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)

 

Death Wish ★★★★★

deathwish (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: Death Wish
Series: ———-
Author: Brian Garfield
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Psychological Fiction
Pages: 192
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Paul Benjamin is a successful accountant in New York City. One afternoon his wife and married daughter are attacked in Paul’s apartment and savagely beaten. His wife dies and his daughter ends up in a sanitarium, insane for all intents and purposes.

Paul has always been a good guy. He’s done charity work for prison reform, contributes to causes left and right and thinks that if he obeys the rules that Society will protect him. With the attack on his family this delusion is ripped away and Paul must confront what living in a big city really means.

As he mulls these thoughts over, he begins to change. He realizes he has been afraid and he is now going to stop being afraid. But how does one stop being afraid? By taking responsibility for ones self is the conclusion Paul comes to.

On a business trip to the Mid-West Paul has a one night stand with some stranger at his hotel. When she leaves he realizes how empty his life is. How empty those hoodlums have made his life. He buys a small calibre pistol at a fishing shop and takes it back to New York with him hidden in his carry on baggage.

Paul begins roaming the city at night, exposing himself to danger so as to kill the perpetrators of violence and crime. After several kills the papers pick up on the fact that there is a vigilante on the loose. The book ends with Paul having just shot 4 teenagers who were throwing 50lb rocks onto a train to kill people inside and a cop seeing him. The cop raises his hat and deliberately turns his back and Paul walks home.

 

My Thoughts:

My goodness, another fantastic book for this year. Definitely gets the “Best Book of the Year” tag.

So, this review might be long and rambly, please bear with me or just skip it. Either way, it’s all good.

I had heard about this through the 1974 film starring Charles Bronson. Knowing the type of movie Bronson usually starred in, I never got around to watching it. Then in 2018 a remake with Bruce Willis was made and it eventually came to Amazon Prime. I watched the reboot, as I really like Willis. That led me to watching the original with Bronson and then to hunting down the book. I plan on talking about the movies in a Versus post later this month. Death Wish vs Death Wish vs Death Wish!

Based on the synopsis and the movies, I was expecting a book about a vigilante getting his revenge. A soft, pasty, weakminded fool seeing reality for the first time in his life and going all gung-ho to the other extreme. What I got was a psychological book that impressed me over and over and over. Paul never finds the hoodlums who killed his wife and he never expects to. What I read was the mind of a man pushed beyond its self-imposed limits. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t always easy to read about but it was good.

I’ve always considered Crime & Punishment to be THE book on what a criminal mind goes through after a murder. Death Wish is entering the same territory in my mind but from the other end. What does a man go through when he truly realizes how broken, destructive and unsafe his world is? This book shows the answer to that.

Given the fact that I already agree with most of the statements made in this book (see my Quote post from the other day) it is no surprise that I liked this. The only part I struggled with was Paul taking the role of Executioner into his own hands, not lightly, but so determinedly. I believe that every human has the God given right to defend themselves. I believe that laws like the Stand Your Ground laws are essential to a free society. However, when defense of Self moves into the defense of Society then I cannot blindly accept or promote it. But neither do I blindly negate it. Evil, and people who commit acts of Evil ARE evil, must be resisted not only by the dutifully elected officials of Law and Order but by every conscientious citizen as well. The flip side of the Right to Self-defense is the Responsibility of Self-defense. This book was written in 1972 and is pretty dated but the battle that Paul goes through in his mind is as relevant today as it was then.

I don’t know what someone who is in staunch opposition to the right of self-defense would make of this book. I don’t think it would change their mind. It is not meant to however. This was a book written to all of those people who sit on the fence and think they are safe because “of the police” or that “it couldn’t happen here in Safe Safe Happy Funland.” Brian Garfield also NEVER ridicules those who think like Paul at the beginning of the book. I really appreciated that.

I would love to unreservedly recommend this book but honestly, I can’t. For me, it was the right book at the right time. People can have their minds changed and responsibility can grow from even the stinkiest compost heap.

To end, this was not an action/adventure novel of revenge and over the top violence. This was the story of a man finally growing up.

★★★★★

 

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Epilogue IV (Shaman King #23) ★★★☆☆

epilogueIV (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: Epilogue IV
Series: Shaman King #23
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Yoh and his friends face off against the Golem and Hao’s gang but Hao is reminded of the one friend he had, Matamune the cat spirit, who taught Yoh a lot of what he now knows. Hao decides to amble off.

Anna and Manta are slowly making their way to the scene and Anna begins to tell Manta a story about Yoh’s past.

The golem revives, fully under the control of the ghost of it’s creator. To replenish its mana it must consume the souls of other shamans, so it begins to attack Yoh’s group. Horohoro and Ren are first in line. With Lyserg’s help they slow the golem down but then everyone is running away on Lyserg’s new angel ally. The golem gives chase and the crew has to figure out how to stop it without killing the little girl inside. Suddenly a stronger than ever Joco shows up and fights off the golem.

Hao reveals to his minions that he can read minds and that he left the golem fight so he didn’t have to fight Yoh yet.

Super-Joco begins beating the ever living daylights out of the golem with new shaman powers and his ghost teacher shows up and starts lecturing the gang (and the audience by extension). The audience then gets a flashback sequence via Ghost Teacher about Joco’s training in the other-world.

Joco and the golem continue their fight but Joco isn’t fighting to defeat the golem but to make it realize its dreams so the ghost will pass on. The fight ends with Joco lying in a pool blood.

 

My Thoughts:

Super New Joco looked super new stupid. I have no idea where the manga-ka gets his ideas for what looks cook, but Joco was a complete fail in this regard.

