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The Lucifer Gospel

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For Satan so loved the World, that he gave his only begotten ... uh ... oops, wrong Gospel!The Lucifer Gospel is so unmitigatedly bad, it makes even the worst novel ever, The Da Vinci Code -- the novel it shamelessly rips off royally trying to cash in on the Catholic/Illuminati secret society conspiracy craze -- good. And that's a bad, diabolically bad thing, for a book to do.
Black Light: A Novel

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Like the mythological Persian king he's named after, Jamshid, the carpet repairer, restoring the burned rug fibers of the head of a bird of paradise when we meet him on his knees working, thinks he's better and more brilliant than everybody else. It's not pure diabolical arrogance per se, but pride the murky result of his unprocessed pain (his wife is recently deceased and his daughter, Leyla -- unmarried and without a single suitor at the age of sixteen! -- might as well be deceased) has made him bitter to the point of apostasy. As his faith fades, he comes dangerously close to losing everything, not unlike his unfaithful namesake from the hallowed Persian epic, Shahnameh:Jamshid surveyed the world, and saw none thereWhose greatness or whose splendor could compareWith his: and he who had known God becameUngrateful, proud, forgetful of God's nameEven before we meet Jamshid in Galway Kinnell's novella, we know from the opening line -- "Jamshid kept sliding forward as he worked, so that the patch of sunlight would remain just ahead of him, lighting up the motion of his hands"-- that light and what light signifies in Kinnell's context -- heaven's wisdom, favor, and rewards -- will probably elude Jamshid, yet remain ineluctably visible, all too close, O so nearly within his grasp, as if he were in Hell gazing at Paradise, imploring Abraham with outstretched fingertip for just one mere drop of water. Black Light's evocative, symbolic opening is also fitting foreshadowing for this fable riffing off the downslide of Persia's once omnipotent king, Jamshid.Jamshid, the poor but not so humble man of Meshen, Iran, only feels "a little ashamed that he had never made a pilgrimage to Mecca or for that matter to the Shrine of Fatima at Qum." On the precipice of his spiritual abyss, so far gone in his rage over his life that didn't turn out right, Jamshid internally snubs those journeying to Mecca, the Hajis, and can barely stomach their contemptuous, Afghani glances cast his way. As if they're so self-controlled, so holy, "getting married for the few weeks of their sojourn," in order to make easier the supposed "spiritual rigors" required in their once-in-a-lifetime quest. Their false piety makes Jamshid laugh. Maybe his last. For in an impulsive instant, in a furious fit of pent-up pique upon hearing the news that his daughter's rumoured "indiscretions" have made her unfit for marriage -- unfit unless Jamshid agrees to the local mullah's assistance in the delicate matter (a bribe veiled in the white robes of religious duty), Jamshid lashes out with all the force in him at Mullah Torbati. Suddenly and inexplicably, Jamshid's carpet shears that just moments before moved in mindless attendance upon a charred rug, trimming the kaleidoscopic plumage of a bird of paradise, now lie next to a sacred corpse, bloodied.And so begins Jamshid's anti-pilgrimage whose terminus is destitution, whose life sentence might be despair. Roaming a hard desert road as far removed from Mecca as the crescent from the cross, haunts the frail figure of Jamshid through his nomad existence. His destination is nowhere. Transformed into a tramp like so many infidels before him, he seeks he knows not what, maybe an oasis, anyplace he can create some purpose out of killing more time. He meets Ali out in the endless sands somewhere, a grizzled old man who's traveled back and forth himself for decades on the run, or in circles, from one fringe settlement to another, selling trinkets from whatever weathered sacks his decrepit camel still manages to haul, in exchange for bare necessities. But the supplies and the shelter and the sex never last. Nor do Ali's and Jamshid's doomed partnership.What is Jamshid to do with the constant eclipse that's become of his tortured past, his very life? How can he forget when his past bleeds darkness out of deep wounds into every successive step, and the steps he'll trudge tomorrow? How can he see where he's heading, or from what or whom he must flee; how will he ever chance upon potential refuge with his eyes smothered by black light? Is redemption even possible for a man as accursed as Jamshid, who "could always sense the blackness of vultures in the sky. Never visible ... a constant presence."