Descent Into Hell ★★✬☆☆


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Title: Descent Into Hell
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Williams
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Christian Fiction
Pages: 178
Words: 73.5K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The action takes place in Battle Hill, outside London,[1] amidst the townspeople’s staging of a new play by Peter Stanhope. The hill seems to reside at the crux of time, as characters from the past appear, and perhaps at a doorway to the beyond, as characters are alternately summoned Heavenwards or descend into Hell.

Pauline Anstruther, the heroine of the novel, lives in fear of meeting her own doppelgänger, which has appeared to her throughout her life. But Stanhope, in an action central to the author’s own theology, takes the burden of her fears upon himself—Williams called this the Doctrine of Substituted Love—and enables Pauline, at long last, to face her true self. Williams drew this idea from the biblical verse, “Ye shall bear one another’s burdens”[2]

And so, Stanhope does take the weight, with no surreptitious motive, in the most affecting scene in the novel, and Pauline, liberated, is able to accept truth.

On the other hand, Lawrence Wentworth, a local historian, finding his desire for Adela Hunt to be unrequited, falls in love instead with a spirit form of Adela, which seems to represent a kind of extreme self-love on his part. As he isolates himself more and more with this insubstantial figure, and dreams of descending a silver rope into a dark pit, Wentworth begins the descent into Hell.

The book ends with Wentworth reaching the bottom of the rope and realizing all understanding has been taken from him and that he is truly alone. There is no way for him to climb the rope back up. He is lost.

My Thoughts:

I had to think long and hard about what to write about this book. Unlike the other Williams’ book I read, this came across as poetic, mystical bushwah. The closest thing I can accept for poetry is Patricia McKillip’s writing. Anything else, I toss it out the door as useless trash.

A poet and playwright forms the bones of this book and I should have known from the get go that it was going to be half-finished sentences, unspoken thoughts, all that kind of garbage that people seem to think is mystical and too wonderful for words.

It also didn’t help that I am strongly against some of the theology presented by Williams, namely that Hell is some sort of internalized thingamajig instead of a literal lake of flame and eternal fires and that people can affect events in the past or future directly from their timeline. While God may encompass all of time, we certainly don’t and while Hell might be described stylistically, it is most definitely a real place with real utter torment.

Overall, I just waded my through this, wondering if I should read any more by him. I’m hoping to do a buddy-read with one or two people from Librarything in a couple of months on one of Williams’ books, but after that, I’m done. Williams puts his mysticism on full display here and I won’t be bothering to look anymore. Tell me what you mean as plainly as possible, don’t dance around in circles and avoid the point.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Henry IV, Part I ★★★★☆


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Title: Henry IV, Part I
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play
Pages: 89
Words: 25K



Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Henry Bolingbroke—now King Henry IV—is having an unquiet reign. His personal disquiet at the usurpation of his predecessor Richard II would be solved by a crusade to the Holy Land, but trouble on his borders with Scotland and Wales make leaving unwise. Moreover, he is increasingly at odds with the Percy family, who helped him to his throne, and Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March, Richard II’s chosen heir.

Adding to King Henry’s troubles is the behaviour of his son and heir, the Prince of Wales. Hal (the future Henry V) has forsaken the Royal Court to waste his time in taverns with low companions. This makes him an object of scorn to the nobles and calls into question his royal worthiness. Hal’s chief friend and foil in living the low life is Sir John Falstaff. Fat, old, drunk, and corrupt as he is, he has a charisma and a zest for life that captivates the Prince.

The play features three groups of characters that interact slightly at first, and then come together in the Battle of Shrewsbury, where the success of the rebellion will be decided. First there is King Henry himself and his immediate council. He is the engine of the play, but usually in the background. Next there is the group of rebels, energetically embodied in Henry Percy (“Hotspur”) and including his father, the Earl of Northumberland and led by his uncle Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester. The Scottish Earl of Douglas, Edmund Mortimer and the Welshman Owen Glendower also join. Finally, at the centre of the play are the young Prince Hal and his companions Falstaff, Poins, Bardolph, and Peto. Streetwise and pound-foolish, these rogues manage to paint over this grim history in the colours of comedy.

