hankrules2011

Just trying to make it, a day at a time…

A Review of Clans of the Alphane Moon

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 30, 2014

Clans of the Alphane MoonClans of the Alphane Moon by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book had some good ideas, but PKD asks the reader to make too many leaps of logic to be able to give this book a decent score.

CIA agent Chuck Rittersdorf splits from his psychiatrist wife, Mary, who’s a marriage counselor. She prompts this and she’s really portrayed as an evil bitch, so I have no idea why he was so intent to get back together with her later in the book. Meanwhile, Chuck picks up a writing gig with famous TV comedian Bunny Hentman, and starts taking uppers to hold both jobs down at the same time. These drugs are supplied by an alien slime mold who has telepathic powers and apparently wants to help Chuck as he orients himself to a new lifestyle in a downgraded conapt (apartment). He even sets Chuck up with a love interest, of sorts.

Well, Mary is hired by the feds to go to Alpha III M2, a moon of some type, to start therapy on groups of former psychiatric patients who were abandoned many years ago by Terra (Earth) during their war with Alphane, now over. These former patients have set up clans on the moon, made up of various psychiatric types — ie, Deps (depressives), Mans (manics), Paras (paranoid schizophrenics), etc. However, the CIA is interested in this venture, so they create a simulcra to go to the moon with Mary and others on this mission, and Chuck will be controlling it from Terra. So he decides to kill his ex-wife through this android-type being.

Crazy, yes? Well, that’s standard PKD fare. It starts getting out of control when Benny, his new employer, has a brainstorming session with the writers — and Chuck — during which time they decide to write a new act about a CIA agent who is going to kill his ex-wife through a simulcra on another planet. Just like Chuck has planned. Bizarre coincidence, or is it?

The CIA finds out about Chuck’s drugs and fires him. As soon as he’s fired, so does Benny, presumably because he no longer has Chuck as a CIA insider to work with. However, the CIA goes after Benny for his doings with Alphanes, and he escapes on his own rocket. Chuck finds himself on the moon, where Mary is. Coincidence? Easily done? Yes. Here’s one area that was really too hard to buy — the Para leader is given an ultimatum by Mary (with all of the clan leaders) to return to their former lives or face military action by Terra within four hours. So of all of the alternatives they come up with, the ONLY one is for him to *obviously* go to Mary’s spaceship and seduce her and talk her out of it. Huh? Excuse me? WTF??? What kind of warped idea is that? But that’s the obvious choice, and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t go and seduce her on her ship. But she turns out to be more than he bargained for and turns into a sexual beast who nearly kills him in her passion. Only Dick can write this stuff. When he wakes up from his sex-induced coma, she’s gone and Terra is on the attack.

I’m not going to give away the ending, but it’s surprisingly upbeat. Maybe that’s because Dick was probably struggling with all of these issues in his own life — his marriage woes, job and finance woes, his worries of mental illness — so he wrote a good ending so he could expect one in his own life. That’s my two cents, anyway. It’s not a bad book, but it just leaps to conclusions that no rational person would draw too many times and I just can’t eagerly recommend it. If you’re a fan, you’ll probably like it. If you’re new to the author, I wouldn’t start with this one.

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It’s Been a Year

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 30, 2014

My father died one year ago today. He died unexpectedly, mowing my grass. He collapsed and died, just like that. It was a huge shock. And it’s been difficult to get over. I can still see him rolling around on the ground, can still sense the futility I felt as I tried to aid him. I still remember his funeral several days later back home in Knoxville. A lot of people came to that. My wife says it feels like it just happened yesterday for her, but it actually feels a lot longer to me. Like it’s been two or three years. So much has happened between now and then. Our former house was broken into and robbed. Our beloved cat Toby died. We looked for a new house, moved into in, and put ours on the market. Mom decided to move back to Knoxville, so we put her house on the market and helped her find a new condo. It’s been very time consuming. And I’ve gone back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville probably 60 times over the past year, virtually all to help Mom out. It’s been draining. So it’s been a year, but if feels like several lifetimes ago to me. I wish Dad could have been around to help out with our moves. I wish he was still there for Mom’s sake — she really misses him. Of course, we’d like him around for our sakes too. Sad. Tragic. Mom got some flowers today and put them at Dad’s grave. I wish we could have gone up to see that. I sometimes still talk to him. I enjoy thinking of him up in Heaven, if there is such a place. I hope he’d be pleased with how we’re all coping without him, how we’ve moved on. I hope he would approve. I really miss him. RIP Dad.

