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review 2020-06-29 16:53
Great Read
John Henry: The Steam Age Original Graphic Novel - Dwayne Harris

I picked up the first issue of this limited series because it was free.  And it still is free on Kindle, at the least. 


I think I first heard about John Henry because of a cartoon short.  At any rate, before I saw John Henry the horse, I knew who John Henry was and, therefore, knew who the horse was named after (he lived up to the name).


Harris' reimagining of the story places Henry in a steampunk universe.  It is long the lines of the Clockwork Century (though it is different.  No zombies for one).  The story does tie into the origin John Henry myth and then moves forward while using the myth/legend.


What is particularly enjoyable about this series is the role that Polly, John Henry's wife plays.  Some people may not know that Polly had her own set of stories and songs.  Harris does, apparently, and what Polly does is great.  Her role is great.  I really hope that Harris writes a graphic novel about her, and considering the closing panels of this book, a follow up to this book as well.


Harris does address the issues of racism and slavery, not just in terms of John Henry (a Black man) but also in the use of other characters and settings.  He confronts the racism that existed (and still does) against the Chinese population whose labor was used to build the railroads.


Highly recommended.

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review 2020-06-06 21:30
I'm not sure about 'Surviving the Merge' but...
Surviving the Merge - C.P. Harris

I was pretty damned happy when I realized that 'I survived this book'. It's been a while since I've read a book that had the emotional impact on me that this one did.


I'm just going to take a minute to give a little bit of personal background here because I honestly feel that it's relevant to the story as it relates to my response to it. I spent nearly 20 years working in healthcare in one form or another and while I don't profess to be an expert on any level about any specific condition, I am, however, familiar with a number of physical and mental health issues well enough to know that most medical conditions have general guidelines as to conditions, symptoms, etc. each case is unique to the individual. But for me the most important thing about this story was that the author treated the issues with the consideration and regard that they deserved. 


When this book first crossed my path I read the blurb was intrigued but decided that time didn't permit...that lasted maybe a day or two I re-read the blurb and decided that I needed to read this book. Sometimes first decisions aren't the best decisions.


While the blurb for this book intrigued me, it didn't prepare me for the emotional journey traveled by the characters. I adored Justin, loving someone...anyone can be a challenge at the best of times but loving Damon/Blake was a commitment that not every one would be able or willing to make and Justin not only loved them, he was able to see and appreciate what each of them brought to the relationship and held the strength of commitment and desire to work things out no matter how challenging they got. 


Damon was definitely the character who intrigued me the most for so many reasons that I'd love to go into but won't. However, it was Blake who broke me and in the end it was Blake's sacrifice that saved them all (that's right you'll need to read the book if you want to know more). 


There were times that the writing in this story held an intangible quality that left me feeling like I'd maybe missed something...I wasn't confused by things, it was more this slight niggle in my brain that I'd read the words, I understood the words but still missed something in the meaning and normally this would at the very least be frustrating for me but in the case of this particular story it fit and all I can say in regard to this is that if you choose to read this story and find yourself having that feeling...have faith and keep reading because sometimes what we think we see is only an illusion hiding a reality that  we can't see and truthfully no matter how you look at it in the end each of these men were unwavering in their commitment to their relationship. 


"Surviving the Merge" was not only Ms Harris's first novel in the "Chadwick" series, it was her first novel and of course it was also my first time reading anything by this author. What it thankfully isn't is the last novel in the "Chadwick" series or by this author or the last novel that I'll be reading by this author and I am very much anticipating finding out how things continue to go for Justin, Damon/Blake and what if anything will happen between Max and Ash, the kids at the community center and even Sam (Samantha) and while I would have liked a bit more development between her and Justin before they became BFFs, the focus of this story for me was entirely Justin, Damon/Blake and anything else I'm willing to wait for.



A copy of 'Surviving the Merge' was graciously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2020-04-14 10:09
Lustrum - Robert Harris

A stunning trilogy. Robert Harris has accomplished what many historical authors may aspire to but few attain. He has created an ancient Rome alive with the sights, the sounds, the smells of a city towards the latter years of the republic. He has painted a picture in my mind of warring commanders: Pompey, Caesar, Crassus. He has allowed me to view both the beauty of Rome from the aristocratic Palatine to the stench of the inner-city streets. He shows Romans as a people obsessed with wealth, and from wealth flows power, influence, and the ultimate prize a position in the senate leading to first consul adoration.

Pompey the great commander, the chief general in the state….” A large chair was carried in for the Imperator, and he settled himself into it. An ivory pointer was placed in his hand. A carpet was unrolled at his feet into which was woven a map of the east, and as the senators gazed down he began gesticulating at it to illustrate his achievements”…. Caesar, the chief priest, adored by all the masses, fresh from military success, biding his time as he waits, panther like, moulding the men of influence to attend to his every whim. These two together with the wealthy Crassus form the triumvirate, a power base for them to dictate and manipulate. It is however a dangerous thing to allow so much “imperium” into the hands of the few.

Cicero’s year as 1st consul is drawing to a close, and some of his finest accomplishments are now just a distant memory. When he faces a direct threat on his life it is to his wealthy companions that he turns for help and support, but such friendship will always require payback. Robert Harris shows not only the strong side of Cicero but his weaknesses. His aspirations to climb the social ladder, result in a questionable decision when he borrows money to purchase a grand property owned by Crassus in the exclusive Palatine hill. As the candle slowly fades on a glittering senatorial career, and as the influence of a few wealthy men starts to emerge, the scene is set for a bloody conflict. Rome should have learnt the lessons of the past that it is a grave mistake to leave so much power in the hands of a powerful minority.
A wonderful story, the subtle blending of fact and fiction makes Lustrum an essential read…the final chapter “The Dictator” now awaits me” Highly recommended.

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review 2020-04-09 09:13
A solid account
An Officer and a Spy - Robert Harris

If the Dreyfus case had a script then “An officer and a spy” would surely be that document. Once again Robert Harris selects a time of extreme importance in history and by careful research and a cast of shadowy characters produces a work of some importance. It is a time of great social upheaval and suspicion amongst the super powers namely France, Germany, and Russia. Alfred Dreyfus was falsely accused and convicted of passing military secrets to the Germans. He was sentenced to life behind bars on Devils Island. This was a gross injustice carried out with ruthless efficiency by the army. When it became known that it was not Dreyfus but Major Charles Esterhazy who was the perpetrator the army, rather than lose face, did nothing to reverse the situation preferring to let Dreyfus remain in gaol.

An officer and a spy carefully records this historical drama from Alfred Dreyfus’s incarceration and the many attempts by Georges Piquart to have him released, and all charges against him dropped.

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review 2020-04-07 09:45
Absolute power
Imperium - Robert Harris

The 1969/1970 comedy Up Pompeii starred British comedian Frankie Howerd as put upon slave Lurcio always ready and willing to spread a little gossip from his adopted Roman household. Now in no way am I trying to suggest or draw a comparison between Lurcio and Tiro (personal secretary to Cicero) but using a member of Cicero’s household to act as narrator we have a wonderful  “fly on the wall” storyteller. Cicero was an excellent lawyer, orator, shrewd politician and through his own speeches and letters Robert Harris is able to construct a powerful unforgettable story of Rome at a time of great turmoil and change. By using the voice of Tiro, first a slave then a freeman of Cicero, he effectively invites us the reader to enjoy a private view of the Roman Republic.


The first part of Imperium shows Cicero develop his skills both as orator and advocate using his talents to expose the tyrannical reign of Gaius Verres, Roman magistrate, notorious for his misgovernment of Sicily extorting local farmers and plundering temples for his own personal gain….”Gaius Verres has robbed the treasury and behaved like a pirate and a destroying pestilence in his province of Sicily. You have only to find this man guilty and respect in you will be rightly restored”….His most heinous crime was the crucifixion  of Publius Gavius accused of being a spy and sentenced to death….”and had Gavius stripped naked and publicly flogged before us all. Then he was tortured with hot irons. And then he was crucified”….Civis romanus sum were the only words uttered by Gabius as he slowly died.


The second half of the book is given over to Cicero’s bid to be elected one of Rome’s two governing consuls and by so doing achieved “Imperium” absolute power. It is wonderful to be party to and to understand just how difficult oppressive and cruel life could be for the ordinary populace of Rome in the latter days of the Republic. Wealth was king, wealth was the stepping stones of a life of influence, status and honour. We meet the great players of the day, Pompey and Crassus efficient killing machines, at advancing the rule of Rome spreading citizenship for and wide. Success in battle resulted in wealth, (plundered) power and influence….”Crassus, said Pompey at once his old enemy was never far from his thoughts”….”Well I suppose if you are really worried said Cicero we could always specify that the supreme commander should be an ex consul whose name begins with a P”….


Imperium is the first of a trilogy about the life of Cicero, It is a brilliant piece of writing, taut, informative, alive with the sights and sounds of everyday Rome….”Rome is not a question of blood or religion: Rome is an ideal, Rome is the highest embodiment of liberty and law that mankind has yet achieved in the ten thousand years since our ancestors came down from those mountains and learned how to live as communities under the rule of law”…

Highly, highly recommended!

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