As the play opens, the king is angry with Hotspur for refusing him most of the prisoners taken in a recent action against the Scots at Holmedon. Hotspur, for his part, would have the king ransom Edmund Mortimer (his wife’s brother) from Owen Glendower, the Welshman who holds him. Henry refuses, berates Mortimer’s loyalty, and treats the Percys with threats and rudeness. Stung and alarmed by Henry’s dangerous and peremptory way with them, they proceed to make common cause with the Welsh and Scots, intending to depose “this ingrate and cankered Bolingbroke.”[3] By Act II, rebellion is brewing.

Meanwhile, Henry’s son Hal is joking, drinking, and thieving with Falstaff and his associates. He likes Falstaff but makes no pretense at being like him. He enjoys insulting his dissolute friend and makes sport of him by joining in Poins’ plot to disguise themselves and rob and terrify Falstaff and three friends of loot they have stolen in a highway robbery, purely for the fun of hearing Falstaff lie about it later, after which Hal returns the stolen money. Rather early in the play, in fact, Hal informs us that his riotous time will soon come to a close, and he will re-assume his rightful high place in affairs by showing himself worthy to his father and others through some (unspecified) noble exploits. Hal believes that this sudden change of manner will amount to a greater reward and acknowledgment of prince-ship, and in turn earn him respect from the members of the court.

The revolt of Mortimer and the Percys very quickly gives him his chance to do just that. The high and the low come together when the Prince makes up with his father and is given a high command. He vows to fight and kill the rebel Hotspur, and orders Falstaff (who is, after all, a knight) to take charge of a group of foot soldiers and proceed to the battle site at Shrewsbury.

The battle is crucial because if the rebels even achieve a standoff their cause gains greatly, as they have other powers awaiting under Northumberland, Glendower, Mortimer, and the Archbishop of York. Henry needs a decisive victory here. He outnumbers the rebels,[4] but Hotspur, with the wild hope of despair, leads his troops into battle. The day wears on, the issue still in doubt, the king harried by the wild Scot Douglas, when Prince Hal and Hotspur, the two Harrys that cannot share one land, meet. Finally they will fight – for glory, for their lives, and for the kingdom. No longer a tavern brawler but a warrior, the future king prevails, ultimately killing Hotspur in single combat.

On the way to this climax, we are treated to Falstaff, who has “misused the King’s press damnably”,[5] not only by taking money from able-bodied men who wished to evade service but by keeping the wages of the poor souls he brought instead who were killed in battle (“food for powder, food for powder”).[6] Left on his own during Hal’s battle with Hotspur, Falstaff dishonourably counterfeits death to avoid attack by Douglas. After Hal leaves Hotspur’s body on the field, Falstaff revives in a mock miracle. Seeing he is alone, he stabs Hotspur’s corpse in the thigh and claims credit for the kill.[7] Though Hal knows better, he allows Falstaff his disreputable tricks. Soon after being given grace by Hal, Falstaff states that he wants to amend his life and begin “to live cleanly as a nobleman should do”.[8]

The play ends at Shrewsbury, after the battle. The death of Hotspur has taken the heart out of the rebels,[9] and the king’s forces prevail. Henry is pleased with the outcome, not least because it gives him a chance to execute Thomas Percy, the Earl of Worcester, one of his chief enemies (though previously one of his greatest friends). Meanwhile, Hal shows off his kingly mercy in praise of valour; having taken the valiant Douglas prisoner, Hal orders his enemy released without ransom.[10] But the war goes on; now the king’s forces must deal with the Archbishop of York, who has joined with Northumberland, and with the forces of Mortimer and Glendower. This unsettled ending sets the stage for Henry IV, Part 2.

