Christian Book Review

 Living as an Overcomer: Eternal Motivation for Earthly Success

by Tony Evans
Reviewed date: 2024 Apr 18
211 pages
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Living as an Overcomer is my first experience with Tony Evans, and I am disappointed. I'm told Tony Evans is theologically and doctrinally solid, but in Living as an Overcomer I find his interpretation of Scripture to be flawed. I do not recommend this book.

Tony Evans takes the text of Revelation 2 and 3—the letters to the seven churches—and uses it to teach us how and why to persevere in the Christian faith. Tony Evans teaches that we should live godly, transformed, lives of obedience to God in order to earn rewards in heaven.

The idea that people are rewarded differently in heaven is not wrong. There is biblical support for such teaching. However, that is not what is being taught in Revelation 2 and 3.

Tony Evans consistently takes the rewards mentioned for the seven churches (e.g., in verse 2:17, "To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone") and teaches that these rewards are not for all Christians, they are only for Christians who are "overcomers." That is, super-Christians. Those who never waver, whose faith is stronger.

That's not what Revelation 2 and 3 teaches. It just isn't.

Furthermore, the theme woven throughout Living as an Overcomer—and the accompanying workbook and video series—is that we should be faithful and obedient to God in order to earn rewards in heaven. It's a heavenly prosperity gospel. Tony Evans doesn't mention that we should live a life of righteous obedience to God because it is morally good, because we truly desire it, or because God has changed our hearts and made us new creations. He's forgotten to mention the main part of what it means to be a Christian.

Ultimately, what Tony Evans believes and teaches is within the bounds of orthodoxy. Unfortunately his interpretation and handling of Scripture is shoddy and concerning. It's not OK to misuse Scripture even if it's in support of a valid orthodox teaching. And I'm concerned about his failure to talk about the changed heart of a Christian.

The bottom line: shoddy Scripture use and muddled, incomplete teaching.

Living as an Overcomer gets a thumbs down from me.

Science Fiction Book Review

 The Hero of Downways

by Michael G. Coney
Reviewed date: 2024 Mar 31
Rating: 3
188 pages
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Coney is a good writer and deserves to be more well-known.

Science Fiction Book Review

 The Transvection Machine

by Edward D. Hoch
Reviewed date: 2024 Mar 30
Rating: 2
176 pages
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I didn’t like it. The Transvection Machine by Edward D. Hoch is a science fiction murder mystery written by a prolific writer of mystery stories. Apparently Hoch had a story in every single issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine for over 34 years. But he seems ill at ease in a science fiction setting. That’s too bad because a good murder mystery can be a lot of fun. And to be fair, he did leave all the proper clues so it was a competently-written mystery.

The mystery was competent and the science fiction was wooden and stereotypical. It felt like a bad parody of science fiction in places.

Fantasy Book Review

 Guards! Guards!

by Terry Pratchett
Series: Discworld 8
Reviewed date: 2024 Mar 20
Rating: 1
288 pages
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Well I did it. I read a Discworld book. It's not for me. I don't care for fantasy, nor do I enjoy novel-length attempts at humor. Guards! Guards is a funny fantasy novel. No thanks. I'm sure Terry Pratchett is a fine writer, but I didn't enjoy this one.

Nonfiction Book Review

 The Path and the Peacemakers

by David Miller
Reviewed date: 2024 Jan 13
266 pages
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The war between the communist Shining Path guerillas of Peru and the government of Peru resulted in the civilians, many of whom were villagers just trying to survive, caught between two brutal sides. This book tells the story about how evangelical Christians triumphed over communist terrorists.

Missionary Memoirs Book Review

 Life Among the Magars

by Gary Shepherd
Reviewed date: 2024 Jan 3
269 pages
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Missionary memoirs of work among the Magar people of Nepal. This one is published in cooperation with a local university and so it's actually less memoir and more anthropological. There is no mention of God or of Bible translation. The closest thing is he talks about literacy work. It's bizarre to read a book where the main thing, the driving force behind the whole endeavor, is absent. Still very much worth reading.

Missionary Memoirs Book Review

 Songs on the Journey

by Robin McKenzie
Reviewed date: 2024 Jan 2
308 pages
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Missionary memoirs of work among the Tabulahan people of Central Sulawesi.

Christian Devotional Book Review

 His Silhouette

by Tami Rudkin
Reviewed date: 2024 Jan 1
124 pages
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A short devotional book. I read it in one sitting rather than reading and meditating on one per day.

Missionary Memoirs Book Review

 The Impossible Task

by Christine Wolstencroft
Reviewed date: 2024 Jan 1
116 pages
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A short paperback of missionary memoirs.

Fantasy Book Review

 Pirates in Oz

by Ruth Plumly Thompson
Series: Oz 25
Reviewed date: 2023 Dec 31
225 pages
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This was a fun book.

Captain Samuel Salt
We get introduced to Captain Salt, a pirate who's more interested in exploring than pirating. His crew deserts him.

Peter Brown
Our friend from Philadelphia, Peter Brown returns.

