A Treasure Trove of Obscure Thoughts

Monthly Archives: January 2016

Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

I normally read pure Fantasy novels: Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Prydain, the collections of Dungeons and Dragons novels, etc…..  Every now and then I’ll throw in a Science Fiction novel, or a classic horror novel.  That being said, until recently, I had not tried the “Steampunk” genre, and I thought that it would be a nice change of pace.  Thus I picked up Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel by co-authors Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris.  I have enjoyed various movies of the genre, but this was my first novel.  Well, I guess that’s not exactly true, growing up I loved the John Carter of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  I also enjoyed the Flash Gordon series by Alex Raymond.  Though I never considered these as Steampunk, until a fellow at a book convention pointed out that they have flying machines, ray guns, etc…. at a time where that was unheard of.  So, by definition they do fit.  Thus I guess, to be more accurate, I have to say that Phoenix Rising was my first taste of modern Steampunk.

The best description I can give this book is: James Bond meets Dr. Watson.  Though that description is not wholly accurate as, in this case, James Bond is a woman.  A very courageous-daring-self-assured woman, who wears a bullet proof corset, my favorite touch by the way. After introducing my daughter to the novel, she is determined to make her own bullet proof corset.   Our Heroine, Eliza D. Braun, is an agent for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences.  She is adept and getting into and out of the most dangerous situations.  So much so that the Ministry feels they need to rein her in a bit.  Thus she is reassigned to partner, Wellington Books.  A very logical and sober English gentleman, who just happens to be the Ministries records keeper, in essence the Librarian.  Mr. Books introduces Miss Braun to the steam powered cataloging system he has created for the Ministries library. Where with the punch of a few keys various histories are brought to the inquirer through a series of baskets and cabling. A most boring assignment for our illustrious heroine. Or so she thought…….

As the story unfolds, our heroes will venture out of the library and into some very harrowing experiences.  While at the same time, attempting to keep the illusion that they never left the library in the first place.  If caught, there will be serious reprimands, possible suspensions, and even possibly sacked from the Ministry itself.  If successful they may just save all of England.

If you like stories of Victorian England, a little espionage and mystery, throw in steam powered computers and floating restaurants, then you’ll love this book.  I found this taste of Steampunk to be quite delicious and made me hunger for more.  I have since started seeking out others of the Steampunk genre.  If you haven’t experienced this particular section of the bookstore, yet, I highly recommend it, and this particular book, and subsequent series, is an excellent place to start.

Writer’s Note!! As you will find, I purposefully keep my reviews short and make the utmost attempt to avoid spoilers in them. After reading my reviews I want you interested in reading the novel, without knowing too many of the treasures hidden in the book. If you are dissatisfied with this, leave a comment, and after enough comments appear asking for more content, then I will be happy to extend my reviews. Thank you for reading.



The Box

This morning I awoke from a very strange dream. It is still vivid enough with me that I thought I’d add it here.

I was with a group of police officers tracking down a killer. Even though I do not believe I was a policeman, I was still with them. I believe I either knew the suspect, or had some other attachment to what was going on. Either way it was part of the dream.

We had chased the killer for months. We finally tracked him down to some abandoned mine somewhere in the middle of nowhere. (Why is it always in the middle of nowhere?) Anyway, we search through this mine and find him in this cavern with his latest victim bound and him working on some kind of machinery. The machinery surrounds some box about the size of a footlocker upon which is carved ancient hieroglyphs.

After we subdue the killer, which takes quite some time, and almost gets a half dozen or more people killed in the process. I turn to the officers and say the following:

Let me tell you a story.

In ancient days, somewhere in the desert, they say a box fell from the heavens. Scrolled upon the box were glyphs and writings of archaic design. This box was discovered by three brothers. The brothers loved each other very much, but upon finding the box they turned on each other and only one survived to claim the box as his own.

