The Blog's Mission

Wikipedia defines a book review as: “a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review”. My mission is to provide the reader with my thoughts on the author’s work whether it’s good, bad, or ugly. I read all genres of books, so some of the reviews may be on hard to find books, or currently out of print. All of my reviews will also be available on I will write a comment section at the end of each review to provide the reader with some little known facts about the author, or the subject of the book. Every now and then, I’ve had an author email me concerning the reading and reviewing of their work. If an author wants to contact me, you can email me at I would be glad to read, review and comment on any nascent, or experienced writer’s books. If warranted, I like to add a little comedy to accent my reviews, so enjoy!
Thanks, Rick O.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


The publishing consultant sent me a copy of this novel to review:

I was pleasantly surprised with Guy Butler’s second novel of a proposed trilogy. While it didn’t have the suspense of Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle (1978) or the drama of Alistair Maclean’s The Guns of Navarone (1957), it did have it’s moments. I didn’t read the first novel, but I found that I didn’t need to because this invigorating novel can be read as a stand-alone. I am reminded of the various series written by Bernard Cornwell, whose books can also be read separately or out of order. Lastly, I detected the undertone of the alternate history guru Harry Turtledove, author of The Man with the Iron Heart . Whoa! I’m not saying Guy Butler is in the class of the above mentioned authors. I am saying that he is on the right track to have a successful career as a writer. I did find some faults with this book, such as Mr. Butler naming the novel’s elite British group: Special Air Services (SAS on page 30), and Strategic Air Services (SAS on page 200). Which is correct? Also, I find that there are way too many described characters to remember. A sergeant is a sergeant, a officer is an officer, no need to describe them all. I’m still a student of ten or less main characters (Cormac McCarthy’s theory?). I also thought that some of the harrowing events behind enemy lines could have been less predictable and drawn out for a high anxiety affect.

This is the story of Czeslaw Orlowski, aka the Spider or Chez, the fearless folk hero of the Polish resistance of World War II. It seems that the Germans and Spider are being pursued by the Russians in 1945. The Germans for obvious reasons; Spider because Stalin wants no resistance when he takes over Poland. Spider hides out as a farmer with his wife Jadwiga and his in-laws but is hunted down by the Russians. He sends a message to his friend in England, Malcolm McClain, asking for help in getting out of Poland. This prompts Winston Churchill into a meeting with Paddy McBride, a Major of the British elite Special Air Services (SAS). They decide that Spider has saved many British lives with his heroics and should be rescued. A plan is put in place for twelve SAS fighters, known as the Black Widows, to go to Poland and rescue Spider and his family under the noses of the Russians. The mission is successful although it encountered many misadventures. You will have to buy your own copy of this exciting novel to find out what occurred.

This takes the reader to the guts of this novel. Since Churchill saved Spider and his family from sure death, he wants a favor from Spider. The question: Is the real Hitler in the bunker? Brigadier Zumwalt says on page 170, “M16 has solid intelligence suggesting a long standing plot is under way to stage Adolf Hitler’s we stand here tonight, Adolf might already subbed in his stooge and be miles away from Berlin.” Do you smell Harry Turtledove’s style? Anyway, Spider, with the help of SAS volunteers, must somehow enter Hitler’s bunker in Berlin and find out if Hitler is actually in there. Spider on page 248 confirms that...”The entire top echelon of the Nazi Party is planning on flying to Spain within the next couple of weeks to pick up a U-boat to South America and freedom.” These last 100 pages, or so, are worth the price of the novel. So once again, I’m reading a new author that should be under contract from a large publishing house, but is not. Why? With a strong editing job, this novel could have been a bestseller. I do recommend this novel and the writer.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: In the beginning of Butler's novel, he tells the reader how he came upon the title of the book, "A Gordian Knot is a metaphor for a problem deemed insurmountable, yet easily solved by thinking outside the box. When the impossible problem involves The Spider, it is better characterized as... A Gordian Web."

Let’s talk about two of my favorite World War II novels that I mentioned in the first paragraph of this review. The first is Ken Follett’s 1978 novel, Eye of the Needle. says, “It is 1944 and weeks before D-Day. The Allies are disguising their invasion plans with a phoney armada of ships and planes. Their plan would be scuppered if an enemy agent found out… and then, Hitler’s prize agent, “The Needle,” does just that. Hunted by MI5, he leads a murderous trail across Britain to a waiting U-Boat. But he hasn’t planned for a storm-battered island, and the remarkable young woman who lives there.”

