What caught my eye, in Melissa Burch’s "My Journey through War and Peace", was the tag-line: "Explorations of a young film-maker, feminist and spirituWhat caught my eye, in Melissa Burch’s "My Journey through War and Peace", was the tag-line: "Explorations of a young film-maker, feminist and spiritual seeker". For the uninitiated, Melissa Burch was a young camera operator and reporter during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. So I expected the book to be about the sort of exploration that I like – a first-hand account of a war-torn sector of the map that has been war-torn for most of our history. What I got was much more.
Burch’s account is vivid and heartfelt – she was in the field with the mujahideen, she traveled through Afghanistan as the Russian army was getting deeper and deeper in the quicksand of the Afghan guerrilla. But the author is not simply interested in describing the events of the war. The book shows us the ambiguity of journalism – that can be turned into entertainment, or propaganda. The ease with which the information can be manipulated by all involved parties has a sinister, and sometimes surreal feel. Burch is very frank in her depiction of the events – sometimes almost painfully so. She’s also quite capable of describing the personality of the people she met with a few, precise and well-placed brush-strokes.
The events of the war are mixed with the events from the author’s life before and after the events – because the final purpose of the book, its actual exploration, is not an exploration of the Afghan territory, or of the Russian/Afghan conflict. Burch is exploring the development of her own personality, of her outlook and her spiritual awakening, together with the events that shaped these aspects of her life
The spiritual side is very pragmatic, personal and almost dry at times, and it is devoid of any new-agey psychobabble or other artifice. It feels authentic, and once again, at times almost painfully so.
Personal growth, international events, the power of images and of individual experience, the long-time effects of the events in our past… Burch’s Journey touches on a variety of subjects, showing how strange connections can shape the future, of both individuals and nations. A great read, highly recommended....more
Excellent if episodic revision of some space opera/military SF concepts, which turns into a very satisfactory and cohesive yarn. Great characterizationExcellent if episodic revision of some space opera/military SF concepts, which turns into a very satisfactory and cohesive yarn. Great characterization, some fun surprises, a wonderful mix of humor and melancholia. It reads real fast and stays with the reader for a long time. Highly recommended,...more
“Heroika – Dragon Eaters”, is a massive, highly entertaining collection of fantasy stories edited by Janet Morris and published by Perseid Press. The c“Heroika – Dragon Eaters”, is a massive, highly entertaining collection of fantasy stories edited by Janet Morris and published by Perseid Press. The contributors roster lines up a fine selection of authors: Janet Morris and Chris Morris, S. E. Lindberg, Walter Rhein, Cas Peace, Jack William Finley, A.L. Butcher, Travis Ludvigson, Tom Barczak, J. P. Wilder, Joe Bonadonna, Milton Davis, M Harold Page, William Hiles, Beth W.Patterson, Bruce Durham, and Mark Finn.
I like very much the central concept of the anthology – collecting stories in which men (and sometimes gods) pit their strength, spirit and wits against the power of dragons. This is a welcome return to stories in which the dragon was the adversary, an expression of power hostile (or alien) to our mindset and civilization. After so many stories of good dragons portrayed as an endangered species1, it’s good to have the dragon back as the bad guy. The civilization factor is also important – dragons and humans face each other in these stories across the ages and the historical periods, tracing an evolution of the relationship between Dragon and Man. Further on, we shift in the fields of sword & sorcery and more muscular fantasy, and then to modern-day fantasy, but always maintaining an extremely high level: these stories are wonderfully written, they deliver the heroic element as promised, and can surprise even long-time fantasy readers. It’s very nice to find an anthology which is virtually devoid of duds and filler. This is a beautiful book, and highly recommended....more
In depth introduction to the history of Byzantium and its empire from a social and cultural point of view. The author manages a wealth of resources toIn depth introduction to the history of Byzantium and its empire from a social and cultural point of view. The author manages a wealth of resources to paint an integrated and as-complete-as-possible portrait of Byzantium. The underlying idea is, the supposed "decadence" of Byzantium's society and culture was actually part of a well-designed and functional political plan, and contributed to the survival of the city and its empire through the centuries. Depth and complexity of the subject do not mar the reading experience - this is a very accessible, erudite, intelligent book, and is highly recommended....more
(this review is based on an ARC) Richard Shankman's meditation primer presents the practice of mindfulness and meditation from a Buddhist standpoint,(this review is based on an ARC) Richard Shankman's meditation primer presents the practice of mindfulness and meditation from a Buddhist standpoint, but this does not make this book particularly preachy or "religious". After a brief and to-the-point overview of the Buddhist doctrine and its influence and connection with meditation, the text proceeds in a very practical, direct manner. After the two introductory chapters, the practice of meditation is presented in a simple, clear, hands-on way, stressing the relative nature of the experience - there is not a single path to be followed. Indeed, each step of the way is accompanied with alternatives and options, and the students are encouraged to experiment, in order to find the style of meditation more suited to their needs and attitude. The easygoing style is highly refreshing, as is the general attitude of the author. As the book's subtitle points out, meditation is treated in connection with the practices (or skills) of mindfulness, concentration and insight - aspects that are developed and explained in detail as the text proceeds. While clearly aimed at beginners, the book offers some interesting reflections and suggestions for readers that already have a certain familiarity with meditation. Certainly one of the best introductory texts on meditation read so far, The Art and Skill of Buddhist Meditation is highly recommended as a starting point for anyone interested in trying their hand at Buddhist meditation....more
Excellent science fiction book. The author manages to build an intelligent, complex hard SF story while at the same time exploring and giving an homagExcellent science fiction book. The author manages to build an intelligent, complex hard SF story while at the same time exploring and giving an homage to the classical visions of Mars in classical science fiction. It's a long way from Leigh Bracket to Kim Stanley Robinson, but Guy Haley manages to cover it with elegance, all the while telling his own story and steering clear of derivative developments. The end result is intriguing, highly satisfying and at times moving. Wonderful book, highly recommended....more