Category Archives: Ken Korczak

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

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

Follow @KenKorczak

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

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

Follow @KenKorczak

Steps To Heaven by Wendy Cartmell is crime thriller novel a tad short on the thrills

Review by KEN KORCZAK

Sgt. Major Tom Crane is a British military cop with a big problem. Soldiers are turning up dead. Their throats are slit — and so are the jugulars of their wives and sons — the crime scenes are a horrid bloody mess.

The first case seems like a classic double murder suicide, maybe the result of a marriage gone bad, or perhaps a soldier suffering from PTSD. But Sgt. Crane smells a rat. When a second murder suicide turns up on another garrison, Crane becomes a human bloodhound, nose bent to a trail of clues that strangely point to a local church.

If this sounds like a terrific premise for a thrilling crime novel, well it is. Author WENDY CARTMELL has hatched a first rate plot and she does a credible job of laying it all out, holding it together and keeping us guessing to the end.

However, STEPS TO HEAVEN is not a great novel; it’s merely an average or perhaps a “just ok” offering to the crime fiction genre. There are several reasons why this novel fails to be all it could be.

Sgt. Crane’s methods are procedural, clerical and plodding. The majority of the action plays out far more like a bunch of bored cops sitting around for committee meetings to read reports and compare notes. They analyze computer data and comb through various records — and then they stay late to go over it all again.

Granted, this might be the way real police work is actually done, rather than the high-octane gun-play, car chases, knife fights and narrow escapes of movies or TV — but this is fiction and we don’t want paperwork and reports — we want our adrenaline to boil through every page.

Another significant drawback for me are characters that are flat. Everyone here is more or less a cliché — the prim, proper and a-bit-too-tightly wound Sgt. Kim Weston. Her well-starched uniform crackles as much as her obsessive efficiency.

Kim Weston is set off against Staff Sergeant Billy Williams — an easy going athletic type who feels more comfortable on a football field than in front of a computer. He’s cheerful, happy-go-lucky but sometimes does sloppy work — which draws the evil eye from the uptight Sgt. Williams.

But the most bland of all is Tina, the wife of our viewpoint character, Sgt. Major Crane.

Wendy Cartmell

The author makes a valiant effort to flesh out the character of Crane through scenes that show interaction with his wife when he’s off duty — but we get little traction there since Tina Crane is about as vibrant and interesting as a jar of mayonnaise.

Crane and his wife bicker tediously over her sloppy housekeeping when they aren’t mulling over having a baby — the discussion of which centers around projections of the family budget. Wow! They do everything but get out some spreadsheets to regale us action-hungry readers about how they might micromanage future income potentials which combine the pay of her boring job as bank teller vis-a-vis his military salary.

GAK! Poor Mrs. Crane! She might have to give up getting pedicure at the occasional spa outing, or sacrifice carefree jaunts with her gal pals if she has to stay home and wet nurse a freshly minted army brat!

It’s all pretty dull.

The author almost saves the day by providing some dramatics at the end — but the biggest story here is a tremendous case of missed literary opportunity, and let me explain:

For me, the final actions scenes are rendered problematic because of implausibility — and that implausibility centers around the fact that I don’t think the “Bad Guy” could have pulled off what he did in acting alone.

I’m trying hard to word this in a way without having to issue a spoiler alert by revealing too much about the ending — but when I say this is a titanic case of missed opportunity — I am talking about the idea that the “Bad Guy” guy should have had an accomplice — and that accomplice should have been Mrs. Morrison!

Let me repeat: If the author would have made Mrs. Morrison an accomplice in the horrible crimes played out in this narrative, it would have saved the day for me, and would have made schlepping through the rest of this novel much more worthwhile.

But, alas, it was not to be.

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

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

Follow @KenKorczak

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

Follow @KenKorczak

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

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 by 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

Follow @KenKorczak

“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

Follow @KenKorczak

The Vesuvius Isotope smolders occasionally but never erupts

Review by KEN KORCZAK

It’s inevitable that novels such as this one will be compared to Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” so let me get that out of the way right now — Brown practically single-handedly rejuvenated a genre of fiction which incorporates the elements of ancient history, religion, mythologies, conspiracies all mixed up with elements of modern science and politics — and THE VESUVIUS ISOTOPE is solidly in that realm.

I should mention that Brown’s Da Vinci Code was largely derivative of UMBERTO ECO’S masterful novel, FOUCAULT’S PENDULUM. But whatever the case, after Brown sold about a hundred ba-zillion copies of his low-brow version of Eco’s epic, it was no surprise that many new writers followed suit, and so that’s why I say it’s practically a new genre.

In The Vesuvius Isotope instead of a brilliant Harvard professor of symbology we have world-class Ph.D. biologist, Dr. Katrina Stone. Instead of a mystery involving the tangled ancient dealings of the Catholic Church dovetailing with arcane pagan belief systems, we have the multifaceted mysteries of ancient Egyptian religion.

The start of both novels are even similar. They both launch with the discovery of a dead body that is naked. In the case of the Da Vinci Code it is the curator of the Louvre. In the Vesuvius Isotope it is the husband of biologist Katrina Stone – her husband happened to be one of the world’s leading scientist.

So in both books a morbid naked discovery launches the characters on a journey of international intrigue. This entails a globe-trotting search across spectacular venues of the ancient world to solve a vexing mystery. In Brown’s book it’s cracking the so-called Da Vinci code. In this book it’s a search for an ancient remedy for cancer possibly developed by none other than Queen Cleopatra herself.

Unfortunately, and for the sake of full disclosure, I consider Brown’s Da Vinci Code to be among the worst novels ever written. I agree with Salmon Rushdie who said The Da Vinci Code is, “a novel so bad that it gives bad novels a bad name,” and Stephen King who said the Da Vinci Code is, “the intellectual equivalent of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.”

But wait a minute — Is it even fair to make the comparison? After all, a visit to author KRISTEN ELISE’S WEB SITE reveals her day job is actually that of Ph.D. biologist and cancer drug research specialist, the same as her Katrina Stone heroine. Elise says it was her work with a certain isotopes that inspired the plot of this book.

And yet, I think anyone can see the similarities I point out between “Vesuvius” and “Da Vinci.”

Okay, with that caveat — and clearing the table to leave all comparisons behind — how does The Vesuvius Isotope stand on it’s own? In my view, not very well. This is a first-time novel definitely not ready for prime time. My reasons have nothing to do with unfortunate resemblances to The Da Vinci Code. For me The Vesuvius Isotope falters all by itself on many levels, including:

* The narrative does not sustain a consistent feeling of tension and urgency. That’s because the author frequently stops the action for detailed explanations (lectures) of historical facts, personalities and situations. The ancient history background is necessary to provide context for what is happening today — but it means a full-stop in unfolding the plot. A more skilled writer would be able to weave these elements together more seamlessly.

* Overuse of flashbacks, dream elements and introspective interludes inside the head of the main character. The author relies heavily on flashbacks to flesh out characters and provide background context — but she goes to the “flashback well” far, far too often, creating a choppy, disjointed feel to the narrative — which is also often confusing.

* Cliche elements: As just one example, The Dr. Jeffrey Wilson character seems plucked out of a Harlequin Romance novel. He’s amazingly handsome, a multimillionaire and brilliant. He won the Nobel Prize before the age of 40! He looks fantastic while naked with his “lean surfer’s body.” He not only has blue eyes, but “smoky blue eyes” (the vaunted ‘smokiness’ is mentioned no less than four times). His “sandy locks” fall seductively onto his forehead. Ladies, this delicious hunk is not only sweet, thoughtful, kind and romantic — he loves wine, museums, flowers, Paris and surprise gifts — he’s available!

Well, after all, this is fiction.

But there are other cliché gimmicks as well: Such as the old Hollywood ploy to bump somebody off via ye olde: “rigging the car brakes” and the hackneyed, “monkey around with the oxygen tanks of the scuba gear.”

One of the biggest drawback of the book for me is this: A murky enemy that only emerges toward the end. We eventually find out who the nefarious forces are — but the troublemakers are only revealed in the final scenes.

Why is this a problem? Because a really thrilling novel pits a frightening, twisted, evil and devious enemy against the heroic goodness of the protagonists. In order for us to be afraid for the heroes, we need a vivid picture of how loathsome the enemy is. We need to see them, fear them and hate them. The worse the enemy, and the more viscerally defined, the more we will be afraid for our heroes. We’ll also be satisfied when the creeps are defeated in a big show down at the end.

But in this novel, we only get hints of shadowy figures involved in some conspiratorial operation are scheming to trip up the do-gooders. For some reason, they don’t want a miracle cure for cancer to be found, but we don’t know why. (Certainly it must be the pharmaceutical giants, right? No, you would be wrong!) When the “big reveal” does finally come, it has all the climactic punch of a friendly game of darts.

Certainly other readers may disagree entirely with my take on The Vesuvius Isotope. Without guile I say that I hope a lot of other readers would buy this book, read it, and then come back here and tell me if my take is spot on — or if I’m nuts.

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

Follow @KenKorczak

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

Follow @KenKorczak

Sky Hunter by Chris Reher is space opera that breaks no molds but is expertly crafted and well written

Review by: KEN KORCZAK

Hey if you are going to read space opera it might as well be really good space opera, and SKY HUNTER is some pretty darned good space opera.

It has all the elements you expect from the genre:

* Space ships, star fighters, alien planets, aliens, space stations, cool gadgets.

* Well-handled actions scenes.

* A crisp writing pace that moves smoothly through an expertly-crafted plot.

* Believable characters you will care about and whom you will cheer on.

* A deftly created background featuring planetary systems flung across the vast reaches of interstellar space.

I also give author CHRIS REHER vast credit for inserting a couple of plot twists I never expected. When you read as much space opera as I have over the past 40 years, that’s not easy to do. Furthermore, some of these turns make this book relevant to issues we are concerned about today. That adds immediacy and relevancy to the narrative.

One of the unexpected departures relates directly to a certain terrible situation which is an ongoing in our U.S. Military today (although the author is Canadian) – but I’ll say no more because I don’t want to issue a spoiler alert.

So Sky Hunter gets my top recommendation. I encourage all science fiction fans to jump on the entire series. It’s a well-written, professionally edited yarn more than worth your dime and time.

Now let’s have a discussion. Come on, folks, pull up a chair and let’s talk.

Sky Hunter is terrific space opera, but it breaks no molds. Even though it’s all put together well, the “parts” writer Chris Reher leverages are the standard “pre-packaged, off-the-shelf, one-size-fit-all” modules of science fiction.

What do I mean?

Well, there is almost no cutting-edge invention here. There is not a single prop in this book we haven’t seen before, and many times over. The main character, Nova Whiteside, is almost indistinguishable from, say, Kara Thrace (call-sign Starbuck) of Battlestar Galactica. Both are tough-as-nails female fighter pilots who grew up as army brats and are making a go of it in a testosterone-soaked man’s world.

The starfighting “Kites” that Whiteside flies are indistinguishable from the crafts used by Luke Skywalker or the crew of Battlestar Galactica, or any one of dozens of other books, movies or TV shows.

Chris Reher

There are space stations and “star gates” or interstellar “jump gates” that have been used over and over again in Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate and other venues. On the surface of a dusty desert-like planet folks get around in “skimmers.” (Sounds familiar, right?)

The background features a federation of planets, just like the federation of Star Trek. There are rebels fighting the intergalactic empires that be. The aliens are barely alien at all and when they are, they’re like those you already know. For example, Reher’s “Caspians” are tall, fur-covered people with big feet – again, sound familiar? About the only thing that seems to separate the Centaurians from Earth humans is that they have remarkable blue eyes.

I mean, so what I’m saying here: This is genre space opera and it is really, really couched safely within the field. It doesn’t boldly go where a lot of other science fictions writers have gone before.

Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with that!

This is the kind of science fiction I cut my teeth on when I was a teenager, and it lead me to a life-long love of the art. Later on the SF acolyte will discover works of amazing innovation and depth – such as a “Gateway” by Frederick Pohl or “Dune” by Frank Herbert or the 4-book-series “Planet of Adventure” by the mighty Jack Vance. (For my money the latter is the best space opera series of all time).

Sky Hunter continues a tradition of Top Gun space adventure that will bring new readers into the joys of the genre.

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

Follow @KenKorczak

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

Follow @KenKorczak