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Just three days ago I finished reading and reviewed The ’86 Fix. It’s a time travel story, and I gave it a pretty dismal review and only one and a half stars. The story was “okay” but the ending was so bad, it really disappointed me. That’s when I realized I was simply set up for a sequel. When I wrote that review, I stated that I wasn’t going to read any more books by this author, let alone the sequel.

But since I was interested in what might happen to Craig Pelling next, just for kicks, I downloaded the preview anyway. After reading about five percent of the book, I changed my mind. Beyond Broadhall is the sequel to The ’86 Fix.

I just finished it, and it’s a better book. It’s getting 2.5 stars.

The story picks up right where the first book stops. It’s now 2017. Craig is in a mental hospital, basically imprisoned, for eleven months, while counselors and psychiatrists try to figure out what’s wrong with him and set him on a course to release him into society.

As soon as Craig is free, he starts researching, trying to find his parents, his wife Megan, his coworkers, and his nemesis Marcus. He realizes that rather than “fixing” things during his visit to 1986, he did far more damage to many innocent people’s lives than he could ever have dreamed. As revelation after revelation comes to him, he gets more and more disturbed – and wiser. When he finds his father, who is now a very decent man, and very helpful to his cause, he figures out that he didn’t really need to go to the past to “fix” things. He has the power right here and now.

Here is the problem with The ’86 Fix and Beyond Broadhall. They are not really two books. They are one book. The author should have put them together back to back, making them twice as long. Then he should have edited out about 25% of the fluff and boring stuff that wasn’t necessary, and it would have been a surprisingly entertaining and complete story. The total letdown of the first book, the terrible ending, would have just been one setback to the protagonist in the middle of the story, and it would not have been that bothersome. It would have also saved the author some awkward “backfilling” he had to do to give the reader of the second book enough knowledge for it to stand on its own. But then, I do not believe that anyone would read the second book without having read the first one.

I don’t have a problem with series of books. Some are done quite well. For instance, the Harry Potter books are a good example, or the “Pillars” series by Ken Follett. Each book can stand on its own. You don’t have to read the first one to enjoy the second one, even though in most cases, people will read them in sequence.

The ’86 Fix and Beyond Broadhall are not two separate books. They are one longer book with some boring passages, but a pretty entertaining story.

My advice to the author would have been to repackage the two into one.

So, if you want to read a low-tech time travel story that provides some lessons about what life is all about and how the decisions we make affect us and all those around us, buy both of those books, and read them back to back, without skipping a beat between the two. And you’ll have yourself a comfortable read.

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Craig Pelling is a 46-year-old man in England in 2016. He lives in alcohol-soft middle-age, to use a Pink Floyd phrase. He is pudgy, balding, out of shape, lazy and overall a fairly unlikable character. He has lived for more than 20 years in a love-less marriage, and his career, by his own standards, has been lackluster. When an old high school classmate and bully of his becomes his new boss, his whole world comes crashing down.

His parents are moving out of their house into a retirement home and ask him to come home and clean out his childhood room. When he turns on the computer, something surreal happens and he is transported back into this 16-year-old body. He gets to spend a weekend as his teenage self, with his middle-aged man’s experiences and knowledge of his future. He is determined to set some things right. Can he fix his life, and the lives of those around him? He definitely tries.

The first half of the book is describing Craig’s failures and current situation in 2016. It’s kind of slow and boring, being the fairly unlikeable character that he is. At about the mid-point he performs the time travel, and things get much more interesting. The pace picks up.

But the ending is terrible. Readers want to see the hero win, they want an upbeat story. The ending is deflating and depressing, and it becomes obvious that the writer simply set us up to read the sequel.

In addition to lack of editing regarding the plot, and the marketing of the book, it also has a good number of grammatical errors that somewhat distracted me. I was going rate this book two out of four stars, but the horrible ending just depressed me and I am downgrading it to 1.5 stars.

But that’s apparently not going to stop me from buying Beyond Broadhall, the sequel. I want to know what happens to Craig next.

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After reading A Ripple in Time, I wrote this review but I didn’t think I would read another Zugg book. Then one of my readers commented under that review, challenged me by pointing out a grammatical error in my blog entry while I criticized Zugg for his, and told me there was a sequel. Well, I couldn’t leave a time travel book unread.

But, unfortunately, it’s not a time travel book.

Mason, the protagonist, makes it back to 1720 at the end of A Ripple in Time. In The Planters, he comes out on the other side and the story tells how he finds his way back to the plantation, reunites with Karen, Jeremy and Lisa, and how they make a living running a plantation in 1720.

The twist is Nathan, one of the antagonists in A Ripple in Time, who unexpectedly survived the pirate raid and comes back to the plantation. While the story illustrates life in 1720 in South Carolina, and while the four survivors are occasionally drawing on their knowledge of history to drive their actions, and while Mason uses his Glock automatic pistol once to save their lives against pirates, there is absolutely no time travel in this book. Therefore, it would have been more effective to just call it a historical novel, but as such, it would not have lived up to those of the greats like Bernard Cornwell, for instance.

There were no significant grammar error in The Planters, unlike there were in A Ripple in Time, or at least I didn’t notice them. Perhaps the author had more proofreading done. I applaud that.

