Reviews by C. Alan Loewen

Viviette

by William J. Locke

Normally I do not read romance, but this book had come recommended to me and I surprised myself by reading it all in one sitting.

William John Locke (18631930) was born in British Guyana and also lived in Trinidad and Tobago as well as England. A proper English gentleman, Locke was a prolific writer.

Viviette was one of Locke's early works (researchers put the publication of this book in either 1910 or 1916) and it is an intriguing look at a world long gone that can seem odd and foreign to the modern reader.

The character of Viviette is a young 21-year old girl who had been adopted into the Ware family when she was only three years old. Charming and somewhat naive, modern readers may struggle with the idea she is being courted by her two-step brothers, one of them ten years her senior.

The story has a weak beginning, but quickly gathers steam into a very dramatic conflict as the love triangle between Viviette and her step-brothers degenerates into very serious conflict and the reader will sympathize with Dick Ware in what he perceives to be unrequited love as well as frustration with the immaturity and naivety of the title character. However, if the reader is willing to invest the time to read a story that takes place in a world and culture long gone, the novella is easily worth the time and effort.

Reviewed on 2013.07.30

Is Life Worth Living Without Immortality?

by Mangasar Magurditch Mangasarian

Mangasar Magurditch Mangasarian (18591943) was an American rationalist and secularist of Armenian decent. Is Life Worth Living Without Immortality? is a lecture delivered he delivered in 1910, twenty-five years after he abandoned his ordination in the Presbyterian church for what he called Rationalism.

Not an atheist, Mangasarian became an agnostic and an advocate of Epicureanism.

There is little of merit in this essay. Even though educated at Princeton, his ignorance of various Christian doctrines such as the problem of evil and definitions of basic words such as faith and sin show a surprisingly shallow understanding. Sensible people, whether rationalists or metaphysicians, will balk at his comment that non-white races don't commit suicide as they are not intelligent enough to understand existential despair or that physically healthy Rationalists are only those capable of experiencing true happiness (and Mangasarian's definition of happiness is amazingly shallow).

Best to look elsewhere except for those interested in historical pieces of philosophy.

Reviewed on 2013.01.22

Airship

by Percy F. Westerman

Percy F. Westerman (1876 - 1959) was a prolific author of what was called "children's literature and in his lifetime he wrote 178 novels. Airship (more correctly titled, The Airship "Golden Hind") was his 41st novel and tells the story of Kenneth Kenyon and his buddy, Peter Bramsdean getting itchy after World War I from a life of inactivity. Receiving a summons from their former wing-commander, Sir Reginald Fosterdyke to undertake a race around the world in a dirigible of Fosterdyke's invention, the three men with their intrepid crew sail the Golden Hind to Gibraltar and set off to make history.

However, there is a bad guy waiting in the wings,--pun unintended--Count von Sinzig who will not pause to commit any evil to win the race in his own zeppelin.

The book is filled with period slang that can make for difficult reading, but the action, though predictable, makes the book an interesting quick read and the introduction of "brodium," a non-explosive gas lighter than helium gives the book a steampunk flavor.

This book would go well with role playing game masters looking for a quick steampunk/pulp scenario as well as steampunk authors looking for a period feel for their own work.

Reviewed on 2012.10.30

Jimbo

by Algernon Blackwood

The literary work of Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) was highly respected by H. P. Lovecraft who wrote, "He is the one absolute and unquestioned master of weird atmosphere."

Jimbo is Blackwood's first novel and is reminiscent of the style of Lord Dunsany. In this tale, a young boy is badly injured and he finds himself in a sort of world between life and death centered on The Empty House with its residents, the bogeyman Fright and the children he has trapped in the past.

Reviewed on 2012.09.25

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