Cover image of the soon to be published book “To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity.”
I’m in the process of reading for review the Superversive Press anthology To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity. I plan on writing both an Amazon review and a much more detailed one on this blog when I finish.
But I can’t wait. I’m going to create a wee preview highlighting one of the short stories enshrined therein.
But first things first. Why an anthology about “celebrating masculinity” when so much of what has been traditionally defined as masculine (for good or for ill) has been deemed toxic, not the least of which by third wave feminists and progressives?
Here’s an answer I found in the descriptive “blurb” for the book on Amazon:
Tired of stories about men as bumbling idiots? Of fathers as incompetents? Of masculinity as “toxic”? Tired of misandry? Ready for some real masculine role models? Stories about heroes and men who do the right thing? Stories about real men? The kind that provide for their families, love their wives and children, and make sacrifices. And save the world. A collection of seventeen stories and two essays, To Be Men: Stories Celebrating Masculinity pays homage to men and masculinity. Fun. Action-packed. Thought-provoking. Whatever your tastes, you will find enjoyment in these pages.
In other words, as I wrote about here almost a year ago, Not All #menaretrash.
Cover art for Alastair Reynolds’ book ‘Galactic North.”
A friend of mine loaned me his copy of this book because we share similar tastes in reading and I must say I found it well-written and compelling. Galactic North is a collection of eight short stories all set in the same “universe” and spanning centuries.
They involve different variations of the human race, and how they cooperate and compete with each other across the ages and light years. It’s space opera at its finest including plausible “space pirates.”
Author Alastair Reynolds has a Ph.D in Astronomy and was previously employed as an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency, so he definitely possesses the qualifications for writing “hard science fiction.”
Interestingly enough, in addition to realistically portrayed interstellar travel, suspended animation, and human cybernetic hive minds, he focuses quite a bit on the medical adaptations to human beings, from the hyper-cerebral Conjoiners, to the terrifying Denizens.
The only thing that put me off a bit were the instances of what I call “medical atrocities,” that is, how some of the people in the stories end up horribly altered and mutilated, but that’s more a problem with my squeamishness than Reynolds’ writing.
As I understand it, Reynolds has written a number of other short stories and novels in the “Revelation Space” series, comparable to Larry Niven’s “Known Space” series. I have no problem giving “Galactic North” a solid five stars on Amazon, which I will be doing in just a bit.
Since I’ve been toying with writing a few steampunk stories of my own, I decided I should get a better feel for the genre. To that end, I searched my local library system for what would be considered a definitive collection of such tales. At the top of the list was Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant.
I didn’t know what to expect, so I dived in. Well, that’s not true. I did look up several definitions of “steampunk” online, but then while reading, I started wondering if I hadn’t gotten my wires crossed.
While the stories did seem to either take place in the late 19th century or otherwise use steam and gear related technology, most of the missives didn’t seem to capture “steampunkness.”
Raising Lazarus by Aidan Reid
I just finished reading Aidan Reid’s novel Raising Lazarus and I must say I am impressed. I’ve read other works of his including “Sigil”, “Pathfinders”, and his short story “Spectrum”, and I think “Raising Lazarus” is his best authoring effort to date.
There will probably be a few “spoilers” in my review, so if you don’t want important plot points revealed ahead of reading “Lazarus,” stop reading this review now.
The novel follows college student Molly Walker, who, as part of writing her University thesis, interviews an incarcerated male prostitute named Lazarus. After he is released, she continues to be fascinated by him and throughout the first half of the novel, they casually pursue each other, with Lazarus slowly letting Molly into his world.
The novel moves back and forth between the present and seven years ago when Lazarus was a refuge in Syria being harbored by a Catholic Priest, giving the reader the opportunity to compare “past” Lazarus with who he presents himself as today.
Eventually, Lazarus reveals that he believes he is the Biblical Lazarus, the man who was resurrected by Christ after being dead and entombed for over three days.
Cover art for Venus Planetary Anthology
I’m delighted to be the first person (on Amazon) to review the Planetary Anthology: Venus. I’ve been aware of the Superversive SF movement and their publications for a few years now, but this is the first opportunity I’ve had to review any of their works apart from God, Robot.
Each anthology in the series takes the theme of a particular planet or other major body in our solar system and asks contributors to create a short story on that theme. In this case, it can be about the planet Venus, but it can also be about the mythological goddess, or even on the wider topic of love and romance (with or without the SciFi/Fantasy elements).
One of the motivations for reading an anthology is to become exposed to a wider variety of authors (twenty in the case of “Venus”) and then decide which ones you like well enough to read more of their works.
I downloaded “Venus” onto my Kindle Fire and spent a few weeks of lunch hours reading stories and taking notes.
Promotional image for Hulu’s television series “The Handmaid’s Tale
I just finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and I can tell you it’s not a book you review without doing a bit of research. Of course I knew that going in.