The way the story ended left it open to another sequel, which I definitely will not take the time to read.

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Trappist-1 is a star system about 39.5 light years away. The star is an ultra-cool red dwarf star in the constellation Aquarius, and it is found to have several earth-like planets with the potential to support life. Humanity sends a starship to explore the system.

The Forerunner One, a starship capable of traveling at half the speed of light, is outfitted with a crew that spends the 78-year journey mostly in cryogenic sleep. At half lightspeed, time on the ship moves 15% slower than it does back on Earth, due to relativistic time dilation.

But while all this is good stuff for a solid science fiction story, it’s not really relevant. As it turns out, the crew arrives at their destination, and without much thought or preparation (would you think?) they land on one of the planets, only to be attacked by the local fauna within a few hours of landing.

The local intelligent species is aviary. They are smaller than humans, about 4 feet tall, skinny, birdlike, and they can fly. The humans call them Avari. They have far superior technology compared to the humans, and within a day of arriving, having traveled most of a century, the humans are driven back to their ship and forced to flee – you get it – back to Earth.

Spoiler Alert:

It turns out that the Avari have technology to cloak themselves and even their ships. So they can be invisible. Two of them sneak on board of the human ship undetected and start wreaking havoc on the way home. Not only that, they breed a hybrid avari-human fetus in one of the females on board. Obviously, this sets things up for a lot of surprises on the trip home.

There is a twist at the end, which makes it clear that the entire book First Encounter is just there to be a setup for a series of books called The Ascension Wars, and this is Book 1.

I didn’t care too much about the writing style, the loose and unrealistic plot, and the shallow character development overall. First Encounter seems a little bit like pulp fiction, or worse, action hero comic book material. If you like light science fiction, this might be reasonable entertainment. But for me, I am done reading this series.

 

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The Stand is about a pandemic that kills almost everyone in the world.

I read this book shortly after it first came out in 1978. Then, in 1990, King reissued the “Complete and Uncut Edition” with extra chapters and some changes. I read it again the early 1990s.

I never did a review of the book. Now might be a great time to do so.

If you’d like to read up on details, check the Wikipedia page for the book here.

A modified strain of the flu (sounds familiar?) accidentally escapes a government lab in Texas. It kills almost everyone it infects. Far less than 1% of the population, for some unfound reason, are immune. This means that in any given city or community, there might be nobody or just one person left. Within just a few weeks, the entire country is a grave yard. Rotting corpses are everywhere, in every house and building. Cars run off the roads litter the highways, usually corpses inside. A few survivors eventually run into each other and small groups band together to eek out a life after “the flu.”

The story follows a group of people who start out in New England and make their way west, collecting straggling survivors as they go. They end up settling in Boulder, Colorado. However, as one might expect, there is also an “evil” group, with its own leader, and they congregate in Las Vegas. The epic struggle between good and evil is carried out by the fragments of humanity.

The Stand is King’s largest book. This is a monster, a work the size of War and Peace. However, it’s also, in my opinion, King’s best work ever, and one of my favorite novels of all time. There are some (very) long stretches of less than exciting mystical sections getting into the supernatural of the bad guys in the second half of the book, which I found tedious. But other than that, it’s riveting reading. King portrays a lot of unique and utterly memorable characters that have stayed with me for a lifetime, including the main characters of Stuart Redman, Frannie Goldsmith, Nick Andros and the ever likeable feeble-minded Tom Cullen, “Laws, Yes!” As usual, King’s characters are deeply developed, very real and convincing. The Stand also introduced me to “Payday” candy bars, which I hadn’t known before. After reading The Stand, discarded Payday candy wrappers always bring back post-apocalyptic visions for me when I randomly encounter them.

I am writing this review as we just received the order by the governor of California to stay at home for the next month to fight the coronavirus pandemic. None of us have ever experienced anything like this before, yet here we are, and the unthinkable has happened.

Well, I have read The Stand before, and I saw how it can end. It’s not pretty.

If you find yourself with some extra time and nothing to read, I highly recommend The Stand.

 

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At the end of The Clan of the Cave Bear, Ayla is expelled from the Clan, and she walks away into the unknown wilderness in search of “The Others,” her own people.

Eventually, she finds The Valley of Horses, with a suitable empty cave on a cliff in a protected canyon, a stream with a waterfall above it, and the steppe not far beyond the valley. The glacier, which shapes the local climate an the flora and fauna, is not far away toward the north.

Ayla makes her home there. The rescues a colt and raises it, and later she rescues a baby cave lion, and raises it too. She ends up spending three years alone in the valley with her animals.

Jondalar and Thonolan are two young brothers on a journey down the Danube to the “sea,” which of course is what we know as the Black Sea today. On their odyssey they get to know many different tribes. Eventually, they end up in Ayla’s valley under catastrophic conditions, with Jondalar severely injured.

Ayla nurses Jondalar to heath and eventually the two become a couple.

