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Pastwatch
Pastwatch
by Orson Scott Card
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 9.89
79 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Orson Scott Card's Agenda, Feb. 13 2001
This review is from: Pastwatch (Mass Market Paperback)
Pastwatch is a terrific Science Fiction/Historical novel. It also promotes a Christian agenda.
There are lots of Propaganda works out there, but Orson Scott Card does a different piece of propaganda. Card realised that you can't rely on the supernatural to validate Christianity. If you say something like 'Christianity is the best because God said so', it's a circular logic that doesn't convince anyone (For example to that, the Pope has the ability to speak 'Ex Cathedra' - that is, in the name of God. In all of history, Popes have done that maybe 11 times. The very first thing that a Pope declared Ex Cathedra was that when he speaks Ex Cathedra he speaks for God. That's a kind of circular argument we would find hard to swallow).
Therefore, Orson Scott Card's agenda in this book was to prove the superiority of Christianity in a social context - to prove that Christianity is superior because it makes people better off.
One of the interesting facets about OSC's SF is that Card is very conscience about the religious life of his characters. Religion plays a huge role in his works, and most of Card's characters are believers in one sense or the other. Card sometimes attacked the vision of humanity as 'evolving beyond religion' that is often expressed in science fiction.
And yet, notice that OSC's future society in Pastwatch contains No Religion. Here our great crusader for Christianity's cause AND for spiritual importance of people creates a future, semi idealic Earth, in which human beings have 'out grown religion'. The only religious people in the future part of the book, as far as I can recall, are the Muslim guy with a fairly minor role, and a priest that has exactly 7 lines. (I haven't counted).
Interesting don't you think? Especially considering two elements: the huge role religion, and especially Christianity plays in the past, and the size of the moral dilemma standing in front of Card's future characters.
The historical people are quite occupied with Religion. Especially Columbus. Here we have Card constructing a world of complex religious character, which paints Christianity in a positive colour, but doesn't fear to seemingly criticise - never Christianity as such, but always the Christians practising it.
Even more important is the huge moral dilemma standing in front of the Future people. They have to judge whether they should sacrifice their world. We're talking about saving the whole world, and you don't see any priest around, you don't see anyone calling for God.
To me, this says two things. The first is OSC is criticising the atheist world present in SF so often. Card is saying basically that this world must self-destruct, that humanity can't survive without Christianity. The doom of the non-Christian world is the theme card is playing with.
The second issue is the choice. At the end, the future heroes decide to change the world. However, the way they do it is by creating an American/European Christian alliance. This means the destruction of the native culture of the Americans and its substitute by Christianity.
In a letter to me, Card defended this as an interventionist policy, a reaction to the human sacrifice conducted for the native American God.
Here Card is dealing with what I consider to be double standards. He doesn't blame Christianity for the crimes of Christians. The crusades where done for the glory of God, but Card doesn't blame Christianity for them, but only societies and individual Christians. On the other hand, the native Americans' sacrifice of humans in counted against their religion.
If I recall correctly, Card argued that Christianity was in essence 'manipulated' to allow for the slaughters of God's enemies, while the human sacrifice was caused by the religion of the native Americans.
This is a problematic argument on two grounds: First, there is a school of thought, by people such as Hiram Mekubi (sp?), who believe that the doctrine of Christianity is Anti-semitic by nature. I don't know enough about the ideas of this group to comment on it, but clearly, saying that Christianity is morally 'right' religion while the Native American religion wasn't, is problematic at best.
More importantly, though, it is quite possible to change a facet of a religion without changing it all. The best example is one Card is certainly very well familiar with, that of the church of later day Saints - of the Mormons. For a long time, Mormons were involved in polygamy relationships - allowing multiple wives for one man. However, under pressure from the US government, this practice died out. It is not necessary to destroy an entire religion because of one aspect of it.
Card is rightfully and wholeheartedly against the atrocities committed by the Europeans against the native Americans. However, Card doesn't mind the cultural disaster inflicted upon the natives by the Christians. In fact, his vision is of the same kind of cultural destruction.
The consequence of heroes' actions in the Card's book is that a Pax Christiana - a Christian peace comes to the world. Thus, the ending of the novel is in a Christian Utopia, guided by pure Christian ideals.
And atheists form this Christian utopia, the last atheists of a destroyed, non-Christian world. This is the victory of Christianity, as the non-Christians are convinced in the supremacy and superiority of Christ. Symbolically, Card is passing the torch - from the unreligious world that fails to the glory of Christendom, a world united under Christ.
Thus, as I found Pastwatch to be a good book, I'm still troubled by the messages it contains.
P.S. As I was writing it, I was thinking of several other parallels to Christianity, which might or might not be coincidences. Is it an accident that there are 3 people sent to save the world, one of them a woman, and is there something Christ-like about the sacrifice of out world in favour of the new, Christian kingdom?
If you have any answers, email me.

