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“The Clue of the Silver Key” by Edgar Wallace (1930) – Free Kindle e-book

The Clue of the Silver Key by Edgar WallaceAnna is the jewel of St. Petersburg society until she leaves her husband for the handsome and charming military officer, Count Vronsky. They fall in love, going beyond High Society’s acceptance of trivial adulterous dalliances. But when Vronsky’s love cools, Anna cannot bring herself to return to the husband she detests…

Excerpt:

Chapter One

They were all in this business–Dick Allenby, inventor and heir-at-law; Jerry Dornford, man about town and wastrel; Mike Hennessey, theatrical adventurer; Mary Lane, small part actress; Leo Moran, banker and speculator; Horace Tom Tickler–alas, for him!–was very much in it, though he knew nothing about it.

Mr Washington Wirth, who gave parties and loved flattery; old Hervey Lyne and the patient Binny, who pushed his invalid chair and made his breakfast and wrote his letters–and Surefoot Smith.

There came a day when Binny, who was an assiduous reader of newspapers that dealt with the more picturesque aspects of crime, was to find himself the focal point of attention and his evidence read by millions who had never before heard of him–a wonderful experience.

Mr Washington Wirth’s parties were most exclusive affairs and, in a sense, select. The guests were chosen with care, and might not, in the manner of the age, invite the uninvited to accompany them; but they were, as Mary Lane said, ‘an odd lot’. She went because Mike Hennessey asked her, and she rather liked the stout and lethargic Mike. People called him ‘poor old Mike’ because of his bankruptcies, but just now sympathy would be wasted on him. He had found Mr Washington Wirth, a patron of the theatre and things theatrical, and Mr Washington Wirth was a very rich man.

He was also a mysterious man. He was generally believed to live in the Midlands and to be associated with industry.

His London address was the Kellner Hotel, but he never slept there. His secretary would telephone in advance for the Imperial suite on a certain day, and on the evening of that day, when supper was laid for his twenty or thirty guests, and the specially hired orchestra was tuning up, he would appear, a stout, flaxen-haired man in horn-rimmed glasses. The uncharitable said his flaxen hair was a wig, which may or may not have been true.

He was perfectly tailored. He spoke in a high, falsetto voice, had a trick of clicking his heels and kissing the hands of his lady guests which was very Continental.

His guests were hand-picked. He chose–or Mike chose for him–the smaller theatrical fry; members of the chorus, small part actresses, an obscure singer or two.

Once Mike had suggested a brighter kind of party. Mr Wirth was shocked.

‘I want nothing fast,’ he said.

He loved adulation–and had his fill of it. He was a generous spender, a giver of expensive presents; people living on the verge of poverty might be excused a little flattering.

You could not gate-crash one of Mr Washington Wirth’s parties, invitations to which came in the shape of a small oblong badge, not unlike the badge worn by the ladies in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, on which the name of the invited guest was written. This the recipient wore; it served a double purpose, for it enabled Mr Wirth to read and address each of his guests by her name.

Mary Lane was well aware that the invitation was no tribute to her own eminence.

‘I suppose if I had been a really important guest I shouldn’t have been invited?’ she said.

Mike smiled good-naturedly.

‘You are important, Mary–the most important person here. The old boy wanted to know you.’

‘Who is he?’

Mike shook his head. ‘He’s got all the money in the world,’ he said.

She laughed. Mary Lane was very lovely when she laughed.

She was conscious that Washington Wirth, albeit occupied with the cooing attention of two blonde lovelies, was watching her out of the side of his eyes.

‘He gives lots of parties, doesn’t he?’ she asked. ‘Dick Allenby told me today that they are monthly affairs. He must be rich, of course, or he wouldn’t keep our play running. Honestly, Mike, we must be losing a fortune at the Sheridan.’

Mike Hennessey took his cigar from his mouth and looked at the ash. ‘I’m not losing a fortune,’ he said. Then, most unexpectedly: ‘Old Hervey Lyne a friend of yours, Mary?’

She denied the friendship with some vigour. ‘No, he’s my guardian. Why?’

Mike put back his cigar deliberately.

The orchestra had struck up a waltz. Mr Wirth was gyrating awkwardly, holding at arm’s length a lady who was used to being held more tightly.

‘I had an idea you were connected,’ he said. ‘Money-lender, wasn’t he? That’s how he made his stuff. Is Mr Allenby related to him?’

There was a certain significance in the question, and she flushed.

‘Yes–his nephew.’ She was a little disconcerted. ‘Why?’

Mike looked past her at the dancers.

‘Trying to pretend they enjoy it,’ he said.’ They’re all getting gold-mounted handbags tonight–you’ll get yours.’

‘But why do you ask about Mr Lyne?’ she persisted.

‘Just wondering how well you knew the old man. No, he’s never lent me money. He wants gilt-edged security and I’ve never had it. Moran’s his banker.’

Mike was one of those disconcerting men whose speech followed the eccentric course of their thoughts.

He chuckled.

‘Funny, that, Mary. Moran’s his banker. You don’t see the joke, but I do.’

She knew Leo Moran slightly. He was by way of being a friend of Dick Allenby’s, and he was, she knew, a frequent visitor to the theatre, though he never came ‘back stage’.

When Mike was being cryptic it was a waste of time trying to catch up with him. She looked at her watch.

