Monday, August 3, 2020

Planet of the ApesPlanet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book that deserves to stand the test of time. I think it's as valid now as it was back in the fifties.

Let's ignore the movies for just a moment. They're important in their own right for capturing a cultural zeitgeist and for showing us all how damning cultural bias can be. One can make the argument that the Planet of the Apes movies underscored the 60's, put it all in sharp relief.

But I'm going to talk about the book -- about why the book needs to be read now.

Cultural bias is everywhere. All around us. It's in the very air we breathe. In general, we don't see it.

Our assumptions make us prisoners.

The apes are the epitome of Western Thought. Casually racist in everything they do, they rationalize everyone OTHER than themselves into a kind of slavery. Whether it's about cultural superiority, scientific superiority, military superiority, or ANY reason to make themselves appear more important than the OTHER, they take it.

Because what would happen otherwise?

Rhetoric would fall apart, giving way to a careful observation of the real circumstances.

People are being kept in cages. They're experimented upon. They are left in atrocious conditions and made to fight for scraps to survive. The purpose is to turn them into animals FIRST in order to prove the original assumption that they are animals.

If this isn't classic racism, I don't know what is. Every argument they make must revolve around the basic assumption that THEY are better than US. If the argument doesn't fit, it is thrown out.

Only OVERWHELMING evidence to the contrary can lift a single human out of this bondage, and but the great emancipation only works for this single human.

The pervasive racism persists.

Classic cultural bias.

We are fully immersed in it. We feel the hopelessness underlying their bulwarks of rationalizations. We are made small, helpless, even as we retain our dignity in all the tiniest of ways. And ultimately, we lose.

It takes a whole society to change a whole society.

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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Circles in the SpiralCircles in the Spiral by Shane Joseph
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As implied by the title, things start out slow and easygoing -- a retreat for the body and the soul -- but this is where things begin to spiral out of control. :)

The changes are imperceptible at first. A free-spirited romance. A few reveals.


This is what happens when writers throw off their yokes and write what they want to write, letting the crazy out. Each new reveal, each new piece of the puzzle throws a monkey wrench into the bigger work until the circles become an ever-widening gyre and all hell breaks loose.

A staid and solid life this may have appeared to be, but just as we think we've gotten a handle on the last bombshell, another one comes along. And another. And another.

No spoilers. The personal reveals are as interesting as the political ones and everything comes together in a perfect storm of crazy. All our choices come back to haunt or aid us. Getting tangled in people makes our lives more interesting. :)

Quite an enjoyable read, amusing and dark.

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Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Old Man and the SeaThe Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is little I can say amongst so many great reviews that will shed any light upon this classic masterpiece of literature, but I can speak of my feelings.

Let me be honest. Before I read this the first time, I groaned. It's a fish story. Anyone who grew up around people who tell fish stories knows that they get bigger and bigger with each telling until the hero of the tale successfully takes down the great white whale. Or not, as in Moby Dick's case.

I was afraid that I would be overwhelmed with a big whopper.

What I got, instead, was a deeply personal, tragic, and heartbreaking.

People say much about Hemingway's simplicity of style, his minimalism, and I have to agree. He cuts right to the bone.

It's also perfect if you feel like this life is tearing a piece of you away, one bite at a time.

Those damn sharks. The waters are full of them.

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Friday, July 31, 2020

Divergence (Foreigner #21)Divergence by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twenty-one books! Of course, I think that's a real feat, considering that we're following the SAME sets of characters over many years and situations on an alien world and this has NONE of the feel of a Urban Fantasy OR a long crime series.

Indeed, it's ALL about alien politics. And it REMAINS GOOD after twenty-one books! Are you amazed? I'm amazed. :) Just ask anyone. Do you think a book about translation errors and alien assassinations as a basis for good government could carry your interest for twenty-one books?

Well, it does! :) And if you're reading this review, you're probably already a fan or you're wondering if you should pick up the series again and I'm here to say: It's STILL GOOD. :)

I just can't say anything because of spoilers. And damn, there's a big spoiler coming up. The great-grandson of our wonderful Dowager is growing up. Bren is almost like an elder statesman now. It's fascinating to see the dynamics and politics. :)

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Automatic ReloadAutomatic Reload by Ferrett Steinmetz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I came into this read with certain expectations. I've read five of his other novels and while many of them had serious moments, they were (on the whole) rather funny or even deeply amusing while also kicking major SF (or UF) butt.