? One may wonder, too, whatever became of Persia's ancient king, their legendary Jamshid?Galway Kinnell spent a year in Iran during 1959 and 1960, half the time as a lecturer at the University of Tehran, the other as a journalist for an English language newspaper, exploring as much as he could every corner of the country he'd come to love. In Black Light's mid-section, with its vast outdoor scenery set under stars, "an ultimate landscape of desolation," we get a glimpse of how the ruggedness and isolation of Iran's arid geography impacted Kinnell's imagination. We get a sense too that maybe Kinnell got lost in the mountains and deserts of Iran often, as in his narrative there's an unspoken feeling in Jamshid that he likes being lost, enjoys the spontaneity of adventure and perceived freedom his "lostness" inspires, the adrenaline rush he gets never knowing one night to the next what cave or ancient ruin he'll lay his weary head in. If Jamshid embraces though never accepts being lost, his process of self-discovery makes the bleak existentialism of Black Light all the more fascinating -- and fun. Escape with Jamshid from the many consequences of his crime like some vicarious Persian Raskolnikov along for the camel ride, outpost to outpost, palm grove to palm grove, swathed in the paradox that is Black Light's luminescence. It's a reading experience at times reminiscent of what The Sheltering Sky invoked. Mystery. Meaning. Wondering. Why?While Kinnell is better known as a poet (The Book of Nightmares) and translator (The Poems of François Villon), his rare digression into prose in Black Light is certainly one to savor and reflect upon repeatedly, like enjoying time and again the myriad gradations of illumination in a radiant poem.
The Bridge of San Luis Rey

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Thornton Wilder successfully fictionalized some ages-old core questions that have haunted humanity since its inception in his short novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Why do bad things happen? Why do bad things happen to good people? Is there a plan or purpose behind the bad happenings? A reason? Are bad happenings such as the one depicted in the novel -- the collapse of a bridge, a "ladder of thin slats swung out over a gorge, with handrails of dried vine" -- or other bad happenings such as natural disasters or war, "acts of God" or acts of fate? Are bad happenings meaningful or meaningless? If the events in Wilder's novel are not "acts of God" does that then mean that the deaths served no purpose and the victim's lives had no meaning, or could the disaster, in it's aftermath, somehow, be it by God or by other mysterious forces, be used for good in the lives of those left grieving, behind? Complicated, convoluted questions, this slim, but intense, beautifully written novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, raises.Wilder, of course, doesn't explicitly answer these universal questions, though by novel's end, our narrator, Brother Juniper, eyewitness to the bridges collapse: "He saw the bridge divide and fling five gesticulating ants into the valley below..." certainly has answered some of them. Though in some socks-you-in-the-gut, harsh irony, Brother Juniper, after he's dared ask why -- why did these people die?, why did the bridge collapse for them instead of others? -- and then travelled by foot great distances to probe the lives and personal histories of those who fell for possible clues to answer the deeper questions of why that are only natural for an inquisitive mind's pursuit, ultimately becomes the sixth and final victim of San Luis Rey's collapse. Brother Juniper lacked the foresight in seeing how dangerous his questions were in a culture whose pious insularity accepted nothing less than rote avowals of faith in God's sovereign will. Moreover, Brother Juniper was stealing time from his ascetic commitments to solitude and prayer in order to play detective. In the least he was egregiously undisciplined; at worst, a heretic. But his fellow monks got it wrong. Because Brother Juniper sought in his investigations not to disprove his Catholic faith or the sovereignty of God, but to affirm his faith in God. Not surprisingly, Brother Juniper's rational, rather than preprogrammed-faith approach, in attempting to determine why those five perished when and where and how they perished, was condemned as insubordination and blasphemy, an unforgivable rejection of God's goodness and sovereignty. How dare a middling monk not take God automatically on faith! For the sin of suggesting God's will could be accessed through an investigation -- through empiricism -- Brother Juniper, a devout and faithful Catholic, became a martyr for science.If there are any answers in this brutal universe that can explain how Evil and Human Suffering can comfortably coexist alongside a purported All-Good and Omnipotent God, a deity to be trusted and praised by its adherents even when disasters on a scale more monstrous than the collapse of a flimsy bridge in Peru occur ... say the collapse of the Twin Towers or the unending collapse that is Genocide ... then it's clear to me that Brother Juniper was successful in his quest.
