The Master and Margarita ★☆☆☆½


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Master and Margarita
Series: ———-
Author: Mikhail Bulgakov
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Modern Classic
Pages: 431
Words: 157K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The novel has two settings. The first is Moscow during the 1930s, where Satan appears at Patriarch’s Ponds as Professor Woland. He is accompanied by Koroviev, a grotesquely-dressed valet; Behemoth, a black cat; Azazello, a hitman; and Hella, a female vampire. They target the literary elite and Massolit, their trade union,[note 1] whose headquarters is Griboyedov House. Massolit consists of corrupt social climbers and their women, bureaucrats, profiteers, and cynics. The second setting is the Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate: Pilate’s trial of Yeshua Ha-Notsri (Jesus of Nazareth), his recognition of an affinity with (and spiritual need for) Yeshua, and his reluctant acquiescence to Yeshua’s execution.

Part one opens with a confrontation between Berlioz (the head of Massolit) and Woland, who prophesizes that Berlioz will die later that evening. Although Berlioz dismisses the prophecy as insane raving, he dies as the professor predicted. His death prophecy is witnessed by Ivan Nikolaevich Ponyrev, a young, enthusiastic, modern poet who uses the pen name Bezdomny (“homeless”). His nom de plume alludes to Maxim Gorky (Maxim the Bitter), Demyan Bedny (Demyan the Poor), and Michail Golodny (Michail the Hungry). His futile attempts to capture the “gang” (Woland and his entourage) and his warnings about their evil nature land Ivan in a lunatic asylum, where he is introduced to the Master, an embittered author. The rejection of his novel about Pontius Pilate and Christ led the Master to burn his manuscript in despair and turn his back on Margarita, his devoted lover.

The novel’s first part includes satirical depictions of Massolit and Griboyedov House; Satan’s magic show at a variety theatre, satirizing the vanity, greed, and gullibility of the new elite; and Woland and his retinue appropriating Berlioz’s apartment after his death. (Apartments – scarce in Moscow – were controlled by the state, and Bulgakov based the novel’s apartment on his own.)

Part two introduces Margarita, the Master’s mistress, who refuses to despair of her lover and his work. Azazello gives her a magical skin ointment and invites her to the Devil’s midnight Good Friday ball, where Woland gives her the chance to become a witch.

Margarita enters the realm of night and learns to fly and control her unleashed passions. Natasha, her maid, accompanies her as they fly over the Soviet Union’s deep forests and rivers. Margarita bathes and returns to Moscow with Azazello as the hostess of Satan’s spring ball. At Azazell’s side, she welcomes dark historical figures as they arrive from Hell.

Margarita survives the ordeal, and Satan offers to grant her deepest wish: to free a woman she met at the ball from eternal punishment. The woman, who had been raped, murdered the child; her punishment was to wake each morning next to the handkerchief she used to smother it. Satan tells Margarita that she liberated the woman, and still has a wish to claim from him. She asks for the Master to be delivered to her and he appears, dazed and thinking he is still in the lunatic asylum. They are returned to the basement apartment which had been their love nest.

Matthew Levi delivers the verdict to Woland: the reunited couple will be sent to the afterlife. Azazello brings them a gift from Woland: a bottle of Pontius Pilate’s (poisoned) wine. The Master and Margarita die; Azazello brings their souls to Satan and his retinue (awaiting them on horseback on a Moscow rooftop), and they fly away into the unknown, as cupolas and windows burn in the setting sun, leaving Earth behind and traveling into dark cosmic space. The Master and Margarita will spend eternity together in a shady, pleasant region resembling Dante Alighieri’s Limbo, in a house under flowering cherry trees.

Woland and his retinue, including the Master and Margarita, become pure spirits. Moscow’s authorities attribute its strange events to hysteria and mass hypnosis. In the final chapter, Woland orders Margarita to supply the missing end of the Master’s story about Pontius Pilate – condemned by cowardice to limbo for eternity. “You are free!” she cries; Pontius Pilate is freed, walking and talking with the Yeshua whose spirit and philosophy he had secretly admired. Moscow is now peaceful, although some experience great disquiet every May full moon.

