When I finished my first novel, “A Roman Peace in Briton: Blood on the Stone”, I must admit that I was quite pleased with myself. Little did I know that writing the novel was the easy part. I quickly learned that marketing and selling the novel is where an author makes their hay, so to speak. A huge part of marketing in today’s publishing world, is convincing the more credible book reviewers to take a gander at one’s work. As one published author recently shared with me, “A book review is worth a thousand ads.”
To that end, about a month ago I sent out a stack of my books to willing reviewers. Of course, I didn’t expect immediate results as I know how busy reviewers can be, many juggling careers, writing their own novels, and writing reviews. Yours truly has his own stack of books that I intend on whittling down and churning out reviews on. Be that as it may, here is one of the first reviews to emerge of “A Roman Peace in Briton: Blood on the Stone”, by Dana Burgess of Let’s Book it.
Written by New York Times best selling author, James Rollins, The Devil Colony continues the legacy of Painter Crowe and his crack team of military veterans, patriotic scientists and intellectuals, all of which comprise The Sigma Force: a secretive, black-op organization who match brains and brawn with the enemies of freedom. Admittedly, I was a tad skeptical when publicist and media guy, Mike Farley, queried whether I was interested in reviewing the novel. Why was that? Because in my estimation, it’s generally difficult for an author to maintain quality momentum when writing a series, particularly a series that stretches beyond three or four books, regardless of how invested a reader becomes in the characters in the initial installment. You know of what I speak. Just ask fans of Anne Rice.
What started with a tantalizingly fresh rendition of vampire lore in Interview with a Vampire eventually morphed into tedious swathes of forced prose and stale, stretched literary concepts by the time her fifth installment in the Vampire Chronicles came to press. Reading Rice’s fifth installment, Memnoch the Devil, was much like watching Michael Jordan play basketball. I’m talking about the Michael Jordan who played for the Washington Wizards, not the legendary hall of famer who led the Bulls to multiple NBA rings. Jordan had lost a step or two by the time he laced up his sneakers for the Wizards in 2001 and as much as the NBA and its fans adored him, it became tiresome to watch him clang jumpers, complain to the refs and blame the slick floors for his lack of lift-off when taking it to the hole in the fourth quarter. (Sounds eerily reminiscent of Lebron James post-Cleveland departure to the Heat, doesn’t it?)
But as for my initial reticence regarding James Rollins’ newest installment in the Sigma Force series, I humbly stand corrected. The Devil Colony is a soaring, from the foul line slam dunk. Chock full of action and sweeping across continents and history, Rollins guides the reader back to America’s infancy and into the present, cleverly splicing legend, fact and myth into a breathtaking conspiratorial tale of what might have happened and what could be.
Beginning with the book inside jacket teaser, “Could the founding of the United States be based on a fundamental lie”, Rollins’ sixth installment in the series explodes from the pages with intrigue: strange artifacts, gold plates inscribed with semi-Semitic script and hundreds of prehistoric mummified bodies of Caucasian origin are discovered out west in a secluded mountain cave system sparking controversy as the U.S. government and the Native American Heritage Commission race to lay claim to the remains and more importantly, the artifacts. However, the U.S. government and the Native Americans are not the only ones vying for the strange artifacts. A secret society known as the Guild, with its enormous wealth, resources and protective cloak of anonymity, has also entered the fray, its objective to steal the strange artifacts and harness the artifacts’ power and mystique for their own purposes, and the Guild is not easily subdued. Manipulating America’s course since the time of the thirteen colonies, the Guild’s shadowy influence permeates every U.S. institution, showing itself to be more than a match for Painter Crowe’s vaunted Sigma Force.
That’s all the detail you readers will pull out of this reviewer. If you want more, you’ll have to read it for yourself. If you like your novels served action heavy, with a dash of true science and spiced with archaeology and history with a garnish of plausible fiction, then by all means read The Devil Colony.
Determined to turn over a new leaf, I sprang out of bed this morning at 5 a.m., brewed a fresh pot of coffee and powered up my laptop. I will be the first to admit that sometimes my mind wanders. It’s not an unusual affliction. Many of you readers out there in Internet-land probably suffer from the same malady. As a matter of fact, I think the internet may be contributing to the condition. I mean, come on, the world at present is like one giant train wreck, with news of calamity, war, uprisings, natural disasters and failing world economies springing forth from one headline after another. It’s the virtual equivalent of rubber necking. You know what I speak of. How easy is it to surf from site to site until something snares your eye and manages to keep your attention for a minute or two, before clicking off and onto another site? It’s the same way with the television.
Kicked back in the lazy boy, bowl of popcorn on the lap and a stack of books piled on the end table, I sometimes find myself flipping through the 400 plus channels made available by my cable carrier. Personally, I really don’t think I need four hundred plus channels. I could probably survive with one or two of the cable news networks, National Geographic, the History Channel and Espn. But neither the internet or the television is truly indicative of my attention disorder. It still comes down to the books.
I literally have seven new (to me) books I picked up and received from various sources residing on my workstation table as of this past Monday. I finished the first of them by noon on Tuesday with the intention of immediately scurrying off to my laptop to churn out a review for JoeUnleashed. Alas, the best of intentions fall prey to the promising allure of another good read. So as of last night, I realized that I was reading three different books at once and still had not penned the review of the “Outlaw”, the book I started Monday evening and finished at lunch on Tuesday. It is now Saturday morning and I’m three-quarters of the way through the other three novels and still the review of “Outlaw” remains untouched. Ugh.
So, with new leaf freshly turned and the smell of strong coffee wafting in the air, I present Angus Donald’s “Outlaw”, a novel of Robin Hood. I will not waste time or print rehashing the saga and tale of Robin Hood. It’s one of the world’s best-known stories or mythologies and there are plenty of books and movies depicting the character. However, none of the previous renditions have presented the noble villain in quite the same light as Donald has in “Outlaw”.
All the stock characters remain; Robin of Sherwood, Little John, Will Scarlet, the Sheriff of Nottingham, and Friar Tuck and the fair maiden, Marie-Anne, Countess of Locksley. But as mentioned previously, this is not your parents’ Robin Hood, nor that of Kevin Costner or Russell Crowe. This is Robin Hood as seen through the eyes of fugitive peasant youngster, Alan Dale. Desperate, destitute and larcenous-minded, Alan runs afoul of the Sheriff of Nottingham when caught thieving a meat pie to feed he and his mother (his father had been dragged out in the middle of the night by the Sheriff and unceremoniously hung from an oak as a warning to others who may challenge the primacy of the local lord).
Faced with losing his hand for the thievery, Alan seeks the intervention and protection of none other than the Lord of Sherwood, Robin Hood. Hence begins an apprenticeship at the knee of Robin and an immersion into a world of violence, treachery, romance, drunken debauchery and religiosity, both Christian and pagan.
Fast-paced and descriptively presented, “Outlaw” had a familiar feel to it, but with a jolting liveliness that infused a new flavor into one of history’s most favored villains. In sum, Donald’s rousing yarn is well worth the time.
Read some newspapers, national periodicals, or internet news sites trumpeted by “trusted” media outlets and the casual reader could very well come away with the notion that America is being overwhelmed by religious extremists of the Christian variety. Witness judges who tack copies of the Ten Commandments on their courtroom walls, or pastors and priests with the temerity to speak of the Constitution’s guarantee of an individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and the right to life movement in the same breath, and then sit back and wait for the hoots of derision to explode from the pens of editorialists and the mouths of talking heads. Or witness how a public school down south would dare to conduct a graduation ceremony with a cross lurking auspiciously somewhere in the background. Gasp! Shriek! (Hold on a moment while I wail and tear out my hair at the unimaginable apostasy and affront to secular humanism). And forget about trying to teach creationism alongside the current scientific dogma of evolution. If it were attempted I’m sure some offended citizen would speed dial the ACLU hotline and an advocate would be filing an injunction faster than you could say Genesis.
