British author Kev Heritage creates thrilling landscapes and a vivid, alien world in Flesh Golem, first of a three-part series of novels.


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

If you are a certified sword and sorcery junkie who’s getting itchy and in dire need of your next fix of swordplay, dark magic, strange creatures and adventure on some far-flung exotic world — then look no further — just shoot this KEV HERITAGE novel into your primary brain vein and you’ll be all set.

FLESH GOLEM is a fast-paced, short, punchy effort solidly ensconced within the S&S genre. It’s exceptionally well written, especially in terms of the author’s uncanny ability to set scenes, create vivid, visceral landscapes and images that come alive in the reader’s mind through the magic of lean, well-crafted sentences.

I’m impressed by this author’s ability to paint vivacious “mind pictures” and implant them directly into our psyches, and he gets the job done with incredible economy of words. From the first paragraph the reader is absorbed — transported — as if by osmosis into an alien, eldritch realm. It’s the furious world of Arn. The climate in harsh, the very oxygen of the air seems menacing, and it’s all wrapped up in a quasi-Médiéval littérature noir sort of package that’s gloomy, yet has that “I wish I could go there!” vibe.

Great sword and sorcery is all about escapism, and for those weary of ordinary lives of cubicals and shopping malls, here is a harsh, yet wonderful world that will help you “get away from it all” in a slightly hellish Club Med sort of way.


Kev Heritage

Do I have any quibbles? Sure, I always do. What detracts from this overall fine effort is the protagonist Vareena Krall who is a young, beautiful tomboy skilled at swordplay, ready-and-able to go toe-to-toe with the best of any masculine hero — in other words, the archetype of Katniss Everdeen is reincarnated yet again to traverse an epic quest, to kick ass and take names in a dystopian environment.

I first met this character SOME 46 years ago when, as a boy of 11, I read Robert Heinlein’s PODKAYNE OF MARS. Podkayne “Poddy” Fries was, by golly, a young and beautiful tomboy ready-and-able to go toe-to-toe with the bets of any masculine hero …. um … and Poddy keeps coming back again in fantasy afterlife after fantasy afterlife, whether she is Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, Princess Leia, or even Bella Swan (from Twilight) to name just a few.


Podkayne: Doomed to endless pulp fiction reincarnation?

Believe me, I’m not the only literary and social critic out there moaning and groaning about the dire necessity for writers and other creative types to get beyond what has become not just an archetype, but a downright cliché.

I’m still waiting for a major female fantasy lead who is maybe, well, a plus-sized young lady, or perhaps what in a Rolling Stones lyric Mick and Keith called a “daylight drab” — you know, a shrinking-violet-perpetual-wallflower type … or … I don’t know … any one of the kind of average “normal” female types you’ll see standing in line at the motor vehicle department or down at the checkout counter in your neighborhood grocery store.

I am tempted to say also that the plot is a tad thin, but this would be unfair because Flesh Golem is only the first in a three-part series, the IRONSCYTHE SAGAS. I suspect a writer as gifted as Mr. Heritage will delve deeper into the various twists and turns, motivations and subplots that will fortify this excellent start with some fibrous, juicy red meat.

I say: Don’t miss this ride into the Realm of Arn. I promise you, it’s a thrilling jaunt.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Was Edith Wilson the “First Female President” of the United States? Author William Hazelgrove makes his case


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

The United States may be on the cusp of electing its first female President in this 2016 election, but author WILLIAM HAZELGROVE wants you to know that our first female President took power about 100 years ago, and ruled our country for more than a year.

Of course, he’s talking about Edith Bolling Wilson, the second wife of President Woodrow Wilson. It’s perhaps common knowledge that Wilson suffered a massive stroke in 1919 near the end of his second term rendering him a physical and at least partial mental invalid.

It’s also generally acknowledged that his wife stepped in and took over significant control of the daily activities of the presidency. But still, while most historians pay lip service to the significant role Edith Wilson played during the final year-and-a-half of her husband’s term, few go as far to say that she was, in fact, the de facto President in almost every sense of the word.

In the subsequent nearly four decades that she survived her husband, Mrs. Wilson took great pains in the public record to deny that she ever usurped any presidential duties of significance, but rather only assisted her husband as he still made all the important decisions and formulated the policies involved with running the daily affairs of the country.

But in this account of that tumultuous final year-and-a-half of the Wilson Administration, Hazelgrove makes a forceful case that Edith Wilson was “the real President” of the United States — so much so that it is accurate and appropriate to call her our “First Woman President.”


I’ve come to know William Hazelgrove for his fiction which runs the gamut from serious mainstream novels, such as “Rocket Man” and “Tobacco Sticks” to more light-hearted fare, such as “The Pitcher” and “Real Santa.” Thus I was intrigued when he decided to wade into nonfiction, and American history to boot — always a favorite subject of mine.

The author digs in, drawing from an extensive research supported by a deep bibliography to build his thesis about what truly went down in the final months of the Wilson presidency.

A great work of historical nonfiction (that is not a dry textbook) should enthrall and entertain as much as it does inform, while sticking to the facts. Fortunately, when you have a great topic and fascinating “true facts,” such a book can almost pull itself along because history itself is often more fascinating than what any fiction writer can create out of whole cloth.


William Hazelgrove

Still, a seasoned fiction writer who understands what makes for interesting fictional characters can bring that insight to fleshing out the personalities of real people as they were — and here the author shines. Under Hazelgrove’s pen Woodrow Wilson comes to life as more than the stiff, hyper-intellectual professor and academic that we know from history and photos — we get the added color of a man who was very sensual in his private life, a man who loved sex, enjoyed vaudeville, wrote smarmy poetry, danced a mean jig, and a man who could compose a love letter with the heat of a hormone-juiced teenager.


Secret Service Agent Col. Edmund Starling

For example, Hazelgrove shows us, through the eyes of Edmund Starling, one of Wilson’s Secret Service bodyguards, how the famously stiff President acted like a love-jazzed moon calf as he walked through the snow on his way to visit his love interest (Edith):

Many times Starling would watch the president puffing smoke in the Washington night as he walked briskly, breaking into song, “Oh you beautiful doll! You great big beautiful doll! “And then to Starling’s utter amazement, the president would jump up and kick his heels.


First Lady Edith Wilson

Edith Wilson is also reanimated as a strikingly lovely woman whose photographs fail to capture her true beauty. She possessed the power to snap the heads of men from across a street with her curvaceous, buxom figure, sparking blue eyes and dazzling smile.

Mostly home-schooled, Edith nevertheless was as well educated, well read and savvy as most woman born and bred high above her station. When she needed to be, Edith could be a powerful martinet ruling the White House by shear obstinate will and bulldog devotion to protecting her husband — and she feared no man, no matter how powerful he might be on the political or world stage. If you crossed Edith once — she froze you out — and you stayed frozen.

Hazelgrove also creates vivid impressions with marvelous turns of phrase, and as seen through the eyes of Edith. Consider this passage:

“(The Suffragettes) reminded Edith of black crows in their dark dresses in the way they clung to the White House gates The chanting would reach her while she was bent over her desk; a faint voice in the cold winter that sounded like a song.”

That’s pretty good. That’s history written with the flair of fiction, and there’s plenty more skillful wordsmithing where that came from in these pages.

There’s so much more I’d like to say about this book but my review is already overlong, so I’ll close by saying while I don’t find this a perfect book, (Hazelgrove doesn’t find his rhythm until about 50 pages in — but when he does, the book soars) so I can recommend this without reservation as an absorbing read that brings a far-too–ignored portion of our history to life in a way that is not stuffy and pedantic, yet well-researched and accurate enough to give confidence while it entertains.






Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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An insider’s glimpse into the life of the remarkable Ingo Swann, the ‘Father of Remote Viewing’


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

Certainly INGO SWANN was one of the most remarkable individuals to grace our planet in the past century.

Since his death in 2013, his legend has only continued to grow. That’s because his most famous project slowly continues to gain traction and public acceptance — which is amazing since that project was (and is) REMOTE VIEWING — the ESP technique so repugnant and deeply loathed by skeptics and mainstream science.

Briefly: Remote viewing is the term used to describe a method of “psychic spying” as developed at the behest of U.S. Military Intelligence and the CIA — who tasked scientists at the Stanford Research Institute to come up with a way to use psychic ability or ESP in a way that was scientific, manageable, repeatable and able to provide solid intelligence results.

Ingo Swann is often called “The Father of Remote Viewing,” even though he was always the first to admit that remote viewing was the product of “at least 500 people.” Among the brilliant men who spearheaded remote viewing research was the quantum-electronics physicist Harold Puthoff and laser physicist Russell Targ.

But, no doubt, remote viewing could never have come to be what it is today without the strange, brilliant and quirky mind of Ingo Swann — and I am going to end my comments about the history of RV development here because I want to turn my comments to this small publication.

It’s written by a man who was a personal friend of Ingo Swann. RAUL daSILVA said he often got together with Ingo for lunch, chats or long walks in their New York City home.


Raul daSilva

Thus, daSilva describes himself not as a professional colleague, fellow psychic or artist — but rather, just a friend who had nothing to do with Swann’s amazing career as a U.S. Government intelligence agent, psychic researcher and noted artist.

In this short manuscript, daSilva offers deeper insights into the character of Mr. Swann as observed when his defenses were down, that is, not working and just being himself in his spare time. That’s the value of this document, which is less than 20 pages.

Even though the author is a lifetime professional writer, this document is not well written. At best, it has the informal tone of a guy writing a letter to a friend or family member.

In just 20 pages  he manages to wander off subject, digress, fail at getting to the point, and all manner of other writing transgressions too numerous to mention — but it doesn’t matter.

That’s because people with a keen interest in all things psychic (and especially scientific remote viewing) will find this brief window into the personal life and character of Ingo Swann an invaluable contribution to the historic record of a remarkable, but often mysterious man.

DaSilva portrays Swann as a man in every-day possession of remarkable psychic ability, and more than that — a man who seemed almost to straddle time and space, and with deep understanding of such issues as reincarnation, nonhuman entities and more.

If you have a fascination with all things remote viewing, it might be worth a couple of dollars to gain some tidbits of “inside information” about the one man who played the most central role in developing it.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Author Fergus MacRoich explains “Why I Write” (VIDEO)


As a book reviewer with a high “power ranking” at and owner of this site, I get about 200 to 300 free books per year from writer’s all over the world seeking a review.

Last year I managed to read some 120 books, and ended up reviewing about 30 of them. Less than 30 actually deserved a review, but my philosophy is to take the good with the bad — whatever the case, there is usually just a handful of all those books that vividly jump out and stand as something special.

One recently was FRIED CHICKEN, JESUS AND CHOCOLATE by Fergus MacRoich. (See my review HERE).

So today I thought it would be illuminating to take a closer look at a guy who managed to pen an exceptional piece of literature, Fortunately, Mr. MacRoich has made that easy by posting the following video, “Why I Write.” Aspiring writers everywhere, pay attention!

Lawyer turned psychic Nancy du Tertre fascinates with “How to Talk to An Alien” going where few other UFO books have gone before


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

Just when you think that most UFO books today have grown monotone, repetitive and threadbare, along comes an author with a refreshing angle to explore an intriguing niche of ufology no one else has significantly covered.

In “How to Talk to an Alien,” NANCY DU TERTRE takes on the question of human-to-alien communication, but also, the overall nature of just what constitutes an “alien language,” including possible alien alphabets, writing styles and scripts, spoken languages and psychic or telepathic-enabled communications. But there’s even more, such as a gander down through history at ancient forms of writing that have been attributed to “angels,” long before we started framing our reality in terms of modern science.

What’s also fascinating is that du Tertre comes to this issue out of left field — her primary “day job” has nothing to do with flying saucers and extraterrestrial aliens. She’s a high-powered New York securities litigation attorney, and successful businesswoman who stumbled into the weird world of the paranormal more or less by accident.

The author says she had no interest in topics paranormal until age 35. It was then that she was invited to attend a workshop exploring the topic of intuition for psychologists by noted psychotherapist Dr. Ron DeAngelo – she was the only non-psychotherapist invited, but Dr. DeAngelo thought his lawyer friend would find it beneficial. (Du Tertre details this event in her book “Psychic Intuition.”)


“The Skeptical Psychic” Nancy du Tertre

To make a long story short, a bizarre experience at the workshop launched du Tertre into an entirely new phase of life – she began to explore her own psychic abilities, studied (and interned) with a famous psychic police detective, took training in REMOTE VIEWING – and about 10 years later emerged with her old paradigms shattered (or at least vastly expanded).

Somewhere along the way du Tertre’s psychic explorations cross-pollinated with the subject of extraterrestrials (or extradimensionals), UFOs and the like, and so now we have a fascinating book that begs the question: “What do the aliens have to say and how do they say it?”

The title is my only quibble with this outstanding book – this is not really a “how to” book and it won’t teach you “how to talk to an alien.” Rather, it’s an overview of cases involving close encounters where people engaged in two-way communications with other nonhuman beings of wide variety – and then seeks to form some theories and opinions about what it all means.

As I was reading, I was reminded of the great theoretical physicist RICHARD FEYNMAN. That’s because he had a knack for asking basic questions that no one else would even think of asking, questions that were quirky and weird, such as “Do numbers come in colors?

Well, Ms. du Tertre is asking those basic, yet unusual kinds of questions, such as, “Do aliens have mouths with actual tongues in them, vocal cords and a larynx that they can use to make the sounds of speech?” Then she looks at specific cases, from the famous accounts, such as that of Brazilian farmer and lawyer Antônio Vilas-Boas, who was abducted in 1957 and forced to have sex with an alien.