The second book is Alistair MacLean’s 1957 novel, The Guns of Navarone. says, “The Guns of Navarone is a 1957 novel about World War II by Scottish writer Alistair MacLean that was made into a critically acclaimed film in 1961. The Greek island of Navarone does not exist and the plot is fictitious; however, the story takes place within the real historical context of Dodecanese Campaign- the Allies' campaign to capture the German-held Greek islands in the Aegean in 1943, while "Navarone" is an obvious variation of Navarino, the place of a famous naval battle in 1827. The story is based on the Battle of Leros, and Leros island's naval artillery guns - among the largest... naval artillery guns used during World War II - that were built and used by the Italians until Italy capitulated in 1943 and subsequently used by the Germans until their defeat. The story concerns the efforts of an Allied commando team to destroy a seemingly impregnable German fortress that threatens Allied naval ships in the Aegean Sea, and prevents over 2,000 isolated British soldiers from being rescued. The story is based on the real events surrounding the Battle of Leros in World War II.”

Thursday, December 5, 2013


The author sent me a copy of this novel to review:

This maiden novel by James M. Corkill is satisfactory at best. Mr. Corkill displays raw talent, but is still in Double A ball. I can see that he is trying to create a character similar to Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt, but it’s a ‘no cigar’ comparison. I had a hard time believing in Alex Cave’s credentials. What man could be an ex-CIA agent, a college professor, an advisor to the Director of the National Security Agency, and have the ear of the President of the United States at the age of twenty four. Mr. Corkhill, you must age this man quickly. I know the age wasn’t a typo, because you wrote on page 75, “The President stared at Alex while he listened to the suggestions tossed around the table. He found it odd that this young professor…” While I know Dirk Pitt stories are fast paced, this one is on double-time and a little herky-jerky. Sometimes an author has too many subplots and sidebars. Well, this is one. My suggestion for Mr. Corkhill is to slow done. You have the expertise. Let the story breath at it’s own pace and mature naturally. Lastly, If you want Alex to be a man’s man, don’t let him act cowardly like you did when Alex was in the AOS camp. I know he was faking, but Dirk Pitt would rather die then act less a man. Okay, enough said about that. What about the story?

The story is very busy, with several plots and subplots going on simultaneously, alternating from chapter to chapter. The first scene has our protagonist, Alex Cave, witnessing a flash of light on a oil tanker on the Puget Sound. Just like that the crew and 80,000 tons of crude oil disappear. What happened? The scene switches to Brownsville, Texas were the same event happens to another oil tanker. Six out of the seven crewmen on the first tanker are found 150 miles away frozen to death on Mt. Baker. How did they get there? Seven out of the eight crewmen on the second tanker are found dead on a ranch. How did they get there and where are the two missing crewmen? On page 34, the Director of the NSA calls Alex Cave and says, “The President called a moment ago and informed me the Joint Chiefs think someone is sabotaging our domestic oil supply.” Meanwhile the novel shifts to Boulder, Colorado, where we meet the Minister Menno Simons, his mother and his 350 worshipers. Is the Minister and his group behind the missing oil? He is seen by a government agent passing out vials of a strange crystal to seemingly hypnotised zealots. I think it’s interesting that early in the story Menno Simons seems to be the culprit of the missing oil, yet he disappears until page 322, which is 55 pages from the end of this story. To me, this is incomprehensible.

Now the scene switches to Seattle, Washington, where we meet Harold Woolly, a meek and harassed banker, his wife, Calli, and his two kids, Mark (who loves the military), and Pamela (an A student). Suddenly the West Coast is in a chaotic and rioting mood, since gas and food are now in short supply. The family is on the run when they meet a motel owner, who befriends the family. Mark suggest they drive to Idaho, where a private army, known as the Army of Survival (AOS) resides, headed by a Col. Blackwood. This is the point in the novel were pandemonium and anarchy breaks out everywhere. Now you are probably thinking, “Will all these groups collide, and if so, will it solve the oil problem, or make it worse?”Somehow the author manages the pile-up fairly well, albeit in a semi confused and choppy way. Like I said in beginning of the review, this writer has ability. He needs to get better, and the best way to get better is to write more novels. I will recommend this novel, because it’s the first book in a series that can be improved upon. As for Alex Cave, he needs to get older. If he was born in 1969 (instead of 1989), he would be rejuvenated to a believable 44 year old contender to Dirk Pitt.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: The twenty two Dirk Pitt books by Clive Cussler have been very successful. Two have been made into movies, Raise the Titanic (1976) was made into a film in 1980. states that: 

 “The Sicilian Project is the undercover plan of the decade. It is undoubtedly the best-kept secret since the atomic bomb. And it's the President's baby. If successful, it will create a defense network that will insure America's security from foreign attack for the foreseeable future. The sole hitch is that the project requires a quantity of Byzantium, an extremely rare element. In fact, it looks as though the only Byzantium in the world lies in the hold of R.M.S. Titanic, sunk in 1912 and still resting more than twelve thousand feet deep in the North Atlantic."