Now, I’m sure some of you are sitting there scratching your heads with eyes wide and rolling in disbelief and mumbling to yourself that you thought this site was about books. Well, it is about books and literature. I’m just pointing out that in my opinion, more than a few intellectuals, academics and a goodly number of journalists seem to savage prominent displays of Judeo-Christian faith while giving an entirely different brand of religiosity a pass, if you will. Call it a casualty of our PC (politically correct) culture.
And what is this brand of religiosity to which I refer? Is it science as humanity’s newest god and its narrow-minded exclusiveness of its practitioners who espouse science and the attainment of knowledge above all else? Is it secular humanism and its quest for moral fulfillment through reasoning, ethics and justice absent God or religion? Yes, and no, but neither is actually the topic of today’s blog post. What I’m referring to is the brand of Islam currently being exported by Iran.
Before I go any further, I would like to fill in a little background as to what prompted this blog post and consequently, the reading and review of Joel Rosenberg’s The Twelfth Imam. There’s a growing sense in cultures around the world that the apocalypse is right around the corner. Secular humanists are not immune to the alarmism with shouts of man’s imminent demise through global warming and global cooling, streaking meteors, massive earthquakes and tsunamis. Merely pick a natural disaster and apply. We Christians have our books of the Bible that speak of the end times, most specifically, the Book of Revelations, though I refute this May 21, 6:00 pm fad making its rounds as unscriptural and unsupported by the Bible (No one knows the day or hour: Matthew 24:36) . Islam is no different. They have their apocalyptic messiah as well.
If you have been paying any attention the past thirty years to world events, and specifically, the Middle East (aside from the first and second wars in Iraq), you may have noticed that the fundamentalist regime of Iran is not friendly to western culture in the least. As a matter of fact, the official line is one of direct hostility exemplified by boisterous proclamations of its desire to annihilate Israel, and of course, America. And for good measure throw in the regime’s dedication to the financing, arming and training of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the resident despot of Syria, Bashir Assad.
The current figurehead for anti-western sentiment is embodied in Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A fiery orator with populist leanings, Ahmadinejad makes no bones about his desire to hasten the return of Shiite Islam’s messiah, the Mahdi, also known as the 12th Imam. In fact, in Ahmadinejad’s first speech to the United Nations, he took to the global stage in New York City and prayed out loud for the hasty return of the hidden imam. The underpinnings of this messianic yearning for the Mahdi is that he is expected to return before the Day of Judgment to lead the righteous against the forces of evil. Now whom does Ahmadinejad consider the forces of evil to be?
To answer this I suggest letting Joel Rosenberg entertain you with his latest splendidly researched and thought-provoking thriller, The Twelfth Imam. Rosenberg, a New York Times best-selling author, takes the reader inside the messianic Mahdi movement of Shiite dominated Iran. The main character of the novel, David Shirazi, is an Iranian-American of Shiite extraction that is initially recruited by the CIA to infiltrate al-Qaeda cells in Europe and Pakistan. Rumblings from within Iran of a mysterious religious cleric claiming to be the messiah, coupled with the regime’s relentless and secretive pursuit of nuclear power prompt Shirazi’s reassignment: Infiltrate Iran and gather information on Iran’s nuclear facilities and disrupt its nuclear weapons program before it’s too late.
There was a lot to like about this book. It was entertaining, relevant to current events and did a fabulous job of simplifying the complex and mystical aspects of Shiite end-times theology. Rosenberg also demonstrated a deft touch in extrapolating on the geo-political import of Shiite eschatology, an area this blogger and reviewer was woefully deficient. In sum, this novel was one of the best fiction/suspense political thrillers I’ve had the joy to read this year. Pick up a copy and enjoy.