Review: Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves by Fenton Wood

This is the kind of book that having read it makes you feel like you have a fun, exciting secret, and saying too much would give it away and spoil it for those who follow after…

Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves by Fenton Wood

This is the story of Philo Hergenschmidt. By now, the whole world knows what he did, although many people don’t believe it. This is the story of how he did it. It was compiled from original research, contemporary news accounts, and interviews with the man himself. It ranges from the apocryphal, to the questionable, to the impossible. But every word of it is true.

Sometimes you admire a book for its complexity, its artistry, its craft. Sometimes a book just speaks to you on a deeper level and you hardly notice these things as you’re transported into and through its world.

Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves transported me, to the days of my boyhood and before, the “Golden Age” and before the Golden Age; the early magazine science fiction, all the way to Hugo Gernsback and Amazing Stories. There are bright young go-getting boys, amateur radio, gadgets and outdoor adventure. Over it all lays a sense of immense freedom, of a mostly distant government and mostly free range parents and a mostly bright, beneficent world.

The world Wood has built at first seems to lie on an alt-history timeline, where elements of the 1950s and 60s (broadcast television, transistor radios, airplanes, mainframe computers) combine with an aesthetic that is more 1920s and 30s: the look, the music, the attitudes. The reader might come to believe that this is because most of the action is set in a town of 20,000 or so in the Virginia mountains, where the people are extremely independent and self-reliant. Yet, when Philo and friends bicycle all the way to the big city, a trip that takes several days, to get parts for the “pirate” radio station that Philo has envisioned, there’s a certain aesthetic there, too. This is not the United States of some slightly altered future past. This is the Yankee Republic.

The plot of Pirates seems simple, on the surface. The  town can’t get FM radio because it’s in a deep mountain valley. Philo loves radio. Philo decides to build a station on a nearby peak so he can broadcast to the whole town. Philo and friends have adventures and learning experiences gathering the parts, building structures and electronic devices and running a station. A prototypical Amazing Story. And yet…by the time we finish this short book we discover there’s much, much more, a whole ‘nother layer, or many, to the history and future of Philo’s world.

Any explicit description of the ending would spoil the surprise, so I’ll say no more about it, but one other intriguing and rather surprising touch in the book is that unlike most Science Boy Scout adventures, in Philo’s world there are events that are, or seem, explicitly “supernatural.” I won’t describe these in detail either. This is the kind of book that having read it makes you feel like you have a fun, exciting secret, and saying too much would give it away and spoil it for those who follow after.

Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves is imaginative, enjoyable and original. It somehow manages to take the classic plot and tropes of American boyhood amateur radio fiction and Make it Great Again. And I’m happy as hell to report that a sequel titled Five Million Watts is due in a few months. [Edited: Mr. Wood informs me Five Million Watts is due out in two weeks. Splendid!]

Suitable for all humans from eight to 118, and unreservedly recommended!

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Book Review: The Brave and the Bold, Volume 3 of “The Hidden Truth”

(Previously: A review of the second book in the series, A Rambling Wreck. A bit about the first volume, The Hidden Truth, in the post The Right Sort of Reactionary Fiction)

Producing a good novel is hard. Producing a better sequel is harder (I’m in the middle of trying; trust me). While I very much enjoyed and favorably reviewed the first two books in Hans Schantz’s Hidden Truth series, it turns out the best was yet to come. The Brave and the Bold is bigger and, well, bolder. It’s a precisely aimed missile that hits its targets in the x-ring, and provides the reader a hell of a good time getting there.

The Brave and the Bold is not just an excellent continuation, it represents a big step in the evolution of the author and his Hero, Peter Burdell, now more a man than a youth transitioning to adulthood. In this third volume he operates more independently, much of the time without his friend/sidekick Amit, his mentors or his Uncle Rob to advise him. Deep in the enemy camp, he must negotiate with ambiguous allies and make big decisions on his own. The maturing of his character is deftly and subtly handled, and is one of the delights of the book.

The Brave and the Bold is beautifully crafted, bigger and longer than the first two books in the series, but a smoothly unified whole. All of us would hope that we would grow as writers over time. Schantz has grown and developed as a writer, even as his character Peter Burdell has matured. As before, there are nicely integrated bits of science and engineering and a humorous skewering of the Social Justice sacred cows of our time; but there’s an increase of seriousness, of urgency in the Brave and the Bold as Pete has to balance serious risks, the risks of working with possibly questionable allies and getting himself and those he values hurt or killed, to stop an evil organization with big plans to transform the world in a way that he and the reader would certainly find unendurable.

