The Paradox Hotel

Like Doug Adams’ Restaurant at the Edge of the Universe, Hart takes his gorgeous Hotel and sticks it at the edge of time, specifically two miles from the timeport where the ultrawealthy dress in period garb and head off to their favorite places in history. For the most part, they make minor ripples, but for those who make (often purposefully) more of an impact, there are Time Agents who go back and fix things. It’s kind of like the original Westworld where the rich can indulge their fantasies and nothing can go wrong.

Of course, there wouldn’t be much of a story if nothing ever went wrong. Here, the star of the show is January Cole, house detective and head of security for the Paradox Hotel. The only thing is January has become Unstuck in time and she is slipping between present, past, and future, half in ghost world with her deceased girlfriend and fast becoming less and less dependable in the real world. Accompanying her on her rounds around the hotel by is the drone Ruby, but January is like Alice in Through the Looking Glass, half in the game and half lost in time.

More to the point, everything is quickly becoming Unstuck and there are those ready to bid for control of the timeport for their own nefarious ends. Thus, we get Jurassic Park with velociraptors.

One of the difficulties in reading this novel though is that we have an unreliable narrator who is half in reality and half out. Unfortunately, often the reader will feel lost in time as well as the storyline seems to meander often.

Eruption: Conversations With Eddie Van Halen

Eruption: Conversations With Eddie Van Halen, as we approach the one tear anniversary of Van Halen’s passing, is part biography and part transcribed interviews, tracing the guitar legend from his formative years to the end. This book does not purport to cover every tour, every song, or every part of Van Halen’s life. What it does though is give a Birdseye view through Eddie Van Halen’s own words and those of his contemporaries. There is a strong focus on Van Halen’s creativity with guitars and amps, redesigning everything to make it sound better.

Cthulhu Armageddon

No, it’s not just another post-apocalyptic wasteland novel. It’s a weird western by virtue of the cowboy hats and the weird monsters. But, it’s a post-apocalyptic vision fueled by Lovecraft’s Cthulhu world where all-powerful alien monsters lay dormant for millennium beneath the earth’s surface and now have arisen. The last remnants of humanity fight each other and fight all manner of fell monster as well as half-human ghouls and a mad scientist. Magic and sorcery are alive and well in this universe which seems to bleed into others where dreamwalks exist.

Our hero is a military type and the opening salvo is Boothe leading his squad into battle against the overwhelming forces of the necromancer, his Los mad scientist buddy. This is truly an action-packed adventure with an oddly collected group. On the way, battle is joined with monsters more gigantic and slithering than Frank Herbert’s sandworms, flying creatures rivaling the biggest of Tolkien’s dragons, and a crew of virtually unkillable reanimating creatures.

What makes this fantasy stand out is how vast and rich the background is and how beyond imagination the alien beings who are beneath the earth are. There is just so much packed into this one volume.

American Made

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Random House (October 12, 2021)

Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 432 pages

“American Made What Happens to People When Work Disappears” is, at its best, a story about factories closing in the Midwest and work disappearing to Mexico and China. It is the story about what happens to the proud people who work the heavy machines and are forced to train their foreign replacements as the factories in their hometown close and work disappears like water circling and then washing down the drain. Indianapolis, where the story takes place, was a center of manufacturing where people with a high school education could get a high-paying job and take care of their families. But, in a story all too familiar, those factories keep closing and the jobs keep going away.

The story centers around three workers in a ball bearing plant, Rexnord, where Shannon, Wally, and John find themselves, each one of the three having faced struggles through life such as having children as teenagers, jail time, broken marriages, and domestic abuse. None of the three are priveleged and none have ever had it easy. Shannon, for instance, got a factory job in a male-dominated environment as a means of escaping a violent domestic abusive relationship. Wally and John similarly fought their way to be accepted at the factory and in the union (for John).

The author is obviously talented and her craft is evident throughout these three interlaced stories that all end with the factory closing and no equivalent work available. However, unlike Mike Rowe, the author here does not simply let these three stories speak for themselves and that is where the narrative falters. The author, a Harvard-educated New York Times reporter, left the Upper Westside of Manhattan to journey to Indiana and find out why blue-collar Americans voted for Donald Trump in 2016. It is evident from the start that the author looks down on these uneducated people as hillbillies and can’t fathom why unionized workers who have seen their jobs moved offshore for cheaper labor or find themselves now competing with illegal immigrants who are willing to undercut union wages to survive would vote for someone who seemed to understand their plight. Thus, at times, the book was more about the author’s political leanings than about the three people who were supposed to be at the center of the story.

