Writing Prompt #118

While the comedienne had been on guard for jeers and catcalls, she was ill prepared for what awaited her onstage.

 

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Book Review: Last God Standing by Michael Boatman

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Last God Standing, by Michael Boatman, tells the story of Lando Calrissian Cooper (yes, really), the former Abrahamic God Yahweh, who has given up his divinity to become completely human. And a stand-up comedian. He’s got crazy parents and a beautiful girlfriend, and his best friend is his agent. Things would be going so well for him if only the other defunct gods would leave him alone. Instead, he’s constantly attacked and forced to defend himself and the innocent humans around him.

I really wanted to like this book. I’m a mythology buff by nature with a penchant for goofy humor, so I assumed the story would be just my thing. That’s what made the first hundred (of roughly 300) pages so painful to read. He uses many stereotypes to insult political affiliations, religious beliefs, and different ethnicities. I kept thinking that it was satirical, but I still found his writing both offensive and distinctly unfunny.

His humor is over-the-top silly, and considering the main character is a comedian, that is not a good thing. There is even some racist language, on top of the fat jokes, slut jokes, and political jokes. Actually, the political jokes would have been fine if they had been intelligent, instead of just painting extremes for the sole purpose of mocking them.

I didn’t think Lando, aka the former God of Abraham, Yahweh, acted like… well, anything at all like a former God. He wasn’t wise or insightful and didn’t resemble Himself from the Bible. Perhaps one of the other Abrahamic religions might find his character more consistent, but I’m not familiar enough with them to make that judgement. Basically, the humanized Yahweh was just an idiotic young man seeking a career in comedy.

The author’s political and social views, as reflected in the character of Lando, are painfully obvious and, at times, a bit preachy. Since the character’s personality is so contrary to popular, religious interpretation, I kept expecting an explanation for the difference, and I waited for one for a very long time.

But after those first hundred pages, something happens. Characters start making intelligent observations about the world they live in and asking questions without obvious answers. I began to overlook the flaws and enjoy the humor I found so annoying in the beginning. I couldn’t say I loved it yet, but I was hooked and cared about the characters, even the annoying ones.  Heck, ESPECIALLY the annoying ones.

Soon enough the conflicts escalate with worlds in the balance. The pages weren’t turning quick enough. What I had thought, from its unpromising beginning, would be a terrible book I had to slog through to write a review turned into an insightful and intelligent comedy of divine proportions. As much as I hated the beginning of this novel, by its conclusion I loved it.

I hope there’s a sequel.

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Writing Prompt #117

 

The cheerfully dismal Autumn colors reflected her mood.

 

 

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Book Review: The Enceladus Crisis: Book Two of the Daedalus Series by Michael J. Martinez

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The Enceladus Crisis: Book Two of the Daedalus Series by Michael J. Martinez is the tale of two dimensions haunted by the threat of dead martians coming back to attack their living enemies. The book begins with the defeat of the Martian warlord, Althotas, and the indication of his possible return from death. The two dimensions take place simultaneously, yet oddly years apart. One takes place about 150 years in the future of a universe like our own. Astronauts travel to Saturn and its moons by using technology; there are no other humanoid lifeforms in this timeline. However, in the alternate past dimension, it is the year 1798 and sailors travel the ‘Void’ in wooden ships by alchemical means. Alien life in that solar system is prolific. In both universes, things begin to go awry for travelers to Saturn’s moons, and the contrasts and similarities make for an interesting story.

In both dimensions, Egyptian history and mythology are given a science-fiction twist, with alternate explanations for ancient gods and goddesses. The Emerald Tablet and the Book of the Dead also feature heavily in the plot. Rich backstories are revealed for the characters, endearing the heroes and showing villains which – though not exactly likable – have panache. I genuinely cared about what happened to them.

However,  the chapters alternate between the two timelines so that just as I became immersed in one dimension, its characters, and their worlds, the focus would switch to the alternate timeline.  This made it difficult to recapture the tension of the previous situation and retain the same interest in the characters. Several plot points were also evident early in the narrative, though the climax was still well worth the build-up.

Frequent references to the previous book’s plot are made through flashbacks, memories, and briefings, so that readers are reminded there is a much larger story. Though there are several loose threads left at the end, the main plots are sufficiently resolved so that readers should not feel cheated.

Though this is the second book in a series, it reads well as a stand-alone. Science fiction lovers, especially those with a penchant for fantasy and Egyptian mythology, will find this a fun read.

