The best conspiracy theories contain an element of truth, and the best novels containing conspiracies do as well. Such is the case with Ryan Steck’s Fields of Fire, the debut novel from the founder of The Real Book Spy, one of the Web’s go-to resources for thriller lovers.
Matthew Redd is doing not only what he loves, but something he is good at as well: being a Marine Raider, part of the tip of the spear that is America’s special operations forces. With nods to the characters of Vince Flynn, Lee Child, Brad Taylor, and others, Redd is a hard-charging Marine with a heart of gold, both thanks to his adoptive father, J.B. But while gearing up for the takedown mission of a scientist-terrorist, Redd is deceived by the person he helps out on the side of the road, and the result is his being disgracefully drummed out of his beloved Corps. To make matters worse, he emerges from the stockade to find out J.B. has died.
Redd sets off to his home in Montana, to the small town and open spaces he hasn’t been around in for close to a decade. He finds himself at odds with his neighbor, the son of a BigTech billionaire, learns his high school sweetheart has returned, and can’t square the messages he’s getting about J.B.’s death with the man himself. Not getting any help from local law enforcement, Redd sets out to get answers using the skills taught to him by J.B. and the Marine Corps.
Ryan Steck enters an already crowded thriller field, but brings something fresh and new in the story of Matty Redd. As not only a lover of the thriller genre, but a student, Steck has learned his lessons well and crafted a solid debut. Incorporating bits of real life, such as the Georgia Guidestones and Bill Gates buying up farmland, albeit in this case his fictitious tech billionaire being the buyer, Steck weaves a conspiracy of global proportions into the rough-and-tumble locale of Big Sky life in Montana.
Steck signed a two-book deal with his publisher, and the next novel is easily but convincingly set up at the conclusion of this one. As an adoptive father myself, I could feel J.B.’s pain and pride as Redd recounted lessons his dad had taught him. I also enjoyed the carefully-laid plot twist. If you are a lover of the thriller genre, this is a great read to add to your library.
4/5 phins, a solid debut
Amazon: Kindle, Hardcover
Barnes & Noble: Hardcover
Today’s @halfpricebooks find: large paperback edition of @wardlarsen’s first David Slaton book. Perfect for the re-read I have planned. (It’s been a long while.)
I have done something similar, with authors I know on Twitter, or have met in person. Given his productivity, @robkroese pretty much has his own shelf. twitter.com/David_JWe…
At long last, my review of @TheJasonAnspach and @RealNickCole’s Forgotten Ruin: https://www.retrophisch.net/2022/07/26/retrophisch-review-forgotten.html
tl;dr: Do you like fantasy/D&D/Tolkien? Do you like military thrillers? If so, buy this, you won’t regret it.
Let’s be clear about one thing right up front: I fully admit I am not an impartial reviewer of this book. Please allow me to explain.
My interests when it comes to reading fiction, like many, took a meandering path through my formative years. Thanks to Star Wars—yes, that was the name of the movie when it came out, none of this retcon naming nonsense—on the big screen when I was six, science fiction was an early staple of my childhood reading. When I was in seventh grade, I came down with chicken pox. Looking forward to a couple of weeks home from school, I sat in the car while my mother went into the school to talk with the front office about getting assignments from my teachers. Then, and God bless her for this amongst so much more, Mom went down the hall to the library, to get me a couple of books. After a discussion with the librarian about what I liked, she came back out with a set of books that changed my life in many ways: Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings.
When I was 15, my dad brought home a paperback from a debut novelist: Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October. Like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings before it, this was another pivotal moment in expanding my reading horizon. These three still remain to this day: science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers. Oh, and did I mention that thanks to Tolkien and being at a middle school full of other nerds, I started playing Dungeons & Dragons? Well now I have.
So when a novel comes along that combines two of these elements, the military thriller, with fantasy/D&D, and does so very, very well, it is a no-brainer that I am going to love it. And such is the case with Forgotten Ruin.