King Ato the Eighth of Octagon Isle, and Roger the Read Bird
King Ato is a king whose subjects are tired of his dull and boring rule. They desert him and go off to find adventure, maybe fight a war. Ato is left with only Roger, his bird, to accompany him. He teams up with Captain Salt and Peter Brown.

Menankypoo, the Gnome King, and Clocker
Meanwhile in the kingdom of Menankypoo, the silent citizens are looking for a new king. The Gnome King happens by, and figures this is a great opportunity, so he assumes the kingship. The Gnome King finds a co-conspirator in Clocker, a large living clock that once belonged to Cadj the Conjurer. Additionally, Captain Salt's former pirate crew join forces with the Gnome King and Menankypoo, and they all set off to the Emerald City to depose Ozma and conquer Oz.

Foiled again
Of course Peter, Ato, and Captain Salt get wind of this, and hurry to the Emerald City just in time to foil the Gnome King once again.

Notable characters
The book introduces a few more fun characters. I particularly enjoyed the Bananny Goat, whose horns are bananas. The Bananny Goat is good for an endless supply of bananas. And then there is Pigasus, a flying pig. Anybody riding Pigasus is magically compelled to speak in rhyme. Well that certainly is a Ruth Plumly Thompson sort of touch, isn't it?

Adventure Fiction Story Review

 Tarzan: Pellucidar Once More

by Steve Nottingham
Series: Tarzan fan fiction
Reviewed date: 2023 Dec 30
22 pages
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After the events of Tarzan: The Lost Adventure, our hero is trapped in a cave system deep within the earth's crust. Being unable to return to the surface, Tarzan instead heads deeper, eventually emerging in Pellucidar—where he is promptly knocked on the head and kidnapped by Korsars.

The Korsars, under the command of Brola, have established a base on the island of Thula. They are building a navy with which to overthrow the Empire of Pellucidar. David Innes (emperor, in case you forgot) has gotten wind that something is up, so he and Ja of Anoroc sailed off to investigate and promptly got themselves kidnaped by Brola—but not before sending off a Gridley Wave message for help from the Empire.

Brola throws Tarzan and David Innes into the arena for his amusement. First they fight a pack of hyaenodons, barehanded. Next Brola makes them fight his other gladiators: a Horib, a Sagoth, and prisoners from Sari, Thuria, and Amiocap. It's a six-to-two fight, and their enemies are armed, but of course Tarzan and Innes don't go down without a fight. They are losing when the cavalry arrives: hot-air balloons from Sari drop bombs, marking the first aerial bombardment the Korsars have ever experienced. This technological innovation is, of course, courtesy of Abner Perry. The Korsars are quickly defeated, Brola is killed in battle, and Tarzan, David Innes, and Ja return safely to Sari.

Tarzan decides to stay in Pellucidar. Its savage primeval frontier is more to his liking than the rapidly modernizing world of the outer crust. All he desires now is to bring Jane to Pellucidar. Then his happiness will be complete.

Adventure Fiction Story Review

 To Pal-ul-don

by Steve Nottingham
Series: Tarzan fan fiction
Reviewed date: 2023 Dec 30
9 pages
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This story is set between Tarzan the Untamed and Tarzan the Terrible and fills in the details of how Jane and Lieutenant Obergatz end up in Pal-ul-don. The story stars Jane. Or rather, the main character is Jane. Little of consequence happens and it's hard to say that there is any "star" at all. Jane and Obergatz traipse through the jungle, manage to cross the briar patch and swamp into Pal-ul-don, descend into the valley of Jad-ben-Otho, and are promptly captured by Ho-dons. Jane finds herself caught between Ko-tan the king and the high priest Lu-don, who both desire her as a consort. She declares this is impossible: she already has a mate, Tarzan. Lu-don angrily threatens to sacrifice Jane on the altar to their god, Dol-ul-Otho.

And that's it. This leads into the events of Tarzan the Terrible. It isn't a complete story. I would describe it as a chapter, and sort of a filler chapter at that. It's not bad—it straightforwardly tells us how Jane got to Pal-ul-don—but it isn't exciting or inspiring. I did enjoy the exchange between Jane and Lu-don. That was a bright spot, and I think Steve Nottingham has some talent for writing dialog. I would have liked to read more of that.

My copy of To Pal-ul-don is missing the first two pages, but it didn't impact my enjoyment of the story.

Science Fiction Book Review

 The Transfinite Man

by Colin Kapp
Reviewed date: 2023 Dec 30
Rating: 1
160 pages
Original title The Dark Mind
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A brief reaction
Elements of The Transfinite Man echo Alfred Bester's classic novel The Stars My Destination. In particular, the quest for revenge, a teleporting main character, and a man on fire. Beyond that, however, The Transfinite Man is its own story—and that story begins with Failway.

Failway Terminal cut across the old sector of the city like an ugly red house-brick thrown by a vandal on to a Lilliputian town. Almost a square mile of the old town had been obliterated to make room for the monstrous hundred-storied hulk of architectural impotence which was the Terminal building.