My Thoughts:

This really should have been entitled “Henry V, the Early Years”. While Henry IV is the titular character, he seems to do little besides provide a reason for more kingdom drama. Everyone is going off to war at a moments notice on what seems pretty much like a whim. During all of this, young Prince Harry (by the by, WHY does the name Henry spawn the nickname Harry? It’s not even shorter for goodness sake) is carousing it up and being a blot upon his father’s name. He is unfavorably compared to the other Harry, the one leading the rebellion against the King.

In the final battle Harry shows his royal colors and mans it up perfectly. He seems to have set his rascally youthful ways behind him and to take his responsibilities seriously. Of course, all his old low friends are sure they are going to be sitting pretty once Harry becomes King, so they do what they want. Oh ye evil men, Judgement is coming!

Once again, I am loving these history plays. I was actually looking forward to reading this when Shakespeare rolled around in my reading rotation. What a change from earlier plays where that word “Shakespeare” brought dread and dismal despair to my heart. In fact, I seriously thought about just reading Part II of Henry IV but thankfully calmer and wiser heads prevailed (ie, my rational self instead of my emotional self).

Rating: 4 out of 5.

One Killer Force (Delta Force #4) ★★☆☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: One Killer Force
Series: Delta Force #4
Author: Dalton Fury
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 301
Words: 107K



Synopsis:

From Kobo.com

Still recovering from his near fatal wounds suffered at the Yellow Creek Nuclear Plant, Delta Force Commander, Major Kolt “Racer” Raynor, is thrust into a new battle with some of the toughest killers he’s ever faced – US Navy SEALs. Government austerity measures have the Joint Chiefs of Staff contemplating the unthinkable – combining Delta Force and the SEALs into a single unit: One Killer Force. In this installment of Dalton Fury’s Delta Force series, Kolt’s career is in jeopardy and worst of all, the final say rests in the hands of men who have reasons to want to see Kolt gone.

Recovered from her own wounds, Cindy “Hawk” Bird is closing in on becoming the first official female operator in the history of the US military…She only has to survive an insertion into the most repressive regime on earth.

Meanwhile, a new terrorist threat looms on the horizon in the form of not one, but possibly two mushroom clouds. Kolt earns his call sign as the action has him racing to the world’s hottest combat zones from Syria to Ukraine on hunter-killer missions to eliminate the terrorists before they can enact their deadly mission.

Half a world away, a spy deep in the secretive North Korean regime sends a desperate call for help. A new danger to world peace and security is growing in the heart of the increasingly unstable Communist country and no amount of sanctions or political negotiations are going to stop it. Violently applied force is needed, and needed now before it’s too late.

My Thoughts:

In my Currently Reading post about this book I stated I wouldn’t be continuing the series even if the book ended up being much better. Well, it wasn’t much better, hence the 2 stars. Plus, I found out the author died back in ’16 and there was only 1 more book anyway, so I’m sitting pretty.

This was as much about the political side of the military as it was about killing the bad guys. Reading about “Points” (“appointed” military people) always annoys me and the whole “Git da wimminz in’ta Delter” was just more than I wanted to deal with.

Overall, this series has left a very “bleh” taste in my mouth. I didn’t particularly hate it, but neither did I truly enjoy it. It felt, and I suspect it was meant to be, very “true to reality”. That is what the radio and tv are for, for me.

At least now I can go to my Calibre library and pick the next reading selection to replace this. At least that process is always enjoyable.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Magician’s Ward (Magic and Malice #2) ★★★★✬


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Magician’s Ward
Series: Magic and Malice #2
Author: Patricia Wrede
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 185
Words: 77K



Synopsis:

Kim is swamped. Between studying magic and learning a whole new life as a monied lady, her life is full, maybe too full! When a particularly inept burglar tries to steal several books from Mairelon’s library, it’s up to Kim and Mairelon to figure out why.

At the same time, several magician’s from Kim’s street life have disappeared and a Russian Magician shows up. When on the track of the thief, Mairelon loses his magic, it’s all up to Kim to deal with the rogue magician, who isn’t a magician at all!