Take a crack Army unit, throw them a few thousand years into our future, into a Europe disfigured and rearranged by a cataclysmic event which led to the very rearranging of DNA amongst the populace, so that races previously thought of as only fantasy, elves and orcs, are now a reality, and have these Rangers deal with it. Authors Jason Anspach and Nick Cole bill it as “Tolkien meets Shock and Awe.” They have crafted a real gem from a firecracker of an idea, and the execution is flawless from start to finish.
The story is told through Talker, a Ranger-come-lately. Talker is called Talker by the other Rangers because he’s a translator, speaks lots of languages, and not knowing exactly what situation the spec ops units being sent forward in time might encounter, the higher-ups figured it might be good to have some folks attached who can help out in case our heroes end up in a non-English-speaking realm. What the higher-ups don’t account for, as we learn from Talker, is just how far in the future they end up.
Ever wonder what the Battle of Helm’s Deep might have been like if Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Théoden, and the Rohirrim had machine guns to use against Saruman’s horde? You’ll get a taste of that and more in Forgotten Ruin. And what about the other units that went through, what happened to them? Talker and his Ranger buddies learn some lessons about them the hard way and seek not to repeat others.
The world Anspach and Cole have created, that of a modern military unit being cast into a medieval-style past/future/alternate reality, is nothing new under the sun, but their choices and execution of same render this nothing short of a masterpiece in the space. Is that too gushing of a sentiment? Tough. I told you at the outset I could not be impartial with this one.
Simply put: if you love military thrillers, if you love sword-and-sorcery fantasy, you will love Forgotten Ruin. Grab yourself a copy, Ranger Up with Talker and the gang, remember to Be Meaner Than It, and enjoy a great read.
Amazon: Kindle, Paperback Barnes & Noble: Paperback IndieBound: Paperback
In his debut novel, Don Bentley introduced the world to Matt Drake, a new kind of thriller hero, yet one still recognizable to fans of the genre. Without Sanction was a runaway bestseller, and I was glad to have followed the advice of so many on social media and give it a read. Drake takes the next step on his journey in the follow-up, The Outside Man.
I’ll be honest: I loved this book. In a private message exchange, I told Bentley I thought this was his Empire Strikes Back to the Star Wars of Without Sanction. The first novel sets the stage, but this one turns the volume all the way to 11 and takes Matt Drake, and his creator, to the next level.
After the events of the first book, this one opens with Matt being ambushed in broad daylight, on the streets of Austin, Texas, no less. There is a terrorist with a score to settle against Drake, backed up by professionals from the Middle East. Our hero manages to survive, but the ambush provides more questions than answers, and Drake is once again plunged into a world he thought he was desperate to leave, but finds his soul needs for him to truly be a part of. The villain we caught whispers of in Without Sanction is fully revealed here, and he is formidable. Worse, he knows exactly where to hurt Matt Drake the most.
One of the things I appreciate about Drake, and Bentley’s writing of him, is that he is fully human. He gets hurt, wounded, injured, and those have real-world consequences that affect how Matt continues his mission. Coupled with his vow to rescue an innocent from a sex-trafficking ring, and his snarky sense of humor, on more than one occasion one is left wondering, “Just how is Matt going to get out of trouble this time?“ As a thriller author, this is exactly what you want in your toolbox, to keep your readers on their toes and guessing what’s next.
Without Sanction was a firm entry into the thriller genre for Don Bentley, but The Outside Man vaults him into the band of my must-read authors, joining Daniel Silva, Mark Greaney, Lee (and now Andrew) Child, Nick Petrie, and Jack Carr. If you’re a fan of the genre, or just someone looking for a great read, The Outside Man is a must-buy.
