Review: The Devil’s Dictum by Frederick Gero Heimbach

The Devil’s Dictum by Frederick Gero Heimbach (2015)

I enjoy books that defy easy categorization, that don’t “slot in” to a genre and revisit tropes that the experienced reader has seen before. The Devil’s Dictum doesn’t do that, oh no. This is one of the most unusual, original and creative books I’ve read in a long, long time.

The Amazon description refers to “original and mind-blowing alternate history,” but I don’t know if that’s even big and expansive enough: This is a world where Hitler is the President of the United States (for a while, anyway), where the “Pilgrims” were driven away from Plymouth Rock and established Haiti as their nation, where pirates and Satanists are the “Founding Fathers.” I wouldn’t exactly call it alternative history, to me it was a fantastic, strange alternative Universe, that shouldn’t even work, but does, through the author’s intimate knowledge of the human heart and its foibles, and I suppose, sheer force of authorial will.

The Devil’s Dictum is listed under Steampunk Fiction, Steampunk Science Fiction and “Colonization Science Fiction” as its genres, but that’s way too confining and doesn’t do it full justice. I think new categories should probably been invented for this book: Comedic Dystopian Steampunk Political Satire, perhaps. Like I said, it defies easy categorization, and I loved that.

Since the above doesn’t completely highlight the sheer audacity of this work, a brief plot summary is needed: In a 1946 United States that truly is a nation of immigrants because it has no women, and thus no babies, the Special Master to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (a de facto dictator) is essentially an assassin and enforcer, The House of Representatives is locked inside of its chamber in total darkness and insanity, and the Elite of the Nation’s Capital get around by raven taxi, that is, taxis lifted into the air by squads of literal ravens.

I don’t know how many writers could conceive of any of this, much less pull it off, but Heimbach makes it work, to the extent that after a few pages my disbelief was quite suspended, thank you, and the internal logic of the strange world these people live in became–logical and believable.

I’m not going to describe in detail the events that ensue, but they all fit together nicely, in the end.

And indeed, in the end I think of this book especially as a brilliant satire, of our politicians and elites and of pretense and Will to Power. Brilliant in many ways, in its vivid descriptive language, the characters that exhibit various degrees of evil but also the feelings and urges of all human beings, and in the satisfying way it all comes out in the end.

If you had described the situation and the circumstances and the world of The Devil’s Dictum to me beforehand, I would have doubted that the author could pull such a thing off.

Yet, he did. Highly recommended.

(Addendum: Heimbach recently published a new book, Ronald Reagan’s Brilliant Bullet, which I certainly plan to read. “The setting is the Cold War and Ronald Reagan has a shiny new toy to play with: a rocket powered suit. He’ll need it to battle the terrifying monstrosity Leonid Brezhnev is building on a secret base in Siberia.” What’s not to like?)

Review: Te Kererū Book 2 – Shaking the Nest by S.G. Smith

(My previous review of Te Kererū Book 1 – The Nest is here).

 Te Kererū Book 2 – Shaking the Nest is available at GumRoad

“Te Kererū” is the Māori name for the native New Zealand wood pigeon, a beautiful and tasty bird. When three-year-old Katherine Taylor, a “Pākehā” (white person) is orphaned by a massive landslide, she is adopted by the regional Māori chief–and by the village and its people. Given the nickname Te Kererū, little Kate is different, quiet, mysterious, apparently the proverbial “old soul.” But the book subtly hints she’s something more than this, something bigger…”

I was notably enthusiastic about S.G. Smith’s first novel, part one of what promises to be a long and fascinating journey. In Book 2, we follow Kate during her transition from girl to the edge of womanhood, learn a lot more about New Zealand society and Māori culture and life, and get deeply into the fascinating world that the author has created from the elements of the real New Zealand and her imagination

The world of Te Kererū is, as the author refers to it, “speculative fiction,” with the Māori group/clan and its village and the nearby city and lands specifically not closely based on any real life example. It seems to me to be a sort of idealized depiction, what could, and may, be in the future. I began to realize more as I read this second book that Kate is an archetype, a Stranger in a Strange Land who becomes embedded in a different culture and (perhaps?) brings new perspectives and a new integration of different worlds.

