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TESTIMONIAL:

“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

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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.

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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

All NEW: KEN’S BOOK REVIEW SITE ON FACEBOOK: REMOTE BOOK REVIEWING

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

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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.

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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

All NEW: KEN’S BOOK REVIEW SITE ON FACEBOOK: REMOTE BOOK REVIEWING

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

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KEN KORCZAK;

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

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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.

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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

All NEW: KEN’S BOOK REVIEW SITE ON FACEBOOK: REMOTE BOOK REVIEWING

Follow @KenKorczak

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

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KEN KORCZAK:

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.

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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

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KEN KORCZAK

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

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

Maximus Freeman delves into his own psyche seeking the answers to spiritual growth

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This book has an intriguing title, and it is aptly chosen because the author is attempting to dig into his own psyche, striving to uncover the greater meaning of what makes himself tick. He is on a courageous mission to find spiritual growth, but also to relieve the fundamental suffering that all human beings feel – what the Buddha called “the dukkha.”

The dukkha is the agony of the self. It’s that all-pervasive, undefinable pain and misery we feel that seems to come from everywhere and nowhere. It can be depression, it can be anxiety, it can be alienation, it can be a nagging sense of dissatisfaction, it can be loneliness, it can be persistent anger and contempt for others.

Many people today attack this suffering by reading the reams of self-help books on the market today. There’s never a shortage. Suffering is a universal phenomenon and wherever you find a universal problem, you’ll find hundreds of people offering a solution.

Like many people, the author has spent years in the New Age candy store, devouring the endless tomes of self-help gurus from all walks of life. He acknowledges the drawback of this approach. In the Prelude, he writes:

“Many books are informative and helpful, but usually within a week or two, I have forgotten most of what I have read and have resorted back to my old comfortable ways of being.”

His goal is to make this book different – more practical, effective, useful and leaving the reader with genuine tools that will get the job done – the relief of suffering and the discovery of greater spiritual meaning.

Does he succeed? Yes, in part, I think he does. His approach is at times brutally honest and sincere. His effort to penetrate to the fundamental elements of what makes us unhappy – and provide solid solutions — is downright heroic. MAXIMUS FREEMAN is clearly an author who deeply cares about his readers. He honestly wants to help you by showing how he tried to help himself.

He gets the job done partially with a lot of heavy leveraging of other self-help luminaries who are giants of the field – he quotes liberally from Gary Zukav and Dr. David R. Hawkins, for example. But he also dabbles in a bit of light channeling, connecting with a source he calls “The Universe,” from which we get insights in a question and answer format.

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Maximus Freeman

Mr. Freeman also serves up some of his own advice, some of which comes off as perhaps a tad “corporate speak” in flavor, as when he offers his “Mechanisms of Transformation” which he describes as a “six-step spiritual maturation process.”

I don’t give this book my tip top rating only because I set the bar very high in this genre. As we all know, entire forests have been cleared to accommodate the truck loads of self-help books published year after year, decade after decades.

Consciousness Archaeology, although a fine book, is not destined to become a classic of the field. The structure of the book is a tad disjointed and uneven. I also found more than a few points I might quibble with, which I won’t air here – but when a book is just a 100 pages, it should have that power-packed “this is a home run” feeling or “this is a small gem” aura, which it just doesn’t have for me.

For example, “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment” by Thaddeus Golas is about 80 pages, and after reading it you think: “All my problems are solved! Everything is so crystal clear now! I’ll never have to read another book again!” Other classics come close this feeling, such as “As a Man Thinketh,” by James Allen or “Acres of Diamonds” by Russell Conwell – and these latter three masterpieces are available for free across the Internet.

Let me just say, however, that I would recommend anyone buy and read Consciousness Archaeology. The way it work for people who are seeking answers through reading a lot of books is this: You never know when you’ll find that one book that really clicks for you; something that just happens to resonate with you in just the right way at the right time.

Consciousness Archaeology may be the book you need right now that has that certain something you need to hear at this moment in your life – you never know.

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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Free Kindle Book of the Week

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Your free Kindle Book of Week is THE ENEMY OF AN ENEMY by VINCENT TRIGILI. It’s science fiction/fantasy and Book 1 of a series the author calls “Lost Tales of Power.”

The premise of the book is described this way on Amazon:

Vydor is riding a wave of success, but now his ship, the Dragon Claw, is being sent to investigate a mysterious event deep within the Empire’s space. A secret research colony has fallen silent and the forces sent to investigate were never heard from again.

A new enemy has come to the Empire bringing with it dark powers that were abandoned long before the Empire was born. Powers that were thought to be legends and myths.

It’s up to Vydor to keep this force at bay and protect the Empire, but it may come at the cost of his faith and shake the foundations of the Empire itself.

Get your free Kindle download of this book here: ENEMY

For more book news and other news, see: LOTS OF STUFF

A gruesome look at reality: Gang rape in India

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

The news cycle today is brutal: Shocking reports of monstrous beheadings, people burned alive in cages, entire African villages murdered by militarized thugs.

Well, prepare to have a tad more of your hope for humanity wrung out (if you have any left). This compelling Kindle Single, 13 MEN, written by SONIA FALEIRO, is a riveting, unflinching piece of long-form journalism looking at the dark and hope-sapping phenomena of gang rape in India.

Faleiro takes apart the complex case of a charming, hardworking, but perhaps headstrong young woman recently returned to live in her remote village in West Bengal, India. She dared to flout centuries old local tribal customs – but paid for it with an even greater corruption of those same traditional moral codes.

The topic is timely, to be sure, noting the recent controversial decision by the government of India to ban a BBC documentary about the gang rape of a New Delhi woman. Debate about this censorship is raging across the Internet and world media.

Gang rapes by roving packs of men has long been a huge problem in India, but the country seems determined to bring this deeply taboo subject out of the darkness into the light of greater public consciousness – a painful process as India’s multifaceted, complex and ancient culture lurches into modern times.

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Author Sonia Faleiro

Faleiro’s 13 Men should serve as a significant contribution to the discussion. With the withering gaze of a journalist determined to get all the facts and capture the complexity of a single case, the author demonstrates how enormously difficult and vexing finding truth and justice can be.

What’s involved is not just a clash of cultures, but economic injustice, greedy capitalists, corrupt and/or inept public officials, competing interpretations of laws and customs, illiteracy, alcohol abuse and just the plain-old lack of moral character by certain drifting, good-for-nothing men – and perhaps the women who enable them.

Navigating all this territory and churning it back out into a piece of writing that is clear and concise is no easy task, and I give Fareiro enormous credit for bringing clarity to an almost impossibly muddy issue.

If you have the stomach to confront more of the tragedy, cruelty and heartache of our troubled world, pick up a copy of 13 Men – it’s a marvelous piece of journalism on a timely subject that brings much-needed light to a deeply dark issue.

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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A small heartfelt gem that tells of life-after-death communication

Peters

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This small book brought a tear to my eye, and also gave me goose bumps more than once.

It’s an honest, sincere accounting of a man’s experience of not just dealing with the death of his parents, but his real-life experience of establishing afterdeath communication with them..

Even better, it offers tantalizing evidence that when the physical body dies, the person does not. Call it what you want – the soul, spirit, energy body, higher self, mind – there is a huge body of scientific (yes, scientific) evidence that physical death is not the end.

Not only is there life after death, but we can communicate with the loved ones we have lost. They’re still there for us, they can communicate with us, and we can talk back to them. You just have to be willing to open your mind and reshape your belief system to accept that it is possible.

The incidents of afterdeath communication author Alexander Peters demonstrates in these pages proves to me that his story is authentic. I say this based on dozens of other books I have read by some of the world’s most elite doctors and scientists who have written about the specific nature of afterdeath communications.

These include: Dr. Gary Schwartz, Dr. Michael Newton, Dr. Pim van Lommel, Dr. Eben Alexander, Dr, Raymond Moody, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Dr. Brian Weiss, Julia Assante Ph.D., Dr. Larry Dossey and that’s just to name a few.

What all of these luminaries agree upon is that afterdeath messages from our loved ones often take the form of not just direct thoughts and actual words that are heard – but seemingly coincidental symbolisms which cannot be mistaken for anything else but a message from the departed.

As this book demonstrates, these symbolic communications can be things like a special song with lyrics containing just the message you need to hear – and that song unexpectedly begins playing on your radio just as you are thinking about your loved one.

Peters tells of amazing confluences involving his cell phone and Blackberry, the appearance of a special bird, the surprise appearance of gifts – and much more.

He packs a lot into this short book. This is obviously not a slick book written by a professional writer, but rather is an honest, readable account penned by an ordinary middle-class guy from a small town in England.

It’s a significant contribution to the ever-growing body of literature by scientists and ordinary folks alike who have come to realize — beyond a reasonable doubt — that life goes on after death. The fact is, our loved ones never leave our sides. Even after death, they’re still right there for us, and close by.