 

 

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Writing Prompt #116

Lesley was amazed by the contents of Neo’s shopping cart.

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Book Review: Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

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In Terry Pratchett‘s Hogfather, the Discworld’s equivalent of Santa goes missing on Hogswatchnight, and Death fills in during his absence. The skeletal manifestation of Death goes from house to house on a pig-driven sleigh, climbing down chimneys and filling stockings with toys for children. Meanwhile, the Discworld’s wizards and Death’s own granddaughter, Susan, try to discover what happened to the Hogfather and how to get him back.

This book is funny. Pratchett makes witty parallels between our world’s Christmas season, economy, and mentality and those of the Discworld. Death, a grim character who speaks in ALL CAPS,  is fascinated by human behavior and tends to take things literally, so when he fills in for the Hogfather on his busiest night of the year, the situation rapidly complicates with humorous results.

The Hogfather’s disappearance provided sufficient mystery, especially in the first few pages when it becomes apparent an enigmatic customer has hired the Assassin’s Guild to eliminate him. Who would have a grudge against the Hogfather? What possible motivation could there be, and was it even possible to kill him?

Even the villains are engaging. Mr. Teatime is a non-sympathetic, yet totally riveting character. Incredibly cold-hearted, too messy to be liked among his fellow assassins, he nevertheless takes a peculiar pride in his work. Next to him, the other murderous characters are lovable – or at least humorously incompetent.

Other characters further draw the reader in. Death’s human granddaughter (long story), Susan, is a nanny feared among the monsters that hide under children’s beds and in their closets. Death does his best to perform a job for which he is ill-suited, and the wizards of Unseen University attempt to celebrate Hogswatchnight with a great feast – despite constant “distractions.” The Discworld abounds with colorful characters.

I did find some of the minor mysteries a bit confusing, but not so much that they drew me out of the story. By the end, almost everything is explained, though I confess I looked up one thing in particular because I missed the joke.

As with other Discworld books, familiarity with the series is not necessary to understand the book. The novel holds up well on its own. Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather is enjoyable year round.

 

 

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Writing Prompt #115

 

The girl gazed into her future with awe and dread.

 

 

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Friday Flash: Beaver

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“A beaver! A beaver!” he cried, struggling up from the muddy bank. “My kingdom for a beaver!” Hell, dozens of beavers was what he really needed, along with a time-machine to prevent this disaster. He never should have approved those culling laws.

Looking back upon the ruins of his once mighty kingdom, the king looked to the skies, shook his fist, and cursed. If you crossed her, Mother Nature was one hell of a bitch.

 

*Yes, I “modified” a famous Shakespearean quote to suit my own purposes. Mwahaha.

**Image courtesy of  Paul Stevenson via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.       

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Writing Prompt #114

The explosion rocked her world.

 

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FridayFlash: Far Out in the Backwaters

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Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun… or at least, it would for just a bit longer. But everything ends eventually. Everything has a beginning, with its end already present at its inception, its termination born of its genesis. Life makes room for other life, degrading into its component particles, which in turn become something else. The same is true for all things, living or otherwise, though the sun really resented this.

It had been born, as so many other stars had, out of clouds of stellar dust brought together by mutual attraction, heating up and briefly fueling the worlds that revolved around it with the matter and means for the development of life and complexity. What, in turn, had that life ever given back? That’s what the sun wanted to know.

Now that he was on his last legs – or atoms, whatever – all the intelligent lifeforms that had visited or been born on the planets of his solar system had taken off. It seems they were too good for red giants; just because he made the planets uninhabitable, that was no excuse for rudeness. They flew from his system, propelled by ship, wings, fins, or combustible gases to take root in other systems around other stars. Fickle bastards.

So with a flash of helium, his shell collapsed, and no one marked it. He shed layers and layers into the vastness of space, but no one bothered to comment on his nakedness. He radiated his annoyance into the boundless unknown, but the heat was felt by nothing. Finally, out of energy, out of time, he took comfort in knowing that his death would start the process all over again, life would eventually develop once again from his component parts – no matter how far away.

Then he’d show ‘em.

 

*I’ve decided to write several flash stories that are inspired by famous first lines. I’m wrapping up the series with a flash inspired by the first line in my favorite book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by  Douglas Adams. The above story is a humble tribute to my favorite author.

*image courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.

 

 

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