#BookReview: A Small Farm Future by Chris Smaje

Wildly … Imaginative… Reasoning, Close Yet Still Incorrect Conclusion. Most any math teacher (even former ones like myself) have stories of situations where when told to “show their work”, a student somehow has so-incorrect-as-to-nearly-be-incomprehensible reasoning, but somehow still manages to wind up at an answer that is close but still not quite correct. Maybe a decimal point in the wrong position, but the right actual digits in the right sequence, for example. Another example relevant here would be a space mission to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa that somehow launches when Jupiter is at its furthest point from Earth and launches away from Jupiter (or any reasonable path to the planet) to boot… and yet still manages to wind up on Callisto – another of the Galilean Moons of Jupiter with similar properties, though not the originally intended target and not as rich in desired attributes for the science aboard the mission.

This is effectively what Smaje has done here. More conservative readers may not make it even halfway into the first chapter, which is little more than a *very* thinly veiled anti-capitalist diatribe. Even more liberal/ progressive readers will have some tough pills to swallow with Smaje’s ardent defense of at least some forms of private property as the chief means of achieving his goals. And at the end, Smaje does in fact manage to do at least some version of what he sets out to do – make some level of a case for A Small Farm Future. The case Smaje makes here is indeed intriguing, despite being so deeply flawed, and absolutely worthy of further examination and discussion. It seems that he is simply too blinded by his own political and philosophical backgrounds to truly make the case as it arguably should have been made. Recommended.

This review of A Small Farm Future by Chris Smaje was originally written on August 26, 2020.

#BookReview: The Cul-de-Sac War by Melissa Ferguson

Freaking Hilarious. For me, this book was the first in a while that had me literally laughing out loud and seemingly nearly literally laughing my tail off. And since it marked book 148 on the year (and thus somewhere north of 500 during the current US Presidency)… yeah, that’s saying something. 😀 Probably not “Christian” enough for the “Christian Fiction” crowd, so attempting to market that direction is probably a misnomer. But for the “clean”/ “sweet” romance crowd, yeah, this will work. I could have done without a particular element of the epilogue. (Seriously, why do so many romances have to go *there*? I’d rather see explicit, hyper-kinky sex on page than *that*.) But beyond that particular quibble (which is probably about as common as my childfree married male in his late 30s status – which is, not very at all), this really was a fun book and a perfect rebound from the hyper-darkness of the book I read before it. Which also makes it a great rebound for whatever you may be feeling when this releases one week after the current US Presidential Election. And yes, that means this is an ARC read, with all that that entails. In the end, truly funny and fun, and very much recommended.

This review of The Cul-de-Sac War by Melissa Ferguson was originally written on August 25, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Annihilation Protocol by Michael Laurence

This week we’re looking at an intense thriller with an interesting potential pivot point to a young series. This week, we’re looking at The Annihilation Protocol by Michael Laurence.

If you’re looking for a James Rollins / Matthew Reilly / Jeremy Robinson level balls to the wall, barely have time to breathe thriller… you’ve found one. Here, Laurence uses chemical weapons so creatively at times that it is truly hard to imagine him not drawing the attention of various US Federal agencies in real life. He also manages to incorporate one particular WWII era group very effectively into the backstory of this tale, to horrific portent in the actual tale itself.

More importantly for the overall direction of the series, Laurence manages to skillfully introduce what could very well be a key pivot point for the series. While the initial premise of a secret group working to eliminate a large portion of humanity is what drew me into this series and is where I hope the series is allowed to continue to go, to do that effectively the series needs to travel to areas it has yet to go even by the end of this tale. But going *there* could be a bit more problematic than some would like, and so, pivot points are introduced. Let me be as clear as the purest crystal though: I want this series to go in a direction where the bad guys truly try to kill off a large portion of humanity – Thanos level at *minimum* – and the good guys at least attempt to stop them. Those stories don’t get told often enough with the truly global scale they truly need to be effective, and this series even by the end of this tale still hold promise that it could go there and be phenomenal.

