Dec. 4th, 2008

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I don't like writing this sort of thing, and I'm going to try to avoid doing so in the future. It started as a reply to a piece by Glenn Greenwald of Salon on the sudden turn-around by Senate Democrats on the issue of torture. Senators Feinstein and Wyden, fierce advocates against torture during the Bush Administration, are suddenly backtracking as fast as they can. Apparently, torture is now okay with them - as long as they don't call it "torture", of course. And only if it's really, really necessary.

I'll say it again: don't be surprised as America continues its long slow slide into fascism in all but name.

Under Obama and the Democrats, torture will continue, and probably increase. Privacy rights will continue to erode. Governmental secrecy will increase, except in meaningless, superficial ways ("Look! This shiny new government website lets you see some documents that mean nothing and look important! Give us your feedback, and we'll send you a form-letter of thanks!").
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I would like to believe that after the collapse, there will be some sort of chance for redemption, some way for a better world to come to pass. But if such a possibility exists, I can't see it.
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The God Box The God Box by Barry B. Longyear

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some books are bad. Some books are great. And some books...are special.

The God Box is special.

It's a fantasy; the story of Korvas, who has been (among many other things) a crooked rug-seller in a great city. His first-person recounting of his adventures while on the run from the bloodthirsty Captain of the city guard and his men is extremely funny, exciting, and in the end, deeply touching. I never fail to have a lump in my throat and a warm feeling as I finish the last page - and I read the book at least a couple of times each year.

As a fantasy, The God Box is top-notch. It has a sheer emotional depth that's simply exceptional. The setting, too, is refreshing and vivid. And it's all packed into a book that's far smaller than 90% of the monster-sized fantasy tomes which are the staple of modern genre fiction.

The story flows well; it's told in first person by Korvas himself to a (literally) captive audience, and a very engaging tale it is.

But it's the idea of the god box itself which really stays with me - and with other people I know who've read the book. It is based, I believe, on a concept that originated in rehabilitation therapy for addicts; addiction recovery is a frequent theme in much of Longyear's later work, since he had to struggle with the issue himself. But The God Box was the first novel in which the subject came up, I believe, and it's handled with a very light touch.

I don't want to spoil the concept of the god box in this review. But as Longyear presents it, it's a fascinating idea: you ask the box for you what need, and give it what you don't want. Fear, for example.

And the funny thing is that it really works! No, I'm not saying that it's really magic (it is in the book, of course). I'm a rock-ribbed atheist, myself, so I'm not going to go all mystical on you. But when I am feeling particularly stressed, or afraid, or sad, I visualize a god box. I give it some of the emotions that causing me pain, and ask it for whatever I need to cope. And to my amazement, I feel an astonishing feeling of calm and peace come over me. I'm not the only one who has experienced this, by the way.

It's just a creative use of imagination and visualization, of course. Perhaps there's a touch of self-hypnosis involved. But who cares? The key thing is that it works.

The God Box was out of print for many years, and it never gained the popularity it deserved. But it's back in print now - unfortunately only in paperback. I'd gladly buy a hardcover edition.

It should also be noted that there's another book with the same name, by a writer named Alex Sanchez. I haven't read it, and have no idea what it's about.

I can't recommend Barry Longyear's The God Box highly enough. It's a real gem, and is a must on any fantasy reader's bookshelf - and should be on the reading list of anyone who likes lively stories, imaginative ideas, and interesting philosophy.

View all my reviews.


Dec. 4th, 2008 11:00 pm
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My journal has been somewhat different, lately.

For one thing, the percent of friends-only and filtered posts has increased to about 50% in the past few months. But an even bigger change is the relative decrease in political posts (unsurprising, I suppose, now that the election is over) and the recent surge of book reviews.

Is this a good thing? A bad thing? Neither, or both? Feel free to tell me what you think, if you want.

By the way, I also just put up a very large post over on my Charlie On The Commuter Rail blog. The outer stairway to the commuter rail platform at Ruggles station is crumbling. I took my camera in today, and got some pictures and video. The resulting blog entry is pretty huge, but maybe someone will pay attention and forestall a tragedy.

Seriously, who repairs stairs with rust-susceptible parts? And after two years of the stairs being closed for repairs, couldn't they have fixed them well enough so that they'd last for more than sixteen months? I think you'll be surprised by the images.


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