Tag Archives: #Corruption

Lisle, H. (2014). Born from Fire. One More Word Books.

“The Truth of We”

“We speak the Truth, and the Truth speaks Us,
We live by the covenants, We abide by the Words.

That none may laugh until All can laugh,
That All sleep on dirt until none sleep on dirt.

Dirt is Our birthright. Hardship is Our glory.
Hardship strengthens Us. Hunger feeds Us.

The Known is All. The new is Willful.
Welcome Pain. Pain is Knowledge. We are WE.

Self is selfish. One is none.
All are All. We are We.

Each flesh belongs to All.
Each thought belongs to All.

Children are duty. All tend All.
Duty is life. Life is dying. Dying is duty.
We die for Duty. We are WE.

Within Each hides Evil. Be All, not Each.
In Aloneness is Willfulness. We will never be Alone.

We share, We do not own.
Property is an abomination.

Beauty is property. Property is crime.
Passion is property. Property is crime.

Love is property. We out love and lovers.
Secrets are property. We out secrets and secret-keepers.

All is Sharing. Sharing is Duty.
We serve Sharing. We are WE.

We speak the Truth, and the Truth speaks Us.
We live by the covenants, We abide by the Words.
The Will of All is all of Will. We are WE.” (Kindle Loc 307-339)

Since 1991 Lisle has published all kinds of writing from writing classes, short stories, poetry, novels (sci-fi & fantasy) and co-written material. I own many of the stories and have enjoyed the ones I have read, including Born From Fire.

Born From Fire is a 102 pages long science fiction novella. It is episode 1 of the Chronicles of Longview serial (i.e. not stand-alone). Its title suits the story well and has both a literal and figurative meaning. Born From Fire does not seem to have a particular age group in mind. There is no recognizable swearing, some violence and no sex. 

DOWN THE DARKNESS, down the line of standing cells, three words rippled urgently and under breath. “Death Circus here!”

In the dark, this criminal had waited long and longer for death to come. This criminal could not lie down, could not sit down—its captors had made certain its cell, and the cells of the others like it, permitted only standing.

With its bandaged knees pressed into one corner, its spine jammed into the other, this criminal drifted in that lightless place, never certain whether it was waking or dreaming. When it ate, it ate maggots. When it dreamed of eating, it dreamed of maggots. When it pissed or shit, it pissed or shit down its legs. When it dreamed, it dreamed of the same. (Kindle loc 37-44)

“It” or We-39R is a member of a People’s Home of Truth and Fairness (PHTF) settlement. These settlements are owned by the PHTF franchise and run by Speakers for We. As long as leaders of the various planets in the Longview universe do not execute their citizens, they may do as they wish with their people. PHTF franchises are the worst places to live for everyone but Speakers. We-39R earned the death penalty for Willfulness. However his death was delayed since executions must be carried out by Death Circuses, i.e. space ships travelling from collection point to collection point buying Class A (at least 30%) and Class B (at least 10%) prisoners.

The Longview is the biggest and most expensive Death Circus. It has the best salaries, the most extensive training for its crew and even offers investment incentives. More Class B prisoners are bought by them than by other circuses and it sells the fewest prisoners, yet it makes more money than any other Death Circus. 

Crew members begin as Provisional Crew Three Green. Once a person is hired on, they become Crew Three Green and advance up through Crews Two and One. Each crew is colour-graded from Green to Blue to Silver to Gold.

Born from Fire is told from three points of view, i.e. We-39R, Kagen (Crew Three Gold) and Melie’s (Crew Two Gold). The first half of the novella switches between We-39R and Kagen, the second switches between Kagen and Melie. Lisle handles the transitions well. The greatest differences lie between We-39R and the other two, however I do not think I could mistake Kagen for Melie (or vice versa). Since we see so much less from Melie’s perspective, she is less well-defined than the other two. All three are easy to sympathize with and their worldviews and reactions are believable. Our antagonist is less easily spotted. There is Mash, of course, but he is not the main one. That spot goes to the meta-entity that the Pact Worlds make up.

Freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences is a theme that runs through the entire serial. Anything that might lead to the slave conditions of the PHTF worlds is seen as something to fight against. At the end of my Kindle copy Lisle explains how she built a model of The Longview on Minecraft before writing about it. I appreciate her geekiness and as a reader I get to enjoy her dedication to detail when she takes us through parts of the ship. Both the world-building and plot are interesting, well written, detailed and dark. I liked Born From Fire and recommend it.