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A Review of The Faithful Spy

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 25, 2014

The Faithful Spy (John Wells, #1)The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Faithful Spy was a very exciting book to read. I like spy/thriller novels, although I actually don’t read that many of them, and this was among the best I have read.

John Wells is a CIA agent who has successfully penetrated al Qaeda. He’s been with them for years, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, he hasn’t been in touch with his CIA bosses for years and they don’t even know if he’s still alive or if he’s still on their side. See, Wells has converted to Islam and learns to deplore America’s superficiality and arrogance. That said, he makes contact with Special Forces in Afghanistan after 9/11, which he didn’t foresee, and shortly after, he’s plucked from his Pakistani village by al Qaeda leaders to go back home to America for a hugely important mission, one they don’t fill him in on. Meanwhile, the head of al Qaeda’s nuclear “program” is captured in Iraq and, through torture, fills the US in on potential plots in the US and on John Wells.

Wells comes home and goes to the CIA, where he is given a hostile greeting by the director. However, his handler, Jennifer Exley, still believes in him. He’s put in a virtual prison, but escapes because he wants to stop al Qaeda from whatever it is they’re plotting. What follows is an exciting series of challenges, chases, biological warfare, and confrontations, ultimately with Omar Khandri, John’s al Qaeda handler.

When I read reviews of this book, I was shocked to see how many people viewed it as more of the same. They deplored the love story in the book and thought the middle part of it was boring. I couldn’t view it more differently. I thought the love story was great and really enjoyed the ending. I also thought some of the “boring” parts allowed the characters to be flushed out pretty fully, so I had no problem with that. Just because Wells has to wait to be contacted by his handler doesn’t mean it’s boring, sorry. I thought the terrorism scenarios painted by Berenson were horrifyingly realistic and well thought out. I think he did a great job with this book, and even though it shares some similarities with Frederick Forsythe’s The Afghan, it’s a really good book that stands on its own. Strongly recommended.

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A Short Review of Headcrash

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 22, 2014

HeadcrashHeadcrash by Bruce Bethke

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m so pissed off I read this book. It took a real stretch of imagination to buy into the virtual reality world the author creates, but then you reach the ending and it’s so insanely stupid, you wonder what the hell you just did and why. I’m never going to get those hours of my life back!

Jack Burroughs is a sysadmin for a large multinational corporation who loses his day job because of a vindictive new boss. However, in his off hours — which he now has a lot of — he resides in cyberspace, in a virtual reality world. He likes to hang out in a virtual bar called Heaven, where he has created a cool version of himself, unlike his mega-nerd reality. He hangs out there with his best friend. Strangely, a hot woman calling herself Amber comes along offering him a million dollars to commit cyberpiracy and steal some files from his former employer, or so he thinks. He takes her up on it, with the support of his buddy, and is shipped some cutting edge virtual reality gear, which includes gloves, footwear, a bra, and yes, an anal dildo. That took some doing on the author’s part. Still, he jacks up, goes in, gets the info, delivers it and is told it was only a test. Now he has to do the hard part — the real job. Well, you would think thievery from a large corporation with strong defenses would be hard, but now he has to go up against — get this — an author. Yep, a big, bad writer. Who works with the Department of Defense on his insipid novels, so he allegedly has all of the cutting edge cyber defenses. That was really hard to believe. Nonetheless, he and his virtual reality buddies storm the place and he gets waxed, waking up — I think — in what’s supposed to be a semi-real courtroom, staffed by a teddy bear judge, a prosecuting doll, and a bird, among others. There he’s sentenced to exile on a deserted island, where he apparently goes, only to wind up a beach boy in Hawaii. And that’s the end. How freakin’ STUPID is that??? It’s like the author wrote himself into a corner with his craziness and decided to go balls to the wall with total insanity to end the book because he couldn’t think of anything better. This was a stupid book and I can’t believe I wasted parts of two otherwise good days on it. Certainly not recommended. Not even good cyberpunk. Oh, and the author claims to have invented the word “cyberpunk,” just as an FYI. Whatever.

