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.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


The author sent me his short story to read and review:

Bravo to veteran sci-fi writer Rhett C. Bruno who sent me his 20 page space saga. Well not really a saga, but it did remind me of Arthur C. Clarke’s 1968 novel, 2001: a Space Odyssey. I think that only an accomplished writer (like Mr. Bruno seems to be) can keep my undivided attention on such a short story. Since outer space goes on forever, it seems logical that a ship on a lengthy voyage would need a lot of people in suspended animation to take over the ship’s duties as their predecessors died off. In this story, there are 999 humans in various stages of growth in life chambers watched over by the ship’s computer, Dan. The one awake human (the 1,000th human aboard) is Orion, whose 25 year reign as ship's monitor is about to end. Will he let it end?

Orion is the sixth monitor of the interstellar Ark, Hermes, and Orion has about 23 hours left before he turns 50 and has to pick his successor to assist Dan in the ship’s daily duties. Then Orion must lay down in his chamber and go back to sleep until he turns 70 and gets recycled... “sucked up through a dark hole in the innards of Hermes.” There he will most likely become fertilizer for the crop growing somewhere on the ship. The ship is heading towards the star system Tau Ceti that the Pervenio Corporation on Earth (I’m assuming) says has a 83% chance of supporting life. This star system is assumed to have a planet that can support human life. The trip will take a 1,000 years until it arrives at it’s destination.

Orion witnesses the birth of a child, who will be put in a chamber to grow and mature as a possible monitor of the future. He has picked out his replacement (#2781, a female) but seems reluctant to lie down in his chamber while Dan wakens his replacement. Does Orion want to live? Possibly, but he knew that his time as the ship’s monitor would ultimately end. He really wants to put a space suit on and go outside to see space as he has never seen it before. Will he go outside or lie down in his chamber like a good company man? Read this hunky-dory short story for will only take a half hour or so.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: This has to be my shortest review ever, but you have to keep in mind that the story was only 20 pages long. Oh to be that talented...and say so much in so short a time. I think Rhett C. Bruno’s work has to be read in earnest now and in the future. Good job!

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Hugo Award winner John Scalzi (Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas) has written an intriguing novel set in the future where the world is beset by a paralyzing virus for about five million people. The rest of the population suffer flu-like symptoms or die. The paralyzed victims are trapped in their immovable bodies. This is known as lock in. But is this novel about the virus or another way to tell a murder mystery? While I was fascinated with the unusual virus, it gradually morphed into a somewhat baffling and at times insipid story. It was almost like the story had a virus and was changing its modus operandi as I read the novel. The murder part was good, but I thought that there was going to be a conclusive theory on how the flu came about and how to protect the world from future attacks. I don’t want you to think that I didn’t enjoy the novel...because as I was thinking these thoughts, the novel re-kindled to my utmost satisfaction. After reading and reviewing Old Man's War (see my review of 11/21/2010) and The Android's Dream (see my review of 12/4/2010), I should have known that Scalzi wouldn’t let me down. Okay, so what is this story about?

First of all, the reader has to know what the Hayden syndrome (named after the U.S. First Lady) is. The millions who contracted the paralyzing variety of the flu lie in a carriage totally immobile but still have an active brain. They are known as the Haydens and need a caregiver to take care of their bodies. The Haydens can take on a pilotable robotic body (also known as a threep) or use an integrator (a real human) to occasionally move about and communicate. A integrator is a person who had a neural network put in his/her brain so they can let a Hayden ‘borrow’ their body for awhile. The integrators are licensed and regulated practitioners who can not be forced by a Hayden to do something they don’t want to do. A Hayden needs to be somewhat wealthy to afford a robotic body by the Sebring-Warner Company. Despite the Haydens being paralyzed, they are considered another class of citizen whether they are in their carriage, in a robot, or in an integrator’s body. Far out, right? The government has spent 300 billion in research to help find a cure for the Hayden victims. Now a recently enacted law (the Abrams-Kettering Act) has curtailed the Hayden research causing bitter reactions from the Hayden community. How can anybody come up with this surreal storyline? Scalzi can.