Scandalmonger: A Novel
Scandalmonger: A Novel
by William Safire
Edition: Hardcover
42 used & new from CDN$ 0.72

5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Powers that be, Feb. 5 2001
This review is from: Scandalmonger: A Novel (Hardcover)
I vaguely recall reading some articles by Mr. Safire, but I've never read any of his books before. Well, I shall certainly remedy that. If Scandalmonger is any sign, William Safire might just be one of the most able writers in the US today.
Seriously, it must have been six months since I've last enjoyed a novel as much as I have enjoyed this one. Written with clear, powerful and well thought of prose (In the afterwords, Safire reveals some of the tricks that he used in order to convey the atmosphere without falling into the use of anarchonisms), this book is always thrilling and often witty, for those of us who enjoy subtle, sharp irony.
You don't have to reach the appendixes in order to realise the width of Safire's knowledge of the topic. Safire is clearly very well versed with the history of the period, and it shows. Not a very descriptive writer, Safire clearly knows alot about the personality of each and evry character in the novel. Writing with a Historian's dedicacy, even Safire's lies are rarely more than half truths.
The Pacing and prose of Scandlemonger are perfect. It is a page turner, very well written and planned. Safire never lets his grip loose, and every word counts.
The parallels between the US of the 1790s-1800s and the US of the 1990s-2000s are overwhelming, and surprisingly, you feel some appreciation to the history of journalism. I think it is impossible to read Scandalmonger without thinking about Monica Lewinski, but the novel will still be every bit as good when Lewiski, like Sally Hemmins, will be left as no more than an ancedote in US history.
I can not recommand Scandalmonger enough. In each and every aspect it is a masterpiece of fiction. In one word: TRIUMPH.

Live in Italy (1983)
Live in Italy (1983)
Offered by marvelio-ca
Prix : CDN$ 19.98
6 used & new from CDN$ 19.98

5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Best Lou Reed Live Album, Jan. 14 2001
This review is from: Live in Italy (1983) (Audio CD)
Forget about 'Lou Reed Live', 'Rock'n'Roll Animal' and even 'Perfect Night in London'(All great records, by the way), Lou Reed Live in Italy is the best Lou Reed live album, bar none.
Just look at the track list, for crying out loud. After a three seconds long introduction, you can hear Reed's guitar tears into the classic opening chords of Sweet Jane, the best riff he's ever written. This version of Sweet Jane is argueably the best version out there - Lou singing 'You know they're sayin' Jane, oh Sweet Jane' is Lou at his finest, and Robert Quine... we'll talk about Robert Quine.
Oh, why not talk about him now. Robert Quine is the best guitar player to have ever worked with Lou Reed. He is as good as Mike Ranson who worked with Bowie and Lyle workman who played lead for Frank Black. He's quite possibly even better. Listen to the lead guitar in 'Waves of Fear', it's incredible.
Lou's new stuff here is great - Waves of Fear and Average Guy are the stand outs, but the older Reed is what truly shines through. Sally Can't Dance no More is a vicious attack on fame, The Satellite of Love is lou's romance at it's best, and Walk on the Wild Side is, well, a walk on the wild side.
Still, to me this will allways be memorable because of the Velvet Songs. Before and after, Reed will atmpt to make the Velvet stuff feel at home in his sets, and, with the exception of the Loaded songs, he will allways fail. This is the exception. White Light/White Heat, Waiting for the Man and of course, Heroin, Reed's finest song, shine through the able musicians.
I'm way to young to have been alive through that Lou Reed tour, and even through I've seen Reed live, I'm still at agony for not have seen him live at those 1984 shows. This is the closest I'll ever get.

