The Awakening ★★★☆☆

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 Awakening
Series: (The Russians)
Author: Leo Tolstoy
Translater: Unknown
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 641
Words: 174K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story is about a nobleman named Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov, who seeks redemption for a sin committed years earlier. When he was a younger man, at his Aunts’ estate, he fell in love with their ward, Katyusha (Katerina Mikhailovna Maslova), who is goddaughter to one Aunt and treated badly by the other. However, after going to the city and becoming corrupted by drink and gambling, he returns two years later to his Aunts’ estate and rapes Katyusha, leaving her pregnant. She is then thrown out by his Aunt, and proceeds to face a series of unfortunate and unpleasant events, before she ends up working as a prostitute, going by her surname, Maslova.

Ten years later, Nekhlyudov sits on a jury which sentences the girl, Maslova, to prison in Siberia for murder (poisoning a client who beat her, a crime of which she is innocent). The book narrates his attempts to help her practically, but focuses on his personal mental and moral struggle. He goes to visit her in prison, meets other prisoners, hears their stories, and slowly comes to realize that below his gilded aristocratic world, yet invisible to it, is a much larger world of cruelty, injustice and suffering. Story after story he hears and even sees people chained without cause, beaten without cause, immured in dungeons for life without cause, and a twelve-year-old boy sleeping in a lake of human dung from an overflowing latrine because there is no other place on the prison floor, but clinging in a vain search for love to the leg of the man next to him, until the book achieves the bizarre intensity of a horrific fever dream. He decides to give up his property and pass ownership on to his peasants, leaving them to argue over the different ways in which they can organise the estate, and he follows Katyusha into exile, planning on marrying her. On their long journey into Siberia, she falls in love with another man, and Nekhludov gives his blessing and still chooses to live as part of the penal community, seeking redemption.

My Thoughts:

While I have not committed the same particular sin as the main character, his reaction to it, albeit a decade later, felt like looking in a mirror of my younger days. It was scary because while I wouldn’t react like that now, I remember reacting/thinking EXACTLY like that in my 20’s. It was eye opening and made me much more charitable towards Nekhlyudov and as such, towards young idiots of today 😉

This was pretty heavy-handed in terms of philosophy. Tolstoy uses Nekhlyudov to talk about property ownership and pre-supposes the audience is familiar with some long forgotten european who seemed to be against property ownership. The little bit I was able to figure out was pretty ridiculous at best, and woke guilt at worst. Who knew, you woke folks are just old news recycled 😉

I’ve got so many reviews coming up this month that I’m keeping everything super short. The dangers of being out of work for 10 days. Lots of books get read :-/

Rating: 3 out of 5.

New Evidence That Demands A Verdict ★★★★★

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: New Evidence That Demands A Verdict
Series: ———-
Authors: Josh McDowell
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-fiction, Christian Apologetics
Pages: 800
Words: 400K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Forward

Preface

User’s Guide

Explanation of General Format

Acknowledgments

He Changed My Life

Introduction

PART ONE: THE CASE FOR THE BIBLE

1. The Uniqueness of the Bible

An intelligent person seeking truth would certainly read and consider a book that has the historical qualifications of the Bible. Unique qualifications that set the Scriptures apart from every other book ever written.

2. How We Got the Bible

Materials used. Bible divisions. Why just thirty-nine Old Testament books and twenty-seven New Testament books? What about the Apocrypha? Why not other books?

3. Is the New Testament Historically Reliable?

The tests applied to all ancient literature to determine reliability. How does the New Testament compare? Archaeological finds confirming the New Testament.

4. Is the Old Testament Historically Reliable?

Bibliographical test. Internal evidence test. Archaeological evidence demonstrating the trustworthiness of the Old Testament.

PART TWO: THE CASE FOR JESUS

5. Jesus, A Man of History

Documented sources of extrabiblical historical references to Jesus of Nazareth.

6. If Jesus Wasn’t God, He Deserves an Oscar

The character of Christ and His claims to deity, with emphasis on secular and Jewish sources.

7. Significance of Deity: The Trilemma–Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?

If the New Testament records about Jesus are historically accurate, there remain only three logical choices concerning His identity.

8. Support of Deity: Old Testament Prophecies Fulfilled in Jesus Christ

Illustrations of the probabilities that all prophecies could be fulfilled in one man, in response to the critic who says, “It is all just a coincidence.” Emphasis on Jewish sources to answer the accusation, “That’s the way you Christians look at them, but what about the Jews?”

9. Support of Deity: The Resurrection–Hoax or History?

This heavily documented section of evidence for Christ’s resurrection refutes theories set forth to disclaim this miracle.

10. Support of Deity: The Great Proposition

The “if…then” argument applied to Christ: “If God became man, then what would He be like?” Quotations and observations of great Christians and non-Christians about the person, character, life, and death of Jesus of Nazareth, and His impact on the world for two thousand years.