The other point where the book falters is that the author constantly refers to the three people by their races even when it is not necessary to the narrative. John is constantly referred to as a White man and Wally as a Black man rather than simply as individuals. Ultimately, the author argues in the final chapters that, no matter what these people struggles are dealing with poverty, job losses, domestic abuse, or raising a special needs child, those struggles are unimportant in comparison to their skin color and the lessons on critical race theory that the final chapters convey.

What could have been a top-notch book about how tough life is when the factory closes and the jobs go away becomes nothing more than a New York Times editorial page that focuses on other issues, not on the difficulties that come with the loss of high-paying skilled factory jobs.

Cloud Cuckoo Land

• Publisher ‏ : ‎ Scribner (September 28, 2021)

• Language ‏ : ‎ English

• Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 640 pages

Doerr’s 2021 release of “Cloud Cuckoo Land” is a 640-page epic poem to literature and history. Spanning centuries in scope, he tells his tale through five separate narratives, two from the fall of Constantinople in 1453, two from the Twentieth Century, and one from the future as we journey to other worlds. All five narratives are connected by their work transcribing and translating an Ancient Greek myth filled with Magic and adventures. As you read this epic, you will be whisked back and forth between these stories and eventually shown their connections.

Each story is fascinating on its own. Be it Anna’s story as a powerless seamstress locked in the walls of the greatest city on Earth, knowing that the few soldiers left on it were scarcely sufficient to hold off the Sultan’s endless armies or his new siege engine and massive cannons. Outside the walls we hear the story of a young farm boy, Omeir, with a fearsome cleft who is shunned by all, later joining the great armies of the conquering force. In the Twentieth century we get the story of an odd young orphaned man, Zeno, who enlists in the Army to follow his father’s path to heroism, but spends the war in Korea in a POW camp, tortured and abused, and having his loyalty questioned upon return. Seymour is born to a single mother who is ill-equipped to deal with his autistic issues and scarcely knows what to do with his later environmental politics that he deals with Edward Abbey and the Monkey Wrench style. Finally, we get Konstance with a K, who is aboard a ship that will take generations, we are told, to reach its destination in the Stars.

Each narrative is touching and heartfelt and Doerr draws them all together with an Ancient Greek fantasy about a utopian paradise.

Enjoy the narratives for themselves, but the story as a whole never draws itself to an epic conclusion. And that’s the issue because, after this huge buildup, what you are really left with is basically the idea that we are all connected through history from our past, to the present, to the future. And, by the end of this volume, you kind of just wanted a little bit more.

Shards of Earth

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Orbit (August 3, 2021)
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 560 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0316705853
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0316705851

Those who know the story of Marvel’s Silver Surfer will find themselves on somewhat familiar ground with Tchaikovsky’s new trilogy. The Silver Surfer, as you probably remember, was encased in silver and had a space-riding surfboard, and acted as a scout for Galactus, a hungry behemoth that ate up whole worlds, inhabitants and all. He eventually pleaded with Galactus to have mercy on Earth and thus was rewarded with a prison around Earth for all the rest of his days. In Shards of Earth, the first book in the trilogy, destined for an August 2021 release, we find a universe where Architects, vast planetoid-sized beings, appear out of nowhere and find inhabited worlds which they then carve up like jack-o-lanterns or other great works of art. Fortunately, there are Earth colonies out there and, when Earth is carved out and the earthlings flee (although billions don’t make it), there are a few places that they can land and hope beyond hope the Architects don’t find them.

But, the earthlings are not the only ones on the run from the Architects. There are others even more ancient who are completely unlike us and to be feared as well. They too cower in the face of the Architects. Others aliens have found a means of escape by holding onto original regalia left behind in ruins hundreds of thousands of years hence. Those who are willing to be subservient to these aliens can survive on these planets while the Architects molest all else.

The colonies survived the Architects once by the use of ints, who have been bred and altered so that they can navigate through unspace (sort of like the guild navigators in Frank Herbert’s universe, but more humanlike). Somehow three hardy ints were able to communicate with one Architect and the Architects disappeared for at time.

Now the story opens some decades later with a complicated political scene, with factions battling for control, with cults arising, and few left from the last war. The myrmidons, the battling angels bred for nothing but perfection and battle, are in their corner. The last of the original Ints who battled the Architects to a standstill is on a salvage freighter with a motley crew of beings that are difficult to describe. Their mission is to gather a lost ship and bring it back, but bringing it back will be something that they all regret as forces across the universe battle for what they found and the return of the fearsome architects lurk in the background.

What a great story! It is more than just another space opera, filled with depth, with history, with politics, and rather dense and intimidating at times as the reader tries to absorb who is what and who stands for whom among the diplomats, the cults, the warriors, and the hive beings. It is filled with a crew as diverse as you would find in any space bar, but complex as anything you might find out there as each party has its own goals and missions and even allies like these might not be helpful.