The story starts twenty five years after the flu commenced. Chris Shane (the narrator of the story) is a Hayden in a robotic body. His father is a Hall of Fame basketball player and now running for the Senate from the state of Virginia. Chris is on his first day as an FBI agent solely investigating crimes involving Haydens. His veteran FBI partner is Leslie Vann who was previously an integrator. They get a report that someone just threw a love seat out of a window from a room in the Watergate Hotel. They go to room 714 and find a dead body on the floor with his throat cut. Local police have already subdued the man that was sitting on the bed in the room and sent him to the precinct. The alleged killer is Nicholas Bell, a licensed integrator. Apparently the dead man was using Bell’s body and was killed by Bell. Or did he commit suicide? Or was he killed by someone else, or was someone else using Bell’s body and killed the man? Or did someone invent a new type of neural network? Very confusing. Shane and Vann go downtown to interview Bell and take over the case. Bell says that he doesn’t think he killed anyone and doesn’t know why he was tased by the local police while he was sitting on the bed with his hands up.

Bell’s lawyer, Samuel Schwartz (also a Hayden in a robotic body) shows up and is distressed by the way his client has been treated. Schwartz tells the FBI agents that Bell was integrated at the time of the murder. Schwartz argues that Bell didn’t murder anyone, it was his client who did it. Schwartz tells the FBI agents that Bell can’t tell them who the client was that was using his body because it’s a integrator-client privilege. He says, “Like attorney-client privilege, or doctor-patient privilege, or confessor-parishioner privilege, and I’m not going to argue it, since the courts have already done so, and have affirmed, consistently, that integrator-client confidentiality is real and protected.” They have to let Bell go for the time being. By the way don’t think that I’m giving the story away because I’m only up to page 40. The ensuing chapters enlighten the reader regarding who the murdered man was and why he was there, how big business (concerning the Hayden people only) was involved and who murdered the man and why. So basically the story started hot in the beginning, cooled somewhat in the middle, then grew blazing hot to the conclusion. I liked the story and love the way John Scalzi writes. I highly recommend this novel.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Don’t you just love books involving robots or androids? Well Scalzi’s novel took me to a different level or element of robotics. Imagine a paralyzed person living a normal life in a robot’s body...even if the robot is destroyed, the brain just goes into a new droid body. As long as the caregiver or nurse takes care of your body, you are free to go about your business.   

One of my favorite novels pertaining to robots is Dan Simmons’ Ilium. It’s the wacky story of The Iliad being told in an alternate history form on Earth and Mars. It tells the story of resurrected 20th century Homer scholar Hockenberry comparing the real Trojan War to the one being reenacted on Mars. Also included in the story are the Greek Gods and Moravec robots from Jupiter heading to the scene of the play after they notice all the commotion on the two planets. It was a trip reading that novel!

But the robot novel generally considered to be the best ever written is Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot. It’s a brilliant collection of nine short stories that informs the reader what a relationship between robots and humans should ideally be like. The novel was made into a movie starring Will Smith in 2004.

The book reveals Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. Now would you like to see them? Of course you would, so here they are:
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or allow a human to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by humans except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.
From the movie, I, Robot:

Monday, December 7, 2015


The author sent me a copy of his novel to read and review:

Has Hugh MacMullan III come up with the new Travis McGee? The author likens his character, Ryan O’Brien, to John D. MacDonald’s famously admired salvage consultant. Really? But wasn’t McGee a U.S. Army vet, not the ex-Marine that O’Brien is? Didn’t McGee (I feel like I’m in Ireland) live on a houseboat while O’Brien lives on land and owns a small noisy sailboat? Okay, it’s close. But I think the author could develop his character into being a combination of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt and Mickey Spillane’s PI Mike Hammer . Wow, that would be something. Since the author has now introduced us to Ryan O’Brien’s first adventure...where does he go from here?

