Movie Reviews #55…

November 3rd, 2017

Surburbicon. George Clooney, dir. Is there such a genre as “violent comedy”? The Cohen brothers must think so. They contributed about 2/3 to this noir story, probably the most important part. Clooney and Heslov added an initially parallel story about a black family moving into a white suburb. Mind you, this supposedly all took place back in the fifties when, as we know from Hidden Figures, not even NASA was integrated. Unlike some movie reviewers (do I dare put myself in that scurrilous group?), I think the Clooney/Heslov tale completed the screenplay for a memorable that really involves too boys—Noah, played by Noah Jupe, the son of a white VIP, Gardener Lodge (played by Matt Damon), and Andy, played by Tony Espinosa, the son in the black family who makes friends with Noah.

The Cohen brothers’ contribution features Gardener’s lust for his sister-in-law (Julianne Moore—no relation—plays both Gardener’s paraplegic wife and the sister-in-law) that leads to their plotting and descent into violence. The reasons aren’t just lust either. Matt Damon channels a bit of evil Ripley role, although being the bad guy isn’t his usual flick-shtick. He isn’t the only evil adult here, and he and the other actors give some masterful performances, especially the two kids. The last scene with the latter is a finely crafted piece of symbolism—don’t miss it!

It was interesting to see the audience’s reaction which probably apes the majority of reviewers who declared this movie DOA. The slow, tense pace obviously didn’t sit well with some. Did I say tense? Intense is the better word, an intensity magnified by camera angles, settings, and an interesting score. At best, I can only say the reviewers the movie that I saw. At worse, they’re ignoramuses who don’t understand excellent movie-making. Or maybe all these people were expecting Jason Bourne?

***

Smashwords book sale. Mystery, suspense, sci-fi, conspiracies, and a multitude of thrills await you with the “Mary Jo Melendez Mystery Series.”  Mary Jo, an ex-USN Master-at-Arms trying to get her new civilian life established, is framed in Muddlin’ Through.  Her search to prove her innocence takes her around the world from one skirmish to another, a gypsy romance, winning new friends, and a new self-understanding.  In the sequel, Silicon Slummin’…and Just Gettin’ By, the bad guys are back, she acquires a stalker/serial killer, and she finds a new love. On sale on Smashwords from November 1 through 30—use the coupon code during checkout.

In libris libertas!

Science in science fiction…

November 2nd, 2017

I loved those original Star Trek episodes because the best were based on sci-fi stories written by seasoned sci-fi writers, ones like Theodore Sturgeon and Harlan Ellison. They were often morality plays too, that is, good stories with some important themes mixed in. (Who could forget the message that racial prejudice is just plain stupid in the classic episode about the two black-and-white guys fighting on and on, one black on the left and white on the right, the other just the opposite?) These episodes often contained some sound scientific extrapolation too—your smart phone is a version of the Starfleet’s communicator, for example.

Episodes in the spinoff series, often written by screenwriters who had little training in science and often promoted pseudo-science, were much less entertaining if not downright distasteful. They were also just bad writers of sci-fi, starting a tradition that continues today. Generally speaking, of course, Hollywood fails at putting believable science into sci-fi and often creates pseudo-science in its screenplays. While maybe everyone knows Wiley Coyote can’t go over the cliff in an inverse-L-shaped path and finds it hilarious when he does so, is that any different than the Enterprise coming to a full-stop, thus violating Newton’s First Law? (What maybe that ether drag, created in theory by Maxwell and disproven by Einstein, suddenly reappears?) And Next Generation’s Counselor Cleavage reading minds is pretty farfetched and bordering on fantasy too. Of course, the Star Wars tales are also just fantasy episodes—they even have princes, princesses, and knights who fight with sabers (making them neon-colored with sizzles doesn’t make them more sci-fi-like—it just makes them silly).

So let’s forget about Hollywood and move on to literature.  As a continuation of a previous article, “Does Fiction Have to Seem Real?” let me ask, “Does the science in sci-fi have to seem real?” I’m talking about hard sci-fi. That’s still a broad sub-genre. But consider the sub-sub-genres of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic. While I enjoyed Christopher’s No Blade of Grass, Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, and Howey’s Wool, my kneejerk reaction to these books was that there was no real explanation of cause, only the effect. I’ve changed my mind a bit, though. The story in these books is found in the effect—hence the post in post-apocalyptic. My own post-apocalyptic efforts—Survivors of the Chaos and Full Medical are examples—discussed the causes much more than the three books named, but that was a personal choice because I put as much emphasis on the causes as the effects. In my upcoming The Last Humans (see the last pre-publication excerpt in my blog archive), I also focus on the effect, although the cause is mentioned, and I’m satisfied with the result.

