”Intelligence is the attribute of man that separates his activity from that of the animals. It’s a kind of attempt to distinguish the master from the”Intelligence is the attribute of man that separates his activity from that of the animals. It’s a kind of attempt to distinguish the master from the dog, who seems to understand everything but can’t speak. However, this trivial definition does lead to wittier ones. They are based on depressing observations of the aforementioned human activity. For example: intelligence is the ability of a living creature to perform pointless or unnatural act.”
“Yes, that’s us!”
There is a 1979 film by Andrei Tarkovsky loosely based on The Roadside Picnic. The screenplay is by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. I’m, of course, going to have to watch it.
Redrick “Red” Schuhart is a stalker. He is one of the few people crazy enough to go into “The Zone”. Thirty years ago Aliens visited the Earth. They landed at six different locations. Hung out for a while and took off.
They ignored us.
What The Frill?
Here we are the most intelligent species to ever evolve on this planet (debatable) and the big moment occurs when another, obviously intelligent species comes to visit, and they act like the snooty prom queen and king at the big dance.
You’d think we were mere bugs. Not even worthy of a good probing or dissection.
In these zones they left behind trash, as if, as one scientist put it, they had just stopped off for a roadside picnic. They also left behind traps. Things unexplainable. Things that science even has trouble labeling. One example is what Red calls a bug trap, but the “eggheads” call it something else.
”His face has become completely calm, you can see he’s figured everything out. They are all like that, the eggheads. The most important thing for them is to come up with a name. Until he comes up with one, you feel really sorry for him, he looks so lost. But when he find a label like ‘graviconcentrate,’ he thinks he’s figured it all out and perks right up.”
Stalkers are people who go into The Zone and retrieve objects. They then sell them on the black market for cash. They need a big payoff because every time they go into The Zone they are risking life or limb (there is this slime that melts the bones and eventually turns everything it touches into more slime). Most of the original stalkers are dead. Their corpses litter the landscape of The Zone providing guideposts for…don’t go there.
The Zone does something to them. Their kids are mutants. Red’s child becomes less and less human as she grows and becomes something unknown, unknowable. People from this area can’t emigrate because odd disasters start happening in the places they move to. The Zone owns them. Still, Red should just settle down and get a real job, a safe job.
”But how do I stop being a stalker when I have a family to feed? Get a job? And I don’t want to work for you, your work makes me want to puke, you understand? If a man has a job, then he’s always working for someone else, he’s a slave, nothing more--and I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, my own man, so that I don’t have to give a damn about anyone else, about their gloom and their boredom…”
Besides being dangerous, working as a stalker is also illegal. He soon finds himself on one last mission for a golden sphere that he has to find before The State robots get there first. It is about more than just the money. It is about outwitting everyone maybe even himself.
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky were Russian science-fiction writers who managed to publish most of what they wrote even under the heavy censoring hand of the Soviet Union. Ursula K. Le Guin in the forward explains it well. ”What they did, which I found most admirable then and still do now, was to write as if they were indifferent to ideology--something many of us writers in the Western democracies had a hard time doing. There wrote as free men write.” They did struggle to get Roadside Picnic published.
In the afterword Arkady has a list of all the letters and petitions that were exchanged between various Russian committees trying to get approval. ”Eight years. Fourteen letters to the ‘big’ and ‘little’ Central Committees. Two hundred degrading corrections of the text. An incalculable amount of nervous energy wasted on trivialities...Yes, the authors prevailed; there’s no arguing with that.
But it was a Pyrrhic Victory.”
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
The book was published in Russian in 1972 and translated into English in 1977. This edition, that I read, is a new translation with all the original text, as the authors intended, reinstated. There is a 1979 movie as I mentioned above. The book also inspired a video game called. S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
I absolutely love this concept. Hollywood has spent so much time making us worry about Aliens coming to Earth to enslave us, to steal our natural resources, to take over the planet, to use us as incubators for their spawn etc. We are completely unprepared to be ignored. We really don’t like being ignored.
