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Natalie Sudman’s “Application of Impossible Things” is a different kind of near death experience book

Review by KEN KORCZAK

After getting blown up by a roadside bomb in Iraq, civilian contract worker NATALIE SUDMAN “blinked” and found herself in another reality. It was a strange place indeed. Sudman discovered herself standing center stage in what she struggles to describe as perhaps a vast stadium filled with thousands of beings — but who or what kind of beings?

Souls? Personalities? Entities? Spirits? People?

None of the terms seemed quite adequate or accurate. Sudman realized that she was having a near death experience (NDE) after suffering severe trauma to her body. But this event didn’t have any of the classic attributes popularly associated with the NDE.

There was no tunnel of light, no greeting on “the other side” by dead relatives, no experience of a spirit detaching and flying away from her physical body. She just “blinked” and she was there. Once arrived, she felt instantly at home and did not want to go back.

She also became immediately aware of her first function in the afterlife: She acted as a kind of cosmic computer cache with the purpose of “downloading” all of her “stored” information to the waiting gathering of souls — who absorbed the information “with gratitude.”

NATALIE SUDMAN

By now you may be getting the idea that APPLICATION OF IMPOSSIBLE THINGS is yet another near death experience book, but one that makes a significant departure from what have become the conventions of the genre.

This is not airy fairy New Agey fare but more of a thinking man’s (in this case, a thinking woman’s) report on the afterlife. Sudman is at once a serious, sober observer of the extraordinary situation she encountered, but also an often funny and charming writer with something entirely different to say.

This is a book about the ultimate issues of all reality — What is life? Who are we? What are we? What is the meaning of life? What does it mean to be a conscious human being? Why are we here? — and Sudman has a truly remarkable ability to delve into these weighty questions while never talking down to us, and at the same time, challenging us to expand our way of thinking.

This is a slim volume at just over 100 pages, but it has the effect of reading a book of 200 or 300 pages. Each paragraph seems impregnated with richer meaning, as if there is information coming at you from the spaces in between the words and sentences. If you read it twice, don’t be surprised is if you get as much more even more out of it the second time around.

It’s perhaps important to note that Sudman was not a New Age type or any sort of formal spiritual seeker before she was encountered a roadside bomb on Nov. 24, 2007. She was an archaeologist by profession, and then had transitioned to working as a project engineer for a civilian contractor in the Basrah South Region Office in Iraq. She was managing the building of a health care center at Khor Az Aubair at the time of the incident that transformed her life.

She comes to the NDE subject as an outsider with a fresh perspective, and so perhaps without the baggage of those who spend their lives immersed in mystical esoterica — and yet, many can expect to have their old and calcified belief systems rattled by what Sudman suggests here.

Open-minded skeptics only need apply.

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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Free history ebook takes you down a remarkable Ohio River journey

Review by KEN KORCZAK

Lyman C. Draper was a driven historian who was determined that certain events of American history should never be forgotten. The result of his lifetime’s work are a number of fascinating manuscripts like this one, Narrative of a Journey Down the Ohio and Mississippi in 1789-90.

This account records the experiences of Maj. Samuel S. Forman who was a member of a large party that traveled the length of the Ohio River in crudely constructed barges. Included with the party were more than 100 black slaves.

Born in 1765, Forman was a young man in his early twenties at the time of his Ohio River adventure. His company navigated to the Mississippi where they sailed south to establish a plantation in Natchez. Natchez is located in the present-day state of Mississippi, which was still a holding of Spain at the time. Spain would relinquish the territory about a year later.

The source of the Ohio River is in Pennsylvania and flows westward through West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana before flowing into the Mississippi in Illinois.

At the time of Forman’s journey in 1789, the territories along the river were home to a marvelously rich collection of native American peoples, forts and the various scattered outposts of Europeans settlers. It was wild and dangerous country loaded abundant wildlife and colorful characters.

For the history buff this rare manuscript is a treasure, not just for its overall narrative, but for those incidental historic asides which jump out at you like nuggets washed from a stream. For example:

* We learn that the first First Lady, Martha Washington, was a chunky woman. Major Forman was lucky to be near at hand at the the second inauguration of George Washington and he notes that Mrs. Washington looked “pretty fleshy.”

* The city of Cincinnati owes it establishment to a love infatuation. A certain Ensign Francis Luce was charged with establishing a block house at a site called North Bend, but he caught site of a “beautiful black-eyed lady” who was the wife of a settler. The husband found it necessary to move from North Bend to remove his wife from the strenuous advances of Ensign Luce — and the location they moved to became Cincinnati.

Reading this evinces a tremendous sense of sadness for me. That’s because today the Ohio is the most polluted river in America. It was once a vital artery of life for the Native Americans. The river was the lifeblood of their rich and imaginative culture, as well as a source-mother for abundant wildlife.

The journey of Samuel Forman was the beginning of another kind of bleak journey — toward the devastation of the native population, and the toxic environmental degradation of what was once one of the most life-giving bodies of water in the world.

Not anymore.

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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Spiritual Lucid Dreaming by Samira Nuriyeva is a well written introduction for the novice dream explorer

Review by KEN KORCZAK

This short manual introducing the concept of lucid dreaming to a new audience is well written in a clear and “lucid” style. It delivers a broad overview on how to lucid dream, while also thoroughly grounding the reader in a framework based on the Hindu tradition of Vedanta.

That’s no small accomplishment considering that this is just 60-some pages, but the author handles the task well. As a person who has been exploring lucid dreaming for some 30 years, I can find little fault with the approach taken here.

However, let me say that I don’t think lucid dreaming must necessarily be considered from the perspective of Vedanta only — if you want, you can achieve the lucid dream state, practice it and gain its insights without the baggage of any religious or philosophical system, including Vedanta.

This is not to imply that Vedanta is “baggage” in a negative way; I think anyone who chooses to immerse themselves in this ancient tradition would only benefit from doing so, and find great personal growth.

But take, for example, the purely secular and scientific approaches to lucid dreaming, such as that exemplified by the work of the psychophysiologist STEPHEN LABERGE PH.D. It was LaBerge who reintroduced the concept of lucid dreaming to a modern audience with his books LUCID DREAMING and EXPLORIING THE WORLD OF LUCID DREAMING.

LaBerge made lucid dreaming palatable to a western, rational-materialistic audience by scientifically proving the reality of the lucid dream state with innovative and repeatable experiments using EEG readouts and monitoring the eye movements of REM sleep — it established beyond a reasonable doubt that the fundamentals of what ancient adepts of Vedanta had been telling us for untold centuries is accurate.

The point is, millions of people learned to lucid dream and gain all of its benefits with LaBerge’s purely secular approach — on the other hand, adopting the methods grounded in Vedanta as explained in this short manual by SAMIRA NURIYEVA will be of equal benefit, and perhaps in many ways, will lead to an even richer understanding of what is implied by lucid dreaming.

So this brief, well-written introduction to lucid dreaming gets my best 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: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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Time travel book by Richard Bullivant is an intriguing collection of stories, highly entertaining

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

I became a fan of author Richard Bullivant after I read his book ANTIQUES DON’T BOUNCE the story of a young man working his way up through the ranks of large, multifaceted British firm that specialized in the handling of antiques.

In that book he made an ordinary slice of life seem extraordinary. So I was curious to see how this writer would handle a topic that’s extraordinary to begin with– time travel. I was not disappointed.

There’s some intriguing stories here that I’m sure even those who already eagerly follow time travel have never heard about before. For example, there’s a story about a man from a small town in the American Midwest who is astonished when he is spontaneously transported back to ancient Alexandria.

Perhaps even more fascinating is the complex, true story of a Victorian-era conspiracy-like plot by a famous British architect and a brilliant inventor living on the edge of poverty. This unlikely duo teams up to place a series of “teleportation devices” throughout a number of locations in London — which may have ended up transporting a mysterious wealthy widow and her spinster daughters through time!

Yes, a couple of the stories presented here will strain the credulity of even the most open-minded New Ager, but there’s also plenty of “red meat” for the dyed-in-the-wool skeptic — such as the ambitious attempts of respected American physicist Dr. Ronald Mallett to build a real time machine based on the known scientific principles of quantum physics.

This book is called “More” True Time Travel Stories because it follows up a previous short book, TRUE TIME TRAVEL STORIES.

A fun and fascinating read from front to back. Find the book here: TIME TRAVEL

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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The Convoluted Universe by Dolores Cannon: Fantastic Flights of Astounding New Age Revelation Will Be a Challenge for Even the Most Open Minded

Review by KEN KORCZAK

If you’re a hard core rational-materialistic skeptic and you have accepted Carl Sagan as your personal savior you need not apply to THE CONVOLUTED UNIVERSE.

Author and hypnotherapist DOLORES CANNON doesn’t just throw out the scientific method playbook, she sends it through a paper shredder. That includes methods of hypnotism that wouldn’t remotely be considered legitimate by anyone in the mainstream psychological community.

But no matter! All is well!

Cannon herself makes no bones about her methodology and where her works stands in the greater context. She’s unfettered and free-wheeling, traveling the New Age universe as light as a butterfly flitting from one astonishing flower to the next.

Her method is to put her subjects into what she calls a “somnambulistic trance.” This allows her direct access to the subconscious — but even here Cannon parts ways with standard definitions. She says the kind of “subconscious” she is dealing with is not the same at that defined my modern psychology.

The result is direct communication with extraterrestrials, energy beings, spirit guides, astral entities of amazing variety — including the spirits of former residents of the the vanished super civilization of Atlantis.

If you are thinking by now that I am a typical skeptic who is hostile to Cannon’s brand of unbounded flights of fantastic New Age revelation — you would be wrong.

I see no harm in being an open minded skeptic and taking the work of Ms. Cannon at face value. After all, she lays all her cards on the table. She’s not trying to hoodwink anyone. She’s sincere. She’s just doing what she’s doing — she’s putting it all out there for the reader to decide what they want to believe — or not.

Her amazing 50 years of unstoppable, dedicated work at putting people into trance and recording their transcripts has produced reams of information. Cannon displays not an iota of selectivity for the type or quality of the information she records, choosing instead to dump everything into the pages of her massive books. The Convoluted Universe clocks in at well over 500 pages and is just the first in a series of several, but also builds on at least a half-dozen earlier works.

The problem with this all-in approach is that a lot of the information often tilts toward the 100% absurd, no matter how open-minded we choose to be. For example:

* The Loch Ness monster is real! It’s a vegetarian that lays its eggs in the mud, and it lives in a cave deep beneath the lake!

* Bigfoot is real, too! It likes to snack on butterflies and uses it’s powers of ESP to avoid contact with human beings!

Dolores Cannon

* The Bermuda Triangle? Well, of course, the strange phenomenon there is caused by some kind of giant cracked lens or crystaline super machine left over from the days of Atlantis. It’s sitting at the bottom of the Caribbean sea where it occasionally causes trouble by sending out cosmic rays that alter space and time, sending sundry hapless ships or airplanes careening off into an alternate universe! Darn!

But wait a minute — I will now say with complete absence of mockery or sarcasm — that I find a lot of the material here compelling. After all, even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut.

That is, some of Cannon’s hypnotized subjects are far more credible than others. Some of them channel esoteric information that smacks of legitimacy — such as the subjects who insistently contend that human beings are confused about the nature of physical reality.

The general belief is that first comes a biological lump called a brain, and from that springs consciousness. But the nonphysical entities Cannon’s subjects channel say just the opposite it true: That consciousness comes first and the brain is a receiving device that captures and interprets the information — but then biases and distortions creep into our interpretation of reality because of phony belief systems, phony fears and our phony ego-infected human personalities.

I think that’s right. Even the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung said: “Consciousness precedes being.” That’s not only the case, but it’s the situation to a much greater degree than any of us might imagine. To this end, some of Cannon’s subjects offer remarkably insightful metaphors that help us see ourselves as beings of nonphysical consciousness or beings, of pure energy-intelligence, rather than biologically programmed meat machines.

If we accept the premise that Consciousness — Consciousness with a Big C — does not originate from physical biological matter, then we have to consider that at least some of the information produced by Cannon has value. I think it does.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to believe everything you read. No one’s putting a gun to your head. Go ahead and give the book a read. Be a skeptic, but an open-minded skeptic. And always remember what the great biologist J.B.S. Haldane said:

The Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”

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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“Life Erupted” by Mary Stanik: The Tale of a Minnesota Woman Looking For Love While Eating Her Way Through an Electra Complex

Review by KEN KORCZAK

We don’t have to make any pretense that LIFE ERUPTED is anything more the a light romantic comedy with a central premise pulled straight out of a daytime soap opera. Author MARY STANIK concedes as much when she puts these words into the mouth of her character, Jenn Bergquist, near the end of the book:

“It is all too unreal. It’s like a soap opera, or some sappy movie … this is all too crazy.”

