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review 2017-12-31 05:55
Second Chances and Hope
The Outcasts of Time - Ian Mortimer

What would you do if you knew that you were dying? Would you take your fate and hope for the best, or try and make a deal?
John and William are two brothers who are living through the black plague. As people die around them, they work on getting back home, just hoping that they can make it alive. As they pass the dead and dying, John wonders about his soul, and whether he would make it to heaven or not. As they pass a young couple on the road, John notices a baby, and he refuses to leave the child even though the parents are dead of the plague. As they carry the screaming babe through the night, William curses his brother, but John could not allow the child to die alone on the side of the road. They head to the home of an acquaintance, who is nursing a child of her own and can at least feed the child until they can read their own home. But as they enter the home and the woman goes to care for the child, it is discovered that he is plague ridden. The brothers leave the home, and are soon sick themselves, but John heard a voice telling him to go to a certain spot. 
Once there, they both hear a voice, although it tells them different things, they are given an amount of time, each day will be 99 years in the future, and they can see the changes that are coming. As they set out, the changes are shocking, and dangerous. 

This was an exciting read. I had a hard time putting it down. As John and William work their way through the different centuries they remember home, and do their best to make the most of their situation. As time goes on, and the days dwindle, both are ready for death and the end of their suffering. John suffers through the choices that he has made, wondering if anything he did made any difference. 
This shows the good and the bad of each century. While there are some who enjoy the suffering of those around them, there are those who are determined to do good, and to try and make the world around them a better place. Hope and chance - the ability to work through the challenges of what life throws at you, and the eventuality of what the choices of one person in the past could have on the future generations. 

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review 2017-12-30 15:54
16 Tasks of the Festive Season: The Light Joker - Christmas at the Old Bailey (and Elsewhere)
Rumpole at Christmas - Bill Wallis,John Mortimer

Rumpole at Christmas is a collection of previously uncollected Rumpole short stories written late in John Mortimer's life: there are some minor inconsistencies vis-à-vis the main body of the series, but what really matters here is that Mortimer's craftsmanship and sense of humor was going strong until the very end.  All the old familiar faces are present in one story or another -- She Who Must Be Obeyed of course, but also Claude and Phyllida Erskine-Brown (Phyllida née Trant, aka "the Portia of Our Chambers"), soapy Sam Ballard and  other QCs (Queen's Counsel or rather, "Queer Customers"), the Timsons and assorted other not-so-law-abiding members of the general populace, the spectre of the Penge Bungalow murders ("the case I tried alone, without a leader"), Rumpole's expertise in blood spatter patterns and his exchanges on the subject with Dr. Ackerman, the expert witness, Judges "Mad Bull" Bullingham and "the Gravestone" Graves -- and plenty of good old Christmas spirit; including a thieving Santa in the Equity Court Chambers (who repents upon being caught red-handed by Rumpole).


Since Rumpole is enjoying an evening by the fireside on the cover of this audio edition, I've decided to use this read for my application of the Light Book Joker -- a book that has the words “light”, “candle”, “lamp”, “sun” or “fire” in its title or features any of these five things on its cover --, which I'm going to use to replace the book ordinarily called for on Quaid-e-Azam (Square 14, "a book set in Pakistan or in any other country that attained sovereign statehood between August 14, 1947 and today").


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review 2017-11-15 16:33
The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer
The Outcasts of Time - Ian Mortimer

This novel is beautiful in its prose, fascinating in its historical detail, and emotive in its themes on humanity and the passing of time. I was first drawn in by the promise that renowned historian Ian Mortimer would be taking readers on an adventure through time. Finding that this book does that while also making thought provoking statements on the human condition, I was helpless to put it down once I started it.

The story of John of Wrayment and his brother begins in 1348 during a devastating outbreak of the plague. One would think that any time might be preferable as an escape from the fate of man during that time, but such does not prove the case through John's eyes. He sees the plague as 'a second Flood. God is clearing the land. Not with water but with pestilence.' Yet, he is even more horrified by what he discovers when he accepts a supernatural offer to live his remaining six days on earth, each 99 years further into the future than the last.

The brothers explore Exeter and its surrounding area through the ages, the cathedral where John has sculpted those he loves into the faces of angels and disciples, serving at their centering point regardless of the century. John at first finds comfort in finding the face of his wife there, but his fear and anxiety is enhanced as the statues that seemed so permanent crumble and wear away the further he gets from his own time. Out of all the changes he sees, this seems to impact him the most. The loss of his own work and what was supposed to be eternal memorial of his family.

When we think about traveling into the future, I think we expect to see progress and increased happiness. Certainly, we would think that one leaving the time of the plague would see that, but that is not what John notices. He is confused by what we would call advances. 'We worked long days and had straightforward pleasures. But now, so many things are easier - yet what does the world do? It revels in causing suffering and killing.' John is horrified at the loss of faith that he observes. 'We were far more united and accepting of God's will. In this new century, people are all divided and unsatisfied, hoping that God will smile on them personally.' 

John wishes only to do good in order to please God, but the further he gets from his own time, the more he realizes that is no longer a key goal of the people. He is also frustrated by his inability to perform a heroic deed in any era. Due to his bedraggled state and lack of possessions, he finds himself at the mercy of others rather than able to help them. 'If Christ were living in this day and age, would He not have ended up in a workhouse?'

'Every day is composed of . . . of an unpredictable horror - no, of a horrific unpredictability.'

It seems that time travel is not all it is cracked up to be.

Each day/century brings John closer to his death and he grows eager for it. Though he is disappointed in his failure to do a great deed for God, he cannot tolerate what he witnesses occurring in the world. 'Men are starting to direct things that rightly only God should control.....Men've strived to compete and outdo one another, as if nothing is the will of God and everything is the will of man.' Instead of being impressed by progress, John sees only disintegration of faith and character.

Thankfully, there are a few bright spots included in John's six day journey. He meets at least one kind person in each time, and it is these small comforts that enable him to move forward.

I was eager to discover what would happen to John once his time was up, but I will not reveal it here. I will only say that the ending was satisfying and reiterated the message that John had already taught us, 'What is important is what does not change - that mothers and wives are so happy when they hear that their sons and husbands are alive that they run around the house yelling for joy; that men do their duty in the face of great danger not purely for themselves but for all their community.'

An amazing read - my favorite of this year.

The man who has no knowledge of the past has no wisdom.

I received this book through NetGalley. Opinions are my own.

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text 2017-08-18 14:55
Reading progress update: I've read 50 out of 186 pages.
I Was Jack Mortimer (Pushkin Vertigo) - Alexander Lernet-Holenia,Ignat Avsey

well, I don't know if it became a trendy thing and we're just suffering the wait for more translations...but apparently, by 1933, at least one Austrian knew how to write a clever, fast-paced Noir Crime novel that's hard to put down. shall finish this tonight, and doesn't look like there'll be any problem with that!

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text 2017-08-18 00:53
Reading progress update: I've read 6 out of 186 pages.
I Was Jack Mortimer (Pushkin Vertigo) - Alexander Lernet-Holenia,Ignat Avsey

this is a short novel I intend to read--completely--in one day, tomorrow. that leaves me free to start A Dance Of Blades on Saturday, as was scheduled long ago as part of a Buddy read. I could just read a graphic novel tomorrow, but, I have to be honest, now that I've been thinking of reading this book next if I had a whole Friday of reading to account for (well, okay, before and after work), I'm kinda pumped for it. it fits in due to title-similarity with Send For Paul Temple, not to mention Who Is Jake Ellis?, and besides that, I've never read a translated Austrian Crime novel from 1933! so I'm gonna sneak it in.

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