Tag Archives: Russia

Ode To Odin By Bruce McLaren Is Fantastically Satisfying Romp Featuring An Archaeological Dig In Central Asia


Review by: KEN KORCZAK

The science of archaeology is often leveraged by fiction writers because it lends itself so well to a premise involving travel to an exotic far-off land where the characters can encounter strange people, breathtaking landscapes and brave harsh conditions as they strive to unlock some tantalizing mystery of the past.

ODE TO ODIN is no exception as it incorporates all of these elements, and it does so brilliantly. Author BRUCE MCLAREN regales us with visceral and vibrant descriptions of the brutal but beautiful deserts of Central Asia. He smacks us in face with furnace arid winds and makes us feel a scorching sun lashing our backs while bloodthirsty insects sting and suck our blood. Yet, at the same time, he evokes the aching loveliness of the landscape and imparts to us the thrill of what it must be like to explore an alien landscape harboring strange wonders and awe inspiring vistas.

Bruce McLaren

That’s great, but you know what? This guy’s power of description is not what I liked best about this novel. What made this an almost insanely fun read is the author’s take on human nature. This is a an acid-dripping, go-for-the jugular cynicism that exposes certain people for what they really are — petty, ego-driven, neurotic posers who care for nothing but their own pleasures and bald-faced pursuits of power, money, food, sex and alcohol.

But  just as McLaren demonstrates the beautiful/harsh dualism of Mother Nature, he also exposes the dualistic nature of the human psyche. Yes, some characters in this story are debauched and cruel but others show empathy, caring and a capacity to love deeply.

I’m probably making this sound like a work of heavy-weight literature, but this is actually a pretty down-to-earth piece of writing that anyone can read as a popular lark of a novel. McLaren’s wizardry is that he makes a work of literary depth an easy read. Readers will eagerly turn pages — and that’s despite that fact that this book incorporates only a bare minimum of plot.

Rather, it follows the daily experience of a young, post-graduate who makes a rash decision to join the dig of a brilliant archaeologist who has long since fallen out of favor with the academic establishment . This is the titular Odin who has devolved into an outright pariah.

Kyzyl Kum Desert.

The viewpoint character never names himself. It’s through his eyes and thoughts that we experience what it’s like to spend three brutal months on an excavation in a remote region of Central Asia, in this case, the semi-autonomous nation of Karakalpakstan within Uzbekistan.

Nomadic Karakalpak people, 1932 photo.

The dig has a lofty goal — to uncover the origins of the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism, arguably the first monotheistic religion and a belief system based on a dualistic cosmology of good versus evil. To that end, the archaeologists are supervising the excavation of what they believe to be a Zoroastrian fire temple which has been buried beneath the sands of the Kyzyl Kum desert for untold centuries.

But as the title implies, the pivot point of the book revolves around the bombastic archaeological genius of Odin. He was once a rising star in academia and being groomed for a top professorship or perhaps even chair of the department for a major British university. Odin goes rogue early on in his career, however, opting to pursue his passion in his own highly eccentric and iconoclastic way.

Alabaster bust, Zoroastrian priest with Bactrian headdress, circa 3rd Century BCE

Here again McLaren’s theme of dualism plays out in the demented psyche of Odin. He’s at once erudite, handsome, fantastically charming and brilliant while also completely bereft of human compassion and self restraint — he’s a debauched satyr, egomaniac and pursues his lusts for sex, power and booze with absolute absence of moral restriction.

Odin’s MO is always the same — he wins over people he wants to use and control with his irresistible, almost magical charisma — only to eventually utterly alienate all those unfortunate enough to fall under his powerful spell and throw in with his grand designs. When Odin is done with people, he kicks them to the curb like a contemptible piece of trash, and he does so without an ounce of remorse.

Yes, he’s loathsome — but oh-so-hilarious!

Whether by design or accident, McLaren leverages archaeology as a metaphor for personal self discovery. Just as the method of the archaeologist is to peel back the layers of history inch by inch by stripping away the soil one strata at a time — so does the narrator seem to dig into his own psyche one level at a time as he strives to find out who he is and the meaning of his own life, belief system, worldview, and so forth. It’s an ingenious way for a fictional character to work toward personal self discovery.

Finally, a depth of authenticity underpins this work of fiction because McLaren himself is the real thing. That is, he holds a doctorate in Middle Eastern Archaeology from the University of Sydney and has spent years out in the field conducting excavations. He’s well published in peer-reviewed journals. He has genuine insight into the real world of archaeology. This experience adds power and informs the results when he lets his hair down to write a colorful yarn featuring archaeologists as fictional players.

Oh, one final-final note: I want to mention that there’s a “shadow character” that looms in the background of just about every chapter of this book — that of ALEXANDER THE GREAT — but I’ve already gone on too long so I’ll just let readers discover that for themselves.

So Odin To Odin is one of the best of the 120 books I’ve read so-far this year — and there’s just a month to go in 2018.

SEE ALSO MY REVIEWS OF SIMILAR TOPIC BOOKS:

A HISTORY OF PYRRHUS by Jacob C. Abbott

HUMPHREY, DUKE OF GLOUCESTER By Kenneth Vickers

ELISHA’S BONES By Don Hoesel

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SIR WILLIAM HERSCHEL By Edward Singleton Holden

Follow @KenKorczak



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

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

Paul H. Smith’s Epic Saga of Remote Viewing Is The Most Complete Book On History and Other Aspects of Psychic Spying

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Review by: KEN KORCZAK

I’ve read a lot of books about Remote Viewing, but I’m willing to bet that this one, READING THE ENEMY’S MIND by Paul H. Smith, is THEE definitive book on the topic.

