Friday, September 29, 2017

More Stately Mansions - a philosophical sci-fi tour de force

Greetings, commies and interstellar colonists! If you have 30-45 minutes while your kid is in martial arts class, consider picking up this thrilling and thought-provoking novella by John Rosenman More Stately Mansions.
Captain Temple leads a mission to K22 and finds a beautiful planet with magnificent shining cities. It appears to be a lucrative new market for the Merchants Guild.

There’s just one problem: the cities are mysteriously empty. He can’t find even one survivor, which means the planet is off-limits to commercial exploitation and cannot be used to achieve financial profits in any way.

Soon Temple discovers an even greater problem, one that is strange and ominous and threatens his crew’s very survival.
Not only that, it is an incredible cosmic mind-stretcher that strains sanity to the breaking point, not just the characters' sanity but the readers' as well.

My thoughts:
This novella took me about 30 minutes to read. It is a concise, poignant tour de force of philosophical sci-fi in the vein of Rod Sterling and the Strugatsky brothers. It takes the whole concept of colonization to a new level. A crew of ambitious explorers - all male with one nonchalant and stunning young female - land on an unnamed and seemingly welcoming planet. But if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. There is a spoonful of venom inside that barrel of honey, and the crew members discover it a little too late. As a mysterious cancer-like disease starts claiming them, who will be the last man standing?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Frozen Sea by Rosanne Dingli - for the fans of Dan Brown

Greetings, commies and fans of Dan Brown! Today's guest is a prolific and erudite author from down-under Rosanne Dingli.  She has a series of thrilling and eloquent literary mysteries. Connecticut Commie congratulates her on the release of her latest novel The Frozen Sea.

The Frozen Sea is a literary adventure, and an exploration of what it means to be alone. Its characters leap from the pages of literary history to haunt and disturb the present. Rosanne Dingli adds to the Bryn Awbrey series with an evocative exploration of words and perceptions, which stays with the reader long after the last page is turned.

During an unseasonal cold snap in Venice, Loretta Groombridge seeks employment. Her uncle’s legacy is running out, and she is lonely. Eccentric Welsh professor Bryn Awbrey and his secretive house guest plunge her deep into a literary mystery, which becomes riskier the more she discovers. Her degree is not enough to arm her for the dilemma, and neither is her ability to deal with disappointment and fear. A frightening attack robs her of dignity and peace of mind, and signals more insecurity. When she takes a break, a fire in the night summons her back, and almost robs her of all she has found to love in Venice. The risk-filled history of the ancient city seems transported to the present time.

My thoughts
I received a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. Apparently, this novel is one in the Bryn Awbrey series, and I'm thinking of reading more. This is definitely a cross-genre novel that doesn't quite fit your typical time-travel or duel era genre, even though the narrative does jump from one era to another. As her endowment depletes, Loretta Goombridge finds herself at a crossroad and growing increasingly anxious about her future. Professor Bryn Awbrey entices her into a literary mystery. A good chunk of the novel is set in Venice - a popular destination for soul-searching loners.

The author's academic background is apparent. Her erudition shines through. And she crafts every sentence lovingly, with elegance and sophistication. But you have to be trained for that style of narrative that skips from genuine documents, to present day, to various locations in Europe in 1930s and 1950s. If you are not used to that type of pace, you will catch yourself doing what I did - going back and rereading certain passages to ensure your grasp of continuity. The fans of Dan Brown who love the signature Brown-esque literary techniques will be delighted.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Blood of the Stone Prince - a Medieval "hipster" novel

Greetings, all saints!
Exciting news for those who have been following the series of blogs on 15th century bishops, ecclesiastic composers and architects. Blood of the Stone Prince is here, courtesy of Crossroad Press (thank you for continuing to believe in my work). This novel - 23 years in the making, no less - is the fictionalized product of the themes I touched upon in my posts earlier this summer. No, this isn't a typo. It took me 23 years to complete this novel. I started developing my characters as a high-school sophomore, but I didn't quite know what to make of them. It took me over two decades to pull the loose threads into something coherent. I half-jokingly call it my Medieval "hipster" novel. My goal was to create a cast of characters that are recognizable to modern audiences. Please, don't faint. It's not about "selling out" or "dumbing down" the characters, or making them act in some anachronistic way. Quite the opposite. It's about drawing the parallels between the past and the present. Think of it as a form of reverse time-travel. Some archetypes are timeless. You will recognize the sickly goth girl, the self-absorbed child prodigy, the drama club geek, the burned out jock, the cynical CEO of a pharmaceutical company. Each chapter is narrated in the first person by a separate character. In the past I have been crucified for my usage of the infamous third person omniscient narrator. This time I took a drastically different approach and allowed the characters to speak for themselves.

