Bad Brass by Bradley Denton
Professional substitute teacher Matthew Marx has another side to him, he steals from other criminals especially dumb ones like the band instrument thieves from his ex-wife's high school. Having found out about this little ring of high school thieves, or wannabes, Marx is looking to take their illicit gains for himself only to witness a bizarre exchange especially when one of the thieves steals the buyers' stolen van with some of the stolen band merchandise. When back at school, Marx realizes that half the "crew" are just band geeks brought in because they know stuff about the "products". Although Marx himself is a rogue in every sense of the word and the story was well written with subtle comedy woven throughout, compared to some of the other stories in this anthology it just felt average.
2 1/2 STARS
Throughout the early 1990s, many wondered what would be happening next as the globe emerged from under the shadow of the Cold War. For many Seventh-day Adventists such phrases as ‘the new world order’ instantly brought to mind end-time events. Editor and lecturer Marvin Moore in his book The Antichrist and the New World Order presented to both general and Adventist audiences the eschatology—the study of end-time events—and doctrines of the Church to answer some of these questions.
Moore begins his book with predictions by economists, politicians, and scientists about what would occur during the rest of the 1990s. Then using that ‘set up’, he slowly introduces the eschatology of the Seventh-day Adventist church along with historical precedents that they point use to support their thoughts and use to answer claims of an ‘alternative’ narrative of the past from other’s. Moore deftly navigates the reader through the eschatology beliefs of the Adventist church through Biblical sources, the writings of Ellen White, and historical sources. Yet his tone of presentation is thoughtful and considerate to anyone reading the book, unlike the confrontation style of other’s that I’ve read.
The biggest drawback of the book is the obvious dated current events of the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially the titular phrase ‘the new world order’, the predictions of experts about what could happen before the end of the decade. However, the dated references and such cannot take away from Moore’s inviting tone. One of the book best features is Moore’s own experiences in relating his own interaction with non-Adventists friends when explaining Adventist end-time thoughts, even relating how one friend said, “That’s stupid”, before they went out to dinner and how they continued to be friends long after the conversation. Essentially Moore wanted to remind everyone reading his book that Christian friends can disagree and should not holding grudges because the focus is on the destination in which we won’t be grading one another on how accurate we though the journey would be.
Though dated, The Antichrist and the New World Order is a thoughtful look at Seventh-day Adventist eschatology from someone well versed in it though his various lectures. Being both short, very readable Marvin Moore’s book is very good read for both Adventists and the general public.
A Year and a Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch
After a night of drinking and playing cards with her former gang is interrupted by the chaos caused by the feuding of two wizards that rule the city, famed thief Amarelle Parathis decides to drunkenly berate one of the said wizards. The next morning the wizard replays a threat Amarelle made the night before, which could get her killed or worse. To save herself, Amarelle agrees to destroy the focal point of another wizard's power in the titular time frame. Getting help from her roguish gang of thieves, they race to save Amarelle's existence in full knowledge that if they succeed it won't be the end of their work for the wizard.
Roaring Twenties by Carrie Vaughn
Pauline accompanies her friend Madame M to a supernatural speakeasy, patronized by supernatural folk, mobsters, and just regular folks looking to drink some booze. M wants to speak with the establishments' owner Gigi. Suddenly what appears to be a normal night takes a turn a couple ask for help to escape for the West Coast and then an obvious Fed shows up and begins nosing around, until both Pauline and Madame take things in hand to get him occupied and help the couple escape, unfortunately they lose the Fed and he comes back resulting in things getting interesting. While Pauline and M are interesting characters, their roguishness is somewhat questionable though hidden by a good story.
Provenance by David W. Ball
A lost Caravaggio comes to the attention of art expert Max Wolff, although he is considered one of the most upright professionals in the art world is a dealer in underworld stolen art. After getting his hands on the painting, Wolff gives its history to "prosperity gospel" preacher Joe Cooley Barber, from the madman artist to the Nazis and East German Stasi, to dictators and arms dealers then a lowlife thief. But possibly the biggest rogue among the bunch that has touched this painting is Wolff himself, who's own history with the painting is bigger than he let on with Barber. Ball set up the little twist to the end earlier and one doesn't full appreciate it until finishing the story of a very unique rogue.
Tawny Petticoats by Michael Swanwick
Conmen Darger and Surplus are in the independent port city of New Orleans looking to scam the three most powerful people in the city and hope not to becoming zombie workmen if things go south. Joining them in their scam is the titular Tawny Petticoats, who joins the duo as an "innocent" female hook to the their money scam. Unfortunately for poor Surplus who experiences being a temporary zombie, things don't go according to plan especially with Tawny running off with one of the other targets along with some of the stolen money. But Darger and Surplus decide to leave New Orleans on the verge of a large scale riot they put into motion, talk about a couple of rogues.