The author is able to give this and many other well-known cases an intriguing new freshness because she is laser-focused on revisiting these events with the purpose of looking specifically at how communications were experienced by the subjects.

She also provides us with new perspectives on monumental historic events, such as the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, and the works of the famous English mathematician-genius and polymath JOHN DEE, adviser to Queen Elizabeth I. Dee is well-known for having “channeled” what is known today as the Enochian Alphabet, also called the “Angelic Alphabet,” the “Divine Language,” or “Language of the Gods.”


Dr. John Dee

Dee reports that he received a visitation from a levitating angelic figure who gave him a kind of scrying stone through which he coaxed out and ratiocinated a symbolic form of transmundane, symbolic language. His description of the events sounds a lot like one of today’s alien visitation scenarios.

It’s all deliciously fascinating, and what’s better is du Tertre’s marvelously fluid and easy writing style which makes this a user-friendly read for any mainstream audience. She never talks down to us, yet provides even intellectuals with plenty of fodder to chew upon.

The only sad thing for me is that the 175 pages melted by for me as quickly as a pleasant dream from an afternoon nap – I was left profoundly wishing that du Tertre could have given us a couple hundred more pages.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Hologram Dreams by British author R.G. Knighton is about as much fun as you can have reading science fiction


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This is the second novel I have read by indie British indie writer R.G. Knighton, and it just happens to be his second book.

After being outrageously entertained by his debut offering, TIMELOCK, I was eager to get my hands on Knighton’s follow-up effort, HOLOGRAM DREAMS. I am delighted to report the second is even better than the first.

In this novel Knighton gravitates away from horror and toward science fiction, but the result is the same – bloody, but energetic and wacky fun featuring wonderfully conceived characters embroiled in a well-designed plot. There’s also surprisingly rich descriptions of scenery, action and background.

I have no idea how hard this author works, or how much he sweats over writing and rewriting, but the final effect is prose that flows so effortlessly that all you have to do is sit back and just enjoy the ride.

And what a ride it is!

The premise is a setting 50 years in the future. Think of a massive multinational corporation like Disney, except the Hologram Dream Corporation provides more than mere theme park escapism. Technology has advanced to allow full-immersion experiences in virtual reality scenarios generated by a massive computer-generated infrastructure that can create any “dream” anyone might want to experience as if it were real.


R.G. Knighton

The holograms are supported by brick-and-mortar Hollywood set building – the result is that the filthy rich (drug lords and movie stars) can be transported to a thrilling adventure in ancient Egypt, a big-game hunting safari, a bloody gladiator match in a Roman amphitheater – anything.

But where there are greedy and powerful corporate creeps, and hedonistic millionaires willing to pay unlimited cash to have their deepest desires brought to life, you’ll find the wretched folly of human nature — people who will stop at nothing to live out the darkest lusts lurking in the basements of their diseased psyches.

The tone oscillates between dark humor and light-hearted wit. Knighton’s bent is often wry, dry, and biting, perhaps almost cynical. He’s a writer who does not flinch from brutality and violence –- blood and gore, described in sweaty detail –- and he pulls no punches in creating characters of absolute lowest-common-denominator morality.

But Knighton also gives us pure-of-heart heroes who display enormous courage, along with an immense capacity for self-sacrifice to help others.

Yes, it’s basic pure and sweet good guys versus scummy bad guys – and for that matter – the entire premise is not strikingly original, having been explored by many authors over the years (and decades old movies, such as West World, and TV shows, such as Star Trek’s “Holodeck”).

However, what matters is the execution. On this count, R.G. Knighton really delivers. I said it in my review of his first book and I’ll say it again, Mr. Knighton is a writer of natural talent.

He takes standard science fiction conventions, breathes new life into it all, innovates a little, adds a few new “plot gimmick attachments” — and comes away with a book that does not pretend to be anything but fantastic entertainment.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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“All I Ever Wanted to be Called Was Mom” tells the heart-wrenching journey of a young couple who want a baby


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This is the story of a quest. A quest for life.

Like all quests, the path is fraught with pitfalls and hidden dangers. There’s the joys of small battles won and the tragedy of painful losses, including sometimes the most tragic defeat of all – death.

It all begins with the sweet story of a young couple who fall in love. Both are ecstatic to have found each other. They get married surrounded by family and friends.

For young STEVE AND VASO PETROU, the future seems bright with nothing but smooth sailing ahead as they launch a new life together.

As happy as they were, they knew the picture would never be complete until they became a “real” family – that is, not until the Petrous’ achieved their deepest heart’s desire – to become a family with children.

It all seemed simple. All they had to do was “get to work on it” and soon Vaso would be a loving mother, and Steve, a devoted father. After all, most other couples they knew completed this magic formula as easy as falling off a log.

But that’s where their nightmare begins.

Like millions of women, it soon became apparent that Vaso was unable to conceive naturally. After months of frustration, Steve had his “swimmers” tested, and they were just fine. But a certain abnormality in Vaso’s uterus meant conceiving would not be easy, if not impossible.

The couple sought out medical science for help. They eventually decide to undergo IVF – In Vitro Fertilization. If making a baby the natural way is simple and straightforward, the cold, technical process of IVF is everything the opposite. Steve and Vaso would soon learn that the IVF path was a complicated, grueling, enormously painful journey that in no way guaranteed a happy ending.


IVF: Fertilizing the egg

The first exhausting round of IVF failed, the second was first a nightmare and then a total bust, and then the third …

I’ll stop there because don’t want to give away any more of the story except to say that readers who take the journey with Steve and Vaso through these pages will confront a heart-wrenching saga that will challenge all emotionally and may have you pleading; “Please, God, just give these people a baby already!”

Of course, it’s not all pain and suffering. Ultimately this is a book of hope. It’s a true story of how unflinching faith and an unlimited willingness to press forward can result not only in the greatest joy, but also leave the participants of such events deeply changed.

I think the insights Steve Petrou provides about the deeper, inner psychological struggles a husband experiences in this situation will be of enormous help to countless others who are embarking upon, or contemplating the same route chosen by this man and his wife.

Female readers will probably find even more to relate to in these pages, but, I’m a guy so I can only speak for my own gender.

One of the things I really like about this book is how the primary narrator, Steve, finds himself transformed psychologically, emotionally and spiritually by the ordeal he shares with his wife. In the end, he not only … oops … but there I go, giving too much away again.

Suffice it to say that I found this short book a powerful read. Note that this is not an offering that reads like a slick, polished product of a professional writer – the author owns and operates a fish-n-ships business in England – and reading this is more like sitting down across a table from him as he unfolds an enthralling experience for you in plain and simple fashion.

Get the book, click here: All I EVER WANTED TO BE CALLED WAS MOM

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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British author Martyn Wilson’s “Enlightenment: The Keys to Consciousness” is a worthy addition to an ancient topic


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

One of my favorite sayings from the Zen tradition is: “To talk about Zen is to not know Zen.”

I think it’s also true, then, to say that, “To write about Zen is not to know Zen either.”

Furthermore, reading a book about Zen is no way to get to really know or understand Zen.

We can substitute the word “Enlightenment” for Zen in all of the above statements. To talk about Enlightenment, to write about it, to read books it is no way to truly understand Enlightenment.

I suspect the author of this book, a down-to-earth, working-class British man by the name of MARTYN WILSON, would agree.

No one else can describe for you or explain Enlightenment. No one else can give it to you. You can only find it for yourself. And once you find it for yourself, you’ll never in a million years be able to fully explain to someone else just exactly what it is that you have found.

Why, then, did Martyn Wilson write this book? Indeed, why have whole forests been cleared by gurus, shamans, yogis, monks, teachers, etc. — all writing books about Enlightenment? For something that can never be truly explained, people sure like to blather on about it endlessly.

Mr. Wilson explains his motivation for writing his book this way:

“I believe that I have been given a gift that has completely changed my life. I also believe that it would be a waste of this gift not to share what I have learned and experienced, not because I am on some spiritual mission to convert the entire population of earth, but to point out that there is another way of living, another choice.”

He also says:

“Whatever you think Enlightenment is, it is not … Enlightenment cannot be thought no matter how many books you read, how many seminars you attend, how many meditation workshops you take part in or how spiritual you think you are. Enlightenment can only be experienced and this is why it is so difficult to explain to others.”


Martyn Wilson

It can’t be explained, can’t be done … but Mr. Wilson certainly makes a heroic effort in this slim volume. And you know what? He comes as close as anyone or book I have read to giving the reader an inkling of what Enlightenment might be, and how to at least start your journey toward getting it for yourself.

(Yikes! I’m already in trouble! If you think that you need to go on a “journey” to find Enlightenment, then you will never find it. There is no journey to take, and nothing to find!)

But let me struggle on.

Keep in mind that when writing about Enlightenment, both authors and guys like me who review their books are grappling within a situation pitted with paradoxes. You’re always saying something seemingly contradictory, such as , “You must seek something that can never be found.” Or, “There is no journey because you are always already there,” Or, “You can never arrive because there is nowhere to go.”

So if I say that Martyn Wilson has written an excellent book and that these pages are a good place to start on your search for Enlightenment, I am already veering off track and headed for the ditch.

If you think you have to “start a journey to Enlightenment” then you are already lost. Also, if it is anything that is “out there” — such as a book, seminar or some guru, then that is something that is “outside yourself” and will do you no good.

At the same time, I will dare to say: This is as good a book to read as any if you want to seek Enlightenment.

After all, Mr. Wilson’s started somewhere, albeit someplace unusual — an all-out effort to prove that there really is no such thing as Enlightenment!

It was his wife who was really into all this stuff. She was one of those people who was deeply involved in reading books on the subject, going to seminars, practicing meditations, and so on.

Wilson thought his wife’s pursuit was 100% preposterous. Thus, he became determined to do everything he could to prove that all this stuff was just a bunch of baloney — a loony pile of eastern-religious-mystical nonsense for modern-day hippies and delusional New Age flakes.

He did tons of research on the Internet, read books, and then started testing methods, such as meditation and other “techniques” to show that they did nothing for anyone. Indeed, he found meditation to be worthless in his own case.

But then Mr. Wilson stumbled upon a certain method that seemed so simple and ludicrous, he called it “laughable” — and yet he tried it anyway, and (laughable or not) kept at it for weeks and months on end.

And guess what? Martyn Wilson was stunned one day to find that he had become Enlightened!

I’m going to say no more because I don’t want to give too much away. I would encourage all readers to buy, discover and encounter this fine and delightful book for yourselves.

Just a couple of last points. Wilson drops a couple of delicious bombshells in these pages:

1. His comments on the subject of forgiveness may cause some people to have a brain aneurysm!

2. His opinion on the subject of non-duality is unique, bold and matter of fact!

Not to be missed! I like it when an author of a book about Enlightenment manages to break new ground. Martyn Wilson does it. This is one of the best books on the topic since the sublime LAZY MAN’S GUIDE TO ENLIGHTENMENT by THADDEUS GOLAS. If it’s not as profound as Shunryu Suzuki‘s masterpiece ZEN MIND, BEGINNER’S MIND, it packs a similar punch in a more “common-working-man” sort of way.

Go ahead, get the book, have a read — just don’t expect this to be your road map to Enlightenment. There is no road map.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Web-based movie series “Milgram & The Fastwalkers” Out-Xs the X-Files


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

Think of a soap opera, but not the kind with impossibly handsome doctors and lawyers tangled in sleazy love affairs with achingly gorgeous women — no, instead imagine a soap opera that has UFOs and alien abduction as its central premise.

Well, that’s what you get with the first season of MILGRAM & THE FASTWALKERS, a micro-budget but heroic attempt to take ufology to the streets serial-TV style … well, Internet-platform style, that is.

But wait a minute — I want to jump right ahead and say that while Season 1 of ‘Fastwalker’ was indeed rather soapy, Season 2 quickly evolves into something much more sensational, and by sensational, I mean sensationally good.

Milgrim & The Fastwalkers easily out-Xs The X Files, in my opinion, and I loved the X Files.

But this is better. Read on.

Here’s the premise: Brilliant psychiatrist Richard Milgram (Richard Cutting) has his career in high gear having just won the prestigious “Pullman Prize” for penning a brilliant book, while his practice has a mile-long waiting list of people who desperately need one of the world’s best shrinks.

In the meantime, a young, career-climbing lawyer has developed a real problem. She’s the lovely Sally Lemm (Walker Hays), beautiful as a summer day — but tough, cold and hard-bitten as the worse kind of A-hole lawyer you ever want to meet

Her career is crumbling because she is being taken up, up and up into the frightening interior of a UFO operating room where nasty aliens are giving impregnating her with alien hybrid seeds, only to terminate her pregnancies whenever they see fit. And then they do it all over again.

Ms. Lemm eventually finds her way to Dr. Milgram, who is skeptical at first, but gets pulled toward where the science is taking him — to the astounding realization that this whole alien abduction thing just might be real.

Dr. Milgram is certainly based on the real, world-famous and late Harvard psychiatrist DR. JOHN MACK. Like Milgram, Mack had won the Pulitzer Prize for a brilliant book, and was among the most eminent psychiatric doctors in the world. Like Milgram, Mack was drawn into the endlessly bizarre world of ufology when he dared conclude that his many patients complaining of alien abduction were not crazy — that what was happening to them was probably real.

