Book Review 36: Pirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe

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Gene Wolfe is considered one of science-fiction’s greatest living writers. His Sun Saga Books (Book of the New Sun, Book of the Long Sun, & Book of the Short Sun) are recognized as modern classics and one of the best series ever written in the genre.

Also, he has received the genre’s major awards (Nebula and Hugo) and acclaim from other authors and critics in the field as the science fiction writer who belongs on the same literary stage with heavyweights like Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, &  Thomas Pynchon. With all that praise, I had to read a Gene Wolfe novel and find out if he deserves that kind of recognition.

Pirate Freedom is a story about Father Christopher, a Catholic priest, who has heard many confessions from his parishioners. However, he decides to reveal his past as a pirate and how his own confession made him become a man of the cloth.

His adventures as a pirate made this novel akin to Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson or the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O’Brian than a traditional science fiction novel or the science fantasies that Wolfe is known for.

Moreover, Wolfe is known for having unreliable narrators as his protagonists and making his readers work in his novels. Pirate Freedom bucks that tendency and read pretty straightforward and I felt the main character was a reliable narrator.

I believe that Pirate Freedom will disappoint Wolfe readers and fans because he decided to take a left turn from his standard themes in his other novels. Literary fiction readers would find this novel engaging and readable (like I did) but unless you’re a fan of sea adventure stories, it will leave you wanting more like eating an appetizer at your favorite restaurant.

However, Pirate Freedom is a good introduction into this celebrated author’s oeuvre and has made me want to read his aforementioned Sun Saga series to get a better representation of  how great a writer Wolfe really is.

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Book Review 35: The Unspeakable by Tessa Stockton

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My first review of the new year is from a new novelist I had not read before. I enjoy discovering new authors and trying out someone outside of the mainstream of contemporary fiction is one of the great pleasures of reading fiction.

The Unspeakable by Tessa Stockton is a first-person narrative about Sylvia Abbott’s ordeal in Colombia’s guerilla war. The story focuses mostly on her relationship with her torturer, Horacio Botello AKA Puma.

Sylvia travels from her home in Portland, Oregon to Colombia to visit her brother, Spencer, who has been living there as a language instructor.  However, when she arrives her reunion with Spencer doesn’t go as planned and Sylvia becomes suspicious about her brother’s behavior and whom he is involved with. Her curiosity leads to being captured and tortured as a political prisoner.

There are several twists and turns in this thriller and I found the relationship between Sylvia and Puma the most intriguing parts of the novel. I thought their relationship was the most developed parts of the story and if the author could have focused the entire plot around those two characters the novel would have been more vibrant.

Moreover, I thought the pacing and rhythm of the story to be somewhat uneven.  Some chapters ended rather quickly and other chapters continued longer than I expected.  As soon as got into the flow of the story, the plot jerked in a different direction.

In closing, I felt the author knew the various aspects about torture, the politics of Colombia and the belief that anyone can be redeemed from a faith based perspective.  Ultimately, I wanted more from the story and didn’t quite get it.  Overall, I thought The Unspeakable was a decent read  and will keep an eye on Tessa Stockton’s works in the future.

Wisdom of Kammbia 3.11: Marion’s Bakers Dozen of Reviews for 2013

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We have come to the end of an another year. I have read a lot of books and reviewed quite a few for the blog in 2012. However, I will post an end of the year review on those books in a few days.

Moreover, I’m lining up my books to read and review for the blog for 2013.  The goal is to read and review a book a month.  I know that’s not a lot and actually I could read several books in one month.  But, I want to give myself a challenge next year (I won’t call it a New Year’s Resolution…LOL!) and stick to a set goal for 2013.

Instead of twelve books for 2013, I want to read and review a Bakers Dozen.  For the thirteen book, I would like to get my readers involved and have them recommend a book for me to post on the blog.

Here are the books I have lined up for 2013:

1) January’s Book is In Sunlight and In Shadow by Mark Helprin: Mark Helprin is one of my favorite novelists.  His latest novel is a grand love story that’s reminiscent of his best-selling modern classic, Winter’s TaleI must admit there is a short list of novelists that I’m always eager to read when they publish new work and he is one of them.

