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7/2/23 EMT | Main | They Lie. They All Lie. They All Lie All Of The Time.
July 02, 2023

Sunday Morning Book Thread - 07-02-2023 ["Perfessor" Squirrel]


Welcome to the prestigious, internationally acclaimed, stately, and illustrious Sunday Morning Book Thread! The place where all readers are welcome, regardless of whatever guilty pleasure we feel like reading (a fun romp through Renaissance Italy). Here is where we can discuss, argue, bicker, quibble, consider, debate, confabulate, converse, and jaw about our latest fancy in reading material. As always, pants are required, unless you are wearing these pants (forget the weedwhacker, break out the flamethrower!)

So relax, find yourself a warm kitty (or warm puppy--I won't judge) to curl up in your lap, and dive into a new book. What are YOU reading this fine morning?


I went looking for unique personal libraries and found this picture. No idea where it's located or who owns these books. However, I do like the look and feel of this space. Though I think I might replace the chair with something a bit more comfy. Or it could be an exceptionally comfortable chair. I love how the books just wrap around the reader, making it feel like an intimate personal space between the reader and all his favorite "friends." I have no idea where the spiral staircase goes, but if it were my house, that would be my bedroom space, so that I can pass through the library, grab a book, and head on up to bed at night. All that's missing are some feline friends lounging around the library and on the stairs.


A few weeks ago both OrangeEnt and Wolfus Aurelius suggested a discussion about "writing techniques." I was thinking about this as I read a couple of books this past week and noticed a distinctive approach that two authors used in presenting "points of view" for characters in a story. Remember that there are a few different points of view that are common: first person (use of pronoun "I" by main character who is narrating the story), third person limited (where you only have access to one person's inner thoughts and feelings, as that character observes other people), and third-person omniscient (where you are given a peek in to anyone's thoughts and feelings). There are others, of course, one of which I'll describe below, but these seem to be the most common ways of presenting the viewpoints of characters in a story.

The two stories I read are Still Life with Crows by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, part of their Agent Pendergast series, and Halting State by Charles Stross. Both have a common structure in how they tell their stories, but beyond that they diverge wildly in the point of view presented by the characters within the stories.

Let's start with Halting State. This is a cyberpunk thriller that takes place in the near "future" of 2018 (the book was written in 2007), where most of society is wrapped up in "augmented reality." Everyone wears goggles that allow them to be connected online all the time for phone calls, web browsing, etc. They can also superimpose information over their normal vision. Scotland, where the story takes place, has achieved independence from the UK and is now a member state of the EU. Within this world, someone has committed a supposedly impossible crime by robbing a virtual bank within the world of a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) (like World of Warcraft). This crime in virtual space has real-world relevance because of the implications of digital artifacts with real-world value being stored in a supposedly secure online vault. The main protagonists are a Scottish police detective (Sue), an insurance investigator (Elaine), and a software engineer/game developer (Jack).

Halting State is unusual in that each chapter gives us a viewpoint of one of the main protagonists, but instead of using "Sue," "Elaine," or "Jack" when describing actions, Stross only uses the second-person voice of "you" when describing the events of the story. In each chapter, the reader is addressed as "you talk to so-and-so" or "you go to back to the hotel to rest before your next activity." Furthermore, unless Stross is describing a flashback event, the story is told in the present tense. This style takes a lot of getting used to by the reader, as the chapters cycle between the three main characters. You have to really pay attention to which chapter you are in, especially when the three main characters start interacting with each other. For instance, a "Sue" chapter might have her questioning both Jack and Elaine, so you have to remember as you are reading it that "you" in this context is referring to "Sue." In the next chapter, Elaine and Jack might be talking about gaming. Jack is an expert in his field, so his viewpoint will be highly technical. Elaine's expertise is in financial shenanigans, so her viewpoint will tend to reflect that while being confused at times by Jack's technical acumen. It does make for a slightly surreal reading experience.

Still Life with Crows is a murder mystery of sorts, taking place in a remote corner of Kansas in the summertime. The town where the murders occur is a typical small town where everyone knows everyone else. The local sheriff and his deputy are scratching their heads at who might be committing a bizarre series of murders. Then a mysterious stranger shows up and starts taking an active hand in the investigation...

Still Life with Crows is a much more conventional style of storytelling. Although each chapter tends to change the viewpoint character between both main characters and side characters, we don't have to work so hard to understand which character's viewpoint is "active." Preston and Child stick to the tried-and-true "third person omniscient" viewpoint as we are privy to the thoughts and feelings of various characters throughout the book. They do take a creative approach to how they present the main protagonist, however. These stories are named after Special Agent Pendergast of the FBI, but in this book, we barely get to experience his viewpoint at all. Instead, we mainly see Pendergast through the eyes of the characters around him. He is a very strange man, so much so that I wasn't quite sure if he was entirely human. His entire bearing just seems "off" to most people he encounters. When we do get a brief glimpse into his mind, we see that he's a very dangerous, disciplined man, capable of near superhuman feats when pushed to his limits.

Charles Stross and the writing team of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child both play around with "point of view" in their stories. It makes for an interesting and engaging reading experience for the most part. I had to read a number of chapters of Halting State before I managed to get a handle on what was happening. Charles Stross is also keen on throwing a lot of technobabble at the reader, expecting us to figure it out in context, which adds to the challenge of reading his stories.

Who else likes to play around with points of view in your reading experiences? Did it help or hinder the story?





Some time ago, I promoted UNSUNG: Quiet Voices of the US Navy's EOD Warriors and Their Families by Joseph E. Shaffer III and his wife, Dr. Paula Greene. Well, it turns out the Navy Special Operations Foundation took notice:

plaque.jpg Perfessor: wife and I self-published UNSUNG: Quiet Voices of the US Navy's EOD Warriors and Their Families, which you graciously touted on Ace of Spades a while back--and thanks again for that--here's an update for ya'.

One of our three goals when writing the book was to split half the earnings from book sales with Navy Special Operations Foundation and EOD Warrior Foundation, which we do on a quarterly basis. Earlier this month, NSOF held their annual fund-raising gala in Norfolk and we were invited to attend as "guests of honor." They also recognized us for writing the book (see photo, below). It was quite a bash and they raised a bunch of money from the folks in attendance.

So, thanks again for helping us spread the word about the book.

Here are the links to the two foundations and to our book at Amazon.

Amazon Link

So if you are an aspiring Moron Author with a tale that MUST be told, especially if it's for a worthy cause, you just never know what kind of impact you can have on the lives of others. One thing I've really learned from taking over the Sunday Morning Book Thread is just how important it is you all. Thanks for making it special!



I came across the word below in an academic paper on "decentering" humans from environmental engineering. The paper was as whacked out on fruities as you can imagine. I know the author of that paper. Generally a pretty nice guy, but rabid environmental Leftist. I had to go look up the origin of this word just to verify that it was truly a word that was used in other contexts.

Chthulucene - n. - an ongoing temporality that resists figuration and dating and demands myriad names.

OK. Trying to find an actual definition of the word is a bit challenging because the person who came up with this, Donna Haraway, is a Leftist lunatic who is keen on posthumanism. Note that the spelling of the root word, "Chthulu" is slighly different than the spelling H.P. Lovecraft typically used for his chthonic entity of the deeps, Cthulhu. This is not an accident. Both words harken back to the ancient Greek word "chthonios," which means "of, in, or under the earth and seas."

In Haraway's diseased mind the Chthulucene era, which takes place in an epoch after our current "Capitalocene" era (another word she made up), "must collect up the trash of the Anthropocene, the exterminism of the Capitalocene, and chipping and shredding and layering like a mad gardener, make a much hotter compost pile for still possible pasts, presents, and futures."

Did everyone catch that? She is specifically referring to humanity as a compost pile in the future.

You can read the full article here: Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene by Donna Haraway. Good luck trying to decipher her gibberish!



I finished The Ends of the Circle by Paul O. Williams, book 2 in the loose Pelbar Cycle. I read it originally in the 80s when it came out The Pelbar Cycle revolves around the redevelopment of society along the Heart (Mississippi) river after "the burning times" which left radioactive ruins of cities, depopulation and almost total loss of knowledge. The Matriarchal Pelbar live in stone keeps in the bluffs above the Heart, protected from the Shumani who follow the wild cattle, and the Sentani who migrate from the great lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. The series follows the incursion of the Tantal who attempted to conquer the Heart Valley, forcing the peoples there to work together.

In the second book, Stel is nearly killed in an ice-cutting accident and figuring his in-laws were trying to kill him, he leaves the Heart to look for the great ocean rumored in the West. His wife Ahroe, a member of the city guard, follows him to bring him back. They meet in the Southwest in a battle between two tribes over access to water.

Paul O Williams was a poetry professor and his prose is so incredibly READABLE. So many modern writers are harsh and hard to follow. His world building is wonderful.

Posted by: Kindltot at June 25, 2023 10:07 AM (xhaym)

Comment: I have an interesting essay that I plan on linking to sometime in the near future that talks about the problems of modern writing. It's not an accident that so many modern writers are "harsh and hard to follow." This sounds like an interesting story taking place in a post-apocalyptic America where we have been reduced back to a pre-technological civilization. Based on what the WEF plans to do to us, it's not as far-fetched as it may have once seemed.


My other reading this week was China's Small Arms of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) by Shih Bin.

It may seem odd to pick this up after publishing Walls of Men, but I was actually trying to run to ground a theory about 1938-stamped Mosin 1891/30s being in Spain, and to do that, I needed to rule out Chinese origin.

Given the circumstances, that's not possible to do with absolute certainty, but I think the preponderance of evidence points to the fact that it would have been very difficult for these rifles to have come from China. Spain is the most likely origin.

As a bonus, I reached out to the author for additional information, and he was courteous enough to reply. I love when that happens. Stanley G. Payne also was nice enough to answer my fan mail.

Posted by: Ace-Endorsed Author A.H. Lloyd at June 25, 2023 09:35 AM (llXky)

Comment: When doing research, it's important to rule out possibilities as well as find information that confirms your hypothesis. It's also neat that the author was available to answer questions.


Long-time lurker; I love the book thread. I've just started reading To Your Scattered Bodies Go, the first book in the Riverworld series by Philip Jose Farmer. I've wanted to read it for a long time. I enjoyed his novella "Riders of the Purple Wage" as a pre-29-year-old, even though it glorify the Great Society, just stylistically I guess, and it's version of LA reminds me of the way the New Jerusalem is described in Revelation, though I don't know if that was intentional.

Posted by: Norrin Radd at June 25, 2023 10:20 AM (3W1gU)

Comment: I have a rather interesting series of books where Philip Jose Farmer served as a coordinator of other authors' writing. In the introduction, he talks about all of the stories that influenced his own writing. I would not be surprised if Farmer's depiction of LA was intentional, as he was quite well-read, especially the works of classical Western literature, which would include many religious themes (e.g., Dante's Inferno).


David Grann, who also wrote the excellent The Lost City of Z, weaves historical narrative like a novel. The Wager is about a disastrous 1740 mission in which the HMS Wager set out to seize a Spanish galleon stuffed with treasure. It instead wrecked off the southwest coast of Patagonia, and after months of privation the marooned men managed to cobble together a rickety craft and sail back home, where they were hailed as heroes.

Until a second group of survivors made land in Chile and claimed the first group were a pack of filthy mutineers!

The description of scurvy is horrifying.

Posted by: All Hail Eris at June 25, 2023 09:11 AM (CCf9N)

Comment: So which group were the mutineers? Or is this a book I have to read now in order to figure out the plot twist? Still, a historical novel about this harrowing experience sounds pretty interesting.

More Moron-recommended reading material can be found HERE! (855 Moron-recommended books so far!)



I read one of the Agent Pendergast novels by Preston & Child that I bought at a recent library book sale. So I decided to buy a few more to fill in the gaps in the storyline. The books are largely independent (with a few exceptions), but it helps to read all of them to get a better picture of the overall story arc. Also, they are pretty well written and highly entertaining.

  • Special Agent Pendergast Book 3 - The Cabinet of Curiosities
  • Special Agent Pendergast Book 5 - Brimstone
  • Special Agent Pendergast Book 7 - The Book of the Dead
  • Special Agent Pendergast Book 11 - Cold Vengeance
  • Special Agent Pendergast Book 12 - Two Graves


  • Still Life of Crows by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child -- Although the overall mystery was fairly predictable after a certain point, the book still managed to capture my attention enough so that I powered through the entire book in one day. I rarely do that anymore. Furthermore, it inspired me to order more books in the series. Agent Pendergast is an intriguing character.
  • Dance of Death by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child -- There is a brief gap of one book between the previous one (Still Life of Crows) and this one. Somehow, Agent Pendergast went missing, presumed dead, so part of the mystery is discovering what happened to Pendergast. Characters from previous stories play a pivotal role in this one, unlike Still Life of Crows where Pendergast was on his own.
  • Halting State by Charles Stross -- Lots of technobabble gibberish in a "near" future society (takes place in 2018 ) where people are constantly plugged into augmented reality. The book is also very British.
  • The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child -- Agent Pendergast must solve a hundred-year-old mystery while also stopping a murderer in the present.

That's about all I have for this week. Thank you for all of your kind words regarding the Sunday Morning Book Thread. This is a very special place. You are very special people (in all the best ways!). The kindness, generosity, and wisdom of the Moron Horde knows no bounds. Let's keep reading!

If you have any suggestions for improvement, reading recommendations, or discussion topics that you'd like to see on the Sunday Morning Book Thread, you can send them to perfessor dot squirrel at-sign gmail dot com. Your feedback is always appreciated! You can also take a virtual tour of OUR library at Since I added sections for AoSHQ, I now consider it OUR library, rather than my own personal fiefdom...

PREVIOUS SUNDAY MORNING BOOK THREAD - 06-25-23 (NOTE: Do NOT comment on old threads!)

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