Much has been made of the latest Jack Reacher novel, The Sentinel, due to its collaborative nature between Lee Child and his brother, Andrew Child neé Grant. After 24 Jack Reacher novels, Lee Child felt it was time to step away from the yearly grind of write, publish, promote, and begin enjoying a well-deserved retirement. However, knowing the love fans have for Reacher, Child didn’t want to simply end the series, and enlisted his brother Andrew Grant to take up the mantle. The Sentinel is the first of three planned collaborations before Andrew takes on the series solo. I discovered Jack Reacher—Child’s former Army MP now wandering vigilante—three years after the first book, Killing Floor, was published. I quickly blew through Killing Floor, Die Trying, and Tripwire, and began, like so many other readers, the annual wait for a new Jack Reacher novel to devour. While there are some notable differences with The Sentinel from prior Reacher tomes, devouring this one was no different from the rest.
Reacher takes himself to Nashville, to listen to good music, which in and of itself is a nod to Reacher’s past, as well as Lee Child’s as Reacher’s creator. The reason Reacher ends up in Margrave, Georgia in Killing Floor is he’s seeking out the home town of a blues man he likes. Reacher, being Reacher, gets involved in sticking up for the little guy in helping a local band, and finds he quickly needs to leave town. He ends up not too far away in Pleasantville, Tennessee. On the streets of the town completely by chance when a daylight abduction is attempted, Reacher thwarts the kidnapping and gets involved in a matter that runs deeper than it first appears, one with implications reaching far beyond the town itself.
There is certainly a different feel with The Sentinel from previous Reacher novels, the result of the collaboration between the brothers. Some reviewers have complained about the tone, or that there is too much expository from Reacher. I didn’t notice much of a change in that regard. As usual, there is ample opportunity for Reacher to say nothing. What stood out to me is that the novel didn’t feel as tight as previous efforts. One of the many things that has made the Reacher novels so popular is that Child’s writing style was as sparse as the main character’s wardrobe. It was a perfect marriage of style and character, and there is something of a departure from that in this latest book.
Nevertheless, I did not find it distracting to the point of losing enjoyment. Reacher is still sticking up the little guy, still mucking up the best-laid plans of those who wish ill on others, still being, well, Reacher. This was a learning process for the brothers, and I expect the next two Reacher novels will get better and better as Andrew establishes himself as the main author in taking on the sole responsibility for an annual Reacher story. While The Sentinel won’t vault into my Reacher top five, it is a solid entry in the Jack Reacher universe.
I do not recall how I first became aware of British author Mark Dawson. Given his prowess at web and email advertisements which inevitably lead one to one of his books' Amazon listing, it could very well have been via BookBub, but I do not discount other methods of discovery. However I came across Dawson's early John Milton books, I was an immediate fan. So much so, that when Mark started his beta reader program, I was in. The chance to read the next Milton book before it was released? Sign me up! Dawson has expanded his Miltonverse with the Beatrix Rose and Isabella Rose series, both of which I also recommend.
Which brings us to The Man Who Never Was, the 16th novel in the John Milton series. Milton, who frequently goes by the nom de guerre John Smith, is formerly of Her Majesty's Special Air Service, and the ultra-black and, so far as we know, entirely fictitious Group Fifteen. Tormented by the many dirty deeds he did in service to his nation, Milton drops out of the life, gets himself into AA, and now lives attempting to balance the scales. Balancing the scales is foremost in his mind in The Man Who Never Was, where we find Milton going after the drug cartel figures he feels are responsible for the death of a friend. The novel picks up a few weeks after the previous one in the series, Bright Lights. When a damsel in distress turned out to not be entirely who she seemed, it resulted in the death of Milton's friend, Beau Baxter. Now, he wants justice for his friend, and it goes beyond the man who pulled the trigger.
Starting in the night life of Amsterdam, playing the role of an up-and-coming drug distributor, Milton, with the help of a small cadre of associates, including Beau's son, infiltrates the cartel's network. He manages to wreak a little havoc and find himself face-to-face with the boss herself in the jungles of Colombia. And it's there that Milton learns things really aren't what they seem, and the tension and action ratchet up.
