Fiction & Literature

Occult fiction, poetry, and literary criticism.

Review: Calculating God, by Robert J. Sawyer

By Psyche | June 30, 2004 | Leave a comment

Calculating God, by Robert J. Sawyer
Tor, 0312867131, 334 pp., 2000

A spaceship lands on Earth, for the first time – outside the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Not surprisingly, the book opens with incredulity “I know, I know – it seems crazy that the alien had come to Toronto, Sure, the city is popular with tourists, but you’d thing a being from another world would head for the United Nations – or maybe to Washington. Didn’t Klaatu go to Washington in Robert Wise’s movie The Day the Earth Stood Still?” Defying Hollywood alien-human contact mythology, one of the spacecraft’s inhabitants, a six legged two armed alien, emerges from the craft, enters the museum, strolls up to the security officer at the front desk, and says, in perfect English, ‘Excuse me, I would like to see a paleontologist’. Assuming this is some kind of joke, the security officer calls Tom Jerico, resident palaeontologist specializing in vertebrae, and the book’s narrator.

Not only is this alien not interested in invading Earth, it – Hollus – is here to study Earth’s fossils – and she’s a theist, believing “’The primary goal of modern science…is to discover why God has behaved as he has and to determine his methods’” (pg 30). This fairly blows our narrator’s mind, as he is, naturally, a scientific atheist. Dear Tom spends the rest of the book terrified he will recant his position and embrace this alien perspective.

As Tom gets to know Hollus, the unlikely creature from outer space, a bit better they discuss each position, peppered with some grade ten chemistry and biology that makes for an intriguing, but, for me, ultimately unconvincing argument for the existence and nature of God.

This book is decidedly Canadian, and makes every effort to express it, from the CityTV crew to the two CSIS operatives who arrive shortly after the crew sets up. CSIS lose control of the situation and afraid of causing a scene, are quickly shooed away by spectators. The Prime Minister even made an appearance: “Prime Minister Crétien did indeed come by the ROM to meet Hollus…And several journalists asked Crétien, for the record, to give his assurance that the alien would be allowed to continue his work unmolested – which was what the Maclean’s opinion poll said the Canadian people wanted. He did indeed give that assurance, although I suspected the CSIS operatives were always still around, lurking out of view”. Even outside of the blatantly obvious, Sawyer also mentions little things that only a native would be likely to recognize such as descriptions of specific subway stops, street names, griping about Mike Harris, and even the Octagon restaurant in Thornhill gets a mention. The familiarity of the sights and sounds mentioned are enough to put a smile on the face of any Torontonian.

Calculating God is a fun read, easily accessible to the lay person in both science and theology, very Canadian and often very funny.


Review: The Earth Will Shake, by Robert Anton Wilson

By Psyche | April 30, 2004 | Leave a comment

The Earth Will Shake: The History of the Early Illuminati (The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, Volume I), by Robert Anton Wilson
New Falcon Publications, 1561841625, 369 pp., 1982, 1984, 2003

In Naples, Italy, 1764, fourteen year old Sigismundo Celine witnesses the murder of his Uncle Leonardo on Easter as he’s about to perform mass. Thus begins the coming of age story of young Sigismund, who, through his efforts to prove his manhood, discovers the world is far more sinister than he was lead to believe.

Sigismundo adventures into the world of music from unknown Johann Sebastian Bach, befriends the Monster, the wunderkid Wolfgang Mozart, he even meets the hermetically inclined Dr. Frankenstein – or one of them. All the while, everyone from the Freemasons, the Rossi, Alumbrados, the Carboni, and even the MAFIA want seem to want him to ‘learn their secret handgrips and join their very own special conspiracy’.

The characters are brilliantly entertaining, from Sigismundo himself who is ‘the most brilliant young musician in all Italy since Antonio Vivaldi, in the estimation of only the two people whose opinions mattered, himself and Uncle Pietro’, to clever Uncle Pietro who spares him time and time again, naive Maria whom Sigismundo is hopelessly in love with – and terrified of, to Sir John: ‘“Yes,” Sir John said wearily, with a strange, crooked grin. “I do not know what to believe. I have read too much and travelled too far. Certitude belongs to those who have only lived in a place where everybody believes the same thing”’.

The chapter headings loosely follow cards of the Tarot (the Fool, the Empress, the Magician, the Priestess, the World, the Hanged Man, the Devil), but out of order. Obviously influenced by Aleister Crowley, Masonic ritual and occult thought with Wilson’s characteristic ‘maybe logic’ philosophy evident even in this earlier work.

Any fan of the any branch of Illuminati or secret society lore will immediately find this book appealing. Brilliantly written, clever, funny, and with more than a hint of intrigue, what more could one possible look for in a great novel.