I’ve been peripherally aware of both Atwood’s novel and the television series on Hulu but didn’t give either much attention. Then I read a few stories about this year’s Women’s March and noticed in the news photos amid women dressed in vagina hats and full-body vagina costumes, there were groups who wore the red and white wardrobe of the handmaids (I assume the protestors’ inspiration was more the TV series than the book but I have nothing with which to back that opinion).
Since the Women’s March largely is a protest against the administration of President Donald Trump, I became curious as to the connection (I already knew what the vagina costumes were all about).
Fortunately, my local public library system had a copy, so I reserved it and when it arrived at the designated branch, I eagerly began reading. I’m going to break down this review into sections both to make it more readable and to keep things straight in my head. It’s not that I found the book itself so complex, but there are wider social implications to consider.
A few weeks ago, I went to my local public library and checked out Andrew Breitbart’s book Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!. Actually, my wife checked it out first, but she said she couldn’t get into it. I returned it for her, then put a hold on it so I could have first crack at checking it out again on my own library card.
I can see why she had a tough time with the beginning of the book. It’s a bit of an autobiography of Breitbart’s youth growing up in the Los Angeles suburb of Brentwood. In his early life, he’s shallow and self-absorbed and the first chapters tend to drag.
But as I pressed on, I realized he wanted the reader to know about how he was as a teen and young adult so we could witness and understand his evolution into a “Tea Party Protector.”
I learned quite a lot, especially about the century-long growth of the liberal news media and university system and why they, along with the liberal entertainment industry, are so hard to refute. They seem to be the voice of our nation, defining good vs. evil, and stating that if we don’t let them program our thoughts, our words, and our actions, then we are evil, racist, sexist, homophobic, throwback neanderthals.
I know I’ve read one or more science fiction novels written by Ben Bova before, but I can’t recall which one(s). However, the cover of Transhuman, published in 2014, boasts of him being a six-time hugo award winner, so this should be a pretty good novel, right?
Turns out, all six of those awards were for Best Professional Editor when he was working at Analog, not for any of his written works, although he is certainly a prolific author.
I was interested in this tale because it involves a grandpa and his little granddaughter. Being a grandparent myself, I know I’d do anything to protect them, which is exactly what 74-year-old Luke Abramson does for his eight-year-old granddaughter Angie.
You see, Angie’s dying of an inoperable cancerous brain tumor. She’s got six months or less to live. But Luke is a cellular biologist and believes a new technique he’s developed can cure Angie’s cancer.
When I first created this blogspot and shamelessly began to promote it, a number of people commented and followed me, including 33-year old Irish thriller author Aidan J. Reid. I followed his blog back, and by the by, I saw that he had promoted his latest novel Sigil by offering the eBook on Amazon for free (but only for a limited period of time). I hadn’t read a mystery in decades and wasn’t sure how I’d experience “Sigil,” but I decided to download it onto my Kindle Fire.
The novel starts with a bang. Really, I was hooked from the first few pages on. Sigil chronicles the activities of Catholic Priest Tom Regan, who is the Parish Priest of the small town of Ballygorm.
What appears to be a tragic suicide becomes a mystery wrapped in intrigue as Father Regan, walking in the footsteps of his favorite television detective, uncovers a conspiracy not just to hide a murder, but something much more terrifying.
One step at a time, Regan unravels years of secrecy and sinister plots, revealing that the sleepy farming community of Ballygorm is anything but the idyllic rural setting it appears to be.
Kent Wayne’s “Echo: Approaching Shatter”
I just finished reading Kent Wayne’s novel Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter. I knew it ended on a cliffhanger, but I didn’t realize it would be so abrupt. It was like slamming into a brick wall at sixty miles an hour.
I’ve been reading it on my Kindle Fire and the thing said I’d finished something like 86% of the book. When I swiped to turn the page at the end of a chapter, I was confronted with a message stating it was the end of the story and if I liked it, to write an Amazon review. The rest of the book is a preview of Volume 2: The Taste of Ashes.
Somewhere in the creation of my blog and writing stories, Kent Wayne took notice of some of the things I’d authored by “liking” them, and so I checked out and eventually followed his blog Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha. That’s how I became aware of his Echo series.
My understanding is that “Kent Wayne” is a pen name (Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne), and I recall reading one bio on him saying he had military experience but preferred not to give out details, making Wayne and what he did in the service a bit of a mystery. That may seem irrelevant, but I do have a point to make.
He does go more into his history on his blog’s About page, and Echo: Approaching Shatter definitely gives the impression that Wayne is mining his own professional experience.
I had a tough time getting into the novel. It’s not like I’m opposed to military based science fiction. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and Timothy Zahn’s Cobra, but that was decades ago. For about the first half of the book, I kept struggling for a handle or a hook and couldn’t find it. I didn’t know whether to even like the protagonist Atriya (and mentally, I kept pronouncing his name as “Attila”).