Review: “Joy Commeth With the Mourning”, by David Freer

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“So who would have wanted to kill him?”

“Oh, not more than three-quarters of the village,” he said, he said with a wry smile.

“But I thought you said he was doing a good job and was not a bad fellow?”

“… You know, the trouble with a small community is you can’t avoid each other like you can in the city. … And sometimes the small gets very large out here.”

This novella by David Freer  jumped ahead in my reading schedule entirely by chance.  I read the whole thing in a single evening, almost before I knew what I was doing.  It was the perfect book for the perfect time.  I was feeling world weary and thoroughly sick of politics– and glutted with “Someone on the Internet is WRONG!”

This is just what I needed.

The title is both a pun and a play on words.  The theme of heavenly joy, as well as the challenge of finding happiness is also a theme in the book.  Also, our protagonist is named Joy. This continues throughout the book. If you do not like puns, you are put on notice.   Joy is a minister sent off to the Australian hinterlands to take over a small parish whose vicar has turned up dead.  This is her first time presiding on her own, and she is used to all the comforts and structures of an active urban parish.

What she finds when she arrives, after an less than smooth introduction, that country life is less lonely and individual than she’d like.  Freer is very clearly familiar with the rural way. Though individualism is clearly an underscored value, rural communities are tight nit, with a lot of peculiarities, secrets and conflict.

The current conflagration is ignited by the vicar,  found dead under  suspicious circumstances. Worse yet, there is a hesitancy from the medical examiner to sign off on the death, allegations of a darker nature, and plenty of accusations to go around.

Though a small community, the web of relationships are complex and idiosyncratic. Like any classic cosy, you go deep into the relationships and psychology of the characters, and Freer really delivers a comprehensive examination of both. Then proceeds to demonstrate how the simple application of charity can make a world of difference.

Heads up, most Christians won’t find objectionable theology here.  As a Catholic, I didn’t either, but I did not go looking to be offended– and wasn’t.  There may have been an oblique reference to a certain Catholic scandal, but the only people who brought it up were really not characters you’d want to quote for truth on the subject of Christianity.

It is a warm, pleasant, and delightful read, with a positively Chestertonian finish.  Think of it as an Aussie extended play Anglican Fr. Brown.

Ramon Casas i Carbó [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ramon Casas i Carbó [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Book Announcements

My list of reviews is going to change a little.

News up:  Declan Finn’s “A Pius Legacy” is up for sale on this upcoming MONDAY. Check Amazon by searching for his name. (Or follow my link.) Link to the book will be added here  ASAP.

My next review (which will be up in a day or two) will be David Freer’s Joy Commeth With the Mourning”.

Then, I will have Karina Fabian’s “Greater Treasures” review up, just in time for Christmas.

I really owe Karina Fabian an apology…

 

So here’s a mnemonic– Snapdragon for Christmas!

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Sunday Shrine 12/7

Cappella di Sant’Aquilino (Milan) – Altar chapel

Carlo Garavaglia, Reliquary ark of Saint Aquilinus of Cologne, on the main altar in the Cappella di sant’Aquilino in the Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore in Milan, Italy. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, May 18 2007.

Here are some close-ups on the paintings.

By G.dallorto (Self-published work by G.dallorto) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

By G.dallorto (Self-published work by G.dallorto) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

By Carlo Dell’Orto (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Carlo Dell’Orto (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Quote for the Day

Description: Facade of the Celsus-Library in Ephesos, Turkey. Taken September 2004 by Michi (Michi) Creative Commons License

“No matter how much we know, we want to know more; no matter how much we love, we want greater love; no matter how much beauty we attain, we sense that there is a perfect beauty we have not seen.”

~  Fr. Robert Barron

 

 

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Book Review– A Pius Stand

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[“ ]They have threatened us with death, … to destroy our way of life. If they want to take from us, they better brace for impact.[“]

A Pius Stand is the long awaited last book in a trilogy by Declan Finn.

I was so thrilled when I finally got my hands on  this book!  This means, you should read up on the first two before embarking on this one. This is not to say that the book makes no sense at all if you read it first on it’s own.  So much water has roared under that bridge, you want to start from the top.

So how do you give a synopsis of the end of a trilogy?  Sadly, I can’t do a complete job.  Giving away the ending in a review is a cardinal no-no. There are just too many cardinals involved for me to risk it. Please note that  talking about enough history and action to suck all the cruft out of Wikipedia.

Where do we start?

Step 1: the world has gone insane.   The UN has decided that the Catholic church is guilty of Crimes Against Humanity.  But instead of being just another bit of bloviating from the world stage, a fighting force is assembled to exact revenge, er, I mean “justice”. We find that not much assembly is required. All too conveniently, a murderous set of villains is  waiting in the wings to be unleashed. Their mission: to give unto Caesar– and themselves– what once belonged to the church. Her documents destroyed, her buildings stripped looted and razed, her people led off into camps.

