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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 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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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)

How to Support Indie Authors

Why Look at Independent Authors?

NA Bittern_BlogThe world of books (and e-books) is changing. Traditional publishers with their teams of editors, their distribution networks, and advertising power are consolidating. Many smaller book stores are closing as readers shift to mega-stores and the internet. From my perspective, traditional publishers are focusing more and more on blockbusters to shore up their bottom line. This means that well-known authors and people with a platform (e.g. sports stars, celebrities, and pastors of mega-churches) have an edge. Increasingly, it is difficult for established publishing businesses to take a chance on a new author with an unproven track record.

Along side this trend, advances in on-demand publishing, easy internet and social media access, and the ready availability of contract editing expertise has led to the explosive rise of the independent publishing movement. More and more in my own reading, I find myself ignoring the best-sellers list and looking for the works of outstanding independent authors. There are many advantages to this:

  1. There are increasing numbers of high quality books available as professional editing becomes accepted as a key to producing a high quality book among indie authors.
  2. The numbers of indie books is enormous. You will find a huge selection in your favourite genre.
  3. Independent authors have true freedom to write what is on their hearts, unencumbered by the constraints of political correctness, or the biases of the mainstream media. I often wonder to what degree the philosophy, brand, and convictions of the owners of traditional publishing houses impact their product. Once they buy the rights to a book, they  can (if they choose) influence it to a remarkable degree. To get away from that possibility, you have to look at the independents for whom the freedom to write what they like is paramount.
  4. It’s usually easy to get to know and chat with indie authors. They are generally delighted to talk to someone who has enjoyed their book and their following is often small enough that they have the time to engage in dialogue.
  5. Although the cost of hard copy books (hard cover, trade paperback, or paperback) are generally more expensive for independent works than for mass produced paperbacks by the traditional publishing houses (because of the higher cost of short print runs), e-books are not. Often e-books are available for much less from indie authors who are eager to get a foot in the door and expose as many readers as possible to their creation.

Although independent authors have many things going for them, they also have many challenges:

  1. It’s hard to become known. Most newspapers and best sellers lists focus on authors publicized by traditional publishers.
  2. Most awards are restricted to traditional publishers. It’s very hard for an independent author to get a prestigious award.
  3. There  is a view that has been promulgated that self-published works are of poor quality because had it been good, it would have been picked up by a traditional publisher. In my experience this is false. Undoubtedly there are some poor books in the independent realm, but there is also a lot of poor and (to my mind) distasteful products in the traditional arena—works that make me question what I was thinking when I bought the books (check my one and two star ratings on Goodreads if you want details on my evaluation).
  4. It’s very hard for an independent author to get a review in a major newspaper. Again they tend to focus on their long-established links with traditional publishers.

So How Can I Help an Independent Author?

  1. Make reading independent authors a regular part of your reading diet. Use the internet to find books that interest you. Follow reading sites such as Goodreads.com and identify books from their huge database that are interesting to you.
  2. When you find a good book by an independent author, write them a review. As an author, I think I have to write a well-thought out, detailed review, and so I write very few of them. As I write this, I think I’m changing my mind. Certainly the long review is best, but perhaps a quick one or two line review is also good—better than saying nothing. Authors often don’t like to ask for reviews (even though they wished they received from people who laud their books) because asking defeats the purpose of an independent review.
  3. Help independent authors with social media: “like” their Facebook pages, retweet their book announcements, let your friends know when you like a book.
  4. Give an indie book that you like as a gift to someone else.
  5. Take the time to add an indie book that you like to a genre lists such as those found on Goodreads. Even two or three votes identifying a work as a valued book in a genre can make a big difference.

I belong to a couple of indie authors groups on Goodreads. In reading their comments, I think many feel like the green heron sitting alone in the marsh in the cover photograph. One often receives excellent feedback from readers on one’s writing, but one misses the little things such as reviews, posted ratings, and genre listings that can go a long way to helping a good creation become recognized. Let me know what you think. Why not fill out the poll below?

Review of Robert Jordan’s CROSSROADS OF TWILIGHT, Book 10 of THE WHEEL OF TIME Series

You can tell I like a book when I read it over and over again. Here is my review in Goodreads.

Crossroads of Twilight (Wheel of Time, #10)Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I like long books that keep me engaged. Keeping my interest in volume 10 of the Wheel of Time series is a tribute to Robert Jordan’s skill as a writer. In this volume, the main characters are separated in their journeys and each face their unique challenges. Each one continues to grow and develop. Jordan introduces developments and new plot twists which are different enough to keep my interest.

Although I don’t find the world view inherent in Jordan’s work quite as satisfying as Tolkien’s, still it’s an imaginative world where I want to spend my time. There is much beauty and there is a wholesomeness in Two Rivers folk that reminds me of the nobility in Tolkien’s protagonists (and to my mind this nobility is absent in Game of Thrones).

