the ransom of the soul
“The ransom of the soul of a man is his wealth.” This phrase from the book of Proverbs (13:8) launches Peter Brown’s incisive study of how Christian thinking evolved from 250 A.D. to 650 A.D. with regards to money. Money played a more and more active role in the Catholic Church in these years as wealthy believers took more elaborate steps to protect their souls and the souls of their families by building fabulous burial sites, buying influence among the church elites, and making lavish donations to build monasteries and funerary chapels. Peter Brown traces the growing influence of money on the Catholic Church and the effect of wealth on religious doctrine. Fascinating reading! GRADE: A


John O’Neill at BLACK GATE reviewed this massive collection. Somehow, it slipped past my radar. I went online and found a copy for a penny (plus Shipping & Handling). Yet this book is worth its considerable weight in gold. Exploring the Norizons comprises two separate collections, Explorers and The Furthest Horizon, bound together in this omnibus edition. Just take a look at the Table of Contents to see the quality of stories in this 916-page tome. And the John Berkey cover is eye-popping!  Highly recommended!
Preface by Gardner Dozois
“The Sentinel,” by Arthur C. Clarke (10 Story Fantasy, Spring 1951)
“Moonwalk,” by H. B. Fyfe (Space Science Fiction, November 1952)
“Grandpa,” by James H. Schmitz (Astounding Science Fiction, February 1955)
“The Red Hills of Summer,” by Edgar Pangborn (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 1959)
“The Longest Voyage,” by Poul Anderson (Analog, December 1960)
“Hot Planet,” by Hal Clement (Galaxy, August 1963)
“Drunkboat,” by Cordwainer Smith (Amazing Stories, October 1963)
“Becalmed in Hell,” by Larry Niven (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1965)
“Nine Hundred Grandmothers,” by R. A. Lafferty (If, February 1966)
“The Keys to December,” by Roger Zelazny (New Worlds, August 1966)
“Vaster Than Empires and More Slow,” by Ursula K. Le Guin (New Dimensions 1, 1971)
“A Meeting With Medusa,” by Arthur C. Clarke (Playboy, December 1971)
“The Man Who Walked Home,” by James Tiptree, Jr. (Amazing Science Fiction, May 1972)
“Long Shot,” by Vernor Vinge (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, August 1972)
“In the Hall of the Martian Kings,” by John Varley (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February 1977)
“Ginungagap,” by Michael Swanwick (TriQuarterly 49, 1980)
“Exploring Fossil Canyon,” by Kim Stanley Robinson (Universe 12, 1982)
“Promises to Keep,” by Jack McDevitt (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, December 1984)
“Lieserl,” by Stephen Baxter (Interzone #78, December 1993)
“Crossing Chao Meng Fu,” by G. David Nordley (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 1997)
“Wang’s Carpets,” by Greg Egan (New Legends, May 1995)
“A Dance to Strange Musics,” by Gregory Benford (Science Fiction Age, November 1998)
“Approaching Perimelasma,” by Geoffrey A. Landis (Asimov’s Science Fiction, January 1998)
Preface by Gardner Dozois
“Guyal of Sfere,” by Jack Vance (The Dying Earth, 1950)
“Old Hundredth,” by Brian W. Aldiss (New Worlds Science Fiction #100, November 1960)
“Alpha Ralpha Boulevard,” by Cordwainer Smith (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1961)
“Day Million,” by Frederik Pohl (Rogue, Feb/March 1966)
“Bumberboom,” by Avram Davidson (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1966)
“Coranda,” by Keith Roberts (New Worlds, January 1967)
“Nightwings,” by Robert Silverberg (Galaxy, September 1968)
“Pale Roses,” by Michael Moorcock (New Worlds 7, December 1974)
“Anniversary Project,” by Joe Haldeman (Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, October 1975)
“Slow Music,” by James Tiptree, Jr. (Interfaces, February 1980)
“The Map,” by Gene Wolfe (Light Years and Dark, November 1984)
“Dinosaurs,” by Walter Jon Williams (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, June 1987)
“The Death Artist,” by Alexander Jablokov (Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, August 1990)
“Sister Alice,” by Robert Reed (Asimov’s Science Fiction, November 1993)
“Recording Angel,” by Paul J. McAuley (New Legends, May 1995)
“Genesis,” by Poul Anderson (Far Futures, December 1995)
“The Days of Solomon Gursky,” by Ian McDonald (Asimov’s Science Fiction, June 1998)


kristen lo
Last week Diane and I flew to Jacksonville where Patrick rented an SUV and drove us to the Hampton Inn in St. Augustine. Diane and I thought going to Florida in February would be a warm holiday get-a-way. But no, the temperatures in Florida stayed in the 40s. People were walking around St. Augustine bundled up like Eskimos and wore gloves! I was comfortable in my Spring jacket.

