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Reviews Written by
Kevin L. Nenstiel "omnivore" (Kearney, Nebraska)

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After The Flood
After The Flood
Offered by Fulfillment Express CA
Price: CDN$ 20.08
19 used & new from CDN$ 1.24

5.0 out of 5 stars Clumsy Blues, July 3 2004
This review is from: After The Flood (Audio CD)
What do you get when you take a basic bluegrass sound, throw in every other form of music thatcan support a mandolin and fiddle, sculpt it with a strong young songwriter, and season it with several years of indie releases and long tours before putting it on major-label disc for the first time? You get this CD.
The sticker on the shrink-wrap calls it a fusion of Bluegrass and Celtic music. That's part of it. You can also hear the influence of gospel, Gypsy, country, blues, and rock on several tracks. Traditional instrumentals and adaptations punctuate sharp songs like "Mercy," "Scarce," and "Everything's Okay." The mini-opera that runs from "House and Home" through to "Waterbound" is witty and well-constructed. This is a CD to play often.
There are hints that the band's main songwriter, Chris Jonat, may have competition in the near future from bandmates Trevor Rogers and Andrea Lewis. If that's the case, we may live to see even more mature, sophisticated work from this band. Even if that isn't the case, this is one of the bast major-label CDs to come down the pike in a decade.

Agents of Light and Darkness
Agents of Light and Darkness
by Simon R. Green
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.99
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Spotty Follow-Up, July 3 2004
Where the previous volume of this series felt like a great introduction, this book feels leaden. Half the time, the author feels like he's still setting up the setting, but nearly every character or setting he introduces is destroyed right away. In the end, only Jessica Sorrow remains of the new characters introduced to return in the future.
Author Simon R. Green hopscotches from one encounter to another--a psychic boy band, a dancer who lives by stealing vitality from the undead, a gun that works by undoing God's creation--only to have the lead prove fruitless and the characters in question be destroyed. This feels less like a mission or a quest than a scavanger hunt at a spastic child's birthday party.
Green has a wonderful setting in the Nightside, and compelling, sympathetic characters in John Taylor and Suzie Shooter. Here's hoping that, in future installments, he rambles less and narrates more.

Something from the Nightside
Something from the Nightside
by Simon R. Green
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
55 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Good Introduction, July 3 2004
A beautiful woman walks into the office of a washed-up private dick and waves money in his face. He takes the case. You've read this before, of course you have. But then the dick takes the dame into hell.
There's nothing really groundbreaking in this short novel by Simon R. Green. It's not supposed to be revolutionary; it's supposed to be fun. With its mix of urban fantasy, science fiction, and horror, it's hip weekend reading, something to take to the beach.
This is an introductory volume to a series, and as such it spends a lot of effort introducing the reader to the setting and to recurring characters. It's full of promise for upcoming volumes, even if this one feels strained. Maybe our hero, John Taylor, spits out a lot of explanatory monologues, some of them two pages too long. Maybe some of the actions he takes don't contribute to this book in particular. It's setting the reader up for a delayed payoff. Just enjoy it--it's all in good fun.

"Scotland, PA (Widescreen)" [Import]
"Scotland, PA (Widescreen)" [Import]
DVD ~ James Le Gros
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 191.05
9 used & new from CDN$ 45.73

3.0 out of 5 stars Good Set-Up, No Follow-Through, July 3 2004
If you've read or seen a production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, you're already familiar with this story. Reset in a 1970's fast-food restaurant, this funny but spotty adaptation is a good idea that wasn't executed as well as it could have been. When Joe "Mac" McBeth's idea for this newfangled Drive-Thru thingie merits him only feint rewards, he and his wife do in his boss, Norm Duncan. As you know, he merits some short-term rewards, but everything goes downhill from there.
This movie has some really sharp visuals--the cinematography is gorgeous--and the soundtrack is laced with some well-chosen AM radio hits from the time period in question. The beginning has some of the wittiest indi-film humor in years. But as we reach the climax, the filmmakers start playing funny with Shakespeare's sequence, moving a lot of Acts IV and V material up to act III to put the climax closer to the resolution. The jokes become sparse, and the ironic self-referential Macbeth material becomes grating rather than funny.
By making Mac McBeth a businessman and respected community member, the tragic downfall remains part of the character, but by having the character never change, or even cut his hair, and by having his final downfall take place privately and in the dark of night, we are left with anticlimax rather than Aristotelian catharsis. This movie was a great idea, but it wasn't carried though in the best possible way. Here's hoping someone else takes a shot at it again when the chance comes.