"The task is simple enough: Raise the Titanic! The man in charge of the mission is Dirk Pitt, jack-of-all-trades and master of-most. Using highly sophisticated submersible equipment, Pitt sets to work at his Herculean job. The presence of two Russian spies doesn't help, nor does the intervention of one very nasty lady, Hurricane Amanda. For balance, however, there is one very sweet lady who doesn't in the least resemble your average marine archaeologist."

However, the film (1980) starring Jason Robards, Anne Archer, Richard Jordan (Dirk Pitt), and Alec Guinness was a financial disaster. It grossed 13.8 million on a 40 million budget.
Sahara (1992) was made into a film in 2005. states  that:

 “It is 1865. A Confederate ironclad, Texas, fights her way through the Federal blockade and vanishes into the Atlantic as Richmond falls, bearing a secret cargo that could change history... It is 1931. A world-famous Australian aviatrix, Kitty Mannock, vanishes mysteriously in the middle of the Sahara while attempting a record-breaking flight from London to Capetown and is never see again..." 

"It is 1995. Dirk Pitt, on a mission to find the remains of a Pharaoh's funeral barge buried in the bottom of the Nile, rescues an attractive young woman, Dr. Eva Rojas, a biochemist with the UN World Health Organization, from being murdered by thugs on a beach near Alexandria."

"Dirk Pitt and his friends plunge into darkest Africa, battling their way up the Niger to a huge secret, hazardous waste project, a partnership between Yves Massarde, French billionaire entrepreneur, and General Zateb Kazim, the brutal, despotic, corrupt tyrant who rules the West African nation of Mali. Pitt's epic journey up the Niger River against the gunboat fleets and modern jet fighters of two African nations leads him to the discovery of Kazim and Massarde's secret, only to find himself captured and forced to work as a slave under inhuman condition in a gold mine deep in the desert, along with Dr. Rojas and her team of UN scientist."

However, the film starring Matthew McConaughey (Dirk Pitt), Steve Zahn, and Penelope Cruz was also a financial disaster. It grossed 122 million and had a total cost of 241.1 million.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


About a third of the way into this novel, I became aware of the dreaded words on page 502, “To be continued…” Mira Grant, are you kidding me? I don’t like reading trilogies unless all three books are available to read now. By the time the next novel comes out, I will have forgotten this one. I know that I can go to Wikipedia for a recap, but most of the time I’ve already lost interest. Oh well, I should have been aware of her tendencies with the previously published, The Newsflesh Trilogy . Okay, enough said. The first novel is a success, but  it makes the reader wonder if these ‘tapewormed- sleepwalkers’ are going to morph into ordinary zombies. Mira, don’t do it, because what you have here is a fresh idea that should only get better in book two and three. I, for one, am tired of zombie novels. Keep your thoughts on what you started and develop it further. Your last chapter was dynamite waiting to ignite. I thought that was where the story was heading, but I wasn’t sure. The future readers will know what I’m talking about after they get to the end of this intoxicating work.

It seems that SymboGen Corporation has developed a tapeworm that once implanted into a human body shields the person from sickness and actually dispenses drugs to fight any disease. Dr. Banks, Dr. Jablonsky and Dr. Shanti Cale are the three architects of this ‘Intestinal Bodyguard’ that has been ingested by most of the population. The year is 2027. The protagonist is Sally Mitchell, who had a horrible car accident, which left her in a near plug-pulling state, until her tapeworm somehow pulled her out of her coma. She was twenty at the time of the crash, and now six years have passed. She has no memory of her first twenty years and had to be re-taught everything as if she were a baby. Dr. Banks of SymboGen has taken an interest in her case and monitors her health and life at no expense to Sal (she changed her name since she has no memory of her first twenty years). Sal has a Dr. Bank’s arranged job at a animal shelter and has a boyfriend, Dr. Nathan Kim, who is a parasitologist at a San Francisco hospital. Sal has ‘night terror dreams’ of being in a hot and warm dark place with the distant sound of drums. Nonetheless, all’s well until she and Nathan run into a strange man and his dog in a park. He seems to be suddenly aggressive while sleepwalking. Sal and Nathan leave with the dog, who becomes their lovable pet named Beverly. Dr. Kim finds out that there are many similar cases nationwide. He discovers that a wand with a purple light run over your skin can detect whether you have an parasite infection, or not.