PART THREE: THE CASE FOR AND AGAINST CHRISTIANITY

Section I. Introduction

This section deals with inspiration of the Bible, anti-supernaturalism, and archaeology. All three topics relate to the documentary hypothesis and form criticism. There they are treated at the beginning rather than under each of the following two sections.

11. Is the Bible from God?

Part 1 presents the case that the Bible is historically accurate. Here the case is made that the Bible is trustworthy in that it is inspired by a perfect God.

12. The Presupposition of Anti-supernaturalism

A presentation of the presuppositions of both documentarians and form critics. Often the alleged objective historical conclusions are molded by a subjective worldview.

Section II. Documentary Hypothesis

The discipline of literary criticism applied to the Pentateuch is examined along with evidence for Mosaic authorship.

14. Introduction to the Documentary Hypothesis

What is the documentary hypothesis? What are the JEDP documents?

15. Introduction to Biblical Criticism

Biblical criticism defined and the different critical schools explained.

16. Introduction to the Pentateuch

The purpose and importance of the first five biblical books.

17. Development of the Documentary Hypothesis

A description of the various documentary theories and their modern revisions.

18. Ground Rules

The ancient oriental environment provides various principles to apply to the Old Testament.

19. Documentary Presuppositions

An investigation of the four basic documentary assumptions: (1) The priority of source analysis over archaeology; (2) a natural view of Israel’s religion and history; (3) the theory that there was no writing in Israel at Moses’ time; and (4) the legendary view of the patriarchal narratives.

20. Consequences of Radical High Criticism

A discussion of the results of Israel’s history being viewed as unhistorical, fraudulent, and naturalistic.

21. Evidence for Mosaic Authorship

The internal and external testimony for Moses’ authorship of the Pentateuch.

22. The Phenomenon of Divine Names

The various uses of the divine names (Elohim, Yahweh, and others) are put in perspective.

23. The Repetition of Accounts and Alleged Contradictions

Certain stories in the Pentateuch are said to be repeated, and others to have contradictory details.

24. Incongruities

The writing in the third person and the record of Moses’ death are factors said to be incongruous with Mosaic authorship.

25. Internal Diversity

A discussion of the assumed difference of subject matter, style and diction.

26. Conclusion to the Documentary Hypothesis

Section III. Biblical Criticism and the New Testament

Basic tenets of form criticism examined. Practical answers to basic assumptions and conclusions. The modern quest for the historical Jesus.

27. Introduction to New Testament Form Criticism

Form criticism is defined and its purpose and proponents discussed.

28. Historical Skepticism

The reliability of the record of the historical Jesus is examined.

29. Jesus Under Fire

An examination of the historical quests for Jesus and their culmination in the Jesus Seminar.

30. Conclusion to Form Criticism

A look at the contribution and limitations of the form critical approach.

31. Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism

by C. S. Lewis

PART FOUR: TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES

Personal Note from the Author

32. The Nature of Truth

33. The Knowability of Truth

34. Answering Postmodernism

35. Answering Skepticism

36. Answering Agnosticism

37. Answering Mysticism

38. Certainty vs. Certitude

39. Defending Miracles

40. Is History Knowable?

Bibliography

Biographical Sketches of Selected Authors

Author Index

Subject Index

The Four Spiritual Laws

My Thoughts:

This version of “Evidences” was published in 1999 and consisted of McDowell’s previous Evidences I & II with updates for a changing culture. Since this version there has been another version, updated by McDowell and his son Sean as our culture continues to change and the questions asked are different from even 20 years ago.

I read this mainly for the first part about whether we can trust the Bible or not. I feel that Part 2 and Part 3 flow from that answer and so am not nearly as concerned about that. The final and fourth part is for people who sit up at night worrying about whether there is a God and the consequences of deciding either way. Somebody needs to address those, but I’m not concerned with them.

McDowell himself recommends not reading this straight through but simply choosing an area that interests you or that you have questions about and diving in. This is setup in the way a scholarly paper would be, with main points and then sub-points drillling down so a chapter might look like 1, A, A1,A2,B,B1, 2,A, A1, A1a etc. Because of this, there is a lot of repetition as many of the same answers apply to different questions and challenges.

I started reading this in October of last year and used this for my work read. I’d read 5 or 10 minutes a day at work and have finally wrapped this up. The final part was hard for me to get through because it wasn’t what I was looking into, but as I knew that going in, it wasn’t a frustrating experience.

Thinking about this, I’d recommend it to Christians who feel a need to bolster their knowledge about how what they believe is based on more than Airy Fairy Nonsense. For non-Christians, I’d say it would help someone who is genuinely seeking an answer to “What is Truth?”. McDowell does address the fact that there are a lot of people who are asking questions but who either don’t want a genuine answer or who simply want what they already think confirmed. You can’t MAKE someone believe something, no matter how much evidence is presented to them.