Dog Soldiers

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Beautiful book even despite the relentless depravity depicted in the desperate lives of drug smugglers set against a bleak, gritty backdrop during the waning years of the Vietnam War. So many hard drugs got smuggled out of the Sixties. Too bad peace and love couldn't have been smuggled out of the decade too.Published in 1974, and winner of the National Book Award, Dog Soldiers served as a nice dark bookend to the Sixties, a black denouement to dashed hippie ideals, a twisted paean to the power of heroin and hash, covert-ops and coverups. But Dog Soldiers is not dated. Nearly forty years out, its sordid story still resonates. For as long as betrayal, lies, lust, disillusionment, exploitation, addiction, greed, small time dope dealer's schemes, military corruption and law enforcement hubris, remain en vogue in the shadier realms of human experience, so will Dog Soldiers remain universally relevant. The novel rings as brutally true today as it did in the Seventies. The novel violently -- and painfully, so sadly -- mirrored the slow erosion, that indefatigable demise, of hopeful Sixties slogans metastasizing into something a little less lovely than freedom or flowers.
The Year of Magical Thinking

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An autobiography about death and grief is typically not the first book I'll reach for off the shelf. I hate death more than anything. Who doesn't? But a close family friend is presently dying of bone cancer and I was searching for ... for something. My friend's in hospice, on oxygen, steady morphine drip making him all but incoherent, incommunicado, but for nods and grunts and faint glimpses of that devilish smile that once transformed the most frustrating of days for the people in his life into one feather-light for them on a dime. He probably won't be around come Christmas, if the hospice nurse's blunt prognostications are correct.Despite chronicling the emotional labyrinth of her devastation in the aftermath of her husband's, the criminally underrated and under-read novelist, John Gregory Dunne's, sudden passing from a heart attack on Dec. 30, 2003, Joan Didion makes reading about her trying ordeal, if not necessarily pleasurable (wrong word) then at least comfortable, certainly compelling, and that's no easy task for anybody, even one as accomplished as Didion, tackling death and mourning, and what for her was arguably at the time the most difficult (and most personal) topic she had ever written about, losing her husband of forty years. Didion is painfully authentic in her memoir, revealing insecurities, dependencies, confusion and heartbreak that are rarely shared outside the ears of close friends and confidantes. Didion might balk at the reviewer calling her memoir "courageous" or "transparent" as she is, after all, merely doing her damn job, writing what she knows, in her inimitable style of dispassionate reportage. That patented style of Didion's, while noticeably more passionate in The Year of Magical Thinking, is understandably even more terse than usual -- terse yet thorough. Without overly brooding on her grief or lingering in the immediate aftermath of Dunne's death, she feels it all, whether it's the coroner's or ER personnel's matter-of-factness (just performing their regular duties like they do everyday, seemingly unaware of the deep chasm of incongruity existing between their unaffected aloofness and Didion's bewildering shock at being abruptly widowed); or contemplating her husband's rather sad last words, considering his dynamic -- equally adept at screenwriting as he was as a novelist, essayist and critic -- professional accomplishments. Didion makes her points, makes her peace, at least as much as peace is possible through the delicate power of words and prose, and moves on. And though, as I said, she neither broods or lingers, I find it ironic how much what she has to say makes me linger, makes me brood (in a good way!), as I dwell on the universality of her perspectives and how impacting they are on even my much less personal circumstances with my friend, feeling how relatable, even comforting at times, are Joan Didion's thoughts on bereavement.I hear her latest memoir, Blue Nights, is even more minimalistic (though no less potent) in its observations on death and grief. Makes sense, as Blue Nights covers the even more torturous terrain of the death of her only child, Quintana Roo Dunne, who also figured prominently in The Year of Magical Thinking, as she was very sick at the time of John Gregory Dunne's passing.The death of one's spouse. The death of one's child. God, I feel bad for Joan Didion, reading her and what's she's endured, and yet feel encouraged too, reading her memoir, as if I've just gotten off the phone with a dear friend, and am wiping my eyes from the healing tears I've just shed.
