Reviews by C. Alan Loewen

Is Life Worth Living Without Immortality?

by Mangasar Magurditch Mangasarian

Mangasar Magurditch Mangasarian (1859–1943) 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

The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories

by Algernon Blackwood

I am a big fan of Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951) especially after being so moved by his short story, The Willows which I consider one of the best horror tales ever written.

The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories was Blackwood’s first collection of short stories (I respectfully disagree with ManyBooks. This collection was published in 1906, not 1916) when the author was 37 years old. Though lacking some of the finesse he developed later in his career and suffering from very abrupt endings, the collection is more than just ghost stories tackling themes such as a murder mystery, demonic possession, and an intriguing take on lycanthropy.

The stories in order are:

  • The Empty House
  • A Haunted Island
  • A Case Of Eavesdropping
  • Keeping His Promise
  • With Intent To Steal
  • The Wood Of The Dead
  • Smith: An Episode In A Lodging-House
  • A Suspicious Gift
  • The Strange Adventures Of A Private Secretary In New York
  • Skeleton Lake: An Episode In Camp

    All in all, the collection is an enjoyable romp through another time and culture with some genuine chills thrown in for good measure.

    C. Alan Loewen
    http://literary-equine.livejournal.com

  • Reviewed on 2012.07.22

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