Scanning Mummies… That’s new

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To be honest, I requested Egyptian Enigma from NetGalley on a whim. I like mysteries and I like Ancient Egypt, so this sounded interesting, and the cover was cool. I guess I was thinking I’d be getting something like the Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters (who is much missed).

I did not get what I was expecting, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead of a historical setting, like Amelia Peabody, it’s actually set in the now, with all the technology that goes with a contemporary setting. I also didn’t realize that this was the third book in a series, but while it clearly builds on previous books in the evolving relationships between characters, it does a good job of establishing the people in the story and their backgrounds.

The book starts off with Elizabeth Pimms and her net friend (but not lover, despite my expectations when he was introduced) Henry vacationing in Egypt. Elizabeth is an archaeologist and librarian whose career got side-tracked by her father’s death (presumably in book one), pulling her back to Australia to help support her family. They’re having a great trip, other than an incident with a thief breaking into Elizabeth’s hotel room to steal… a journal?

From that opening, Elizabeth returns home to Australia where she works in a library, is revising academic papers based on her first two mysteries, and is running her first tutoring session at the university. She’s dealing with getting her archaeology career back on track, and dealing with a crazy family that includes a Welsh grandfather, a French grandmere, and a Chinese grandmother, as well as a recently discovered illegitimate half-sister who is still adjusting to the family.

Having been fascinated by an exhibit on The Golden Tomb in Egypt, she gets together with friends (Rhoz, Nathan, Llew, and Henry via Skype) to see if they can’t figure out whose tomb it is. The surprising method used involves 3D printing of the scans of skeletons for all of the mummies found in the tomb, and using physical commonalities to try to pin the relationship between the mummies, and to other known mummies, looking for familial traits, as well as to figure out who was the right size to be in the sarcophagus.

Between scientific investigations and family drama, there is also historical chapters, actually detailing who the people in the tomb are, and how they ended up there.

My only big objection to the book was that it ended on a cliffhanger that was so abrupt that I thought maybe my copy was missing a couple of chapters, but a quick check found other people commenting on the cliffhanger as well.

Still, it was good enough that I have bought the first two books in the series, and I definitely plan to buy the fourth book when it comes out to find out why a body was found in the library with the journal that was stolen in Egypt. A solid, and fun, read.

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The Game is Afoot (again and again and again)

39078951Ah, Sherlock Holmes. The little black dress of mystery books.

For those who are unfamiliar with fanfiction, ‘little black dress’ is a term that refers to a fandom where either the characters can be translated into a variety of scenarios, or a scenario that can be applied to any number of fandoms (the scenario of the television show The Sentinel from the 90s continues to be applied to all sorts of fandoms and characters from other shows, and the next round of Rough Trade next month is going to be a Sentinel one. It’s being applied to everything from Harry Potter to The Avengers to Star Trek, and a lot of weird choices in between).

Sherlock Holmes is a concept that has been translated in all sorts of ways, mainly by moving the characters to different environments. The most recent examples are the BBC Sherlock, and CBS’s Elementary. Both take the characters and move them to contemporary times, one of them also doing a gender switch on Dr Watson. I did find it ironic that for the show Sherlock, they didn’t even have to change Watson’s background; he is still a military doctor injured in Afghanistan.

And here comes Baker Street Irregulars: The Game is Afoot, a collection that makes me want to run out and buy the first one.

This collection delightfully takes Holmes and Watson into all sorts of directions. There’s the SF stories, the fantasy stories, the contemporary stories, and the historical stories. Want to see Holmes go to the other side as a killer? You’re covered. Want to see them as coffee shop owners in Australia (yes, rather specific)? It’s there. Want a Sherlock who *knows* he’s a fictional character? You’ve got it. Female versions of both characters are there. Or Sherlock and Watson as home AIs? Yep.

There’s even a story where they are married, as members of an alien race that have no gender until they want to procreate, and are fighting a Moriarty who is from a shape-shifting race.

When I look back, I can’t think of a single story that disappointed me. I highly recommend this collection to any Holmes fans.

Travelling the Silk Road… or not

35576093I’ve been reading more and more non-fiction lately, and current affairs is an area where I am trying to expand my knowledge, so when I saw this book on NetGalley, I put in my request immediately, and was happy to get a change to read it.

Still, The Return of Marco Polo’s World was a book I felt a little conflicted by.

First off, the essays that made up the middle of the book, originally published in The Atlantic, are based around a number of subjects. There are articles about various thinkers and advisers who tried to guide US foreign policy in a very pragmatic direction. Following high morals just does not work, since what works in North America and Europe isn’t necessarily going to work in other parts of the work, and trying to force Western-style democracy on the middle east or Asia is likely to cause even more chaos than is already there. The author, and the subjects of his essays, push a more pragmatic stance of looking at possible interventions and making choices based on whether it will be good for the security of the US, not whether it is the ‘moral’ thing to do.

The essays on the morass of the middle-east follow similar thought paths — only step in if it will, in some way, make things better for the US. And I am not foolish enough to claim that what is good for the US is not good for Canada.

It’s a somewhat cynical, and very pragmatic, look at foreign policy, and where its focus should be. As someone who is pretty left-wing (in a country that is also very left-wing), I found myself heavily agreeing with him there. I’m left-wing at home, but feel that we should let other countries work out their problems. Provide aid where they need it, but not try to police them. Iraq under Hussein was not good, but is it really any better now? Or further back, the US interfered in Afghanistan in the cold war days, and while they knocked the USSR out of the country, the result was the Taliban, and later Al-Qaeda, filling the power vacuum when the US declared job done and walked away.

Unfortunately, the opening and closing pieces, written (or heavily revised) for the book are less successful. The opening attempts to tie Marco Polo’s era into the present, travelling along the corridor that China wants to develop with high-speed travel as a modern version of the Silk Road. To be honest, that piece dragged, and the sentence structure was so tortured that I had to keep rereading paragraphs to make sure of what he was saying. As well, he periodically threw in words that I had to look up. I consider myself well-read with a large vocabulary, but in several places I came across words that I couldn’t even figure out from the context. Thankfully, my Kobo has a word lookup dictionary.

The closing piece, on China, was shorter, but again went for the overdone language. It made me wish that those two pieces had the same editor(s) as the magazine essays.

In the end, the book’s contents had little to do with the title, although the subtitle was a more clear description of the contents. I just wished that it had been billed more as an essay collection than trying to force in a theme that only really showed up in the opening that was, to me, superfluous.

But looking at only the magazine essays, this is a book well worth reading.

Zero Limit

33865901Back when I was in grade school I started to focus on Science Fiction and Fantasy as my main reading. Don’t get me wrong, I read a lot of other things (back in the days when I was easily reading 100 pages a day), but those were the books I went to first. One of the books that got me hooked back then was Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein. I found his adult novels to be trying too hard to prove how sexually liberated he was (lots of incest, but when a man wanted a relationship with another man, the only thing to do was have gender change, which still annoys me).

But his juveniles were wonderful. People get in trouble, and use science to get out of it. This gave me a taste for hard science fiction books.

Zero Limit, by Jeremy K Brown, while not hugely innovative, scratched that itch. It has a touch of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, crossed with the movie Armageddon, and a dash of modern politics.

The set up is a time where there is a moon colony. The current president of the US got voted in on a wave of anti-Moon sentiment (they come and take your jobs!!!). After election, he deports all moon-born people back to the moon, and refuses to let anyone leave the moon (which seems to imply the only people on the moon came from the US, and all travel to and from the moon goes through the US, otherwise how can he do that? It’s never quite fully explained).

Caitlin Taggart is caught in the middle. She’s moon-born, but her family returned to Earth when she was young. She was a war hero from time in the military, fighting in the Middle East, and she married (then divorced) and has a young daughter. She returned to the moon briefly to deal with her mother’s estate, and ends up trapped there by the presidential orders, with her daughter back on Earth with her no-good father. Caitlin makes ends meet as a miner, while trying to get back to Earth. She’s approached by the son of a Senator for a risky, not to mention illegal, plan to mine an asteroid with a platinum core. He even claims that he can get her back to Earth legally if she does this. She turns him down initially, but her ex gets tossed in jail, and with the threat of her daughter going into the foster system, she says yes, and her team goes with her.

Of course the equipment is rickety, and pretty much as soon as they reach the asteroid, things go horribly wrong, and not only are they stranded, the asteroid is now headed straight towards Earth, and the president wants to use a super-duper giant nuke to destroy it. And them.

Other than Caitlin, the rest of the characters are only just barely sketched out. The way one behaves at the end just didn’t entirely make sense to me. But still, the whole ‘how can we deflect the asteroid just enough to save the planet and everyone on it’ element made it a fun read. I actually have one of his other books in my Kindle account, so I look forward to seeing what else he can do.

Basically, a fun, but mostly fluff, read.

I feel the Earth move under my feet…

35889227Everyone has their guilty pleasures. Romances, westerns, and the like. For me, it’s disaster novels. The type that get turned into cheesy movies, like Armageddon, San Andreas (which combined a movie I loved, a movie I liked, and a movie I hated. Seriously, I would have loved the movie if it was all about the scientist and the reporter, trying to warn people in time to save themselves, with a touch of the girl and the two brothers. Drop Dwayne Johnson’s plot out the window, please).

So based on that love, I had high hopes for Wave of Terror when I saw it on NetGalley. I’ve heard of the La Palma earthquake danger before going in, and the idea of terrorists trying to cause a tsunami-causing earthquake had a lot of potential.

But the characters, and the story were very disappointing. The astronomer who figures it out jumps to conclusions and runs to the CIA way too fast to be believable. And towards the end, she magically gains a lot of geology knowledge that made no sense. And the romantic interest/government agent was ridiculously fast to run out on his FBI job without permission to find her after reading her packet of information that everyone dismisses because they say she is an ‘astrologer’.

By the time I reached the 1/3 mark, I was skim reading, waiting for the disaster promised by the title/cover/description. By the time I reached the 2/3 mark, I realized that there was going to be no disaster (other than the book itself). Still, I was far enough that I felt committed to finishing the book.

In the end, I felt that the story idea had a lot of potential, but the characters killed it. And the cover, with the giant wave dwarfing the Statue of Liberty made promises that were never fulfilled. It left me disinclined to reading any of the other books by the author.

33100392For a disaster novel that follows through better on its promise, I would recommend Rogue Wave, by Boyd Morrison instead.

After that, to indulge my love of disaster stories, I switched over to reading The Great Quake: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet by Henry Fountain, about the 1964 Good Friday quake in Alaska that caused massive destruction, and brought the science world into (mostly) full acceptance of the idea of plate tectonics and continental drift.

Did you know that well into the twentieth century, the prevailing theory of earthquakes and mountain formation was that the Earth was cooling and as it did, the surface cracked and pushed up, forming mountains? It sounds crazy now, but at the end of the nineteenth century, people said the same thing about the idea that the solid surface of the planet was actual plates moving around.

The 1964 quake caused a tsunami that killed people as far away as California. Nearly all of Alaska’s infrastructure (roads and railways) were destroyed. The only reason that the death-toll was relatively low (just over 100) is because Alaska was so sparsely populated.

The book jumps around a fair bit, covering the people who originally pushed the idea of continental drift, the man who was part of the team surveying the damage caused by the quake and figuring out what happened. There’s a lot of Alaskan history, and the story of the small town that suffered the worst losses, mainly through the eyes of the young teacher in the one-room schoolhouse that was the only structure to survive the wave. The stories of the people who died and who survived were heartbreaking.

The story was fascinating, and the people who appear for only a few pages were better formed than the main characters in Wave of Terror, and not just because they are the stories of real people. If Jefferson had been able to put as much life into his characters, I would have forgiven the lack of actual wave.

End of winter poetry reading

20829968Last year I started actively reading poetry, in a way I haven’t since I was in my high school English class. I’d read a number of poetry book in the decades (oh dear lord, has it really been decades) since then, discovering Rumi and Mary Oliver, the last year and a bit has led me to other poets, some of which I have liked, and some did absolutely nothing for me (There’s a collection that has been on bestseller lists for a long time that I found mostly annoying).

BL Bruce’s award winning first collection, The Weight of Snow, was definitely a book I liked. The poems, for the most part, seem to occupy the border between wild lands and inhabited lands. It is very nature based, leaving an impression of winter along with late fall and early spring. You know, wet and muddy, and grey. Not all the poems fit into that season, so maybe I’m influenced by the title and the current season (in Ottawa, we are expecting snow and ice and rain this weekend, even though it is mid-April)

It also deals a lot with love, but similarly, it leaves a heavy impression of a love whose days are numbered. I don’t know what the author’s personal relationships were like, but the poems left me with a feel of two women living with the knowledge that despite their love, the relationship is crumbling around the edges.

The feeling I was left with at the end was a soft melancholy. Not the depressing type, but the melancholy that leaves you embracing flashes of blue sky because it is so intensely blue, and who knows what the sky will be like tomorrow.

