Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Abducted to Oz" By Bob Evans and Chris Dulabone

With the legacy of Oz originating from L. Frank Baum, and continuing through many authors since, It doesn't seem be dying out too soon. Bob Evans and Chris Dulabone are proof of that especially with this book "Abducted to Oz." "Abducted..." takes the Oz stories and brings them to today's times. While most of the Oz stories take place around the early 1900s this one takes place around the time the book was published, 2000.

The story is that Graham is minding his own business, preparing for an evening of algebra homework, when a wicked witch reaches out of his mirror and pulls him into Oz. This witch however is the witch from the movie and not the one actually created by L. Frank Baum. (movies always change the books some way) Where did this witch come from? Well it seems as though Dorothy was visiting Oz on the anniversary of the event in which she "destroyed" the wicked witch, Allidep. And through an unfortunate accident in magic and mayhem a float representing the witch came to life.

Graham escapes the witch and then travels toward the Emerald City, encountering an alien presence along the way, and taking on a traveling partner named Telly. Telly is a robotic-looking creature with a television set for a head. Among the Ozites that are encountered in this book are the Cowardly Lion, the Woozy, and a beautiful unicorn named Jeanne-Marie, whose story is sure to touch your heart.

This book has some great moments that reflect the true quality of any Oz book. It also throws in some references to modern pop culture to keep it up to date.

The book has a limited availability so here is a link as a free download:

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posted by Gil T. @ 7:56 PM Comments: 0

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip K. Dick

Many of you may remember the movie version of this book starring Harrison Ford: "Bladerunner." The movie became a cult favorite and yet still didn't cover all of the concepts of the book.

The book takes place in a post-apocalytpic world in which due to the radioactive fallout, Earth's citizens are asked to emigrate, one incentive is that each emigrating family will receive a custom-built android servant (colloquially referred to as an "andy"). Here's where the trouble begins. Many androids escape the Earth colonies to return to Earth and avoid slavery. On Earth those that have chosen to stay behind risk the chance of radiation causing permanent damage and in order to combat the gloom have mood organs which the citizens can simply dial up whatever mood they want for the day. Also a new religion, Mercerism has taken hold and the citizens worship through a device called an empathy box. In this they witness the fable of Wilbur Mercer who had the power to bring animals back from the dead. The government destroyed that power by using radiation on the part of his brain that allowed him that power. This forced Mercer into the "tomb world." He strives to reverse the decay of the tomb world and ascend back to Earth by climbing an enormous hill. His adversaries throw rocks at him along the way (inflicting actual physical injuries on the adherents "fused" with Mercer), until he reaches the top, when the cycle starts again.

The runaway androids must be destroyed and this story centers around a bounty hunter whose job it is to destroy the "andys." Rick Deckard, an active bounty hunter for the San Francisco Police Department, prepares for a typical work day. He feeds his electric sheep as per usual to prevent his neighbor from suspecting its true nature. Meanwhile, his wife spends her days at home under the influence of the empathy box and mood organ.

At the police station Deckard learns that the active senior hunter Dave Holden has been incapacitated by a Nexus-6, the most advanced and humanistic type of android created to date. Deckard is chosen to find the six remaining Nexus-6 models in the San Francisco area. This also is where the main theme of the book is carried. The androids are incapable of empathy, so through a series of tests to determine empathy, an android is discovered. However, Deckard starts to wonder whether he is an android because he can kill or "retire" the androids with no empathy. When he does realize he has empathy toward the androids he then decieds he cannot do his job. The battle within himself and the empathy discovered in Mercerism allows us all to realize what it takes to be human.

Great Sci-Fi, and a rather fun book to read.

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posted by Gil T. @ 3:15 PM Comments: 0

Friday, September 21, 2007

"Fire Bell in the Night" by Geoffry S. Edwards

I'm going to start this review out with one word, "WOW." The American Civil War was never a topic I cared to read about, but this book has changed all that.