‘Will he be very annoyed if I leave soon? I’ve promised to go on to the Legation.’

He shook his head, took her gently by the arm, and led her up to where Mr Wirth was being delightfully entertained by three pretty girls who were trying to guess his age.

‘My little friend has to go, Mr Wirth,’ he said. ‘She’s got a rehearsal in the morning.’

‘Perfectly understood!’ said the host.

When he smiled he had white, even teeth, for which no thanks were due to nature.

‘Perfectly understood. Come again, Miss Mary Lane. I’ll be back from abroad in three weeks.’

She took his big, limp hand and shook it. Mike escorted her out and helped her into her coat.

‘Another hour for me and then I pack up,’ he said,’ He never stays after one. By the way, I’ll bring on your gift to the theatre.’

She liked Mike–everybody liked Mike. There was hardly an actor or an actress in London who had not agreed to take half-salary from him. He could cry very convincingly when he was ruined, and he was always ruined when hard-hearted people expected him to pay what he owed them.

Download the free ebook for your KindleDownload “The Clue of the Silver Key” by Edgar Wallace for your Kindle:

“The Clue of the Silver Key” by Edgar Wallace [.azw file]

“The Golden Judge” by Nathaniel Gordon (1955) – Free Kindle e-book

The Golden Judge by Nathaniel GordonA suggestion and a highly intriguing one–on how to settle the problems that involve face-saving among nations! A great short story by Nathaniel Gordon.

Excerpt from the e-book:

It was stifling hot in Jerusalem in the afternoon of June 16, 1956, and Major General Terence Patrick O’Reilly, United States Army, was rather more bored than usual. His Army career had gone well—two stars already at forty-five—until the mysterious workings of the Pentagon had given him perhaps the most frustrating posting a soldier could have.

He was chairman of the mixed United Nations armistice commission trying to keep the uneasy peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors. For months he had presided over unending investigations of border incidents, some petty, some not so petty. He had signed reports reprimanding and recommending and approving, but nothing ever came of them, and he no longer expected anything ever would.

Today’s hearing was different, and not strictly in his field. But because he was an engineer, and because both Arabs and Israelis trusted him, he had agreed to listen to their opposing arguments on using the waters of the River Jordan.

Too many years ago, the United States had offered to provide most of the funds for a “little TVA” on the river, benefitting both Israel and Jordan alike. At first, both had refused outright to have anything to do with the other. But over the years, skillful negotiating by Eric Johnston, the American President’s personal envoy, had brought Israel and Jordan closer and closer together—until now they agreed on the disposal of ninety per cent of the water.

But farther than this they would not go. For months, years, they balked on the remaining ten per cent, and the dams remained only blueprints.

Terence O’Reilly was sick unto death of the arguments, and thought everyone else was, too. He had heard them over and over; he knew them by heart. He knew they were evenly balanced, with justice on both sides. He knew both nations longed for a settlement, but he knew neither would back down, for reasons of “face.” Worst of all, he knew that any decision of his was meaningless. It was purely advisory, and he knew all too well what “advisory” opinions counted for out here.

Yet he tried to look interested as the delegate from Jordan wearily produced an argument that every man in the conference room could recite word for word. In a brief lull, General O’Reilly groaned: “Why don’t they toss a coin for it?” It was not as sotto voce as he meant.
The Arab delegate stared at him. “I beg your pardon!”

Flushing, General O’Reilly apologized, but the Arab was already talking excitedly to his fellow delegates. Puzzled, O’Reilly heard a confused babble of Arabic, then sudden silence.

The Arab delegate had a glint in his eye as he asked for the floor.

Download the free ebook for your KindleDownload “The Golden Judge” by Nathaniel Gordon for your Kindle:

“The Golden Judge” by Nathaniel Gordon [.azw file]

“Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases” by Grenville Kleiser – Free Kindle e-book

Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases by Grenville KleiserA practical handbook of pertinent expressions, striking similes, literary, commercial, conversational, and oratorical terms, for the embellishment of speech and literature, and the improvement of the vocabulary of those persons who read, write and speak English. By the American author and former instructor in public speaking at Yale University.

American writer, Grenville Kleiser (1868-1953), is best known for his writings on humor, inspiration and positive thinking. Besides Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases, he authored Model Speeches for Practice, Successful Methods of Public Speaking, The Training of a Public Speaker, and others, all now published by PDQ Press. Kleiser is quoted nearly as often as Mark Twain thanks to his wit and insight Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment. To every problem there is already a solution whether you know it or not. It is often better to have a great deal of harm happen to one than a little; a great deal may rouse you to remove what a little will only accustom you to endure.

It is a wonderful resource for writers.

Excerpt from the e-book:

INTRODUCTION

The most powerful and the most perfect expression of thought and feeling through the medium of oral language must be traced to the mastery of words. Nothing is better suited to lead speakers and readers of English into an easy control of this language than the command of the phrase that perfectly expresses the thought. Every speaker’s aim is to be heard and understood. A clear, crisp articulation holds an audience as by the spell of some irresistible power. The choice word, the correct phrase, are instruments that may reach the heart, and awake the soul if they fall upon the ear in melodious cadence; but if the utterance be harsh and discordant they fail to interest, fall upon deaf ears, and are as barren as seed sown on fallow ground. In language, nothing conduces so emphatically to the harmony of sounds as perfect phrasing–that is, the emphasizing of the relation of clause to clause, and of sentence to sentence by the systematic grouping of words. The phrase consists usually of a few words which denote a single idea that forms a separate part of a sentence. In this respect it differs from the clause, which is a short sentence that forms a distinct part of a composition, paragraph, or discourse. Correct phrasing is regulated by rests, such rests as do not break the continuity of a thought or the progress of the sense.

