A group of friends find more to trouble them than a hang-over when they wake from a Stag Party in a remote country cottage in Sussex. The world has gone mad, infected by a disease that turns people into ravening, mutating, flesh eating monsters. Who or what is the cause of the outbreak? Will they survive and find their families and loved ones alive and un-turned? Is there any hope for humanity? How far has the plague spread?
What sets this very bleak but effective apocalyptic thriller apart from the groaning weight of it’s undead filled cousins are the monsters themselves, and their mysterious origin. The origin is very sketchily explained and this is both strength and weakness. I’ll come to that later. But the monsters, what you become if you are unlikely enough to contract this plague, are basically every combination possible of the mutations in John Carpenter’s “The Thing” and then some. The body horror also nods to David Cronenberg, but the main respectful nods must be to “The Thing.” Fanged mouths and eyes generate in very odd places indeed, as do slimy tentacles and spider legs and all kinds of weird animal shapes that really do reference that film. As do the grotesque ways the monsters consume their prey, from just chowing down to absorption.
The horror is merciless and the tone relentlessly bleak, even for a genre not known for casual optimism. The characters are well drawn and the writer knows how to develop them, their reactions are heartbreaking and believable. The survivors find a small child, a girl, which ups the ante, as they fight to keep her alive. The pace of the narrative is fast. Short chapters will speed by in a blur. That this is managed whilst maintaining the generations of suspense, mystery, and character development is testament to good writing.
What was more problematic for me was that a bit of ‘slow burn’ in a plague or zombie outbreak’s origins is something I usually enjoy, the gradual exponential dread, the story of a patient zero and the ripples outwards. We don’t have that here, there’s something like a spontaneous mass infection. And what spares our protagonists, and the uninfected they meet? Why some and not others? Yes it’s spread by bites and scratches as usual, but the initial mass outbreak was caused by huge, mountainous organic alien ships in the sky (full marks for originality and creepiness). But how exactly did they kick things off? I’m hoping these things are unpacked in the next few books in the trilogy.
It’s bleakness and gore is “Walking Dead” strength (the graphic novels) so be warned. You may need to lie down and / or watch a Pixar movie on finishing this. Definitely a strong brew, but a good one.
This is a beautiful and powerful little book. The writer has a pre-school daughter, Inara who struggles with a rare form of epilepsy. Although Inara has made a lot of hopeful progress, her infancy was full of inexplicable and violent rolling seizures that left her parents shaken and frightened. The father sat long vigils by her hospital bed, which inspired these reflections on the Beatitudes of Jesus.
Stant Litore has a love of and has studied languages, including the Greek of the New Testament. He brings this learning to bear in this book in a powerful way, really getting to the inner life and power of Jesus’s words that a lot of translations have left obscured.
This, together with his poetic and imaginative understanding of God, humanity, joy and suffering make this a book that has the potential to push you out of your comfort zones and live lives of “unstoppable hope,” making a real difference to the world.
I am not new to Stant Litore, I belong to the Paetron crowd-funding scheme that supports his work, having read and greatly enjoyed and appreciated a lot of his stuff. This includes a series called the “Zombie Bible,” that takes the stories of the Bible and fuses them with …the undead. Stant’s reading of spiritual hunger with the zombie plagues he describes is an illuminating and enriching one. I have also enjoyed his “Ansible” series that describe telepathic space travel and demonic creatures of pure mind, real Lovecraftian horrors.
Common to also his writing is a fiercely humanistic Christian faith. I find it powerfully authentic. So look up his work, and if you are so moved, support him and his family through Paetron. I write through powerfully selfish reasons, I simply want to read more of his stuff.
This short book (79 pages) by an Italian Theoretical Physicist has been lauded for the skill and poetry with which it communicates very complex ideas of theoretical physics.
It does have that merit. It is an engaging short read and the compression of big and complicated ideas into seven short chapters is like one of those theoretical compressions of matter that lie at the heart of black holes. The image of the Universe, space, as a vast rippling sea, I loved that.
So the chapters cover Einstein’s theories of relativity, Quantum mechanics, the structure of the Universe, particle physics, probability, time, heat, black holes, and, most portentously, “ourselves.”
One review I read said the book draws from a wide range of philosophy, arts, and literature. Not really. There’s a glancing reference to Shakespeare here, a mention of a symphony there, a few quotes from Lucretius here. On the whole this is a short work of scientific materialism with the odd poetic turn of phrase. And like much of modern science, with its panic to exclude anything that does not exist within its worldview, it falls back on frantic attempts to generate “wonder.” So isn’t this all ‘ooooh,’ and ‘aaaahhh,’ and ‘wow.’