Meanwhile Dr. Shanti Cole has disappeared. Dr. Jablonsky has committed suicide. What’s going on? Sal and Nathan meet the mysterious Adam and Tansy. Who are they and why does Adam call Nathan... brother? Are implants taking over their human host? Sal’s father, Colonel Alfred Mitchell, director of research at a U.S. Army research institute for infectious diseases gets involved in a big way. So in book one, Mira Grant has introduced the eight to ten main characters (good job). We know that the originally beneficial tapeworms seem to be revolting and taking over the brains of some human host. We suspect that there is a chief tapeworm, but I will not guess who that is at this time, although I think I know who it is. This is a well written piece of horror/urban fantasy from Seanan McGuire (writing as Mira Grant). She managed to keep me wide awake and feeling empathy for the characters while reading this thriller. A writer can’t do any better than that. I highly recommend this novel, but with the caveat that two more books are coming before we meet the denouement.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: According to Barnes&Noble, this isn’t the first parasite themed novel. Parasite Eve  by Hideaki Sena (translated by Tyran Grillo) was a massive hit. “When Dr. Nagashima loses his wife in a mysterious car crash, he is overwhelmed with grief but also an eerie sense of purpose; he becomes obsessed with reincarnating his dead wife. Her donated kidney is transplanted into a young girl with a debilitating disorder, but the doctor also feels compelled to keep a small sample of her liver in his laboratory. When these cells start mutating rapidly, a consciousness bent on determining its own fate awakens, bent on becoming the new dominant species on earth."

"Parasite Eve was the basis of the hugely popular videogame of the same name in the U.S. and has been cinematized in Japan. Hideaki Sena Ph.D. Pharmacology, was still a graduate student when his first novel, Parasite Eve, turned him into a pop cultural heavyweight. He became the first recipient of the Japan Horror Award and is credited--alongside Koji Suzuki, whose Spiral appeared the same summer--with initiating a smart, new style of horror writing in Japan. Subsequent novels include the Japan Sci-Fi Award winner Brain Valley and Tomorrow's Robots. Dr. Sena, who lectures on microbiology and genre fiction, lives in Sendai, Japan."

What’s the best zombie novel? What about, The Last Bastion of the Living  by Rhiannon Frater. says : “The Bastion was humanity's last hope against the fearsome undead creatures known as the Inferi Scourge. A fortified city with a high wall, surrounded by lush land rich with all the resources needed to survive, protected by high mountain summits, and a massive gate to secure the only pass into the valley, the Bastion became the last stronghold of the living on earth. But one fateful day, the gate failed and the Inferi Scourge destroyed the human settlements outside the walls and trapped the survivors inside the city. Now decades later, the last remaining humans are struggling to survive in a dying city as resources and hope dwindle."

"Vanguard Maria Martinez has lived her whole life within the towering walls of steel. She yearns for a life away from the overcrowded streets, rolling blackouts, and food shortages, but there is no hope for anyone as long as the Inferi Scourge howl outside the high walls. Her only refuge from the daily grind is in the arms of her lover, Dwayne Reichardt, an officer in the Bastion Constabulary. Both are highly-decorated veterans of the last disastrous push against the Inferi Scourge. Their secret affair is her only happiness."

"Then one day Maria is summoned to meet with a mysterious representative from the Science Warfare Division and is offered the opportunity to finally destroy the Inferi Scourge in the valley and close the gate. The rewards of success are great, but she will have to sacrifice everything, possibly even her life, to accomplish the ultimate goal of securing the future of humanity and saving it from extinction.”

Monday, November 11, 2013


This book by Reza Aslan flitters around a lot, but is an unqualified eye-opener. It’s the gospel Jesus versus the historical Jesus. Who is right and who is wrong is up to each reader to decide. Mr. Aslan has certainly done plenty of research, but he has the undertone of a former Muslim about him. I say this only so the reader can take what Aslan says with a grain of salt. He is obviously schooled in both religions, but seems to prefer the historical Jesus as the true son of God. With the gospels written many years after Jesus’s death, does anybody really know the truth? The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written well after Jesus’s death. The events of Jesus’s life are hazy at best since Mark and Luke (some say he was) were not eyewitnesses to Jesus’s life. The gospel of Matthew is by an anonymous author, and the gospel of John is authored by ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’, but is not named. Aslan states that his research took two decades, and he supplies about sixty pages of notes at the end of the book. I guess one can’t ask for more. But for me, some of his revelations are truly stunning. Why was this Christ so different from all the other messiahs that traveled through Jerusalem during Jesus’s time preaching repentance and damnation? They were also convicted of sedition (rebellious acts against the Roman Empire) and crucified, or beheaded. Why were they not the true Christ? Especially, John the Baptist .