But this book is a sort of serial, bearing a resemblance to the great old movie houses where the audience come back every Saturday and watched another episode, with new revelations and resolution of some issues, followed by new complications.

In this installment the big complication is Kate’s budding womanhood, but with surprising and important differences from the usual and well-worn tropes we’ve seen in a hundred Hollywood movies. Kate is exceptional, in some ways brilliant, wise beyond her years, but also very introverted and some might even say mildly “autistic.”

In fact, I’m as fascinated by Kate as by any character I’ve read in fiction for a long time. We learn a lot about her, but somehow most of it seems external, the keen observations of others. There is internal dialogue and descriptions of Kate’s thinking, and yet even after two books Kate is still something of a mystery to me, and I like that. She seems destined for something big–but what?

The author has skillfully built a a truly interesting world, and a woman, that I want to find out much more about. And that’s my definition of a good book.

Te Kererū Book 2 – Shaking the Nest on GumRoad includes Book 1 as a package deal, so you don’t need to worry if you haven’t read the first volume. Highly recommended.

Review: The Gentleman Farmers by Loretta Malakie

(My review of Loretta Malakie’s previous novel Love in the Age of Dispossession is here).

I’ve become very interested in “second novels,” having published my own in January. After reading and enjoying Loretta Malakie’s Love in the Age of Dispossession I was thus very interested when I heard some months ago she was writing a second book, The Gentleman Farmers.

Maggie Kingsbury, single middle-aged alcoholic lawyer, joins her in-laws Molly and Kevin on a homestead in the mountains of North Carolina, where their trustafarian college frenemies Brock and Sandra have just bought their third home. Molly commissions Brock to renovate an old Appalachian tobacco barn on their property. But when maverick hillbilly throwback Uncle Billy shows up to live in their field in a camper van, power struggles ensue. Meanwhile, Kevin has become dangerously obsessed with breeding heritage livestock. When Maggie’s beloved niece Juliet asks her to take on a mysterious client, Maggie becomes implicated in a national political furor.

A second novel should be better than the first in a lot of ways–after all,  the author has experience, the author has practice. Even more important, at least in my experience the author has confidence, that he or she can get the job done. Even in the times I was struggling the most with my second book, I felt like if I just kept pushing words out it would all work together. And it did.

Meanwhile Ms. Malakie was working on The Gentlemen Farmers, and as much as I liked Love in the Age of Dispossession, in some ways this second novel is a better book, a little smoother, a little better edited, and quite a bit funnier. There are more “laugh out loud” moments here, but Malakie hasn’t lost her touch when it comes to illustrating, and mourning, the gradual degradation of Normal America, small town America, where people got along, had children, where children knew their grandparents and aunts and uncles. That’s gone now, in much of America, but Maggie Kingsbury is old enough to remember it and describe it to us, and how it was lost, or taken away, by our so-called “elites,” through immigration and “offshoring,” all of it to fatten the bottom lines of multinational corporations.

The characters in The Gentleman Farmers only come to realize this gradually, as their small New York town becomes unlivable, and as their new North Carolina area begins to show the cracks, as well. It’s the teenager Juliet that points out that becoming gentleman farmers, cultivating heirloom tomatoes and heritage breeds, has become a substitute for  cultivating our own culture and heritage. The author connects the current “statue wars” to the same situation in a neat package, and it becomes clear, how all of it’s connected.

Comedy, tragedy, love, life and death, Malakie deftly handles them all in The Gentleman Farmers. As “second novels” or any novels go, it’s terrific and highly recommended.

Love in the Age of Dispossession on Amazon

The Gentleman Farmers on Amazon

 

Review: The Dream of the Iron Dragon by Robert Kroese

The Dream of the Iron Dragon (Saga of the Iron Dragon, Volume 1) by Robert Kroese

The essence of a good book, a good story, is the right mix of the familiar and the surprising. Robert Heinlein was a master of this: Boy Scouts on Ganymede, the Chamber of Commerce on the Moon, that sort of thing.

Robert Kroese also seems to be a master of it:

In the 23rd century, humanity has been hunted to the verge of extinction by an alien race. When an exploratory ship accidentally travels back in time to Viking-age Scandinavia, the human race is given a second chance.

We have interstellar travel (through wormholes), war with an alien race, time travel and…Vikings.