But the pivot introduced in this tale is very nearly as interesting, and could in fact be a nice little wrinkle in the overall “extinction threat” genre. Indeed, it could even serve as a way to have a somewhat definitive endpoint similar to the initial target of eliminating or saving humanity, and because of this could serve to help keep the action taut and furious. While I would be a bit disappointed if this option is pursued over the extinction threat, Laurence shows here that this would be but a quibble and that he is more than capable of delivering on a superb tale in that direction as well.

In the end, I’m hooked on this series and I’m gonna follow it as long as Laurence keeps writing them, no matter where he eventually takes it. I hope you’ll join me on the ride. 😀

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#BookReview: The Janus Point by Julian Barbour

Intriguing Theoretical Astrophysics. If it wasn’t clear from the description of this book, this book is *all about* theoretical astrophysics and the author’s new theory of the origins and nature of time. If words like Newtonian and General Relativity and Leibniz and thermodynamics are part of your every day lexicon, you’ll probably enjoy reading this. For the rest of us… at least there isn’t much math involved in the actual text here? Specifically of the Calculus variety, which gives even many math-oriented people the heebie jeebies? Truly an intriguing work, but I’ll be the first to say that I didn’t fully follow or comprehend all of it – it is simply that high level. Even though Barbour tries to use narrative examples and structures designed to allow most anyone to have some idea of what is going on, at the end of the day this is still advanced theoretical astrophysics, of the kind that even Stephen Hawking wrestled with. While others more learned in the actual science may find fault here, for what it is I could find none. Very much recommended.

This review of The Janus Point by Julian Barbour was originally written on August 19, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Blood Victory by Christopher Rice

This week we’re looking at the most intense book yet in a series of a super-soldier who hunts down serial killers. This week, we’re looking at Blood Victory by Christopher Rice.

Unfortunately I’m facing a form of “writer’s block” these days that is barely allowing me to write a Goodreads level review, so that is all I have to offer this week.

Visceral. That is probably the singular best word I can think of to describe this book.

Once again, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK WITHOUT READING BONE MUSIC AND BLOOD ECHO FIRST. They are absolutely serial (see what I did there?) and build on each other – you can follow along with the story here easily enough without reading those two first, but major revelations from each are openly discussed here and will thus be major spoilers.

That dispensed with, back to “visceral”. I gotta admit, my sense of dread of what Charley is encountering in this book made me walk away from it at several points. I knew I was always coming back, because this was an ARC, but I had to take a break because the dread was just too much. Fortunately Rice resolves those issues rather quickly in most cases, instead spending time seemingly trying to build up just such a level of dread before releasing the tension and moving on. In the back half of the book, we get much more exposition of the motivations of the killers of this mission, and one of the more grisly uses of Charley’s super strength we’ve seen so far.

All told an excellent addition to the series, and one that leaves the reader ready for the next book. Very much recommended.

#BookReview: Blood Echo by Christopher Rice

Burning Girl! Decepticon Toaster! I’m going to start this review with a warning I saw in another: If you have not yet read Bone Music, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. But you should *absolutely* read Bone Music… and then you’ll be desperate to get this book in your hands immediately. 😀 (Also, if you haven’t read Bone Music yet… stop reading this review now and go read it. 🙂 )

Arguably one of the only maybe weaknesses of Bone Music is that Burning Girl… didn’t. Here, we get Burning Girl burning early enough in the tale that you almost have to know it is going to happen again somehow… and Rice doesn’t disappoint.

Along the way we also get a reference to one of those jokes that *always* makes me laugh: “My wife asked me why I carry a gun in the house. I looked at her and said “Decepticons”. She laughed. I laughed. The toaster laughed. I shot the toaster. It was a good day.”

Ultimately this continues the excellent work Rice began in Bone Music of creating a compelling Limitless-type superhero but focusing on the various interpersonal relationships at least as much as the superpowers/ action, and is very much recommended.

