Book Review: Mind in the Gap by C.R. Dudley

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Mind in the Gap by C.R.Dudley

Genre: Science Fiction, Metaphysical, Philosophy.
Pub First Date: September, 2018
Publisher: Orchid’s Lantern
Length: 242 pages
Paperback : £7.99 (Copy from author for review purposes)

We all need a bit of chaos. “The body likes continuity. It’s part of the deal. But the truth is, there are gaps everywhere. Gaps only the mind can slip through…” Follow M – a strange and chaotic being who professes to be the outcast of a black hole – on a journey like no other. Flowing freely through the back streets of hidden realms, she drives her companion to meet commuters who cross dimensions, embody future technology, and peek behind the scenes at consciousness: all with one purpose in mind.

Mind in the Gap (back cover blurb)

Mind in the Gap is a quick and easy read.

Mind in the Gap is a difficult read.

Contradiction? Well, kind of, but not really. Bear with me, it’s a hell of a ride!

Dudley has presented us with an anthology of 14 short stories which can be read individually – but – are actually interconnected; which is one of the themes running through this book.

On a superficial level, one could read these as sci-fi stories. The author’s understanding of science terminology is clear, and so we experience Artificial Intelligence (A.I), quantum physics, immersive technology, black holes, futuristic drugs, and insect sized cameras. There’s a whole world of technology on this level.

On another level, it is about human connectedness, the unconscious mind and our place, not only within the world of technology, but the world, nay, universe as a whole.

At times, reading Mind in the Gap was a vertiginous experience – as though standing with one’s back to a precipice and craning to look up into a high tree – dizzying.

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On a technical level, the writing is competent, there is no purple prose, Dudley never gets carried away with irrelevant description, it’s clean and concise. The author evidently has an extremely broad set of interests, that are admittedly, all interconnected – including art, science, philosophy, and I feel there might be too much pressed into service here.

Admittedly, I don’t have a great grasp on modern technology, let alone potential/future tech, but it wasn’t a problem, the author does not create anything overly complicated in her future worlds. But I did have to plunge into a dictionary every now and then.

What, I wondered, is Hermetic Philosophy? (A religion/philosophy based on the esoteric writings of Hermes Trismegistus). What is qualia? (Individual, subjective, conscious experience). The first thing I had to look up was The Kybalion, I’d never heard of it and I would say that this might be the one thing that could potentially let the book down. I’m not sure readers should have to look up the meaning of words, names or phrases so much that it interrupts the flow of the storytelling. I’m not overly intelligent, but neither am I unintelligent, I discuss psychology, philosophy, Freud and Jung with partner and friends – but when so many ‘foreign’ concepts are presented in such a small format, ie; short stories, then I worry that the author is deliberately overloading the reader, baffling the senses to keep one off-balance, using terminology that we don’t encounter in everyday situations. I struggled to explain to myself why the writer had used so many concepts.

However –

It works. And this is the point – we are all interconnected – we are all parts of a greater whole (even if that happens to be a black hole!) – we share the need to see patterns, we all have a shared set of symbols; Jungian archetypes – we all dream. And we are all, on a daily basis, off-balance, some of us just don’t know it!

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Dudley presents us with this: – we are all linear creatures living in a non-linear universe that we can only vaguely comprehend/connect to when we allow ourselves to access the unconscious. What would happen if technology became somehow entangled with, by choice or otherwise, our unconscious minds? Could technology, or drugs, be used to assist us in accessing the greater truth? Does technology interfere with our unconscious receptors?

How does one feel any attachment for a mechanoid? But I did. ZXXX84 makes a discovery that propels us into intrigue. We shift, paragraph, by paragraph into alternate reality as we ride the bus with Alex. How much do we put up with to NOT have the truth revealed to us? Have we surrounded ourselves with so much technology that we cannot ‘hear’ the universe?

I found ‘Winter Triangle’ heartbreaking. I identified with Nav in ‘Mapmakers’; I felt I had to navigate the stories. I recognised the protagonist in Frankie. The final story, ‘The Last Man’, is poignancy wrapped in hope – or the other way round.

The stories are not random, nor are they randomly organised, you do need to read from beginning to end. The author has nothing in the book that does not, I believe, have some kind of resonance for her – therefore, I felt obliged to discover the relationship between the question mark at the opening – ? “Ready!” and the exclamation mark at the ending – ! “Ready?” And I’m not telling, you will have to discover for yourselves!