2) February’s Book is The Unspeakable by Tessa Stockton: This is a new novelist for me. I enjoy discovering new writers and last year I read Morgan Busse’s Daughter of Light and Louise Marley’s The Child Goddess.  Both were good discoveries and hopefully Tessa Stockton’s latest will make it three for three.

3) February’s second book (I’m reading two in this month) is Culture Making by Andy Crouch: I have to include at least one non-fiction book in my baker’s dozen reviews for 2013.  I read this book a couple of years ago and want to review it for the blog.  This ground-breaking book asks that Christians instead of being cultural critiquers and condemners become cultural makers.

4) March’s book is Gilead by Marilynne Robinson: I’ve been wanting for several years to read this powerful novel about a minister who is dying of a heart condition and is writing his autobiography for his young son. Highly lauded and praised, Gilead is not only a novel dealing with spirituality but ultimately about fathers and sons.

5) April’s book is Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen: This excellent debut novel about a doctor who leaves Ohio and travels to South Africa to serve in the British Concentration Camps during the Boer War.  The doctor sends back twelve chess pieces and letters to his wife and describes his experiences in the imaginary land of Antipodes.  This novel is a powerful work of imagination and should be read by lovers of fantastical literature.

6) May’s book is The Power and The Glory by Graham Greene:  I’ve been wanting to read this novel for years.  Looking forward to it.

7) June’s book is The Children of God by Mary Doria Russell: This is the sequel to the highly praised novel, The Sparrow.  I’m currently reading that novel for the blog and it will be my last review for 2012.  That should give you an indication of how I feel about reading this sequel.  Looking for to it.

8) July’s book is The Sleeper Awakes by H.G. Wells: This 1899 sci-fi classic about an insomniac whom finally falls asleep and does not awake for a couple hundred of years is considered one of Wells most underrated works.  Also, I believe all serious readers should read one book a year that is published in the 19th Century or earlier. And this is my choice for 2013.

9) August’s book is Arena by Karen Hancock: This groundbreaking novel is considered one of the best in the fledging Christian Speculative Fiction genre.  I want to read one of the early novels that has opened the door for the genre’s recent boom.

10) September’s book is Black Tower by P.D. James: I read my first P.D. James’ Adam Dalgliesh novel in 2012 and I’m ready to another one in that series. She is considered one of the best and most literate mystery novelists working today and after reading Cover Her Face, James’ status as the Queen of Crime is well-deserved. I’m hoping that The Black Tower will continue to enhance her reputation.


11) October’s book is The River Rising by Athol Dickson: Athol Dickson has become one of my favorite novelists. I believe he’s the heir apparent to Walker Percy and Graham Greene by intertwining religious themes, magical realism and excellent storytelling into thoughtful, moral works of fiction. I reviewed Lost Mission in 2011 and The Opposite of Art in 2012 and truly enjoyed reading them both. I expect more of the same when I read River Rising for 2013.

12) November’s book is Cold Fire by Dean Koontz: I have decided to read at least one pop-fiction novel a year as well. I know serious readers as quick to dismiss these huge best-selling novelists. However, I learned a valuable lesson in 2012 when I read my first Stephen King Novel, Bag of Bones and Sidney Sheldon’s Other Side of Midnight. Real talent exists in those pop fiction novelists as well as those highly-lauded literary novelists.  I consider Dean Koontz as one of the most prominent pop-fiction novelists and I have keep a copy of Cold Fire on my bookshelf since I read it about 15 years ago.  Now, I want to see if the book holds up after all that time and review it for the blog.


13) December’s book is Love In The Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: I want to end of the year with one of the most popular novels written by one of the world’s best novelists.  Reading such a popular novel for the second time will have its own challenges, but I’m hoping it will be enjoyable and rewarding as when I first read it.

Well, that’s my baker’s dozen list.  I can’t wait for 2013 and hope that I can fulfill this list (not a resolution…LOL!) as I have written.  God Bless and hope everyone has a good year in 2013.