Trainspotting

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I think it's easier to understand Ozzy Osbourne on a cell phone with a bad connection and an irksome sledgehammer going off behind you than it is to understand a single fucking sentence of Trainspotting.
Battleborn

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Even had I not already known the particulars regarding the real-life death of author Claire Vaye Watkins' mother, or how "Razor Blade Baby" got her name, I'm positive Battleborn's opening sentence would've still jolted me. Claire Vaye Watkins' gallows humor knows no bounds, and even though there's little amusing about suicide or the wild-eyed image of an impulsive Charles Manson abruptly "assisting" in a difficult delivery with a rudimentary scalpel, operating in unsanitary, squalid quarters out at some now long-since-mythologized Death Valley "Ranch," I can't help but laugh, disarmed as I am by Watkins' deadpan delivery. A delivery that often zips with wit, hooks and puns. Fun puns you don't see coming, ones that wallop you, as in the first (and I think her best) story, "Ghosts, Cowboys," a fictive/autobiographical rumination on beginnings both personal and universal in the history of the wild Wild West."The curse of the Comstock Lode had not yet leaked from the silver vein, not seeped into the water table. The silver itself had not yet been stripped from the mountains, and steaming water had not yet flooded the mine shafts. Henry T.P. Comstock ... had not yet lost his love Adelaide ... who drowned in Lake Tahoe. He had not yet traded his share of the lode for a bottle of whiskey and an old, blind mare, not yet blown his brains out with a borrowed revolver near Bozeman, Montana.Boom times."Excuse me while I see stars and rise slowly off the mat. Other times, however, I'm sorry to say, as in "Wish You Were Here," Watkins, rather than booming, is firing blanks. The story opens sounding more like an outline than polished prose. "It begins with a man and a woman. They are young ... They fall in love. They marry. They have a child." I suppose her staccato style throughout the story conveys an approximation of Marin's disjointed thinking, her confusion and anxiety she on the cusp of becoming a mother and how depersonalized, perhaps, her pregnancy is causing her to feel, especially in relation to her husband who, "Before bed -- when once he would have touched her -- he leans down and speaks to her midsection," but the start-stop choppiness of the writing itself, and not just the choppiness of Marin's emotions and interiority, are annoying without relief. The story, unfortunately, is one of the more irritating stories I've read. Marin feels (she sure feels an awful lot here) that the new tiny town she and her husband moved to in the desert recently, "with its city traffic whispering like the sea" (and what an unusually pedestrian, uninspired simile for Watkins -- "city traffic whispering like the sea") "tries too hard". I don't think it's just the town that is trying too hard in "Wish You Were Here." Thankfully, the majority of Watkins' stories are good enough they needn't bother trying so hard. Case in point: "The Past Perfect, The Past Continuous, The Simple Past," in which all three delineated vagaries of the story title's "past," seeping out in the sordid lives of the characters employed by, or who manage, the Cherry Patch Ranch, Nevadan outpost of legalized harlotry, mere inches beyond the Clark County line where prostitution remains outlawed, flow and intertwine with seamless ease.Darla is Michele's favorite delicacy on the Cherry Patch Ranch's "menu". He's lonesome since his too adventurous buddy, Rienzo, went and walked off alone into a desert state park outside Vegas, where he was possibly tricked into walking just a little further, a little further, by some shimmering mirage of summer's triple-digit wrath materializing on the sand. Maybe if he'd carried water he'd have come back. Days later, when Rienzo still has not returned or his body been discovered, despite the diligent efforts of local search-and-rescue teams, Michele, rather than mope around his hotel room or play blackjack in the attached megacasino, arrives at the Cherry Patch. His Italian suit and accent make the ladies come alive as he enters. "Pick me, pick me". Instead, he drinks beer at the bar and Darla saunters over night after night, for a week. All Michele does is drink, consummating his grief over Rienzo's loss through chit chat rather than a standard, burger-and-fries equivalent, "suck and fuck". Manny, the brothel's gay manager and bartender, develops a secret but intense crush on Michele, and so lets him sit at the bar all night with Darla rather than insisting he get down to the dirty and proper business of his brothel, like he'd demand of any other patron wasting his precious time schmoozing instead of screwing. "Army Amy" and her bulging biceps and colossal bosom could probably teach Michele and Darla a trick or two, no doubt envisions making bank with a lucrative mènage à trois, but Darla, wouldn't you know it (and my how Claire Vaye Watkins knows a narrative trick or two, turning her own as she plays some English-usage "pun and games" with the story's title and Michele's limited English usage comprehension) could be turning her last and most profitable trick ever on Michele, a cruel and platonic trick whose consequences may force Michele into making some forever-life-altering decisions he'd might not have made otherwise had he remained back at the casino awaiting news of Rienzo there.Other shrewd tricks showcased in Battleborn are equally as nuanced and devastating. Like the bored, romantic notions that spur two teenage girls into making an impromptu pilgrimage from their humdrum Minnesota town in "Rondine Al Nido" to that dream's oasis, Las Vegas. To the decadent, megalopolis of the deluded and their delusions that, from an elevated distance miles away, appears like "a blanket made of lights, like light is liquid and the city is a great glistening lake." A lake of fire. Though in the naive eyes of "Our Girl" (could "Our Girl" be a disguised Claire Vaye Watkins?) and Lena, that lake of fire's nocturnal radiance is paradise awaiting, and not their impending perdition. For little do our two heroines know that they are in fact about to pass through the gates of hell on earth once they open the doors to New York New York. Can you blame them that they want to be a part of it, New York New York? Still, it's hard not to cringe watching Our Girl and Lena go down a casino escalator, buzzed and struggling to hold their booze, when they make eyes at four cute guys -- and of course they're angelic imps -- going the other way, up up up. Uh oh. Don't go, Girls (I want to reach into the book and stop them), please don't go up like that in your skimpy skirts in awkward flirtatious pursuit (awkward because that's not really them), for these bad cads (don't you know? can't you see?), besides lecherous pigs, could be cons! Or worse....Our Girl and Lena soon regretfully realize that despite the iconic marketing campaign to the contrary, what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas, but follows you home. Claire Vaye Watkins is an endearing author at home in the literal and figurative desolation existing in deserts and in hearts. She could just as easily have been the daughter of Edward Abbey as Tex Watkins, so attuned is her soulful bond to the eastern Mojave of California and Nevada, and to its hardy denizens surviving on the fringes. When Watkins is on, she's fireworks. A writer exuberant and exciting to read. When she's off (which is rarer), she's still interesting, even if the stories -- the aforementioned "Wish You Were Here" and one I didn't mention, "The Archivist" -- ultimately fizzle. Though maybe those stories will soar for other readers in ways they didn't for me. Regardless, Claire Vaye Watkins is generally good and going to be genuinely great one day. I can't wait for her first novel.