I have never read anything like Mind in the Gap before. It is interesting, well-crafted, entertaining and informative – as well as being extremely thought provoking. My mind is still boggling with this extract of dialogue –

‘I’m immanentising the Eschaton!’ Demari in ‘The Fold’

 

I am giving Mind in the Gap

4 stars

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Book Review: Gun Monkeys by Victor Gischler

 

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“I slapped a strip of duct tape over his mouth.” C.S 

Genre: Humorous Crime Fiction
Pub First Date: 2001
Publisher: UglyTown Publishing/Dell Books
Length: 274 pages
Paperback : Orion Tech on Amazon5.87)

Charlie Swift just pumped three .38-caliber [sic] bullets into a dead polar bear in his taxidermist girlfriend’s garage. But he’s a gun monkey, and no one can blame him for having an itchy trigger finger. Ever since he drove down the Florida Turnpike with a headless body in the trunk of a Chrysler, then took down four cops, Charlie’s been running hard through the sprawling sleaze of central Florida. And to make matters worse, he’s holding on to some crooked paperwork that a lot of people would like to take off his hands. Now, with his boss disappeared and his friends dropping like flies, Charlie has got his work cut out just to survive. If he wants to keep the money and get the girl too, he’s really going to have to go ape…

Gun Monkeys(Back Cover Book Blurb)

That little scene was enough to make me pay out some cash for this title. Gangsters and polar bears? I thought, I gotta have me some of this.

I came to read Gun Monkeys via Twitter of all places. I ‘Follow’ the author, Victor Gischler simply because I find his Tweets amusing. He has a slight acerbic tone laced with humour, writer rants (don’t we all) and glimpses into his family life (such as which film he will be watching with his young son). I’m late to the show – as you can see by the publishing date – but better late than never.

Gun Monkeys has been called by some, a Florida comic crime caper, and Gishler’s love of Noir, crime, gangsters and history of comic writing comes through in this novel.

I usually take longer than most people I talk to, to read a book these days (weeks), I seem to be slowing down as I get older, but the pace of writing and regular action kept me moving along, so I completed it in three days (a record for me!)

Charlie Swift is one of the gun monkeys of the title, he works for crime boss Stan as an enforcer. He is a stereotypical anti-hero – bad guy with redeeming qualities. Many of the characters fit the expected Film Noir tropes – gangster with a heart and a ‘Ma’ he loves, a sassy, intelligent female, Marcie, whom Charlie falls for because, like Charlie, she can she the necessity for plastic sheeting and the multiple uses of duct tape, I turned the Chrysler onto the Florida Turnpike with Rollo Kramer’s headless body in the trunk, and all the time I’m thinking I should’ve put some plastic down.” A lumbering, huge muscle guy, Lou, and sleek-suited mob boss, Mercury. Despite being set in the present day, the lingo used often sounds a little like that spoken by gangsters in the 40’s and 50’s movies – BUT – it doesn’t feel dated, or clichéd. Instead, it moves along at a cracking speed, as Charlie attempts to help his boss, track down the ‘other’ bad guys and deal with consequences that keep springing up.

Charlie is a crack shot with a gun we are told, yet he doesn’t have it all his own way. To be honest, Charlie has a hell of a time. I don’t know if I’d ever want to be friends with Charlie Swift, but I didn’t dislike him, ever, even when he pumps a bullet into some guys knee (and worse).

I found Gishler’s writing and characterisation to be solid, and although the territory – Noir Gangster-land – is very familiar to me, I found a freshness to this writing, which I reckon is pretty difficult to do without slipping on the cliché banana. 

There are some nice comic touches, although as the story progresses the comic elements lessen. There is a lot of violence, but nothing stomach churning. There’s a high body count, but meh, isn’t that the world of gangsters? It’s pulp fiction, it’s fun- despite the violence, it’s overflowing with swearing, it’s contemporary hard-boiled, it’s not Raymond Chandler, but it was an enjoyable read, enough so that I will be taking a further delve into the work of Victor Gischler.

