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kammbia1

World of Kammbia

I'm an avid reader and book review blogger that loves fiction: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Literary, and Christian. Here's my favorite quote about reading: “Every good book should be entertaining. A good book will be more; it must not be less. Entertainment….is like a qualifying examination. If a fiction can’t provide that, we may be excused from inquiry into its higher qualities.” (C.S. Lewis)

Downward To The Earth by Robert Silverberg

Downward to the Earth - Robert Silverberg

You would think that religious themes in science fiction could not mix together.  However, there is a long history of science fiction (and fantasy) writers that have included religious themes in their work.  Gene Wolfe did with his Solar Cycle Series (Book of The New Sun, Long Sun, & Short Sun), Orson Scott Card did it with his Ender and Alvin Maker series, Octavia Butler did it with her Parable Series and there are numerous other SF authors who have incorporated religious themes into their works as well.

 

Well I found out over the last year that Robert Silverberg, one of the Genre’s Grandmasters, wrote several religiously themed science fiction novels during his most prolific period of 1967-1976. I have previously reviewed two of those novels: A Time for Changes and Tower of Glass.  I enjoyed both of those books and decided to read Downward To The Earth for my latest review.  It’s considered one of his finest works and more overtly religious than those aforementioned novels.

 

Downward To The Earth is the story of Edmund Gundersen, a former colonial governor of Holman’s World, who has returned to that land after a prolonged absence.  He is seeking atonement for his treatment of the native races, the Nildoror and Sulidoror, during his time as the colonial governor.  The Nildoror and Sulidoror are elephant-type anthropomorphic beings that live on Holman’s World.  Gundersen decides to journey in order to seek atonement for his sins against the Nildoror and Sulidoror.

 

Silverberg tells a powerful story of Gundersen’s journey into the heart of Holman’s World.  He provides direct allusions to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the Old Testament, and Jesus Christ.  He deals with the concept of sin and atonement in a surprisingly honest fashion.  However, I still believed that he fell a little short in regards from a Christian worldview perspective in dealing with the consequences of sin and repentance.

 

Downward To The Earth does a respectable job in trying to intertwine religious concepts into a secular science fiction novel written in the late 1960’s.  Silverberg wrote a thought-provoking novel and would be recommended for science fiction enthusiasts who are looking for something outside of the normal conventions of the genre.

Glass Soup by Jonathan Carroll

Glass Soup - Jonathan Carroll

I mentioned in my previous review that I have spent the last month of year reading three novels by Jonathan Carroll. Glass Soup is the second of the Carroll novels and I will be posting a review on The Wooden Sea by the end of the year. These Carroll novels have given me a new perspective towards the fantasy genre and how far the boundaries can be extended outside of the Tolkien/Lewis/Jordan/Sanderson type of traditional fantasy.

 

Glass Soup is the sequel to White Apples and continues the story of the philanderer, Vincent Ettrich and his true love, Isabelle Neukor.  Both of them have crossed over from life to death and back to life again. Isabelle is carrying their special child, who can restore the balance between life and death. However, the agents of chaos are determined to keep Isabelle and the child in a place where that result can not happen.

 

Carroll gives a philosophical and surreal perspective on love, life, death, and the afterlife that kept this reader interested throughout the novel. I will admit I thought the plot in White Apples was better executed than in Glass Soup. However, I still felt that Glass Soup was rewarding to read and a novel that deserves my recommendation.  You can read Glass Soup as a standalone novel, but I would suggest that you read White Apples to get the full perspective of this duology.

The Wooden Sea by Jonathan Carroll

The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll

I’ve spent the last month of 2015 reading three novels by Jonathan Carroll. The Wooden Sea is the third of the Carroll novels I’ve read. You can look at the reviews of the other two Carroll novels: White Apples and Glass Soup here.  I will admit after reading these novels that Jonathan Carroll has joined my must read author list. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these works and they have shown me how far the boundaries of fantasy fiction can extend.

 

The Wooden Sea is the story of small town police chief, Frannie McCabe of Crane’s View, New York.  Chief McCabe has a three-legged dog that drops dead in front of him and the event takes him on a life-altering ride throughout the novel unveiling the true meaning of love and sacrifice.