According to Aslan, Christ didn’t leave Nazareth till he was about thirty years old. On page 88, (to paraphrase Aslan) he says, “Before his encounter with John (the Baptist), Jesus was an unknown peasant and day laborer toiling away in Galilee.” If Jesus was the main man, why did he come to the Jordan River to be baptized by John? Yet the gospels try to make the reader feel that John the Baptist was inferior to Jesus. In fact, After John was seized and put to death by Roman Tetrarch (governor of the region) Antipas, only then did Jesus’s first disciples, Andrew and Philip, leave John the Baptist and follow Jesus on his quest to cleanse the souls of mankind. This is some strong information. Aslan also states that Jesus was born in Nazareth, and not Bethlehem. Jesus had brothers, most notably, James, who took over the leadership of the Catholic Church after Jesus’s death. Also stunning is that Jesus, because of his peasant status, could not read or write any language. This is not me talking. This book is very thought provoking and obviously highly controversial.

Another fact that is historically disputed is the disposition of Pontius Pilate, the fifth governor Rome, sent to oversee Judea. The gospels present Pilate as a weak-willed governor who didn’t want to kill Jesus until the Jews demanded that Jesus should be put to death. The Jews were not pleased when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding a donkey with a mob of people shouting, “Hosanna!” Aslan says in his book, “The message conveyed to the city’s inhabitants is unmistakable: the long awaited messiah-the true King of the Jews-has come to free Israel from its bondage.” Aslan says history shows Pontius Pilate to be a very violent man who hated and killed Jews at will. Wow, that’s not the Pilate I saw back in the 1970s, when I went to the marvelous play, Jesus Christ Superstar: A Rock Opera . Pilate with the help of the Jewish High Priest, Joseph Caiaphas, had no hesitation in sentencing Jesus to death.

One fact that is consistent both historically and gospel-wise is Jesus’s ability to heal. On page 105, Aslan says, “For while debates raged within the early church over who Jesus was-a rabbi? the messiah? God incarnate? -there was never any debate, either among his followers or his detractors, about his role as an exorcist and miracle worker.” Okay, both sides finally agree. This was a time when there were many magicians charging money to perform similar feats, but Jesus never imposed a fee. As Jesus approached Jerusalem in 30 c.e. (common era) “ is not just Jesus’s miraculous actions that they fear; it is the simple yet incredibly dangerous message conveyed through them: the Kingdom of God is at hand.” On page 126, Aslan says, “No wonder, then, that at the end of his life, when he stood beaten and bruised before Pontius Pilate to answer the charges made against him, Jesus was asked but a single question…”Are you the King of the Jews?”

Was Jesus’s last words on the cross (gospel of Mark), “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And did the resurrection really happen three days later? Who is James the Just? Did Jesus really say, "I say to you that you shall be called Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my church."  I’ve only touched on a few of the enlightening discoveries this reviewer learned from reading Aslan’s book about the historical Jesus. I have the feeling that Jesus was more of a man, than the Son of God. In fact, according to Aslan’s research, Jesus rebuffed the messianic titles given to him and preferred the title, “The Son of Man.” In my opinion, Aslan did a remarkable job putting this non-fiction work together. I felt somber when Jesus’s three year old ministry came to an end. Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples (also called apostles), let the Jewish hierarchy know where Jesus was hiding after The Last Supper. Aslan states, “He is praying when they come for him…” This is a sad and provocative book. I highly recommend this book by Reza Aslan.
The Supper at Emmaus by Italian master Caravaggio 1601...Resurrected Jesus reveals himself to two of his disciples. Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: There are a lot of books about Jesus Christ. One book that defends the Bible is a book by Ben Witherington III with a very long title: What Have They Done with Jesus?: Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History--Why We Can Trust the Bible . says, “Strange theories about Jesus seem to ooze from our culture with increasing regularity. Ben Witherington, one of the top Jesus scholars, will have none of it. There were no secret Gnostic teachings in the first century. With leading scholars and popular purveyors of bad history in his crosshairs, Witherington reveals what we can—and cannot—claim to know about the real Jesus. The Bible, not outside sources, is still the most trustworthy historical record we have today.

Utilizing a fresh "personality profile" approach, Witherington highlights core Christian claims by investigating the major figures in Jesus’s inner circle of followers: Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Thomas, Peter, James the brother of Jesus, Paul, and the mysterious "beloved disciple." In each chapter Witherington satisfies our curiosities and answers the full range of questions about these key figures and what each of them can teach us about the historical Jesus. What Have They Done with Jesus? is a vigorous defense of traditional Christianity that offers a compelling portrait of Jesus’s core message according to those who knew him best.”

And there are some strange ones, such as, The Lotus and the Cross by Ravi Zacharias. says, “Have you ever wondered what Jesus would say to Mohammed? Or Buddha? Or Oscar Wilde? Maybe you have a friend who practices another religion or admires a more contemporary figure. Drop in on a conversation between Jesus and some well-known individuals whose search for the meaning of life took them in many directions -- and influenced millions. Popular scholar Ravi Zacharias sets a captivating scene in this first in the intriguing Conversations with Jesus books. Through dialogue between Christ and Gautama Buddha that reveals Jesus' warm, impassioned concern for all people, God's true nature is explored. It's a well-priced, hardcover volume readers will want to own, and also share with others.”

