Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Reviews and Shameless Plugs

It being that time of year when I have to renew my library card, I’ve had my mind on books lately. So, for all you literate folks out there – and you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t – here’s a short list of my current recommendations.

First – Shameless Plug #1 – is "A Dirge For Sabis", first book in the trilogy, “The Sword of Knowledge”, available at www.amazon.com. The trilogy was an experiment by C. J. Cherryh, wherein she took a general outline of history on a fictional world, divided it into three ages, and handed each outline to a partner to make into a novel. I got the first book, about the downfall of the old Empire of Sabis and the founding of a new society. CJ wanted to keep the fantasy elements to a minimum, so the only magic that works in this fictional universe is Murphy’s Law: you can psychically well-wish or ill-wish somebody, and that’s it. All the rest is science and politics. Being the jolly Anarchist that I am, I centered the story on a group of scientists (and their families) struggling to hold off downfall and chaos with a new invention: a simple black-powder cannon. The chief conflict of the story is their struggle to save something of their collapsing society despite the obstacles of medieval politics. It’s a jolly good read, if I say so myself.

Shameless Plug #2, likewise available at Amazon.com, is my collection of true funny stories: "Offensive As Hell: The Joys of Jesus-Freak Bagging". The title pretty much says it all, and I want to thank again all the folks who told me their pet tales. Here you’ll find stories of lucky accidents with pythons, calculated nudity, fortunate storms and inspired comebacks. It can be read purely for laughs, or as a handy tool-book. Listed under “humor”, this garnered a lot of reviews at Amazon, all of them merrily positive. It’s a small book, but I’ve heard enough such stories since that, if I ever do a second edition, it’ll be a good bit thicker.

Now for other people’s stuff.

"Verasheyan", by J. Trout (it was that name which made me stop and look), from Phaze Books (www.phaze.com), is something uniquely weird. It’s a Science Fiction/BDSM/erotic Romance, which isn’t something one encounters every day. The plot is simple enough: future cops capture a beautiful hermaphroditic alien who, as bodyguard to an interstellar crook, knows all his/her boss’s secrets. To wring the information out of the alien, the commander hands him/her over to a BDSM expert, Master Zane, and his assistant Nell. The experts succeed in getting the info, in a series of blisteringly erotic scenes, but Nell falls for the alien, and Master Zane plots to keep custody of him/her as a toy for Nell. Part of the deal involves taking on the police commander as a student, and his subsequent training – neatly paralleling the developing relationship between the Alien and Nell – involves some eye-opening revelations about the BDSM phenomenon. This is either the hottest textbook or the most informative bit of porno that I’ve ever encountered.

"The God Delusion", by Richard Dawkins, is guaranteed to PO fundamentalists of any stripe. Dawkins’ style alternates between the picky pedantic philosophizing of an Oxford don – which isn’t surprising, seeing that he *is* an Oxford don – and the incisive clarity of an investigative reporter. If he had just stopped with giving a good logical argument as to why the traditional Old Testament (or Koran) god can’t exist, this book would be a fairly fast and entertaining read. The problem is that he then goes on to insist, on no evidence or logic whatever, that if “God” can’t exist then no other energy-being, or souls, or psychic phenomena can exist either. This tends to make Atheism seem as bigoted as Pat Robertson’s brand of Christianity. Still, this book delineates the current Atheist position very neatly; it’s something that any thinking person should sharpen their wits on. It just might inspire some good Fantasy and Science Fiction stories.

That’s all for now, folks. Anybody wanting to post short reviews/plugs of other books here, feel free. Enjoy!


--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

16 comments:

Aya Katz said...

Leslie, I don't know if this counts, but I have a children's picture book in verse called "In Case There's a Fox" coming out with CreateSpace, and it will be available through Amazon in early November. It's my first CS book, and I'm just testing the water. If things go well, then other more ambitious projects will follow.

Leslie Fish said...

Hey, send me a copy and I'll review it, gladly.

--Leslie <;)))><

Aya Katz said...

Wow! That would be so great! My third proof has shipped and I expect to receive it by Monday. If all is well with it, then I could approve for publication next week, and you'll be the first to receive a review copy!

ravenclaw-eric said...

If you want real shrill Atheism, look up Madalyn Murray O'Hair's books. I found Dawson's book quite moderate and readable.

Ori Pomerantz said...

I'm not sure if you'd be interested, but I wrote a book about the book of Judges. I wrote it for 9-12 year old Judeo-Christian kids, partially to teach them history and partially to teach them to thing critically.

Aya Katz said...

Ori, I'm not sure that I entirely agree with the way you handle Yephtach's daughter.