I read The Clan of the Cave Bear decades ago for the first time, and I remember reading The Valley of Horses, its sequel, also, but I remembered nothing about it. When I recently re-read Clan, I decided to also re-read Valley. They are the first two books of the Earth’s Children series of six books written by Auel. I enjoyed The Valley of Horses to a degree. It does a nice job portraying life in the stone age by the Cro Magnon man, our direct ancestors, and it contrasts that to the lives of the Neanderthals, of “the Clan” as they are called in this series. I have always been interested in pre-history, taking place in southern and eastern Europe during the current Ice Age but before the last glacial period – or about 30,000 years ago.

Jondalar’s home is where France is today, and Ayla’s home is originally in today’s Crimea. The Valley of Horses is about where today’s Kiev is in Ukraine. The Cro Magnon people were on the rise with their advances in hunting techniques, weapons and general social structure. The Neanderthals, who had reigned over Europe and Eastern Europe for more than 100,000 years, virtually with no changes in their lives, were on the decline. There was occasional interbreeding during that period, between the two sub-species of humans, and this overall backdrop sets the stage for The Valley of Horses.

The story is a bit boring at times, particularly when the author repetitively describes things that she has described before. There is also a surprising amount of explicit sex, with detailed, graphic sex scenes going on for pages. I can understand that it’s necessary to include sex to describe the lives of the people, but there is too much of it in this book. Sometimes I felt like I was reading a romance novel, and it should have had a Fabio-like dude with a fur loin cloth holding a blond vixen in a passionate kiss. I don’t know why the author found it necessary to include as much sex as she did. It got repetitive to me, and I found it unnecessary.

I got my fix of pre-history with these two books.

I now marvel about time-scales. This played 30,000 years ago. That’s 10 times as long as our modern timescale, if you think of the time of the ancient Greeks as the start of modern times. No innovations occurred in their lives for tens of thousands of years, thousands of generations. When I compare that to the pace of innovation we are experiencing now, I am awestruck at the length of human history, and how long we endured under very challenging conditions so I could be here today.

I will not read the next four books in the series, but it peeked my interest in anthropology. So today, at the bookstore, I picked up “Who we are and how we got here – Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past” by David Reich. It’s a science book. It won’t have sex scenes, but it’ll give me that feeling of awe when I face the unlikely history of humanity.

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Here is a generation ship story that could have been something, but unfortunately, it was not much of anything.

First, look at the cover above! It has nothing to do with the story, nothing at all. Of course, you don’t know that when you first pick up a book. As the trite saying goes, “thou shalt not judge a book by its cover.” Covers don’t matter much anymore in the age of digital delivery, when you don’t see the book laying around or on the shelf anymore. So why do covers still matter to me? I subscribe to the opposite: “Thou art entitled to judge a cover by its book!”

Call me old-fashioned, but I want my book covers to relate to the story – somehow. And this does not.

“The Ship” in this story is a giant egg-shaped vessel that spins on its center axis. Inside the decks are arranged in concentric circles, the outermost decks being the “lowest” ones with an artificial gravity due to the centrifugal force of about 2g. In the center, around the axis, is No-Weight, since there is no spin at all. The decks between No-Weight and the lowest decks are under progressively stronger g-forces. Look at the cover above and now tell me how this spaceship might resemble the actual ship in the story.

The ship left Earth about 300 years ago with 5,000 souls on board. It is on a journey to the star system of Pollux, which is one of the main stars in the constellation of Gemini, where earthbound research has found that there is a high likelihood of several habitable planets. Pollux is about 33 light-years away. At a speed of about 1/10th of the speed of light, the journey should take about 300 years.

The inhabitants of the ship are born, grow up, choose careers that are needed to maintain the ship and its small society, and once they reach a certain age around 40, they are old enough that they need to make room for the next generation. In a society that is stagnant and cannot grow in size for 300 years, where resources are absolutely limited and where there is no room for error and no possibility of replenishment,  it’s clear that absolute discipline is necessary to maintain a stable society and a healthy population.

The problem is: a computer decides who has to die when, and the “psych police” then executes the candidates, basically by murdering them, and making it look like they died by accidents. And here lies my problem with this story.

As I said above, the ship left Earth about 300 years ago. That would be like us living in an enclosed environment where 14 generations before us lived and died, since about the year 1720. That puts things into perspective. Would you not think that in 300 years they would have devised a method of maintaining a stable society that includes some form of natural death and does not rely on systematic and institutionalized murder? And would you not think that the population might have figured out what’s going on and worked on a better solution?

Be that as it may, this is the central conflict of the book, and a twist at the end makes the whole thing a bit more palatable than it was for me through 90% of the book. So it went from half a star to one-and-a-half stars in my rating.

It is, after all, a generation ship story, and I have a search category for this in my blog, and I always read them when I come across them.

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Nicholas Hook was a common 19-year-old man in England in 1413. He had one gift: He was a superb archer and as a result he ended up in the army of King Henry V invading France. Henry V thought he was the rightful heir to the French throne, in addition to the English, and he thought God was on this side in his quest to claim what was rightfully his.

This story is about the legendary battle of Agincourt, about which many scholars of history have written numerous books. It tells the story of that invasion in vivid detail from the point of view of the common man. We get drawn into the lives of the people, the thinking of the nobility and the clergy at the end of  medieval Europe during the Hundred Years’ War.

