Farside reminded me how thoroughly satisfying classic hard science fiction can be. Ben Bova is one of the few living members of a fraternity that incl...moreFarside reminded me how thoroughly satisfying classic hard science fiction can be. Ben Bova is one of the few living members of a fraternity that included such greats as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein. I am grateful that he is still around to entertain and thrill readers with his great and far reaching talent. Bova’s prose is crisp and precise, moving the story along.
Ben Bova evokes a near future where global warming has dramatically changed the world and a lowly moon base becomes an independent nation named Selene. When earth bound telescopes discover a potentially earth-like planet where it shouldn’t exist the race is on to get the first conclusive evidence that it has a breathable atmosphere along with oxygen producing plants. Into the fray the small and fragile observatory Farside, appropriately named because of its location, begins building a telescope to do just that.
The program is threatened by sabotage, political intrigue and simply due to its location on the edge of the vacuum of space itself. Ben Bova’s Farside isn’t just hard adventure science fiction trading on the cold war era themes of man’s quest for new frontiers, but also works as a detective story and commentary on human veniality.
Bova extrapolates plausible scenarios that seem like they could be happening today. The promise and threat of nano-technology and the politics of outer space are ethical concerns being explored by politicians and philosophers today. Farside is must read for science fiction fans and realists of all walks of life. (less)
KABOOM! The Sixth Station is an incendiary thriller written with taut journalistic prose like only a journalist such as Linda Stasi could write. I lov...moreKABOOM! The Sixth Station is an incendiary thriller written with taut journalistic prose like only a journalist such as Linda Stasi could write. I love conspiracy theories and alternative history thrillers and The Six Station has it all and, to put the cherry neatly on the top, my favorite group of heretics – the Cathars – figure nicely into this mildly intricate plot. The Six Station isn’t quite on par with Steve Berry, but it’s far better than Dan Brown ever thought to plagiarize.
Great fun as always. Stephanie Plum and Lula are always chicken soup for my soul. Evanovich deftly manages to provoke the laughs from her long standin...moreGreat fun as always. Stephanie Plum and Lula are always chicken soup for my soul. Evanovich deftly manages to provoke the laughs from her long standing series. Just when you think you've read it all Lula brings out the rocker launcher from the trunk of her Firebird.(less)
Rene Descartes is credited as the first modern philosopher. Most of us have heard his seminal statement, “Cogito ergo sum”; I think therefore I am. Fo...more Rene Descartes is credited as the first modern philosopher. Most of us have heard his seminal statement, “Cogito ergo sum”; I think therefore I am. For me it was a sidebar in a high school algebra text. Beyond that I really didn’t know that much about him until I read Russell Shorto’s incredible and fascinating book, Descartes Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason.
Descarte’s “Discourse” – the first work of modern philosophy – helped give birth to the Enlightenment in the century following his death. Modern science and modern democracy, for which both the United States and France are forever in his debt (the United States owes a debt of gratitude to the Dutch as well). It was Descartes that paved the way for us to begin questioning all of our assumptions, although he was always mindful of what the church had done to Galileo. He was always a little befuddled as to the charges leveled against his method and for safety sake took refuge in the tolerant Dutch state of the 17th century.
I’ve always associated Descartes with math, but his principal interest was in the area of medicine and how to increase health and longevity. He had hoped that his methods would lead him to the necessary understanding and many in his life consulted him on these matters. He had though that by treating the body as a machine to be examined and studied, freeing medicine from the ideas of Aristotle and the abysmal practice of phlebotomy, that we might learn the secrets of long life.
It is of no surprise that Descartes came under attack by religious authority. He was accused of atheism, which befuddled him as he was a devout Catholic. Decartes believed in god and believed that his method did not invalidate faith. He thought to leave the treatment of the soul to the theologians and the natural world to the scientists. However, the assertion that his method would lead to atheism is not completely unfounded.
Russell Shorto is a captivating storyteller turning a history of science and philosophy into something of a detective story as he describes the role that the philosopher’s remains played in the propagation of his method and its immense paradigm altering impact on human society and our quest to know universe and our place in it.
Lovers of reason, science and philosophy are recommended to put this book on their short list for the year. Shorto’s prose style is beautiful and to the point at the same time. Through an understanding of Descartes life work and the influence he had on his time and the enlightenment era the reader is able to reframe our present society for a clearer understanding.
The Third Bullet is my first Stephen Hunter novel and I’m a fan. I’ve never been a big reader of books that draw from the military and gun culture. Ho...moreThe Third Bullet is my first Stephen Hunter novel and I’m a fan. I’ve never been a big reader of books that draw from the military and gun culture. However, Hunter’s prose is complex, beautiful and his protagonist Bob Lee Swagger so sympathetic and human that it overcomes my general dislike of this type of story. I also love the alternative treatment to the Kennedy assassination and it makes for lively suspenseful reading. If you tend to turn your nose up at conspiracy theories give this book a try. Hunter will get you to suspend disbelief long enough to follow him to the suspenseful and thrilling conclusion.
