Hands up, everyone who was expecting a bunch of death metal titles! No, this is the third of Frank Creed's novels about the Underground. Known as "DHL" by insiders (UPS and FedEx wouldn't pay up), the story follows Calamity Kid and other members of the growing cast as they attempt to stop the spread of Virtual-e, a fatally addictive virtual-reality program, in the US. Along the way, they also stumble upon the secret of the mysterious third member of the Unholy Trinity running the One State: Spirit. Also, God seems to be inspiring some of the resistance to do things that are counter-intuitive or outright insane. And all the time, their names start appearing on what they call "the Devil's Hit List," a One State most-wanted list complete with bounties in the millions.
Of course there's also a lot of the usual wire-fu and adventures in cyberspace going on, and various relationships old and new to figure out, including a fresh recruit CK gets to train as his Uncle Legacy once trained him.
Next time I'll look more closely at certain aspects of the story.
Specifically, I'm trying to find out whether I've finally managed to resolve my problems with Blogger, which are rather involved.
For one thing, I use Internet Explorer for Blogger--I use it for very little, but that is one of the chosen few. And the latest version of IE didn't play well with Blogger, or vice versa. I tried other browsers and didn't like the results. (I didn't try Firefox, because that's my primary browser, and I like to keep Gmail active.)
For another thing, my ISP decided to job out e-mail to Google, so I suddenly had a conflict between my Blogger account and my ISP account. I think I've worked that out now, which only leaves the browser problem, and I may have a way around that. Let's find out.
Okay, a few minor bugs, but probably manageable. Let's talk schedules.
To begin with, Frank Creed has another installment of his Underground series coming out, so I'll need to review that.
Then there's Dark World. My primary problem there is that I don't like working on stage, so to speak. Anyway, I don't like composing with someone watching. So the idea of writing a story as people watch just wasn't working. Still, I do want to continue, so I may simply write a complete arc ahead and serialize it. That's roughly what I did at first.
Also, since the blog's tagline mentions reporting back to the Protestant world about my explorations outside, I ought to tend to that. Figuring out exactly how will be a post in itself.
Yes, it's our old friend the three-part review, only with some tweaks. The Trigger: A Novel on the Revelation by Hon Hoh, is not the usual End Times novel, and it has some peculiar strengths and weaknesses. Since these are often complementary (a strength in one area becomes a weakness in another area), my usual format of separating positives and negatives won't work. Also, since the story is more theologically motivated than most, the theology needs more of a look.
Properly beginning in 2032, the story concerns a rather different take on the Tribulation period and stars mostly Pastor Josh McGuire and his friends and family, though we quickly pick up a highly placed Chinese couple who, along with a senator in Pastor McGuire's congregation, gives us our mandatory VIP characters. This is one of the few genre clichés Hoh follows. (As a rule, in this genre the main characters are international figures: diplomats, politicians, and invariably journalists. Hoh doesn't follow this rule at all closely, which gives the story a certain freshness.) The pastor has been divinely chosen to evangelize the last unreached people group on the planet, thus triggering the return of Christ. According to Satan (though the point is echoed by more godly beings as well), if this effort is stymied, the Tribulation can go into major overtime (i.e., a diabolical version of the Millennium).
Matthew 24:22 and Mark 13:20 both quote Jesus as saying that the Tribulation would be shortened, not lengthened. So there are some exegetical and theological problems here, though probably not as many as these stories usually have. I'll dedicate a post or so to the more troubling ones.
Anyway again, the Antichrist pops up from an unexpected (and vaguely amusing) quarter, and Nasty Things Begin to Happen, in particular persecution and the occasional Apocalyptic plague. And throughout the piece we keep getting scenes of angelic and infernal plotting in Perettivision, which actually isn't a bad innovation. In fact, this is a more explicitly spiritual tale than any others I'm aware of in the genre.
Will the Antichrist obliterate the Christians before the final converts can come in?
In case you haven't noticed, this is my first post this year.
I hope to resume free book reviews in the near future, and I apologize for leaving Dark World hanging. But first I have a non-free book to review--a couple, actually, but one I have as a print book and was able to finish while hanging about away from my computer. The second book review will be a bit less formal, for reasons that should become obvious.
I wanted to list some Christmas books that are available free online--audio versions too.