Life was rough. Lords had the power of gods and could do anything they wanted. Clergy was revered and utterly corrupt. All evil deeds were somehow done on behest of God and great suffering was inflicted on the people, through taxation, backbreaking labor, and relentless abuse. During war, the boys and men of the losers were killed, and the women raped and enslaved. This was just how life was.

Agincourt is full of terrible, endless violence. Here is an example of a battle scene:

“Stay tight, stay tight!” Sir John bellowed, making sure there was a man to his left and Sir William to his right. You fought shoulder to shoulder to give the enemy no room to pierce the line, and Sir John’s men-at-arms were fighting as he had trained them to fight. They had stepped over the first fallen Frenchmen and the second line of English were lifting enemy visors and sliding knives into the eyes or mouths of the wounded to stop them from striking up from the ground. Frenchmen screamed when they saw the blade coming, they twisted in the mud to escape the quick stabs, they died in spasms, and still more came to be hammered or chopped or crushed. Some Frenchmen, reckoning themselves safe from arrows, had lifted their visors and Sir John slammed the poleax’s spike into a man’s face, twisting it as it pierced the eye socket, dragging it back jellied and bloodied, watching as the man, in frantic dying pain, flailed and impeded more Frenchmen. Sir William Porter was stabbing his lance at men’s faces. One blow was usually enough to unbalance an enemy and Sir William’s other neighbor would finish the job with a hammer blow. Sir William, usually a quiet and studious man, was growling and snarling as he picked his victims. “God’s blood, William,” Sir John shouted, “but this is joy!”

— Cornwell, Bernard. Agincourt (p. 402). HarperCollins e-books. Kindle Edition.

A good third of the book describes such atrocities. Skulls crushed by hammers and axes, a thousand eyes poked out by knives, swords rammed into bowels and twisted up to the lungs and hearts.

It is graphic and realistic, but it was too much for me. At times I’d start skimming over the battle scenes, as I simply didn’t need to know about every stabbed eye socket anymore, and I wanted to move on.

This was my first Cornwell book. It was recommended to me by colleagues as great historical fiction, and I found that it is. There are countless other Cornwell books, probably just as vivid and graphic. It was well written and very educational, but unlike other fans of Cornwell that end up binge-reading all his books, I think I am done and ready for other subjects.

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After reading a few books that I did not enjoy very much for a variety of reasons, I picked up No Highway by Nevil Shute because I knew, having read the author before, that he is a good story teller and will present a solidly crafted novel. I read Trustee from the Toolroom in 2014 and A Town Like Alice in 2015. These books were all recommended by my Australian friend (and frequent commenter in this blog), Ray Cullen. Thanks Ray!

In No Highway, the narrator is Dr. Scott, a young manager in the government agency responsible for aircraft safety in the U.K. in the 1950s. But the hero is Mr. Honey, an awkward, introverted, but brilliant engineer who does advanced work in fatigue studies in metallurgy.  He discovers an esoteric problem with the tail structure of the Reindeer, the U.K.’s most modern passenger airplane of the time that was just put into cross-Atlantic service. But being somewhat goofy and off-mainstream, many people don’t believe Honey. Only through drastic action that jeopardizes his career does he get the attention of the aerospace establishment. All hinges on the results of his experiments and the recovery of crash data from a remote site in the Canadian Labrador forests.

I can’t figure out why the book is called No Highway, as it does, at least to me, not relate to the story at all. It is, however, a well-crafted novel just like I would have expected from Nevil Shute. He did not let me down. While I enjoyed reading it, I can see it may be somewhat dry to a person not interested in engineering, and with the engineering subject matter being now 70 years outdated, the book is a bit awkward today. For instance, much of the plot depends on the fact that when you crossed the Atlantic in 1950 and went into the Canadian hinterland, you were completely out of reach. The only intercontinental communications in those days was a “cable” which is basically a telegram. It was expensive, difficult to send and receive, and it took a lot of time. We now live in a world with instant communications all over the globe, and we can’t even conceive of a situation where a major scientist is doing field work in the Canadian north in the woods where he would be completely, utterly out of reach. Today, we’d send texts and emails through satellite phones charged by solar panels – no problem at all.

This is not Nevil Shute’s problem, but Amazon’s. This book is the worst Kindle book with the classic automatic conversion errors I have ever read. Here is an example:

So had Mr Honey been, but I would not tell him that I ad raid, Tm very sorry about the Reindeer, Mr Prendergast I’m afraid this is bound to mean that all those aircraft will be grounded now at seven hundred and twenty hours.1 He said genially, ‘Oh well, worse things happen at sea. I expect we shall get over it, one way or another.’
— Nevil Shute. No Highway (Kindle Locations 5118-5121). Kindle Edition.

I highlighted the offending sections in red for you. The problem is that the entire book has these errors. There are THOUSANDS of them. Pretty much every page is messed up. I “only” paid $0.99 for this book, which is not a lot, but why doesn’t Amazon have a process in place where readers can provide edits back that a human could then use to fix the books? I am a stickler with that – Amazon should require that at least one editor reads every book and fixes it before it is going to be sold!