And if that all isn’t enough, Kim has to have her coming out ceremony as a Magician’s Ward, where she realizes she’s in love with Mairelon.

By the end of the book, Kim has stopped the rogue magician, completed her ceremony and gotten Mairelon to propose to her. Now her life as a magician is going to get really busy!

My Thoughts:

If you happen to remember That Book, where I told Romance to get the heck out of my Action Stories, you might have gotten the impression that Bookstooge is a stone cold, heartless killer with no time for the softer things in life. And you would be wrong, dead wrong! (because I’d stone you coldly!) I like romance, in small doses and in its proper place. Jane Austen is the example that made me realize I could like romances.

Anyway, this book is as much a young adult/middle grade romance as a fantasy story. The obstacles that Kim needs to overcome are simplified, the villain appropriately stupid and even Mairelon takes side stage as he loses his magic, thus giving Kim the spotlight from all directions. She shines well too.

I didn’t think the story was quite as “fun” as the first but it felt more satisfying, hence the half-star bump. While I read this way back in 2000 and I have no real review, I remember liking this then and it seems I liked it just as much this time around too. I’m going to call this a Complete Success then.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

ps,
Can we all agree that is the worst cover ever and that it should be cast into the Stygian pits?

Yotsuba&! Vol. 10 ★★★★★

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Title: Yotsuba&! Vol. 10
Series: Yotsuba&! #10
Author: Kiyohiko Azuma
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 224
Words: 8K



Synopsis:

Chapter List:

Yotsuba & Playtime

Yotsuba & Pancakes

Yotsuba & Jumbo

Yotsuba & the Electronics Store

Yotsuba & Home Appliances

Yotsuba & Lies

Yotsuba & the Re-encounter

My Thoughts:

5 stars. Bravo. Fun, fun, fun. I’m tired. So you get a picture and that’s that.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Path of Daggers (The Wheel of Time #8) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Path of Daggers
Series: The Wheel of Time #8
Author: Robert Jordan
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 562
Words: 228.5K



Synopsis:

From Tarvalon.net & authored by Toral Delvar

The four rulers of the Borderlands form a pact for unknown purposes and take a huge army south. Verin uses what she knows of Compulsion on Aes Sedai prisoners to encourage them to swear fealty to Rand. Moridin demonstrates his insanity. Hanlon visits Mili Skane and sees Carridin killed. Mili also has Falion captured, and claims to have another Aes Sedai.

Nynaeve warns one of the Tower embassy about the Black Ajah and Moghedien, but is not taken seriously. The girls leave Ebou Dar with the other Aes Sedai, the Knitting Circle and twenty Windfinders, leaving Mat behind to look for Olver. After moving through the gateway, Aviendha sees Moridin, so she unweaves it. This is something the Aes Sedai, as well as Moridin himself, thought impossible. Elayne, Aviendha and Nynaeve look for angreal amongst the things found with the Bowl. They are told of Martine Janata, the last Aes Sedai to study ter’angreal, who was burned out twenty five years previously, despite being careful.

The group arrives at the retreat run by the Kin, where the sight of Aes Sedai faces causes panic. Alise manages to calm everyone down. They continue searching through the things found with the Bowl while waiting to see if anyone is strong enough to join the circle. They find three angreal.

The girls, along with the most powerful memebers of the Kin and the Windfinders, use the Bowl, with the circle led by one of the Windfinders. The Bowl unexpectadly draws saidin. It also causes the Power to behave strangely. The Windfinders try to keep the Bowl and one of the angreal, but Alise puts a stop to it.

The use of the Bowl has exhausted them all, but they have to flee when the Seanchan attack. Elayne makes the gateway to Travel and tries to unweave it as Aviendha did, but fails, and it explodes, destroying everything around it. Aviendha and Elayne decide to adopt each other as first-sisters.

One of the Kin is revealed as a novice who ran away seventy years previously, and another admits to running away almost three hundred years before. Adeleas and Ispan are both murdered, apparently by someone they trust. Elayne takes the palace and sits in front of the Lion Throne. She meets Dyelin, who says she will support Elayne’s claim to the throne. Elayne amuses her by telling her of her plans for Rand.

