Tag Archives: #Propaganda

Farrugia, Nathan M.; Inversion (Helix V)(2016)

Farrugia‘s Sophia and Olesya serials have forced me to reevaluate some of my preconceptions, stereotypes or prejudices. Thrillers are meant to keep us at the edge of our seat until some sort of climax occurs. Farrugia’s episodes have brought us threats to humanity, political entities and various teams. His “super-heroes” are Olesya and Sophia, and their various team-members have had their spot in the lime-light. Like all thriller-heroes, Olesya, Sophia and their team-members survive when they, logically, should not. My Aspie demands that I check out what exists and what does not, i.e. stun-net-guns with adhesive qualities. I can lay that aside, because an excellent thriller needs to stretch our sense of logic but not completely break it. Or, at least, that is my judgement of an excellent thriller. Inversion proves, once more, what an excellent writer Farrugia is.

An excellent thriller also needs convince us that their plot could happen in real life. Authors who are not willing to sacrifice their writing to tighten up their plots, research their material and have writing in their blood, never reach that point. Farrugia does.

Inversion brings us to Wrocław, Poland and once again to Purity.

“But how do they frame Russia if everyone’s dead?” Aviary asked.

“Exactly,” Sophia said. “The world will be furious. And in their fury, they’ll support Purity.”

Consider Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński’s methods:

…Law and Justice party has continued to depict the accident as an assassination of its leader, with blame shared by the usual villainous alliance of liberals and communists….

Poland’s present turmoil is the story of how anger at Poland’s liberals mutated into a war on liberal democracy itself. (The Guardian)

A thriller also needs to mess with our minds. In the Sophia and Olesya serials we do not know who the real powers are. I have made guesses in all of my previous reviews, and some of those guesses now seem wrong. Part of that has to do with the long lives of those who are behind the messes of Farrugia’s world. We have been told, through Major Sievers, Hal and Denton, that there are some seriously powerful people behind what is going on. But I have no idea how interlinked the various groups are.

This time around, the people behind Purity use a celebratory march in Wrocław as a lure for Aviary, and, through her, the Russian Directorate. Purity needs a big, bad bear to blame for what is about to happen. The people behind Purity control elements of The Fifth Column, the leadership of Purity and JW GROM (Poland’s antiterrorism unit).

Intron’s Hélio does not trust the documentation Doctor Meresz shared about the kill-switch. As we saw in Anomaly, that is a good thing. Hélio wants to stay with Sophia until he has run some tests on her theories. He and his body guards go with the team to Wrocław. Whether they are trustworthy is debatable. That depends on Intron’s agenda.

Inversion shows us how little control Sophia and Olesya actually have. Their choices depend on Aviary’s findings and those findings are the result of people who know what will trigger both team-leaders, and especially Sophia.

“… she won’t rest until she rights her wrongs.” He stared at the trashcan. “Even then, I don’t think she’ll stop.”

Besides wanting to know who the people behind these groups are, I really want to know how DC knew how to turn up where he did when he did. And what about that gunship? Who do the cloaked ones belong to? Oh, and when you go into a fight, don’t partner with a person your are falling in love with. Losing focus on the roofs around the market place is seriously dangerous to your health. Try to remember that the next time you go to Wrocław in Poland. And do those bobby pins mean anything? Please, I need to know.

Definitely recommended.

I received a complimentary copy of Inversion from Farrugia


My reviews of:

  1. Helix I (Olesya and Sophia)
  2. Exile (Helix II)
  3. Interceptor (Helix III)
  4. Anomaly (Helix IV)
  5. The Chimera Vector (Sophia)
  6. Seraphim Sequence (Sophia II)
  7. Phoenix Variant (Sophia III)

Inversion can be bought at Amazon.com


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

Bertauski, Tony: The Training of Socket Greeny (The Legend of Socket Greeny II) (2010)

To me The Training of Socket Greeny is, like The Discovery of Socket Greeny, about identity. But it is also very much about seeing things as they are. You know, seeing through the bullshit of the propaganda we are fed, and seeing through our expectations into reality. Which is kind of odd to me as much of the book happens in Virtual Reality (no, not for real).

And what a VR it is. Poor Socket draws out new abilities, but the cost of his new abilities is high. His trainer, Pon, puts him through a program that is enough to kill anyone. This is where VR is a good thing. Except some of the damage Socket sustains is real and he has to learn to transcend it. In fact, it seems as if that is what his training is about: transcending himself. Socket doesn’t understand what that entails and I am going to admit that I don’t either. Because how do we let go of our fears. In a sense, they are kind of comforting because we don’t have to think so much about what is going on. But there is a part of me that would love to be able to set them aside.

Socket also has to figure out if transcending himself means that he has to leave his old life and his old friends behind. When do we reach the point of not being able to give any more? Lots and lots of existential questions are being asked throughout the trilogy, questions that we sometimes forget to ask as we grow older. However, these are questions that a lot of youth ask themselves.

It wouldn’t be a Bertauski story if there wasn’t a lot of action thrown in with the deeper story. The action is excellent and probably too violent for some of you. There are also romantic bits.

Definitely recommended.


My review of The Discovery of Socket Greeny

The Training of Socket Greeny available on Audible, Amazon


Junge, Traudl: Through the Final Hours (Bir Zur Letzten Stunde) (2002)

til siste slutt

Traudl’s brother Karl suffered from schizophrenia. After Hitler’s star rose in Germany, so did his ideas. This is the environment Traudl grew up surrounded with. When the government decided Karl had to be sterilised, the family thought it only right.

At the age of 21 Traudl was desperate for a change, for an opportunity to chase after her dream of becoming a dancer. When Albert Bormann suggested she get a job for the government she applied for one thinking she could pursue her dancing off-hours. But life did not turn out that way. Later she drifted into applying for a position as one of Hitler’s private secretaries and just happened to get it. She wasn’t especially qualified, she was just the first one through the door. She kind of drifts into a lot of things in the book.

Reading Traudl’s story puts me in mind of ending up with a cult. Hitler was an intense person who could turn even the best arguments on their heads. He was, the first couple of years, a kind of father figure to Traudl and made Traudl feel as though she was part of something special. Information beyond what Hitler and his compatriots provided was not allowed on the premises of the various bunkers and Berghof. Finally, Traudl was like many young people, available for the position of follower.

Then the picture begins to crack. The idealistic leader meets trouble and failure. His narcissism is showing more and more, but the brainwashed Traudl is so caught up in his personality and her own denial that she sticks with him until the bitter end.

Perhaps the way I’ve presented this autobiography reads as an attempt on Traudl’s part to excuse her own participation as part of Hitler’s staff. But I did not get that feeling while I read it. It does, however, present a very believable kind of human being. Perhaps I would have had more in common with her when I was 21 than I would like to admit.

The worst part of coming out for Traudl was having the neo-nazis come up to her to shake the hand that had shaken Hitler’s. For her that made a mockery of all of the suffering that he had been responsible for and that she, if indirectly, had enabled.

Pratchett, Terry: Death

Death as illustrated by Paul Kidby

The Grim Reaper in the form of a skeletal body in a black robe, with a scythe and speaking in CAPITAL LETTERS appears for the first time in The Colour of Magic. His job is to collect human souls. Death is the servant of Azrael, the “Death of Universes”. Opposing him are the Auditors, who want nothing more than the end of all life (it’s soooo messy).

At home Death has a servant, Albert and a daughter, Ysabelle. Kittens and swans are his favorite animals and his horse Binky is with him on each collection.

Because of his fascination with humans, Death sometimes leaves his post to seek understanding. This tends to cause problems because humans don’t like to see what they do not understand and the universe likes the souls of dead people collected. The only ones who can see Death for who he is are witches, wizards, cats and children.

In The Art of Discworld Terry tells us that he has received a number of letters from terminally ill fans in which they hope that Death will resemble the Discworld incarnation (he also says that those particular letters usually cause him to spend some time staring at the wall).

Mort (1987)

“Mort” by Amianna

While Death appears in the previous books, Mort is the first book in which he becomes a main character.