Overall, this was a very strengthening read for me, a shot in the old arm, as it were. I am sure I will be revisiting various parts of this book as the years pass.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Innocence of Father Brown (Father Brown #1) ★★★✬☆

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: Innocence of Father Brown
Series: Father Brown #1
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 269
Words: 78K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

“The Blue Cross”, The Story-Teller, September 1910; first published as “Valentin Follows a Curious Trail”, The Saturday Evening Post, 23 July 1910

“The Secret Garden”, The Story-Teller, October 1910. (The Saturday Evening Post, Sep 3, 1910

“The Queer Feet”, The Story-Teller, November 1910. (The Saturday Evening Post, Oct 1, 1910)

“The Flying Stars”, The Saturday Evening Post, 20 May 1911.

“The Invisible Man”, The Saturday Evening Post, 28 January 1911. (Cassell’s Magazine, Feb 1911)

The Honour of Israel Gow (as “The Strange Justice”, The Saturday Evening Post, 25 March 1911.

“The Wrong Shape”, The Saturday Evening Post, 10 December 1910.

“The Sins of Prince Saradine”, The Saturday Evening Post, 22 April 1911.

The Hammer of God (as “The Bolt from the Blue”, The Saturday Evening Post, 5 November 1910.

“The Eye of Apollo”, The Saturday Evening Post, 25 February 1911.

“The Sign of the Broken Sword”, The Saturday Evening Post, 7 January 1911.

“The Three Tools of Death”, The Saturday Evening Post, 24 June 1911.

My Thoughts:

While this series is categorized as a mystery, it’s not Sherlock or Wimsey or even Wolfe. Father Brown doesn’t go around looking at a thread caught on a bush and extrapolate the life story of the perp and then reveal him to the authorities. No, Father Brown studies the nature of fallen humanity, discovers the culprit and tries to get them to do the right thing, whether repentance or turning themselves in.

Chesterton was a converted Catholic and as such, Father Brown is pretty strong on his catholic doctrine. At the same time, it really didn’t come across as Chesterton trying to preach or convert his readers. He was trying to tell a great story first and for me, it worked.

The main thing that worked best for me though was the short story aspect. Chesterton wrote each story for a magazine back in the day and then had them collected later. I didn’t have to power through a whole novel and I could stop between stories without losing anything. I appreciate that simplicity and lack of tangled complexity that a lot of modern books seem to deliberately aim for.

One interesting aspect that stood out to me was that in several of the stories the villain of the piece took poison rather than face public justice. That happened in one of the Lord Peter Wimsey books too and I wonder if it was a “sensibility of the times” thing? I don’t think of the bad guys of today taking poison but either fighting or flight’ing or of readers caring one way or the other. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if it happens in any more stories.

A good addition to my reading rotation. Since I am also reading several other mystery series, I am going to be switch hitting the Complete Works of Chesterton with the Complete Works of the Sisters’ Bronte. That way I don’t Mystery myself out 🙂

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Passion and Purity ★★★★★


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: Passion and Purity
Series: ———-
Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Counsel
Pages: 192
Words: 40K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Published in 1984 and written by Elisabeth Elliot, is an evangelical Protestant book, part manifesto and part autobiography, on the subject of romantic relationships. The book recounts Elliot’s friendship and romance with missionary Jim Elliot, beginning in the 1940s and ending with his death in 1956. Elliot uses anecdotes from her relationship with Jim to expound on her views concerning “pure, Christian relationships” and the practice of “waiting on God” for romantic timing and direction.

The late Ruth Bell Graham, wife of popular evangelist Billy Graham, wrote the preface.

My Thoughts:

I read this for the first time back in 2000 when I was single and desperately trying to not be single. That was a very different time in my life from now and I read this now to see how things had changed more than because I thought I needed to read this book.

I will say, besides being saved by Jesus Christ, getting married was the best thing that ever happened to me. Books like this helped me stay the course during those tumultuous hormone years when all I wanted was to give way to my baser desires.

So this time around, it was like looking back down a mountain side. This book is written to single people who are dealing with keeping their purity and walk with God while navigating the world of courting/dating. It was a fantastic reminder that I have not always been where I currently am. That in turn gave me hope because it means that I am not always going to be where I currently am either. God has plans for each stage of our lives.

It has spurred me on to go look at some marriage counsel books by Dr. James Dobson to see what advice is given to married couples. While we’re doing just fine, heading off things before they happen is the best way to keep things going just fine.

★★★★★

War in Heaven ★★★☆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: War in Heaven
Author: Charles Williams
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 211
Words: 81K

Synopsis:

From Enotes.com

War in Heaven is a novel concerned with the struggle over possession of a chalice that the characters believe is the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper. A cup that could be this holy relic turns up in England in the twentieth century. Julian Davenant, the archdeacon of the Fardles village church, tries to protect it and prevent it from falling in to the wrong hands. In contrast, Gregory Persimmons, a retired businessman, strives to possess it and uses its power for black magic. Ultimately, the forces of good prevail, and Gregory is punished.

Two possibly unrelated events begin the novel. First, an unidentified corpse is found at the publishing firm that Gregory owns. Second, the contents of a manuscript at the firm are revealed, suggesting that the Grail is in the Fardles church. Gregory begins to obsess over the Grail. Renting a house in the Fardles area, he tries to buy the chalice and then pays to have it stolen; during the theft, Julian is attacked. Gregory also lures the Rackstraw family to his new residence, with the plan to kidnap their four-year-old son, Adam, and use him in black magic.

Aided by the Duke of North Ridings and Kenneth Mornington, Julian locates the chalice in Gregory’s home and steals it. Taking it to London, Julian hides in the Duke’s home. His prayers protect it from the evil spells that Gregory’s accomplices, Manasseh and Lavrodopoulos, are putting on it to destroy it. Gregory injures Barbara, Adam’s mother; poisons her; and brings in a “doctor” Manasseh, who will worsen her ill health while pretending to cure her. Julian agrees to exchange the chalice for Barbara’s health, for which they pray all night. A mysterious stranger, John, arrives in Fardles just as she is cured; he is Prester John of Arthurian myth.

In London, occult forces kill Mornington and threaten Julian, who is captured and tied up to be ritually killed. The combined positive forces emanating from the Grail and the actions of Prester John, who arrives in the nick of time, save Julian. Moreover, Gregory is arrested after confessing to an unsolved murder that had set the novel in motion. Back in Fardles, Prester John celebrates mass at the church; both he and the Grail disappear, and Julian dies in peace on the altar.

My Thoughts:

Christian Mysticism. What C.S. Lewis is with his Narnia and Space Trilogy to Fantasy and Science Fiction, that is what Williams is to Mysticism. Not being an advocate for, a believer in, or even a fan of, mysticism, this was a hard book to get through.

I was discussing this with Pilgrim over at Librarything and ended up saying this about the book part way through:

I guess part of it is that the idea that God’s Power can imbue an object and then be used willy nilly, by anybody. While there are a few instances that spring to mind of that happening in the Bible (Elisha’s bones raising the dead man and Peter’s hankerchief healing people) most of the miracles were directly tied to a prophet on a mission. Gahazi couldn’t use Elisha’s staff to raise the dead woman’s son, the river didn’t heal all the lepers only Naaman, etc.

I guess I reject mysticism because I view it as a way to use God’s power through our own power (incantations, etc) instead of it being something that God’s does through us. I certainly do believe in miracles and I do believe in magic. I just don’t see how a Christian can think of miracles in the same vein as magic.

I reject with every fiber of my being the idea of there being White and Black Magic. God’s Power is not magic and the power of Satan and the fallen spirits is corrupted and its final goal is the damnation of the user and recipient.

While Williams makes it impossible for Persimmons to use the Grail himself, Persimmons manages to get around that by using the child Adrian. Of course, it backfires, but still, the idea that an evil person can use an object of Holiness for the “power” contained therein just rubs me completely the wrong way. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is a perfect example of this idea in our popular culture. The idea that Nazi’s could harness the power of the Ark, the very seat of God on Earth, for themselves is simply abhorrent to me. It also displays a shocking lack of understanding on the subject. Williams understands the theology behind what he’s writing, it is just that he and I disagree on the interpretation.

That led me into my other main issue. The boy Adrian. Persimmons makes it his mission to win the child so he can use him as a conduit for the Graal (everybody referred to it as the Graal instead of the Holy Grail. I have no idea why) and in the back of his mind is that Adrian would also either make a pefect Disciple of Satan or a fantastic sacrifice after being used by Persimmons. I had to stop reading and ask Pilgrim if Adrian was going to be ok before I could go on. Thankfully, everything WAS ok, but the leadup to that was very ominous and not something I enjoyed contemplating. Kids in danger, physical or spiritual, is something I don’t handle well.

At the same time, I thoroughly enjoyed reading a book about Christians and the working out of everything through a Christian world view. While I gave it the Fantasy tag, it is way closer to real life than I’d ever be truly comfortable with. I’ve got several more of Williams books available to me and I think I’ll add them to my tbr, just further down the line.

I realize my complaints got more time than the positives, but this books deserves those 3.5stars. The fact that I plan on reading more Williams cements in my mind that this WAS a good read.