Ronald, M. (2009). Spiral Hunt. New York: EOS.

Cover art by Don Sipley

A descendant of Celtic mythological figures, Evie Scelan honors her long-dead ancestor Sceolan. With a nose that guides her through the neighborhoods of Boston, Scelan hunts what has been lost. In Spiral Hunt, climax is reached at the spiral’s centre. Like her long time ancestor, Scelan must see through illusions, deceptions and glamours to uncover truth the Bright Brotherhood wanted hidden from the rest of the undercurrent.

No one ever calls in the middle of the night if they have good news. ……

……………… “Hound watch for a collar. The hunt comes …”

“Frank, you son of a bitch.” I said at last. “Couldn’t you have stayed dead?” (ch. 1)

Spiral Hunt is a mystery urban fantasy story, with the disappearance of Frank as its mystery, Boston as its urban, and Celtic mythology as its fantasy. Boston is our Boston, except with an addition of an undercurrent (i.e. the super-natural). As a bike courier, Scelan has access to people of all inclinations and socioeconomic classes  all over Boston. Throw in magic, corruption, and Celtic gods and heroes and we have a highly entertaining story. There is no love-triangle and the Bechdel Test is passed with flying colours. Its mythology is well researched. Part of her preparations included the study of Celtic mythology to a degree that she was comfortable enough with the material to play with it for our pleasure. None of the characters of the story have unlimited power, or even amazing amounts of power on their own. Only those born to their powers (blood magic), like Scelan, can use it without destroying themselves or others. However, even blood magic is severely limited and can be highly addictive.

… It was an old silver Chrysler painted up like a demolition derby car, but with weirder symbols, like the result of a ghetto graffiti-fest organized by the Rosicrucians. … (p. 42)

Roland’s prose is lovely. Her writing is clear and without mistakes. Dialogues in Spiral Hunt affect the mood and tone of the story, and, even when they happen in the middle of a crisis, they remained believable. Throughout the story the author gifts me with hints that feed my curiosity.  Showing, not telling, is the rule of thumb in this story. Point of view is a first-person point of view, allowing us a look at what goes on inside Scelan’s head and how she perceives her world. I tend to prefer this kind of story-telling. Each chapter number is preceeded by the celtic symbol called triskelion/triskela or a triple spiral. My paperback copy is about 300 pages.

“I know what you are going to say,” I said warily. “Every magician in the city …”

Sarah wasn’t listening. “Every magician in-” She frowned and shot an exasperated glare at me. “Okay. But doesn’t make it any less true. You can’t be a magician and just give out your real name to anyone who asks.”

“I do give out my real name. That’s because I’m not a magician.”

While solving the mystery of Frank’s disappearance, Evie has to hunt several truths about herself, most of them painful to find. Not until she stops lying to herself is she able to reach her potential. That lie carries a heavy price for her. However, Evie is not the only one who lies to Evie. Who can she trust and what is the cost of that trust? Not only that, but she has to figure out how to live up to the trust of the important people in her life. As with so many other stories, Spiral Hunt is about learning to accept yourself as you are. That acceptance does not mean that there is nothing that needs to change. In fact, acceptance seems to show Evie even more things that she has to work on. One of those things should probably be her love of the baseball team, the Red Sox. Or not.

So. How do I rate Spiral Hunt? I loved it. Definitely one of the better novels I have read. This is my second time reading it and I will read it again = Wholeheartedly recommended.


Reviews:

 

Scott, Alan: The “Y” Front Standoff (The Y-Front Chronicles) (2014)

Artist: Saskia Schnell
Illustrator: Saskia Schnell

Once again Alan Scott serves us a plateful of humour with a dash of serious. OMG, that talk-show. “Women Who Bitch With Other Women” remind me of some very popular talk-shows that definitely do not have ASD’s in mind. “Next season’s must-have fashion accessory!” indeed.

Once again, the idiotic government wants to kill their once-upon-a-time tool. This is one of the worst thing about governments around the world. For heavens sake, let SCoT-1 get his well-deserved revenge instead of wasting unnecessary lives trying to stop an unstoppable person – especially with Terminal Flatulence on his side.

