The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill


JUMPING GIGAWATTS!! Another time traveling book about the end of the world. I have to admit, I love me some books about time travel. Even more than that, I love books about the multiverse. However, I do have to admit that it is quite worrisome to think there are other versions of me running amok and perhaps even doing something unthinkable like purchasing male skinny jeans!! But the multiverse, that ole rascal, is up to it again in “The Beautiful Land” by Alan Averill.

What exactly is the Multiverse you may quietly ponder unto thyself? The multiverse is the theory that multiple realities of our world/reality exist simultaneously. That means multiple earths with multiple, perhaps even infinite, versions of ourselves. The difference? Perhaps where we made a decision to go right, our other self went left and created a new reality or maybe we get married in this reality but in another one we are a 90 year old bachelor crashing MTV’s Spring Break party hoping to hook up with a 20 year old hottie whose name we can’t remember because we are past our 3:30 pm bedtime.

39a2ed8b9933175c72ba901126c83556SUMMARY: “The Beautiful Land” follows the story of 2 main characters Takahiro O’Leary and Samira. Tak is a man at the end of his rope (quite literally). When we meet him, he is ready to hang himself. He has had enough of life. A former star of a survivalist show, Tak feels lost and without purpose. Samira, an Iraqi was vet, has come back to the States but is haunted by her time there. She served as a translator and saw the worst that the war had to offer. Throughout the story we get to read some back stories on both characters and Samira had a horrible experience with her time in the service. Tak and Samira are old friends. They were inseparable in high school though not romantic. But slowly over the years, they have gone in different directions but have both found an empty existence void of meaning and direction.

The moment before Tak decides to permanently stretch his neck, he receives a phone call from a mysterious woman from a company called Axon Corp. For some reason (never made clear) they specifically need Tak for a special never before type of mission. Tak reluctantly agrees and heads off to the middle of nowhere in Australia. Once there he meets Charles Yates. Yates is the brilliant scientist behind Axon Corp. It seems Yates has discovered a way to travel across time itself but not in the conventional way. He can’t go back and forth in time rather his device has created doorways to other versions of reality. Tak is the only one able to effectively travel between these doors. But while he is traveling, he comes across something very evil and very quickly headed for our reality.

Tak escapes and heads back to the States to find his long lost love, Samira. What is coming is the end of reality and Tak knows how to escape what is coming. But he won’t go without Samira. But, Yates has different plans for the end of the world and needs to make sure that nothing and no one, especially Tak and Samira, get in the way of his plans.

Throw in freaky creatures that look like coked out Big Birds and some crazy disjointed dream like sequences as Tak and Samira travel between realities and you have the skeleton of this story.

THOUGHTS: I give this one a solid 3 for effort. I did like the character, Tak, a lot. I found myself laughing out loud multiple times at his sarcastic comments that he makes. Unfortunately, I now judge any book involving the multiverse next to Blake Crouch’s amazing “Dark Matter”. There were a few times when I couldn’t really figure out why a part of the book was included and what it had to do with the story. In addition, we are left wondering what makes Tak so important and qualified to be sought out out of all the people in the world to become the person to become the traveler of the multiverse. The reason is never given and I was left to assume that it had something to do with his survival show. But why not ask Bear Grylls then? I mean he drinks his own pee, so you know he’s at least ultra committed and stuff.

I can’t tell you much about why the book is named “The Beautiful Land” without giving away an important part of the book but it is part of the multiverse and the major reason that Yates creates the Machine.

I will say this was a fun book and at times read like a movie script. If you enjoy novels about the multiverse, then pick this one up. It was a quick 2 day read for me and the ending is pretty good.


Lexicon by Max Barry

04e554b590a7440920df75e96ad4e22cHoly Jumbled Words Batman! Max Barry’s book “Lexicon” is one heck of a ride into the history, shaping and effect of language in society. Barry has written many other novels including “Jennifer Government”, “Machine Man” and “Company” just to name a few. He seems to fit into that genre of science-y cool dudes that write extra awesome goodness.

SUMMARY: Emily Ruff has a name that has matched her life. She lives on the streets and survives by her street smarts. She has a unique talent for using her words to rope people in and con them into laying down more and more cash at three card monty. This catches the attention of a group of young people one day. However, these young people don’t fall for her tricks. Instead, they are impressed with her abilities and invite her to study at an exclusive schools that teaches the art of persuasion. Emily, being intrigued and having no where else to go, accepts the offer and is transported to an elite school in Virginia. The school and the opportunity seems surreal and like a dream come true. But slowly she comes to realize that this school is different. They teach persuasion, but it is through carefully separating and studying people and then using specially coded words that unlock an ancient vault in their brain. This word vault (for lack of a better term) makes the victim totally subservient and powerless and pretty much end up looking like Jack does in this snippet of Three’s Company:jack-tripper

The staff at the school who wield these magical words are called Poets and in turn all carry the monikers of famous poets like Yeats, Atwood and Eliot.

