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The Bookwatch

Volume 17, Number 4 April 2022 Home | BW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Native American Studies Shelf Philosophy Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

The Original Bambi
Felix Salten, author
Translated & introduced by Jack Zipes
Illustrated by Alenka Sottler
Princeton University Press
9780691197746 $24.95 hc / $9.48 Kindle

Synopsis: A new, beautifully illustrated translation of Felix Saltenís celebrated novel Bambi - the original source of the beloved story.

Most of us think we know the story of Bambi - but do we? The Original Bambi is an all-new, illustrated translation of a literary classic that presents the story as it was meant to be told. For decades, readersí images of Bambi have been shaped by the 1942 Walt Disney film - an idealized look at a fawn who represents natureís innocence - which was based on a 1928 English translation of a novel by the Austrian Jewish writer Felix Salten. This masterful new translation gives contemporary readers a fresh perspective on this moving allegorical tale and provides important details about its creator.

Originally published in 1923, Saltenís story is more somber than the adaptations that followed it. Life in the forest is dangerous and precarious, and Bambi learns important lessons about survival as he grows to become a strong, heroic stag. Jack Zipesís introduction traces the history of the bookís reception and explores the tensions that Salten experienced in his own life - as a hunter who also loved animals, and as an Austrian Jew who sought acceptance in Viennese society even as he faced persecution.

With captivating drawings by award-winning artist Alenka Sottler, The Original Bambi captures the emotional impact and rich meanings of a celebrated story.

Critique: Now in a brand new English translation by Jack Zipes with black-and-white illustrations by Alenka Sottler, The Original Bambi presents Felix Salten's classic story for all ages about a young deer who must learn to survive the dangers of forest life. A serious-minded allegory about natural life cycles, the importance of learning to stand on one's own, and accepting that no living being is all-powerful, The Original Bambi is as impactful and relevant today as it was when first published in 1923. Highly recommended, especially for school and public library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that The Original Bambi is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.48).

The Native American Studies Shelf

Grave Matters
Tony Platt
Heyday Books
PO Box 9145, Berkeley, CA 94709
9781597145596, $22.00, PB, 256pp

Synopsis: How do we reconcile the sanctity of Indigenous burial grounds with the desire to study them? Whether by curious Boy Scouts and "backyard archaeologists" or competitive artifact collectors, or knowledge-hungry anthropologists, the excavation of Native remains is a practice fraught with injustice and simmering resentments.

"Grave Matters: The Controversy over Excavating California's Buried Indigenous Past" is the history of the treatment of Native remains in California and the story of the complicated relationship between researcher and researched.

Professor Emeritus Tony Platt begins his journey with his son's funeral at Big Lagoon, a seaside village in pastoral Humboldt County in Northern California, once O-pyķweg, a bustling center for the Yurok and the site of a plundered native cemetery. Platt travels the globe in search of the answer to the question: How do we reconcile a place of extraordinary beauty with its horrific past?

"Grave Matters" centers the Yurok people and the eventual movement to repatriate remains and reclaim ancient rights, but it is also a universal story of coming to terms with the painful legacy of a sorrowful past.

Critique: Originally published in 2011, this new edition of "Grave Matters: The Controversy over Excavating California's Buried Indigenous Past" now features an updated preface by the Professor Emeritus Tony Platt. A unique, engaging, and informative addition to personal, professional, community, college, and university library Native American Studies and Contemporary Archaeology Studies collections and supplemental curriculum lists, it should be noted for students, academia, archaeologists, Native American rights activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Grave Matters: The Controversy over Excavating California's Buried Indigenous Past" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.99).

Editorial Note: Tony Platt is the author of more than ten books and 150 essays and articles on race, inequality, and social justice in American history, among them Beyond These Walls: Rethinking Crime and Punishment in the United States, Bloodlines: Recovering Hitler's Nuremberg Laws, From Patton's Trophy to Public Memorial, and The Child Savers: The Invention of Delinquency. Platt, now a professor emeritus, taught at the University of Chicago, the University of California, Berkeley, and California State University, Sacramento, where he received awards for teaching and scholarship. Platt has written for the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Truthdig, History News Network, Z Magazine, Monthly Review, and the Guardian, and his commentaries have aired on NPR.