While the first is familiar from various books and films going back 80 years or more, and the next two going back all the way to H. G. Wells, Kroese manages to bring a fresh perspective and make his universe both logical and plausible. It turns out that while both humans and their rival race, the Cho-ta’an, can use the wormholes for interstellar travel, nobody understands exactly how they work. Like all good science fiction, after a certain point in the book the reader doesn’t think about these things any more, just enjoys the events and story, because the universe of the book is plausible and accepted in his or her mind.

The Vikings are…real. The author has obviously done a lot of work and study to get the details of his Vikings right (they’re Norwegian, by the way, and really don’t like the Danes). Viking weapons, tactics, ships, social organization and customs all seem solid, and fit together to make a holistic picture of the society the 23rd century spacers find themselves dropped into.

So the plot and setting are well done, but wait, there’s more! Something I noticed when I read Kroese’s Schrödinger’s Gat a couple of years ago was his mastery of character, the human details and short, vivid bits of dialogue that make his characters memorable and real. This is on display again in The Dream of the Iron Dragon and is a big part of why I like this book so much–the people in it. That includes the ship’s crew, the Vikings and also the Cho-ta’an, the “aliens” who appear in person extensively and who Kroese makes into believable “people,” too.

The Dream of the Iron Dragon reminds me of  Niven and Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye, which those with some knowledge of classic science fiction will recognize as high praise. But Kroese’s work is not derivative in any way, instead it’s original, well-written and it satisfies.

I’m happy that it’s Part One of a series; I’ve already purchased The Dawn of the Iron Dragon and I’m certain I’ll be buying and reading The Voyage of the Iron Dragon.

Highly recommended.

(I discovered Robert Kroese through Twitter (@robkroese) and he’s got more than 20 titles out–I have a feeling I’ll be enjoying a lot more of them in the future).

Repost: Occam and Me on JFK and 9/11

(My first piece ever at that grand old group blog The Mitrailleuse, November 2014. With an intellectual background like the one below, no wonder I wrote a novel titled Sanity…)

The first reference to Occam’s Razor I ever saw, age 12, was in Robert Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel, which sent me to the encyclopedia (and yes, I’m that old), because who could read the mysterious words “Occam’s Razor” and not be dying to know what it was?

I began reading about the assassination of President  Kennedy when I was 14, my interest sparked by Josiah Thompson‘s book Six Seconds in Dallas, which I found through the proven technique of a random walk through the public library stacks, scanning spines for anything that caught my eye and grabbing it. Who knows why or how these fascinations begin, but by the time I finished Thompson’s well-written and reasonable book I was hooked, leaning toward the “second gun” theory, and on the prowl for more of the seemingly endless supply of fact (and especially, fancy) on the events of November 22, 1963. Continue reading

(I’m republishing some essays that first appeared in The Mitrailleuse several years ago–this one from January, 2016. It’s funny that at that time I was working up a non-fiction book titled “Sanity.” Two years later I published the novel, Sanity. Some things work better as fiction.

I’d just gotten into Scott Adams’s work outside of Dilbert in October 2015. I liked his work very much, thought some of it was genius, but his insistence that Trump would be the President seemed preposterous. At the time…)

It’s interesting that before he became the first human to die live on the Web, Tim Leary changed his tune (and the title of one of his books) from Exo-Psychology to Info-Psychology.

Leary acknowledged that his one-time obsession with space exploration and the future of humanity off-planet was at least partly the result of his time in jail in the 1960s and 70s and the natural tendency of the mind to want to free itself by flying high above the prison grounds. For an old dude, he seems to have rapidly grasped the possibilities of the Web and some of the changes to our lives that digital world would bring. He apparently continued to consume plenty of drugs up until the end. The funny thing, to me, is that there’s no indication that in all his years of psychonauting he ever deeply explored the free, easily available and abundant resource that’s provided to us every night: The Dreamscape.

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In the month or so I’ve been away from most web activity I spent two weeks on a family vacation and all my spare time studying Self-Directed NeuroplasticityLucid Dreaming, and Scott Adams on persuasion and hypnosis. I’m working on my own book, that was working-titled Sanity but is now Essays on Sanity because it’s not going to be that big. Since it is going to be a lot more weighty than the typical 96-page Amazon self-published special, I expect to finish with it in April.