This one, at least by the blurb, gave me a feeling like this would be a fast, furious, and funny romance with massive cyborg hardware wrapped in a romance.

What I found was a serious work met with quiet humor, an empathic romance born of anxiety, compassion, and shared threats.

How was it serious? It does wonders for the neurodiverse. Whether someone is anxious, depressed, or suffering from PTSD, I've rarely read a more comprehensive (and interesting) treatment. And it makes SENSE. Anyone that afraid of anything WOULD be a prime candidate for the full transhumanist package. And more, of course. Who needs a white matrix room when you can store all your guns IN your body. :)

Of course, I'm focusing on what makes this an excellent novel that will stay with me a while.

The other trappings are all kinds of awesome, too. It really IS a furious, high-octane shoot-em-up adventure, after all. And the romance is freaking sweet and hits all the right kinds of tones.

It's just not designed to be a laugh-a-minute tale. And I think it's BETTER for it. :)

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

A Killing Frost (October Daye, #14)A Killing Frost by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's always like coming home when I read this series.

Of course, it's a home with nasty Fae relatives, some brutal nice ones, friends who support me but who fully expect me to kill them ANY MOMENT NOW, and NO ONE WILL LEAVE ME BE ABOUT WHEN I'LL GET MARRIED.

Of course, I'm channeling October, but I figure if you're reading this review, YOU ALREADY GOT THAT. :)

Lessee... what can I say that isn't a complete spoiler?

Families SUCK. If it isn't divorce, it's marriage, and doesn't it beat all when the two get their grimy little paws on each other, ruining it for everyone?

This is a good book. It didn't leave me with as much of a gut punch as the last, but this one was solid and surprising (especially 1st born surprises) and the extra novella was actually rather sweet and helped round out the events in the novel. I likey!

Good stuff, ya'll!

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Green Man, Earth Angel: The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the WorldGreen Man, Earth Angel: The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World by Tom Cheetham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For a book with such a promising title, I was somewhat underwhelmed.

Let's put this in the proper frame: This is a book of proper metaphysics that came out about fifteen years ago but it fully responds to and continues the work of Jung, Henry Corbin, and synthesizes a lot of the BIG IDEAS into seemingly new forms.

You know, the ideas like the "soul of the world", "imaginal worlds", archetypes, duality synthesis, and all the things that are the horribly over-complicated realm of ALCHEMY, as long as we consider alchemy the domain of the psyche.

Please bear with me. Most of the underlying ideas are pretty commonplace. While reading THIS particular book, I was sufficiently impressed by the ability of the author to obfuscate, needlessly prevaricate, and weave a tangled, tangled web.

If I was to rate this on being fully erudite in the sense of knowing his source materials, combining a very wide range of comparative metaphysics, from Sufis to Plato to Corbin, I'd give this a full 5 stars.

If I was to rate this by Umberto Eco's four types of publishable material, I'd call this Moronic. Indeed, it delights in slamming us down with minor variations on an otherwise simple idea, making us bow down to his ability to SOUND impressive as hell without letting us get to the freaking point.

How much did we go into the idea of letting one's whole being suffuse a single idea until our very soul becomes one with it? Tons. It's an old idea. Books are the death of that way of thinking, or it was beginning to die by the time we started getting illuminated texts. The soul needs to immerse itself in its meditations and having a text to go by is the death of original creative thought, etc., etc. Of course, the point is to crank up the volume to ten and exploit the idea until we get to levels of the world, etc.

Fine, fine. We live in the basest, most shadowy level. The point is to break through.

So am I just complaining about clarity concerns?

Nope. I take umbrage with a lot of the FUNDAMENTAL assumptions. So many are left completely undefined. Beyond that, there are brief encounters with statements that assume all thought is based on a neural net. He bases ALL of our experiential quanta on foundations that are shaky at best. If we are supposed to tackle any duality in order to transcend it, then first we need to understand how WE work in the first place.

Everything else is just a review of old thoughts repackaged in an overly complex attempt at the author attempting to overwhelm us. After a certain point, is there a point to exhaustively, densely, going over so many instances of dualism? Most are, at their core, the same; to understand good, you must understand evil. Consciousness, unconsciousness. Reality, imagination. He argues, in a lot of ways, that they are all the same class.

I won't argue the point. I happen to agree with most of it. I do not, however, agree with the full conclusions because we are still spinning in the wind without fundamental definitions. One does not base a whole argument on the weight of other faulty works and assume you're going to come up with something other than "Garbage In, Garbage Out".

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