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Solo Book Update (get them on

Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest, by W. H. Hudson (Aug 20)

"Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest" is a narration of his life story by Abel, a Venezuelan, to a comrade. Once a wealthy young man, he meddled in politics to the extent of provoking a revolution... which failed.

Escaping into the tropical forests of Guyana Abel takes up gold hunting, then journal-writing, and fails at both. Now with no aim for his life, he drifts until he takes up residence with a remote Indian tribe. Soon he learns of a wood the Indians avoid, as it is inhabited by a dangerous Daughter of the Didi, who, they say, slew one of them with magic. The fellow was in fact hit with a poisoned dart by accident, but his dying belief that she had caught the dart and hurled it at him survived him.

Intrigued, Abel visits the wood repeatedly, and eventually encounters Rima. She indeed is something magical. She seems to have a pact with nature: animals don't molest her, she speaks in a melodious birdsong (as well as Spanish), and she even makes her garments of spider silk. When Abel is bitten by a venomous snake that acts protective of her, she and her "grandfather" Nuflo nurse Abel back to health.

Both Abel and Rima are wonderments to each other, someone unlike any other person they have ever encountered. They fall in love, a love that is stymied by Rima's inability to understand the feelings Abel creates in her. On a long trek to discover Rima's origins, they find that her unique people no longer exist, but they finally confront the magnetism that is drawing them together. Finally they find joy, and make plans... until Rima is murdered by the Indians.

And then it is time for vengeance!

Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson (Jul 31)

David Balfour, a lad of seventeen and newly orphaned, is directed to go and live with his rich uncle, the master of the estate of Shaws in the lowlands of Scotland near Edinburgh. His uncle, Ebenezer (as close a miser as Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge), is shocked to suddenly have his young relative descend on him and tries to rid himself of David with an arranged accident. Failing that, he pays the captain of a brig to kidnap David and sell him into slavery in Carolina.

A collision in the fog brings onboard the brig a survivor, Alan Breck Stewart, who is carrying a dangerous amount of gold on his person. David warns him of a plan by the brig's captain and crew to overpower him and seize the money, and then finds himself fighting alongside Alan in a battle royale. By good fortune, Alan is handy with a sword and they have access to the firearms locker, and the pair so completely defeat the crew that barely enough hands remain to sail her. Limping to port, she is holed by rocks, and David finds himself a castaway.

Being in Alan's presence continues to be a chancey business. David is talking to Colin Roy Campbell, the King's Factor who has been oppressing Alan's people, when the man is shot to death, and David is chased as an accomplice. The two "take to the heather" and barely survive near brushes with redcoats as they thread through the Trossachs and other highland ranges of Scotland. Only after an arduous weeks-long trek through territory where they are actively hunted do they emerge in the more settled districts around the river Forth, only to find guards upon the bridge. With no money remaining, they must somehow cross to Queensferry, find Ebenezer's lawyer, and lay claim to David's inheritance in order to send Alan safely on to France.

The Outline of Science, Vol. 1, by J. Arthur Thomson (Jul 3)

In The Outline of Science, Thomson gives us a window into scientific thinking as it stood in 1922 on the big, the little, and the biological. With straightforward language intended for a general audience, this book covers astronomy from the Solar System to the Milky Way, the submicroscopic makeup of matter from protons and electrons, and the evolution of simple living beings into the varied fauna of the world today. Thomson cites many examples that would have been familiar to his readers of the day and notes where scientific understanding leaves off and conjecture begins. He clearly shows how the accumulation of observation and experiment stacked up to form the body of knowledge reported in the book. For even the scientifically well-versed, there will be interesting nuggets, for investigation into how the world came to be as it was, was both wide and deep.

To a modern listener, what was not known may be as interesting as what was. With the 100-inch Mt. Wilson reflector the largest telescope in the world, the existence of galaxies outside the Milky Way was suspected but not confirmed. Neutrons, soon to become important in the field of nuclear energy and atomic bombs, were as yet unguessed-at, yet the prospect of liberating the immense energy of the atom was already a keen interest. Although the famous Michaelson-Morley experiment had already been seen as disproof of an all-pervading "ether" which facilitated the flow of energy across empty space, scientists still retained ether as a place-holder for properties they could measure but not explain - an approach very similar to the "dark matter" of modern cosmology.

Regardless of your personal sentiments on Darwin's theory of evolution, Thomson provides well-chosen examples that illustrate why this theory arose. He examines not only the fossil record but the evidences present in modern living beings that the process of evolution is by no means finished, but ongoing.

Even at that time, Thomson worried over the future of energy sources. He contemplated the exhaustion of the coal fields and indeed, the eventual exhaustion of all usable energy in the universe, foreshadowing our concept of entropy.

This book has been consistently among the "Top 100 E-Books" published by Project Gutenberg.

This Side of Paradise, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Jun 20)

Amory Blaine grew up in a wealthy family and was given an Ivy League education. Without a need to learn a profession, he chiefly dabbled in literature and partying. His school chums were of similar background, and the ideas they reflected to each other grew in their minds to be of the greatest importance. Amory began to think of himself as somewhat of a character in a Rupert Brooke poem (from which the book's title is taken).

World War I intervened in this happy fog and brought focus to some, doubt to others.

In the rapidly changing technology of the war era, the financial underpinnings of the Blaine fortune began to fall apart. The deaths of Amory's parents left the finances without a rudder and as Amory's situation deteriorated he came to realize he had only his interest in literature to fall back upon.

Meanwhile, a series of young women traipsed through his life, attracted to his handsome face and bright wit like moths to a candle. But Amory could never master the role of being a real person... and, one by one, they traipsed out.

This Side of Paradise was F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel and was one of the nation's most popular books in the year it was published. It has some definite parallels with Fitzgerald's own life, and is in some ways an autobiography.

The Point of Honor, by Joseph Conrad (May 18)

Set during the Napoleonic Wars, “The Point of Honor” (English title: “The Duel”) features two French Hussar officers, D’Hubert and Feraud. Their quarrel over an initially minor incident turns into a bitter, long-drawn out struggle over the following fifteen years, interwoven with the larger conflict that provides its backdrop. At the beginning, Feraud is the one who jealously guards his honor and repeatedly demands satisfaction anew when a duelling encounter ends inconclusively; he aggressively pursues every opportunity to locate and duel his foe. As the story progresses, D’Hubert also finds himself caught up in the contest, unable to back down or walk away.
This Conrad short story evidently has its genesis in the real duels that two French Hussar officers fought in the Napoleonic era. Their names were Dupont and Fournier, which Conrad disguised slightly, changing Dupont into D’Hubert and Fournier into Feraud. In 1977, it was turned into a movie, “The Duellists”, starring Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel.