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review 2015-10-26 15:56
Before opening the gate and bidding the reader stride on into the wordscape of this book, it is worth offering a few notes of explanation, of introduction and of thanks.

Firstly, some readers may know my previous books. It is a policy I maintain not to reread my older writings to ensure a continuity of ideas. If what I present here in some way contradicts what I have written earlier, I can only hope that the newer work can be seen as a development, and not a sliding back into error. In the same way that it can be a delight to watch an actor grow older over decades, their seriousness of youth transforming into the gravitas of experience, I enjoy the opportunity of witnessing a writer’s journey of discovery, whether in fiction or nonfiction: I trust my readers will not only allow me the same process of change and growth, but feel that my work as a whole is richer because of it.

As a metaphysics, this text is offered as a sort of prequel to my Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics, published in 2007. In that book, I used the term *Pagan to describe a belief system based wholly upon nature. There are large parts of modern Paganism the focus of which is very much human nature, and the power of the mind to manipulate and influence; with these being so very far from my own spiritual and philosophical practice, it would not have been accurate to use the simple word Pagan. The animism described in this text could be said to be a main strand of *Paganism.
The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature - Emma Restall Orr

Taken from the Forward to The Wakeful World. I think the quote illustrates something of the shift here from previous books - the tone is very different (I thought) from much of Emma Restall Orr's previous writing - there are more academic tones in the mix, and there's less of the experiential material that dominated previously. Instead, she adopts a more theoretical and philosophical approach to considering Paganism.

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review 2015-10-22 15:21
An overview of reviews
The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature - Emma Restall Orr

Below are a selection of comments on The Wakeful World, as quoted on the publisher's website.


This original and lively book challenges the prevailing worldviews of materialism and dualism, outlines the alternatives, presenting animism as a radically different, yet mature and coherent philosophy. ~ Gaia Media


Emma Restall Orr explores the subject of Animism using examples from Western Culture that we can all relate to. Restall Orr takes us on a romp through history to look at the opinions of great philosophers such as Socrates and Aristotle, to name a couple. A very thought provoking and insightful piece of work. ~ Tracey Roberts, Kitchen Witch School of Natural Witchery


Emma Restall Orr has accomplished a most difficult task: combining academic-quality research with an accessible and compelling narrative. The concepts of animism, panpsychism, and mind in nature are all explored with great dexterity and insight. The Wakeful World offers a fascinating and powerful vision of animism for the present day — a vision that promises to reconnect us to the living Earth. ~ David Skrbina PhD, Author of Panpsychism in the West


"The Wakeful World" sets out to map a philosophical grounding for contemporary animism, and as both an animist and philosopher, Restall Orr is well placed to draw such a map. The result is more than a provocative and thoughtful model of how philosophy can illuminate our understanding of animism: Restall Orr's animist perspective returns the favour, opening up new horizons for philosophy itself. ~ Adrian Harris PhD, Ecopsychologist and founder of the Dragon Environmental Network


This original and lively book brings back animism - a most useful range of ideas which reductivists have somewhat wildly abandoned during the last century - into focus once more just when it is badly needed to cure current confusions about mind and body. In clear, contemporary language Emma Restall Orr deploys a new vision of this distracted scene that will surely prove really helpful. ~ Dr Mary Midgley, Moral Philosopher


In a mindful encounter between herself (her self) and the wider worlds of nature and scholarly debate, Emma Restall Orr contributes philosophically, provocatively and proactively to current debates about animism and panpsychism. She does far more than survey the scenery, she leads us on a journey towards re-integration within a self-aware cosmos full of engaging subjects. New science and ancient philosophy contribute to her careful and grounded consideration of the value of being a thoughtful animist today.

~ Graham Harvey, Reader in Religious Studies, The Open University Author of Animism: Respecting the Living World. 

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review 2015-01-25 18:19
Pandemonium - A great book that needs a different reader
Pandemonium - Daryl Gregory

Brainycat's 5 "B"s:
blood: 3
boobs: 3
bombs: 0
bondage: 1
blasphemy: 4
Stars: 3.5
Bechdel Test: FAIL
Deggan's Rule: FAIL
Gay Bechdel Test: FAIL

Please note: I don't review to provide synopses, I review to share a purely visceral reaction to books and perhaps answer some of the questions I ask when I'm contemplating investing time and money into a book.

Imagine Herman Hesse and Theodore Sturgeon eating acid with Philip K. Dick then spending the whole day reading classic comics while watching Bill Moyers interviewing Joseph Campbell. That's the impression I got from this book; it's a self-confessed pop culture mashup with a thin veneer of Jungian psychobabble plastered over the top. This could have gone either way; in the hands of a less confident or skilled author this story would quickly become a parody of itself and lose respect from any decently read reader.

Fortunately this was not the case. Nobody tried to reach too far nor did the story try to pretend it's more than just a contemporary adult fantasy novel. It's crafted well, the editing/proofreading are all of the standard you'd exepct from Del Rey, the characters have enough life to be interesting and stand on their own while the setting just sort of drifts by and occaisonally interjects itself to complicate the plot on cue. There's not a lot of action in this book, which makes this the sort of book I don't normally read. I felt the pacing was brisk but too tightly managed. There were very few surprises and I never felt compelled to try to prognosticate what was going to happen next. I'm not even sure I ever got emotionally invested in the protagonist, actually. I felt like I was reading an inventory of a lot of conversations that some guy was having with a number of different people with the purpose of deciding if I like the guy or not. And I'm still not sure I like the guy.

That being said, the story has a new twist on a premise that's been touched on in any number of books and movies (some of them mentioned by name, thank you dear author) and faith in the premise is what kept me going despite the occasional plot hole or the contemporary setting full of characters who can travel back and forth across the US at will but don't have cell phones.

There's nothing technically wrong with this book; it's certainly better than most of the swill getting published under the contemporary fantasy banner. It's a great premise that's executed well, the author clearly respects me as a reader and I feel a kinship since we clearly count some of the same writers among our favorites, but ultimately this story lacks a certain frisson and failed to grab me. I think this is a great book for someone else, and could easily be five stars for a different reader. I found myself skimming the last third hoping there would be a surprise that would engage me (there wasn't), but I liked it just a little too much to give up on it. I'm giving this a very solid 3.5 stars.

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