Category Archives: Review

Review of Lee Child’s NOTHING TO LOSE

Nothing to Lose (Jack Reacher, #12)Nothing to Lose by Lee Child
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Of all the Reacher books I have read so far, I liked this one least. I had a difficult time deciding if I should rate this book three stars or two stars. I finally decided on two stars. I primarily have two reasons for the low rating: the over-used modern literary trope of the evil preacher (or lay preacher in this case) and the implausible ending.

The over-used trope led to a number of contradictions in my view. The story portrayed a lay preacher (Thurman) who believed he had the key to understanding the Book of Revelation and it’s prediction of the future, yet felt he had to help events along by setting off a depleted uranium bomb designed to blame the Iranians for the blast and start a global apocalyptic conflict. To me this is inherently contradictory. He believed the prophecy yet acted as if he did not.

The ending was also implausible. Thurman, the lay preacher and his workers, had assembled this bomb containing twenty tons of TNT surrounded by depleted uranium in a container that had been welded shut. The TNT was triggered by a simple cell phone. As soon as the cell phone number was called, the detonator exploded. No security code, simply a phone call. Who would do such a thing? A wrong number, a telemarketer auto-dialing numbers in a particular area code, even Thurman’s cell phone provider asking how he liked their service, would set off this explosion off prematurely.

To add implausibility on top of implausibility, Reacher told Thurman he was going to dial the detonator number. A steel container completely shields microwaves. If the cell phone is outside the container, all Thurman had to do was disconnect the phone. If the phone was inside the container, Thurman only needed to disconnect the external antenna to deactivate the bomb. He had considerable time to deactivate the trigger but did nothing until he and the whole complex was destroyed by Reacher’s phone call from several miles away. Why assume Reacher won’t call?

Having said that I enjoy novels that, as a side benefit, explore science, theology or philosophy. There was some of that here with Reacher the Preacher attempting to put Thurman in his place with some well-placed theological one liners. That was the best part of the book for me. Reacher’s one liners and statements deserve some thinking about and make up for some of the plot deficiencies.

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Review of Joshua Grant’s Novel PANDORA

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

PandoraPandora by Joshua Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I were to describe Joshua Grant’s novel PANDORA in one line it would be: the movie ALIENS enacted on a cruise ship.

A cruise ship suddenly goes missing and then reappears one week later. All attempts to contact the ship fail and the ship’s owner dispatches his own security team ostensibly to see what’s happening before governments and the military takeover the investigation.

The investigating security team knows not only that something is seriously wrong with the ship, but also that the investigation is being handled in a completely unorthodox manner. However, the ship’s owner, Carver, knows exactly how to manipulate each member of the team to keep them on mission despite their serious misgivings. He also seems to have enough influence to keep normal modes of disaster investigation at bay.

This book is nonstop action delivered in frightening detail, with surprises at every turn. As readers we explore the devastated ship with the team as they suffer terrible casualties. Having traveled on several cruises, the layout was reminiscent of my own trips (except for the massive destruction of course) and that bizarre warping of a familiar and pleasant scene only added to the impact.
Grant is an excellent storyteller and the plot is well thought out. The fine descriptions put me into the midst of the action and kept me reading.

For my part, I found the coarse language jarring and distracting, but I realize for many readers this would make the tense, life-threatening scenes more realistic.
Joshua Grant

Amazon Link to Pandora
In summary, if you like Science fiction that comes across as Horror, then I think you will like this book.

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Review of SPACETUG COPENHAGEN

 

Spacetug CopenhagenSpacetug Copenhagen by Richard Penn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever wondered what could be accomplished in terms of space exploration if a group of interested engineers and space enthusiasts pooled all of their resources, forgot about the risk, and simply tried to do as much as they could with the technology available today? Richard Penn in his novella Spacetug Copenhagen walks the reader through the steps involved. If you are interested in science and like to see it used to perfection in science fiction then I highly recommend this short book.

Richard Penn on Goodreads

 

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Now That the Movie THE SHACK is Coming Out in theaters …

shack-cover-noncomm-no-modI published this post a while ago when I first read The Shack. The original post was lost when my WordPress server had to be decommissioned. Now that the movie version is coming out, this may be of interest.

‘The Shack’ by William P. Young

Warning: If you haven’t read The Shack and are planning to read it, leave this review until later since I do discuss the content.

My overall rating is 4 stars. The Shack is a thought-provoking book well worth reading.

The Shack is a novel that tackles very difficult questions in a way that puts the reader in the very middle of the action and challenges him to tackle the questions in a personal way..

Mackenzie Allen Phillips lost his young daughter to a serial killer. MacKenzie called this trauma, which tormented his life, THE GREAT SADNESS. One day he receives a letter from Papa (his wife’s personal name for God) that invites Mackenzie to meet ‘Papa’ at the shack in the woods where Missy, his daughter, was brutally murdered. The shack is the last place in the world he wants to go, but eventually he decides to go without telling his wife.

