This book is dense and informative, very straightforward. I like a little more engagement with interpretation and bias, so the factual tone comes offThis book is dense and informative, very straightforward. I like a little more engagement with interpretation and bias, so the factual tone comes off as a bit juvenile. Also the narrator gimmick doesn't appeal to me. But as a source of information, this book certainly delivers. I do like the global/universal scope of the narrative, and have learned something new, always a worthy outcome....more
While I honor the courage of this first person narrative, it is bizarrely lacking in cogent scientific reasoning, or poetic spiritual insights. The siWhile I honor the courage of this first person narrative, it is bizarrely lacking in cogent scientific reasoning, or poetic spiritual insights. The simplistic voice is off-putting. A matter so important deserves the highest of arguments and rhetoric. The good doctor fails to adequately address very reasonable physical explanations for his experience, including the possibility of extreme hallucination, a likely occurrence as the body recovered from the dire distress of his coma, and the hallucinogenic compounds known to be caused by E.coli meningitis. Repeating that the intensity of experience defies illusory hallucination or dream is not a compelling argument, I am afraid. Still, a compelling NDE. 2 1/2 stars... I hope the author returns to the subject when time and reflection allow. Unfortunately first person accounts, even from authority figures, are not proof. Alas. Still, a courageous account, and a fascinating subject. Surely the wise accept, as Horatio is bid, that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in any one philosophy. If you like this book, I found the book, The Mist-Filled Path, by Frank MacEowen very beautifully written. It is also about a classic shamanic break of the body, and the perceived spiritual reality that the author found because of it....more
Highly imaginative and original, yet fraught with the fractures of a poorly conceived and very thin cosmology. The pessimistic mix of mundane and fantHighly imaginative and original, yet fraught with the fractures of a poorly conceived and very thin cosmology. The pessimistic mix of mundane and fantastic is a bit too dysphoric for my taste, and the characters could stand a bit more pith. I don't care for such dark portrayals of the fair folk. But worth reading for the new take on the challenging story, and quite creepy if you need a ghost story without ghosts....more
Decent thriller, good rip-roaring story. The plot was jagged and disorganized and the gruesomeness of the murders is out of sync with the haunted/mystDecent thriller, good rip-roaring story. The plot was jagged and disorganized and the gruesomeness of the murders is out of sync with the haunted/mystery atmosphere, this is as much hard boiled murder thriller as Literary ghost story, which I would have preferred....more
I looked forward to this book and was arrogantly dismissive of the negative reviews. Well, they were right. While this book is a pithy novel for adultI looked forward to this book and was arrogantly dismissive of the negative reviews. Well, they were right. While this book is a pithy novel for adults, full of hardship and all-too real characters, I found it depressing. The rather interminable lists of Fantasy/faux-Medieval warfare would have been more interesting in a work of historical fiction; the made-up quality just made it tedious. Which is a poor reaction on my part to what was obviously the brain-child of real and diligent research, but there it is. I am the target audience for high fantasy,being both a self-identified Romantic and a participant in the continuing tradition of Medieval revival born in the Victorian era with the Arts and Crafts movement and flourishing with Tolkien. This book did not read like Fantasy. I have to say I am glad of the experience of this book, not unlike I was glad of reading Charlotte Bronte's "Shirley", even though I did not find it pleasurable, or enjoyable. The language is lovely, the spoken dialogue is the most polished part of the created world, most evocative of a different time and place,and a few passages soar into the writerly so as to make me envious of the author's wordcraft. But readers of high fantasy are looking for all the nobility of tragedy without the grief. We want deus ex machina salvation, we want characters so impossibly good that we are inspired, like Christian or Frodo, and we want true love. The love relationship at the center of this book is so realistic and flawed that it would be better in a Modern piece about the reality of abusive relationships and why women stay in them. The often mentioned sex is the least romantic and sexy I have ever read, not fantasy at all but realism, again. In fact, I found the casual violence, the rape and abuse that the main character endures to be so bald and so chronic that I felt really bad reading it, sick to my stomach at times, and would put a warning on this book that it is full of triggers for anyone who has PTSD/sensitivities to such real human suffering. Don't mistake the genre for the spirit of the book, it is more Realism than Romance, and is as heartbreaking as "The Red Tent", "The Mother of Pearl", "Fall on Your Knees", or the "Book of Ruth", and in some instances the writing and the protagonist's journey do share the literary accomplishment of those books. But not on the whole. This book needed more editing, a far tighter middle, and it needed to decide it's genre. The fact that the heroine/protagonist chooses to stay with her abusive lover at the end is not so much heroic as tragic, and makes this less Romance than muck-racking morality play. The second book will probably be all about, let's watch Firethorn suffer for her poor choices and her lot as a low-class kept woman, dependent on a man who values her for her body, but doesn't know who she is at all, and only begrudgingly attends to her ideas, if at all. If you ever wanted to be disabused of your Fantasy notions of the Middle Ages, and actually be in the trenches as a lowly camp-follower on a campaign with Henry V, this book may come close to capturing the boredom, endless drudgery, and the constant abuse that a real camp-follower would have endured in such a caste-based society. This book makes me grateful for Modern Democracy, which is a good thing. Also, the great binding ideology of the Middle Ages was Christianity. No matter how hypocritically manifested, the perfectionistic ideals of wanting to be Christ-like inspired knight and monk alike. This made-up world has all the hardscrabble nomadic trappings of the Middle Ages, but with a petty pantheon of disreputable divinities. The people's lives and attitudes not ennobled by either the humanistic classical ethics of a higher civilization, nor the ecstatic call to compassion, charity, and self-transcendence that are at the core of the Christian cosmology. It is much to grim and petty a setting for me. ...more
I should say from the outset that I did not know this book to be a 'Christian' book when I picked it up. I probably would not have done so had I know I should say from the outset that I did not know this book to be a 'Christian' book when I picked it up. I probably would not have done so had I known, and that would have been sad, because it is ultimately a good read, a fascinating tale with very 3-d characters, no mean feat. Also this read was a learning experience for me, which I always appreciate. This review contains spoilers.
