the getgo so no spoilers there. What makes this really interesting is how he manipulates the townsfolks and the manhunter hired to catch him. It is masterfully done and you can hear the laughter in the background the whole time.

These short stories of Brand’s are working out perfectly for me. Good stuff.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hole In The Wall Barrett ★★★☆½


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Title: Hole In The Wall Barrett
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 18
Words: 5.5K



Synopsis:

A tough guy lawyer defends a murderer who poisoned his own uncle. The lawyer does this because his wife asks him too and tells him the defendant is her lover. The lawyer wins the case, apologizes to his wife for making her think he didn’t love her and promises to do better if she’ll come back. She does. The lawyer then has a “private” meeting with the defendant in his soundproof room, which we see him in warming up a poker and oiling up a whip.

My Thoughts:

Brand starts out the story by clearly defining who the villain and hero are by how they look. You can tell he is being over the top sarcastic and ironic. It’s not immediately obvious he’s being sarcastic, but by the end when it fades out just as the husband is about to horsewhip the murderous scum who dared mess with his wife, it’s all there in black and white.

How the lawyer makes the jury think his client is innocent by drinking the poison was rather neat. How he makes sure it doesn’t affect him by eating raw eggs beforehand and having a doctor right outside the courtroom to pump his stomach, well, that is going above and beyond the call of duty. But he gets his client acquitted. Of course, Justice is served. That had me pumping my fist and exclaiming “Oh yeah!!!”

I am finding that these short stories by Brand are working great for me. It is just enough of a different taste from my typical SFF/Classic that it cleanses the palate but without being long enough to give me a literary tummy ache.

Technically, the title is Hole-in-the-Wall Barrett, but if I ever go searching for this title by search, there is no way I’m going to remember all those stupid hyphens. You’re welcome, future me.

★★★☆½

The Most Dangerous Game (Short Story) ★★★★☆


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Title: The Most Dangerous Game
Series: ———-
Author: Richard Connell
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 21
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Rainsford is a big game hunter on yacht heading to his next destination. He falls off the boat one night but manages to swim to a nearby island. He is introduced to General Zaroff, a former General to the Russian Czar now living in exile because of the Red Revolution. Zaroff claims to be a hunter from birth and founded his life’s purpose on the thrill of the hunt. Sadly, the hunt against animals paled and Zaroff didn’t know what to do. Until he began hunting men. Now he rescues shipwrecked sailors or kidnaps them and then lets them loose on his island to hunt at his leisure.

When Rainsford refuses to join, Zaroff decides to hunt him. Armed only with a knife,Rainsford must not only overcome Zaroff, but also his killer servant Ivan and the General’s trained pack of hunting dogs.

Rainsford turns the tables and kills Zaroff.

My Thoughts:

A couple of months ago, The Film Authority reviewed the 1932 movie The Most Dangerous Game. It sounded extremely familiar and it turned out it was based on a short story that I had read “some time, some where, some how”. The original title was The Hounds of Zaroff written in 1924.

This was a fascinating little story and sure does pack a wallop for a mere 21 pages. I read a gutenberg “illustrated” edition, which just threw in random pictures of objects being talked about in the text, so I suspect the real page count is closer to the teens.

There isn’t much to actually talk about. The twist is well known, very well used. Using humans as hunting prey has been around since, well, there has been enough leisure time for hunting culture to develop. Humanity gets bored easily enough and it’s creative enough and broken enough to do something like this. There was an Outer Limits episode where some humans use humanoid androids as hunting targets and the twist there was that the androids turned the tables. Just like Rainsford does to Zaroff here.

Even knowing the story, I recommend reading this if you want a little Action/Adventure to tide you over some afternoon.

★★★★☆

John Ovington Returns ★★★☆☆

johnovingtonreturns (Custom)

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Title: John Ovington Returns
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 20
Words: 6.5K

Synopsis:

John Ovington returns to his ancestral home in Connecticut, to find a series of letters between his Great Grandfather and his fiance. Great Grandfather goes to war, the girl marries someone else and Great Grandfather vows he’ll get the girl in the end.

John Ovington finds out he has a new neighbor, who looks exactly like Great Grandfather’s fiance and that she is running off with a beau. She writes a series of letters exactly the same as the Great Grandfather’s fiance and history begins to repeat itself.

John Ovington gets the girl and breaks the cycle that Fate had ordained for him.

My Thoughts:

For some reason, almost all the editions show this as being a full novel at over 500 pages. It is just a short story at 16-20 pages and I sure do feel bad for anyone who bought it (even for 99cents) thinking it was a full book.

The synopsis pretty much says it all. This is some sort of love, ghost, thingy, story. I tagged it western, but considering it takes place in Connecticut, probably “frontier” might have been more appropriate. I’m guessing this was for a magazine back when it was first published. It has 3 chapters and that fits with a serial short story in a magazine spread over 3 issues.

It was actually nice to read something so short and then be done. I spent 30 minutes or less reading it and then bam, finished. Truth be told, I’ve probably spent more time searching out the correct page number and writing this little piece than I did reading. While it feels like cheating (I’ll including this as a “book” in my monthly roundup numbers), I think that including my Page Count numbers more than makes up for it.

Giddy’up!

★★★☆☆

Galactic North (Revelation Space #6) ★★★★½

galacticnorth (Custom).jpgThis review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Galactic North
Series: Revelation Space #6
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 356
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of 8 short stories and novellas set in Reynolds Revelation Space universe. Many of them focus on the Conjoiners and we get several stories that provide history about several of the Conjoiner characters we’ve read about in previous books.

There is also a story about the Green Light that is mentioned in an earlier book and while we don’t see how humanity overcomes that, we do see how it gets started.

One of the stories gives a tip ‘o the hat to the novella Diamond Dogs. That story was much closer to a horror story and it meshed with the tone of Diamond Dogs perfectly.

 

My Thoughts:

Man, another winner of a book. I thoroughly enjoyed this. I’d already read one or two of these stories in Reynold’s Best Of… Collection but they were just as good upon a re-read.

I did enjoy the variation in length of story from novella down to a short story. It helped with the flow of the book and never made me feel like I was slogging. I also liked finding out the history and future of several characters we have already met in previous books. Reading this was a nice “rounding out” experience.

By this time, if one has read this far into Reynold’s Revelation Space universe, nothing here is going to deter one from continuing. Not even referencing one’s self in the third person. That being said, I think there is only one more book for me to read and then I’ll have to go track down his other works and figure out what order to read them.

★★★★½

 

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