Even the press throws their hat in the ring with Lee Strobel’s, The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus . says, “Using the dramatic scenario of an investigative journalist pursuing his story and leads, Lee Strobel uses his experience as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune to interview experts about the evidence for Christ from the fields of science, philosophy, and history.”

Finally, there is the old classic, Ben Hur by Lew Wallace. says, “Judah Ben-Hur lives as a rich Jewish prince and merchant in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 1st century. His old friend Messala arrives as commanding officer of the Roman legions. They become bitter enemies. Because of an unfortunate accident, Ben-Hur is sent to slave in the mines while his family is sent to leprosy caves. As Messala is dying from being crushed in a chariot race, he reveals where Ben-Hur's family is. On the road to find them, Ben-Hur meets the Christ as he is on the road to Golgotha to be crucified. That day changes Ben-Hur's life forever, for that is the day he becomes a believer.” Picture courtesy Wikipedia. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013


This novel should be titled, The Sleepy-Eyed Man, because that’s what happened to me every time I sat down to read this semi-monotonous work. I liken this novel to watching grass grow. How exciting can this statement be?(to paraphrase): “He packed his monitors back into the equipment case and headed back to Passova (for the seemingly hundredth time).” How intoxicating can a doctor of ecology be looking for possible environmental problems on a planet 73 light years away from his home planet? Yes, there are interesting skytubes in the sky, but with only a few pages left we still don’t know what they are. We do know that our hero, Dr. Paulo Verano, likes a pale lager with dinner. Whoopsy daisy! Even Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon, as a symbolist, has a more stimulating endeavor. When Dr. Verano visits the Outie communities of planet Stittara to check on the environmental conditions, the response he gets is, “You want to monitor the crops first?” Doesn’t that get your blood pulsing? Okay, maybe I’m a little too hard on this veteran author’s latest work. I know that he has written 56 sci-fi and fantasy novels. That’s why I am so disappointed. I expected this stand alone novel to be a near classic, instead 'da book stay cold' (Hawaiian pidgin). I’m trying to be nice.

The exciting part of the novel was thinking about the trip Paulo Verano, a Doctor of Ecology, made from his home planet of Bachman to the planet of Stittara.The novel starts off with Paulo Verano going through a nasty divorce on the planet Bachman. Since he lost most of his monies via the settlement, he jumps at the chance to go to a new planet and examine it’s ecological status. Considering Bachman gets it’s life doubling anagathics from Stittara, it’s in their best interest that everything is okay ecologically. Paulo wins the contract to check out  Stittara’s environmental balance and report his findings to Unity’s Systems Survey Service on the planet Bachman. This is the fun part, Paulo figures that a round trip to Stittara and one month on the job will take about three months, even though the planet is 73 light years away. Some fast spaceship, right? Well, remember Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, E=MC2? The C being the speed of light. Although Paulo will only be gone three months on his round trip (if he stays there a month),146 years would pass by on Bachman by the time he got back. His monies would have recovered, his wife would be dead or very old and most likely she would have lost interest in Paulo. What a plan!

Once he gets to Stittara, the novel really drags. There are way too many characters and I found it hard to remember who they were and what they did. Then the reader meets the 400 or 500 year old, Ilsabet (she is the one on the book’s cover), who only talks in rhymes. Paulo must deal with countless Multis (corporations?) and staff. His investigations bring him to another boring group called the Outies. And does anybody really know what those skytubes are? Why is the sky a purple/gray, the grass a brownish/purple/gray? We never find out. And what distance does a ‘kay’ represent? It can’t be a mile, or a meter since the author uses those terms in the novel. What time measurement is a ‘stan’, a minute, an hour? Who knows since it’s never explained. Okay, I do get ‘duhlar’ as a substitute for a dollar. And do we have to say oneday, twoday, threeday, etcetera; in lieu of, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etcetera. I’m not even going to get into the characters names, there are way too many with odd names and innuendos. There is actually a conclusion to this novel, since it’s a rare stand alone novel by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., who normally writes a series of books. If you want to know how Paulo’s investigation of Stittara ends, you will have to scuffle through your own copy.