That’s pretty much sums it up. Life Erupted is a not just Chick Lit Lite, it’s Chick Lit Ultra-Lite.

Even the main character is borrowed right off the ol’ tube. Again, the author makes no bones about this, saying her heroine was inspired by Mary Richards of the MARY TYLER MOORE show. I have always thought that Mary Richards was a wafer-thin reincarnation of Marlo Thomas as Ann Marie in THAT GIRL. And now we see that the transmigration of the soul is possible because TV characters can be reborn onto the printed page.

Like Mary Richards, Jenn Berquist lives in Minneapolis and works in the media business. She she also sports the same hairstyle of that slightly earlier TV queen, Ann Marie. Both have that 1960s funky bouffant flip with blunt bangs held up by killer eyelashes.

Mary Stanik

Like Mary and Ann Marie, Jenn Bergquist is witty, spunky and bright, but as yet unlucky in love despite being a charming thirty-something hottie. Not too worry — you know she’s going to hook up with a handsome hunk sooner or later.

Thus, if you’re looking for a fluffy-feel-good fun read about a woman who wants to “have it all” and who’s going to “make it after all” — then buy the book and enjoy.

Okay, now let’s have a discussion:

The great American writer JOYCE CAROL OATES suggested that all American women are obsessed by food and all American men are obsessed by money. Life Erupted is Exhibit A for this notion

The actual main character of Life Erupted is not Jenn Bergquist — but food — and to an astonishing degree.

Food is lovingly described, food is dwelled upon, food is a central aspect of the most important scenes. Even that which is tangentially related to food looms large in the background of the narrative, such as restaurants, menus, styles of food, traditions of food, kitchens and eating utensils. (I’m not making this up: In one scene a woman actually “holds onto her fork” for emotional support).

What’s truly remarkable is that in the central “plot payoff” scene of the book — wherein the main character is receiving a stunning life-altering revelation — the event takes a back seat to a stack of pancakes dripping with maple syrup, and not just any maple syrup, but maple syrup imported from Canada.

That Girl

Further yet — while Jenn Berquist is wolfing down her mountain of flapjacks, her mind is already wandering off to a delicious contemplation of homemade muffins — and then she ponders further the idea of taking some muffins home for a future nosh.

The exciting trip to Iceland to chase erupting volcanoes recedes into the background as an examination of Icelandic cuisine ensues — the famous salted cod is discussed, as is other ocean fair, wines, juices, drinks, desserts and side dishes. Says Jenn Bergquist:

“I actually did eat a fair amount of fish. You were totally right, you have not eaten salmon or cod until you have eaten the Icelandic variety. But not so much with the vegetables, they are pretty expensive there and so we didn’t have many, save for a few $15 side salads.”

Fifteen bucks for a side salad! Certainly that would necessarily limit one to “a few.”

Now let’s leave food behind to discuss this books other major underlying them — the latent but raging Electra Complex of Jenn Bergquist.

You have probably heard about Freud’s theory of the Oedipus complex, but from Neo-Freudian psychology with get the Electra complex. It was proposed by the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. An Electra Complex is a daughter’s psychosexual competition with her mother for possession of her father.

Mary Tyler Moore

The Electra Complex is also associated with a dwelling upon the defeat, displacement, death or pyscho-social death of the mother. In Life Erupted, in true Electra fashion, the author presents one mother as already dead and the “other mother” is slowly dying and then dutifully killed off before the tale ends.

At the same time, the only person who has a lot of exciting sex in this book is — you guessed it — Jenn’s aging father, the stoic and heavily repressed Olaf Bergquist.

In true Electra fashion, Jenn expends considerable psychic energy coming to grips with the burgeoning sex life of her father.

As for Jenn herself, she seems to have adopted that old maxim: If you can’t have sex, have chocolate — or pancakes, or lobster-stuffed ravioli, or salted cod, or muffins, or spicy pasta in marinara sauce, or angel food cake with blueberries, or Belgian chocolate dessert — or the “large slices of crusty, very tasty bread” — purchased for her by yet another father figure, her surrogate grandfather.

Electra

As for the woman — Caroline — who is providing sexual pleasure to Jenn’s father, she also dwells with powerful intensity on food even while she is angling for a night sex with Olaf during their first date at a restaurant.

Olaf Bergquist glumly looks across the table at the object of his sexual desire, the sizzling-sexy Caroline, only too observe that she:

“ … goes silent so as to scarf down a huge and steaming chocolate pudding cake …”

Then Olaf asks Caroline if she ever had a chance to meet Jenn’s dying mother, but he sees the dismal sight of Caroline:

“ … carefully scraping chocolate from her plate, looking genuinely unhappy that there was nothing left of her dessert … “

The only thing our plucky heroine Jenn gets, by the way, is a cold date in frigid Iceland with a gay man.

In light of all this, it would seem that the obsession with food throughout the narrative serves as a kind of displacement for the frustrated sexual desire of Jenn Bergquist — which might lead us to the conclusion that the seething, exploding volcanoes of Iceland serve as the ultimate metaphor of a desire for explosive, orgasmic sexual fulfillment — never realized, except when projected onto the father.

So, you know … well, this is a pretty interesting book when you think about it.

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

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Timelock by R.G. Knighton is Devilishly Clever Fun: Well Written Campy Blood and Gore Horror At Its Best

Review by KEN KORCZAK

I was trying to think of the last time I had as much fun as I did while reading TIMELOCK by R.G. Knighton, and then it hit me: The year was 1987.

I was at the movies with a friend. The film we were seeing was EVIL DEAD II, Sam Raimi’s campy-but-ingenious blood and gore classic. Evil Dead II is outrageously goofy but devilishly clever. It became an instant laugh-and-shock-a-minute classic. I still consider it to be among my personal “best movies of all time.”

Devilishly clever, nutty, bloody, gory, funny and fun would well describe TIMELOCK, which is actually a set of two novels.

The first book involves a group of twenty-something college students attending a second-tier, but upper crust British university. They began to dabble in occult practices and stumble into a way to open a portal into another time and dimension. Trouble ensues when malevolent spirits leap through the portal and attach themselves to the students.

Each student is now “infected” with evil forces from the distant past. A variety of nutty hijinks ensue. What’s worse, one of the evil spirits is that of an extremely powerful witch with the wacky name of “Toomak.” She has the power to bring about he return of the Antichrist — Satan would be unchained resulting in the destruction of everything that is good, decent and holy forever.

R.G. Knighton

While the first novel takes place in the 1980s, the second novel shifts the action to the ancient Mideast at the time of Jesus. In the end, the events of the first novel and the second converge in a climatic ending pitting a fierce battle between the forces of Good and Evil.

What really makes this a first rate novel is the author’s superior ability to create interesting characters — they are ordinary human beings with all the normal strengths and weaknesses of people we find in the real world.

Each character’s motivations are shaped by their circumstances and background — which the author inserts into the narrative with marvelous finesse and ease.

R.G. Knighton is a rare writer — I believe he is a natural talent. He commands a razor-edged wit and a wonderful sense of sardonic irony. His ability to place ordinary people into extraordinary situations is what gives this book a breezy kind of power that doesn’t pretend to be anything but sheer entertainment.

The humor of Timelock is dripping with cynicism. Yes, this is dark humor, but pleasant; it’s like a premium dark chocolate with a tad of bitterness but ultimately sweet.

Timelock gets my highest recommendation and will easily make my Top 10 List of best books I’ve read in 2013.

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer and has been successfully freelance writing for the past 25 years. He taught writing at the University of North Dakota. Ken in the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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Pherick Morton: A Life and Beyond Begins With Great Promise But Quickly Devolves Into a Swamp of Preachy, Pretentious Irrelevancy

Review by KEN KORCZAK

About once a year among the more than 100 books I read per year there is always one that vividly stands out to receive “Ken’s Crash and Burn Award.” This is for books which start out with extreme promise, but then veer disastrously off course, never to recover.

In the case of PHERICK MORTON: A LIFE AND BEYOND, author PETER MESSMORE was cruising toward a rave review through the first third of the book, but then the narrative gets utterly lost, and the reader is confronted with one downright absurdity after another.

The author does a terrific job of creating unique, believable and nuanced characters who are instantly interesting. He embeds them in themes that promise to be rich in possibilities — the conflict of fundamentalist religious beliefs confronting the world of hard rational science devoid of spirit — in this case, super-advanced robotics.

To add even more flavor we have a background clash of a tough-as-nails international union boss striving to organize “the working class” set against the lofty world of corporate and scientific elites.

But then it all devolves into a miasma of soporific detail. The author attempts to leverage what is essentially a biography of a fictional character to drive the narrative, which is no substitute for an actual plot. There is an attempt to keep us interested by killing off a major character every 40 pages, or so, and the author adds a couple of soap-opera-like twists, but it all falls flat.

There is scene after scene that ends up having no bearing on the ultimately vague conclusion the author has in store.

For example, we get niggling and inexplicable diversions wherein the character obsesses about a marketing logo for his robotics company. There is a pointless detailing the kind of domestic cleaning robots he plans to build (you know, like the Roomba, which has already been around for more than 10 years, though this is the year 2030). Then there is the agonizing description of the fancy, pretentious house Pherick is building; the details of this clog the narrative like so much flotsam washed up to lay dead on the page.

Pherick Morton himself is a creepy character in many ways. For example, he is obsessed with genetic purity. There is a scene where he and his wife are consulting with a genetic specialist in their quest to birth a perfect child via a surrogate mother. It’s like something out of a ghoulish eugenics training manual.

It would be kind to describe Pherick as a morally ambiguous character. An unkind reviewer might peg him as a self-absorbed ego maniac who easily rationalizes his use of illicitly-gained wealth — as in when Pherick’s father supplies him with smuggled blood diamonds, some of which Pherick promptly fashions into a necklace to hang at the throat of his beloved wife. He also has one cut to serve as her engagement ring.

Blood diamonds are called so because they fund weapons procurement for brutal war lords in Africa. The results is the violent deaths of countless innocent people, including women and children. They are often obtained via child slave labor — since Pherick is supposed to be a genius, he should know this — he knows how his father obtained the booty — yet he chooses to use these diamonds as his ultimate symbol of love.

He also trades illicit diamonds to pay for his brother’s brain surgery — rather than paying medical bills the way the rest of us do — through hard work, our own resources, or with a legitimate appeal to society. But not Pherick. He rationalizes by promising to give an amount equal to his dirty gains to charity at some later time — you know, after all his own needs and material goals have been taken care of first.

Pherick’s conception of spirituality is fantastically bland.

Even though he receives visitations from no one less that Jesus himself while meditating in a cave in Israel, these visions do little to alter his ambitions to make gobs of money — he buys houses, cars and the sundry material creature comforts the “real Jesus” would have found anathema.

Toward the end of the book, Pherick has earned a half-billion dollars, enabling him to retire in luxurious ease. Thus he is able to focus on his spiritual quest. He endeavors to formulate an enlightened philosophy — but what we are eventually presented with is a warmed over interpretation of Gnosticism which anyone could glean from Wikipedia.

Pherick also establishes what is portrayed as a cutting-edge, new kind of religion free of dogma and hierarchical structure, which has nothing on the Unitarian Universalist model (and many others) that have already been around for centuries.

Most of the action is set in the future about 20 years hence, but the author has no feel for creating a world that feels any different from our own. Except for the occasional appearance of a smartphone, the action here could just as easily take place in the 1950s as the year 2030.

The final scene depicts Pherick in the afterlife, a realm depicted in a way that is amazingly mundane, clumsy and absurd. It’s ridiculous, including a part where Pherick meets his old dead professor. This man reports he has been having sit-down meetings with Yeshua. (While alive, the professor had always maintained “Yeshua” was the true “Jesus.”)

The professor tells Pherick lamely: “(Yeshua) has interacted with professors before — but not many.”

Say what? The great Yeshua is fussy about which guy with tenure and Ph.D he’ll talk to? Hmmmm. Doesn’t seem to be too much of an equal opportunity Savior of All Mankind. Maybe Yeshua favors the rabble from lower society, you know, like undergraduate English majors? I don’t know, but I digress.

There are many other problems with this book as well, not the least of which is the peculiar woody way dialogue is handled — the characters speak to each other like robots — but I think you all get the gist of my view by now.

Your reviewer, 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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TAL: A Conversation with an Alien is a fictionalized scenario in which a man engages in a lucid discussion of what is known today about quantum theory

TAL Anonymous

TAL

Review by KEN KORCZAK

The author of TAL has opted for a bit of melodrama, perhaps to spice things up initially and pique the curiosity of readers. To this end the book is mysteriously published as “Anonymous” and it’s billed as a “conversation with an alien.” But what we have here is a straightforward and lucid conversation of quantum physics theory, presented in classic dialectic form.