The book can be read on many levels. It is an enjoyable fast paced read on the most basic level. For those that like to apply philosophy, politics, and psychology to their reading there is plenty of hooks to keep you pondering the true meaning of different situations. It is a book, that without a doubt, will give the reader more with each new read. This is one of those terrific finds that I may have never read without the guidance of friends on GR. Our compiled knowledge is oh so much greater than when we read alone. ...more
”In Greek mythology, the god of love once offered a rose to the god of silence, as a bribe, to keep that god from disclosing the weaknesses of the oth”In Greek mythology, the god of love once offered a rose to the god of silence, as a bribe, to keep that god from disclosing the weaknesses of the other gods. In time, the rose became the symbol for silence and secrecy. In the Middle ages, a rose was customarily suspended from the ceiling of a council chamber. The members of the council pledged themselves not to reveal what they discussed in the room, sub rosa under the rose.”
There once were two boys named Romulus and Remus, not the two founders of Rome, but two boys who found each other in an orphanage in Pennsylvania. They became closer than brothers. Isn’t that the case with many of us, finding our close friends to be more our brothers and sisters than our own flesh and blood? Saul (Romulus) is visited periodically by a gray faced man named Eliot who starts every visit by extending a Baby Ruth candy bar. In an orphanage you are more likely to find a bar of gold than a bar of chocolate. He takes Saul on backpacking trips and fishing trips. Soon Chris (Remus) joins them. As they grow up their foster father suggests certain activities for them such as Karate. When they are old enough he suggests they join the military. They are sent to Vietnam.
Suggestions from Eliot are the same as commands.
They don’t know it until later, but Eliot has several pairs of orphaned boys from various cities. Castor and Pollux, Cadmus and Cilix, Amphion and Zethus, Butes and Erectheus, and Atlas and Prometheus. They are all trained to be operatives for a shadowy sector of the CIA. The reverence they all show for Eliot borders on worship.
Eliot is also part of a national coalition of spies that formed a system called the Abelard Sanctuary. "I had come there as a fugitive and, in the depths of my despair, was granted some comfort by the grace of God.” Peter Abélard (1079-1142) was a brilliant rising star of theology, philosophy, and logician who fell in love with the scholar of classical letters Héloïse. They are secretly married to appease her uncle, but when he announces the marriage publicly it is denied by the couple. The Uncle is sure that Abélard is up to no good so he hires some thugs to pay him a visit.
They castrate him.
The letters of longing between Abélard and Héloïse become some of the most famous love letters of all time and forever immortalized the couple among the most legendary of doomed lovers rivaled only by Shakespeare’s creation of Romeo and Juliet. Abélard becomes a monk, but has difficulties with the monastery system and eventually retires to a chapel at Paraclete. He went there seeking sanctuary. If he wished to remain anonymous or forgotten it did not work. Students appeared living in tents around the chapel and soon he is teaching once again.
The coalition of spies from all over the world find that there are times when they need sanctuary. They reach an agreement to place these Abelard Sanctuaries strategically all over the world. For those that have seen the recent movie John Wick, starring Keanu Reeves, the hotel in the movie is based on the same concept as an Abelard Sanctuary. No one is allowed to kill within the walls of sanctuary. If someone breaks the truce all of the nations participating are forced by the rules of the contract to do their best to execute the killer. It is a place where enemies can mingle without fear.
Everything is going fine until Saul is ordered to blow up a close friend of the President of the United States. The assassination was made to look like the Israelis for political reasons. When Saul goes to his designated safe house some men are there to try to kill him.
He has been blacklisted.
His first thought is to call his foster father, but that was the source of the safe house location. Is it possible that the person he revers most in the world could be wanting to kill him?
Saul is forced on the run for his life. He meets up with Chris and between the two of them they come up with a plan of survival. Betrayals begat betrayals and soon all that they think they believe in is suddenly nothing more than an enigma of deception. To survive they will have to embrace revenge.
The pacing of the novel is excellent. It is certainly a page turner. David Morrell is an old hand at deftly keeping the plot from faltering. The secrecy attributed to the rose becomes an obsession for many of the Abelard Sanctuary group. Many of them begin cultivating them as a hobby, all becoming as bewitched by their beauty as the Dutch were about tulips in the 17th century. Some reviewers have found the sanctuary concept, a truce between foes, to be verging on science fiction, but for me it makes sense. The men and women who work behind the cloak of secrecy have much more in common with each other than they do with the countries they call home. By the definition of their careers they are lonely people, cut off from their families and friends, and reluctant to form relationships that could in the end compromise them. Sometimes your enemy knows you best and with them there are no pretenses about the job.
