Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Read Just Lately

The Fourth Nephite, by Jeffrey S. Savage
This is a LDS YA novel (all set up for a sequel-though this is self-contained) I found it a very enjoyable read, even though I didn't really like the main character Kaleo Steele, an arrogant high school football star. Of course the story is about what humbles him-I just have a hard time with stories where I don't like the characters very quickly.
Caught in a tight-spot where he might be suspended before an important game, Kaleo is given (IMAO) a heavy handed guilt trip and sent to speak with a mysterious gentleman to avoid missing out on performing in front of college scouts. High strangeness ensues in the tunnels beneath Salt Lake and Kaleo finds himself back in 1827.
Savages writing has excellent pacing, characters, twists and resolution. Authentic historical material is scattered liberally throughout, since this is a time-travel yarn. A couple small things niggled at me, but given that this is YA, I don't think they will bother the intended audience at all.
The inclusion of the villain Alastair Blackburn was great, as well as Jennie Jagger who also has her own interesting twist in the story. I look forward to Savage's next installment, I just hope they don't title it The Fifth Nephite.

God Against the Gods, by Jonathan Kirsch
This is headlined, the history of monotheism versus polytheism.
I thought it would be a very interesting read, but Kirsch while entertaining, presents incredibly weak arguments. The book opens retelling all the atrocities that have been committed in the name of the ONE GOD, and then goes on about how the Pagan era was a time of peace, diversity and tolerance. He admits that there may have been some bloodletting but that it is nothing in comparison to the believers of the One True God = HOGWASH.
Whenever evidence is mentioned of such pagan bloodletting, Kirsch defends the idea that it was all symbolic-but anything from the Old testament is thrown out as evidence of the jealousy and bloodthirsty ways of Yahweh and his followers.
Take any side you want-I Don't Care-but you can't portray yourself as unbiased and whitewash your side and demonize the other using the same evidence.
Numerous examples of his facts don't add up either. He contends Akhenaton was the first monotheist while also deriding Abraham for the same thing-which is it Kirsch? They can't both be first.
I am more than willing to read books by people with views counter to my own, (I read the local City Weekly paper for crying out loud) but this was just sloppy.

Chronicles of Conan 17: The Creation Quest, by J.M. DeMatteis, Bruce Jones, Roy Thomas and Gil Kane
Since Roy Thomas put down the torch for the regular Conan series,(we're talking 1970's series) none of the other writers captured the same fire (even if it was borrowed from Howard first)
Roy's contribution here is the annual which again borrowed heavily from Howard. The rest of the collection isn't terrible but it isn't great either.
As seen on the cover, Conan gets a giant sword and grows giant himself to fight these huge green Barsoomian inspired monstrosities and I found myself yawning a big "So What?" the writing for these tales just isn't up to par. I love Gil Kane's art-and that was likely the best thing about the The Creation Quest.

A Study in Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle
The very first Sherlock Holmes tale, introducing Doctor Watson and the famous detective. Just going off of this novella, I would say Doyle is great at what he does know and terrible at what he doesn't.
The villains, Mormons like myself, were so garish and maudlin as to be absolutely absurd. Make a Mormon a villain-I don't care-I know they exist cough, cough-but like any good writing make them believable.
Granted Doyle is a dead master, his creations are magnificent-but this was a weakness that seriously tripped up the story for me just because I know the historical accuracy and I am not wearing rose colored glasses or living in denial as others may. I credit the villains in the tale to being of the same school as characters from the Yellow Menace pulps and the Red Scare of later years-perhaps not completely impossible but very unlikely. The premise and happenings suggested by Doyle's Utah were shattered by the next book I am reviewing.

Wayward Saints, by Ronald W. Walker
At roughly the same time Arthur Conan Doyle is having A Study In Scarlet take place, a dissident group known collectively as the Godbeites were waging a literary, media-led and theological war against Brigham Young. If anything was even remotely close to what Doyle ever suggested, the Godbeites would have all been murdered. Nothing worse ever happened beyond T.B.H. Stenhouse and wife being doused with fecal matter in likely an unrelated family revenge scenario.
Instead they were excommunicated and then founded the Utah Liberal Political party, the Salt Lake Tribune, and wrote incendiary Tell All's that perhaps provided the bulk of Doyle's research.
Walker presents an incredibly sympathetic view of the Mormon dissidents, detailing their beginnings and what factors led to their rejection of the LDS Church. I find it fascinating that primarily economics seems to have swayed their spiritual and theological worldview.
These dissidents never rejected spirituality-they embraced it, becoming ardent spiritualists and holding seances-but involve a man's money and he contends with the man he once called Prophet.
This is the best regional history book I have read in a very long time and I borrowed liberally from it for my Monsters and Mormon's submission. My tale ended up about 75% historically accurate and 25% fiction, though I did compress the timeline somewhat based on events recounted from Wayward Saints.


Charles Gramlich said...

I gave up on the Conan comics quite a few years back. I'll pick up on once in a while but am generally disappointed.

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm fascinated by those last two. I'll have to check out the last one in particular.

I'm glad to have read a review/summary about Jeff's newest. I love Jeff. He's a fabulous person and a pretty great writer, too!

Taranaich said...

You're being far more charitable to "The Creation Quest" I could ever be...

David J. West said...

Charles-yeah the point I'm in seems to be a low spot.

L.T.-really good stuff. It's actually the first Savage book I have read.

Al-I have read worse but...

Dan said...

And all these years, I thought the Aztec human sacrifices were peaceful expressions of polytheism...

David J. West said...

Heh-exactly Dan, Kirsch is talking out his ...