If you're new to the John Milton novels, I would not recommend starting with this one. Most of the time, you can pick one up and enjoy it for what it is without having read any of the previous ones, but that is certainly not the case here. To really understand Milton's motivations, some of the characters, and the full weight of the plot, you should read the prior entry in the series. In the case of The Man Who Never Was, it is a solid brick in the John Milton wall, but not a must-read like some of the others. At some points of this book, I felt like Dawson wrote it simply because he felt he had to, due to the way he'd left things at the end of Bright Lights. Nevetheless, I enjoyed it, and cannot wait for the next John Milton adventure.
The third book featuring Jack Carr's protagonist James Reece is indeed his best yet. It's a must-read for anyone who is a fan of the thriller genre.
After the events of The Terminal List and True Believer, Reece finds himself Stateside, beginning to carve out a new life for himself. Taken in as a second son by the Hastings family, and being courted by the Special Operations Division of the CIA, Reece has options. He also has an agenda of his own, and his thought process is to align those with continuing in service to his nation. What he doesn't know is that he is in someone else's crosshairs, and things get wild when the hunter becomes the hunted.
Hunting is the main theme of the book, which is an homage to Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game. Carr has stated in numerous interviews that Savage Son is the book he's always wanted to write, but knew it couldn't be the first book he wrote. As with his previous novels, Carr brings his own experience as a 20-year veteran of the Navy SEALs to the text, and adds his love of the outdoors and hunting game. As he is hunted by the Russian mob and elements of Russian intelligence, Reece and his adopted family must find a way to turn the tables.
I've heard Jack speak at two book signings, and I follow him on social media. He is not shy about showering praise and gratitude on authors he feels taught him how to write books such as these: David Morrell, Daniel Silva, John Le Carré, Louis L'Amour, Truman Capote, and Nelson DeMille, to name but a few. With Savage Son, I would say Carr has clearly taken the best of what he has learned from these masters and poured it into his work. You can sense the progress as an author from The Terminal List, through True Believer, to now. This doesn't read like a third book by a relatively new author, but rather like the 10th or 12th by a seasoned pro.
There are certain authors whose books are automatic purchases for me these days: Lee Child, Daniel Silva, Mark Greaney, Nick Petrie, and Robert Kroese. Jack Carr has definitely joined that list. If you love the works of Brad Thor and Brad Taylor, you will love Jack Carr.
5/5 fins, a must-buy
Evoking plot elements from Justin Cronin’s The Passage, Scott Reardon’s The Dark Continent opens with CIA agent Karl Lyons looking for an ultra-black government project gone awry, one he had been a part of but was now on the outs with. The heavily obscured project, Prometheus, has taken a turn for the worse: on an abandoned oil rig off the coast of Alaska, scientists have begun injecting human subjects, and not just any human subjects. These are the worst of the worst: rapists, serial killers, death row inmates. Sound familiar, readers of The Passage?
Yet Reardon has his own twist on what happens to the test subjects, one that comes across as far more believable than Cronin’s vampires, but is just as terrifying. Defying the odds to escape from Chinese imprisonment, Karl joins forces with Tom Reese, the protagonist from Reardon’s first book, The Prometheus Man. I should note that I hadn’t read this first novel before diving in to The Dark Continent, but it was not an issue. Reardon gives enough backstory from the first book sprinkled throughout the second to get you up to speed and keep you engaged. After the test subjects escape, Karl and Tom must enter the heart of darkness the killers have created in middle America to take down the enhanced humans before they end life as we have become accustomed to it.
This was probably not the best choices of books to read during a pandemic and the inherent fears that go along with one, but I could not put it down. It is a “just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should” thriller that grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. From the beginning, I was deeply invested in Karl and Tom, and Kronin (a nod to Justin Cronin?) has to be one of the scariest fiction characters since Cormac McCarthy’s Chigurh. Reardon has crafted an engaging, suspenseful story that should make one think while being entertained.