I can see O’Brien in future novels working with FBI agent Ayers or becoming a PI and working with Detective Smyrl. There is no way that I see O’Brien working at Sam Barrett’s investment banking firm. Will Clemmie remain O’Brien’s girlfriend in future novels? Whatever the author chooses, I think he has to implement two characteristics for O’Brien in his future novels: Pick a weapon for O'Brien and stick with it (such as Mike Hammer and his Colt .45 named Betsy) and drop this Marine Corps theme (this coming from me, also a ex-Marine). The continuous reference to O’Brien’s Marine Corp background was starting to become a distraction to the story. That issue should be ‘put to bed’ in future novels (yes, I still love my idioms). I think the author is on track for success but has to make some decisions about his character in the next novel.

The story opens with Ryan O’Brien sailing the Delaware River at night with his dog, Smokey. He is days away from joining an investment banking company named Howell and Barrett after a four year stint in the Marine Corps. He hears yelling and sees lights from a nearby remote island called Chester Island. O’Brien sails to the Island to find out what’s going on. He is captured by a man named Max, but overpowers him. Max tells O’Brien that he just screwed up a Homeland Security operation. The leader, known as ‘Bama, is on his way to Max. O’Brien decides to flee after his dog, Smokey, is apparently shot and killed. After he and his boat are fired upon, O’Brien swims across the Delaware River to safety. Wet, hungry, and hurting, he comes to a church run by Rev. Jameson and Sister Alberta. They provide food and a bed.

The next day, O’Brien talks to his uncle Ryan (Is he going to be a permanent sidekick? Why couldn’t he have a different name?) in Florida, and the uncle says that he is coming up north to see if he can help find out what is going on. After Uncle Ryan comes from Florida, they try to go back to the island and retrieve Ryan O’Brien’s bullet riddled boat and tow it back to O’Brien’s boat club (the names are confusing and similar, so bear with me). But a female state trooper named Bardeaux arrests Ryan O’Brien because one of the men on the island was shot dead on the night in question and O’Brien’s driver’s license was found at the scene of the murder. Also she says that he resisted arrest.  

Bardeaux takes O’Brien downtown and turns him over to State Trooper Detective Smyrl. O’Brien tells the Detective the whole story and he kind of believes him. But Bardeaux will not drop the resisting arrest charges. O’Brien has to stay at the trooper headquarters overnight while Smyrl checks out his story. Bardeaux comes for O’Brien during the evening, but he hides in the ceiling. Was she there to kill she working for the bad guys? This is just the beginning of Ryan O’Brien’s first adventure. The rest of the story is enjoyable, although somewhat predictable. I think Mr. MacMullan III needs to find a way to make the chapter endings more cliffhanging-like.

While the story and plot were good, true excitement and suspense were missing for the most part. I think that if the author takes my advice from the first and second paragraphs and develops a perpetual character and adds a little pizzazz to his chapter endings...he just might have a hit on his hands. With that said, I do recommend this novel, but don’t expect it to be the 22nd Travis McGee novel.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: I try to read all genres of books (and I do), but the funny thing is that while I was in the Marine Corps (1963-1967 active, 1968-1969 reserves), it seems to me that all I read were Detective or spy type novels. I must have read all the Matt Helm books (later played by Dean Martin in the movie version) and a lot of Ian Fleming and John le Carre novels. Maybe that’s why Hugh MacMullan’s novel has such a heavy military flavor (the author is also an ex-Marine).

Anyway, I still like those type of novels, but in recent years I’ve wandered away from them and now prefer the classics. Although it does seem to me that I latch onto a particular genre and stay with it for several years then move on to the next genre. Oh Well! There are just too many books to read!