To find this book online, go here: MY MUMMY AND DADDY

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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Motorcycle Enlightenment by Charles Sides is breezy on the outside and deep on the inside

51H42H68W5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Review by: KEN KORCZAK

I think it’s fair to say that the title of this novel, MOTORCYCLE ENLIGHTENMENT, will immediately invoke for many readers that great icon of American literature, ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE, by Minnesota native and genius Robert Pirsig.

Motorcycle Enlightenment is more light-hearted fare, though I hasten to add, this in no way detracts from what is a fine, often even elegant novel penned by CHARLES SIDES.

This book tilts more toward Richard Bach’s ILLUSIONS in terms of reading challenge as compared to Pirsig’s epic work of brilliance. And yet, there is a central element within Sides’ book that has a tantalizing confluence with Pirsig’s book. It’s this:

Pirsig proposed that there were essentially two kinds of people: Those who model their world in terms of gestalts, as in “Zen mind” or people living “in the moment.” These people are just “flowing” with events. The others are detail oriented, focus on inner workings and rational analysis of what they see right in front of them. They confront life one task, one thought at a time. Their world is a nuts-and-bolts affair that needs perpetual maintenance.

The hero of Motorcycle Enlightenment, Alan Pierce, journeys from being the nuts-and-bolts type toward being the flowing gestalt type, and perhaps ends up an amalgamation of both, although is journey is not yet complete as the novel ends.

When we are introduced to Alan Pierce we encounter a guy whom vulgar people like to define as “anal.” He is detail oriented, obsessive about order, time, neatness and punctuality. For example, if he has a dentist’s appointment, Alan raves:

“… if I had a two-forty-five dental appointment and something interrupted my schedule, I would drive 70 miles an hour to be there on time even though I knew the dentist ran late and wouldn’t take me before three … when I have an appointment, I plan my whole day around it and arrive at least 15 minutes early. Sometimes I drive around the block four or five times …”

His near-OCD personality within the straight-jacket of American materialism has led him to the classic midlife crisis typical of the Western man in a postmodern world.

He has had success in business, accumulated some cash, but discovers that after clawing his way up the hill of the American Dream, he find himself empty and riddled with existential angst. His marriage has flamed out, ending in rancorous divorce. He maintains a shallow non-relationship relationship with his two grown children. He has sold off his businesses out of sheer boredom.

But terms like “midlife crisis” and “existential angst” are artifacts of our clueless, psychically-adrift society. What ails Alan Pierce was identified by The Buddha some 2,600 years ago. He called it the “dukkha.”

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The dukkha is the suffering — the daily, perpetually smoldering and/or raging suffering of ordinary, mundane living.

It’s the agony of the self.

More specifically, it’s the festering pain of the False Self. This is the ego construct which we start assembling from birth until it calcifies into a scab-encrusted exoskeleton surrounding and suffocating our beautiful delicate souls, which long to be free.

The ego tricks us into thinking that IT is who we are, when the fact is, the ego is little more than a mindless robot – a grab-bag-sack collection of deeply ingrained habits poured into a mold of false belief systems, propped up by the intellect, and fueled by fear. The ego has only one goal: To survive at all costs.

But wait – the Zen Master SHUNRYU SUZUKI says something interesting:

“Everyone is enlightened all the time, whether they know it or not.”

And we see can that Alan, despite his desperate state, is already much further along the path than he thinks. That’s because early on we encounter a man who is in a state of constantly watching his own thoughts and observing his own behavior.

A less informed reader might find Alan a tedious schmuck:

“ … now I am riding my motorcycle ..”

“ … now I’m walking to the electronics store to buy a microwave oven…”

“ … now I’m eating a doughnut ..”

“ … now I’m doing my laundry …”

Nuts-and-bolts, perhaps, but this seemingly narcissistic self-referencing drivel is not really that, but rather indicates a budding awakening to an awareness that leads to amazing results.

The great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung said that we need to start thinking of thoughts as less like ephemeral things that exist only in our minds than as actual pieces of furniture that are cluttering up our rooms. We constantly bark or shins upon or trip over all this gaudy interior decorating. (Actually, it was his winged spirit guide, PHILEMON, who told him that).

But here’s the thing about thoughts, whatever their true nature: They absolutely hate to be watched. People who start to watch their thoughts will soon discover something amazing: Your thoughts will quickly begin to act like petulant children, and ultimately, they’ll try to hide from your steady gaze. In short, if you watch your thoughts, they’ll go away.

Now a lot of people might say:

“GAK! Descartes said: ‘I think; therefore, I am.’ ”

“If my thoughts go away, so will I! I’d be nothing! And I want to be something!”

This is not true at all. Your thoughts are not who you are. They’re akin to any other material tool that we use to hammer, bend and twist things with while we ride around in our meat bodies here in physical matter reality. Thoughts can be picked up and used, but when you’re done, they should be stored away in a handy toolbox. (I like the way ECKART TOLLE puts it: “Too much thinking is like too much drinking – both are bad habits that will make you miserable”).

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Blessing the bike, photo courtesy Thaiworldview.com

Those who learn to make their thoughts go away find out that something much deeper and profound moves in to support and uplift what you truly are – it is said this “thing” has no name, but in our language-limited existence we struggle to call it “beingness,” “presence,” “suchness,” “pure consciousness,” or whatever.

The fact is, you continue to have existence. You are still in the same world, except everything is not such drag anymore – yes, you’ll even still have thoughts – but now you are being carried along in a kind of blissful natural flow.

You were enlightened all along and you never knew it!

Alan finds his way through yoga, meditation and by stripping his life of the majority of his material possession. Like Ulysses, he finds unexpected help along the way – a lovely real estate agent, and a wonderfully materteral landlord (whom I kept picturing as Aunt Bea from the old Andy Griffith show).

AND NOW A LAST IMPORTANT POINT:

This is a book that you can read on any level you want. It can be a delightful story with a breezy atmosphere that takes you along for pleasant seaside walks, strolls along boardwalks, time-outs for contemplation on park benches  – all with frequent breaks for doughnuts, pizza and naps!

It’s great escapism. Who wouldn’t want to enter the world of a character who doesn’t have to work, has all the cash he needs, and is still handsome enough to attract the adoring attention of pretty real estate agents?

I felt enriched when I got to the last page. I felt rested and uplifted – lighter.

So, all the intellectualizing I inflicted upon you through most of this review is strictly extracurricular blather for wonks like me with who like to bloviate about philosophical clap-trap – but it’s also nice to know there’s enough meat available in these pages for those who likes to read between the lines.

Charles Sides does not beat his reader over the head. He’s a subtle writer who shows us stuff while entertaining. But don’t be surprised if you absorb a deeper message from these pages while joining this guy on a journey of Motorcycle Enlightenment.

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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‘Babe In The Woods’ by Frank DeMarco: Destined to be a cult classic on par with David Lindsay’s ‘Voyage to Arcturus’

babeReview by: KEN KORCZAK

I experienced a minor synchronistic “mind blast” while reading this book.

Sometimes an author’s style will remind me of another writer, but I can’t put my finger on it right away. In this case, it had been nagging at me for some 250 pages, like a steady itch. Then suddenly on page 255 it crashed into my mind: CLIFFORD SIMAK! That’s it! Ahhh! The itch was scratched!

But now the “mind blast”: I finished reading page 255 and at the bottom of page 256, lo and behold, I find this sentence:

“I though, unexpectedly, of Clifford Simak. Years ago, when I was a kid, I read one of his science fiction stories …”

Woo-hoo!

I don’t mean to make too much of it, but it was just one of those tiny “That was a neat feeling!” moments of synchronicity when you get buffeted unexpectedly by a wave on the ocean of Universal Consciousness.

Anyway – after 250 pages of  BABE IN THE WOODS  – I think anyone would become more in tune to transcendent wavelengths. This book not only gives you an idea of what it is like to tap into expanded consciousness, but dishes out insight after insight – it actually makes you feel what it might be like to push yourself to the edge of higher consciousness – a rare literary feat.

It tells the story of an ordinary group of people from widely divergent walks of life and professions who come together to challenge themselves – to open up their minds, to reach for new concepts, to expand what it means to be an “ordinary” human being in our dreary world calcified by scientific-materialism.

The model for the situation is a real-life program offered by THE MONROE INSTITUTE of Faber, Virginia. The Monroe Institute is an organization founded by the late ROBERT MONROE who became famous after publishing his first book about his experiences with out-of-body travel.

“Journeys Out of Body” came out in 1971. It was an unlikely bestseller, and was followed up with two more books, “Far Journeys,” and “Ultimate Journey.”

Perhaps no other books on astral travel have been more influential. Part of the reason is that Robert Monroe had never been a mystic or associated with any of the established traditions (such as Theosophy, for example, or Eastern religions) which trucked in arcane dabblings like “soul travel” (which also had scary occult overtones for many mainstream folks).

Monroe was no-nonsense, successful businessman who had made a considerable fortune in the burgeoning 1940s-50s world of radio. He was an entirely grounded, nuts-and-bolts kind of guy. However, in the late 1950s, he began to undergo unwanted spontaneous out-of-body experiences. This prompted the pragmatic Monroe to launch into an intense study of what was happening to him.

The eventual result was the establishment of the Monroe Institute. Its original purpose was to study the OBE and all of the mind-boggling implications which fall out of the possibility that our physical bodies are not “all that there is,” and indeed, that what we perceive as physical-material reality is not nearly all there is to consider.

The Monroe Institute developed a number of methods, mostly centered on sound technology that was designed to help any person achieve a state of higher or altered consciousness. These sound technologies leveraged something called binaural beats – and I won’t go into detail here about them, except to say that it was demonstrated that when people listened to binaural beats through headphones while in a highly relaxed state and in a supportive environment, the result could be an out-of-body experience, or some kind of realization of transcendent thought – in short, an expansion of the mind.

So this book, Babe In The Woods, takes us through a group of people who have decided to put themselves through the paces of a Monroe Institute program – except here it is thinly fictionalized as the “Merriman Institute.” Robert Monroe himself is fictionalized as “C.T” and his famous book, Journeys Out of Body is renamed “Extraordinary Potential.”

This is an incredibly ambitious book because it necessarily must employ a large group of characters – some two dozen people involved in the program – whom the author is tasked with not only introducing us to, but must rely on the reader’s patience as he builds them into believable characters of some depth, enough so that we can care about them and learn from them later.

The viewpoint character is modeled on the author himself — DeMarco is a veteran of several Monroe Institute programs.

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Frank DeMarco

DeMarco’s fictional incarnation is Angelo Chiari, a reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer. The premise is that his editor sends him to the Merriman Institute to do some stealthy investigative journalism – and hopefully come out with an expose that might blow the lid off the weird snake oil the Institute is most likely selling to gullible people with enough money and desperation to seek answers to life anywhere.

But these journalist are professionals – both editor and reporter are not out to do a pre-determined hack job. Rather, they intend to get the story in a fair and objective manner. They’ll go where the facts lead them. If reporter Angel Chiari finds a legitimate program – he’ll write about that. If not, it’s blast away with both journalistic barrels. He very much expects it to be the latter, however.

The Chiari character is a classic example of what Henry Thoreau meant when he said: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

Chiari’s career is okay, but on cruise control. His work has long since become bland and meaningless. The heat of his decades-long marriage has cooled to a husband and wife more akin to roommates. His relationship with his children is shallow and distant.

Chiari holds no particular cherished beliefs. He’s a rational-materialist cog in the post-modern machine. He gets up every day and goes through the motions, running out the time clock on his life. His existence is like a tasteless block of tofu.

Perhaps it’s his training as a journalist that saves him – his fundamental dedication to objectivity leaves the door open just enough for Chiari to approach the Merriman program with an open mind and reserved judgment. That small crack in that door is enough for the Larger Consciousness System (to borrow a term from physicist Tom Campbell) to send Chiari tantalizing, subtle clues to convince him that, by golly, there might be something more to his existence – something remarkable..

This is the fourth Frank DeMarco book I have read. His writing style puts me in the mind of not only Simak, but also Sinclair Lewis (winner of the Noble Prize for Literature). That’s because there is a certain workmanlike doggedness to the way DeMarco hammers out his themes, and the way he develops and cobbles together his messages.

DeMarco somehow leverages the necessarily mundane and uses it to fetch glimpses of the transcendent. He is like a grounded, unspectacular Prometheus stealing fire from the gods, but bringing it back to us with the stolid work ethic of a UPS delivery truck driver.

Because of that, the insights we gain ultimately feel deeper and more authentic. DeMarco’s works are characterized by a  persistent and worrisome expression of doubt – the uncertainty of a person who knows he is threading a fine line between making sense of highly original and novel forms of information — while ever cognizant of the innate capacity of the human mind to fool itself with egoic delusions and struggles with Freudian “wish fulfillment.”

I’m guessing that Babe In the Woods, published in 2008, has since found only a small audience, but I can imagine it developing an ardent cult following – much in the same way that A VOYAGE TO ARCTURUS by Scottish writer DAVID LINDSAY has persisted and moved people since it was published in 1920.

You might be wondering how I can compare the syrupy surrealism of Lindsay’s ‘Voyage’ with DeMarco’s more staid ‘Babe,’ but I would challenge the reader to read both — tell me if you don’t see that, in a weird way, both works have the same heart.

Clifford Simak, Sinclair Lewis, David Lindsay — Frank DeMarco stands with guys like these in the literary world – and that’s not a bad place to stand, indeed.

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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Talking to the dead: Medium Suzanne Giesemann insists on real evidence

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This is a fascinating book because it is anchored by a story that seems almost too sensational to be true, yet the evidence would seem to indicate that it is true.

Author and professional medium Suzanne Giesemann also brings an added aura of credibility — her former career as a high-ranking U.S. Naval officer provides a sense of grounding – here seems to be a no-nonsense person we can trust to be level-headed, honest and highly responsible.

Before taking on the life of a professional speaker-to-the-dead, Giesemann spent 20-years in military service, retiring with the rank of Commander. She served at the highest levels; she was Aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Anyone not knowing her background, and upon reading this book, might peg her as among the most airy-fairy of New Agers. This book, Wolf’s Message, has it all – all the (seeming) New Age fluff it can muster, and more.

There’s channeling of the dead, communication with advanced collective beings, angels, psychic phenomena, trance states – and so many of the common accouterments of New Agers – power crystals, dream catchers, runes for casting, angelic clouds, mandalas, sacred geometry, Hemi-Sync CDs – it’s almost as if the author used went into one of those New Age trinket shops in a place like Sedona, Arizona, and bought `one of each,’ then worked them all into her narrative.

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Suzanne Giesemann

But the real foundation of this book is the astounding details surrounding the death of a young Plymouth, Massachusetts, man by the name of Mike Pasakarnis, who went by the nickname “Wolf.” He was struck dead by a freak lightning bolt.

Remarkably, this is the same way the step-daughter of the author died. Giesemann’s step-daughter was a sergeant in the U.S. Marines at the time. But that’s just one of the eye-popping confluence in this story.

The details of Wolf’s death, his prediction of his own death, the seemingly incontrovertible evidence of that, his after-death communication – it will all blow your mind.

I don’t want to give away too many details and ruin this read for anyone, but the circumstances of Wolf’s death, and Giesemann’s subsequent afterdeath communications with him, are intriguing, to say the least.

Note that Giesemann calls herself an “evidential medium.” That means she’s all about getting the hard facts – solid, undeniable proof that the voices she hears in her psychic head must be and truly are the spirit of the dearly departed.

It is important to note that this book goes well beyond the scope of merely communicating with a deceased person and passing on that information to his grieving parents – Giesemann uses the overall scenario as a platform to deliver up much wider, deeper and more penetrating spiritual lesson for her readers.

If you ask me, her prose is a bit over-the-top. Her style comes off as super-sticky-sugary New Agey schlock. Here enthusiasm is almost tiring – practically on every other page Giesemann reports being “stunned!” “astounded!” “awestruck!” “weeping with gratitude!” “blown away!” “blissful!” – the superlatives just keep gushing forth, as if a dam holding back a lake of Holy Water has breached.

But you know what? That’s okay. Suzanne Giesemann is clearly all heart. She’s a sincere-to-the-bone explorer of transcendent realms. She is driven to bring us a message of unstoppable, monumental cosmic hope. Why hold back?

I encourage everyone to get this book and be prepared to be “awestruck!”

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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Paul Elder joins a pantheon of famous out-of-body travelers with semi-autobiographical book

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

So here I am reviewing another book by a man with ties to the MONROE INSTITUTE, the consciousness research and training facility in Faber, Virginia.

Like so many others, PAUL ELDER, a Canadian and former TV broadcast personality, was inspired by reading “Journeys Out Of Body” by Robert Monroe, the namesake of the Institute.

But Elder said he all-but forgot about the book after reading it years ago. Then he unexpectedly encountered his own spontaneous out-of-body experience. Suddenly, that strange but somewhat unbelievable book didn’t seem so unbelievable anymore.

Elder went back to the library and re-read all of Monroe’s books – and so began his own personal journey into the “astral realms” and beyond.

Here you will find many of the same experiences reported by other famous Monroe Institute alums – the experience of the soul (or energy body, or second body, or choose your term) leaving the physical body behind to hover around the bedroom, float through walls and go soaring through the local earth-like environment.

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Paul Elder

Eventually, the explorer graduates from mere “fooling around” inside his own home or the immediate environment to penetrate more exotic realms – higher plains of existence, upper levels of spiritual dwelling, cosmic libraries and the abodes of other earthlings who have passed on.

