|Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 16, 2022 at 6:20 AM|
Earth’s Changing Climate by Richard Wolfson
Most of my life I’ve been hearing about changes in the earth’s climate. It started out with fears of a new ice age which transformed into global warming which transformed to climate change. When I started studying history—especially the ancient and medieval worlds—I learned that the earth’s climate has been changing quite regularly for all of its history. There are a lot of cycles interacting with each other creating the Little Ice Age and the Roman Warming Period and many, many, others. As reports about modern changes to the climate became more prevalent in the press I would look for any recognition that this happens as part of nature and looked for reports that help to identify what parts of what is happening are caused by human activity. Such assistance was rare.
Richard Wolfson’s course finally answered those questions for me in a way that felt grounded in reason and science and not in a new—take it on faith—religion. If you’re a skeptic, this will give you some reasons to credit the global warming narrative. If you’re a true believer, this will help you to understand some of those handy phrases that activists throw around. I strongly recommend it for anyone striving to understand why warming trends are troubling and how we know that these trends are different than those that have gone before. I wish I had discovered this book much earlier.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 15, 2022 at 9:25 AM|
Gotrek and Felix 11 Shamanslayer by Nathan Long
Nathan Long finds the magic for Gotrek and Felix with his novel Shamanslayer. The book opens with Felix losing his last connection to his old life when his brother basically disowns him because Felix’s enemies killed their (rather corrupt) father. At the same time, a knight of the Fiery Heart demands Felix turn over his magic sword which technically belongs to the order, but because the knight needs the help of Felix and Gotrek, he gives our heroes a chance to honorably win back the weapon which Felix has used so heroically over the decades. Together the knight, his squire, and Felix and Gotrek set off to find out what happened to the last of the Fiery Heart brothers when they went off to war. The answer was one of the best threats that Felix and Gotrek have yet faced in this series. The apocalypse is coming and quite frankly, only Gotrek and Felix have a chance to divert it.
We get armies, corrupt humans, bestial monsters, and a fantastic overwhelming danger in this novel, but we also get a touching (if slightly disturbing) piece of nostalgia where Felix gets reminded that his actions over the years have positively impacted a great many lives. This is one of—if not the best—of the books in this series.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 14, 2022 at 7:55 AM|
I am excited to announce that narrator extraordinaire, William L. Hahn, has agreed to record an audio book version of my ninth Legionnaire tale, Flood of War. Will has already recorded books 1-8 and the prequel, Jungles of Ekanga, bringing his exceptional vocal talents to the task of bringing the characters to life. In fact, I hear his voice in my head now as I write new dialogue. Let's hope that Will can find time in his busy schedule to quickly move on to recording the tenth novel, Calidus’ Stand.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 14, 2022 at 7:55 AM|
Writing the Bible by Martien Halvorson-Taylor
This is what a Great Courses book is supposed to be. Rather than get bogged down in faith stories as so many historical books looking at the bible do, Halvorson-Taylor jumps right into the problems of discerning where and how the books of the Old Testament were written and compiled and in doing so teaches us a lot about the history of the regions.
People tend to think that the great religions of the world began in their present forms rather than evolved over time. The thing I liked most about Writing the Bible was how Halvorson-Taylor shows again and again how the interests of the people writing about periods that happened centuries earlier put their own worldview on to the historical actors. A really interesting example was King Solomon, who is presented in the Old Testament as having abandoned his monotheism and worshipped other gods. However, those accounts were written centuries after his death. It is much more likely, based on an analysis of the texts and when they were written, that Solomon ruled at a time when the Jews were not yet staunchly monotheistic—something that later authors either didn’t know or couldn’t accept.
Another fascinating insight conveyed by Halvorson-Taylor was how the written word did not originally appear to be given the same trustworthiness as the spoken word, but that over time with the literate gaining in influence, the written word became viewed as much more dependable.
All in all, this is a wonderful book. I hope she does a sequel on the New Testament.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 13, 2022 at 8:35 AM|
Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
Chandler presents the reader with two apparently separate crimes, both murders, and the fun of the novel is figuring out how they both come together. Getting there is quite a ride as Philip Marlowe stumbles from scene to scene getting cracked over the head so frequently that it feels like every other chapter. Yet Marlowe remains the quintessential hard-boiled detective. He’s tough and undeterrable even when he isn’t getting paid for the job. But there is also a genuine mystery at the root of this and I felt very bad for one of the murderers—as I’m certain Chandler intended me to. All in all, there aren’t actually many nice or even good people in this book—except, of course, for Marlowe.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 12, 2022 at 6:40 AM|
The Spider 4 City of Flaming Shadows
Richard Wentworth is called into action once again when a new villain, the Tarantula, threatens all the money in the banks of New York City by figuring out how to cut out the power to the areas he wants to rob. To complicate things, he has also figured out that Wentworth is the Spider and kidnaps his girlfriend in an attempt to sideline the Spider from interfering with his plans. Naturally, this doesn’t work, so he also tries to frame Wentworth for his crimes.