The final brother emerged from the desert many years later, greatly changed from the man he had been. There was a wild look in his eyes, he was much leaner then had been, but there was a strength in him few men could match. He gathered men, hard, evil men, and built a city. The city grew and grew. As it grew though, it did not prosper, not as you would call prosperity, anyway. The lands around the city for many leagues were wracked with plague. The city itself was as a city of the dead. Finally the sands themselves arose and swallowed the city. The plagues ceased and all returned to normal.

Then some two thousand years or so later, so history states, archeologists find the lost city and begin digging. After years of searching, they find the central chamber of the city capitol building, and inside find the very same box as described. As they proceed to open the vaults the workers begin to sicken and die. Finally they are able to remove the box and place it on a train for transport. The train is sent on its way. At this time there are only a handful of archeologists left, they accompany the train to its final destination.

Upon arriving at the station, not a single man is left alive. In fact nothing on the train is left alive, including the vermin. Upon arriving at its destination the train workers place the box upon a ship to be sent to its final destination, New York. The ship never arrives. It is presumed lost at sea.

And, yet, here we find a madman, in the throes of his madness, in possession of a box fitting the very same description and you want to take it in as evidence. I say destroy the thing, if you can, if not dispose of it where no one will ever find it again. Encase it in a block of steel with sufficient warning on it to deter even the most determined person from ever opening it again, and lock it away from mankind forever.

At which point I awoke, and here I am relating the dream to you. You can decide whether or not my dreams are noteworthy, or if I simply watched too much Indiana Jones or what.

Thank you for reading.

The End of the Adventure

Here is another original of mine. This is actually the preface to a book I am working on. I have just started it, so I can’t tell you how it’s going, but I have high hopes.


“Well, that was a good day’s work,” stated a young man in splendid armor.

“Yeah, you would say that,” replied a gruff looking dwarf busy scrubbing at a greave. “You didn’t have to crawl from under the carcass of a dead Giant. I’ll never get the smell out of my Armor.”

“Oh, you’re just upset because I got in the killing blow. If you weren’t so busy hacking at his hamstrings you’d have noticed he was falling right on top of you.”

“Well, if you’d look around to what the rest of us are doing, before you start swinging that big toothpick, then perhaps…..”

“Are you two still at it,” interrupted the third member of their party, as he seated himself at the table. “I’d have thought the two of you would have settled your differences over the long ride back into town. Here, Saienci, I found you a nice elven wine,” he said sliding a glass in front of the young man. “And for our dear, Brak, I’m afraid they don’t carry any dwarven ale, but they do have a very strong dark stout. The proprietor tells me it may not be quite as strong as what your used to, but he has enough of it to fill even your bottomless thirst.” As he said this he indicated to a young serving girl behind him who placed a small cask and an earthenware mug in front of the dwarf.

The dwarf, in his turn, smiled and waved the mug away. He proceeded to pop the bung hole with his dagger and up turned the cask directly into his waiting mouth. A few minutes later he came up for air, a huge grin on his craggy face, “Well, Hrom, I’ll say one thing for you monks, for being human, you do know your drink.”

“Why thank you,” replied Father Hrom, “It comes from being cloistered. You spend all day going over musty tomes, then go back to a eight by eight room for the night. After a few years of this you’d be completely nuts if you didn’t have something else to fill the spaces. Thus we drink, inebriation is the only thing that keeps us sane. ”

“My sentiments exactly,” muttered Brak, as he upturned the cask a second time. “Girl, another,” he roared across the busy barroom a moment later as he brought the now empty cask down hard on the table.

They continued their conversation long into the night. The girl keeping a steady supply of drink going to their table, and every now and then a slice of mutton or beef. The proprietor was somewhat taken aback at the quantity, but then the Mayor had said not to worry about the bill, just send it over to the clerk’s office in the morning. After all, they had saved the town. The giant had been roaming the countryside for months, attacking farms and homesteads. It was only a matter of time before he’d decide to come into the town proper. If it hadn’t been for these three, there might not have been a town in the near future. So, he was more than happy to supply them all the food and drink they’d require.

Somewhere in the early morning hours the three made their way to their rooms upstairs for a much needed respite. It wouldn’t be until nearly noon before the first one would roll out of bed, much refreshed and ready for the next adventure.