Trying to understand the right

36354146As part of my reading goals for the year, I added an additional goal of trying to understand people I fundamentally disagree with. I started by listening to the audiobook version of Anne Coulter’s In Trump We Trust, which just left me wanting to throttle her (Note: she narrates her own book). Mind you, I will freely admit to being pretty darned lefty, even for a Canadian, and my two best friends are an Argentinian and an Indian (Asian, that is) who both immigrated to Canada as children and became citizens, so Coulter’s constant arguments about immigrants (both those who came through legal means and illegal means) being the root of everything bad in the US made me wonder about her sanity.

A better choice for reading was Everything You Love Will Burn, by Vegas Tenold. The author is a journalist, born in raised in Norway, so his point of view was easier to get into. He decided to look into the state of white nationalist organisations. He started long before Trump was even being talked about as a candidate for the 2016 presidential race. His way in was a then fairly minor nationalist, Matthew Heimbach, who helped him with contacting other groups, always openly as a journalist trying to understand them. Heimbach has grown in prominence over the years, as Tenold followed him around from time to time.

He also gets into the history of white supremacist organisations, such as the KKK, and looks at modern variations of the KKK and skinheads and neo-nazis, and other organisations that run the gamut from get rid of non-whites in… permanent ways, to whites should control everything, and finally calling for the complete separation of the races into different countries (much like the post-civil war push to get freed slave to chose to go back to Africa, resulting in the country Liberia).

Heimbach falls into the last category. He doesn’t spout white supremacy, but he thinks that whites should have their own nation, while the other races should be somewhere else (where isn’t really defined). He actually comes across as a pretty easy going kind of guy. Reasonable, at least until he decides to start talking about why the Holocaust couldn’t possibly have happened.

One thing that really stands out in the book is the comparison of the difference from the white supremacists and nationalist organization of the early to mid-twentieth century, which was their heyday, to where they are today. Today, by the end of the book, seemed pretty… sad. And pathetic. Despite the events in Charlottesville, where a woman was killed, and Trump refused to denounce the alt-right protesters whose actions led to her death, it appears that white nationalists have trouble getting any real numbers showing up for protests, and the ones who usually do show up are ones that just wanted a fight.

Basically, my takeaway from the book was that despite the occasional resurgence from people like Matthew Heimbach and Richard Spence, these organizations seem to be slowly fading away, since that majority of the generation coming up don’t agree with their attitudes.

And even those new faces of the movement are running into problems. Richard Spencer thinks that antifa makes college appearances no fun, and he can’t find a lawyer for a suit brought against him over the Charlottesville incident. And Matthew Heimbach was recently arrested for domestic violence, after a fight with the co-founder of his organisation over Heimbach’s affair with the man’s wife, which turned into an attack on his own wife.

If these people are the future of white nationalism, I would expect to see them continue to fade.

 

 

The Return of Captain Nemo

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Nemo Rising popped up at me on NetGalley, since I’ve seen various versions of Nemo and the Nautilus through the years, and I thought a new version of a sequel focused on the US would be interesting. This one turned out to be a double-dose of Verne, although I didn’t realize it when I was reading that it was a cross-over with another Verne anti-hero. When the villain revealed his real name, I had the feeling that I should know who he was, but it wasn’t until the author’s notes at the end that I figured out who he was. Mind you, he comes from some of Verne’s lesser known works. Seriously, everyone knows 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Those three in particular have been adapted for film and television many times over the years.

But Robur the Conqueror? That was one I’d never heard of.

Basic plot of the book is that strange sea creatures are attacking ships in the Atlantic, and the world is blaming the US, recently out of their civil war. President Ulysses S Grant finally decides to go with a dangerous plan to prove that his country is not behind the attacks: Nemo is in a US prison, and his aide’s daughter has been repairing the Nautilus. They release Nemo from prison, and with the daughter, Sarah, as part of the crew, they send Nemo to find out who is behind the attacks, and prove the US innocent.

While Nemo and a possibly not very loyal crew head out to fulfill their side of the bargain, with Sarah tasked with killing Nemo if he strays, Grant and Duncan (Sarah’s father) work the diplomatic side, despite sabotage and assassination attempts.

From the description, you might expect a book full of action and thrills, and I had high hopes, but unfortunately the end product didn’t entirely deliver. There was action, and there was thrills in places, but the events were so muddled that I had trouble figuring out the overall plot. The ideas were great, but the end result was a bit of a muddled mess.

I might recommend this to a Jules Verne enthusiast, but definitely not to the general reader with only a vague knowledge of the man’s writings.

On the other hand, I might take a look at Robur the Conqueror, if I can find a copy.