I always remember that The Twilight Zone show where a bank teller (Henry Bemis played by Burgess Meredith) is in a vault reading a book when the atomic bomb drops. He has very bad eyesight with thick glasses. When he comes out of the vault and sees what happened, he is stunned that he alone survived. Then he finds a library with loads of books on the steps. It’s Utopia! All he ever wanted to do was read. Now he can spend the rest of his life reading. Then his glasses fall off and sad. That episode was titled Time Enough at Last.   

Saturday, December 5, 2015


This is the second email review done by past contributor, Deron O...this time for John Adams by David McCullough:

This was a rare book where I didn’t want it to end. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before about a biography. While the biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson that I recently read were very good, this book was in a different league.

Of course, it has the greatest ending a book can have. On the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, of the signers, only Adams, Jefferson, and Charles Carroll were still alive. Jefferson was the author of the declaration and Adams was its primary defender during its ratification. Both Jefferson and Adams passed away that same day, July 4th. I can think of no more appropriate ending for two of America's greatest patriots.

I had forgotten that Adams defended in court the British soldiers at the Boston Massacre. And, he won. The worst was that two of the eight soldiers were convicted of manslaughter (a lesser charge than what they were accused of) but as punishment only had their thumbs branded. Apparently, it was really a mob of Bostonians hurling clubs, screaming insults, and urging the soldiers to fire that caused the soldiers to shoot in self-defense. Samuel Adams turned it into the Boston Massacre to foment outrage against the king.

Throughout the book, it amazed me how vicious the politics were back then. Today’s politics actually seem tame in comparison.

It was also interesting to learn that the date on which the Declaration of Independence was signed is still in dispute. While Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin said years later that it was on July 4th, it seems that it was really on August 2nd. Independence was declared on July 2nd in a closed session. The Declaration’s text itself was ratified on July 4th. There was no day where all were available to sign the Declaration. While most signed on August 2nd, others were away and signed when they could.

Adams had presumed that July 2nd would be Independence Day and wrote it would "be the most memorable epoch in the history of America.” So, I guess he wasn’t always right, but still, a pretty smart guy.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: I loved this email was written with passion!

Paul Giamatti as John Adams in the television miniseries:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Prince and the Pauper

Once again Mark Twain leaves the comfortable surroundings of the Mississippi River to write another grim tale of Merry Old England. Like Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (see my review of 11/08/2012), the book and the movie are dissimilar. The Prince and the Pauper (1937) movie took on a swashbuckling motif starring Errol Flynn, while A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949) had a light hearted humorous tone starring Bing Crosby. Both of Twain’s books were written in a dark style, not as grim as a Cormac McCarthy novel, but certainly in a comparable disturbing way. The other aspect that I noticed was how virtuoso Twain’s diction was. (can you end a sentence with "was"?) When writing about Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer, the language was quite salty, and when writing about Merrie Olde England (the archaic way to say it), Middle English prose was used. Was Mark Twain talented or what? He even started his own publishing company in 1885, publishing 80 titles including Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (see my review of 12/17/2012). By the way, Grant was penniless at the time from a unmasked Ponzi scheme and was dying of throat cancer (Grant was a heavy cigar smoker) when his friend Mark Twain published his two volume memoirs, leaving Grant’s widow, Julia, with substantial royalties.

In 1547, two boys are born on the same day and as they grow up... the resemblance between the two is remarkable. But one is a poor boy from Offal Court with the name Tom Canty. Tom is a beggar living with his twin sisters, mother, grandmother, and his father, John Canty, who is a bully and a known thief. They live in a hovel in the slums. It’s a miserable life. On the other hand, Prince Edward Tudor is the Prince of Wales and lives in a luxurious castle with his father, King Henry VIII. He is spoiled with the riches of a noble life and is the future king of England. King Henry is cruel to the hoi polloi and quick to take the head of an enemy. But the king loves his son and is very compassionate to him. King Henry VIII is very sick. Prince Edward Tudor will soon be king.

