Tag Archives: #Leadership

Vincent, Steve P.: The Foundation (Jack Emery I) (2015)

The Foundation by Steve P Vincent

When he was finished, he ejected the USB and all signs of the message board vanished from the screen. Chen left the internet café as anonymously as he’d entered, satisfied that everything was in place for the attack. He had no expectation that he’d bring down the Chinese Government, though he did believe that a heavy enough blow could cause a fracture in the monolith. He felt a small degree of guilt for the innocents who’d die, but their lives were the price of vengeance.

One of Norway’s better known war journalists is Åsne Seierstad. Her work has taken her around the world to high-adrenaline and gruesome situations filled with death and dying (and probably long periods of boredom). Jack Emery is one of the huge clan of war journalists and has been to Afghanistan. Right now he has been back a while and wants a new assignment. His boss does not trust him with important work due to a drinking problem Jack developed upon his return. During the course of the story what seemed important enough to send him chasing bottles ends up filling him with regret and self-derision. Not derision for drinking himself to bits but derision for insisting on interpreting the world one way.

Death seems to focus our minds on what each of us considers vital to existence. In Jack’s case that turned him back to the hunt for truth. In a manner of speaking, Jack is our detective and the story is a large-scale whodunit. I suppose all thrillers are that at their base. Mr. Vincent has skillfully added corporations and governments to the whodunit stew and come up with an extremely entertaining story about the shenanigans of countries and corporations.

In my experience, all thrillers that make their characters believable also create a story that becomes probable. Chen provides us with the spark that sets off tension between the United States and China. He is by no means alone in setting the scene for what the countries call a terrorist act. What countries get away with doing (“aggressive military posturing”) independent people/corporations must be punished for. Politics seldom make sense. When it comes to large-scale murder they make even less sense.

As Jack and his fellow journalists poke their heads further and further into the wasp’s nest, their lives become less secure. We all know that is because the perpetrators fear discovery. In this case there are several instigators behind the scenes and none of them want to be found out.

There is plenty of violence (somewhat explicit), loads of action and some sex (not explicit).

Before reading The Foundation (TF), I read Fireplay (see quote). Fireplay is written after TF, but its plot happens before the plot of TF. TF is written in Australian English. Any language oddities you find therein will probably be due to that.

Definitely recommended.


The Foundation was recommended to me by Nathan Farrugia (The Fifth Column)


Reviews:


The Foundation may be found on Goodreads

MacLeod, Ken: Engine City (The Engines of Light III) (2003)

Identifying a ruling class and state posed no such problem. The upper and usually senior ranks of the various corporate bodies, patricians and patriarchs or the merchant houses, administrators of cooperatives, guildmasters and latifundists, heads of religious orders and philosophical schools, retired courtesans, professors emeritus, and so on and so forth, formed what was blatantly called the Electorate, who just as blatantly elected the Senate and staffed its administration, and that was that. Volkov had no scruples about elites – having been part of one – and was surprised to find himself shocked by the sheer effrontery of the Republic’s lack of the forms of democracy. All his experience had been with people who insisted on at least the illusion of popular rule, and it was disquieting to encounter a people who seemed satisfied with the substance of self-government in everyday life while letting his politics and statecraft go on over their heads – as it almost always and everywhere did, of course. (Ken MacLeod)

Hurley, Kameron: Infidel (Bel Dame Apocrypha II) (2011)

Nyx is a hero I have fallen in love with. As mentioned in my review for God’s War, I am drawn by her passion and love for the people she considers hers. Given the wrong kind of circumstances, my aspergers might have formed me into such a predator. Her emotions are easy to access, and her reasons are simple to understand.

She does her best to protect what is hers. Her ownership of both her people and her country enables Nyx to do what she considers the right thing for her country and her people.

Hurley’s Tirhani is in some ways like my Norway. Norway is a small country known for its apparent peaceful approach to life enabled by the safety of wealth. However, as exporters of arms and ammunition over whose end-location we have no control, we are also guilty of bringing war to other countries. All we have to do is look at the result of the US destruction of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Considering the US is one of our largest customers, this really isn’t something to be proud about. Yet we go about our peaceful lives without giving women and children whose men have been torn out of their lives a single thought. All weapon producing countries whose citizens live fairly peaceful lives share in this destruction.

Rhys and Inaya have settled in peaceful Tirhani hoping that Nyx will never turn up again. Understandable, really, as Nyx represents an excruciating time of both of their lives. But the Beldame rebellion brings them all together effecting a new period of needing to kill or be killed. Who needs enemies when they have a friend like Nyx. Perhaps this is the greatest difference between the three. Rhys and Inaya (and Khos) cling to the idea of not needing to involve themselves in keeping their families safe by keeping the world safe. It is the simplest path to choose in life. I venture in and out of it. Nyx dives head-on into her attempt to keep Umayma as safe as possible.