GRENVILLE KLEISER, who has devoted years of his diligent life to imparting the art of correct expression in speech and writing, has provided many aids for those who would know not merely what to say, but how to say it. He has taught also what the great HOLMES taught, that language is a temple in which the human soul is enshrined, and that it grows out of life–out of its joys and its sorrows, its burdens and its necessities. To him, as well as to the writer, the deep strong voice of man and the low sweet voice of woman are never heard at finer advantage than in the earnest but mellow tones of familiar speech. In the present volume Mr. Kleiser furnishes an additional and an exceptional aid for those who would have a mint of phrases at their command from which to draw when in need of the golden mean for expressing thought. Few indeed are the books fitted to-day for the purpose of imparting this knowledge, yet two centuries ago phrase-books were esteemed as supplements to the dictionaries, and have not by any manner of means lost their value. The guide to familiar quotations, the index to similes, the grammars, the readers, the machine-made letter-writer of mechanically perfect letters of congratulation or condolence–none are sententious enough to supply the need. By the compilation of this praxis, Mr. Kleiser has not only supplied it, but has furnished a means for the increase of one’s vocabulary by practical methods. There are thousands of persons who may profit by the systematic study of such a book as this if they will familiarize themselves with the author’s purpose by a careful reading of the preliminary pages of his book. To speak in public pleasingly and readily and to read well are accomplishments acquired only after many days, weeks even, of practise.

Foreigners sometimes reproach us for the asperity and discordance of our speech, and in general, this reproach is just, for there are many persons who do scanty justice to the vowel-elements of our language. Although these elements constitute its music they are continually mistreated. We flirt with and pirouette around them constantly. If it were not so, English would be found full of beauty and harmony of sound. Familiar with the maxim, “Take care of the vowels and the consonants will take care of themselves,”–a maxim that when put into practise has frequently led to the breaking-down of vowel values–the writer feels that the common custom of allowing “the consonants to take care of themselves” is pernicious. It leads to suppression or to imperfect utterance, and thus produces indistinct articulation.

Download the free ebook for your KindleDownload “Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases” by Grenville Kleiser for your Kindle:

“Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases” by Grenville Kleiser [.azw file]

“Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” by Edwin A Abbott – Free Kindle e-book

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A AbbottUnless you’re a mathematician, the chances of you reading any novels about geometry are probably slender. But if you read only two in your life, these are the ones. Taken together, they form a couple of accessible and charming explanations of geometry and physics for the curious non-mathematician. Flatland, which is also available under separate cover, was published in 1880 and imagines a two-dimensional world inhabited by sentient geometric shapes who think their planar world is all there is. But one Flatlander, a Square, discovers the existence of a third dimension and the limits of his world’s assumptions about reality and comes to understand the confusing problem of higher dimensions. The book is also quite a funny satire on society and class distinctions of Victorian England. The further mathematical fantasy, Sphereland, published 60 years later, revisits the world of Flatland in time to explore the mind-bending theories created by Albert Einstein, whose work so completely altered the scientific understanding of space, time, and matter. Among Einstein’s many challenges to common sense were the ideas of curved space, an expanding universe and the fact that light does not travel in a straight line. Without use of the mathematical formulae that bar most non-scientists from an understanding of Einstein’s theories, Sphereland gives lay readers ways to start comprehending these confusing but fundamental questions of our reality.

Excerpt from the e-book:

Part I

This World

Of the Nature of Flatland

I call our world Flatland, not because we call it so, but to make its nature clearer to you, my happy readers, who are privileged to live in Space.

Imagine a vast sheet of paper on which straight Lines, Triangles, Squares, Pentagons, Hexagons, and other figures, instead of remaining fixed in their places, move freely about, on or in the surface, but without the power of rising above or sinking below it, very much like shadows–only hard with luminous edges–and you will then have a pretty correct notion of my country and countrymen. Alas, a few years ago, I should have said “my universe:” but now my mind has been opened to higher views of things. In such a country, you will perceive at once that it is impossible that there should be anything of what you call a “solid” kind; but I dare say you will suppose that we could at least distinguish by sight the Triangles, Squares, and other figures, moving about as I have described them. On the contrary, we could see nothing of the kind, not at least so as to distinguish one figure from another. Nothing was visible, nor could be visible, to us, except Straight Lines; and the necessity of this I will speedily demonstrate.

Place a penny on the middle of one of your tables in Space; and leaning over it, look down upon it. It will appear a circle.

But now, drawing back to the edge of the table, gradually lower your eye (thus bringing yourself more and more into the condition of the inhabitants of Flatland), and you will find the penny becoming more and more oval to your view, and at last when you have placed your eye exactly on the edge of the table (so that you are, as it were, actually a Flatlander) the penny will then have ceased to appear oval at all, and will have become, so far as you can see, a straight line.