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A Review of The Truth

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 21, 2014

The Truth (Discworld, #25)The Truth by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a marvelous Discworld novel, one that I enjoyed immensely. William De Worde, son a a “Lord” (wealth), leaves his family’s fortunes to strike out on his own. He starts a newsletter that goes, mostly, to foreign dignitaries, but at some point happens upon a “real” story and some dwarves with a printing press and his newsletter grows into a daily newspaper — the Ankh-Morpork Times. Soon, he has hired a writer, Sacharissa, and a vampire as a photographer who turns to dust whenever the flash goes off. He needs a drop of blood in his ashes to resurrect himself. (However, he’s a reformed vampire and has sworn off human blood to be accepted in society, instead going for songs and hot chocolate.)

Some local higher ups hire two thugs — Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip — to kidnap the city’s Patrician, Lord Vetinari, and frame him for theft and assault. Mr. Pin and Mr. Tulip are crazy and violent and soon William is hot on the trail of this mystery, at times crossing the city Watch and Commander Vimes, at times aiding them too. I didn’t really care for Vimes’ portrayal in this novel, however. He’s portrayed as a very angry man, and I’ve really enjoyed his character in other Discworld books, so it threw me off. Someone to be avoided, whereas in other books, he was valiant. Whatever.

The short of it is William uncovers the plot, credits the Watch, Vetinari is freed, and the Times grows and expands to other cities and countries.

I enjoyed seeing what went in the paper. I enjoyed the wordplay. (“The truth will make you fret” as a typo…) I enjoyed seeing a competing paper, the Inquirer, a tabloid full of trash, print absolute hogwash and was mortified to see the people drawn more to it than the Times, a parody of our own world. I don’t know if this is my favorite Discworld novel, but it’s up there. It’s a really good story with a great ending and several layers to an alternating serious and hilarious plot. Definitely recommended.

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A Review of Maskerade

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 18, 2014

Maskerade (Discworld, #18)Maskerade by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maskerade is a delightful book telling a wonderful tale of intrigue, humor, and female empowerment. Once again, the witches of Lancre are back and I think this is my favorite witch book. Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg feel it must take three witches to make a coven, and since Magrat has left the coven to become royalty, they think Agnes Nitt might be a suitable replacement. The problem is, Agnes and her alter ego, Perdita X. Dream, have gone to Ankh-Morpork and joined the opera. Agnes is a young girl with a rather sturdy build (okay, fat) and she’s not viewed as star material. Instead, her beautiful, skinny, completely untalented roommate Christine gets the leads. Agnes sings in the chorus, but she sings the lead while Christine mouths it and thinks she’s performing beautifully. However, I’m jumping ahead. Agnes has a beautiful voice and she can even harmonize with herself. She doesn’t want to be a witch; she wants to sing. But the opera has a secret — there’s a ghost haunting the opera and when she happens along, people start dying. This ghost appears as the one in the Phantom of the Opera, which this book spoofs. Soon, everyone is terrified of the ghost and wonders just who or what it is.