Other hard sci-fi genres need a more detailed extrapolation of current science. Of course, the farther the extrapolation goes into the future, the more chance for error. Any scientist knows that extrapolation beyond real data is a dangerous game. Some things like interstellar drives and faster-than-light (FTL) starships or communication systems are far in the future, if they’re even possible. When that happens, the best solution is to get beyond the science and go on with the story. But human variants like the clones and mutants in my “Clones and Mutants Series,” the MECHs in the “Mary Jo Melendez Mysteries,” or Humans 2.0 produced by an ET virus in More than Human: The Mensa Contagion, have to be more plausible if only because they’re easier extrapolations of current science to events in the near future.

That’s why a scientist might feel more comfortable reading speculative fiction that doesn’t go far beyond current science and technology. For example, s/he might prefer Hogan’s Code of the Lifemaker to his Giants series, although the first book in that series sticks pretty close to current science and technology. Your opinion on how believable the futuristic science is might depend on your background too. When I read Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, I felt insulted that a sci-fi writer violated current physics (his solution to FTL was a varying speed of light, slower the farther away you are from galactic center, as if those central black holes did a lot more than expected). Obviously not enough sci-fi readers cared about that—he received a Hugo—but I think there’s a warning there: some readers will not tolerate a violation of known laws of physics, chemistry, or biology. But they might not have a problem with the unknown.

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Conspiracy theories and all that…

October 31st, 2017

[Note from Steve: Have a safe and happy Halloween. Parents, please take care of your children, and please don’t drink and drive—someone else’s children might be your victims.]

They’ll get a boost with the partial release of the JFK assassination papers (the CIA is holding some back, which will only add to the conspiracy, of course). Here’s the short list: Was someone else involved besides Oswald? I always thought it was suspicious that Jack Ruby silenced Lee Harvey…to keep him from spilling the beans about his Russian backers? They might have wanted some revenge for the Cuban Missile Crisis, after all. The visits to the Cuban consulate and Russian embassy in Mexico are suggestive.

A mob killing? That conspiracy would work better for brother Bobby K. A Castro plot? Add Bay of Pigs to the Cuban Missile Crisis and you can create a conspiracy involving both Russians and Cubans! A CIA plot? Why not? They’re the ones holding back documents. And their hands were already dirty from overthrowing governments (for example, in Iran, with subsequent installation of the Shaw, an American puppet) and possible assassinations in their anti-communist witch hunt (the Dirty War in Argentina and overthrow of Allende came later, but were a continuation of the Dulles brothers’ legacy—and now it seems Neruda’s death in Chile was actually murder, coming only a bit after Allende’s murder).

I have no trouble with conspiracy theories. In general, they’re harmless and created by groups searching for “the truth.” And sometimes, if and when the truth comes out, we’re surprised that the conspiracy theory was correct. There’s so much secrecy now—the executive branch, Congress, the Pentagon, and many government agencies, all under GOP control,  live in a dark world of Washington and international secrets—that one has to wonder all the time about what they’re hiding. Two mantras from X-Files come to mind: “Trust no one” (everyone’s lying!) and “the truth is out there” (but we’ll never find it!).

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Monday words of wisdom…

October 30th, 2017

Gaia doesn’t have to end in a nuclear bang. She can end in the whisper of climate disaster.

Freedom for Catalonia!

***

Smashwords book sale. Mystery, suspense, sci-fi, conspiracies, and a multitude of thrills await you with the “Mary Jo Melendez Mystery Series.”  Mary Jo, an ex-USN Master-at-Arms trying to get her new civilian life established, is framed in Muddlin’ Through.  Her search to prove her innocence takes her around the world from one skirmish to another, a gypsy romance, winning new friends, and a new self-understanding.  In the sequel, Silicon Slummin’…and Just Gettin’ By, the bad guys are back, she acquires a stalker/serial killer, and she finds a new love. On sale on Smashwords from November 1 through 30—use the coupon code during checkout.

In libris libertas!

Mini-Reviews of Books: Celina Grace’s Echo…

October 27th, 2017

(Celina Grace, Echo, Kate Redmen #6, Isaro Publishing Ltd, 2015)

I’ve read other books in the Kate Redmen series (maybe all of them?) as part of my love affair with British mysteries (my most recent novel is an homage to Christie and her two famous sleuths, Miss Marple and M. Poirot). This novel has an important theme: the sexual abuse of children. When it’s done by VIPs, they often get away with it. When the system puts little girls and boys in the hands of VIPs as part of social services, it’s deplorable.