Don't Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and England
Don't Bet on the Prince: Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and England
by Jack Zipes
Edition: Paperback
41 used & new from CDN$ 2.41

5.0 out of 5 stars Front of the Next Wave, June 20 2004
This book is divided into three parts. The first, "Feminist Fairy Tales for Young (and Old) Readers," is the selection of stories you want to read aloud to your daughter or son. These stories have sophisticated subjects and good language, but no lengthy exposition of narrative that bogs down a reading out loud. Most set up admirable gender roles, but some, such as "Snow White," are explicitly political, and can help you raise good activists.
The second section, "Feminist Fairy Tales for Old (and Young) Readers," is comprised of more structurally complex stories that invite a silent reader to take time and try to swallow them. Though intended for adult readers, literate children can follow them, and for the most part should be encouraged to do so early and often. Sex roles and social station dominate these stories, but we get glimpses of how these issues are impacted by war, work, and more.
The third section, "Feminist Literary Criticism," is pretty slow-moving. Most of us are already familiar with the idea that fairy tales have detrimental effects on our children, especially our daughters, and while we may be briefly interested in a scholarly explanation of why this is so, the common reader won't get as much good out of this part as the previous two.
Educator, writer, and scholar Jack Zipes has compiled here an excellent antidote to the stultifying fairy tales that molded the minds of most of us when we were young. Zipes is the editor of several thematic books of fairy tales, and this is neither the least nor the last. Whether you approach this work as a parent, a reader, or a scholar, this book is highly rewarding.

Deus Irae: A Novel
Deus Irae: A Novel
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback
11 used & new from CDN$ 22.99

5.0 out of 5 stars What Is Left To Believe, June 1 2004
This review is from: Deus Irae: A Novel (Paperback)
This book mines one of the most fertile areas of post-apocalyptic science fiction, the conflict of faith. What do people believe in when it looks like God has turned his back on the world? This book is perhaps the best possible flip side to Walter M. Miller, Jr's "A Canticle for Leibowitz."
In a world devastated by a war that has evidently been more than nuclear, Tibor McMasters is an artist for the Servants of Wrath, who worship the creator of the bomb. Pete Sands is an acolyte of the waning Christian church. These strange friends wind up on a search for Carleton Leuftufel, the man who ordered the bomb, so that he can be painted and adored as the Deus Irae, the man who remade the world.
This brief book appears to have been written by Dick from sketches by Zelazny. These two writers, among the most thoughtful in science fiction, have created a forgotten classic of Twentieth Century literature. An acid trip view of a world twisted and distorted, you are left at the end to decipher what it means. How can we believe in a good god in a bad world? But how can we believe in a bad god and survive? What god suffices? Or is that a doomed thought?
There are no answers. Like "The Matrix" or "Leviathan," we are left with important questions and our own resources. This is hard. Though this is not the greatest philosophical science fiction novel ever written, it's right up there, and it's not to be undertaken lightly.
Though this book, like most SF from its time, has become dated, it remains eminently readable and beautifully constructed. We can only mourn that these two great minds are gone now, and enjoy this great meeting of their intellects. Highly recommended.

Welcome to the Woods
Welcome to the Woods
Offered by InMusicWeBelieve LLC
Price: CDN$ 17.39
8 used & new from CDN$ 8.81

5.0 out of 5 stars Rock Like You All Got Your Reasons!, June 1 2004
This review is from: Welcome to the Woods (Audio CD)
The advance single of this album, "Down In the Valley," is a fair representation of the full tracks, but it doesn't do the playlist justice. This is real throat-rending rock music with a rootsy texture. From the acoustic chords that introduce us to the first track, "Longfall," to the final buzzing electric guitar of "Fire on the Pontchartrain," this is an album that reminds you why you listen to music in the first place.
This is the Lost Trailers' third album, but their first for a major label. They have a very mature musical feel--they've paid their dues--while maintaining the youthful spirit of rock music. This is an album to be played over and over. With nearly an hour of music, it's definitely a CD for our age, but there's never a feeling that they're playing a song just to bulk out the tracks.
If the Lost Trailers were a little more laid-back, you could almost imagine them playing the Opry, but there's no mistaking this for anything but rock-and-roll in the ultimate spirit of Elvis, Creedence, and the American greats. The roots are definitely in the south, but they branch out all over America organically.
If your idea of great current music is Wilco, Johnny Cash, and Shelby Lynne, this is your new album.

Stage Writers Handbook: A Complete Business Guide for Playwrights, Composers, Lyricists and Librettists
Stage Writers Handbook: A Complete Business Guide for Playwrights, Composers, Lyricists and Librettists
by Dana Singer
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 28.66
39 used & new from CDN$ 2.51

4.0 out of 5 stars Dated But Valuable, June 1 2004
This book is absolutely drop-dead necessary for playwrights who intend to work in the field--and for other writers, too. It includes scads of information you'll never get in any MFA program, like how to negotiate a good contract, how to decipher copyright law, how to divide billing fairly, and more. This is information you need, and information colleges and universities unfortunately don't get around to teaching.
This book is primarily focused on U.S. artistic business and law. If you live in another country, parts of this book will be useful to you, but you'll need to do research as to your country's law and business conventions. At least if you have this book, you'll have an idea what it is you're seeking.
Author Dana Singer published this book in 1997, and at that late date, it's odd that she didn't include more on using the internet in conducting your playwriting business. There are a lot of useful forms, organizations, and contacts provided in this book, but you'll need to Google them if you want to use the 'net for them. If a second edition ever comes out, hopefully there will be more weblinks, at least for the U.S. Copyright Office if nothing else.
Your knowledge of the points in this book can make or break your playwriting career. Though dated and synoptic, it's the most thorough-going collection of information on the topic I've yet seen. Read it, memorize it, and keep it on your desk. You never know, right?