4.5/5 fins, definitely recommended
I was afforded the opportunity via NetGalley to read an advanced reader copy of Steven Kotler's Last Tango in Cyberspace. It's a near-future science fiction novel in the vein of William Gibson's later works, though there are nods to Neuromancer and his earlier works, as well as references to Blade Runner throughout. I found it fun and engaging, and definitely worth the read.
I have heard of Kotler's earlier work, mostly non-fiction, such as The Rise of Superman, Stealing Fire, Tomorrowland, and others, but I have never read these before. That will likely change having finished Last Tango in Cyberspace.
Lion Zorn is a new kind of human, an empathy tracker. His skills allows him to feel the future, spotting trends before they happen. He makes a living giving companies a yes or no about the possible futures they are working on. Lion is hired by a multinational conglomerate named Arctic to help with the possible launch of a new kind of pharmaceutical, but he quickly finds himself investigating a possible murder while ducking the very latest in cutting-edge surveillance.
4/5 phins, recommended
This column originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of About This Particular Macintosh.
While I own a Kindle e-reader, I find I still do most of my electronic reading on my iPhone. Whether it’s in the Kindle app, or Barnes & Noble’s Nook app, or Apple’s own iBooks, I always have my iPhone with me, thus, I can always read an e-book, even if I left a dead-tree version, or my Kindle, at home. At any rate, I’ve noticed something about these three reading apps.
Before we get to my observation, a quick word on these apps’ respective libraries and purchasing systems: yes, you are locked in. A Kindle book cannot be read in the Nook app, nor can the Nook book be read in iBooks. And while iBooks books are based on EPUB, Nook’s are based on eReader, and Kindle books are a derivative of the Mobipocket format, all of these are wrapped in digital rights management (DRM) software which is unique to that particular app/vendor. In other words, when you buy a Kindle book, any reading of that book has to be on a Kindle device or app. Forever.
For many folks, this isn’t a problem. They have a long history ordering paper books from Amazon, or buying them at a brick-and-mortar Barnes & Noble, and they’re comfortable continuing to give that company their business. I am one of those people, and I’ve given both of those companies part of my book-buying business over the years. My problem with the whole e-book thing is that, unlike the dead-tree edition of a book, I can’t–with limited exceptions–loan it to a friend, or donate it to a library or other organization when I’m done with it. The other problem is, what if this vendor goes out of business? Or shuts down this component of their business? Sure, that doesn’t sound remotely possible with the three companies in question, but who among us would have thought, fifteen years ago, that Leahman Brothers wouldn’t exist today? Yes, they can take up a lot of physical space, and are susceptible to the elements, but a well cared-for paper-based book may just have a better of chance of making it to the second half of the century.
This is a continuing problem authors, publishers, and readers have to dance around. To not have DRM means books are more easily pirated, and authors lose out on royalties, while publishers’ costs increase. As a content creator myself, I’m fully aware of the need to protect one’s work. Yet at the same time, I’m a content consumer, and I find myself at war within, given that I’d rather have the same easy choice with e-books that I have with paper-based books.
So, to my observation: While reading a book in iBooks, I came across an interesting passage, and I have long been a note-taker. In iBooks, it was no big deal to highlight the passage, copy the text, then paste it into a plain text file on Dropbox with Notesy for future reference. Yet this simple process is not at all possible with the Kindle or Nook apps, should I find an interesting passage while reading within either of them. Oddly enough, to take notes from something I’m reading in the Kindle or Nook apps, I have to revert to the same process I would use if the book in question was paper-based: I’d touch-type the note into a relevant file while reading from the device propped up next to my iMac.
This, on the face, seems like a simple fix: the Kindle and Nook app developers need to include a copy text function. However, knowing several programmers, I know that things are often not nearly as simple as they seem. These developers may also be restricted in some way by Apple’s rules for iOS apps, who can say? Still, I’d love to see them implement this in their respective apps.
But why not just highlight the passage that’s caught your attention, you might ask. Because, so far as the Nook is concerned, this means you’re still stuck always having to flip through the e-book to find what you’ve highlighted. Amazon gets around this somewhat with the Kindle, however, by collecting your annotations. Whether you highlight, or make a note, it’s kept for you at kindle.amazon.com. From there, you can copy and paste directly from a web page, which is a reasonable alternative to doing it bit by bit on your iPhone.