DEAD MAN'S HAND
DEAD MAN'S HAND
by George R.R. Martin
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
14 used & new from CDN$ 36.51

5.0 étoiles sur 5 A thrilling ride, Nov. 20 2000
Wild Cards 7, written by George R. R. Martin and John J. Miller is one of the best Wild Cards books so far. Eventhough I don't generally like the mosaic novels, this is a prime example on how it should be done.
It's possible that it is so succesful because there are only two writers, which clearly helps the pace. And ofcourse, the fact that half the book is written by my favorite writer George R. R. Martin, speaks for itself.
Dead Man's Hand is a 'parallel novel' to Wild Cards VI: Ace in the Hole. It follows a plotline that was mentioned in WC6, but not exploared - Chrysalis's murder, and the attempts by Martin's Jay 'Popinjay' Acroyd and Miller's 'Yeoman' Brennan to find the killer.
Popinjay, previously meerely a secondary character, proves to be a classic Martin hero - witty, clever and seemingly superficial, there is more to him than meets the eye, although that is only revealed slowly. I must admit I was disappointed that we won't see the Turtle in this story, but Jay was a suitable compensation.
Yeoman was a different story. Although I have allways liked him, his new love affair with Jennifer 'Wraith' Maloy, is not only unlikely but uninteresting, unlike his past relation with Chrysalis. Now Brennan is little but your average action hero running aroung beating people up and delivering one liners.
As a mystery, the novel works rather well. Certainly the identity of the killer is unexpected. On the other hand, the authors don't quite let you feel this is a Mystery novel - you're too focused on the action/thrilelr plots resolving the story of T-Malice, the master that enslaved so many Wild Cards characters, and the Shadow Fist gang - who try to benefit from Chrysalis's murder.
One of the things I liked best about this novel was the focus on jokers. Although the heros are an ace and a nat, there are more Jokers active in this Wild Cards novel than in any other, many of them showing strength and courage. The Wild Cards series tends to focus on Aces, but I personnaly like the Jokers at least as much, and quite possibly more. The dark side of the Virus, so to speak, can be more fascinating than the more obvious Superhero stuff.
Overall Dead Man's Hand is a thrilling ride, filled with action, advanture, cool ideas, and an extremely powerful climax, in which there is a confrontation between several major characters. The confrontation at the end is one of the Wild Cards' strongest moments, and this novel certainly holds up there with DOWN AND DIRTY, as the best of the Wild Cards so far.

Hitlers Pope
Hitlers Pope
by John Cornwell
Edition: Paperback
43 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 étoiles sur 5 An Fascinating account of a complex figure, Oct. 20 2000
This review is from: Hitlers Pope (Paperback)
The subject of the Pope's behaviour during the 2nd World War is a very sensitive topic. As the author notes, hundreds of millions world wide believe the Pope to Christ's vicar on Earth. The Pope's behavior while one of the most monsterous crimes humanity has ever witnessed is thus a highly personalised topic for many.
John Cornwell treats the topic with care and a balanced approach. I'm no expert on the subject, and my knowledge of the Church's relations with the Nazi regime restircted to general readings I've made about WW2 and the holocaust, but I've been impressed with the research and study of the author. His knowledge is rich, both in understanding and analysing historical event and documents (be it the Vatican Canon Law, Hitler's rise to power or international relationship during the war), and with regards to ancedotes and personnal information (He comments, amoung other things, about discussions between Pius XII and both T.S. Elliot and Orson Wells).
Perhaps the most fascinating of Cornwell's insights is his interpretation of Pius XII's actions as part of the trends in the modern Roman Catholic Church. Cornwell forwards a powerful arguement about the struggle of the church between modernisation and pluralism and the more traditional, authoriterian forces with in the church. Those, at least, ring true to me in light of recent decleration, such as the document on the Church's relations with the Jews.
The only weakness I could find was Cornwell's minimal consideration of the arguement that, had the Pope spoken out, many more would have suffered. This seems like a strong arguement for Pius XII's silence, and while it is mentioned, a more detailed analysis of it would have been welcome. Clearly, though, Pius XII did not feel the same about Communist Russia, which he justifiably apposed fiercely, as Cornwell aknowledges.
Eugenio Pacelli's character is very complex and hard to decipher, and I think that this book is an important step in comprehending him and his actions. I would recommand this book to anyone interested in the Roman Catholic Church, The Nazi regime, World War 2 or the holocaust - in short, to everyone.

A Storm of Swords: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Three
A Storm of Swords: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Three
by George R.R. Martin
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 23.83
32 used & new from CDN$ 17.95