Angelic beings and entities that defy categorization are also encountered.

If you are familiar with other Monroe-associated writers — such as Monroe himself, William Buhlman, Rosalind McKnight, Bruce Moen – Paul Elders book might seem like “more of the same.”

Still, the author brings enough of his unique personality, personal history, story and background to make this a more than a worthwhile, inspiring read. There is no doubting Elder’s passion for his subject, his sincerity, and I believe, the authenticity of experience.

In addition to his OBE experiments, Elder tells of three harrowing brushes with death which resulted in near death experiences (NDEs) — a drowning, a car accident and a heart attack.

He survived all!

Elder’s NDE elements add dimension to the big issues conjured by altered states of consciousness sought out in a proactive way.

One last thing: The writing itself is clear and straightforward, but Elder occasionally rises to higher literary heights with descriptions of the mysterious astral realms. At times, his words shimmer and scintillate across the page – it’s no small challenge to relate the exotic experience of the OBE, describe strange environments, and explain trans-psychological processes. I give high marks to this author for rising to the challenge when he needs to.

If you are like me, and can’t get enough of these kinds of books, then you must have this volume in your collection.

See book details here: EYES OF AND ANGEL

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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Erika Hayasaki turns in an absorbing piece of journalism telling a tragic tale from America’s farm country

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

This Kindle Single is an incredibly compelling piece of long-form journalism than reads like a gripping novel. It’s the agonizing true story of a tragedy that befalls three young people in America’s heartland, and the consequences that played out over the next three years.

In the summer of 2010, three young men, Will Piper, Alex “Paco” Pacas and Wyatt Whitebread took jobs working for a grain elevator complex in the small town of Mount Carroll, Illinois, deep in the heart of America’s Corn Belt.

In a case of egregiously poor judgment, lack of oversight and stunning disregard for federal safety regulations, the boys were directed to climb inside a large grain bin filled with tons of corn. Their job was to loosen up clots of kernels where they tended to stick along the sides of the metal bin so that the grain would auger smoothly out the bottom.

I don’t want to go into a lot of detail and rob too much of the story for the reader, except to say that three young men went inside the bin, and only one came back out alive. The survivor, Will Piper, was nearly killed as well, but far worse, he was an up-close witness to the horrifying suffocation of his two friends. One of them was just 15 years old.

Journalist ERIKA HAYASAKI delivers a masterful piece of writing. She tells a sensational story without ever sensationalizing. She never falls prey to melodramatic hype or gratuitous sentimentalism. She maintains an uncanny discipline by writing within herself — and by that I mean that she renders this story as a “just-the-facts” journalist.

Hayasaki is the kind of writer who is savvy enough to recognize when the true details are enough in themselves to deliver a captivating drama. I must add: What’s truly magical is how Hayasaki manages to make the reader feel the emotional impacts, the sense of heartfelt tragedy and the numbing confusion about the unexpected random cruelty of life can dish out — and she does it all while staying in command of her professional objectivity as a reporter. It’s brilliant!

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Erika Hayasaki

There is background theme to this work as well. Hayasaki has chosen to position this case against a troubling phenomenon — the ascendancy of the commodity of corn to a place where it has become extraordinarily pervasive in our lives.

The dominance of corn is a complex issue. It encompasses global food production, distribution and other fundamental choices about how we are managing what we eat and the environment — but also — corn has become a enormous factor in other areas of our economy. We dump corn into our gas tanks in the form of ethanol, we use it to make plastics, and an array of other non-food materials that reach deeply into our lives. Is it sustainable?

At first, I thought the author was taking a wrong turn in this regard; however, she ends up not letting this overarching issue consume too much of the primary narrative, and the corn factor ends up being tantalizing food for thought. (No pun intended).

This is the second Erika Hayasaki work I have read. The first, another Kindle Single titled “Dead or Alive,” (I review it here on Amazon), and that was an equally skillful and impressive piece of writing. so I would recommend you check out that one too.

It’s great stuff.

You can find this book online here: DROWNED BY CORN

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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The Cicada Prophecy by new author J.R. McLeay is thought-provoking science fiction that entertains

81VebM11eoL._SL1500_Review by: KEN KORCZAK

The best science fiction is hard science fiction — and the best hard science fiction is that which takes real-life, complex and thorny issues of science, and injects them into a compelling story with an intriguing plot played out by likable, interesting characters.

This book, THE CICADA PROPHECY does all of that.

It’s not only a top-notch SF read, but it has a unique enough flavor and style that proves, once again, hard science fiction can still be made fresh while working within the confines of genre fiction.

The science at the center of this yarn is the biology of aging, sex and reproduction, and mankind’s eternal quest to cheat death by tampering with the rules of Mother Nature.

We are up against billions of years of biological evolution — and the question is, can our super science grapple with what nature has decreed? Can we boldly change the rule-set of the ancient game? Can we really make our biological bodies live forever? Can we cheat death? And if we do, will there be some kind of trade-off? Will there be a terrible price to pay for upending the “natural order of things?”

This premise is by far nothing new in science fiction, but author J.R. McLEAY pumps new life into into the situation by creating a world where the majority of the human population has opted to remain frozen in pre-adolescence.

That’s right. The entire human population are now fresh-faced 12-year-olds!

But they have the minds of adults because they are many decades old!

In The Cicada Prophecy, yet another science fictional Brave New World-like scenario — (or Frankenstein, or Heinlein’s Methuselah’s Children or Cordwainer Smith’s Instrumentality of Mankind) — the hubris of humanity is at it again.

This time meddlesome scientists have arrested the aging process by preventing sexual maturation, and they do that by clipping the pituitary gland in the brain. They replace the hormones once regulated by the pituitary with a skin patch that delivers the cocktail of hormones the body needs to stay a healthy adolescent.

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The 17-year cicada

The viewpoint character is the brilliant Dr. Richard Ross. Let me tell you — a more suave, charming, brave, kind and intelligent character has not bestrided the stage of science fiction for some time. What’s terrific is that Dr. Ross is both charismatic and likable while sustaining the demeanor of a coldly logical Mr. Spock.

It’s a tribute to this author’s considerable skill in that he created a character that is a walking wonk, a bio-medical technocrat who can spew forth incredible knowledge on everything from genetics to cell biology to botany, but who also wins us over with an ever-present warmth that is understated, yet his tender, graceful demeanor is felt by the reader.

The delightful Dr. Ross can even make a visit to a dreary graveyard seem like a grand celebration of the fame and folly of mankind marching across history!

However, Dr. Ross is balanced with an antagonist which, I must admit, is a tad too cookie cutter for me — the demented fundamentalist, hell-and-brimstone preacher Calvin James — who rails that the arrogance of science will bring on the certain retribution of God — in the case, the fire-breathing, vengeful Judeo-Christian God of the Old Testament.

The Calvin James character does the minimum needed to set up the ultimate central conflict needed for tension in the narrative, but the way the character is handled is, in my view, a missed opportunity to bring more depth to the overall theme of the book. The raving preacher is too simplistic — but again, I’ll just leave it there because I don’t think this does enough damage to tarnish the overall luster of the novel.

(Note: I could also take issue with some of the way Darwin is oversimplified with too much emphasis on the “survival of the fittest” subset element of his work, and the way the author rattles around inside the box of an age-old dilemma — the vexing issue of cause-and-effect that continues to haunt the eschatology of material science today — but again, I’ll beg off on that too).

All in all: No worries! This is a marvelously entertaining work of science fiction that one can kick back and enjoy while rooting for the heroes, hissing at the villains … and if a bit of education on cutting edge biology happens to seep osmosis-like into your brain along the way, well, all the better.

The Cicada Prophecy gets my top recommendation.

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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The ghost of Ernest Hemingway: Still eloquent in the Afterlife

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This is the second FRANK DeMARCO book I’ve read. The first was “A Place To Stand,” and I think anyone who reads both of the above will be sufficiently impressed that here is a guy who not merely another frivolous New Age writer raving from the fringe, or some person seeking to capitalize on the name of Hemingway merely to sell a book.

This is an intelligent book of substance that should intrigue long-time Hemingway fans, and give us pause to consider the implications of what it might really be like to have a one-on-one chat with an American literary giant.

There is ample historic president for these kinds of books, in particular, Jane Robert’s (author of Seth Speaks), “channeling” of the American philosopher William James. That book came out in 1977; James died in 1910.

Another famous example: Emily Grant Hutchings and a medium using an Ouija board took “dictation” from the spirit of Mark Twain to produce an entirely new novel, “Jap Herron.” It was published in 1916, six years after Twain’s death.

In 1869, a medium “downloaded” a fresh novel written by the deceased Emily Brontë; It’s presented in a book called “Strange Visitors” edited by an esteemed legal scholar, Henry J. Horn.

