Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Quick Summaries for November 2014: Fiction

Quick Summaries are pithy paragraph-long reviews
of releases that cross our QBR desk. 

These are reviews for when you don't have all day 
to decide whether a resource is worth
your time, money, storage space, or trouble.

Carrico, David. 1635: Music and Murder (Ring of Fire). Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2013. 518 Pages. Kindle e-book. $4.99. http://www.baen.com/  http://www.amazon.com/1635-Music-Murder-Ring-Fire-ebook/dp/B00F96EOT8/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1383968779&sr=1-2  (N)

Flint, Eric, David Carrico. 1636: The Devil's Opera (Ring of Fire). Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2013. 528 Pages. Kindle e-book. $8.59. (Hardcover available for $18.48.) http://www.baen.com/  http://www.amazon.com/1636-Devils-Opera-Ring-Fire-ebook/dp/B00F8N7WD2/ref=la_B001ITXFV8_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383969128&sr=1-2  (N)

Cooper, Iver P. 1636: Seas of Fortune (Ring of Fire). Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2013. 485 Pages. Kindle e-book. $8.59. http://www.baen.com/  http://www.amazon.com/1636-Seas-Fortune-Ring-Fire-ebook/dp/B00HCLRJDG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1403888188&sr=1-1&keywords=1636+seas+of+fortune (N) (The books above are available in digital and paper formats.)

Grantville Gazette, Volumes 42-50. Moore, OK: 1632, Inc., 2012-13. Digital downloadable file (various formats). Subscription rates vary. http://www.grantvillegazette.com/ (N)

Stoneguard, Harry. The Chaplain's Cat: A Small CATechism. Amazon CreateSpace, 2013. Paper. $6.99. (Kindle version available for $0.99).  http://smile.amazon.com/Chaplains-Cat-Small-CATechism/dp/1493700898 (Q)

Sabel, Thomas. Legends of Luternia: the Prince Decides. Little Elm, TX: eLectio Publishing, 2013. 217 Pages. Paper. $13.99. (ebook for $4.99.) www.eLectioPublishing.com  http://thosabel.blogspot.com (LHPN)

Keating, Ray. The River: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel. Manorville, NY: Keating Reports, 2014. 264 Pages. Paper. $13.99. www.pastorstephengrant.com  http://smile.amazon.com/The-River-Pastor-Stephen-Grant/dp/1499514174/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8 (LHPN)

Fiction takes this reviewer longer to read, ponder, and review. This is one of the most intriguing groups of books I've read for review in a long time. We begin strong and finish strong.
ebooks are a convenient way to provide review copies these days. The downside is that they could be forgotten on a tablet with lots of storage space. To prevent that, I put the names of ebooks on a piece of cardboard and add them to my "to read" or "to review" stacks. 

++ We begin in the 1632-verse, an alternate time line where a West Virginia coal mine town ended up in Germany during the 30-years war. 1635: Music and Murder shows collaboration between the uptime Americans and the "downtimers" and changes in the timeline and the world after three years. I love this timeline because we see Lutherans and Lutheranism in abundance. And music! Author Carrico fleshes out both the revolution in police work and music in two novellas. I was immediately enthralled with the music novella. He won me over gradually with the murder novella. Consider reading both as a prequel/prelude to Carrico's collaboration with main series author Eric Flint. Highly recommended!

+ 1636: The Devil's Opera does not assume but benefits from a reader's knowledge of the previous volume. Here, Flint and Carrico flesh out the world of post-Ring of Fire Magdeburg, the new capitol of the United States of Europe under Emperor Gustavus Adolphus. Ravaged by war and rebuilt by uptime Americans and their German and Swedish allies, a foundation is laid for a fascinating future. Music and Murder continue and converge in a mystery-action adventure reminiscent of both Dorothy Sayers and Tom Clancy.  Recommended.

+ Building on a cast of characters introduced in the Grantville Gazette, Iver Cooper's 1636: Seas of Fortune is also a pair of novellas that show how different the eventual world of the 1632-verse will become. Swedish colonies in South America? Sure. Name a town after the Emperor, if you don't mind! Southern California settled by exiled Japanese Christians? Cool. Let's mess with the fictionalized history of James Clavell's Shogun! As a student of Japanese history at university and an Asian Studies minor, I really resonated with the novella Rising Sun. As a Christian and Lutheran Pastor, Stretching Out shows honor to the real-history Swedish King and Lutheran, Gustavus Adolphus. I can't wait to hear more about how these new colonies develop! Recommended.

+ If news is the rough draft of history, Grantville Gazette, edited by our friend Paula Goodlett, is the rought draft of alternate history in the world Eric Flint created by altering world history as of 1632. This is a testing ground, a research facility, and more than mere fan fiction. Download the latest issues (released regularly six times per year). That reminds me, time to renew my online subscription! Recommended.

-/ The Chaplain's Cat: A Small CATechism by Harry Stoneguard has an interesting premise: a story told by "a Parsonage kitten turned Therapy Cat." This volume arrived as an unsolicited gift from an ELCA pastor in New Jersey. I have reason to believe that "Harry Stoneguard" is his pseudonym. Similitude, the cat, may be playing itself. The book appears to be written to be discussed in a group setting, but falls short when some of the chapter topics are unclear compared to the topics as brought up by the cat (chapters 4-6). Bishops and the ordination of women are assumed. I appreciate the creativity of the author. This reader assumes a more robust Lutheran confession of faith, even in fiction as retold by a cat. Consider the very affordable kindle version if you are interested in this title as a Lutheran cat lover. Neutral on this one. 

+/ Legends of Luternia: The Prince Decides is a stronger book than the one previously under consideration. The Rev. Thomas Sabel, poet and author, delves into fantasy in his first novel. As both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien discovered, Christian allegorial fantasy fiction is a challenging genre. Think about writing a new "the Kingdom of God is like" parable and then building enough of a world to fill a 217-page book. I commend the author for his pastoral care approach to the genre. Given our royal Prophet, Priest, and King, the genre is full of possibilities for Christians. I see much potential should Sabel continue with more volumes in a Luternia series. I've wondered how a Lutheran author could weave Jesus as Prophet and Priest into such a fictional world. Recommended.

+ Ray Keating's SEAL/CIA agent turned LCMS Pastor, Stephen Grant, returns in The River. The danger Pastor Grant faces builds as much as his own backstory and that of his wife and her family. In the fourth installment of the Grant series he wrestles with life and death, specifically justice and revenge under the Fifth Commandment. I read this novel in preparation for a Lutheran Men's retreat here in the Wyoming District as a presenter discussing firearms, self defense,the Second Amendment and the Fifth Commandment, specifically the difference between "Thou shalt not kill" and "You shall not murder." The latter is the most accurate translation of the original Hebrew of Exodus 20. Imagine facing such decisions alongside Stephen Grant. Language is realistic given the situation's Grant's father-in-law lets his daughter and son-in-law get put in. Temptations abound. Ours is a messy, sinful world. Forgiveness and redemption in Christ is real. I pray my world will not be as dangerous and action-packed as Pr. Grant's adventures in Las Vegas. Enjoy the Christian-worldview-fiction of Ray Keating. Recommended!
More information about each of these titles
may be found on each respective publisher's website. 

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Yellowstone Circuit Visitor (LCMS Wyoming District), a permanent member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.

View article...