Saturday, September 12, 2009

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Clearly fiction, but written as if from personal experience, this 1979 bestseller is in my top list of strange and unusual books. Richard Bach is a nomadic type, flying over the countryside in his little biplane selling rides for a couple bucks an hour to locals. At night he nestles in a field somewhere with some canned beans and pan-fried bread and enjoys his life of solitude and freedom. Then one day he sees another biplane he's never seen before, and another pilot just like himself leaning against the plane as if just waiting for him to land. The strange fact is that the man was waiting for him to land, and had known that he would be arriving shortly. Richard soon learns that his name is Don Shimoda, and that he was supposed to be the world's next Messiah before he abruptly quit and left his followers behind.
Don and Richard become friends and soon they are zooming all over the countryside together, offering rides and making more money then Richard would normally make in a single season. There's just something about Shimoda that makes Richard feel as if he's known him all his life. Living the good life, Richard doesn't think to leave until all the little miracles start becoming noticeable--no squashed bugs on Don's plane, the tight impossible turns he makes, and the fact that he never once fills up for gas. When he confronts Shimoda, he is immediately invited to know all the things only a messiah is supposed to know. These things come conveniently in a "Messiah's Handbook", which Shimoda digs out of his cockpit and throws to Richard without ceremony. At first thinking Shimoda is crazy, Richard soon learns that no matter where he goes or what he says, Shimoda is one step ahead and determined that Richard understand he is the real deal.
It soon becomes apparent that Richard has been chosen to take his place. Throughout the book we get glimpses of not only why Shimoda quit being the new messiah, but also into the handbook and its "wisdom".
Philosophical, otherworldly, and at times downright crazy--still I carried this book around in my back pocket for months when I first read it years ago. Picking it up again, I see how it inspired me to see myself as powerful as any Christ, and as capable of miracles. Illusions is a weird and ofttimes confounding novel, and I'm sure it will be viewed with skepticism in the least, ridicule at the most. I love this book because of it's uniqueness, the author's ability to place himself entirely within a fictional story, and because of D. Shimoda--the unforgettable and reluctant messiah.
"Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours." (Messiah's Handbook p. 100)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Club Dead

The third book of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series begins with Sookie acting petulant. It's kind of refreshing, not having to wait for it. The tanned blond telepath is having yet more problems with her pale vampire lover, Bill. It's understandable, though-- at this point they've been together for a few months, and the honeymoon's over. Not that they're married, Sookie would be quick to point out. It's not legal for vampires to marry humans. And once she has pointed that out, it is required by law that she add, "Not that he's asked me." She seems awfully bitter that her soulmate (of a few months) hasn't tried to wed her (illegally).

You know what else makes Sookie bitter? When Bill uses the computer for top-secret vampire stuff and doesn't shower her with attention. He doesn't even tell her what his top-secret vampire stuff is about! So when he leaves, on more top-secret vampire business, she feels so betrayed and hurt and it's the worst thing that has ever happened to her, ever, ever, boo-hoo-hoo, etc.

When she finds out that it is past the time that he should have been home, and she hadn't known when he was due back, and other vampires know more about the situation than she does, she feels even more hurt and betrayed, and it can't possibly get any worse, but then oh my god somehow it does get worse! Sookie mopes through the beginning of the book, sighing about how her life, evidently, wasn't worth sharing, and lamenting that Bill had "had some faith in [Sookie], no matter how faithless he might have been himself." This moping period isn't quite as painful as the one in the Twilight series, but it's close.

Another thing that bothered me: it's strange that the exotic vampire Chow, who is "Asian," has a Chinese name and Japanese yakuza tattoos. I guess I'll let that one slide, though, considering that Sookie lives in northern Louisiana and says that Chow is the first person of Asian descent that she has ever met. (That ignorance is probably reflected in Ms. Harris, as authors of these kinds of novels almost always seem to put a lot of themselves into their heroines.) That is just incredible to me. How can you go your whole life, until you're 25 or 26, not having met anyone of Asian descent?

Anyway, all complaints aside, I enjoyed this book, as I enjoy all of the Sookie Stackhouse books. We get to learn a little bit more about shifters and Weres, and Sookie meets more men who can fall in love with her.

One out of one pretty sweet Yakuza tattoo!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Living Dead in Dallas

I told myself that I couldn't read any further in the third book in Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series until I reviewed the second one, Living Dead in Dallas. So here we are. Hopefully, this will keep me from getting plot events confused, as I think I might have with my review of the first.

This book continues to follow perky Sookie Stackhouse on her adventures with her vampire boyfriend, Bill. Bill's boss, Eric, who owns the vampire bar Fangtasia, sends them off to use Sookie's telepathy to solve a mystery over in Dallas. In the past, she helped him find who was embezzling from his bar by reading the minds of humans who worked there. Now, she's being sent to Dallas to investigate the disappearance of a very old vampire named Godfrey (originally Godric), and to see whether the rabid anti-vampire faction of Christianity known as the Fellowship of the Sun had anything to do with it. (Funfact: Just found out that the Fellowship has a website: -- hilarious! The production value on the videos is way too high for it to be realistic, though. Tee-hee!)

Now, this brings to mind another difference between the show and the books. In the show, it seems like they pull fewer punches with their fairly graphic sex scenes. But when you look at several specific incidences, it seems that some things are too extreme even for HBO. For instance, Sookie was molested by one of her uncles when she was a child. In the book, she tells Bill that he never penetrated her (obviously, since her hymen was intact for their first time), but in the series, they change it to her saying that he never touched her-- just held her in his lap and thought creepy thoughts about how she didn't have any hair on her body. Still gross, yes, but miles away from what happened in the book.

Also, when Sookie finally meets Godric in the series, he is a wise, almost Buddha-like vampire. He shows much more mercy, compassion, and understanding than any other character in either version of the series. In the books, though, he seems merely apathetic and bored with life-- he shows a disconnect with all beings, living or undead.

On to more complaining about Sookie getting mad about things I don't understand!

I believe this example comes from the second book-- if I err and it is from the first, I apologize. I lent both books to a friend right after I finished them, so cannot go back and check, or get exact quotes, for that matter.

This conversation occurred when Bill was driving Sookie to Fangtasia to meet with Eric. Bill bought a strip mall, if I remember correctly, that had several stores in it. When he told Sookie that she could go into the clothing store and pick out anything she liked, telling the salesperson to put it onto Bill's tab, she became furious with him. She was absolutely outraged that he would treat her like a 'kept woman,' and when the car mysteriously stopped, she jumped out and stormed off into the spooky woods, planning to walk all the way home. She ignored his calling to her, and when she began to have misgivings about her safety (as she heard creepy noises following her), she tried to tell herself that she was doing the right thing, and how dare Bill offer her free things and try to get her back in the car.

She is pretty awesome.

One, two, three out of three inexplicable love interests! Ah! Ah! Ah!