 

I could not help but think of this passage of scripture from 1 Corinthians 13:

 

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. {1 Corinthians 13:1-8 The Message Bible}

 

The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians in that passage of New Testament Scripture what the true meaning of love is in 1st century Greek Culture. It seems to me by happenstance that Carroll has woven the same theme in the Wooden Sea (as well as White Apples & Glass Soup). The Wooden Sea would never be mistaken for a Christian novel, but there is spiritual resonance along with touches of the surrealistic and fantastic interwoven together making it a surprising novel with emotion and depth.

 

The only issue I had with the novel was the ending.  The abrupt ending of the novel left me wanting more time with Chief McCabe and his wife, Magda.  However, this novel was my favorite of the Carroll novels and I will give it my highest recommendation as one of my best reads of 2015.

White Apples by Jonathan Carroll

White Apples - Jonathan Carroll

I have spent the last several weeks reading three novels from Jonathan Carroll.  This review of White Apples is the first of the Carroll novels I’ve read.  I had never heard of Jonathan Carroll before reading this post from Neil Gaiman about him.  Besides Gaiman, he has been endorsed by novelists as diverse as Stephen King to Pat Conroy to Katherine Dunn. Because of his reputation as a favorite of writers, I’ve decided to to check him out. I’m probably late to this party, but I’m glad to have discover the unique fiction of Jonathan Carroll.

 

White Apples is the story of Vincent Ettrich, a womanizer, who has died and been brought back to life.  He has no idea why that has happened to him or memories of the experience.  Eventually, Ettrich finds out he has been brought back to life by his former lover, Isabelle.  Isabelle is pregnant and the child she is carrying has an essential role in saying the universe.   However, Vincent can not remember what happened to him on the other side of life and the child needs to learn from him about that experience.

 

Carroll does an excellent job in taking a soap opera or telenovela type of love story and turning into a metaphysical, surreal work of fiction.  White Apples is surprisingly spiritual, thoughtful, and weird at the same time.  Carroll’s lucid prose grabbed me from the opening pages and kept me engaged until the end of the novel.  White Apples is one of my favorite reads of 2015 and Jonathan Carroll has become an author on my must read list.

Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami

Dance Dance Dance (The Rat, #4) - Haruki Murakami

I finally heard of Haruki Muramaki when his latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years Pilgrimage, was released in the summer 2014.  It was on the Books of the Nightstand podcast where several independent bookstores across the country were having Murakami parties upon its release. I thought this kind of fanfare was only reserved for writers like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, or J.K. Rowling.  I was intrigued to find out about Haruki Murakami and why he’s beloved by so many readers.

 

I decided to start off my 2016 Reading Year with a Murakami novel.  Dance Dance Dance is a lesser known in the author’s ouevre.  The novel revolves around an unnamed protagonist who is searching for a former girlfriend that has suddenly vanished from his life.  The search takes him from Tokyo to Sapporo, Japan, and even to Honolulu as well.  Murakami shows readers through the lens of a detective novel how the late 1980s contemporary Japanese culture was dealing with the effects of hypercapitialism.

 

The unnamed protagonist begins to learn more about this former girlfriend through the connections of a thirteen year old girl with “psychic” abilities who has been abandoned by her artistic parents, a female employee from the hotel where he had last seen the woman, a troubled childhood friend who has become a famous actor and a mysterious person called the Sheep Man.  The intertwining relationships with the unnamed protagonist gave the novel a ethereal, surreal quality that did not totally convince me.  There was an aimlessness direction to the story that kept me offguard throughout the entire reading experience.

 

I connected with the teenage girl and her relationship with the unnamed protagonist and could have seen an entire novel written around those two characters.  The rest of characters (especially Sheep Man) seemed airy and distant.  I could not feel their presence in the novel.  Dance Dance Dance was not a bad novel by any means.  I loved Murakami’s pop culture references (especially his love of jazz) and his direct, abrupt prose.  But I will admit that the entire story did not fully grab my attention.  I would not recommend Dance Dance Dance for 1st time readers of Murakami, but suggest you try one of his more well known novels like Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, or the aforementioned Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years Pilgrimage instead.  Dance Dance Dance would be for Murakami readers who want to complete their collection.