My favorite David Morrell so far is: Murder As a Fine Art a book about Thomas De Quincey the famous British Opium Eater. The second book with De Quincey is scheduled to release in March. Murder as a Fine Art Review ...more
”It was the War. The interests of money and the will of our Commander decreed it. Battle for the rights of the industrialists, battle for the rights o”It was the War. The interests of money and the will of our Commander decreed it. Battle for the rights of the industrialists, battle for the rights of the agriculturists, battle on behalf of bullyrag Abe, who saw himself, I insist, as the issue: my will, my national entity, my idea of indivisibility. Crush the farmboys and the desperate Negroes into one another with a thunderclap. And see to it--be sure!--one William Bartholomew receives the national hoofprint in his head. I’m a coin imprinted with Abe’s earnestness.”
The Sharpshooter by Winslow Homer on display at the Portland Museum of Art. Billy implies that he was the model for this painting.
I would say that William Bartholomew had just cause in being bitter, but when we weigh the cosmic scales of justice there is generally always a few ingots of information that we may not choose to put on the scale for fear that it will determine a different outcome contrary to our feelings. It is rare that a finger is not on the scale even by those that are duly elected to judge the rest of us. For those of us not wearing robes we may allow emotion to override the details, but then who among us has the right to judge Billy Bartholomew.
He was sanctioned in what he did. He was a killer for Abe.
”The colonel was a girlish-looking young man in a creased but clean-looking uniform, and he had long, fine fingers with which he tapped on the air, as if working out the proper phrase, or, for all I knew, the rhyme scheme of a poem. I put a bullet into the side of his head, which appeared to disintegrate as he went over, hands and elbows loose in the air, a cloud of sprayed blood remaining behind an instant where he had been. The ink spilled, and the pen hung in the air although the writer was gone while the shot still echoed.”
Billy was a sharpshooter. A man lauded and reviled in the same breath.
Every man in that war had the opportunity to become a killer. Some fired their weapons high on purpose. Some thought God was guiding their bullets. Some believed it was just a damn dirty job that had to be done. Some didn’t know they liked killing until the war introduced them to the Devil. Some killed themselves rather than jeopardize their souls in taking the life of another. Some men reveled in finally being able to embrace their baser natures.
Billy was a killer long before he joined the Union army.
His Uncle took it upon himself to see to his brother’s family after Billy’s Dad died. He was reasonably wealthy so the family was not a burden to him. He was a businessman and didn’t see the sense in giving money without something in return. He was very clear in his demands. It was either his brother’s wife or his brother’s son, it didn’t matter which, but one of them was going to have to service his carnal appetite.
It wasn’t so much that Billy killed him, but how he killed him. Which brings us back to his decision to be a sharpshooter. There is a darkness in him. He wasn’t up in those trees shooting men for Abe. He was up in those trees shooting men because he was good at it. He liked it.
Sure, he had doubts. He wasn’t a total psychopath, but maybe it had more to do with the fact that he could hear the hoof beats of retribution. Abe wasn’t going to be there when that horseman arrived. Billy was going to have to face it on his own.
Abe carried the burden of what he asked you to do Billy. His face shows the blemishes of war.
”My head burned from within, like one of the ruined manorial houses, all roasted black shell and sullen embers, which I had seen before the hunters took me down.”
It was an unlucky shot. It was a bullet from a mirror, his counterpart on the other side. It was a bullet meant to kill him, but it exploded the magazine of his rifle, sending shrapnel and liquid fire into his face.
He begged them to kill him, but a debt is a debt and Billy hadn’t paid all of his yet.
He wears a mask. His face is a horror show too damaged to repair.
He moves to New York, the city of commerce. He starts making money. He places investments for himself and others. He meets Jessie a prostitute who lifts his mask and kisses the rigid scars of his battlefield face.
”I wondered who had passed down eyes of such coloration if her mother was African or Polynesian, and her father a slave. There was a white man in the woodpile, I thought. I thought, too, of the loveliness of her face, the strength of her long throat, the savagery in her tattoos. She was a letter I had read with my fingers, like a man long blind who at last has a message he was years before intended to receive.”
Jessie has plans for Billy. Everyone craves affection. A monster needs it more than most. The tattered remnants of his soul are hers for the taking.