★★★☆½

Jupiter War (Owner Sequence #3) ★★★★★

jupiterwarThis 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: Jupiter War
Series: Owner Sequence #3
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 350
Words: 139.5K

 

Synopsis:

Saul continues to upgrade the Argus station into an interstellar spaceship. He must deal with his sister who is jealous of Saul’s abilities but won’t admit it to herself, other scientists on board who have come to consider him near-omniscient to former Committee members who want to displace Saul and take over the ship and “be free”. While all of this internal conflict is happening, Saul must also deal with the continued threat presented by Serene Gallahad and her drive to recover the Gene Bank from him to restore the biosphere of Earth. This results in a battle out by Jupiter where Saul ends up destroying the two Committee ships but almost being destroyed in the process.

Gallahad continues to tighten her control of Earth and has become more powerful than ever. Unfortunately for her, several rogue elements working in tandem destroy her powerbase and leave her vulnerable. Her own bodyguard kills her and the lower level Committee members end up all working against each other, thus delaying Earth’s return to space for almost a century. This enables Saul to complete his upgrades and leave the Solar System.

 

My Thoughts:

I have enjoyed this re-read of the Owner Sequence so much more this time around than I did back in ’11-’13. I think a big part is that back then I was expecting it to be more tightly tied to Asher’s Polity universe and so my expectations were a bit different. Now that I know this isn’t another Polity spinoff, I can appreciate it for itself. It excels as an origin story for the Owner.

As my 5stars should indicate, I had a great time reading this. I’ve been trying to think how to adequately describe the action here. It still gets the ultra-violent tag but at the same time it wasn’t frenzied and frenetic. I never felt like I had run out of breath after the battles like I do in some books. That’s not a bad thing at all, mind you, just a quirk that stuck out to me.

The Proctors, the nigh-indestructable helpers of Saul, provide a sounding board for Saul to bounce ideas about human nature and freedom off of. While I wish they had been used more as ultimate Killing Machines, I can understand why Asher wrote them the way he did. They are supposed to help keep Saul from losing all touch with what’s left of his own humanity.

I know that Asher has written another Polity trilogy recently, which I plan on reading next (Rise of the Jain) but after re-reading this, I wouldn’t mind at all if he decided to write another Owner trilogy. I’d be even happier if he just wrote a book of short stories exclusively about the Owner and various adventures he has throughout space.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Kingdom Come ★☆☆☆☆

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: Kingdom Come
Series: Elseworlds
Author: Mark Wade
Artist: Alex Ross
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 232
Words: 23K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

In this Elseworlds story, Superman and the Justice League abandon their roles as superheroes after the rise and strong public support of a superhero named Magog, who has no qualms about killing—notably the Joker, on his way to trial for the mass murder of the Daily Planet staff, including Lois Lane. In the ensuing years, a newer generation of superpowered metahumans arise; they engage each other in destructive battles with little distinction between “heroes” and “villains.” The narrator, a minister named Norman McCay, receives apocalyptic visions of the future from a dying Wesley Dodds. The Spectre appears to McCay and recruits him to help pass judgment on the approaching superhuman apocalypse.

An attack on the Parasite, led by Magog, goes awry when Parasite tears open Captain Atom. As a result, much of the American Midwest is irradiated, killing millions and destroying a large portion of the United States’s food production. Coaxed back into action by Wonder Woman, Superman returns to Metropolis and re-forms the Justice League.

He recruits new heroes along with older ones. The most prominent exception is the Batman, who resents Superman for leaving the world 10 years ago. Batman warns Superman that his idealist notions are outdated and his interference will only exacerbate the world’s problems, insisting that strategy is required, not force. In response to Superman’s Justice League, Batman activates his network of agents called the “Outsiders”, made up largely of the younger second and third-generation heroes, while trusted veterans, such as Green Arrow and Blue Beetle, are chosen as lieutenants. Lex Luthor has organized the “Mankind Liberation Front”. The MLF is secretly a group of Golden Age villains, including Catwoman, the Riddler, and Vandal Savage, as well as third-generation villains like Ra’s al Ghul’s successor, Ibn al Xu’ffasch, who is Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul’s son. The MLF works to take control of the world from the heroes.

