Book Review: Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell

Five Stars

“To be enjoyed, life must be shared.”

Historical fiction at its best: opens the past as can only be done by fiction; while connecting to the reader’s present in ways that are both entertaining and informative. Neatly melds modern opinion with history. Compare this with James Michener’s Caravans, telling in 1963 how the world was going to lose Afghanistan.

“America, I recalled, were notorious colonial troublemakers.” “As the Arabs promise to be,” Lawrence said quietly.

All of the narrowness and prejudices one would expect of a 1920s American abroad–like Mark Twain’s 1869 Innocents Abroad, but Russell’s protagonist is open to Continue reading

Book Review: Split Infinity by Piers Anthony (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Split Infinity (Apprentice Adept #1) by Piers Anthony

Three Stars

“If you think you’re conscious, you must be conscious. That’s what consciousness is all about. The feedback is self-awareness.”

Great story telling and contrasting fantasy and science fiction environments, but Anthony doesn’t get a bye for his antediluvian portrayal of gender relations. Even though it was written in the 80s, it’s borderline offensive. His protagonist’s supposed moral uprightness is severely undercut by his treatment of females. Costuming sex as freely given doesn’t excuse his attitude.

“You often don’t have to fight, if you just look as if you’d like to.”

The extended sections of game play slows to the story. The whole game matrix concept rings false: an artificial construct, like quidditch, to pump up the protagonist.

“You are a rational creature, beneath your superficial programming; under my programming I am an irrational animal.”

Quibbles: Published in 1980, totally misses the coming revolution in microelectronics and communications, which renders the story a quaint artifact of a former age. “Two days off his feet” after running a marathon? He’d be a cripple for months. Daily challenge games? After marathons? How’s that fair?

“Murder is not the proper solution to problems.”

Like many series openers, this is larger world, team and goal building. No incentive to read more of the series.

“Know thyself.”

I Lied Today

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I lied today. About my age.

As I waited to get a haircut, the other men bragged about how old they were. The oldest was 87, and the youngest, but me, was 81.

I told them I was 71. Which I am … almost. They complemented me on looking younger. I felt bad.

What possessed me to do that? Felt like a child saying he was almost seven.

Not a bad feeling–not the fib–the childishness.

 

Washington Reports on Climate Change

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The recently leaked climate report is undoubtedly those people’s best effort to make the case for the inevitability and impact of global warming, but for those who know how Washington produces such reports it’s less than convincing.

First, everyone working on it was a true believer. No skeptics, deniers, or even neutral folks need apply.

Second, even though it was touted as a multi-year, multi-administration effort, it’s still the report of one side.

Third, when asked a question in Washington, the question implies the answer. We called it “gaming the system.” It’s the way things are done inside the Beltway.

Finally, have all those folks sworn off flying? Parked their gas guzzlers? Charge their Prius’ only from solar panels? Live in zero-carbon condos? Grow their own food? Heck, no. They’re hypocrites just like you, me, and Al Gore.

That is not to say that the weather isn’t getting warmer, nor that human activity didn’t contribute to it, nor that the impact won’t be huge this century. It’s just to agree with Benjamin Disraeli that the worst kind of liars are statisticians.

Book Review: Sterkarm Handshake by Susan Price (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Sterkarm Handshake by Susan Price

Four Stars

“To them, to kill in revenge was a duty; to forgive the killing of a kinsman sin.”

Excellent science-historical fiction mashup. Avoids the time travel paradox by having travelers visit a past in a world a few dimensions away from our earth, but recognizably similar.

“… always worrying about someone getting hurt, as if people could keep from getting hurt.”

Changes point of view often–paragraph by paragraph–but with sufficient clues to keep the reader oriented. Deep into the minds and emotions of all the principle characters (who vary enough to reflect vastly different mores and experiences), to the point that we understand the motivation and worldview of those we might normally consider villains. Female lead has near-terminal conscience and indecision problems, which makes her the perfect lens into the story.

“Lovers divided by family and feud made good stories, but in life it was nothing but misery.”

Excellent immersion into medieval culture: not just sights and sounds, but smells and taste …. And all that filth. Music and folk tales deepen our cultural engagement. A skilled archer misses; hooray!

“It was like the music stopped and I had no chair.”

Quibble: Land Rovers haven’t had hub caps for decades.

If I had but a swan’s wings

Far over hills and sea I’d fly–

To my true love’s arms I’d fall at last

And in her arms I’d gladly die.

Madame Butterfly from Coast to Coast

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Tonight is opening night for Seattle Opera’s production of Madame Butterfly.  My daughter, Rachelle, is once again a member of the cast.  She appears third from the left in both photos below.

MadameButterflySeattleOperaAug2017RachelleMoss3rdFromLeft [ Philip Newton photo ] MadameButterflySeattleOperaAug2017RachelleMoss3rdFromLeft02 [ Philip Newton photo ] Earlier this year, Rachelle was also a member of the cast of Sarasota Opera’s production of Madame Butterfly. So she really has done this show from coast to coast.

Rachelle as Kate Pinkerton Rachelle as Kate Pinkerton

Now I’m wishing I was in Seattle so I could attend opening night.

Break a leg!

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Book Review: The Grace Awakening by Charles R. Swindoll (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Grace Awakening: Believing in Grace Is One Thing. Living It Is Another by Charles R. Swindoll

Four Stars

“[The] moralizing and legalizing of the Gospel of God’s grace is a dull heresy peddled to disappointed people who are angry because they have not received what they had no reason to expect.” Richard J. Neuhaus

A rousing call to replace the Pharisee-ism of modern Christianity with the freely-given grace of God. Easy to read and understand.

“Love that goes up is worship; Love that goes outward is affection; Love that stoops is grace.” Donald Barnhouse

Filled with short, pithy thoughts to break our religious bonds and free us to love God and our neighbor.

“[Jesus] is at your side. He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as Himself. He is beginning, so to speak, to ‘inject’ His kind of life and thought … into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.” C. S. Lewis

Book Review: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (Five Stars)

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Book Review: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Five Stars

“I want to comprehend. I have to. But he knew he never would. Just be glad and keep moving.”

An early alternative history, it is among the best. Dick not only alters history and politics, but also culture and scientific achievement, consistent with what precedes his story. The result in an incredibly rich, engaging tale of what might have been. Manages to include major philosophic and religious issues. Very close telling of internal conflicts and aspirations.

“Nobody was hurt … until the day of reckoning and then everyone, equally, would be ruined.”

I can’t believe this was written in 1962. Dick displays a depth of understanding which many lacked. I can’t believe I missed it then.

“He should have that cold but enthusiastic look, as if Continue reading