The Passage – Justin Cronin
I resisted this book for some time. I would read a blurb about it, or see a positive review, and move it back up my To Read list. Then, I’d read a synopsis, see it had a vampire component to its plot, and decide to pass. What pushed me over the edge? I came across the AV Club review from when it was first released. That review was glowing, and as the AV Club is my most trusted pop culture opinion source, I could resist no longer.

I’m glad I caved.

The vampire bit is important, but certainly does not overwhelm the story. Rather, it reads like a (slightly) futuristic version of The Stand, where a battered society attempts to defend itself and carry on civilization in the face of a biological epidemic. In fact, it owes a lot to all of Stephen King’s oeuvre. It has the epic, life-saving quest angle common to King’s novels. It is horror in the sense of there being some grisly violence, but at its heart it is more a work of fantasy. And with it being the first book in a trilogy, Cronin pulls in the series elements of The Dark Tower. For someone who loves most of what King has written, I ate it up.

I don’t know that I’ll run out and read the next book in the series right away. But I really enjoyed The Passage.

Beyond the Phog: Untold Stories from Kansas Basketball’s Most Dominant Decade – Jason King
It took me a long time to get through The Passage, so I decided to pull a few relatively quick books I’ve read in the past and throw them into the pile to get back on book-a-week pace. This, King’s interviews with KU basketball players from the 2000-11 range, was quick and fun.

Alif the Unseen – G. Willow Wilson
Techno-fantasy. Metaphysical fantasy. Islamic fantasy. All that gets wrapped up into one tidy story here, in Wilson’s delightful debut novel.

It tells the story of Alif, the screen name for a young computer programmer in an unnamed emirate on the Persian Gulf. He gets sucked into a bizarre battle with the government’s security agency over possession of an ancient book full of tales from the early days of Islam. Both sides believe the stories within the book can lead to a new, more powerful way of programming computers. But the security agency views that use as a way to more completely control its citizens.

As Alif flees the government, he comes into contact with Jinn, or genies as we call them in the West. They are not the stereotypical genies in bottles, although one of those is present. But rather a wholly different race of beings that exist on a plane of reality most humans can not see or comprehend.

It gets a little wacky.

But it is a lot of fun and has some powerful messages about identity and the relationships between individuals and their governments and religions.

40 Watts from Nowhere: A Journey into Pirate Radio – Sue Carpenter
Another re-read, this Carpenter’s accounting of her days running pirate radio stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles. I read this every couple of years just because I love the idea of having my own radio station, especially if it was a pirate station that was broadcasting on the sly. If I could just figure out how to hide an antenna back in our trees, I might go for it one day…

War On The Short Wave – Harold N. Graves, Jr.
Speaking of love of radio, an international radio website I check linked to the of this and I raced through it one afternoon. It’s more of a scholarly paper than a proper book, written in mid-1941, about how the governments of Europe were using radio in the early days of World War II to sway public opinion. I know I’m in the minority on this one, but it was fascinating to read about how Nazi Germany, France, Italy, and Britain were using radio, which was still a pretty primitive technology, to circumvent the foreign press and present their views to the public, both domestic and behind enemy lines. And it was interesting to see how the European countries were attempting to sway America in those final months before the US entered the war.

The English Assassin – Daniel Silva
Book two in the Gabriel Allon series. Not as good as the first volume, but still a good-enough modern thriller.