The Doorway

It has been a while since I updated anything to the site, and until now nothing that was true prose. The following is a small piece of imagery that has crawled around in my head for many, many years. Hopefully it will paint the same picture for you that it has for me.

Snow drops from overburdened tree limbs. A cardinal flutters from limb to limb, basking in the warm sunlight. A group of rabbits forage for food in the tufts of dead grass emerging from melting snow banks. Stillness settles over the glade. When without thought the creatures dive for cover, not realizing what is happening but knowing in some instinctive part of their brain that something is amiss.

A light manifests itself in mid air to one side of the glade. It expands to a horizontal line in the air. It expands upward and downward in equal lengths until reaching an apex of a dozen feet or so. Leaving a doorway to nothingness. Well, perhaps not nothingness, all doorways lead somewhere, and this one is no exception.

Soon the ground begins to shake. The trees in the glade soon shake off their covering of snow, by no choice of their own. Shapes appear in the distance through the doorway. Only seen as an increasing of the darkness. Soon a horseman emerges from the opening. A dark foreboding powerful man, if man is what it could be called. Man fits only as the general shape of the things armor, the instinctive feeling emanating from the creature is definitely an inhuman sense of wrongness. It rides astride a powerfully built destrier, well over 20 hands high, though no horse ever had eyes as dead.

Close on the heels of the first, pour a multitude of others equal in stature and dread. For many long minutes the horde rides forth. Steam rises from each hoof as it sits down on the icy earth. Not a sound is made, an absence of sound emanates forth. As if sound itself is afraid to make an appearance so long as this column of riders issue forth.

As the last horsemen disappear in the distance, sound returns to the glade in the form of silence. Trampled earth, drifts of snow, and a lone empty Doorway are left in its wake.

Daemon: a novel by Daniel Suarez

Well, I set this site up in the hopes it would inspire me to write. So far I have come up with very little I felt I could put to paper, or white space as we are now in the digital age. However, I am still reading as much as ever, if not more so. Therefore, I have decided to add a book review in place of original story lines. As I am now conceiving this idea, it seems right that I do more of these in the future and perhaps increase the content of my site thus rounding out the process for you readers.

Thus, the first book I am adding to this site is one I just finished reading, actually listening to, which is Daemon by Daniel Suarez. As I began listening to this book, I felt that he used an over abundance of adjectives to describe just about everything from his characters, to what his characters ran into and experienced. Now using adjectives are fine to create a picture in the readers head, but an excessive amount can be distracting. However, I was just about to throw in the towel when the story line picked up and I was captivated. Up until that point I was only listening to the book to and from work, but that changed. Now, I was looking for a time when I could continue listening. Once I finished it, I immediately went to the second book Freedom, and am now listening intently to that one.

The story begins with the death of a programmer.  That programmer has released a Daemon on the internet that will allow him to continue life through the dream he has created.  Not exactly AI, but through a series of logical analysis, his reasoning seems to develop a life of its own.  Through a vast array of programs that initiate with his death, his Daemon, takes over industries, recruits followers, and kills as needed.  I modern high-tech thriller that takes advantage of a world interconnected via the data stream of millions of networked computers, servers, and mainframes, aka the world wide web.

The author has a very strong knowledge of the technology he is using and creating in his story line. As I was listening I was coming to the realization that the technology and technological advancements used within the book are quite reasonably a possible reality. And I find myself drifting to the “Darkside”, to steel a phrase from Lucas, and wondering just what it would be like to have this as a reality. Yes, I am purposefully being vague on concepts and design. I would hate to spoil any part of this wonderful book for any of you.

I strongly recommend this book, especially for anyone with strong computer backgrounds.


Writer’s Note!! As you will find, I purposefully keep my reviews short and make the utmost attempt to avoid spoilers in them. After reading my reviews I want you interested in reading the novel, without knowing too many of the treasures hidden in the book. If you are dissatisfied with this, leave a comment, and after enough comments appear asking for more content, then I will be happy to extend my reviews. Thank you for reading.