The Philosophy Shelf

Jordan Peterson: Critical Responses
Sandra Woien, Editor
Carus Books
9781637700129, $22.95

Jordan Peterson: Critical Responses belongs in college-level philosophy and political science collections as a collection of essays that examine the foundations and works of Jordan Peterson, who became a global celebrity when an argument televised in Britain about feminism went viral. As his writings, philosophy, and controversy evolved from then on, the psychologist and professor, thrust into the role of a leader and prophet, continued to evolve tenants which earned him both condemnation and acclaim.

Jordan Peterson: Critical Responses is recommended even for newcomers who may hold little prior familiarity with the man or his works. It gathers history and discussions of the rogue professor's ideas and presents them in a way that lends to not just appreciation and understanding, but food for thought and discussion for debates and political sciences groups alike.

Jordan Peterson: Critical Responses is another fine addition to this publisher's intention of linking philosophy to everyday affairs!

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Demons, the Great White North and the Blind Detective
Shawn Adair Johnston
Atmosphere Press
9781639881451, $17.99

Although Demons, the Great White North and the Blind Detective is set in the future, it's especially recommended for thriller and mystery readers because its suspense element is particularly well done, enhancing its futuristic backdrop in a manner that will attract a much larger audience than either sci-fi or traditional mystery readers alone.

Author Shawn Adair Johnston deftly weaves the culture of the Canadian Inuit people into the threat of a rogue A.I. and a demon that could introduce the downfall of mankind...if famous blind detective Peter Straw can't follow the clues to confront these dual dangers. The sci-fi futuristic atmosphere is strengthened by Straw's intellectually augmented seeing eye dog Watson and a cast of characters that include human and inhuman forces; but it's his investigative blind eye's ability to connect the dots he can't see which drives the story through the sci-fi setting and reaches out to detective story readers with a very different premise.

From Playboy, who considers the existential question of whether he, as an AI, is truly alive in a "real rather than virtual way" to the involvement of American and Canadian military forces, Demons, the Great White North and the Blind Detective represents a satisfying marriage between sci-fi and thriller which makes it a unique contribution to either genre. It's especially strong in its contrast of the survival-oriented focus of AI and human alike, weaving a variety of dilemmas into a story replete with intrigue and sci-fi elements as AI issues evolve to become just as important as the concerns of mankind.

As Watson, Playboy, and others interact, the dreams and realities of human emotions and AI objectives create a satisfying play on irony and existential angst, with a dash of humor spicing the mix. Although sci-fi readers will consider the story sci-fi and detective genre readers will be attracted to its investigative side, both audiences will relish the appealing differences in Demons, the Great White North and the Blind Detective, which creates all kinds of controversies up to and including love dilemmas. Its multifaceted approach to a futuristic conundrum makes for an unpredictable, involving, and highly recommended adventure.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Baen Books
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471

Four new books from Baen provide readers with works that are solid, good sci-fi adventure stories.

Wil McCarthy's The Wellstone (9781982125882, $8.99) presents a future in which humanity has conquered space and abolished death. Wellstone is programmable matter that ensures immortality, but for the children of immortal parents, life remains the same. With princes who will never become heirs, what is the meaning of the future? Conrad is one such soul who determines to find new meaning in an immortal life, changing his world in the process.

Dan Koboldt's Domesticating Dragons (9781982125875, $8.99) blends aspects of Jurassic Park with the fun story of a brilliant genetic engineer charged with helping a company build custom-made dragons. There's only one problem: the effort is not as benign as it seems. As it leads to trouble, events emerge which are both whimsical and action-packed, providing readers with a very different kind of dragon story that entertains in a lively, revealing manner.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Constellation (9781982125905, $16.00) is especially recommended for prior fans of the Liaden universe, and presents the fifth volume of action-packed adventures. Ten tales provide new dilemmas, more than a touch of romance, and encounters between conflicting forces in the galaxy which expand this universe in satisfying ways.

David Weber, Timothy Zahn and Thomas Pope's new Honorverse novel A Call to Insurrection (9781982125899, $27.00) adds to the Manticore Ascendant series with a powerful saga of turmoil and strife in the Star Kingdom of Manticore. Travis and his wife Lisa are tasked with building a navy to protect the kingdom, but further political and military engagements emerge that threatens to draw them into a civil war. The interstellar struggle emerges on different levels, cemented by four individuals whose actions and alliances may change the balance of power as well as their lives.

These four new titles are solid picks for fans of Baen's special brand of sci-fi action stories.

James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane C. Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
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Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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