Sevanna uses an Oath Rod on Galina to make her swear to obey her, Therava, and the rest of the Wise Ones. The Wise Ones tell Sevanna she is no longer in control of them.

In Ghealdan, Perrin sends Berelain to meet Alliandre. He rescues Morgase and her party, who are traveling under false names. Faile takes them into her service after Morgase learns of Perrin’s connection to the Dragon Reborn. Perrin again encounters Elyas, who advises him on living with a Saldaean.

Berelain returns with Alliandre, who swears fealty to Perrin and grants him all her lands and titles. He tells her she can rule for him as his faithful vassal. Perrin goes to meet Masema and instructs him to gather his people and go meet Rand. Masema is obviously mad. Faile is captured by the Shaido, but Berelain escapes.

Graendal is visited by Moghedien and a girl called Cyndane, who is stronger than Graendal in the Power. They tell her to go see Moridin. They turn off the lights, and, believing it a trap, she drops a web of Compulsion on them. She is forced to free them by Shaidar Haran.

In the Tower, the Aes Sedai deny the possibility that damane could exist. Alviarin continues to use the fiasco of Rand’s kidnapping to make Elaida give bad orders. She makes Elaida accept penance. Mesaana teaches Alviarin Traveling. The Ajahs are barely speaking to one another. Seaine and Pevara use the Oath Rod to force Aes Sedai they believe may have told a lie into obeying them. They discover rebel agents spreading rumors of Logain and the Red Ajah. They are interrupted by a group of Sitters, one from each Ajah. All but one of these swears on the Oath Rod that they are not a Darkfriend. The last, (Talene Minly), refuses, thus exposing herself as Black Ajah.

Logain leads a group of Asha’man to capture one of the parties of Aes Sedai who were intending to destroy the Black Tower. He bonds Toveine in something that resembles a Warder bond. One of the other Asha’man states Taim will not be pleased. Logain says he thinks Taim would rather he was dead.

Egwene has a dream. She learns an army of Murandians and Andorans plan to stop rebel Aes Sedai moving through Andor. She arranges to meet them. Lelaine and Romanda both demand that they be given control over negotiations with the nobles. Siuan believes she sees a pattern in the Sitters ages – they are too young. Sheriam is beaten by someone using the Power. Egwene uses the meeting to make public announcements that the Hall cannot overrule, such that women of any age will be allowed to become Aes Sedai and that the army is to wait a month where they are. She talks to Talmanes, who says he can feel Mat needing him and he wants to stay. He is going to try and help King Roedran unify the country. Aran’gar kills two of Egwene’s maids. Egwene horrifies Siuan by revealing she wants to free Aes Sedai of the Three Oaths.

Egwene calls a meeting of the Hall and convinces them to declare war on Elaida, which gives her total control over anything involving the war. They wait a month, and then Travel to Tar Valon to begin the siege.

Sorilea and Cadsuane agree to cooperate with regards to Rand. Sorilea teaches Cadsuane Traveling. Torval tells Rand of deserters and insanity amongst the Asha’man. Narishma is sent to fetch Callandor. Rand takes some Asha’man to fight the Seanchan. Rand is attacked by Illianers. Two of the noblewomen with him appear to be discussing whether or not to kill him.

Suroth has Liandrin as a slave and another Aes Sedai as damane. Rand captures damane and sul’dam. They proceed to a spot outside of Ebou Dar, where saidin is difficult to handle, and damane become ill. Bashere suggests retreat as they are heavily outnumbered by the Seanchan. Rand draws Callandor, but is unable to control it and Bashere is forced to stop him. Adley is killed. Rand and the Seanchan both withdraw.