Only at the end does the author identify this book as a work of “pure fiction.” The fictional element is extremely slight — it’s used only to set a stage for an average guy to encounter another individual of extreme intelligence. The two sit down for a conversation in which the alien relates his insights into the implications of the quantum mechanical universe.

“TAL” claims to be an alien being who was somehow stranded on our earth 100,000 years ago. He has spent his time observing the human species. He is eager to illuminate his friend about the details, meanings and implications of the quantum model.

He does a marvelous job. If you have read other books intended for a mainstream audience explaining quantum mechanics, this will be a worthy addition to your collection. It will enhance your understanding of an always slippery topic. If you’re like me, a person who has long been fascinated quantum models of the universe, this book will give you yet another way to approach concepts that are thorny and vexing.

That’s because much of what is implied by quantum mechanics is so challenging to the way we psychologically model our physical world. Despite all of our progress in physics, most of us are still grounded in a Newtonian world in terms of our daily view. We are comfortable with rather simple cause and effect, a linear notion of time, and common sense laws of motion, mass, location and dimension. Even though most people acknowledge relativity, uncertainty and the like, they still don’t “think like Einstein“; most people still “think like Newton.”

Many of us have read about the double slit experiment which shows the seeming dual nature of a particle. A particle appears to act like both a singular “hard” object as well as a “wave”. Even if we can grasp the implications of the double slit experiment intellectually, it still confounds us psychologically. This author gives us yet another look at the issue. It helps to periodically return to the double slit results and think about it from new angles.

The author also does a terrific job selling the MANY-WORLDS INTERPRETATION originally proposed by physicist Hugh Everett III back in the 1950s. Perhaps few other theories have produced so much resistance — and just plain downright loathing — as the idea that every time a human being makes a decision one way or another, a new universe is created to accommodate that decision.

One of the ways our friend TAL makes Many-Worlds easier to swallow is by couching it in terms of the infinite. By grasping the mega-beyond-enormity of what infinity truly is, we can at least “feel comfortable” that Many-Worlds has “room” to exist and expand without limit forever.

There’s lots more, too. For example, the author does a wonderful job of shedding light on the Schrödinger probability equations. I also really like the way we are invited to reexamine the way we think about dimensions of existence, and how we perceive our relationship with time.

Perhaps best of all is a clever thought experiment which shows vividly the limits of a reductionist approach to science in terms of explaining what we can or cannot experience. For example, even if you develop the perfect mathematical equation to capture the essence of a lobster dinner, and have the best semantic description of the meal based on the reviews of others — you’ll still never truly “know” what that lobster tastes like until you actually bite into it and experience it directly with your own consciousness.

So this is a delightful read which illuminates and explains. No matter how well you think you understand quantum theory, I suspect you will gain at least a few insights, and increase your level of comfort with the implications of quantum theory. TAL will help you push your understanding to a deeper level.

Your reviewer, 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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The Secret of Metaphysical Science by Andrea Scarsi is genuine and accurate, but perhaps not a destined to be a classic in the field of transcendent literature

Review by KEN KORCZAK

The immediate challenge in reading a book on metaphysics is judging the authenticity of the information. That’s a difficult task, but there are certain clues and road maps that can help us out.

One of the best ways is to compare new books to those powerful works that have withstood the test of time. I’m thinking of spiritual classics such as “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramahansa Yogananda, “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind,” by Shunryu Suzuki, “The Awakening of Intelligence” by Jiddu Krishnamurti “The Spectrum of Consciousness,” by Ken Wilber and more recently, “How the World Can Be The Way It Is,” by Steve Hagen – to name just a few.

So how does THE SECRET OF METAPHYSICAL SCIENCE by DR. ANDREA SCARSI hold up in this esteemed company? Well, for me, it comes off as “transcendent literature lite.” While this is by no means a terrible book, it comes nowhere near the level of the masterful titles I list above.

I’m satisfied that Dr. Scarsi is an authentic individual and that his claims of numerous and spectacular experiences of enlightenment are genuine. But achieving “cosmic consciousness” does not automatically translate to “stellar author.”

This book reads more like a New Age instruction manual. It’s often bland and plodding. The consciousness-shattering event of achieving Ultimate Realization has been rendered mundane in these 90 pages.

Andrea Scarsi

But wait a minute – does the subject of attaining enlightenment necessarily have to be ponderous, intellectual, serious and weighed down with gravitas? No! Some of the best books on the topic are quirky and funny, beguiling and playful. Perhaps the best example is THE LAZY MAN’S GUIDE TO ENLIGHTENMENT by Thaddeus Golas. You can find it free online. This is a small document of power-packed pages so profound, all-encompassing and just so downright delightfully loopy – I often say it’s everything you need to know about reality and enlightenment in 80 pages. And it’s fun!

Even though The Secret of Metaphysical Science is also a short manuscript, Dr. Scarsi pads it in the end with brief reviews of some of his favorite books which cover a variety of related topics, such as Reiki, wisdom gleaned via extraterrestrial alien contact, and the typical gewgaw about “attracting wealth.” Very unfortunately, Dr. Scarsi endorses THE SOURCE FIELD INVESTIGATIONS by David Wilcock, a vastly inferior work featuring endless pages of the most muddled quantum claptrap on the market today.

Even so – I give The Secret of Metaphysical Science a mild endorsement because the information is thorough, complete and nominally accurate, if uneven across the length of document. For those less familiar with the topic or who are approaching it for the first time, this book is not a bad place to start in finding clues and guideposts for that Ultimate Journey.

Your reviewer, 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: THE MAN IN THE NOTHING CHAMBER

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Fighting for An American Countryside is a short ebook examining the plight of small town America, focusing on Minnesota: It also is a multimedia platform with video

Review by KEN KORCZAK

I was delighted to see a free Kindle book offered by Minnesota Public Radio News. As a resident of our far-flung rural northlands, the subject matter promised to be one of great interest for me – the plight of rural and small-town America.

I was not disappointed.

Written by MPR reporter JENNIFER VOGEL, this short book is perhaps more a very long, in-depth news piece than an actual “book” – but it is also multimedia vehicle because it embeds a series of videos throughout to support the text.

Alas, I am still slumming with my old first generation Kindle, so my device does not support watching the videos. Thus, I did not get the full impact of the information presented; so I warn other readers who are still in the “Kindle Stone Age” with me, unless you have the proper Kindle Fire or other device, you won’t be able to view the many video spots offered throughout.

I also navigated over to the MPR GROUND LEVEL web site to see if I might see the videos there, but could not find them – although I did not spend a lot of time searching.

(And one more mild warning to the general audience: The title is “FIGHTING FOR AN AMERICAN COUNTRYSIDE” – but it would have been more proper to call it the “MINNESOTA” countryside because the focus is almost exclusively here on the North Star State).

Anyway – In about 90 Kindle pages, Vogel skillfully provides a sweeping overview of the challenges facing rural Minnesota, and its small towns. She does a masterful job of highlighting an array of issues and challenges – shrinking and aging populations, dwindling tax bases, loss of schools and businesses, the flight of young people to big cities, rural health care challenges and even transportation and Internet availability issues.

She also zeroes in on solutions, and does so with some marvelous individual case study profiles. She introduces us to real people in small towns who are doing incredibly innovative things to breathe life back into their communities – from folks establishing cultural and art centers, to sustainable farming start-ups, renewable energy projects and various other innovative business models.

Author, Jennifer Vogel

Vogel finds a perfect balance between presenting the dire situations and enormous problems of a changing world to outlining a possible road map that might direct us to a brighter future.

So this is a terrific piece of work that I think will be inspirational especially to folks like me living in small towns — although I really hope folks in Urban America read it closely as well.

One last thing: I can’t think of a better person to be judging this work than myself.

I have worked as a newspaper reporter in every part of the state — in the far southeast corner at the Winona Daily News, the far northwest corner at the Hallock Enterprise, in the west at the Fergus Falls Daily Journal and right in the center of Minnesota at the Pequot Lakes Echo.

Take it from an aging burned out newspaper guy who has covered Small Town Minnesota on the ground and in-depth for years – Jennifer Vogel hits the mark with this terrific ebook. (I only wish I could see the videos).

Ken Korczak is a former newspaper reporter, government information officer, and served two years as an advocate for homeless people as a VISTA Volunteer. He taught journalism at the University of North Dakota for five years and is former communications coordinator for Minnesota’s Board of Water and Soil Resources. Ken is the author of:MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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Erotic short story collection, Lazuline, by Elizabeth Woodham manages to stir passions with skillful prose

Review by KEN KORCZAK

A while back I reviewed a book of Christian literature and I mentioned in the review that I was not a Christian. This prompted one indignant reader to comment that I had no business reading and reviewing Christian literature without being a Christian.

How ridiculous is that! What if only Jews should read Jews and only blacks read blacks and Native American read Native Americans? I have a friend who is pure European lily-vanilla white and has written a book featuring Native American characters, and he is already taking heat from some Native Americans who are telling him he “has no business writing about Our People.”

I mention all this because today I am reviewing a book of erotic fiction, and well, it’s just that I never read erotic fiction. I can imagine the writer thinking: “Why is this bloke reading and reviewing a work of erotic fiction if he never reads erotic fiction?” Well, see paragraphs one and two above.

Sure, I’ve read a lot of erotic scenes as part of other mainstream novels, but I am always a tad cynical about it. That’s because when the time comes for the characters to “do it” my jaded editor kicks in and I think, “Okay, here it is; the obligatory sex scene. It’s part of the formula and the publisher demands it because they know sex sells.” The point is, no matter how skillfully the sex scene is handled, there is an element of gratuitousness about it because the writer thinks it’s obligatory. He or she doesn’t necessarily need the scene to move the plot forward, or develop the characters but, well … they just “stick it in” anyway.

Anyway, my status as an outsider to ertotic lit gives me greater objectivity, wouldn’t you agree? My objective opinion, then, of LAZULINE by British author ELIZABETH WOODHAM is that this is fairly terrific literature – lovely, effortless prose that flows with grace, marvelous imagery, superb word choice and revealing insight into human character and motivation.

My criticism is that this is a collection of short stories, but these works by and large do not bear out as short stories. They do not have all the four necessary elements of short story form: Plot, character, setting and theme. Most of these tales are more akin to poetic vignettes. For example, the titular offering, Lazuline, is not a story at all, but a dreamy, in-depth musing on the extreme pleasure of sexual revelation.

In other instances the author attempts to tie everything together to make a solid story with a beginning, middle and end, or resolution – especially in the case of “The Decision Tree” – but the effort falls flat.

But I don’t think it matters – I have no doubt that fans of erotic literature will get their money’s worth and then some from these powerfully erotic tales. The author manages to use the cold utility of words to conjure up and invoke that primal heat of lust nestled in the psyche of every human being.

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE MAN IN THE NOTHING CHAMBER

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Free history ebook: “William the Conqueror” by Jacob Abbott will give you an in-depth overview of the life of one of England’s most pivotal figures

Review by KEN KORCZAK

Enter a courtroom in the United States today, especially New England states, and you will hear the bailiff proclaim: “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” That’s Norman French for: “Hearken! Hearken! Hearken!

And so the titanic influence of one man, William the Conqueror, ripples across the centuries and even an ocean to display its effect today. In the year 1066, William, the Duke of Normandy, set sail across the English channel with a mighty force, marched ashore and throttled the army of the last Saxon King, Harold, thus taking the English crown and changing western world forever.

Originally published in 1877, educator Jacob Abbott writes like a kindly history teacher speaking to class of high school seniors. His style is lucid and no nonsense. He gives you the facts, but manages to flesh out enough anecdotal and incidental information to make this a bright and interesting read — still fresh more than 100 years after it was written.

This book, and all of Abbott’s “Makers of History” series, are short treatments of famous historical figures. They are must reads for those who want a deeper understanding of the incredible people who changed the world in their day, and colored all of history. About the length of short novels, I love Abbott’s history books because they inform an educate, and give you a rich perspective on history, without having to wade through a lot of dry, academic textbook-like tomes.

Do yourself a favor. Brush up on your history, maybe starting with this fine little book, William the Conqueror by Jacob Abbott. You can download the free ebook here: WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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Free science fiction Kindle book: Forbidden the Stars by Valmore Daniels is an enjoyable read with a few problems, but who cares? It’s fun.

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

Hey, I’m an equal opportunity book reviewer. I read a lot of high class literature and an equal amount of low-brow schlock. And you know what’s interesting? I find that either category can be highly entertaining, or a depressing drag.

Upon reading FORBIDDEN THE STARS I found myself enjoying a light-weight heap of pure science fiction fun. I was joyfully carried away by this fast-pace romp across the solar system. However, after I finished the last page, all of the things that are wrong with the book began to gnaw at my critical mind, and I began to feel dirty inside.