My niece Kristen, an occupational therapist, married Harrison, an electrical engineer. They own a condo in St. Augustine. Nice ceremony, nice reception.

I would describe St. Augustine as “Quaint.” Plenty of little shops. Plenty for tourists to explore. I found two used bookstores. In Anaconda Books, I found a First Edition of Jack Vance’s Throy for $5. In Second Read Books, I found a Simon Green Nightside paperback I didn’t have and James Blaylock’s steam-punk novel, Homunculus .

If you’re looking for a nice vacation destination, I’d recommend St. Augustine, FL.


excellent cadavers
Alexander Stille’s Excellent Cadavers tells the story of two Sicilian magistrates–Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino–who attempted to prosecute members of the Mafia. Both men were assassinated in 1992. Falcone and Borsellino uncovered a pattern of corruption in the government that led to the Mafia. While reading Excellent Cadavers I was reminded of the same type of corruption by the drug lords on our continent. If you’re in the mood for a vivid history of crime and punishment and more crime, I highly recommend Excellent Cadavers. GRADE: A
Excellent Cadavers/3
Select Bibliography/413


I’m a fan of Cole Porter’s music so factor that into your opinion of this review. Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd star in this movie-bio. The music is great and this film features a bunch of artists: Natalie Cole, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, Alantis Morissette, and Robbie Williams. For me, it’s all about the music. Special Features include commentary by the Director, Irwin Winkler, and the scriptwriter, Jay Cocks. I liked the “Making of De-Lovely” featurette. There are also “Deleted Scenes” and the original theatrical trailer included on this DVD. If you like this music, you’ll really enjoy this film. GRADE: B+

AND YET… By Christopher Hitchens

and yet
I’m a big fan of Christopher Hitchens. He was a gadfly who shifted political stances several times in his career. Some I agreed with, some I didn’t. But Hitchens was always a top-notch writer with something to say. His best collection is Auguably. This new collection, And Yet… collects a lot of dated material. Do you really want to read about the political hanky-panky in Ohio during the 2004 election? The best of the essays in And Yet… focus more on literature. I really liked “Charles Dickens Inner Child,” “G.K. Chesterton: The Reactionary,” and “The Importance of Being Orwell.” Just terrific essays! I enjoyed Hitchens’s views on Edmund Wilson, Paul Scott, and V. S. Naipaul. If you’re a Hitchens fan you’ll want to read this book. If you just want to read Hitchens very best work, I’d highly recommend Arguably. GRADE: B
Che Guevara : goodbye to all that
Orwell’s list
Orhan Pamuk : mind the gap
Bring on the mud
Ohio’s odd numbers
On becoming American
Mikhail Lermontov : a doomed young man
Salman Rushdie : Hobbes in the Himalayas
My Red-state odyssey
The turkey has landed
Bah, humbug
A.N. Wilson : downhill all the way
Ian Fleming : bottoms up
Power suits
Blood for no oil?
How uninviting
Look who’s cutting and running now
Oriana Fallaci and the art of the interview
Imperial follies
Clive James : the omnivore
Gertrude Bell : the woman who made Iraq
Physician, heal thyself
Edmund Wilson : literary companion
On the limits of self-improvement, part I : of vice and men
On the limits of self-improvement, part II : vice and versa
On the limits of self-improvement, part III : mission accomplished
Ayaan Hirsi Ali : the price of freedom
Arthur Schlesinger : the courtier
Paul Scott : Victoria’s secret
The case against Hillary Clinton
The tall tale of Tuzla
V.S. Naipaul : cruel and unusual
No regrets
Barack Obama : cool cat
The lovely stones
Edward M. Kennedy : redemption song
Engaging with Iran is like having sex with someone who hates you
Colin Powell : Powell valediction
Shut up about Armenians or we’ll hurt them again
Hezbollah’s progress
The politicians we deserve
Rosa Luxemburg : Red Rosa
Joan Didion : “Blue nights”
The true spirit of Christmas
Charles dickens’s inner child
G.K. Chesterton : the reactionary
The importance of being Orwell
What is patriotism?