The same thing would happen if you were to treat in the same way a Triangle, or a Square, or any other figure cut out from pasteboard. As soon as you look at it with your eye on the edge of the table, you will find that it ceases to appear to you as a figure, and that it becomes in appearance a straight line. Take for example an equilateral Triangle–who represents with us a Tradesman of the respectable class. Figure 1 represents the Tradesman as you would see him while you were bending over him from above; figures 2 and 3 represent the Tradesman, as you would see him if your eye were close to the level, or all but on the level of the table; and if your eye were quite on the level of the table (and that is how we see him in Flatland) you would see nothing but a straight line

Download the free ebook for your KindleDownload “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” by Edwin A Abbott for your Kindle:

“Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” by Edwin A Abbott [.mobi file]

“Geek Mafia: Mile Zero” by Rick Dakan – Free Kindle e-book

Geek Mafia Mile Zero by Rick DakanFollowing on from last weeks free e-book- Geek Mafia.

In this sequel to Geek Mafia Dakan takes you on a thrillride filled with conmen (and women), cross-dressing martial arts experts and a murderous plot. From start to finish the momentum will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. I highly recommend reading the first installment, Geek Mafia prior to this edition so you have a full understanding of the storyline. A fantastic book, I can’t wait for the next release from Rick Dakan! – D. Mobley

Excerpt from the e-book:

TWO and a half hours later, Paul met Isaiah and, as it turned out, Winston at the Blue Parrot restaurant over in Bahama Village. The restaurant was one of Paul’s favorites, and also one of the most popular breakfast joints on the island. Most of the dining area consisted of picnic tables spread out beneath the trees, with chickens scrambling around the mulch-covered ground while the owner’s dogs prowled about hoping for table scraps. The ultra-casual setting belied a relatively sophisticated menu that included seafood eggs benedict that Paul craved at least once a week.

Even at this early hour the restaurant was crowded. This time of year, with so many tourists on the island, there would soon be an hour’s wait. Most of the tables had happy diners chowing down at them. But Paul didn’t see Isaiah anywhere among them. He was about to ask the hostess for a table when his phone started to vibrate in his pocket. It didn’t even surprise him when he saw the number Isaiah had been using on the caller ID.

“I assume you’re watching me from somewhere?” Paul said as he answered.

“Look up,” Isaiah responded.

Paul looked up, first into the trees and then at the second floor of the ramshackle wooden building that housed the restaurant’s kitchen and small indoor dining section. On the second floor was another dining room, one usually closed except on the most crowded mornings. He saw Isaiah standing at the top of the stairs. He’d changed into less formal attire – a pair of jeans and a simple, short-sleeve button-down red shirt. Paul nodded at him and shut off his phone as he made for the stairway.

Upstairs he found Isaiah and Winston both waiting for him at a table, along with pitchers of coffee and juice and a platter of muffins and croissants. They had the small dining room to themselves, and Paul assumed they’d paid for the privilege of not being disturbed any further.

“You found my favorite restaurant,” said Paul. “You seem to know everything.”

Isaiah ignored the barb. “Please, take a seat,” he said, motioning to the chair across from him.
Paul nodded to Winston by way of saying hello, sat down and poured himself a cup of coffee and took a blueberry muffin from the tray. “Is there going to be a waitress coming?” he asked.

“Is there something you need?” asked Isaiah.

“Eggs. Bacon. Toast.”

“If you could wait until we’re finished,” Isaiah said. “It shouldn’t take long.”

“Fine,” said Paul, munching his muffin.

“So, did everything go all right at the hotel?” Winston asked. “Did you…?”

“Yeah, it went fine. We got her out of there.”

“Where is she now?” Winston asked, his voice sad.

“For the moment we’ve got her hidden in a freezer in our backyard,” said Paul. “But that’s not a good long-term solution. It’s not even a good short-term solution. If you could…”

“We’ll help you dispose of it,” said Isaiah.

“I’ll take care of it,” said Winston. Isaiah looked over at the old man and the two stared at each other for half a heartbeat. “She was a friend. I owe her that much.” Isaiah nodded in agreement and they both turned their gazes back on Paul.

Download the free ebook for your KindleDownload “Geek Mafia: Mile Zero” by Rick Dakan for your Kindle:

“Geek Mafia: Mile Zero” by Rick Dakan [.azw file]

If you haven’t read the original “Geek Mafia”, then you can download that here for free.

“Geek Mafia” by Rick Dakan – Free Kindle e-book

Geek Mafia by Rick DakanFired from his job as a videogame designer, Paul Reynolds meets an alluring, conwoman named Chloe. With the help of her gang of techno-pirate friends, Chloe helps Paul take revenge on his former employers. He falls in love with their fun loving, off the grid lifestyle almost as fast as he falls head over heels for Chloe. But can he trust any of them, or is he the one whos really being conned? Inspired by author Rick Dakans own eventful experiences in the videogame and comic book industries, Geek Mafia, satisfies the hunger in all of us to buck the system, take revenge on corporate America, and live a life of excitement and adventure.