It’s a strange feeling. It’s like, “Well, I really enjoyed that, but I shouldn’t have.” But that’s ridiculous. If a writer can provide you with a few hours of enjoyment, why raise a stink? Why pick it apart? If you enjoy it – it’s mission accomplished.

But seriously, I think there is more right with this book than wrong. First the good:

1. Pacing: Despite the droopy opening chapters, author VALMORE DANIELS quickly hits his stride, gets his plot in gear and this book takes off like an interstellar spaceship. Things start happening, cliff hangers get hung, problems are presented, characters strive to overcome them, and we cheer them on.

2. Good science: One of the biggest problems with most science fiction books today is that few writers are trying, or even making the merest pretense of providing some solid plausibility by including some speculative background science – speculative science that is grounded in real science.

Good “hard science fiction” should have a certain techno-geek element, and Daniels delivers that in spades. His theoretical description of a new element that can deliver faster-than-light travel is super wonky, technical, yet believable. He gets high marks on this from me. I like it when science fiction writers make an effort.

3. Plot: The plot is intricate, yet hangs together with ease. I like a complex plot, which is nevertheless easy to follow. While Daniels’ plot is highly derivative – meaning it’s not all that original — it is well-executed.

4. Science-fictiony feel: Can is say, “science-fictiony?” Well, I just did. But you know what I mean. Those of us who dig science fiction love getting immersed in that feeling of being in a futuristic world of space ships that are flitting out and about among the planets of the solar system. There’s cool gadgetry, robotics and all that. Boffo!

Now let’s talk about the bad:

1. Characters: The characters in this book are as thin as hydrogen gas. With the slight exception of the pivotal character, young Alex Manez, the rest of the characters are bland cookie cutters that lack depth. What depth they do have is generated by one big cliché after another.

2. Unfinished business: There is a major plot element in this book that absolutely inexplicably gets left hanging. I can’t describe it because it would require a “spoiler warning.” So let me put the issue behind behind by asking this question:

“Hey, Valmore Daniels! What in the Sam hell happened to Chow Yin! I mean, seriously, what happened to him, Dude?”

There, it felt good to get that off my chest.

3. Plot: Hey, wait a minute. Didn’t I include “plot” as one of the good aspects? Yes, but I am also going to complain mightily here that the plot is highly, highly derivative. Anyone who has ever one of Ben Bova’s “Tour of the Solar System” series of books – will find this book a weak imitation of the masterful Bova style and his conception of a near-future universe where space travel is robust and developing.

4.The title: “Forbidden the Stars?” Man, that’s corny!

But – let’s just admit it — this is a terrific read that delivered a neutron-star-load of fun and entertainment for me. I loved it. Get a copy, kick back and enjoy the interplanetary ride!

(NOTE: As of this writing, this book was being offered on Amazon.com as a free Kindle selection HERE).

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf by David Madsen is raunchy, yet beguiling; compelling, yet revolting

Review by KEN KORCZAK

Reading MEMOIRS OF A GNOSTIC DWARF made me think of “The Uncle Charles Principle.” This is when an author slips out of his omniscient view as he writes, and instead adopts the view of the character itself.

For example, if the author creates a character who is uneducated, the author might use poor grammar when writing about the character, and not just in the character’s dialog, but even while describing what the character is doing.

The Uncle Charles Principle is considered an invention of James Joyce who used the technique for a character named Uncle Charles in his 1916 book, “Portrait of the Artists as a Young Man.”

Other authors, most notably Cormac McCarthy, is said to be a master (and perhaps an over-user) of the Uncle Charles Principle.

But did DAVID MADSEN employ the Uncle Charles Principle in his rendering of this novel? Was he choosing to embody his character Peppe, the gnarled dwarf, while abandoning his own omniscient view as he wrote this fictional memoir?

I say yes because this would explain a lot, especially this book’s naive notion of Gnosticism. The Gnostic creed is presented here as a simplistic dualism – the idea that everything in the physical, material world is created by Satan – with this set against the divine light of spiritual bliss represented by the eternal perfection of God.

If you are a Gnostic, you identify yourself with the eternal light as much as you can despite being entrapped in a stinking physical body; if you are “something else” you are mired within or even accept as natural the filthy delusion of materialism. So this basic black vs. white situation is offered, yet author David Madsen (a pseudonym) identifies himself as a “theologian, philosopher and therapist.”

And that’s why I bring up the whole Uncle Charles Principle thingy – because if Madsen truly is an accomplished theologian and philosopher, then he knows that Gnosticism is deeper or at least far more variegated than as it is portrayed in this book.

In other words, the Gnosticism here should be considered that as comprehended by the character Peppe the dwarf.

Furthermore, by invoking the Uncle Charles Principle we can also indemnify the author from a Freudian-like obsession with feces, urine, sweat, blood, flatus and sexual bodily fluids, as well as persistent representation of the sex act as a kind of primeval debauchery on par with a violent attack of diarrhea.

In these pages readers will confront an onslaught of hetero- and homosexual content. At worst the sex is often shocking and violent; at best it is depicted as a moral failing. Interspersed between these episodes of human-animal copulation are persistent references to defecation, urination, sweat, bodily odors, vomit, sundry oozings, obesity and perversions, such as when Peppe’s the dwarf’s alcoholic-whore mother attempts to have sex with him.

Another example: A remarkable scene depicting a Gnostic initiation rite during which the candidates are expected to drink from a cup containing the freshly ejaculated sperm of their leader. The reader is mercifully spared the denouement of this passage – but only because the substitute is an eruption of blood-spurting violence involving the hacking of heads and arms, guttings, and torture.

This is necessarily not a plot-driven work since it is fashioned as a memoir; although there are significant subplots that help drive the narrative and makes it more than a travelogue through Renaissance Italy. Conflict is provided by the tension between the corrupt Catholic Church of and the budding Protestant reformation. An evil agent of the Inquisition also provides a delicious villain whom our heroes must escape or plot against – and finally, there is a backdrop of the ever-ongoing wars between the dominant principalities of the day.

The final chapter of Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf is an inexplicable, almost bizarre departure from the always salacious, nasty, but erudite and baroque style of the rest of the book. The end reads like a smarmy Edwardian novel dripping with high-handed sentimentality and soaring proclamations of idealized commitment, along with a dedication to pursue a trajectory of philosophical purity.

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE FAIRY REDEMPTION OF JUBAL CRANCH

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Rocket Man by William Hazelgrove is a funny, entertaining novel which will appeal to a popular audience but delivers a troubling indictment of our times

Review by KEN KORCZAK

One of our greatest writers, Joyce Carol Oates, gives us a powerful paragraph in her 1969 National Book Award winning novel “Them.” In the book, a confused former college student who flunked out of Prof. Oates’ English composition class is writing her a letter. The student writes:

You said, “Literature gives form to life.” I remember you saying that very clearly. What is form? Why is it better than the way life happens by itself? I hate all that, all those lies, so many words in all those books … But I remember you saying that about form. Form. I don’t know what that word means.

Ah yes — “Literature gives form to life.”

That line kept drifting into my mind as I was reading ROCKET MAN by Chicago-area writer WILLIAM HAZELGROVE. But also as I read, I was thinking: “I bet this book is barely fiction at all, but rather a more-or-less spun version of real events from the author’s life.” As a matter a fact, he suggests this is somewhat the case in an afterword note to readers.

And so, like that poor student, one might ask Mr. Hazelgrove: “Why? Why is this book of fiction better than the way your life itself actually happened?

Ms. Oates provides the answer: Because fiction brings form to life.

This is what enables William Hazelgrove to hold up a mirror not just to himself, but to all of middle class America. By making this a work of fiction, he brings it home to us all, helping bring form to our lives.

I noticed that other reviewers frequently latched onto the term “middle class angst” to describe what the author is getting at in this tale. But I think another term captures it more accurately: “Postmodern ennui.”

Websters defines ennui this way: “A feeling of weariness and disgust; dullness and languor of spirits, arising from satiety or want of interest.

The viewpoint character of Rocket Man, Dale Hammer, meets this definition well. He is a burned out novelist mooning over the long-past glory of his three published books, now years out of print. Sailing into middle age and a mid-life crisis, he is too exhausted to write another. He also has achieved a kind materialistic satiety – even though it’s a false gratification because he gained it by taking on ruinous debt. He displays languor of spirit. He may still be obsessed with his literary career, but he has inexplicable misplaced it, like a screwdriver lost in a junk drawer.

So how about the postmodern part? Well, his psychic ennui is being brought on by his immersion in the materialistic and grotesquely avaricious nature of modern American society.

Other great writers, such as Norman Mailer, talked about this kind of stuff all the time. In a 1991 Time magazine interview, Mailer said:

We’ve got an agreeable, comfortable life here as Americans. But under it there’s a huge, free-floating anxiety. Our inner lives, our inner landscape is just like that sky out there — it’s full of smog. We really don’t know what we believe anymore, we’re nervous about everything.

Mailer was also getting at this, albeit tangentially, in his “White Negro” essay of the late 1950s. In it he says that what psychologists call “sublimation” has broken down among Americans because “proper sublimation depends on a reasonable tempo of history.” (Note: sublimation is when we transform are worst primitive traits of lust and violence into positive action for the good of society.)

William E. Hazelgrove

Mailer said our modern society is moving, changing and evolving too rapidly for sublimation to work properly. This might be the situation we see inflicted upon the protagonist of Rocket Man. He’s a good guy and innocent at his core, but the fast-madness of modern life and the constant grasping for material comforts and status is eroding his ability to sublimate his inner demons.

To this end, Dale Hammer keeps getting into small and major-sized jams. His bills are going unpaid, he is ignoring his children, he has alienated his wife to the edge of divorce. He also incites petty scrapes with the law; he sips an alcohol-laced cocktail while driving with kids in the back seat, he speeds in school zones, he bristles at even minor figures of authority. He has devolved without guilt into the role of pathetic small-time slum lord. He’s snarky, sarcastic, irresponsible and lazy.

Yet, despite all this, we can all still like him. We even root for him to triumph over the mess he has made of his life. That’s because, more than anything, we clearly see he is dazed and confused in an blameless sort of way. It’s as if he woke up one day, looked around at the train wreck of his existence, and asked himself: How did I get here? This is my life? Some kind of terrible mistake has been made!

We feel sympathy for him because we all see ourselves in Dale Hammer. So many of us have made all the same mistakes, and, like Dale Hammer, we are bewildered about how things got this way. The neo-slavery of debt? Nonstop work and stress? A country bitterly divided Left and Right? The mindless brutality of AM talk radio? This is the American Dream?

Can you believe that what I’m reviewing here is billed as a “comic novel?” Ha,ha! Well, damned if it isn’t! I’m confident that 99 out of 100 readers will get big laughs from Rocket Man, even if it’s the whistling in the graveyard variety prompted by gallows humor.

As for me, I kept thinking of Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote: “I laugh because I must not cry. That is all. That is all.”

NOTE: See also my review of William Hazelgrove’s latest book, THE PITCHER

Ken Korczak is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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Free ebook: Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester: A Biography by K.H. Vickers is an exhaustive scholarly study that entertains and fascinates

Review by KEN KORCZAK

It’s been 600 years since he was born and lived, and we’re still talking about him. Academics continue to study him, tirelessly combing through the brittle, yellowed pages of antiquity, churning out doctoral dissertations and thesis papers – yet few can agree if he was actually “The Good Duke” or one of the most despicable figures in English history.

Humphrey, the Duke of Gloucester, was the youngest son of King Henry IV, and the ever-loyal brother and lieutenant of Henry V. Born in 1390 and died in 1447, Humphrey remains among the most confounding and enigmatic personalities ever to stride across the stage of history.

Pinning down the essential nature of the Duke is a task of monumental difficulty. That’s what makes this 600-page exhaustive study of Humphrey by British Prof. Kenneth H. Vickers an extraordinary academic achievement. Vickers gave it his all. He vigorously attacks the problem of defining Humphrey page after painstaking page. He provides a voluminous bibliography of cited sources that is almost half as long as the text itself. A muscular appendix expands on additional issues.

Vickers’ conclusion? Duke Humphrey probably deserves his lasting reputation as “The Good Duke,” among certain segments of English society, high and low. However, the greater measure of the man is represented by his numerous, sometimes shocking failings.

Duke Humphrey was greedy, power mad and an ego maniac. His lusts for fame and wealth were without limit. He could be cruel and wildly impetuous, but also witty, personable and charming. He was brilliant — yet completely unable to sustain a long-term effort – be it in war, politics or devotion to a single woman. He lived to be flattered and adored by his court of groveling sycophants; his sexual hunger for the opposite sex is legendary.

