Book Review: Lord of the Flies

This book is on the Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die list that I’ve been working on. It came available at the library, so I snatched it up.

The Book

Lord of the Flies
Author: William Golding
1954
Amazon Link

This book is a classic, so you probably know a little bit about it already. I like to read some classic books just to make sure I’m not some sort of barbarian, and this book has long been on my list of things to finish.

Non-Spoiler Review

This is one of those books that my weird high school didn’t read. After having imbibed this, though, I’m very much on board with having high schoolers read it. It’s really fun, has characters of the age high schoolers would be interested, is somewhat more intense than a book parents would want a kid to read without guidance, and is literarily sound. It has great analogies about human society and government, and I guess there is some analogy to WWII (though I don’t think it’s as pronounced or purposeful as some analysts do). I thought there was a lot to do with the barbarism vs. civilization trope of warfare and societal advancement.

I felt for Piggy. I loved Piggy. That kid was the only one on the whole stupid island who was worth a damn, and yet they treated him like garbage. The whole time he was around, I thought of the quote from one of my favorite movies, The Flight of the Phoenix:

“It’s almost mid-day and he’s still working. He’s right about one thing, though. The little men with the slide rules and computers are going to inherit the earth. It’s kind of sad that Dorfman won’t be there to see it, but then I guess he doesn’t need to see it. He already knows it.”

Shiver, man! Piggy was like that. He was one of the “little men” with a brain and no chance in the anti-nerd age where bullying was king (bullying has changed now, but it’s often the little men with the computers who do it). To me, that kind of goes along with the main message of the book: don’t be awful. Don’t be mean. If you do resort to barbarism and meanness, you lose an essential element of humanity that makes you less than an animal. Even poor protagonist Ralph figured that out.

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

Next week:

The Ten Thousand Doors of January is at long last up next!

We’re Live!

That’s right, my friends – American Chimera is live, both as a paperback and as a Kindle book!

Kindle (US): $0.99

Paperback (US): $6.14 + shipping

If you are international, the ASIN for the Kindle is B0B3WPRQGZ, and the ASIN for the Paperback is B0B3DV6X2K. I’ve also got it on Goodreads now (no reviews, don’t expect any, haha!) in case you’re interested.

There’s one problem… I promised a free book. I had intended to get it free. But Amazon, in all its Bezos wonder, has decided not to let me post it free. It’s 99 cents for now, their minimum. The paperback is also at the Amazon minimum. However, when it gets to be time, I will try to do a promotional period for free and announce it here. If you want a free book, it’ll probably be in 90 days (or something thereabouts).

Lastly: thanks to Berthold Gambrel for his support and cheerleading.

Shutting Down AMERICAN CHIMERA

I recently posted that I am going to put American Chimera on Kindle rather than as a free book on my blog. Sadly, the day has arrived, and the posts and pages I created for the original book are being taken down (possibly as you read this, possibly just beforehand).

Never fear, though! The book is not gone forever, and it will still be available in a free e-book format. I received my proof copy of the print book in the mail last week, and I think I’ll be ready to publish by June 18th. The cover looked pretty good, and all I’ve been doing so far is reading to make sure all the kerning, spelling, and content is right.

(You wouldn’t believe how often you get a quote mark turned the wrong way! If you’re making a print book for Amazon, definitely get your proof copy and check for things like inverted quotation marks.)

I used to think all those people who got excited by the proof copy of their book were a bunch of nerds, but now that I actually have one of those copies in my hands, I understand how awesome it is. The “I made this” feeling is real. If you’re thinking about whether or not to try publishing (or self publishing), just know that everything they’re telling you is right. Holding that thing in your hands feels really successful.

The e-book and print options for American Chimera will be released this month, hopefully on June 18th! If I need to delay the date, I will let you know.

NEW COVER REVEAL

I’ve been pretty much sucking for a while on the blog. Most of it has to do with the fact that work has been INSANE the past couple of months, but the rest of it has to do with what I’ve used my free time for.

First, yes, I’ve been reading books – but I need to write reviews to post!