I’m giving Gun Monkeys

4 stars

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Book Review – Hot Lead, Cold Iron by Ari Marmell

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Hot Lead, Cold Iron Book Cover

Genre: Crime Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Dark fantasy, Urban fantasy
Pub First Date: 2014
Publisher: Titan Books
Length: 305 pages
Paperback : Bookdonors on Amazon (£3.72)

” Mick Oberon may look like just another 1930s private detective, but beneath the fedora and the overcoat, he’s got pointy ears and he’s packing a wand. Among the last in a line of aristocratic Fae, Mick turned his back on his kind and their Court a long time ago. But when he’s hired to find a gangster’s daughter sixteen years after she was replaced with a changeling, the trail leads Mick from Chicago’s criminal underworld to the hidden Otherworld, where he’ll have to wade through Fae politics and mob power struggles to find the kidnapper and solve the case.”

Hot Lead, Cold Iron (Back-book cover blurb)

First off, I have a confession to make – I’m one of those people who rolls their eyes when others mention certain themes of TV/Film/Book whatever, that I deem ‘stupid’ or ‘unbelievable’, you know what I mean? Conspiracy theorists, fantastical creatures roaming modern cities, and so on – except, I do read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, so where do I draw the line? Hard to say.

So, when I read that Ari Marmell‘s book was about a Private Investigator who is a Fae, I almost turned tail.

I discovered this book through entering the world of Dieselpunk/Decopunk writing, researching some titles. I read the opening 5 pages and… ordered it!

I think I have mentioned before that I enjoy crime writing, all kinds and in all forms (I have a huge collection of magazines about serial killers – yeah, publishers, you might want to bear that in mind next time you refuse my submissions!!) And this, I would say, is first and foremost a detective story. The protagonist, Mick Oberon is, as I mentioned, a Fae, living and working in 1930s Chicago. But the thing that hooked me is Marmell’s use of language, particularly the language of America, in that time period. The lingo is not only relevant to the time period, but has the humorous yet threatening quality of such well-known characters as Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade –

One, I don’t chisel my clients, Archie. Ain’t good for business…And two, get your hand off me before I make you eat it.”. M.O.

This isn’t just a detective story, it’s Noir, one of my favourite film genres.

Mick Oberon explains that he is obliged to speak in this manner in order to function in his present day. I love this style of speech. Watching the old Humphrey Bogart films I didn’t always understand what was being said, but I sure as hell got the inference. Gangster speak is used throughout ‘Hot Lead, Cold Iron’, but not so as you don’t know what characters are talking about.

The story is written in first person – Mick Oberon’s – and so we get a pretty thorough explanation of Fae. Marmell has actually given some thought to magic and how it is used; Oberon’s magic is not the same as another type of Fae’s magic for instance. The world of the Fae – the Seelie Court (and it’s darker counter-side, the Unseelie Court) are almost copies of the real world, brilliantly explained by Marmell, as a result of Fae lacking creativity but being excellent mimics.

No matter how unusual some of the plot-line or characters or environs may seem, Marmell has written with psychological realism, thereby ensuring the story does not fall apart due to some random shit he wants in there. Though I did struggle somewhat to visualise some of the setting of the Seelie Court in Elphame, my impression of size kept shifting, so I was unable to get a clear understanding of the size of structures or beings. And I did enjoy the time spent in our world more than in Oberon’s home world.

Oberon is a likeable, milk-drinking, wand-toting good guy with a hard-boiled attitude that he wears like his coat. We don’t, in all honesty, know too much about his background – he’d tell you to mind your own business. And this is another aspect of the writing I enjoyed, Oberon often directly speaks to the reader, he gives you enough to understand the world you are entering, but also enough to pique the interest for further reading – “My name is Mick Oberon, or at least it is now.” He says things like – “You Joe’s.” Referring to humans and the reader alike, he doesn’t always reveal the whys and wherefores of his actions, you are being introduced a bit at a time to his way of living – “And if you think it all went easy for me, you ain’t been paying attention.”

This kind of story, with these kinds of fantasy elements, could easily have fallen flat – or worse. It’s success rests on the main character’s voice; as much as the plot and setting need a certain amount of historical accuracy, it is how Marmell has written Oberon’s voice that makes it work well. And it’s not just (if you like this kind of language) the gangster speak, Oberon is an intriguing character and charismatic too.

If you get gangster speak and understand a little about the world of faeries, you get the title – Lead as in bullets – Iron as in faeries hate it.

Hot Lead, Cold Iron is action-packed fun, well-written with wisecracks enough to satisfy Raymond Chandler fans, it is the first in a new series by Ari Marmell – ‘A Mick Oberon Job’ or Mick Oberon #1.

And I will be purchasing the second book – Hallow Point.

I’m giving Hot Lead, Cold Iron

4 Stars

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Book Review – The City and The City by China Miéville

Image from  https://locativeliterature.wordpress.com/sections/section-1/

 
Genre: Science Fantasy/Crime
Pub First Date: 2009
Publisher: Pan Books
Length: 373 pages
Paperback : Local Library (£7.39)

 

When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to conspiracies far stranger, and more deadly, than anything he could have imagined. Soon his work puts him and those he cares for in danger. Borlú must travel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own, across a border like no other.

The City and The City, (back-book cover blurb)

The City and The City by China Mieville
The City and The City by China Mieville

 

China Miéville is perhaps best known as a writer of ‘weird fiction’ [self termed], of science fiction, fantasy, urban fiction – a number of genre terms have been applied to this English writer who has won the Arthur C. Clarke Award three times and the British Fantasy Award twice.

Years ago, I dipped into a story by Miéville and was confounded by the twisting, corrugated way he wrote. I don’t think I reached the end. What the hell was that all about?! I wondered.

Then I tried again – ‘Looking For Jake and Other Stories’, and the same thing happened. Was I stupid? Is my command of the English language so infantile and undeveloped? Most recently, I read ‘Embassytown‘, I say read, I got half-way through and abandoned it.

So why, you may ask, did I bother to continue?

There is something about Miéville’s work that keeps drawing me back. I’m not sure what this elusive thing is that draws me, but I can’t leave it alone. Am I ashamed to have not reach the end of previous novels? Hm, maybe. But ‘The City and The City‘ is different. For one thing, I finished it, secondly, it’s crime, and I’m a sucker for crime stories, and this writing I found more accessible than any of the previous I had read.

The world it is set in is familiar, though the prime cities of the title do not exist. To me, it smacks of East and West Berlin, divided by a wall – in Berlin an actual, concrete structure – in the novel, by ‘unseeing’ and and it is this ‘unseeing’ that gives the story it’s flavour.

In the city of Beszel, where our protagonist; Inspector Tyador Borlú lives and works, the people are living in a grey, sort of post Soviet state. In Ul Qoma, it’s neighbour, the economy thrives; more or less, it’s a chic modern place with better transport, better clothing and so forth. Parts of the two cities overlap, some buildings are even shared by both – BUT – the citizens of neither place are allowed to notice the other.

Trained from childhood, and enforced by both countries’ governments and populaces, the citizens pass each other in the streets without looking or ‘unseeing’ each other.

It’s a bizarre concept. But this is more than a straightforward crime story – of course it is, it’s Miéville! It’s about how we do this ‘unseeing’ ourselves, in real life. We ‘unsee’ what we don’t want to know about – the homeless, we ‘unsee’ what doesn’t affect us directly – an attack on another’s person, we ‘unsee’ what goes on in other countries politically.

Added to this bizarre brew is Breach. To breach an area of one city to another is a crime, the details of how to and how not to are as convoluted as Cold War politics. To breach is punishable. But Breach is also a shadowy, secret and invisible, till it wants to be seen, power. When a citizen has breached the boundary in any way, these dark figures emerge at unnatural speed to ‘clear up’ the situation. When Breach takes someone, they may be extradited – or never seen again.

This is intelligent and original writing. Miéville offers us a Ballardian type world where the rules are both clear, yet unclear, it looks like reality but smells like fantasy, it’s both a murder investigation and a metaphor for our times, and Inspector Borlú is as dogged a policeman as you will ever meet.

 

I’m giving The City and The City

4 Stars

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TV Review: Who Is America?

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Who Is America? (Image curtesy of Google)

 

Genre: Political Satire

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen

Release Date: 15th July 2018 (UK)

Created By: Sacha Baron Cohen

Network: Showtime
Premise:

Baron Cohen portrays a variety of characters who interview/interrogate, train and discuss pertinent issues with real persons from across the political and cultural spectrum of America. His creations include – Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, far-left lecturer on gender studies and activist who wishes to “heal the divide” in America between conservatives and liberals, Rick Sherman, an ex-convict artist, recently released after about 21 years, and Erran Morad, an Israeli anti-terrorism expert and former agent of Mossad. Both characters have their own Twitter accounts!

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 Erran Morad interviews US Vice President Dick Cheney.

I have been a fan of Baron Cohen’s work since his arrival on British TV in 2002, in the guise of Ali G, a drum n bass enthusiast with a poor education who’s childish questions and inability to grasp the fundamentals of politics, allowed him to reveal the flaws in those he ‘interviewed’.

And this is the basic premise of all Baron Cohen’s characters – they are either dull-witted, or extreme in their own views, or foreigners in an English speaking country, allowing him to behave and ask inappropriate questions, thus hi-lighting the hypocrisy of various individuals who represent the mind-set of certain groups.

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          Someone didn’t read the small print                   (image from tooFab)

 

In Who Is America? Baron Cohen in the guise of Dr. Nira Cain-N’Degeocello, dines with a South Carolina Republican and her husband, and not only pushes their buttons with his questions but tests their white, middle-class sensibilities to the hilt by talking about his daughter’s menstruation and how he won’t allow her to use sanitary products.

As Gio Monaldo, an Italian billionaire playboy and fashion photographer from Italy, he gets minor celebrities to endorse things like child soldiers, or to pose in a sexy manner for a supposed advert to help aid workers in Africa fighting Ebola.

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      Nira attempts to ‘heal the divide’!

Occasionally, an interviewee will refuse to continue with the interview – and this is to their credit. Baron Cohen pushes and pushes with more ludicrous or offensive questioning thus exposing an individuals biases, prejudices and idiocy. What sort of politician would agree to drop his pants in order to fend off terrorists? Or take up-skirt photos under a ladies burqa? Or repeatedly shout the ‘n’ word? Jason Spencer apparently! (Spencer has apparently resigned since filming.)

Who Is America? May be more of the same from Baron Cohen, but it is still hilarious, we Brits love seeing people knocked off their high horses or taken down a peg or two. But the fact that Baron Cohen is still able to produce such a programme says a lot about American (and British) society. We don’t listen, we don’t read the small print, we don’t pay attention, most of us – and especially those in high-profile positions – fail to question our own opinions and attitudes to those who are ‘not like us’. We can be so small-minded and bigoted and obsessed with how we appear that we are not listening to what is really going on.

 

Baron Cohen strikes me as one of those frighteningly intelligent people we so often see in comedy – think Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Chris Morris (all British) – who hold a mirror up to society and we either don’t ‘get it’, or laugh ourselves silly because we do, but with the added poignancy of feeling impotent to do anything about the issues highlighted. We need humour like this, we need people like Baron Cohen to show us what ludicrous monkeys we can sometimes be.

I give Who Is America?

5 Stars

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Book Review: Secrets From The Lost Bible by Kenneth Hanson

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Secrets From The Lost Bible

Secrets From The Lost Bible by Kenneth Hanson, PH.D.

Genre: Non-Fiction
Pub Date: 2004
Publisher: Council Oak Books
Length: 221 pages
Paperback : Local Library (£7.39)

‘Hidden away for centuries, these rediscovered ancient texts reveal vital knowledge to empower humankind.’ Back cover blurb.

 

Wow, a pretty bold claim – ‘knowledge to empower humankind’.

Dr. Kenneth Hanson presents us with a number of texts; some which may be partially familiar – Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge, and the less familiar (to myself) Bel and the Dragon, along with previously unknown stories about familiar Biblical figures. I say partially because, as Hanson reveals, even the Biblical texts we may be familiar with have sections missing.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, for those who have never heard of them are, briefly, scrolls – or fragments of scrolls, that have been discovered/uncovered in caves near The Dead Sea. Some date back to the 8th century BCE (Before Common Era), and are written in Hebrew, Aramaic and some in Greek; the initial discovery being made in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd. Since then around 8oo plus scrolls have been found; mostly fragmented. They are divided into Biblical and non-Biblical, with for example, 25 copies of Deuteronomy, texts on law, psalms and more.

Now, I have to make a confession here – I have not yet completed reading Secrets From The Lost Bible – It is, to be honest, taking me forever, but I do only read a bit at a time, plus, I keep re-reading sections (I also have a habit of having two or three books on the go at once). This is one of those books that you read a little at a time and absorb before progressing. It is to be sipped, not gulped – mulled over, not galloped through.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are essentially suppressed writings. Historically, Religious leaders, and possibly political leaders, have excluded them from Judeo-Christian teachings, as they do not conform to what they want society to conform to, namely, their own leadership. The texts have been called heretical by some, revelatory to others. They fit into the bracket – if one must be used – of mystical writings. Take this extract for example, sub-titled Eden’s Children,

‘This book of The Lost Bible (which I present here in paraphrase) teaches that the soul, far from being corrupt, is pure, eternal, and birthed in Paradise:

Happy is the one who came into being…In Paradise there are five trees which no one disturbs year round; and their leaves never fall. If you come to know them, you will never know spiritual death.’