A Murder of Clones by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

A Murder of Clones: A Retrieval Artist Universe Novel: Book Three of the Anniversary Day Saga (Volume 10) - Kristine Kathryn Rusch

How would you feel as a reader about the direction of a series when the author introduces a brand new character?

 

This is the question that Kristine Kathryn Rusch presents in the third book of the Anniversary Day Saga of the Retrieval Artist Series.  I have read and review the nine previous books in the series that features the main characters of Retrieval Artist Miles Flint and the Moon’s Chief Security Officer Noelle DeRicci. I will admit I have grown fond of both characters throughout the series and had some trepidation in reading A Murder of Clones that did not feature either one of them in the novel.

 

A Murder of Clones introduces Earth Alliance Frontier Marshall Judita Gomez as the main character of the novel.  She launches with her team an unauthorized investigation into a case about the murdering of clones that connects it to the Moon’s Anniversary Day bombings.

 

Marshall Gomez and team learns more than they bargained for with the investigation. It will put everyone’s careers and lives into jeopardy as they get closer to the truth about those bombings. Also, they uncover a truth about the Earth Alliance that is unsettling to everyone.

 

As she has done for the entire series, Rusch creates a solid science fiction thriller with complex twists and turns that keeps you guessing right up to the end of the novel. While, I did not warm up to Marshall Gomez like I did with Flint and DeRicci in The Disappeared, the first book of the Retrieval Artist Series.  Gomez has the potential to be a well-written and fully-drawn out character as the Anniversary Day Saga continues towards its conclusion. Also, it does bring a freshness and vitality to a long running series that could be written on autopilot with a skillful storyteller like Rusch.

 

Murder of Clones is still more of a transition book in the series and it could be read as a standalone. However, I would suggest that new readers start with Anniversary Day and continue with Blowback to get the full scope of this saga.  I highly recommend this novel and looking to Book Four of the Anniversary Day Saga, Search and Recovery.

Blowback by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Blowback  - Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Blowback is Book 2 of the Anniversary Day Saga by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  This novel continues into the exploration of the Moon’s Anniversary Day attacks that happened in Book 1 of the saga.  As a result of the attacks, Moon’s Chief Security Officer Noelle DeRicci is trying to hold the remaining vestiges of the government together and learns more  information about the attacks that could crumble everything.

 

Meanwhile, Retrieval Artist Miles Flint has become displeased with the investigation into the attacks and decides to conduct on his own investigation using contacts from both sides of the law.  What he learns will shock him and begins to realize that the Anniversary Day attacks was just the tip of the iceburg.

 

As usual, Rusch creates a credible, solid science fiction thriller with plenty twists and turns to keep a reader guessing right to the very end.  However, I see Blowback as more of a transition book in this saga.  It is a solid read but I would suggest that newcomers start with Anniversary Day before reading Blowback.  Recommended.

Anniversary Day by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Anniversary Day - Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Jay Snyder

I’m coming up on seventy posted reviews for this website and I’ve written many other reviews on various book social websites like Goodreads, Booklikes, and such. I have noticed there are some books you read and review because of their importance to the literary culture.  There are some books you read and review and that you do not connect with but continue reading them to learn something from that experience.  And there are some books you read and review that puts a smile on your face.

 

Anniversary Day by Kristine Kathryn Rusch goes into the section of the aforementioned sentence.  This is the eight book that I’ve read and review of the excellent Retrieval Artist Series and the first one of the Anniversary Day Saga.  This first book of the saga focuses on the celebration called Anniversary Day where the moon colony of Armstrong remembers the bomb that destroyed part of the dome protecting it four years ago.

 

A greater threat is happening on this Anniversary Day observance that not only affects Armstrong but the rest of the Moon.  Moon Security Chief Noelle DeRicci is trying to stay one step of the unfolding disaster.  However, the disaster is bigger than she could have ever imagined.  She enlists Retrieval Artist Miles Flint for help and he learns just how widespread the disaster has become.