Bartholomew meets the writer of The Whale. A man ignored by readers. A man now besot with drink. A man who instead of devoting his time to scribbling is working for the government as a Custom Inspector on the docks of New York. Frederick Busch does an excellent job bringing Melville to life. For those that are big fans of Melville this will be the next best thing to meeting him. You may not greet him at his best, but you will certainly be left with a view of him that rings true.
To help Jessie Billy Bartholomew knows he needs Melville. He takes him on a tour of the seamier side of town. A look through a peephole in a bordello lends weight to Billy’s request of Melville. It also leaves everyone in the party feeling dirty. ”I showed you a look at bad behavior and sorrow. Like it was minstrels kicking and strumming just for you.” They paid to look through the peephole to give them distance from these disgusting liberties being taken, but by being an observer without action they became part of the problem.
There is ugliness in this novel beyond the disfigured grotesqueness of Billy’s shattered face. With poverty rampant in 1867 and so many more widowed women and orphaned children from the war vulnerable to the desires and profits of the strong, it wasn’t only the South suffering through darkest days. Busch doesn’t shy away from the grit, the stench, and the ruthlessness of this time period. In fact, he pushes the reader up to the peephole and whispers in your ear…”what are you going to do about it?” ...more
I find no peace, and yet I make no war: and fear, and hope: and burn, and I am ice: and fly above the sky, and fall to earth, and clutch at nothing, and
I find no peace, and yet I make no war: and fear, and hope: and burn, and I am ice: and fly above the sky, and fall to earth, and clutch at nothing, and embrace the world.
One imprisons me, who neither frees nor jails me, nor keeps me to herself nor slips the noose: and Love does not destroy me, and does not loose me, wishes me not to live, but does not remove my bar.
I see without eyes, and have no tongue, but cry: and long to perish, yet I beg for aid: and hold myself in hate, and love another.
I feed on sadness, laughing weep: death and life displease me equally: and I am in this state, lady, because of you. Petrarch #134
There are those special chosen people who due to possessing symmetrical features or a gift for athletics never experience being invisible. For most of us, we are condemned by some cosmic riddle to being wallflowers, solitary brooders, or introverted queer fish who might be referred to, when people are being nice, as an odd duck.
J___ is really just in survival mode, sitting in his seat in 2nd grade more intent on being invisible than he is in being noticed. About the only time he comes to anyone’s attention is when the school bullies decide that he has committed an infraction of rules conceived by idiots. It could be something as mundane as breathing, but more likely it just happens to be his turn to sport bruised ribs and a bloody nose.
And then she appears.
Ariel Lirilinghi or R-EE-L LEER-a-LING-EE, as she proactively attempted to get everyone to say her name correctly, has joined the class. Her name is enough to make a second grade boy swoon. Her face, her pubescent form enough to make a boy, even one not awash in hormones yet, think naughty thoughts. What J___ would settle for is being more than just a leaf blowing in the wind in Ariel’s world.
She is one of the chosen. Holds herself a little closer to heaven than the rest of them. She makes mistakes, but survives them because she is special. J___ ...well... he is made of cellophane.
I had a class with a Mrs. R____ in second grade. She had a black beehive, stained midnight black, which instead of making her look younger seemed to only emphasize the hollow pockets of her eyes and the wrinkled rivers that streamed down her cheeks to a scrawny neck. This neck seemed like a miracle of science that it could hold such a ponderous head upright.
She was a knuckle rapper. J___ too has to contend with a Sister Demetrius whom he lovingly refers to as Sister Homunculus. She raps knuckles and in one particular situation she even chips a piece of his scapula as she furiously relieves her own frustrations on his prostrate body. Now Mrs. R___ was a rapper and a paddler. She rapped my knuckles many times for holding my pencil improperly. It didn’t work. I still hold a pencil incorrectly, but it was in her classroom that I first became aware of a sylph named Stephanie. Puss-n-Boots brown eyes, honey brown hair, and long skinny brown legs.
I was unfortunately a four-eyed runt, scurrying about like a mouse among elephants. When noticed, I was a visual annoyance. Needless to say that Stephanie, one must look after one’s reputation even in 2nd grade, couldn’t have noticed me even if she wanted to.
