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Mamelukes Is a Fitting Final Novel in the Jerry Pournelle Oeuvre

Last night, I finished reading the last novel by the late Jerry Pournelle I will ever read.

For me, who has been a Pournelle fan for almost half a century, it was a sad moment. In my last review, of Starborn and Godsons, I reviewed Pournelle’s literary career, so I won’t repeat it. It is extraordinary.

Entertainment in the Time of Pestilence

About two weeks ago (as you read this column), just as the coronavirus lockdown was beginning, I decided I needed a break from anything too contemporary, and to watch something “historical” for entertainment. I picked re-watching World Without End, the mini-series based on the novel by Kenneth Follett.

I wound up laughing at myself. It had been almost ten years since I had read the novel, and seven or eight since I watched the series. I had forgotten that a large part of the story deals with how the principal characters dealt with the Bubonic Plague of the mid 1300s.

The Paranoid Squint of Tim Powers

Tim Powers is my literary hero. He creates secret histories in which historical events are “explained” through fictional embellishments which completely alter history’s meaning. Secret histories have been written by Alexandre Dumas, Gore Vidal, Umberto Eco, and they are especially associated with genre writers like Elizabeth Bear, Steve Berry, and above all, Tim Powers.

Powers’ approach is rigorous. He never allows his fiction to contradict any known historical fact (and he knows a lot). He does, however, allow his fictional additions to make full use of magical and science fictional elements.

Rereading My Favorite Novel: Donna Tartt’s The Secret History

In 2019 I read again my favorite novel The Secret History by Donna Tartt. The experience only hardened my adoration of this book. It’s so full of wonderful descriptions and crazy characters.

The Psychology Underlying Robert Heinlein’s ‘Friday’

The titular character “Friday” in the novel of the same name is an artificial person. She’s quite human, but she was created in a lab, born via an artificial uterus and raised in a corporate crèche. Her society sees her as inferior, and she sees herself as inferior. That is despite her greater speed, strength and intelligence. I spent a while wondering why, and then it hit me. It is as much due to her upbringing as the much vaunted “conditioning”, though both are by design. Furthermore, social engineering (or a good PR campaign) of broader society has been undertaken for the same purpose.

The Harsh Truths of ‘Essex County’

Deconstructing Canadian Culture, Part 3: Graphic Novel Nihilism

Down the aimless streets of Toronto in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and through the idyllic back country of Letterkenny, lies the way to understanding the way Canadians see themselves, or at least would like to be seen. Both these works are about keeping up a carefully crafted image: the studied apathy and hipsterdom of the big city, and the carefully cultivated simplicity of the country.

But beneath these polished exteriors (that do their best to not appear polished) lies the haunted world of Jeff Lemire’s Essex County. This is the Canada that we don’t talk about, rendered in stark black and white inks.

Check out the New Kirkus Review of Jonah: A Novel of Men and the Sea

Don’t miss Howard Butcher’s thrilling debut novel!

“Butcher’s measured prose deftly captures the grit and violence of Jonah’s world, both on deck and beneath the waves…  the world of offshore oil rigs is indeed a rugged one, and Butcher’s handling of it here will attract readers who might not have had any interest in the milieu before.”

Deplora Boule brings the Savage, Swiftian Satire to the “News”

Narrating the Narrative

On one level, it’s the story of a fairly nice young girl, largely ignored by her mother and estranged from her father, who goes off to college, falls into the clutches of a cult, and proceeds to wreck her life, along with the lives of the few people who really cared for her.

On another level, it’s the bitterly funny story of the way the deeply-deluded and stultifyingly self-important people who should be “reporting” the news take it upon themselves to “make” the news. Or, as the title of the novel suggests, they craft “The Narrative.” Google Dan Rather and “JournoList” for some of the egregious examples that are known to the discerning citizens, to say nothing of the DNC email dump that revealed allegedly objective journalists coordinating and clearing their stories with the campaign of the presumptive next President of the Vagina States of America.

With such a wealth of deserving targets, in less-skilled (or courageous) hands such a novel might be a thunderingly dull polemic –– and Lord knows, there are enough of those around –– but this is both outrageous and wickedly funny.   I say again, The Narrative is wickedly funny, teeing up the self-deceptions of the Woke Warriors of Journalism.