Essentially, the Gospel of Thomas is telling us that we, each individual, is not only born innocent (as opposed to the church’s teaching on Original Sin), but that we can each find Knowledge ourselves – without the need of a Religious Leader. That alone is enough to set many conservative/mainstream Christian’s/Jewish teeth on edge, goodness knows what the Creationists make of it.The Gospel of Thomas was declared Gnostic heresy, and promptly filtered from their system –  Gnosticism and the Kabbalah have been criticised by those wishing to keep their sheep on the straight and narrow – as they perceive it.

Hanson guides us through selected texts with explanations, he examines what lessons may have been lost when those who decided which books to include in the Bible and Torah made their decision to exclude these. He is non-judgemental, he does not lay blame, he simply offers us the works and a way to understand them, and why they may have been excluded. Hanson offers everyone, not just people who follow a religion, a way of understanding the hidden way to find harmony with…. well, if you do not believe in a god, it would be yourself and the universe.

I am finding the book a very interesting read. Hanson provides insights and fills in holes found in the traditional Bible. If you are a theology scholar, I recommend you add this to your reading list. His writing style is very easy and he provides us with short anecdotes of his own personal moments of realisation, and he is joyous in his writing, which can be a rarity in academic circles, certainly not stuffy.

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Section of Dead Sea scroll 

Just because you are a ‘good’ Christian/Jew/Methodist/ETC, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t question what’s in the bible, it has flaws, why does it have flaws? Because it was written by men, and moreover, men who have decided to withhold information from us.

Kenneth Hanson, Ph. D. is an associate professor in the University of Central Florida Judaic studies program and scholar of Hebrew language and literature. He is the author of Blood Kin of Jesus, Dead Sea Scrolls: The Untold Story and Kabbalah: Three Thousand Years of Mystic Tradition.

 

I’m giving Secrets From The Lost Bible, 5 stars

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Review: Safe (Netflix UK)

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Currently – On Netflix (UK)

Starring – Michael C. Hall, Amanda Abbington, Audrey Fleurot, Marc Warren

Genre – Drama. Thriller

Writer Harlan Coben

Premièred10th May 2018

 

*Spoilers Ahead*

Widowed surgeon Tom has struggled to raise his two daughters alone following his wife’s death a year ago. Things seem to be on the right track for the family, who live in a gated community, because they have close friends nearby and Tom is in the early stages of a new relationship. But the situation takes a turn for the worse when Jenny, Tom’s oldest daughter, goes missing along with her boyfriend.

 

So here’s an interesting collaboration – American crime writer; Harlan Coben, American lead; Michael C. Hall. British locations; Liverpool, Manchester, Cheshire. Primarily English cast; Amanda Abbington, Marc Warren, etc. French ‘suspect’; Audrey Fleurot. Networks,English, French, International.

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Det. Sergeant Sophie Mason and Tom Delaney 

I have a number of issues with this show:

Problem #1 – England: Tom Delaney and his children; and the rest of the cast; apart from Pete (Marc Warren) and ‘Bobby’ (Milo Twomey), live in a gated community – so far so good. However, the reason we are given that it is a gated community is an event that occurred many years earlier – when the current adults were teenagers – at the local school, resulting in the deaths of a number of children. So to ‘protect’ themselves from outside danger, they walled themselves off – this suggests that the school itself is within the gated community. I do not know if such communities even exist in the UK, sure, there are small gated estates, but that’s just residential. Smacks of America.

Problem #2 – Idiot family: So you’re having a party for your mates whilst the parents are away for the night. You discover someone either unconscious or dead aaaaand… you don’t call an ambulance! REALLY?! You have to be kidding. Then dad decides not to get help and ‘hides’ the body! REALLY?! You are fucking joking. Mum colludes (‘cos basically she’s an airhead). They then send texts to the ‘missing’ boy’s family thus ensuring they think he is still alive! WTF?! The reason given for their sorry excuse for not alerting the authorities is… their reputation!!!