Set against the backdrop of a nation headed toward civil war, Fire Bell in the Night is a page-turner. The story centers around trial and one young reporter's efforts to discover the truth. During his time in Charleston, S.C, New York reporter John Sharp is constantly being reminded he is an unwanted guest, from the moment he steps off the train throughout the rest of the book.

Filled with historic details of the time, Fire Bell in the Night explores the explosive tension between North and South, black and white, that gripped Charleston, in the summer of 1850. John Sharp is sent to Charleston to cover the trial of Darcy Calhoun. Darcy is accused of harboring a runaway slave. The attitude throughout the city is that he is already guilty and will hang for his crime. This seems a harsh punishment, but this is the chance for the South to send the North a message.

As the trial begins, John finds out that not everything is as it appears in the city of Charleston. A series of mysterious fires in white establishments brings the state militia, a curfew for the black population, and rising tension at the courthouse. To unravel the city's secrets, Sharp must enter Charleston's plantation society, where he is befriended by one of Charleston's three wealthiest citizensTyler Breckenridge, owner of the Willowby plantation. He also develops a bit of a love interest for Tyler's sister, Clio.

Geoffry S. Edwards' use of language immediately pulls the reader into the story, throughout the book the writing created an atmosphere so thick that I swear I could hear the background sounds and smell the atmosphere of the events. He also is able to convey all aspects of the different sides of what led to the Civil War, and at the same time creating some very poignant moments.

Be prepared to just sit back and enjoy a great book.

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posted by Gil T. @ 10:03 PM Comments: 0

Sit Down & Shut Up

The U.S. Senate just told us to sit down and be quiet. They passed a resolution condemning and it has one purpose: To intimidate all of us who care about ending this war. To send a message that anyone who speaks unpleasant truths about this war will pay.

To make everyone--especially politicians--think twice before they accuse the administration of lying. Every day, our brave men and women are dying in a bloody civil war this Senate has done nothing to stop.

They couldn't even pass a bill to give soldiers adequate leave with their families before redeploying. But they're spending time cracking down on a newspaper ad?

We can't let that happen. I just signed a statement telling Congress that they won't intimidate me, and I'm going to keep speaking out until they force an exit strategy out of this awful war. Can you join me?


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posted by Gil T. @ 1:06 AM Comments: 0

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Galactic Pot Healer by Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick, the author whose books that have been turned to movies have become cult favoritesis one of the more forgotten science fiction authors. Movies such as "Bladerunner" (based on "Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep" and the movie "A Scanner Darkly" from the book of the same name. This book seems somewhat different than other Dick novels. "Galactic Pot Healer" still carries the anti-utopian future earth theme as do many of his books, with the government taking more control of its citizens. However, this book goes a bit further, in this book the reader is taken off Earth and introduced to some of the strange life-forms that exist in the universe.

Joe Fernright is a pot-healer, meaning that he can heal or mend ceramic pots. This is more of a hobby for him because his main job for the totalitarian Earth government consists of him sitting in a cubicle all day. Not really doing much of a job, he spends his time playing games with members of other countries in which they run titles of books through various language translation computers and have them translated back to English and try to decipher the original title.

At this time Fernright's services as a pot-healer are requested by what we find out to be a deity (of sorts) called Glimmung. It seems Glimmung is recruiting beings from all over the galaxy with various skills in order to raise an ancient cathedral from the ocean floor on Plowman's Planet. The other "recruits" are just as depressed and repressed as Joe Fernright.

The catch it seems is that the project is doomed to fail, even the attempt to raise the cathedral will result in death of all involved. At least this is what is believed by the Kalends, a species gifted with precognition who are constantly writing a book that supposedly foretells the future, one which inevitably is proven right. Glimmung is determined to continue with his struggle, even when the book predicts certain failure. This existential position allows Dick to explore the idea of fatalism. Glimmung is repeatedly compared to Faust, mainly in conversation amongst the protagonists.