J___ now has the task of bringing himself to Ariel’s attention which is rather hazardous to his health because to be noticed by one is usually to be noticed by all and the knuckle draggers in the class are always looking for new creative ways to inflict pain on him. Of course the pain they provide goes away. The pain that Ariel can administer is the kind that weighs a man down, but for a boy... it can crush.
J___ fumbles many opportunities to woo his sylph which are made worse because he is smart enough to realize the extent of those missed opportunities. His rivals gain ground by just existing. He needs to change the game. He needs to find her the Golden Hind.
The novel skitters between second grade, sixth grade, and on through high school as J___ explains to us the depths of his love and his failed attempts to obtain it. There are moments of hope when he, as part of a talent assignment, decides to write a short story for class. It is a funny segment set in Brazil with a French James Bond character who saves a girl named Moira. Really, isn’t it always about saving Ariel? The man is French because...well...Ariel is obsessed with all things French.
Which leads us to the Golden Hind.
J___ is not dumb. In fact through the whole book, as a reader, I held out hope that his jaw would unlock and the right words in the proper order would eventually emerge. He needed some luck as well which always seems to elude him. He does some research and finds a forgotten, dusty copy of Horace by George Sand in the college library.
Being from a poor family he has become rather adept at stealing what he needs or in this case the perfect gift that will have Ariel shimming out of her clothes. What girl wouldn’t rip her clothes off for a French copy of Horace?
This falls under the best laid plans of mice and men. He is a mouse of boy so it is inevitable that the beautiful movie inside his head, the one showing him presenting the book to her, tragically burns up in the film projector.
Herman Melville makes a brief appearance which was so fortuitous for me because it reminded me to read The Night Inspector next. This is the way my life works with connections made that keep my reading selections zigging and zagging from one end of the library to the other.
”The blank page swallows Melville whole; it drags him down to the depths where he can’t breathe. He needs to kill the white whale/blank page so he stabs at it with is harpoon/pen. He is obsessed with the idea of killing all the blank pages, which are, much like the whale, white and loom large in his psyche. He personifies his obsession in Ahab.”
There is tragedy. Sometimes things said can never be unsaid. Apologies have to be swallowed without ever passing the lips. There is humor. In particular there is a scene involving J___’s penis that reminded me of that hilarious scene in Portnoy's Complaint. I know it seems self-absorbed, but men must from time to time have a conversation with their penis. In general ”He scoffs at me.” Sometimes we can negotiate, but usually the penis, under visually stimulating duress, is ready to hatch a revolution any time he doesn’t get his way. He is a Pancho Villa always on the verge of storming the palace, sitting on the throne, and eating all the food until finally HE chooses to retreat.
From second grade to fourth grade I mostly spent those years petrified to even say a word to Stephanie. I was waiting for a miracle. In fourth grade I became the tetherball champion of the playground. I still looked like the leftovers from a real human being, but for some reason I’ve been graced with good eye hand coordination. After vanquishing my last foe and basking in the glow of temporary admiration from my classmates which was also mixed with the equally heady aroma of sulking enemies, Stephanie forgot herself for a moment and gave me a hug. In sixth grade, towards the end of the school year, I had a few weeks of actually calling her my girlfriend. Over the summer her family moved her away, probably to lock her in a castle where the lecherous farm boy could be kept safely at bay.
J___ does get his chance, fortunately for him he had Ariel flying about his universe through high school. He needed all the chances and all the time he could get. Of course happiness of this sort tends to be fleeting. What we desire and what we obtain can be the same thing, but life has a way of laughing and stirring the cosmic pot at the very moment we believe we have achieved happiness. It does keep things interesting.
”It is often said that ‘women deceive men.’ But from my experience, I’d say that it doesn’t start with the woman deceiving the man. Rather, the man, w”It is often said that ‘women deceive men.’ But from my experience, I’d say that it doesn’t start with the woman deceiving the man. Rather, the man, without any prompting, rejoices in being deceived; when he falls in love with a woman, everything she says, whether true or not, sounds adorable to our ears…. I know what you are up to, but I’ll let you tempt me.”
Jōji is a salaryman. He grew up on a wealthy farm in the country and has no desire to return. He enjoys the benefits of living in a city. He is obsessed with breaking from tradition and adopting Western ways. He is twenty-eight when he first sees the beautiful fifteen year old siren working as a café hostess. Naomi is docile and meek and a plan begins to formulate in Jōji’s mind.
