The Thin Gray Line

The Thin Gray Line ISBN: 9781098740139 assumed published, copyright and written by Michael Kenneth Smith.

This is a story of the Civil War between the states of the newly expanding democracy. The protagonist, Luke Pettigrew was little more than a boy when he is forced to leave his home on a hardscrabble farm in Tennessee by his seemingly uncaring father. He joins the confederate Army, is severely injured and attempts to make it home, when Clyde, a trader, finds him struggling, lifts him into his wagon and gives him a ride to his burned-out home a short distance from his own. Worried about him, he returns to find Luke passed out, takes him to his home where, with Joanie his wife’s help, he removes the partially destroyed leg above the knee because any medical help is at least 50 miles away and he won’t be able to make it alive. As he begins to recover, Clyde’s young sons Timmy and Tommy start asking him questions and he tells them his story. Luke had been assigned to the Ambulance Corps where he had met Col. Bedford Forrest, had performed heroically in battle, had fought at Shiloh, had joined Jeb Stuart where his horse had been shot from under him resulting in the badly injured leg that had required amputation. From this initial activity, Luke continues an interesting and quite serendipitous journey through the war-torn south as he engages in numerous activities dictated by the time and his abilities – care of the wounded as well as amputees specifically, a group with communicable disease, racial concerns, impact of the war on social relationships and more. The characters include several important and even notorious figures of the time as well as a number of fictional heritage.

Discussion: Although presented as a most interesting fictional tale with appealing characters, the author has set forth a fascinating history of some of the first and little known successful attempts made to supply functional artificial limbs to amputees. A man by the name of James Hanger initiated the procedures and lived until 1919 but his company continues today “as a world-wide leader in the development and manufacture of prosthetic devices with branches around the world. During WW I, the company received contracts from the U.K. and France and vaulted them to the top of their field where they remain today.” The only unfortunate aspects of the story are the manner in which the proof readers have let the author down and just a passing but haunting thought of what happened to Luke’s ‘long-sustaining true love’.

5* Heart-warming Civil War tale providing interesting historical details.

Into the Woods

Into the Woods, a 16th century mystery novel assumed published copyright and written by Josh Soule.

The book opens with Chapter Zero where a “beast, no longer interested at clawing its way through the door to devour the family dwelling inside, but rather the townsmen who had just fired his musket… it did not slink through the trees… The beast was no longer afraid, no longer timid; it no longer would hide from the people of this town. The monster would not stop until it had its fill of death…A deep rumble escaped the beast’s throat as it skulked its way down the dirt path toward the town square.” A prologue follows that apparently begins recounting events that preceded this occurrence by three months; i.e. March 3, 1590. The reader is introduced to John who has left Paris where he had been studying art, to return to Carn, a small town on a trade route that is home to farmers and tradesmen. He has no family, was raised by Michael, the town priest who also was responsible for Thomas and Henry who were in similar circumstances. They were inseparable as children and often played close to and occasionally ‘on a dare’ entered the huge forest that began at the town’s edge. Their ‘acts of bravery’ occasioned by the rumors of its being inhabited by a creature that supposedly could change from human to beast. As the friends are reunited upon John’s return, more information is provided about them. Henry is married with small children and seemingly possessed of some lung problem; Thomas is a very large man, a hunter as well as owner of a farm on the outskirts of the village and a real ‘loner’; John again lives in the church with Michael, is the intellectual of the threesome and often approached by town residents for help. As time progresses, reports of cattle being killed in a horribly destructive manner surface and the three friends decide they must investigate for the safety of the town. Thomas and Henry are constantly at odds on the method to be followed and John acts as arbiter. On one attempt they are attacked by a rabid bear and manage to kill it without being infected. However, John is brutally mauled with broken ribs and more, but does recover. The town celebrates the heroes and believes all is well and life activities continue normally until sometime later another attack occurs. The tale’s description of the time and activities leading to this and the subsequent events comprise the remainder of the story.

Discussion: This book’s most unusual and especially intriguing dedication provides a compelling basis for post-reading thought. It is to “every pastor, priest, or any other religious leader – no matter where you live or what title you go by it is a very challenging task to care for the masses as your own family – the severity and complication of this cannot be fully compared to the symbolism in this book. The physical, spiritual, and emotional toll you have taken upon yourself cannot go unnoticed. Thank you.” The tale itself explores the existence of a mental attitude to protect another individual from some feature/condition/action. Frequently such activity may appear to be helpful, but conversely it may provide grossly detrimental results. In accord with the author’s expressed beliefs, the tale examines this attitude. With respect to the mechanics of presentation, the story itself projects the period and its physical and mental patterns moderately well. The characters, although not as well ‘fleshed-out’ as they could be, are adequate. *SPOILER ALERT*! Their movement within individual scenes occasionally leave gaps that require the reader to fill, or ignore, and for the pragmatist, some of John’s post bear activity is most difficult to accept as are occasional activities of others.

3* 5* Post-read thought stimulant; -2 spoiler alert re: presentation, at end of discussion.

Trinity’s Fall

Trinity’s Fall assumed published, copyright and written by P. A. Vasey.

A prologue describes a man awakening in unusual surroundings somewhat similar to those of a hospital room with various leads retracting into the wall. Finally recognizing himself but strangely not functioning under his own thoughts, when a young woman enters he attempts to kill her. But again suddenly, he crashes emotionally, recovers and finds the woman gone. The first chapter then opens with a woman in Detroit answering her cell phone when a man asks “Is that you Kate?” She answers that she is Dr. Sara Clarke and whether she can help him? His answer “I don’t want to freak you out” She asks why should she? And she is told he is directly across the street and waves. He is a man she does not remember, but he tells her his name is Pete Navarro and that she actually knows him very well. He wants to know from whom she is hiding because of the name Sara Clarke. Eventually they connect and she discovers that she had been Sara functioning as an ER physician in rural Indian Springs when a man was brought in after being struck solidly by a large truck travelling down I-95 while walking down the highway at night. She had called Navarro, another physician, in for consultation because upon examination the patient’s tests had showed weird components rather than those normally found in the human body but that he seemed ‘to be alive although comatose’. She has no memory whatsoever of Indian Springs, the man brought in to the ER, nor of the man with whom she was speaking, although he had been her co-worker. From this unusual introduction the reader begins to follow a complex plot involving the attempted take-over and eventual destruction of the human race by the alien Vu-Hak who first entered earth through a wormhole that served as an intergalactic portal that had evolved from the crater created at the atomic bomb testing site.

Discussion: further details certainly would be a disservice to the prospective reader. There is a sizable number of characters who are not particularly ‘well fleshed-out”, but sufficiently to elicit at least varying amounts of empathy. The aliens, and humans converted to alien-like components to a degree, can read minds, manipulate electrical fields, gravitational fields and more and can exhibit bursts of special activity, mental as well as physical when required, and are almost indestructible. The plot is of a complexity that makes for somewhat lesser enjoyment for this particular reader, but no doubt will appeal to most devotes of this genre. (An admittedly most irrelevant aside – Navarro likes Suntory scotch liquor. I’ve never had it outside of Japan where we had it occasionally if it was the only scotch available.)

4* 5* probably for alien genre devotees.

Tap Sapiens

Tap Sapiens (Reign of Sapiens’ Evil [R.O.S.E.] Book 1) published, copyright and written by Robin T. T. Poon.

This post-apocalyptic, Sci-Fi opens with young Brandi Perry travelling on a bus through sections of the countryside varying from complete destruction and ruin, small towns with inhabitants living on a barely above starvation level, areas of obvious wealth and plenty, and finally arriving at the army’s station where she is to be inducted into the armed services. After the usual examinations, issue of clothing, etc. she is assigned to a barracks with other new inductees. After ‘lights out’ she finds herself to be overcome with restlessness and quietly moves to the door, exits and wanders throughout much of the area including the officer’s building. Here she has an almost disastrous encounter with two officers, one of which is the commanding general. She returns to her own building where she is greeted by her immediate bunk mate. Gradually, the reader discovers that Brandi’s reason for joining the army is to somehow destroy the stranglehold it has upon the populace through the inequality dictated by the Supremo and enforced by his army. Death and destruction not only are continuing but actually increasing quite rapidly. She discovers that her bunk mate has suffered greatly, as have others whom she gradually begins gathering to her in a small group. After boot training, assignments are made and she finds that she has been promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and moved to another building where she now has only one other roommate. This person, also having been poorly treated by the army, but continuing because of the needs of her family, becomes convinced of Brandi’s sincerity, and joins her group. From this point, the activity escalates as more about Sapiens becomes apparent and with Brandi developing a problem because of a growing attachment to the equally affected general who allowed her to retreat to her own barracks that first night when she wandered into the officers’ quarters.

Discussion; the author has set forth a complicated tale of revolt against tyranny complicated by introduction of romance. It moves along relatively well, is peopled with interesting characters and generally should appeal to those who like dystrophic tales with an emotional component. A number of characters are unaccounted for, bits of early history are injected in a somewhat ‘startling’ manner and other minor features no doubt will disappear as the author continues to mature.

4* dystrophic tale; surprising developments and a bit of romance.

What to do with POTASS

What to do with POTASS ISBN: 97809990589372 Mystery House Publishing copyright and written by Glenn Shepard.

Sub-titled “A comedic novella of political errors” the reader finds an oddly dressed but narcissistic President of the United States making idiotic decisions with respect to accompanying legislators on the golf course. From this unflattering introduction of today’s duly elected top executive of the United States, the parody continues as a lowly positioned building custodian who is relatively knowledgeable about aspects of public interest in the president, is elevated to a silly but important position on this executive’s staff. In this position he learns of several plots that are being generated to do away with the President. The tale continues as each plot is attempted to be carried out by each inept politician while POTASS, in his usual fashion, fails to listen to his informer’s inadequate attempts to aid him in avoiding the situation.

Discussion: This is another author’s contribution to this pasquinade of usually only slightly disguised varying degrees of derision toward duly elected President Trump. It is surprising and most regrettable for this reviewer to find it written by this particular recognized and intelligent author. The populace now has been subjected to three years of negative material that has been repeated ad nauseum about the man. And please, do NOT dismiss my remarks as those of a die-hard Republican. Through the years I have voted for each party’s presidential candidates depending upon my judgement of the candidate’s qualifications, not the party. Thus, it is sincerely hoped that my remarks will be accepted for the observations. No political or derogatory overtones are meant or implied. To begin, I heartedly concur with much that is here. The man is objectionable in many ways – appears to be ego-centric and narcissistic, seemingly inattentive and often ignores what others consider good advice (although with passing time evidence has vindicated a number of his criticized decisions).  Also he can be crude, quite abrasive and appears to enjoy spouting copious and often poorly considered opinions on twitter. But again parenthetically, many of these same traits are quite noticeable in other successful persons, even those without his range of successful achievements before assuming the presidency. A prime example, his predecessor whose narcissism and ego-egocentricity were just as noticeable, even though his achievements were unremarkable and definitely quite in minimal number demonstrating his qualifications to be elected President of the country. Then following election, his mistakes and/or miscalculations were numerous but only cautiously referred to even when blatantly apparent (with increasingly solid evidence of wrong doing only recently surfacing). Perhaps one most prominent example, his authorized delivery of a huge quantity of U. S. taxpayers’ dollars in cash to an enemy country. Our reward? Liberation of a soldier captured after deserting his duty post in the front lines of action. Sadly, the hesitancy of the time to address this and other mismanaged incidences may well be the reason the mass of derogatory material has occurred against the present POTUS. Such assumption easily may be made when considering the prominence accorded the extremely sensitive term ‘racism’ and the adverse thoughts conjured up by the term with that President. After suffering through eight years of this perceived restriction, or at least seeming need to minimize perceived ‘wrong-doings’, perhaps its removal has been enough to release the long pent-up desire by the media and even individuals to be able again to discuss freely perceived inadequacies in POTUS. For example, Trump’s apparent concurrence with Putin’s position and the entire Russian election interference situation in disagreement with the FBI/CIA repeatedly has been heavily criticized. But this also currently is under reconsideration as the result of a recent official report offering sharp criticism of the repeated inadequate and even seemingly bordering criminal performance by these ‘pillars of justice’ of the U. S. Government. But then again, there are his improper call to the newly elected President of Ukraine; his involvement in a poorly-thought-out series of associated events and more. BUT ENOUGH! As previously stated, the discussion of his inadequacies now has continued ad nauseum for more than three consecutive years. And the history of this country is replete with a long list of pros and cons of the activities of every president this country has had.

So to summarize: records quite clearly show that at his time the former occupant of the White House made a sizable number of often minimized mistakes that included appointing and retaining a Secretary of State who knowingly was involved in activities detrimental to our country while compiling, with her somewhat tainted former president husband, a huge personally overseen fortune. Additionally, his own final departure from office shows a sizable increase in net worth, his entire party in disarray and a totally confused country. Meanwhile, the overall activity of the sitting president, at least to the present moment, has appeared to be highly productive for the United States and its residents – accomplishments largely resulting from his activity alone. The opposing political party’s outright obstruction long has been as blatantly evident as has the lackadaisical aid from his own. So to reiterate, from this reviewer’s sincere attempt at impartial examination, this book is very well-written in the author’s usual manner, but from this reader’s perspective and most apologetically to the author, it is a tedious repetition of material the likes of which has inundated the media, the airways and especially the late night comedy shows for an inordinate period of time.

2* For reasons cited in the discussion and apologies to a fine author.

Consensusland

      Consensusland ISBN: 9781483491103 (Lulu Publishing rev. date: 11/16/2018) copyright and written by Mark Helfman.

Subtitled, A Cryptocurrency Utopia, “This book explores the social and cultural side of cryptocurrency. It examines the ways in which the world will change when cryptocurrency becomes a normal way to do business. It probes the pros and cons. It offers point and counterpoint. It looks at how cryptocurrency changes the way people think and act.” The author approaches his task in a fictional story as follows. Successful small American pharmaceutical manufacturer Quentin Taylor is desirous of expanding his business but has little success in obtaining the necessary funds because he ‘is too small’, ‘does not have enough successful patents’ (even though he was listed as one of the top CEO’s holding two highly credible patents). Further he did not have sufficient collateral to float the necessary loans and was completely frustrated. Suddenly he receives a one-time deal offering, complete start-up of new state-of-the-art labs, tech and a headquarters of at least six stories in a downtown location and all other necessities at no cost, if he will move his operations to a small Caribbean island, named Consensusland. The city/state recently had been touted as a growing principality that was rapidly growing and ‘different’. It was established and functioned in a milieu totally controlled by the country’s currency, a strange one collected by many individuals in America and other countries, but seemingly never used but retained as a type of hedge fund. In fact his medical/legal director included some of their currency in her portfolio. He makes the trip to the island with his wife and his medical/legal director. They are wined and dined, the glowing proposition is explained in detail and he is leaning toward acceptance although his director is more hesitant. They are scheduled to meet the island’s governor the following day, but upon returning to their hotel encounter their hotel owner. He suggested an evening trip to the beach where they meet the originator of the country’s presently used currency. This man now is discovered to be involved in still another project, development of a new currency. Accompanied by input from others, whom Quentin had just met during the day, also were in the beach gathering, He is appraised of the existence of wide dissatisfaction that exists with the manner in which the country is managing the cryptocurrency presently in use. They explain that this ‘similar but different’ currency their splinter group have developed and whose use they just are initiating, is as a reaction to, and remedy for, the unpopular functions for which the government now employs the one presently in use. The body of the tale is composed of Quentin’s action, his vacillation and ultimate decision as the pros and cons of the various components are revealed and discussed.

Discussion: The author has set forth a most interesting fictional tale about a factual subject of increasingly close study today. The intensive investigation is increasingly imperative because many, if not all, of present day society will be forced to face it at a rapidly approaching time. The security of Internet constantly is under attack. As repeatedly reported by the media, thousands are losing personal data at a rapid pace. I specifically recall reading about the 2017 ransomware attack that reportedly affected more than 100 different countries and crippled UK’s National Health Service for an extended period of time. Similarly the huge loss of data from Singapore’s government health service and others. As a result, something new is imperative. Blockchain is one most prominently growing in acceptance. Reportedly it is a technology where information is retained in ‘blocks’ that are chained together and retained in such a manner that attempting to hack would require far more time and energy to make the attempt worthwhile because each block would need to be attacked individually. As the author points out, politics and fraud probably still could exist, but it can’t be laundered or ‘go missing’. Apparently, once stored on blockchain however, cryptocurrency is required for their exchange and one of the problems here is that others may be designed to replace the one in use. One of these currencies, from the few hundred now available that seems to have gained a particular degree of prominence is Bitcoin, which is beyond this discussion. Suffice it to say, the author has set forth a fact-filled discussion in a most enjoyably fictional presentation.

5*Captivating fictional presentation of important factual material.