Superman’s Justice League gathers more captives than converts, and his prison (nicknamed “the Gulag”) is filled to capacity almost as soon as it is built. Superman works to persuade the inmates that their methods are wrong-headed and dangerous, but his entreaties fall upon deaf ears. With hostile heroes and villains locked up together, pressure builds. Meanwhile, Superman learns that Wonder Woman’s ardent militant stance may be influenced by her recent exile from Paradise Island: in the eyes of the Amazons, her mission to bring peace to the outside world has failed, and she has thus been stripped of her royalty. Batman and his Outsiders seem to enter into an alliance with the MLF as a united front against the Justice League. Luthor plans to exacerbate the conflict between the League and the inmates of the Gulag; the ensuing chaos will afford Luthor an opportunity to seize power. Batman uses the Martian Manhunter to discover that an adult Billy Batson is under Luthor’s control. Batson, as Captain Marvel, is the only metahuman capable of matching Superman’s power. When the Gulag’s inmates riot and kill Captain Comet, Luthor unwittingly reveals to Batman he intends to use the brainwashed Batson to break open the Gulag. Batman’s forces ambush Luthor and his conspirators, but they are unable to restrain Batson, who transforms into Marvel and flies off. While Wonder Woman leads the Justice League to the superhuman prison riot, Superman confronts Batman. Batman tries to justify inaction, saying the world would be better off if all the metahumans destroyed each other. Superman points out that if all human life is sacred, then logically that includes superhuman life. Superman knows that Batman will act, because his entire crimefighting life is based upon the desire to prevent the loss of human life.

Moved by Superman’s sentiments, Batman tells Superman that Captain Marvel is under Luthor’s control and is on the way to the Gulag. Superman races to the Gulag, but upon arrival is struck down by Captain Marvel. The Gulag is breached, freeing the population, and inciting war between Wonder Woman’s Justice League and the metahuman prisoners. The Spectre and Norman look on as Wonder Woman’s League engages with the prisoners and Superman is kept at bay by Captain Marvel. Batman’s army arrives on site as an intervening third party. Batman is unable to stop Wonder Woman from killing the supervillain Von Bach, which increases the fury of the riot.

As conditions worsen, United Nations Secretary General Wyrmwood authorizes the deployment of three tactical nuclear warheads, hardened against metahuman powers. In the middle of their fight, Batman and Wonder Woman see the incoming stealth bombers piloted by the Blackhawk Squadron. They break off fighting and manage to stop two bombs, but miss the third. Captain Marvel uses his magic lightning bolt as a weapon against Superman. Superman manages to grab Marvel and allow the bolt to transform him into Billy. Holding Batson’s mouth shut, Superman tells him he is going to stop the remaining bomb, and Batson must make a choice: either stop Superman and allow the warhead to kill all the metahumans, or let Superman stop the bomb and allow the metahumans’ war to engulf the world. Superman tells Batson he must be the one to make this decision, as he is the only one who lives in both worlds: a man (as Batson) and a god (as Marvel). Batson, his mind now clear of Luthor’s influence, turns back into Captain Marvel. He flings Superman to the ground and flies after the missile. Marvel intercepts the missile and shouts “Shazam!” three times in rapid succession, detonating the bomb prematurely, and killing Batson in the process.

Despite Marvel’s sacrifice, most of the metahumans are obliterated in the explosion. Superman is unharmed, but does not realize that there are any other survivors. Enraged at the tremendous loss of life, Superman flies to the U.N. Building and threatens to bring it down atop the delegates as punishment for the massacre. The surviving metahumans arrive, but McCay is the one who talks him down, pointing out how his appearance and behavior are exactly the sort of reasons that normal humans fear the superpowered. Superman immediately ceases his rampage. He is handed Captain Marvel’s cape, and tells the U.N. that he will use his wisdom to guide, rather than lead, humankind. Superman ties Captain Marvel’s cape to a flagpole and raises it among the flags of the member nations of the U.N., suggesting that this role of guidance will be more political and global in nature than the classic crime-busting vigilantism of the past.[6] In the epilogue, the heroes strive to become fully integrated members of the communities. Wonder Woman’s exile from Paradise Island ends, and she becomes an ambassador for super-humanity, taking the survivors of the Gulag to Paradise Island for rehabilitation. Batman abandons his crusade and becomes a healer, rebuilding his mansion as a hospital to care for those wounded by the destruction of the Gulag. He reconciles with both Dick Grayson/Red Robin and his son, Ibn al Xu’ffasch. Superman begins the task of restoring the Midwestern farmlands devastated in Magog’s attempt to capture the Parasite. He comes to terms with his past as Clark Kent by accepting a pair of glasses from Wonder Woman, and shares a kiss with her before she returns to Paradise Island. Norman McCay resumes pastorship of his congregation, preaching a message of hope for humanity. Among the congregation is Jim Corrigan, the Spectre’s human host.

My Thoughts:

Where do I start? I liked the idea and the presentation.

But the damnably perverted and shallow philosophy absolutely killed this for me. I knew this wasn’t going to go well right from the introduction by Elliot Maggin when he starts talking about us all being modern gods and how he takes inspiration from Gandhi saying he would be a Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Christian or Buddhist, the idea being that he would do anything to advance his generic ideals even to the profanation of the very religions he’s claiming to want to represent.