5.0 étoiles sur 5 What can you say about a Masterpiece?, Oct. 8 2000
The cliche would be to say that words can't express how great this book is, but that, of course, is false. For words DO express how great it is - George R. R. Martin's words, though, not mine.
A Storm of Swords is the third, and the best (so far), of the Epic Fantasy series A Song of Ice anf Fire. In a time when half the world is writing Epic Fantasy, George R. R. Martin is the only one who is doing it as it should be done.
A Storm of Swords' pace is like that of a snowball, it start small and slow, and accelerates. The book's beginning is a masterful art of wieving threads together, and about a third way into is you start to shadder because you're in the most incredible rollar costar imaginable, and it won't let you off until the very ending, and you'll be left suffering until a Dance with Dragons will be out in 2002 - but that's true for all of us Martin fans.
A Storm of Swords shows Martin's loathing of happy endings and black/white characters - Martin's world is so realistic it hurts. The morality gets much more complicated, as we get indights into a character we thought was a villain, and see his actions completely differently.
The twists are very logical, but completely surprising. For each development predicted by the fans, three weren't. Some questions are answered, but more are asked, and through the entire story, the Stark words can be heard: "Winter is Coming"
After A Clash of Kings, I thought Martin wrote a story that was practically impossible to top. But he has, and now all I can do is to count the days until A DANCE WITH DRAGONS

Boy in the Water
Boy in the Water
by Stephen Dobyns
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 étoiles sur 5 And you thought your High School was problematic?, Sept. 24 2000
I've read and enjoyed Stephen Dobyns's The Church of Dead Girl, and while Boy in the Water isn't quite as powerful as Dobyns's other novel, it is still a magnificent read.
Unlike TCoDG, Boy doesn't use the first person narrative, but choses a third person approach that allows him to focus on many more characters. Although most of the characters are well done, three stand out, and luckily Dobyns's best characters are also the two protagonists: Jim Hawthorne, the psychologist who runs the school, and who has to recover from a dark personal tragedy, and Jessica, a young girl who worked as a stripper in order to try and save her brother. Both of them, as well as another character, a young boy from school called Scott, are very interesting and with fascinating internal lives.
The weakest characters are the love-interest, who screams out LOVE INTERESTS starting from the first scene in which she appears, and the villain, who comes off as shallow and irritating, although to Dobyns's credit he is also very, very creepy.
Like with 'The Church of Dead Girls', BOY's best parts are those in which Dobyns deals with the interraction in between the individual and the community. Bishop's Hill, the school in which the story takes place, actually has a very strong sense of being more than a place - being a structure created by the characters which inhibit it. Dobyns demonstrates again his superb insight into group dynamics, and the way, for instance, in which events take over the entire school (rummers, for instance), are a dlight to read.
Still, BOY in the water has three weaknesses that disapointed me somewhat.
First, the book contains several stock Horror clisches, none of which works particularily well. We get a rationalized ghost, telephone calls from the dead, and a climax in which the school is left completely isolated from the world around it. All these are much less effectives than the scenes in which Dobyns actually comes up with NEW Horror ideas.
Second, there are several irritating plot holes. A Serial killer, who has clearly killed before, using a fixed MO, is never tracked by any big enforcement agency. Also, although his identity is kept secret, all the other villains know who he is, or at least know that he's corruptable.
But perhaps the thing most lacking from 'Boy in the Water' is the kind of spooky atmosphere of mistrust that Dobyns so perfectly established in 'The Church of Dead Girls'. the haunted paranoid feeling in The Church of Dead Girls contributed ALOT to my liking of it, and I'm disappointed that he hasn't been quite able to recapture it.
Nonetheless, Boy in the Water is a veery good read, the kind of book that is both clever and a page turner.
If you enjoyed The Church of Dead Girls, you'll enjoy this too. If you haven't read Dobyns, though, Start with the previous novel.

