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Rand B. Schaal, PhD, taught geology at the University of California, Davis from 1986 to 1998. He was also employed at NASA Johnson Space Center, researching shock metamorphism in Moon rocks and in meteorites in the late 1970s.
He assimilated science and math on three campuses of the University of California: Davis, Berkeley, and Los Angeles. Later in life he also took courses in fiction writing and in popular science writing at UC Santa Cruz. Many years later, he also audited classes for two years at the UC Davis School of Medicine.
Dr. Schaal learned the most about the human frailty after suffering a major stroke on Memorial Day in 1998. Initially, while in the intensive care unit, he flatlined for thirty-six seconds and saw the proverbial white light. After his brush with death he was temporarily paralyzed on the right side. He recovered in the hospital for six weeks. Suffering from dain bramage and impeech spediments (spoonerisms were an amusing side effect), he was forced to give up lecturing at UC Davis and piloting regular airplanes. He became a hermit who typed with all five fingers on his left hand and pecked with only the index finger on his right hand. He wrote his first two novels that way.
In the year 2000 he bought Elsa, the motorglider. Then, in his garage at Davis, California, he completed the four-hundred-day project of assembling Sheila, a light sport airplane, from a kit. He finished her in 2007 and flew her to Arizona. Since then Sheila has been based at Safford Municipal Airport, SAD, in Arizona.
The unthinkable happened on 9 December 2013: another stroke. This time it affected the opposite hemisphere of his brain as the first. Afterward, his whole brain was damaged! No paralysis this time. He was in the hospital for only one week, but he was forced to take a seven-month hiatus from writing to renew his desire to write again and to regain sufficient motor skills to type words on a computer keyboard—two-fingered. As he took on the task of finishing The Radon Trilogy he could type only three-letter words without a typo—mots of teh tmie. A lot more time was required to write each new paragraph.
Sense of place shines as a principal aspect of Dr. Schaal's writing. Detailed factual descriptions of disparate geographical locations bring these stories to life: the taste of the salty seawater off the coast of San Diego in California to the silent snowfall on Moses Rock Dike in Utah; the comforting dry desert air at the Algodones Dunes in southern California to the huge pink boulders at the Texas Canyon Rest Stop on Interstate-10 in Arizona; and the spectacular cliffs of the Mogollon Rim north of Payson in Arizona to the majestic snowcapped Inyo mountains visible in alpenglow from the hot springs at Saline Valley in California. He has invested a lot of intimate time at each of these places, if not doing actual geological fieldwork there. These places become their own sort of ancillary characters in the stories. Safford, Arizona, in particular, becomes a well fleshed-out character with references to its streets, motel, restaurant, hospital, cemetery, airport, Walmart, and Dodge dealership. Some of the other non-speaking characters are the Gila Valley, Monument Valley, Saline Valley, Chaco Canyon, Grand Canyon, Colorado River, and Superstition Mountains. Their descriptions fulfill in him the accomplishment of travel, to peer at any distant horizon and to know what lies beyond, with the certainty of having seen it with his own eyes. Being an airplane pilot for nearly forty years has allowed him to explore beyond many distant horizons and to bring a sense of place to all his stories.
Dr. Schaal has begun outlining the next trilogy—a lunar geologist's adventures living on the Moon in a futuristic colony.
on Aug. 10, 2015 :
Entertaining story and an especially good choice if you are planning a trip to the South West. The author's descriptions of the landscapes elaborated with scientific explanation of the geology of that part of the USA are both compelling and beautiful.
(reviewed 8 days after purchase)