The Carolina Panthers have what I believe is the best quarterback in the NFL. Denver has the best defense, but they haven’t seen a QB like Cam Newton. Peyton Manning looks like he’s on his last legs. The Vegas point-spread oscilates between 5 and 6 points. No matter. I think the Carolina Panthers will win this Super Bowl easily and beat the spread. Who do you think will win? And who picked Coldplay for the Half-time band? At least Beyonce will make a cameo appearance.


le road trip
A few weeks ago I read Vivian Swift’s first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam. You can read my review here. I was so delighted with Vivan Swift’s first book, I read her second book, Le Road Trip. Vivian, and her new husband James, travel to France to celebrate their marriage and to enjoy the country with the most tourists (71 million each year). Vivian is a seasoned traveler and you’ll find plenty of great travel tips in this book. She has a clever way of packing. Vivian knows her way around French restaurants and wine (only drink Bordeaux wines). Le Road Trip is a brilliant guide to traveling in Paris and the rest of France. Below, I’ve included a sample page. As you can see, Vivian provides plenty of eye-grabbing watercolors to illustrate her books. A book like this is a browser’s delight! GRADE: A
le road trip2


My sister in Arizona found a copy of THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON: A 35-YEAR RETROSPECTIVE edited by Terry Dowling with Richard Delap and Gil Lamont and sent it to me as a Christmas present. This 1200+ page tome presents the best of Ellison’s work. And, as usual, Ellison’s introductions and notes on his work grip you with their intensity. Harlan Ellison dominated the science fiction awards for years. The range of these stories is impressive. And the portrait of a young struggling writer slowly developing into a legendary figure will remain memorable. I came away from reading THE ESSENTIAL ELLISON wit renewed respect for the man and his work.
Table of Contents
Introduction : sublime rebel 1
Lagniappe 5
The sword of Parmagon 15
The Gloconda 21
The wilder one 27
The saga of Machine Gun Joe 29
Introduction to Glowworm 31
Glowworm 35
Life hutch 47
S.R.O. 59
Lonelyache 73
Punky and the Yale men 89
A prayer for no one’s enemy 113
Pulling hard time 131
In lonely lands 139
The time of the eye 145
Grail 153
I have no mouth, and I must scream 177
Corpse 191
The whimper of whipped dogs 199
The voice in the garden 219
Erotophobia 221
Mom 227
Ecowareness 239
The outpost undiscovered by tourists 241
Dept. of “what was the question?” dept 245
Dept. of “Trivial Pursuit” dept 247
Prince Myshkin, and hold the relish 251
The very last day of a good woman 261
Valerie : A true memoir 269
The other eye of Polyphemus 283
All the birds come home to roost 291
The tombs : an excerpt from Memos from purgatory 307
“Our little miss” 347
A love song for Jerry Falwell 355
Telltale tics and tremors 361
True love : groping for the Holy Grail 371
Adrift just off the Islets of Langerhans : latitude 38[degrees] 54’N, longitude 77[degrees] 00′ 13″W 391
The function of dream sleep 419
The sky is burning 447
The prowler in the city at the edge of the world 455
Along the scenic route 473
The song the zombie sang 483
Knox 495
With Virgil Oddum at the East Pole 509
From Alabamy, with hate 531
My father 543
My mother 549
Tired old man 557
Gopher in the gilly 567
Strange wine 573
The resurgence of Miss Ankle-Strap Wedgie 585
Flintlock : An unproduced teleplay 655
The man on the mushroom 735
Somehow, I don’t think we’re in Kansas, Toto 739
Face-down in Gloria Swanson’s swimming pool 755
Soldier 763
The night of delicate terrors 781
Shattered like a glass goblin 789
At the mouse circus 797
Free with this box! 809
Final shtick 817
One life, furnished in early poverty 827
Jeffty is five 841
Daniel White for the greater good 863
Neither your Jenny nor mine 873
Alive and well and on a friendless voyage 907
“Repent, harlequin!” said the Ticktockman 923
Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes 933
A boy and his dog 951
The deathbird 985
Paladin of the lost hour 1011
Soft monkey 1031
Mefisto in onyx 1043
Where I shall dwell in the next world 1089
The museum on Cyclops Avenue 1099
Objects of desire in the mirror are closer than they appear 1109
Man on spikes 1119
Introduction to “Tired old man” 1127
The man who rowed Christopher Columbus ashore 1131
The thick red moment 1151
The man who was heavily into revenge 1169
Driving in the spikes 1181
An edge in my voice, installment 55 1191
The streets, installment 1 1195
Xenogenesis 1199
Afterword 1237