Don’t worry, when it’s available I’ll be going around to flog it mercilessly, so you won’t miss out.

My personal strength (or shtick) is really synthesis, not deep and original thought; so here are a few connections amongst the above smattering of subjects. It appears, looking at the people around me every day and the people I read about in the papers, that most not only don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing; most of the time they aren’t really conscious, by McPhee’s definition in his lucid dreaming book. They’re not seeing that they’re seeing, hearing that they’re hearing. Most of all, they don’t know that they know. And by sleeping through their dreams and not remembering anything of them, they’re missing the best chance to be in contact with the unconscious part and get a glimpse of what’s really going on in the (90 percent?) of themselves that they’re not consciously aware of.

You Are Not Your Brain, which I began reading first, emphasizes the same principal, differently. The constant stream of “thoughts” that most of us experience, most of the time, are not you, that is, not your consciousness. You need not controlled by them, nor by the bodily sensations that they drive and that can drive you to take various, ineffective and even harmful measures to alleviate. Instead, it’s possible to refocus and redirect when we have these uncomfortable sensations, and eventually consciously rewire the brain (Self-Directed Neuroplasticity) so that we feel them less and they drive us less.

I started reading Scott Adams’ blog just a few weeks ago; people are starting to notice that he was one of the few who stated, back in August, that Donald Trump would win the general election, because Trump is a “Master Persuader.”

Scott is also a trained hypnotist of the Ericksonian school, which once again is coming at the same Big Idea, from a different angle: Are you running your brain, or are you just a herd animal full of Mind Parasites planted by Mommy, your first grade teacher Ms. Progressive, and your very expensive education at Uni? Are you a Persuader, or Persuaded? We’re all both, of course, but it’s nice to know what’s happening rather than being pulled about like a sleepwalker.

Ever driven down the highway for several minutes thinking about “stuff,” internally focused, and “woke up” to find you can’t remember the last five miles? That’s hypnosis baby, as much or more as some guy on stage in Vegas getting people to take off their clothes. No, definitely MORE.

Sanity is soundness. Sanity is more time being conscious and being more in touch with your unconscious. Sanity is being awake when you’re awake and more aware of valuable experiences when you’re asleep.

None of this, on the surface, may seem to be related to my interest in Neoreaction or to “politics” as such, but as one dives into this material, one realizes.

There’s a hell of a lot more to “becoming worthy” than lifting.

Civil War 2.0 Will Be Livestreamed

(A repost of my piece at the dear departed Mitrailleuse blog almost exactly four years ago–July 16, 2016. And I  now give it four stars out of five…it just turned out to be even better, four years later. We now return to those days of yore when no one knew who would be the next President, but somehow everyone knew it was gonna be LIT.)

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

~The events of this summer are a taste of what’s to come in the fall, and even more so, November 9, 2016.

Someone is going to win the Presidential election, and regardless of whether it’s Trump or Clinton, the loser’s supporters are going to feel existential angst about America, and their place in it, far beyond the usual.

Pat Buchanan advises us to take a Chill Pill; “For when a real powder keg blew in the ’60s, I was there. And this is not it.” And yet…in “The ’60s” (and the early ’70s, which is when some of the worst SHTF) we had the evening TV news and the papers. The crazy spread slower then. This time, any and every incident is going to be magnified and extremely accelerated.

Scott Adams, one of the most intelligent commentators extant, catches something significant here in a few well-chosen words:

So now we have a situation in which Team Clinton has scared citizens into thinking the threat to their lives is mostly domestic, coming from Trump, Trump supporters, and anyone who looks like them. People who are scared will act. And we see those actions now in terms of violence against police, violence against Trump supporters, and death threats to bloggers such as me. And we already have one attempted Trump assassination.

So far, Trump has showed a willingness to annihilate any professional politician that gets in the way. And he’s annihilated professional reporters and news organizations that got in his way. And he’s tough on non-citizens. But Trump hasn’t tried to turn American citizens against each other. Clinton has, and successfully so.

You can blame Trump for Trump University, and for his uncivil language. You can blame Trump for lots of stuff. But the police shootings and the recent uptick in domestic racial violence are mostly Clinton’s doings to win the election. And it is working. Unless Trump finds a way to counter Clinton’s racial persuasion, he will lose in November.

