Writing Practice – 5/11/2018

Telling Stories, edited by Joyce Carol Oates, p 693

Around that time – because of numerous dislocations in the Valley, the abrupt abandoning of homes, for instance – it happened that packs of dogs began to roam around looking for food, particularly by night.

They moved and merged like flocks of sparrows on the wing, turning as if one, ducking down into an alley or crossing a street or huddling under a bridge, in a kind of near-union that the observers, themselves holed up in the remaining places, could never quite fully grasp. Were there ten dogs? Or a hundred? Did they travel mostly at night? Well, some did. Did they hunt or scavenge? Yes, both, and neither. Did they have a leader? A central hub or den? Did they ever pair off and mate, or was this the moment simply for survival, and procreation would be saved for more generous, fatter times?

They watched from their squatting places, huddled upon the third or fifth or eighth floors of the abandoned apartments, doors at the ground level tightly closed and double-locked against the potential for canine invasion.

They waited and watched, and they ate their scavenged foods, and they smoked their improvised cigarettes, and, unlike (or, perhaps, exactly like) the dogs, they fucked, but it was a half-hearted endeavor, one which was more for something to do than to create any new life, for, (and in that way they were exactly like the dogs) they saw in themselves nothing of worth and value to pass onto the next generation, save a fighting, surviving spirit.

Such a spirit would come in useful during lean times. Such a spirit actually was coming in useful during this lean time. And, as nobody really knew much about the outside world anymore, what with radio, television, internet communications cut off and overland travel still too dangerous, nobody bringing news of the lands beyond the city gates had arrived in more than a year. So their isolation grew.

Like a population of animals, separated by a physical boundary, like a river or a mountain, they, too, began to adapt to their unique environment and carve out specializations, niches which gave them slightly better chances of survival.

Nico, he got the cigarettes. Nobody else seemed to be able to find them, but he always had a pack on him. When asked, he would shrug his shoulders, as if they appeared by magic in his pack, but everyone else knew he was just better at that sort of thing.

Kyle excelled at scavenging food. From only partly moldy bread to relatively okay preserved meats and cheeses, they didn’t starve, and time enough had passed that they no longer complained about the steady diet, even if all of them remembered things like chocolate cake, beer, and a napkin.

Tobi and Karen provided the sex. Each one either took or gave as necessary, and it really wasn’t that bad, if your eyes were closed and you pretended it was your girlfriend from before.

And Zenney, she provided the hope. Preached it daily. Stood out on the stoop, eyes wide, arms stretched to the sun, and sang, songs of regeneration, renewal, paradise, whatever she could think to keep the despair at bay for one more sunset.

There were others, too. There were always others. But these were the most special, because they survived the longest, to tell their stories. The rest lived, and died, and were remembered, then forgotten. And that was how it should be.

The Most Interesting Person in Mexico

A couple of weeks ago I went to Cancun, Mexico for a short vacation. Going in, I deluded myself that I’d do a few hours of work in the morning, then relax in the afternoon. Yeah, right. Who’s gonna work when you can look at this all day?

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So I didn’t work. My buddy Troy, who’d invited 50 different friends, called me “the 2%” all week. Because I was the only one willing to come down and hang out in the tropics, sitting on the beach, reading a book by the pool, enjoying the scenery.

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The Royal Cancun, Cancun, MX

 

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The Royal Cancun, Cancun, MX

Oh, and speaking of scenery, the landscapes are pretty nice, too! 😉

We met a bunch of people. This is Dave, Stacey, and Troy on Monday at Isla Mujeres.

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I met a turtle in her pond who wouldn’t leave me alone.

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I met a couple, Max and Brittney, who had come down from Kenosha, Wisconsin. Troy’s city. Imagine, flying 2,000 miles and across the Gulf of Mexico, to meet someone who lives just a few doors down from you. And not only that, but this couple had a connection to me, too. Last August, on a whim, they drove a half a day to come down to this area and watch the eclipse at the same amphitheater in Chesterfield where I watched it.

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Ian Wardlaw

You might be thinking they’re the most interesting people I met in Mexico, but you’re wrong.

Perhaps you think it’s the friends from New Jersey (where my mother grew up and I still have nice memories of visiting as a child). Nope.

Perhaps you think it’s the whole group of friends / frenemies that Troy and I hung out with a few times over the week, laughing and drinking cerveza and telling jokes and them smoking. (Hint – a couple of them are in that first picture above). Nope.

Perhaps you think it’s Janet and her daughter Billie, who Troy ended up spending a lot of time with, over the week. Janet bought us dinner on Monday at the resort. Pretty sweet! But no, she was not the most interesting person I met.

Perhaps you think it’s Kyle (I think), the iguana who peed on my hand on my tour of Tolum.

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Nope.

Maybe the people I met at the cenote, the freshwater reservoir where we ate lunch and swam after Tolum?

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Strike three! (Four?)

Maybe the tour guide, Carlos, who showed us how the sun can be viewed through a piece of obsidian. Still not the most interesting person I met.

No, the most interesting person I met was someone else. I met her after I climbed up the pyramid at Coba:

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And had to stop a couple of times to let my fear subside. I’m not usually scared of heights, but that was a little precarious. After we butt-scooted back down, we made our way out to the front of the park in groups of two or three. There I bought a frozen fruit pop and rested a bit.

Within a few moments I saw a woman standing by her bicycle. Mid-twenties and slim, she looked a little out of place compared to all the rest of the white European tourists in groups of ten or more, and very out of place compared to the shorter Mexican citizens.

Her bicycle was loaded on the front and rear wheels with bags. And it looked like she was on a tour. I decided to be nosy.

“Excuse me, can I ask you a question?”

“Yes, sure.” Her accent sounded French, but we spoke in English, as most people there do.

“Are you on a tour?” I pointed to the bicycle.

“Yes, of course.” Her demeanor seemed almost dismissive, as if I was asking if the sky was blue.

“By yourself?” I couldn’t see anyone else on a similar bicycle, and she didn’t look like she was waiting for a group.

“Well, I had a partner for the first part of the trip, but now, yes, it is just me.”

“How long have you been going?” Expecting a few weeks.

“Ahm, about six months now.” My eyes popped open. This is not the first time I’ve met someone on a long-term tour (there was a guy going through here from California to Maryland last summer). But it is the first time I’ve known of a non-native doing it across thousands of miles in a strange country, all alone.

Color me dazzled. Or is it “be-dazzled”? Regardless, I admired her resolve. I envied her freedom.

“Wow, very impressive. Good luck,” and I waved a short goodbye. She did the same, and turned away to purchase her ticket to go see the Coba ruins and pyramid.

And I turned away, back to my tour bus, back to my pampering in air conditioning, back to letting other people do for me instead of doing for myself.

Back to wishing I could do that.

Back to planning for the day when I can do that.

Back to yearning for the chance to go where I want, when I want, without obligations of schedule, of deadlines, of mortgage and health insurance and homeowner association fees.

Back to waiting.

Ugh.

Composing a Story – Part 2 of (?)

It’s been enough time since the first draft of a story I wrote, and now it’s time to start refining. This week I read through again, made some notes about things I’d like to see different or changed, and made some revisions.

A couple of times I’ve seen this (Stephen King comes to mind):

2nd Draft = First Draft (minus) 10%

So I often target at least cutting out 10% of the words. This usually makes the prose tighter, removes a scene or two, and generally moves things a long a little faster.

Here’s an example paragraph.

Before

It stood silently in the hallway, apparently staring at the number 17 screwed tightly to the frame. As Marcus watched, it raised an arm/appendage. A hand, with skin on the fingers and what looked like actual flesh at the wrist, knocked. It stepped forward, then, poised, and grasped the handle of the — what –-sickle? No. Scythe? Yeah, that was it.

After

It stood, staring at the number 17 bolted to the frame. It raised an arm/appendage. A hand, with skin on the fingers and actual flesh at the wrist, knocked. It stepped forward and grasped the handle of the — what –- sickle? No. Scythe? Yeah, that was it.

A bit tighter, a bit smoother. Most of the words remain, just the fluff taken out. And I did remove a few whole paragraphs, because they just didn’t make sense.

Overall, first draft: 11,420 words. Second draft: 10,200 words (10.7% cut) So I managed to meet that baseline.

There are some markets where 10,000 words would be the limit. Should I wish to submit to those, I’d have to cut just a bit more. Which, at this point, would be a scene or some action, rather than just words here and there. But I don’t think I’ll have to do that. I’m now going to ask for some feedback from readers and writers. Based on those comments, I may change again. This might be cutting a few scenes, or adding something necessary. So the fact that I’m close to an arbitrary limit doesn’t mean a whole lot at this point. We’re still in development.

