This novel opens in a promising manner, with our old friend Mr. Veilleur sitting alone in a small cemetery in Queens. He ruminates next to an unmarkedThis novel opens in a promising manner, with our old friend Mr. Veilleur sitting alone in a small cemetery in Queens. He ruminates next to an unmarked, four-foot grave, whose occupant, Mr. Veilleur believes, was touched by The Enemy.
Shift the scene to Darnell University in Pendleton, North Carolina. Lisl Whitman is a frumpy assistant math professor, 32 years old, lonely, and lacking confidence. Will Ryerson is a groundskeeper at the university, mid-forties, with a strange but understandable aversion to telephones. Whenever he is around one, it lets out an uninterrupted ring, and whoever answers listens to a horrifying message by a terrified little boy.
We also meet Everett Sanders, Lisl's colleague, also lonely, a math nerd, lives a very regimented lifestyle for a very good reason, and loves Lisl. That last part is only implied by the author, but I think it's clear.
Lisl meets a 23-year-old graduate student named Rafe Losmara at a cocktail party. They hit it off, go on a few dates, and end up in bed. She's infatuated with him. But Rafe is not what he seems, which Wilson gives away very early.
Rafe and Lisl see each other constantly, and Rafe slowly bends Lisl to his will. He's charming, seductive, dotes on her, and she can't refuse him, even when he asks her to do something she knows is wrong, like shoplift. Rafe says that's not stealing because Rafe and Lisl are Primes, people who produce and invent and create things that people who are not Primes consume. Non-Primes are nothing but leeches and laggards, and deserve no consideration. Primes can do what they please with them. Lisl is a Prime, though she doesn't know it, and she must not let non-Primes hold her back and prevent her from realizing her true potential.
It's a seductive philosophy and inherently evil. But Lisl buys into it and is soon shoplifting all the time. She even commits an ungodly act against Everett. But that's not until the end.
To this point, there are many unanswered questions. Who is Rafe? Why is Will plagued by the terrifying phone calls? Why is a New York detective tracking these phone calls? Who's in that grave Mr. Veilleur is so concerned about?
To answer these, Wilson goes back five years ago, and we reacquaint ourselves with Father Bill Ryan, from Reborn. He's still runs the St. Francis orphanage. A five-year-old boy goes home with a loving couple and ends up crucified and gutted, but still alive. In fact, poor Danny Gordon has no blood or pulse, can't sleep (anesthesia does not work), and endures unspeakable agony. This forces Father Bill to make an ungodly choice, one that haunts him to this day.
What I liked best about this novel was Wilson's portrayal of evil. Rafe slowly corrupts Lisl by preying on her vulnerability and innocence. His philosophy very closely matches the biblical definition of evil - self-centered and atheistic. It's a fascinating dissertation.
Beyond that, it has its chills and scary moments, and a super ending. ...more
I've had this in my extensive TBR pile for a few years now, and decided to read it after hearing of the author's death last weekend. It seemed like aI've had this in my extensive TBR pile for a few years now, and decided to read it after hearing of the author's death last weekend. It seemed like a fitting tribute.
I don't have a lot to add to what other reviewers have said. The novel is surprisingly gripping, considering that not a whole lot happens. There's no fulminations, or political posturing, or thundering moralizations. It is exactly what the title indicates, and thus all that more effective and interesting.
We lost a valuable slice of history when Solzhenitsyn passed away, but at least he left some of it behind....more
You certainly can be forgiven if you haven't heard of Harry Browne. Hardly a household name, this author and investor was the Libertarian Party's candYou certainly can be forgiven if you haven't heard of Harry Browne. Hardly a household name, this author and investor was the Libertarian Party's candidate for President in 1996 and again in 2000. I think he got something like 1% of the vote in 1996, and hardly even registered in 2000.
But that's the price the Libertarian candidate must pay. No one votes Libertarian, because most voters have never heard of the party, and those that have don't much care for their platform. Browne writes that there are 190 elected Libertarians serving across the country. I'm sure than number has changed since 1995, and maybe it's even increased, but that indicates there aren't a whole lot of Libertarians getting elected. How many thousands of elected officials serve in this country? I know, I know, too many.