With some really interesting fantastical characters and some fun Philip K. Dick wit and wordplay this book becomes really a fascinating read. From the sci-fi view it is full of great characters and from a philosophical view it combines a quixotic adventure, some psychological horror, and deliriously paranoid theology.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:41 PM Comments: 2

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Dark Rivers of the Heart" by Dean Koontz

Once again I revisit a past novel by Dean Koontz. In "Dark Rivers..." (published in 1994) Koontz not only uses his greatest character molds but uses cases from the "real world" to make a story chilling. The character molds are a man that is a former cop/military as the lead character, a love interest of a woman with a shady past and the villain, an agent of a shadow government. Oh, and we can't forget a loyal canine.

In this book Spencer Grant has a mysterious past which involves a father who is a psychopathic murderer and artist and a large scar on his face. Spencer's companion is Rocky, a mutt who's past also seems shaky in that he is a very timid (at times) dog. Spencer falls for a mysterious woman, Valerie, who works at a bar called "The Red Door." (the name of the bar becomes important later in the novel). When Valerie doesn't show up for work Spencer suspects something. He goes to her home to find it "never lived in" and as he explores the house the only decoration he finds is a photo of a cockroach nailed to the wall. Just as he's examining the photo a stun grenade shatters the window and a S.W.A.T, team or what appears to be a S.W.A.T. team, attacks the house. Spencer escapes the house and thus begins his life on the run and trying to find this mysterious Valerie.

Valerie it turns out is on the run from a rogue/secret arm of the government after trying to expose them. This shadow agency is made to cover up errors from other agencies. Koontz uses real world flubs from agencies as the background to make this story believable. Flubs such as, "Ruby Ridge & David Koresh." In what could be a Texx Marrs conspiracy book, Dean Koontz creates a novel of never ending edge of your seat action.

Koontz also takes the time at the end of the book to point out that the technologies discussed in the book are real as well as the forfeiture laws of the government. Throughout the book one gets creeped out by the possibilities of how "Big Brother" is always watching. But then at the end when the real truth is found out it makes the book more creepy.

But don't let that disturb you, this book has got lots of action and the great Koontz creepy factor.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:17 PM Comments: 0

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"The Forest Monster of Oz" by Bob Evans and Chris Dulabone

Evans and Dulabone have created a very nice book to go along with the history of Oz in this book "The Forest Monster of Oz." Now for those of you only familiar with the movie, I highly recommend reading the original L. Frank Baum books and see what fun Oz really is. The original books always had some sort of lesson to be learned and a very unique wit and humor. With the "Forest Monster..." Evans and Dulabone carry on that torch with skill.

In this book we see the return of the giant spider that was defeated by the Cowardly Lion in the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and his transformation to good. Here is the first thing that if you are only familiar with the movie you miss out on. Basically, the forest monster, the giant spider, was destroyed by the Cowardly lion in chapter 21 of the Wizard of Oz book. Evans and Dulabone bring him back to life as can only be done in fairy tales and comic books, and they do it in a manner that it is believeable, maybe a better word here is acceptable. In that not that you would really believe a spider can come back to life but that this one was magical to begin with. This forest monster is seeking revenge on the Cowardly Lion and is now wreaking havoc by sapping the energy of all the animals of the Lunechien Forest.

Lunechien residents, including the simply named Elephant, Tweaty (a bird), Nibbles (a mouse) and two owls, seek the aid of the newly ascendant Ozma to defeat the monster. In the quest to overcome the spider, we meet an interesting array of Ozites: the Saber-Toothed Light Bulbs (just picture that), the marshmallow inhabitants of a marsh kingdom, and the warring Schnozzles and Stinkfeet (a very funny war between those that stink and those that have sensitive noses).

The book is also laced with puns and wry humor as is traditional with the Oz books. For example, a tiger speculates that the spider's monstrous size may be attributable to "the humans' constant littering, or maybe a military experiment gone haywire". After a careful build-up, however, the primary conflict with the monster is resolved. In the process, Ozma is confronted with an interesting moral dilemma, on the caliber of her ethical decision not to battle her enemies in The Emerald City of Oz.

Throughout this book we are taught through the many campaigns and confrontations the ideals of acceptance, individuality, and multiculturalism.

