Book Review #24

I just read the most sumptuous book.  It was as rich and satisfying as a slab of red velvet cake.

The book: The Boat of a Million Years

The author: Poul Anderson

The review: There are only seven story plots.  All of the millions of novels are just variations and combinations on those themes.  This one is a reworking of the movie Highlander, which was released 2 years before this was published in 1989.  I got a cheap 2004 Kindle re-release, while I was COVID-isolating.  The immortals can be killed.  It’s just that they heal quickly and totally.  They survive and recover from, wounds that would slay a normal person.

It’s ‘like’ a time-travel novel, but the travel is all from past, to the future.  Perhaps once per century, a person is born who does not age and die.  Unlike the Off With Her Head movie story, this book is about survival.  The author wants to show that, while these people are different from the rabble in one way, they are quite the same in others, and different from each other.

It is not at all like several other ‘ray-guns and space-ships’ books of this author’s that I have.  He treads lightly, but shows the historical foolishness of religions, when viewed over hundreds, or thousands of years

The most common, though not universal, drive is to find others of their kind.  A Turkish trader in post-Roman Britain spends parts of several decades finding an immortal Norse warrior.  When he finally locates him, he offers him partnership in a safe venture and way of life that will guarantee them both great wealth and political power.  The Viking turns him down, and walks away.  Several years later, he hears that the berserker died in an epic battle.

It takes over a century for a Mesopotamian ship-fleet owner to locate another male.  When he does, the outgoing extrovert is dismayed to find a reclusive milquetoast who is content to follow, and allow someone else to make decisions and take care of him.

Some of the men make the obvious search for females of their kind, for wives/companions, and to find if two immortals would produce immortal offspring.  They don’t.  After several more centuries, the pair locate an immortal woman in Rome.  Pointing out the gender inequality, she has advanced from prostitute, to madam, to courtesan, where she creates great wealth through pillow-talk investments.

Even before computers, birth certificates or accurate census forms, it was not a good idea to remain in one location with one name, for more than a couple of decades, lest the superstitious populace grow suspicious.  The trader suggests that they move back to Nineveh, or Tyre, and sells off his ships and cargoes, converting them to a more easily transported chest, full of gold and jewels.  Her history made her distrust all men, so she betrays them.  The two men escape with their lives, but lose the fortune which takes the one a century to recoup.

This is a psychological and sociological account.  With no ‘action’ to spur the plot, there is no urgency to rush this deep and lengthy book along.  The author has the time and opportunity to compose it like a story from the Golden Age of Literature, of a hundred or two-hundred years ago.  It is rich, luxurious, and full-bodied.

The construction was intriguing and complex, occasionally non-linear.  The history and geography were informative, well-researched, and wide-ranging.  The words were substantive, and often archaic.  There was hardly a page where I wasn’t poking the Kindle screen for a definition.  Words and phrases like, limned, bedizened courtesan, uxorious, an austere magus, lineaments, indolent insolence and caparisoned, peered from almost every page.  For a word-nerd like me, it was Nirvana.

Reading this book was like wearing a silk shirt and walking barefoot across a Persian carpet, while eating a filet mignon.  It was rewarding and satisfying on several simultaneous levels.  I was delighted with the social and personal insights that the mere-mortal author provided.

What’d You Say?

Hearing Aid

I went to the doctor’s the other day, and told her I have hearing problems.
She said, “Can you describe the symptoms?”
I said, “Homer’s a big fat guy, and Marge has tall blue hair.”

I just saw a burglar kicking his own door in.
I asked, “What are you doing?”
He said, “Working from home.

Mother’s Day commercials – diamonds on sale for $3000
Father’s Day commercials – Target men’s shorts on sale for $11.00

It’s been a strange sort of day. First I found a hatful of money, then I was chased by some weirdo with a guitar.

I was late for work today, because I got drunk last night, and set my calculator for $5.30.

OMG, I’m rich! Silver in the hair, gold in the teeth, crystals in the kidneys, sugar in the blood, lead in the butt, iron in the arteries, and an inexhaustible supply of natural gas.

