Monthly Archives: September 2014

HAWKSBILL STATION by Robert Silverberg

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This is a perfect story.

A fascist government takes over America and a group of revolutionaries are punished by being sent back a billion years. A desolate time devoid of land life. Hawksbill Station is a one way time machine. The revolutionaries are sent back as they are tried and sentenced and no one in the present day even knows if any of them survived the trip. New arrivals are few between and then one day (as the back cover says) a stranger came.

The story follows one Jim Barrett, leader of Hawksbill Station, and former head revolutionary. Switching back and forth between Barrett’s present time a billion years in the past and his past life as a present day revolutionary, the two narratives form a seamless thematic progression that expertly resolves in the last couple of pages. Barrett’s story as a Precambrian time prisoner starts 20 years after his arrival at Hawksbill station. His story as present day revolutionary starts at the tender age of 17, unmotivated and uninterested in the larger world around him, when his friend talks him into attending a revolutionary meeting. The end of Barrett’s two stories finish in thematic union. It is a tale of despair, hope, and entropy – spiritual entropy.

And that, Ladies and Gentleman, is about as much as I can say about a book and still keep to my rule about not giving away the story.

One of the finest crafted novels I’ve read. Simply flawless.

Hat Tip (again) to Mr. Boaz’s site SCIENCE FICTION AND OTHER SUSPECT RUMINATIONS. I’ve read 6 of his 5/5 and 4.5/5 reviews with only one disappointment (and one that he rated a 4.5 that I feel should be a 5/5) the rest being some of the finest science fiction I’ve read. I think I will next try some Malzberg as I have not yet had the pleasure.

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WAY STATION and SERPENT’S EGG

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I had mentioned in my review of Joanna Russ’s WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO… that it broke a long streak of good reads. That was not entirely true just before that I had read Clifford D. Simak’s WAY STATION. The ending to that was disappointing in two ways.

On the back cover it says at the end

Then he discovered the horror that lay across the galaxy…

I never did discover what this horror was. The story is about Enoch Wallace who secretly runs a way station for aliens of the galaxy traveling through our neck of the woods – they travel by teleportation basically. Enoch Wallace is secured from aging in his home that serves as the way station. He was a soldier in the Civil War and people in the sleepy Wisconsin town talk about him.

The book was written in 1963 and has all the sensitivities of the Cold War era. Mankind is not included in the galactic family because they are deemed a still barbaric race. Wallace worries about the fate of mankind as he learns in the papers (and through his historical/causal calculus that he learned from the aliens) that mankind is headed to an ultimate war.

Several really good plot threads crowd in on Wallace’s 100 year routine of galactic host at his home. Although his home is unassailable by man (again thanks to the aliens) he is accused of kidnapping a young deaf mute girl of the town. They are about to set siege to his place. A government informant has been sniffing around and has committed an action that will result in the closing of the way station and any chance for mankind’s inclusion in the galactic family and any hope of their redemption as barbarians.

No horror from the across the galaxy materializes except for a creature that comes to steal an artifact by “beaming” into the way station and stealing it. It then turns out that this talisman (without proper background given to the reader) is waiting for one to whom it will resonate. That turns out to be the deaf mute girl of Wallace’s acquaintance. It has the power of passivity and peace once it is with it proper host. And mankind averts destruction, peace reigns – the end.

Up until the very last part of the book I really enjoyed it, but the end was a cheat. He had three plot threads very skillfully coming to a head and then he pulls a deux ex machina of a sorts.

And where was the horror from across the galaxy? A single alien?

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Next is R.A. Lafferty’s SERPENT’S EGG.

I am not going to give a proper review of this book, I will leave that to Continue reading


Hilarious Religious Programming

This ties in with my last post but in a contrary way. I can take someone like Fulton Sheen seriously, I cannot take the late night kooks on television seriously. And anyone who does, please, wake up.

I usually have the television on softly in the background as a noise backdrop because I am up until 7am while the wife usually goes to bed somewhere between 9 – 10pm. So I have it on so I am not tiptoeing through utter silence. Anyway I usually have it on the ion channel until 4am when I will change it to Hallmark for their Frasier/Cheers run.

At 4am the hucksters of the Inspiration Ministries come on. They are the tools that spend most of their time encouraging you to “sow your seed” SEND YOUR MONEY, take a leap of faith with God SEND YOUR MONEY. One time they were selling some oil that was supposed to have these powers and whatnot.