The only issue with that solution on the Kindle, however, is what if you have a book you didn’t buy from Amazon? In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I downloaded a novella from an author’s blog. He had put it out as both a .mobi file for reading on a Kindle, or EPUB for apps and devices capable of that format. I can put this .mobi file on my Kindle, and highlight all I want, but those won’t be available to me at the above web site. Built-into-the-app copy abilities would help solve that. Because you never know when an interesting passage is going to come along.
Daniel Silva’s latest Gabriel Allon thriller, Portrait of a Spy, dropped today. As always, Silva is tuned in to the real goings-on of the world, where his fiction tap-dances on the edge of:
Another article of faith lay in tatters that November—the belief that Europe could absorb an endless tide of Muslim immigrants from its former colonies while preserving its culture and basic way of life. What had started as a temporary program to relieve a postwar labor shortage had now permanently altered the face of an entire continent. Restive Muslim suburbs ringed nearly every city, and several countries appeared demographically fated to Muslim majorities before the end of the century. No one in a position of power had bothered to consult the native population of Europe before throwing open the doors, and now, after years of relative passivity, the natives were beginning to push back. Denmark had imposed draconian restrictions on immigrant marriages. France had banned the wearing of the full facial veil in public. And the Swiss, who barely tolerated one another, had decided they wanted to keep their tidy little cities and towns free of unsightly minarets. The leaders of Britain and Germany had declared multiculturalism, the virtual religion of post-Christian Europe, a dead letter. No longer would the majority bend to the will of the minority, they declared. Nor would it turn a blind eye to the extremism that flourished within its midst. Europe’s age-old contest with Islam, it seemed, had entered a new and potentially dangerous phase. There were many who feared it would be an uneven fight. One side was old, tired, and largely content with itself. The other could be driven into a murderous frenzy by a doodle in a Danish newspaper.
Nowhere were the problems facing Europe on clearer display than in Clichy-sous-Bois, the volatile Arab banlieue located just outside Paris. The flashpoint for the deadly riots that swept France in 2005, the suburb had one of the country’s highest unemployment rates, along with one of the highest rates of violent crime. So dangerous was Clichy-sous-Bois that even the French police refrained from entering its seething public housing estates…
Silva’s Gabriel Allon series is one of the best in the modern thriller class, and I encourage readers of the genre to check his work out.
New Tom Clancy dropped today. Wheeee… (Taken with picplz.)
My reading queue keeps getting deeper with interesting tomes. (Taken with picplz.)
Below follows the list of books I read in 2010. Links go to the dead-tree edition (for the most part) on Amazon. You can see this list, as well as past years on the reading page. An asterisk signifies the book was read electronically, most likely on my iPhone. Beginning in May, I started noting the completion date of reading a tome. This doesn't necessarily translate into x amount of time between books being the actual amount of time it took to read a book. There are days where I'm in between books and simply haven't started a new one. Other times, I've got two books going at once (usually one in print, one on the iPhone). I just thought it would be fun to note those dates. Since I began tracking toward the end of 2007, this proved a banner year for my reading. I got through 43 books, graphic novels, and novellas in 2010, and I'm already excited about 2011. I'm currently in the middle of two books (one in print, one on the iPhone), with four more in the queue I can't wait to get to. Traditionally, I've been a heavy fiction reader, and this trend did not change in 2010. I only read five non-fiction books last year, and two of those were memoirs of a sort. What jumped out at me when reviewing the list was how heavy it was with books turned into movies. It starts with Youth in Revolt, recommended and loaned to me by Brent, then moved to Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, The Losers, The American, The Town, and True Grit. I'll admit that five of those six were a result of being prompted to read them before seeing the movie, or as a result of having seen it. This amounted to nearly one-seventh of my entire list being tied to a movie. The list is presented in reverse order, so the last book I read is at the top.