My Thoughts:

My biggest take away from this book is that I do not like 20th Century classics. They are almost all full of crap and are not even worthy of being toilet paper. With this astounding revelation, I am creating a new tag and genre, Modern Classics, that I shall give to all “classics” written from 1900 and on. I will suspect them of being nothing but bushwa until they prove otherwise to me.

Now, this book.

I had enjoyable times reading it. The devils sidekicks doing all sorts of immature and childish pranks and tricks and even serious ones, had me quite amused. The devil on the other hand, well, he was a real party pooper. I’m not exactly the devil’s biggest fan but even still, where was the being that defied God Himself? This devil in the book was practically a drunk, melancholic russian peasant. I kept expecting him to burst into tears and go “boo hoo”. The antics were amusing. Which is why this got as high a rating as it did.

What brought this down though, was the inclusion of the “Historical Jesus” heresy. The quick and dirty explanation of that is that Jesus was real, but that he was just a man, who said some nice things and that what he was and what he said have been distorted and manipulated to form this new religion called Christianity. It is nothing less than an attack on the Godhood of Jesus and the veracity of the Bible. Needless to say, the parts of the book about Pontius Pilate and the story told were anathema to me.

Thankfully, I had been forewarned by Earnestly Eccentic’s Review, so I didn’t walk into the situation and take a baseball bat to the side of my literary head. I wore a helmet so a light *Ka-Thunk* was all I felt. I don’t know what else Bulgakov might have written, but I won’t be bothering.

★☆☆☆½

Cold Fire ★☆☆☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Cold Fire
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 495
Words: 134K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Recently retired teacher Jim Ironheart (aptly named) risks his life to save lives. In Portland he saves a young boy from an oblivious drunk driver in a van. In Boston he rescues a child from an underground explosion. In Houston he disarms a man who was trying to shoot his own wife – and he is not just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. He gets “inspirations” and knows he must hurry to wherever prompted. He rushes off to hail a cab or catch a plane, dropping whatever he’s doing at the moment, much to the surprise of those around him. He has no idea where these visions come from or why, but he believes that he must be some sort of God-sent guardian angel with a heavenly gift.

Reporter Holly Thorne was in Portland to write a less than exciting piece on a school teacher who has recently published a book of poetry full of poems which Holly finds are pure transcendental garbage – but such is Holly’s lot in life. She is a fine writer but is failing at her job because she is filled with too much integrity and compassion to be a good reporter. As she is leaving she witnesses Jim rescuing the child from the drunk driver and felt there was something fishy in Jim’s explanations of how he started running for the child before seeing or hearing the van coming. She discovers there have been 12 last-minute rescues reported over the last three months in other newspapers by a mysterious Good Samaritan named Jim with blue eyes.

Holly is intrigued by Jim and his intense but cold blue eyes – eyes which burn with a passionate, cold fire, hence the novel’s title.

Holly decides to follow this humble yet elusive savior on his next “mission.” Unbeknownst to Jim, she rapidly follows him to the airport and boards a United Airlines DC-10 plane bound for Chicago. She decides to confront him and learns about Jim’s strange but extraordinary powers. Jim tells her that he has been sent by God to save a mother and a child on the plane – he does not know why God has chosen these two in particular, but he does know that they must change seats or they will die in the horrific plane crash about which he has been sent a vision. Holly is struck by Jim’s belief that he has some magical power, sent by God no less.

Holly takes a more cynical view on things and decidedly argues how ridiculous such thoughts are. She questions why “God” would choose to let these two people live, and allow 151 other passengers to die, as Jim has foreseen. Surely there are much more worthy people aboard, and why would God even have the plane crash at all? Holly presses Jim to do much more than just tell the couple to move, but that he should warn the pilot and maybe save everyone aboard. Jim initially refuses, and decidedly refuses to question his visions. He tells Holly simply that God sends him, and he only follows the instructions – to do anything beyond that would be to somehow go outside God’s will. Who else, he asks, could be sending him visions to save lives precisely at the right time? Holly reasons with him, and convinces him that there is no good reason for Jim (or God) to let anyone die needlessly. The plane, however, is damaged beyond saving and still crashes, but the number of fatalities reduces from 151 to 47.