This book speared me through the heart. I was impressed, surprised, and actually distressed. This book is a gem of Magical Realism, like a chimerical cross between Isabelle Allende's and John Green's writing styles. The characters are all intriguing, and a classic tale of good versus evil plays out over the stories of their lives. Some of the metaphors are truly writerly, one in which an ivy leaf quivers like a "shy valentine" particularly impressed me. Yet, the narrative is written from a very particular cosmological perspective, that of a particular type of contemporary Christian. So I find myself agonizing bitterly over the battle lines drawn so absolutely. The antagonist is a witch, a very capable, self-made, talented older woman, and the protagonist is a young white Christian male with autism. The emotionally limited boy becomes savior and the sophisticated, educated, talented elder woman is literally burned in the end. One: It is a strange cruelty in Art to portray such a wishful fantasy as an autistic boy who is actually made of love and is psychic. Interesting, fascinating, irresponsible, and dangerous. Autistics are heroes in real life for being who they are, for braving the unique territory of their uncharted individuality in which emotional relationships and interpersonal connections are valued very differently from most other humans. The diagnosis of autism is defined by limited ability to relate socially. The talents of autistics often are truly extraordinary and very valuable, but they are not of interpersonal relationship. So what wild caricature is it to portray an autistic with very talented emotional development, with in fact the kind of extraordinary emotional development we see really only in saints and Bodhisattvas? Wishful thinking and illusion, addictive illusion, make for grand fantasy, but in this case a very irresponsible cultural artifact. And then two: there is a witch who gets burned. Well here's an old trope in our Western story. One that disturbs me as much as the illusion of the emotionally gifted and psychic autistic boy. Why revisit such a sexist and hateful trope? Is there any advantage to it? In Art all things are possible and all things are explored in the whim and passion of the individual, and I rejoice in the freedom of such expression, but I am heart broken to find this one, again, in such a promising exploration of story. I think that to portray a witch as a villain in such a real portrait of a very believable, capable, powerful older woman, that is done in very poor taste. It is as disconcerting, as disturbingly outre as a book in which the evil antagonist is a wealthy Jewish banker. Our collective history should teach us not to indulge in such stereotypes, as they have been used to very evil ends in actual history, not just fiction. I can only imagine the outcry that would have taken place if even one character in the Harry Potter books was portrayed as an unlikable, or heaven forbid, evil, Christian. This is an example of gross cultural hypocrisy. This is ultimately a well written book, a challenging book, if you can get past the biases that are, in this day and age, poorly chosen at best, discourteous to the point of being immoral at worst. Yet, I am grateful, for the experience of the book; it was a rich and engaging experience. It gave me the chance to deeply affirm some of my values and beliefs, even if in the high relief of direct contrast to the narrative.
Also, the exploration of longing, longing for an autistic who is a saint for example, longing for immortality, longing for transcendent love, was very poignant, and intimately explored. In a weird way, this book belongs in the Literary tradition of the Western Quest, and with the biases intact, may even be retro to the point of being a relic. Yet all the while this book does revisit, RE-present the near theme that we must all deal with of Christian naively arrogant self-righteousness and divinely thirsty discontented yearning. That it is in the end the quotidian miracles of interpersonal compassion that quench such an unyielding thirst even more than the aweful peak of catharsis is a fine turn of story and a good lesson to learn. Fascinating. Tragically disappointing, yet impressive. I recommend the film "The Burning Times" for further understanding as to why it is immoral, or at least uneducated and ignorantly prejudiced to indulge in the mistaken stereotype of the Wicked Witch. http://www.nfb.ca/film/burning_times/ "The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity." - Yeats ...more
This is a decent book, and some people will deservedly love it. It tackles some big ideas, and in the end where it spills into allegory, it succeeds aThis is a decent book, and some people will deservedly love it. It tackles some big ideas, and in the end where it spills into allegory, it succeeds as a humane and genuinely inspiring narrative, ironically enough. It deserves at least three stars, but I ended up not enjoying the process of reading it. Which may be a good thing. The relentlessly whiny attitude of the admittedly very young adult who narrates from first person is unbearable for me. Have I outgrown Robin Mckinley? Is that possible? I like her older books better than her more recent ones.... interesting. Also, I have endured too much of the unbelievable suffering of the protagonist in young adult literature. Real suffering is more interesting, there is never any need for hyperbole when it comes to suffering in the human condition. Are you listening, Stephanie Meyer, Joss Whedon?...more
This is one of those books that adds measurably to your ever-evolving education. Elaine Pagels classic work needs no further praise from me, but her hThis is one of those books that adds measurably to your ever-evolving education. Elaine Pagels classic work needs no further praise from me, but her humane voice and groundbreaking synthesis of an iconic piece of Western History are not to be missed. Nothing short of revelatory. I am glad I finally read this book. ...more