Terrible!

The editing issues are Amazon’s problem, so I won’t hold that against the book in my rating. Overall, I give it a solid two stars.

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Sal Paradise is an Italian American youth who lives with his aunt in Paterson, New Jersey in the mid 1940ies, after World War II. This was the time before there were interstate highways in America, and road trips took place on two-lane highways between cities, towns and villages. Sal’s best friend is Dean Moriarty, a thief, criminal and con-artist. The two, along with a sizable cast of losers and grifters, travel back and forth across the country for no particular reason, hanging out in San Francisco (which they call Frisco), New York and Denver for the most part, and touching many other cities, including Mexico, along the way.

On the Road is referenced as a classic in almost every list of best books in the English language. Schools assign it as required reading. I read it because I wanted to check off a classic between more recent science fiction material.

I don’t know what it is with me and classics, but On the Road was one of the most painful books to read, ever. I stuck with it, because I forced myself. Every. Damn. Hour.

There is no story worth telling. There is no plot. The ramblings of the losers on the road are repetitious and vapid. There is no central conflict, there is no suspense. After about a quarter into the book I realized it was not going to change. On the Road is the most mind-numbingly boring and uninteresting book I have ever touched. There is nothing to learn. There is no moral. There isn’t even an ending. Just a bunch of characters that I could not relate to and I can’t imagine anyone else can relate to.

Sal Paradise is Jack Kerouac, and Dean Moriarty is modeled after the beatnik Neal Cassady. I guess if you lived in the 1940s, perhaps this story was one you could relate to. But, alas, I was born ten years later.

There were some descriptions of the American West that elicited nostalgia in me. I have spent many a day in my twenties traveling the long, endless highways across Texas and the plains, up and down Arizona and California, and across Colorado, riding the road from coast to coast and back again. Those were beautiful days, weeks, months and years, and reading On the Road got me in the mood for a long road trip.

However, I am most certainly not going to read any more books by Kerouac.

 

 

Note about the Kindle Edition: This book of full of bad punctuation, spelling errors, fragmented sentences, I presume due to automated conversion from the printed page. I guess Amazon could not afford to make a single editor go through the pain it put us paying customers through and actually read the book and fix the multitude of errors. Shame on Amazon!

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I read The Clan of the Cave Bear many decades ago and I remembered liking it, being impressed by it, and that the main character’s name was Ayla. But that was all.

When I recently read Pushed Back it reminded me of this book, so I read it again now.

The story plays about 30,000 years ago, the end of the age of the Neanderthals, on the peninsula of Crimea, the same Crimea that was taken over by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. The glaciation of the northern hemisphere was at its maximum, reaching down all the way to southern England, covering Scandinavia, and getting to within a few hundred miles of Crimea in what is now Russia.

Ayla is a 5-year-old girl born to Cro-Magnon humans who had just started arriving in Europe at that time. Ayla was away from her tribe playing when a strong earthquake demolished their encampment and everyone perished. The little girl was left alone, naked, in the wilderness. After days of wandering about, just before her imminent death, a migrating troupe of Neanderthals comes along and their medicine woman, Iza, convinces the leader to take the little girl in so she could save her life. And so it comes about that a little girl “born to the Others” is raised in a Neanderthal clan.

The Others look like modern humans, and the Clan people find her ugly. Eventually she is accepted into the Clan and those around come to love and respect her. But it does not come without a price. The Clan’s rules are highly patriarchic and restrictive. The successor to the current leader, Broud, is an ambitious youth, very insecure, and sees Ayla with all her differences as a threat. He develops a deep hatred for her that festers and escalates until the day he takes over.

The book is 468 pages long and delves deeply into the Clan’s society, culture and individual thinking. As a reader, I found myself thinking like many of the main characters, like Brun, the Neanderthal leader, Broud, his eventual successor, Creb, the clan’s magician and spiritual leader, and the many women and children. The author goes into great detail into the lifestyle of the clan, how they live, hunt, eat, celebrate and socialize. Reading this book is an immersion into stone-age life.

Much of the detail, of course, is the author’s conjecture. For instance, she describes the Clan people as speaking mostly using sign language and not voices. She also makes many assumptions about the social structure, and while we are not sure what is fact and fiction, I was fine with it. I didn’t come to read the book to get a historically accurate and factual representation of Neanderthal life, I came to experience what it might have been like, and how it would have felt. In that, the author was very successful.

For a while, as I was reading the book, I became a Neanderthal.

It struck me how much of their life and their culture was guided by “spirits.” Most important decisions, most laws or rules, were based on what the spirits wanted or dictated. Many decisions were made not based on the visible reality of the world, but what they thought the spirits wanted. This caused misery, sometimes death, unspeakable pain and sorrow, and much overall suffering.

One of the conjectures I found hardest to believe was that the Clan people thought that pregnancies were started by totem spirits fighting over the woman’s body. If the outside male spirit won, the woman became pregnant. Sexuality was a casual activity. Any male could beckon any woman or young girl, any time he wanted, and she would simply have to assume the position, so he could “relieve his need.” This was done in open sight all the time. You would think that Neanderthal society, which was active for over 100,000 years without any real progress or change, but was very smart with herbs, medicinal uses of plants, tool making, and the like, would have figured out that it was the relieving of a man’s need into a woman’s womb that might be the cause of the baby getting started in there? Surely they knew!