Clocking in at more than 600 pages, Smith slogs through just about every aspect of remote viewing — from the mind boggling to the mundane — from the first days of its development through its eventual demise as a sanctioned government project.

Smith was a U.S. Army Intelligence Officer and among the original remote viewers. Here he doggedly documents the endless and banal bureaucratic twists and turns of managing a super secretive, highly classified intelligence operation — but, wow! — it was a spy game unlike any other in the already dark and spooky underworld of international espionage.

Most readers eager for sensational stories of extraordinary paranormal happenings will find themselves enduring some eye-glazing moments as Smith plods through all the crushingly boring — the red tape, the funding methods, the inter-governmental squabbling. However, those who wade through it will be rewarded with a greater perspective about what really happened inside our government’s unlikely foray into “psychic spying.”

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Paul Smith

But there is much to amaze as well. There’s lots of juicy paranormal stuff — psychic powers, UFO tangents, channeling strange entities, spoon bending — that will satisfy the inquiring mind.

It would take pages to provide a truly comprehensive review of everything Smith covers in this book, so let me focus on one area where I think the author provides invaluable insight into a deeply controversial topic.

The insight I am talking about is the window inside Smith gives us on certain people who emerged as high profile public remote viewers after the official program ended — especially Ed Dames and David Morehouse.

Smith tells that Dames and Morehouse are two guys who more or less went off the deep end and were ensnared by the most unscientific and fringy possibilities associated with remote viewing.

Smith levels his biggest criticism at David Morehouse, whom he describes as a barely involved, minimally trained slacker who was, if not actually AWOL, absent for much of the time when he was supposed to be on duty working RV sessions. Morehouse also had periods of mental instability, a disastrous illicit affair, was once suicidal — none of which was precipitated by the strangeness of remote viewing — although Morehouse sought to use RV as an excuse for his behavior when he was facing court martial.

Yet Morehouse is active today as a “celebrity” remote viewer, promoting himself as one of the original “Psychic Warriors” (That’s the title of his book). He also peddles a RV study course, he leads remote viewing seminars and is popular on the lecture tour. But Smith paints Morehouse as little more than a failure at remote viewing, a fraud and a blatant, self-serving opportunist.

But the guy who really sucks up all the oxygen in the world of remote viewing today is former U.S. Army Major Ed Dames.

Smith is somewhat kinder to Dames in terms of his work ethic and commitment to military intelligence. Smith even gives him high marks for his professionalism as a soldier. However, when it came to performing the actual remote viewing sessions, Dames was rarely the one sitting in the psychic spying seat. Rather, Dames served more often as a monitor and facilitator for other remote viewers. His own ability to remote view were unremarkable, and he barely worked more than a half dozen official RV sessions himself.

Smith writes that Dames also frequently thwarted protocol by improperly “front loading” remote viewing sessions — that is, Dames frequently attempted to “lead” or bias remote viewers with his own unstoppable obsession with UFOs and his own pet theories about extraterrestrials.

When Dames could not goad disciplined remote viewers into coughing up questionable information about ETs, he would go ahead and conduct his own sessions with sloppy protocols, which would, not surprisingly, confirm his own belief system about aliens from other worlds.

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Paul Smith’s organization, RVIS, or Remote Viewing Instructional Services

Even worse, Dames displayed an extreme proclivity for apocalyptic scenarios. Again and again, Dames came up with end-of-the-world predictions both during his time with military intelligence, and for years after as a public figure — and he continues to do today. Dames has appeared dozens of times on the hugely popular Coast to Coast radio program hosted by Art Bell, and over the years had made one disaster-scenario prediction after another, none of which have ever come true.

Smith also sharply criticizes Ed Dames for the claims he has made about his involvement with the development of the remote viewing program — in short, Smith says that many of Dames’ claims about what he did and to help develop the military remote viewer program are flat out false. Dames was a far more marginal player than he has long advertised himself to be, according to Smith.

So this is an outstanding book which is an invaluable historical document that both dispels the many myths that still linger about remote viewing, and which provides incredible insight — a clarifying window into one of the strangest times in the history of U.S. espionage and intelligence operations.

Please see also my reviews of these books on astral travel and remote viewing:

EXPLORATIONS IN CONSCIOUSNESS BY FREDERICK AARDEMA

LIMITLESS MIND BY RUSSELL TARG

MASTER OF MY SHIP, CAPTAIN OF MY SOUL BY SKIP ATWATER

THE TRANSCENDENT INGO SWANN BY RAUL DASILVA



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

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

Follow @KenKorczak

Author Fergus MacRoich explains “Why I Write” (VIDEO)

KEN KORCZAK:

As a book reviewer with a high “power ranking” at Amazon.com and owner of this site, I get about 200 to 300 free books per year from writer’s all over the world seeking a review.

Last year I managed to read some 120 books, and ended up reviewing about 30 of them. Less than 30 actually deserved a review, but my philosophy is to take the good with the bad — whatever the case, there is usually just a handful of all those books that vividly jump out and stand as something special.

One recently was FRIED CHICKEN, JESUS AND CHOCOLATE by Fergus MacRoich. (See my review HERE).

So today I thought it would be illuminating to take a closer look at a guy who managed to pen an exceptional piece of literature, Fortunately, Mr. MacRoich has made that easy by posting the following video, “Why I Write.” Aspiring writers everywhere, pay attention!