reviewed by Cy Wyss
House Divided is a story of home-grown terrorism. Someone is recruiting American college students to carry bombs to Jewish organizations. The main suspects have to do with a pro-Palestine protest group which claims its methods are purely peaceful. This larger plot is brought down to earth in the Robbins family, where Leonard (a former CIA agent) is recruited to head a task force to investigate the bombings while his daughter Courtney actually belongs to the pro-Palestine group under suspicion.
A weakness of the book is that most of the action takes place at arm’s length, seen through the workings of the taskforce Leonard Robbins is heading. This means there are many briefings, phone calls, and reports for the reader to sift through, as opposed to directly thrilling action. At about 80% we finally get into the direct action as a sub-plot involving the daughter comes to a (predictable) head. I would also say that there are too many starched shirts around, as only a couple of the task force members aside from Leonard are memorable. Yet, in spite of these weaknesses, this book warrants an overall good grade. The writing is smooth with very few errors. The philosophical discussions of the Palestine/Israel conflict alone are worth the read, and as someone not highly versed in the conflict, I appreciated Pollak’s balanced and nuanced views. Overall four stars, a book I recommend reading for its (considerable) strengths.
reviewed by Cy Wyss
Gravitas is the story of Val-Sybil, a Valkyrie matriarch. She attends an intergalactic conference wearing Valkyrie ritual jewelry, a type of jewelry only a precious few are able to wear due to its contents: the liquid Gravitas. Gravitas is a potent aphrodisiac, a cross between pheromones and perfume. Even to wear the jewelry is to have your system set off in an uproar of horniness. Val-Sybil then has the misfortune to run into a Roggarian, literally, and the touch of skin on skin is more than he can bear. He ends up stalking Val-Sybil, with the result that they fall through a portal to a planet in the forbidden zone: Earth. Will they manage to get back to their own space? Will Val-Sybil be able to fend off the lusty Roggarian and manage her emotions over the Gravitas she carries? Find out in this fun romp.
I liked Gravitas a lot. The characters are memorable and interesting. I particularly liked that galactic space seems to be filled with all kinds of species and races from Earth mythology, but that in Gravitas it is the other way around—our mythology comes from brushes with those races and species. The fact Earth is forbidden because of its inhabitant’s propensity for overkill worship of other worlds is hilarious. There are many things about Gravitas that are equally fun and humorous. I loved the image of skinny pregnant women as having detachable “pods” for the coming invasion. The book is filled with similar jokes and images that will stick in your mind. Overall a smooth and magnetic read, I was only sorry it wasn’t longer.
reviewed by Cy Wyss
Digitarum is world-building of a different sort, being really more of a creation myth than anything else. Five gods emerge from a primordial egg into a dark, empty universe and they are told each has their purpose. One lights the space and becomes known as the light bringer. Others start to create: land, a tower, colors, and finally beings in their own image. One of the gods moves off from the others and is only interested in destruction, believing that’s his purpose. Will the destroyer tear down what the creators have made? Or will the fledgling beings in this new world band together with their creator gods and banish the destroyer? The answers make for a compelling story.
I liked the book. The writing is well-paced and flowing. It is, however, fairly abstract and (for example) low on specific descriptions. I found it hard to visualize the gods themselves and their people, other than imagining them as fairly generic but blue humans. Similarly for the landscape. The gods also seem to fall into the common trap of super powers which is that their extent is never clear. They seem to be as powerful (or not) as needed for the story. I realize fantasies like Digitarum require significant suspension of disbelief and perhaps it is my flaw that I find it difficult, not the book’s. I liked the ending twist. I had been thinking how anti-science the story was getting, then that got turned on its head at the very last second. That was a great moment and, overall, made for a good read.