 

The story in Anniversary Day does not revolve around Retrieval Artist Miles Flint.  Moon Security Chief Noelle DeRicci and Detective Bartholomew Nyquist take center stage in Anniversary Day. That might be a disappointment for fans of the series who are attached to Miles Flint (like myself).  However, Rusch is such a skilled storyteller than I have found DeRicci and Nyquist are just as compelling to read as Flint.  I appreciate the fact that the series does not rely one character to carry it for subsequent books.  The diversity of the characters is one of the main reasons I have become an unabashed fan of the series. I hope that other writers in series-length genre fiction can take inspiration from Rusch on this important technique.

 

It’s hard for this reviewer to be totally objective for each book I post a review for in this series.  It has become the literary version of Mad Men, House of Cards, or Breaking Bad for me.  I have truly looked forward to reading each book in this series and glad to have seven more books of the Anniversary Day Saga to post reviews for.

 

However, I will admit that I thought the ending (after being built up with great tension) was a let down for me.  I understand why Rusch had to wrap a bow on the ending. But, I wanted at least another 40 or 50 pages of it for selfish reasons.  That is my only quibble with Anniversary Day.  I highly recommended this series and Anniversary Day is an excellent entry point for those of you who are newcomers to the series.

For Love or Money By Susan Kaye Quinn

For Love or Money - Susan Kaye Quinn

“Writing challenges me to discover who I am. Publishing challenges me to remember it.”

 

“You have to work like crazy, be smart, somehow invest every particle of emotion into the book itself, but then fling it out in the world and be ruthlessly pragmatic about how to sell it.”

 

Those two quotes (of many that I jotted down) from For Love or Money (Crafting An Indie Author Career) by Susan Kaye Quinn nails how indie authors should go about developing a writing career.

 

Quinn writes from a philosophical perspective on how indie (I don’t use the term self-published) authors can make a living from their books and how writing for love or money can be beneficial no matter which path a writer takes.

 

I heard Susan Kaye Quinn on The Creative Penn and Author Strong podcasts recently talking about her career (she is best known for her YA Science Fiction: The Mindjack and Singularity Series) and how she has learned to balance writing for love and money.  Also, she has published romance novels under a penname that gets quite a bit of attention in For Love or Money.

 

I read this book in one setting and there are plenty of nuggets to digest like Why Do Want To Write, Creating A Mission Statement, Leave Your Biases At The Door If You Are Writing For Money, Being Patient, & Writing Like You Are On Fire.  These are excellent motivational tips that will make a reader dig deeper on how they should craft their career as an indie author.

 

There are quite a few how-to indie author books on the scene.  However, I believe that For Love or Money stands out from the pack because of its philosophical as well as a practical approach to the ever changing world of Indie Publishing.  I highly recommend For Love or Money as a permanent resource for Indie Authors to keep on their bookshelf or eReader.

Tower of Glass by Robert Silverberg

Tower of Glass - Robert Silverberg

I’m continuing my summer reading of Robert Silverberg novels from the most prolific period of his career, 1967-1976.  I reviewed A Time of Changes previously and now it’s time for Tower of Glass.

 

Simeon Krug, inventor and entrepreneur, is obsessed in getting a tower of glass built toward a star where he can communicate with outer space.  The entrepreneur uses androids that he created to build this tower.  The androids revere Krug and see him as their God.

 

However, the androids have an agenda of their own and are determined to be treated as human.  Their subplot reveals several surprising twists as it gets closer to the completion of the tower. I must admit I found their plight for being treated just like humans more compelling than Krug’s obsession with the tower.

 

Tower of Glass did not read as smoothly for me like A Time of Changes. It took me awhile to get into the story.  Nevertheless, Silverberg is fine storyteller and shows how a novel full of ideas can be written inside of two hundred pages.

A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg

Time of Changes - Robert Silverberg

What is the strength or conviction of someone’s beliefs unless they are tested by temptation?

 

The Nebula Award winning novel A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg attempts to answer the aforementioned question. Prince Kinnall from the planet Velada Borthan tells his story as a memoir about how he became tempted by a substance brought by a man from Earth named Schweiz. That temptation makes him questioned his religious beliefs and changes his life forever.

 

The substance that the Earthman brought gives a person the ability to look deep into one’s soul as well as the other person who is taking with you. Since this novel was published in 1971, I could see Silverberg being influenced by the drug and hippie culture of that time and decides to put that aspect into this story. However, self-bearing or saying something that starts with ‘I’ is taboo and even considered a criminal act in the culture that Prince Kinnall belongs to.