When guilty pleasures disappoint

36262498I have a weakness for monster stories. They are a guilty pleasure of mine. For example, I went (by myself) to see Godzilla in the theatre. Come on, giant monsters stomping cities? Definitely a fun couple of hours, despite the plot holes, because I really like the characters.

So, when I saw Arachnosaur on NetGalley, I thought that would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, some guilty pleasures turn out not to be pleasures, and this was one of those.

Basically, two soldiers are the only survivors in an attempt to take out a terrorist group in the middle east. They are recruited to figure out how the terrorist group became so dangerous, especially since the senior survivor swears he saw another soldier blow up from the inside out.

The answer, of course, is giant primordial spiders found by the terrorists, who are trying to turn the effects of the spider webs (that’s what makes people go boom) into a weapon that they apparently want to sell for reasons never stated.

Along the way, the two soldiers pick up a pilot named ‘Speedy’ Gonzales, a doctor who is both female and Arab (and can whip up a serum that does something pretty ridiculous to save the lead at the end), a prostitute who name keeps changing from Lailani to Leilani and back (sloppy editing there). There’s also a captain who is a good guy but turns into an antagonist later, and a retired general who recruits them in the end for a ‘we fight the monsters no one believes in’ type organization. (preview chapters from the sequel appear at the end of the book)

I could have taken the plot falling apart and the ridiculous science at the end if the characters were likeable, but unfortunately, Daniels made me want to throw my ereader at a wall. He’s crude and sex-obsessed, likes to sleep with lots of prostitutes around the world (not sure why he isn’t in palliative care from all the STIs he must have), and his idea of good sex is being a jackhammer (seriously, no foreplay at all?). He also uses drugged condoms to take out a woman twice in the books (seriously?).

Then there’s the prostitute whose name keeps changing spelling. Supposedly, she finds Daniels’ confidence appealing, and his jackhammer imitation to be good. When the whorehouse is attacked (for no apparent reason), she jumps on his back, and he just runs around with her, and when confronting attackers without a weapon of his own, he plucks her off his back and throws her at the attacker like an angry cat. Sigh. And after that, she comes with them and helps? Oh yeah, and it turns out that one of her jobs is going to Abu Dhabi and working as a dominatrix. I kid you not.

Add all of this to soldiers in the middle east who have never heard of The Empty Quarter (hell, even *I* know what that is, at least in general).

Finally, the climactic scene had me going ‘ew’, and not in a good way.

All in all, I really can’t recommend this book to just about anybody. And yet, the preview chapters for the next book in the series kind of appealed. But only if there’s nothing better to read at the time.

Space Janitors can be Bad-Ass

31363503Jim C Hines strikes me as a very funny guy. Even if you haven’t read his books, you might have heard of his game, a few years back, where he reproduced the back-breaking poses from the covers of popular paranormal romances (making the point that men on covers have reasonable poses, while women are put into poses that implies they are contortionists — apparently his chiropractor got a lot of business out of the exercise).

His novels are often just as tongue in cheek. For example, his Princess series take fairy tale princesses, and puts them together as action heroines.

Terminal Alliance, the first book in the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse trilogy, does a similar thing of taking a ridiculous concept, and then puts it in a serious scenario. It’s hard to take it too serious, and yet the plot gets very much so.

In this world, Earth was infected with a virus that turned humans into feral animals. Not zombies, but maybe a 28 Days Later sort of effect. Amazingly, they still survived until the kindly Krakau came by. They came up with a cure, and start restoring a number of humans at a time. Those humans are strong, near impossible to kill, and have no memories. Of course they go to work for the Krakau.

Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos is the head janitor on the Pufferfish, an Earth Mercenary Corps ship commanded by a bridge crew of Krakau. When coming to the rescue of another ship, a new virus infects the Pufferfish, reverting to the human members of the crew to feral state. The command crew is dead, and the only unaffected humans are Mops and her team, who were in suits at the time for a repair.

Along with Doc, an AI, they get control of the ship and call the Krakau for help. Unfortunately, the Krakau plan to ‘put down’ the affected crew. Not willing to accept that, Mops and her team take the Pufferfish on a hunt to find the aliens who created this new virus, and find a cure for their fellow crew, despite being instantly named as rogues with a price on their head. And along the way, find out the truth of what originally infected their planet.

The universe is an interesting one, populated by relatable aliens, and others that are so alien that they can barely be understood. The various characters are engaging, including the extremely competent Mops, the gleefully violent Wolf, Monroe with his glitchy mechanical eye, the sarcastic AI Doc (who is part of a monocle that Mops wears), the very juvenile alien Azure, the sympathetic Krakau Admiral.