So DeMarco is backed by solid tradition, and the precedent of others who have written amazingly high quality books in this way.

Beginning in 2004, DeMarco, using the time-honored, method of automatic writing, made psychic contact Hemingway and engaged in a vigorous post-death conversation with Hemingway. The dialogue resulted in this book.

In it, Hemingway clears the deck on dozens of misconceptions he says numerous biographers and academics have besmirched upon his life, work and legacy over the years.

Not that he’s particularly angry or blames living biographers who, after all, only gave it their best shot. It’s just that, Hemingway says the game is rigged. Writing a truly accurate biography is fundamentally impossible. The deceased Hemingway tells DeMarco:

“To write a true biography you would need to do impossible things, such as:

* See and feel and think and react as the subject would have done.

* Contain within yourself all the subject’s background, including people, places, books he’s read, the news of the day (day by day), the daydream he had, the talents and aversions and every aspect of his personality.

* Know everything that had ever happened to him and some that happened only around him, and from multiple points of view.

* Know every strand that operated within him, and in what proportion and in what circumstances, including the tremendous amount he didn’t realize himself.

*Know at least something of why he came into life (or, you might say, what the potential or that particular mixture of elements was) and see how one thing could express only at the expense of others, and hence what tensions set up.”

That all makes sense, when you think about it. Certainly, the dead Hemingway has a knack for bringing an unclouded, common-sense kind of wisdom to vexing questions and thorny issues.

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Frank DeMarco

Another example: DeMarco asks Hemingway to explain something controversial the macho-man writer once said, that he would “rather beat someone up than read a good book.” (This in light of Hemingway’s well-known love of boxing and barroom brawling).

Hemingway, from his perch in the Afterlife, defends his statement this way:

“All right … who are you talking to? In this case I mean, what age Hemingway? The answer you’d get from a 20-year-old isn’t what you’d get ten years later, or thirty, or after-the-fact entirely … the whole point of living is not to be the same year by year, but to change — I didn’t prefer beating somebody up to reading a good book. Just count the number of people I beat up and the number of books I read!”

Still eloquent in death, Hemingway scores again!

DeMarco’s book is loaded with gems like these. Hemingway’s quips zero in like sharpened darts, hitting dead-on rhetorical bullseyes time and again.

If this is not the actual spirit of Hemingway speaking through DeMarco, then DeMarco himself is one clever wordsmith.

But wait a minute — DeMarco cautions us that just who is actually communicating here is a tad more complicated than you might think. Here is the way DeMarco struggles to define his trans-death connection with the deceased writer:

“I think you mean to say that Hemingway 1899-1961 and DeMarco 1946-20-whatever do not touch, and that I have been thinking that DeMarco-46 was touching the spirit of Hemingway-99, but it may be more accurate to say that the larger being of which DeMarco-46 is a part is communicating with the larger being of which Hemingway-99 is a part, and the two time-bound parts are having a sort of virtual conversation.”

In other words, most people assume that when you contact the spirit of a dead person, you are speaking to the exact person/ego-construct/personality of that same person when he or she was alive.

ErnestHemingway

Papa

But there is not a Person A = Person A situation vis-a-vis the live version of a person and the afterlife version of that same person.

After we pass over to the other side, we apparently expand our consciousnesses to embody the “whole self,” or perhaps “soul self.” We become aligned with the so-called Oversoul.

For the dead, the ego-self recedes into the background because the ego is actually an elaborate, artificial coping/defense construct designed to function in the environment of our earth-bound, physical matter reality. The ego is too often shaped by fears and desires, and is a reactor rather than an actor within a material system. Yet, after death, we can still operate from an ego-based platform if we want to …

What I really like about Afterdeath Conversations With Hemingway is that it reads not like the typical spooky and/or smarmy medium-channeled stuff, but as an insightful, intelligent and piercing series of observations by a savvy writer, who just happens to be positioned in the non-physical realm.

DeMarco’s book makes the extraordinary situation of speaking with the dead seem as commonplace as chatting with your Uncle Ned via Skype.

With dogged attention to detail, DeMarco combs through the issues that were the passions of Hemingway’s vigorous life — World War I, the Spanish Civil War, the American psyche, the artistic culture of Europe, big game hunting, deep sea fishing, writing and literature. Hemingway discusses what it meant to be an American, an emerging modern man in a nation straining to become the next superpower.

What about his suicide? Hemingway is actually rather blasé and dismissive of the whole issue. He called suicide “the family exit.” Hemingway’s father committed suicide, as did his brother, Leicester, and sister, Ursula. The dead Hemingway says of his suicide:

“When I left the body — when I blew myself out of that situation — I knew what I was doing, and why. I wasn’t emotionally distraught, I wasn’t out of my mind, and I wasn’t even depressed — once I figured out how to get out … the bad effects of suicide have a lot more to do with attitudes that with the given act.”

After his death, Hemingway tells DeMarco that he now manifests himself in the spirit world as a 30-something-year-old.

“I went back to being in my mid-thirties,” Hemingway said. “I was happy then. I’d taken my lumps and I’d already left Hadley, (first wife Hadley Richardson) which was a stupid thing to do but there you are, and I was in the prime of life.”

The bottom line: This is a marvelous read, well worthy of five stars, and gets my top recommendation.

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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Obscure French writer Patrick Modiano wins Nobel Prize for Literature

KEN KORCZAK:

An obscure French writer, all but unknown in the United States, has been awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature.

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The choice to bestow the writing’s most prestigious honor to Patrick Modiano has some in the literary world scratching their heads, while others recognize this author as a unparalleled talent and deserving recipient.

Modiano writes and publishes in French. Although his books have been translated into more than 30 languages, few have been rendered into English. But even these titles have never caught fire with American, or any of the Anglo-English speaking nations.

One of his most successful, award-winning novels, Missing Persons, was issued in English translation in the United States in 2004. It sold a paltry 2,400 copies before vanishing from American bookstores forever.

Modiano is a prolific writer, having produced some 30 novels since 1968. He has also written screenplays and children’s books. Several of his works have been aadapted as feature films, all of them French-language films.

Sometimes compared to Marcel Proust, Modiano might also be compared to the likes of Philip K. Dick. That’s because a persistent theme in Modiano’s works are characters who are strangely unhinged from reality, and confused about reality.

His protagonists have problems with memory. They struggle to determine what is real and imagined, or perhaps only dreamed. They labor to come to grips with the meaning of their own lives. Memories and every-day events shift and flow without anchor in a solid foundation of reality. In a Modiano book, few people can be entirely certain about their own identities, or of anything, for that matter.

This is not science fiction, or fantasy, however. Some have described his works as “surreal detective novels.” What’s being investigated by the characters is the nature of their own reality as they try to figure out just who the hell they are, why they are here and, well, what on earth is life all about?

Prior to winning the Nobel, Modiano scored numerous other top literary awards, including the Austrian State Prize for European Literature, the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca from the Institut de France, the rix Goncourt and the 2 Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie française.

Patrick Modiano is 69 years old and lives in Boulogne-Billancourt, a commune in the western suburbs of France. He is the 111th person to win the Nobel Prize in 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

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50 year later, The Rector of Justin stands as ‘Great American’ novel

9780618224890_p0_v1_s260x420Review By KEN KORCZAK

Only four fiction books achieved the No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller List in 1964. “The Group,” by Mary McCarthy, “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold,” by John le Carré, “Herzog,” by Saul Bellow and this book — “The Rector of Justin,” by Louise Auchincloss.

Auchincloss wrote more than 60 books, and ‘Rector’ was his only to score the exalted status of No. 1 NYT best seller.

It’s a fantastic book and still a marvelous read today. I think it should be on one of those 100 Best Book of the Century lists. I’m somewhat prejudiced because, A) I’ve long been a huge Auchincloss fan, and B) the setting of the book is one of those elite, selective and super-snobby East Coast private prep schools for boys — in this case, inspired by the real Groton School of Massachusetts.

Ever since I read “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles way back in high school, I’ve loved books of the elite-prep-school genre, if it can be considered a genre. Auchincloss himself was an alumni of Groton. He went on to Yale where he earned his law degree and became a highly successful Wall Street lawyer.

In his spare time, Auchincloss cranked out novel after novel, as well as numerous short stories and essays. His books plumbed the lives of American aristocratic elites. The Auchincloss family itself was among this exclusive class; Louis Auchincloss was a distant cousin of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (also a graduate of Groton)

So — The Rector of Justin follows the career of the fictional Rev. Francis Prescott who founded Justin Martyr, a school obviously modeled on Groton. Most people naturally assumed that the Prescott character was inspired by the man who founded Groton, the Rev. Endicott Peabody, who served as it headmaster for an incredible 54 years!