 

I found that custom to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the novel and one of the fundamental questions that all believers of any religion have to wrestle with. I was reminded of these words from Jesus in the Book of Matthew, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.“ {Matthew 16:25 ESV Bible} If you are a believer (especially in the Big 3 religions of Western Culture: Christianity, Judaism, & Islam), do you give up your autonomy as a human being in order to follow God?

 

Silverberg uses the secular lens of science fiction to look at that fundamental question. As a Christian, I would disagree with his method of using a substance as a possible answer for that question. However, I can appreciate the honesty reflected through Prince Kinnall’s choice and his inevitable outcome.

 

A Time of Changes will be one of my best reads in 2015. I will admit that novels like The Sparrow, The Book of Strange of New Things, Parable of the Sower, and The Child Goddess along with this one have become my favorite genre of fiction where science fiction and fantasy concepts intertwine with religious beliefs. Even though, I believe that A Time of Changes will seem dated to some readers, I will highly recommend reading the novel. I can see why it won a Nebula award in 1972.

The Place of Voices by Lauren Lynch

The Place of Voices (TimeDrifter Series Book 1) - Lauren Lynch

One of the benefits of doing reviews is that you get exposed to genres that you would not have considered reading in the past. In the past couple of years as a Book Review Blogger, I have decided to read young adult novels. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and Book 1 of Jill Williamson’s Safe Lands Series have become my introduction to the hottest genre in the publishing world. As a result, the quality of those aforementioned books have dropped my resistance to this genre and confirms the old adage, “A good story moves past all our of defenses and takes into a world that you would have never experienced before.

 

When I read about The Place of Voices by Lauren Lynch, I knew instantly this would be a novel I would review for my 2015 lineup. The Place of Voices is the first book in the TimeDrifter Series and revolves around two main characters, Brendan and Anna.

Brendan, a young man stricken with polio, and Anna, a young lady that has lost her parents, have the ability to travel through time in order to find out how their lives are connected by events that happened in the past. Their time traveling leads them to the world of the Mayans where both of them become connected to a Mayan Princess named Tzutz Nik. Tzutz Nik is in line to become a queen of the Mutul Kingdom. 

 

However, she is reluctant to embrace this path that has been laid out of for her.

There is evil lurking throughout the novel that will force all three of them to face their greatest fears head-on.  Lynch uses anthropomorphic animals as other characters in the story that seemed like a homage to The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and the theme of the sacrifice is grounded in a Christian worldview that’s apparent throughout the novel.

 

The Place of Voices is a solid Young Adult Fantasy Novel and recommended for kids from 11-up and adults who love fantasy as well.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler

How would you feel about a book that you re-read twenty years later?

 

Would it still fascinate you like it did before?

 

Would it bore you?

 

Would it show how much you have mature since the first time you read it?

 

Well, I decided to answer those questions by re-reading Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. It was published in 1993 and I read the novel at that time.  It fascinated me.  I had not read any book that grim and dark at that point in my early 20’s.

 

Now in 2012, I’ve read it again and I will admit upfront the novel didn’t fascinate me like it did in 1993.  However, I still found Parable of the Sower an interesting, thought-provoking story.

 

Octavia Butler (whom died in Feburary 2006) was considered as one of the great female science-fiction authors mentioned in the same breath as Ursula LeGuin, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and James Tiptree Jr (real name Alice Sheldon). Butler’s novels explored gender and racial themes in a science-fiction context and Parable of the Sower continued in that tradition.

 

The story is about Lauren Olamina, a teenage girl growing up in a grim, dystopic Los Angeles suburb where their gated community provided some semblance of a normal life while anarchy reigned outside of it.

 

Lauren lived with her father, a minister, her step-mother, Corazon, and her brothers, Marcus and Keith. Her father was doing everything he could to provide for the family and raise his children in a chaotic situation. Well, the gate to their community was finally destroyed after repeated attempts and all hell broke loose which ended up ripping the family apart for good.

 

Meanwhile, Lauren (who is an empath) had a sense her home and family would be destroyed has decided to create a religion called Earthseed, and was forced to leave home and travel north to fulfill her vision for this new religion.