I can’t remember how to write 1, 1000, 51, 6, and 500 in Roman numerals.
I’M LIVID

A man went into the library, and asked for a book on Probability.
The librarian replied, “Possibly it’s on that shelf over there.”

I went on a job interview the other day.
The interviewer said, “It says on your resume that you are a man of mystery.”
I replied, “That’s correct.”
He asked, “Would you care to elaborate?”
I said, “No.”

Of course I should clean my windows. But privacy is important too.

Somebody once said to me, “Archon, You’re too pretentious.” I think that it was Jean Paul Sartre – or it could have been the Dalai Lama, I forget.

My father was an old-fashioned provider. He hunted with a bow and arrow. There was never a problem till he got to the canned goods section of the supermarket.

When my wife starts to sing I always go out and do some garden work so our neighbors can see there’s no domestic violence going on.

An old Irish farmer’s dog is missing, and he’s inconsolable.
His wife says, “You should put an ad in the paper.”
Two weeks later, there’s still no sign of the dog.
“What did you put in the paper?” she asks.
“Here boy!” he replies.

Why isn’t the military accepting karate pros?
Because when they salute they might kill themselves.

I am coughing and my nose is plugged.
Internet diagnosis: I am 26 weeks pregnant!

A glass of Nutella has about 9870 calories. But I don’t care. I never eat the glass anyway.

Web site login: Sorry, your password 257EeffQ@# is not secure enough.
Cash machine login 1234: Here’s your 1000 dollars.

Waiter? I’m sorry, but I cannot eat all this. Would you be so kind and pack it for me? To take away?
But sir, this is a buffet.
Pack it up I said!

My dog used to chase people on a bike a lot. It got so bad, finally I had to take his bike away.

“You know how it is in life. One door closes – that means another door opens…”
“Yeah, very nice, but you either fix that or I’m expecting a serious discount on that car!”

My ex-wife still misses me. But her aim is steadily improving.

I Googled “how to start a wildfire”.
I got 48,000 matches.

 

Defence Of Purity

Mennonite

A recent entertainment article in the newspaper described an upcoming series on CBC-TV, titled ‘Pure’, where some Mexican Mennonites, travelling through the US and into Canada, smuggled drugs. The usual suspects were horrified – aghast, and complained. I replied, with information taken from A World Lit Only By Fire!

a world lit only by fire

In his Jan. 25th letter, Social Injustice, Harold Robertson tries to defend Mennonites from an accusation of drug smuggling, in the upcoming CBC-TV show Pure.

He naively asked, ”What next, a brothel full of nuns?” In Martin Luther’s time, that was only one of the sins of the Church and its leaders that he nailed to the door. While still called convents, there were many brothels full of nuns. They funnelled an immense amount of wealth to the Church.

There were also lots of brothels without nuns. The Vatican alone supported three, nearby. People with the surname Pope had ancestors who were illegitimate Papal offspring.

Despite what we like to believe, there are many times when not all religious figures are Holy and Pure.

***

In another paper the same week, there were two articles, one in Lifestyle, and one in the Religion section, both bemoaning the fact that attendance at almost all Christian Churches continues to decline. The only exceptions seem to be the Fundamentalist, Westboro Baptist-type churches, where they preach Hell-Fire and Brimstone, Biblical Literalism.

Some of the Protestant leaders got together and discussed the advisability of trying to attract more followers, by ‘giving the people what they want’, and abandoning the open, loving, acceptant type of Christianity.

I see at least two things wrong with this approach. First, there is hopefully, only a small percentage of intolerant, redneck-type church-goers who want this inflammatory rhetoric, to buttress their bigotry.  The pie is only so big.  Few new ‘believers’ would be created.  The slices would just get smaller, and it would drive away the few moderates still attending.

Secondly, if you truly believed in logic and science, and a loving, caring God, and populace, but are willing to so radically change your stance, you are doing so for hypocritical power and wealth reasons.

You don’t care about the soul salvation, or social support of your parishioners. You only care about bums in the pews, and a continued flow of money into your church, and your paycheck.

At least, that’s what this old non-believer believes!   😯