Rand returns to Cairhien, where Dobraine is in charge. Merana and Rafela reveal the details of the Sea Folk bargain, which is not to Rand’s liking. He calms down when Merana reminds him everything was going in his favor until he left. Three Maidens give Rand a beating. Rand asks Cadsuane to be his advisor in Illian. She demands an apology for his rude behavior. She tells him Callandor is dangerous and shouldn’t be used. He gets upset when he learns that Elayne tore his banners down. Sorilea brings five of the prisoner Aes Sedai, Elza, Nesune, Sarene, Beldeine and Erian, who swear fealty to Rand. Min sees visions around them, including one that they will serve him in their own way, Sorilea included.

He leaves the throne room just before it is destroyed. He sees Dashiva, Gedwyn and Rochaid in the ruins. They attack him. He survives the attack and they leave. Morr goes mad and Rand is forced to poison him. Rand tells Min that they are leaving.

My Thoughts:

You can tell this was one of the shortest Wheel of Time books, not only because of the page count of the book but because the synopis by good ol’ Delvar isn’t 7 pages long. It’s only 3 😉

This was the first Wheel of Time book I read back in the 90’s that I had had to wait for. I hadn’t gotten into the series until Crown of Swords was released and I have to admit, I am extremely thankful for that. My recollections of this are of it being wicked slow and nothing happening.

How wrong I was. This ranks right up there with the first book in my opinion. Part of it is it is the shortest book and so Jordan HAD to make stuff happen. The Bowl of Winds fixing the weather? I had completely forgotten how that changed things everywhere so radically and so quickly. Going from an oppressive summer to a wicked bad winter in the space of a week or three? It definitely made things tough for the characters.

Jordan also pretty much shut Nynaeve up for the entire book and everything was better for it. While it didn’t happen in Sanderson’s ending, I’m beginning to wonder if Jordan was setting up Nynaeve to become one of the new Forsaken. Why else would he make her such a horrible person and on the same level, in terms of characteristics, as the other Forsaken? It would have explained a lot.

At this point the number of story threads is out of control. While I enjoyed the book, there is just too much going on and Jordan continues to introduce yet new threads. He’s like a kid with a brand new glitter gun and is putting glitter on EVERYTHING whether it should have it or not.

Path of Daggers was originally published in ’98 and I read it upon publication and then again in 2000 and again in 2011. Each time it has been a very different read and that says more about me changing over the years than it does about the book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Gulag Archipelago, Vol 2 ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Gulag Archipelago, Vol 2
Series: Gulag Archipelago
Author: Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Non-fiction
Pages: 648
Words: 276.5K



Synopsis:

Containing Parts III & IV of Solzhenitsyn’s book, The Gulag Archipelago.

From Wikipedia.com

Structurally, the text comprises seven sections divided (in most printed editions) into three volumes: parts 1–2, parts 3–4, and parts 5–7. At one level, the Gulag Archipelago traces the history of the system of forced labor camps that existed in the Soviet Union from 1918 to 1956. Solzhenitsyn begins with V. I. Lenin’s original decrees which were made shortly after the October Revolution; they established the legal and practical framework for a series of camps where political prisoners and ordinary criminals would be sentenced to forced labor. The book then describes and discusses the waves of purges and the assembling of show trials in the context of the development of the greater Gulag system; Solzhenitsyn gives particular attention to its purposive legal and bureaucratic development.

The narrative ends in 1956 at the time of Nikita Khrushchev’s Secret Speech (“On the Personality Cult and its Consequences”). Khrushchev gave the speech at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, denouncing Stalin’s personality cult, his autocratic power, and the surveillance that pervaded the Stalin era. Although Khrushchev’s speech was not published in the Soviet Union for a long time, it was a break with the most atrocious practices of the Gulag system.

Despite the efforts by Solzhenitsyn and others to confront the legacy of the Gulag, the realities of the camps remained a taboo subject until the 1980s. Solzhenitsyn was also aware that although many practices had been stopped, the basic structure of the system had survived and it could be revived and expanded by future leaders. While Khrushchev, the Communist Party, and the Soviet Union’s supporters in the West viewed the Gulag as a deviation of Stalin, Solzhenitsyn and many among the opposition tended to view it as a systemic fault of Soviet political culture – an inevitable outcome of the Bolshevik political project.