Mort’s family specialized in distilling wine from reannual grapes. (“Reannual are plants that grow backwards in time. You sow the seed this year and they grow last year.”) These growers tended to be big, serious men, much given to introspection and close examination of the calendar. Mort (the youngest son) on the other hand, was tall, red-haired and freckled, with the sort of body that seems to be only marginally under its owner’s control; apparently built out of knees.

Hopeless as he is, Mort’s father decides to take his son to the hiring fair at Sheepridge. At this hiring fair men looking for work would stand in ragged lines in the centre of the square waiting for a tradesman to hire them as apprentices. Noone seems to want Mort, but just before the clock has struck its final strike at midnight, a prospective tradesman enters the square. It is Death and Mort can see him as he really looks. Mort is hired as an apprentice and Death and Mort ride off on Binky.

And so, Mort is off on the adventure of his life learning all sorts of useful things – like how many shades of black there are and how to walk through walls. Obviously death is a theme of all of the books in the Death series. Terry treats this subject with warmth and a light heart. Death comes to us all, after all. Poor old Death is going through a mid-life crisis, and Pratchett’s gentle mocking of the phenomenon is heartwarming.


  • 1994: The graphic novel, Mort: The Big Comic is illustrated by Graham Higgins.
  • 2004: BBC4 broadcast Mort in 4 parts. Adapted for radio by Robin Brooks. It is re-sent regularly.
  • 2007: German musical adaptation of Mort.
  • 2008: English musical adaptation of Mort by Jenifer Toksvig.
  • 2011: English stage adapation of Mort by Stephen Briggs

Reaper Man (1991)

“Death of Rats” by Alex Thomas

The terrible Auditors of Reality have been at it again. To them the fact that Death seems to be developing a personality is the sin beyond sins. So, they decide to retire Death and Death is resigned to that decision. What happens when there is no longer a collector of spirits?

Back at the Unseen University Windle Poons – the oldest wizard – is waiting for his collection by Death. He knows to the minute when this is supposed to happen. But does it? Windle Poons certainly dies, but no one shows up for his spirit, so he decides to go back into his body. This tendency seems to be spreading to other people.

Bill Door’s harvesting machine

Now that Death has his own hourglass with sand running down, he has decided to make the most of the life left to him. High up in the Ramtops a figure on a horseback turns up. He knocks at the door of Miss Flitworth asking for help. The stranger goes by name Bill Door. The main qualification needed is the ability to use a scythe, and one might say that Bill is excellent at the job.

Back at Ankh-Morpork Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler has discovered something that he thinks will make his fortune (again). This time he has found some strange globes. When they are shaken a cloud of little white snowflakes swirl up in the liquid inside and settle on a tiny model of a famous Ankh-Morpork landmark.

And finally, magic is behaving strangely at the UU. It seems all of the Life drifting accross the Discworld is acting like water building up behind a dam when the sluice gates are shut. Needing a place to go, it manifests itself in all sorts of phenomena. The wizards decide they have to meddle with all of the strangeness.

Terry addresses fate, life, death, consumerism and relationships in Reaper Man. I’ve seen reviews that praise Reaper Man to the sky and others that despair of Pratchett’s writing this books. For my own part, I rather liked the book. It juggles the serious and the silly quite well in the jump between Flitworth and the wizards.


  • 1996: 8-minute animated television adaptation produced by Cosgrove Hall Animation Studios of Reaper Man.
  • 2012: Australian stage adaptation of Reaper Man by Pamela Munt

Soul Music (1994)

Soul Music moments by Justyna

Mort and Ysabell married and had a baby – a little girl they named Sarah. At age six, Sarah, makes her teachers at Quirm College for Young Ladies extremely nervous. Strangeness tends to happen around the girl and she says the most bizarre things. But Susan didn’t really worry about what other people thought about her. And that continues through the years at school.

Sometimes the gods listen to the words people say. Imp Y Celyn (Buddy) said to his dad: “You don’t know anything! You’re just a stupid old man. But I’m giving my life to music! One day soon everyone will say I was the greatest musician in the world.” In retrospect, perhaps not the wisest words, but they do make for a good story. When he chances upon a pawn shop guitar and becomes possessed by it, rock and roll enters the Discworld. This means some serious hip-rolling and swooning fans. Imp’s band “Music With Rocks In” acquires a manager in Cut-Me-Own-Throat-Dibbler. He tries to do what any good manager would, cash in on the band while keeping them in the dark.