Meanwhile, Granny and Nanny go to Ankh-Morpork to fetch Agnes and take her back to Lancre where they’ll entice her to join the coven. Their journey is hilarious. I think Nanny is especially funny in this book. When they reach the city, they stay at a house of ill repute, based on one of Nanny’s son’s recommendations. Additionally, Nanny has written a book — a cookbook. An obscene cookbook. And she’s not made any money off of it. So Granny takes her to the publisher and uses their magical skills to induce the publisher to pay her a lot of money. They were given free opera tickets by a fellow traveler who’s in it, so they go and hear about the ghost. They decide they’re going to get to the bottom of things and go spend thousands to get Granny gussied up as a grand dame. They then go to Mr. Bucket, the owner, and “donate” $2,000 to get Box Eight, which is always left free and empty for the ghost. Soon, the ghost appears and a chase ensues with Granny and Nanny cornering the right individual. I had guessed who the ghost was before it was revealed, but there were still delightful plot twists and turns in figuring out who the ghost was. In the end, the two witches save the day and Agnes goes home to join their coven.

Pratchett doesn’t take on the BIG themes he does in other Discworld books (like war and racism), but he does poke fun at opera and theater and I really enjoyed that. In fact, here is a translation of some typical opera-speak from its original foreign language:

This damn door sticks
This damn door sticks
It sticks no matter what the hell I do
It’s marked “Pull” and indeed I am pulling
Perhaps it should be marked “Push”?

Okay, how funny is that? This book is a great Discworld novel and I think just about anybody would enjoy it. Highly recommended.

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Reflections

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 14, 2014

Hi. It’s been awhile since I’ve actually written anything here, besides book reviews. Sorry. A lot has been going on. My mom moved from Chattanooga to Knoxville and we’ve been back and forth between the two cities a lot lately. In fact, we’ve seen my mom four of the past five weekends, which is more than we saw her when she lived here in Chattanooga.  It’s been very tiring.

A few weeks ago, we went to my high school class’s 30th reunion in Knoxville. It was pretty good, but a little odd too. So strange to see how people have changed, including me. We got a few good pics, had fun catching up with some people, and had a good time. It was nice to introduce my wife to my old classmates.

This month marks the five month anniversary of our cat Toby’s death. We miss him horribly and I wish he could have lived long enough to move to our new house with us. I’d love to see him running around here. Strangely, our other cat, Henry, has been doing some Toby-like things lately, like he’s channeling Toby. Very odd.

This month also marks the one year anniversary of my father’s death last year. He died mowing my yard and it was — and still is — a huge shock. There are so many things I wish I could have and would have told him and so many things I would like to tell him now. We really miss him. We’ve stopped at his gravestone in Knoxville a few times.

Meanwhile, I love my mother, but … she’s been driving me crazy ever since Dad died. She’s got a LOT of anxiety about a lot of things, which is somewhat understandable, but she calls me all the time. Like 6-18 times a day! She’s gotten better over the past few weeks, but the damage has been done. Now when she calls, I just sigh and pick up the phone. It’s hard. She’s changed a lot. She’s not the mom I grew up knowing and loving. She’s become extremely ADD and OCD, and that makes things difficult. And she refuses to acknowledge such things. I also got her to get Life Alert because she’s elderly and living alone. But she refuses to wear the necklace! She says she doesn’t like it and it’s “psychological.” But why is she paying $70 a month for a service she doesn’t use??? And last weekend, she fell down our stairs. She’s very lucky she didn’t get hurt. What would happen if she fell at her new place? She would not have us to help her. That’s what Life Alert is for! I don’t understand why she doesn’t get it, why she’s being so damn stubborn.

Anyway, this month also marks the six month anniversary of getting my new car. I still love my Camry. It’s so much better than my money pit BMW was. I’ve put 4,000 miles on it, mostly driving back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville, and that annoys me some. I don’t like to put miles on my cars. Still, it’s a great ride and I got a great deal on it and I’m very happy with it.

