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March 23, 2007 Edition

Mathematicians in Love, by Rudy Rucker

As Bela and Paul work to complete their graduate program in mathematics by creating a paracomputer that will predict the future, they stumble onto a bridge to an alternate universe called La Hampa. Full of mathematically-inclined refugees from still other realities, La Hampa also is home to the Earth’s creator, a giant jellyfish-like creature who creates a new world every Friday, Hampa-time. But once they’ve visited La Hampa, is it possible to return to Earth? And will it be the same one they left?

Gone with the Windsors, by Laurie Graham

Gossipy and light, this is the fictional diary of Maybell Brumby, friend of Wallis Simpson, the woman who caused King Edward to abdicate his throne. Through her diary entries, readers follow the development of Wallis’ relationship with Edward as well as the widowed Maybell’s uneasy ties with her sisters, niece, and nephews. Concerned with social status, yet completely oblivious to innuendo, Wallis’ antics as she pursues the King go right over Maybell’s head at times. Fans of “Gosford Park” will enjoy this blend of social commentary and romance.

Four Kinds of Rain, by Robert Ward

Ex-hippie psychiatrist Bob Wells is used to being the good guy, always lending a helping hand to others. But a painful divorce, an unprofitable and emotionally draining practice, and a crush on his band’s lead singer (who only dates rich men), leave him unhappy with his penniless existence and desperate for change. His one paying client, Emile Bardan, is paranoid that someone is going to steal his priceless Sumerian mask and when Bob realizes that the treasure is for real, he snaps. Using details from their sessions, he formulates a plan to steal the mask himself. Shades of (non-horror) Stephen King blend with Raymond Chandler in this compelling and disturbing novel.

Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Biafra’s short-lived secession from Nigeria is chronicled here in the lives of a university professor, twin sisters, a British expat, and a houseboy. The story is at first nearly idyllic: Odinigbo, a professor obsessed with anti-colonialism, hires 13 year-old Ugwu from a nearby village as a houseboy, and readers discover the land and people as Ugwu himself is exposed to new books and philosophies. But gradually, rhetoric turns to action, and religious, tribal, and class differences become reasons to kill. After the declaration of independence, Nigeria fights to regain control, imposing blockades, sending soldiers, and starving millions. This is a beautifully written history of a brutal era.

The Android’s Dream, by John Scalzi

In the future, when the human race has normalized relations with several alien races, a human diplomat finds a way to send deadly insults through scent to his Nidu counterpart, resulting in both of their deaths and a huge intergalactic incident. The job of making amends falls to Harry Creek, a low-level but multi-talented State Department employee, and “making amends” consists of finding and delivering a very rare electric blue strain of sheep called “Android’s Dream.” But others are looking for the sheep, too, most notably acolytes of the Church of the Evolved Lamb, and another group, whose goal is interstellar war.

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