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Louis Auchincloss 1917 – 2010

But Auchincloss revealed later in interviews that this was not the case. The real subject for his fictional profile was none other than the U.S. Judge and brilliant legal scholar, Billings Learned Hand. Auchincloss hero-worshiped Judge Hand, and looked up to him as a mentor.

Whatever the case — on the outside you might think this book is as exclusive, stuffy and snotty as its subject matter, but it’s anything but. Auchincloss has a marvelous literary touch; his writing is infused with subtle humor, but more so, gobs of insight into the interior psyche and human motivation.

Some critics considered Auchincloss a bit too “glib” and lacking a certain level of gravitas that would have made him a true literary giant in the ranks of, say, Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis, or Faulkner — but these critics are wrong.

Auchincloss may have been the genuine article — an Old Money, connected, East Coast Elite and brilliant literary talent — but his writing style is that of a man who effortlessly aligned himself with the common rabble. (All of us.)

Auchincloss’ razor-sharp wit and penetrating powers of observation bring the filthy rich down to size. He exposes their moral weaknesses when necessary, and shows how having gobs of cash and connections rarely translates to happiness.

I’m tempted to go off on other tangents about the considerable powers of Louis Auchincloss, (he received the National Medal of Arts in 2005) but I’ll stop here and urge any and all to grab this book and enjoy a highly accessible read. The Rector of Justin is easily among the best of adult fiction books written in the past fifty or sixty years.

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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A “Marco Polo” of consciousness exploration takes us along on far journeys

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Review By KEN KORCZAK

While I was reading his book I was thinking of documentary I was watching about how animals might evolve into new forms in the future. There was footage of an octopus near the shore of the ocean. It was struggling to make its way along some rocks among the shallow water — the octopus was half in and half out of the water, grappling to navigate an environment that was somewhat familiar, but also vastly different.

FRANK DEMARCO is that kind of explorer. He is daring to send his mind into those exotic areas that straddle our normal mode of mentally framing reality with more exotic ways of determining what’s going on. He’s attempting to expand the way we make sense of reality — and maybe even to find a different way to be a human being.

This book documents 10 sessions DeMarco conducted at the MONROE INSTITUTE of Faber, Virginia. The facility is named after its founder, Robert Monroe, who wrote three best-selling books about out-of-body travel. It was Monroe who really blew the lid off the OBE, a centuries old phenomenon that had long been relegated to mysticism and arcane eastern religious sects. Monroe brought if forward in a way that more Western, scientific minds could deal with it using a modern scientific approach.

Equally as important to this book is the man who facilitated the sessions with DeMarco, none other than FRED “SKIP” ATWATER. Atwater is a former U.S. Army intelligence officer who was the founder of Army’s top secret remote viewing unit. He was among an elite corp of men who were the Founding Fathers of so-called “psychic spying.” After retiring from the military, Atwater became the science director and later president of the Monroe Institute.

So in these sessions, DeMarco is resting in a kind of isolation chamber. He’s reclined in a waterbed, and he wears headphones through which he is fed a variety of sound frequencies containing something called binaural beats. I won’t go into details about what these are, except to say they have been shown to induce altered states of consciousness.

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Frank DeMarco

As DeMarco is sent into an altered state of consciousness, but he also holds onto a portion of his waking mind so that he can chat with and report back to Atwater via a microphone. Atwater sits in another room where he controls the tones and frequencies DeMarco hears. DeMarco is also wired with fingertip sensors which monitor things like his galvanic skin responses, body temperature and more.

DeMarco then sends his perceptions into other realms of consciousness and reports his perceptions. He finds two contacts from two other eras of time: An ancient Egyptian and a Medieval monk. He feels he is deeply involved in some kind of mutual project of consciousness manipulation with these two — this is not a simplistic reincarnational kind of situation in which DeMarco “trades notes” about past lives, or stuff life that.

DeMarco also interacts with a more advanced set of entities he simply calls “The Guides” or “Guidance,” and sometimes just “the guys.” To facilitate a greater connection with him, these higher entities encase DeMarco (or cause him to become) what he perceives as a crystalline structure. In this state he is able to receive a variety of novel concepts, expand his psychology, gain insights, and so on.

DeMarco then “debriefs” in an informal discussion with Atwater. Both the sessions and the debrief sessions were tape recorded, and DeMarco fills the pages of this book by basically giving us the raw transcripts of all that was said.

For me, this was a five-star read because it provides a fascinating “fly-on-the-wall” view of how people on the cutting edge of consciousness exploration are endeavoring to probe uncharted territories of the mind. They go places for which no road maps exist. The explorers are pushing the edges of perception, have no idea what to expect, and don’t even have a good way to recognize “things” when they encounter them.

But wait –I should backtrack that statement a little. There may actually be a few road maps: Over the years, Monroe Institute researchers have worked out a series of auditory frequencies which seem to match certain mental states which in turn correspond with certain kinds of nonphysical locations. They call them Focus 10, Focus 12, Focus 15, Focus 27, etc. Each of these states, identified by specific frequencies and brain states, would seem to match up with specific territories “out there.”

When people become immersed in Focus 27, for example, they will find themselves in a specific afterlife kind of location — a place where dead people gather after leaving their bodies. Here they create a kind of resting place, perhaps a peaceful cabin in a wooded area, where they can simply rest and get used to the idea that they no longer have a physical body. They can come to grips with the fact that they are physically dead, and now can contemplate their next stage in consciousness development.

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Focus 27 is a place of pure mind — that is, a cabin in the woods is not made up of physical lumber and nails — but a construct of the mind. Think of the way you might have a dream about a visit to a cabin in the mountains. While you are in the dream, the cabin would seem as real and solid as anything else. When you wake up, you would tell yourself: “Well, that wasn’t a real cabin. It was all being created by my dream mind!” The structures of Focus 27 apparently are a kind of group-mind creations of structures — buildings, parks, gathering places — which are collective construct by those who have passed on.

Anyway, I digress.

I should say that for some readers this book might be something less than a five-star read — you won’t get the exciting New Age, out-of-body wonder type of fireworks provided by such folks as Robert Monroe, Richard Buhlman or others who have written popular books about OBE adventures involving lively interactions with strange beings, exotic otherworldly locales, although there is a certain element of that here.

A PLACE TO STAND is more sober and less sensational. It doggedly plods along. DeMarco also displays healthy levels of skepticism and self doubt about his own perceptions, which adds to our feeling that he is an authentic guy who is endeavoring to bring back reliable information from strange places, rather than hyping it all up to make for an exiting New Age 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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New Stonehenge theory by Robert John Langdon is intriguing

$(KGrHqJ,!roFGVQ!fDHnBRnP-WmccQ~~60_35Review By KEN KORCZAK

Although I have long patience for the kind of alternative archaeology theories that give mainstream scientists spasms of outrage, I fully expected this latest Stonehenge re-boot to be so ridiculous that even I would balk.

However, after reading through Robert John Langdon’s total thesis, I have to say I am more than intrigued by his bold suggestions. By the time I got to the end of the book, his theories started to sound more like logical common sense than the ravings of another fringe New Ager.

In short, Langdon argues that Stonehenge was originally constructed in the Neolithic around 8,500 B.C. instead of the widely accepted mainstream archaeology dating of about 2,400 B.C,, in the Bronze Age. But his more amazing assertion is that the monument was located on a peninsula, closely surrounded on three sides by water at a time when Britain was mostly covered by the seas left over from the melting of the glaciers at the end of the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago.

This made it possible for the massive stones of Stonehenge to be easily floated or boated to the sight, were mooring posts also made it relatively easy to leverage the gigantic sarsen and smaller blue stones into position. A Britain covered with water — and populated by a water-faring culture well-adapted to living in such an environment — also explains how easy it would have been to bring the blue stones to the Salisbury plains from Wales. By way of the water, the journey would have been just 82 miles, Langdon says, and the stones could have been just sailed into place.

About those blue stones — Langdon proposes that they were the primary source of healing, and this was the original primary purpose of Stonehenge. He says the blue stones were believed to interact with water to produce a medicinal effect, and that the ancients soaked in pools infused with blue stone flakes to induce healing.

Langdon’s scenario makes a lot of other odd things fall into place — such as the strange bend in the “processional avenue” that leads from Stonehenge to the River Avon. If the ancients wanted to make a walkway between Stonehenge and the Avon, why not a direct route? Why does the Stonehenge Avenue go north-northwest for about 1 km, then swing abruptly and turn sharply west? The answer, Langdon says, is that the bend and the latter part of the path originally led to a shoreline, and was later altered when it needed to keep going to get to water — the River Avon.

I won’t go into the many other details and particulars of Langdon’s full thesis, only to say that it’s almost beautiful in its simplicity. Albert Einstein said, the “best theories are simple — but not too simple.” Langdon’s theory is simple, but not too simple. It relies on a painstaking analysis of the hydrogeological data of the past 10,000 years — and this is presented in the first part of the book which might make a lot of people yawn and give up before they reach the more juicy stuff later in the book.