As Emily’s knowledge of these special words grow so does her risk taking and her desire to use them. She sees the power of the spoken word.

Meanwhile, another story is taking place. A young man named Wil Parke is kidnapped. Why? He appears to be immune to these words and the Poets’ “art” of persuasion. But, most importantly, he appears to be immune to something called a “Bareword”. This is a word so powerful it could be used to rule the world.  These Barewords have the ability to topple a civilization or to lift it up to its highest pinnacle. Many examples are given, but the one that rises to the top is the Tower of Babel. And guess who is after this “Bareword” for their own nefarious purposes? Ding, ding, ding – that’s right, the Poets. Wil’s kidnappers want him to help them get the word and secure it from the Poets and their maniacal leader.

Eventually Emily and Wil’s timelines will intersect and that is where things get really interesting.

THOUGHTS: Lexicon is really a book about the power of language and how intrusive it can be in our lives. Just think how many ads are geared to make you act or respond in a certain way. From billboards to Facebook ads, the world is trying to communicate exclusively to us and wanting us to respond in a certain way.

“Lexicon” is definitely one of the smarter books I have read. At times it felt like a mix of the Matrix, Harry Potter and the Walking Dead. It was interesting, and well thought out, to see how the two main characters, Emily and Wil, eventually converge and what that means.

This is a good ole conspiracy story interlaced with a touch of romance and lots of suspense. As a big fan of anything dealing with language and its impact on the human mind, this book definitely held my attention and really got me thinking about who has control over my life and how they got it. Pick this one up for a mind bending, intelligent read.

HaPpY ReAdInG!

Artemis – Andy Weir


Hooray for Nerd Culture! I am totally siked about the the new set of writers that have come along and shot through their novels a skein of science. And by skein, I mean a white hot rod of flaming amazingness full of science-y goodness. Andy Weir is definitely one of these writers. His first novel, The Martian, was full of science but also highly enjoyable. It takes finesse to bring all the technicalities of niche science into a novel and not confuse the crud out of the readers. But, Weir did and he’s done it again with his new novel, Artemis.

SUMMARY: The Moon. Cold, without atmosphere, no gravity, no sustainable way of supporting life, unforgiving and yet that is where this story takes place. Humans have begun to colonize the moon in a place called Artemis. Artemis is a conglomeration of  gigantic domes, that are interconnected to each other. Artemis has become a sort of refuge for those wishing to escape Earth for one reason or another. For some, this is permanent. For others, this is a once in a life time tourist attraction.

Our narrator, for this journey, is a young woman named Jazz Bashara. She had grown up on the moon and knows all its ins and outs. Unfortunately, she knows them through the hard life she has lived there. She is part of the underclass that lives in Artemis. This group works away but never gets ahead. Jazz works as a porter, unloading supplies from ships. This helps pay her bills but also helps her with her side job as a smuggler for the elite on the moon. While this won’t make her rich, it will move her toward the main action of the book.

One of her clients is the richest man on the moon and he has an idea on how to make even more money. This involves Jazz, the air supply to Artemis and the machines that supply it. He is willing to pay big time for the machines to become somehow stop working and he thinks Jazz is just the person to handle this job. She accepts and the job gets bungled which leads to murder, assassins, a high stakes game of cat and mouse and Jazz needing help from the most unexpected of people. Throw in a lot of science and Jazz’s snarky, sarcastic and hilarious commentary and you have a recipe for one great novel.

THOUGHTS: This book has a great plot and pace to it. The characters are well developed and Jazz is complex. She is a Saudi and Muslim but breaks that stereotype. She is outspoken and independent. She is humorous and a take charge type of person. She loves a challenge and is willing to take a risk in order to get the reward. Many have read this book and complained how she is too sarcastic or too whiny. Not at all. She is very realistic and she brings a welcome change to the stereotype of the woman being the “second hero” of a book. The book brings home the fact that now matter what we do or how we see ourselves, family is more than a word. It is the people who love you no matter what and will stand with you through thick and thin. By the end of the book, Jazz becomes a more mature person and reconciles her past with her future.

Weir delivered again and best of all made a character that is memorable. I hope to see this book to film in the future. There is an audio book version that is narrated by Rosario Dawson that I haven’t hear yet but is definitely on my “to-do” list.