The bulk of the action takes place on (in)famous Jekyll Island, Georgia, where, as The Fed officially acknowledges, “A secret gathering…in 1910 laid the foundations for the Federal Reserve System.”

jekyll-map

It’s the things not on the map–the secret tunnels, the underground vaults and the…things that lie within them that made for extra fascination for this reader. There is a wondeful sense of place to the action on Jekyll Island. I presume the author must have visited and documented the setting to be able to pull this off. It’s a wonderful achievement.

jekyll2.jpg

Typical NWO Outpost

The Grand Conspiracy being hatched in this beautiful setting this time is much, much grander than a US central bank–though perhaps the Fed was just a step along the path to what the “Civic Circle” has in mind.

The battle to stop that plan from coming to fruition is a thrilling, satisfying and epic conclusion to an excellent book. Luckily for his readers, Schantz has indicated that if The Brave and the Bold gets to 100 Amazon reviews, he’ll deliver us the next volume within a year. So buy and read the book, and review it. It’s an entertaining thriller that reflects the values that (I’m assuming if you’ve read this far) you and I hold dear.

Meanwhile, I understand that Dr. Schantz is working on a popular physics book with some ideas about how to resolve the so-called “paradoxes” of quantum mechanics.

Yes, please.

Book Notes No. 1, July 2018

Posting here has obviously been light, lately–seven posts since February, all about books, and mostly about my book, Sanity. Others have taken care of things quite nicely in the  the politics/government/social commentary department; if you haven’t yet, do go over to Social Matter and sign up for the email list, which will get you “This Week in Reaction,” which will likely be plenty.

I’m sure I’ll do some more essays, someday. For now I’ve found my groove with books, writing them and also spending more time reading them and less on “news” and commentary. So just to keep the blog on some kind of regular schedule I’m going to do at least a monthly book post. This is No. 1. Continue reading

Richard Carroll Reviews “Sanity” at Thermidor Magazine

Richard Carroll, refined literary blogger at Everything is Oll Korrect, reviews Sanity in Thermidor Magazine. (Update February 2019–Thermidor is No More, the review is now posted on Richard’s site).

At Thermidor: “Our Aesthetic is lucid madness.” Interesting how well that does fit with one of the things I was trying to do with Sanity, explore the balance of Apollo and Dionysius, reason and ecstasy, in a well-lived life.

It’s a generally favorable review, but more important to me is that Richard took the time and had the intellectual chops to understand the book and communicate that. There’s nothing a writer wants more, deep down in his soul.

A sample:

I bring this all up because preachiness was my main concern going into today’s novel, Sanity, written by Neoreactionary blogger Neovictorian. Since I only know him through his articles and am unaware of any previous experience he may have writing fiction, I feared that his book would turn out as either a political tract thinly disguised as a story or a wish-fulfilment fantasy. Though there are NRx and broader dissident Right gang signs all over the joint, they never get in the way of the narrative and the end result is, I’m happy to say, a genuinely good novel that stands well on its own as a novel.

You can follow Richard and read his most interesting takes on a universe of topics at @CheshireOcelot

Sanity, the Paperback

The paperback of Sanity is now available. I’m with the crowd that still prefers real books–though reading on a screen has its times and places.

Turns out that preparing a book for print is far more difficult than the e-version. I fiddled with the images and the layout for days.

You’ll note there’s a different cover. Let’s not get into the technical details of that. I think it looks sort of cool and faintly menacing, though. So I’m good with it.

If Mike Hammer had a son with Dagny Taggart, he might have turned out something like Cal Adler, the hero of Sanity. Just in case you were wondering.

Sanity – a Novel is Published

It took longer than gestating a real baby, but I published the novel yesterday, for Kindle only so far. The print version requires a lot more work to get right, but there will be one within the week–I personally like to read books.

The eminent Nick B. Steves was an early reader and I trust he won’t mind me quoting a bit of his response:

I had the chance to read in on a flight to Phoenix. It was dynamite. Couldn’t put it down…

SANITY is soaked in an anti-modernist critique that long-time lurkers will find as comfortable as an old shoe. It doesn’t preach, but rather assumes the sale. For those who’ve drunk deeply at the NRx water-cooler, there will be many cleverly hidden Easter Eggs.

I previously posted about the process of writing and the part fiction could play in making our culture and society less worser. I hope you will buy and read the book and if so inclined, review it.

I’ll have more to say about the details soon. One more time:

Sanity – a Novel

 

Back with a Book, But Liberalism Unsteelmanned

A full two months ago I posted Steelmanning Liberalism (I), the (I) being a kind of warranty express and/or implied, but (II), which was supposed to be about how Liberalism (ostensibly) prevents civil war, won’t be appearing; it just wasn’t coming out of the unconscious depths from whence all my good writing emerges.

I was concentrating my mental energy on my novel Sanity, and I’m extremely pleased to report that my “final draft” is complete. Here’s the current, if somewhat inscrutable, synopsis: Continue reading