While I wondered how it was possible that societies could be that much influenced by imaginary powers, imaginary threats, and imaginary disasters, I realized that we have many parallels today.

Millions of people today are still guided by religions and their laws, ceremonies, customs and limitations. In addition, we allow ourselves to suffer from imaginary foes, like mortgages coming due, debts having to be repaid, bad grades in college, titles attained or not attained. All those things are imaginary powers, not unlike the spirits of the Neanderthals, and I found suddenly that my life was not that different and in its own way was driven by the Spirit of the Cave Bear.

 

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Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak, and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all His laws. 
—John Quincy Adams
This book was presumably written by a senior Trump administration official, like a cabinet-level appointee, or somebody in a similar situation. The account is not favorable to Trump.

The book tells what it’s like to work inside the White House under Trump as a senior advisor or executive. Trump is shown as a completely unfit person for the presidency. He does not read, he has no interest in opinions other than those of himself, he seeks power and status for himself without regard to what is right for the country or its people. He uses his assistants until they somehow disagree with him, and then they become enemies. All his assistants start disagreeing with him within minutes of any direct interaction. It does not paint a good picture.

It is A Warning – and I mean it.

Trump promised during the campaign that he would eliminate the national debt within 8 years in office. He has done the opposite. The deficit is higher than ever in history, spending is out of control, higher than Obama’s and that  was one of the main points the conservatives had against Obama. Here is an excerpt that discusses spending:

Donald Trump was not interested in penny-pinching. He may try to project the image of a man working to save taxpayer dollars, and it’s true that he can be talked out of stupid ideas if they cost too much. But that’s not because he’s trying to save money so it can go back to the American people. He still wants to spend the money, just on things in which he’s personally interested, such as bombs or border security. Trump recoils at people who are “cheap.” Today he is sparing no expense on the management of the executive branch, spending so freely it makes the money-burning days of the Trump Organization look like the five-dollar tables at a Vegas casino. As a result, the budget deficit has increased every single year since Donald Trump took office, returning to dangerous levels. The president is on track to spend a trillion dollars above what the government takes in annually.

— Anonymous. A Warning (p. 100). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Here is another excerpt talking about spending and the budget.

Donald Trump has America back on the road to bankruptcy, an area where he has unparalleled expertise for a president of the United States. The small band of fiscal conservatives who remain in the Trump administration warned the president about the eventual dangers of his out-of-control spending addiction. In one such meeting, Trump reportedly said, “Yeah, but I won’t be here.” I never heard him say those words, but it doesn’t come as a surprise. That’s how he thinks. What does he care if the federal government goes belly-up? By then it won’t be his problem.
–Anonymous. A Warning (p. 101). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Trump called the writer a traitor. Trump defenders called him a coward.

Both labels are not fair. Let’s just say the facts stated are true. Clearly, the two excerpts above do not tell us anything we don’t already know. The numbers don’t lie. Trump may not like the fact that someone inside his administration states these facts to the public, but treasonous it is not.

It’s simply the truth, simply facts.

There is obviously no way for a cabinet secretary to write such a book under his or her name and live another hour in the administration, and then not be crucified and smeared for life by Trump supporters in the public and the media. So in order to get this book out, it needed to be written anonymously. Usually I do not like it when writers post anonymous comments in my blog, or anywhere online, but I am making an exception in this case. This book contains valuable information that will help me make my decision when it comes time to vote.

And just because of this, I am going to quote a section at the end of the book that is the most important of the entire message, the Warning. Please read this carefully. If you do not end up  reading the book after this review, at least read this excerpt:

Nevertheless, the counterargument to my point will be strong if the Democratic Party nominates someone deeply out of touch with mainstream America. Then everything changes. If it’s one of the Democratic candidates preaching “socialism,” Trump’s fearmongering will still be persuasive. Republicans will argue that the other candidate, as president, would attack our free-market principles, tax us into economic recession, promote a thought-police culture of political correctness, fan the flames of identity politics, and bring government into our lives like never before. It will be a repeat of 2016. Compared to the leftward-lurching Democratic Party, Trump will seem friendlier to conservative ideals. Discussions about qualifications will give way to emotion and fear, and Trump’s reelection chances will rise.
Democrats reading this book know how high the stakes are. I implore you, if you want a majority of our nation to reject Donald Trump, you must show wisdom and restraint in selecting your party’s nominee. Resist the temptation to swerve away from the mainstream. Trust me. We flirted with extremes in the GOP during the last cycle, and look where it got us. If Democrats do the same, Trump will be that much closer to a second term and better equipped to convince Americans to stick with him. If, however, you nominate someone who campaigns on unity instead of ideological purity, you will have a sizable number of Republicans and independents ready to make common cause.
— Anonymous. A Warning (p. 246). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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Ivy is a 37-year-old divorced mother of twin girls of sixteen. She is on her way to visit them, driving down a freeway in rural Virginia when the road suddenly is buckled up and destroyed in front of her. She gets out, along with a few other people in other cars and tries to figure out what might have happened, when she is thrown into a time warp of sorts. Along with Harper, another stranger, a 33-year-old man, she wakes up and finds herself in a primeval forest.