Author Colin Kapp never actually explains what Failway is. It's a corporation with power that rivals the governments of the world, and its one and only product seems to be hedonism. Failway (is that supposed to be a play on railway?) has tunnels to other dimensions, and it's in these alternate dimensions that Failway has constructed pleasure worlds where the down-and-out citizens of earth can spend their lives, either in pleasure or in providing pleasure. There are six levels of Failway, each with correspondingly greater excesses of hedonism. The book is stingy on details, but as best I can tease out, these are the levels:

  • Failway One - an Elysian fields world modeled on Greece and Rome
  • Failway Two - an oriental paradise patterned after ancient Japan and China
  • Failway Three - "turbulent wilderness and excitement"
  • Failway Four - "soft, sweet seductive sensuality"
  • Failway Five - "brash, brazen passions"
  • Failway Six - "complete, insanely accurate and believable dream-worlds of fantasy, pleasure and escape"
From the naive nymphs of Failway One to the oriental coquettes of Failway Two, the pattern traced wearily down. Failway Three, with its sharp-eyed, sophisticated adventuresses was replaced by the skillful seductresses of Failway Four and in turn by the gilded, padded courtesans of Failway Five. Failway Six dispensed with dreaming and smacked the hateful cast of cold reality over the souls of men.

Our hero is Ivan Dalroi, a private investigator who's been hired to look into Failway. He's also got a personal vendetta against Failway, so it's a good job. But my goodness, to investigate Failway marks him as a target of assassination for Failway's security team, and he also manages to get in trouble with the Black Knights (who are analogous to maybe the CIA or MI6.)

As the book progresses, it becomes clearer (well, nothing is clear) that neither Failway nor Dalroi are what they seem. For one thing, Failway seems to be controlled by non-human entities. For another, Dalroi is unkillable: put him in a fatal situation and his subconscious mind rescues him, even if it requires interdimensionally teleporting his body. Dalroi is not quite human either, it seems.

Dalroi's uniqueness is confirmed when the Black Knights reveal that Dalroi had been sentenced to death (for supposed crimes) but that the government had been unable to successfully execute him. Instead they turned him over to the Black Knights who reprogrammed his mind and let him go. Dalroi is a weapon aimed at Failway.

The denouement explains everything. (Well, it explains many things.) Homo sapiens is the descendent of an ancient race known as Destroyers. For the safety of the rest of the galaxy, the Destroyers were quarantined to Earth and had their terrible mental powers suppressed. However, occasionally a throwball will appear, with his latent mental powers unlocked, and for this reason the watchers created Failway: it's a trap for latent Destroyers such as Dalroi.

And now Dalroi must die. His terrible powers, paired with his dark destructive mind, are too dangerous. But—surprise!—during the titanic mental battle with his adversaries, Dalroi destroys the dark part of his mind. He is alive, with his powers intact, but he is no longer a Destroyer and no longer dangerous. They let him go.

But surprise! It's a trick. The dark mind still lurks, and Dalroi begins to awake—and is vaporized by a blaster. The galaxy is safe.

The end.


Ivan Dalroi
Zdenka (Zen) / watcher
Harry Dever
Inspector Quentain

Baron "Iron-fist" Cronstadt
Professor Hildebrandt/Car Carra na Leodat
Presley (religious dude)
Monitor of the Black Knights
Doctor Gormalu / field agent

Malmud the Strangler
Michael Neasdon

Chief of Failway Security Peter Madden

Black Knights
A.F.I. (artificial-fear-induction)
Black Knights underground HQ

Ombudsman Walter Rhodes
Chief Commissioner Fritz Van't Sellig

Korch (works for the Monitor)


Destroyers => Homo sapiens

Burning man, mental powers of teleportation, revenge => shades of The Stars My Destination

Adventure Fiction Book Review

 Tarzan and the Valley of Gold

by Fritz Leiber
Series: Tarzan 25
Reviewed date: 2023 Dec 27
Rating: 2
317 pages
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Tarzan and the Valley of Gold owes more to James Bond than to Tarzan. Leiber is talented and has taken a mediocre movie and crafted a novelization that surpasses the film, but if I wanted Bond I'd read Bond. I don't want Bond. I want Tarzan. This would rate a three, but because it's not properly Tarzan I knocked it down to a two.

Still, it's an authorized Tarzan book, and despite my stylistic quibbles, it's easy to accept it as canon. The other authorized Tarzan book, Philip José Farmer's Tarzan and the Dark Heart of Time, is a bit harder to accept as canon because of its Lovecraftian overtones. I'd put it this way: Tarzan written as James Bond is stylistically wrong, but the events easily fit into established canon. John Clayton, the Lord Greystoke, is certainly capable of anything James Bond is capable of. On the other hand, Tarzan teaming up with a sasquatch to fight a hideous extra-terrestrial frog-monster deep in the jungles of Africa is stylistically perfect, but it's hard to square time travel and elder gods from outer space with the established Tarzan universe. But on balance, I preferred Tarzan and the Dark Heart of Time.

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