Monthly Archives: October 2011

Brad

Brad’s nos. 18, 19, 20: A Song of Ice and Fire vols. 1,2,&5

 

 

      After many years of keeping his fans waiting, Mr. Martin finally released A Dance with Dragons, book five in his 7 book series.  Those familiar with the series are probably aware of the significance of this; those that aren’t are probably shaking their heads incredulously and mumbling “silly fantasy nerds…”  I do enjoy a good fantasy novel, but outside of LOTR and Narnia, I haven’t read much.  But, if you were familiar with these stories, you would realize that you don’t need to be a fantasy nerd to realize that the many years waiting for Mr. Martin to release his books was torturous (I avoided much of this by getting on the bandwagon late).
     These books are notorious for the fact that almost no character is safe.  Main characters die, are defeated, and usually what you hope/expect to happen doesn’t, in the most brutal and gut wrenching way.  There were multiple times where I would read an event only to stop and incredulously read it again to make sure that I actually read what I thought I read.  Mr. Martin is great at subverting expectations and fantasy tropes, setting the reader up to think he is going one path (because that’s how these stories go) to only knock your legs out from underneath you.
     The plot is too dense to even begin to explain.  Basically, it is about politics, corruption, and the fact that valor and integrity often do not stand up to guile, deceit, and self-preservation.  The world that this takes place in is on that is in the shadow of magic. It is a largely “realistic” world where magic, giants, dragons, and wraiths are relegated to children’s stories and ye old songs of gallantry.  However, as the story progresses, glimpses of the fantastic re-awakening can be seen.The books are written so that each chapter is from the first person point of view of one character.  This technique is used very effectively to again subvert our expectations as we see a character or event from one perspective only to see a different perspective shine a whole new light on the subject.
    There is a gap in my review of the novels because I decided to re-read the first two to refresh my mind on the characters and plot in preparation for book three.  Also, I needed a way of escape from my MBA studies and this world provided a great way to do this.
    Lastly, I must make two very important caveats.  First, these books are not for everyone.  They are very violent and contain graphic sexual situations.  The latter of which is my major disappointment with them.  As it is a book, it is easier to skip over such sections.  However, if you do not or should not want to subject yourself to such things/temptations, it is not worth reading these books.  Also, HBO recently created a show based upon the books.  It is well done and was critically well received.  However, due to the nature of the books and HBO’s predilection toward nudity, I would suggest not to watch it.  What is easily skipped by in a book is much more difficult to ignore when it becomes the focal point of multiple scenes.  Though well written, no fiction is worth the danger of stumbling in sin.
Brad

Brad’s no. 17: The Next Story by Tim Challies

I read this book a while ago, just didn’t get a chance to write this review.  I was busy – hang on a sec – sorry just updating my status on Facebook.   Well, I just didn’t get to it.  This saddens me as it was a very thought provoking book and my review will not do it justice due to the lack of freshness in my mind.  Tim Challies, for a Canadian, does a deft job at analyzing the immense changes that have been wrought by technology in the last few years.  It is especially poignant considering his prominence as a blogger.  I consider myself a thinker; however this book really awakened me to the impact that screens (computer, phone, iPad, etc.) have on my life: how I learn, communicate, my attention span, etc.  Until reading this book my thoughts on such things revolved around the concept that technology was just one more thing vying for my attention.  I failed to see that the dawning digital era is not just an incremental change, but a sizable shift in how humans are interacting, both with each other and with knowledge in general.

As someone who is intertwined with the tech world, Challies excellently analyzes both the positive and negative impacts of digital media.  Surprisingly, it seems his conclusion is one that leans more toward warning and caution.  These things can be positive, but the potential for the negative is prevalent.  I really appreciated that his examination was done through the filter of a Christian worldview.  The statistics that he presents can be startling and the ramifications should be inherently informative for those who are seeking to live a Christ-like life.  The one draw-back to the book is that it is not the most fluid read.  It is better read in smaller doses rather than marathon sessions.  But, I guess this would be expected of one who is best know for his pithy blogs.  A highly recommended book for all who love the Lord and seek to do so on all fronts of their life.