What we see happen is the assembly of the defenders from some surprising places to help defend where Western Culture began.  These determined looters with epic street cred do not back down so easily. Yes, their first few efforts were repelled.  The trouble is, a determined enemy always doubles down to exact tribute. We are shown exactly what is at stake and what needs to be done to make a last stand for the City on the Seven Hills, and ultimately good will throughout the world.

There is a lot of history here, and most of it is real.  There are a few plot details as always because it is still fiction. (So far.) He makes it very clear up front, and you never have that sense of unreality– except when you go look stuff up and discover it was really that bad.  Watching it unveil between  riveting fight scenes and shootouts is a great joy.  A Pius Stand brings us to the final chapter, the final standoff between the forces of Good and Evil.   All the pieces that were put into place for the first two books come together for a hair raising finish.

Ultimately, to make the bid for civilization, you need to be willing to sacrifice your skills, your talents, all your effort, and your life.  What separates the friends from the flatterers is all about who is willing to do just that.

UPDATE: I will post a link to the book just as soon as it comes out.   Until then, we have links to the other two books in the series.

Second UPDATE (as promised!)  There are two links you need to know.

One for paperback.

One for kindle.

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Sunday Shrine 11/30

So here we have some lesser known views of The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

By Farragutful (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I had a fairly extensive tour– and I don’t remember this. Then again, I was still star struck just trying to absorb the stained glass windows.

 

By Richardprins (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Common

⇑It’s an odd angle, but I like the perspective on it. You get a sense of scale.

Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Gryffindor (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By User:Gryffindor (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Indutiomarus (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

And… it’s nice to know some traditions have not died out.  This Golden Rose was offered to the Basilica by Pope Benedict XVI.  Strangely, I didn’t hear about it when it happened.

Ramon Casas i Carbó [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ramon Casas i Carbó [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Off For Thanksgiving…

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I won’t be posting again until well after Thanksgiving.  Look for me Next Sunday… for the Sunday Shrine. Then I’ll be posting a surprise.  :) Look for it. Hint: The box is book shaped.

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Laws of the Jungle

I’m going to write about why  things have taken off and gone beyond pear shaped in such a short time. AT least it seems short from where I sit.

By Hockey_stick.svg: Ohkamiderivative work: Hans Erren (Hockey_stick.svg) [CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons File Mod by Margot St Aubin: reformat to PNG.

By Hockey_stick.svg: Ohkamiderivative work: Hans Erren (Hockey_stick.svg) [CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
File Mod by Margot St Aubin: reformat to PNG.

 It accelerated like a bell curve. We are now in the hockey stick of crazy- and it really doesn’t matter where in the political spectrum you happen to be. If you think THIS is normal… Well, you haven’t lived very long.

There is only so far up to go before… well, we don’t know, do we. Or at least we tell ourselves we don’t. A thing that people do not seem to realize is that reverting to the law of the jungle. Soon it should be clear that it is not the ultimate freedom. It is the ultimate slavery– a slavery to defense, a slavery to the belly, a slavery to a million small things that the average person in a 3rd world country has to worry about that Westerners haven’t given a whit about since the Great Depression.

It’s the sort of thing that takes generations to break out of– if it can be done at all. Yes, we did it once, but how much of that was the very special and odd circumstance of the foundation of our country? How long will it take us to have another Brittain, another colony, another  group of well educated but oppressed men who come together to make good for pretty much everybody?  Considering how many of those other experiments in this nation building  See ref: France, Spain, much of Sub Saharan Africa, pretty much all of South America. Maybe it would save time to say the whole freaking world since human civilization began?

Sure, it can seem like technology will save us from ourselves, but I don’t see things like freedom and prosperity and very delicate new technology surviving the death of trust.

Trust is hard. It is hard to revive after it is broken. Because– not trusting is a survival skill. To trust is to build civilization. If you are in survival mode, civilization is optional.  If you have ever wondered about the difference between the Dominican Republic and Haiti– Trust has it in a nutshell. It is possible to have commerce and stable economic growth because people can trust each other and even occasionally their government to keep their avarice down to a college roar.

                                               ⇑Vince De Groot, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons. Yup, he is De Groot.  :lol:

For some, the advent of technology forgoes civilization entirely. I suspect this is why things are falling apart so quickly. We don’t have any reason– no gut reason– to hold on to our peace, to hold on to our trust, our traditions, or anything else that holds people together.  We don’t think about how dangerous things could go if we wave sayonara to whatever civilization we still cling to.  They think that it is “fear of the unknown”.

