All reviews copyright 1984-2016 Evelyn C. Leeper.
THE TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN RELIGION by Alan Wolfe:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 04/16/2004]
Alan Wolfe's THE TRANSFORMATION OF AMERICAN RELIGION looks primarily at Christianity and Judaism, and even in Christianity skimps on the various Orthodox churches and the Mormons. Wolfe's contention is that far from leaning toward the "old-time religion" of the song, Americans have transformed religion into a self-help program, a social club, a community service organization, or just about anything except a theology that gives its members rules to live by and a belief in a strong theological underpinning based on divine revelation. People are looking to stay within a "comfort zone" (e.g., evangelicals often end up "witnessing" only within church groups and other areas where they will be met with acceptance, rather than by going out into the larger community and risking rejection or hostility). And people "shop around" much more for churches these days--a hundred years ago, almost everyone stayed within the religion they belonged to as children, while now large numbers change religion. I recommend this book.
To order The Transformation of American Religion from amazon.com, click here.
"How Great Science Fiction Works" by Gary K. Wolfe:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 11/18/2016]
We have been watching the Teaching Company course "How Great Science Fiction Works" by Gary K. Wolfe--sorry, *Professor* Gary K. Wolfe. But heck, we're all fans here, so we don't pay much attention to titles.
As Wolfe explains, the first lecture could have been called "The Dead Frog, the Volcano, and the Teenage Bride." Alas, the Teaching Company (a.k.a. the Great Courses) seems to have preferred a more academic title, so it is called "Mary Shelley and the Birth of Science Fiction". A list of the titles will give you a good idea of the scope and structure of the course:
This is an introductory course, and a lot of the material will be familiar to the serious science fiction fan, but even for knowledgeable fans, there is a lot that will be new and enlightening. The list price for the Teaching Company courses is prohibitive for most individuals, but every course goes on sale at least a couple of times a year, and they are also bought by many public libraries. (I tend to keep calling the company "The Teaching Company" because that name lends itself to forming a phrase such as "Teaching Company courses", while "The Great Courses courses" just does not work.)
To order "How Great Science Fiction Works" from amazon.com, click here.
THE BORROWED MAN by Gene Wolfe:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 04/01/2016]
THE BORROWED MAN by Gene Wolfe (ISBN 978-0-765-38114-9) is a rare bird these days: a standalone science fiction novel under 300 pages long. In the future, instead of books, libraries are filled with "reclones" of authors, of which the narrator is one. He had been a hard-boiled mystery writer, and gets involved in a hard-boiled murder mystery. It is well-written, with some interesting ideas, but I am getting tired of the idea that when we have clones, they will not be considered human, or people, or whatever term you prefer to encompass intelligent beings with all the same right as the next person. Bullfights are illegal in the United States, and cloning a bull and using *it* in a bullfight is not likely to help you in court when you are arrested. Similarly, I find it impossible to believe that a cloned human would not be considered to have basic human rights. One might conceivably argue that he could not run for President, not being a "natural-born" citizen (and, yes, pun intended), but the notion that one could buy or sell him, and murder him with impunity, seems beyond belief.
To order The Borrowed Man from amazon.com, click here.
"Memorare" by Gene Wolfe:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 07/11/2008]
"Memorare" by Gene Wolfe (F&SF Apr) has a future Thuggee-like cult in space that uses space-based memorials as a trap for its victims. In spite of how this description sounds and its space-based setting, this is more low-key and character-focused than one might expect. Then again, it is by Gene Wolfe, so maybe you would expect that.
THE SHADOW OF THE TORTURER by Gene Wolfe:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 12/06/2013]
For years, decades even, everyone has been raving about SHADOW OF THE TORTURER by Gene Wolfe (ISBN 978-0-671-54066-1) and the subsequent books in "The Book of the New Sun". At one point ages ago I had started this, but never got past the first chapter or so. Now I decided to give this another try. This time I got about fifty pages in before I quit.
To order Shadow of the Torturer from amazon.com, click here.