Problem #3 – No-one works: Tom; the lead dad, is a surgeon, but spends more time running around the estate and all the haunts he thinks his daughter may be. Pete; also a doctor (anaesthetist?) also doesn’t go to work much. Mr and Mrs Chahal seem to live a luxurious life with no mention of how a teacher (she) and her hubby; who never seems to go to work, can afford it. Helen Crowthorne lives in another large house; albeit extremely neglected, and she doesn’t even seem to have a job. At least the police are doing their jobs properly…or are they?!

Problem #4 – “I did it.” What, you hate your wife so much that you would implicate her as a paedophile?! Wow, this family needs some counselling.

Problem #5 – Same school: Most of the main characters/suspects seem to have attended the same school, then remained in the area; apparently able to afford to stay. And now the kids go to the same school. I don’t know about you, but I do not know a single person who’s children have attended the same school as their parents; especially when you live in a suburb or town where there are many to choose from.

Problem #5 – Archetypes? Check: Smacks of formulaic to me.

The Hero – that would be Tom, the dad.

The Mentor – most definitely Pete, he guides Tom through the lumps and bumps of how to behave; like he’s a grown man and still doesn’t know, in pubs, with neighbours etc. etc. And rolls his eyes at his friends impulsivity.

The Ally – well this can be Pete too, he’s the one who causes distractions to aid The Hero and accompanies him on his journey.

The Herald – Isn’t a character here – it’s an empty bed, time for a life-changing event Tom Delaney.

The Trickster – Jojo Marshall, provides a light break from the gloom of Tom’s storyline. Maybe this archetype fits him very loosely as he’s more of a fool.

The Shapeshifter – Detective Emma Castle. Why is she spying on one of the others. She’s a cop, so she’s a good guy isn’t she? Seems to hover on the borderline – until all is made clear of course.

The Guardian – ‘Bobby’, the owner of the Heaven Lounge. He tries to block Tom, practically telling him to go home and leave off his search. A big flag also waves over this character saying ‘this way lies danger’.

The Shadow – Also Bobby, as he creates a threat and further conflict for Tom.

Problem #6 – Teenage angst. Jenny Delaney can’t confront her father about a tracker he’s had installed on her phone. She has a secret from her mother – that she can’t share with her father. So, instead of having a hissy fit (like most teens), and going mardy in her bedroom because she can’t talk to dad – she ups and disappears!!!!

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Amy James-Kelly as Jenny Delaney

BUT, despite the spiralling lack of believability in this show, I watched it all. All the way through and, well, I kind of enjoyed it. How does that work?

I know many people have gone on about Michael C. Hall’s accent, but there isn’t anything wrong with it. Americans are notorious for getting British accents so very wrong, but if you aren’t London-centric, then it sounds okay to my Northerner ears.

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Ben Blackall
Marc Warren as Pete Mayfield

The acting is superb; especially, I have to say, Marc Warren( who for my money is not seen on TV or in films enough). People are entitled to their secrets,” he says, thus ensuring the viewer wonders, what kind of secret is Pete keeping? Hall is excellent in a constant state of high alert, panic and fear. Audrey Fleurot is also worth the money with her edgy, slightly neurotic, wide-eyed teacher accused of something teacher’s don’t ever want to be accused of.

The intro theme music is ‘Glitter and Gold’ by Barnes Courtney, love it. An English singer/songwriter, however, the song sounds American to me – imagine opening credits with some sweaty blokes harvesting in the ‘Deep South’, a lovely lass wiping the sweat from her brow as she peers; in her flimsy floral frock, yonder across the fields to a lone tree against a bleeding sunset. Well it’s not that. ‘Safe’, is all big houses, red brick, mock Tudor, green and ‘not so pleasant England’. So a little at odds with the theme.

It feels as though the producers were trying to appeal to as many cross-continent viewers as possible. The story moves at speed, but that’s because there are side stories, red herrings, so many individual secrets that it makes Pretty Little Liars look like a primary school squabble.

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Audrey Fleurot as Zoe Chahal

It was a great idea, and despite kind of enjoying it, I can’t help but feel that Mr. Coben should have edited his story before submitting it. It didn’t ring true. Hubby and I kept looking at each other and going, “What the…? Really? C’mon.”

I’m giving Safe 3 stars

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