From the alchemy labs of fifteenth-century France comes a tale of one beauty and three beasts on a macabre journey through the Parisian underworld. After sixteen years of priesthood, Monseigneur Desmoulins secretly wishes for excommunication. Fed up with sacristy intrigues and tedious inquisition proceedings, he keeps himself amused by dissecting rats, playing with explosives and stalking foreign women. Some of his dirty work he delegates to his nineteen-year-old protégé Daniel Dufort nicknamed Stone Prince, who plays the organ at the cathedral. The gaunt, copper-haired youth looks may look like an angel, but his music is believed to be demonic, pushing the faithful towards crime and suicide.

To keep themselves safe amidst urban violence, the master and his ward take fencing lessons from Lucius Castelmaure, an alcoholic officer facing a court martial. Their alliance is tested when a Wallachian traveler implores them to entertain his terminally-ill daughter Agniese, whose dying whim to is be buried inside the Montfaucon cellar alongside felons and traitors. The three men jump at the chance to indulge the eccentric virgin in the final months of her life.

Raised in the spirit of polyamory, Agniese has no qualms about taking all three men as lovers. In a city of where street festivals turn into massacres, it's only a matter of time before the romantic quadrangle tumbles into a pit of hellfire. Filled with witch-hanging, bone-cracking, gargoyle-hugging humor, Blood of the Stone Prince is a blasphemous thriller for the heretic in each one of us.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Female solidarity: endearing or racist? You decide ...

Greetings, commies and libtards!

Here is an actual illustration intended to represent female solidarity in the workplace. Forged by a well-meaning Eastern European artist in the 1960s. Do you find it endearing/inspiring or offensive/racist? Note the pan-Slavic female is in the center. Her Western European sister is to the far right. Whose hand is on top? That's right. The Slavic woman's. The rest of the women are looking aside, while the Slavic woman is looking right at you. So, while the illustration is supposed to represent equality, it clearly establishes ethnic superiority of the Slavic group. Or am I reading too much into it? You decide.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Death Knows My Name: social commentary through the eyes of a demon - a novel by Kellie Wallace

Greetings, Commies, Aussies and Yankees!

Today's recurring guest is Kellie Wallace, a young Australian author of numerous historical, dystopian, YA and cross genre novels. Her latest release is a paranormal thriller with strong romantic and philosophical elements Death Knows My Name.

After the tragic drowning of her brother eighteen years ago, Aleida Fuller has lived her life communicating with the supernatural. She can see and speak to the dead, as if they were still walking the earth. Despite being welcomed in the spirit world, Aleida lives a closeted existence. Her reclusive mother refuses to accept her abilities and the local townsfolk think she’s a fraud.

When mysterious traveler Rafe Jenner arrives in town, Aleida’s dull life is irrevocably changed. He’s handsome, strange, and oddly alluring, with piercing eyes that turn red in the dark…

As Aleida and Rafe are teamed up to solve a crime for the Sheriff’s Office, a great evil lurks in the shadows. Bloodthirsty for Aleida’s soul, Hell-bound demon Albinus roams the earth, shedding blood and taking lives in search of her. He will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants. Aleida must draw on her physic abilities and her new-found alliance with Rafe to battle Hell’s agents before her soul is lost forever.

My thoughts:
One of the most captivating parts about this novel is the philosophical / existential component. Rafe, a jaded soul-snatcher who has been around the block a few times, struggles to keep his red eyes from rolling as he watches the decay of the human race. He notes that in the past century people have gotten fatter and dumber - and more skittish and squeamish around the subject of death. At the same time, he eats the same "dumb American food". He is not above having whipped cream on his pancakes. I guess his supernatural body does not metabolize carbs and fat the same way a human body would. Oh wait, moving from one body to another, changing hosts every century or so, is taking its toll on Rafe's supernatural essence. He is starting to feel more and more human. (The premise of the novel will remind you of an acclaimed indie film "In Her Skin" starring Scarlet Johansson, featuring the predatory wanderings of an otherworldly entity that entices and gobbles up lonely men).

It is not surprising that Rafe's unlikely human ally is Aleida Fuller, a young woman burdened by the disturbing gift of communicating with the dead, the gift she had developed following her younger brother's drowning death. Aleida seems to have achieved a sort of philosophical acceptance of her gift and her place in the world. Naturally, she cannot keep that gift to herself - it makes her too useful in investigations. It also makes her a great target for exploitation. Who would not want a girl like that on their side? Personally, I find it refreshing that Aleida has no qualms about milking her gift. She does not get all high and mighty about having a "special mission". She is not above offering her services to bachelor parties and Halloween seances, just as Rafe is not above eating American diner food. That self-deprecating humility is what makes them such suitable allies.

One thing I wanted to mentions is that even though the author is Australian, most of her novels are set in America. She is very familiar with American pop culture and everyday practices. It's not unusual for Australians to romanticize Americans - and vice versa. I commend the author on writing yet another thrilling, witty, philosophically challenging novel.