He will sculpt her into what he desires.
He visits her family and is shocked by how easily they agree to allow him to take her into his home.
Naomi reminds him of the silent screen actress Mary Pickford. Her skin is pale, much lighter than most Japanese girls. He encourages her to fix her hair like the actress. He buys her western clothes and begins to train her to be the perfect “modern” girl.
Mary Pickford is the prototype for Naomi.
So in the beginning he has complete control. There are certainly Pygmalion elements to Jōji’s obsession with this sculpted creature. He is a man of honor even though the circumstances do warrant a raised eyebrow. He does not debauch her. He bathes her. He enjoys watching the burgeoning woman emerge from the slender reed he first brought home.
”For me Naomi was the same as a fruit that I’d cultivated myself. I’d labored hard and spared no pains to bring that piece of fruit to its present, magnificent ripeness, and it was only proper that I, the cultivator, should be the one to taste it. “
Jōji’s desire grows as he continues to deny himself the pleasures her body has been so carefully designed to administer to him. There is a shift in power that begins very subtly, but then becomes a full revolution. Naomi is embracing her modernization and has discovered that men find her desirable.
Naomi embracing her modernization in the 1967 movie adaptation called The Love of an Idiot
”The precious, sacred ground of her skin had been imprinted forever with the muddy tracks of two thieves.”
The Shimizu white peach has been bruised.
His investment has been stolen mere moments before he intended to finally enjoy the “fruits” of his labor. He has been deceived. He has all the normal reactions to finding this out. ”I realized that a woman’s face grows more beautiful the more it incurs a man’s hatred.” He hates her. He despises her. He misses her. He loves her.
”Night is usually associated with darkness; but to me, night always brought thoughts of the whiteness of Naomi’s skin. Unlike the bright shadowless whiteness of noon, it was a whiteness wrapped in tatters, amid soiled, unsightly, dusty quilts; and that drew me to it all the more.”
The complexity of desire.
It is impossible to have control as long as a coveted passion exists. Does Jōji adapt or does he snap like a dry bamboo twig? It is fascinating watching this shifting of power and what he is willing to do, what he is willing to put up with just to stay in Naomi’s presence. The doll slave becomes the master.
Junichiro Tanizaki spurred the Westernization of Japan.
The novel is set in 1924, but the book was published in 1947 right in the midst of a radical shift in Japanese culture from the traditions that had governed their behavior for centuries to a more westernized version. Junichiro Tanizaki’s book had an enormous impact on Japanese women who were just beginning to reject the traditional housewife role and embrace the Western idea of female freedom. The absurd aspects of the Japanese male tendency to dream of being seduced by a siren is examined with a certain level of sympathy. There are several abnormal situations in the book, but what I have come to know, with knowing more people, that what may seem abnormal actually exists in very normal circumstances. People define relationships very differently. The expanded status aspect of a Facebook account shows the complexity of defining our connections with people.
Is there a moral to this story?
”If you think that my account is foolish, please go ahead and laugh. If you think that there’s a moral in it, then, please let it serve as a lesson. For myself, it makes no difference what you think of me; I’m in love with Naomi.”
Ultimately, wouldn’t we all be happier if we didn’t let people outside of a relationship dictate our own feelings for the person who, for better or worse, is the person we love? This is a Japanese spin on a Nabokovian theme (though published before Lolita) of the love and desire of forbidden fruit and the potential for that love to prove toxic. What will you do to be with the one you love?
”As the sun set, the cocoons split. For one moment, she was a quivering mass. Then her body dissolved into a cloud of plague flies. They rose up from”As the sun set, the cocoons split. For one moment, she was a quivering mass. Then her body dissolved into a cloud of plague flies. They rose up from her corpse in a cyclone. Nothing was left.”
It’s a man made plague, a poison pill. ”A brick made of industrial glass and within it a mini-world of plants, soil, water and five or six insects, all mounted on the side of small explosive.” Those cy-sect plague flies only have to bite you and your body becomes their incubator.
You are dead.
The only question remains how many people will you kill when you explode into a mass of flies. You might even kill a planet.