Once Rhys and Inaya seem to no longer have a choice, they to do their very best to stay alive. Most people seem to wish to live and they will go to great lengths to stay alive. Umayma can be both heaven and hell for its inhabitants. For Nyxnissia, Nasheen and Chenja it seems to be a never-ending hell.


Reviews:

Kameron Hurley on Nyx as a hero


Infidel available at Amazon US


My review of God’s War


Norway Tirhan

Gimpel, Ann: Earth’s Blood (Earth Reclaimed II) (2014)

Artist: Kelly Shorten Interior book design: Cera Smith Editor: Angela Kelly Line editor: Jenny Rarden
Artist: Kelly Shorten
Interior book design: Cera Smith
Editor: Angela Kelly
Line editor: Jenny Rarden

First of all I am going to talk about going off on tangents. My thing is words – Autism is part of me. That means that sometimes the sound of a word in my head or the way it feels in my mouth sets me off on a chase. One of the words in Earth’s Blood that set me off was Lemurian. The Lemurians are also called the Old Ones and are hated by both the Celtic gods, of which Fionn is one, and Aislinn. But the name Lemurian. It keeps on going round and round in my head. Part of it has to do with lemurs. Lemurs are soooo cute/adorable/sweet (maybe not) and all of those adjectives that we give animals that look like them. The other part was when I started looking for things to do with Lemurian on the net. Wow, there is actually a whole belief system centered around the concept (see links below). People are fascinating.

Sometimes when I read a novel one of the characters begins to annoy me. Once I realise what is happening I stop and ask myself why. This time it was Aislinn’s way of handling her situation that got to me. I was getting more and more frustrated with her until I finally stopped and looked at what it was I was projecting. Surprise, surprise. Thinking is problematic to my imagined self.

One of the things that bothered me was all of the sex between Aislinn and Fionn. This is coming from the woman who claims that she wishes there was as much sex (vanilla kind) in novels as there is action. In Earth’s Blood there is. But it bothered me and here is why: Conditioning. My child-hood religion is very orthodox. Sex is no exception to the rule. That in itself makes the whole concept of reading about it – even when it is as well written as Ms. Gimpel writes it – problematic. Oatmeal has a really great poster on the subject. It is funny and incredibly sad at the same time.

My other problem with descriptive sex was my childhood. I was sexually abused by some of my relatives and that scarred me and made sex less than fun for a long, long time (my poor husband). Once I realised what was going on in my head and emotions I could let go of the pain. Sex is good for me now. I got so turned on by some of the scenes that I dragged my husband upstairs and had some adult playtime.

The other thing that annoyed me was how volatile Aislinn was. Once again I had to stop myself from reacting and instead looked at what on earth was causing such a strong emotion in me. One of the things going on between Aislinn and Fionn was a whole lot of insecurity about their relationship from Aislinn’s side. No wonder, considering how it all came about and all of the challenges thrown their way (an understatement if there ever was one). I looked at my own insecurities when it comes to people and especially my husband. Being an autist is a challenge when it comes to a relationship – both for me and my non-autistic husband. My husband is the kind that shows his love through action and not through words. For me that is incredibly cryptic. My thinking muscles are severely challenged when trying to interpret what is going on in our relationship. We have been together 25 years, so I ought to have caught on by now, but you know – some people are just slow.

The other thing that caught me was what happened when Aislinn discovered she was pregnant and the following abortion. The myth about pregnant women being volatile is no myth. Sometimes our hormones take over completely and there isn’t much we can do about it. Add to that the new relationship between Aislinn and Finn and Aislinn just beginning to open her sealed chest of grief over her many losses in life thus far – and my feelings about Aislinn changed.

Is there action in Earth’s Blood. I realise that the above might have made you think otherwise, but there is plenty of action. Plenty, plenty, plenty. And like the sex it is detailed but not explicit (if that makes sense). The dark gods (another concept that sent me off on a tangent) and the old ones used to fight each other. But in their craving for control over the earth they have pooled their resources for the time being. Power is such a seductive thing and power is what both the Old Ones and the Dark Gods want. Power over the people and power to consume the earth’s resources.