Long story short, they were thrown back in time about 17,000 years to when North America was still full of large fauna, including giant bears and saber tooth tigers. The very first humans had just come from Asia and had made their way across the American continent.

Ivy happens to have a notebook with her and writes a journal of their story of survival in a Paleolithic wilderness. Her journal is the book. Ivy tells the story in the first person present tense.

There is nothing really happening in the story, other than the description of their day to day efforts to survive and possibly thrive. The plot is simple and way too simplistic to be credible. It’s almost like a fairy tale for an 8-year-old audience. The language is stilted and unreal, and the ease with which everything goes smoothly for them just does not ring true.

Reading about that time in history reminded me of The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel which I read many decades ago and remember as a very good book. So reading Pushed Back prompted me to download that book so I could read it again, or at least give it a try.

The language in Pushed Back is juvenile and full of trite expressions. I’ll give you one example. The author likes to use the word “friggen” to create a feeling of astonishment that she apparently can’t impart otherwise.

When Harper kills a wild pig with his spear, Ivy says:

“Oh my gosh, you are a friggen master hunter!” I crowed in joy.
— Ison, S.A.. Pushed Back: A Time Traveler’s Journal (p. 158). Kindle Edition.
I guess it’s ok to use this word in this context when Ivy quotes herself directly. However, this word is used five more times throughout the book. Here are the other examples:
  • a friggen giant sloth
  • the Paleolithic friggen era
  • after seeing the big friggen sloth
  • that was friggen amazing
  • just as friggen fast
Ok, the author likes “friggen” but to my astonishment, she also likes “fricken” as in the other two examples:
  • I mean really fricken screwed.
  • What? Fricken dandelions.
Maybe you are thinking I am being petty, and maybe I am, but these are just a few examples of the repetitive use of trite expressions and made-up words that may be part of colloquial American life, but it sounds friggen stupid in a book.
Then, of course, there are the numerous punctuation, spelling, grammatical and even tense errors that should have been found by an editor or, if too expensive, a friend, who should have read the book at least once before it was published and sold. But alas, that’s apparently acceptable in modern publishing.

This is listed as Book 1 in the time travel series, but I could not find a Book 2 yet. Checking S. A. Ison’s work, I see she specializes in survival material and post-apocalyptic stories, with several series of books in that general subject matter.

Given the poor presentation, the sloppy editing, the vapid language, the flat plot and the superficial characters of Pushed Back, I think I am done reading S. A. Ison books.

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Steve Mason is a Federal Air Marshal on a flight down the eastern seaboard of the United States, to Charlotte, North Carolina.  After a mostly uneventful flight, the plane suddenly hits a dark cloud unexpectedly. Turbulence ensues, strange blue flashes are outside the windows, and just as abruptly as the cloud appeared it stops and the plane enters blue sky again.

However, all communications with the outside world have ceased. The crew looks out the window and recognize the familiar landmarks of the North Carolina coast, but all the cities are gone. After a frantic but unsuccessful search for an airfield to land, the pilots know they will run out of fuel and decide to ditch the plane into the ocean off the coast of what used to be Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The landing is not as successful as that pulled off by Captain Sullenberger who landed a plane in the Hudson River in 2009.  The plane crashes hard, breaks up, and out of the 180 passenger and crew, only less than 30 people survive.

Eventually, the survivors realize they landed in colonial America in 1720. There are only four cities of any size in the colonies at that time, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charles Town, which would eventually become Charleston. The survivors have to fend for themselves by fighting off marauding bands of Indians, criminal colonists, pirates, not to mention diseases, hunger, and lack of shelter.

The storytelling is stilted and juvenile. There is even a sex scene that is surprisingly explicit and somewhat inappropriate. What bothered me most is the multitude of grammatical errors that should have been caught by an editor. Here are a couple of examples:

Mason caught sight of the man whom had to be the captain. He wore a bright blue coat and a matching three-point hat with a feather.
— Zugg, Victor. A Ripple In Time: A Historical Novel Of Survival (p. 273). Kindle Edition.
“Whom had to be the captain?” That does not even sound right. There are other places in the book where the author misuses the word “whom.”
Here is another one:
He was surprised to learn there were several built prior to 1720 that still exited.
— Zugg, Victor. A Ripple In Time: A Historical Novel Of Survival (p. 294). Kindle Edition.

“Still exited?” Really?

There are many such errors throughout the book. They are minor, and they don’t destroy the meaning. But they irritate me immensely. It makes me angry that the author is willing to have people pay money for a book that obviously NOBODY even bothered to proofread even once. I should not be finding basic grammar errors in a professional book.

So I didn’t plan on giving the book much of a rating. Yes, it’s a time travel story, and I love time travel stories. That’s the only reason I stuck with the book and continued reading, even though most of the action is fairly monotonous and slow.

But then, the ending is surprisingly good. I enjoyed the last 10% of the book tremendously and found the conclusion satisfying. For a change, here is a book that actually has an ending and is not just a cheap setup for a sequel or a series.