Yet, Vickers manages to uncover Duke Humphrey’s saving grace: His burning love of literature and learning. Despite his repulsive and repugnant character flaws, Vickers credits Humphrey with nothing less than bringing the Renaissance to England, and delivering his country from the cloying cobwebs of the Dark Ages. If it wasn’t for Duke Humphrey, Vickers says, England may have remained mired in ancient ignorance for decades to come.

Humphrey single-handedly thrust England out of darkness and into the light by his aggressive sponsorship of Italian intellectuals. Somewhere along the line, Humphrey developed an insatiable love of the ancient Greek and Roman texts that were exploding on the scene after being lost for centuries in medieval anti-intellectualism.

At great personal financial cost, Humphrey commissioned a small army of brilliant Italian writers and linguists to translate into Latin, French and English the works of Plato, Virgil, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Lucretius and dozens of others. These translations were sent by the hundreds to Humphrey in England where he read them with great relish – but then he breathed new life into the local academic community by donating hundreds of volumes to what had become a backward, calcified and stagnant Oxford University – the primary body of learning on the British Isles.

Today it might seem difficult to comprehend that the donation of a few hundred books could be an act of real significance; however, the printing press was still a few decades away. Books were hand-made and hand-lettered by scribes. The production of a single book involved hundreds of man-hours – and those who were literate enough to do the job were rare members of society indeed. Thus, books were objects of rarity and enormous value.

“THE GOOD DUKE”

Also, consider that no one – perhaps not so much as a single person –in England was capable of reading — not to mention translating — ancient classical Greek. For this, Duke Humphrey had to rely on the distant Humanist scholars of Italy. Merely the logistics of finding them, contacting them, making deals with them and arranging for translated books to be shipped to England was a remarkable undertaking. No one else was interested in doing it. It was Duke Humphrey who made it happen.

The historic effect of this effort is still rippling through British society today, Vickers claims (keeping in mind this book was first published in 1907). Thus, it would be impossible to overestimate the service The Good Duke paid to all of Britain.

But, ah, alas, despite this priceless everlasting boon bequeathed upon the Sceptered Isles by the hand of Humphrey, the rotting stench which clings to his reputation can never be scrubbed clean – nor should it be.

It was his lifelong, undying and illogical support of his brother’s war with France, especially after it was hopelessly and utterly lost, which brought untold tragedy to both realms, not the least of which is the unimaginable suffering inflicted upon hundreds of thousands of common peasants of the French countryside.

If this wasn’t enough, Duke Humphrey’s fantastically insane decision to march an English army to Hainault (or Hainaut) after his semi-legitimate marriage to Jacqueline, Countess of Holland, so that he could claim what he deemed to be his – represents one of the most egregiously rash and ill-advised military blunders of all time. This action also unleashed monstrous cruelties of war upon a land of industrious, innocent, peaceful people who wanted nothing of England but to be left alone.

It was all so unnecessary! The Hainault campaign drained vast sums of treasure from the English coffers, wreaked hideous brutalities upon the prosperous people of The Low Countries– raping, pillaging, killing, burning, ravaging, destruction of cattle and crops – all for the insipid whims and greed of Humphrey!

Today’s historians owe an enormous debt to Professor Kenneth Hotham Vickers for this extraordinary manuscript. Before Vickers brought out this volume more than a century ago, there was yawning gap in the modern record. The life and deeds of one of England’s most prominent princes was languishing in the obscurity of dusty archives.

I made a considerable attempt to find out more about Kenneth Vickers, but precious little is available, at least on the Internet. But perhaps it is fitting that a man who devoted his life to the study and teaching of history be remembered by a great work of history – and Humphrey Duke of Gloucester serves as a magnificent legacy for an exceptional scholar.

NOTE: You can download a free copy of this book here: HUMPHREY

Ken Korczak is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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“This Is Me, Jack Vance!” is a remarkable autobiography by a remarkable writer

Review by KEN KORCZAK

Over the past 30 years I have read just about everything Jack Vance has written – many dozens of books – and, yes, I have re-read most of them multiple times. I know there are five or six of his titles I have read 15 or 20 times each – I’m not kidding – and each read and re-read is always pure unadulterated joy.

Vance is a writer of strange power; he is a unique phenomenon in literature. There was never another writer like him before, and there will never be another like him again. The science fiction writer Robert Silverberg said other writers have occasionally tried to imitate Vance “only to embarrass themselves or find it impossible.”

And yet, while it can’t be said that Vance is an obscure writer, in his long career he never approached the fame and recognition of his fellow genre artists, such as Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein and Asimov. He won every major award in science fiction, including the Hugo and Nebula multiple times – as he also did in another genre, detective novels and murder mysteries. But true fame eluded him – and that was probably okay with him.

Writer Michael Chabon said of Vance: “Jack Vance is the most painful case of all the writers I love who I feel don’t get the credit they deserve. If The Last Castle or The Dragon Masters had the name Italo Calvino on it, or just a foreign name, it would be received as a profound meditation, but because he’s Jack Vance and published in Amazing Whatever, there’s this insurmountable barrier.”

Of Vance’s place in American literary tradition, Chabon said: “It’s not Twain-Hemingway; it’s more Poe’s tradition, a blend of European refinement with brawling, two-fisted frontier spirit.”

The immensely popular Neil Gaiman read his first Vance tale at age 13. He said: “I fell in love with the prose style. It was elegant, intelligent; each word felt like it knew what it was doing. It’s funny but never, ever once nudges you in the ribs.” Gaiman credits Vance with his own desire to become a writer.

One of the reasons Vance never became as revered as a Mark Twain or as popular as a Ray Bradbury is that his style can be (or seem) challenging. Over the years, I’ve heard dozens of my friends say, “I really tried to get into Vance, but I always found myself dropping out of his books after two or three chapters.” On the other hand, Vance certainly has legions of fans, and may be more popular in Europe than the United States.

Vance published this biography, THIS IS ME, JACK VANCE! at about age 95. As of this writing, he is 97. He has been blind for more than 20 years, and the loss of his eyesight eventually forced him to stop writing – even though he completed some of his best works after his eyes failed, including the marvelous Lyoness series and “Night Lamp,” the latter of which is a near masterpiece.

Because of his blindness, Vance was obligated to write his biography by dictation, a process with which he was not familiar or comfortable, and he says so at the beginning.

Norma and Jack Vance

What interesting is that this is a biography of a great writer which contains almost nothing about writing at all. He provides about three pages of commentary about writing near the end of the book, and then he only did so at the insistence of his agent and editors.

The majority of the book is devoted to his passions for life: traveling around the world on a shoestring budget; restaurants serving great food wines, liquors and whiskeys; the world’s oceans and sailing; carpentering his home in Oakland from the ground up. Last but not least, and his most ardent passion of all – jazz.

Vance says that his wife, Norma, was an indispensable part of everything he wrote. Their method was to cloister together in a room. Using a fountain pen and notepad, Jack would churn out 2,000 to 3,000 words per day. Norma would type and edit his drafts. Jack would then pore over the first typed version and make changes. Norma would then retype the manuscript – and they sent it off to publishers – all of whom were eager to print whatever they could get with the name “Jack Vance” on the byline.

Ah – but what rooms they worked in! A cabin in rural Ireland, a cottage in Tahiti, a balcony room by the sea in an Italian hotel, a houseboat parked on Nageen Lake in Kashmir, a campsite tent in Zimbabwe, an Oceanside apartment in Australia, a rented house in Mexico – the travels of Jack and Norma (and later with their young son, John), left me astounded!

So this is a biography quite unlike any other – iconoclastic, completely unconcerned with commercial appeal or popularity, unpretentious, humble, filled with terrific, entertaining anecdotes – the last remarkable work of one of the most remarkable writers of all time.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates is a magical book that captures the ancient spirit of pagan Saxons, even if it may not be entirely authentic

Review by KEN KORCZAK

Over the past couple of years I’ve occasionally seen mention of a book called THE WAY OF WYRD by BRIAN BATES on sites such as Facebook and other online forums. It was one such prompting that motivated me to investigate what this book is about. I was surprised to discover it was published 30 years ago in 1983.

After reading The Way of Wyrd, I can understand its enduring popularity and the fond and even reverential praise it garners from fans.

This is a fictional tale centered on Anglo-Saxon pagan spiritual teachings and mythology. The year is 674 A.D. It tells the story of a Christian monk from England who is sent to some location on the European mainland so that he can study the gods of the Saxons. His purpose is what was always the purpose of Christians of that era – to find out just enough about the ancient pagan systems so that they could wipe it out and displace it with Christianity.

The young monk who gets the assignment is the humble and meek Wat Brand. Shortly after arriving in Saxon territory, he meets a shaman of extraordinary wisdom and power. This Saxon sorcerer, Wulf, immediately agrees to teach brand everything he can about the power of the pagan gods and spirits. The book plays out as a kind of master-student series of lessons in Saxon spirituality.

There is a spectacular amount of magical activity among the blissful natural setting of an unspoiled European forest. This combination of magic couched within skillful descriptions of sparkling rivers, pungent green forests and dramatic mountain landscapes appeals to those of us who long for an increasingly lost, pristine planet — long before earth was tainted by the pollution and ravages of the Industrial Age.

Either by design or by accident, the author benefits from the aura of J.R.R Tolkien. He chooses to call the land of the Saxons “Middle-Earth” which leverages the magic of The Lord of Rings. It’s true that Tolkien didn’t exactly invent the term Middle Earth, but he might as well have. Tolkien was the first to popularize Middle Earth as a modern description for what the ancients referred to as Midgard, Middenheim, Manaheim, or Middengeard.

Tolkien first encountered the term in 1914 when pouring over rare fragments of centuries old documents. He found this line by the Anglo-Saxon poet Cynewulf:

Éala éarendel engla beorhtast / ofer middangeard monnum sended.

Which translates to:

Hail Earendel, brightest of angels / above the middle-earth sent unto men.

Before Tolkien, no one was using Middle Earth as a popular description of pre-Chrisitian Europe, but now it’s fair game for all.

Brian Bates

While I enjoyed nearly every page of The Way of Wyrd and give it my top recommendation, I think the criticisms of how Saxon spirituality is portrayed are fair. Many question the authenticity of the presentation. The Way of the Wyrd reads as much (or more) like a modern New Age conception of magic as it does a scholarly documentation of what the pagan Saxons actually believed and practiced.

In the introduction of the book, Bates makes a strenuous case that his work is a faithful and accurate rendering of Saxon magic. He says his narrative is based on a 1,000-year-old manuscript written by a Christian monk who serves as the model for his character Wat Brand. He also sites a lengthy bibliography of resources.

But I say, no way. Granted, I’m not an expert in pagan spiritual practices, but my strong impression here is that the author granted himself copious poetic license and overlaid much of this with his own modern interpretations.

Also – the structure of the narrative is one that is tried, true and familiar – the story plays out as a series of lessons between master and student, the same vehicle that Carlos Castaneda used to churn out his best-selling (and phony) series of tales of a sorcerer and his apprentice. Richard Bach also used this structure in Illusions – as did many other authors – all of which hearken back to the Platonic dialogue developed in ancient Greece.

There’s nothing wrong with adopting this formula; it’s just that, Brian Bates is obviously a crafty writer who knows how to write a crowd-pleasing yarn – leverage a little Tolkien, execute the tale with a time-tested formula, and take as many liberties as you need to make the information appeal to a modern New Agey audience.

Good for him, I say, because we’re all winners. The Way of Wyrd is a beautiful book which has bolstered interest in the ancient pagan beliefs of Northern Europe – and those beliefs were more sane and sound than what passes for modern mainstream religion today.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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“We, The Drowned” by Danish writer Carsten Jensen is an epic masterpiece in the tradition of Melville, but rendered in a modern style that’s darkly funny, often disturbing but always accessible

Review by KEN KORCZAK

After the first chapter of WE, THE DROWNED, my impression was that I was reading a book by an author who is a basically a Danish version of our own Garrison Keillor here in Minnesota –a local guy offering folksy, funny, sometimes pithy tales of small town Scandinavians.

But the farcical beginning quickly gives way to a violent, bloody realism. Author CARSTEN JENSEN describes a horrific naval battle between a Danish ship and a battery of German artillery. There’s exploding bodies, gore, death and dismemberment, shock and anguish, followed by the psychological devastation and numbing humility of POW captivity.

And yet – mixed in with the realism is an element of the supernatural and dark comedy – but the mysticism is subtle and in the background. Both the realism and esoterica are handled with a cynical and sardonic humor that makes you wonder what the author is really trying to say.

We, The Drowned tells the story of the tiny village of Marstal, which located on Ærø Island in the south of Denmark. (It’s a real place, although this is fiction). The story begins in 1848 and documents the life of the community through 1945. Marstal life has basically one vocation – seamanship. Every other occupation, from farming and blacksmithing, to local grocery and clothing stores, revolve around serving the values of sailors, ships and the sea.

