Three reviews:

I’ve gone through a lot of “easy listening” material on my Kindle lately.  Having completed Anathem and still having so much to think about there, I thought it would be better to enjoy some light entertainment.  The three novellas that follow definitely fall into the ‘light’ category.  Sadly, for the most part not in a good way.  I haven’t put them in any order so don’t feel like I’m picking one out to maul, and saving the best for last or anything like that.  They aren’t worth that much effort.

 

 

First: Letting Them: An Absurd Short Novel — Ken Brimhall and Catherine Knepper
This is not an Absurd Short Novel.  I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not absurd.  It’s also not really a novel, it’s more a teacher’s reflection on the circumstances under which he finds himself teaching and his existential dilemma about how it came to be that way, whether he did enough for his students and  what has happened to public schools and the surrounding community that things have become the way they are.

 
We open with Mr. Sizemore’s final year of teaching in a public high school in a small Texas town on the Mexican border. He and a fellow teacher are comparing notes on their class schedules and the number of “Mojos and Mojas” in each class.  How they are not allowed to discipline but are blamed for any bad behavior or damages caused by their students.

 
The plot follows the course of the school year, detailing the problems Sizemore must deal with as students come and go both from the classroom and the educational system as a whole. It describes how he approaches problems with emotionally disturbed, and learning disables students stuck together with students who are well acquainted with the criminal justice system, and the immigration system.

 
It all comes down to Mr. Sizemore squeezing out one last year to reach retirement, and wondering if he did his best.  If we set aside the location and circumstances of the narrative, we end up with the ultimate question: looking back on our lives can we say we’ve done our best.

 

-Not very uplifting.

 

 

Second: The 11th Floor — Charles Culver
It starts with a very good premise, and the author works some very Stephen King like suspense, and maybe a little horror in there.  But the climax, and the surprise conclusion, aren’t much of either. I’d spoil it here for you, but that’s bad etiquette.

 
A story about an elevator in an empty office building doesn’t support the amount of effort that has gone into building the suspense. If there had been a bit more character development of the main character and little less stereotyping of the minor characters the storyline wouldn’t have sagged so much in the middle.  It’s not a very long story, the amount of description and reiterating of character traits fills in most of it’s length.

 
Isolating each of the characters from the other until the very end makes the plot feel a little disconnected.  It may be that he intended the disconnect to induce a certain dread as they all converge on the final scene. I don’t know.  The author could have been thinking a lot of things.

 

That he’s thinking (well, already published) a sequel is scary enough.

 

-Uplifting, if only for the wrong reasons.

 

 

 

 
Third: Messages — John Michael Hileman
I thought this would be a very good short, paranormal, how does this work kind of thing.  The premise is there.  Is there such a thing as foresight.  Do some people have the gift of being able to ‘draw’ messages out.

 

I need to put in a short disclaimer here.  A) I didn’t finish reading this, which will be explained momentarily; B) Because I am not the appropriate audience for a specific work does not lessen the quality of the work, nor does it lessen the validity of my opinion; C) When you tumble into something you are not expecting, it can be very difficult to shift gears and appreciate what you are reading.

 

As I said, I didn’t finish reading this. I was mentally setup to enjoy a brainteaser of a puzzle of a quandary our hero finds himself in. He receives messages in the most unlikely of manners, and he is compelled to follow them.  In the very first chapter his life is saved when he is ‘told’ to slam on the brakes of his car, only to see the car behind him roar past into the path of an oncoming semi.  (The message said “Stop. Now.”)  I was immediately captivated by what might be happening and what difficulty this gift might cause for the protagonist, and his family.

 

He then saves his neighbor’s life and while his neighbor is recovering in the hospital he visits.  This gives the neighbor the opportunity to explain that his gift is from the Lord.  The neighbor had prayed that God would somehow protect him from death and our hero got the ‘message’.  There ensued a long discussion of what it means to be a vessel to the Lord and His Will.  And I realized that rather than being a true work of fiction this is more of an allegory on how God can speak in our lives and in speaking to us, speak to, help, and influence others.

 
In B) above, I clarified that I am not the target audience here. There are many people out there who will surely, enjoy and be edified by this work. I wasn’t prepared to mentally engage in a theological discussion at 0545 on the bus to work.  Not planning on giving my brain that type of work out. I set it aside.

 

 

-Uplifting, just not for me.

 

 

 
Messages was not the last of the three books I read. When I finished the third, I realized that what I was looking for was something with a little more depth.  I will follow up with my review of that soon.

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