Tag Archives: #Corruption

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.


Bell, Odette C: A Plain Jane 2 (A Plain Jane) (2012)

Plain Jane 2
Cover art stock photos:
Future city NYC: Nmedia
Earth from Space: Dean Neitman
Fashion woman: Romangorielov
Licensed from Dreamstime.com

Odette C. Bell used to publish her work under the pseudonyms “Muscularkevin” and “Scrabblecat” on Fiction Press. There aren’t really any updated blogs or websites that belong to this author. Fiction Press is the closest I can get.

A Plain Jane continues to be a delightfully light read about the search for identity.

Jane has worked her whole life at being as plain as possible. Now it turns out this has been because she has an “Assister” lodged in her head, meant to keep her safe and invisible. It turns out she is anything but plain.

A Plain Jane II begins where no I left off: Jane on the run with Racarl toward somewhere supposedly safe. But Jane doubts his intentions yet still finds herself unable to assert herself and be the Pala (ruler of her people – the mysterious Para) that she is supposed to be.

As I read A Plain Jane (all three of them) I thought about the brainwashing we are all exposed to from the moment we are born (or socialization as it is more popularly called). What if I grew up trying my hardest to think of myself as plain and boring? What would that do to me? Granted, most of us are plain and boring but do not necessarily think of ourselves that way.

I’ve met quite a few people like Jane on my journey through life. They have been told that they are stupid, worthless, boring, ugly and all sorts of other unkind names by the people they trust. Like Jane they come to believe what they have been told and find it almost impossible to break away from that belief.

In A Plain Jane II this is the phenomenon I found the most interesting. Jane struggles against the ingrained belief she has grown up with and works incredibly hard to overcome herself.

But A Plain Jane II is not a serious reality type of novel. It is in fact an extremely entertaining science fiction story with plenty of action and fighting to go around.

Lucas Stone turns out to be not quite as dead as it seemed he might be by the end of A Plain Jane I.

When Lucas was stopped by Element 52 from killing Jane at the end of A Plain Jane I, he fell an entire kilometer before smashing into the ocean. While his armor had been hijacked and caused him to attack Jane, it was also his new and improved armor that has saved him (barely). Luckily for him his true and tested friends Alex and Miranda managed to come after him with the Paran artifact that had helped Jane. Now they are on the trail hoping to get to her before the Darq does.


Reviews:

Grumpy in Pink



My review of A Plain Jane I