How the South Won the Civil War unmasks the American paradox

By Ande Jacobson

Professor Heather Cox Richardson, a prominent professor of American history at Boston College, has gained notoriety in the last several months as the author of a popular series entitled “Letters from an American” which appear on her website as well as on her professional Facebook page on a nightly basis. She began writing these letters in early November 2019 in response to numerous questions she received trying to make sense of the political events of the day. In these letters she provides a nightly roundup of the day’s political news, and along the way, she provides lessons delving the depths of American history to show where many of these ideas and tactics originated. On April 1, 2020 (after she was well into her nightly series), her latest book, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America, was released. In this book, she describes what she refers to as the American paradox. This paradox is based on the principle that throughout American history, equality depended on inequality. She shows how this paradox started before the founding of the country and ripples throughout our nation’s history driving much of the division we see in American society today. Continue reading

Clive Fleury’s ‘Kill Code’ is a compelling read

By Ande Jacobson

In December 2018, TCK Publishing released a new science fiction novel, Kill Code, by Clive Fleury. This gripping dystopian story is packed with action, intrigue, and a hero who might just have bitten off more than he bargained for as he tries to right the wrongs he’s seen all too often. In a not-too-distant future look at the little blue marble in space, the planet is ravaged by climate changes. The planet, and especially the Los Angeles area, has heated beyond all imagination, and there are really only a few hours of daylight that are even partially tolerable. The oceans have risen so quickly that weekly measurements show massive encroachment on waterfront areas, and humans have been pushed further and further inland. Over the top of it all, corruption is rampant, normal citizens have lost almost everything, and Hogan Duran wants to do something about it.

Duran is a former soldier and disgraced cop living in squalor with his former police partner, Max Creeling. Creeling is now wheelchair bound after a shooting that ultimately got them both removed from the police force. Instead of just squeaking by, Duran wants to make a difference. After years of scrambling to get what work he could, an opportunity finally presents itself that Duran just can’t ignore. The prestigious National Security Council (NSC for short) beckons to him to join. Well to be fair, Duran had applied and been rejected several times, but finally he’s invited to take the entrance exam. There’s just one small problem. The test can be deadly. If that weren’t bad enough, Duran comes to realize, beyond the challenges of getting in, there are some terrible secrets that are even more dangerous.

The book is short, only 149 pages, and it moves very quickly, much like the pilot of an action-packed television series. This is not surprising given Fleury has produced, directed, or written several projects for television and film, so he knows those mediums well.

The story is told in first person from Duran’s point of view, so the reader can only know what he knows. The reader learns Duran’s and Creeling’s backstories early on, and when Duran makes his way to the gleaming NSC headquarters to try to win entrance into the elite NSC forces, several other characters are introduced, each with secrets in their past that unfold to Duran slowly throughout story. As such, some of the supporting characters are a little underdeveloped or single dimensional because Duran can be fooled, and by extension, so can the reader. Although portions of Kill Code read a bit like a script, Fleury adds plenty of descriptive material to allow the reader to easily visualize the settings as Duran experiences them.

There are a few minor editorial issues such as using the subject form “Max and I” when it should be “Max and me” as an object, but they can generally be forgiven as the reader digs into this fast-moving, near-future world.

In addition to being Fleury’s first novel, Kill Code is the first book in a series under development. While the series may well take the reader in numerous, unexpected directions, this particular story doesn’t so much resolve as setup the next installment of the story. As such, the last chapter ends abruptly, leaving the reader hanging. Still, overall the book is an enjoyable read, and even though the world is dystopian, it provides a nice escape from the current world’s reality.

Kill Code is available in both paperback and digital formats.


References:
Kill Code: A Dystopian Science Fiction Novel
TCK Publishing
Clive Fleury’s other projects
Clive Fleury’s Author website


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What if you could see the future?

By Ande Jacobson

TCK Publishing brings a lot of new authors to light, and one of their latest is Jenna Ryan. Her debut novel, The Channeler: A Future Forewarned (Continuum Series Book 1), was published in January 2019. Classified as a young adult fantasy romance novel, Ryan covers a lot of ground in the book’s 241 pages. The story, told in first person by protagonist Caleb Michael Swift, nicely captures the college experience while mixing in copious amounts of supernaturally inspired angst. Caleb seeks a normal life as he navigates his junior year in college. He has lived with his “aunt” Nikki from a very young age. Readers eventually find out that Nikki isn’t really his aunt. She was his mother’s dearest friend, and she took him in after his mother’s untimely death. Caleb never knew his father, and as the story unfolds, he learns some very surprising things about him. Continue reading

Follow Peter Green into AfterLife, his new, “unliving” state of being

By Ande Jacobson

Peter Green and the Unliving Academy is Angelina Allsop’s first published book, initially offered under the title The Dead Orphanage, and it is also the first in her Young Adult (YA), AfterLife fantasy series. The book is filled with Allsop’s unique view of “AfterLife,” as distinguished from “Life.” There are plenty of otherworldly creatures such as werewolves, witches, vampires, poltergeists, skeletons, zombies, and ghosts, as well as a full assortment of “unliving” humans not possessing any special powers when compared to their peers. Of course, all of the unliving can do a few things unheard of in the living world. Continue reading

‘Homo Deus’ – will AIs replace Homo sapiens?