After the crash, Holly manages to gain Jim’s confidence. They are attracted to each other, but Holly cannot help but be curious about Jim’s mysterious visions. She decides to discover exactly how, why, and who, just as any reporter would naturally want to know. Yet the more she pries, the stranger things get. Nearly all Jim’s childhood memories are completely missing, except that he knows his parents died when he was 9 at his grandparents’ ranch. He only knows very vague details about everything from his childhood, and gets angry when Holly questions him. She begins to see that his strange abilities are linked to his childhood and lack of memories from then. She hears him whisper in his sleep continuously for several nights, “There is an Enemy. It is coming. It’ll kill us all. It is relentless.” She and Jim start to have identical terrifying nightmares surrounding the old mill from his grandparents’ ranch, and during one of these “nightmares” they are both completely conscious and experience violence while fighting some eerie force coming at them from the walls and ceiling – needless to say, they are convinced the force behind it all is definitely not God, nor is it benign.

Holly unquestionably decides they must go back to the ranch to find the source of everything, though she is fearful of what they will find. Jim is at first reluctant, but as they near the ranch, he becomes more and more convinced that the being is something wholly great and powerful – something not of this world.

Once inside the windmill’s creepy tower room, the alien reveals itself from the adjacent pond, at first through sounds analogous to church bells and then an entrancing display of dancing colors and exploding lights. The being then starts to magically use a pen and paper to make words appear, and later manifests as a voice. It calls itself THE FRIEND who has come to them from ANOTHER WORLD. When asked why, it says, “TO OBSERVE, TO STUDY, TO HELP MANKIND.” Holly asks why, then, it attacked them the previous night, to which THE FRIEND replies that that was the work of its other half: THE ENEMY. When asked about the bells and lights, it says that it does that “FOR DRAMA?” Holly asks why the certain individuals are chosen over others, and THE FRIEND gives replies that one will cure all cancers, one will become a great president, one will become a great spiritual leader, et cetera. While Jim is wholly enthusiastic and pleased, Holly cannot believe the answers, for it does not make any logical sense and the answers seem trite, fantastical and childish to her.

Holly questions THE FRIEND far and deep about Jim while he is out of the room. All the answers continue to be too predictable to believe, and it finally answers her nagging with threats and then, most shockingly, with the words “I,” “MY,” and, “ME.” At that moment, it is discovered that Jim is actually himself the source of both THE FRIEND and THE ENEMY, that it is he who is causing the nightmares and not God or some alien force. After Jim’s parents died, the 9 year old became obsessed with a book about an alien in a pond next to a windmill – he became so obsessed that the child never grew up until one day an adult-in-body Jim ran away and started a presumably normal life. Holly helps Jim deal with his past and the two begin a new life together.

My Thoughts:

If Koontz had stuck to this being his typical thriller, I’d probably have given it 3.5 stars and seriously thought about upping it to 4.

However. There was this quote and several in the same vein:

“If there’s a God, why does He allow suffering?”

Alarmed, Father Geary said, “Are you feeling worse?”

“No, no. Better. I don’t mean my suffering. Just… why does He allow suffering in general?”

“To test us,” the priest said.

“Why do we have to be tested?”

“To determine if we’re worthy.”

“Worthy of what?”

“Worthy of heaven, of course. Salvation. Eternal life.”

“Why didn’t God make us worthy?”

“Yes, he made us perfect, without sin. But then we sinned, and fell from grace.”

“How could we sin if we were perfect?”

“Because we have free will.”

“I don’t understand.”

Father Geary frowned. “I’m not a nimble theologian. Just an ordinary priest. All I can tell you is that it’s part of the divine mystery. We fell from grace, and now heaven must be earned.”

The bolding is mine. Besides this blatant heresy, Koontz makes sure that his readers know that the main character not only studied a variety of religions, but WAS an “X” and believed in them all. A Super Ecumenist as it were.

It has never been clearer that Koontz is not a Christian even while using Christian terminology when it suits him. You don’t get to try to take the benefits of using Christian terminology while denying the strictures. You do not play games with Christ. As such, I’m done with Koontz now.