I laughed. Out loud. Definitely recommended.


The “Y” Front Chronicles available at amazon.com


My review of The “Y” Front Chronicles

Mother Teresa – Not such a saint after all

Based on pic from Independent.co.uk
Based on pic from Independent.co.uk

I doubt Mother Theresa did anything a lot of us would not have done ourselves if we were in her place. However, that does not justify continuing glorifying a person who simply was anything but glorious. She does not seem like a very nice person at all, just very pragmatic and eager to play the public for all it was worth. (From one who fell for her sales-jargon herself):

A new exposé of Mother Teresa shows that she—and the Vatican—were even worse than we thought

First Christopher Hitchens took her down, then we learned that her faith wasn’t as strong as we thought, and now a new study from the Université de Montréal is poised to completely destroy what shreds are left of Mother Teresa’s reputation. She was the winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, was beatified and is well on her way to becoming a saint, and she’s universally admired. As Wikipedia notes:

[She was] named 18 times in the yearly Gallup’s most admired man and woman poll as one of the ten women around the world that Americans admired most. In 1999, a poll of Americans ranked her first in Gallup’s List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century. In that survey, she out-polled all other volunteered answers by a wide margin, and was in first place in all major demographic categories except the very young.

The criticisms of Agnes Gonxha, as she was christened, have been growing for a long time. I wasn’t aware of them until I read Christopher Hitchens’s cleverly titled book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, which I found deeply disturbing. The book is polemic at Hitchens’s best, and though the facts were surprising, he was never sued and his accusations were never refuted—nor even rebutted. (You can read excerpts here and here, but I urge you to read the book.) In light of that, I accepted Mother Teresa as a deeply flawed person.

In its “criticism” section of her biography, Wikipedia summarizes the growing opprobrium related to her extreme love of suffering (that is, the suffering of her “patients”), her refusal to provide adequate medical care, her association with (and financial support from) shady characters, and her treatment of her nuns.

Now a paper is about to appear (it’s not online yet) that is apparently peer-reviewed, and that expands the list of Mother Teresa’s malfeasances.  Lest you think this is atheist hype, the summary below is from an official press release by the Université de Montréal.

The myth of altruism and generosity surrounding Mother Teresa is dispelled in a paper by Serge Larivée and Genevieve Chenard of University of Montreal’s Department of Psychoeducation and Carole Sénéchal of the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Education. The paper will be published in the March issue of the journal Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses and is an analysis of the published writings about Mother Teresa. Like the journalist and author Christopher Hitchens, who is amply quoted in their analysis, the researchers conclude that her hallowed image—which does not stand up to analysis of the facts—was constructed, and that her beatification was orchestrated by an effective media relations campaign.

“While looking for documentation on the phenomenon of altruism for a seminar on ethics, one of us stumbled upon the life and work of one of Catholic Church’s most celebrated woman and now part of our collective imagination—Mother Teresa—whose real name was Agnes Gonxha,” says Professor Larivée, who led the research. “The description was so ecstatic that it piqued our curiosity and pushed us to research further.”

As a result, the three researchers collected 502 documents on the life and work of Mother Teresa. After eliminating 195 duplicates, they consulted 287 documents to conduct their analysis, representing 96% of the literature on the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity (OMC). Facts debunk the myth of Mother Teresa

In their article, Serge Larivée and his colleagues also cite a number of problems not take into account by the Vatican in Mother Teresa’s beatification process, such as “her rather dubious way of caring for the sick, her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce.”

The release levels three types of accusations against mother Teresa and her supporters (quotes are direct, and I don’t mind extensive excerpting since it’s a press release):

You can read the rest of the article here

Nesbø, Jo: Police/Politi (Harry Hole X) (2013/2014)

I read Police/Politi in Norwegian.

Some reviewers felt Police was too violent for them. All of Jo Nesbø’s mysteries are dark literature. He delves into the murky and seedy side of people and society. Police deals with consequences and corruption. This time Nesbø looks at corruption within the Norwegian police force. Not only the leaders seem to have trouble staying within the framework of the law. Some of its officers define the law in a manner that allows it to make sense to them. Justice, is after all not the purpose of the law. The purpose of the law is the law and how to define it.