 

 

mark

Mark’s #45 – Reckless Abandon: A Modern-Day Gospel Pioneer’s Exploits Among The Most Difficult To Reach People

Since John recently read and reviewed this book here, I won’t go into too much detail.

I’ve always enjoyed missionary biographies.  These books challenge and encourage my own walk with Christ, remind me of the global call of the great commission (Mt. 28:19-20), and make me examine my life to see whether or not I believe what God says I should believe about life, death, eternity, and the worth of Jesus.  Most of these books detail the exploits of missionaries from long ago,  but in this book David Sitton tells his story of God’s faithfulness in our time in areas like Papua New Guinea and Mexico. As such, the challenge to missions seems even more real and tangible.

I appreciate David’s life and desire to show that Jesus is worth any sacrifice.  I also appreciate David’s desire to help raise up and train young men and women to forsake everything to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth.

Read the book and be challenged and encouraged!

If you have never considered the possibility that God loves you and may have a wonderful plan for your death, perhaps you should (pg. 201).

You can check out the ministry David started here: http://toeverytribe.com/

JRF

JRF’s #35 – The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman by Vic Armstrong

In a very real sense I was raised by the movies in which Vic Armstrong has spent his life making.  My childhood heroes were the likes of Indiana Jones, James Bond, Conan, and Superman – all of which were brought to life by Mr. Armstrong.

The title is no over exaggeration as Vic Armstrong has literally either performed or coordinated the stunts on virtually every well known action film of the last 4 plus decades and continues to do so.

This was a quick and fun read as Armstrong recounts behind the scenes stories, stunt inventions, his views on computer generated effects, near death stunt accidents, deadly stunt accidents, and the eccentric personalities he has had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with (the chapter on Stanley Kubrick was bizarrely hilarious).

 

I read this while I was also reading Reckless Abandon by David Sitton.  I couldn’t help notice the sad contrast between the two author’s biographies.  Vic Armstrong has spent his life working with the idols of this world.  He has traveled the globe, had adventures, risked his life, and received much public recognition for his pioneering work.

David Sitton on the other hand also traveled the globe, had adventures, and risked his life not for the sake of movies, but for the sake of the Glory of the Eternal God.  Vic Armstrong has been honored at the Acadamy Awards.  David Sitton is living for a much greater reward – one that is measured in souls and the joy of the King of all.

mark

Mark’s #44 – Wise Blood by Flannery O’Conner

Wise Blood is one of those books that gets English teachers tingly all over.  It’s a book full of imagery, and metaphors, and symbolism, and foreshadowing, and parallels… you name it. But, like any good book your English teacher tried to get you to read, you probably won’t understand or see most any of those things on your own – or at least this was my experience.  For this reason, I’m looking forward to our monthly Apologia book discussion tomorrow night to discuss and unpack these things which, to my underdeveloped mind, I can sense that they are all there under the surface just waiting to blossom for my understanding and appreciation… we’ll see.  In the meantime, I have been left to scratch my head and often say to myself (and others), “I don’t get it.”

Wise Blood is novel which follows the character Hazel Motes as he tries hard to reject the God of the Bible and flee his own conscience through a pursuit of sin and blasphemy of God.   After serving in the war (probably the Korean war or WWII), Hazel Motes has lost his faith in God… or rather, Hazel Motes seems to be trying hard to lose his faith in God – yet he seems to remain a tormented soul, who is ultimately unsatisfied by his pursuit of nihilism.

Along his journey, all sorts of interesting characters with their own disfunction’s and bizarre personalities impose on Motes and his quest.  Each one having their own literary symbols and functions I’m sure (but can’t quite place them yet).

Perhaps tomorrow after our discussion I’ll update my review with some of the keen literary and philosophical insights… but I’ll probably just let you read Ron Coia’s review since he is an english teacher, since he also happens to be the one selected this book and who will lead the discussion.

In the meantime, I found this little nugget out there on someone else’s blog in which the Sadie, the blog author, put together a wish list with Wise Blood a part of it:  ”I want to own this book so I can read it every year and maybe when I’m 60 I’ll get the whole thing.” – Good luck Sadie, I doubt you’ll get there.

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