DC Redmen is facing a few personal crises in this tale too. The author creates a nice blend of mystery, police procedural, ad personal angst. The plot drags a wee bit in a few spots, and, while readers of the other books will appreciate the references to those other cases, this book is a stand-alone that can be independently read.

Plot and dialogue are done well, but I would have like a bit more character and settings description. In particular, the villains aren’t well described, but the nature of this murder case might excuse that a bit. You’ll see what I mean. By the way, you won’t find out the reason for the title until the end.

I had a good time with this book. Crime fiction lovers will too, especially those avid readers of British mysteries. Ms. Grace isn’t Ian Rankin, but this book is a tasty treat for your fall nights by the fire. But what’s the big deal with kidney pie? It doesn’t sound as disgusting as haggis (note the British v. Scottish play on words here), but ugh!

***

Sci-fi book sale: More than Human: The Mensa Contagion and Rogue Planet are now on sale at Smashwords from October 1 through October 31. Their prices are reduced to $1.99—that’s one-third off. In the first novel, an ET virus changes the world, but in a good way, and leads to the colonization of Mars. In the second, there’s a wee bit of “Game of Thrones” fantasy mixed into the hard sci-fi as Prince Kaushal leads his Second Tribe in their fight against the First Tribe’s brutal theocracy. Both books are stand-alone, not part of a series. Use the Smashwords coupon numbers when you check out. Note that the second book is also available in paper format at Amazon. Lots of exciting fall entertainment for a reasonable price!

In libris libertas….

Why not a memoir?

October 26th, 2017

I’ll admit I’ve had an interesting life full of adventure in the modern sense of that word. Not everyone spends over ten years living abroad and immersed in another culture (I came to understand jokes, songs, and dreamed in Spanish—I’ve only read Garcia Marquez in the original Castellano). Not everyone spends a night sleeping in a Sibundoy Indian chief’s house next to two girls (don’t get any lecherous ideas there—it was too cold for hanky-panky, and two anthropologists were in the next room). I’ve traveled enough for business or pleasure that I’m certain human beings’ strengths can be found in celebrating their diversity and culture, yet still work together as a consequence of a shared humanity.

Denise Laidler asked me at the Indie Author Day event (Saturday, October 14, in Montclair, NJ) why I didn’t write a memoir about all this. This charming lady is the author of Journey to the Land of Look Behind, and we chatted about our pasts. We both have interesting and unusual ones. The conversation took off because her book is set for the most part in New Orleans, and I used to be in a Dixieland band in high school (trombone) and maybe rode on that streetcar named Desire at a conference I attended there. (I’m planning on reading her book and subsequently reviewing it.) Here are my reasons for NOT writing a memoir (I discussed some of them with Denise):

First, I’m not a celeb. Readers normally peruse memoirs when they recognize the names of the celebs who wrote them. My life might be unusual, but plenty of people have unusual lives (Ms. Laidler included). Agents and publishers are more interested in publishing a celeb’s memoir, not so much some unknown Jill or Jack. That celeb could be famous or infamous, but having the name recognition already is at least half the author’s and publisher’s battle. HRC had a book signing in a local bookstore in Montclair, for example, and sold 1000 books (OK, the book was only partially a memoir). That number is far greater than the number of attendees at the Indie Author Day in Montclair, counting both readers and writers and visitors just after the free cookies. (I don’t read celeb’s books, so guess which books I’ll read, though.)

Second, I’m a private person. In many ways, I’m the typical introverted author who values his quiet time. I’m active on Facebook and Goodreads more because it’s a safe way to meet people and make friends, “safe” in the sense that I don’t have to hit a nightclub or bar (I might be that lonely man in the bar nursing my Jameson, although I could also be there with my best friend, my wife). Science and technology (both academic and R&D) allowed me that lonely creativity just like writing does.

Third, I’m NOT a narcissist. I write books to entertain my readers, not to become some public figure marketing her or his own image. Some personal experiences make it into my novels, and I suppose many characters are amalgams of many people, including yours truly (maybe where the mantra “write what you know” might actually apply?). The last thing I want to do is pound my chest on the public stage.

Fourth, there are genres that I can’t write in. Rogue Planet was the closest I’ve come to writing fantasy—there are some “Game of Thrones” fantasy elements in this hard sci-fi novel, but it all fits in one particular sci-fi universe I’ve created. Comedy is hard for me too. I do better with some short stories, but not an entire novel, although one Good Reads’ reviewer (there are reviews there that don’t appear anywhere else, by the way—members review for the benefit of other members a lot) mentioned tongue-in-cheek elements in Rembrandt’s Angel—guilty as charged. Memoir and biography (when is a memoir not an autobiography?) have to be added to this list; so does poetry (I apologize to those readers who’ve suffered through a few poems in my stories).

So, good readers and fellow authors, don’t expect a memoir from me. Or pure fantasy, romance, erotica, comedy, or poetry. I read in a lot of genres, even non-fiction, but as a writer I’ll stick to my genres: mysteries, thrillers, and sci-fi.

***

Sci-fi book sale: More than Human: The Mensa Contagion and Rogue Planet are now on sale at Smashwords from October 1 through October 31. Their prices are reduced to $1.99—that’s one-third off. In the first novel, an ET virus changes the world, but in a good way, and leads to the colonization of Mars. In the second, there’s a wee bit of “Game of Thrones” fantasy mixed into the hard sci-fi as Prince Kaushal leads his Second Tribe in their fight against the First Tribe’s brutal theocracy. Both books are stand-alone, not part of a series. Use the Smashwords coupon numbers when you check out. Note that the second book is also available in paper format at Amazon. Lots of exciting fall entertainment for a reasonable price!

In libris libertas.

Steve’s shorts: Special Cargo…

October 25th, 2017

[While tongue-in-cheek, there’s a serious side to this story. See if you can discover my homage to Greeks. Geez, I love that baklava!]

Special Cargo

Copyright 2017, Steven M. Moore

Cal’Len, my XO, bent over and shouted in my ear. The din in the Zanthian bar required this so I could understand him. The crazy band’s music was mostly loud burps and wheezes with lots of percussion and contributions from many types of the Zanthian’s traditional instruments.

I put my Zanthian Bomb down and raised my eyebrows because he had just told me that a Zanthian had offered a huge amount of credits, including bonuses for all my crew, if we could transport a special cargo to the planet Rak. I’d never heard of that planet. Wondered if it was in the ITUIP.

My ship had a standard mercantile shipping license. The International Trade Union of Independent Planets gave those out as long as the shipper went online and filled out an extensive and boringly bureaucratic computer form, attaching copies of ownership for the starship, but they were often more rigorous in enforcing their shipping rules—read: knowing what cargo was going where. If Rak was under quarantine—that could be for a variety of reasons in addition to health ones—we’d have a hard time even getting permission to lift off.

“Can we go there?” I said to Cal’Len in my loudest voice.

He knew all those ITUIP rules of commerce backwards and forwards. Valuable XO, Cal’Len. He often kept me out of serious legal trouble.

“You’re OK from ITUIP’s perspective, although we’ll have to be careful with return cargo. Aristotle doesn’t have much about the planet Rak on file, but we can haul freight there.”

Aristotle was our ship’s AI. “Does it know how to get us there?”

“The Zanthian client has provided the coordinates.”

“OK. Let me finish this drink. I’ll talk to him outside. The noise here is oppressive.”

After achieving the desired effect with the Bomb, I went outside to where Cal’Len waited with the Zanthian. My XO was about a third of a meter taller than me; the Zanthian was twice my size. Cal’Len’s black skin made a nice combo with his golden parrot-like beak and red mop; the Zanthian was cream-colored with large red spots and a flat face with a big nose—a handsome fellow from his people’s perspective. I was a puny and pale Human in comparison, but I was Captain Rick Cortese, owner of the star-freighter Skyrunner—the name was a translation from Cal’Len’s vernacular, the Sartok language. I checked that everyone had their com devices plugged into the side of their heads. Aristotle could easily handle three languages.

***

“I am honored, Captain Cortese,” said the Zanthian, bowing deeply. The bow doubled him down to about my stature. Zanthians are big! He straightened up. “You may call be Ba’ath.”

I looked skyward about two meters. “What’s in your cargo, Citizen Ba’ath?”

“I’m offering you a lot of credits, captain, and part of that payment should buy me some privacy for my shipment.”

“I’m uncomfortable with that. For all I know you have a nuke in there with a timer or FTL trigger.” The former would be old-fashioned; an RF-controlled detonator would be less so. And an FTL trigger goes off when a starship enters the Nexus to accomplish the faster-than-light trick of hopping through metaverses.

“Not likely. I am part of the cargo. I’m paying for passenger space, that is.”

“So what? Maybe you’re suicidal.”

“I could contract with another shipper.”

Yeah, maybe, I thought, but they probably wouldn’t be as desperate as I am. I raised an eyebrow and looked at Cal’Len. My Sartok friend was good at reading Human body language. I still vocalized my question in Standard. “Is this guy for real?” I looked up at Ba’ath again. “You know we have the right to inspect cargo, correct?”

“Clause number 3.108 of the ITUIP shipping regulations clearly states that diplomatic cargo can only be inspected by remote sensors if the diplomat doesn’t want to allow internal inspection of said cargo.”

I winked at Cal’Len. “You two can have a great time en route discussing ITUIP legalities. Are you a diplomat?”

“Yes, I am on a diplomatic mission to Rak representing Zanth.” He handed me his e-creds. I examined them. “Tentatively it’s a go until we can check with the Zanthian State Department. How big is your shipment?”

“It will fit into your number 2 cargo hold.”

“OK. We’ll meet you at the Skyrunner—“ I looked at my watch. “—in about a standard hour. My XO will have checked your creds by then. You’re responsible for surface transportation and any cranes.”

Ba’ath nodded and bowed again.

***

From the bridge monitor, I watched the crane swing the huge shipping crate into the cargo hold. “I have a bad feeling about this, Cal’Len, but the pay is too good to pass up. Wonder if we can bring anything good back from Rak.”

“I’ve made some inquiries. The planet is rich in rare heavy metals. Rak is not far from where those two neutron stars collided. Lots of heavy metals produced in that volume of space.”

“We’re not an ore ship.”

“It might be worth it if they’re rare enough. We can haul them to the nearest ITUIP planet, clean up the holds, and take on more freight.”

What we do to make a few credits. Poor Skyrunner wouldn’t like all the dirt and mess. “What’s the government of Rak like?”

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Mr. Trump’s feud with NFL players…

October 24th, 2017

The president has managed to spin this in a way that implies that the players’ practicing their First Amendment rights are seen as unpatriotic. It was never about disrespect for the flag or national anthem, Mr. President! Another of your lies (has it been counted in that list of 1000+ lies—talk about “fake news”!). The players’ protests, initiated by Mr. Colin Kaepernick, were about racism and inequality in America, and they started as a protest against police brutality that’s a consequence of that racism. The message is so strong and universal that a German soccer team recently took a knee—the U.S. national anthem certainly wasn’t being played there.

But Mr. Trump has created his own personal spin, no matter how false it is, and the media blindly follows. The NFL owners are only eying the effect on their bottom line as some fans also swallow the president’s spin that panders to their own racism. The consequence: we have lost yet another opportunity to chip away at racism in our society and realize MLK’s dream of a colorblind America. So sad.

We shouldn’t be surprised at that loss of focus. That was Trump’s intent with his spin, and once rich owners and players got over those SOB remarks and mounting their anemic support for the protesting players, they made the treasonous decision to throw the protesting players to the wolves. The owners and their lackey Goodell have characteristics ranging from being out-of-touch with society’s ills (they’re 0.1 percenters, not 1 percenters) to making society’s ills even worse. Among the Trump-supporting deplorables (I embrace that word), the rich owners and players are among the worst. Those cheering Bannon’s hate speech have some reasons, however misguided they might be. The owners and most players are only worried about the money—they’ve got it made but they want more.

Colin Kaepernick now has a lawsuit against the NFL and its owners. More power to him. The players’ union should have had a class-action lawsuit and should launch one now. They protested in front of NFL HQ in NYC for the reasons spelled out in Mr. Kaepernick’s individual lawsuit: collusion between NFL owners to blacklist the quarterback. Thirty-nine less skilled quarterbacks have been hired since Mr. Kaepernick left the 49ers. I have personal experience with blacklisting that I won’t go into here. It’s the ugly face of government and capitalism.

“Why do players protest?” some people might ask. “They should be happy making all that money.” Well, no. The conscientious among them recognize the ills in society and want to do something about them. They often grew up suffering from that racism and inequality. They’re like ancient Roman gladiators battling in arenas because their lives depend on it—in this case, their economic lives. And with the threat of injury and CTE, who says they don’t live in danger and all that money is just hazard pay? Or, if they’re lucky enough to have been born into a middle class family, their relatives and friends are often trapped in jobs without a future while suffering the inequities of a racist society, including police brutality and an unfair justice system. At the very least, minorities in America don’t receive respect and lack the opportunities, from education to jobs.