Then we get the main narrator, a Christian pastor. Unfortunately, this “pastor” is of the God is just a name and simply represents a higher power to help us become better” variety. He’s not a Christian, he’s a Unitarian. Not once was the name of Christ mentioned. Even during the many, many, MANY out of context quotes from the book of Revelation (which by the way is the Revelation of Jesus Christ) God as a Force was what was shoved down the readers’ throats. I am finding that the older I get, the less patience I have for misrepresentations of Christianity. I’m not talking about differences of opinion of a hard to interpret Scripture, but blatant misuses of Scripture to forward a storyline while claiming TO represent Christianity. Sadly, most of these misrepresentations come from real life people doing the misrepresentation. Can anyone say Jim Bakker or Joel Osteen?

Next, you have Superman, Batman and Wonderwoman. All are portrayed as having been broken by the events of a new world. One thing that really stuck out was the various stances shown on superheroes taking lives. Superman and Batman are known for their stance on not taking lives. It is one of the defining characteristics of who they are. The authors here use that and the new heroes willingness to take lives at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, killing, for any reason, even by the lawful authorities is show as something evil. One of the villains, Magog, killed the Joker in the past and that is portrayed on the same level as him killing Captain Atom and pretty much nuking the American midwest and killing MILLIONS of people. Things are just not that simplistic and I HATE when something serious is portrayed so unreasonably. This got into Message Territory instead of good story telling.

Then the ending. Everyone pretty much just agrees to get along. Pollyana much? I mean, the whole freaking story wouldn’t have happened if the characters had acted in the beginning like they did at the end. But there was no real mechanism to propel their changes.

Everything, from beginning to end, got my goat. This was an Elseworlds story that could have been great, could have been fantastic but completely failed in its execution and was completely bogged down by Message Politics.

You know what is really funny though? I read a review of this on another site where the person went off the rails because they were convinced this was all right wing politics, because it featured a “Christian” main character, had Superman, Batman and Wonderwomen as the good guys. They also claimed it was pro-gun, pro-life and pro-death sentence. Oh, oh, they also stated that from this they figured Wade was a Republican and thus this was a complete piece of garbage. Isn’t that awesome? I have no idea how they came to the conclusions they did but it made me do a little happy dance inside. Call me sick, but seeing someone else being miserable just made my day.

Just so you can get an alternate take, ie, a more positive one, feel free to visit’s Lashaan Review.

★☆☆☆☆

The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions ★★★★☆

919259332f66a3c596f31577077444341587343This 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 Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions
Series: ———-
Author: David Berlinski
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 258
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The title really does sum this up. Written as a foil to Dawkin’s The God Delusion, Berlinski, a non-practicing Jew, shows just how shaky the ground is, philosophically AND scientifically, that many out-spoken atheists stand on.

Using humor, sarcasm and other rather ham handed approaches, Berlinski pokes the High Priests of Scyenze and lets the hot air out of them, much like a balloon. He doesn’t approach things form an angle of “They are wrong and I’m right” but more of a “their attitude is untenable given their arrogant, boasting statements about Faith and Religion”.

 

My Thoughts:

I had a hard time with this. Even while I agreed with much of what Berlinski wrote, I am not a fan of the style he uses, ie, poking the bear with a stick. The problem is, people like Hawkings, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, etc, NEED to be poked. They are arrogant, proud, boastful and self-centered and all of their might and effort is put forth proving that God doesn’t exist just so that they don’t have to kneel before Him. Reading this was like getting a splinter removed with a needle. It was necessary and good but you don’t like the process.

I was high lighting sentences left and right on my kindle but I don’t care enough to type them all out. Honestly, I don’t know if I was the target audience for this or not. Berlinski is an Evolutionist but realizes that the pat “We Have All the Answers” attitude put out by the scientific community as a whole is a bunch of bologna. He pokes and pokes and shows that no, they don’t have all the answers. In fact, some of the contortions they must go through make the planetary epicycles of Ptolemy look positively straight!

The biggest thing I got was that most of the people he mentions by name are arrogant blowhards and that Pride shapes how they think and how they approach existence itself. Pride is what led to Satan’s fall from grace and Berlinski shows how Pride is still blinding people today, even people of great intellect.

Recommended as a Counter Cultural Argument against the monolithic religion of our day, Scyenze.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Time Thieves ★★★☆☆

timethieves (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: Time Thieves
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 146
Format: Digital Scan

 

Synopsis:

Peter Mullion wakes up sitting in his car in his garage and can’t remember a thing about how he got there. He knows he went to his cabin to work on it, but that is it. When his wife comes home and sees him, she tells him he’s been missing for 3 weeks! Peter sets out to investigate just what happened to him.