Bent Twig by Joe R. Lansdale
Hap Collins goes looking for this girlfriend's daughter, Tillie, but he knows he's going to have a rough going because Tillie is into having a rough-type of life and the associated rough individuals that are part of it. Luckily for Hap, his brother from a different mother Leonard shows up at the right time to save Hap and join the search for Tillie. The two raid a church used as front for a lowlife who claims the title of pastor to find Tillie. There are numerous rogues in this story, but Hap and Leonard are the most resourceful in getting this particular "job" accomplished.
The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes
A down-on-his-luck thief, Raffalon, overhears a poor traveler getting taken by the animal-man hybrid Vandaayo to be eaten in one of their rituals. Unfortunately for Raffalon, he's soon following the Vandaayo to rescue their captive because he's under the control of a little god who needs the poor victim to perform a ritual to empower him again. After rescuing the god's devotee and another Vandaayo hunting victim, Raffalon finds that his journey with the little god isn't over, especially after learning the supposed devotee isn't grateful for being saved and he has other plans for the little god. A mixture of action, comedic moments, and a very engaging story makes this short story a page turner.
What Do You Do? by Gillian Flynn
A life-long con-artist has once against changed her profession into the wonderful world of fortune-telling, or as she terms it "vision specialist". One day a new client comes in who lives in a old house, who has a moody teenage stepson, and suddenly finds herself in the middle of some weird things. Although the reader quickly realizes that con-artist is being conned in some fashion, Flynn's multi-twisted ending is set up so perfectly that that it earned an extra half a star. On top of wonderful ending is the detail in giving the reader the background of the unnamed point-of-view roguish protagonist that added another half star.
3 1/2 STARS
Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie
Sipani is a place of mazelike streets full of foolish nobles and streetwise commoners, amongst the latter are numerous thieves getting their hands on a mystery item that everyone wants but can’t seem to keep their hands on. Abercrombie uses the collections’ title to full advantage as the story shift from one different rogue to another throughout whenever they have a mysterious package in their possession. The large cast of characters range in age, gender, race, and use of magic if any with action from beginning to end and exposition mixed in results in an great opening story to the collection as a whole.
4 1/2 STARS
The past and future of Ankh-Morpork revolve around the efforts of His Grace Sir Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, and he doesn’t like it one bit. Night Watch, the sixth book focusing on the City Watch and twenty-ninth overall book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series finds Vimes dealing with his wife about to give birth, the deaths of two of his two officers and chasing the man responsible, then finding himself in the past playing the mentor to his younger self during a time of revolution.
Sam Vimes loves being a copper, but not so much His Grace when things have to be official, but after a magical “accident” caused by the Monks of History to send him 30 years into the past Vimes must make sure history happens like it did when he was a 17-year old newbie. Becoming his mentor Sergeant John Keel and second-in-command at his old Watch House, Vimes attempts to bring about the past he remembers so his “present” remains the same. Unfortunately for Vimes, a genius yet insane killer Carcer was brought back with him and has his own agenda—chaos and murder. Add in a revolution hitting Ankh-Morpork and Vimes is in for some very stressful days.
This isn’t the first time that Pratchett has done a little time travel in a Discworld novel, but it was the first in which it was the primary element in one. Vimes becoming the heroic mentor to his younger self, is somewhat cliché but Pratchett uses Vimes own grim view of the world to an advantage as starts to become imprinted on young Sam. Yet, Vimes existential fretting about messing up his future does get tiresome after him doing it so many times in the book that it almost seems that Pratchett was finding ways to take up page space.
Night Watch is an action-packed installment in the Discworld series that Pratchett writes fantastically with Sam Vimes as the protagonist, even with the overused existential fretting. Once again I’ve found a Watch book bringing out the best of Pratchett and the entire Discworld setting, I can only hope the other two books of the subseries will be the same.
The observance of the seventh-day Sabbath has been a contentious issue amongst many Christians for centuries in Europe and North America, but one place that may startle many is that it has been the same in Africa. In his book Sabbath Roots: The African Connection, Charles E. Bradford brings to light many tribal and cultural customs from across the continent giving the reader evidence of the memory and observance of the seventh-day Sabbath from all corners of Africa.
