Monthly Archives: April 2014

Do You Know What You Did?

Do You Know What You Did?

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Categories: Humor, Politics/Current Events | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Crossroads Trilogy

Elliotts Crossroads Series

 

If you’re looking for an adventure, but no mysterious stranger has come along yet to sweep you away, let me recommend Kate Elliott’s Crossroads Trilogy.  She builds a world so fantastically believable, you’ll reach for your passport each time you pick up the book, hoping that the guards at the checkpoint to the Hundred will let you pass!

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The people of the Hundred have known peace for generations thanks to nine Guardians, seemingly all-powerful beings created by the gods to rule over the Hundred’s courts.  An old order of reeves – men and women who soar around on their giant eagles settling disputes – help enforce the Guardians’ justice.   But, as the story begins, no one has seen a Guardian for decades, and the reeves are loosing their respect and their authority.  A series of attacks and murders occur, and soon an actual army (something the loosely-knit Hundred folks had only heard about in tales) comes marching from the north, destroying villages, raping women, and “cleansing” anyone who doesn’t join them.  More terrifying yet, the army’s leaders are wearing Guardians’ cloaks and flying on winged horses!   Are these Guardians marching on the gods’ orders, sent to make the Hundred pay for its sins?  Or have the Guardians turned into rogue demons?  How are the Hundred’s various peoples meant to stop the army, especially when the reeve halls no longer recognize a single commander?

Some members of the older generation remember that the founding tales also mention that an outlander would come to the rescue of the Hundred.  And as a matter of fact, a whole band of outlanders have ridden into the Hundred, looking for a new home.  Will one of them stop the invading army?  And at what cost?  Are the Hundred folk willing to fight an army led by holy figures that they’ve revered since time began?  And if so, how do you kill an immortal?

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I don’t need to say anything more about the story’s plot – if you’re like me, that’s all it would take to hook your interest.  What I find more impressive – and ultimately the best part about the series – is the unbelievably complex world that Elliott creates.  When you read through the trilogy, you don’t feel like you’re reading a novel – it’s more like you’re reading through a National Geographic piece on a distant land.  What I’m trying to say: You never once doubt that the Hundred and its bordering lands are real places.  As the pages turn, you learn about the multiple gods and the unique purpose that each god’s temple serves in the different villages and towns across the Hundred.  You sit by a campfire and listen to such intricate folk-lore, that the stories simply must have been passed down for innumerable generations – not thought up in the mind of a single author!  Currencies, measurements, customs, languages – they’re all native to the Hundred.

You meet a plethora of characters (so many that I had to jot a few down to keep them straight) – and you get to know some of them so well, that you want to send them a call later on in the day.  But, you come across some interesting characters only briefly – just as you might if you were buying fruit at the market.  Elliott introduces them long enough to reveal that they are deep characters, possessing their own back-story (they’re not just a prop), and you think, Okay, this guy/gal is going to be important.  But then, once the character is done with his wine, he leaves the tavern and goes on with his life.  More importantly, Elliott is a master of character development.  You’re not presented with an entire character in the first chapter of book #1.  Only eventually, as you get to know them, do you figure out how complex each character is.  You find out why Joss, the handsome reeve who loves alcohol even more than the ladies (and many men) love him, is so heartbroken and reckless.  And you never really get to know too much of the outlander captain Anji because he keeps his true thoughts and emotions to himself as is his people’s custom.  You come to quickly realize that there is much more to Mai, whose beautiful exterior hides her superior intellect and cutting wit.

Some characters worship all gods, some mock them, while other characters from outside the Hundred swear allegiance to a monotheistic deity.  In some ways, the Hundred seems like a progressive place.  Men and women are treated equally, and decisions are made by councils, not single leaders like kings or emperors. There’s plenty of sex in the Hundred, since the fulfillment of lust is viewed as an act of worship to the goddess known as the Merciless One, or the Devourer.  Moreover, there are plenty of men in the Hundred who are “fashioned” to be with men, while many women are “fashioned that way” and are attracted to other women.  So, when the outlanders come riding in and kick out one of their own for longing after another man, the folks in the Hundred don’t understand what the problem is.

But, the Hundred isn’t a liberal’s paradise, either.  Slavery is a way of life, and marriage isn’t for lovers; it’s simply a way to join two clans. One of my favorite part of the story is watching one of the character’s views on slavery evolve from never questioning its impact on the slaves (even though her very own father sold her into a marriage) to fully understanding the psychological impact of being owned, even for a supposedly “well taken care of” slave.  The Hundred people are passionately xenophobic – distrustful of foreigners to the point of believing that “the Silvers” (a culture that demands their women be fully veiled and confined to the home) have horns under their turbans, and that other foreigners are simply demons disguised as humans.

In short, there’s everything you need for an epic fantasy: an imposing army, spy missions into unknown territory, non-human creatures (though Elliott forces us to question what it means to be human), power hungry temples, ancient customs, good vs. evil, with just the right dash of magic thrown into the mix.  Through these tales, readers face themes that are relevant in our real lives:  What type of hold do we allow custom and tradition to have on us?  Is there an afterlife?  How do we understand and treat people and cultures that are different from our own?  What is the price of safety?  

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Luckily, the books are long, so you get to live in the Hundred for a while.  I took me four months to read the trilogy, but that’s because I only read on my commute to and from work.  Even though I wanted to race through them all, I forced myself to slow down because I didn’t want it to end!

The trilogy is published by Tor Books.  The first book, Spirit Gate (722 pages) came out in 2006.  Shadow Gate (792 pages) was released in 2008, and the final book Traitor’s Gate (896 pages) came out in 2009.   According to this 2009 interview, Elliott said that she’s working on four more(!) books that will take place in the Hundred, though not particularly with the same characters.  That was five years ago, and no new Hundred books – but it looks like she just finished up another, unrelated project, The Spiritwalker Series, so now maybe she’ll have time to get back to the Hundred!

For more of Kate Elliott’s work, check out her website:  www.kateelliott.com 

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Your Right To Say It

X Voltaire - Right to Say It

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Mark Twain’s Patriotism

X Twain Patriotism

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Hmmmm….


Fear of Time Running Out

 

 

X Trapped in Facebook

 

 

SLAVE TO TECHNOLOGY:

X Slave to Technology

HAVE WE REACHED “NEWSPEAK”? 

X Newspeak

 

HERE’S A LITTLE BIT OF GENDER DECONSTRUCTION FROM A 7 YEAR OLD:
(there’s a typed version of it below her handwritten letter)

X shame on lego

 

AND TO END WITH: 

X God approves

X Defense Box Tops

Categories: Ideas & Philosophy, Politics/Current Events, Religion | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For a Few LOLs

X Distract me from Food

(and usually, I fail at it)

 

X Nose Stealer

 

X Philosophical Dog

Philosophical Dog

 

PROBLEM SOLVING BY NATIONALITY 

X Poblem-Solutions by Nation

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Hitler & the Collapse of Weimar Germany

Broszat

 

Broszat, Martin.  Hitler and the Collapse of Weimar Germany. Trans. V. R. Berghahn. Leamington Spa: Berg, 1987.

This is a thin, but important book of political history.  In it, Broszat traces the complex political trends of the Weimar era, as well as the intricate deals forged by Germany’s leading politicians and economic elite at the time.  Though this is primarily a political history, Broszat does offer some glances into larger socio-cultural developments during the 1920s and 1930s.  He hints at what Detlev Peukert takes as the central issue of his own book: the effects of modernization and the rise of mass culture on German politics.  Ultimately, Broszat sees this new, mass culture as the key to the Nazis’ success in gaining control of the German government in 1933.

Broszat opens his book with a brief history of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP or Nazi Party) and shows that it was only one among many right wing, nationalist parties.  “What marked [Hitler] out among the speakers of the political Right was the way in which he put his message across” (2).  This point epitomizes Broszat’s larger argument that it was not Nazism’s message itself that made it unique or successful, but instead the manner in which the message was expressed and distributed.  NSDAP leadership – and Hitler in particular – recognized that the masses could not be ignored in any new political system.  Consequently, the Nazis saw the masses as a source of power that should be tapped into through modern technology and political aesthetics.  In this light, the National Socialists were a truly modern political party, not the culmination of an older German character.  “Nazi ideology was almost totally a product of mass culture and political semi-illiteracy which proliferated since the late nineteenth century” (38).

After demonstrating that National Socialism was a modern creation, Broszat lays out the conditions that allowed for the rise of the Nazi Party.  National Socialism emerged in Germany after the First World War during a period of worldwide economic recession and against the background of a general crisis of modernity and civilization” (37).  The SPD-led Weimar Coalition enjoyed success only during times of material improvement or stability (53); otherwise, it was attacked from all sides: the Communists on the Left and conservative nationalists like the Nazis on the Right.  The election of Paul von Hindenburg as Reich President in 1925 was a “symptom of backward looking tendencies,” Broszat claims (67).

While the election of Hindenburg symbolized a shift to the Right in Weimar mentality, the Republic was not destroyed until Chancellor Brüning was forced to resign in May 1932.  The new chancellor led a coup against Prussia, trying to separate its government from the Reich’s, and the SPD did nothing to protest, thus paving the way for an authoritarian, nationalistic government (120, 146).  The rest of the book is dedicated to revealing the political maneuvering that led to Papen’s ousting, Schleicher’s short chancellorship, and finally Hitler’s appointment as Reich Chancellor in January 1933.

Throughout the book, Broszat reveals how the NSDAP was able to gather followers.  Nazism “seemed to offer a strong determined leadership, a pseudo-democratic mobilization of the masses and their participation in the promised national revival; it looked like a ‘third way’ between democracy and the state authoritarianism of the olden days. Herein lay the lure of Nazism” (94).  As the NSDAP gained more success, its more radical messages were toned down, thus appealing to a wider audience among the working class, bourgeoisie, and old elite.  The old conservative elites lacked this mass appeal and that is why they compromised and agreed to place the Nazis in power, hoping they could keep Hitler and his party on a short leash.

To see more books on the history of modern Germany, see my full list of book reviews. 

Categories: Book Review, German History, History | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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