Category Archives: fiction

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 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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“Antiques Don’t Bounce” by Richard Bullivant is a breezy, delightful read

Review by KEN KORCZAK

This is a delightful book because it manages to achieve what few books do: It makes the ordinary seem extraordinary. ANTIQUES DON’T BOUNCE by British author RICHARD BULLIVANT is proof that craft of writing will never go stale as long as there are authors who can look around their ordinary worlds with a sharp eye and tell us about what they see and experience in a way that seems magical.

The story follows the journey of a young college student seeking a business degree performing a mandatory year of work service in the real world of doing an ordinary job. Out of sheer lack of direction he drifts into a bottom-basement, entry-level position with a firm whose primary function is transporting antiques. It’s basically a glorified moving company, or what the Brits call “a removal service” although what they move in this case is often unique and highly valuable. The year is 1977.

This is not a plot driven book, and the view-point character is merely a voice in the background. But think of it more like Homer’s Odyssey. In that epic tale Ulysses find himself blown off course, cast away and thrust into a vast world of strange unknowns. He encounters bizarre characters and experiences strange new lands.<> In this case, the sprawling London firm, Lloyd & Taylor Ltd., is the ocean, and our student, like Ulysses, is tossed about from department to department to work as a common gopher or more accurately: a jack-of-do-whatever-we-tell-you-to-do. Like Ulysses, he grapples with confounding situational problems and meets eccentric (or comically dull) characters in each department.

Richard Bullivant

Bullivant’s ability to bring alive common folks as vibrant, fascinating characters is a primary strength of this book. You’ll meet drab clerks, salty truckers, smooth salesmen, cagey warehouse workers, a boozed up messenger grunt, prissy art dealers, small-town blokes – each an absolute enchantment.

The author is also able to convey to the reader a marvelous feeling – such as the joy of a breezy drive through the countryside on a lovely spring day – in a way that makes you feel you’re actually riding along on a lark through Merry Old England. It’s great escapism,

As the year comes to an end, I have read and written reviews for more than 100 books, and Antiques Don’t Bounce easily makes my Top 10. If this book doesn’t find best-seller status, I hope it achieves a significant niche audience or cult following. It’s the kind of book that you “discover” and makes you feel like you found a gem.

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

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