There is an uneasy alliance between the worlds of Zaracan and Freyne. The power struggles behind the scenes will determine if that alliance will hold up or will dissipate into a destructive war. Freyne is vulnerable. Their king is dead. Their emperor is well…
”Black varnished nails, black filed teeth, black beady eyes, long black curls framing a narrow, cruel face, this was Frederon, The emperor of the Freyne.”
...kind of a creepazoid.
Sayginn is the regent, ruling until her son Teodor comes of age. He is thirteen and annoyed that because of his position that what he wears is chosen for him by the guild of fashion in an effort to help support that industry. Sometimes the outfits are not as manly as he would like. He races Gorans, a form of large cat standing two meters high”Golden, tiger-striped, dark oak, black and golden, the gorans came in every hue of nature. They are as dangerous as they are gorgeous. Teodor also enjoys learning to fight with blades, a physically challenging sport that though old school in a world of advanced weaponry, is revered as part of the national tradition.
A few years ago his father was blown up in a terrorist explosion. This attack also killed his younger brother leaving Teodor as the only heir for the kingdom and the empire. His father’s best friend, Chart Segat, the mayor of the Dome on Freyne and the leader of a military organization called the Dome Elite, has transformed from being a trusted friend of the Royal family to the primary suspect in the assassination of the king. Sayginn has a window of opportunity to control Segat’s fate, but when Teodor is kidnapped the balance of power shifts once again.
I say throw Chart Segat to the Borgs.
Borgs you say? Yes, indeed! They are soldiers who have died and given their bodies to science. They are enhanced with bionic implants making them into perfect killing machines. They have short life spans. As they age their skin darkens and starts to flake leaving more and more machine and less and less human. They are to say at the very least unnerving.
Meanwhile Guy Erma, a blades champion, a boy who aspires to joining the Dome Elite is wrestling with a lifelong problem.
He is a bastard.
ERMA are the initials of the Imperial bastard, father to current Emperor, Frederon, historic and great Emperor of Freyne. ERMA stand for: Erederon Roderick Marco Andreus.
All unregistered children are given the last name of ERMA as a tribute to the much beloved Emperor.
Guy is sometimes forced to model clothes and serve as a waiter at functions, but he dreams of being so much more. If only he could find out who his mother and father were. He becomes a pawn in the search for Teodor. His loyalties are pulled between Chart Segat, who could approve him for the Dome Elite, and his allegiance to his future king. It is not an easy choice. If he chooses wrong his dreams will be unattainable.
The author Sally Ann Melia was an English child living in France taking a required English class. For three hours each week the teacher had her sit at the back of the class and left her to entertain herself. Guy and Teodor and all the rest of the cast of characters that populate this book came to life in the back row of that classroom. Imagination is such a wonderful thing when it is allowed to soar. In the course of moving her family lost all their possessions to thieves. I can only imagine the anxiety over losing their belongings, but also being a mother who has to tell her creative daughter that her manuscripts have been irretrievably lost. Sally was not as upset as she was excited about being able to write the stories again and make them even better. Her stories could never be lost because they were all very real in the universe inside her head.
The pacing is very well done. Once started I was completely committed. I would consider this young adult which I generally do not read, but after watching Sally’s video https://www.goodreads.com/videos/7111... I decided that I needed to be a part of the creative process of a book coming to life in the mind of a child in France, enhanced by the thoughts of that child as an adult in England, and finally placed in the hands of this voracious reader in Kansas. Until the book is read the cycle can not be complete.
Her creativity was unbound. There are snake droids, cyborg creatures with a rope of bullets forming their body, spitting bullets at anything that moves. There are Zaracans who communicate with telepathy and can read your thoughts. I kept thinking about how uncomfortable that would make me. The random thoughts and speculations that come and go through my brain would quickly have an eavesdropping Zaracan thinking I was in need of professional help or incarceration. The mixing of fashion and blade fighting was deftly handled creating a world of beauty and violence that are both held in equal esteem. As they desperately search for Teodor they also discover that deadly Poison Pills have been left strategically around the dome to maximize their destructive impact. This adds another layer of intrigue to the story as choices have to be made and sacrifices become necessary. The power struggle and the politics had me speculating about who could be trusted and who must be neutralized. Off with their heads, compliments of the Red Queen, has now been replaced in my vocabulary with throw them to the borgs. ...more