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Dr. John Mack, Photo by Stuart Conway

Mack’s distinguished career was rocked to the core. Harvard elites formed a kangaroo court and tried to revoke his tenure and spit him out like a bad oyster — but Mack was saved thanks mostly to the efforts of attorney Daniel Sheehan (of the Pentagon Papers case), who pulled his fat out of the academic-witch-hunt fire.

Portraying Dr. Milgram in the image of John Mack is just one thing that this intelligently written series gets right. Finally, here is a serial dramatic production channeling the UFO phenomenon which goes beyond all the surface cliches of ufology. It gets at the truly mind-bending, far reaching implications of what is most likely the most important sociological/scientific/spiritual issue of our times.


Yes, ufology is hopelessly infected with the lunatic fringe, but at the same time, has captured serious attention of some the most brilliant minds in the world, including the aforementioned John Mack, but also others, such as Jacques Vallee, Carl Jung, J. Alan Hynek, Horace Drew, Gordon Cooper, Laurance Rockefeller, Edgar Mitchell — and many other movers and shakers in science and industry.

Two other things that make Milgram & the Fastwalkers a superior production:

Character driven plots: The creators do not rely on the sensational aspect of the UFO phenomenon to carry the entire narrative. This saga is deeply character driven, and there are a lot of them! Milgram and Sally Lemm are the major players, but they are surrounded by well-fleshed out characters with all the normal problems of everyday life — from Milgram’s boozy, sex-starved wife, Evelyn (Kate Revelle), to Fred Robinette (John C. Bailey), Migram’s fellow psychiatrist with an addiction to gambling, to Lisa Hill (Danielle Davy), a repulsively seedy, scruples-free journalist hell bent on digging dirt to further her own career.

Punchy Script: The screenplay often sores to delightful levels with crackling, cut-to-the-bone dialogue that will spin the mind of the viewer like an alien brain implant. A prime example is a sizzling (and darkly humorous) scene in Episode 3 of Season 2 when hapless mechanic Kevin (Joe Hansard), a frequent UFO abductee, is confronted by the wonderfully freakish Claire Tighlman ( Victoria Guthrie) — who is almost certainly some kind of alien (probably a “reptilian” disguised as a human) — who badgers and bullies Kevin while simultaneously dishing out an awful kind of tough love.

I want to make mention of another scene that lifts this series to a higher level of authenticity. It’s in Season 2, Episode 6 in which Sally Lemm is paid a visit by a MIB (Josh Davidson), one of ufology’s infamous “Men In Black.”

I use the word “authenticity” because the scene captures the real flavor or the incredible weirdness of the MIB phenomenon, and while an element of wry humor is involved, it doesn’t present the MIB event as a shallow Hollywood joke as did those silly the Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones movies.


It seems clear that the scene leverages two of the most famous real MIB events, the first as reported by Jacques Vallee in his book, Confrontations. The incident occurred in 1976 near a small lumber town in California called Happy Camp. After numerous UFO sightings and confrontation with aliens, a local restaurant in the small town received a strange customer one day. Vallee describes it this way:

“… a stranger who had never been seen in town happened to stroll into Lois’s Cafe … all conversation stopped when the man came in. He ordered a steak dinner but proved unable to use a knife and fork, and eventually left without paying … he had pale skin and ‘oriental’ eyes. He wore a bizarre sort of shirt and no coat, although it was the middle of winter. He smiled constantly at people in a strange, forced grimace. Among the peculiar things he did during his extraordinary dinner was a brave attempt to drink Jell-O out of a glass.”

The other MIB event the scene takes a cue from is from the book, CAPTURED! by Kathleen Marden, the niece of famous UFO abductee Betty Hill. In this book, Marden describes a frightening MIB visit to a medical doctor who had hypnotically regressed a young man who had experienced an abduction event. Part of the doctor’s bizarre conversation with the MIB involved the MIB asking the doctor to hold a coin in his hand. Marden writes:

“(The MIB) told the him to hold (the coin) in his outstretched hand. he told him to watch the coin, not him. He did this and saw the penny change to a silver color, then to a blue color, become hazy, indistinct, and vanish .. the MIB said no one on this plane would ever see that coin again.”

The MIB then tells the doctor that Barney Hill (Betty’s husband) “knew too much” and that his heart had been taken in just the same way the coin had been made to vanish. This very same scene is played out with Sally Lemm and her MIB visitor, except he vanishes her ring instead of a coin.

The point is, the star and writer of this UFO show, Richard Cutting, has clearly done his homework and is delivering to his audience a script that is inspired directly from the pages of some of the best books on the subject. It imbues this drama with a depth and intelligence rare in shows about the UFO issue.

Again, I want to emphasize that Milgram & The Fastwalkers really hits its stride and becomes something special in Season 2, but I recommend you watch from the beginning, starting with Season 1, which is composed of 12 short episodes of just seven to 20 minutes each.

Let’s hope there is a Season 3.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Stan Gooch’s theory about Neanderthal influence, interbreeding was years ahead of mainstream science

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

Has Stan Gooch been vindicated?

I think the short answer is yes. Of course, it’s more complex than that. But I think there should be little doubt that when scientists finally confirmed through DNA analysis that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals interbred to produce “hybrid” children tens of thousands of years ago – a huge glob of retroactive respect should have been heaped upon the legacy of Stan Gooch.

But that never happened.

It was Gooch who concluded decades before anyone else that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans. (Note: To be totally accurate, Gooch actually said Neanderthal interbred with Cro-Magnon man, and that in turn created modern humans, us – Home sapiens).

Sadly, Gooch was scorned by mainstream and science academia. He was also dismissed and ridiculed. Perhaps worst of all – he was ignored. Even the 14 books he published sold poorly among the general public.

Poor Stan Gooch died living in near-poverty and obscurity in 2010. He spent his last days alone in a shabby trailer home, or what the Brits call a “caravan.” By all accounts, he was a deeply bitter man who felt abandoned by his fellow intellectuals, robbed of the accolades and scientific respect he felt he so richly deserved.


Stan Gooch

It’s a shame because his books, including this one, Cities of Dreams: The Rich Neanderthal Legacy, are fascinating. Gooch was not only an innovative thinker who was years ahead of his time – he was a lucid, engaging and entertaining writer.

Yes, the 20/20 vision of hindsight has also poked some significant holes into Gooch’s overall thesis. On the other hand, this can be said of even the greatest of scientific theories, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution. Sure, Darwin was broadly correct, but in the more than a century since he first brought out his ideas, Darwin had been updated, corrected and modified considerably.

So if Stan Gooch is to be corrected and modified by recent discoveries should not tarnish the luster of his amazing achievement, not only in his theories about Neanderthal, but his insights into the global cultures of modern man. That said, there is a recent discovery – thanks again to genetic archaeology – that drives a major wrecking ball through the entire infrastructure of Gooch’s thesis.

It’s the discovery on an all-new species of human beings that Gooch could never have known about – the so-called Denisovans – identified the same year Gooch died.

In March 2010, scientists found a finger bone fragment of a juvenile female who lived about 41,000 years ago. It was found in a remote mountain cave in Siberia, known as the Denisova Cave in the Altai mountains. Artifacts show that the cave has been inhabited for thousands of years by both modern humans and Neanderthal people – and now we can add Denisovans to the guest list.


Denisova Cave

Analysis of the mitochondrial DNA of the finger fragment found in Denisova Cave prove it was genetically distinct from the DNA of Neanderthals and modern humans. It was a whole new species.

This is an especially big problem for Gooch’s theory that all human culture today has its fundamental origins in Neanderthal culture. It’s especially significant in regards to Australian aboriginal peoples, who Gooch contended were the closest modern descendants of Neanderthal. In City of Dreams, he argues that their ancient religious/cultural practices most resemble that of the Neanderthal.

Well, guess what? Genetic analysis of Australian aborigines shows only a tiny amount of Neanderthal DNA in their genomes, but a very high or significant percentage of Denisovan DNA – as much as 6 percent.

So the native Australians are not the modern human most closely relate to Neanderthal. They are among the closest living relatives of the Denisovans. This could mean two things: Gooch was still correct, in a way, because the Australian natives may still be manifesting the cultural practices of an ancient forgotten ancestor, except that it was not Neanderthal, but that of the Denisovans. Or it could mean that Gooch is totally wrong and that the aborigines simply developed their own unique cultural/religious practices as modern humans over the past 50,000 years or more. (Gooch would argue this could not be so because so many of the aborigine practices are reflected in other cultures around the world; thus, they could not have been developed in isolation).

But I’m going to leave this subject there because a proper discussion of all this is enormously complex, and way beyond the venue of the comments I am making on this book for this brief review.

However, I want to mention one more item that Gooch got wrong because it demonstrates the danger of his approach – that is, that of the “archaeologist of ideas” (as he called himself) rather than an archaeologist that is working strictly from “facts” derived directly from examining actual artifacts, physical locations and clues provided by the recent advances in genetics, and so forth.

Gooch claims that the culture of Neanderthal not only shapes the fundamentals of our culture and religions today, but he also contends that Neanderthal never truly went extinct!

He cites several examples of reports where Neanderthals have been seen in the wild in modern times – and one of his lynchpin stories is that of Zana, a “wild woman” captured near a small village in Abkhazia, a small country that was once a part of the former 19th Century Russian Empire.


Abkhazia, highlighted in green at left.

To make a long story short: Zana seemed to exhibit all the physical features that would match up with what is known about Neanderthal today. Her body shape, large skull with brow ridge, heavy body hair of a reddish color, muscular build, amazing strength, etc.

Indeed, when one reads the accounts of Zana as described by the villagers who captured her it seems an almost slam-dunk case that what we have here is a surviving Neanderthal woman.

Although Zana was as wild as an animal at first and kept in a cage, she was eventually “domesticated” and even engaged in sexual intercourse with the men of her village. She bore several children, some of whom survived, and went on to live relatively normal lives – although they, too, were described to be of unusual appearance, including “ape-like” features in terms of skull shape and facial structure.


Zana’nin Torunu, granddaughter of Zana

Well, scientists recently obtained DNA samples from the Zana’s children – and the results were unambiguous – it was clear that Zana was of 100% modern human make-up — and that her origin was an exact match with that of peoples from Sub-Saharan Africa.

It became clear that Zana was no Neanderthal at all, but almost certainly had been brought to Russia years earlier as a slave. She was most likely the descendant of African slaves and had somehow come to live as a “wild woman” in the hinterlands of this remote region of the former Russian Empire.

Again – Stand Gooch and the accounts he cites describing the story of Zana are incredibly compelling. Without the proof positive of a DNA test, the circumstantial evidence seems absolutely overwhelming that she was a long lost Neanderthal – except that she was not.

Stan Gooch had every reason to believe that he had found an air-tight case study which proved that Neanderthal survived to modern times. Despite all, he was wrong.

So, yes, I began this piece by stating that I believe that Stan Gooch has been vindicated, but as you can see, the devil is in the details, and the situation is far more nuanced and complex.

I say: This is still a “must read” book because the overall thesis that Gooch lays out in these pages is breathtaking, fascinating, mind-bending and will leave the reader expanded and encouraged to think outside the box.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Fried Chicken, Jesus and Chocolate by author Fergus MacRoich is a grim, gritty but mystical American tale of poverty, drug abuse and transcendence


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This is a remarkable piece of literature that can be read on many different levels because there’s a multi-tiered strata of meaning within the narrative. What comes forward depends on what each reader “brings to the table,” so to speak, while turning the pages.

On the outside it would appear to be a tale of gritty and brutal realism featuring a supremely unfortunate child born to a heroin-addict mother living in deplorable squalor and desperate poverty in some stark flophouse.

But we must quickly distance ourselves from our concepts of “realism” because, early on, subtle mystical elements appear to dance just around the edges of the story, although the latter might be almost invisible to the casual reader.

Before I go further, I should first deal with the decision of author FERGUS MACROICH to narrate his tale using what I guess I’ll call the “Ebonic Voice” – that is, the mode of speech common to many black Americans. Here’s a sample:

“Night was the worst for Ishmael. A baby, he couldn’t walk out of his crib. Go to the store and feed his own self. Had to lay in his crate. Waiting to be fed. But the woman in the other room didn’t have no milk. And Willy was gone. Maybe looking for a real cow. When he cried the woman slept right through.”

I think more readers will appreciate this book if they understand something in literature called “The Uncle Charles Principle.” This is a technique originated by (or at least credited to) the great Irish writer James Joyce.


James Joyce

Using the Uncle Charles Principle, even when the author is writing from the omniscient point of view, he or she may write in a way that matches the way a character might speak, act and think.

So, in this case we have the viewpoint character Ishmael who naturally speaks and thinks in the Ebonic voice – yet the entire narrative reads “Ebonic” even when we are not inside the head of the character, and while the author is describing what is happening to Ishmael.

Some might find it odd or wrenching that, even if an author is white, he is writing as if mimicking the urban street-lingo of a black man. But this is the Uncle Charles Principle at work, and it is a well-accepted literary technique. The best-selling writer Cormac McCarthy, for example, is known to make frequent use of this technique.

But, back to our tale …

I’ll warn you that if you’re looking for the “feel good” read of the year, FRIED CHICKEN, JESUS AND CHOCOLATE is not it. I found it difficult indeed to enter into and then keeping going back to the dark and desperate world of Ishmael.

I hasten to add that this is what makes this book a fine piece of writing – and it’s exactly why you should get this book and read it – if to not exactly enjoy it, but to appreciate or be emotionally moved by a wrenching story.

The purpose of art is to make you feel something intensely, whether that something is joy, horror, wonder, despair, misery or delight. This book is not so much a painful punch in the gut, as it is a slow IV drip of syrupy misery pumped into your veins.