Parallel to this historical and legal narrative, Solzhenitsyn follows the typical course of a zek (a slang term for an inmate), derived from the widely used abbreviation “z/k” for “zakliuchennyi” (prisoner) through the Gulag, starting with arrest, show trial, and initial internment; transport to the “archipelago”; the treatment of prisoners and their general living conditions; slave labor gangs and the technical prison camp system; camp rebellions and strikes (see Kengir uprising); the practice of internal exile following the completion of the original prison sentence; and the ultimate (but not guaranteed) release of the prisoner. Along the way, Solzhenitsyn’s examination details the trivial and commonplace events of an average prisoner’s life, as well as specific and noteworthy events during the history of the Gulag system, including revolts and uprisings.

Solzhenitsyn also states:

Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble – and his conscience devoured him. Yes, even Iago was a little lamb, too. The imagination and spiritual strength of Shakespeare’s evildoers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology. Ideology – that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes…. That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations… Without evildoers there would have been no Archipelago.

— The Gulag Archipelago, Chapter 4, p. 173

There had been works about the Soviet prison/camp system before, and its existence had been known to the Western public since the 1930s. However, never before had the general reading public been brought face to face with the horrors of the Gulag in this way. The controversy surrounding this text, in particular, was largely due to the way Solzhenitsyn definitively and painstakingly laid the theoretical, legal, and practical origins of the Gulag system at Lenin’s feet, not Stalin’s. According to Solzhenitsyn’s testimony, Stalin merely amplified a concentration camp system that was already in place. This is significant, as many Western intellectuals viewed the Soviet concentration camp system as a “Stalinist aberration”

My Thoughts:

Where Volume 1 seemed mainly to be about the process of how the (fictional) legalities came into being that led to arrests and about the arrests and early detainment, this volume was all about the camps and the various kinds of people in the Gulag. The first 65% dealt exclusively with the camps, what went on in them, how the prisoners existed, how they lived (and died) what uses the camps were put too.

This was grueling. I started this particular volume back in August of last year and am just now finishing it up. So 5 months?

I wish I had profound things to write here but I don’t. Solzhenitsyn simply chronicles what has gone on and shows how some of it happened (people turning a blind eye, people letting it happen because it was happening to someone else, people letting it happen because they were afraid of it happening to them, people letting it happen because it was happening to a group they didn’t like) and the absolutely horrific costs of the camps. Make no mistake, the Gulags were death camps as sure as the Nazi camps were.

Solzhenitsyn also lets his own personality and biases show through quite a bit when he talks about the various kinds of people in the last part of the book. Any time a “thief” is mentioned (ie, a non-political offender for some actual crime), he really goes off against them. He makes no bones about how he survived his time (becoming an informer in the camps) and describes the very few kind of people who would refuse that (Christians being the main group).

Besides the weighty content, what also slowed me down was the references to things or people that I simply had no idea about or anyway to put them into context. Many times whole passages held almost no meaning for me because I didn’t know the people being talked about or the brand of Russian humor went winging its way over my head. Solzhenitsyn did have a dry, sarcastic kind of humor and I appreciated what I could understand. Whenever he talked about the language and how particular words grew out of the Gulag, he lost me there too.

I won’t go into the politics beyond to say that what we are seeing now in terms of our media organizations in lockstep with the current administration will be very familiar to anyone who has read this.

I am going to be taking an extended break before attempting Volume 3. I’ve got a bunch of other non-fiction books that have been just sitting on my kindle so it’s time to pay them some attention. And I can’t face another volume like this for awhile, it’s just too much.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Ghost ★★★✬☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Ghost
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 23
Words: 6K



Synopsis:

Publishers Description

The gold strike which led the fortune-hunters to Murrayville brought with them the usual proportion of bad men and outlaws. Three months after the rush started, a bandit appeared so consummate in skill and so cool in daring that all other offenders against the law disappeared in the shade of his reputation. He was a public dread. His comings were unannounced; his goings left no track. Men lowered their voices when they spoke of him. His knowledge of affairs in the town was so uncanny that people called him the ‘Ghost.’