For in the end this short book says that many of the theories it expounds are clunky, there is much that is unknown, but don’t worry, there’s enough to be sure that we are the result of reducible processes, nothing more. It’s arrogant reductionist thinking dressed up with a few oooh’s and ahhh’s. The closing chapter isn’t even original thinking, it repeats much of what Richard Dawkins says in the chapter “The Mother of all Burkas” in “The God Delusion.”
Worth reading as a primer on some interesting scientific theories and ideas, and also on the limits of those same theories, but arrogant and unconvincing in its conclusions
My walk as a Christian is a very faltering one indeed. Therefore a daily devotional reading, I reason, is helpful in keeping my steps on more or less the right path. ‘More or less’ the right path. What a typically British thing to say. As if to say”keep my feet on the right path” was too definite and impolite. But no. As I said, my walk is faltering, and as a flawed human being I know that rather than some angelic Roman road, I’ll be weaving in a zig-zagging, inebriated fashion.
I bought this book as a daily devotional to help me for the above reason, and also because the Psalms are the amongst the most the human and relatable writings in the Bible. Cries of hatred and rage, deep wails of despair, and dialogues of depression that sound like the speaker is having to tear the words from their throat, sit alongside jubilant songs of praise, wonder and gratitude.
I have read C S Lewis’s excellent “Reflection on the Psalms,” which is a helpful book, packed with wisdom and insight.
In this you get a Psalm, or sections of a longer Psalm (related in their Biblical order) along with a short commentary and prayer. That’s the format, day in, day out. The translation used is that of the NIV.
Just a word on the writers. Tim Keller is an American Pastor, theologian, writer and apologist. He is Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City. This is a large and influential Church with a congregation drawn from mainly NY young professionals. So far so US Conservative mega-church? Not so, according to Tim Keller, who says that the Church defines itself less on an oppositional, hostile take to the Secular world but more that of one of neighbourliness, focusing strongly on the person and mission of Jesus Christ. Tim’s wife, Kathy, is the book’s other writer.
Nevertheless, the theology in the book has a strongly Conservative taste to it. I don’t mean that as a criticism. What is more of a criticism is that there is little in this book that seems to be taking risks, really breaking into the Psalms and making them bleed into our daily lives. There is little history or grappling with the language or translation issues. It lacks that kind of kick-start energy that inspires you and has you thinking on the train into work.
The book is peppered with references, although most of them draw on a commentary of the Psalms from someone called Derek Kidner. Then there’s some references to traditional hymns, a few references to the poetry of George Herbert, and more eclectically, one relating to Superman Returns, the movie, and another to Tolkien’s The Two Towers. But on the whole the references are not very varied, and add to the conservative feel of the book.
What is interesting is that, in an Afterword to the book, Kathy Keller states that the early manuscripts of the books were scrapped for being far too dense and complex. It looks like they went too far the other way.
But look, this book has kept me company all year, it has given me some focus and brought me back to the Psalms, and for that I’m grateful. It may well work better for others, it’s not a bad book at all. It has integrity and sincerity of purpose. But personally I wanted more.
This was brought to my attention by the excellent ‘BookBub’ which is a service that notifies of time limited free and bargain priced e-books, or I doubt I would have come across it.
I’m glad I did as it’s good, cheering, unpretentious escapist fun. The writing is clear and delivers on a briskly paced, character driven space opera that sets us up for a wider saga, but is nevertheless a cracking self contained adventure in and of itself.
As the blurb says, it’s reminiscent of the ‘Firefly’ template of disparate characters bonded by camaraderie and adventure crewing a distinctive ship that itself has a strong identity.
It neatly sets up our heroes first meeting as pilot Alice Marchenko, surviving soldier from a recent Alliance / Empire War (guess which are the nominal ‘bad’ guts), salvages her Mother’s freight ship from an intergalactic junkyard only to find a veteran from the Empire, a Cyborg, stowed on the ship. Compelled to keep him as a passenger, she builds a crew willing to pay passage off the planet to her home world of Perun where she hopes to be re-united with her daughter. So enter a soldier fleeing from mafia entanglements, a priest-caste figure with ties to the Empire, a kooky female farmer joining Marhcenko and her already trusted, cynical mechanic, as they take to the skies en route to an asteroid that the Cyborg has ‘requested’ they detour to. There begins an adventure with pirates, more cyborgs, a mysterious orb, chases and cinematic action set-pieces. The crew appears to bond, but some may be harbouring agendas of their own..
If all this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. But no matter. If the writing is good these well worn tropes can be wrapped around you like a duvet on a cold Winter’s night, reassuring when all around is unfamiliar, threatening and uncertain, which has been this week, basically.
So I recommend this, it does what it should, and should you want to spend longer in world of Alice Marchenko and friends a further five instalments await