Any caring human being with a soul (or a pulse) will be dragged to a dreary melancholy as he/she confronts poor baby Ishmael eating live cockroaches and flies to stave off starvation while  wallowing in his own filth, his urine and feces-packed diapers. He is ignored for hours or days on end as his heroin-dazed mother lies comatose in the next room on a pile of filthy newspapers.

Pay special attention to the fact that toddler Ishmael also eats lead-tainted paint chips, which has been associated with brain damage in young children, especially children of poverty.

Ishmael’s only socialization comes from an erstwhile, yet kindly-boyfriend-heroin-supplier to his mother, and also hours-on-end of watching violent-yet-loony Wiley E. Coyote cartoons.

So desperate is Ishmael to make a deeper connection with some significant “Other” he adopts a spider in the window as his “mother,” and this connection is deep and psychological.

When circumstances eventually rescue Ishmael from his heroin den of death home, it would be a vast understatement to say that here we have a child who has been conditioned in a unique way to confront the “real world.” How will he manage? Can he ever thrive? Will he implode? Does he even have a chance?


Now I want to briefly touch on the mystical elements of this story.

Overtly, Jesus and Biblical Scripture comes to play a large role in Ishmael’s life after he is exposed to these elements by his grandmother. However the “Jesus” imprinted on the perception of Ishmael is a surface-level figure of Christ based on imagery – a poster of a “Black Jesus” – while at the same time, Ishmael seems to develop a direct psychic connection with a Jesus that I would say is not the mainstream “American Jesus,” nor even a Gnostic Jesus but a mysterious, almost Hermetic kind of Jesus.


Black Jesus

And yet, this Jesus is not averse to Old Testament habits – such as admonishing his followers against gluttony and lust, even though Ishmael fairly starves throughout the book, and never comes close to “gettin’ any.”

Beyond this, I would argue that there is a far deeper and stronger mystical-spiritual element implied, and that involves the imagery of the spider.

It can’t be an accident that Ishmael not only adopts a real spider as his first true “mother,” but comes to see his grandmother as a “Spider Woman.” Ishmael’s first spate of trouble with authority comes after he violently beats a fellow student for killing a spider.

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Ancient spider symbols found at ‘Mound Builder” sites in Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee. Notice the ‘swastika-like’ figure at center.

As any student of anthropology, myth and folklore will tell you, the spider motif, and especially the “Spider-As-Woman” is among the deepest and most ancient of mythic archetypes. It’s found throughout an array of ancient cultures. Stylized spider depictions have appeared independently among diverse societies, even if they are separated by oceans and continents. Some suggest that one of the most ancient mystical “power symbols,” the swastika, has its origin/inspiration in the central element of a spider’s web design.


In Greco-Roman mythology, Arachne has a weaving contest with the goddess Athena. Arachne wins. Spiders are called “arachnids” after Arachne.

The spider is always a goddess figure. Some scholars say this explains why the crafts of spinning fabrics and weaving have always been the sole bailiwick of women. The spider woman-goddess – rooted in ancient times when all societies were matriarchal – is the primal architect of the Universe. Her spinning and weaving virtually knits together all reality.

It’s almost as if Ishmael’s brutal upbringing (along with brain damage from eating lead-based paints and malnutrition) has severely suppressed  his intellectual ability, but this in turn has allowed his psyche to have a direct penetration to a deeper well of ancient mystical knowledge and guidance, here symbolized by the ancient Spider-Woman-Goddess paradigm.


It’s possible that I’m reading more into this than I should, but then again, it hardly matters. Fried Chicken, Jesus and Chocolate is that kind of book. Again, this book can be read on any level the reader chooses. None of those levels would be “wrong.” The gritty realism is stark and obvious, but the abstract elements are there, too, just below the surface, but sometimes not so hidden, in my view.


Fried chicken

(Note: I’m not even going to discuss the significance of the chicken and the chocolate. Why? Because I’ve blabbed on long enough!)

It all makes this one of the most fascinating and vexing books I have read in some time.

If you’re like me, always hungry for a read that is truly different and which transcends so much that is run-of-the-mill in most books today, then here is a read to beguile you, disturb you, challenge you, thrust you out of your comfort zone, while still leaving you wanting more. Anyone not emotionally moved by this text would have to be psychically numb, or dead.

I say: Don’t miss this one.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


Follow @KenKorczak

Afterlife Conversations With Ken Kesey (and Others) by William Bedivere resonates as an authentic, luminous and inspired conversation with the famous deceased author

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This is a slim volume of about 100 pages but is has the impact of a book perhaps 300 or 400 pages. It’s a major challenge to review because so many issues present themselves, sometimes even in a single paragraph.

In fact, I’ll go as far to say that there is “hidden” information encoded within certain tracts of this document – but am I going to discuss that? No way. (I’ll reserve that for the advanced class, another time).

Let me try to zero in here on a few things:

So this is a book in which author WILLIAM BEDIVERE has made contact with the afterlife personality of the writer Ken Kesey, most famous for his novels One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion. Both books were adapted to popular Hollywood films. Cuckoo’s Nest was a huge critical and financial success, winning the Oscar for Best Film in 1975, and several other Academy Awards.

Of course, Kesey’s other fame was that of counterculture icon status fueled by his high-profile LSD-soaked exploits that became a central element of the Hippy generation of the 1960s.

Kesey died in 2001 at age 66.


Ken Kesey, photo by Brian Lanky

What’s utterly fascinating about this book is how the “Kesey Personality” at first comes on strong and feisty, spouting lots of groovy, wavy gravy pronouncements typical of hallucinogen-informed concepts and representing Kesey’s (early) lifetime personality.

He raves about the “War On Drugs,” framing it as a power struggle between the forces of evil (it’s the usual suspects: the government, CIA, establishment pigs, fearful fundamentalists, take your pick …) against those courageous Consciousness-O-Nauts who would dare smash the status quo by cracking the Collective Cosmic Egg of humanity with a selected line-up psychotropic kickers.

But then as the pages melt by, the Kesey Personality gradually recedes, giving way to a consciously expanded, yet softer Group-Mind Entity that continues to hold forth with mellower, yet profound transcendent concepts.

This transition is highly significant and provides an important insight into what all of us need to understand about the nature of our existence, who and what we are, the nature of the afterlife — and I’ll expand on this more in a bit.

But first, the big issue that must always been dealt with for manuscripts which purport to offer information coming from the dead is the question of authenticity. This is especially true for those readers who are new to what traditionally has been called “spirit writings” or “automatic writing” but in our New Age is more often called “channeling” or maybe just “after-death communications.”

This document conveys all the tell-tale signs of authenticity – that is – I’m satisfied that the author is in no way a charlatan spinning tails of pure imagination, or simply attempting to leverage his familiarity with Kesey’s works to create a narrative that merely parrots what a deceased version of the author might have to say.

One such marker of the bona fides is a measure of the author’s agony. In this case we can feel the nagging pain of Mr. Bedivere dripping off the pages. A plodding kind of existential angst smolders throughout, and even more so, a plaintive longing for … for … what is beyond … and for meaning.

Those famous lines from that George Harrison song comes to mind:

Now, I really want to see you

Really want to be with you

Really want to see you lord

But it takes so long, my lord

When you combine this painfully urgent need to know, to understand, to seek, to find, to discover, to explore – with the one of the worst sufferings of them all – self-doubt – then you get some measure of the intellectual courage it takes to take on these kinds of tasks, and where you find courage, you’ll find authenticity.

Again, the author demonstrates all of the above. (As novelist Rita Mae Brown said, “A writer cannot hide on the page”). So, I am impressed with an overwhelming sense that what we have here is a genuine afterdeath contact and dialogue with, yes, the “real” Ken Kesey – although I beg the reader not to over-simply who or what the “real” Ken Kesey might be.

After our physical body dies, the consciousness that is the ego-based personality survives. NASA physicist and early MONROE INSTITUTE research pioneer TOM CAMPBELL calls this a “Free Will Awareness Unit.” (FAU) (I’m borrowing a couple of Campbell’s terms here because he has coined some of the most lucid and descriptive jargon for all of this).


Tom Campbell “It’s all just data.”

The FAU is part of or an aspect of an Individuated Unit of Consciousness (IUC) – this is the aspect of the person who “operated” the FAU while it was “alive” in physical 3-D reality. The ICU is not in physical reality, but in the nonphysical realm composed of Consciousness.

The IUC in turn is almost certainly a part of a larger organized system of consciousness that we might call an “Oversoul” (a more traditional term, not Campbell’s). The Oversoul if a kind of “group mind” being that encompassed dozens, hundreds, but most likely thousands of “people” or individuals that also once manifested in our 3-D physical reality as Freewill Awareness Units (people) here on our planet Earth.

And I could continue going “up the ladder” to higher and more complex organizations of consciousness, indeed, all the way to “The One” or “All That Is” – but that is a long journey indeed, so let’s stop here.

So when a medium, or someone like our writer William Bedivere, makes contact with a specific individual, in this case the famous Ken Kesey, he can at times be communicating with:

• That which was the Freewill Awareness Unit that was Ken Kesey.

• That which was is the IUC, the Individuated Unit of Consciousness that operated the FAU of Ken Kesey.

• Both the FAU and IUC at the same time.

• The Oversoul of Ken Kesey

• Those continuing upper levels of “Group Consciousness” organizations to which all the “lower” Ken Kesey elements belong.

• All of the above.

What is clearly demonstrated in this book is how the author comes to get a sense of this larger multidimensional nature of the Kesey personality. The “Greater Ken Kesey Consciousness Organization” (my term) slowly reveals itself as the pages go on from beginning to end of this book.

There is something important to point out here:

If we want to, we can focus our conversation with a deceased individual on communication that is strictly limited to just the Freewill Awareness Unit, or that which was the ego-based consciousness once manifested in 3-D, physical matter reality.

But can it be said that this “version” of Ken Kesey is the actual Ken Kesey?

The answer is mostly “Yes!” but it comes with this critical distinction, or perhaps acknowledgement:

The “real” Ken Kesey” has actually moved on to other, higher realms of consciousness. His mission on earth is done. He has little no reason to just hang around for years on end merely in the event that someone like William Bedivere (or anyone) wants to have a conversation with him.


However, we can still have a perfectly legitimate communication with that individual we once knew as Ken Kesey, as he once was. That’s because we can connect with the sum total of the “data” that was once Ken Kesey – Tom Campbell calls this a “supremely complete probability record” of Ken Kesey.

This “supremely complete probability record” might be compared to a computer file that has been saved, but it is an utterly complete file that contains absolutely everything that Ken Kesey once was down to the very last atom, electron, neutron, quark – everything! So in essence, IT IS KEN KESEY – albeit a perfect “saved copy” of the original.

Let me emphasize, even though the “real Ken Kesey” has moved on, this “supremely complete probability record” that we can now communicate with is in fact Ken Kesey because it is an absolutely total, perfect and “supremely complete” copy of what was once the “real” Ken Kesey.

(Note: For an excellent discussion about the legitimacy of a “perfect copy” of a human being after death and “resurrection,” see this book: The Physics of Immortality, by Temple University Professor of Physics, Dr. Frank Tipler).


Note that because the “real Ken Kesey” has moved on, the “Perfect Copy” of Ken Kesey that was once his Freewill Awareness Unit no longer has free will – although it can seem like it has free will because it can answer our questions based on an almost infinite number of probability choices.

For example, we can ask a question in 10 different ways with 10 different intents, and the FAU of Ken Kesey will respond differently to each one based on the nature of our intent and the way we ask the question. But left to itself, the FAU of Ken Kesey cannot innovate on its own because the “real” Ken Kesey has moved on and the FAU is now a “closed system.” However, innovation and free will awareness can“bleed” into the responses we get if higher aspects of the FAU get involved.

A spectacular example of this is the work of author FRANK DEMARCO He has engaged in extensive afterdeath conversations with the deceased writer Ernest Hemingway. It’s proper to bring DeMarco into this conversation here because Mr. Bedivere acknowledges DeMarco as the inspiration for his work with Kesey.

Bevidere is a reader of DeMarco’s blog, where he engages in ongoing conversations with a variety of afterdeath personalities. (Find DeMarco’s blog here: I OF MY OWN KNOWLEDGE.)

This includes an in-depth conversations with the deceased Hemingway. DeMarco has also published a book of his conversations with the great American author titled, AFTERLIFE CONVERSATIONS WITH HEMINGWAY. (See my review of that book HERE.)


In my opinion — and perhaps DeMarco himself may not agree totally – the bulk of the information DeMarco is channeling from “Hemingway” is that “saved copy” of what was once the Hemingway Freewill Awareness Unit – although from time to time, “higher aspects” of the Multidimensional Hemingway do come forth to further inform (and innovate with free will) the communications between DeMarco and Hemingway.


Frank DeMarco

However, most of the time it seems to be DeMarco’s intent is to keep his communication with Hemingway focused as close as possible with only the ego-based Hemingway we know from history. That’s because DeMarco is fascinated with commentary on the life and times of the “real, physical” Hemingway, and the specifics of his body of literary works, his politics, beliefs, etc.

If DeMarco “intended” more or otherwise, he could certainly “climb the Multidimensional Hemingway ladder, so to speak. (And sometimes he does, I speculate).

The case is similar with this book on communication with Ken Kesey.

Another example I must mention is that of Jane Roberts, author of the famous Seth books. Roberts also channeled a book-length document in cooperation with a great deceased personality, that of philosopher and proto-psychologist William James, producing, The Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher. The book is a masterpiece.