The New Civil War

RealClear Publishing Releases The New Civil War: Exposing ...

Bruce Abramson has made a career out of studying and teaching in higher academia and thus has witnessed what he views as the hollowing out of American scholarship and the substitution of credentials for intellect, merit, and argument. In his latest book, published in 2021, post-2020 pandemic, Abramson looks back and sees how the hollowing out of universities has spread like wildfire across American institutions and corruptly compromised those institutions so that now we are locked in a civil war between a corrupt progressive elite and ordinary Americans.

As Abramson explains, studying at our elite universities has often resulted in checking your common sense at the door. Academic excellence stopped mattering and the rules changed depending on where you were in the pecking order. For instance, in law schools, there is nothing more impressive than echoing the enlightened views of one’s own professors rather than questioning them. The rules of this new enlightened credentialed order are thus clear: Those who have been promoted are always right and if you refuse to follow their lead, you will be booted out. The fear of challenging ideas is baked into the academic incentive system.

This problem of following so-called experts who refuse to stay in their own lane, it is explained, has now spread across society. And the progressivism that has emerged is anticapitalist, antisemitic, Marxist, and authoritarian. It is run by experts who define what is good and what is not just like a Communist Central Committee of truth.

This has expanded, Abramson notes, across society where the progressive elites no longer call for a color-blind society as Dr. King did, but for defining everything in terms of so-called structural racism. The tragedy is that so-called progessives now support organizations and candidates whose goals are racist, antisemitic, and anti-family. “In short, progressives have been seduced.” The reality is that progressive goals now are all about entrenching the elite status of the ideological progressives.

Weaponized deconstruction, Abramson, has handed progressives control of language and, as such, they have redefined terms of the debate so that facts have little to do with their arguments. His solution: insist on defining terms so that they do not change with the weather. If what progressives are saying makes no sense, ask them to define their terms. “Once people see how wacky progressive definitions are, they’ll be able to see through the lies.”

The New Civil War is a fairly short treatise that can be read in only a few hours, but it is an invaluable treatise in sorting through today’s exceedingly wacky political discourse and how to address arguments that are being made.

Outlaw Relentless

Outlaw: Relentless

Palmgren’s Outlaw Relentless is the latest in a line of Marvel superhero prose novels. So if you pick this one up thinking it will be a graphic novel, be aware that the only artwork is on the cover, but the story is well-written and quite powerful.

Outlaw, in the marvel universe, is a mutant with superpowers who works with a team including former Avenger Black Widow as mercenaries, often employed by none other than Tony Stark. This one opens with a pitched battle aboard a cargo ship as Outlaw fights to prevent a shipment of arms to bad guys in Boston. The focus of this story arc happens to revolve around Outlaw’s nemesis, Johnny Dees, who is a mutant who happens to have a growth in his chest that absorbs DNA and spits out little voodoo dolls that allow Dees to puppet people.

The writing here is sharp and the story is action-packed. It feels much like a men’s adventure novel of the early Seventies, but Outlaw is a woman as are all her companions in her mercenary squad. Strike that one for Women’s Lib.

Familiarity with either this Texan-born mutant warrior or others in the Marvel Universe is unnecessary, although such background is, of course, always helpful in these situations.

  • Publisher: Aconyte (September 7, 2021)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781839080746

The Free Bastards

September 21, 2021 is publication day and there are hordes of thicks (orcs), frails (humans), and half-blood mongrels waiting impatiently to get their bloody hands on this. This is the third chapter of French’s amazing trilogy. First, came the Grey Bastards. Then, the True Bastards. Now, the Free Bastards. “Live in the saddle. Die on the hog.”

The Stars of this trilogy are half-orc, half-human mongrel Bastards who no one wants. The thicks or Orcs will rampage across the world, but their bastard children are all that stands between civilization and utter wasteland. In the lots you can find the bawdy, foul-mouthed hoofs of the mongrels, caught in no man’s land between empires that want to wipe them out and the savages from beyond. Ugly, tattooed, fearsome, and riding astride giant barbarian hogs with giant tusks just as fierce as the warriors in the saddles. The story and the language is not for the dainty. These half-breeds fill their speech with every other word a reference to the nether regions of anatomy. The battles are vicious, bloody, unyielding.

This particular volume tells its 600-page story from thrice-born Oat’s point of view. It begins with a prison break and a great battle on a forbidden hill against odds no normal Perron would contemplate. What follows is a long-awaited war with Hispartha, wielding magical forces Oat never imagined would be unearthed. It’s a war the Bastards and their allies must win or the Lots would forever be wiped out.

What makes this volume sizzle is the desperate odds Oats, Fetching, Jackal, and the rest face as the alliances shift. There is no lack of action, no intermission. No dull plodding moments.