I expect Trump to go full-attack after the conventions. It would take the world’s greatest persuader to redefine Trump in a way that he can win the election. But as it turns out, Trump is probably the world’s greatest persuader. That’s why I predict he will win in a landslide. Unless someone kills him first.

Everyone, I think, senses something different, something large and vibrating and vaguely menacing, coming down the pike. I recently finished Jon Meacham’s semi-hagiography of George H.W. Bush and I was struck by Bush’s bewildered reaction to his loss to Bubba in 1992: How could America elect a draft-dodging, in-your-face serial liar and shameless philanderer over a man who’d volunteered to go in harm’s way, had his plane shot out from under him by the Japs and done his conscientious best to serve the nation for 30 years?

The answer, of course, was that Bubba and Mrs. Clinton and their friends in the media who’d gone to Harvard and Yale with them had finally got into positions of influence to make their ’60s-’70s Frankfurt School/Rules for Radicals dreams into realities. All of that Old School crap about Duty, Honor, Country was now inoperative. The Republican Party subsequently nominated a series of decent, moderate men, only one of whom could win, and that mainly because of the manifest weaknesses of his opponents.

Which brings us to the Current Year.

People who are scared will act…

(Insert now-removed video  of guy in Trump hat being chased and beaten by peaceful protesters)

There’s going to be plenty more of this, at the conventions and after. The BLMers and Black Blocers and Mexican Flag Wavers seem to believe they’re immune to serious retaliation from Trumpers, who actually support Western civilization. But from what I see on Twitter and elsewhere, limits will shortly be reached.

“Civil War 2.0” is, of course, hyperbole. Half a million Americans aren’t going to die in the next four years over who wins this election. Only one side, this time, seems to be spoiling for actual violence.

They’d best be careful what they wish for.

(photo credit)

Te Kererū Book 1 – The Nest by Susan Smith

Te Kererū Book 1 available at GumRoad

The best thing about being on Twitter has been discovering new authors. I also love the humor, but good books > funny .gifs.

I’ll do another post with the (long) list of fine writers and their books I’ve discovered there, but today we focus on one delightful little book (or Part I of a delightful long book) Te Kererū by Susan G. Smith.

“Te Kererū” is the Māori name for the native New Zealand wood pigeon, a beautiful and tasty bird. When three-year-old Katherine Taylor, a “Pākehā” (white person) is orphaned by a massive landslide, she is adopted by the regional Māori chief–and by the village and its people. Given the nickname Te Kererū, little Kate is different, quiet, mysterious, apparently the proverbial “old soul.” But the book subtly hints she’s something more than this, something bigger…

Without trying hard in any way, we’re educated about the New Zealand Māori culture and society, something I had only a slight knowledge of before reading Te Kererū. The author obviously loves her country and its people and the book opened up a new piece of the world for me, as I believe it will for most readers.

Her style is clear, limpid is the old-fashioned word, mostly short declarative sentences, but skillfully layered one upon another, sips not gulps, and very satisfying, in the long run.

The story is developed through a series of scenes or vignettes, glimpses of events and pieces of conversations, a technique I also use and can appreciate. Each chapter is a facet of a gem, and gradually we begin to see something taking shape, a mission or a destiny, and…end of Book 1.

Like the wonderful old movie serials, the present volume leaves the reader wanting more. This isn’t so common these days, but I’m all right with it. I understand the next book will be available soon, which I hope is true.

Because the only thing I didn’t like about this book was that it ended.

Te Kererū, Book 1 by Susan G. Smith

The Iron Way: A Narrative of Crisis by John Solomon Bain

Some books entertain, and some make you think about something in a new way.

Some resonate, inject the mind with a bit of the truth that you never would have been gifted with, had you not read that book. And this is a very individual thing; a given book might be life-changing for me, but leave you wondering what the fuss is all about.

John Solomon Bain’s The Iron Way: A Narrative of Crisis resonated with me. Before I get into it, it’s important to note that Bain has recently read my book Sanity, and engaged with it at Man With a Purpose. As he said there:

Note: this is not a review. I don’t write reviews. This is a response. I don’t bother writing about books that aren’t worth reading.