Death has decided to go on another of his walkabouts. Unfortunately, for Susan Sto Helit (Death’s granddaughter) that means leaving boarding school to carry on the family business. Having Death for a grandfather does not make for an easy life and Susan struggles to stay on top of the job. Chaos and mayhem ensue.

Part of the theme of this book is music groups and their managers in all their glory. The generation gap is also something that is experienced at the Unseen University. Ridicully’s thoughts on the younger wizards’ fascination with the new fad is typical. Idealism vs. rationality is a struggle Susan has to face. To let or not to let people die.


1996: An animated mini-series adaptation of Soul Music was produced by Cosgrove Hall Films for Channel 4.

Hogfather (1996)

  • 1997: British Fantasy Award nominee
  • 2007: Winner of BAFTA TV Award for Best Visual Effects and Interactivity
  • 2007: Nominated for BAFTA Tv Award for Best Photography & Lighting
  • 2007: Winner of BPG Multichannel Award
  • 2007: Nominated for RTS Award for Best Drama Serial
  • 2007: Nominated for VES Award

The bad guys by Stato Bizley

“”Something” began when the Guild of Assassins enrolled Mister Teatime, who saw things differently from other people, and one of the ways that he saw things differently from other people was in seeing other people as things (later, Lord Downey of the Guild said, “We took pity on him because he’d lost both parents at an early age. I think that, on reflection, we should have wondered a bit more about that”).”

At the Unseen University the wizards are standing before a nailed shut door, wondering if they should open it – despite the sign that read “Do not, under any circumstances, open this door”. But curiosity is one of the prevailing “talents” of wizards. Ridicully is one of the more curious ones. The door is opened, and what do they find? Bloody Stupid Johnson has been at it again. A wise person would have closed the door again at this moment, but alas. There are not many wise wizards in Ankh-Morpork.

Susan Sto-Helit is enjoying a quit evening at the home she is governessing at. As usual she has put the fear of something into her employer while the children adore her. All of a sudden images formed in her mind. “A red ball … The sharp smell of snow … And then they were gone, and instead there were …

“Teeth?” said Susan, aloud. “Teeth,” again”?”

“Susan and the … Hogfather?” by Rebecca M.

She knows right then that trouble is afoot, and its name is most likely DEATH. As you can see from the picture, DEATH does make a lovely Hogfather – travelling to all the children calling HO, HO, HO in his own unique style.

Absurdity, chaos and laughter are only some words to describe Hogfather. When the assassin Teatime is sent to kill the Hogfather, you just know you have to buckle up for a crazy ride. Christmas and all of its stranger sides (consumerism and altruism) are all examined. This is the ultimate Christmas story, one that might make you want to believe in Santa Claus again.


2006: Hogfather adapted by Vadim Jean as a two part TV-serial for SKY

French cover by Marc Simonetti

Thief of Time (2001)

Nanny Ogg is called to a birthing – a very unusual one. Some years later Jeremy Clockson was enjoying dismantling and putting a clock back together again. He’d grown up as a child-prodigy at the Guild of Clockmakers since he was a few days old. Then Lady Myria LeJean with her two troll body-guards steps into his shop. Something about her bothers Jeremy. She wants him to build the most accurate clock in the world.

Miss Susan is a very strict and popular teacher with her pupils. Her main concern is to get her pupils to see things for what they are. But her popularity stems mainly for the class-trips she takes her students on – quite unusual ones that should not be possible. Her view on parents was that there ought to be an exam before they were allowed children. When the Death of Rats comes by to tell her that Death needs her help dealing with the Auditors, she sets off to do her duty.

The Order of Wen or the History Monks have a duty to see that tomorrow happens. One of the novices, Ludd, is causing problems. As a baby, he’d been raised by the Guild of Thieves. Then the monk Soto had stumbled upon Ludd and send him to the temple. There all sorts of unusual things happened our young Ludd. To solve the Master of Novices’ problems, Ludd is placed with another troublemaker – the sweeper Lu Tze. Both Ludd and Lu Tze are surprised by the other.