What’s interesting to note is that Roberts was highly circumspect about just who or “what” she was actually communicating with. She speculated that she was not so much having a conversation with the “real spirit” of William James, but rather the existent and detached “World View” of William James, which was somehow stored out there in the greater realms of the Conscious Universe – this sounds an awful lot like Campbell’s model, the Freewill Awareness Unit.


Anyway, I have rambled on far too long, and yet, have not touched on even a fraction of the rich load of material and implications suggested by this intriguing manuscript.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that Mr. Bedivere’s book is well written. And don’t be quick credit for the lively prose to Ken Kesey – far from it! I can guarantee that the credit belongs to Mr. Bedivere, but if I try to explain why, I’ll be off and running through several more pages.

I should also mention that are instances of true hilarity! In a couple of cases, Mr. Bedivere sees fit to ask his transcendent connection with an ascended great author incredibly mundane questions – such as what to do with a problem he is having with his taxes! Ha, ha! It’s great!

On another occasion, Bedivere asks for advice on what to do about some very typical marriage problems his daughter is having – and here Kesey coughs up:

a) A bit of non-advice, and,

a) b) A dollop of sensationally bad advice!

Oh man, it’s so funny!

Never discount humor as an important marker of authentic afterdeath communication, or the channeling of legitimate transcendent information. I’m reminded of philosopher Bertrand Russell who said that he was troubled that the Bible seemed to contain no humor, and at least for him, that cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Holy Book.

Ahhhh … I wish I could go on and on … but it’s past time that I pull the chain (as they say in the Hood). Suffice it to say I consider this small book a gem, and authentic example of afterlife communication that bears reading and rereading, each time delivering a different set of insights to the open-minded, yet skeptical, but always intuitive-oriented reader.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Lost on the Skinwalker Ranch by Erick T. Rhetts is an intriguing true tale of bizarre events in northern Utah


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This book purports to tell of true events of extraordinary paranormal happenings in a remote region of Utah. The author grants that slight fictional elements have been employed for the sake of telling the story more smoothly.

Just a few years ago I would have been mostly skeptical of the strange events described here, but subsequent study and research, including conducting my own personal investigations of similar claims, lead me to conclude that all or most of this is likely true – it all really happened.

Telling his story through a ghostwriter, a retired career military man takes a job as a security guard on some property in northern Utah, a 500-acre plot which is owned by none other than Bob Bigelow.

If you are a dyed-in-the wool UFO junkie (like me) you will know that anything associated with the name of billionaire Bob Bigelow is inextricably tied to the endlessly multifaceted, layers-deep and conspiracy-infested universe of ufology, government black-ops and secret space programs.

The book reports that Bigelow purchased the 500-acre cold, dusty property in northern Utah precisely because of its reputation as a UFO hot spot, not to mention centuries of reports (including a rich legacy of Native American lore/religion) telling of bizarre phenomenon, from orbs and strange energy manifestations, to bizarre creatures sighted moving in and out of portholes to alternate dimensions.

Let me just say that the hero of our story in this book has many occasions to encounter much of the above in his job a night watchman on the grounds of this freakishly-haunted property.

I won’t go into more details of what this guy encountered because I don’t want to issue a spoiler alert, except to say I was intrigued and did not expect what the “main event” of his experience turned out to be.

I am delighted when a book of paranormal phenomenon can surprise me and deliver something beyond all the standard stuff – UFOs, ghosts, Bigfoot — we’re accustomed to reading about. The idiosyncratic nature of the events described here and a rich detailing of the smaller incidentals add to the credibility of the narrative.

This book is available as a Kindle Unlimited selection, so if you subscribe to that, this is a good chance to get it for a fast read. It took me only a long evening to breeze through from first page to last. The quality of the writing is quite good – a no-nonsense clear and lucid style just tells the tale, while also putting us into the scenes effortlessly with minimal but vivid description of landscapes and the other minor players, all of whom come alive as “characters” taking part in the strange events.

Erick T. Rhetts is the pseudonym of a guy who has produced a number of similar titles on similar topics. Some simple Internet sleuthing reveals to me that Mr. Rhetts is freelance writer located in Patchogue, New York. He claims authorship of this book on his LiknedIn Page under his real name, which I will let anyone here investigate for themselves if they are dying to know.

Whatever the case and whomever the author, this is a worthy little gem to add to your collection of titles exploring bizarre phenomenon and paranormal topics.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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No serious indie writer should be without this book on how to self-publish and sell a lot of books

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

My favorite saying in the writing business is:

“It takes a certain brilliance to write a book, but it takes a genius to sell that book.”

Well, that means that MARTIN CROSBIE is some kind of genius because he sells a lot of books. Even itself named him one of their “success stories” among self-publishers in 2012.

Now this ingenious indie author wants to help other wannabe writers sell their books. This offering, HOW I SOLD 30,000 eBOOKS ON AMAZON KINDLE is jammed-packed with advice on how to climb that mountain.

Crosbie not only knows how to sell books, he knows how to sell what he’s selling. For example, I like this bit from the early pages:

“Due to a number of factors, and luck was certainly one of them, in February of 2012 the book I wrote in the spare bedroom of my house, that over one hundred and thirty agents and publishers didn’t want, hit Amazon’s top ten overall bestseller list and stayed there for a week … I sold about eighteen thousand e-books that month. And I made $46,000.”

Yeah baby! Let me tell you, that kind of talk is absolute catnip for struggling writers everywhere. Do you know how many people want to take a ride like that with a book they labored to write in a spare bedroom in their spare time while the kids were howling, the dishes were piling up in the sink and bill collectors knocking at the door?


Canadian indie author Martin Crosbie

But while Mr. Crosbie shows us the juicy carrot, he also gets out the stick and proceeds page after page to give writers the sobering drubbing they need and deserve – and by that I mean, he shows how writing is hard work, and selling your writing is even harder – and yet, he does it with an infectious enthusiasm that will get readers excited about what is possible.

Yes, it’s an encouraging book. Motivating!

Most of all, this book is loaded with terrific advice, solid step-by-step instructions and meaty insights gleaned from his own successes and bitter failures on his road to achieving a significant measure of publishing success.

From the importance of editing (he really hammers away on this), to the vital factor of navigating the jungles of social media, to book cover design, to developing relationships with other key players in the field – and much more – no indie writer today can afford NOT to know about this stuff, and more importantly, take action and actually DO this stuff.

I borrowed this book for free using my Amazon Prime account, but it’s so loaded with advice and an excellent collection of resource links in the back, I’m going to go ahead and buy a permanent copy.

I’ve been a successful full-time freelance writer for 30 years now, and I’ve learned how to survive (and sometimes thrive) – but even someone like me can’t afford to be without a book like this on my shelf — and neither can you if you want to quit your day job and make it in the world of writing and publishing.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Michael Siemsen’s new novel “Exigency” is a thrilling science fiction romp

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

For the 347,098,789th time in science fiction, an intrepid crew of brilliant scientists/astronauts crash land on a distant planet, and now must struggle to survive in an exotic environment populated by multiple species of aliens, some hostile, some not so hostile, and others that just fill out the flora and fauna of an alien world.

No, there is little cutting-edge invention in this latest offering by rising SF star MICHAEL SIEMSEN. It’s all tried-and-true formula stuff with the same themes that have been explored time and again since the creation of the genre.

Even one of the most intriguing plot elements – the way which an alien species achieved a fast track to superior intelligence – has been done before. The very same situation was brilliantly employed by Jack Vance in his 1973 novel, The Asutra. (I won’t tell you any more about this because I don’t want to issue a spoiler alert.)

My point is, like most new works of science fiction today, EXIGENCY stays safely ensconced within the broad parameters of science fiction solidified over the past century, and especially during the “Golden Age” of science fiction.

But you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with formula fiction as long as we have a writer who is up to the task of making it all seem fresh and stimulating again.

Think of it like blues music. It’s all based on just one fundamental riff: “dah-de, dah-de, dah-dah.” The challenge then is to take that basic form and innovate within it to keep making it seem new, reborn and freshly alive. Hundreds of artists have done it. “The Blues” never go out of style.

I’m happy to say that Exigency not only makes what’s old in science fiction exciting, vibrant and new – but it’s also thrilling and fun.

I found this novel to be engaging and enjoyable from first page to last. The reason why it works is:

• Well-developed characters that we instantly care about. The primary character Minnie (Minerva) is complex. She is at once brilliant, warm and likable, but just as often, cold, self-absorbed and exasperating. She is courageous, tough and talented beyond belief – but also struggles with a debilitating Achilles heel. So she has everything you want in a SF heroine, and maybe some things you don’t want – which, in turn makes for top-notch fiction.


Michael Siemsen

• Almost from the beginning Siemsen expertly builds relationships between his characters (without ever letting the pace drag). This provides an emotional cohesion that is necessary to sustain our interest in the characters as they face their various challenges to survive on an alien world.

• A fully-realized, vividly imagined world that has a depth which not always apparent to the reader up-front, but which looms offstage in a way we can feel intuitively, yet without belaboring us literally.

• The writing is tight – there is very little in the way of exposition, which is the downfall of so many lesser science fiction writers.

• Aliens that are sufficiently alien, yet not so bizarre and exotic as to be entirely un-relatable. This is yet another tried-and-true element of science fiction which, although nothing new, is necessary to sustain the relationship with the reader.

• Plot – well, okay, there really isn’t much of a plot. It can be summed up as: “Stranded space travelers struggling to survive a harsh, alien environment. Will they make it?” But – yes, I’m going to say it – you don’t always need a strong plot to make for an absorbing, exciting read. (To hell with all of those literary snobs who would tell you different). After all, science fiction has always been the “literature of ideas” which separates it from the requirements of mainstream fiction.

But wait a minute, didn’t I already say there were precious few new “ideas” in this novel. Yes, I did, but it’s still a thumping read – and that means Michael Siemsen just has “that undefinable something” that enables him to write a terrific, captivating novel.

It reminds me of the great science fiction editor John Campbell, the famously imperious and despotic leader of Astounding Science Fiction, and the time in the late 1930s when he read a story submitted by A.E. Van Vogt.

The short novel was “The Weapon Shop.” According to ALEXEI PANSHIN, writing in his book The World Beyond the Hill, a study of science fiction:

“… the story proved to have a very strange effect on the editor. As he was reading this novelet, he recognized that he was enjoying it thoroughly. But when Campbell attempted to analyze the story intellectually, he just couldn’t see why it should be so effective.”

Panshin later explains why Van Vogt’s works can invoke such a magical effect on many readers (but completely turn off others) – and all I will say here is that the reason Siemsen’s novel is so enjoyable (and perhaps not so much for others) is due to a similar (similar but not exactly the same) effect.

But I’m not going to go into that further here – this review is already way too long.

In the final analysis – because of what science fiction is today, where it has come from and where it is going – what we truly need to make for a thoroughly enjoyable read is an author who has that certain “Van-Vogt-Like-Effect” that makes us want to keep turning the pages, and wishing that a 400-plus tome such as this was even a 100 pages longer.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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J.R. Tomlin writes a gripping crime thriller set in medieval Scotland: “The Templar’s Cross” is a fine, fast read


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

The Templar’s Cross is a tightly-written murder mystery set in 15th Century Scotland.

It moves along briskly and will keep readers turning the pages. Author J.R. TOMLIN vividly recreates a late medieval Perth, an ancient city of central Scotland situated on the River Tay.

Under Tomlin’s pen, the Perth of 1424 comes alive in all of its dreary, muddy, damp and noisy vitality – streets are filled with common folk, peasants and barking marketers selling kale, leeks and bloody cuts of butchered meats, as well as crusts of bread and the occasional spicy sausage.

Our hero is a Scottish Knight who is damaged goods. Sir Law Kintour was badly injured fighting the English in France at the Battle of Verneui – now back in Scotland sporting a bad limp, he is desperate to find a new patron to fight for, but who wants to hire a crippled knight?

Holed up in a drafty, seedy room above a lowly tavern, Sir Law’s luck suddenly turns when he receive a visit from a mysterious stranger who has a job for him – but it’s not the kind of work befitting a battle-tested knight.

Desperate for coin, Sir Law agrees to take on a mission which quickly embroils him in a double-murder mystery. Worse yet, he quickly becomes a prime suspect. Now he must solve the murders in just days or hang for the grisly crimes himself!

This is the second J.R. Tomlin novel I have read. I thought the first, FREEDOM’S SWORD, was an okay read, but with this offering, Tomlin shows that she has grown considerably into her craft. She is emerging as a polished writer with an excellent feel for pacing, command of place and subject, and an ability to captivate readers — immersing us in a long-past era of history that comes alive in all of its harsh majesty.

I think it’s inevitable that ‘Templar’s Cross’ will be compared with the hugely best-selling ‘Hangman’s Daughter’ by German author Oliver Pötzsch, also a murder mystery set in a grimy European city of antiquity – if ‘Templar’s’ is perhaps not as richly imagined as ‘Hangman’, it has better pacing, is more tightly written and leaves us hungry for more.

In fact, that’s my only (very minor) complaint about this book – it ends in a satisfying bang, but truly begs for an epilogue. Tomlin misses an opportunity to not only “cool down’ her readers, but to also let us enjoy a satisfying mug of ale with Sir Law as he warms his aching bones next to a peat fire while munching on a spicy sausage – as he contemplates his next mission.