Now, what did I like about this book, besides all the shuteye I got? Well, it was nice to read a book where the characters ate. Yea, they had breakfast, lunch and dinner. Paulo even exercised some mornings. No, they didn’t go to the bathroom, or have sexual contact. I also thought that Mr. Modesitt’s writing skills were superb, he just wrote a tediously dull novel. He had what could have been an interesting plot-line, but he left out all the gusto and gingerbread. Oh well.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Comment: L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is a prolific writer of fantasy and sci-fi novels. His most prodigious series has to be the sixteen book (so far) series called The Saga of Recluse . says the following about this series: “L.E. Modesitt, Jr.'s best-selling fantasy novels set in the magical world of Recluce are among the most popular in contemporary fantasy. Each novel tells an independent story that nevertheless reverberates through all the other Recluce novels to deepen and enrich the reading experience. As Publishers Weekly says, "Modesitt creates a complex world based on a plausible system of magic and peopled with engaging and realistic characters." Rich in detail, the Recluce books are a feast of wondrous marvels.”

The first novel in the series is The Magic of Recluce . says the following about the initial novel in the series: “Young Lerris is dissatisfied with his life and trade, and yearns to find a place in the world better suited to his skills and temperament. But in Recluce a change in circumstances means taking one of two options: permanent exile from Recluce or the dangergeld, a complex, rule-laden wanderjahr in the lands beyond Recluce, with the aim of learning how the world works and what his place in it might be. Many do not survive. Lerris chooses dangergeld. When Lerris is sent into intensive training for his quest, it soon becomes clear that he has a natural talent for magic. And he will need magic in the lands beyond, where the power of the Chaos Wizards reigns unchecked. Though it goes against all of his instincts, Lerris must learn to use his powers in an orderly way before his wanderjahr, or fall prey to Chaos.”

The latest novel in the series is Arms-Commander (#16). Says the following about this novel: “Arms-Commander takes place ten years after the end of The Chaos Balance and tells the story of the legendary Saryn. The keep of Westwind, in the cold mountainous heights called the Roof of the World, is facing attack by the adjoining land of Gallos. Arthanos, son and heir to the ailing Prefect of Gallos, wishes to destroy Westwind because the idea of a land where women rule is total anathema to him.

Saryn, Arms-Commander of Westwind, is dispatched to a neighboring land, Lornth, to seek support against the Gallosians. In the background, the trading council of Suthya is secretly and informally allied with Gallos against Westwind and begins to bribe lord-holders in Lornth to foment rebellion and civil war. They hope to create such turmoil in Lornth that the weakened land will fall to Suthya. But Zeldyan, regent of Lornth, has problems in her family. To secure Zeldyan’s aid, Saryn must pledge her personal support—and any Westwind guard forces she can raise—to the defense of Zeldyan and her son. The fate of four lands, including Westwind, rests on Saryn’s actions.”

L.E. Modesitt has many famous quotes, including this one from The Parafaith War : “The only absolute truth is change, and death is the only way to stop change. Life is a series of judgments on changing situations, and no ideal, no belief fits every solution. Yet humans need to believe in something beyond themselves. Perhaps all intelligences do. If we do not act on higher motivations, then we can justify any action, no matter how horrible, as necessary for our survival. We are endlessly caught between the need for high moral absolutes—which will fail enough that any absolute can be demonstrated as false—and our tendency for individual judgments to degenerate into self-gratifying and unethical narcissism. Trying to force absolutes on others results in death and destruction, yet failing to act beyond one's self also leads to death and destruction, generally a lot sooner.”  

And finally a quote so true: “If you do good because you expect to be rewarded, it is greed.”

Friday, October 18, 2013


Hunky-dory, Veronica Roth, your book is a bestseller and soon to be a major motion picture (March-2014)... not bad. However I’m getting a little tired of YA dystopian novels. For this reviewer, the novel was adequate but unremarkable. After reading the 487 pages and all the extras, I don’t have the urge to read the rest of the trilogy. I’m sure that the remaining novels will answer some questions that I have about the story, such as: Why did this society start in the first place and are there similar communities beyond Chicago?  But you know what? I don’t have the hankering to read another 1,000 pages to find out. How many books like The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins), Wool (Hugh Howey), or Delirium (Lauren Oliver) can someone read before they look for a utopian novel instead. I think Veronica did the right thing by keeping the main characters (Tris, Four, Al, Will, Christina, Eric, Caleb and Peter) to an acceptable Cormac McCarthy character level, but why didn't I feel empathy for any of them? That responsibility rest squarely on the shoulders of the author. I like to root for the main characters, but I didn't get that warm and fuzzy feeling for any one of them.