By destroying anything to do with technology they have handicapped humans. And by killing off people without magic they have reduced the population and the potential number of people who could rise up against them. These are the creatures the Celtic gods and Aislinn and their bond animals have to fight. But when one of those Celtic gods is a dragon there is hope. Especially when that dragon does what she does best and goes off on a mission of rescue. I like Dewi. She is a cranky, self-important, stubborn, independent and insecure dragon who is terribly lonely as the only dragon left on earth. I believe she is my favorite character.

Anyways, Earth’s Blood affected me and helped me realise something about myself. That is probably one of the more important things an author can achieve. My imaginary hat off to Ann Gimpel.

I have to add one comment here. If you are one of those who struggles with talking to your teenagers about sexuality, I recommend letting them read this series. There is a lot of action and a whole lot of wholesome and fun sex in it. Sexuality is shown as something fragile in new relationships while also showing how turned on by each other people are at the beginning of a relationship.


I’ve reviewed an ARC copy, so Earth’s Blood is not out on the market yet. For a description:


My review of Earth’s Requiem


Lemuria/Lemurians (not connected to the Lemurians of the novel but I got off on a tangent.):

Farrugia, Nathan: The Chimera Vector (The Fifth Column) (2012)

The Chimera Vector
Cover design by Keerati Sarakun and Patrick Naoum
Cover typography by Andrei Stefan-Cosmin
Edited by Nicola O’Shea

The Chimera Vector portrait

The Chimera Vector set me into research mode. I started looking into “chimera vector” and discovered quite a few articles on the research into this type of transportation on the net. I have included four of them below. Chimera: a DNA molecule with sequences derived from two or more different organisms, formed by laboratory manipulation.

According to Psychology Today a psychopath is a person who exhibits a long list of character traits. One needs to show a lack of empathy (cold-heartedness, an inability to feel deeply); show a lack of shame, guilt, fear or embarrassment at ones actions; a tendency to blame others for their own failures, or no shame if confronted; show a strong ability to remain focused on a task; appear charming yet have a tendency toward pathological lying, and they seem comfortable even when found out; incredibly overconfident, as if they cannot fail; impulsive; incredibly selfish and parasitic; lack realistic long-term goals; and finally be prone to violence.

In The Chimera Vector we get to meet several people who fit the bill of a psychopath. The whole concept of psychopathy or sociopathy is extremely fascinating. It is one of those terms that we bandy about as if being a psychopath was a common thing. Looking at the list above, I see many of them that could fit myself and most other people I know. But when I take a closer look at the people I meet, I think I can say that there is probably only one one person that I could definitely call a psychopath. Long-term planning was no problem for him at all and holding power is something he has definitely been concerned with. Power behind the throne, not the apparent one that is more image than real.

Power is what The Chimera Vector is all about. The lengths people are willing to go in their hunger for power. We see people playing power games every day – within families, at work and at play. But seldom do we see power games taken to the extreme that The Chimera Vector shows. But we wouldn’t, would we. That is the whole point of The Fifth Column. People must not see the games the leaders of The Fifth Column play, for their real power lies in their secrecy. To them all the death and mayhem they deal is part of the games.

Programming soldiers like Sofia, Jay and Damien into becoming unquestioning killer robots is fun. Killing innocent people to keep the world going their way is fun. Watching countries erupt into cauldrons of fire is fun. Power is fun. Fun and addictive.

I see all this and I believe it. The Chimera Vector is believable. If some scientist manages to discover how to create weapons like The Fifth Column use, soldiers like this will be developed. Perhaps I have too cynical a view of the world, but this is what I believe. History has shown us time and again that once a power-hungry leader gains control of research and development gruesome consequences evolve. In fact, history has shown us (and shows us) that in their grasp for power the world itself becomes expendable to the power-players.

And yes, I did enjoy The Chimera Factor. A great deal, in fact.

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Reviews:

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I was given this novel by the author. Whether that affected my review is difficult to say. I’ve tried to be as objective as possible.

Canavan, Trudy: The High Lord (The Black Magician III) (2010)

The High Lord - 7 covers
Top left: French cover
Top 2 left: French cover
Top 2 right: Cover art by Matt Stawicki
Top right: Turkish cover
Bottom left: Indonesian cover
Bottom center: Cover art by Les Petersen
Bottom right: Russian cover

My son and I recently finished reading The Black Magician trilogy together. What he discovered is that sometimes favourite characters die. He felt that was kind of cruel of Canavan. It is one thing when the bad guys die, but good guys (especially ones you really like)? Oh, well. It is unlikely this is the last time he experiences this. Despite that, he really enjoyed himself during our adventure. As did I.