But, whatever – when a writer leaves us eagerly wanting more, that means ‘mission accomplished.’ You have that feeling that you’ve just enjoyed a great book.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Psychologist Frederick Aardema advances the study of the out-of-body experience to a new level


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

In the pantheon of books about astral travel or out-of-body experiences (OBEs) published during the past century, this book by Canadian psychologist FREDERICK AARDEMA is an instant classic.

(Click here to find book): EXPLORATIONS IN CONSCIOUSNESS

Finally we have an in-depth treatment of the subject from an academic with rock-solid credentials. Aardema is a researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Montreal. He holds a Ph.D. in psychology.

He is well-published in peer reviewed journals, and is considered an expert in obsessive-compulsive disorders, delusional disorders, cognition and much more.

But even though this is a book written by a bona fide academic, it is anything but dry, technical and clinical. It’s often thrilling, deeply intriguing and just plain fun. Aardema regales us with his many personal accounts of inducing his own OBEs. His travels take him to exotic, stunning and bizarre locales that may actually exist “out there” in … in … what or where?

The astral realms? The non-physical universe? The realm of pure mind? How about I borrow a term from NASA physicist TOM CAMPBELL, who was one of the Robert Monroe’s early key researchers: “The Larger Consciousness System.”

Here is what is exciting about this book for me: It shows that major cracks are developing in hardcore, rational-materialist scientific paradigm that has held an iron grip on the world for some 400 years – and especially since Isaac Newton gave us a “clockwork universe” or “billiard ball world.”

The fact that a mainstream psychologist such as Dr. Aardema can feel free to publish a book which just a few years ago would have been scorned as “New Age fluff” is of enormous significance. It means he has the freedom to explore a subject on the scientific fringe in a highly personal way while retaining professional position and peer respect.


Frederick Aardema, Ph.D.

It means our world is changing. Furthermore, it’s the kind of change that is on par with the Copernican Revolution itself, or the advent of quantum mechanics, which finally challenged the utter dominance of Newtonian physics – but the latter of which still holds tremendous psychological sway, despite more than 100 years of quantum theory.

Aardema is at least willing to entertain a stunning proposal: That human consciousness is not centered or produced within the physical human brain. Rather, consciousness may be “non-local.” What we think of as our thoughts, emotion, experiences and all the rest may not be coming out of physical brain matter – but rather is being “tuned in” by the brain, almost as if it were acting as a radio receiver, or perhaps a “constraint.”

The implications of this are beyond gigantic. If our own minds to not have an origins in the physical brains, well, that opens to door to all kinds of possibilities, not the least of which is that we never die. It means that which has been traditionally called a “soul,” or “spirit” may be a phenomenon of consciousness. When the body and brain die, consciousness lives on – including our own individual consciousness.

At the same time, Aardema is not taking wildly unfettered flights of New Age fancy; he remains grounded and pays heed to the notion that, despite all, the materialists may yet be right, or not entirely defeated after all.

Again and again, Aardema qualifies his statements and personal experiences by reminding us that there still may be a physical-matter-only explanation for what one experiences during an OBE – it’s still a possibility that this is a brain-only event – akin to a lucid dream, perhaps, or maybe because the human psyche is just much more vast and capable of producing exotic experience than ever before imagined.

At the end of the day I think it will be difficult for the reader to believe that Aardema isn’t siding with the non-materialist, non-local consciousness point of view – that ROBERT MONROE was correct in his famous statement:

“I am more than my physical body. Because I am more than my physical body, I can experience that which is greater than my physical self.”


Robert Monroe

Aardema pays homage to Robert Monroe throughout this book, but also points out where Monroe might have gotten some things wrong. Even so, he clearly admires Monroe – and why not?

Robert Monroe wasn’t exactly a New Age flake either. He was a grounded, successful businessman who made millions in the radio and cable TV business. He was most likely an atheist (or certainly an agnostic) before the OBE phenomenon came into his life unexpectedly. Those who knew him said he had the mental process of a “technical-minded engineer.” (Campbell)

Monroe wasn’t a scientist or academic, but when he began to study the OBE, he was smart enough to surround himself with brilliant men and women, two of the most significant were the aforementioned Tom Campbell (who worked in missile defense and as a long-time consultant to NASA), and an electrical engineer, Dennis Mennerich. Also on Monroe’s team were psychologists, nurses, social workers, artists – ordinary, stable, intelligent folks with open minds and a burning desire to explore.

The result was that Monroe was able to lift the OBE out of the world of the occult and give it a more mainstream posture, although Aardema rightfully points out that Monroe was still somewhat influenced by the esoteric influences of the past, from ancient mysticism to more recent groups, such as the Theosophists – which included the likes of Madam Blavatsky, C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant.

But Monroe’s work – and the ongoing research at the MONROE INSTITUTE which he founded – remains an almost necessary pivotal point around which serious scientists such as Aardema must leverage if they want to push the study of the OBE into new territory.

In the last chapter of the book Aardema gives instruction to anyone who would also like to explore the OBE for themselves. His methods are simple and direct, but readers will find them challenging in there actual execution. Aardema suggests there may be as much art as there is method in OBE practice.

Robert Monroe produced a trilogy of books about the OBE, and Aardema meets a figure (a wise old man) on one of his trips “out there” who tells him that he, too, is destined to produce a trilogy of OBE books.

Let’s hope this comes true.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Author Jimmy Olsen’s “Things In Ditches” will be the best murder mystery novel you have read in years — I guarantee it

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

If you’re an avid murder-mystery fan, or love crime novels, drop everything you are doing right now and purchase this book. Don’t even finish reading my review. Get the book now.

THINGS IN DITCHES by Minnesota writer JIMMY OLSEN is simply fantastic entertainment – a novel so well-crafted, so loaded with twists and turns, so darkly funny, but also with moments of serious psychological rigor – that it should have claimed a spot on the New York Times bestseller list.

Well, um, maybe it did, I don’t know: This book was first issued 15 years ago, and then seems to have been reissued again in 2010, Whatever the case, the best books are timeless, and this one still reads as fresh as the June kale in my garden.

It’s the story of the murder of an achingly lovely blonde woman whose strangled body is found in a ditch just outside a small Minnesota town. Olsen has us going right from the start by introducing us to the killer on the very first page. Even so, I doubt that the savviest Sherlock Holmesian murder-mystery solver will be able to guess what is really going on here.

Take it from me — a guy who grew up in a northern Minnesota town of 700 people — Olsen brilliantly captures the cultural texture of that unique fabric which makes up a tiny Minnesota community of just a few hundred folks.

But wait, there’s something even better. Olsen doesn’t settle for mere reality. A true wordsmith understands that writing is art, and so there is just a molecular thin layer of fictional unreality spread over this depiction of small-town life.


Jimmy Olsen

This fictional patina adds an almost imperceptible shimmer that makes ordinary semi-rural folks seem just slightly extraordinary – and this in turn makes for a read that is more fun, more dark, more light, more funny, more sad – in a way that gives us just a slightly deeper peek through the veil, so to speak.

At the risk of blathering on with too much literary analysis, I just want to mention one more thing: Genuinely talented novelists understand that there is no such thing as a minor character. I read more than 120 books per year, and I would estimate that 95% of writers don’t understand this – yet it is so critically important.

Most writers think that if a main character goes into a convenience store, the store clerk can be some throw-away cardboard prop — no need to describe, or flesh out a quick character sketch. But that’s an incredible missed opportunity to add an element of richness to a novel.

But look at the way Jimmy Olsen describes a character who appears for just one brief scene in a couple of pages:

“Curtis Rylander had the sloping forehead of an ape. He also had a bad complexion, skin craters ripe with raw zits and pus-laden whiteheads. Curtis wore a stocking cap even, in summer, to hide his head.”

Curtis Rylander is in the narrative for about 10 seconds but he comes instantly alive!

I must also mention a scene where the author enlists another minor character that just happens to be a timber wolf – again, not just an anonymous beast loping through the woods – Olsen brings the animal to life so vividly and skillfully that it reads like a stand-alone short story – and a short story worthy of Jack London himself!

Reading along I kept saying to myself: This is just a brilliant book!

Having said the above, I must now say I came razor close to issuing my “Ken’s Persian Rug of Literature Penalty” to this author for certain transgressions, but first let me explain “Ken’s Persian Rug of Literature Penalty.”

The ancient carpet weavers of the Persian Empire, beginning in the 8th Century, are renowned for creating the most exquisite rugs in the world. But these master artisans always purposefully included an intentional flaw in each rug – sometimes just a single stitch.

The reason they did so was because they believed that creating something too perfect would be an affront to God.

Well, this book contains not one – but two – teeny-tiny flaws worthy of “Ken’s Persian Rug of Literature Penalty” – but I have opted not to issue these citations today because … well, I’ve just read a great book, I have been thoroughly entertained, and I’m in a good mood.

Also, 99.8 percent of all the books I read cannot even hope to approach “Ken’s Persian Rug of Literature Penalty” because, well, all of these books are nowhere near perfection, as this book is It’s a masterful, nearly perfect murder mystery.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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“I Am Titanium” by John Patrick Kennedy is a super hero novel that reflects our violent movie/video game” culture


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This is a book about two ordinary young people who suddenly become extraordinary beings.

In the case of the young man, he’s not so typical because, for starters, he’s 17 but already on his death bed. Pax is dying from a horrific disease called scleroderma – it involves the tightening of the skin and connective tissue. It’s an agonizing way to die.

His only friend, Scarlett, has problems not quite as urgent: She’s a drab, gawky 17-year-old whose lack of feminine grace, good looks and charm means she’s not exactly the most popular girl in school. She’s an outcast and bullied.

But the fortunes of both Pax and Scarlett are about the change in a most amazing way: A couple of meddling “super beings” from the astral world are going to transform them into powerful, indestructible entities with god-like powers – Pax’s diseased body will be replaced with solid titanium and Scarlett will be made of “negative energy” and fire.

If it sounds like an intriguing premise for a thrilling fantasy/science fiction novel, well, it is. It’s made more interesting because there is a decent plot here – Pax and Scarlett are immediately caught up in a game of inter-dimensional politics which will determine nothing less than the survival of the entire human race.

Author JOHN PATRICK KENNEDY writes extremely well; his prose is natural and fluid. He has a lucid, no-nonsense style. He definitely has a sense of pacing and rhythm, balancing scenes of intense, violent action with periods of serene and calm.

And yet, acknowledging all of the above, I AM TITANIUM left me feeling bland and uninspired, even depressed. I’ll be brutally honest: I felt relieved to get to the last page – much in the same way that people are glad when one of Michael Bay’s over-long Transformer movies finally rolls credits.

It’s that frustrating feeling to be inexplicably bored while embroiled in long scenes of spectacular, intense action and eye-popping special effects – while at the same time knowing that all this eye candy is about as nutritious as real candy – empty calories that taste good, but ultimately leave you starved.

The action scenes in this book go on way too long, especially the epic battle between Pax and “the monster” in the latter third of the book. It grinds away page after page and quickly wears tedious – and then after all that, the “monster” and Pax end up working for the same cause anyway!

There are other factors that also seriously erode our reading experience. For example, before obtaining super powers, Scarlett was a typical angst-ridden teen, at odds with her parents, a loser at love (actually, a total nonstarter) and socially alienated. After she gets super powers, she becomes something even worse. Still angst ridden, alienated and troubled in love – even though all on a different level and for different reasons now.


John Patrick Kennedy

Despite the fact that he’s dying, Pax starts out as a hopeful, even positive young man with a meaningful goal – the study of the astral realms — but after he obtains super powers, he becomes a typical sullen teen with an endless stream of things to aggravate him and complain about.

A long bout of losing his virginity (having sex seven times in one session) only results in complicated “girlfriend” problems.

His dialogue devolves into a series of grunted monosyllabic phrases liberally seasoned with the “F word.”

His own inept actions (such as accidentally killing a street protestor) infuses him with existential angst.

His rocky relationship with his mother deteriorates to an even lower order.

Speaking of mom, Pax’s mother, Dr. Julia Black, is revealed to have a level of humanity barely above that of the infamous Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele – and she becomes the focal point of an almost inexplicable series of scenes wherein she interacts with some AI robots – which is at best, tangential to the entire narrative and, at worst, borders on not making much sense.

However, for me, what is truly dejecting and saddening about this book is that the mass of humanity is treated as so much insignificant cannon fodder – uncounted thousands of people are killed, maimed, burned, crushed, eaten, hacked up, stabbed, flung through the air, smashed against walls, mashed into pulpy lumps of flesh – it’s all part of the collateral damage resulting from the wacky adventures of two teen super heroes fighting to save humanity.

I found myself wishing that a book that centers on an epic battle to save humanity would display an overall greater sense or empathy for that humanity.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Author Steve Anderson enthralls with poignant stories of ordinary people in small-town Ohio

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

There exists in America a special place where you’ll find a transition zone between two distinct cultures.

It’s a mixture of the staid, straightforward practically of Midwesterners with the wild, mysterious blend of the Deep South as shaped by the edge of the Appalachian wilderness. That location is southeast Ohio.

If a writer could capture the flavor of that unique mixture of Americana by telling the stories of ordinary people with a collection of short stories – anyone reading it would gain a certain deeper understanding of the American experience.

It would also be incredibly entertaining!

I’m delighted to report that Ohio author and film-maker STEVE ANDERSON has accomplished this subtle task with this collection of short stories titled: 1979.


Steve Anderson

On the outside these tales would seem to be a series of coming of age “booze and boobs” vignettes featuring hormone-driven pre-adolescents and teenagers who are just waking up into a world where temptations abound – cheap wine, beer, sexy young girls, (and a few lusty older women), fast junky cars, cheap dope and the delicious discovery of that first kiss coupled with a daring grope of breast.