The manga-ka also can’t seem to help himself from preaching at his audience. It is really getting annoying. If it was consistent or more than skin deep pop psychology I could deal with it better. But it isn’t and it comes across as Dr. Phil-lite. If you don’t know who Dr. Phil is (and good for you if you don’t), he’s a tv personality who hands out self-help advice like gummy vitamins.

How can the manga-ka go on and on about shamans being keepers of peace and not interested in politics and greed and all the other crap he spews while at the exact same time he has not just Hao in complete opposition to that but every single one of Hao’s minions. They are all shamans too. And they’re evil shamans. My running theory is that everyone in the last volume will have a kum-bai-ya moment and suddenly be all fething lovey dovey with every one else.

I hope I’m wrong.

This probably would have gone down to a 2 ½ if it weren’t for the fights. Takei can draw a most excellent fight scene.

★★★☆☆

 

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The Crippled God (Malazan Book of the Fallen #10) ★☆☆☆☆

crippledgod (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 Crippled God
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #10
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 934
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Adjunct Tavore and the Bonehunters separate from their erstwhile allies as they make a 3 pronged attack on the heart of the recently arisen Forkrul Assail empire, which holds the Crippled God’s heart. Along with gods, various elder races and even the dead, all conspire to set the Crippled God free to return him to his own world and thus begin the healing of their own world. The Perish Grey Helms turn traitor and massive amounts of people die.

At the same time an Ototaral Dragon is resurrected and set free. She is the opposite to all the other Eleint, dragons, who are at heart forces of chaos while she is a force of utter negation. The embodiment of Chaos, known as Tiam begins to manifest but the Ototarol Dragon is chained thus setting the Eleint free from their own frenzy, which dissolves Tiam’s hold over them and dissipates her own Manifesting.

Lots of other things happen.

Tavore and the Malazans and their allies are able to free the Crippled God and he returns to his own world. Shadowthrone and Cotillion hint at each other that everything has been part of an even bigger plan but mention zero details or anything concrete.

As good an ending as one can hope for with the author’s known penchant for deliberate obfuscation and outright misdirection.

 

My Thoughts:

I read over my review from 2011. Eight years later, not one single thing has changed in my mind about this book. It is remains a piece of trash where the author masterbates to his own supposed cleverness with words and is nothing but a dung heap of rubbish pseudo-philosophy.

I finished this and all I could think was “Why did Erikson even bother writing this?” The battle scenes were incredible and show that the skill in writing the first book was no fluke. Which makes my question even more pertinent, as it means he wrote such pointless reams of words on purpose. FOR NO PURPOSE.

What a killjoy way to end a series that started out so promising 2 years ago. And this re-read did not change my mind about the series overall, as I was hoping it would. Well, it does reinforce that I’ll not read another book by Erikson, no matter what. He wrote this book and ended the series this way, he doesn’t deserve any more of my money, time or attention. I almost feel like I’m doing a disservice to book bloggers everywhere by even bringing attention to his name now. Bleh.

★☆☆☆☆

 

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Play the Man ★★★★☆

playtheman (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: Play the Man
Series: ———-
Author: Mark Batterson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Inspirational Non-Fiction
Pages: 224
Format: Hardcover

 

 

Synopsis:

Synopsis taken from the book:

“Somewhere along the way, our culture lost its definition of manhood, leaving generations of men and men-to-be confused about their roles, responsibilities, relationships, and the reason God made them men. It’s into this ‘no man’s land’ that New York Times bestselling author Mark Batterson declares his mantra for manhood: play the man. In this inspiring call to something greater, he helps men understand what it means to be a man of God by unveiling seven virtues of manhood. Mark shares inspiring stories of manhood, including the true story of the hero and martyr Polycarp, who first heard the voice from heaven say, ‘Play the man.’ Mark couples those stories with practical ideas about how to disciple the next generation of men. This is more than a book; it’s a movement of men who will settle for nothing less than fulfilling their highest calling to be the man and the father God has destined them to be. Play the man. Make the man.”

 

My Thoughts:

I read this book over the course of July for our men’s group at church. One of the reasons there were so many “man” posts in July.

It started out a bit rough. I felt like it was an updated version of John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart and I didn’t find that particular book at all helpful. But once Batterson got into the 7 Virtues of Manhood, things turned around.

The specific 7 Virtues didn’t really enter into the equation. I was more encouraged in how Batterson showed that being a Man of God was something purposeful, something you had to set your mind to. It was goal oriented and something that will last for your whole life. Just because I’ve done X, Y and Z in the past doesn’t mean I get to slack off and coast later on. A Godly Man is always striving after God and since God is Infinite, our striving will never end. Some days I might have found that thought discouraging, but not during this book. It reminded me of just how great our God is and how much He loves us.

Batterson also goes into Jesus as Man a little bit and that was good too. Too often I think of Jesus as a superman just gliding through His life, snapping His fingers and making everything work. It was good to be reminded that He had to learn to read, that He pooped His diapers (or whatever the equivalent was in 4BC) and that He had hormones too. And yet through it all, He was Perfect.

The final thing that really made this work for me was that Batterson isn’t trying to change the whole culture with some “7 Virtues” program. He doesn’t say that this book will change the whole nation if only we all follow it. He presents it as something that each man must do on his own and must pass on to his sons. He makes being a Godly Man that individuals responsibility. He looks at the building blocks. If the foundations are solid, you can then build a good house. He also practices what he preaches with his kids and I found that immensely encouraging as well.

★★★★☆

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