God appears as three people (Papa, Jesus and another woman called Sarayu (wind)). Mackenzie is able to watch them interact, watch them serve him, and answer his questions. What Young achieves are scenes that are not simplistic, but rather convey to the readers the complexity of fashioning and then sustaining a world that has free will, independent agents that make moral choices (e.g. human beings) and God. Although God is All Powerful and Good yet He still has to work within His own rules and His own character and honor the free choices made by human beings.

For me, this book caused me to think about who God is and how simplistic my own caricatures of Him are because of the unconscious assumptions I bring to the table when I think about Him. For example, as C. S. Lewis has pointed out somewhere, in God moral character and will must coincide in some fashion. For human beings, morality is something objective that is above us, and we have a duty to obey these moral imperatives. However, if God had moral imperatives in the same sense we have, then He wouldn’t be God, since the moral law would be above Him. On the other hand if moral law were simply an invention by God, it would be arbitrary. As I read the book, I had to grapple with this conundrum. I saw that this fusion of morality and will in God is one of the things that puts Him beyond my understanding.

If you go to amazon.com, and read comments on this book, you will find many that laud it, and some that most emphatically do not. Some of the objections are theological. Respondents argue that the book fails to properly account for some point of theology. I think that claim is fair, but it misses the point. Young has written a novel and wanted to bring us into an interaction with the person of God in a new way. I think it is better to learn what one can from the book, without trying to make it into a theological treatise.

If you’ve read the book or watched the movie, I would like to know what you thought of it.

 

Review of Jean Chamberlain-Froese and Patricia Paddey’s GAME CHANGERS

Here is my review recently published on Goodreads:

The Game Changers: True Stories About Saving Mothers & Babies In East AfricaThe Game Changers: True Stories About Saving Mothers & Babies In East Africa by Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Game Changers is a powerful and moving book that gives a snapshot of the lives of key leaders, healthcare workers, and teachers in Uganda as they struggle to solve the huge problem mother-and-child deaths during pregnancy and delivery. Through the lives of front line workers, Dr. Jean Chamberlain-Froese (the founder of Save The Mothers) and Patricia Paddey (a journalist) provide heart-wrenching accounts of the magnitude of the problem as well as a look at the courageous men and women that are working to solve it in East Africa.

This book will move you and also give you a sense of hope as you see the commitment of these Ugandans, see how their deep faith moves them to action, and marvel at the progress that has already been made. It will also leave you (as it did me) with a profound sense of gratitude that we are not forced to go through the same trials here. The Gamer Changers is worth reading several times and can also be picked up and read in short sittings. I highly recommend it.
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Review of SKY GHOSTS: ALL FOR ONE

Sky Ghosts: All for One (Sky Ghosts, #1)Sky Ghosts: All for One by Alexandra Engellmann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sky Ghosts: All for One is a fast-paced, action-filled fantasy that kept me engaged from the beginning to the end. The beings, Sky Ghosts, are a faction of super humans (they can fly, have extraordinary strength, and can heal themselves of injury) that at night battle their evil counterparts (Beasts), led by a corrupted, but very powerful former Sky Ghost called Eugene.

The story begins with a fortuitous rescue of two regular humans (Chad and Dave) by Sky Ghosts Jane and Pain (Patricia) in New York City. As the story unfolds, Dave and Chad have an interest to Eugene that causes him to do his best to kill them. Their protection and ultimate significance to the Sky Ghost cause is the enduring theme of the story.

My rating of three stars means that I liked the story a lot, but would not read it a second time. This really should have been a four star story (meaning I would come back to read it over and over again). However, the author often changes point of view within a scene so, as a reader, I’m surprised suddenly to find myself in different character’s head. There are also grammatical imperfections and sometimes the wrong word is used.

Having said that, I found this story contained a wonderful, exciting plot, with characters I found interesting and that I cared about. If you like fast-paced, plot-driven fantasy with strong female leads, I think you would enjoy this book.

A word of caution: I enjoy stories with lots of action. This one has a  lot of “hacking and hewing” mainly of beasts. At times the language is also quite strong.
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Review of Peter Kreeft’s BACK TO VIRTUE

Back to VirtueBack to Virtue by Peter Kreeft
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another thoughtful book from Peter Kreeft with many valuable insights. Of particular significance to me was his observation (and my realization) that our society speaks of “having values” rather than “pursuing virtue.” This crafting of our language supports the subliminal indoctrination that channels us into believing or even espousing the idea the “the good or what is right” is not a real quantity like the natural laws but rather is made up or invented by people. Kreeft calls us back to pursuing virtue and abandoning the relativism that plagues us with moral equivocation. He sums up this idea by stating that society cannot long exist without virtue and virtue cannot long exist without religion.

A second important insight for me had to do with the strands of thought and practice that were brought together in Christianity. He argued that as Christianity built on it’s Jewish foundation, wrote it’s ideas using the Greek language and gradually brought more and more gentiles under it’s wing, it brought together three strands: conscience from Judaism, reason from the Greeks, and imagination from the pagan gentiles to craft the fabric of the faith.