This review of Blood Echo by Christopher Rice was originally written on August 15, 2020.

#BookReview: After Evangelicalism by David P. Gushee

Liberal (Maybe Even Post-Christian?) Baptist Faith And Message. The Southern Baptist Convention‘s Baptist Faith and Message is the doctrinal screed for the group, listing various points of beliefs with proof-texted “reference verses” claiming to provide “evidence” that this belief is grounded in their view of the Bible. As someone who was a Southern Baptist for the first couple decades of my life, it is a document I’m pretty familiar with. Here, Gushee effectively recreates it for the more anti-white-male crowd, arguing (correctly) against prosperity theology while openly embracing humanist and liberation theology. Ultimately, he makes enough solid points to be worthy of discussion, but due to the constant proof-texting (a flaw in many similar works, and one that in my own personal war against is an automatic one star deduction in my reviews) and near-constant near straw man level attacks against more conservative theologies is to be read with a healthy amount of skepticism. That noted, as I generally try to do with such texts, I’m trying to be a bit balanced here. A much more conservative reader will probably find much more to attack in this text, and a much more liberal reader will probably find much more to love. Overall a solid work of its type, and recommended for any interested in such discussions.

This review of After Evangelicalism by David P. Gushee was originally written on August 13, 2020.

#BookReview: Mill Town by Kerri Arsenault

MEmoir/ History / Political Treatise… all in one package. I’ll be honest, I picked up this book thinking it would be a bit closer to my own history of being in and around a mill town. In my case, the actual mill town was, by my time – roughly when Arsenault was graduating HS – , just a neighborhood of a larger County seat town it was founded just outside of around the same time as the mill Arsenault writes about. I know what it is like to live in such an area and have the mill be such an important aspect of your life, and I was expecting a bit more of an examination of that side of life. Which is NOT what we get here. Instead, we get much more of the specific familial and mill history of Arsenault and this particular mill and its alleged past and current environmental misdeeds. We even get a screed against Nestle along the way, and even a few notes of misandrist feminism. Also quite a bit of heaping of anti-capitalist diatribe, all tied up in Arsenault’s own complicated emotions of being someone who cares about her home town, but who it was never enough for. (The exact dichotomy I was hoping would have been explored directly far more than it actually was, fwiw, as that is exactly what I struggle with myself.) Overall, your mileage may vary on this book depending on just how ardent you are in your own political beliefs and just how much they coincide with Arsenault’s own, but there was nothing here to really hang a reason on for detracting from the star level of the review, and hence it gets the full 5* even as I disagreed with so much of it and was so heavily disappointed that it didn’t go the direction I had hoped. Recommended.

This review of Mill Town by Kerri Arsenault was originally written on August 11, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: The Last To Know by Jo Furniss

This week we’re looking at a great book about the destructive power of secrets. This week we’re looking at The Last To Know by Jo Furniss.

Unfortunately I’m facing a form of “writer’s block” these days that is barely allowing me to write a Goodreads level review, so that is all I have to offer this week.

Secrets Have Consequences. When you’re the last person to know a secret, the community around the secret has a way of feeling a bit dense. When you think you know the secret, but there are even deeper secrets behind the secret, you can find yourself wondering “what if”. This was a strong look at these ideas, and felt a bit similar at times to Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs’ Still Life With Crows, or at least that was the connection my Autistic mind made somehow. Truly a great book, and very much recommended.

#BookReview: The Day I Disappeared by Brandi Reeds

Full Of Surprises. I normally pride myself in picking up on things somewhat early. On this one, I didn’t actually know what was happening until the final reveal. Lots going on here, but all written and revealed in a compelling fashion. Pretty dark, involving serial kidnappings, many with murders. But truly compelling reading, there is never really a sense of “I can put this thing down for good now” until the last word is read and you’re forced to put it down for good. Very much recommended.

This review of The Day I Disappeared by Brandi Reeds was originally written on August 8, 2020.