Columbine

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Very well written and especially researched book by a reporter, Dave Cullen, who was there at Columbine and followed the case long after the rest of the media moved on to the next horror show. Columbine demythologizes so many of the absurd and, what have sort of become urban legends about the killers: They were racists, skinheads, goths, trenchcoat mafiosos on a mission from Marilyn Manson, satanists, haters of jocks on the hunt for Christians .... Wrong.... They weren't any of those things, regardless of how the media and some local law enforcement officials erroneously depicted them at the time. Turns out, those two lost teenage boys were even worse than those evils misapplied to them. They hated everybody, including themselves. Had they been as proficient in transforming propane tanks into homemade bombs as they were at shooting students and teachers on the run with chilling accuracy, they may not have had to shoot anybody, except perhaps the first two they killed walking out of the school as they were marching in, as those bombs (it was later determined) had they been wired correctly, could have levelled the entire school and killed at least 500 people, thus putting the incident at the level of a terrorist attack rather than a school shooting. And such destruction would've placed those boys, where they explicitly dreamed of being, in the same league as Timothy McVeigh. Even after reading the book, reading lengthy excerpts from the killers' diaries, there's still no definitive answers to the infinite arrays of WHYs? While I recognize what a stellar job Dave Cullen did in researching and writing Columbine with its sensitive, non-linear structure that better explained the incident than writing a straight A-Z timeline, I still don't recommend it, even though it's good, if not great. Columbine is just too damn depressing, compelling read or not.
Some Girls: My Life in a Harem

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Perhaps it sounds mildly unseemly or misogynistic to admit, but I'll be darned if I haven't been interested in starting up my own harem for quite some time, since adolescence actually, but have lacked, unfortunately, the necessary (and pricey) prerequisites to turn such an, admittedly, crude boyhood fantasy into reality; namely, my obtaining a Middle Eastern "sultanship" (if there is such a word) and political connections with big oil and its automatic entourage of bookoo bucks and kidnapped babes. Jillian Lauren's, Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, gave me lots of great ideas, nevertheless, on how -- and more importantly, how not -- to begin (at least "begin" hypothetically speaking), my harem fantasy enterprise. I'd recommend Some Girls as an excellent resource for any in-the-market, would-be harem owners out there, as it unwittingly itemizes the potential pitfalls and pains-in-the-neck awaiting the prospective harem owner about to embark on, let's face it, a rather tricky-to-justify and, not to mention, illegal, lifestyle venture.Some Girls: My Life in a Harem was also an inspiring -- at times sordid and a bit twisted (though understandably so) -- story of one brave United States college dropout's riveting escape from a man who makes Hugh Hefner seem a monogamous and faithful family man by comparison, Prince Jefri Bolkiah, and Jillian Lauren's eventual return to freedom. I recommend reading Lauren's mesmerizing memoir whether you dream of owning your own harem some day or not.
Destination Void

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At the age of fourteen, Destination: Void (the revised edition published in 1978) was mystifying to me -- at least that's the way I'd of probably described it then. I knew as much about computers or artificial intelligence as whatever I'd seen in either the "cutting-edge" computer flick of the time, War Games (1983), or in the older, but what still seems cutting-edge to me even today, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).The second time I read Destination: Void, soon after The Matrix (1999) had come out, I thought Herbert was ahead of his time (especially considering the original version was published in 1966) as so much of what I saw on the screen in The Matrix seemed so familiar from the world Frank Herbert built in Destination: Void; namely, the physical connections and intertwining he envisioned between hi-tech, futuristic computer gadgetry and human flesh. Herbert's novel inhabited a cold detached world where expendable clones explored space in a rigged experiment, "Project Consciousness," aboard a spacecraft, the Earthling, automated by shutdown-prone, highly problematic OMCs ("organic mental cores"): Euphemism for "baby brains" that had been extracted, allegedly, from only "terminal cases." Potential bioethics snafus and the moral complications of cloning were being conceptualized in depth by Herbert and other science fictionists of his day a good thirty