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The Massacre of Mankind (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 11 November 2018 00:00

I always wanted to write my own version of a sequel to my favorite novel of novel, War of the Worlds. Read it at least twenty times and thought about it often. But now that Steven Baxter wrote this version (with the full backing of the Wells estate), I can move on to some other Great Novel.

Here’s the first thing – if you are going to read this work, make sure you go back and breeze through the original. It’s far better to know the story, the details and the characters than to hit them cold. And pretty much all the characters are there (including the narrator, who is interestingly reevaluated based on his actions during the original). I had to smile when phrases were reused from the original work, sometimes with ironic effect. And, yes, had to laugh when someone pointed out that the unnamed curate was named “Nathanial” (a toss to Jeff Wayne’s musical version, quite clever).

So, yes, with this forewarning, we find an England a decade after the first war radically changed. Parts of the country are still destroyed, and the new government is very dictorial (including the fact that civilians cannot own telescopes, lest they see new launches and panic). But new launches there are (for the first war was nothing more than a scouting mission). Instead of ten cylinders, there are one hundred this time. And the Martians have learned – not only are they fully aware of the diseases that laid them low the first time ‘round (their shots are now up to date), but they are fully aware that they cannot allow humans to ring their pits, cannot waste a day manually unscrew their cylinders, and cannot allow the Earthlings to get a clear shot with their artillery again. The smoke, that was a quick fix that, on a wet world with rain and dew about, was pretty useless so they’ve largely given it up. But on all other fronts, they are ready. They are coming, all over the world.

Like I said, I was really surprised by how much effort the author took into matching the mood and getting it right. Oh, there were some things I disagreed with (such as the compassion the Martians showed for each other). But otherwise it was spot on. And the action keeps shifting, from the closest detail of muddy marches to the strategic efforts and cities around the globe are overrun. The solution to the war, unique, and it didn’t end there. So, yes, brilliant book. For you WOTW fans, a must-have for your shelf. Check it out. Five out of five tripods on this one!


Last Updated on Sunday, 11 November 2018 20:10
The Last Days of Magic (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 28 October 2018 00:00

o imagine that all you stuff you wish, think, or dream was true – fairies, elves, giants and, of course, magic - really was. And that you (as a modern twenty-first century human) know it is only myth because books tell you the real history of the world. But maybe that is only a false narrative.

What if there really had been magic, all the way through until the late fourteen hundreds, that various civilizations slowly spread, conquering the magic on their frontiers. The Vatican, of course, with its own league of magic-using exorcists, continues to fight actual witches, not because it is unholy but because they want a monopoly on that power.

And so while the world is slowly becoming normal, Ireland, a place long imbedded with magic and isolated by its position off Europe, is one of the last places of magic. And now England wishes (with Vatican backing and Vatican gold) to invade…

This story was a tricky one – lots of characters and concepts that all go together in weird ways. And it’s not conventional – not to spoil but heroes fail and villains surprise, to delightful consequences. And while I would have liked a touch more description about what I was seeing (exactly how tall were the giants? And how exotically beautiful were the women?) it still was capital storytelling with twists and surprises and tears and laughter. And, frankly, I loved the “Shortest reign in history” line.

So yes, if you like fantasy novels and especially novels of the Ireland that might have been (and should have been), this is the book for you. A perfect little novel to cozy up with around Halloween, when the ghosts moan and witches soar! Check it out!


Last Updated on Sunday, 28 October 2018 05:47
The Edge of the Knife (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 30 September 2018 00:00

n a recommendation by a friend after I’d reviewed The Keeper, I had a run at The Edge of the Knife, again, by H. Beam Piper. And, not to be anticlimactical, it was a good solid read.

It involves one Professor Chalmers, a teacher of Modern History IV class at at modest Blanley College. With a slip of the tongue, he notes the assassination of an important Arab diplomat in Basra. The reason this was a slip was that it hadn’t happened, not quite yet.

For you see, Professor Chalmers is a bit of a prophet.

For some time now, he’s been seeing the future, some of it involving our temporal-distant far-flung space empire, some of it next-week stuff. And he’s well aware this these aren’t delusions, these are history-peeks, coming attractions style. In the privacy of his home, he records them, filing each away in its envelope. And in the course of his day, while he talks, these facts come out.

Now faced with a mocking classroom of students and a furious faculty, Chalmers attempts to maintain his position. In fact, he’s forced to see his lawyer and cling to his tenure lest his dean throw him out for all the headaches he causes.

And then it gets worse. The Arab, Khalid ib’n Hussein, is shot. Precisely as Chalmers told his class. To every detail. Statistically impossible, unless you assume that he is a prophet.

Thus the story heats up, with angry meetings of the student body, the board, the professors and the dean. There are psychiatric examinations and glimpses into an increasingly bleak future. And it all comes to a head with a neat little resolution. So, like I said, a great little read – which you can get for free HERE.

I will say one thing – after reading the conclusion, I had a little bit of a milk-carton moment with his solution. Yes, it was a clever little use of situation to create an avenue of safety. But it was, in the calm of another day, a little unnecessary. The main character could have achieved the same result with a safer path. But that’s a minor critique. Otherwise, it was a lot of fun.


The Shack (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 23 September 2018 00:00

y readers and friends know that I am sometimes (on a whimsy) spiritual. But I am not religious. And last year, when I lost my dear Mookie, I really had an issue with God. After all, if He’s willing to snuff a cat at her halfway point, to erase all her lives, then he’s not much of a God, is He?

Well, that’s the idea behind The Shack, a metaphysical/religious debate masked as a story. And here it is – Mack, our hero, is a loving father. While on a camping trip with his kids, a serial killer kidnaps his daughter, drives her up into a high country shack, does sick things to her and then kills her. And Mack, he’s understandably never forgiven God for this. He also feels himself being torn apart by grief and failure afterwards.

His wife has a private little nickname for God, that of “Papa”. So it comes as a shock to Mack when, one day while alone at home, he finds a note in his mailbox inviting him to come up to the shack and discuss things. And it’s signed Papa.

And so he goes.

I don’t want to give much of this away. Yes, the Trinity is there, that much I’ll reveal, God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And each of them talk to Mack, discuss things, and essentially propose to the reader a way of looking at the universe (and our religion) in it. So I read it, waiting for some sort of crappy logic I’ve read (and heard) from holy-rollers. Didn’t find that. What I did find was a way of rethinking one’s place in this thing we call reality, something that absolves us of the blame and pain we carry around, of explaining God’s will over everything. Yes, so this changed me. I’m not church-going, no (and the book notes that you don’t have to be, not really). For me, it was a very good way of reviewing self and soul in this crazy, angry, chaotic, uncaring world.

And holding that thought, I think I’ll make it through things a little easier.

So, yes, if you are willing to read at a pace to permit pondering, I urge you to order this down and have a look. Very inspirational.


p.s. And I’ll spare you the back-door out that simplistic audiences crave. His daughter was really murdered. There is no surprise solution to this, no out.

p.s.s Thanks to Michelle on the bus link who bought this book for me as a gift. First A Man Called Oveand now this. It’s good to be an amoral crank, eh?

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 September 2018 07:34

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