The story begins and ends with war — the Danish-German First Schleswig War of 1848 and World War II. The vast middle of the novel, however, is not about war. Rather, it follows the individual lives of a selection of fictional citizens of Marstal. And it’s not just about sailing either.

Jensen devotes long sections to the life of Ærø Island boys – their impossibly Byzantine education in schools where severe corporeal punishment seems to be the entire purpose of primary education. The free-time of childhood is spent roaming the island as gangs of trouble makers. Just about all of the boys live without fathers most of the time – the dads are always away at sea. The sometimes comical, often brutal activities of youth are attempts to become men on their own, without the guidance of fathers.

I emphasize school-age “boys” because girls are all but absent from this tale. An adult woman take the stage in a supporting role about half-way through, but this is basically a book about boys and men – although I will say that women play a supporting role in a way that that at least acknowledges their influence in Marstal’s universe.

Carsten Jensen

I occurs to me that out of the more than 100 books I have read in the previous year, this 700-page epic is the most difficult of them all to review. It’s maddeningly difficult to pin down the essential soul of the book. (This is also what makes it a joy to read).

Here you’ll find page after page of delightful dark humor, but which gives way to black comedy that cries out at the meaninglessness of life. The characters often find themselves literally adrift or blown off course on an uncaring sea that feels free to kill them at random. The sea serves as the ultimate metaphor for the existential nightmare that is the fate of all mankind – a place where a caring God or rational explanation for life is entirely absent.

Jensen portrays human beings as greedy, lust-driven, violent pawns tossed about by the whims of fate — yet, he offers subtle hints that a higher order may be guiding the human race after all. In the darkest of times, the characters are sometimes granted glimpses of love and hope, especially if they act with courage and selfless bravery – but they just as often meet grotesque and horrifying fates – even when trying to behave with higher moral purpose.

Let me sum up this way: This book has the flavor of classics such as Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” and Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey” –but rendered with a thoroughly modern literary approach that most closely resembles that of Kurt Vonnegut (especially his Slaughterhouse Five). Then throw in equally hefty portions of Jean-Paul Sartre, and Ole Rølvaag – and you get We, The Drowned.

Ken Korczak is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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The Orange Girl by Sir Walter Besant, published 1899, is a rambling, wordy book with familiar themes of the era and will probably bore most readers

Review by KEN KORCZAK

This book by a 19th century British author reflects many of the themes one would expect in the era of Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy:

Kind-hearted but achingly poor folks being preyed upon by greedy businessmen and corrupt lawyers; lovely pure-hearted maidens; the filthy mean streets of London teaming with pickpockets, rogues and criminals; the absurd horrors of debtors prisons – but underlying it all, an avenue of escape promised by an overriding belief that there is a higher good, and a few well-placed saintly people determined to uplift the lowly.

What was surprising to me, however, was the tedious, disjointed and verbose rendering of this over-long novel. The writer is Sir Walter Besant, a bona fide scholar, intellectual and prolific author. Yet with The Orange Girl, he delivers a rambling mess of a work that is repetitive, pandering and ludicrously mawkish.

The story revolves around Will Halliday, a young man whose father is one of London’s richest shipping merchants. Halliday is expected to take over his father’s empire, but young Will becomes enamored with the fiddle. He desires the life of a musician. To his family, a musician is a step above a common footpad. Young Will chooses music anyway, is disowned, and is thrust into a life hovering at the edge of poverty.

The plot thickens when Will’s father dies and implements a real twist in his will – he leaves £100,000 to either his son or his nephew – based on which one dies first. If the poor musician outlives his cousin, he gets the fortune. If his cousin, the avaricious Matthew Halliday, who remained in the family business, lives longer, he claims the loot.

To make a long story short – a very long story – the matter of the inheritance attracts greedy lawyers, criminals and sundry troublemakers who hover around the fate of the unclaimed fortune like flies around a steaming pile of manure. They all scheme to make the life of the innocent fiddle player Will Halliday a living hell.

So who is the “Orange Girl?” That would be Jenny Wilmot, a blissfully beautiful, overpoweringly lovely and magnificently gorgeous goddess of a woman who is the purest of pure saints – so virtuous she is willing to sacrifice anything and everything for the sake and comfort of her fellow man. She crosses paths with Will Halliday, gets entangled in his life – and so the plot plays out.

The character of Jenny Wilmot is modeled on the real-life 17th Century British actress Nell Gwyn, and something of a folk heroine who also happened to be the mistress of King Charles II.

By the way, an Orange Girl is a young woman who worked the crowds at theaters or other public events. They carry baskets of oranges and either give them out for free or sell them for pennies. They do so while dressed as risqué and revealingly as the stilted 18th or 19th Century British society allowed – they are like an Elizabethan version of a Hooter’s waitress – although the Orange Girl enjoys a status more akin to a prostitute.

I have a theory as to why Sir Besant managed to deliver such a substandard heap of fiction, but since zero out of zero readers of this review have made it this far, I’ll just end it here by saying that “The Orange Girl” is not a work destined to be a classic, but a work destined to be forgotten.

Download a free copy of The Orange Girl here: THE ORANGE GIRL

Ken Korczak is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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“The Last Frontier” by Julia Assante is a book much needed today because our society is obsessed with death in a negative, macabre and destructive way

Review by KEN KORCZAK

This book recommends that everyone speak to the dead, and I agree. I’ll be blunt: I’ve tried speaking to the dead, and I’m happy to report that it works. And, yes they talk back. If a cynical, hard-headed skeptic like me who loves empirical science and rational thought can speak to the dead and gain value from it, then anyone can.

Not only is it possible to speak to the dead, but it will make you feel absolutely on top of the world. I’m not kidding. Having a conversation with a dead loved one – or any deceased person – is like undergoing a terrific psychological cleansing. It’s amazingly uplifting.

Even if you absolutely cannot believe that the dead live on somehow — on another plane or in some kind of afterlife — and even if you are the ultimate rational atheist, you can still benefit greatly from speaking to the dead. If you don’t believe me, try it. Maybe you are a super rational, empirical materialist — I still dare you – I double dog dare you – to use some of the methods this author, JULIA ASSANTE suggests for contacting the dead.

So this is a pretty terrific book. What I like about it most is the author’s dogged insistence that the issue of death should be a positive and uplifting subject in our society. Death, dying and being dead is something which should be stripped of the fear and sense of the macabre our mainstream culture has overlaid it with. As the author says, our two greatest achievements in life are probably being born and dying – and death is definitely not the end.

Julia Assante, Ph.D.

Here, now, I will air some quibbles I have with this book:

First, the author gives a vigorous and breathless endorsement of the Spiricom device – an electronic contraption which supposedly enabled a man by the name of William O’Neil to contact the deceased American physicist, Dr. George Mueller.

O’Neil recorded an amazing 20 hours of two-way conversation with the deceased Dr. Mueller. The Spiricom was bankrolled by a wealthy inventor and industrialist, George Meek, who was said to have revolutionized the air-conditioning industry, and got rich on his numerous patents.

To make a long story short, the Spiricom experiment has been all-but proven to be a hoax – and it was probably a hoax perpetrated by William O’Neil. Even George Meek was hoodwinked. The Spiricom device worked only once – and only for Mr. O’Neil. After that, the contrivance was passed from hand to hand, and owner to owner, and not a single other person was able to make the heap work, much less contact a famous dead scientist.

William O’Neil was known to have been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia – it’s listed on his death certificate. Remember, the Spiricom worked for O’Neil and O’Neil only.

It was also the case that O’Neil had some financial interest in making the Spiricom work. He was being bankrolled by the wealthy George Meek. Success with the Spiricom meant that the gravy train could keep rolling for O’Neil – and O’Neil needed the money. He was living in a burned out shell of a decrepit old house at the time.

Now get this: O’Neil was a self-proclaimed psychic and medium, but he also was well known to be a performing ventriloquist. That’s right! And not only was William O’Neil a schizophrenic ventriloquist, it was also known that he owned what is called an “electronic-larynx” device – this was a small microphone worn at the throat that could help a ventriloquist “throw” his voice –and also make his voice sound totally different. It gives the voice a kind of electrical-robotic sound – as was the quality of the voice of the supposedly eager to communicate and dead Dr. George Mueller.

Interestingly, O’Neil never allowed himself to be photographed from the front while using the Spiricom – was it so that he could hide the fact he was wearing and electronic larynx? I ask readers to add up all the evidence and and draw their own conclusion.

I bring this up because the author should have known better than to endorse the legacy of the Spiricom. She holds a Ph.D and thus must be well familiar with not only citing sources, but vetting those sources for accuracy. She stumbles here in the case of the Spriricom. This is unfortunate because her overall thesis is one that is highly controversial – and this means that every bit of information offered is critical to sustain overall credibility. All it takes is one glaring error for skeptics and debunkers to pounce.

Another minor quibble is that the book is overwritten, wordy and seems repetitive and padded at times –but others might disagree.

Overall, I absolutely recommend this book. I also liked the author’s skillful overview of how beliefs about death and the afterlife shifted and evolved from ancient times, through a series of dominating structures which hold sway over society for a few centuries, only to change.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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“Hidden” by Dublin-based writer Derick Parsons features murder and insanity and characters that are at once normal, neurotic, troubled and heroic

Review by KEN KORCZAK

Meet Kate Bennett – she’s a train wreck.

She’s a swirling mass of neurotic self-doubt, self-questioning, self-loathing and inner confusion. She’s has problems with men, problems with her job, problems with her co-workers, problems with her past, problems with her country and society. She’s lonesome – she is a festering boil of dysfunctional angst – she occasionally gives into delicious, lusty sex which makes her hate herself – she seems an excellent candidate for a truck load of Valium and a future straight jacket.

Yet, her job is that of psychologist! That’s right! Kate Bennett, Ph.D, is a counselor charged with healing the maladjustments of her fellow man!

Why not!

You have to admit, it makes for a great fictional premise. The blind leading the blind, as it were. Of course, most of us have always suspected this is the case anyway in real life – that no one is more screwed up than a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Anyway, that’s the best thing about this book, HIDDEN, by Irish writer DERICK PARSONS. All fiction is based on character and I give the author and A+ for creating the beautiful Kate Bennett, a walking contradiction. I did mention she is drop-dead gorgeous and a sizzling sexual lioness, right? Well, she is. She attracts men like flies.

Unfortunately, these men are barely above the evolutionary scale of the common house fly – sleazy politicians, sexual deviants, criminals, and fellow psychologists with brains ruled by their testicular organs.

The trouble for me is that I can’t decide if this book is supposed to be a standard romance novel or a murder-mystery thriller. It’s actually a combination of both, and there’s nothing wrong with this, except that, for my tastes, the author is unable to hold it together in an effective way.

Derick Parsons

The vast majority of the book is intensely internal – it dwells constantly on the tortured mental self-dialogue of Kate Bennett. She is in a perpetual state of self-questioning and misgiving. She’s can’t understand herself, but she squirms and struggles heroically to find clarity and change.

The problem is that this voluminous inner dialogue often becomes tedious. I think most readers will grow frustrated or exasperated as we listen in on Kate Bennett endlessly, yet fruitlessly self analyzes herself, questions her every move, doubts her every thought, second-guess her every motivation.

The author manages to cobble together a fairly reasonably complex and compelling murder mystery plot – the key to which is centered on a deeply-troubled mental patient – a shockingly lovely 18-year old girl who unfortunately can’t help because she is mostly catatonic or too delusional to be of value.

But the entire plot collapses upon itself at the end like a house of cards. It does so because of the way the “big finish” scene is choreographed. To say the least, the denouement is not skillfully handled – and I mean really not skillfully handled at all. That’s a shame because it tarnishes the rest of what is a well-written, well-conceived book with characters that are interesting and vivid.

My impression is that some readers will find this a 4- or 5-star read, while others will drop out well before the final chapters and rate it a 1-star read. To that end, I split the difference and offer three stars – and I will add that I believe Derick Parsons to be a deeply skilled writer with a brilliant future — a brilliant future indeed.

Ken Korczak is the author of: BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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“Progeny” by Patrick C. Greene follows a tried and true formula for a scary monster yarn featuring the legendary Bigfoot, but a tad too much formula for me

Review by KEN KORCZAK

As a person who reads more than 100 books a year, it’s easy for me to quickly spot patterns and formulas after reading just the first chapter or two of a novel. So it swiftly became apparent that PROGENY would deliver its plot in tried and true, but familiar formulaic fashion — and it does so to the end.

There’s nothing wrong with writing a formula or genre novel as long as the rendering is skillfully handled by the author, and PATRICK C. GREENE manages that here.