If you like long books, with an exciting, everchanging plot, excellent character development, in a world brimming with beauty, goodness, danger, and evil—this is a book series you will likely enjoy and read over and over again as I do. Crossroads of Twilight is an excellent member of this series and continues to delight.

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On Re-reading Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy

FoundationI enjoy re-reading books. As a rule of thumb, after reading a new book, I’ll go back to revisit one I’ve read before. Recently I had a chance to re-read Isaac Asimov’s classic Science Fiction trilogy Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation.

I have been reading these books since high school. Although the books haven’t changed, I have and so has society around me and this observation is really behind today’s commentary on the series.

In the trilogy, Asimov imagines Homo Sapiens spread throughout the Milky Way galaxy participating in a galaxy-wide empire run by Trantor. This empire has existed for 16,000 years and is thought to last forever. The new science of psychohistory is able to predict the inevitable actions of large groups of people (an interesting metaphor for some theological reconciliations of predestination and free will) and Hari Seldon, the originator of psychohistory, predicts anarchy as the empire inexorably disintegrates. Seldon plans to mitigate the interregnum from 30,000 years of anarchy to 1000 years. That sets the stage for the formation of the Foundation at the fringe of the galaxy. You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens.

What interested me in this reading was a simple statement that came about in the dialogue between Sermak and Bort who were discussing Salvor Hardin’s (Mayor of Terminus, the Foundation home world) use of a technology-based  religion to control neighboring worlds (Bort and Sermak are dissidents). Bort is asked what kind of religion is it? He says (p95, first Avon printing):

[Sermak] “But what kind of religion is it Bort?”

Bort considered. “Ethically it’s fine. It scarcely varies from the various philosophies of the old Empire. High moral standards and all that. There’s nothing to complain about from that viewpoint. Religion is one of the great civilizing influences of history [italics mine] and in that respect, it’s fulfilling—”

When I read that statement “Religion is one of the great civilizing influences of history” written by Asimov in 1951, I wondered how we as a society have moved from “great civilizing influences of history” to the twenty first century mantra that “religion ruins everything?” After all our history hasn’t changed and the actual facts of church history known today are substantially the same as those Asimov’s considered in 1951.

As I thought about this, I realized our perspective has changed because the reporting on religious history, particularly the history of the Christian Church has changed. In Asimov’s time, as in ours, there were many aspects of the history that were positive, and others that were terrible. What has changed? Where we focus our camera and where we place our microphone as we report on the past has changed.

McRae BookLet me illustrate my analysis with an example from the Prologue of the well-referenced book,  A Book to Die For by William J. McRae.

William Tyndale was burned at the stake (after being strangled) at the age of 42 on October 6, 1536 in Vilvoorde, near Brussels. His crime? Translating the Bible into English so that people could read the scriptures for themselves.

Tyndale’s execution (according to Foxe) was witnessed by the attorney and doctors of Louvain who then moved off to complete their day.

So what’s my point? One’s perspective on this story depends on where you point the camera and hold the microphone. I think in 1951, the camera and the microphone were pointed at William Tyndale, who’s love for freedom and the truth motivated him to risk and lose his life in a translation project that would give others the chance to read the Bible for themselves—an example of religion’s civilizing influence.

What about today? We point the camera and microphone at the religious power brokers—the attorney and the doctors who set up the execution. But that’s the difficulty. History is a mixture of power, politics, noble aspirations, courage, conviction, and tragedy. The message we receive from history depends on where we point the camera and how we use the images. Curiously today, we have a secular perspective that completely dissociates itself from any of these historical actions because they are presumed to be religiously (and not politically) motivated and from our modern perspective, thankfully we’re through our religious phase. The net result is a general villainization of religion in our culture.

An accurate reading of history compels a much more balanced view, a view that does not assume that modern secularists don’t have their own injustices that they foist on their own political and ideological opponents, particularly the religious. History, if we read it properly, will help us to avoid acts of injustice on our part, not just inflict them on a new target group.

To me this is one of the reasons for re-reading older books—it let’s me see the world through the eyes of someone from a different culture than my own, and lets me discover some of the assumptions that make up my own perspective.

Thanks for reading,

Peter

My Second Book QUESTIONING YOUR WAY TO FAITH was Reviewed by Author Bonnie Beldan-Thomson in FAITH TODAY

Kazmaier-questioning your way to faith front cover (1)

Author Bonnie Beldan-Thomson has reviewed my second book in the magazine Faith Today. Why not check out the link below.

http://digital.faithtoday.ca/faithtoday/20140102#pg72

I’d love to hear your comments on the review or the book.

Thanks for reading,

Peter Kazmaier