Choice of the Cat: Book Two of the Vampire Earth
Choice of the Cat: Book Two of the Vampire Earth
by E.E. Knight
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.99
55 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars That Rare Thing in Science Fiction: a Strong Sequel, May 17 2004
Sequels are a tricky beast: they are required to play by the rules of the original book, but not tell the same story. They need to tell a strong story that neither overpowers nor is dwarfed by the original. It takes a strong writer with a sharp narrative to be able to make that leap. With this book, E.E. Knight has done just that. We have a natural continuation of the story in the first volume, "Way of the Wolf," without retreading the same story or trivializing what happened previously. The principal character, David Valentine, explores more of the world that was hinted at before. We are introduced to new characters, new secrets, and new glimpses of places in the world.
This volume has two primary advantages over the previous book. First, this book isn't introducing us to a world, and doesn't need to spend half its length on exposition. Though this book is fully fifty pages shorter than the last one, there is more actual story and less time spent explaining things. Though there is a little bit of flashback to help explain the gap between the previous book and this one, it's very brief. For the most part, the author trusts you to jump into the story quickly, and makes it easy for you to do so.
Second, where the first book was primarily a tale of derring-do, this book follows the quest pattern famous in fantasy. Specifically, it follows the quest pattern in "Lord of the Rings." When Valentine is preparing to help defend the Eagles' Wings Brand, it's impossible to miss the parallels to the defense of Helm's Deep. The liberation of Omaha reflects the seige of Minas Tirith without slavishly mimicing it. Knight knows a good pattern when he sees it, and knows how to imitate. Thankfully, in imitating Tolkein, Knight doesn't try to ramrod the story into that pattern. There is nothing extraneous in the story to force Valentine into the Frodo role; everything follows appropriately. Only once at the very end, when the principal villain lapses into the Talking Killer mode, does the story lag, and even that lag is small enough to be more than outweighed by the remainder of the book.
Where "Way of the Wolf" stuck to the Mississippi River Valley, this story centers on the Great Plains. The greatest part of the story is set in Nebraska, where I've lived for twelve years, and I caught some geographical errors. Knight refers to the Sandhills, which dominate northern Nebraska, as the Sand Dunes; that term is seldom used except by geologists. He speaks of a train slowing to crest a hill east of Ogallala; the town of Ogallala is set in a flat river valley, much favored by railroad builders for its lack of steep grades. The characters cross the remains of the Kingsley Dam, which apparently is badly deteriorated, and see anglers fishing in the waters; without the dam, there's nowhere in that area with enough water to breed fish to support sport fishing.
But this is niggling and most readers will flatly miss this. And in a wide-ranging story like this, doing that kind of research would be costly and time consuming. It's better that Knight spent his time writing the story, which is gripping to fans of fantasy, SF, and supernatural horror. This book is a self-contained story, an excellent sequel and a good bridge to the next volume. Fans who have waited for this book to come out will be well-rewarded, and readers coming to the story may be a little lost but will find plenty to like.
(Note--check out the author's website. There's interesting supplementary material that fans will enjoy, much of which may serve as lead-in to future volumes of this series. <[...]

Never Make It Home
Never Make It Home
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 95.10
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5.0 out of 5 stars Burning Kansas, May 17 2004
This review is from: Never Make It Home (Audio CD)
Kansas may be the flatest state in the Union, but they've produced some sharp artists through the years. Split Lip Rayfield is just one such, a kick-ass bluegrass ensemble that plays traditional music with one of the sharpest edges out there today. In a day and age when Oh Brother Where Art Thou threatens to trap bluegrass in a Depression-era museum case, Split Lip Rayfield plays string band music for the new milennium.
The only unifyning theme on this album is the undisputed picking power of the artists. It's all string music--no keys, no drums, just strings. But there's no risk of it all sounding the same. From upbeat rockers like Kiss of Death to honky-tonk beauties like Drink Lotsa Whiskey, country chestnuts like Love Please Come Home to iconoclasty like Dime Story Cowboy, this album never gives you a chance to take the band for granted.
Split Lip Rayfield is famous for their live shows, and of course an album can never match up to that. Still, this is shimmy music for Hell's own square-dance. If you want a string band album that will make you jump out of your chair and scream for more, this is it.

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