When health permits, my wife and I like to go to the shooting range. We have a .22 rifle we both like to shoot and my wife is quite good with it. We also have other guns we enjoy shooting, among them a Ruger 9 mm, a Glock 23, a Beretta PX4 Storm, a Ruger .22, a S&W Bodyguard, a SCCY 9 mm, and a Taurus revolver. Among others. I’m pretty good with the Ruger 9 mm, but need to work on the others. I think I’m going to really like the SCCY. It’s new and I think it’s going to be pretty good. I got a good deal on it on gunbroker.com.

I did something to my arm recently and have been having to go to physical therapy for it. It really hurts. It’s probably just tendinitis, but it’s bad. Meanwhile, my wife has a severe case of poison ivy. It’s all over and it’s tormenting her. I feel really bad for her. We need to find the plants she touched and get rid of them, but neither of us are that good at identifying poison ivy.

Oh, also, this month is our six month anniversary of moving into our new house! We love it here. It’s so much quieter and safer than our old place. We still haven’t gotten most of the pictures up, but we’re otherwise unpacked and we really like it. However, we can’t sell our old house. No one will buy it. No one is buying ANY house in our old neighborhood. We’ve lowered the price three times and have had two open houses, but nothing. We actually did get an offer a couple of months ago, but it fell through when their credit was damaged and they lost their loan. That sucked. It’s a nice house, but not in a very good area, so the property values suck and crime is bad. I wish we could sell it though. I’m sure there have to be people out there who would like it. It’s got character! It’s got a HUGE den and a HUGE kitchen and hardwood floors and a fireplace. Three beds, two baths, 2100 square feet, one level home. The yard isn’t that great though, and I think that’s probably hurting it. Oh well. Maybe one of these days….

As you know, I’ve really been enjoying reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books lately. They’re really enjoyable and he’s so witty. A lot of fun. I still like reading Philip K Dick too though. I haven’t read much nonfiction lately though, and I was doing a lot of that over the past couple of years. Maybe I got burned out on it, I don’t know. We have a great, huge used bookstore here where you can pick up six or seven books for $10. It’s great.

Election season is coming up and the two Republican candidates for Congress here are really going at it. The incumbent is an asshole Tea Party-type who is the angriest, most hateful person I’ve ever seen. We saw them debate on TV. The other guy is really young, but it seems he wants to work with everyone on issues, so I really hope he wins. Of course, I’m a Democrat, but here in Chattanooga, no Democrat ever has a chance at winning anything, so it’s really tough. I hate living in a Red state. I often wish I was back in L.A. My wife often wishes she was back in Maryland. Oh well.

I guess that’s it for now. We’re trying to get well. I’m trying to deal with my mother. Things go on. It’s a month of reflections. Thanks for joining me. Cheers!

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A Review of Going Postal

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 11, 2014

Going Postal (Discworld, #33)Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Going Postal is an utterly delightful book to read. My last Discworld novel wasn’t as good, so I was hoping for a return to form by Pratchett, and I am not disappointed. The book is a prequel to one I read a few weeks ago — Making Money — that I enjoyed just as much.

Going Postal is about con artist Moist von Lipwig, who is about to be hanged for his various crimes, until Patrician Vetinari, tyrant of Ankh-Morpork, gives him a new lease on life. Lipwig can hang until dead or he can take over the defunct Ankh-Morpork Post Office and use his many skills to fix things up. He, not too surprisingly, chooses the Post Office, and so his new life begins. Upon going there, he finds a broken down old building that hasn’t been in use in decades and that is filled to capacity with letters dating back decades. There are also two employees, Stanley and Groat, both of whom seem to lack some semblance of sanity. Vetinari has also given Lipwig a golem, Mr Punch, as a probation officer/servant. They make an interesting pair.

Well, Lipwig sets out to transform the Post Office. He starts by delivering an old letter from an old man who wrote it 40 years ago, asking for the hand in marriage of his sweetheart. She never got it, they never married, life moves on. Except that now that he has this letter, it’s delivered to the woman and as they’re both widowed, they decide to get married after all these years and make a big deal about it, which makes the papers. Lipwig then visits the Golem Trust, run by a feisty young woman whom he romances in the book, and gets her to donate several golems for mail delivery. Additionally, some of the old (okay, ancient) staff return to help out.

