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see Fiction, Novels, Mysteries, Suspense, Crime, Detective, Science Fiction, Romance, Page-Turners, Bestsellers, Classics, Literary Fiction, Short Stories, Westerns

The Wanderers by Naomi Gladish Smith (Swedenborg Foundation) A novel exploring conditions in the afterlife with "Questions for Discussion" for reading groups. A group of recently deceased Americans wander in a realm between heaven and hell, learning about their true natures and past lives.

This novel extends the visionary insights of Emanuel Swedenborg’s epiphanic imagination into the afterlife. Swedenborg is the great Enlightenment mystic visionary who attempted to apply systematic empirical inquiry into his inner life.  This came to him not as a conceit constructed from his own curiosity but as a response to the imaginal invitation to no inner worlds through angelic guidance.

In this novel Smith draws upon the essential aspects of his method to discover a new the nature of living in the afterlife. In the commonsense world that we live in most people feel that the nature of the afterlife is a mystery beyond recovery.  If one dismisses the hardly consistent views of people who have been recently dead and revived, then there can be no impure goal evidence for an afterlife.  However this novel extends one’s grasp of the nature of visionary experience that the veil of death may be final physiologically but is never seriously impenetrable by the visionary psyche.  This is what Smith attempts to do in this novel is to imagine how people will create or re-create their known world of experience slowly allowing the nature of the afterlife to emerge on its own terms in a way that is integral to the constructed self and the ego of the person who has died. The Tibetans have a similar teaching in the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead. The problem with some people is they tend to over literalize and make excessively specific the nature of this construct.  It is hoped that exercises such as Smith’s will open up the psychic possibility of actually knowing what the afterlife is like in reasonable anticipation.  For no other reason one could read this novel with much profit, just for the adventure of discovery that suggests that our emotional life does not cease when our body stops living.

When Maggie Stevens, a former world-class gymnast, first awakens in a hospital bed, she is amazed that her body is pain-free. After all, she fell off a balance beam during a competition and crashed head-first onto the auditorium floor. What Maggie doesn't at first realize is that the hospital is like no place on earth.

Maggie soon meets other newly arrived "patients": Kate Douglas, a no-nonsense academic who suffered a heart attack; Ryan James, a handsome musician who is recovering from a motorcycle crash; Frank Chambers, an ex-cop from Chicago, and Patrick Riley, a church organist, both of whom arrived from a Swiss cancer clinic; and Sven and Claire, a young couple -running away from an army base. When they all learn that they didn't recover from their illnesses and injuries, they embark on an adventure to discover the nature of their new reality. They will discover that their earthly choices and intentions paved the way for their final destination.

Naomi Gladish Smith continues her fictional tour of the afterlife, which she first presented in her 2004 novel The Arrivals. We are reintroduced to Kate Douglas, who, in the earlier novel, was an angel helping others find their path. Here we meet a newly arrived Kate and learn what she went through to earn her wings. Inspired by the visionary writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, The Wanderers depicts a hereafter that is as real as the here and now.


Furies Of Calderon by Jim Butcher (Ace) In the realm of Alera, where people bond with the furies-elementals of earth, air, fire, water, and metal-fifteen-year-old Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. But when his homeland erupts in chaos-when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies-Tavi's simple courage will turn the tides of war. 

INeuromancer 20th Anniversary Edition by William Gibson (Ace) (Audio Cassette , Unabridged: Books on Tape) A hard-boiled futuristic novel, NEUROMANCER uses as its stage the boundless range of modern cyberspace. The author's hero, Case, is a cyberspy, the best in the business. But he plays his games close to the edge and double-crosses the wrong people.

Here is the novel that started it all, launching the cyberpunk generation, and the first novel to win the holy trinity of science fiction: the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award and the Philip K. Dick Award. With Neuromancer, William Gibson introduced the world to cyberspace--and science fiction has never been the same.

Case was the hottest computer cowboy cruising the information superhighway--jacking his consciousness into cyberspace, soaring through tactile lattices of data and logic, rustling encoded secrets for anyone with the money to buy his skills. Then he double-crossed the wrong people, who caught up with him in a big way--and burned the talent out of his brain, micron by micron. Banished from cyberspace, trapped in the meat of his physical body, Case courted death in the high-tech underworld. Until a shadowy conspiracy offered him a second chance--and a cure--for a price

Banished from cyberspace and restricted to life in the physical world, Case hits the skids. But his luck turns when he gets another chance. To take it may cost him his life.

William Gibson is a guru of science fiction in the computer age, and NEUROMANCER is his "cyberpunk" masterpiece.

Couched in the guise of an action-adventure tale, Gibson's landmark novel remains a cutting-edge vision of man and machine in the twenty-first century. Gibson's reading is complex and brilliant; at times it's almost hallucinatory in its insistence, passion and unrelenting irony. Gibson's narration is enhanced by a richly orchestrated score and subtly chosen effects, which bring this futuristic tapestry to life. Set against the vast sea of some future cyberspace, Neuromancer's vision is persuasive, making this a compelling journey for those who want an Orwellian look into our future by a true visionary. 

For Those Who Fell by William C. Dietz (Ace) In a galaxy where alliances shift like sand, the Legion of the Damned is humanity's first line of defense-and often last hope-against its enemies. Now, the acclaimed author of For More Than Glory delivers a gripping new novel of the soldiers-both human and cyborg-who step up when the chips are down...

When faster-than-light technology is discovered in the alien Ramanthians' possession, General William "Bill" Booly III and First Lieutenant Antonio Santana face an epic struggle-on two fronts-to save The Confederacy at any cost.

From Publishers Weekly
Careful plotting and realistically messy detail help lift Dietz's sixth military SF novel (after 2003's For More Than Glory) about the Legion of the Damned, an army of biobod humans, aliens and brain boxes installed in mechanical bodies, which defends the Confederacy of Sentient Beings against any threat. The present enemy, the insectoid Ramanthians, needs more planets to accommodate their queen's billions of eggs. When the Confederacy learns that a Ramanthian research outpost has developed a communications device that could win the war, an expedition sets out to capture the new technology. In particular, a young first lieutenant must lead his troops through the perils of jungle, desert and ambush by psychotic renegades. Meanwhile, a young woman diplomat discovers that one of the Confederacy's alien races is secretly aiding the Ramanthians. Characters attempt to gather information, make political alliances and maneuver skillfully, but often their efforts degenerate into Igroping, murderous frenzy. Dietz expertly jumps from one theater of combat to another, one side to another, to show the opponents planning but then improvising as plans go awry. Even if the novel's action sometimes is as manipulative as a WWF Smackdown, it still gives a genuine adrenaline rush. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division`of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.Bartimaeus Trilogy Book One: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (Miramax) Presenting a thrilling`new voice in children's literature-a witty, gripping adventure story featuring a boy and his not-so-tame djinni. Nathaniel is a young magician's apprentice, taking his first lessons in the arts of magic. But when a devious hotshot wizard named Simon Lovelace ruthlessly humiliates Nathaniel in front of everyone he knows, Nathaniel decides to kick up his education a few notches and show Lovelace who's boss. With revenge`on his mind, he masters one of the toughest spells of all: summoning the all-powerful djinni, Bartimaeus. But summoning Bartimaeus and controlling him are two different things entirely, and when Nathaniel sends the djinni out to steal the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, Nathaniel finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of magical espionage, murder, blackmail, and revolt. Set in a modern-day London spiced with magicians and mayhem, this extraordinary, funny, pitch-perfect thriller will dazzle the myriad fans of Artemis Fowl and the His Dark Materials trilogy. And with the rights sold in more than a dozen countries, and a major motion picture in the works, the Bartimaeus trilogy is on the fast track`to becoming a classic.

Young wizard apprentice Nathaniel has been belittled and held down his entire life. The last straw is being humiliated by the older and much more powerful wizard, Simon Lovelace. He concocts a plan to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Lovelace after he overhears the pains Lovelace took to obtaining it. The lynchpin of his revenge plan, however, rests in summoning Bartimaeus, a middle-brow Djinn to steal the amulet.

Bartimaeus, while hardly pleased at being ordered around by a 12 year old is forced to obey and steals the amulet, setting off a much larger chain of events that Nathaniel could have never predicted.

There's plenty of humor in THE AMULET OF SAMARKAND, courtesy of the Djinn Bartimaeus himself. But this is clearly not a case of good vs. evil as it is w/the Harry Potter series. The reader is given much to suspect that despite the sympathy the reader can feel for Nathaniel and his rough childhood, there is much to suggest he is hardly what you would label as "good."

I'm eagerly awaiting the next installments to see which side of the fence Nathaniel falls on. The crux of this series lies in the love/hate relationship Nathaniel and Bartimaeus have and by god is it ever entertaining to read. Highly recommended for anyone who is not looking for a simple good vs. evil story.

Eragon (Inheritance, Book 1) by Christopher Paolini (Knopf) One boy; One dragon; A world of adventure

When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself. Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king`whose evil knows no bounds. Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands...

This book is really good! Readers will find themselves entwined in Eragon's wonderful tale. And I have to give the the author 5 stars for typos... I didn't see a single one in his book. Unfourtanely that seems to be the only thing his editor can do. Some of the transitions are very rough. And his adjectives seem to be clumpy instead of subtley slipped in. The storyline however was pretty good, although it could be improved. But throughout the book it never really occurs to the reader whether Eragon will survive. Of course he will. And also the writer did not throw big problems at Eragon. Eragon has minor problems of which he never can really solve on his own and therefore gets out of them without exercising his own power. The end dramatic scene is a little hasty and could be much better. Overall the book is good/ok but when you finish it will seem like you have known some of the characters before. And that is because you have. Anyone who has read Lord of the Rings will see the obvious connections within the book Eragon, (they are not even subtle). Here are some of the mysterious simularities between the two.

Eragon-Hmm... doesn't it sound mysteriously like Aragorn. And guess what? Eragon is in love with an elf like ... Arwen except her name is Arya.
Urgals/Kulls-Urgals, Orcs what is the difference. both are short thicklegged evil black creatures. Kulls, Uruk-Hai wow! Both are taller stronger versions than the Urgals, Orcs.
Dwarves- Short, wear chain mail, miners, long beards, axes, retreated into caves after the evil king took over need I go on?
Elves- Fair, tall, wonderful with bows and swords, came on ships to the Empire, joined humans against the evil people for one last glorious defeat before retreating, ride horses, wise, strong... I think you get the point.
The Dark Gate- The black gate of Mordor... really.
The Thirteen Forsworn- Whoa! These guys are almost exactly like the nine riders. Joined the evil guy for power, were terrorifying, used to be good...Riders and wait a sec didn't the nine riders used to be good kings. Just too weird!
There is more too. But overall I give the book three stars because it is actually good and I know it is hard to come up with new ideas.

The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl, Book 3) by Eoin Colfer |/a> (Miramax) Artemis Fowl is going straight—as soon as he pulls off the most brilliant criminal feat of his career...

After being held prisoner`for five years, Artemis Fowl's father has finally come home. He's a new man—an honest man, much to Artemis's horror. He makes his son promise to give up his life of crime, and Artemis has to go along with it. But not until he has completed one last scheme.

Artemis has constructed a super-computer from stolen fairy technology. Called the "C Cube," it will render all existing human technology obsolete. He arranges a meeting with a powerful Chicago businessman, Jon Spiro, to broker a deal for the C Cube. But Spiro springs a trap—he steals the C Cube and mortally injures Butler . Artemis knows his only hope of saving his loyal bodyguard is to employ fairy magic; so once again he must contact his old rival, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon fairy police.

It is going to take a miracle to save Butler , and Artemis's luck may have just run out...

There's no escaping it, Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code is a gripping, lightning-fast read. If you are a fan of the previous two books in this series, you'll definitely want to give it a try. This time child criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl's master creation - a tiny computer based on the fairy technology he stole in the last book - is hijacked by a Chicago mobster, Jon Spiro. Artemis teams up with the fairies to get it back.

Because "Eternity Code" revolves around Artemis vs. evil human adults more than Artemis vs. fairies, we lose some of the entertaining and creative descriptions of the Fairies' underground universe. The only fairy creatures who play much of a part in the action are Holly Short and Mulch Diggums. What's more, the human-vs-human violence is really R-rated: loyal bodyguard Butler gets a mortal gunshot wound to the chest in the first chapter (how will he survive?), and Spiro's henchman are constantly choking and destroying (or attempting to destroy) other characters.

It's an extremely well-plotted book. You won't be able to put it down. Still, as a reader and as a parent, I would have preferred more of the fairies and less of the mobsters.

Batman Collected by Chip Kidd, photography by Geoff Spear (Watson-Guptill) When the DC Comics character Batman got his own television series in 1966, Batman merchandising took off. A market was developed not only for little Caped Crusader suits and toy Batmobiles, but for Batman kiddie blankets, Batman nursery wallpaper, and so on down a slippery slope of mostly plastic kitsch to Batman combs, pogo sticks and tortilla chips. With Tim Burton's 1990s movie blockbusters, Hollywood marketing spin revived the genre. Book designer Chip Kidd, whose earliest memory of this commerce-driven Batman fetish is a nightlight that soothed his four-year-old mind, has actually collected vast quantities of such junk, and has put it all together in a catalog of shameless pop culture. Artfully photographed by Geoff Spear, this document casts light upon a dark and awesome figure—advertising.

Fantasy of the 20th Century: An Illustrated History by Randy Broecker (Collectors Press) Our most death-defying adventures and wildest flights of imagination—the stuff such as dreams are made of—this is the realm of fantasy. And ever since ancestral storytellers created myths of monsters, lost worlds, dragons, and heroes, fantastical tales have transported us to these magical places beyond. William Morris, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Robert E. Howard are just a few examples of writers who sailed off the edge of their known worlds into those of their own creation.

In these beautifully illustrated pages, you will read of voyages launched by these celebrated commanders of the genre and more. Randy Broecker reveals how the fantasy story evolved over the centuries into the entertainment found in today’s books, comics, and films. Collectors, aficionados, and readers of the genre will be amazed by the breadth of Broecker’s history, and eager to make it part of their library.

Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters by H. P. Lovecraft, edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz (Ohio University Press) (Paperback) succeeds, for the most part, because the editors are careful to give readers a context for the letters. Lovecraft represents an important development in popular madernist horror fiction. His quirky personality and reclusive ways as well as his nasty opinions are well portrayed her through the notes of the editors.  In one letter, they explain, Lovecraft waxes philosophic about marriage especially revealing in light of his virtual abandonment of his wife three years previously. There is always the danger of lack of balance in allowing an author’s posthumous words to speak for him; fortunately, that does not seem to be the case here. Lovecraft’s foibles (his racism and anti-Semitism, for example) are openly acknowledged, and some new and interesting facts are revealed, particularly regarding his state of mind when writing to other authors. Tracing not only Lovecraft’s life but his work is a daunting task, and the editors have done a commendable job

The Wind Singer (The Wind on Fire, Book 1) Slaves of the Mastery (The Wind on Fire, Book 2) Firesong (The Wind on Fire, 3) by William Nicholson (Hyperion Press) A prominent producer/director/ scriptwriter ventures into epic-or at least epic length-fantasy with this tale of three children out to save the regimented residents of their walled city. Over generations since the small silver "voice" of a mysterious aeolian pipe organ known as the wind singer was meekly surrendered to the Morah, a menacing spirit-lord, Aramanth has become enslaved by a relentless ethic of academic self-improvement, enforced by color-coded social strata and regular, supervised, written examinations. When the misfit Hath family draws the eye, and ire, of the Chief Examiner, twins Kestrel and Bowman set out to reclaim the wind singer's voice, accompanied by a despised, simpleminded classmate. After an episodic series of encounters-including hordes of giant eagles and wolves, and finally with the Zar, an army of murderous zombies that marches at the Morah's behest-the three do give the wind singer back its ethereal voice, whereupon the pursuing Zar all die and the citizens of Aramanth spontaneously throw off their oppressive urge to excel. Nicholson throws a satiric light onto his various societies, gives his young protagonists intriguing capabilities, and concocts genuinely bone-chilling supernatural menaces. However, rescue (usually of a contrived sort) is always so conveniently close at hand that the children never fall into convincing peril, and subplots seem to exist for the sole purpose of giving their parents something to do. Still the story stands alone, and readers will enjoy the social commentary.

In Slaves of the Mastery, a masterful sequel to The Wind Singer. The city of Aramanth, having experienced five years of peace, is attacked and its people, including Bowman Hath and his family, are taken as slaves to the city of the Mastery. The 15-year-old's twin sister Kestrel is separated from them, but eventually meets up with Bowman, and they use a combination of magic and cunning to overthrow the Master. Political intrigue, magical power, and quiet humor will keep the pages turning as readers follow the adventures of the heroic twins, but at the heart of this tale is an exploration of slavery, freedom, and destiny. Bowman's struggle to convince his people, who are well treated and content, that slavery is inherently evil is truly chilling, while his sibling's dealings with the desire, greed, and na‹vet‚ of Very Important People can be hilarious. Every character, from sensible Kestrel to the larger-than-life Master to a cat that is determined to fly, is compelling and full of life.

This concluding volume of the trilogy, Firesong features fast-paced action, poetic language, and carefully constructed characters. The first half of the book describes the journey of twins Bowman and Kestrel, their family, and the remnants of the Manth people to their ancestral homeland. They face an attack by bandits, who take Kestrel and other young women captive; a "passion fly" that brings out the hidden sides of people's natures; and a valley in which happiness is the greatest danger of all. As the time of "the wind on fire" begins, the focus shifts to Bowman's preparation for what he thinks will be his role in moving the world from cruelty and danger to the time of kindness. The twins' relationships with one another and with other characters give emotional depth to the action and Nicholson's sure use of detail gives even minor characters clear personalities and a role in exploring the book's themes.

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