Second, I’ve been prepping something very special. I’ve edited (yeah, didn’t purchase editing, so don’t expect much), formatted, and re-done the cover for AMERICAN CHIMERA.

If you recall, I published American Chimera here on the site in 2020. It came out serially, and a few people read it. I’m terrible at advertising, so it’s not like I got it out to the world. Berthold Gambrel’s review of the book encouraged me a lot, as did a few emails I received from people who read it.

One thing I learned, though, was that a sketchy PDF download on a random site isn’t very attractive. A bunch of links on a website to get you to and from chapters and scenes isn’t very simple to use or find where you left off (unless you read it real time, which a few people did!). Others said they’d read it if it weren’t so hard to manage; reading should be easy, after all!

A Kindle book or an Amazon printed paperback is extremely easy for people to access. The problem? I think Bezos is a POS and I don’t want to fund him. It’s why I didn’t put it on Amazon in the first place.

However, I’ve decided it’s time to bite the bullet and use the system that’s more accessible for people. I’ve published quite a few short stories, and more are coming out soon. People may read one of my shorts, decide they want more, and be unable to find something else.

And, at least for now, Bezos won’t be getting your money for the ebook! He’ll only be getting a smattering of cash if you order a paperback! That free, free pricing won’t remain the case forever, probably. I think at some point, people treasure books that aren’t free, but free books are just garbage. I want to keep it free until I think my friends have gotten it, but then I might give it a price.

As a warning, I will be taking down my PDF copy and getting rid of the posts by June 5th! This is because Amazon doesn’t like competing, and I’m pretty sure it’s in the contract (for the free barcodes and ISBNs, anyway) that I can’t have the book appear other places. If you want to get the PDF or read the posts, do it before then! I’ll let you know when the Amazon publish date is once I get my proof copy and am sure everything’s working out.

Cheers, and hope you enjoy the product if you’re interested.

Reading List – December 2021

This year, many of you noticed something: I read a lot of crap. Just absolute, stinky trash books that I hated. This ranged from the Earthsea series to the Ninefox Gambit series to a few other books scattered here and there, but it also meant I spent a lot of time not reading anything good.

That changes today, my friends.

Isaac Asimov is one of my favorite authors, and it’s been a right long while since I last read his Foundation trilogy. I didn’t read the expanded series with his 1980’s self-fan-fiction writings, but now I think I’m up for it. I have, on this blog, reviewed several of the Robot stories (I, Robot, The Caves of Steel, The Robots of Dawn), as well, so I know I like his style.

So here we are, last month of the year and our last hope!

Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series

I read the original trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation) as an undergraduate. The main thing I know won’t translate well to 2021 time is the smoking, so I assume other parts won’t age well, either!

Also, I’m only presenting three of these books – the rest will only be available on my Goodreads page.

See my old reviews here

Reading List – November 2021

I read a lot of history books in my preferred era, but there’s always something missing. When I read about the Jacksonian Era without reading about the Revolutionary Era, it would be like a future historian reading about today without understanding the Vietnam War or who Reagan was. This month, I’m reading a variety of “prequel” books to my preferred era.

1776 – David McCullough

David McCullough is what one would call a “super famous” pop historian. 1776 is one of his more famous works, and I know it’s alright because I read it before (long ago, albeit). The focus of the book is on, of course, the year 1776 (which, for you non-Americans, is well known as the year history began).

From this book, I hope to glean information about the Revolution, including what average people thought and how infighting between tory and rebel contributed to the coming political age. If I remember correctly, though, it may just be a military history, which is interesting in and of itself.

Union 1812 – AJ Languth

The War of 1812 is a war easily forgotten in American classrooms. Even I, who really cared about my American history class, noticed that this important event was only briefly spoken about. Perhaps it’s because the capitol was burned, or perhaps it’s because the treaty of Ghent pretty much gained Americans nothing, but people just don’t know that much about the war unless they go looking.