The premise for the book is that Chicago is fenced in from the outer world and the citizens are divided into five social groups: Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). The year this story takes place is unknown. The community is governed by the Abnegation, since they reject individual goals. However, there seems to be opposition from the Dauntless and Erudite factions brewing. Once a person reaches sixteen years old, they must be tested to find out what group they will join. Our heroine, Beatrice, is a member of the Abnegation faction but chooses the Dauntless at the ceremony, even though she tested positive for Abnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless. She is a Divergent. This is a problem, since divergents are considered rebels. This must be kept a secret. Her brother, Caleb, chooses the Erudite. Beatrice, now known as Tris, finds the initiations at Dauntless arduous. There are fist fights, knife throwing, and frightening mental simulations (they make a person face their fears). Her trainer is Four (Tobias), and her leader is Eric, who is in cahoots with Jeanine, the leader of the Erudite. What are the two leaders scheming? Since Tris and Four are divergents, (none of the leaders know this) they can manipulate the mind blowing simulations to their benefit. What happens during and after the initiations are the crux of the novel. This is where I thought the novel would get exciting, but in my opinion it became somewhat predictable and humdrum. But knowing Hollywood, I’m sure the opposite will occur. This might be one of those rare instances when the movie is better than the book.

The dystopian YA novels are on a good run, and I don’t see that pattern changing in the near future. I prefer the classic human misery novels, such as, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895), or George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945). In all fairness to what I said about Veronica Roth’s lack of conveying empathy and caring to the characters, she did a good job with hate. This reviewer did work up a good hate for Tris’s adversaries, Peter, Molly and Drew. All in all, I do recommend that you read this novel in order to keep in touch with the young adult (YA) market.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Comment: As I hinted previously, dystopian novels have been written for a long time. Believe it, or not, the first novel of this ilk was Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver's Travels (1726). Lets talk about three of my favorites:

Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley - The novel takes place in the year 632AF(After Ford, yes Henry Ford). Most of society is unified under the World State. Children are created and reared in hatcheries in a five caste system. The following is a excerpt of the novel, courtesy of Sparknotes, “The novel opens in the Central London Hatching and Conditioning Centre, where the Director of the Hatchery and one of his assistants, Henry Foster, are giving a tour to a group of boys. The boys learn about the Bokanovsky and Podsnap Processes that allow the Hatchery to produce thousands of nearly identical human embryos. During the gestation period the embryos travel in bottles along a conveyor belt through a factory like building, and are conditioned to belong to one of five castes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, or Epsilon. The Alpha embryos are destined to become the leaders and thinkers of the World State. Each of the succeeding castes is conditioned to be slightly less physically and intellectually impressive. The Epsilons, stunted and stupefied by oxygen deprivation and chemical treatments, are destined to perform menial labor. Lenina Crowne, an employee at the factory, describes to the boys how she vaccinates embryos destined for tropical climates.”

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) by George Orwell - Great Britain is now the Oceanian Province of Airstrip One controlled by Big Brother. Welcome to the world of constant war, mind control, and continual government surveillance. The following is a excerpt of the novel, courtesy of Sparknotes, “Winston Smith is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London, in the nation of Oceania. Everywhere Winston goes, even his own home, the Party watches him through telescreens; everywhere he looks he sees the face of the Party’s seemingly omniscient leader, a figure known only as Big Brother. The Party controls everything in Oceania, even the people’s history and language. Currently, the Party is forcing the implementation of an invented language called Newspeak, which attempts to prevent political rebellion by eliminating all words related to it. Even thinking rebellious thoughts is illegal. Such thoughtcrime is, in fact, the worst of all crimes.”

Atlas Shrugged (1957) by Ayn Rand - This is one of my all time favorite novels. John Galt leads the U.S.A.’s wealthiest citizens in a revolt against the government’s high taxes, regulations, and interference of big business by withdrawing the important business men to an unknown location. The title of the novel asks, what would happen if Atlas decided not to hold up the world on his shoulders, but in Greek Mythology, Atlas is holding up the sky. The following is a excerpt of the novel, courtesy of Sparknotes, “In an environment of worsening economic conditions, Dagny Taggart, vice president in charge of operations, works to repair Taggart Transcontinental’s crumbling Rio Norte Line to service Colorado, the last booming industrial area in the country. Her efforts are hampered by the fact that many of the country’s most talented entrepreneurs are retiring and disappearing. The railroad’s crisis worsens when the Mexican government nationalizes Taggart’s San Sebastian Line. The line had been built to service Francisco d’Anconia’s copper mills, but the mills turn out to be worthless. Francisco had been a successful industrialist, and Dagny’s lover, but has become a worthless playboy. To solve the railroad’s financial problems, Dagny’s brother Jim uses political influence to pass legislation that destroys Taggart’s only competition in Colorado. Dagny must fix the Rio Norte Line immediately and plans to use Rearden Metal, a new alloy created by Hank Rearden. When confronted about the San Sebastian mines, Francisco tells Dagny he is deliberately destroying d’Anconia Copper. Later he appears at Rearden’s anniversary party and, meeting him for the first time, urges Rearden to reject the freeloaders who live off of him."

One of Ayn’s famous one liners is : “The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.”