And while the world and the plot are very serious, I giggled my way through large parts of the book. The humour was perfectly balanced for my taste. It will be interesting to see what happens in the second part of the trilogy.

Life on the Moon isn’t as glamorous as you might think

34928122Second novels can be tricky, especially when the first novel was a hit. People who loved the first book expect the second to be just as good, but where the author might have had years to refine their first novel, they often get a contract that gives them a lot less time to finish the second.

When The Martian – Andy Weir’s wildly successful first novel, which was originally self-published – came out, I read it and loved it. I gave my father a copy for his Christmas book (everyone on my Christmas list gets a book as part of their gift), and he loved it. We saw the movie together in the theatres and really enjoyed it (even if they did throw out a good portion of the second half of the novel).

As a result, I approached Artemis with a lot of trepidation. There was no way it was going to measure up to The Martian, but I hoped that it would still be a good read.

Thankfully, it was.

Artemis takes place on the first city on the moon, where the locals live in cramped spaces (for the most part), and tourism is a large part of the economy, as the rich and powerful come to see where Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon.

Jazz moved to the moon with her father, a welder, when she was a child. Now estranged, she works as a runner, and as a smuggler. She’s trying to earn a very set amount of money that we don’t find out the reason for that amount until nearly the end of the story. Among other things, she smuggles contraband combustables (ie, cigars) for a businessman who moved to the moon to make things easier for his disabled daughter.

But then her client hires her to sabotage a business rival, offering an insane amount of money. But of course things go wrong, and Jazz finds herself on the run from the organized crime backers of the rival. She feels she has no choice but to to try to follow through on her promise.

The plot moved along nicely, and I enjoyed the planning and the action, but unfortunately the characters didn’t work as well as they could have. It seemed like Weir was checking off the diversity list. The main character is an Arab woman whose father is a devout Muslim. The on-Earth smuggling partner is in Africa, and presumabley black. Jazz has to work with a male former friend who stole her boyfriend. Another ally is the awkward geek. The cop is actually a former Mountie (who should not still be wearing the uniform). The bad guys are Brazilian. The city administrator is Kenyan. The daughter of the employer is in a wheelchair. After all that, you basically have a full Bingo card.

Still, Jazz was likeable, and you definitely get the feel that she had a life before and after the novel.

So, while Artemis is nowhere near as successful as The Martian, I would recommend it to fans of hard sf. I just don’t think it was be as big a breakout as The Martian was, outside of the SF fandom.

10336726You know that game about who would you like to go to a dinner party with, alive or dead? I think Tom Harpur has just jumped to the top of my list.

I’ve only read one book by Tom Harpur in the past; his best seller, The Pagan Christ, since the subject matter intrigued me. After reading Born Again, I definitely will have to read more of his work.

Harpur is a very interesting person. A Canadian of Irish descent (although Protestant instead of Catholic), he group up with deeply devout parents. His father had his life planned out for him — religious studies, become a priest, get a doctorate in theology, become a professor. At first, Harpur followed his path, but eventually (primarily after his father’s death), he started to deviate. He lost his belief in the bible as historical fact (while still embracing it as myth with great lessons to teach). His time as a Rhodes Scholar (like other accomplished people, including Bill Clinton) clearly led him to the tools to examine church teachings, rather than just accepting it without questioning.

He eventually moved from ministry to journalism, which let him travel the world and learn about other faiths through his reporting as a religious journalist. His first marriage dissolved, and then he married his second wife. Eventually he was pointed at the writings of Alvin Boyd Kuhn (who I will have to look into), which headed him down the road to writing The Pagan Christ, the controversial best seller that goes into the theory that Christ was a myth, adapted from the myths of other civilisations, and not a historical person that can be verified.

Finally, he covers the a bit of the aftermath of that book. Needless to say, there was a lot of aftermath, since a large part of the Christian faith is invested in the concept of Jesus as an actual person, while he argues that Jesus is a myth, and no less valuable for it.

The progression from devout christian following his father’s plan for him through to religious rebel without ever really losing his faith (it just evolves) was fascinating, and told in a conversational tone that draws you in. I will admit to being well disposed towards his arguments, so I’m not sure what one of those Christ as history people would think of this book, but even if I completely disagreed with him, I think I would still find him a fascinating person.

Unfortunately, Tom Harpur died earlier this year (2017) at the age of 87, so other than that mythical dinner party, I won’t ever get the chance to meet him in person.

A pity.