Welcome!! My name is Paul Lappen. I am in my early 50s, single, and live in Connecticut USA. This blog will consist of book reviews, written by me, on a wide variety of subjects. I specialize, as much as possible, in small press and self-published books, to give them whatever tiny bit of publicity help that I can. Other than that, I am willing to review nearly any genre, except poetry, romance, elementary-school children's books and (really bloody) horror.

I have another 800 reviews at my archive blog: http://www.deadtreesreviewarchive.blogspot.com (please visit).

I post my reviews to:

2 yahoo groups
Amazon and B&N (of course)
and on Twitter

I am always looking for more places to post my reviews.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tesseracts Eighteen: Wrestling With Gods

Tesseracts Eighteen: Wrestling With Gods, Liana Kerzner and Jerome Stueart, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2015

This yearly compendium of Canadian fantasy and science fiction tales deals with matters of religion and spirituality.

The religions of Christianity and Shintoism are mashed together in a weird amalgamation, led by an android Jesus. A Muslim woman uses surgery to get closer to Allah. A woman summons Ra, the ancient Egyptian Sun God, to see if he can do anything about a Canadian winter. There is a story about a teacher in a rural school, forcing Indian children to learn the ways of the white man, a teacher who just happens to be a vampire. The Hindu god Ganesha is convinced to get rid of his elephant trunk to be more acceptable to modern Hindus. There is also a Last person on Earth story.

Another Tesseracts volume equals another bunch of Very Good to Excellent stories. They will certainly get the reader thinking about Truth and who we are as human beings. As usual, this is very much worth reading.

Dragon of the Mangroves

Dragon of the Mangroves, Yasuyuki Kasai, iUniverse, Inc., 2006

This is a World War II novel told from the Japanese point of view.

In early 1945, part of the Japanese Twenty-eight Army is sent to Ramree Island , off the coast of Burma, to blunt the Allies' counter-offensive. While they are there, one of the soldiers, Superior Private Kasuga, asks a local villager about the horrible smell coming from Myinkhon Creek, which separates the island from the mainland. It comes from the man-eating crocodiles that inhabit the creek.

Fierce fighting against British and Indian troops drives the Japanese to the eastern edge of the island. Their only option is to swim Myinkhon Creek (which is a couple of hundred yards wide) to reach the mainland. Private Kasuga smells that crocodile smell again, and tells his sergeant, who is not sympathetic. The men are ordered to start swimming, at night.

Meantime, Second Lieutenant Sumi has been sent from the mainland, on a desperate mission to rescue as many soldiers as possible. A couple of more direct rescue attempts failed disastrously. Renting several rickety Burmese fishing boats, Sumi and several soldiers land at the south end of Ramree Island (it is not a small island). They have to walk for several days through thick jungle, to reach the Twenty-eighth's last known position. Are they in time? Is there anyone left to rescue?

This is a good novel (inspired by a true story) that shows Japanese soldiers as real people, with loved ones back home. It also shows them dealing with a huge shortage of food and water, ammunition and military leadership. The appearance of the crocodiles takes up only a little bit of the end of the book. Otherwise, it is short, and worth reading.

Professor Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places

Professor Challenger: New Worlds, Lost Places, J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing, 2015

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did more than just create the character of Sherlock Holmes. He also created Professor George Edward Challenger, a hulking, bombastic man of science (think "bull in a china shop"). He doesn't take any nonsense from anyone, and is not afraid to say so. He also frequently remarks that he is the smartest man in England, which is usually correct. Here is a bunch of brand-new Professor Challenger stories.

An investigation into what looks like a prehistoric man menacing rural England reveals something a lot more horrifying. Challenger and one of his companions, a newspaperman named Malone, find themselves on a derelict sea vessel that is under attack by a real kraken. The British authorities want Challenger to control the beast, and weaponize it, so that it can be used against German ships, an idea that Challenger considers beyond idiotic. A wealthy man serves real dinosaur meat to his dinner party guests, meat that contains a really unique parasite.

There is a trip to the Moon, which has a breathable atmosphere. Challenger and his companions are taken prisoner by the Selenites. There is a tale about growing human brains out of a sort of malleable crystal. It may be able to keep a person alive, but can a person's personality be transferred into the crystal brain?

I totally enjoyed these tales. They are all well done, with enough and weird stuff for anyone. I guess I shall have to read Challenger's most prominent previous appearance, in Doyle's novel "The Lost World." This book is highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Disruptive Feminisms: Raced, Gendered and Classed Bodies in Film

Disruptive Feminisms: Raced, Gendered and Classed Bodies in Film, Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, Palgrave Pivot, 2015

This book looks at several films that explore issues like class, gender, patriarchy and income inequality without being overwhelming about it.

Post Tenebras Lux is a recent Mexican film about two families, one rich and one poor, attempting to survive in present-day Mexico. It is one of those films that has a rather flexible border between fantasy and reality, and leaves a lot of interpretation up to the viewer. A person could watch the film several times, and have several different interpretations. That may be why, at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, it received mixed reviews, and the Best Director Award.

Made in the early 1950's, The Hitch-Hiker is about a pair of war buddies who tell their wives that they are going camping for several days. They are actually planning several days of drinking and carousing. That is because they despise their new post-war lives of consumer and office worker. The buddies run into a homicidal maniac who may, or may not, be a repressed, self-loathing homosexual. Being the 1950's, the violence is more implied than actual, but this is still a very dark film. Bottled Up is a more recent independent film set in upstate New York. A grown woman is addicted to prescription painkillers, and her mother has no problem in enabling her, even faking injuries to get her own prescriptions. The daughter has no interest in trying to kick the habit.

In the early days of television, there was an actress with a couple of very popular, but short-lived, shows that spoke to women as real people, and not just as consumers. Her name was Betty White. She was willing to portray women having real thoughts and feelings, including of a sexual nature. The show's sponsor was not in agreement, so the shows were turned into your average sitcoms, and ultimately cancelled.

This is a very interesting book, not just for passionate movie fans. It is recommended for those dealing with issues like sexism and ageism. It is very much worth reading for everyone.