In keeping alive the humor, wit and sweet characterizations of this original American "fairy tale"-- they not only pull it off, but there is an individuality too that's very hard to describe in "The Forest Monster of Oz". The "courage to be an individual" is well taught.

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posted by Gil T. @ 3:25 PM Comments: 0

Sunday, September 09, 2007

What really happened...

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @

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posted by Gil T. @ 2:31 PM Comments: 0

Thursday, September 06, 2007

"Night Chills" by Dean Koontz

Well, I brought a book out of retirement to get some good ole goosebumps. And as usual Dean Koontz delivered. This book was originally published in 1976, but many of the ideas could still happen and it still can create some "Night Chills" for you. Some of the aspects such as lack of cell phones and outdated computers exist in the story, but there's still a lesson for modern times here.

This book has it all, an evil mad scientist, zombies (not the dead eating flesh type), big business corporate greed, a little government cover-up, and a couple of war heroes to save the day.

Dr. Ogden Salisbury, a scientist that was abused as a child, has developed a chemical that will enhance the mind's ability to be influenced by subliminal commands. We've all seen them, look at that magazine ad for alcohol you will find references to sex listed throughout the pictures if you know where to look. Now though, these can be used to completely bend a person's will. First it needs tested. To be tested several things are needed, corporate backing to mass generate the formula and the subliminal messages in print, tv, radio and movies, military support (but of course not that can be linked back to the government), and test subjects.

Dr. Salisbury has put the chemical into the water supply and food supplies for the small town of Black River, Maine. This is a company town built to support the logging mill in that city. Being self sufficient and reasonably secluded from the rest of the world, it is the perfect location. Then once the chemical has been introduced, the subliminal messages for the "Key/Lock" program begins. This program creates the perfect zombie/automaton out of any human able to read. To activate the zombie like trance and get the subject to do what he wishes the phrase "I am the Key" is used, to which the subject responds, "I am the lock." Then the subject will do anything asked, including murder a young boy.

Paul Annendale his 11 year old daughter Rya and his 8 year old son Mark take an annual trek to Black River to rough it in the woods. When they arrive in town their old family friend Sam Edison and his daughter (a love interest of Paul's) tell the Annendales about a strange "flu" going around. The whole town has been having night chills.

These chills turn out to be terrors after Mark observes Dr. Salisbury raping the police chief's wife as the chief and his 8 year old son watch. Dr. Salisbury orders the police chief to kill Mark. Rya watches this scene in horror and runs to her father and from there the action never stops.

Writing with extreme intesity, as with all his books, Dean Koontz never lets go in this novel that deserves some revisiting. Plenty of action, suspense and terror.

As a side note I find it quite interesting that all the subliminal programming involves sex as do all the subliminal advertising found in magazine ads. Are we that obsessed with sex as a culture to let it be our downfall? It's amazing what kind of questions Dean Koontz can evoke.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:49 PM Comments: 0

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"The Magic Sneakers" by Robert J. Evans

If you were given a super power would you use it for good or for selfish reasons? Peter Parker's Uncle Ben once said, "With great power comes great responsibility." Would that be your motto?

That is just the issue that Jimmy Burton is faced with when he goes to buy new shoes for school and soon discovers his shoes give him the power to fly. Jimmy immediately wants to show off and then thinks twice of it. After all if he showed off then everyone would want to have HIS shoes. So maybe he could just use them a little in sports to be better. But that wouldn't be fair to the other players who practice. As you can see Jimmy is faced with a dilemma.

In this book Robert Evans takes us on a journey on deciding what is good and what is bad. The adventures he takes us on are fun but at the same time give a little lesson on morality. At one point Jimmy does tell his best friend, Billy, and Billy starts telling Jimmy what "WE" could do. So a little lesson on greed jumps in.