No offense to ebooks and Kindle, which have their place, but there's no substitute for a book that has an actual history, that takes up space on a shelf, that has been somewhere, strapped to the back of a bike, that was being read in a British boys' school library while Lewis was still teaching at Oxford.
Thank you, Lord, for books. Not just the words, but actual physical books you can hold in your hand and touch and smell, and ponder where they have been and what lives they may have touched.
Jamie Glazov interviews Robert Spencer for FrontPage Magazine, on Spencer's new book, The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran (Amazon link). Money quotes:
Spencer: Political correctness would have us believe that the Koran is a book of peace, and that anyone who says otherwise is "bigoted," "hateful," and "Islamophobic." But is it, really? What the Koran really says can easily be verified. If the Koran really curses Jews and Christians (9:30) and calls for warfare against them in order to bring about their subjugation (9:29), it is not "Islamophobic" to forewarn Infidels by pointing this out. It is simply a fact. And it should go without saying that it is not a fact that should move any reader of my book to hate anyone. The fact that the Koran counsels warfare against unbelievers should move readers to act in defense of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the legal equality of all people, before it is too late.
But most government and media analysts dare not even question the assumption that the Koran is peaceful, for they believe that any insinuation to the contrary is racist, bigoted, and effectively brands all Muslims as terrorists. In other words, they think the implications of the possibility that the Koran teaches warfare against unbelievers are too terrible to even contemplate. Thus, many policymakers simply assume the Koran teaches peace without bothering to study the text. They do this to their own peril -- and ours.
Tony Woodlief (yes, again):
Isaiah loves books. He loves to read them, loves it when people read them to him, loves to hit his brother Isaac upside the head with them. The boy hearts books. I hope he never stops loving them, even as the world around him transitions into a post-modern funk of hyper-links and text messages and overstimulating audio-visual mind sludge. Then one day he can visit me wherever he and his brothers have finally put me out to pasture, and maybe read to me there. Davis is getting to this point, too. At times he will decide that he's had enough playing with his Star Wars Galactic Heroes™ figures, or pretending to duel a dragon, or building with Lincoln Logs™ or LEGO™ pieces, and he'll plop down in the play room and "read". My parents instilled a deep love of reading in my sister and I when we were growing up. Weekly visits to the local library (which was about as big as the downstairs area of our current home, minus the garage) were the norm. While we're not going weekly, Kelly and I have both taken Davis to our local library (which is larger than the downstairs area of our house, including the garage), and he loves it. Davis will often ask for a second or even third book to be read before going to bed, although I suspect this is as much about staying up as late as possible as it is about loving books. I'd hoped to pass on this love of reading to both our boys, and so far, it's looking pretty good.
Taking a cue from my good friend Brent, I've been tracking what I read, and here's the list of 19 books from 2008 (in reverse chronological order):
My goal for 2009 is 26 books, one every two weeks. You can see what I'm currently reading, as well as what I read in 2007 and prior (from what I could remember reading), over on the Read page.
Glenn Beck, in the epilogue of The Christmas Sweater:
My mom gave me the sweater, but the greatest gift was given to all of us by a loving Father in Heaven. It is the only true gift ever given to all and yet opened or appreciated by so few. It is the gift of redemption and atonement, and it sits on the top shelf, largely untouched, in the closets of our soul.
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of the Christ child, but by doing so, sometimes we miss the real meaning of the season. It is what that infant, boy, and then perfect man did at the end of His ministry that makes the birth so special.
Without His death, the birth is meaningless.