Okay, here it is, the first scene. If anyone would be interested in reading the whole thing and making a critique (which is, by the way, not just saying, “I like it,” or “I hated it,”), then please let me know.

Oh, by the way – I don’t have a title yet. So we’re working with “Untitled” for now

Untitled

by Stephan James

Had he been able to pay attention, he would have noticed the semi-darkness descending upon him. For as much as the sky overhead might be attempting to transform into an overbearing, oppressive presence, the fluorescent lights along the city sidewalks pushed back against the intrusion, and would have aided his attempt to fight back.

But he was preoccupied, and could not take the moments to look up, look around, and notice the gloom slowly settling over his environment as he walked home from his office, late, on a Tuesday evening.

It was only seven blocks. Not really worth the time and money to go out of his way a block to the subway, then backtrack two more. So a nothing man walked home from a nothing job in a nothing city to a nothing apartment, listening to his now-grown-up brother whining about said brother’s wife and daughter spending too much of said brother’s money on spa trips, and all Marcus could think was At least you have someone.

As soon as he thought it, he was reminded of his counselor, a mid-fifties woman who’d been divorced and remarried, who tried to tell him that he wasn’t washed up at forty-seven, who continued to push him to see the good in his life, who would have said, “Well, Marcus, why do you continue to berate yourself like that? It’s been fifteen years. You have to let her go.”

He found the door handle and pulled, automatic, thoughts swirling through his head as they always did, overwhelming, overpowering, a tidal wave of the past and all that had been taken from him. His feet moved of their own accord, his hand pressing his cell phone to his ear, into and out of the elevator, eighteenth floor, well-trod floorboards and empty picture hangers on the wall, down the hall and turn left, voice droning on and on. He couldn’t stop thinking that maybe he’d –-

There was someone at his door.

No, something.

Some thing.

It looked to be at least a foot taller than him, wearing a hooded dark brown robe. And was that one of those farm tools with the long handle and ridiculously curved blade slung over its shoulder?

Was that Death at the door to his apartment?

Waiting?

Waiting for him?

It stood, staring at the number 17 bolted to the frame. It raised an arm/appendage. A hand, with skin on the fingers and actual flesh at the wrist, knocked. It stepped forward and grasped the handle of the — what –- sickle? No. Scythe? Yeah, that was it.

It put two hands on the scythe and stood waiting. Nothing happened. Why would it? Marcus wasn’t in his apartment, though he should have been for at least the last hour. Normally he would be sitting on his couch in his underwear, second drink in hand, mourning all that had been taken from him, television droning on unattended.

But today that phone call had distracted him, had made him stop in his office building lobby instead of heading out into the night so he could concentrate before the traffic sounds overwhelmed the conversation, had slowed his walk on the way home, had kept him from his usual routine enough so that he was now on the outside when he would have normally been on the inside, on the outside here where he could take a look at this ridiculously stereotypical picture of Death waiting to claim him, Marcus Jeffries, for the underworld or the afterlife or Heaven or Valhalla, he was outside the door and not inside and his brother’s voice came again through the phone and it startled him, startled him into movement, startled him into action, startled him into saying “I’ll call you back,” sliding the phone into his jacket pocket and taking two steps towards the monstrosity.

At the sound Death turned and pointed its hood towards him, four apartment doors away. He couldn’t see a face buried under there. The hands were veined, strong. Useful hands. Hands that did an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. He admired that. His “career” had been spent updating electronic spreadsheets to meet another’s goals. Hardly anything to be proud of, other than that he had no debts outstanding and he’d never really hurt anyone, never really done anything wrong.

Death stepped towards him and spoke. “Marcus,” and the voice was female, surprising him. Deep, and raspy like a smoker, but definitely female. “You’re late. It’s time to go.”

Marcus held up his hands in front of him. “Uh, seriously? Do you know how ridiculous this seems?”

She moved even closer and now he could see the outline of a chin in the shadows of the hood. It moved up and down. “I have little time to play, Marcus. You’re on my list, let us be done.” She was now just a few feet away. She raised the scythe above her head.

“Wait, what?” He retreated, hands still in front, and felt his pulse spike. Adrenaline flooded his system. “I’m too young to die!”

“That’s not my issue,” she said, and swung the scythe at his neck. As it moved, the blade screamed into the hallway, the sounds echoing off the corridor walls with a banshee wail. He ducked and felt the whoosh of air as the blade swooped through the space where he’d recently been. The hairs on his arms stood out, at the sound, and at his proximity to his own demise.