It was going to be 1 star, but the ending brings it up and – at least for me – made it an enjoyable read.


.

SPOILER ALERT – do not read beyond this point if you are going to read this book!

Some of my readers expressed curiosity about the ending, so I decided to summarize it here.

When they first landed at the beach they ran into a band of Indians. Mason he wanted to start out friendly and searched for a gift. He wore a steel bracelet with an inscription which read “Steve Brown, USA, 82nd Airborne, Operation Iraqi Freedom.” He gave this bracelet to one of the Indians as a gift.

During their ordeal, Mason became friends with the lead flight attendant named Karen. Eventually they had a relationship and there was one sex scene in the night on the deck of their boat.

Toward the end of the story, when the 20 survivors realized that they were probably marooned in 1720 for the rest of their lives, the group decided to buy a plantation outside of Charles Town with money they had obtained by accident from a pirate’s loot. When they needed to decide whose name would be put on the title for the property, they agreed that Lisa and Jeremy Jackson, who had also become close, would quickly get married and take title of the plantation. Upon purchase, the couple stayed in the plantation, and Karen stayed with them, while Mason and a few of the other men went back to the camp by boat to pick up the rest of them and bring them to the plantation.

Karen and Mason were in love by then, and when Mason left, he promised Karen he’d be back in a few days.

During that trip, however, the original pirate attacked them and eventually decimated their boat and everyone perished. Mason eventually was severely wounded and fell into the ocean. As he passed out, he saw blue flashes. Note: blue flashes are associated with the original travel through time in the first place.

Mason woke up in a hospital in 2019. The Coast Guard had fished him out of the ocean four days after the plane had disappeared and he was the only known survivor. Being a Federal Air Marshal, his colleagues debriefed him and he told them the truth. Nobody believed him, of course, and eventually even he himself assumed he had hallucinated the entire experience during the trauma of the crash.

But he missed Karen. Depressed, he went on a road trip to Charleston to see if he could recognize anything in the city. There was nothing left of the old Charles Town of 1720, other than the names of the main streets. On a whim, he entered a history museum. In a display box of Indian artifacts he found a rusted out bracelet, the inscription no longer readable, but unmistakably his bracelet. Now he knew he had really been there. He drove out to the plantation and met an old man by the name of Michael Mason who lived there. The old house had burned down in the Civil War and another one had been built, but it was the same plantation. There was an old painting on the wall that was the only item of value surviving from the pre-Civil War period. On the painting Mason saw Lisa and Karen, along with a little boy. Michael Mason explained that family history has it that Jeremy died from an infection a few years after they got married and they never had kids. But Karen had a son from an unknown father. The little boy was named Steve Mason. Lisa willed the plantation to the boy and he became the patriarch for the long line of Masons who would run the plantation through the centuries that followed.

Mason went home, outfitted himself with survival gear, a stash of antibiotics, and rented a Cessna. Then he spent the next three months flying around North Carolina every day looking for dark clouds with blue flashes. Eventually, in a storm, he found one – and disappeared. That’s the last thing we know of Mason.

After Mason’s disappearance, his friend Ted Wilson at the Air Marshal Service started to investigate. At Mason’s house, he found a shopping list of survival gear, the contract for the airplane, and the address of the plantation. He drove to the plantation, and a young man let him in and they talked about “his missing friend” who had left this address for some reason that neither understood. As Ted walked around the house, he saw a painting with two couples and one young boy. The young man explained that one of the couples was Lisa and Jeremy Jackson. When they never had children, they willed the plantation to Steve Mason, who was the son of Karen and Steve Mason, both also in the painting.

Obviously, Mason had made it back to Karen, his stash of antibiotics had saved Jeremy’s life, and they all grew old together at the plantation.

Ted walked away knowing the truth.

 

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Genesis is the first book of the author’s First Colony series. The story starts about the year 2200 on earth when humanity decides that it needs to send its first colony to the stars. Mankind pools its resources, builds a massive starship the call the ark, and recruits about 300,000 of its best and brightest for the one-way journey of 80 years. The travelers sleep in stasis, which means they are not conscious during the journey.

The protagonist is Conner Gates, a colonel in the special forces, who leads his squad on some of the most dangerous missions in the solar system. Through a series of unexpected events, he ends up as an unwitting stowaway on the ark. He is portrayed as a know-it-all expert of all trades and therefore wholly unrealistic and cartoon-like. Conner is just not acting like a real person would.

The story plays entirely on an alien planet hundreds of years in the future, but what is actually going on is pretty much military training nonsense that could be happening anywhere on earth.

The book is crafted in a way that the author is building a world for a series of books that can have stories take place in that world. He spends a lot of time on the minutiae of military training of special forces recruits, which fits the plot, but is overdone considering the larger epic he is trying to create. The last 10 percent of the book is very different from the main work and is presumably only there to set the stage for the next book in the series.

I don’t know why the book is called Genesis, and I can’t find anything on the cover that actually relates to the story.

In the end, while it was an interesting read, it wasn’t interesting enough for me to spend the time to read the next book in the series. There are eight, by the way. I am stopping at one.

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