Police was in no way a philosophical work. Entertainment and commentary seems to have been Nesbø’s purpose in writing it. However, I do not have a clue as to what his purpose was because I have read none of his interviews only some of the reviews out there. But it does raise some questions. The nature of corruption being one of them.

What we are willing to sacrifice on the alter of power? If there is one subject that keeps on popping up in stories and research papers, power seems to be it. Sometimes in the form of helplessness – as that poor gay kid must have felt when he came out to Bellman and got beaten up for it. At other times it comes in the form of wanting more power over others. Having power over Berntsen was never enough for Bellman. And sometimes power is portrayed as something we hope to get through others, kind of like the hope Ulla was left with once she and Michael had met in the hotel.

Nesbø also takes a closer look at another reason people kill. Love can influence people’s choices. My definition of love might not fit your. When the love of one person was killed many years ago, that person felt a need for revenge. Revenge took a long time coming, but once it arrived it was certainly thorough. Harry Hole came back to policing due to the path revenge wandered on.

Jo Nesbø is sneaky. Not until seconds or minutes before the culprit was revealed did I figure out who the killer was. No wonder with all the shady characters in the land of Nesbø’s imagination. Just as when I watch magicians, I was fooled by Jo Nesbø’s misdirection. Every time an author manages to trick me I am both pleased and annoyed at the same time.

What I like with police procedurals like Police is that there are no magic solutions to finding a culprit. Harry Hole certainly has Poirot-like qualities in his intuitive ability to see what others cannot. However, Harry makes mistakes and depends on his crew to find the data needed to draw his conclusions. My enjoyment of a mystery/thriller increases with the type of craftsmanship that Nesbø shows.

Warning: Descriptive violence

I had fun. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Police is available at bokkilden.no / amazon (various countries) / others


Translations (Original language Norwegian – my edition) Politi:

McCaffrey, Anne & Ball, Margaret: Acorna: The Unicorn Girl (Acorna I) (1997)

The Acorna books are part of Anne McCaffrey‘s Federated Sentient Planets Universe stories. Acorna I and II are written in conjunction with Margaret Ball.

As you see from the art above, very few artists have tried to depict Acorna as she is described in Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball’s stories about the Unicorn girl/woman. Acorna’s characteristics are: a silvery mane and silvery curls on her calves, cloven hooves, two jointed fingers, and finally silvery eyes with pupils that can narrow. In The Unicorn Girl, Acorna is flat-chested.

I find myself unable to place any sort of age-group on this story. At times the writing has a very young feeling, possibly even entering the Children’s category. Then it changes and both writing and content is a little older. Perhaps that is due to the collaboration between the two authors. The first rescue of Acorna is one example of the very young style. As if by magic the young alien and her three benefactors get out scotfree of what ought to have been a difficult situation. In the labor camps the writing style is older and harsher. These changes confused me and led me to pay less attention to the story.

The plot itself is pretty good. There are aliens, escapes, human/alien interaction, corruption and goodies and baddies. As good and evil characters go, most of the ones in the story weren’t solidly into one or the other category. There are a couple of exceptions, but these are mainly minor characters.

Anne McCaffrey and Margaret Ball address an incredibly serious issue in their story – that of child slavery. Child slavery is in the real world becoming increasingly visible. At the time Acorna I was published (1997) child slavery was becoming something journalists brought into the light more often. Closing our eyes to troubles around the world is now becoming something we have to choose to do.

I liked Acorna’s adoptive fathers. There was enough silliness in them to make for humor in the story of orphan Acorna. Along with humor, there is action and conniving. I recommend Acorna I. I have to warn you that it is somewhat different to Anne McCaffrey’s other writing.


Reviews:


Acorna: The Unicorn Girl available at Scribd


Translations

Lockshin, J.L.: Crash Landing (2013)

crash landing cover

Satire at its best. My goodness, all the issues an author can manage to cram into 16 pages.

I guess we cannot call Crash Landing an apocalyptic novel due to its humour. However, it is terribly tempting to place this dark humoured short story into this category due to its military and bureaucratic backdrop.

Bureaucrats were never so bored and generals were never so convinced of their ideas as the Secretary of State and General Wells of Crash Landing. The ending is a gem. All of Crash Landing is a gem. It has brought a smile to my face each time I have thought about it.