Excerpt from the e-book:

CHAPTER 1

Paul Reynolds crisscrossed his sketchbook with furious strokes, filling the pages with images of the vengeance he would take on his former coworkers at Fear and Loading Games. He’d founded the company three years back and, just a few hours ago, his partners and erstwhile friends had fired him without cause or warning. He concentrated hard as his pen brought to life demonic figures from one of the best-selling comics he’d created, scythe wielding cyber-men called Myrmidons who tore into surprised computer programmers with fangs and claws. Elsewhere on the page, computers assembled themselves into 21st century Golems, rising up against traitorous CEO’s and producers to crush them to bloody pulp as they cowered beneath their desks. Sitting at the bar in Señor Goldstein’s Mexican Restaurant in San Jose, California, Paul’s own artwork engaged him for the first time in months, maybe years. Under other circumstances, that would have made him happy. But today’s circumstances allowed only two emotions: despair and a burning desire for revenge. Not wanting to succumb to the former, and not quite wanting to find a gun and go back to the office, he instead drew.

He had turned to a fresh page and begun to sketch his most elaborate revenge-scheme yet when a woman walked into his line of vision. There were four or five other women in the restaurant already (most of them employees), but this one stood out. This one would’ve stood out anywhere. Her hair, cut short and spiky, was dyed a magenta so bright it nearly glowed. She wore a tight black t-shirt, baggy olive drab shorts that hung on shapely hips, and heavy black boots with two inch thick soles. She had a faded black messenger bag slung across her chest, the strap pressing between her breasts. If Paul had to guess, she wasn’t wearing a bra. She definitely wasn’t your average Silicon Valley techie on an early lunch break, and certainly not a restaurant employee.

Grateful for the distraction, Paul focused on the newcomer, chilling his anger for a moment with a swift sip of margarita and melted ice. He ran a hand through his fine brown hair, brushed a few wrinkles out of his Green Lantern t-shirt, and sucked in his bit of beer belly before he turned back to the sketchbook and kept drawing. He didn’t care what his pen pushed onto the page as long as he looked busy. As far as Paul was concerned, a sad man sitting at a bar before noon was not someone that striking young women with ruby hair engaged in random conversation. However, as past experience in many a coffee house and dive bar had taught him, a scruffy artist sketching away when normal folks should be working often attracted all kinds of interesting attention. And so, he sketched.

“I’m here to speak with the manager,” the woman said to the bartender.

“Yeah, he’s here.” the bartender replied and skulked off to find the boss.

The girl leaned forward onto the bar, drumming a random beat on the wood with her knuckles while she looked around the room. Paul, who’d been watching out of the corner of his eye, took the noise as an excuse to glance over at her. She was looking right back at him, smiling.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” he replied. He gave a smile, but inside he was suddenly embarrassed by the attention. He didn’t want to hit on girls. He wanted to get drunk and figure out if there was any way he could avoid his looming fate. But he hadn’t dated anyone in over a year, and some urges – and some women – refused to be ignored.

“What’re you working on there?” she asked.

“Oh, just doodling you know,” he said as he looked down at the page. He’d sketched the outline of a hydra-like monster with five heads and ten tentacles. Four of the heads were laughing as the tentacles strangled the fifth. “I’m a…I’m a comic book artist.”

Was that true? Was he no longer a videogame designer then, just like that?

“Really? Very cool.”

“Thanks”

“But tell me something,” she said as she came over and claimed the bar stool next to his. She smelled like soap and shampoo, clean and fresh. “Are you really a comic book artist or are you, like, a comic book artist in waiting?”

“What?”

“You know, you meet guys all the time in bars or Starbucks or wherever who carry around their notebooks and sketchpads and say they’re writers or artists. But…..

Download the free ebook for your KindleDownload “Geek Mafia” by Rick Dakan for your Kindle:

“Geek Mafia” by Rick Dakan [.azw file]

Watch out for the sequel “Geek Mafia: Mile Zero”, which we will put up next week.

“Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” by Cory Doctorow – Free Kindle e-book

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory DoctorowDown and Out in the Magic Kingdom is a 2003 science fiction book, the first novel by Canadian author and digital-rights activist Cory Doctorow. Concurrent with its publication by Tor Books, Doctorow released the entire text of the novel under a Creative Commons license on his website, allowing the whole text of the book to be read for free and distributed without needing any further permission from him or his publisher.

A lot of ideas are packed into this short novel, but Doctorow’s own best idea was setting his story in Disney World, where it’s hard to tell whether technology serves dreams or vice versa. Jules, a relative youngster at more than a century old, is a contented citizen of the Bitchun Society that has filled Earth and near-space since shortage and death were overcome. People are free to do whatever they wish, since the only wealth is respect and since constant internal interface lets all monitor exactly how successful they are at being liked. What Jules wants to do is move to Disney World, join the ad-hoc crew that runs the park and fine-tune the Haunted Mansion ride to make it even more wonderful. When his prudently stored consciousness abruptly awakens in a cloned body, he learns that he was murdered; evidently he’s in the way of somebody else’s dreams. Jules first suspects, then becomes viciously obsessed by, the innovative group that has turned the Hall of Presidents into a virtual experience. In the conflict that follows, he loses his lover, his job, his respect-even his interface connection-but gains perspective that the other Bitchun citizens lack. Jules’s narrative unfolds so smoothly that readers may forget that all this raging passion is over amusement park rides. Then they can ask what that shows about the novel’s supposedly mature, liberated characters. Doctorow has served up a nicely understated dish: meringue laced with caffeine.

Excerpt from the e-book:

With all the Hall’s animatronics mothballed for the duration, Lil had more time on her hands than she knew what to do with. She hung around the little bungalow, the two of us in the living room, staring blankly at the windows, breathing shallowly in the claustrophobic, superheated Florida air. I had my working notes on queue management for the Mansion, and I pecked at them aimlessly. Sometimes, Lil mirrored my HUD so she could watch me work, and made suggestions based on her long experience.