With over 2000 years of Biblical history as well as cultural studies of hundreds of tribes across an entire continent as well as the African diaspora to the Americas, Bradford had many sources to navigate and reference to give readers a sense of how Africans fit into the continuing debate on the Sabbath. Beginning with how God is seen from the Biblical prophets and how He is perceived in the minds of Africans on both the continent and diaspora, Bradford brings to light where each stands to the other. Afterwards, he delves into the subject of the Sabbath on the African continent in relation to God and to cultures in and outside of Africa. Finally Bradford turns his attention to the history of Christianity on the continent, with a main focus on colonial period which it was considered both a forced religion from the outside and a religion of protest from foreign occupation.
In roughly 230 pages, Bradford had to cover a lot over a wide scope of scholarship and while he did a remarkable job in an engaging text and strong use of numerous sources there was only so much he could do and does leave readers with questions. The biggest and most important issue deals with the Sabbath itself. Outside the well-known Black Jewish groups, the Falasha and the Lemba, and writing briefly about the Jewish diaspora in Africa, Bradford does indicate if the cultural and tribal traditions of the seventh-day Sabbath across the continent are all from Jewish contact or a mixture of Noahide memory and contact with Jewish influences. This lingering question while not invalidating Bradshaw’s thesis, does leave it up to interpretation.
Although the question of when Sabbath entered into the cultural traditions of tribes all over Africa is unanswered, Sabbath Roots is still a very welcome addition to information about the seven-day Sabbath. But Bradshaw’s book should only be considered an introduction, especially in relation to Africa, and should inspire readers to look for more information after reading.
In the 1970s, a BBC radio serial was a surprise hit with a combination of humor and science fiction, eventually this spawned more radio serials, a TV show, even a Hollywood produced film, but also a series of books by creator Douglas Adams. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy contains the first five novels and a short story written by Adams for fans both old and new, but unfortunately it seems that the novels might be more hype and substance.
The five novels contained in this anthology book are all flawed in various and similar ways, which seem to appear and disappear through the series. As a series of stories that were meant to be rooted in humor and science fiction, only the latter seemed to be constantly topnotch while the humor was a lot of hits-and-misses as in some stories seemed to have them and others didn’t. Another issues was narrative flow in each story or general lack thereof, as the majority of the stories are just a series of things happen before ending while others were narratively solid stories that got the reader looking forward to how it would end only for said ending to just appear out of nowhere leaving the reader cheated. Sadly the best story in the entire book that essentially got all the above flaws correct was the short story about young Zaphod.
Having looked forward to reading this collection of stories, I feel ultimately cheated after finishing the book. Overall I found everything in the book average and okay, but this will not be a book I go back to read again and has put in my mind to search out the original radio series or the old TV series to see if either or both are better than The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Mostly Harmless (2.5/5)
Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
The fifth and penultimate installment of the Hitchhiker's series had an interesting premise and sadly poor execution, which almost seems to sum up my overall thoughts on the entire series.
The story begins and ends on Earth, not the first one nor the second but another one, with reporter Tricia McMillan wishing she had joined Zaphod seventeen years before. Meanwhile Arthur Dent is hitchhiking around the Universe looking for an Earth to settle down on, if he can get the dimension right, while finding out that Trillian is a reporter for an inter-dimension & multi-time period news channel. And Ford Prefect goes to the Guide's headquarters and finds out it's been taken over by a corporate giant that has developed a frighteningly new version of the Guide and mails it to Arthur just before his escape. Ultimately all these treads end on Tricia's Earth through strange twist that might appear to be Random, but are a result of a bureaucratic need to check a box.
Throughout the entire story, Adams creates great situations and locations that seem to be the start of a story in themselves only to then quickly end them in an attempt to link them to another or each other like in the end of the book. However, this just resulted in making the reader think "this story could be great if..." for over half the story and wish some characters had been around longer or even appear. So much promise, but nothing to show for it.
2 1/2 STARS
Young Zaphod Plays It Safe by Douglas Adams
In short story featuring Zaphod Beeblebrox, Douglas Adams brings both quick story with some funny dialogue. Two bureaucrats hire Zaphod to dive down to a crashed spaceship to explore the cargo, though Zaphod wonders why they keep on calling it the "safest" ship ever when it's a crashed wreck. Yet as they go through the interior the bureaucrats get anxious about the really dangerous cargo that Zaphod starts wondering what it is after they pass rooms containing really harmful material including chemical weapons. Its only until Zaphod learns what the most dangerous cargo on the ship is that he learns why the bureaucrats insist on calling everything "safe". Overall, the shortness of the story and tight plot make this a very good read with some nice jokes.