By Ande Jacobson

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, is the second, recent, international best seller by Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari. In it, Harari draws heavily on his previous book (also an international best seller) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. In fact, Homo Deus can stand alone and give the reader a nice synopsis of the earlier work. Harari compresses his previous book’s crucial concepts about the various developmental revolutions that humanity has weathered into half as many pages before broadening those concepts and presenting some possibilities of where humankind might be headed in the twenty-first century and beyond. Homo Deus was first published in an Israeli Hebrew edition in 2015. The first English translation appeared in the UK in 2016, and it finally made it to the United States market in 2017. As of spring 2018, it has been translated (in order) into English, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Chinese, German, Dutch, Hungarian, Croatian, Italian, Korean, French, Norwegian, Greek, Czech, Lithuanian, Romanian, Russian, and Bulgarian. While it hasn’t quite caught up to the 45 languages Harari’s earlier work has so far appeared in, this latest book is well on its way. Continue reading

Follow-on thoughts about ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ – Part 2: Happiness

By Ande Jacobson

Happiness is a central theme that Yuval Noah Harari explores in detail in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. He discusses the multitude of advances that humankind has achieved throughout its history, starting, as he puts it, as “an animal of no significance.” As mentioned in previous discussions of this book, Harari separates humankind’s history into several revolutions (cognitive, agricultural, scientific), and through them all, he questions whether the individual members of our species are happier with each advancement. Even at our earliest stage in history, Homo sapiens has been a biologically successful species, but is biological success enough? Does that alone serve to make the majority of us happy? Continue reading

‘The Student Conductor’ masterfully merges politics, history, fiction, and musical reality

By Ande Jacobson

Robert Ford isn’t exactly a household name, and it’s been over a decade since he published his first (and seemingly only) novel. He went on to write several award-winning one-act and full-length plays that have been produced both in the U.S. and in Europe, but his novel remains a unique work. The Student Conductor was first published in the U.S. in 2003 with subsequent editions in Europe and Australia. It gives readers a look into Ford’s imagination as he conjures up plenty of intrigue and heart. He also guides readers deep into the magical world of classical music giving them an idea of just what it takes to become a professional symphony conductor. Continue reading

Follow-on thoughts about ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ – Part 1: Common Myths

By Ande Jacobson

In the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Harari discusses several thought-provoking aspects of human history. One of the most fascinating and far reaching developments is what he describes as “common myths.” He gives the following introductory description of this concept in his discussion of key developments from the Cognitive Revolution:

“Any large-scale human cooperation – whether a modern state, a medieval church, an ancient city or an archaic tribe – is rooted in common myths that exist only in people’s collective imagination. Churches are rooted in common religious myths. … States are rooted in common national myths. … Judicial systems are rooted in common legal myths. ….

“Yet none of these things exists outside the stories that people invent and tell one another. There are no gods in the universe, no nations, no money, no human rights, no laws, and no justice outside the common imagination of human beings.”

Based on his description, all of the vagaries and debates that philosophers have waged since the Cognitive Revolution occurred can be chalked up to fiction. In the modern world beyond the list above, organizational constructs such as corporations would also qualify as common myths that are accepted by our collective imaginations. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ – a story of where we came from and where we might be going

By Ande Jacobson

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari, was first published in the U.S. in 2015, and it took the country by storm. It quickly became a New York Times best seller and is used in numerous history courses around the country. Great Britain saw its English language release a year earlier in 2014, but the author’s countrymen saw it first published in his native Hebrew a few years before that in 2011. Beyond that, the book has been translated into over thirty languages worldwide, and at least the American English version is credited as being translated by Harari, with help from John Purcell and Haim Watzman. Why did Sapiens:… make such a splash around the world? It tells a fascinating story. Harari is an Israeli born historian and a tenured history professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a passion for how every human endeavor affects history and the world. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ adds a thrilling eighth chapter to the series

cursed-child-dust-jacket-edBy Ande Jacobson

J.K. Rowling discovered gold when her first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (renamed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone outside of the U.K.), hit the presses in 1997. Intended as the first installment of a seven-part children’s book series, it fortuitously (though unexpectedly) appealed to readers of all ages. Rowling released the subsequent books over the next decade with the final installment reaching the shelves in July 2007 with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The reception was phenomenal. Not only did readers clamber for each new book, the movie industry embraced the stories and released blockbuster adaptations of each one, the last taking two films to fully explore.

In 2015, a new story synopsis in the Harry Potter oeuvre surfaced. The story was written by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne, and Thorne went on to put this story into the form of a play. The full rehearsal script of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released on 31 July 2016, one day after the maiden voyage of the play opened in London. This review discusses only the script as a book, not as commentary on any performance of the material. Continue reading