Instead of saying that Yepthach and his daughter were wrong, you could just explain that in that culture human sacrifice was legal, and that was why the book of Judges doesn't condemn the sacrifice, and doesn't say that Jehovah got mad at them for doing this. You can then allow your readers to draw their own conclusions about whether they would like to join the cult of Jehovah.

Aya Katz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Ori! Yes, I read your book, and it's very good. It's a fast and easy read, and those side-bars have a lot of useful historical detail. That map was especially useful. It's sobering to realize that so much history happened in a land smaller than northern New Jersey!

A few technical quibbles: first, the Canaanites didn't worship "statues that they pretended were gods"; they worshiped statues that they thought gods lived in. They weren't pretending; they really believed it. Second, "yes-men" and "bully-boys" are hyphenated. Third, the story keeps skipping back and forth from past tense to present tense; you really should keep everything in past tense.

Make those few changes, and go looking for an agent. This really ought to be printed by a hard-cover publisher. Nice job, Ori!

--Leslie <;)))><

Ori Pomerantz said...

Aya: Instead of saying that Yepthach and his daughter were wrong, you could just explain that in that culture human sacrifice was legal, and that was why the book of Judges doesn't condemn the sacrifice, and doesn't say that Jehovah got mad at them for doing this. You can then allow your readers to draw their own conclusions about whether they would like to join the cult of Jehovah.

Ori: It doesn't say it in the book of Judges, but other portions of the Tanach(1) do condemn child sacrifice, as does the Midrash on this story.

In addition, who do you think will read this book? Is there any point in writing it if I'm going to alienate the Christians and Jews that will be the target market?

(1) Tanach is the term we Jews use for what the Protestants call the Old Testament (a subset of the Catholic Old Testament).

Ori Pomerantz said...

Leslie, thank you :blush:. I'll fix it based on your comments. Do you know any literary agents? From what I read, most of them tend not to accept slush submissions either.

Aya Katz said...

Ori, sorry. I didn't realize your target market was Christians and Jews. I was thinking it was pagan children who have to be exposed to this very important book and need to know what it really means.

If it had been written for pagan children, then the explanation should go something like this: the book of Judges was written from the point of view of the priests of Jehovah, but it covered a real historical period. That's why even when things that were unflattering to Jehovah happened, they still had to be reported, albeit from that particular point of view, because there were other contemporary accounts of the same events.

As for worshiping idols, like all pagans, the Canaanites believed in multiple gods that happened to be depicted in statues. They didn't think the statue was the god or that his spirit dwelt exclusively in the statue, any more than Catholics think that a statue of the Virgin Mary is really a goddess.

The Old Testament condemns human sacrifice to gods other than Jehovah. For that matter, it condemns any sacrifice made to another god.

So, you're just using the book of Judges to explain Anarchy to Christians and Jews? But you're avoiding any theological discussion? I'll have to re-read with that in mind.

ravenclaw-eric said...

As far as I can tell, cultures that were "idolatrous" didn't think the cult statues were gods, or that the gods were necessarily in them. It's more like the US flag...it isn't the US, but showing it disrespect is a highly unwise move in many ways.

Leslie and I are both in the SCA (I'm not currently very active due to where I live) and if we were both at an event, and I found her throwing rocks and mud at a copy of my SCA "device" (coat of arms)...well, let's just say that I'd begin to wonder if our friendship was as firm as I'd thought. Even though my device looks nothing at all like me, and I'm not being physically hurt.

Ori Pomerantz said...

Aya: So, you're just using the book of Judges to explain Anarchy to Christians and Jews? But you're avoiding any theological discussion?

Ori: I try to avoid theology, and teach history and critical thinking, preferably without alienating too much of the audience.

I'll need to think about how to explain Cna'anite paganism better.

Leslie Fish said...

Is anybody interested in the other books? *Sniffle*

Aya: Yes, I published "Offensive As Hell" with BookSurge, which was later merged with CreateSpace. I think they did quite a fair job with my book.

Ori: There's a website -- www.aar.org (I think!) -- that links to the Association of Authors' Representatives. They list hundreds of agents there, some that take electronic submissions, some that don't. I haven't gotten any nibbles there, but I'm peddling fiction. See what you can find. Good luck!

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Aya Katz said...

Leslie, I ordered "Offensive as Hell" with one click this morning. I did this after looking inside the book on Amazon and reading your intro. I look forward to reading the rest!

ravenclaw-eric said...

Oh, I liked _A Dirge for Sabis,_ but lost my copy some years ago and my memories are a tad vague.

I also found a series of YA novels you might like from Australia: The "Tomorrow" series. Basically, the story begins when some kids come back to their rural Australian homes from a week's campout in the bush to find that the country's been invaded. The invaders intend to take Australia over; the Aussies have been rounded up. The kids fight back.