Oh, if only it were that.  That is a daily event in our current culture with technology changing by the month, inflation still accelerating, scandals breaking daily… sure. The Great Unknown™ is really just tomorrow on steroids. No biggie. As a matter of fact, this big fear has blown past trivial into the de rigueur. Yes, even for those people.

Let’s make something clear. The Conservative fear is not the fear of the unknown. It is fear of the known. It is a fear of the dreaded. That is, the fear of tyranny.

Civilization is painfully built over generations. It does not spontaneously generate around people of good will. Yes, most people are of good will– until there is a good reason not to be. If you throw the trust and rule of law out the window– that’s a good reason to kill the bastards and let God sort it out.

One gets the sense that people have gotten bored with civilization, that lawlessness would be more fun. Folks are just dying to be able to use violence on their foes and get away with it.  Funny, I bet that was the real cause of The Great War ( AKA WWI), too.

There was a lot of rhetoric around the turn of the Century that war would kept civilized gentlemen from being soft and entitled.  So war was seen as a solution to spoiled noblemen and the poison that comes from the backwash of luxury.  Like it or not, those poisons are not illusory. Laziness and entitlement are just a few of them. Doing stupid things for temporary gain, at the expense of the future is another. Just another monster in a pandora’s box horrors brought to you by the skewed perspective that comes from living well.  When you don’t see the darker consequences of life, you have no idea how dire the consequences of failure.

Kick it all down and let it burn, huh? Yeah. That’ll work.  Be Careful what you wish for. You might get it, and it might be more than you can handle.

After all, they call it the “Law of the Jungle” not “The Chaos of the Jungle” or “The Freedom of the Jungle.” You trade one obnoxious set of laws for another hopelessly unfair set of laws that are more hardened than a court of law, or the goodwill of your neighbor. Hint: The noble savage is a lie. It is not a myth, such a savage never was. It is a malignant untruth, because it is twisted and turned upside down so it sounds pleasant, comforting and plausible. As if people just come out that way without effort.

The truth is, primitive peoples have admirably strong morals and honor. They have a rigid code that is based on observable consequences of your actions. They make the most hardened conservative look like a fool-hearty libertine.   Usually, if you break these laws, it is death– one way, or the other. Let’s just say that exile only sounds like the softest option. Unless you are singularly wealthy (a feature of civilization, remember) it translates to “a miserable death– probably of starvation, or murder– away from the people who love you.”

Let’s look past that end game. Let’s see the whole picture. Where do you go after throwing off the shackles of Civilization? First, lots of people suffer, which they do by trying to live as they once did in a world with luxury, trust and safety. Generally that translates into a great deal of freedom for a few (read: fun-loving pillaging, bloodlust, rape,  etc), and misery for the overwhelming majority of the rest (disease, suffering, misery, refugee status, frequent reacquaintance with death, etc). That setup being unsustainable, there’ s a collapse.

1024px-Panthera_tigris_sumatrae_(Tiger_(Sumatra))_skinThen things go back to a crude and brutish anarchy if you are lucky, but basically it translates to rule by the toughest thug, then tribalism, then… a lifetimes long struggle on hands and knees back to Civilization. This cycle goes back and forth, from loving order and civilization, to getting bored with it, and desiring “true freedom”. Then they kick over all that their parents and grandparents worked so hard to build, and the cycle starts anew, baptized in blood.

Not the kind of rollercoaster ride I am looking forward to, I have to say.  But this cycle only goes back to civilization if people want it. Is suffering we can hardly imagine any better than following some rules?

 

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Situational Awareness

 

BL 9.2 inch Mk IX gun, ex Gibraltar, now at Royal Artillery Museum London.

Yep, ya’ll are going to hate me.

There is this crazy idea going around that women should NOT even try to defend themselves –or take precautions against potential bad situations. What’s next?  Are we going to decry looking both ways before crossing the street? Are we going to scorn the use of seatbelts? Are we going to condone posting every little piece of private data in Facebook– open to the public?!  Maybe so called feminists these days are anti-child, but that’s certainly not the sort of parental instincts I’d like to see. And no, I don’t assume that every woman is a mother. But every woman has the theoretical potential to be one.

Seriously, when you defend yourself, you aren’t just defending yourself. You are defending your friends, your family, (your children– it had to be said) anyone who cares about you. It is a good, good thing.  Tough decisions are what life is made of. And that’s the price of becoming an adult, full stop. There will never be a time when this necessity stops being a fact of life.

Part of the problem, I think is many of these women cannot wrap their own minds around what that would entail. So far as their holistic writ says, every man is a potential rapist.  As a former victim of sexual assault, I assure you that is not the case. You cannot always tell for certain who is and who isn’t, but that doesn’t mean the possibilities are endless.