Schismatrix Plus
Schismatrix Plus
by Bruce Sterling
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 12.64
45 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Ambitious, Sept. 10 2000
This review is from: Schismatrix Plus (Paperback)
For me, Ambitious is the very word that describes Schismatrix Plus. It aims very, very high, whether Sterling's aim was accurate, is for everyone to judge individually.
I had very high expectations from this book. I've previously read Sterling's 'The Swarm', the very first Shapers/Mechanist story, in Gardner Dozois's anthology, THE GOOD NEW STUFF, and liked it alot.
Furthermore, the last two books I've read were very different from each other, and both really good - George R. R. Martin's new Fatasy Epic A Storm of Swords, and Stephen Zweig's The Royal Game. In between those two masterworks, I've read the prologue to Schismatrix, and loved it.
What impressed me most about the prologe, about the Swarm and indeed about the novel itself, was the scope and the vividness of Sterling's Future. The Shapers/Mechanist universe is clearly one of the most fascinating and exotic worlds created in Science Fiction.
So I came to Scismatrix with exteremly high expectations, believing I was about to read a classic on par with Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, Frank Herbert's Dune, or Dan Simmons's Hyperion Cantos.
The first 80 pages cured me of that hope. I'm not a passionate Cyber-Punk fan, quite the contrary, and the first 80 pages consist of a Cyber Punk story set in Space. A well written Cyber Punk, no doubt - others have commented on Sterling's prose, and he has a great deal of talent, but a traditional Cyber Punk story nonetheless, and thus somewhat out of date.
However, after those 80 pages, Sterling changes the style fo the novel, and returns to the issue of the introduction - the wide spread political sweeps that take the universe, as Sterling's hero, Lindsay, finds his peaceful life threatens by both his ideology and his long time friend turned bitter enemy, Constantine.
And then, the novel changes again, this time becomes a generational story, of the hero passes through a universe which changes in terrifying speed. Sterling attempts the kind of paradigm shifting SF story telling, as evident in such works as Clarke's Childhood's End, and in the process comes up with some very nice touches - a particularly lovely scene is the final meeting between Lindsay and his long friend/Archi Nemesis Constantine.
All in all the novel, and the stories, portray a wonderfully realised world. But they lack the kind of plot structure and advances necessary to make this kind of work appealing to me, and the ideas, while sometimes fascinating are often reduced to merely new Jargon versions of old clisches.
My own high expectations damaged my enjoyment of the novel, but Í have enjoyed it nonetheless, and would recommand it to others. Schismatrix is a seminal work of Cyber Punk, and an immaginative attack on the age old tradition of SF - and for that it deserves to be read.

Who's Next (Bonus Tracks)
Who's Next (Bonus Tracks)
Prix : CDN$ 11.90
20 used & new from CDN$ 7.00

5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Who at their Peak, Aug. 23 2000
Truth is, Who's Next wasn't the album I wanted to buy. I was looking for Odds and Sods, or something with 'Long Live Rock' on it. I still want that, but I'm REALLY glad I bought Who's Next first.
Who's Next was born out of failiure - the failiure of the Lifehouse project. But it's no failiure at all - It is a glorios success. In no time at all, Who's Next has grown to be one of my faovrite all time records.
Look at the cover, for start. It is hillarious and provocative at the same time. The Who were past their 'trashing equipment' days at that point, but the cover shows they didn't forget the art of making a strong visual impression.
(A short complain - I think that the addition of the preiviously unreleased songs harms the album - Why do you think they WEREN'T released in the first place? Some of them are really nice, but I would have prefered them in a second CD, not on the same one)
It is the music, beyond all, that captures you. The rythem guitar on 'Barbara O'Reilly', John Entwistle's powerful My Wife, which is a sad, powerful song... 'All I did was have to much to drink'. Going Mobile is energetic like few songs ever are, and 'I'm in Tune' is wishful and touching.
But to me, The Song is Over is the best of the bunch (Though it's a VERY close call). When Roger Daltney roars "I'll Sing My Song to the Wide Open Spaces" I was thinking for a moment of Nick Cave at his best, but there is a beauty here that supersedes even his great tunes. Talented artists could persaps write songs which have this level of Energy, or this beauty, but not combine both in one song like The Who.

Mission Control
Mission Control
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Prix : CDN$ 16.95
5 used & new from CDN$ 9.96

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Modern and Classic at the same time., Aug. 4 2000
This review is from: Mission Control (Audio CD)
Burning Airlines's debut album Mission:Control is an extremely impressive album - it is innovative and unique, and in the same time it works as a classic rock album.
I have never heard anything by any of the band members in their former enterprises, but the album stands very well on its own. The singing, guitars, drums, etc, are all first rate, but it is the song writing that makes this album truely unique, as far as I'm concerned.
Songs like Carnival or Wheaton Calling demonstrate rock song writing at its best - singing about 'the gap between love and pornography' shows that the Band know their Punk background, but can ascend it. Tthey can also write the fast, creepy choruses of Alternative music ' Repeat * 10, you're happy again, sinking where you lay' is cynical and funny at the same time.
The Alternative Pop elements are there - you have to love the way they sing/scream 'Crowding the Candy Corona-TION' in Crowned.
The mere ability to say some of these lyrics deserves an award, let alone singing them 'The taste of bitter fictions, the ring of contradictions that sing to me' is among the easier ones, but a favorite of mine.
This album is filled with great songs, from the fast Carnival to the fun of crowned through slow, beautiful melodies of songs such as '3 Sisters'. It also has some cool bits from Orson Well's take of Kafka's The Trial, which are humerous in a dark, rock'n'roll way - it almost feels like an injoke.
Only rarely do I find a band whose stuff I really like, and they're often long gone before I notice them... but I fell in love with 'Burning Airlines'... and I'm gonna wait for the next album... and for a tour somewhere close :-)

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