We haven’t come much closer to realizing MLK’s dream of a colorblind society that respects individual rights and offers equal opportunity for all. That’s why players are taking a knee, Mr. President. But you’re incapable of understanding that, aren’t you? You inherited your first million—you received more that way than most people will receive in a lifetime of hard work. You’ve lived a life of privilege; you’re just a TV reality star who doesn’t understand America’s reality.

***

Rembrandt’s Angel (Penmore Press). How far would you go to recover a missing masterpiece? Have great fun this fall reading about the adventures of Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone and her paramour/sidekick, Interpol agent Bastiann van Coevorden. Esther becomes obsessed with recovering Rembrandt’s “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a painting stolen by the Nazis for Hitler’s museum. The crime-fighting duo goes after the painting and those currently possessing the painting, but the whole caper becomes much more dangerous as they uncover a conspiracy that threatens the security of Europe. With all the danger, their budding romance becomes full-blown. This book is available as an ebook on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, and Apple, and also as a print book from Amazon and your local bookstore (if they don’t have it, ask for them to order it). Check out the review and interview at Feathered Quill.

And so it goes….

Monday words of wisdom…

October 23rd, 2017

Our nation cannot survive morally or economically when so few have so much while so many have so little.—Bernie Sanders

***

Sci-fi book sale: More than Human: The Mensa Contagion and Rogue Planet are now on sale at Smashwords from October 1 through October 31. Their prices are reduced to $1.99—that’s one-third off. In the first novel, an ET virus changes the world, but in a good way, and leads to the colonization of Mars. In the second, there’s a wee bit of “Game of Thrones” fantasy mixed into the hard sci-fi as Prince Kaushal leads his Second Tribe in their fight against the First Tribe’s brutal theocracy. Both books are stand-alone, not part of a series. Use the Smashwords coupon numbers when you check out. Note that the second book is also available in paper format at Amazon. Lots of exciting fall entertainment for a reasonable price!

In libris libertas!

Review of Edita A. Petrick’s Ribbons of Death…

October 20th, 2017

(Edita A. Petrick, Ribbons of Death (2nd ed.), Peacetaker series #1, 2017)

I suspect this started with a play on words. We all know what peacemaker means, but what is a peacetaker? You can find out in detail by reading this sci-fi/fantasy/mystery/thriller. I’ll start by explaining the genre overlap. The sciences are archaeology and linguistics. The fantasy is a curse that has affected several ancient civilizations. The mystery is in how it is now affecting our modern world…and why. The thriller is in trying to stop people from being murdered by the peacetaker.

That’s quite a lot for a plot, but the author handles it well. She goes too deep into the archaeological/linguistic narrative with the ex-prof who is the main character and wrote a book about the curse—I skipped a lot of that once I got the gist. The subtitle of every chapter also contains some ancient historical reference that I usually didn’t understand—maybe the author saying, “I did a lot of research for this”? The ex-prof is a solid character. Her on-again-off-again romantic interest isn’t—he’s a thriller stereotype, shallow but violent. I believe both continue on in the series—the ex-prof should have dumped him.

What the peacetaker does is scary—he makes people go mad. (I wonder if one was operating in Las Vegas. Nah. That was just one guy. The peacetaker makes whole crowds of people go mad and try to kill each other.) There’s some fantastic gobbledygook about “why” this happens that never makes much sense—because it borders on magic, it’s pure fantasy and akin to werewolves going wild with a full moon, and I hate stories about werewolves, especially the Twilight series.

The plot moves along in spite of the narrative overload mentioned above (especially if you skip most of it). It held my interest for the most part, and there’s a nice twist at the end involving that nasty peacetaker. This is basically a road-trip story where the womansplaining ex-prof takes her mansplaining hunk around the country trying to prove her theories about the peacetaker, and he tries to prove her wrong. There’s a nice hook at the beginning when that soldier-of-fortune stereotype also goes mad in a crowd affected by the peacetaker. The hunk’s scars from his injuries play a small role in the story, as well as the stereotypical ambivalence of a feebie who’s contracted that soldier-of-fortune  (he’s torn between obeying the ex-prof and the feebie, of course). There’s an evil rich guy as villain in this story too, generally skulking around in the wings like some ghoulish phantom of the opera. You don’t actually know for sure he’s the villain. Is the peacetaker ultimately controlled by him? Does the villain get what he deserves? You’ll have to read the book to find out. No spoilers here.

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