Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Excelsior - Ever Upward! {Book Review}

ExcelsiorExcelsior by George H. Sirois

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On the surface, it may seem that "Excelsior" by George H. Sirois is simply going to be a fun read--one of those great little sci-fi gems to be enjoyed as an escape or distraction from everyday real life. While it is definitely one of those great little gems, with the usual good versus evil to save the world themes, I must forewarn you--the undercurrents of the basic overlying theme of "Excelsior" take the reader far deeper than mere escapism. It is exciting, inspiring, intensely gripping, & even spiritual if one allows one's self to feel it in the soul rather than simply reading it. The world of "Excelsior" grabs you & just doesn't let go. I found myself glued to my Kindle, eagerly anticipating what might be just around the corner on that next page. The excitement & tension continue to ratchet up from beginning to end. To say this book had me breathless at times would be an understatement.

Through the journey of a young man approaching high school graduation named Matthew, who's a bit of a loner but is also just hitting his stride in publishing his `Excelsior' comic book series online about the trials & tribulations of the beings on the planet Denab IV, the reader is shown that we all have amazing potential within ourselves. Whether we allow ourselves to fully unlock that inherent potential rather than fearing our own success & how it may change us is in our own hands. Sometimes, in life, we need to take a leap of faith in order to reach our full potential & accomplish all that we are capable of accomplishing.

Did I mention that this fabulous sci-fi novel also has a spiritual element to it? Yes, I did. However, I'm not the type of reader who likes having a book spoiled for them by a reviewer that goes into too much detail, but I will tell you this much--not only is Excelsior the name of a splendidly beautiful sword with a gemstone in the handle that contains the life force of a deity, Excelsior is also a person(s).

Another quality that makes "Excelsior" such an exceptional read is how Mr. Sirois manages to cleverly weave bits of laugh out loud humor into the seriously intense storyline--giving the reader a moment to breathe or possibly eat some leftover peet-za.

The characters are well-developed as is the plot. I can honestly say that I'd love to see this book transformed into a movie provided it's directed by the right person who is capable of doing "Exclesior" the justice it deserves. I can easily imagine the characters, the galaxies, & all the special effects coming to life before my eyes. It would be amazing.

The fact that the main character, Matthew, is named in honor of a courageous soul in Mr. Sirois' life makes "Excelsior" all the more exciting as well as poignant. I won't lie to you. When I read the story of Matthew's real life at the end of the book, there were tears sliding down my cheeks.

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Judgment of Horror & The Horror of Judgment

Whilst perusing a guest blog on my friend LizzieBeth’s site, I found myself utterly aghast at what I was reading. That, in & of itself, came as a shock to me as I generally come away from her blogs in a happy-go-lucky ‘yay I got to know another cool author’ mood. To be clear, my shock had absolutely nothing to do with LizzieBeth’s writing or with the fact that the guest blogger, Fiona Dodwell, is a published horror fiction novelist. I was taken aback by some of the judgments Ms. Dodwell says some people pass on her & probably others for simply being a horror novelist.

I just can’t fathom why people would pass such harsh &, in my opinion, strange judgment on a person for writing fiction—regardless of the genre. The things mentioned in that post regarding those who choose to write horror, though, are outright appalling & definitely blew my mind. I had no idea. To say it’s ‘unhealthy’ or there ‘must be some deep-rooted issue’ for someone to be entertained by, let alone write in, the horror genre sounds incredibly insane to me. It’s fiction—pure & simple. One either enjoys reading/writing fictional horror or doesn’t. There’s no need to pass judgments on the readers or the writers of this or any other genre.

I wonder if these same hypercritical people give a moment’s thought to the fact that there are far worse things than horror fiction novels that have come from the human imagination, been tinkered with, & materialized into reality—many of which have been around for at least a century? For instance all the medieval torture devices, the atomic bombs, or ‘miracle medicines’ that later turned out to be deadly–just to name a few. Those are all very real things derived from the human imagination. Things one cannot simply close, stop reading, or eject from the DVD player. The very notion of considering a horror novelist to be mentally ill in order to be capable of writing such things is simply deplorable & I applaud all authors of all genres, who likely take a verbal beating from one direction or another, for not allowing such ignorance to hold them back. I shudder to even imagine what those same folks would think of my parents.

I’ve been reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, & the like since I was probably ‘too young’ in some peoples’ eyes to be reading such things. The same assessment likely applies when it comes to Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children, Book One), The Valley of Horses (Earth's Children, Book Two), & later the rest of the series. To these folks, I would’ve been ‘too young’ to be reading the horror of Stephen King or the Earth’s Children Series due to prehistoric religious practices & realistic sexual situations. These are just a couple of examples & I honestly don’t remember the exact age I started reading these books. Does that make my parents horrible for letting me read those types of books? In my opinion, not even a little bit. What were they going to do with a child who was capable of reading far above her age level? Make her continue to read "See Spot Run" or "Sweet Valley High"? Not that there’s anything wrong with those books—how do you think I learned to read in the first place were it not for working my way up the reading ladder? However, I’m grateful they didn’t foist what, by the time I was of that age, I would’ve considered the inane drivel of my ‘age group’ upon me by restricting my reading to only that which was recommended. To me, that would’ve been criminal. It could very well have proven detrimental to my desire to read at all in the future, actually, as I would’ve likely been bored out of my skull when it came to books at an impressionable age during which I could’ve just as easily arrived at the conclusion that all books must be boring—never to be bothered with a desire to read again unless forced. Now that thought is, indeed, a horror.

To this day, at age thirty-six & thanks to my parents’ decision not to restrict me to only certain books, I still adore reading. They loved me & cared enough about my intellectual development to simply ‘let go’ a little & allow themselves to be happy I was devouring books rather than placing undue worry over what I was reading. Better, in their eyes & in mine, that it was books I was devouring & not drugs or alcohol—not beginning to ‘party’ like many of my peers were. Reading is & always has been one of my absolute favorite activities. I can find myself so easily engrossed in the world of a well-written book of nearly any genre &, given the choice, I’d still much rather enrich my mind with a good book than attend some drunken party.

I genuinely grieve for the literature-hungry child of today whose parent(s) feels, due to potential scrutiny in a climate of societal judgment that seems to grow more harsh & puritanical by the minute, that they must restrict the reading materials of that child.

Mom & Dad, you have my deepest & most heartfelt gratitude & love for so many things, including for bestowing upon me the cherished gift of loosely held reins that allowed a burning desire to read blossom within me.