Me? Oh, you know me. I’ve read up on this baby, but I admit my knowledge is quite stacked. I’m familiar with the Southern Theater and the associated Creek War, but I know little to nothing about the Northern Theater. I want to read this book with the intention to draw more information regarding that less-successful-theater, as well as look into the roles of the Madisons, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams.

You Never Forget Your First – Alexis Coe

The quirky title and a CNN article praising Coe’s You Never Forget Your First got me interested enough to rent this one from the library for a little perusal. This is actually a biography of George Washington, which I thought would go along well with 1776 up there.

Washington is one of the more interesting founding fathers (if only because he’s not Jefferson who, regardless of your opinion on him, I find incredibly dull to read about), so I’m excited to see what Coe has dug up. The articles I’ve read praising the book indicate she brings a new vision and interpretation of the historical documents, so perhaps I should have boned up on the more typical works first! 😉

Hint, however: I have already read this book as of posting, and I did read another George Washington biography in the meantime. I have a brief aside comparing the two, but you’ll have to read the review when it comes out to discover my thoughts!

Cherokee Mythology – James Mooney

I believe, wholeheartedly, that the history of Indians has been so woefully overlooked that it’s a sin. As a North Carolinian who grew up in the western part of the state, I’ve always been at least a little interested in the Cherokee. I even wrote about Sequoyah, an important Cherokee inventor, on the Carrot Ranch. Though it’s not terribly difficult to find information on the Cherokee post-colonization, I was looking for something more foundational and old. I wanted to see what pre-columbian history and thoughts are available to us.

This book contains a pretty in-depth history of the Cherokee people as well as a pretty large collection of myths. It was sanctioned by the government, and most of the information comes from primary source documents. There’s a companion, The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee, that may be of interest to me later. Both are free on Project Gutenberg as they are now in the public domain.

Reading List – September 2021

Though I think he’s not been blogging for a while, I have thought about Brian from Books of Brian and his review of the Machineries of Empire series. I’ve decided to go ahead and explore these books and see what he liked about them.

Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire Trilogy

An innovative set of books, this trilogy explores a brand new universe from the mind of a new author. I’ve read that there’s supposed to be a lot of east Asian inspirations in these, and I think that will be pretty cool. I don’t know much else about them, so it’ll be exciting to jump in and find out more!

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Do you have a suggestion? Comments? I’m currently filled up for my review slots on the blog this year, but you can always submit a request for potential reviews on Goodreads and Amazon!

See my old reviews here

5 Steps to Design a Fantasy Religion

Religion is extremely important on a personal level to many people, and it affects everyone indirectly if not directly. Conflicts over differing opinions on the essential qualities of deity, creation, and human society as it relates to mystical importance abound in the real world.

Fantasy worlds can be equally convoluted. Even a fantasy world in which everyone is atheist or agnostic is still a world with a designed religion, but it can be elevated to a world with designed intent.

5. Know What Beliefs Real Religions Espouse

People can be led to believe in almost anything (just research QAnon), so it doesn’t really matter how mad you make the premise of your religion. What does matter, however, is how your religion makes adherents feel. How does it encourage your characters to act?

Successful religions have all encourages some form of morality and altruism tied into their beliefs. Do good things for the poor, don’t steal things, and respect your elders are common traits. At its core, a fantasy religion should include elements of good. Why?

Well, I’m glad you asked. See, remember that horrible set of books I read last month? Remember The Tombs of Atuan? In it, the gods only take, harm, and maim, and the king uses the reality of their existence to enhance his power. The gods in Tombs of Atuan don’t do anything good – so what was the use of worshipping them? Solely to prevent evil from happening? That lack of benefit – even lack of a theoretical benefit – to the gods in Tombs of Atuan made the entire religion a bit less believable.

People prefer to believe:

  1. The deity will bring peace and health in return for faith and worship
  2. The deity will support their people group, even at the cost of other people groups
  3. The deity will bring prosperity to the faithful
  4. The deity will enforce a social order, especially one beneficial to the adherents

Read up on how a religion uses these promises in order to attract followers. If you don’t know much about the Abrahamic religions, I encourage boning up on that because of their importance in English language literature. If you’re interested in polytheistic beliefs, study Hinduism, currently the polytheistic religion with the most followers. Strangely enough, I also strongly suggest watching Leah Remini’s Scientology and the Aftermath – if nothing else, it shows you how religions can successfully draw people in (though Scientology is a bit crazier than others) by using good acts as a sort of bait.