Browne wants to fix all that, and this book was his vehicle to the Presidency. He outlines the Libertarian philosophy about government, which in essence is this: it doesn't work because it's based on coercion and that's bad because it's based on coercion. He doesn't explain why a system based on coercion is doomed to fail, he just maintains that it does not work, never has, and never will.
For some odd reason, he never once mentions the morality of a system based on coercion, like may libertarians do. All government is theft, they say, because it involves taking money from someone. That's wrong. Browne touches on this, but in a different context. He does not question government's legitimacy, merely its effectiveness. The more I read, the more I got the feeling that if government could work, maybe Browne wouldn't be against it.
I think he did this because he is obviously trying to sell libertarianism to a very skeptical public. What libertarians believe isn't all that popular. Sure, they're all for freedom, and who isn't? But they also would do away with the national parks (sell them), Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, student loans, the war on drugs, the Departments of Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, IRS, and so on. You get the idea.
Browne never comes out and says this, though. He just says the federal government should get out of the retirement, medical care, and education business, since government doesn't work, and the private sector could do all that better. He doesn't say this because people like their government programs, and don't want them to go away. Browne responds by saying but he'd end the income tax, and social security tax, and capital gains tax, and pretty much all other taxes, leaving all Americans to keep all the money they earn, thus giving them a much better chance at prosperity and a better life. In essence, he's asking American to give up the security of the federal dole in exchange for an unknown future.
But perhaps this isn't fair. According to Browne, an America with no federal regulations on businesses or role in social issues is infinitely superior to what we have now. He's probably right. But too many people are unwilling to take that leap. That's why Libertarians get 2% of the vote.
Personally, my beef with the Libertarian Party isn't so much with philosophy - though I have hard time believing that legalizing drugs, gambling and prostitution would produce a better country - but tactics. They shun the two major parties because, they say, the Republicans and Democrats are both the same. They both increase government. At least Democrats are honest about it. Republicans, says Browne, campaign like Libertarians and govern like Democrats.
I say that Libertarians should infiltrate the Republican Party and try to take it over. Use their money and their resources to advance your agenda. It's working for Ron Paul. He's a Republican congressman from Texas who several years ago was a Libertarian presidential candidate. But he decided to get elected and do something positive rather than sit on sidelines and whine and complain.
But the Libertarians refuse. That would be selling out, you see. Can't do that. Best to fail time and again, rather than get a serious chance to implement our policies.
And that's a shame, because most libertarians are serious people with great ideas. Harry Browne presents the libertarian position very well, although he does go overboard in some of his claims. For example, to prove that government doesn't work, he says that World War II "didn't make the world safe for democracy, it made the world safe for Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union to launch the Cold War." Uh, Harry? Here's a news flash. In 1939, there were three world powers with evil governments - Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union - and one emerging vile dictatorship, Mussolini's Italy. After World War II, there was one world power with a nasty government - the Soviet Union. Not only that, but Germany, Italy, and Japan shaped up quick and became respectable members of the international community. That ain't bad, Harry, and it's okay to admit it.
But Browne's a nice enough and smart guy, and this book is an attractive introduction to libertarianism....more
It seems like I've been reading this book forever. I actually started it before Halloween and finally finished it. It's basically a comprehensive presIt seems like I've been reading this book forever. I actually started it before Halloween and finally finished it. It's basically a comprehensive presentation of 20th century horror fiction. Classic authors like Lovecraft, Derleth, Cave, MR James and EF Benson are all represented, along with more modern authors like Stephen Rainey and Steve Rasnic Tem and William F. Nolan.
Most of the tales are excellent, of course, well-written and creepy. It is a chore to get through it, but well worth the effort....more
Excellent collection of short fiction from my all-time favorite writer. The stories are consistently of high quality, with some close to classic (N. aExcellent collection of short fiction from my all-time favorite writer. The stories are consistently of high quality, with some close to classic (N. and The Gingerbread Girl and Rest Stop were a couple of my favorites). Are all these "horror" stories? Probably not. But they're excellent nonetheless....more