Their main preacher looks exactly like you would imagine a shyster to.

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Go ahead, plant your $1000 seed and God will send you a harvest!

Anyway, so I am rushing to the television to throw this crap off. Their intro is a brazenly corny rock/gospel travesty to the ears and I get the giggles whenever I see it. The other morning I find that I am too late – the man is already asking for my seed (bet he won’t be asking that when he lands in prison – yoink!).

But off in the top left hand corner is the biggest piece of American style religious hooey I have ever witnessed.

THE SALVATION TRACKER!!

Yes folks, this is a Google Earth (TM symbol, please) style map with a circle on it that is hovering over buildings on its way to find the lucky person to be saved by God. You too can tune in to see if the Holy Spirit is perhaps hovering over your house about to save you!

I damned near split my sides when I saw the thing! Salvation tracker – seriously?

Are they purposely mocking their victims and asking for their money at the same time? Do they have such a low opinion of the gullible (I have no other word for someone who would give these people a dime)? Are they simply mind jarringly stupid? Ah, Bob ye may be onto something there!

If anyone out there wonders at the scoffing or snorts of derision they receive because of their faith, thank these guys and all the corny American televangelists before them.


Archbishop Fulton Sheen

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[I am not sure what title he should have since I have also seen “Venerated” attached to his name, so I went with the title I have seen most frequently.]

My wife and I were watching the Showtime program THE TUDORS last week and Peter O’Toole played the part of Pope Paul III.  In an episode where O’Toole had a lot of lines including the following

  • “The King of England has been carried far from the shore, but he does not realize it yet.  He does not ask for God’s help; he does not ask for our help.  He thinks he can swim alone- but very soon, he will realize he is not swimming, but drowning.”

and another that I can’t find but ends with him saying

“…and before God!”

My wife and I were discussing afterwards how you just don’t find that kind of presence on film much anymore. You just don’t. I don’t know if there are not actors able to deliver such lines in such a way anymore, or if directors don’t think such performances realistic anymore.

I do admit O’Toole threw me out of the scene a few times, but it was the sheer brilliance of his delivery that distracted me, not any lack.

Any film that takes place in modern times couldn’t really be called realistic with lines delivered with such delicious authority. We are just so ho-hum and actually whatever omg blah, blah, blah.

So I was reminded of O’Toole’s performance the other evening when I came across, on YouTube, Fulton Sheen’s Life is Worth Living from way back in the 50’s and 60’s.

Man, what an orator! What a performer even! When he gets serious I get goosebumps.


We Who Are About To… by Joanna Russ

Shoot a little girl in the back of the head…

I mentioned in my last post on Lafferty’s Okla Hannali, that it has been sometime since I have been disappointed in a book. Well, my streak is over.

I am not merely disappointed, but repelled. There are now two books in the science fiction world that cause my hackles to raise and bring a sour taste to my mouth. The first is Arthur C. Clark’s CHILDHOOD’S END, and, now, WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO… by Joanna Russ.

They have a similarity that I disdain in both. Cynical resignation. The people of Earth in CHILDHOOD’S END passively accept their fate of evolutionary extinction at the hands of the OVERLORDS and the OVERMIND through their instruments the children becoming cosmic minds that wipe out the entire Earth.

If there was ever a case for mass infanticide, Clark presented it. Or at least fight the Overlords – something! You can still lose in the end! I don’t demand riding off into the sunset, but, Christ, fight first!

Likewise in WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO… the main character never once even gives a thought to whether or not the group has any chance of surviving. No, from the start she resigns to fatalism. I dare say the character was suicidal (and homicidal) before these events.

Maybe they have no chance of starting a civilization. Perhaps all they could have eked out is a year or two of sustainability. Never in all my science fiction reading have I come across such a loser of a character.

Within the first twenty pages of the book I had already tired of the nasty anger of the narrator and the general tone of spite that the author brought to the entire book. Knowing nothing of the author I guessed that this was written by an angry lesbian feminist. Please, please, I don’t deserve any reward for being a super-slueth of character, the book screamed it from the top of its lungs. But I would have been at least somewhat impressed if my hunch had not been precisely on target. Perhaps if she had been a happy-go-lucky grandma who collected pictures of puppy dogs for her grandchildren or something.

I was intent to go along with the character until the scene after she had murdered everyone except the child Lori. Then she crept up behind the child and Continue reading