I like the way he puts it. This, too, is not a review, but a response.

The Iron Way depicts a man, today, here in Current Year America, a man with the proverbial Wonderful Life. Material abundance, a good and loving wife, children, health. Yet, like many of us (for this is me, too) he has the feeling that:

[T]hings are not quite how they ought to be. But ultimately I am powerless to change the cosmic tide. The world is broken, and has been since the days of our sire. Even in ancient times you had writers like Hesiod who thought he lived in a fallen time, and looked back into the mists of legend and dreamt of a time when mortals lived freely with the gods.

It is a feeling, then, that men have had for a very long time, perhaps since they became men, as such. And yet, with universal literacy and technological change and the “easy life” we know now, the feeling only seems to have gotten stronger. When necessity and duty and tradition were the powerful principles governing human action there was little time for worry about whether things were as they ought be be, except for aristocratic intellectuals who could read and had time on their hands.

We are all, in effect, intellectuals now.

The narrator of The Iron Way “weep[s] for the stupidity of my existence” even as he drives to his beautiful home and his patient, loving wife, or to his professorship at the university, the work that he desired and strove for so many hours and years to obtain. Yet, at work he cannot really be himself, concealing his truths in conversations with politically correct colleagues. When and where can a man “be himself,” now, hunter, warrior, conqueror, killer? Not at university, almost nowhere in our unisex, equality-obsessed society.

But a man can write. There is one place, still, we’re truly, totally free; in our minds and in the words we write. Perhaps those words are not all for publication, but some of us burn to let the words out, and burn to share some of them, the right ones, with the world. The Iron Way is a book of the banality of modernity, of being a man in a feminizing culture, but at the root it’s a book about writing, the agony and the ecstasy of it.

I sit there, staring numbly at the cursor in the blank document for several minutes, My mind keeps wandering to the game I want to play. I wish I was more driven. I feel and overwhelming need to write that haunts me day and night, and has my entire life. I wake up in the middle of the night with fear of things left unwritten.

I feel the Dionysian spirit for a moment. The room begins to fade from consciousness as I write in a state of feverish madness. Time slips away. As I slide into the act of creation, I approach the Real.

The narrator talks elsewhere about his efforts to live the hard life, living in the woods like Thoreau, lifting heavy weights, but the real hard life, and his purpose, is to write.

There have been many good novels that explore the idiocies of modernity, the cancer of feminism, the crisis of “manhood,” but few have explored the writer, the writing life and why we do what we must do, as well as The Iron Way. There are other themes and nuances that I’ve not touched on here, but enough of writing about a man writing about writing. I invite you to read for yourself.

A Good Dose of Reality

My novel Reality has been out on Kindle for a week, and I’ll have the print version posted by tonight. I’m happy to note how many people asked for a hard copy.

The book is a “follow-up” to Sanity–not exactly a sequel, but given the fragmented style of the whole enterprise, I’d say it fits together with the first book like one of those puzzles where various odd shaped pieces of wood combine, with some difficulty, to form a sphere.

The background of the ideas that set this whole thing off is here, from April 2018:

Anyway…as described here I read a tweet where someone asked “Who is going to be the Tom Wolfe of the Dark Enlightenment/Red Pill?” and I’ve been searching for it for awhile to give credit where credit is due, but I think I finally figured out why it couldn’t be found, because the account has been suspended. @TitusAvenged RIP:

Just promised to do this. Been preparing for it all my life, or since I found out Mommy was lying when said girls like “nice boys,” anyway. https://t.co/TH5E5Lf1mZ

— neovictorian23 (@neovictorian23) January 25, 2017

So, it took a year to write a little bitty 68,000 word novel. How did it actually get done? I had some memory tickling me, of Isaac Asimov’s Murder at the ABA, A Puzzle in Four Days and 60 Scenes. I’ve always dreamed about writing something in the style of Illuminatus!, a whole book where the time line is shattered and then scattered, over and over (I think a guy named Joyce got there first). So no, I don’t have an outline. I’m going to write 60 scenes and they’re going to be temporally shuffled, and they’re going to be DE/RP and they’re going to be entertaining as hell.

You’ll have to judge for yourself, how it all turned out.