Tag Archives: Torture

Vincent, Steve P.: Fireplay (Jack Emery 0.5) (2015)

He looked out the front windshield and could see nothing but the desert and the dust kicked up from the Humvee at the head of the column. He shuffled back into the seat and struggled to get comfortable as the music switched to the next track. As a roaring drum solo kicked off the wailing electric guitars, there was a massive explosion and the lead Humvee burst into a fireball.

Steve P. Vincent

Francis, Diana Pharaoh: Path of Blood (Path of Fate III) (2006)

Path of Blood
Cover art by Alan Pollack
Religion, faith, beliefs seem to control so much of the world’s humans. We allow ourselves to be steered by goddesses and gods who promise all kinds of things in return for our unfailing loyalty. Political systems seem to have the same kind of hold on people. I see how soldiers willingly put their lives on the line in travelling to far-away countries on the say-so of their leaders. In both instances motivations seem to differ from anything from undying loyalty to simple greed (although greed might not be such a simple matter).

Path of Blood takes us into both these worlds. Yohuac and his absolute loyalty to the nahualli’s and the goddesses and gods of Cemanhuatl is disturbing in its completeness. Reisiltark is no different. Like heroes in a great many young adult sagas she will do anything to save her country from destruction. That she happens to be a more or less “good” person is a lucky thing for Kodu Riik. What if she had made the kind of choices that Upsakes had – who also believed that he was doing the Lady’s will.

In spite of seeing what a terrible person Aare is (and it would take a completely blind and deaf person to avoid that) the Lord Marshal of Kodu Riik is going to swear loyalty to the man the moment he takes the Iisand’s throne. To him it is the throne he is swearing himself to and not the man. But life is never like that. It is always the person we end up swearing ourselves to and the values that person emotes. That is if we are looking at tyrannies, monarchies or dictatorships. Whether we choose to follow that person out of our own free will or because we are forced does not really matter in the end. What matters is what price our loyalty ends up having. I doubt I would have the strength to gainsay a person like Aare. His way of ruling is much too brutal and frightening.

Fortunately there are sometimes alternatives. In the case of Path of Blood we have the followers of Reisiltark and the rest of the rebels. These are the ones that managed to escape the steel grip of Aare’s followers. They have set up camp by Mysane Kosk in the hope of helping Reisiltark heal their land. I think I consider people like these rebels brave. They are the ones who have the courage to stand up to a tyrant and have put their lives on the line for their freedom. Sadly that is the consequence of power-hungry people – one sometimes has to take up weapons to stop them maiming the place one lives in and the people one lives with.

I’m not certain how I feel about Reisiltark herself. I don’t know if I really believe in her. Perhaps she is too much the anguished hero. In that sense she and Yohuac are a perfect match. She fills her role as hero perfectly. Heroes are supposed to be larger than life, have amazing values and be able to make difficult decisions on who has to die when trouble arrives. This very good and very bad cast of people is part of what makes a young adult novel. In my head Path of Fate is very much a young adult novel. There is violence, gore and darkness, BUT very little of it is descriptive and the dark is interspersed with light.


Reviews:


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My review of: 

  1. Path of Fate
  2. Path of Honor

Reine, S.M.: Paradise Damned (The Descent VII) (2013)

Paradise Damned
Cover art by S.M. Reine
Model photo on cover by Marcus J. Ranum
Paradise Damned is the last novel in The Descent serial. Like all the rest, Paradise Damned is dark. We get plenty of violence. Part of that violence involves abuse of Elise in the Garden of Araboth.

SEPTEMBER 1, 5509 BCE

In the beginning, there was the earth, formless and empty. Darkness hung over the surface of the deep.

And then there was light.

It spilled over the waters, vast and powerful, and its creation severed the unity that had come before. This light was a separate entity from the darkness. Something novel and cruelly different.

The spirits called it “day.” Its opposite was called “night.” Between them was evening and morning – the First Day.

This division marked the end of peace in the universe.

Everything has been pretty much fucked up since then.”

S.M. Reine’s humour seems to fit mine just fine.

Half the fun of writing reviews is the preparatory work I do. This time I felt like checking out the ancient dates in Paradise Damned and ended up with the info at the bottom of this post.

I want to give S.M. Reine a special thanks for coming up with the old women of Oymyakon, Russia. No wonder these ladies are so tough. Oymyakon is so cold that it has the lowest recorded temperature of any permanent village (- 71.2 C). Brrr, not my kind of winter. Here, indeed, “Winter is coming”. Nothing phases these matriarchs. Give them hybrids or Malcolm, and they won’t hesitate to shoot either if they have to.

Paradise Damned is divided into four different stories that tie together. The first is from the good old ancient days, the next is from the good old days, the third is from Limbo with James and the last story occurs in Araboth 2010.

Longevity or immortality is a concept that I have found a lot of people would like to take part in. How would you stay sane? It seems to me that all the people around you would have to be immortal as well. Otherwise, you would have to watch loved ones die over and over all through “eternal life”. I see how people react to such losses already, and have to wonder how you could deal with it on such a time-scale.

Adam seems to stink at it. His one major loss gave him a liking for mayhem. Yatam and Yatai didn’t deal well with it either. In the end they got the release they sought. What about Adam? Will someone relieve him of the burden of life?

Elise is now back to her job of being a false Eve. She isn’t taking to it. Fighting against it brings grooming/training her way in the form of severe mental and physical torture. I wonder if her lifetime of abuse and pain is aiding her or hindering her in keeping hold of who she is?

Sometimes when I read stories about real life people who have gone through stuff like this (not the impossible things but the rest), I wonder how they managed to hold on to themselves through it all. I know it messed up my grandfather who was tortured during WWII. The post traumatic stress was so strong he tried to self-medicate to deal with the mental pain. The face he showed me as a child was that of a gentle and loving man who brought joy to my life. He managed to stay away from alcohol in his meeting with his grand-children.

Granted, Elise is make-believe, but not really. There are people out there who go through grooming/torture in order for another person to achieve some kind of result. Each and every one of these people will end up changed forever. While a lot of them will be able to hold on to themselves, some will not. The question in Paradise Damned is whether Elise manages to stay true to herself and her ideals in spite of what she goes through.

On a lighter tone for me (maybe not for the rest of you), Elise’s arrival at Oymyakon was amazing. I liked what she did and how she did it.

Once again S.M. Reine has done an excellent job.


Review:


  • File Size: 458 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Red Iris Books (June 3, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CWG91QE

My review of:

  1. Death’s Hand
  2. The Darkest Gate
  3. Dark Union
  4. Damnation Marked
  5. Dire Blood
  6. Defying Fate

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p>5509 BCE: The Byzantine calendar dates creation to 1 September of this year.

4009 BCE: ” placing the creation of Adam no later than 4009 B.C.E.”

3504 BCE: Eve’s creations, angels that are about to hatch, are killed. (Paradise Damned)

3242 BCE: Adam’s need for human replacements for Eve comes about. (Paradise Damned)

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.