Yesterday, I put to good use the Barnes & Noble gift cards I received for Christmas and my birthday. (I get at least a couple every year.) The "big" card was used online a few days before, to purchase two other items which were on my wish list: + Planet Earth - The Complete BBC Series, narrated by David Attenborough. I've wondered how many HDTV sets this series is responsible for the sales thereof. + Blade Runner (Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition) The in-store Barnes & Noble shopping resulted in: + The Shooters, by W.E.B. Griffin. The fourth in Griffin's Presidential Agent series, which I've thoroughly enjoyed to date. W.E.B. Griffin writes some of the best military fiction out there, and this current-day, antiterrorism series is no exception. + Spirit of the Wolf by Shaun Ellis and photographer Monty Sloan. Wolves are among my favorite animals, and I believe a lot can be learned from their pack behavior. (Especially when you have a dog, and therefore a pack, of your own.) Sloan's got some stunning photos in this coffee-table book, and I'm looking forward to reading Ellis's commentary. + Star Wars Jesus - A spiritual commentary on the reality of the Force by Caleb Grimes. Any book that combines the movie franchise which impacted, informed, and defined my tweener childhood (and which continues to impact and inform my son's childhood), and the Author and Finisher of my faith, well, that's just something I've got to give a whirl. I think all of my other book reading just went on hold... So my thanks to my family members who were very generous this year with the gift cards. They were well invested, I assure you.
Last night (this morning?), I finished reading I Am Legend. Well, re-reading would be more of an accurate statement. And yet... This is the I Am Legend I recall from many years before, and at the same time, it's not the I Am Legend I recall from many years before. For clarification, I have not seen The Last Man on Earth or The Omega Man, but I'm beginning to wonder if maybe I've read some homage to Matheson's original work. Here's some of what I recall, in the hopes that a reader can point me to the story I remember: (Oh, and if you haven't read I Am Legend and you plan to go see the Will Smith movie, there are some potential plot spoilers ahead, so you may want to stop reading now, since it's likely you cannot help me anyway. Thanks for stopping by, though!) + as in the book, the story I remember takes place in Los Angeles, only the Neville character is living in a house on a hill, and has an actual moat in front of the place, so deep the vampires can't cross it. I want to say he even bulldozed the dead vampire bodies in to the moat. + I recall the story mentioning the vampires having blue tattoos. + the story was obviously more recent than Matheson's, since it has the Neville character watching a video of a plague victim, the Ben Cortman character, actually becoming one of the vampire creatures. + the Neville character has a dog that goes around with him, as we've seen in the trailers of the Will Smith movie adaptation, as opposed to the dog Neville tries to befriend in the book, but which ends up attacked by the vampires. + the Neville character, while foraging/hunting in the city, is trapped by a snare attached to a light pole. He spends a lot of time trying to get free, so much so that the sun begins to set, and vampire dogs come out. The Neville character's dog defends him while he frees himself, and is mortally wounded. This also looks like it will be in the Will Smith movie, and seeing this split-second snare bit in the trailer is one of the memories that jostled me to re-read Matheson's book. + the Neville character goes to a park to wait for any survivors who might still be alive; he leaves signs tacked up all over the city with the when and where. + the Neville character discovers a female survivor, very much like Ruth in Matheson's book; except in this story, instead of hitting him with a mallet, she drugs him after learning how to turn off/undo all of his house's defense mechanisms, letting the vampires in. + the Neville character is taken by the vampires to their underground lair, a miniature city below the real city, where he is somewhat put on display, and some of the vampires feed off of him. The Ruth character has a son or little brother, and the Neville character feels somewhat sorry for them, wants to help them, etc. + the Ruth character, and maybe others, help him escape, and they leave the city by a sailboat. That's the stuff I remember, and that stuff is not in the Matheson book. So where did I read it? I've spent a couple of hours searching the Internet for answers, all to no avail. Perhaps my Google fu isn't strong enough. Perhaps I just don't know what I should be searching for. But I know I've read this story as I've described above. Help me, scifi/horror readers. You're my only hope.
Another nugget from Sheriff Bell:
Here a year or two back me and Loretta went to a conference in Corpus Christi and I got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talkin about the right wing this and the right wing that. I aint even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin somethin bad about em, but of course that's a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I dont like the way the country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I dont think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt but what she'll be able to have an abortion. I'm goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she'll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.