The primary form of communication on the Discworld is through clackers, and they’re run by the Grand Trunk, owned and operated by rich crooks. It’s like a cross between cell phones and email. They have towers throughout the countryside where they send and receive messages in code and “crackers” can hack in and disrupt things. The problem with the Grand Trunk is that it’s expensive and it’s always broken down. So Lipwig decides to go head to head against them and offers to deliver any message they can’t for considerably less, setting off a firestorm of publicity and controversy. Additionally, he comes up with the brilliant idea of creating “stamps” that people can buy for various denominations that, when stamped by the post office, will get their letters delivered. Amazing. Soon, all of Ankh-Morpork is bustling about the Post Office and everything looks good. Until it’s burned by arson. Von Lipwig pulls off a masterful stunt of publicity by publicly praying to the gods for $150,000 to rebuild the Post Office, goes out of town to dig up exactly that much that he had buried some time before from one heist or another, and the town thinks he virtually a god himself when he returns with the money. Brilliant. Soon, it all comes down to a challenge between the Trust and the Post Office — who can deliver a message to a far off country first? It’s about two months away by coach and hours away by clacker. Lipwig assures everyone he will get there first and people bet on him to do it. I won’t tell you how he pulls it off, but he does and winds up the hero, ending a great tale.

This book is chock full of Pratchett’s standard brand of Monty Python-esque humor, witticisms, and satire. There are a lot of laughs in this book. And of course, as is typical of Pratchett, he injects enough of our world into it to make the Discworld seem realistic and to show how silly ours sometimes is. This is the 12th Discworld book I’ve read and I’m reading them out of order, but they’re all good enough to stand on their own. If you want a fun, quick read, I certainly recommend this book. You can’t go wrong with it.

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A Review of Sourcery

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 9, 2014

Sourcery (Discworld, #5)Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love Terry Pratchett and his Discworld novels so much that it pains me to not give one of them five stars, or at least four. However, I thought this one was lacking in some ways. It felt forced.

The premise is about the story of an eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son. And he was a wizard. A wizard squared… a source of magic… a Sourcerer. Coin is the boy’s name and he’s pretty vicious. He’s actually ruled by the staff his wizard father left him — and inhabited somehow, tricking Death in the process. At about age 10, he shows up at Unseen University, home of the wizards, and demands to be named Archchancellor. However, our favorite inept wizard, Rincewind, has taken the Archchancellor’s hat, and no one can be named Archchancellor without it. Coin demolishes virtually everything in existence and builds a new series of towers for wizards to rule in. Meanwhile, Rincewind and Conina, daughter of Cohen the Barbarian, escape to Klatch (I think), which is Discworld’s version of the Middle East. There they encounter a magician who puts the hat on his head and starts battling Coin and the other wizards. And people die. Which disturbed me. See, in the numerous other Discworld novels I’ve read, the wizards have been loveable, incompetent, bumbling fools who hang out together. However, in this book, they’re all enemies of each other, constantly plotting each others’ deaths, and that didn’t mesh with my vision of Discworld. The scenes of the wizards doing battle reminded me more of one of the later Harry Potter books than of Discworld books. Dark. Not funny.

Anyway, along the way, Rincewind and Conina pick up a sultan and Nigel, the barbarian in training. These don’t seem to serve much of a purpose to the plot, other than to provide some easy jokes for Pratchett. Also, we see Twoflower’s Luggage make another appearance, but while it attempts to follow Rincewind around, it never actually does much of anything and seems to be another useless plot device. Additionally, my favorite Discworld character — Death — doesn’t contribute much to the book, appearing in the beginning, and then a couple more times later on. I missed his rye style of speaking.