Going along for a ride with Pratchett is bound to be an insane experience and Thief of Time is no exception to the rule. His way of dealing with events of the day – and usually themes that are relevant no matter when or where one lives (like education, family, duty, propaganda, differences and prejudice) is admirable. It’s the warmth in his work that makes Pratchett so worthwhile to me.

For this blog, I’ve used Wikipedia, L-Space, and the above books as my sources.

Staub, Ervin: The Roots of Evil – The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence (1992)

The Roots of Evil - Ervin Staub

Some books are life-changing. The Roots of Evil by Ervin Staub is one of them in my life. I was at one of those life-choices that we sometimes make. Studying psychology cleared up a lot of questions in my mind. When we got to Staub’s look at the horrible choices some of us make (either as a group or as an individual) I saw how caught I had been in group-thinking that makes “Us” look so much better than “Them”.

Genocide, mass killing, torture and war. Psychology, socialization and culture. How does one go from being a regular, boring person to being a torturer of citizens of ones own country? How did Hitler get an average population of humans to participate in invasion and genocide? Is there such a thing as “EVIL”?

In this clip Stephen Fry discusses the importance of language in the mass-extermination of eight million people during World War II in Europe. (At the bottom of this post see Staub’s lecture in Stockholm.)

My father’s father was a Prisoner of War during the Occupation here in Norway. During his time at Grini (one of the POW camps) he was tortured for information regarding his cell-mates. Not the kind of cell-mates you have in prison, but the kind you have when you participate in resistance against those you consider your oppressors. He was part of the Communist underground.

Torture is one of the many practices of war that Staub discusses in The Roots of Evil. He shows us how the torturer is habituated to the specialized kind of violence that torture is and he shows us that these torturers are simply people. Some of them probably enjoyed their work more than others, but the rest were trained to see the torturee as an object/non-human/sub-human that held needed information.

After the war, the US was incredibly strict about some of the rules for receiving Marshall aid. One of them was a fight against the Evil of Communism. My war-hero grandfather remained an unsung hero due to his political views. He was harassed by employers and spied on by our Norwegian surveillance department. There again propaganda reared its ugly head and lessened his value as a human being.

Source: History Lists
Roman destruction of Carthage | Source: History Lists

Humanity’s mass exterminations of groups of people follows us through history. The practice of killing all of the men above a certain age while keeping women and younger children alive goes at the very least back to our earliest written records. According to Ben Kiernan, “The First Genocide” happened around 149-146 BC (Jones, 2006). This was the Roman destruction of Carthage. In 2015 the United Nations called the Islamic State out on the IS attempt to wipe out the Yazidi minority in Iraq.

So! Nothing new. According to Staub, we need to learn to interpret early warning signs in order to avoid getting to a point where genocide happens. By that time, it will be too late. According to Staub cultural and social patterns and historical circumstances are vital in understanding whether a country, a people or a belief is in the danger zone. And are there ever plenty of traps that people can fall into (even those who are aware of the dangers):

  • Cultural stereotyping
  • Cultural devaluation
  • Societal self-concept
  • Moral exclusion
  • A need for connection
  • Authority orientation
  • Personal and group goals
  • “Better world” ideologies
  • Justification
  • Moral equilibrium, and so on.

Within this conceptual framework, Staub then considers the behavior of perpetrators and bystanders in four historical situations:

  1. Holocaust (his primary example)
  2. Genocide of Armenians in Turkey
  3. Genocide in Cambodia
  4. Disappearances in Argentina

Is there hope. Perhaps and it depends. It has taken us thousands of years to not learn a single thing from history. People like Ervin Staub have warned us against a repetition of gruesome actions. Perhaps the secret lies in people like Staub being able to write about terrors and publish his writings. Once people like Staub begin disappearing from the public arena, we must really begin to worry. Until then, we can only hope that by learning some of the warning signs and recognizing that we, ourselves, are also potentially people who do terrible things, will keep us from them.