So I give The Stonehenge Enigma five stars — but I must add — I would be well justified in knocking off at least two stars because of the truly reprehensible editing of this document, and portions of the book where the writing is clumsy, and seems to have been rushed. Typos, grammar snafus and glitches abound. It’s an absolute shame that an author who put so much time and effort into his research should allow a version of his book released when it appears to be not just unedited, but not even proofread.

(Certainly Langdon means that Greek culture was at its height in 400 B.C. not 4,000 B.C.!)

That said, I’ll say that Langdon’s vision of an ancient British culture who were masters of the sea and thrived with complex technologies adapted to a warm, watery world (was it the real Atlantis, as Langdon asserts) is not a bad theory, not a bad theory at all.

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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Real Santa is an old fashioned, feel good Christmas tale with a modern edge

9781938467943_FC1Review By KEN KORCZAK

In a society that has grown deeply cynical, lost faith in its old crumbling traditions, and where belief systems change as fast as Internet trends, perhaps only extreme measures can recapture the magic of innocence lost.

That’s what prompts freshly unemployed engineer George Kronenfeldt to hatch a thoroughly lunatic plan designed to do nothing less than prove that Santa Clause is real.

Specifically, he wants his nine-year-old daughter (who is beginning to doubt) to believe just a little bit longer.

Unfortunately, bringing back a bit of faith to a cold-blooded, materialistic world could cost Mr. Kronenfeldt everything — his house, his marriage, his career, his reputation — he may end up financially ruined for life.

If the book I’m describing sounds a bit heavy, think again. This latest offering by Chicago-based writer William Elliot Hazelgrove is hilarious, light-hearted sugar plum fun. Real Santa is an over-the-top Christmas fantasy — but which requires a heavy dose of willing suspension of disbelief by the reader. That’s because the central plot premise is pretty outrageous.

But think of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” — it juxtaposes the dreary life of George Bailey and his battle with greed, depression and alienation with a Christmas angel and the magical promise of a mythological Christmas spirit.

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William Elliot Hazelgrove

In fact, the book references Hollywood Christmas movie classics throughout the narrative and plays on their themes. Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, White Christmas, Elf — Hazelgrove has leveraged the central feeling and heart of these classics and penned an updated tale couched in today’s world of YouTube, smartphones, video cameras, greed, capitalism and materialism.

However, there is also a certain vibe from another kind of Christmas movie — “Bad Santa.” In that movie, Billy Bob Thornton played a foul-mouthed boozed-up burnout mall Santa who is actually a criminal.

I say “a certain vibe” because there’s an element of gritty edginess here in Real Santa that includes a lot of references to reindeer defecating and urinating, Santa figures smoking cigarettes as they curse and moan about nagging wives and busted marriages — there’s at least a couple references to the “stimulated” male body part — for good measure, Old Saint Nick makes an obscene gesture via dropping his pants — oh, and did I mention that our novel’s hero is not above getting into a physical assault dust up with a white-haired old school teacher, and he also takes a butcher knife to inflict criminal property damage on his neighbor’s tasteless Christmas decorations?

Yes, for the most part, the gooey sentimentality and sticky, smarmy Christmas magic schlock is laid on thick, but this story takes place in Chicago, the Murder Capital of the Midwest, not A Christmas Story’s Hohman, Indiana, and the writer is William Hazelgrove, not Jean Shepherd.

And so, there is a certain irony: A delightful book such as Real Santa suggests that while you might be able to recapture that old Christmas magic with extraordinary effort, you can never really go home to quite the same Christmas magic again.

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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The Boy Who Died and Came Back by Robert Moss is a rich, extraordinary journey through the multiverse

robert-mossReview By KEN KORCZAK

The title of this book may lead some to believe that it’s mostly about the NDE, or near death experience. But the author’s experience with “dying and coming back” at age nine seems a brief anecdote against a backdrop of an entire lifetime of extraordinary experiences.

This is a book far more about dreaming than the NDE, and using the dreaming experience as a launching pad for an intense exploration of the universe, or more accurately, the transphsyical universe and “multiverse.” The subtitle says this book is also about a tantalizing something called “dream archaeology.”

Not to say that the author’s NDE account isn’t fascinating. It’s one of the most unique you will read about even if you have already read hundreds of others, like I have. I suspect that ROBERT MOSS is a guy who can’t be defined by a single event, or just one kind of experience, no matter how mind blowing.

Moss could aptly be described a 21st Century shaman — in a way that combines the most ancient definition of the term with that of a modern man and scholar who is a lifetime student of history, ethnography and mythology.

A former history professor and journalist, Robert Moss began his literary career writing international spy thriller novels. His first big success, “Moscow Rules” landed on the New York Times Best Seller list, stayed there for weeks, making Moss wealthy and a hot commodity among publishers.

He could have continued to rake in the big cash as a Tom Clancy or Frederick Forsyth kind of writer — but he soon succumbed to his true nature, that of a shamanic dreamer and explorer of consciousness.

He went over to writing books that were either about dreaming or dovetailed with dreaming, such as his historical novel, The Firekeeper, which he wrote after experiencing a kind of psychic and/or dream contact with Sir William Johnson, a major figure in the French and Indian War of 1754-1763.

Moss combined direct dream contact and a psychic connection with intensive field research to create a powerful historic novel which was praised by the likes of literary giant James A. Michener.

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Robert Moss

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William Blake

This book, THE BOY WHO DIED AND CAME BACK TO LIFE,  is somewhat autobiographical in that Moss makes use of key events in his life, beginning with his NDE at age 9, to describe how turning one’s mind away from mere material perceptions and toward the wider spectrum of consciousness can result in marvelous, breath-taking adventures.

Moss uses the term “dream archaeology” to describe a method researching our past that involves accessing ancient times and the actual minds and souls of long-dead people so that we an learn from them directly — it’s a way to go beyond mere historical facts to uncover the broad, psycho-social, spiritual and — well, I guess the larger cosmic context of historic events.

It’s an amazing book. It’s too rich in scope and detail for one short review to encompass here, so I won’t try. I’ll just say that this work gets my top recommendation — it’s a rich feast providing not only food for thought, but a veritable banquet for thought. Moss is an elegant writer who commands a silky flowing prose which often borders on poetic, yet remains clear and accessible for any reader.

One last thing: My theory is that Robert Moss is the reincarnation of the 18th Century English painter, poet and print maker William Blake. If you don’t believe me, read up on Blake, study his work and visions, and also Google a picture of Blake. Compare Blake’s images side to side with that of Robert Moss. They even look alike.

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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It’s time to rethink everything you believe about Sasquatch

sasqtch

Review By KEN KORCZAK

If you ask me, it’s long past due that we all reevaluated everything we think we know about Bigfoot. Why not reconsider the whole confounding Sasquatch enigma from an all new paradigm and perspective?

Well, this book, The Psychic Sasquatch, is a good place to start.

Long-time anthropologist and Bigfoot researcher Jack “Kewaunee” Lasperitis says mainstream science has it all backwards. He says Bigfoot is not an animal, but a unique race of “people” who are far more intelligent than we are. If you think that’s a bold (our audacious) statement, just keep reading. Lapseritis has plenty more in store for you.

Based on his 40-plus years of research, Lapseritis has concluded:

* Bigfoot is an interdimensional entity that can pop in an out of our reality or dimension at will.

* The Bigfoot race of people were seeded here by a vastly ancient and superior race of ETs he calls the Starpeople.

* Bigfoot has powerful psychic abilities, can read our minds and send us telepathic messages when it wants to.

* Bigfoot is an expert astral traveler, extremely kind and loving, and blissfully in sync with Mother Nature.

* Bigfoot has been coming and going from planet earth, ferried by UFOs, for millions of years, and they consider us plodding homo sapiens to be the “missing links,” not themselves.

And so on.

Lapseritis says the proof of all his is not only his own direct psychic communications with Bigfoot, but that of at least 76 other witnesses and “experiencers” who have wholly independently reported much of the same phenomenon and information. He and 76 other people can’t all be having the same delusion, he says.

Interestingly, Native American lore would appear to largely support all of the above. It’s in the historic record of known American Indian tradition. The indigenous people of the America’s have long been proclaiming for thousands of years what Lapseritis says now about the true nature of their Sasquatch.

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Kewaunee Lasperitis

What do we make of it? Well, adopting a radical new paradigm is always difficult. Just think of how impossible it one seemed to believe that the earth was not flat, but round, and that the earth revolved around the sun, and not vice versa. Just stating this publicly could get you burned at the stake or imprisoned by authorities 500 years ago.

No doubt, many will symbolically do just that to Kewaunee Lapseritis in today’s court of public opinion. Caustic skeptics will have a field day gleefully heaping scorn on Lapseritis. They will laugh with derisive contempt upon his airy-fairy, New Agey, spacey theories, which they will say, are not only completely unscientific, but beyond any chance of future scientific verification.

But here’s the thing about Kewaunee Lapseritis — when you read his words, or even watch his interviews on YouTube — one can quickly conclude he is a normal guy. He’s obviously completely sane. He’s not a raving lunatic. He speaks in passionate, determined, yet tempered tones. He’s calm, kind and attentive to those asking questions.

He doesn’t fit the bill of a freaky charlatan who is out to make a buck spewing kaka for the gullible. He reminds me more of my Uncle Stanley, who was a farmer, or Steve, a burly guy who repairs my car in my small town.

Furthermore, Lapseritis comes off as even more sane than many other people — in that he expresses his frustration with the direction human civilization has taken — a path that is almost certainly leading to large scale environmental collapse of the earth’s ecosystem.

“Bigfoot is not the animal, we are,” Lapseritis says.

The proof of that is dozens of wars raging around the planet — people killing each other in city streets and shooting children in schools. We have polluted, over-fished oceans that are dying; large-scale destruction of forested lands is ongoing as is rampant greed for money and material possessions that we don’t need. Petro-chemical agriculture is infecting the soils with synthetic poisons, children are spending hours a day playing “cop-killing” video games as arsenals of nuclear weapons hide in dark silos, ever primed to unleash Armageddon across the globe at the whim of some paranoid government leader.

Lapseritis says the Bigfoot people are saddened and appalled by what the human animal is doing to the beautiful green home that belongs to all creatures of the earth — of the human variety — but also the,animal variety and transhuman.

Taken all together, and in looking at the big picture, Jack Kewaunee Lapseritis is not the one who appears to be insane. Most of the rest of humanity appears to be insane.

Think about that before you dismiss his theories about the true nature of Bigfoot.

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: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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Aliens in the Forest a Fascinating read despite clunky prose

download (2)Review By KEN KORCZAK

If you are a true student of Ufology, this book will be a fascinating addition to your collection. I give the authors great credit for not only reintroducing to the public a sensational case of UFO/alien encounter, but setting the record straight about a story that has been much maligned and misreported over the years.

Even UFO-lit legends such as John Keel (The Mothman Prophesies) botched the story, as did other high-profile UFO investigation groups, according to the authors.

The authors also claim to be the first to identify the key experiencer in what is certainly among the most amazing UFO confrontations in history. California man, Donald Shrum, has not only come forward to tell his tale, but also provides photos and sketches of an event that forever changed his life.

The events took place in 1964 in a remote area of the Sierra Nevada mountains when Shrum was 26 years old. He was 73 when he sat down with the authors to tell his story. It’s a frightening saga indeed! Is the story authentic and true? For what it’s worth, I’m satisfied that it is.

Another terrific aspect of the book is the engaging artwork of illustrator Neil Riebe, from the beautifully imagined front cover to the pen-and-ink drawings inside which gave me a kind of nostalgic remembrance of the kind of UFO art one used to see in mainstream magazines from the `60s — such as SAGA, TRUE, REAL, ARGOSY and MAN’S WORLD.

The books fails to get a five-star rating from me, however, because the writing is clumsy, at best. The rendering of the information is repetitive in a way that makes it seem like Noe Torres and Ruben Uriarte realized they didn’t have enough information for a full book-length manuscript, and so they padded wherever they could.

In fact, the meat of the book ends a little over halfway through the document. The rest is appendix material and bibliography, and these latter materials don’t add a great deal.

The authors could create a much more powerful effect if they reissued this book perhaps as a Kindle Single, lowered the price and tightened up the writing, including editing out a lot of obvious wordy dross. I bet they’d sell even more copies and create a much more vibrant, punchy document that would be a thoroughly satisfying read.

Still, all in all, this is an important addition to the record of American Ufology.

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: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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Get your hard science fiction itch scratched with Cold Trap

Cold-Trap-by-Jon-Waskan-Cover-200x300Review By KEN KORCZAK

Among the most difficult feats in literature is to write hard science fiction that is also exciting and entertaining. I’m delighted to report that author JON WASKAN has pulled off that difficult deed here with his first novel. This is not only terrific sci-fi, but weaved within this tale of an international moon base is a murder mystery — it’s a who-done-it that will keep you guessing ‘till the end.

Best of all, COLD TRAP is driven by interesting characters who are vividly created and brought to life by fleshing out their life circumstances. When an author creates characters that we genuinely care about and then embroils them in a murderous plot against a background of high-stakes space exploration, well — what’s not to love?

But Cold Trap scores even more points by developing some intriguing subplots. One such situation involves the motivations of the major players pulling the power-political-money strings on a cutting-edge kind of mining operation on the moon.

Rather than giving us a simplistic supply-and-demand scenario featuring powerful nations scrambling to be the first to exploit rare metals embedded in moon ice, Waskan hatches a well-thought-out computer-model-game-theory situation to drive the motivation of the key players in his drama. They are desperate to prevent what they foresee as the disintegration of the world economy/culture into a dismal, chaotic dystopia.

If computer models and social engineering sounds like it might be dull — just the opposite is true in the hands of an inspired writer. Waskan finds a way to build a complex background rationale fueling an urgent impetus for the major players in his drama. Because the reader knows how high the stakes are, the tension of the narrative is all the more visceral and enjoyable.

BAnother subplot which adds juicy science fiction flavor involves mysterious alien life forms — I won’t tell you where they are from because I don’t want to issue a spoiler alert.

So I came away from Cold Trap feeling like I had just enjoyed a meaty full-course science fiction meal complemented by a selection of fine wines followed by a rich desert, an aromatic after-dinner coffee, and even a mint to refresh the pallet at the end.

Is this a perfect book, or perhaps a SF masterpiece? Not quite. The author made a couple decisions that are baffling and which detract from an otherwise satisfying read. For example, it’s inexplicable that so many pages are spent fleshing out the background of the “Moochy” character only to let this character then spend the rest of the novel largely in the background, or as “supporting cast,” as best. (Moochy’s story is compelling, however).

The opening chapter focusing on “The Cube,” a new kind of super computer, is almost entirely incongruent with the rest of novel. There is also a lot of jumping around back and forth in time in the first half of the book, and this is perhaps not so skillfully handled.

However, these latter quibbles may be little more than the picayune ravings of a snobbish literary wonk, and others may not notice anything amiss — I eagerly recommend without reservation this book to anyone looking for a mind-expanding, thought-provoking, fun and ultimately satisfying top tier science fiction read.

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: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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Freaksome Tales is Freakin’ Great

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Review By KEN KORCZAK

Here’s my theory about this book: The author sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for extraordinary literary talent. But he also had to agree to write like a person afflicted with a diseased mind. Finally, his satanic bargain allowed for a generous portion of humor, as long at that humor was black as pitch.

Not only are these short stories remarkably well-written, but the entire collection is packaged or couched in a meta-premise that is unrelentingly hilarious — the premise is that the author is a certain fictional fellow by the name of V.V. Swigferd Gloume, a sort of  British version of H.P. Lovecraft.

Like the real Lovecraft, the fictional Swiggy Gloume lives a dreary, dismal existence of self-absorbed alienation, bizarre neurotic fears, loathing of others, loathing in general and loneliness. He is obsessed with monsters, death, slimes and filth. His plight is a chronic inability to get his work consistently published in mainstream periodicals — only to achieve notoriety after his death.

And pity the poor saps that Gloume must elaborately bamboozle into publishing his work. Running a piece by Gloume is the kiss of death, either for the obscure publication or even the poor editor himself.

Author WILLIAM ROSENCRANS trots out this gag again and again — and it’s funny every time!

Rosencrans also has taken great pains to keep his parody running to the Nth degree. He provides fictional pictures of Gloume, his family and childhood home, and also an appendix which creates additional insight into the character of the nonexistent author through his correspondences, poetry and more.

But it’s the short stories themselves that make this book an astonishingly dark and demented delight.

If you are a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, then you’ll love these works; if you are not a fan of H.P Lovecraft, then you’re in luck — that’s because Rosencrans does Lovecraft while improving Lovecraft in all those ways he could and should have been improved — with more plots that are complete and resolve at the end, by adding humor, irony and charm (yes, charm), and by daring to stray beyond Lovecraftian style whenever a story needs its own flavor.

As I read, for example, I found myself thinking, “Wow, this story really has the seasoning of a G. K. Chesterton!” or “This one has a smack of Ray Bradbury!” or “This Rosencrans fellow writes like he’s the reincarnation of Horace Walpole!”

Best of all, William Rosencrans writes like William Rosencrans, obviously an author of singular and unique talent, even while he’s sending up Lovecraft or anyone else.

So FREAKSOME TALES is a marvelous book. It gets my top recommendation, and will easily land in the “Top 5” spot of my 100 Best Books of 2014, and I say that with confidence even though it’s only June.

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: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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