On the other hand, such a book will necessarily embody a certain blandness. Think of it like going to a fast food restaurant: It’s familiar, you go there because you like it; you know what to expect; the food will be good enough; you’ll get full and happy with the price — but you won’t fool yourself into believing that you just feasted at a fine bistro.

Progeny is like good fast food. It reads much like a made-for-TV movie screenplay for the Science Fiction Channel. All the standard props are here: (a) some unsavory, despicable bad guys, (b) some sweet and nice good guys, and, (c) a monster in the wilderness. I don’t have to tell you what is going to happen, do I? Okay, I will anyway, and don’t worry, there’s no need for a spoiler alert warning because you already know the formula. You’ve seen it a thousand times. It goes this way:

Patrick C. Greene

Some of the bad guys – out of hubris, greed, or both – will be horribly mangled and killed by the monster. The good guys will be in grave danger, but they’ll come out okay after some close scrapes and terrible frights. The bad guys will be at odds with the good guys to bolster the subplot. Speaking of subplots, you know there will be a lovely female character – one of the evil guys will have the hots for her –but she’ll fall in love with the good guy somewhere along the way. This will make the evil guy even madder and creates more tension.

The good guys will emerge from their harrowing encounter with the monster enlightened, amazed, humbled and giddy to be alive. The bad guys? Most of them will be dead. Their manner of dispatch will be painful, bloody and shocking.

So in Progeny the “monster” is Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, if you prefer. But you could switch in just about any creepy beastie — the Creature of the Black Lagoon, a giant ant, a mutant man-mosquito hybrid, chupacabra, a space-alien fiend – and everything would play out more or less the same.

Sometimes you’re in the mood for a popcorn movie, or a decent but basic page-turner you can read on the beach. Well, when you’re in that kind of mood, and you like scary monster stuff (like me) – this book is your choice.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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The Other Pilot by Ed Baldwin is an aviation thriller that gets muddled in the middle, making the plot veer off course for a crash landing

Review by KEN KORCZAK

THE OTHER PILOT is an ambitious attempt to write a thriller novel which incorporates some of the most relevant issues of our day – the banking crisis, the growing mistrust of the U.S. Government, political power, conspiracy theories – all wrapped up in the world of hot-jock fighter pilots who live, breath, sleep and eat flying, fighter jets and all things avionic.

The problem is that the author’s skill is not equal to the task at hand. The first three chapters are tight and do an excellent job of setting up a confounding mystery – and the last three or four chapters feature some fine, well-handled action scenes that get the blood pumping.

However, the downfall is the vast muddy middle of this novel. Writer ED BALDWIN, a retired Air Force flight surgeon, loses his grip on the control stick of his plot. He sets out to follow a well-designed literary flight plan, but instead gets lost in heavy fog and crash lands in a swamp teaming with conspiracy theories, right-wing paranoia about the U.N., NRA gun-nut blather, corporate banking scams, and preachy lectures on the innate human superiority of the fighter pilot.

Ed Baldwin

I’m well familiar with pilots. I once worked as communications writer within the aerospace industry. This afforded me the opportunity to meet, interview and interact with some of the most stellar and accomplished pilots of our day.

For example, I met and interviewed the great Scott Crossfield, the first man to break Mach 2. I sat down to a lunch and conversed with an impressive guy — the Marine aviator James Buchli — who logged more than 4,000 hours in jet fighters, including combat missions in the F-4 Phantom II. Buchli went on to fly four Space Shuttle missions.

One of my best friends while I worked in aerospace was a Vietnam-era B-52 pilot who happened to grow up in the same small North Dakota town as my first cousin, who was also a B-52 pilot and retired from the Air Force a Full Bird colonel.

But the bottom line is – and this is what those-who-are-absorbed-in-the-bliss-of-Aviation-Salvation-but-who-want-to-be-writers don’t understand – is that there are those of us who don’t care all that much about airplanes, bombers and fighter jets. We think they’re boring. And believe it or not, I really don’t think that a man’s pilot license can automatically trigger a sexual frenzy in the female human body, or that taking a woman flying in the clouds will cause her nipples to get hard (as happens in this book).

No, I’m a lowly earth-hugging drudge, skulking along in the low-paying gravel pits of the writing business. What really gets my rocks off is a tight plot, a blistering pace, a viewpoint character who is constantly in the clutches of grave danger, and who is fighting tooth and nail, page after page, to defeat the evil forces marshaled against him.

I like of lot of narrow escapes, background maneuvering and intrigue. I don’t give a bent wing flap if the plot is driven by fighter pilots or cloistered nuns weaving carpets in Tuscany — as long as the rendering is compelling and gripping – and keeps me jabbing the Kindle “page-turn button” like a cobra striking a small, furry animal.

This story makes too many unscheduled landings to let the characters kick back with some cold beers, spicy burritos, fried chicken, collard green and the occasional bout of athletic sex. But even great sex and peppery food can be dull if it stalls out the plot and causes a nose dive down to storybook swampland.

If you are among the Aviation Elect, have accepted Frank Borman as your Personal Savior, and believe the only thing that separates you from the slavery of a foreign power is a fleet of demigods stroking the sticks of F-16s armed with 2,000-pound bombs – you may enjoy The Other Pilot. If that’s not you, well …

Ken Korczak is the author of BIRD BRAIN GENIUS

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“The Circle and the Sword” by Nigel Mortimer is a rare gem which is an important addition to the field of paranormal investigation, ufology and exploration of mystical studies

Review By KEN KORCZAK

I believe this small book is an important document. It is a genuine, authentic and intriguing addition to the field of ufology and paranormal investigation — written by an upright “regular bloke” (his words) living day-to-day among what is one of the most important focal points for unexplained phenomenon in the world.

THE CIRCLE AND THE STONE is the story of NIGEL MORTIMER who lives in the North Yorkshire area of England near the fabled ILKLEY MOOR – a sub-realm of greater ROMBALD’S MOOR — a location of incredible rock carvings and ceremonial stone monuments dating to the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Other megaliths that have been erected here for reasons unknown and known throughout the ages.

In the late fall of 1980 Mortimer was a carefree teenager working as an office clerk. Suddenly, uninvited, without warning or reason, the home where Mortimer lived began to manifest strange poltergeist activity — banging noises, doors mysteriously flung open — and something extremely strange (and almost comical) happened to his sister. Then came the night of November 30 when Mortimer had a personal encounter with one of the famous glowing orbs of Ilkey.

Mortimer at first thought he had experienced merely a brief sighting. He awoke one night “for no apparent reason” and felt compelled to look out his window. In the icy cold skies, Mortimer espies an anomalous moving light — a spherical object — which moved across the sky, and then appeared to come straight toward him. He observed the object for a time — experiencing many strange sensations as he did so — but mostly forgot about the event upon awakening the next morning.

But in coming days, Mortimer came to feel that his sighting was more than a simple, passive event – the glowing orb seemed to have reached somehow deeply into his psyche, implanting a seed within him that would grow into a powerful and irresistible obsession with the bizarre manifestations of this enchanted region.

NIGEL MORTIMER

Mortimer’s experience was both a blessing and a curse. It seized what was once the life of a “normal bloke” and later responsible father, husband and hard-working family man – and flung him onto the path of obsessed UFO investigator.

Mortimer could scarcely believe what was happening to himself. His first marriage began falling apart; his work life suffered – yet he couldn’t set aside his deep fixation. A second marriage would later fall prey to his unstoppable quest as well. It seems that all aspects of the “normal life” for an honest man from a small English village would be consumed by ancient powers inhabiting the moorlands of England.

People have been reporting sightings and encounters with strange glowing orbs Ilkley Moor for uncounted centuries. That this phenomenon exists here is beyond question. The historical record is rife with accounts of bizarre encounters with “energy globes” that have come to be known my many names – “Wi ll-o’- the-Wisp, Jack o’ Lantern (or Lanthorn), Kitty Candlestick and others.

The well-documented historical record of this phenomenon adds credibility to Mortimer’s story – a man who has been living and prowling Rombald’s Moor his entire adult life. He has put his personal credibility and reputation on the line within his community, which adds weight to the integrity of his account.

So this book is not only a must read – but gets my highest recommendation – but now it is time for some tough love – and my tough love message comes in two parts:

First:

The fact is, the technical rendering of the Kindle edition of this book is extremely rough. I would urge the author immediately to implement a thorough editing and reformatting. Much as it pains me, I owe it to the readers of my reviews to warn them that here they will find numerous typos, glitches, uneven formatting to the point of considerable distraction. I won’t belabor this – and so – I leave the issue there.

Second and more importantly:

I believe this book, The Circle and the Sword – as it stands –represents one of the greatest missed opportunities in the history of UFO/mystical/paranormal literature – but it’s still not too late.

Let me explain:

What we have here is one of the best personal stories of UFO/mystical experience encounter in the world. That’s not hyperbole. It’s a story that spans decades, and it is a saga of unquestionable integrity. In the context of history, the quest of Nigel Mortimer is important to the legacy of the region.

So what I’m saying is that this book begs to be so much more.

The combination of Mortimer’s personal story — the struggles of his personal life, his obsessive quest, his inability to free himself from the powers of Ilkley Moor – combined with the astonishing (and authenticated) mystical phenomenon associated with ancient monuments – cries out to be expanded in deeper, richer detail.

For me, the very best books are those that read like a compelling work of fiction, but are, in fact, true stories. We have the beginnings of that here. Mortimer’s story contains the four primary key and classic ingredients of the best fiction: character, setting, theme and plot.

Consider:

Character – Nigel Mortimer is inexplicably obsessed, thrust unwillingly like an Odysseus into a journey of magical encounter. He is often lost, depressed and feels hope is lost. But he keeps pressing forward on his hero’s journey, finding strength, sometimes glimpsing wonders and joy, sometimes finding unexpected help along the way.

Setting – What could be better? The ancient terrain of Rombald’s Moor, like something out of a Thomas Hardy novel. A scene littered with hoary ancient monuments, redolent with the ages, virtually shimmering with the latent potential of primeval energies – a picturesque, austere, yet beautiful landscape.

Theme – The quest for ultimate knowledge; the challenge of melding the modern ufology with mythology and the genuine, lost esoteric mysteries from the mists of time.

Plot – The main plot is a quest for knowledge and enlightenment. It’s a mission to uncover the secrets of a magical, hidden alternate universe. And there are subplots aplenty – the struggling relationships of Mortimer with his family; his sometimes dicey relationship within a modern community that has lost touch with its magical past and greater reality. Mortimer’s story is an alchemist’s heart-wrenching search for spiritual gold.

Mind you – I realize nobody is asking for my advice – and Circle and the Stone stands as a gem (although must be edited). However, I offer my comments as a fellow writer, journalist and maven of the UFO/paranormal genre who much admires this work, and wants more of it and from it.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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Free mystery novel ebook: “The Mystery of Lincoln’s Inn” is a pure delight, almost certainly based on true events of a major scandal which rocked Canada nearly a century ago

Review by KEN KORCZAK

Robert Machray is described as a writer of “simple-minded mysteries” in the Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction, and this novel The Lincoln’s Inn Mystery would probably qualify as that. In my view, however, it rises above simple-minded. Certainly, this is not a work of literary depth – but it is a well-plotted yarn that is a delight to read and highly entertaining.

What’s even more intriguing is the story behind the novel.

As it turns out, Robert Machray was the nephew of the Anglican Bishop ROBERT MACHRAY, an extremely important figure in Canada from the mid-1800s into the early part of the 20th Century. He was instrumental in the development of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

Bishop Machray was also elected the “First Primate of all Canada” by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. He was the bishop of Rubert’s Land” a huge area within the vast land of Canada.

In 1874, Bishop Machray’s two nephews, John and Robert Machray, were sent from Scotland to live under his care. John was educated at the University of Manitoba and went on to become an extremely powerful and later notorious public official in Winnipeg. He was eventually convicted of embezzling and/or misappropriating $1.8 million in funds from a variety of sources. (John Machray)

This was an enormous amount of money in early 1900s Canada, making John Machray something of the “Bernie Madoff” of his time, at least in this region of southern Canada. He died in prison in 1933.

So what’s remarkable to me is that in this tale a criminal British lawyer, Cooper Silwood, has embezzled funds from his own law firm and partners, Eversleigh, Silwood and Eversleigh. It is almost certainly inspired by the machinations of John Machray.

And yet, this book was published in 1910, some 22 years before Robert Machray’s brother was finally prosecuted and convicted. It seems amazing to me that author Machray would write a novel that is so obviously based on the shady practices of this brother. One might think the book would have tipped off the Powers-That-Be that something was rotten in Denmark … er, I mean, Canada!

