Silent Empire is author Bard Constantine's latest work of Dieselpunk fiction and he is fast proving to be the master of th...moreA Not so Silent Masterpiece!
Silent Empire is author Bard Constantine's latest work of Dieselpunk fiction and he is fast proving to be the master of this genre. Silent Empire combines the moody industrial imagery of a fascist totalitarian world with the psychological tension of a protagonist rebelling against Orwellian mind control. In Silent Empire, the brutal reign of terror wrought upon dissenters by the Sovereign's jack-booted thugs, the 'Dogmen', makes the Gestapo look like liberal social workers.
Constantine's characters are well-crafted and he doesn't let setting get in the way of telling a good story. It's not necessary to know 'how' the world of the Silent Empire was created. It is enough to understand 'why'. And the mechanisms that enslave the populace to the wishes of the Sovereign are subservient to the story of how to survive, and then how to defy, such slavery. All of this is as it should be in an engrossing novella that engages the reader from page one to its dramatic conclusion.
It is the goal of every author of dystopian fiction to write something as important to their own generation as George Orwell's '1984' was to his. Silent Empire expertly recreates the socio-political dynamic of a fascist pseudo-1930's era. The similarities to '1984' leap off the first page with the ubiquitous broadcasts by the 'Smiling Man', Constantine's version of 'Big Brother' and by the slave-like mental state of the protagonist, Citizen 4891, Franklin Gamble who discovers a secret buried in his oppressed consciousness that defines his destiny.
But it would be unfair to Bard Constantine to compare this short work of fiction (99 print pages) to Orwell's seminal masterpiece. Silent Empire is a work of retro-futurism which attempts (very successfully) to throw us back to the 1930's aesthetic as if the author was a member of Orwell's writing circle, like Renoir was a colleague with Monet in the Impressionist movement. But to truly emulate what Orwell had achieved for the readers of his time would mean an author would need to take the issues of today and project them into a 'what-if' future that was grimly accurate in its foreshadowing. This is not entirely what 'Silent Empire' does, although the messages about the threat of totalitarianism are still applicable to the present. My point is, I just feel it would be unfair for readers to assign their 'Star-Rating' for 'Silent Empire' using '1984' as the yardstick, however similar its context might be. 'Silent Empire' sends a similarly chilling message but is wrapped in a more compact piece of thought provoking entertainment; a novella that cements Bard Constantine as a lead author in the Dieselpunk retro-futuristic movement.
My biggest disappointment is that Silent Empire is not a full length novel because Bard Constantine's prose is yet again an intoxicating liquor of precise eloquence chased down with a shot of distilled guts. And I can drink his work all day long! Try his 'Troubleshooter' noir fiction to see what I mean. As an author, I envy him greatly and say... Bard, thank you, pour me another work like 'Silent Empire', but this time make it a double! (less)
Bard Constantine is a master of Retrofuturistic noir fiction. His voice defines the Dieselpunk genre and aesthetic... an earthy, twilight mood where g...moreBard Constantine is a master of Retrofuturistic noir fiction. His voice defines the Dieselpunk genre and aesthetic... an earthy, twilight mood where gritty characters navigate a Mob-dominated alternate world grounded in the Art Deco vibe of the past. Original, well written, engaging and fast paced, you will enjoy the colorful characters he introduces in his novella prequel to his New Haven Dieselpunk series.
A 5-Star read from a new, insightful and highly skilled author and a highly recommended read!(less)
There is a caveat to this review of The Thunderbolt Kid. And that is, that I think this book will have the greatest impact to readers, like me, who ar...moreThere is a caveat to this review of The Thunderbolt Kid. And that is, that I think this book will have the greatest impact to readers, like me, who are from Bill Bryson's generation. Anyone who lived as a child through the late 50's and early 60's can easily identify with his account of growing up in small town America. Bryson brings his usual wit and wisdom to every page and in some cases, the hilarity will bring you to tears. It may be my most favorite Bryson book ever, although they are all great.
For those readers from generations who were born later, this book may read like some satirical version of the Origin of the Species. Did any of this really happen? Well, yes it did. Nevertheless 'The Thunderbolt Kid' is a cultural time capsule that everyone can enjoy as it recounts the societal changes of the late 50's and early 60's as seen through the unfiltered eyes of a child. It answers vitally important questions like... Where did our love of superheroes come from? And... Why was that square box with the picture tube in it such a game changer? (readers who remember the game changing transition from CDs to iPods should be able to identify with this)(less)
While we sit in our warm, comfortable suburban family rooms, there are dangers lurking in the parks & streets outside, even in the best neighborho...moreWhile we sit in our warm, comfortable suburban family rooms, there are dangers lurking in the parks & streets outside, even in the best neighborhoods. The most dangerous is the psychopathic serial killer. What would you do if rather than being on the outside, you suspected a serial killer to be inside your home, in fact living with you and renting one of your rooms? The first half of 'My Life Hunting Serial Killers' is the autobiographical story of how Pat Brown came to the realization that a serial killer may actually be residing with her, brunching with her kids and hubbie, and what she did about it. It's a story of personal perserverance to find out the truth about a murder not far from her doorstep, an overlooked suspect inside her four walls, and the police and justice system that gave up looking. It's also the story of how she then built up her resume as a criminal profiler from being a homeschooling stay-at-home mom to a guest expert on Nancy Grace. This first half of the book deserves a four star rating.
The second half is a series of mini-stories about the cold cases she was drawn into in her new role; how she came to different but scientifically based conclusions that were mostly at odds with what was believed to be the obvious choice of suspect or suspects that had been bypassed by investigators in the name of expediency. Here lies the real crime... sloppy and indifferent investigations, sometimes motivated by dubious political considerations and bad police work. The result? Pat Brown lays down a convincing argument that the criminal justice system is flawed and allows these serial killers to continue to roam at will, to prey on the innocent again. A chilling thought as this is not a fictional world we're talking about, but real life. She gives us a few hints on what should be done about this and describes her biggest contribution... setting up and teaching the first criminal profiling college program outside the famed FBI Academy. Her pro bono work on behalf of victims' families and cash strapped small town police forces is truly commendable.
I enjoyed the 'gather round the campfire' narrative style of the case studies, including some humor thrown in. But this isn't a text like 'Mind Hunters' that delves deeper into the psychology of murder. So as research material for fiction writing, I was a bit let down. However, Pat Brown is honest with the reader. She believes crime scene reconstruction is the more important element in profiling versus psychoanalysis. And after reading 'The Profiler', her point is well taken.
The second half of the book lacked a little of the punch of the first half and deserves a '3' rating, so in effect my rating would be closer to a 3 1/2 than a 3 for the overall book.(less)