 

Butler’s lean, spare prose creates a stark, brtual story and it was closer to The Road by Cormac McCarthy or even the movie, Book of Eli staring Denzel Washington than a traditional science fiction novel.

 

Moreover, there were a couple of things that caught my attention:

 

All that you touch,

You change.

All that you change,

Changes you.

The only lasting truth

Is change.

God

is change.

 

This was one of the basic beliefs of Earthseed.  God is change.  Since change is inevitable, we must to yield to it or never truly understand who God is.

Well, when I first read this back in 1993, I found that concept fascinating and interesting. Now, I must admit it is half-baked at best and naive at worst.

 

I’m reminded of this verse of scripture:

 

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” {Hebrews 13:8 ESV Bible}

 

The writer of Hebrews was explaining how Christ was the same in his position as high priest and Son of God throughout his earthly ministry and his place in Heaven seated next to the Father.

 

I know I just probably scared some of the non-religious folk out there.  But, I want to add this if I was not religious why would I worship or believe in a God who changes all the time.  Isn’t God to suppose to be higher than humankind? Why would he need to change? I might as well be an atheist and believe in myself.

 

Here’s the other thing that caught my attention:

“But there’s hope in understanding the nature of God-not punishing or jealous, but infinitely malleable. There’s comfort in realizing that everyone and everything yields to God. There’s power in knowing that God can be focused, diverted, shaped by anyone at all.”

 

That was from a conservation Lauren had with one of the travelers with her and a future convert to Earthseed.

 

Again in 1993, I was fascinated by this concept of God being shaped by anyone.  Now in 2012, I found it shallow and underdeveloped and frankly dead wrong.  But, it did reveal something currently going on in our culture.

 

We want to shape God in our own image.  Both religious people and non-religious people want to shape God into their liking or disliking. However, if I can shape God or focused God into what I believe or want…why should I worship or believe in him?

 

As you have read, I was glad that I re-read this story even though it didn’t feel same as it once did.  In the end, Parable of the Sower revealed a lot about myself, my beliefs, and even my maturity.

 

I would recommend all readers at least once go back re-read a novel from years ago and see what it will bring to light for you.

 

Leviathan by Paul Auster

Leviathan - Paul Auster

What is friendship?  Especially what is male friendship?

 

Paul Auster gives us an answer in his novel, Leviathan.

 

Leviathan is an Old Testament reference meaning a dragon-like monster, serpent or even a crocodile that represents evil. While, Auster’s novel is not biblical or religious on the surface, there is definitely a strong philosophical underpinning that made it interesting to read.

 

The novel begins with a man blowing himself up on the side of the highway in Northern Wisconsin. And we find out immediately that man was Ben Sachs and his story will be told by the novel’s narrator, Peter Aaron.

 

Peter was Ben’s best friend and he decided to tell the story of their friendship right up to the point of Ben’s tragic end. While reading Peter’s version of their friendship, I’ve learned that friendship can have a tighter bond even than with siblings. But, what appears to the outside world of a person’s life is definitely not what’s going on behind close doors.

 

One of the most fascinating scenes in the novel is where Ben finds out that Peter had sex with his wife and that conversation between them(Ben reveals his own adultery as well) was the saddest and most authentic I’ve read in modern fiction.  It made me read Proverbs 5, where Solomon gives a stark warning against adultery and how one must steer clear of that temptation or it will definitely pull you in.

 

I got the sense the author felt the random events and coincidences are things that could shaped a person’s life in one direction or another.  While, I disagree with his premise. I did find those coincidences in the story make me think about those things that happened in my life.  Where they coincidences?  Or orchestrated by something beyond myself?

 

Leviathan was the smoothest novel I’ve read in the past few years.  The pace and flow of the first 100-150 pages was nearly perfect.  Auster is a very talented writer.  However, the last 100 pages or so, I’ve felt a little let down and thought the random events and coincidences became too convenient in order to finish the novel.

 

I don’t think this is a novel for everyone but it does reveal the real nature of friendship and how self-deception and idealism can cause self-destruction.  An interesting read and recommended.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Buried Giant: A Novel - Kazuo Ishiguro

One of the most surprising elements in being a book review blogger is how you can choose some books to review and how some books can choose you to review them. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro became the latter instead of the former for me.

