my review of Michael Marshall Smith's The Servants has been published here. Great book for pre-teen readers. my biggest complaint is that the book is so short! kids who are at the reading level for this have probably just finished the first or second Harry Potter book, i worry they would be bored with a book that just over 200 pages. so my message to Mr. Marshall Smith? you're not half bad, now give me another hundred pages!
Another short but incredibly satisfying and smart read is Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, which is available via creative commons, here. I've been reading Mr. Doctorow for a few years now, and I religiously follow his stuff on Boing Boing.net (and if you go that site, today, right now, the top article is about guess what? Little Brother!!). More on Little Brother in a bit, but Since Cory Doctorow is now my favorite person of the day (go Canada!), i found myself studying his "suggested reading list" down at the very bottom of the Little Brother page. this is how I found myself reading Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. I might suck at math, but i really enjoy reading about it. In the first hundred pages of Cryptonomicon, the story takes you to Pearl Harbor, Shanghai, various neighborhoods in Manila, Corregidor, Cavite, Gaudalcanal (where's the canal?), and other famous WWII pacific theatre locations. The only thing worse than my history is my geography, and I'm embarrassed to say I couldn't find most of these places on a map, or tell you why they are important (even more embarrassing is how many americans suffer from the same problem, and don't realize it's a problem).
i might not know where Manila is, but Google Maps does. with the high rez photography, i can even pick out the shipping containers, cranes, churches, plazas, and slums. Google maps gives me a whole new way to follow characters and stories. I'm sure Google Earth would even give me a orthogonal view of the exact hotel mentioned in the book.
Maybe tonight i'll map out all the places mentioned in Little Brother, in and around San Fransisco. See? the internet isn't all crap!