However, by design or accident, these stories deliver more than just surface-level entertainment. Let’s face it; each offering here is a little work of art. The writing often transcends the quality of being merely entertaining yarns to delivering that sense of:

“There is something real here that strikes a chord. I’m not sure what it is, but I can feel it.”

I can’t decide if Steve Anderson is one of those natural writer who is able to make stories like these just flow off his fingertips, or if he is one of those dogged writers, rewriters and revisers – but who cares? He writes extremely well.

Reader will quickly forget that some guy is trying to enthrall them with words because we’re swept away by each of these stories right from the first sentences, and before you know it, the story is done. Then you realize you have just forgotten that you were sitting in an uncomfortable chair squinting at words on a page because you were magically transported 35 years into the past to a small town in Ohio– it’s as if you lived a few visceral hours through the eyes and feelings of the characters.

I like writers who understand that if you just tell a story, everything else will take care of itself – and also comprehend the importance of character. Anderson’s characters pop off the page, alive, fresh and vivid, almost certainly because he based his creations on real people he knew while growing up in the 1970s.

I don’t want you to think what you’re going to get here is a lot of bland “Happy Days” nostalgia ala an idealized version of what life might have been like in 70s-era small town America. Anderson shows that, like the mean streets of Detroit, the tough hoods of New York or the gang infested barrios of Los Angeles – small towns can incubate their own festering brand of mean street cruelty.

With the cool gaze of an unflinching observer, Anderson regales us with sweat-inducing scenes, such as a man getting brutally whip-beaten with a metal car antenna; a tornado breaking the back of cow; wild-eyed southern boys pulling off the pants of a young boy in an alley and then meting out a tooth-knocking thrashing before they nearly cut off his testicles with a dirty pocket knife.

Yes, you’ll find sweetness and sentiment here, good times and laughs, but there’s also loneliness and boredom, betrayal and alienation, lust and violence – all part of an unvarnished look at the basic reality of life — delivered to your doorstep courtesy the pen of one … savvy … wordsmith!

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Jack Pine: A murder mystery set in Minnesota that few real Minnesotans would recognize


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This is not so much a book using Minnesota as a backdrop, but a novel that creates a kind mythological Minnesota that does not exist in reality – unfortunately, the mythical Minnesota elements are largely gleaned from Hollywood movie clichés and bland, surface-level stereotypes.

Yes, this is fiction so anything goes and I believe in granting any writer all the poetic license they want to make up a story in an imaginary world – but for me, this novel comes off as a clumsy mish-mash of standard fictional props, well-worn plot gimmicks and jarring inconsistencies.

The setting is present-day Minnesota where people carry smartphones, yet there are beads-and-sandals wearing hippies that seem to have time-traveled from 1960s California to reappear as “tree huggers” in the Boundary Waters; there’s a Minnesota cop who is essentially a Clint Eastwood cowboy from a 1970s spaghetti western; there are Native Americans who are still using bows and arrows and painting their faces (that’s right) and journalists, doctors, loggers and country attorneys who never seem to have progressed out of the 1940s.

It’s also breathtaking how much the author gets wrong about Minnesota – I kept asking myself throughout this book: “Where was this guy’s editor?”

For example, take this sentence:

“The ice melted and filled the thousand lakes of Minnesota and then the trees grew on top of the rock.”

Say what? A thousand lakes? Or course, Minnesota is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” It’s on our license plates. Technically, Minnesota has 11,842 lakes if you want to Google it.

Or this sentence:

“Diane had the frankness that comes from watching a father die of black lung disease and going to work full time when she was just sixteen.”

There is no black lung disease found in Minnesota miners. We have taconite mines and black lung disease is not associated with taconite mining, but rather, coal mining. Black lung disease is something you find in West Virginia or Kentucky – true, Minnesota miners have higher incidence of lung disease, but this is associated with asbestos and/or silica dust in mines. This produces a condition called mesothelioma, a disease of the outer lining of the lungs. To invoke black lung disease in a Minnesota story is simply culturally and scientifically ridiculous.

Or this sentence:

“Thought maybe it was the girl who was in the shed, but she didn’t sound like she was from the lower forty-eight.”

Again I have to ask in utter perplexity: Say what? I mean: “The lower forty-eight”?

What on earth is he talking about? Again and again, the characters use the term “lower forty-eight” to refer to anyone from outside of Minnesota – except that Minnesota IS ONE OF THE LOWER FORTY-EIGHT!

No one that I know of here my home state of Minnesota refers to outsiders as being from the lower forty-eight, and why should we? We are among the lower forty-eight, we all know we are among the lower forty-eight, and so why refer to someone from, say, Illinois, as being from the lower forty-eight?

It’s just inexplicable! Again, where was this guy’s editor?

Speaking of bad editing, the books is loaded with clumsy sentences, downright grammatically incorrect constructions and confusing elements of time. As an example of a bad sentence, try this one:

“Tom Jorde stabbed a computer resembling a large egg in a green T-shirt of white lettering—SAVE THE SPOTTED OWL FROM EXTINCTION.”

Did the author really mean to suggest that an egg-shaped computer was wearing a t-shirt?

Throughout reading this novel, I found myself literally gasping and searching with frustration for the best superlatives to describe what I was reading: absurd, ridiculous, painfully wrong … even though this is merely fiction. But even when writing fiction, there should be some adherence to plausible reality unless you’re writing out-and-out fantasy, not a mainstream novel.

Much of my exasperation is with the way the author tries to handle “Minnesota Speak,” – his effort is clumsy and just beyond absurd (there’s that word again.) I mean, whether the character is a doctor from Minneapolis, a lawyer, a redneck logger, a Native American or resort owner – they all talk like 100% Norsky-hillbilly hicks who just fell off the boat from Norway, smelling of pickled herring and lutefisk.


William Hazelgrove

Oh ya, you betcha, everyone talks like this here, you know … ya, oh ya, fer sure, that’s right there then what do yer think of that there here?

Even Minnesota’s Native Americans are portrayed to speak this way – and if you grew up with and have known Minnesota Natives for your entire life like I have – then you would understand how just exasperatingly ludicrous it is to make a Minnesota Indian sound like Sven Swenson from the old country, even in a work of fiction.

Take it from me. I was born in Roseau, a small hockey-power town where the snowmobile was invented, and where the Polaris factory is still the primary employer. I also have worked as a newspaper reporter and Minnesota state government official – I have lived in a remote corner of Minnesota all my life — but I have traveled all 87 counties of our state interviewing thousands of Minnesotans while writing about Main Street Minnesota over the past 30 years.

So you can believe it when I say the only place in Minnesota where people speak like Ole and Lena is in Hollywood movies – such as Fargo — and the occasional sketch on Minnesota icon Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion radio show.

It’s not that I am insulted by the way Mr. Hazelgrove or any fictional media like to play up the mythical Norsky-Hillbilly Minnesota speak – far from it – I think it’s fun. I love it. I was delighted by the movie Fargo (one scene was filmed practically right in my back yard) – I loved police chief Marge Gunderson and auto dealer Jerry Lundegaard – and the way Frances McDormand and William H. Macy mastered and really nailed the faux-Minnesota accent – except this movie was CLEARLY PLAYING IT FOR LAUGHS.

In JACK PINE, a serious murder mystery, we are expected to believe that regular, everyday Minnesotans from all professions and all walks of life, young and old, all talk like Ole Olson – he was a guy from my home town of Greenbush. Ole owned a Swedish potato sausage business in the 40s, 50s and 60s, died at the age of 97, born in 1905 – so yes, sure, he had that distinctive Scandinavian sing-song gate to his speech – but his generation are largely gone from our state and culture now.

To be clear: My low rating of this novel goes well beyond my problems with the portrayal of the language – the writing is frequently muddy and unclear, the time sequencing of key events is confusing to say the least, the characters are cookie-cutter cliché props borrowed from Hollywood movies, the metaphors are strained, the descriptions of the Minnesota wilderness misfire … and on and on.

All this and I’m a big WILLIAM HAZELGROVE fan – this is the fourth of his novels I have read, and I have reviewed all here and given all my top rating. Hazelgrove is a fiercely talented novelist who is one our finest modern American novelists working today – but nobody is perfect – and Jack Pine is a certified bust.

As penance for penning this disaster, I hereby sentence William Hazelgrove to read five JON HASSLER novels, two Sinclair Lewis novels, say three Hail Marys, strive to amend his life, and go in peace.


Despite filling every page with characters aping the Hollywood faux-Minnesota Speak, the author fails to use even once the most genuine, ingrained and ubiquitous Minnesota idiom of them all, the one word that all Minnesotans actually and truly do use: UFF DA!

That’s right – not once! Minnesota! Home of the uff da taco! (A taco made with lefse for a wrap).

Not one use of uff da! within a 300-page novel set in the culture of Minnesota.

That is absolutely ridiculous.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Just crowdsource it all with Mindsharing: Lior Zoref’s vision for a future of mankind as a hive species

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

The author of this book is rightfully exuberant about the wonders of the crowdsourcing phenomenon, and his new spin on it, for which he has coined a fresh term: MINDSHARING.

I fully acknowledge the many positive aspects of the revolution he is talking about – the incredible power of the crowdsourcing phenomenon and the new and innovative ways all of us can leverage social media platforms to advance our lives.

For the most part, it’s a terrific book, I recommend you buy it. But what concerns me about the book is author LIOR ZOREF‘s failure to fully acknowledge the dark side of crowdsourcing and what he calls Mindsharing — and have no doubt, there is a dark side.

In any revolution, there are always winners and losers. Let’s just acknowledge that.

For example, take such long-time professionals as journalists, freelance writer, photographers and graphic artists. One of my close associates, who is a talented graphic artist, described the situation this way:

“Imagine if someone needed a plumber. In the “old days,” he would have gone to the Yellow Pages, hired a professional, contracted for the work and the plumber would have been paid for the services he or she rendered.

“But now imagine if a person could instead put out a call to get 20 plumbers to come to his house, fix his leaky pipes, and then only one of them got paid. The rest had to work for free. And the one plumber who did get paid earned 90% less than he previously did.


Lior Zoref

“That’s crowdsourcing – good for the guy who needed the plumber, but bad for all plumbers.”

My friend’s plumber analogy is basically what has happened to tens of thousands of graphic artists, he said.

Today, if someone needs a new logo, there is little need to hire or pay a professional graphic artist to do the work. All you have to do is go to a crowdsourcing site, select from among thousands of logos that have been professionally designed and loaded onto a website.

Because each artists’ logo will be one of thousands, the most he or she can get for his work is many $1 to $10 – but it’s much more likely they will almost never sell a piece of commercial art. The crowd is just too massive. There’s too much competition – and everyone is working for free. Selling something you designed is more akin to playing the lottery.

In fact, this is the way Mr. Zoref arrived at the final the cover design for this book. To his credit, he at least acknowledges the downside. He writes:

“There are some who say that Web sites such as 99designs make designers work without getting paid (unless their design is chosen), while others see it as a disruptive force offering cheap alternative to expensive designers. Without a doubt, it gives designers a chance to develop their portfolio and bid on jobs they might never had access to without the platform.”

But this is a bland statement. It fails to acknowledge that every time a designer puts her work out there for free, she is undercutting herself and everyone in her profession. The fact is, untold thousands of designers are flooding dozens and dozens of online sites like 99designs with unlimited “free stuff” – so why should anyone hire and pay a graphic designer ever again?

There are many other similar examples of the same phenomenon happening across an array of other professions – but I’ll leave off here because I don’t want to drone on for pages — but I wish Mr. Zoref would have paid more attention to the tens of thousands of people who have found lifelong careers become suddenly irrelevant (unless they are willing to work for free as slaves).

There are other aspects of Mindsharing and crowdsourcing that also bring out my “Inner Contrarian” and yes, I’ll admit, my “Latent Luddite.”

I mean, how eagerly do we really want to go down this road? Do we want to start outsourcing every aspect of our lives, minds and personalities – even our personal, intimate love lives?

Mr. Zoref seems to think so – have a problem finding love or with dating? Easy! Mindshare it! If you’re socially inept, don’t worry. Zoref says the hive mind behind your smartphone or tablet will tell you what to do, how to act and how to be. The “hive mind” is ever ready to choose for you who you will date, and even how to speak and act on that date.

You may be a social cripple — but no problem — the ubiquitous Mindsharing hive will carry you along with the rest of the ants.

I’m only getting started here – but it’s far past time to pull the plug. I’ll just leave you with some homework to do. Here’s your assignment:

Go to Google and look up a mysterious figure by the name of Jar’Edo Wens.

When you find out who Jar’Edo Wens, ask yourself: Do we really want to crowdsource encyclopedias, or as Mr. Zoref suggest — crowdsource “everything?”

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


Follow @KenKorczak

Join Ken on Twitter now! It’s exciting!


Folks, let’s all follow Ken on Twitter!


“I was fat, broke and stupid. Then I started following Ken on Twitter. Today I am rich, thin and enjoy a razor-sharp intellect. Thanks for the Tweets, Ken!”

— Harold Grimm (Deceased)

Free horror short story “Rot” by author Michelle Barclay should frazzle the brain of even the hardened horror reader

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

In The Exorcist there is a scene where Father Merrin and Father Karras are preparing for battle with a demon-possessed little girl, and the elderly Father Merrin tells his young assistant:

“The demon’s attack will be psychological – and powerful.”