Secondly, I can see why they might balk at this idea. Who wants to live in a constant state of hypervigilance? I’ve done it. It sucks. You really don’t want to go there. It makes you physically ill, for one thing, and the health problems that result can be staggering and chronic.  So no, I’m not advocating that, either. Because why? Because taking precautions is not the same thing as over reacting.  A little knowledge, a little research and you can go toward making a plan to keep yourself pretty safe without having to go crazy about it.

The first step is two fold– find out what your generalized risks are, and what kind of threat is most likely.

A Javelin missile is launched during a Firepower Demonstration at Warminster, Wiltshire.http://www.defenceimagery.mod.uk/fotoweb/fwbin/download.dll/45153802.jpg

First of all, some guys are predators. Yes, they exist. But, the kind of predator who specializes in rape is a fairly small minority. However, there are places where they tend to go to ‘hunt’, because that is what they do. The second thing to know is that the vast majority of men HATE rapists as much as you do– if not worse. It sounds freakish, yes, but it’s true. The worst violence I’ve ever heard uttered by guys I know had to do with the treatment of rapists. And I assure you they were quite serious.  Five different men have offered to kill the sexual predator that drugged me in high school Okay, make that six. Sorry I forgot one.

I said “no” to all of them.  To the majority, I said “no” because I didn’t want to see my friends in prison.  I said “no” to one or two of them because I knew they’d get away with it. But there would still be consequences, if nothing else, in the thought processes he’d already warned me about. I don’t care if he’s trained for it, he’s supposed to be a civilian now, and I’m told that blurring the line  (unless you actually go back into uniform or are in an otherwise controlled professional environment where they understand the psychology of the thing) can be dangerous for him in more personal ways.

You either defend yourself, or accept that you have no control of your safety.  There is no third way. You cannot legislate risk down to zero.  Nope, more laws really don’t help. We already do not respect the law, and yet another absurd shard of unreality in the courts will just add to the mess when the whole works collapses in on itself.

The first step to a safe society is a polite society– not just the right for every person to defend him or herself against real threats, but also building a society of trust.

And you don’t get a society of trust by blaming a whole sex for all  the world’s problems.

 

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Book Review: “It was only on Stun!”

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I spent 15 years in fandom, up close and personal.  I’d say I worked on cons, but the truth is I was mostly a tourist who pitched in with the running of a con or two. Most people I knew worked far harder than me to make it a reality.  I met some awesome people, including Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Br. Guy, ESR, and Lois McMaster Bujold. This does not count all the wonderful fen who made those cons a reality.

This book was a fine bit of nostalgia for me.  This book was like being immersed in the chaotic world of a new con attendee for the first time. You may not understand half the references, but you don’t care because the ones you do reference are good enough to follow through the maze into the heart of the thing.  My first reaction about half way through the first act was, “Declan never told me he worked Con-Com!” Either that, or he was regaled with well annotated stories over the course of years.

I admit, the con scene thing has been done before.  But most people either give you an incoherent wall of sound for a background, or sketch through it so quickly it barely has time to be a bad stereotype.  This plot surges through a roiling complex venue, and no faction of fandom is left unscathed.   Rest assured, filkers get off easy– this time.  But anybody who is a fan of the vampire subculture must bring a healthy sense of humor to the party.  IF not, you should just toss the book aside right now.  Fandom is acted upon, and fandom reacts. It is not a static backdrop to be marveled at but a living entity.  And it shows.

25_WSSM_cartridge_comparison_AR-15

In order to have all this going on at once, it is a fairly complex plot with many things and layers going on at once. It helps that he has many vivid characters that stand out–yes,  even from each other.  you’d be perfectly willing to follow most of them down a rabbit hole– with appropriate body armor, of course.

There is a lot of action– and violence.  Granted, you are seeing it all through the eyes of one of those sheepdogs who is not quite sane.  He is a fascinating study of a “good guy sociopath”. This would be off putting for some. You get the sense he enjoys his job a bit too much. For fans of his other work, seeing the “Sean and Inna, the early years” is entertaining in itself.

Though totally packed with goings on, it also is densely packed with a collage of geekery. There is something for any fandom, pretty much– with an emphasis on media fandom.  LOTR is heavily represented.  You could say Tolkien has a whole character to himself.

There is one guy on Amazon who asks where the action is. Clearly he didn’t read the book. Because it doesn’t take long to find it, and it is pretty much constant throughout and accelerates as it gallops to a finish.

Seriously, this guy has to break into TV. I want to see his work on screen.

US_M18a1_claymore_mine

 

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