4. Define Your Society’s and Characters’ Goals

In that last section, we defined what a religion can give an individual. Individuals, though, don’t enforce religious rules and standards: communities do, and communities need reasons to keep the religion going. Society as a whole has goals, just like characters in a book. People often imagine countries as characters, and any group of people can be seen similarly. What does this group want?

Some societies struggle for survival. The Pentateuch (the Torah or first five books of the Old Testament) tell the story of a people fleeing persecution and establishing themselves with the safety God provides. Safety for yourself, even if it means the destruction of others, is a very interesting societal goal. I love that sort of thing because it can be easily twisted to develop a genuinely evil society while still giving the relief of moral goodness. Whether or not God physically did much to help them, the faith at least allowed the Jewish people to band together for their survival.

Remember, society tends to be out for itself. The word “genocide” wasn’t even invented until the 1940’s; even Winston Churchill called the Holocaust a “crime without a name” because nothing had been invented yet. That’s right – people didn’t care about wholesale slaughter of a people group enough to make a word for it until less than 80 years ago. Your society will want to survive and win.

3. Make a Creation Myth

There’s elements to every religion that go beyond creation myths, but almost unilaterally there needs to be a creation story in order for it to work. Part of what has empowered atheism in recent decades is the extremely plausible creation story* that didn’t exist prior to the increased pace of discovery in the Industrial Age. Atheism has always been around, but a “creation myth” was necessary to give it a boost and make it palatable to masses.

The order in which things are created is important in all myths. In Cherokee myths, there is the heavens and there is an expanse of water below. Animals came down from the heavens and dug up the mud from beneath the ocean, then tied the land to the heavens with cords so it wouldn’t sink.

Now, what does that say about the power of animals? How do you think a believer of that story would feel about animals vs. someone who believes animals a passive creation of a human-like god? They’d probably think the animals are much more important!

So what is important in your mythology? Start them early, give them a job, and give them power. Consider when “evil” is created, because that will determine much about the morality of your world.

Your myth can be as crazy as you want.

2. Create a Power Hierarchy

Your religion starts with one prophet, for whatever reason, but then the prophet leaves or dies. What next?

All groups, from companies to unions to religions, must have a hierarchy dedicated to protecting itself. Just like any society, as mentioned in number 4 above, church hierarchy will organize itself to carry out its goals of 1) spread religion and 2) get power for the religion. The Catholic church has a very complex and well-defined heirarchy, and honestly you really can’t get a better example when it comes to religious hierarchy and how it works. They have everything planned out, and it just gets deeper the further you look into it. Though the church hierarchy has done a lot to spread goodness and charity, it has also been used to cover up heinous abuses as well as entrench heinous beliefs. Whether or not the deity of your fantasy religion is good, the believers of the religion are still people, still flawed.

I grew up Baptist, and I didn’t realize there was a church hierarchy beyond just your deacons and a pastor until I got into high school and took history classes. Believe it or not, Baptists have no creed, no real external leadership structure beyond each individual congregation (there are “conventions”, but honestly churches leave those and get kicked out or join all the time, and no one really cares). There’s probably a looser-structured religious group out there, but believe it or not, Baptists have very little structure to their church despite the outsized political power they enjoy.

1. Entrench Your Hierarchy

After you’ve created an organization (or a lack of one, in the case of Baptists and the like), it’s time to look at the part that will really make your religion pop: how does it interact with politics?

There are two main ways you can entrench your hierarchy politically: an outright state with a theocracy (think Iran), or a sort of shadow state that influences government leaders and enforces itself through the power of a deity. A religious hierarchy with sufficient elaboration and order will be able to organize itself effectively and perform both its moral duties and lobby governments of any kind to do its will. Hold souls hostage, get what you want.