Having said that, I will read this book over and over again because of the powerful and significant ideas it advances. I am less enthusiastic about the writing style. Kreeft often uses short sentences and the ideas do not flow well but rather come out like a machine gun barrage. I overlook the stylistic deficiencies because of the content.

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Review of E. E. (Doc) Smith’s THE SKYLARK OF SPACE

The Skylark of Space (Skylark #1)The Skylark of Space by E.E. “Doc” Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This first entry in E. E. (Doc) Smith’s Skylark series is one of my favourites. It begins with Richard Seaton, a physical chemist, discovering a mysterious new trans-uranic element “X” in some platinum waste, which, under the right conditions, has the ability to transform the mass of copper into pure energy and so gives rise to a new space drive.

In many ways these books are space westerns, with non-stop action. Because it was first published in 1934, it provides a glimpse into how writers and readers thought in those days. Of course there are many things about space, physics, and chemistry that we know now that they did not know then, but even that is interesting to me. The optimism and sheer inventiveness of these books I find delightful. This is a book that I like to read over and over again.

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Another 5 Star Review of THE HALCYON DISLOCATION on Goodreads

THD-2_Front_PageWith permission, I have reproduced a review from Goodreads on The Halcyon Dislocation. It’s always encouraging to find that the hard work has paid off. Here’s the text of the review:

 

An incredible adventure – Glad I wasn’t there for the dislocation.
I try not to give books 5 stars very often (cheapens the value). But I read this and enjoyed every minute. Well-deserving.

Basically a University/Naval station Island… is relocated to a different reality. What appears to be a science experiment gone wrong becomes much darker and deeper than first realized by our valiant band of heroes. And somehow Jesus and truth fits into all this. Go buy your own copy – you can’t have my signed 1st edition. (Is it Peter? Don’t care. I’ll boast anyway.)

I read book 2 first, I thought that would be a creative challenge and insight into Peter’s writing abilities. Indeed this made me totally enjoy the character development and early obstacles (AND Evil escapades) that are being set-up in the beginning of the Halcyon series. In Book 1 We get to know the characters in a less stressful setting. By book 2: Everything is Off the Rails and non-stop action. Similar to Star Wars 2: The Empire Strikes Back, no time for intros – start shooting at stuff.

Now I may have to go and read book 2 again, just for the flow of the story. Maybe i’ll do that when book 3 comes out. Quit stalling Peter – get to work, your fans are close to rioting.
_________________________

Peter gave us a brilliant setting for Christian Apologetics and liberal moral mayhem (those two always go together). Like Eve in the garden we get to see a New society apply a godless lack of morality and spiritual blindness, all in the name of young lusty freedom and Corporate/Political Power. Even though this is Sci-fi, we have a very modern University doing its debaucherous best to erase any Christian virtues and family structures ALL in the name of liberal progress – and thankfully Peter shows us the undeniable results of this secular materialism and free thought: throw out the rules, you throw out the meaning and purpose of Love, Hope, Peace and family values.

And I especially enjoyed the Dalyites. Even in a setting like this we see the uprising of a religious cult. This is endlessly entertaining. Hope this plays out nastily in the 3rd book. I loved seeing our Christian hero “AL” dealing with Atheists on one side, and Fundamental extremist Cults on the other…and monsters of course.

But all is saved by the cute – Badger like: Hansas. Short insightful Warriors of truth. And they make great friends. Can’t get enough of these guys.

5_starsPeter has a huge challenge theologically with this sci-fi scenario. How does Jesus, Sin, and God’s Glory play out in this alternative realm? We’ll see. I have a feeling Peter has a plan to tie it all together. This book appears to be succeeding where Stephen R. Lawheads “The Song Of Albion” failed – Christianity is truthfully laid out and brought to the front of the story. I look forward to even more of this in book 3.

The only thing this book was missing was a long nasty car chase. (but the stories not over yet). Maybe I can get Peter to make a Hansa character in my honor??? A brutally snarky theologian comedian.

Warning: You may learn more about boating than you ever wanted to. I’m a landlover myself. (less)

My Review of THE WORLD OF NULL-A by A. E. van Vogt

The World of Null-AThe World of Null-A by A.E. van Vogt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I had a hard time deciding between two stars and three stars for this novel. In the end, I decided on two stars. I found the definition of non-Aristotelian (Null-A) thought an ill-defined and incoherent concept. From my perspective Null-A seemed to imbue the adherents with super-human mental acuity completely disconnected from “integrating animal (thalamus) and human (cortex) parts of the brain.”

In the Foreword the authors tries to shed some light on Null-A. He says: “In World, we have the Null-A (non-Aristotelian) man, who thinks gradational scale, not black and white—without, however, becoming a rebel or cynic, or a conspirator, in any current meaning of the term.” I was hoping after reading the book I would understand what A. E. van Vogt meant. That never happened for me.

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