The Christmas Angel (audiobook here) is generally comparable to A Chritsmas Carol, but the Scrooge is an embittered old woman who decides to test the Christmas spirit on Christmas Eve by dropping childhood toys out her window for passersby. (She had meant to simply burn them.) Will she see honesty and altruism or greed and deceit? The trials seem to confirm her cynicism, but one of the remaining items, an angel that topped a childhood Christmas tree, becomes the Christmas Angel and shows her the rest of the stories--the events she didn't see. The theology is a little quirky in spots, but no worse than that of A Christmas Carol. And the reader for the audio version is especially good for this kind of work. It's short--under two hours for the audiobook.
Both stories are a bit slow-moving at first by modern standards, but they're worth the time.
(Technically there's also The Birds' Christmas Carol--audiobook here or here. It's an engaging story of the doomed-pious-waif variety. Such things don't bother me as much now as they used to, but I thought I should warn you.)
If you don't mind a Catholic touch--and I hope you don't--there are two short stories by Francis J. Finn (audio):
"Looking for Santa Claus" in My Strange Friend (audio version is 17 here) has innocent, pious munchkins inadvertently overcoming evil.
"The Wager of Gerald O’Rourke: A Christmas Story"--no e-text, but it's number 26 on the same page--involve's a sleepyhead's bet about getting up early and how it changes some lives for the better. This is a good intro to Finn.
On a purely humorous level, there's "The Thin Santa Claus" by Ellis Parker Butler. There are audio versions, but this is dialect humor, which requires specialized skills. You can try these, but I haven't heard them and can't vouch for them (you will have to search the pages):
I had a disquieting experience last Sunday. The church I attend had its Thanksgiving meal after service, and I remarked to a few friends that it was fitting to celebrate Thanksgiving in a church, considering that "Eucharist" means "thanksgiving." I was astonished to find they did not know that. They weren't ignorant, really, though I suspect a Catholic or Orthodox would've been better informed.
So what does it matter? Much or little, depending on your view. It could be regarded as trivia; I've already written about a case of trivializing the Eucharist, and I doubt most Evangelical Protestants would even notice the problem. But even they would likely admit that Thanksgiving alone isn't as good as Thanksgiving with family and friends.
But thanksgiving is an important feature of the Christian life. I suspect if we were truly thankful for the Atonement, we would take the Eucharist more seriously. We have forgotten that ingratitude was involved in the first sin: would Adam and Eve have considered disobeying God if they had been truly grateful for all he had given them? Wasn't ingratitude the hallmark of the Israelites who grumbled against Moses and God?
The holiday season creates special problems. In the US, Thanksgiving leads into the Christmas season, and all the partying hinders proper focus. Are we really thankful now? Will we really focus on preparing ourselves for Advent? Probably not.
Perhaps we could learn from the Catholics and especially the Orthodox. They have a fast before their main feasts (Easter and Christmas), so by the time the feast arrives, they feel proper anticipation. If we did that, all the noise about the commercial aspect of Christmas would wither up: the consumerist orgy probably couldn't survive a good fast.
Or at the very least we could wait until the proper time. Christmas parties begin early in December. What if we followed the older route and waited until Christmas itself? The Christmas season used to run twelve days--from Christmas through Epiphany. That's enough time for some good parties, and as children know, the anticipation is half the fun. Patience produces gratitude, and both should be welcome in the church.
No, not one of my stories, though it's similar. Nor is this the review proper--I meant to do that on Monday, the 22nd, but this has been an even more hectic week than I imagined. So I'm using my amazing powers to reset the post date to Monday. (Yes, that does make me a pre-dater--without dreadlocks, yet! Please don't tell the cops.)
Anyway, this is basically a blurb; I hope to get to the review as such, guest starring the League of Superheroes, of course, in a day or so.
A less brief, more informative synopsis: Clueless superhero fanboy Dave Johnson, a janitor for the FBI, finds himself paired with an alien fashion accessory. It's actually a shape-changing alien named Zolgron. (His mother dressed him funny, too.) Zolgron is being punished for being a cosmic jerk, with the result that he must help out whoever he becomes attached to. He confers numerous super powers on Dave, who becomes even more immersed in superhero fantasies and real-world implications, including increased family and marital problems. Since Dave has a poor learning curve anyway, there's a lot of comical flailing about as he tries to gain legal standing as a superhero, find some crime to fight, and stay married to a woman who thinks he's gone from mildly delusional to full-bore looney.