One of the neat parts of this book is the turn it takes about halfway through when Jimmy and Billy decide to have some fun with the sneakers. Jimmy is caught on camera flying above the ocean near Santa Monica Pier and soon the Pentagon is involved. Jimmy is whisked away to Washington D.C. where the President tells him how this power could be used for good but we can't let the other nations get it. So Jimmy has a HUGE decision to make, would the U.S. use this power for good or war, and should he reveal his secret. Jimmy "hijacks" a tank and flies it back to California to pick up his parents and his best friend. (Yeah, you read that right "flies a tank") He then returns to the Pentagon and decides to tell the secret, but Jimmy meets a mysterious Major Flynn, who says he can get the shoes back.

Jimmy is guest of honor at the White House where he spends the night in the Lincoln bedroom and meets the great man himself, or at least the "ghost" of Lincoln. He also meets 2 aliens and they then talk about how the Earth is not quite ready for the power in the shoes.

Now at this point the book becomes interesting in that it could be best described as a youth version of "The Celestine Prophecy" with a little of Deepak Chopra mixed in. I will leave this up to you, the reader, to find out the fun in this one.

All in all this book is a fun read and a pretty quick read surprisingly. With all the adventures and in depth discussions of physics and the universe you just can't put it down. I highly recommend this one for anyone with children ages 6 - 16 a little something for all the kids in that range.


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posted by Gil T. @ 7:42 PM Comments: 0

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

"The Brief History of the Dead" by Kevin Brockmeier

First let me clear up a question that everyone who has seen me reading this book has asked, No, it is not about the Grateful Dead. Okay, that out of the way let me tell you about this really nice book.

One of the things about this book is that it is actually 2 stories (if not 3) wrapped into one. The first and unifying story in the book is that of the "City." The concept of the "city" is based on the traditions of many African communities to believe that after you die your soul is held in a place as long as someone is alive to hold you in their memory. When there is no one left to remember you, your soul moves on.

One of the things I'm going to do is go back and reread this book and read it as 2 different books. This is easily done by chapter breakdown. The odd number chapters carry the story of the "City" and the even number chapters cover the experiences of Laura Byrd in Antarctica.

The "City" is introduced as a thriving community where people who have died have happily met loved ones and carry on normal lives. What they did in life they continue to do in the city. A blind street beggar has arrived and talks of having to cross vast amounts of sand, as though through a desert. Everyone pretty much ignores him as they did back when he was "begging" in front of Coca-Cola headquarters. Everyone is carrying on a normal life after death when one day the population disappears. One man who taught journalism at a major university has been printing a paper for "The city" and goes out to deliver his papers and finds there is no one left to read. He then begins to wonder where everyone went and begins searching the city. He then finds a woman and the blind beggar. They at first think they are the only ones left in the city. After some extensive searches it appears this may be true. But when they hear gunshots they follow the sounds to find the city's Monolith park has a few hundred people gathering together. Many have said that people they were with just disappeared. A few newcomer's to the city give a hint as to what has happened. It appears that a major virus sent out by terrorists has killed the earth's human population. The disease known as "the Blinks" has wiped out humanity on Earth. But why are these people left in the city?

As days go by a few people begin to talk and they all find out they know/knew Laura Byrd.

The even numbered chapters in this book cover the story of Laura Byrd. Laura and a team of 2 other scientists have been sent to Antarctica by the Coca-Cola company to find out if the water from the glacier melts (the world's last known clean water) would be good to use to manufacture the Coca-Cola products. The team's radio antenna gets destroyed by winds and the other 2 members trek to a known Antarctic monitoring station to find a replacement and get help. Laura is left alone in the tent and after a few weeks she realizes the other two will not be coming back. She then takes off for the station. At the station she discovers graves in the snow and a log that describes the deaths and the pandemic that has destroyed the world's population. She also discovers that the other 2 members set out to another monitoring station to look for life and a working radio. She then sets out to find them.

The beauty of this book is the story of Laura and her trek across the snow and ice covered territory of Antarctica and the discovery of what caused the pandemic. Then the interweaving of this story into the story of "The city." This book has a great spirituality feel to it as well as a futuristic warning. Some great wordsmithing from Kevin Brockmeier creates a novel that keeps you wanting to read more.

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posted by Gil T. @ 8:17 PM Comments: 0