Book Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch (Four Stars)


Book Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch

(Four Stars)

“Time is an illusion, a construct made out of human memory. There’s no such thing as the past, the present, or the future. It’s all happening now.”

A compelling look at the nature of time and memory and what happens when people manipulate it. Believable protagonists find themselves in unthinkable situations: one as perpetrator, one as victim.

“Can this procedure—dying in the deprivation tank as a memory reactivates—actually alter the past?” “There is no past.” “That’s crazy.” “What? You can have your theories, but I can’t have mine?” “Explain.” “You said it yourself. ‘Now’ is just an illusion, an accident of how our brains process reality.”

Folded timeline, but then it must be. Escalating doom and a ticking clock impel the protagonists and reader toward a really big train wreck. Over and over. They more they try to avoid it, the worse it looms.

“If memories can simply change. What, then, is real? And if the answer is nothing, where does that leave us?”

Interestingly, the characters seem to have free will. When left to repeat their lives, they repeat them … exactly.

“In this moment, he is a man without memory.”

Quibble: Twice Barry finds himself without any memory. That is not provided for within the construct of the plot and throws the reader out of the spell of the story.

“Life with a cheat code isn’t life. Our existence isn’t something to be engineered or optimized for the avoidance of pain. That’s what it is to be human—the beauty and the pain, each meaningless without the other.”

Book Review: The Pioneers by David McCullough (Four Stars)


Book Review: The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David McCullough

(Four Stars)

“Besides the opportunity of opening a new and unexplored region for the range of natural history, botany, and medical science, there will be one advantage which no other part of the earth can boast, and which probably will never again occur; that, in order to begin right, there will be . . . no inveterate systems to overturn.” Manasseh Cutler

Excellent history of the opening of the Northwest Territory after the American War of Independence. McCullough focuses on the individuals who formed and were sent out by the Ohio Company to settle in Marietta, Ohio and environs.

“As one widely respected, later-day historian, Albert Bushnell Hart of Harvard University, would write, ‘Never was there a more ingenious, systematic and successful piece of lobbying than that of the Reverend Manasseh Cutler’ and the great Northwest Ordinance of 1787 stands Continue reading

Book Review: Three Days at the Brink, by Bret Baier with Catherine Whitney (Four Stars)


Book Review: Three Days at the Brink: FDR’s Daring Gamble to Win World War II, by Bret Baier with Catherine Whitney

(Four Stars)

“Like Eisenhower and Reagan, Roosevelt was a leader who transcended his political party to fulfill a higher purpose in the presidency.”

Though it borders on a hagiography, Three Days at the Brink brings modern readers an updated perspective on both our thirty-second president and the high-level decisions that determined the course of the post-World War II world.

“Circumstances required them to engage in the painful exercise of reaching agreement, with Roosevelt serving as the leader who would help them envision and cement a partnership that would win the war.”

But …

“After the war, [Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs] Molotov would acknowledge that the second front clamor was mostly a ploy. The Russians knew Continue reading

Book Review: In the Region of the Summer Stars by Stephen J. Lawhead (Four Stars)


Book Review: In the Region of the Summer Stars (Eirlandia #1) by Stephen J. Lawhead

(Four Stars)

‘Do you trust me?’ ‘I trust you as much as I trust any man.’ ‘Hmph! There speaks a suspicious man—a wary and skeptical man.’ ‘If so, perhaps I have earned my suspicions.’

Lawhead doing what he does best: light epic fantasy. A fun read with the right mix of protagonist stupidity and nobleness to hook epic fantasy fans. Fast paced and readable. Loosely based on the geography and history of Ireland.

‘Our lives may be forfeit, but Brecan must be stripped of power or he will become invincible—and all Eirlandia will pay the price.’ ‘Put like that, a fella would have to be a fool to Continue reading

Book Review: Beyond the Call by Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield (Four Stars)


Book Review: Beyond the Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot’s Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front by Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield

(Four Stars)

“It was a horrific time of my life. I don’t know if I can talk about it even now. I saw atrocities. I saw the worst in people. I was deceived into going there—misled and lied to by my own people.” Robert Trimble

Another great story of the war behind the headlines of World War II. Gripping tale of a bomber pilot who volunteered for a mission then discovered he was actually sent to do another. Well told with sufficient background and detail to Continue reading

Book Review: Beren and Lúthien by J. R. R. Tolkien (Four Stars)


Book Review: Beren and Lúthien (Middle-Earth Universe) by J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

(Four Stars)

“He greatly regretted having used the word ‘Elves’, which has become ‘overloaded with regrettable tones’ that are ‘too much to overcome’. Years later, when the Elves of the Third Age had entered the history of Middle-earth, there was nothing ‘fairylike’, in the modern sense, about them.”

