Monday, May 28, 2012

Blog Hop for Rebecca Emin: When Dreams Come True

This is a post to celebrate the release of my dear friend Rebecca Emin's latest novel, "When Dreams Come True". The theme of the day is making positive dreams manifest so I'll chat a wee bit about dreams.

I am a lucid dreamer, which can be a good or bad thing depending on the sort of dream one is having. It's rather a better time having a dream of a canoe trip down a rainbow river with Cillian Murphy feeding you grapes than say, a dream that involves a burning roof and a wheezing attempt at escaping a cheesy slasher movie fiend. As an adult, I find these dreams, both the good and bad, to be something to look forward to. It's a wonderful escape into fantasy and a great stress reliever, or on occasion problem solver to be able to dream like this.

As a child, however, the dreams could be confusing and not so fun, especially if there were periods of time when I couldn't quite tell if the tiger I'd barely survived running from was real or in a dream. The nice dreams, however, not only told me I could be anything I wanted, they also let me FEEL it. As a child, dreaming that I could be a pirate or gunslinger, Bond girl or international spy, were glorious reminders that I was not as small and plain and shy as I felt during the day.

I was often crippled by loneliness and shyness, even in the presence of friends as a girl, and sometimes even now, but the dreams never failed to energize and excite me. There came a point, when I was quite young, where I couldn't bear the period of forgetting that comes after waking from a dream. So I began to write them down, unicorns and dragons, Queens and attacking extra-terrestrials all began to appear within the pages of the spiral bound notebook kept by my bed. Of course I wanted to share the dreams with everyone else, and so the dreams soon became stories.

"You're going to be a writer!" People would tell me, and I would feel a rush of happiness and dare I say... pride upon hearing it, which is not a feeling I attached to anything else accomplished by my little hands at the time. I received compliments on imagination and creativity, and I never failed to point out that everything came from dreams, without them I'd have empty pages.

Such is the importance of dreams.

Another hearty congratulations to Rebecca Emin, an accomplished writer who is certainly fighting for her dreams.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sea of Trees by Robert James Russell

Sea of TreesSea of Trees by Robert James Russell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bill, a young American, and his beautiful Japanese girlfriend, Junko, travel deep into a dark forest littered with suicide notes and corpses as they search for any trace of Junko's missing sister. Along the way, the secrets of Junko's past unfurl and sink into the roots of the forest as Bill hobbles after her, a helpless observer. This harrowing tale is interlaced with short flashes into the days preceding the suicides of people from all walks of life, souls all destined to die alone in a sea of trees.

There are a few ways this subject matter could have been handled. It could have been a gothic horror, or slasher story. It could have been a brutal nihilistic tale about hopelessness. Instead, Mr. Russell has penned elegant little stories about individual sufferers and woven them into the larger tapestry comprising a forest of death, but without gratuitous shock or contempt. Depression is not a romantic thing, nor is it a pitiful thing, it is the beast of this almost fairy tale universe driving the lost into its jaws.

The prose is compassionate and achingly accurate to anyone who has suffered a serious bout of depression. The tales of the sufferers vary from those driven to sadness by their own mistakes, others by the coldness of their environment, and in others it's the monster living deep within them from birth. I found passages of it so affecting it was like staring into a cold, clouded mirror I've been running from my entire life.

"...And during her subconscious digging she unceremoniously realized it had always been there like a pit inside her--that she could remember ever not feeling this way. This realization was a comfort to her, of all things, knowing this was part of her, that, perhaps she had been broken since birth, and like that, a wave wobbling over her, the desire to end it all returned, but with less malice than before..."

At a slick, swift 105 pages, this story is no longer than it needs to be but it casts it spell, putting its cold fingers around your wrist and leading you into the forest where evermore macabre sights await. The character of Bill serves more as our avatar in the story, a man as innocent and wondering as the reader. Junko is by far the more dynamic character, a small beauty of stubborn strength and obsession, fearing neither ghost or the rolling darkness as she pushes deeper and deeper into the forest.

I applaud Mr. Russell for this gem of a tale.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Daniken

Chariots of the GodsChariots of the Gods by Erich von Däniken

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if aliens visited this earth eons ago and started a breeding experiment with humans to create modern man? What if they have stopped by to visit periodically in the past to give technology to or even depopulate and tweak their creations? Has the evidence of it been right in front of us on cave painting walls, and in the design of fabulous ancient man-made wonders this entire time?

Erich von Daniken's book raises these questions and discusses them with enthusiasm and energy familiar to anyone who has ever spent a serious amount of time hanging with X-philes. Indeed, this book, with it's catchy hooks and easy to digest packaging is pretty much the granddaddy to all of modern pop-culture's most popular science fiction television shows and movies. It's quite easy to get sucked into the pages and pictures of this book for an afternoon read and to get that same entertained rush one gets when watching a thoroughly entertaining show or movie.

What of the actual science in this book?

Well, I am no scientist and all of that is up to serious debate. Daniken himself seems to have a past murky with scandal and rivalry. The community of "serious scientists" have all dismissed this book as flawed, fanciful, or a conglomerate of plagiarized ideas from more qualified men, but that has done little to stop the success of this particular tome and of the books that he has subsequently written as companions to this one.

Daniken raises a lot of questions and does his best to prove his points with photographs and examples of odd archaeological finds around the world. Some of it has been disproved over the passage of time (this book was written in the late sixties), some of it is pure speculation based on flimsy fact (but then the same can be said of many ideas and faiths), and some of it does strike a chord that could make you lift your eyebrow and go, "Oh... wow... what if...?" And it's rather fun to find yourself in a constant state of wanting to converse with the paragraphs either to debate, scoff, or raise your finger in surprised agreement.

Daniken's writing style is far from abrasive, in fact he seems to go out of his way not to offend anyone's set belief system by making it clear he is only raising the IDEA of something rather than invalidating the world view of anyone else. It's a brilliant tactic because it makes the book highly readable to anyone regardless of their set values.

I certainly enjoyed the ride.

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