Bob Lee Swager is not simply some peckerwood ex-marine living in the mountains with too many guns – paraphrasing Mark Wahlberg as he referred to himself in the movie Shooter, but a truly honorable man who readers cannot only identify with, but care immensely about. I can’t wait to read my next Swagger novel. (less)
Edgar Award Winner Author Dan Stabenow is always a pleasure to read. I love Kate Shugak, I love mysteries and I love stories set in the great state of...moreEdgar Award Winner Author Dan Stabenow is always a pleasure to read. I love Kate Shugak, I love mysteries and I love stories set in the great state of Alaska. Stabenow is one of my favorite winter reading writers. It's -2 below in Denver, I'm curled up in front of the fire with a mug of hot chocolate and another installment in the Kate Shugak series.(less)
This is one of the most usual cases of near death experience (NDE) that I have read to date. Dr. Alexander’s report or memoir doesn’t resemble most of...moreThis is one of the most usual cases of near death experience (NDE) that I have read to date. Dr. Alexander’s report or memoir doesn’t resemble most of the cases I have read reported by noted researchers such as Raymond Moody and Melvin Morse and others. It contains nothing that is recognizable as a standard “feature” of such experiences.
What makes this memoir so interesting is that Dr. Alexander, an accomplished neurosurgeon, went from not believing in the reality of the NDE along with the modern medical doctor and scientist’s rather mechanistic view of the world, to a much broader and more spiritual understanding of life. He also understands the brain and its workings better than most who are writing on the subject today, including some very prominent medical professionals.
What troubles me as I read through the author’s account is whether he is actually recalling his experience or simply piecing together vague memories of being in a coma. Much of what he reports about his family and doctor’s reactions and experiences comes second and third hand and he seems to struggle with correlating it to his NDE state.
Nonetheless, this is a valuable entry to the literature of the NDE and it can’t be recommended enough to those interested in the subject. (less)
The reports of the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah and Porton Downs, UK are the only really notable topics in this book. Stories of secret government g...moreThe reports of the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah and Porton Downs, UK are the only really notable topics in this book. Stories of secret government germ warfare experiments and the suspicious deaths that make up much of the evidence are truly scary to me. (less)
The Demonologist’s subject matter is hard to accept. Gerald Brittle’s dry journalistic prose avoids hyperbole and presents the subject as a book lengt...moreThe Demonologist’s subject matter is hard to accept. Gerald Brittle’s dry journalistic prose avoids hyperbole and presents the subject as a book length interview of the Warrens and this helps. In some ways this sparse treatment lends to the terrifying and I did find the hair on the back of my neck standing on end. Whether what the Warren’s believe is true and their experiences legitimate…of this I am credulous.
The demonology and subsequent spirituality of both Ed and Lorraine Warren is Medieval and their research seems to be drawn largely from extent texts available from those times. Those texts are hardly scientific and in the case of some, such as the notorious Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer of the Witches) has been accused of containing outright lies and misinformation aimed at quelling heresy and bringing the rank and file to heel rather than containing any spiritual and psychologically helpful material. I’m not certain if Ed ever consulted this text, but I can imagine many similar problems with all texts of this nature.
According to Brittle, Ed Warren is the only non ordained demonologist recognized by the Catholic Church and despite his views he does seem to approach his cases with a degree of rationality. He certainly doesn’t seem to believe that every case is caused by malevolent supernatural entities…in fact many of the cases they look into have very common, ordinary and non-supernatural answers. That is to their credit. Also to their credit is that the Warren’s never charged for their services and approached it as a spiritual vocation, although they did request expenses to be paid such as travel and hotel.
However, their methodology is questionable as is the theology/metaphysics behind it. The cases reported in this book are largely from the late 60’s and 70’s and the Warren’s seem to have a suspicion of any alternative spirituality or “consciousness raising” as some types were referred to in those days, although I understand that some of it may deserve the skepticism.
Ed Warren is no longer living, but Lorraine still is and I have seen her on an episode of Ghost Hunters and in the documentary, My Amityville Horror which focuses on the experiences of Daniel Lutz, who was a child at the time the infamous events took place. The Warren’s were among several investigative teams that were brought in back in 1975 to try and figure out what was going on.
In some ways the documentary is like a “family reunion” of sorts that brings the now mature Daniel Lutz back into contact with some of those people. Lorraine Warren comes across as your crazy widowed aunt, who has psychic experiences and comes across a little loopy or crazy, but still lovable and coherent. It’s hard to know what to make of her and therefore reflecting back on Brittle’s account of the Warren’s experiences in The Demonologist is largely colored by this film and other television shows as I saw them before picking up his book.
The Demonologist is frightening and fascinating in its way and if you are a believer in such things you will find plenty to confirm your beliefs and give you more than one sleepless night. As for me it seems that many of the afflicted the Warren’s were called into help might have benefited by bringing how they view the world in line with the light of reason and, that failing consider psychiatric treatment. (less)
The Myrtles Plantation, built around 1796 by General David Bradford, is America’s most haunted house. So say the legends. Frances Kermeen, a former ow...moreThe Myrtles Plantation, built around 1796 by General David Bradford, is America’s most haunted house. So say the legends. Frances Kermeen, a former owner of the plantation as well as the person who converted it into a bed and breakfast, writes of her experiences as owner of the legendary antebellum house in “The Myrtles Plantation: The True Story of America’s Most Haunted House.”
The book is readable for the most part, but simply doesn’t work as either memoir or paranormal investigation reporting. Kermeen is simply not a very good writer. She states or tells rather than shows and the reader can never quite capture the sense of excitement, fear and sometimes chilling horror that she experiences.
Ghostly encounters read more like a retelling of hearsay reports and the time displacement, the experience of being physically in another era witnessing events as they happen, feel more like cheap plot devices in a low budget horror movie. Then there is the tragic loss of friends, marital troubles and an assault that the author experienced at the hands of visitor to The Myrtles. All of it reads with as much pathos as a grocery list. (less)