“Holy hell!” he shouted, surprised at the emotion. He felt so alive! He hadn’t felt like this in twenty years or more. She cocked her weapon again and approached even closer. Two more steps and he could have grabbed her robe.

She swung again, the blade howling, and this time he dropped to the floor. The point passed within inches of his face and buried itself deep into the plaster wall of the hallway, scattering white dust into the stale air. Marcus scrambled back, crablike, and around the corner, while she struggled to release the blade from its new sheath. He got to his feet and sprinted to the elevator. He felt sweat beading on his forehead, and all those fight-or-flight chemicals had him hyped up so much he thought he might levitate.

He glanced back the way he’d been, but saw nothing, heard nothing. When the door finally opened he threw himself inside, landing against a handful of people, and grasped his jacket tight to his chest. Finding his breath coming hard, he stabbed the lobby button.

And prayed for the first time in a decade.

#

Writing Practice – 5/1/2018

They say to write very day. But I don’t want to write. I want to go to sleep. I want to quit. I want to give up. I want to stop trying. I want to walk off into the sunset and never look back. I want to win the lottery so I don’t have to work any longer. I want to have a flat stomach for the first time in my life.

I want to be able to do 10 pull-ups. In a row. I want to sing in a choir again. I want to play better chess.

I want to get lost in the jungle for three days in South America, and find my way out only by traveling to the East only in the morning and eventually finding a logging road and following that down the mountain until I come to a poor, rural town that hasn’t seen a primarily English-speaking human in over a decade, and then when i get there I want to fall on the mercies of a local family and beg for food, and so they give me a bowl of stew and some bread, and meat, and we dance, and we sing all night long, because they know old 80’s Rock & Roll from America, because one time two decades ago these Christian Missionaries from Arkansas had spent like three years down there, trying to teach them to be Baptists, but they didn’t want to be baptist, they were already Catholic, so why did they need to believe a different Jesus, they already prayed to God enough so why did they have to use these new books, and the missionaries had a twelve-year-old son who didn’t really believe like they did, he just acted like he was along for the ride, and he smoked their local marijuana with them, and stole sheeps out of the neighboring villages with them, and they shared his music, Billy Joel and Michael Jackson and Madonna, and then the missionaries up and left one day, well, they gave like 2 days notice, and so the son left his tapes behind as a parting gift, and they listened to those over and over and over as they aged, and now those same rebellious teenagers of back then are in their thirties themselves, raising their own kids, trying to make their own lives, sharing generously with this gringo stranger, and so I listen to their story in Spanish, and I can catch only like every third word, because of the super-thick accent, and my own mothballed knowledge of the language, but I’m grateful, I’m gracious, I, too, smoke their pot and party all night, and when we wake up after noon the next day I say “Thanks” and “Gracias” all around, and hitch a ride back to the city with a large, quiet truck driver whose name I’ll forget, but my hosts, I’ll always remember, for their hospitality – no, for their humanity.

That’s what I want.

Extremely Bad Advice – How to Deal with Sentimentality

Stealing from Abby once again – ’cause I’m too lazy today to write a new question.

DEAR ABBY: My adult son passed away two years ago at a young age. We were very close while he was growing up. He married young, and I maintained a great relationship with both him and his wife. They gave me the most precious grandchildren any woman could ask for, and I am extremely active in their little lives.

My daughter-in-law has moved on. She met a nice young man, and they are planning to be married in the near future. Do you think I would be out of line to request to have my son’s ashes back home with me? We live near each other, I love her very much, and we still have a great relationship. I don’t want to damage it by asking this if it’s not appropriate.

I would pass his ashes on to his children when they grow up, of course, but for now, I’d love to have my son back home with me and his dad because she has started her new life. My husband is noncommittal about the subject. When I broach it, he says he “doesn’t want to talk about it.” I really have no one to ask or confide in about this. Your thoughts would be most appreciated. — STILL BROKENHEARTED IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR BROKENHEARTED,

Well, what can I say? I would say I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m not. I think “sorry for your loss” is about as meaningful as “the sky is really blue today”. If I was saddened by your loss, I’d tell you that, and perhaps that would do something. If I was interested in showing how much I care about you, I’d ask, “Oh, that must be hard. What do you miss most about him?” But, again, I don’t care, because your sorrow and misery really don’t affect me on the daily. Other than to provide fodder for my advice column, for which I will gladly say, “Next victim!”

Okay, here we go. The classic dilemma – who gets to keep the crispy bacon that used to be your son’s body? Because, let’s all agree, your “son” is no longer there any more, just like the dream I used to have of being an Abercrombie & Fitch model has blown off into the wind with that first hit of the mind-altering substance known on the street as Jif Extra Crunchy. Your son disappeared from the shell that held him the moment his cranial electro-activity ceased. What he left behind was the meatbag for DNA that did its job incredibly well by providing “the most precious grandchildren” [hold on – just threw up in my mouth a little].

And in order to do that, he had to procreate with his wife, your daughter-in-law (DIL). Who is now his widow. So, for that you should be grateful to her, not jealous.

What’s left is sentimentality. I get it. People have good memories of the past, and it’s hard to move on. It’s hard to imagine that your progeny wouldn’t love you as much as you loved him. How could he? You’re a mother, and everyone knows a “mother’s love knows no bounds”. He couldn’t reciprocate your devotion to him. And he proved this by not pulling an Oedipus and fucking you! He shagged the DIL, knocked her up a couple of times, gave her good memories, and now his burnt ends occupy a silver chalice on the mantle. Good for him and her.

But – you’re a selfish hag who has nothing left in her life, and you’re trying to fill your own void by commandeering what should be left to her in order to appease your own shortcomings. As evidenced by your question to me! Don’t do this. Would you be out of line? Absolutely. Don’t do it! Leave well enough alone. Your husband “doesn’t want to talk about it” not from an ethical or emotional perspective, but simply because you’re looney-tunes and he recognizes a bear trap when he sees it.

However, because I suspect you won’t take my advice above, being as reasonable as it is, I’m going to give you a bonus recommendation of some Extremely Bad Advice. This you’ll probably do with gusto. Have fun!

Step one: Offer to babysit the grandkids for a night. Give the DIL and her new guy a chance to go out and have fun.

Step two: Prepare for the switch. Get a plastic bag, about a gallon, clear (not white), full of ashes from your backyard barbecue pit. Take along a second, empty bag for holding.

Step three: Once the kids are in bed, make the transfer. Go full Indiana Jones. Play dramatic music, sweat profusely, look over your shoulder for booby-traps.

Step four: Revel in your glory. You now have your son’s actual remains, and she, the grandkids, and your husband are none the wiser. Dare I say they might view you as a hero for how magnanimously you deal with the situation? Visit a bar and order a glass of Chablis to celebrate. Send me the bill – I’ll gladly treat you for that job well done!

Anatomy of a Workout

Plan:

Run up a hill, walk down, 10 times. In other words:

  1. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  2. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  3. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  4. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  5. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  6. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  7. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  8. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  9. Run up a hill. Walk down it.
  10. Run up a hill. Walk down it.

 

Actual:

0.  Jog to top of the hill. Walk down it. This is my “warm up”. Who am I kidding, I don’t “warm up”.

1.  Start watch. Run up the hill. Stop watch. 1:06. Walk down.

2.  Start watch. Run up the hill. Stop watch. 1:18. Walk down. Notice pain in my knee. That’s different.

3.  Start watch. Start running up the hill. Start cursing. Start feeling the pain. Pass by a bench. Stop running. Stop watch. 1:01. I’m not at the top of the hill. Think, Is this where it ends? Decide, Nope. Walk to the top of the hill. Another 0:46. Walk down. Think about quitting. Think about giving up. Think about just saying fuck it to fitness, to losing weight. To my goals. Why did I Nope?

Think about how much I’ve invested in my life to things like this. Think about elementary school, when my dad made me go running because I was chubby. Think about high school, when I did it on my own so I could lose weight for wrestling. Think about college, when I got up at 4:30 a.m. to ride in a bus for an hour to row for an hour to ride back in a bus for an hour to then go to class. Think about my twenties and running 13.1 miles the very first time. The tenth time. The twentieth time. Think about my thirties and completing triathlons. Think about my forties, and finishing a 69 mile bicycle ride.

Think about the future, when I want to complete an Ironman triathlon. Think about my fifties, and hiking the Appalachian Trail, the Ozark Trail, the Pacific Coast Trail. Think about my sixties, and taking a year-long bicycle ride around the country. Think about giving all those up, just because I can’t get to the top of a stupid hill a few times on a Friday morning? Nope.

4. Start watch. Run up the hill. Stop watch. 1:36. Walk down the hill. Notice the pain in my knee is gone. The pain in my feet is still there. It’s always there.

5. Start watch. Run up the hill. Stop watch. 1:23. Walk down the hill. Get a drink of water.

6. Start watch. Run up the hill. Pass the bench at 1:00, start walking. Get to the top of the hill. Stop watch. 1:58. Walk down the hill.

7. Start watch. Run up the hill. Pass the bench, start walking at 1:06. Get to the top of the hill. Stop watch. 1:44. Walk down the hill.

Think, Only three more. I can do this. I hate this.

8. Start watch. Run up the hill. Swear a lot. Run almost the whole way. Stop watch. 1:25. Walk down the hill.

9.  Start watch. Run up the hill. Swear. Run the whole damn way. Stop watch. 1:32. Walk down the hill. Get a drink of water.

10. Start watch. Run up the hill. 1:23. Lay on the ground. Wave to the guy sitting on his porch. Walk home.

Set a goal that some day I’m going to run all 10 reps under 1:06. When I do, it will be time to find a new hill.

 

Book Review – The Book of Strange New Things

In my experience, there are two major kinds of sci-fi stories to be told. One is an action story. Think Battlefield Earth, Princess of Mars, or Dune. The driving force is the things that happen, the rising tension, potential sabotage, the question of whether or not the protagonist will finally defeat the big bad bugs with their own laser guns or go down in a blaze of glory.

The other kind is a thinking story. Examples here are Speaker for the Dead, or even Frankenstein. In these kinds of books, there isn’t so much action driving the reader on, it’s an intellectual understanding, an investigation into the human condition viewed through an external lens. As such, it may offer elements of introspection that action stories cannot, and should not be asked about.

The Book of Strange New Things falls into the second category. In this story, Michel Faber has transplanted a naïve, if well-intentioned, Christian minister named Peter from some generic English Presbytery to the far-off planet of Oasis. While there, Peter is to be the chaplain to two groups of individuals: the residents of the USIC base on Oasis, and the native Oasans themselves.

This is not an action story. It is a story about relationships: Peter’s relationship with USIC: a for-profit company doing whatever it can to salvage an investment, thus their recruitment of Peter. The relationship between USIC and the Oasans: who is dependent on whom in this situation? Who profits? And at what cost or at what critical threshold? Peter’s relationship to the Oasans, who view him as, not necessarily a savior, but as someone who can finally help them understand the Book of Strange New Things, which, strangely enough to Peter, is the Bible, because, news flash! They already had a chaplain before, and where is he now?

This is a story about Peter’s relationship with his left-behind wife, Beatrice. It is a story about one-dimensional relationships, about one-dimensional communications, about censorship and the internal mental gymnastics we go through (but never actually reveal) when communicating with people we care for. Or don’t.

This is a story about Peter’s relationship with God, or his image of God, or his ideal of God. Peter is a broken man – by his own admission, he comes from a hard life, of drugs, of sex, of lawbreaking. But God cleaned him up, saved him, gave him purpose and a wife and a church, and now God has given him a mission, so he will, by golly, do everything he can for that mission, even if it means he must sacrifice his own self and his prior commitments, and rationality be buggered.

To be honest, I didn’t quite know where this book was going most of the time. A lot remains undefined, like what USIC stands for, how the Oasis environment would have allowed the ecosystem to develop, or even things often described in sci-fi like the “first contact” experience and subsequent information transfer. Many of these are just taken for granted, and, while I suppose the author thinks they aren’t critical to the story, I found myself just confused at times.

In terms of style, I will admit that the initial impression I got was of a very nice, very safe style. Something warm and comforting. You know how you read a book and you often have a narrator in your head, a voice that you hear reading the words to you? [If you don’t, just play along.] For the first 2/3 of this book, I could not hear anything but Winnie the Pooh reading to me. For some reason the tone just struck me as unassuming, a reserved “Oh bother” type of narration. It did change a bit near the latter part, but perhaps that was because I had experienced enough of Peter to start to hear the narrator in a more masculine voice.

Anyway – I’ll give this book 4 of 5 stars. Interesting ideas, good for a read now, one that I didn’t want to stop reading and stayed up late to finish, but not something I’ll read again or buy to have on my bookshelf. Read if you wish; I’d love to have a discussion.