First published in 2017, long after the story of the title dyad appeared in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion in 1977, this volume explores the story of the story. Christopher Tolkien mines his father’s literary compost heap to dig out Continue reading

Book Review: Splintered Light: Tolkien’s World by Verlyn Flieger (Five Stars)


Book Review: Splintered Light: Tolkien’s World, Revised Edition by Verlyn Flieger

(Five Stars)

“Tolkien’s work is more relevant to the world today than it appeared to be when The Lord of the Rings was first published in the mid-1950s. Reader initially enchanted by its fantasy world return again and again to the story for its soberer reflection of the real one.”

Drawing from the entire corpus of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work and influencers such as Owen Barfield, Flieger opens the greater vista of Tolkien’s created universe, especially as it relates to his (and our) own world. First published in 1983 and heavily revised in 2012 as more posthumous works were published, Light analyzes Tolkien and his world.

The Silmarillion can be fully understood without reference to The Lord of the Rings, but Continue reading

Book Review: Freedom Flight: A True Account of the Cold War’s Greatest Escape by Frank Iszak (Four Stars)


Book Review: Freedom Flight: A True Account of the Cold War’s Greatest Escape by Frank Iszak

(Four Stars)

“Tyranny doesn’t start with the gulags and gas chambers, it ends with them.”

Thrilling tale of a group of young people brought together by the very government that oppressed them. The tyranny of totalitarians regimes is still with us; history repeats, even with variations. (Should be a movie. Oh, it’s in production. Maybe.) Read the book.

“But God was omnipotent and His Ways could be strange and unpredictable. He had the answer. He was just holding it back.”

Iszak then and now credits divine intervention for their success. He gives sufficient detail that skeptics can draw their own conclusions.

“I was thinking last night. If we make love, I can’t wear a white wedding dress when we get married. Hmmm, I thought. Then I kind of mentally inventoried my wardrobe at home, and I realized that I don’t even have a white dress. On top of that, you never asked to marry me anyway, did you?” Iszak’s future wife.

I am wary of “true” stories first told over fifty years after the fact. Too convenient for potential inventors. Iszak admits he changes some names and provides basic documentation that the escape really happened. For the details we must trust him.

“The Kremlin-controlled media behind the Iron Curtain referred to the event as ‘Air Piracy’. They would have called it hijacking, but no one had coined the word yet.” Hijacking was in use long before. He refers to skyjacking.

“For seven just-liberated slaves, the sun had risen for the second time that day. This time in the West.”

Movie Review: Jumanji: The Next Level, directed by Jake Kasdan (Two Stars)


Movie Review: Jumanji: The Next Level, directed by Jake Kasdan

(Two Stars)

Disappointing. Had the same wacked-out plot structure as Jumanji: Into the Jungle and much the same cast. Danny DeVito was a welcome addition. Lots of inside jokes and some healthy relationship vibes.

But the tone of the movie is, presumably intentional, grittier. For one thing the offensive language is much more and more noticeable.

Book Review: Sergeant York by Alvin C. York and Tom Skeyhill (Three Stars)


Book Review: Sergeant York: His Own Life Story and War Diary by Alvin C. York and Tom Skeyhill

(Four Stars)

“I only did my duty to God and my country, and every man should do this.”

The true story of an extraordinary man of conscience who also happened to be an incredible shot with a rifle. York’s struggle with the conflicting dictates of his faith and his patriotism is perhaps a more compelling story that his battlefield exploits, and those—though documented—are so incredible as to seem like pulp fiction.

“Great care has been taken to preserve his mountain dialect.”

Writing this in York’s semi-literate dialect may have played well in the 1920s, but today’s reader will find it obscure and dishonest. This is obviously Continue reading