If you don’t have a great hierarchy, you’ll probably need to have extremely charismatic individuals that carry a lot of power. As a Baptist, I immediately think Billy Graham. He was crazy influential in politics, and it was probably him who made Baptists so much more powerful. He was able to move masses with a word and cause voting blocs to shift. Following his death, there is no single voice to fill the void, and that is also a risk for a less-organized religion: lack of continuity and lack of singular goal. It’s way harder to entrench loose confederacies for long periods of time.

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Do you include a fantasy religion in your works? I’d love to hear about your deities and myths! Let me know more in the comments!

*These creation stories can be entirely right and still don’t disprove most mythos. However, they can be taken alone, which makes them both interesting and powerful.

Reading List – August 2021

You know what people mistakenly believe in their heads? The sunk cost fallacy.

And here I am, giving in to it. Once upon a time, way back in 2016, I had some friends suggest A Wizard of Earthsea, the first book in Ursula LeGuin’s highly influential YA fantasy series. I saw on Amazon that you could get all six of the Earthsea Cycle books for the price of like 2.5 books or something like that, and I was like, “Well, if my friends suggested it, that probably means they’re worthwhile. I might as well take this deal!”

And so I read A Wizard of Earthsea.

And I hated it.

And I talked to my friends, who said “Oh, yeah, it’s not that we liked it – it was just highly influential, so you should read it to understand the state of fantasy.” And yes, it was influential. And yes, its main character was brown, which was almost unheard of in English literature at that time period.

I died a little, but I put the books away… until now, because I spent money on this! AND I WILL NOT OWN UNREAD BOOKS!

Ursula LeGuin’s The Earthsea Cycle

LeGuin originally wrote A Wizard of Earthsea in 1968. Given the time period, you already know it’s going to be a little screwed up, but I’m pretty good at forgiving people who write within their own historical time frames. I’m also really hoping that I’ll be more interested in them now, and that they’ll not seem so unreadable.

Also, I’m only presenting four of these books – A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, and Tehanu here on the blog. Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind will only be available on my Goodreads page.

See my old reviews here

Reading List – July 2021

It’s the summer indie book month, and boy do we have some hot reads this July! You’ll want to stick around for these.

1NG4 – Berthold Gambrel

I recently met Berthold Gambrel through his website, and I then also followed his twitter. Peter Martenuac (of His Name Was Zach fame) retweeted that 1NG4 was on a free weekend, so I had to check it out!

Not only that, this is a pretty short book. That’s why, on THIS WEDNESDAY, I’m going to be posting one more review than usual on my blog!

Amazon Link

Liars and Thieves – Diane Wallace Peach

I have reviewed three D. Wallace Peach books in the past (See reviews for The Melding of Aeris, Soul Swallowers, and Legacy of Souls). Peach is a reliably good author, and I’m excited to see what this new series entails. One of Peach’s sneak previews that she posted on her blog indicated that at least one of the main characters was going to be a goblin, and any sort of non-human character excites me. I don’t believe I’ve read anything published with a goblin main character, so it’s time to see how Peach pulls that off!

Amazon Link

His Name Was Zach – Peter Martuneac

Last year, Peter Martuneac submitted his book Her Name Was Abby through my review request form. Though it was the second book in the series (Zach, here, was the first), I was blown away. I assume Martuneac experienced some artist growth between the two books, but I was very into Abby and looked forward to reading this installation. The third book is out, too, so I have to catch up!

Amazon Link

We All Die In the End – Elizabeth Merry

Elizabeth Merry and I follow each others’ blogs, and I know she’s got great style. Her characters are vivid, and her prose beautiful. This collection of shorts (“scenes”) look to be connected by setting, and I think the book as a whole may benefit from this connection. Definitely looking forward to what each tale may hold for me.

Amazon Link

More Reviews

Do you have a suggestion? Comments? I’m currently filled up for my review slots on the blog this year, but you can always submit a request for potential reviews on Goodreads and Amazon!

See my old reviews here