 

I recently heard an interesting podcast with the author about the reception he has received from both the Science-Fiction/Fantasy and the Literary Fiction communities upon publication of The Buried Giant.  Ishiguro defended his use of the fantastic in the novel and seemed quite interested in the genre as a whole.  I thoroughly enjoyed that podcast and decided to read and review his novel.  I had never read any of his prior highly acclaimed novels and he would not have been on my radar as an author I would normally read.

The Buried Giant is a King Arthurian story about the quest to kill a she-dragon.  The story revolves an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, who have decided to leave their home to visit their son who lives in another village.  Upon their journey, the couple meets up with Sir Gawain the Knight, a warrior named Wistan, and his apprentice

Edwin.  There are ogres, pixies, and other creatures known by fans of epic fantasy along the journey as well.

 

I must admit that I had a divided feeling after reading The Buried Giant.  It was a well-written story and I found the elderly couple interesting and engaging.  But, the Sir Gawain/Wistan/Edwin parts of the story were flat and uninspiring to me.  It seemed those elements of the fantastic were added in like an extra ingredient of a well-prepared dish.  I believed the fantasy elements were more for show than being an intricate part of the novel.  I could have just read Axl and Beatrice’s journey on visiting their son and been completely satisfied with the book.

 

The Buried Giant is a mixed bag of a novel that might not satisfy fans of Rothfuss, Martin, or Sanderson because of the sprinkling of the fantastic in the story.  Or fans of literary fiction because there is a smidgen too much of the fantastic for their tastes. But, I applaud Ishiguro for taking an artistic risk like this and hopefully he will continue to push the envelope in future works.

Source: http://marion-hill.com/book-review-64-the-buried-giant-by-kazuo-ishiguro

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford

The Sportswriter - Richard Ford

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford chronicles an Easter Weekend in the life of Frank Bascombe, a failed novelist turned sportswriter.  Ford’s breakout third novel grapples with the themes of grief, a failed career, and unhealthy relationships.

 

Bascombe’s story is told in the first person and you get the sense immediately on what kind of man he becomes in the aftermath of losing of his child, Ralph.

 

My life over these twelve years has not been and isn’t now a bad one at all. In most ways it’s been great. And although the older I get the more things scare me, and the more apparent it is to me that bad things can and do happen to you, very little really worries me or keeps me up at night. I still believe in the possibilities of passion and romance. And I would not change much, if anything at all. I would not die. But that’s about it for these matters.

 

Why, you might ask, would a man give up a promising literary career—-there were some good notices–to become a sportswriter?

 

It’s a good question. For now let me say only this: if sportswriting teaches you anything, and there is much truth to it as well as plenty of lies, it is that for your life to be worth anything you must sooner or later face the possibility of terrible, searing regret. Though you must also manage to avoid it or your life will be ruined.

I believe I have done these things. Faced down regret. Avoided ruin. And I am still here to tell about it.

 

That section is from very early in the novel and Frank spends the rest of book trying to face down regret and avoid ruin.

 

The Sportswriter is a novel of introspection and reflection of a man coming to grips with the bad things that can happen to you in life and choices one makes as a result of it.  There is not a lot of action or suspense in the novel, just seeing a man come unravelled and still trying to make the best of it in a bad situation.

 

I must admit that Frank Bascombe was the most unlikable character I had read since Sarah Worth in John Updike’s novel S. Frank’s a cad and a callous human being to the people in his life.  However, Ford’s strength as a writer keep me interested to see how Frank’s life would turn out.

 

The Sportswriter is the first in the quartet of the Frank Bascombe Series.  The subsequent books: Independence Day, The Lay of the Land, and Let Me Be Frank You continues to chronicle Frank Bascombe’s life as he ages though my journey into this world will stop here.  Not because I hated it or it was a terrible novel.  Richard Ford is an excellent writer and I could see why he has received all the acclaim that has come his way.  I just did not connect with Frank Bascombe and I’m not compelled to go on any further.

 

Still, I would write that The Sportswriter was one of the best novels I’ve read in 2015 and deserves its place as one of the best works of modern literary fiction.