The High Lord answers all our questions about why Akkarin uses black magic. It also shows us that the powers that be sometimes make long-term decisions that are seemingly wise at the time but turn out to be bad for future generations. Accidental deaths can cause a lot of trouble down the road.

I’m still impressed with Sonea. I think that growing up rich and powerful blinds you to the reality that most people live under. Peggy McIntosh discusses this phenomenon in her White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack. Sonea growing up in the slums has made her aware of the harsher sides of life and made her more open to the possibility that status quo must change. Even Rothen and Dannyl, who are open-minded for wizards, fail to understand exactly how privileged they are.

My dad grew up under extremely difficult conditions. His mom was a paranoid schizophrenic and his dad disappeared after he had enjoyed German hospitality in prison camp. Torture got the better of him and alcohol was used to self-medicate. That left my dad as the responsible person at home from a very young age. His mom did her best, but, you know, being a paranoid schizophrenic without access to medication does not help in creating stability for your children. My mom’s childhood sucked as well. Her dad was an alcoholic and her mom worked her tail off to provide for them. When my mom has told me what it was like to drag a drunk dad up three stairs to get him inside the apartment – after he had pretty much spent his earnings on booze – well, I wonder how she made it????

But that childhood made them into pretty awesome people who have always been concerned with the greater good. They turned what could have made them bitter into something that helps others each and every day (even when they are now ancient =) ). Like Sonea, not all of their decisions have been wise. But like Sonea, what they have done is try to be true to the motto of “not doing unto others what you would not like to have them do unto you”.

Sonea grew up without her parents but was fortunate enough to get to live with her aunt and uncle. This is probably what saved her (and the rest of the city). Her hunger, poverty, the Purge, being bullied by the other novices and being suspected of everything “bad” by the adult wizards did not stop her from being true to her own values. Sonea’s situation is in no way unique in the world (except for the magic that is). Poverty, war, captivity, orphanhood and homelessness are all part of the lives of a huge amount of children and adults. That people are actually able to rise above their experiences and make the world a better place is amazing. Yet people do it all the time – just like my parents have. Which is why I find Sonea utterly believable. Her decisions regarding Akkarin seem inevitable and sensible considering the kind of person she is.

Sonea and The High Lord_by_ceara_finn24-d27a8o2
Picture photoshopped by Lauren Kelly Small

Tayend is my other favorite person of this story. He is our lad from Elyne. While homosexuality was not accepted in Elyne, homosexuals were not persecuted. Unlike Dannyl’s experience in Kyralia. Being a fan of the underdog, I would have thought that Dannyl would be the one to appeal the most to me. But Tayend has an innocence about himself that seems true. When that innocence is challenged, as it is in The Novice, Tayend rises to the occasion. He is loyal to Dannyl, in love with Dannyl and willing to avoid meeting with Dannyl if that is what it takes to protect him from the wrath of the magician’s guild. I wish I could have gotten to know him better.

Cery is back and this time he finds himself with a mysterious customer who seems willing to help him find whatever Sachakans arrive at Imardin. She turns out to be different from what he had originally thought, and that causes friction. But Savara still manages to be of assistance to Cery when he needs her help most. Who to trust or who not to trust when you are a Thief, that is the question.

Reading The Black Magician trilogy with my son was my third time through the series and I still had fun and learned new things about myself and the world.

In The High Lord Trudy Canavan gifted me with really fun words to read. During part of the book she had used the words Sachaka, Akkarin and Takan a lot. My mouth was having so much fun saying those sounds. Sometimes it is really awesome to be an autist (aspergian).


Reviews:


  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 1841499625
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841499628

My review of:

  1. The Magician’s Guild
  2. The Novice

 

Gender and Autism: A Preliminary Survey Post

In my search for an understanding of what it means to be a woman with Aspergers/ASD/what-not, sites like Musings of an Aspie help me put things into perspective and at the same time meet people whose brains work like my own. This is a really great article on how one’s gender might influence how one lives Asperger.

Musings of an Aspie

I’ve been planning to write about gender and autism for a while now. Months ago, I wrote a personal reflection piece. It got two emphatic thumbs down in beta, so I let it languish in my drafts folder. Then, after some feedback from commenters here, I decided I would write a more informative companion post as context for the personal reflections, but that never happened. Then I cannibalized the personal reflections piece for something I was invited to submit to an anthology, which took me weeks to write because apparently everything takes me weeks to write lately.

Which left me still wanting to write about gender and autism here. As a first attempt, I’ve  surveyed some of the ideas that people have put forth about gender and autism over the years, starting with Asperger himself.

Note: I’ve linked to a bunch of articles in this post, many of which I…

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