One day, Tom Canty wanders to the gates of the castle. He spots the Prince in the courtyard. A guard throws him away from the gate. The Prince, seeing this, yells at the guard and lets the boy in. Prince Edward takes Tom into the castle and has him feed. Tom tells the Prince about all the fun he has with the lads of Offal Court in the summer. The Prince, who lives a regimented life, says, “Oh, prithee, say no more, ‘tis glorious! If that I could but clothe me in raiment like to thine, and strip my feet, and revel in the mud once, just once, with none to rebuke me or forbid, meseemeth I could forego the crown!” They switch clothes, and the Prince goes into the courtyard dressed in rags and shakes the bars of the gate. The same guard that was previously hollered at now boxes Edward in the ear and throws him out. Edward, suddenly realizing that he made a mistake switching clothes, says, “I am the Prince of Wales, my person is sacred; and thou shalt hang for laying thy hand upon me!” The crowd jeers Edward and the guard says, “I salute your gracious Highness.” Then angrily, “Be off, thou crazy rubbish!”

Meanwhile in the castle, Tom (as the Prince) doesn’t know how to act. He tries to tell Lady Jane Grey what happened, and she doesn’t believe him. She thinks he has gone crazy. Tom runs into the King and after talking to Tom...the King thinks his son is temporarily mad. The King thinks that the Duke of Norfolk did this to Edward. The King sets an execution date for the Duke, but the King can’t find the Royal Seal and reminds his son that he gave it to him. Of course, Tom, now the Prince, doesn’t even know what the Royal Seal is. Tom has dinner with his father and acts like he doesn’t know the etiquette of royal dining. Nobody dares say anything. Tom also can’t speak all the different languages that he is supposed to know. One person of the noble family, Lord Herford, seems to believe Tom’s story (that he is not the Prince). This was very important in the 1937 movie but not in the novel.

Simultaneously, Edward is roaming the streets and is cuffed by John Canty. Of course Edward doesn’t know him but realizes that this ruffian is Tom’s father. John Canty wants to know why he hasn’t begged his daily penny. Edward rebuffs his father, since he still acts like he is the Prince of Wales. Since John Canty roughed up a clergyman, the family is on the run. Edward escapes and is befriended by a semi-noble outcast named Miles Hendon. Miles has his own sad tales to tell (you will have to buy your own copy of this book to find out what they were) but takes a liking to this young boy and decides that he will go along with his story until he can cure him of his folly. Then, the worst thing that can happen...happens. King Henry VIII dies. Oh my God, the pauper, Tom Canty is going to be coronated in a few days. Can Miles Hendon and Edward, the true Prince of Wales, correct the mistake? What happens next is a series of twist and turns that culminate in a very exciting ending. Well done Mr. Twain...wherever you are! This was a very enjoyable novel and bellies the reason why I love Mark Twain books.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Did you know that Disney made a 1990 feature cartoon starring Mickey Mouse as The Prince and the Pauper? It also starred Mickey mainstays; Pete, Goofy, Donald Duck, Pluto and Clarabelle Cow. I never saw it, but would like to. The story has been told in many movies, but to get the true flavor, you must read Twain’s novel. I’ll bet you that almost no one knows that Mark Twain wrote this wonderful novel.

Okay, here is’s next five greatest books:

16) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. “Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky.”
17) Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. “It is a murder story, told from a murderer’s point of view…”
18) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. “In 1862 Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a shy Oxford mathematician with a stammer, created a story about a little girl tumbling down a rabbit hole.”
19) The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. “The Sound and the Fury is set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County.”
20) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. “The book is narrated in free indirect speech following the main character Elizabeth Bennet…”

So there you go bookies. If you read these twenty books, you win the cigar!

From the 1937 movie:

Friday, November 6, 2015


The author sent me a copy of his novel to read and review:

Jack A. Langedijk’s maiden novel was a up and down somewhat dark novel. Not dark like a Cormac McCarthy novel, but dark with mental stress and tension. There were chapters in this novel that I thought were overdone, such as the long superfluous pages spent on enlightening the reader about Troy. Most of the pages about Troy were rather boring and unnecessary (maybe because the chapter was too long). On the other hand, the chapters written about Nancy and Philip seemed like relevant lead-ins for the novel’s conclusion. The author’s use of ellipses was way overdone (this coming from me, who loves the three dots “...”) to a point that it was annoying. Yes, there were some bumps in the road along with some blue-chip writing. I also didn’t have a firm handle on what our main character, Robert(o) Sanchez did permanently for a living at the time of the accident. What does running workshops mean? How do you make money with a study group? Who pays for the trip to Mt. Everest and all the sherpas needed?

On the contrary, Mr. Langedijk’s 28 pages of chapter 39 were moving. The story of the Ugandan doorman, Aaron Aboga, made the novel for me. Whereas I drifted through some parts of the novel, I was totally riveted when the Ugandan told his life’s story to our protagonist, Robert Sanchez. This chapter set the tone for the ensuing pages... all the way to the big windup. Superb writing by the author. These 28 pages turned my bias of the novel completely around, even though I thought some parts of  novel were too sanctimonious. One last minor dislike before I tell you about the story...I’m not a big fan of flashback writing. Did the author avoid the many pitfalls of flashback writing? Yes, he did because Writer’s Digest defines flashback writing by saying, “It can make plausible a character’s motives, by showing what events in his past compel him to act the way he is now.” That is so germane to the author’s story. Well done, Mr. Landedijk.  

Basically,the novel flashbacks from the present to the past in rotating chapters during a six month time frame. Robert/Roberto Sanchez is in therapy at a rehab center. He has lost his legs in an avalanche on Mt. Everest. He is in a rehab center for therapy and interviews with Dr. Seema Pourshadi who is doing an assessment for an insurance company. He was a world-class climber and now feels has no purpose in life. He takes out his aggressions with everybody including his family and Dr. Seema. The trip to Mt. Everest was part of a workshop he runs that tries to put troubled youths back on track. The avalanche occurred at the base camp on Mt. Everest as Robert and the three students (Troy, Nancy and Philip) that he took with him were preparing to leave the mountain. The novel bounces back and forth between Robert’s deteriorating home life with his wife and daughter and exacerbated talks with Dr. Seema. The reader still doesn’t know if the three students survived the accident. Robert continues to have a hostile attitude towards everybody. He feels that he no longer has a reason to live. He buys a gun.

The middle chapters tell the story of the three problematic students who eventually join Robert’s workshop at school. I thought that this was the weak part of Mr. Langedijk’s novel. Why? Because (isn’t that the title of the book?) it wasn’t necessary. Yes, we needed to know about the kids, but not in such depth. The focus of the novel was on Robert Sanchez. Will he come out of his funk or not? Will he kill himself? What will it take for Robert to realize that he still has a life to live and a family that loves him with or without two legs? Meanwhile, the reader learns that Robert agreed to give a teamwork/motivational speech for Greg Wong (CEO of Elevation) at a luncheon meeting for his merger with two other companies. Robert’s wife is a valued employee of Elevation’s management. Caveat! Robert agreed to the talk before he lost his legs. What will happen now? How can Robert give a motivational talk while feeling worthless? He arrives at the hotel for the luncheon meeting carrying a heavy leather bag accompanied by his wife. What’s in it? In the meantime, Robert’s daughter, Jenny, receives Robert’s journal in the mail. It’s significant because her father told her that she couldn’t read his journal until he was dead.

This is where I stop the story and advise the reader to buy his/her own copy of this surprisingly good nascent novel. I know it’s hard to write a many things can go wrong... and I usually find them. However, I also like to tell the reader about the good things the author did. This author, in my mind, wrote a very electric chapter 39. What if the entire novel was similar to that chapter? Wow, who knows? By the way, what happened to the three amigos (Troy, Nancy and Philip)? And what did Robert Sanchez do when it was his turn to talk on stage?  Maybe you noticed that I like to ask a lot questions to perk the reader’s interest. My other favorite tools are: idioms, metaphors, ellipsis and parentheses (you probably noticed). By the way, kudos to Virginia Cam for the awesome cover design. Buy this book.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Comment: Normally I would have compared Mr. Langedijk’s novel to a similar novel, but I couldn’t come up with a book or novel that I read that was comparable. The closest book that I could come up with was Jon Krakauer’s, Into Thin Air, but it really wasn’t a match. Has Mr. Langedijk come up with a new slant on Mt. Everest climbing? My favorite is still Dan Simmons’s (one of my favorite authors) 2014 novel, The Abominable: A Novel (see my review of 1/08/2014)

Anyway, I promised you that I would reveal’s next five greatest books, 11 through 15. Here they are:

11) The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. “Dostoevsky’s last and greatest novel is both a brilliantly told crime story and a passionate philosophical debate.”
12) One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia. “One of the 20th century’s enduring works is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world.
13) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (see my review of 12/17/2012). “Revered by all of the town’s children and dreaded by all it’s mothers…”  
14)  The Iliad by Homer. “The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer.”
15) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. “The book is internationally famous for it’s innovative style and infamous for it’s controversial subject…”

Well, there you go. Very interesting books. Do you want to see novels 16 through 20? Okay, I’ll think about it, my little chickadee. What?

Monday, October 26, 2015


Wow, what made me take on this 1516 tale? This is the original Utopia that bred many utopian and dystopian novels over the years since (and is still breeding). Sir Thomas More originally wrote this political philosophy book in Latin. My review might be a tad foggy on details because of old words (such as, methought, counseleth, howbeit, resteth and methinketh) used in this novel. The sentences and paragraphs are very lengthy written in a somewhat old/middle English language. The novel opens in Antwerp, Belgium. Three people are having a discussion: Sir Thomas More, Peter Gilles (town clerk), and a peculiar gentleman named Raphael Hythloday who says that he sailed with Amerigo Vespucci (remember him?) to the New World and then traveled further spending five years on an island that he says is called Utopia. Before Raphael tells them about Utopia, he rants and raves about all the injustices in Europe. He doesn’t think too much of Kings, who start wars for no reason and spend the people’s money. He also thinks that a sentence of death for theft is insane. Why should a thief get the same sentence as a murderer? The thief should then murder his victim so there is no witness or accuser. On page 34, Raphael says, “God commandeth us that we shall not kill. And be we then so hasty to kill a man for taking a little money?” On page 35, he continues, “Therefore, whiles we go about with such cruelty to make thieves afraid, we provoke them to kill good men.”

After Raphael is finished with his declaiming of the European style of life, Sir Thomas More says, “Therefore, gentle Master Raphael, I pray you and beseech you describe unto us the island. And study not to be short, but declare largely in order their grounds, their rivers, their cities, their people, their manners, their ordinances, their laws, and to be short, all things that you shall think us desirous to know. And you shall think us desirous to know whatsoever we know not yet.” Raphael agrees to tell them all they want to know, but first he wants to break for dinner. Thomas More says, “Let us go in, therefore to dinner; afterward we will bestow the time at our pleasure.” The end of the first book. I have to say that my desire to continue reading was challenged at this juncture. But I had two good reasons to persist: first of all, this novel is considered a classic and secondly, the foremost section (about Utopia) was still to come. There are many novels that are more difficult to read than Utopia, such as A Tale of a Tub written by Jonathan Swift in 1694 or Finnegans Wake written by James Joyce in 1939. Look these novels up and you will see what I mean when I say they are difficult.