Unfortunately, he’s having trouble counting or keeping track of time or even where he is. He loses his way one day in his office building and when he comes to his wife tells him he’s been missing again, for several days. Peter sees the same man watching him, at a restaurant, at home, wherever he turns, there he is. Peter and his wife Delia head up to the mountain cabin to see if that holds any clues. They find the cabin painted, which means Peter was there. However, upon further examination, it appears that the painting was done less than a day ago, not weeks ago like it should have. Peter’s paranoia isn’t so misplaced after all.

One night Peter begins hearing voices and he realizes he can hear other people’s thoughts. Peter ends up in communication with an alien being, who has been spying on him using its robot servants. Peter flees, honing his mental skills. During a cat and mouse game, he destroys the minds of the robots. Now he just has to deal with the aliens.

The aliens mentally kidnap his wife and tell Peter that they accidentally killed him 3 weeks ago. They rebuilt him but due to them not being familiar with human biology, accidentally gave him telepathy. They say Humanity isn’t ready for that and they just want to take that ability away from Peter. No harm, no violence, just remove a mistake that they made. Peter refuses and tells them every single human is alone and that they shouldn’t be. Peter kills the aliens, who are pacifists at heart and he and Delia go off to live a happy life, spreading telepathy to all and sundry like corn kernels to chickens.

 

My Thoughts:

First, that cover has ZERO to do with this story. There is no sexy woman with a ray gun, Peter doesn’t dress up like a ninja and crouch on a mountain and the UFO is only talked about. It’s actually parked inside a mountain for the whole book.

The title only makes sense if you consider the aliens to have stolen time from Peter when he went missing those several times. They can’t actually manipulate time. I kept waiting for that right up until almost the end of the book.

The tension was pretty high for most of the book and I liked that. Koontz kept me edgy and wondering just what was going to happen.

My issues came down to the fact that Peter killed the aliens because they were going to take something back that had been given by mistake. His life was not in danger, his wife’s life was not in danger but Peter had something and he wasn’t going to give it up. The justification given is because of how much Peter loves Delia, but that just rang false. He was an adult who knew enough about how Humanity would use such a gift and he was even told that it would spread but he chose to keep it anyway. It almost felt like Koontz was writing about a modern Adam and Eve, but ones that weren’t deceived into eating the forbidden fruit but ones who willfully chose to take and eat such a fruit. Even “love” can be corrupted and that is really applicable in this day and age with every idiot bleating about “love” all the time but having no concrete concept of what Love actually is.

My kindle had this at about 140 pages. I think the paperback runs around 100, so either way, it was a short little novel bordering on the novella. I wasn’t expecting a mind blowing experience and I wasn’t disappointed. On the other hand, I wasn’t disappointed. Glad I read this but don’t plan on ever reading it again.

I am thinking of adding an author’s name as a tag to any series of books that don’t have a series associating them together. I’ve been doing that with Dickens and I’m going to start now with Koontz. I will have to decide if I want to start that with every book or not. The problem with NOT doing it for every author is then remembering which authors I AM doing it for. But if I do it for every author then my tag cloud is going to grow humongously, even more ridiculous than it already is. Do any of you have any thoughts or opinions or anecdotes or experience to shed some light on this issue?

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane ★★★☆☆

savagetalesofsolomonkane (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: The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane
Series: ———-
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The collected works following the adventures of the Puritan Swordsman, Solomon Kane. From the deepest depths of Africa to the windswept shores of England, Solomon Kane follows wither the spirit leads. Avenging wrongs, rescuing maidens, defeating evil incarnate, Solomon Kane knows no fear, for he is God’s Avenging Sword against Evil.

 

My Thoughts:

Not as enjoyable as the Essential Conan collection I read last year. Part of that was that there just wasn’t nearly as much material for Solomon Kane as there was for Conan. Almost 1/3 of the stories in this book were fragments that Howard had started and then either set aside or just never finished. Thankfully each story that was a fragment had the word (fragment), like that, next to the story name. There were also 2 or 3 poems and I’m just not a poetry buff of any sort.

My biggest problem however, was that Kane was supposed to be a Puritan. While he dresses like one, not once does he act in any way that I recognized as a Godly man. He consorts with sorcerers, uses gifts of magic from a devil worshipper, thinks that men are nothing but higher animals and generally displays no reverence for God. He occasionally mouths a platitude or two about “faith” but what he said could just as easily have come from a Hindu, a Muslim or a Buddhist.

Now with all of that out of the way…

There were some fine pulp stories here. Encountering lost civilizations in the heart of Africa, fighting off a tribe of flying cannibal creatures, torching a city of zombie vampires, fighting a whole crew of pirates, Solomon Kane has the chops to keep you entertained. Everydayshouldbetuesday talked about Solomon Kane back in May and that peaked my interest.

I would recommend this if you enjoyed Howard’s Conan stories and wanted to try something different. However, if you haven’t read any Howard, don’t start with this.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)