★☆☆☆☆

To Your Scattered Bodies Go (Riverworld #1) ★☆☆☆½

toyourscatteredbodiesgo (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: To Your Scattered Bodies Go
Series: Riverworld #1
Author: Philip Farmer
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 224
Words: 67K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

British adventurer Richard Francis Burton dies on Earth and is revived in mid-air in a vast dark room filled with human bodies, some only half formed. There, he is confronted by men in a flying vehicle who then blast him with a weapon.

He next awakes upon the shores of a mysterious river, naked and hairless. All around him are other people in a similar situation. Shortly after they awaken, a nearby structure, nicknamed a “grailstone,” causes food and other supplies to appear in the “grails” bound to each individual. Burton quickly attracts a group of companions: the neanderthal Kazzintuitruaabemss (nicknamed Kazz), the science fiction author Peter Jairus Frigate, and Alice Liddell. Among these is the extraterrestrial Monat Grrautut, earlier part of a small group of beings from Tau Ceti who had arrived on Earth in the early 21st century. When one of their number was accidentally killed by humans, their spaceship automatically killed most of the people on Earth. Frigate and others alive at the time confirm Monat’s story. Retreating into the nearby woods for safety, Burton’s party chew gum provided by their grails, and discover that this gum is a powerful hallucinogen. As days and weeks pass, people’s physical wants are provided for by the grails, which eventually produce a set of cloths used for clothing. Rumors reach Burton’s region that the river continues seemingly forever. One night, Burton is visited by a mysterious cloaked figure, whom Burton dubs “The Mysterious Stranger,” who explains that he is one of the beings who has constructed this world and resurrected humanity on its shores, and tells Burton to approach the headwaters of the river.

After setting off, Burton’s group encounters many adventures; but are enslaved by a riverbank kingdom run by Tullus Hostilius and Hermann Göring, against whom Burton leads a successful revolt. Göring himself is killed by Alice. After the revolt, Burton is part of the nation’s ruling council. Later, the protagonists discover a person among them who they conclude is an agent of the beings who created this world. Before the man can be questioned, he dies of no apparent cause. An autopsy reveals a small device planted in the man’s brain which apparently allowed him to kill himself at will. Burton is visited by the Mysterious Stranger and is warned that the beings who created this world, to whom the Stranger refers as “Ethicals”, are close to capturing Burton. Desperate to escape, Burton kills himself to be resurrected elsewhere in the river valley, and continues thus to explore it. He often finds himself resurrected near Hermann Göring, who undergoes a moral and religious conversion and joins the pacifist Church of the Second Chance. After many resurrections, Burton finds himself resurrected not in the river but in the Dark Tower at the headwaters, and is interrogated by a council of Ethicals to discover the identity of Burton’s “Mysterious Stranger”. After fruitlessly questioning him, the Ethicals inform him that they will return him to the river valley, remembering nothing of themselves, and restore him to his friends; but the Mysterious Stranger prevents them from removing his memory and Burton resolves to continue pursuing the truth about the Ethicals and their intentions for the Riverworld.

 

My Thoughts:

Well, that was a complete and utter waste of my time. The main character, for someone who is an atheist, sure does blame God for a lot of stuff. Pretty amazing how angry he gets at something that doesn’t exist.

This teetered on the edge of blasphemy at best (blasphemy being defined as speaking against God or making statements about His nature contrary to Scripture (much like the Mormons do)) and really, crossed over enough times with enough spite that I was ready for the book to be done.

Whatever the story, it was overshadowed the whole time by spite and anger against a being the main character kept insisting didn’t exist. I have now read Farmer and found him lacking. I won’t spend any more of my precious time on his stuff.

★☆☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Vellum: The Book of All Hours

Vellum: The Book of All Hours
Hal Duncan
Fantasy
1 star
463 pages

profanity, obscenity, blasphemy, all these were what this book centered around. Humans become angels, the top angel became god, was overthrown. Angels, demons, whatever, are unkin. And a war wages between them all. The Vellum is under all, the “true reality” that can be rewritten.

This book was very non-linear, almost like the author was on an acid trip or smoking pot when he wrote this. Duncan gloried in profanity and homosexuality, and a refusal to “choose” sides in a divine war. And it was just so full of emptiness, hopelessness and despair. Who would want that kind of world view? Ugh.