It was a delicate process, this business of increasing through-put without harming the guest experience. But for every second I could shave off of the queue-to-exit time, I could put another sixty guests through and lop thirty seconds off total wait-time. And the more guests who got to experience the Mansion, the more of a Whuffie-hit Debra’s people would suffer if they made a move on it. So I dutifully pecked at my notes, and found three seconds I could shave off the graveyard sequence by swiveling the Doom Buggy carriages stage-left as they descended from the attic window: by expanding their fields-of-vision, I could expose the guests to all the scenes more quickly.

I ran the change in fly-through, then implemented it after closing and invited the other Liberty Square ad-hocs to come and test it out.

It was another muggy winter evening, prematurely dark. The ad-hocs had enough friends and family with them that we were able to simulate an off-peak queue-time, and we all stood and sweated in the pre-show area, waiting for the doors to swing open, listening to the wolf-cries and assorted boo-spookery from the hidden speakers.

The doors swung open, revealing Lil in a rotting maid’s uniform, her eyes lined with black, her skin powdered to a deathly pallor. She gave us a cold, considering glare, then intoned, “Master Gracey requests more bodies.”

As we crowded into the cool, musty gloom of the parlor, Lil contrived to give my ass an affectionate squeeze. I turned to return the favor, and saw Debra’s elfin comrade looming over Lil’s shoulder. My smile died on my lips.

The man locked eyes with me for a moment, and I saw something in there — some admixture of cruelty and worry that I didn’t know what to make of. He looked away immediately. I’d known that Debra would have spies in the crowd, of course, but with elf-boy watching, I resolved to make this the best show I knew how.

It’s subtle, this business of making the show better from within. Lil had already slid aside the paneled wall that led to stretch-room number two, the most-recently serviced one. Once the crowd had moved inside, I tried to lead their eyes by adjusting my body language to poses of subtle attention directed at the new spotlights. When the newly remastered soundtrack came from behind the sconce-bearing gargoyles at the corners of the octagonal room, I leaned my body slightly in the direction of the moving stereo-image. And an instant before the lights snapped out, I ostentatiously cast my eyes up into the scrim ceiling, noting that others had taken my cue, so they were watching when the UV-lit corpse dropped from the pitch-dark ceiling, jerking against the noose at its neck.

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“The Airlords of Han” by Philip Francis Nowlan – Free Kindle e-book

The Airlords of Han by Philip Francis NowlanSECOND ADVENTURE OF THE ORIGINAL “BUCK ROGERS”! “For scientific interest as well as suspense little science fiction could hold its own with this particular story. It is one of those rare stories that will bear reading and re-reading many times,” Amazing Stories. Recovering from a gas that caused him to sleep for five hundred years, Anthony “Buck” Rogers helped an enslaved America strike its first blow for freedom against the alien Han. Now, he and beloved, warrior-woman Wilma Deering, must lead a desperate a battle to the finish against a superior foe — using futuristic weapons such as disintegrators, jumping belts, inertron, paralysis rays, and atomic torpedoes. The climatic conflict features a special effects battle of ships and rays that would challenge even today’s greatest filmmakers to reproduce successfully on film. “A delight to readers, The Airlords of Han [is] told with directness, precise imagery, and discipline of controlled imagination. It is no accident that Buck Rogers became an almost instantaneous success,” – Sam Moskowitz.

Excerpt:

CHAPTER VIII

Hypnotic Torture

Some twenty minutes later the ship arrived. It settled down slowly into the ravine on its repeller rays until it was but a few feet above the tree tops. There it was stopped, and floated steadily, while a little cage was let down on a wire. Into this I was hustled and locked, whereupon the cage rose swiftly again to a hole in the bottom of the hull, into which it fitted snugly, and I stepped into the interior of a
craft not unlike the one with which I had had my fateful encounter, the cage being unlocked.

The cabin in which I was confined was not an outside compartment, but was equipped with a number of viewplates.

The ship rose to a great height, and headed westward at such speed that the hum of the air past its smooth plates rose to a shrill, almost inaudible moan. After a lapse of some hours we came in sight of an impressive mountain range, which I correctly guessed to be the Rockies. Swerving slightly, we headed down toward one of the topmost pinnacles of the range, and there unfolded in one of the viewplates in my cabin a glorious view of Lo-Tan, the Magnificent, a fairy city of glistening
glass spires and iridescent colors, piled up on sheer walls of brilliant blue, on the very tip of this peak.

Nor was there any sheen of shimmering disintegrator rays surrounding it, to interfere with the sparkling sight. So far-flung were the defenses of Lo-Tan, I found, that it was considered impossible for an American rocket gunner to get within effective range, and so numerous were the _dis_ ray batteries on the mountain peaks and in the ravines, in this encircling line of defenses, drawn on a radius of no less than 100 miles, that even the largest craft, in the opinion of the Hans, could easily be brought to earth through air-pocketing tactics. And this, I was the more ready to believe after my own recent experience.

I spent two months as a prisoner in Lo-Tan. I can honestly say that during that entire time every attention was paid to my physical comfort. Luxuries were showered upon me. But I was almost continuously subjected to some form of mental torture or moral assault. Most elaborately staged
attempts at seduction were made upon me with drugs, with women. Hypnotism was resorted to. Viewplates were faked to picture to me the complete rout of American forces all over the continent. With incredible patience, and laboring under great handicaps, in view of the vigor of the American offensive, the Han intelligence department dug up the fact that somewhere in the forces surrounding Nu-Yok, I had left behind me Wilma, my bride of less than a year. In some manner, I will never tell
how, they discovered some likeness of her, and faked an electronoscopic picture of her in the hands of torturers in Nu-Yok, in which she was shown holding out her arms piteously toward me, as though begging me to save her by surrender.

Surrender of what? Strangely enough, they never indicated that to me directly, and to this day I do not know precisely what they expected or hoped to get out of me. I surmise that it was information regarding the American sciences.

There was, however, something about the picture of Wilma in the hands of the torturers that did not seem real to me, and my mind still resisted. I remember gazing with staring eyes at that picture, the sweat pouring down my face, searching eagerly for some visible evidence of fraud and being unable to find it. It was the identical likeness of Wilma. Perhaps had my love for her been less great, I would have succumbed. But all the while I knew subconsciously that this was not Wilma. Product of the
utmost of nobility in this modern virile, rugged American race, she would have died under even worse torture than these vicious Han scientists knew how to inflict, before she would have pleaded with me
this way to betray my race and her honor.

But these were things that not even the most skilled of the Han hypnotists and psychoanalysts could drag from me. Their intelligence division also failed to pick up the fact that I was myself the product
of the Twentieth Century and not the Twenty-fifth. Had they done so, it might have made a difference. I have no doubt that some of their most subtle mental assaults missed fire because of my own Twentieth Century “denseness.” Their hypnotists inflicted many horrifying nightmares on
me, and made me do and say many things that I would not have done in my right senses. But even in the Twentieth Century we had learned that hypnotism cannot make a person violate his fundamental concepts of morality against his will, and steadfastly I steeled my will againstthem.

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“The Art of War” by Sun Tzu – Free Kindle e-book

The Art of War by Sun TzuWritten 2500 years ago, The Art of War is the oldest military treatise in the world, a classic study of competition and rivalry that has been utilized by soldiers ever since. Napoleon studied its strategies and tactics. It is required reading for intelligence personnel in the United States Marine Corps. “Warriors” of Wall Street and in corporation cultures rely on it for guidance. It’s even been rumored to help players win at the board game Risk. This 1910 translation by the British Museum’s Lionel Giles is the most popular one available, a highly readable version of this still startlingly relevant text. SUN TZU lived in China in the 6th century B.C. and was a contemporary of Confucius. LIONEL GILES also translated The Book of Mencius and Sayings of Confucius.

Translated from the Chinese with Introduction and Critical Notes by Lionel Giles, M.A.

Excerpt:

III. ATTACK BY STRATAGEM

1. Sun Tzu said: In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

[The equivalent to an army corps, according to Ssu-ma Fa, consisted nominally of 12500 men; according to Ts`ao Kung, the equivalent of a regiment contained 500 men, the equivalent to a detachment consists from any number between 100 and 500, and the equivalent of a company contains from 5 to 100 men. For the last two, however, Chang Yu gives the exact figures of 100 and 5 respectively.]

2. Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

[Here again, no modern strategist but will approve the words of the old Chinese general. Moltke's
greatest triumph, the capitulation of the huge French army at Sedan, was won practically without bloodshed.]

3. Thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans;

[Perhaps the word "balk" falls short of expressing the full force of the Chinese word, which implies not an attitude of defense, whereby one might be content to foil the enemy's stratagems one after another, but an active policy of counter- attack. Ho Shih puts this very clearly in his note: "When the enemy has made a plan of attack against us, we must anticipate him by delivering our own attack first."]

the next best is to prevent the junction of the enemy’s forces;

[Isolating him from his allies. We must not forget that Sun Tzu, in speaking of hostilities, always has in mind the numerous states or principalities into which the China of his day was split up.]

the next in order is to attack the enemy’s army in the field;

[When he is already at full strength.]

and the worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities.

4. The rule is, not to besiege walled cities if it can possibly be avoided.

[Another sound piece of military theory. Had the Boers acted upon it in 1899, and refrained from dissipating their strength before Kimberley, Mafeking, or even Ladysmith, it is more than probable that they would have been masters of the situation before the British were ready seriously to oppose them.]

The preparation of mantlets, movable shelters, and various implements of war, will take up three whole months;

[It is not quite clear what the Chinese word, here translated as "mantlets", described. Ts`ao Kung simply defines them as "large shields," but we get a better idea of them from Li Ch`uan, who says they were to protect the heads of those who were assaulting the city walls at close quarters. This seems to suggest a sort of Roman TESTUDO, ready made. Tu Mu says they were wheeled vehicles used in repelling attacks, but this is denied by Ch`en Hao. See supra II. 14. The name is also applied to turrets on city walls. Of the "movable shelters" we get a fairly clear description from several commentators. They were wooden missile-proof structures on four wheels, propelled from within, covered over with raw hides, and used in sieges to convey parties of men to and from the walls, for the purpose of filling up the encircling moat with earth. Tu Mu adds that they are now called "wooden donkeys."]

and the piling up of mounds over against the walls will take three months more.

[These were great mounds or ramparts of earth heaped up to the level of the enemy's walls in order to discover the weak points in the defense, and also to destroy the fortified turrets mentioned in the preceding note.]

5. The general, unable to control his irritation, will launch his men to the assault like swarming ants,

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“The Island of Dr. Moreau” by H. G. Wells – Free Kindle e-book

The Island of Dr. Moreau by H G WellsAdrift in a dinghy, Edward Prendick, the single survivor from the good ship Lady Vain, is rescued by a vessel carrying a profoundly unusual cargo a menagerie of savage animals. Tended to recovery by their keeper Montgomery, who gives him dark medicine that tastes of blood, Prendick soon finds himself stranded upon an uncharted island in the Pacific with his rescuer and the beasts. Here, he meets Montgomery’s master, the sinister Dr. Moreau a brilliant scientist whose notorious experiments in vivisection have caused him to abandon the civilised world. It soon becomes clear he has been developing these experiments with truly horrific results.

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

In The Dingey Of The “Lady Vain.”

I DO not propose to add anything to what has already been written concerning the loss of the “Lady Vain.” As everyone knows, she collided with a derelict when ten days out from Callao. The longboat, with seven of the crew, was picked up eighteen days after by H. M. gunboat “Myrtle,” and the story of their terrible privations has become quite as well known as the far more horrible “Medusa” case. But I have to add to the published story of the “Lady Vain” another, possibly as horrible and far stranger. It has hitherto been supposed that the four men who were in the dingey perished, but this is incorrect. I have the best of evidence for this assertion: I was one of the four men.

But in the first place I must state that there never were four men in the dingey,—the number was three. Constans, who was “seen by the captain to jump into the gig,” luckily for us and unluckily for himself did not reach us. He came down out of the tangle of ropes under the stays of the smashed bowsprit, some small rope caught his heel as he let go, and he hung for a moment head downward, and then fell and struck a block or spar floating in the water. We pulled towards him, but he never came up.

Daily News, March 17, 1887.

I say lucky for us he did not reach us, and I might almost say luckily for himself; for we had only a small breaker of water and some soddened ship’s biscuits with us, so sudden had been the alarm, so unprepared the ship for any disaster. We thought the people on the launch would be better provisioned (though it seems they were not), and we tried to hail them.They could not have heard us, and the next morning when the drizzle cleared,— which was not until past midday,—we could see nothing of them. We could not stand up to look about us, because of the pitching of the boat. The two other men who had escaped so far with me were a man named Helmar, a passenger like myself, and a seaman whose name I don’t know,— a short sturdy man, with a stammer.

We drifted famishing, and, after our water had come to an end, tormented by an intolerable thirst, for eight days altogether. After the second day the sea subsided slowly to a glassy calm. It is quite impossible for the ordinary reader to imagine those eight days. He has not, luckily for himself, anything in his memory to imagine with. After the first day we said little to one another, and lay in our places in the boat and stared at the horizon, or watched, with eyes that grew larger and more haggard every day, the misery and weakness gaining upon our companions. The sun became pitiless. The water ended on the fourth day, and we were already thinking strange things and saying them with our eyes; but it was, I think, the sixth before Helmar gave voice to the thing we had all been thinking. I remember our voices were dry and thin, so that we bent towards one another and spared our words. I stood out against it with all my might, was rather for scuttling the boat and perishing together among the sharks that followed us; but when Helmar said that if his proposal was accepted we should have drink, the sailor came round to him.

I would not draw lots however, and in the night the sailor whispered to Helmar again and again, and I sat in the bows with my clasp-knife in my hand, though I doubt if I had the stuff in me to fight; and in the morning I agreed to Helmar’s proposal, and we handed halfpence to find the odd man. The lot fell upon the sailor; but he was the strongest of us and would not abide by it, and attacked Helmar with his hands. They grappled together and almost stood up. I crawled along the boat to them, intending to help Helmar by grasping the sailor’s leg; but the sailor stumbled with the swaying of the boat, and the two fell upon the gunwale and rolled overboard together. They sank like stones. I remember laughing at that, and wondering why I laughed. The laugh caught me suddenly like a thing from without.

I lay across one of the thwarts for I know not how long, thinking that if I had the strength I would drink sea-water and madden myself to die quickly. And even as I lay there I saw, with no more interest than if it had been a picture, a sail come up towards me over the sky-line. My mind must have been wandering, and yet I remember all that happened, quite distinctly. I remember how my head swayed with the seas, and the horizon with the sail above it danced up and down; but I also remember as distinctly that I had a persuasion that I was dead, and that I thought what a jest it was that they should come too late by such a little to catch me in my body.

For an endless period, as it seemed to me, I lay with my head on the thwart watching the schooner (she was a little ship, schooner-rigged fore and aft) come up out of the sea. She kept tacking to and fro in a widening compass, for she was sailing dead into the wind. It never entered my head to attempt to attract attention, and I do not remember anything distinctly after the sight of her side until I found myself in a little cabin aft. There’s a dim half-memory of being lifted up to the gangway, and of a big red countenance covered with freckles and surrounded with red hair staring at me over the bulwarks. I also had a disconnected impression of a dark face, with extraordinary eyes, close to mine; but that I thought was a nightmare, until I met it again. I fancy I recollect some stuff being poured in between my teeth; and that is all.

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