Out Of The Silent Planet (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

I truly believe that leaders are readers. But leaders need to also be discerning in the books they choose. I almost exclusively read non-fiction, but I make an exception when a fictional piece of literature is a mind-expanding book. As I am re-reading C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, I’m reminded again how this master storyteller can pack so much into a few pages. Book one in this trilogy is Out Of The Silent Planet. 

In its simplest form, this book is about a trip to Malacandra (or Mars), but as with any fantasy work written by Lewis, the story tells a far deeper and more substantial Story. In this book, we go behind the scenes to witness the aftermath of the battle in heaven when Lucifer and his fallen angels attempted to usurp God’s throne. In the Malacandrian language, Lucifer is “the bent one,” having deviated away from God’s loving design, so those who have allowed themselves to be influenced by him are also called “bent.” The three Earthlings who have arrived on Malacandra show their level of straightness or bentness as this story unfolds. 

Another fascinating part of this book is the subtle change in language. The main protagonist is a philologist named Dr. Elwin Ransom. Watching how Lewis shows Dr. Ransom progressively learning the language of the inhabitants of Malacandra, contrasted with the way the bent men continue to speak it in “baby talk” is amazing. Ransom slowly learns more of the planet’s culture and the nuance of the language becomes more precise as he does so. And Lewis keeps pace by showing us the evolving vocabulary as the story moves along. 

If you are already a C.S. Lewis fan, this is a great book to continue your journey into his vast mind. But if you haven’t been exposed to much of Lewis’ writings yet, I would suggest holding off on this book until you have a better grasp of his more accessible works. 

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His Last Bow (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

They say all good things must come to an end, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it! Arthur Conan Doyle had attempted many times to stop writing Sherlock Holmes stories, but the reading public kept clamoring for more. At last, Doyle brought them an epilogue entitled His Last Bow. 

Readers of my blog may recall that I seldom read fiction books, but there are two notable exceptions to that rule: One of them is Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Although I hated to come to the end of these great stories, Doyle did some unusual things in this set of memoirs that I hadn’t read before, so it really kept me on my toes. 

For instance, in one story, Holmes solves the entire case while lying sick in his bed. And in the final story, Doyle uses a device never before seen in his great detective stories: he told the story not as he usually does in first person through Dr. John Watson, but in third person through an unnamed observer. There are a couple of other twists in these stories that careful Sherlock Holmes readers will probably catch as well. 

All in all, His Last Bow was a very enjoyable final send-off for the world’s greatest detective. 

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The Return Of Sherlock Holmes (book review)

I don’t read very many fiction books, but I am a huge fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes! I just finished listening to a wonderful collection of short adventures from the book The Return Of Sherlock Holmes. The audiobook I listened to was expertly narrated by Stephen Thorne.

Without being as wordy as some authors, Doyle paints such descriptive pictures of Dr. Watson, Holmes, his clients, his villains, and the crime scenes. I can “see” exactly how the characters look and “hear” how they talk, and can feel the emotions they are feeling. And the crime scenes are also painted in such vivid detail by Doyle, that I can catch all of the same details the Sherlock Holmes is taking in.

I cannot stand how some detective story authors “uncover” some hidden details at the very end that magically helps their protagonist solve the crime. The “magic” of Sherlock Holmes’ solutions is that Doyle allowed you to see everything Holmes saw. The real art is in the way Holmes uses his gift of deductive reasoning to solve the clues.

These mysteries are not always crimes. Often times they are simply perplexing problems. I’ve never been called upon to solve a crime before, but I certainly am called upon to find solutions to thorny problems. In that regard, I owe a debt to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for helping me learn from Sherlock Holmes how to deduce the most logical solution to my mysterious situations.

These are also great stories to read aloud, especially to your kids.

Book Reviews From 2013

The Man Who Knew Too Much (book review)

The Man Who Knew Too MuchRegular readers of this blog have probably noticed that I don’t read very much fiction. Partly this is because I have so much to read that I need to keep strict requirements on my reading list, and partly because many fictional works are so much mental cotton candy. By that I mean it’s sweet for the moment, but it’s quickly gone. But there are exceptions, and The Man Who Knew Too Much by G.K. Chesterton is a notable exception.

Chesterton is usually known for his non-fiction theological writings. But the wit, insight, wisdom and humor he uses in his non-fiction work is also on full display in this book, which chronicles the observation skills of Mr. Horne Fisher.

Fisher is the man who knows too much. Because he knows too much, he solves mysteries and riddles “backwards” from the way a typical detective would. Although Fisher is not a detective, but just a man who is well-known and well-connected, he seems to stumble upon the most bizarre settings. Fisher knows too much, so he spots what’s missing, and then works “backwards” to unravel the conundrum. It’s quite fascinating to watch him at work, and Chesterton’s insights into the human spirit make his characters very engaging.

These are not your typical detective stories, but the uniqueness of Horne Fisher’s crime-solving technique makes The Man Who Knew Too Much an enjoyable and enlightening book.

I typically share some of my favorite quotes from the books I review, but in this case I have included some of the wittier lines and descriptions that Chesterton employs. Check it out in the comment below….

The Return Of Sherlock Holmes (book review)

I don’t read very many fiction books, but I am a huge fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes! So I just finished a wonderful collection of short adventures called The Return Of Sherlock Holmes.

Without being as wordy as some authors, Doyle paints such descriptive pictures of Dr. Watson, Holmes, his clients, his villains, and the crime scenes. I can “see” exactly how the characters look and “hear” how they talk, and can feel the emotions they are feeling. And the crime scenes are also painted in such vivid detail by Doyle, that I can catch all of the same details the Sherlock Holmes is taking in.

I cannot stand how some detective story authors “uncover” some hidden details at the very end that magically helps their protagonist solve the crime. The “magic” of Sherlock Holmes’ solutions is that Doyle allowed you to see everything Holmes saw. The real art is in the way Holmes uses his gift of deductive reasoning to solve the clues.

These mysteries are not always crimes. Often times they are simply perplexing problems. I’ve never been called upon to solve a crime before, but I certainly am called upon to find solutions to thorny problems. In that regard, I owe a debt to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for helping me learn from Sherlock Holmes how to deduce the most logical solution to my mysterious situations.

These are also great stories to read aloud, especially to your kids.

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