Review: Hand of Fate, by Dotti Enderle

By Mike Gleason | April 10, 2004 | Leave a comment

Hand of Fate: The Fortune Tellers Club, Book 4, Dotti Enderle
Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738703907, 144 pp., 2004

The adventures of the Fortune Teller’s Club continue in this fourth installment of the series for middle (junior high school) girls aged 8-12. Anne, Gena, and Juniper once again find their gifts being called into play.

Anne has her plans all set. She is going to Cheer Camp, where she is going to be the first seventh-grader to win Cheerleader of the Year. She can visualize the trophy perfectly. Then a freak accident throws those plans into wild disarray.

Once again the girls step outside the boundaries of traditional divination. They create a new divination tool – a Hand of Fate. This consists of a latex glove, filled with birdseed, and marked with coloured lines, each one of which is labelled. Using it is simple. Ask a question, flip a coin up and onto the hand. Where it lands gives you your answer. Unconventional? Sure, but like most of these creations, this one opens new doorways.

This series isn’t about Pagans, nor is it about magick. It is about youngsters taking control of their lives and not succumbing to peer pressure. It is about young ladies learning to trust their instincts, while still using common sense. The plot lines aren’t deep and mysterious. They are, however, filled with inspiration for young folks. They show it is possible to be “different” yet still live a normal life.

The writing style is crisp, and the stories move along nicely, both within the individual books and within the series as a whole. Each story sees the girls developing a bit more, They are still teenage girls, however. They still have problems with classmates, and crushes on boys. However, these are girls who have an extra component in their lives.

As in the other books in this series (The Lost Girl, Playing with Fire, The Magic Shades, and Secret of Lost Arrow) the girls experiment with more than one form of divination. They use a séance to answer Anne’s questions about why she was prevented from going to Cheer Camp. The answers don’t really seem to answer her questions at the time.

None of the girls has been trained in the mechanics of a séance. In fact, they haven’t been trained in any of the divinatory arts they use. They simply make it up as they go along (that’s the secret to being a good diviner, anyhow). They know what they have heard, and seen in movies, but they are willing to experiment, and that is what works for them.

There are plenty of unexpected twists and turns in this book. It will hold the interest of the young reader for sure. What secret does Anne discover while trying to get her horoscope done on the internet? How is she connected to a young woman who died? The answers are here, even if they are unexpected.

This is a fun book for the pre- and early-teen group. You don’t need to have read the previous books to enjoy it, but you will probably want to pick them up after reading this one.

And you will probably look forward to the next one in the series (Mirror, Mirror). At $4.99 each they are inexpensive, short enough to be read in a day or so, and contain some good ideas.

They are not great literature, but they are fun to read.


Review: Kissing Darkness, by Carolyn Mary Kleefeld and David Wayne Dunn

By Psyche | November 29, 2003 | Leave a comment

Kissing Darkness: Love Poems, by Carolyn Mary Kleefeld and David Wayne Dunn
RiverWood Books, 1883991838, 93 pp., 2003

In 1980 David Wayne Dunn first wrote to Carolyn Mary Kleefeld after reading her first book of book, Climate of the Mind, expressing his admiration. Over the next seventeen years, they continued their correspondence sharing poetry and gradually their more intimate experiences. The poems in this book were written between 1996 and 2002, which Dunn and Kleefeld wrote for each other.

This lover’s dialogue in poetry, Kissing Darkness, written over a five year period, expresses romantic and erotic ideals, conveyed in vivid metaphor.

The poetry in this collection is interspersed with beautiful illustrations, being Kleefeld’s bright and expressive series of paintings titled Immortal Letters and Dunn’s colour ink drawings.


Review: The Magic Shades, by Dotti Enderle

By Mike Gleason | September 4, 2003 | Leave a comment

The Magic Shades: The Fortune Tellers Club, Book 3, by Dotti Enderle
Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738703419, 135 pp. (+ preview), 2003

In this third instalment of the Fortune Tellers Club series, juvenile misadventures continue. The girls are still dealing with their “arch enemies” Beth and Nicole (or as the Club calls them “the Snotty Twins”), who continue to torment them because of their interest in divination.

This time around Gena buys a pair of sunglasses (“the most hideous creation ever invented”, a cording to Juniper) at a discount store, which apparently allow her to foresee future events. She can see the future. Unfortunately, she lacks the experience and maturity to understand what she is seeing. She has a tendency to misinterpret what she sees and to over-react to what she believes the images mean.

On top of that, her father (a widower for most of her life) is turning traitor – he is starting to show an interest in another woman – HOW DARE HE?! And how dare another woman try to take away her father? She must have put him under some kind of spell.

And then the unimaginable happens. Her father is revealed as all to human and Rachel (the new woman on the scene) is revealed to be a loving, caring person, with a surprise or two up her sleeve.

There are more books to come in this series and, while it is most definitely not a classic series, neither is a “See Spot run” series. They are inexpensive enough to be a good, spur-of-the-moment gift for the pre- or early-teen in you life who is looking for some fun reading. I definitely recommend them.


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