years before Dolly made cloned sheep international news.Today, having recently encountered the book at a second hand shop, I grabbed it and read it with great interest again, curious to see how the dense novel of ideas had evolved in my perception the third time around, almost three decades since first reading it, and nearly a half-century since it's publication.My appreciation for the book's title has never waned, steeped as it is in nihilism. At fourteen, I didn't have enough life experience, certainly not enough crushing disappointment, to feel the weight of that desperate word, "nihilism," but I knew it loomed mysterious, possibly romantic and definitely dark, in my imagination. Despite the book's title, Herbert was rarely a nihilist in his philosophy or writing (excepting his story, "The Nothing," and bitter novel, The White Plague) or eclectic life experiences, be it journalist, photographer, author, ecologist. Several of his book's titles, in fact, were suggestive of deeper, spiritual leanings, denoting as they did some vast Ineffable that might exist out there, somewhere, in the Cosmos, be it with his sci-fi novels, The Godmakers and The Heaven Makers, or in his lone but no less speculative novel that wasn't sci-fi, the heart wrenching, Soul Catcher**.The OMCs, those fragile organic mental cores, the literal brains of the Earthling, hardwired into the ship's computer, soon shorted out and died, as they were designed to die, poor babies. Could the Earthling's computer, then, first help its crew create an artificial OMC to monitor and maintain vital drives it wasn't plugged into, and do so in time before those deactivated drives made the Earthling go kaput? Maybe, but probably not. Because the mission's managers (none of whom were clones) who'd hatched their draconian, A.I. enterprise, as the suspect "Project Consciousness" for no doubt nefarious designs that exceeded the expressed for outcome of some supposed artificial consciousness, knew damn well that the crew lacked the skills, resources, and most importantly time necessary for success in such an impromptu, crash-course in creating an A.I. aboard a spaceship swiftly hurtling toward oblivion. Failure was their only option. Their destination? Destruction. And yet a fate hardly as bad as occupying some nebulous sounding locale known only as "Void".But (and there's always a big "but" in what appears at first blush to be hopeless, sci-fi crisis-scenarios in hard sci-fi), what the scientists back on Earth couldn't have possibly foreseen, was the full extent and range of the Earthling's computer's intuitive capacity. Yes, the reader needs to suspend disbelief, but this reader doesn't mind. For no one could have hypothesized that the Earthling's computer, in the process of assisting the crew as they attempted to create an artificial intelligence, an OMC, to salvage their mission and save their lives, would so completely identify with the Earthling's chaplain/psychiatrist, Raja Flattery, it would create for itself instead an artificial faith -- and in so doing become a self-styled Roman Catholic hellbent on ultimately "converting" the crew (most of them in deep hibernation), who'd be awakened, theoretically, should the crew on deck discover a new planetary Eden (or maybe an unearthly Hell) to colonize.Arthur C. Clarke's and Stanley Kubrick's computer, Hal, the iconic IBM 9000 of 2001: A Space Odyssey infamy (published two years after Destination: Void), was a pussycat-computer next to the megalomaniacal nut job the Earthling's computer became. A devout computer-of-the-cloth that founded its own hybrid cult based on Raja Flattery's Catholicism, and enmeshed its own strange circuitry with stranger icons it misunderstood, per its idiosyncratic, literal divining of Raja Flattery's prayers and expressive faith, so that by the end of the story it demanded of the unbelieving, apostate crew, that they do something preposterous, something dreadful, something insane ... or else!Destination: Void was originally published in 1965 as "Do I Sleep or Wake" in Galaxy magazine. The novel would later serve as the prequel for Herbert's lesser known series, "The Pandora Trilogy," co-authored with Bill Ransom, in which they explored the long lasting consequences of a rogue computer that almost, but not quite, went Jim Jones on the crew of the ship it was supposed to protect and serve. Comprising the trilogy were The Jesus Incident (1979, in which Jesus Christ Himself makes a cameo appearance on a planet not named Earth), The Lazarus Effect (1983), and The Ascension Factor (1988), the latter published posthumously, two years after Frank Herbert's death. I recommend them all, especially to those interested in science fiction that's fascinatingly infused with spiritual themes and religious imagery.~~~~~** Prior to Soul Catcher's publication, several of its readers pleaded with Frank Herbert to change its devastating ending. But Herbert refused.
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