My Thoughts:

Oh, this was a fun little story! The town drunk is just playing a part but it’s obvious from the getgo so no spoilers there. What makes this really interesting is how he manipulates the townsfolks and the manhunter hired to catch him. It is masterfully done and you can hear the laughter in the background the whole time.

These short stories of Brand’s are working out perfectly for me. Good stuff.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Children of Ruin (Children of Time #2) ★✬☆☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Children of Ruin
Series: Children of Time #2
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 480
Words: 155K



Synopsis:

A terraforming ship of humans discover 2 worlds and begin terraforming one of them. Then the great catastrophe from Old Earth strikes and they barely survive. One of the scientists plays god with octopi and has them taking over one of the world. The other world ends up being the host of a organism that takes over everything it comes into contact with. It reaches the Octopi world and drives them into space.

Where a spaceship from the Human/Spider coalition find them. And everybody tries to communicate with everybody else and succeed and way in the future everyone is one giant happy family of sentient beings.

My Thoughts:

If this hadn’t been by Adrian Tchaikovsky, I would have DNF’d this at the 50% mark when I made my Currently Reading post. As it is, he is now off my list of “must read” authors.

This was boring. This wasn’t fun. This felt like him playing with himself and his “clever” idea about how sentient octopi might communicate. If you’re into that kind of thing, then have at this book. You go play with yourself, you sicko. But for everyone else, kick this to the curb. I was severely disappointed in this even though I thought I had set my expectations to almost zero. To summarize, this was fething stupid and I hated it.

Children of Time is an excellent standalone book that didn’t need a sequel nor should it have had one. This book, Children of Ruin, was a disgrace and a slap in the face. How could the same guy write this drivel AND the excellent Private Life of Elder Things? It just boggles my mind.

What else boggles my mind is praise and acclaim this seems to have accrued to itself. Doesn’t anyone have standards and principles anymore? I hate the publishers for pushing for a sequel. I hate Tchaikovsky for writing a sequel. I hate the fans for enabling a sequel. I sentence them all to the eternal stygian darkness!

So there.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Fallout ★★★✬☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Fallout
Series: ———-
Author: Kenneth Royce
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 285
Words: 92.5K



Synopsis:

In the aftermath of Chernobyl, a patient escapes from a Soviet mental hospital. As he wanders through a blighted landscape struggling to recapture blocked memories, British Intelligence and the KGB hunt him for the secret he holds–a secret that threatens glasnost itself.

Zotov, with the help of a former lover and 2 English controlled spies, escapes and makes it to England. Where the doctors do the exact same thing to him that the Soviet doctors did. He goes completely crazy and kills himself.

The End.

My Thoughts:

Despite the ending, I enjoyed this book. I think part of it was that Royce was showing a literati’s disdain for The Government (whichever one you might choose to think about) and also a disillusionment about the Cold War. When Titans collide, the little man is the one getting squished, no matter which Titan is right or wrong.

The only other Spy novels of this era that I have read are the Jason Bourne books by Ludlum. In fact, as soon as it was revealed that Zotov, the main russian character, had amnesia, I immediately thought “Bourne Identity”. Thankfully, this was quite a different story, but the atmospheric tension of not knowing what was going on was exactly the same. Cold War Thrillers have the same flavor I think. Just like Cozy Mysteries I think.

The tension is always high. The action is very sparse and while not non-existent, isn’t the point of the book like a James Bond book. Political maneuverings are as important, externally and internally. In fact, Zotov wouldn’t have been able to escape if it weren’t for the political infighting going on in the Soviet Union during this book. As much time is given to this political side of things as to anything else. Probably more of interest to those interested in history at this point.

While I did enjoy this, I don’t know if I enjoyed it as much as Jenn did. Please check out her review for a slightly more enthusiastic take on this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.