December 12, 2018

Book review: “Plague Ship” by Andre Norton

  Andre Norton’s 1956 Plague Ship is a rip-snortingly inventive yarn that’s one of her better novels, a combination of medical mystery, anthropological adventure and space gallop.  And it features a rare guest appearance by the Earth, or Terra as Norton, like most sci-fic writers, calls it. Indeed — in one of those science fiction moments that, for the character, represents a look at an horrific past while, for readers, especially those in the 1950s, it calls to mind a possibly horrific future — the Solar Queen trading ship lands on Earth in the Big Burn. The Big Burn was the horrible scar left by the last of the Atomic Wars — a section of radiation poisoned land comprising hundreds of square miles — land which generations had never dared to penetrate. Originally the survivors of that war had shunned the whole continent which it disfigured. It had been close to two centuries before men had gone into the still wholesome land laying to the far west and the south. And through the years, the avoidance of the Big Burn had become part of their racial instinct as they shrank from it. It was a symbol of something no Terran […]
December 10, 2018

Book review: “Sargasso of Space” by Andre Norton

  The traders of the Solar Queen have set a trap for some hardened criminals who are hiding on the planet Limbo.  One of the bad guys gets out of his crawler, a Jeep-like vehicle, to investigate something, and, then,…. A stone thudded against the helmet of the would-be investigator, sending him off balance to clutch at the tread of the crawler for support.  Dane slammed another in his direction and then aimed for the driver of the machine. The bad guys don’t use their deadly blasters but, apparently stunned by this rock-throwing attack, flee out instead into the distance. Limbo is a world where the remains of a great many space ships have been found, including remnants of the mysterious, little-understood Forerunners race that had populated the cosmos eons ago.  The world is filled with a multitude of machines able to do amazing things. Yet, I can’t help but smile to see that Andre Norton, writing initially as Alex North, has this key episode in her 1955 Sargasso of Space turn on the ability of her hero Dane Thorson and his fellows to throw rocks — like any Neanderthal of the distant past.   “Those angles are wrong” Another […]
December 5, 2018

Essay: God Is the Ocean in Which We All Swim

  I have gotten to a point that I can’t go along any more with Michelangelo’s God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Great art, but, gee, God as an old guy with a long gray beard?  No thanks. For a long time, my wife Cathy has had her own spin on this.  At Mass, when the celebrants starts, “Our Father…,” Cathy adds in a loud voice, “…and Mother.” That makes more sense to me — God as a Father and as a Mother — but it still doesn’t do the job for me.  I am able to think of God as, like a parent, loving me and wanting what’s best for me and providing me with what I need to live a full life and, again like a good parent, giving me the space I need to fail and learn from my failures.   What doesn’t work for me What doesn’t work for me is the idea that, if something good happens, it’s God up in heaven pulling the strings. Say I’m running to the airport, late for a flight, and, against all odds, I get on the flight.  I can’t think that God made that happen.  And […]
December 3, 2018

Book review: “Soul Seeing: Light, Love, Forgiveness” by Michael Leach and Friends

  Brian Doyle’s essay “The Day I Stood Shimmering in Shame” begins this way: Committed a sin yesterday, in the hallway, at noon. I roared at my son, I grabbed him by the shirt collar, I frightened him so badly that he cowered and wept, and then he turned to run, I grabbed him by the arm so roughly that he flinched, and it was that flicker of fear and pain across his face, the bright eager holy riveting face I have loved for ten years, that stopped me then and haunts me this morning; for I am the father of his fear, I sent it snarling into his heart, and I can never get it out now, which torments me. Here’s the start of Ginny Kubitz Moyer’s essay “The Hands We Hold Are Gifts”: I was sitting at my prayer desk the other night, two flickering candles in front of me, letting my mind wander as I looked at the small framed icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help that once belonged to my grandmother.  It’s an inexpensive framed image, that she must have had since the 1960s at least, but in the candlelight it shone like pure gold.  […]