It makes me wonder if the author was making a kind of back door attempt to flush out his own brother. Like his famous uncle, Robert Machray was ordained clergy of the Church of England. Even though he resigned his clerical duties to pursue the life of a writer, perhaps he maintained a high degree of moral propriety, and thus may have been disgusted about what he apparently knew about his brother.

Anyway, you don’t have to appreciate the extraordinary background to enjoy The Mystery of Lincoln’s Inn. All the juicy elements of a great mystery are here. There’s a dastardly criminal. There are pure-of-heart good guys and women who get caught up in an agonizing web of deceit, greed and corruption. A mysterious death and a jilted lover also thicken the plot and add depth to the narrative.

But what I really liked about this book is a hint of an understated cynical humor. This is almost a black comedy. It’s as if the intelligent, sophisticated and former Anglican minister Robert Machray found the folly of his fellow human beings not just sad, but slightly ludicrous.

The book is set mostly in London, but I was delighted that some of the events take place here in my native Minnesota. I think any lover of mystery novels will find this a first-class read. It hasn’t lost it’s edge or relevance despite being published more than a century ago.

Note: This book is available as a free download ebook in all formats on the Project Gutenberg site HERE.

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE FAIRY REDEMPTION OF JUBAL CRANCH

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“One Just Man” by Stan I.S. Law will be a mind expanding feast for some, but others may find it’s philosophical theme well-traveled and well-worn ground

Review by KEN KORCZAK

Two central motifs that pervade ONE JUST MAN center on dualism and paradox. And so it is appropriate that my review will be somewhat dualistic and paradoxical. That is, I am going to very highly recommend this book, but I will also offer some rather sharp criticism.

The premise is one common in literature: a man who has a Messiah complex, or a man who really is the Messiah, but doesn’t know it yet. It’s a theme that pops up across all genres: In science fiction there is Michael Morcock’s “Behold the Man” and Philip K. Dick’s “The Divine Invasion.” In New Age literature there’s Richard Bach’s Don Shimoda. In contemporary literature Chuck Palahnuik’s creates Victor Mancini. In classic literature there are many: Camus’ Meursault, for example. Of course, Nikos Kazantzakis reimagined Christ himself in his 1953 classic, “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

In ONE JUST MAN, then, we have Dr. Peter Thornton, a brilliant, up-and-coming Montreal physician who slowly begins to realize his powers of healing go well beyond medical science. He’s a resistant and reluctant messiah, but eventually his “gift’ overpowers him. As the novel progresses, he must accept his fate for what he is.

Because the best fiction is based on character author STAN I.S. LAW scores high marks for crafting a viewpoint character in a way that is subtle yet powerful – but it is another character that looms over every moment of the narrative in an even more subtle and powerful way – the family butler Winston Smith.

Imagine if you could a mix of Batman’s man Alfred with the legendary Hermes Trismegistus. Or maybe if you combined equal amount John the Baptist, Simon Magus, Erwin Schrödinger and Sir John Gielgud – you would then have the mysterious Winston Smith.

The first third of the novel is absorbing because Dr. Thornton’s fierce introspective struggles are compelling. We meet a cold-as-ice clinician who is the consummate professional, yet has a penchant for sleazy liaisons; he “relieves tension” by banging nurses in hospital linen closets, only to forget their faces before he gets his pants zipped up. All his off duty time is spent in heartless, robotic study of the chemistry and plumbing of the human body so that he can become the most efficient doctor, more akin to a mechanic of bodies than a healer of people with souls.

To paraphrase Viktor Frankl (echoing any number of Zen masters): “One does not pursue enlightenment; it must ensue.” This is the case with Peter Thornton. The time comes when he can no longer deny the reality that he has the power to heal by touch. His transcendence from ordinary doctor to messianic healer happens quietly but definitely. He doesn’t ask for it, but he gets it.

Thornton suddenly cannot suffer personal material wealth and possessions; prestige means nothing; all goals and graspings drop away. He becomes a simple “faith healer” of men, banishing pain, disease and suffering with a touch.

But then the novel goes drastically off course. Peter Thornton becomes a conduit for healing, but he has no control over his gift. The power of healing nearly kills him, even as it gives life to others. He then is rescued by the mysterious Winston Smith and proceeds to enter upon a long period of convalescence. Unfortunately for the reader, this period of integration involves endless discussion and heady philosophizing with his girlfriend in a remote cabin in the Canadian wilderness.

There’s a lot of lofty philosophical blather, but nothing happens.

All tension is drained from the narrative. Thornton and his partner are free to enjoy food, sex, blissful natural vistas and starlight as they ponder the enigmatic duality of soul and spirit, the paradox of matter as energy, and the numbing conclusion that a particle singularity exists simultaneous as a wave form.

One of the most inexplicable choices the author makes is to reduce Dr. Thornton’s love interest from a brilliant, beautiful, powerful woman crackling with aggressive sexuality into a simpering girlish sycophant – she goes from being one of the world’s most erudite physicists to a mildly confused scrub woman, cook and sex partner for her exulted new Messiah, who adopts the appallingly pretentious (egotistical?) name, Petrus Latter.

I mean, if the original Jesus Christ was as preachy, dull and bordering on maudlin as this guy, it’s little wonder he was crucified.

Stan I.S. Law

What seems to be happening here is that the author has contrived a fictional scenario to serve as a vehicle to deliver his metaphysical determinations – he does an excellent job of creating interesting, vivid characters, but then settles in to string them like puppets, commanding them to chatter on about the nature of human reality, physical reality and consciousness – and about how all of it is informed by implications falling out from quantum theory.

But does the author at least present a sound philosophy and metaphysics? Yes, he certainly does – and he does so with great lucidity and eloquence. Stan I.S. Law is obviously a brilliant guy, and a writer with a great heart. He is a marvelously elegant wordsmith. His prose is effortless and beautiful. However, in the meta-analysis, there is not a single revelation being made here that isn’t already known by a large segment of today’s reading public.

So the measure of how much you enjoy this novel depends on the level to which you understand timeless, universal principles of metaphysics (Vedic, Buddhist and Gnostic Christian ), and your awareness of how modern quantum mechanics appears to support what enlightened visionaries have been shouting out to us for millennia.

If you don’t know a lot of this stuff, you’ll find this book a scintillating, mind expanding feast. But if you already have at least an intellectual understanding of the metaphysical concepts presented here, you might be bored stiff through the last half of the book.

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE FAIRY REDEMPTION OF JUBAL CRANCH

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“The Roswell Legacy” by Jesse Marcel Jr. is written by a man who was there, but this book offers nothing new and the prose struggles

Review by KEN KORCZAK

Let me just say that Jesse Marcel Jr. has my great admiration. He’s lived an honorable life as a hard-working physician, healer of the sick, father of eight children, grandfather, National Guard member, served in the Iraq War for 13 months as flight surgeon – he’s a classic all-around, All-American good guy.

He also projects a warm, avuncular vibe in the TV and video interviews I have seen — he’s obviously a marvelous human being – I wish he was my uncle or my next door neighbor.

And thus it pains me to inform my readers that THE ROSWELL LEGACY is a fairly awful book.

There isn’t a single new revelation to provide a single shard of information that might shed new light on what really happened at a remote desert about 75 miles from Roswell, New Mexico, on June 14, 1947. Everything said about the supposed crash of an alien spacecraft (or something) at the location has already been aired ad nausea in a blizzard of other books, articles, TV shows, movies, Internet sites.

True, Marcel is more than a footnote in the annals of UFO lore. By virtue of his fiddling for about 20 minutes with some of the debris of whatever crashed in the desert when he was an 11 year old boy, Marcel has gained a minor star in that strange constellation of players that comprises the field of ufology.

He says he wrote this book to clear up scads of egregious misinformation and false statements that have been made about his father by debunkers and skeptics over the years, as they questioned Jesse Marcel Sr.’s role as one of the first men to see the Roswell crash site, and collect some of the wreckage.

Dr. Jesse Marcel Jr.

But he adds absolutely nothing new to the record. Everything he tells about his father is known. If anything, Marcel somewhat dulls the luster of his father’s reputation. He describes Marcel Sr’s slow descent into alcoholism and a bitter sense of cynicism and alienation from the military, possibly related to the government’s attempt to control whatever message it wanted to control about the Roswell incident. I give the author high points for unflinching honesty, however.

The quality of the writing is barely adequate, if not poor – it reads like a high school student turning in a report about what he did on his summer vacation. There is also more than a little flat-out padding with bland information about space travel anyone can find on Wikipedia, a superfluous appendix, too much info about weather balloons, and a chapter written by his wife who adds minor, irrelevant pleasantries.

A number of errors are made as well, – for example, the Soviet-Era space station MIR is misidentified twice as “Muir.” Also J. ALLEN HYNEK’S name is incorrectly spelled “Hyneck.”

Furthermore, Marcel mistakenly says that the famous “swamp gas” concept was a favorite go-to explanation that Dr. Hynek used to debunk UFO reports. The truth is, it was reporters who misunderstood something Hynek said in a press conference which led to the popularization of the “swamp gas” term, and it was the media which subsequently hammered “swamp gas” into the public consciousness.

If the price was maybe .99 cents for the Kindle edition, I would say go ahead and buy it. But this is not a significant contribution to the Roswell legacy.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

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“Captured! The Barney and Betty Hill Experience” is a surprisingly absorbing read which reveals never-before-released information about this most famous alien abduction case

Review by KEN KORCZAK

I was two years old when what is still probably the most famous case of alien abduction of all time occurred in 1961 – that involving Barney and Betty Hill of New Hampshire. When I was about seven years old I was struck with a magnificent obsession for astronomy, and that naturally led to an interest in the possibility that Earth was being visited from the stars.

So I have been aware of the Hill abduction saga virtually all my life. Over the decades, I have read a book or two and dozens of articles about the case. It’s also frequently discussed in other UFO books. I vividly remember being glued to the TV as a teenager over the 1975 made-for-TV docudrama of the Hill story starring James Earl Jones and Estelle Parsons.

Thus, ever since KATHLEEN MARDEN’S book CAPTURED! THE BARNEY AND BETTY HILL EXPERIENCE first came out in 2007, I’ve been taking a pass on it, thinking, “What more is there possibly to say about this already over-analyzed case?” and:

“Do we really need another Barney and Betty Hill book?”

I now know the answer is “Yes!” I decided to purchase “Captured” partly on a whim, but also because it’s been too long time since I read a good UFO yarn. I was flabbergasted by how much I still did not know about the case after all these years – in fact, I can say that I have an all-knew perspective.

I have opted to move myself out of the “skeptic” column regarding the Hill abduction into the “believer” column – as difficult as that is for me to say.

Marden (who is the primary author of this book and who is Betty Hill’s niece), rolls out a case that may be wholly circumstantial – but the weight and the aggregate of all this circumstantial evidence as presented here would be more than enough to hang a man in any court of law.

By contrast, the alternative explanations offered by some of the greatest skeptics and debunkers – including Carl Sagan, James Randi and Philip Klass – seem petty, sparse, cherry-picked and highly theoretical by comparison.

Kathleen Marden and Stanton Friedman

In Captured!, Marden (along with famed UFO investigator STANTON FRIEDMAN who consulted on the book and also wrote a couple chapters), presents a painstaking, point-by-point analysis of every aspect of the case, from an in-depth analysis of the hypnotic regression sessions compared with consciousness memory accounts and Betty’s dreams; the lives and character of the Hills; actual physical evidence (left on her dress); the famous “Star Map”; follow-up events and sightings – and how the aftermath played out in the lives of the Hills for decades to come – the latter of which shows how the case actually has gained credibility over the years.

I noticed that some other reviewers were turned off by one of the late chapters in which the authors launch an intense and scathing attack on skeptic and debunkers. I think some will find the tone of this chapter a bit overwrought, harsh and even mean – and yet, there is not charge made that does not point to direct and obvious, egregious errors committed by debunkers – which they seem to get a free pass on.

That’s because the general public – even myself at times – still find is astoundingly difficult to wrap our collective minds around the implications which naturally fall out of the Hill abduction case. I mean, if their story is true – it means space aliens are running around, picking up ordinary people, sticking anal probes up their orifices, and conducting studies on human being like so many wildlife biologists drugging and tagging animals.

The danger, though, is in making comparisons that are mundane. The true meanings behind alien abduction scenarios like the Hill case have their actual basis in a kind overarching-meta-reality … or … or … perhaps in terms of some greater, higher dimensionality of thought and conception of the universe.

The bottom line is: Barney and Betty Hill may have had a genuine abduction experience, but what the event actually means and implies may be something that can never be known in terms of the current way we model our ideas about what is real and what is unreal. It is something that is beyond the ken of material and empirical science – but also beyond any level of metaphysical and spiritual conceptions we have managed to develop as a species at this point in our evolution.

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE MAN IN THE NOTHING CHAMBER

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