Those two words are perfect to describe ROT, an enormously disturbing and frightening short story penned by writer MICHELLE BARCLAY. Psychological, powerful – and oh so demonically dark.

It’s a marvelous piece of fiction. You might think there’s little original today about demon-possession stories within the horror genre, but in the hands of a fiercely talented writer such as Barclay, demon lore is made fresh again … er, I mean rotten … in that Edgar Allan Poe sort of way a disturbing tale should be rotten.

What’s terrific about this piece is that the author does not rely on gratuitous blood and gore, the downfall of so many horror-scribe wannabes. Barclay spends the first three-quarters of the story establishing a punishing sense of psychological terror – and when you get sufficiently unnerved and off balance – she hits you with some spurting-of-the-blood and tearing-of-the-flesh.

Best of all, there’s a depth of intelligence crafted into this story – it makes insightful sociological observations about why people believe what they do, how inept we all are in understanding our own views of subject like God, religion, believe and disbelief. This is not boring, it’s gripping.


Michelle Barclay

Just as there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from a fear which is actually right there – inside yourself – anyway one who dares to read Rot will be unsettled (to say the least) while being darkly entertained.

Be warned: this is not for the faint of heart, or those who like their reality straight. Barclay is not interested in making you feel good about yourself or society; she weaves a fabric spun from a poisonous black web of words – if you decide to read this at bedtime, I’m betting you’ll choose to sleep with your lights on.

On second thought – don’t read this story at night – or while you’re alone.

Don’t cyber-walk, cyber-run to get your free copy of ROT right now, click here: ROT

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


Follow @KenKorczak

Retro Review: Jack Vance and the Demon Princes: “The Killing Machine”

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

Think of all the great names of science fiction from the previous century – Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Silverberg, Dick, Pohl, Cordwainer Smith, Sheckley, Van Vogt, de Camp, Harrison (insert your own) …

Well, there was one man who was a greater writer than all of the above.

It was Jack Vance.

I won’t belabor the point here anymore – if you read enough of his books, I’m certain you’ll come to agree with me. This book, The Killing Machine, one of the five-part “Demon Prices” series, is one Vance’s best.

Briefly, the scenario is this:

On a faraway planet at some time in the far-flung future, a young man by the name of Kirth Gersen witnesses to the horrible spectacle of his family being murdered in a raid on his village. The killers are the Demon Princes. They’re not demons, per se, but intergalactic mobsters/crime bosses who wreak havoc across the galaxy.

They do whatever they like: raid, steal, plummet, kill, rape and massacre. They’re extremely powerful, highly secretive and their desire for wealth and power cannot be quenched.

Gersen grows to manhood and dedicates his life to tracking down the Demon Prices. His goal is to assassinate them one at a time, seeking justice and to avenge his slaughtered family.


Jack Vance, 1916-2013

With great self discipline and constant training, Gersen develops into a powerful man. He may be the only man in the entire galaxy who is even more lethal and dangerous than the Demon Princes themselves.

Gersen makes James Bond look like a rank amateur – his expertise with manual fighting techniques, personal weaponry and private eye investigative skills is unequaled – although he does have flaws; just a chink or two in his armor to make things interesting. He’s a gloomy man, fiercely intelligent and driven — a monomaniac.

His target in this book is the mysterious Kokor Hekkus, one of the Demon Prices. The name Kokor Hekkus literally means “The Killing Machine” in the language of the locals of the planet Thamber, where Hekkus is believed to live – although no one is certain.

In fact, many believe that the planet Thamber may not exist at all. Is it a mythical world? — A realm of castles, magic and dragons? Or perhaps there really is a Thamber, somehow lost or forgotten from the star charts of the known galaxy.

The Killing Machine is a book of almost unimaginable science fiction fun.

Expertly plotted, tightly written, it is inventive to a wonderful degree. Vance has an ability like no other writer to create a tone that is serious, but at the same time, impregnated with a pervasive, understated sense of humor. Vance’s humor is dry, wry and deeply ironic.

There is one scene in the book that is my favorite perhaps in all of science fiction, and I must mention it here:

It’s a situation in which the characters build a gigantic fighting vehicle that looks like a giant centipede. This “rolling fortress of death” travels on rows of flexible magnetic-metallic whip-like legs. It shoots deadly bolts of searing laser rays and bristles with an array of other weapon options – and the drivers operate it by sitting comfortably inside on plush captain’s chairs, much as if they were tooling around in a luxury RV.

It’s just great! You’ll know it when you read it!

Although each of the five Demon Princes novels are Class A, 5-star reads, The Killing Machine has always been my favorite of the series. It’s the second of the bunch, and you probably don’t need to read the first to jump right into the narrative.

This is a book that is magical and fantastical, while also staying true to those principles of hard science fiction, employing plausible inventions of futuristic technology, gadgetry and science.

In my almost 50 years of reading thousands of science fiction novels and short stories – The Killing Machine is among my Top 5 of all time. It’s just that good.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Cool indie writer website of the week: Science fiction writer Chris Reher and the Targon Tales

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The smartest, hardest-working indie writers bolster their book-selling efforts with a kick-ass website, and this week we select the site of Canadian science fiction writer CHRIS REHER.

It’s a clean and attractive design which displays the covers of Reher’s books. The book covers themselves do a lot of the heavy lifting in making the overall site look good because they’re professionally done, exciting and attractive. Terrific cover art.

Navigation around the webpage is easy. The personality of the site evinces a feeling of: “Hey, science fiction is fun and exciting” while doing the basic legwork of promoting and marketing the author’s selection of titles.

We also notice that Reher is offering the first book in her series for free, and you can get it here: SKY HUNTER FREE.

Note: I read and reviewed Sky Hunter and liked it quite a bit. See my review HERE.

You can visit Chris Reher’s site here: GO TO WEBSITE

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @KenKorczak and please consider giving a “Like” to REMOTE BOOK REVIEWING on Facebook!

Author Allen Tiffany master-crafts an intense Vietnam War novel

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This is a short, intense and gripping novel that holds the reader in a state of tension almost from first page to last, and that tension is released by a masterfully-handled description of a bloody firefight in the steaming jungles of Vietnam.

The book succeeds because the author captures the reality of war by showing us what it truly is — a frightening combination of intense boredom and endless fatigue punctuated by horrific moments of frenetic combat in which men are shot, stabbed, wounded, bleed and die.

It tells the story of a U.S. Army infantry corporal leading his men on patrols in the steamy jungles of Vietnam in an area near the Cambodian border. The area is infested with the enemy; the U.S. soldiers, some barely more than boys out of high school, are playing a constant game of kill or be killed. They are in a frightening foreign, alien environment that are the nightmarish jungles of South East Asia.

All the gloves are off – this is a bitter fight where the only goal is to see which side can kill or maim as many as possible on the other side.

It’s takes a remarkable amount of writing skill to capture the brutal reality that was the desperate fight in Vietnam. Author ALLEN TIFFANY does everything a writer can do right to place his readers inside the story — to tell a story — to create characters, set a scene, build a plot and impart a theme.


Allen Tiffany

The writing is tight, without a wasted word. Each sentence is no-nonsense, clean and lean. What’s truly amazing is that the author manages to introduce us to five characters and brings each one of them to life as believable figures we quickly get to know – and thus we care about them and feel empathy for their dire situation.

Great writing is also about illuminating small details – the nitty-gritty aspects of just getting by – such a filling a canteen from a muddy stream and dousing it with iodine tablets — a soldier curled up in his poncho sleeping in the mud – or showing us how a knife blade can be too wide to penetrate the brain if you stab a man in the eye.

Best of all, the author understands that if you tell a story, and tell it well, all the rest takes care of itself. That is, you don’t have to get on a soapbox to rant and rave about whether you think the Vietnam War was right or wrong.

There’s no lecturing or bland moralizing. Yes, there’s a sense of guilt, regret, confusion and horror – of doing one’s duty for one’s country — but all of this falls out naturally by illustrating a situation thrust upon innocent American young men by the ever-so-wise “Powers That Be.”

YOUTH IN ASIA  is more than just a short, punchy war novel – it’s great literature.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


Follow @KenKorczak

Free e-book of the week: Daimones by Massimo Marino


This week’s free ebook of the week is the first of an ambitious triology of novels by physicist and computer scientist MASSIMO MARINO.

Dr. Marino’s impressive résumé includes the likes of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) and Apple Computer, and much more.

His books tell of a bleak dystopian future world in which most of the human race has been “exterminated.”

A brief description goes this way:

Could Dan Amenta be the last man alive on the planet? Death has swept away the lives of billions of people, but Dan and his family were spared. By whom, and why?

Surviving, to give meaning to their lives, and looking for other survivors lead Dan to discover the truth about the extermination of the human race.

The encounter with Laura, a young and sexy girl of Italian origin, raises ethical and moral questions that had never touched the Amentas family before.

Other survivors force Dan to confront his past to find answers to the many questions.

You can get your free copy of Volume One of the DAIMONES TRIOLOGY by clicking here: Daimones: Daimones Trilogy

And now consider clicking here to help a butterfly: POLLINATORS

Dava Sobel delivers intriguing insights into the life of Copernicus, but one aspect of the book falters

downloadReview by: KEN KORCZAK

If would be fair to say that Nicolaus Copernicus was the Albert Einstein of his time. In fact, what Copernicus was asking the world to accept was even more radical than what Einstein proposed with his theory of relativity.

Shortly after Einstein’s relativity went public, the New York Times pounced. An editorial said Einstein’s theory was: “Certainly a fiction.” But he got off easy compared to Copernicus.

More than 500 years ago when the intellectual world got wind of Copernicus’s heliocentric model featuring an earth that was not only spinning, but hurling through space — it simply defied common sense!

Arguments like these were made: “Would not birds get lost after they flew off their nests? If the earth spun away from under them while they were in the air, how would they find their way back?”

It seemed the most fundamental notion of common observation: The earth was solid underfoot, did not appear to be moving, no motion could be felt or observed – a spinning, orbiting earth? Ridiculous!

And what about the sacred scripture of the Bible!

This is what makes the Copernican Revolution still so incredibly breathtaking to this day. It was a monumental leap – a major paradigm shattering event – against seemingly impossible odds.

Imagine the man, the fabulous, disciplined mind, that could make such a thing happen! It was Copernicus!

For me, the stunning nature of what Copernicus achieved — the feeling of it — is not captured or conveyed in this book. DAVA SOBEL has given us a lot of interesting facts, but failed to impart a sense of wonder.


Dava Sobel

I must also say: I agree with other critics who have taken Sobel harshly to task for including her three act play to fill the middle third of this book – a disastrous decision both on her part, and that of her editors. The latter should have talked her out of it. The play is a drag. I think it fails to capture the spirit of the man, and the texture of the times.

That’s why this book cannot earn a top rating from me.

Even so, this is otherwise a fascinating book from which I learned things about Copernicus that I did not know before – and I have admired Copernicus and read about him since I became an obsessive amateur astronomer almost 50 years ago.

I became a die-hard fan of DAVA SOBEL after I read her GALILEO’S DAUGHTER one of the best books I have read in 10 years. When I saw Sobel had turned her brilliant historian’s eye on the mighty Copernicus, I couldn’t wait to buy a copy and read.

The first third and the last third are indeed absorbing and fascinating. I give Sobel enormous credit for crafting an often intimate narrative of the life of Copernicus, considering what must be an agonizing lack of available historical documentation. So much of what we might know about Copernicus has been lost – especially the biography written by Copernicus’s only student, the brilliant but tragic Georg Joachim Rheticus.

I live for the day – if it might ever happen – that some discovery is made of Rheticus’s biography of his master in some ancient back room, museum or library.

But Sobel could have done so much more with what was one of the most amazing, tumultuous times in history. Consider that Copernicus was about 19 or 20 years old when Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492, and the shock waves this sent across Europe. It’s not mentioned in this book. It was also Copernican science that drove the final stake into the heart of feudalism – sure, feudalism was all but dead by 1500, but the Copernican universe made sure it would stay dead. (Many scholars have also offered that it was The Copernican system that provided the fuel to end feudalism of Japan! No mention of that either).

Then there’s the overarching societal effects of calendar reform, the death blow it delivered to the Dark Ages in general, the amazing confluence of the Protestant Revolution — all of this gets short shrift – in favor of pages padded with a bland theatrical play that just had to discuss the homosexual predilections of Rheticus and Copernicus’s relationship with his concubine.

Again, the first third and last third of this book are a tantalizing and absorbing peek into the life of one of the most consequential men ever to live – and makes this book worth the price. I recommend you buy it.

But, as it stands, A MORE PERFECT HEAVEN represents a missed opportunity to provide the reader with a more comprehensive look at a time when the entire spiritual and psychological universe of humankind changed in a fundamental way – and what it still means to all of us today.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, served as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer, and taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years. He is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS


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Crystal Horizon by Doug J. Cooper free science fiction ebook of the week, first of a series



Your free science fiction ebook of the week is a short prequel to what the author calls the Crystal SeriesCrystal Horizon is an adventure that promises loads of actions which involves aliens, AI, space battles, sizzling romance, spies — and more!

This Crystal Horizon prequel is just 43 pages, which should be enough to whet your appetite for the two books to follow — Crystal Deception and Crystal Conquest.

To get your free copy of Crystal Horizon, go to the author’s web site here: CRYSTAL SERIES.

The author is Doug J. Cooper and you can learn more about him here: LEARN ABOUT DOUG


And now … the ghost of Ernest Hemingway speaks (really): CHANNELING HEMINGWAY