One of the great weaknesses of this series is that in each novel the police all suspect Wentworth is the Spider, but never manage to prove anything against him. In this volume, one cop also suspects he’s the Tarantula but even though he washes disguise makeup off of Wentworth’s face, he only comes up with another disguise underneath. I felt like I was reading an episode of Scooby Doo when the villain wears two masks.
Yet the novel is still fun. There’s plenty of action in these stories, if not a lot of brains driving the action. That is true not only of Wentworth but the police as well. Still, it’s a lot of fun watching this hero out of the 1930s try to save civilization all by himself.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 11, 2022 at 6:00 AM|
Over My Dead Body by Rex Stout
Nero Wolfe has a daughter who is every bit as cantankerous and all-around-difficult as he is. Visiting the U.S. she only makes her existence known when she gets in trouble—accused of stealing some diamonds from a locker in a fencing studio—but murder can’t be far behind in a Nero Wolfe mystery. This one stands apart because everything that happens involves a cast of international operatives seeking to advance a secret intrigue. Wolfe and Archie have to unravel a lot more than who killed who to get to the bottom of this mystery and they have to do it with a client even less helpful than Nero Wolfe.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 10, 2022 at 7:20 AM|
Destroyer 51 Shock Value by Warren Murphy
Remo and Chiun are back to acting like The Destroyer again. An unknown foe who can program people to commit assassinations for him gets his hands on Harold Smith to force him to put his computer skills to use for the bad guys. Smith manages to leave Remo and Chiun one small clue and they use it to go after Smith to rescue him. The bad guys try to stop them and fail—badly. The high point of the novel comes in a nice scene toward the end in which Remo gets an insight into how truly capable his Sinanju-trained body is. Overall, this is standard Destroyer fair, but a truly big step up from the last few books.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 9, 2022 at 9:50 AM|
The Golden Spiders by Rex Stout
When Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin have a spat over Wolfe’s rudeness, Archie tries to get back at Wolfe by permitting a 12 year old street kid who shows up with a “case” for Wolfe to join them at dinner, Wolfe uses the arrival to get back at Archie, making him take notes and treat the interview as a serious case. Both men are shocked a couple of days later when the boy is killed—probably by the man he came to get Wolfe’s help regarding. To make matters worse, the boy’s mother arrives and gives Wolfe the dead child’s life’s savings (a couple of dollars) because it was her son’s last wish. Angry at himself, but also (without acknowledging it) clearly feeling some responsibility toward the dead boy, Wolfe spends the money on a one in a million gambit that pulls him firmly into a fascinating case in which the major clue is a pair of bizarre spider earrings.
I love this novel because it shows a touch of humanity in Nero Wolfe that the great detective would clearly prefer that no one knows he has. It also shows him and his team of operatives at their best taking one impossibly small clue and using it to solve three murders. I didn’t figure this one out, but I certainly enjoyed watching Wolfe do so. This novel shows once again why Nero Wolfe deserves to be counted among the greatest of fictional detectives.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on May 8, 2022 at 7:35 AM|
The Ghost Lights of Forrest Field by M. L. Bullock
Gulf Coast Paranormal is back, this time investigating mysterious lights that appear over Forrest Field. The lights bring with them the ozone smell of electricity and there are stories of them burning people in the past so there is a greater level of danger than usual right from the beginning in this novel.
The mystery—the ghosts—date back to an eighteenth century judicial lynching of a woman accused of burning her friend to death. There is an undercurrent of racism in the lynching as the woman was having a relationship with a Native American that clearly scandalized the community. The GCP team has to figure out how to set all three spirits—the lynched woman, the burnt woman, and the Native American, to rest.
These novels are very short reads and they really work for me. I’m six into the series now and I’m still having trouble articulating just what it is that attracts me to them so strongly. I think the answer is in the relationships of the GCP team. I really like the characters and they all have their share of problems which help them come to life. I’m really looking forward to the next book.