Promised Valley Rebellion

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"Now the valley roared with anger, 'Mount your horses, draw your swords!'" - The Original Cast, "One Tin Soldier"

“Now the valley roared with anger, ‘Mount your horses, draw your swords!'”
– The Original Cast, “One Tin Soldier”

I actually read this book back in July but flaked out and never got around to reviewing it.  Promised Valley Rebellion by Ron Fritsch is set during the Agricultural Revolution in an area known only as the Promised Valley.  Fans of Auel’s Earth’s Children series will recognize some aspects of this world: reliance on family, shaman, and stone tools, but this is a world in which farmers have begun to overtake the hunter gatherers and where the village chief is already styling himself a king.

The novel centers around the tension between past and present, young and old.  For many years, there has been war between the hill and valley people.  (I’m half convinced that these names were inspired by the song One Tin Soldier)  This usually amounts to nothing more than than a few skirmishes, but fifteen years or so ago (the dates are vague) there was an invasion which resulted in massive casualties on both sides.  Ultimately, the valley people fought back the hill people’s incursion into their lands, thanks in large part to Crown Prince Tall Oak and his friend Green Field.  The story focuses on the valley heroes’ children, Prince Morning Sun, and Blue Sky and Rose Leaf, who must eventually learn that history is told by the victors, and that victors often have things to hide.

Spoilers after the break.

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Do Not Resurrect

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In a world where you never have to leave your home, is life still a highway?

In a world where you never have to leave your home, is life still a highway?

“Jesus–if Kilgore Trout could only write!” Rosewater exclaimed. He had a point: Kilgore Trout’s unpopularity was deserved. His prose was frightful. Only his ideas were good.”

-Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

The Goodreads recommendation tab kept insisting that fans of this book would also enjoy a series of stories by Kurt Vonnegut, so I thought it appropriate to sum up this novel with a Vonnegut quotation.

Do Not Resurrect provides some very interesting premises but it reads as a Coles Notes summary of itself.  There are ideas there, but they are told, not demonstrated, and while those ideas might prove very interesting to some, I’m not entirely sure that they need a prose fiction story to accompany them.  If you’ve read Atlas Shrugged, you’ve encountered the infamous “John Galt Speech”:

If you haven’t, I recommend giving it a bit of a listen.  Keep in mind that not only does it go on for over 3 hours, but that it basically just summarizes what the point of the novel has been up until now.  If you end up giving up, know that you’re not alone; many people end up skipping it, and even those who don’t will admit that embedding a persuasive essay into your novel is a heavy-handed way of transmitting the crux of your novel.  Do Not Resurrect is like a number of John Galt speeches presented back to back, and if that’s your thing, then by all means read on, but if you’re looking for a character piece, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

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Damned Lies

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This is all... mostly foreshadowing?

This is all… mostly foreshadowing?

Weird, quirky, and geeky as Hell, Damned Lies had me laughing out loud more than once.  Liggio combines absurdist humour and the picaresque in a manner reminiscent of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Don’t get me wrong; this novel does have its flaws but overall it was a very fun read.

The premise of the novel is referenced in the title: the author is bed-ridden after a traffic accident and decides to spend his newly freed time writing his memoirs.  Whether due to embellishment on his part or a recent concussion, what emerges is a strangely supernatural ramble through the worlds of fantasy, sci-fi, and horror fiction.  Ominous births, crazy dates, and metafictional brothers are all introduced and dismissed within the first fifth of the novel, giving you a taste of what’s to come.  Damned Lies primarily focuses on a bizarre summer journey, which takes place the summer after the protagonist’s high school graduation, and the machinations of the clone he creates to stand in for him.  As you may have guessed by now, this is not a novel that takes itself seriously.

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Pacific Avenue

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Bland cover, or layered allusion to Disney's racially-charged "Song of the South"?  You decide.

Bland cover, or layered allusion to Disney’s racially-charged “Song of the South”? You decide.

Anne L Watson’s Pacific Avenue is one of those novels that would be easy to dismiss as mere romance.  However, that would be unfair.  Pacific Avenue is also a story about young adulthood, racial prejudice, middle-class expectations, and the psychological effects of war.  Kathy is young, white, and middle-classed; the daughter of an idealistic college professor and a closet-racist of a housewife.  Lacey is middle-aged, black and poor; an under-payed secretary whose own daughter has just left for college.  The pair serve as narrators for the story that ensues, Kathy recounting the story of a failed interracial relationship with Richard Johnson; and Lacey providing an alternative view point on the same.  One of those stories, then?  Yes, to some extent.  Watson’s novel  falls strongly into the realm of literary fiction.  In some intangible way, it reminds me of Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.  Unlike last week’s novel, this is just the sort of story I enjoy.  So without further ado…

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Corporate America

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Contrary to what you might believe, this book is (mostly) not about terrorism.

Contrary to what you might believe, this book is (mostly) not about terrorism.

This week we break from tolling the Doomsday bell for something a bit more comical.  Jack Dougherty’s Corporate America is a novel reminiscent of Douglas Coupland’s Jpod or Christopher Buckley’s Thank You For Smoking.  Somewhat ironically, it is also the first book I’ve reviewed so far that I can picture as a traditionally published book: ironic because Dougherty both lambastes and lampoons the publishing industry and its constituents.  (Have I used that alliteration before?  I feel like I’ve used that alliteration before…)  In any case, the novel follows protagonist Francis Scanlon, a would-be author turned corporate shill who discovers that selling his soul to corporate America is nowhere near as painful as the “ruthlessly competitive, insecure, Schadenfreudian” postgraduates back home might have him believe.

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Sleepers

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Not to be confused with Lorenzo Carcaterra's 1995 novel of the same name.

Not to be confused with Lorenzo Carcaterra’s 1995 novel of the same name.

I enjoyed this novel far more than I expected to.  Perhaps what endears me to this story is its blatant disregard for genres.  Zombie horror and apocalyptic sci-fi are common bedfellows, but Jaqueline Druga’s Sleepers also dabbles in Christian fiction, family drama, and more traditional sci-fi elements, though these are introduced later on in the book.  Despite claiming one of the most inept narrator-protagonists I’ve come across so far, the ideas behind this story make it a fairly enjoyable read.

As usual, prepare for spoilers after the break. Continue reading

Music of Sacred Lakes

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"Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings In the ruins of her ice water mansion". -Gordon Lightfoot, Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

“Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the ruins of her ice water mansion,
Old Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.”
-Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

While Laura K. Cowan’s Music of Sacred Lakes doesn’t actually make mention of Lightfoot’s iconic song, I think that it is a fitting introduction to her novel, not only because it is literally music of the lake, but because like Music of Sacred Lakes, the song is lyrical with just a touch of the Gothic. Continue reading