Of course, Coin is ultimately defeated and then magically turns into a good guy, which I had a hard time buying, but not before he disappears for the entire middle half of the novel. That was strange. It was all Rincewind at that point. Don’t get me wrong — I like Rincewind. It was just a little jarring to see Coin disappear from the narrative like that. I think Pratchett had a good idea in this novel, but just wasn’t able to pull it off as he usually does with his Discworld novels. And even though this was my 11th or 12th Discworld book I’ve read, I know I’m not tiring of the series because I’ve already started another and I’m loving it. So, if you like Discworld, I’d read it, but if you’re unfamiliar with the series, I definitely wouldn’t start off with this one.

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A Review of The World Jones Made

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 5, 2014

The World Jones MadeThe World Jones Made by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A decent book, but not a great PKD book. It’s about Floyd Jones, a precog who can see exactly one year into the future and as a result has to live events out twice, once in his visions and once in his reality. It’s also about Cussick, a Fedgov security agent (cop) who spots Jones at a freak show, displaying his talent by reading fortunes. He turns Jones in to be processed, as such people are typically sent to forced labor camps for life, but Jones is released upon the realization that everything he says turns out to be true and they can no longer hold him. Cussick’s wife, Nina, becomes enamored of Jones and joins his new revolutionary party that has helped make Jones a preacher and seer. See, there’s an alien life form called Drifters that Jones says is invading Earth and the surrounding planets and he is intent on saving Earth from the oncoming war. These Drifters are single cell organisms similar to amoebas, and as such, don’t seem very devastating. PKD draws their mystery out well though. In one scene, we see Nina and Cussick go with a couple of his co-workers to a drug bar in San Francisco, where two hermaphrodites put on a horrendous sex show. Cussick is devastated to find out that his wife has taken an apartment there, dissatisfied with her life, and divorce proceedings follow. Jones, meanwhile, grows in popularity and the multitudes are joining his cause, intent upon overthrowing the world government. In the meantime, there’s this bizarre subplot where mutants are grown to populate Venus, as we regular humans can’t live there. They’re kept in an isolated “Refuge,” not exposed to Earth’s atmosphere, air, etc. Later in the book, Jones and his millions of followers are in Germany, getting ready to march on a city (not sure why…) when an assassin is sent to kill him. The assassin wounds him, but doesn’t kill him and this makes Jones even more larger than life, as it appears he can’t be killed. Shortly after, Jones and his minions overthrow the government, throw those formerly in power into jail, release the people in the labor camps, and send rockets into space to see about populating other planets. They also continue to kill Drifters. As this is happening, the Venusian mutants are sent in two rockets to Venus, where they land and form a colony. It’s a bizarre transition and one I didn’t fully buy into as these formerly very sheltered beings are able to construct buildings, transportation, crops, etc., with no training. Soon, Nina comes back to Cussick because it appears that Jones has failed, as the Drifters have enabled a ring around the system, ensuring we can’t escape into outer space. These plantlike beings are just part of a greater alien invasion. I don’t want to give the final plot away — whether Jones lives or dies — but you can imagine it’d be hard to kill someone who can see into the future and knows everything that will happen. Still, at the climax of the book, it’s Jones who has the final say and Cussick and his family escape to Venus, where they live in their own Refuge, communicating occasionally with the mutants. I guess this is an optimistic, upbeat ending to a depressing book. I thought the book was fairly poorly written with virtually no transitions between major scenes, the reader just being jarred into a new scene with no warning. Also, I had a hard time wrapping my head around Jones and his living through things twice. Too much of a mindf**k for me, I guess. I also didn’t like how one of the characters introduced early in the book, Tyler, who Cussick seems to develop a minor “thing” for, just disappears completely from the book with no warning. It’s bizarre. She’s kind of a major/minor character and I wasn’t prepared for that. PKD does that occasionally, but he’s normally better about tying up character plots and this was disappointing to me. I guess this book could be given four stars, but it’s so dark and so convoluted with some sad writing efforts that I can only give this book three stars and just cautiously recommend it.

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