HaPpY ReAdInG!

The Gospel as Center

gospel-as-centerWhat is the center of your life? Is it family, your job, your sports team, money, possessions? There are so many things that vie for our allegiance. And more than that, not only our allegiance, but our ownership. I once heard someone say, “Whatever we own, owns us”. That is true in so many aspects.

A book I received quite a while back has been slowly helping me re-center on what is the core of my whole life. This book is titled, “The Gospel as Center”. It is a collaboration of essays by a great set of minds and thinkers in the evangelical (and overall reformed) world. This book builds a theological foundation on what is essentially the core of all aspects of theology, the Gospel. One thing I enjoyed most about this book was seeing the way the different writers tackled each subject. I love when great minds come together and tackle a project with a mission of proclaiming the Gospel.

This book may be a little technical and academic in some areas. Therefore, its readership may not reach a big audience, but it probably deserve to be read and read slowly by all of us that are constantly battling relativism in ministry and mainstream life.

Readership will most likely be those involved in full time ministry or para-ministry leadership.

The Lost Art of Reading

8518218Obviously I like reading. No wait, love is a better word. Give me a library over a sports game any day of the week. Half Price Bookstores are fatal to my bank account. And my kids usually shout, “We are not going to a bookstore today!” whenever we go out somewhere together.

Reading takes up a lot of my spare time. It is vitally important to me. I will read most anything at anytime anywhere. We recently packed stuff up for a move and I had quite a few big boxes of books, like 10 or 12!

Unfortunately, reading has fallen on hard times. Internet, TV, game systems, etc. have taken away reading’s stronghold in most everyone’s life. That is why I love books like “The Lost Art of Reading by David Ulin.

Ulin shares with the reader why reading is essential. Imagination, cognition and relationship skills are all wrapped up in reading and reading well. One main assertion of this book is that we need to disengage from electronic media and return to the lost art of reading. In fact, Ulin describes reading as a revolutionary act against our culture and its demands.

This is a small book both physically and length wise. It comes in at 150 pages. Ulin is a book critic for the Los Angeles Times. Take some time to read this important work of why reading is so important. You’ll learn that reading is its own reward.

Other thoughts:

“The Heavens: Intimate Moments with Your Majestic God”

9781404189997I can still remember my first telescope. It was one of those cheap Wal-mart type ones that you can buy for like $30. Basically, it was a glorified binocular. I’m not sure how much of space I saw but that dinky little telescope changed my life. From the moment I stared into the lens and saw the moon, I was hooked on stargazing.

Space always has something new to reveal. So often we limit space to our little corner of the milky way, but with each new day some new planet or star or celestial object is being uncovered. It reminds me of two things. 1. How infinitely small I am. 2. How infinitely great and glorious God is.

In “The Heavens”, Kevin Hartnett shares a similar mindset. Each day and devotion reveals to the reader something remarkable about outer space. How does this get you closer to God? It reminds you that God is the creator and has everything under control. Beautiful photography along with a great book layout make this a daily devotional you wont want to miss out on.

In our all too busy and hectic lives, it is nice to find something that can give you a moment’s rest and meditation. Buy this book and begin praising our majestic God.

Other resources:

“The Fight”

UBB-TheFightbyLukeWordleyBoxing intrigues me. To me, fighting has always been something I’ve shied away from. I’m definitely not one of those guys who tries to prove himself by being tough or getting into fights. I am a trained blackbelt but even that has never made me crave fighting. In fact, it taught me just the opposite; the very harshness, danger and consequences of using our bodies as weapons.

With that being said though, boxing is a sport of focus. You must learn your opponent and anticipate his next move and yours at the same time. Split second decision making is not only required, it is imperative. In Luke Wordley’s newest book, “The Fight”, the reader sees the positive impact boxing can have on a life.

Sam Pennington is an angry kid who has lost everything. A dead father, a drunk mother and the harshness of moving into public housing has led Sam to his breaking point. It is at this breaking point that he comes to a crossroads. After a particularly brutal fight, Sam is introduced to Jerry Ambrose, a boxing trainer. Jerry takes Sam under his wing and Sam begins to discover a hidden talent and passion for boxing.

The story is redemptive in nature and deals with the core of what happens to our lives when our emotions rule us. It is also a coming of age story for Sam. This is a longer book at 380 pages but the story keeps your attention and drives home some important messages.

All of us has demons and skeletons that resurface from time to time and we all must learn how to deal with them or we will be ruled by them. We all have a “fight” we must engage in. How will yours turn out?

Other “Fight” thoughts: