Tag Archives: Kindle books

Gillian Will Attempts to Put Wyoming on the Map (correctly) in this serialized novel of political intrigue, comedy and romance

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

Keep in mind I’ve read only the first “Episode” of this 13-part series which the author bills as, “a serial novel for people who like to watch TV.” Each offering is about 20 pages – the first is free, and so writer GILLIAN WILL is really putting her writing chops on the line by trying to make the first installment so compelling you’ll want to pay hard cash money for the next.

Part of me wants to think: “Has this what it’s gotten down to? Writers are so desperate to compete with the Boob Tube today that they’re employing marketing gimmicks to ensure readers that books can be just as fun, easy – and mindless? – as television?”

But that’s the way I think when I am a cynical reviewer in a bad mood (which is almost all the time).

I’m in an okay mood today, however, so I’ll give all the credit in the world to GILLIAN WILL for attempting to innovate, find new audiences for books and, who knows, create a new niche market or genre of literature.

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Gillian Will

Whatever the case, it gets down to judging the book not by its cover or sales scheme, but on the literature itself. On that score, I issue high praise, indeed. I found the first installment of THE STATE OF WYOMING to be refreshingly well written – smart, with perky and punchy prose, effortless character development and a plot that gets going fast.

The premise is also a winner for guys like me who are addicted political wonks. It involves a mythical federal government program called “The Fifty States” which is basically an empty bureaucratic shell staffed by one person for each state – and their actual job or function is so vague even the program’s director would have trouble explaining the purpose of the operation to Congress – or to the American people, for that matter.

The viewpoint character is a likable slacker who’s collecting a government paycheck as “Wyoming,” meaning he represents his state in Washington by doing little more than showing up to his desk. The reason the Elliot Vance landed such a cushy job is that he happens to be the grand-nephew of former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance.

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Cyrus Vance, Secretary of State, Carter Administration

Not to worry – Mr. Vance’s life is about to get complicated when a lovely blonde Congressional aide shows up to his cubical one day with an actual assignment for him – it seems he’s needed in his “home state” of Wyoming for a special mission – and now he must actually visit The Equality State for the first time in his life.

The first installment is free – thus, you can’t go wrong – so I say give it a try. I’m betting more than a few will opt to keep reading through the next “Episode,” which, after all, is only 99 cents, or free if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, like me.



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

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

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John Patrick Kennedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

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

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

It was Jack Vance.

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

Briefly, the scenario is this:

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

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

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

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Jack Vance, 1916-2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Maximus Freeman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul Elder

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

Angelic beings and entities that defy categorization are also encountered.

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

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

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

He survived all!

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

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

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

See book details here: EYES OF AND ANGEL

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

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

robert-mossReview By KEN KORCZAK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Robert Moss

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William Blake

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

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

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

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

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

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