So after dinner, Raphael tells Sir Thomas More and Gilles what he knows about Utopia. Basically, the island was formed when King Utopos had a 15 mile wide channel dug to separate from the mainland. Raphael says there are 54 cities, each city divided into four parts. The capital is Amaurot, located in the middle of the island. Each city has 6,000 households, every 30 households are grouped together. Houses are rotated between citizens every ten years. There isn’t any private property, no locks on doors, and each family has two bondsmen (slaves). Agriculture is the most important job on the island (everyone must participate). On page 63, Raphael says, “No household or farm in the country hath fewer than forty persons, men and women, besides two bondsmen, which under the rule and order of the good man and the good wife of the house, being both very sage, discreet, and ancient persons. And every thirty farms or families have one head ruler, which is called a phylarch, being as it were a head bailiff.” As I read this novel, it seemed to me that the Utopians employed a political system that was part socialism and part communism. On page 70, Raphael says, “Husbandry is a science common to them all in general, both men and women, wherein they all be expert and cunning. Besides husbandry, which (as I said) is common to the all, every one of them learneth one or other several and particular science as his own proper craft.” In other words, every citizen had to have another vocation other than farming.

As I read this novel, I realized that there was no plot to this tale. The entire novel seemed to be a structure or plan for future utopian societies or novels. I guess there has to be a start to everything, but did Sir Thomas More know almost 500 years ago that he just coined a word and theme that would be used so often in the future? Obviously not. So what were some other rules for the citizens of Utopia? I thought you would never ask. Well, the work day was six hours (not bad), everybody wore the same clothes, ate in a community dining room, and had no desire for gold or silver. As a matter of fact, children wore jewelry until adulthood, and bondsmen (slaves) wore gold chains. Any religion seemed acceptable, however Atheist were deplored but not shunned. Women had to confess their transgressions to their spouses every month. Wow, I don’t think that would fly in today’s world. Whereas Utopians would go to war if required (against or supporting other countries), they really didn’t want to kill anyone; capturing was preferred. I will let the other rules and the rest of the tale be discovered by any willing readers. I wondered why Sir Thomas More wrote this book. Probably because he was not happy with the political structure in Europe. Was he using Raphael’s rant in book one to show his displeasure? Was he highlighting a type of socialism that now shapes a lot of Europe in The end of the second book?

This novel was some trip. I did struggle with the old/middle English language at times, but it was worth it. I believe to be a well rounded reviewer, one must read books that test his/hers fortitude. Yes, I recommend this novel. I leave you with Sir Thomas More’s last lines, “Thus endeth the afternoon’s talk of Raphael Hythloday concerning the laws and institutions of the island of Utopia.”

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

Comment: Sir Thomas More was beheaded on 7/6/1535. What! Yes, he refused the King’s separation from the Catholic church. In 1533 he refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as Queen of England. He refused to take the Oath of Supremacy and discerned the Protestant religion as heresy. Pope Leo XIII beatified Thomas More on 12/29/1886 and Pope Pius XI canonized Thomas More on 5/19/1935. Sir Thomas More’s head was mounted on a pike for a month on top of the London Bridge. Ouch!

The troubles for Sir Thomas More during 1529-1535 are chronicled in the Academy Award winning movie A Man for All Seasons (1966) starring Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More. The movie won six Academy Awards, including Best Movie, Best Director and Best Actor.

Now in my last review (Rarity from the Hollow), I said that I would reveal’s next five greatest books (#6 through #10). So here they are:

6) War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Epic in scale, War and Peace delineates in graphic detail events leading up to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.
7) The Odyssey by Homer. The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer.
8) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The novel chronicles an era that Fitzgerald himself dubbed the “Jazz Age.”
9) The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. Belonging in the immortal company of the great works of literature.
10) Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. For daring to peer into the heart of an adulteress and enumerate its contents with profound dispassion.

Well okay, in the comment section of my next review, I’ll list numbers 11 through 15 (maybe).

The Movie Poster: