Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works

0192825259-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Major Works by Anselm of Canterbury
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Throughout the Middle Ages priests and theologians pondered the great questions about the Christian faith and this is a compilation one of the major thinkers of the time. The Major Works of Anselm of Canterbury brings together all of the important works—and some fragments of miscellaneous writing—of this Doctor of the Church on numerous issues to make sense of his faith.

Containing 11 works, this volume explores such questions as relating to the Christian faith. However except for Anselm’s first major work, “Monologian” in which he sets out to prove God exists through reason than faith, almost everything in this book is either bordering on heretical or barely comprehensible at best. Such works as “De Grammatico”, “The Truth, and “Free Will” quickly make no sense in their dialogue form while “On the Fall of the Devil” appears to indicate that God created evil which is frankly should have resulted in a one-way ticket bonfire for Anselm. Anselm’s attempt to better articulate his thoughts of the “Monologian” in the “Proslogion” were a disaster of incomprehensibility. The three works “On the Incarnation of the Word”, “Why God Became Man”, and “On the Virgin Conception and Original Sin” were insightful in a few spots though exposed the fallacy of original sin even though Anselm might have thought he had validate it. The two other major pieces were so disappointing that it is best not to mention them by name.

After reading St. Augustine’s City of God, I hoped for a clear understanding of medieval theological thought in this book as well. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, in fact even though “Monologian” was tougher than I expected I wasn’t discouraged but as I continued reading it became harder to read. On top of that, the rise of so many unbiblical theological statements that Anselm “proves” through reason then “backs up” through scripture was getting hard to take. In fact, the worst part of “Monologian” was Anselm attempting to prove the immortality of the soul and failing completely. The only other positive thing I can say, except for my general liking of “Monologian”, is that any notes of the text were put in the footers and not in the back of the book like other Oxford World’s Classics editions I read have done.

The Major Works contains serious theological and philosophical works by Anselm of Canterbury that the honest reader will find barely comprehensible and at times almost heretical. Do not waste your time with this book unless you are a very serious scholar.

Wisdom (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Wisdom by Richard Lee Byers
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For months rumors have reached King Odysseus of Ithaca that the natural order is falling apart and now it has finally reach his home. Taking a ship to Delphi, Odysseus finds the shrine abandoned and the Pythia alone unable to focus her abilities. Killing an owl—which offered itself to be sacrificed—to enhance the vapors’ qualities, Odysseus and the Seer learn that the celebrated Judgment of Paris did not end with Paris giving the golden apple to Aphrodite but Athene. When given his reward, Paris realizes he wasn’t given all the wisdom Athene had and forces the goddess to give it all to him. The result is Paris challenging the gods and winning, transforming all who challenged him into beasts but unable to keep the cosmos functioning due to his ever growing madness. Odysseus travels to Olympus by way of the Underworld, asking Persephone’s permission to Hades’ chariot, horses, and helm. But as he is about to strike Paris, the madman stops him only to find out later that he didn’t see Odysseus real plan which results in his defeat and the restoration of the gods. I have hung on to Legends: Tales from the Eternal Archives for almost 20 years because of this reinterpretation of Greek legend. This is one of my favorite short stories and if there are any flaws in it, I overlook them because I love this story so much.

Bast’s Talon (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Bast’s Talon by Janet Pack
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The High Priestess of Bast, Katiri-Maat, goes to yet another meeting with the Pharaoh Khafre and attempts to convince him to dedicate the limestone outcropping in front of his pyramid to her goddess. However, even though she relays a “true dream” from Bast to the Pharaoh the other priests and priestess as well as the Pharaoh’s advisor bring up other gods to be honored. That night Katiri-Maat has a troubling dream and is wakened up by a young acolyte scared that all the temple’s cat are missing. Realizing what the goddess is doing, Katiri-Maat returns to the palace just before sunrise in full regalia along with the large statue of Bast to find all the cats in the city in the palace courtyard making everyone miserable. The Pharaoh concedes to Bast and gives the order for the Sphinx to be sculpted. Overall I did like this story though the ending of the cats mobbing the palace was a bit cartoony, though I was less forgiving of setting the story in the Middle Kingdom when the pyramids were only constructed in the Old Kingdom.

The Wisdom of Solomon (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Wisdom of Solomon by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Through the eyes of an 8-year old, the story of King Solomon handling of the case of the two harlots is seen from a different angle. The retelling of the Biblical story is from an old woman remembering when in she was a child how she met her father—Solomon—because of her midwife mother’s attempt to stop a prostitute from killing her children only for the king’s guards to arrest both because of the bizarre situation they came upon. Though the story has elements from the famous story, Rusch changes things around in such a way as to suggest how real events become legends, but it’s up to the readers own opinion on if this story or the Biblical narrative is correct.

Laying Down the Law

838575003add3ff596b43307177444341587343Laying Down the Law by Keith Augustus Burton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the most contentious issues debated between Christian theologians is “the Law” and its place within Christianity. In Laying Down the Law, Keith Augustus Burton looks at the misconceptions surrounding God’s Law and puts the spotlight on it’s real meaning, love. Through 157 pages Burton tackles such topics as legalism, dispensationalism, the meaning of Paul’s writing on the Law, and so much more over 13 chapters using Bible verses, the culture of biblical times, and personal stories that begin and end each chapter to illustrate the topic covered. After reading this book, one will see God’s Law in whole new light.

Lord of Light

1857988205-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The hope of a prosperous future of human colonists on an alien world who for generations have believed they were looked out for and ruled over by the gods, is one named—among other things—Sam. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny follows the struggle of one individual to throw off the tyrannical rulers of a colonized world posing as Hindu deities that he’s known for years and the strange allies he makes along the way.

The deathgod and technological mastermind Yama finds the soul of Sam from the ionosphere of the colonized planet that remnants from Earth settled centuries before. Sam has through numerous names and plans slowly undermined the rule of ‘Heaven’, those crewmembers who over the centuries have fought the indigenous lifeforms of the world to make a place for man and then ruling them as gods as they used genetic manipulation and technology to gain powers. Though not originally opposed to his fellow crewmembers, their sudden radical shift from benevolence to tyranny makes him rebel. Through the years, Sam becomes the Buddha and as a way to undermine the hope of rebirth, then he unleashes the Rakasha that he had bound through his powers, then when given the opportunity he spreads his message in the Celestial City of the gods before being “killed”, then after stealing a body from another god about to be reincarnated he kills two high leaders then leads an allied army to battle the gods in which he loses and his soul is sent to the ionosphere. After his return Sam leads another army, this time in league with the gods to face an insane crewmember with a zombie army that ultimately leads to Sam’s goal of the colonists allowed to determine their own fates.

Zelazny’s story explored some really big ideas of technology, politics, and religion throughout the book that intertwined with one another as the narrative progressed to build the world. Yet at many times the world wasn’t built enough and leads confusion at important parts of the story that hurt the overall quality of the book. While Sam and a few characters are developed, many others really aren’t which hurts the overall quality of the book as well. But the biggest personal frustration was that the two big battles of the book aren’t impressive as the language wanted to give the impression of, it was a letdown after the long buildup of Sam’s plan. These three issues are both good and bad for the book, which makes me feel that if this book had been longer to develop more of the characters, the description of the technology, and more battle details.

Lord of Light is based on the imaginative idea of human colony being ruled by fellow humans who pose as Hindu deities and a man who decides to let the colonist develop on their own. Roger Zelazny’s writing style isn’t perfect and while I have problems with the book, if I had choice to reread the book.

Final Conquest (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Final Conquest by Dennis M. Kiernan
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Relating the final days of Genghis Khan through the eyes of a scribe, Final Conquest relates how the conqueror and his Mongol army find themselves traveling in a strange land under strange skies before scouts find a city. After sending contingents to begin battle that never return, the Khan and the scribe ride to find his men just sitting around when a mysterious princess invites the conqueror to destroy the city and then goes with her into it. The scribe doesn’t know how long he waited but the Khan returns in the company of three spirits and looks like he has been weeping. After returning to the army, they journey away from the city and find themselves back in familiar territory but the Khan’s spirit seems broken and dies soon after.

A short piece of only 6 pages, this story just felt off to me and frankly I was glad it was short because if it had been longer my rating would have continued in a downward direction.

The Theft of Destiny (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Theft of Destiny by Josepha Sherman
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A retelling of a Mesopotamian myth, the story begins with chief god Enlil standing upon his mountain watching has his children returning home with some strange beast (the description make it out to be a griffin). The beast represents itself to Enlil, calling itself Anzu and asking to serve Enlil. After consulting Tablets of Destiny and not seeing Anzu within them, Enlil asks Anzu to guard the room the Tablets are housed in. Anzu accepts but as the point-of-view switches, we learn that Anzu believes Enlil is a condescending jerk and when he goes to take a bath Anzu steals the Tablets. We switch to the POV of Ninurta who snuck into the council of the gods who are debating what to do then many counsel patience, he decides in his young cocky godhood to do something since the adults won’t. Taking his bow and quiver of arrows, he attempts to sneak up on Anzu but the beast wasn’t fooled. Anzu blocks Ninurta’s arrows and mocks him as he hides to revise his strategy which is to take the older god’s advice, patience, as he realizes that Anzu is mad. Ninurta then forces Anzu to keep on using the Tablets’ power before exhausting himself enough that he is too slow for Ninurta’s last arrow.

Though a short 8 pages, a lot is packed into the story but the quality of writing just keeps the momentum going until you’re stocked that the story is over.

Why There Are White Tigers (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Why There Are White Tigers by Jane M. Lindskold
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

P’an Ku hatches from the Cosmic Egg as he grows separating the two halves of the shell into Heaven and Earth, he decides that assistance is needed to organize the divide order from Chaos. P’an Ku creates Dragon, Phoenix, Chi’lin, Tortoise, and Tiger then orders them to explore everything, return, and tell him what is happening. After realizing that only three of the five have wings, he attempts to remedy that only to accidently give Tortoise Snake for a tail and Tiger wishes not to be changed. As time passes, Tiger is last to every meeting and soon P’an Ku starts dividing up honors to his five assistants only Tiger is increasingly left out. Getting ambitious Tiger tricks Chi’lin and traps her before heading off to meet with P’an Ku during which he gets many honors but Tortoise and Snake are suspicious and discover Tiger’s ruse. Tiger submits to P’an Ku who decides to place Chi’lin above the others and be his messenger, but changes Tiger’s coat from yellow & black to white & black as a reminder to curb his ambition.

Based on the fragmentary stories of the Chinese, or East Asian, creation mythology, fit the anthology’s Legends moniker while also being a good beginning piece to the collection.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (James Bond #6)

OHMSSOn Her Majesty’s Secret Service
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The dual announcements that Sean Connery would retire from the role of James Bond and that the franchise would continue brought speculation as to who would play 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  The film based on the tenth novel written by Ian Fleming, the most faithful of any adaptation in the franchise, is George Lazerby’s sole outing as the famous British agent.

James Bond saves a woman, later identified as Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo, from committing suicide by drowning off the coast of Portugal then later meets in a casino. Through a series of fights and kidnappings with bodyguards sent by her father, Bond learns Tracy is the only daughter of Marc-Ange Draco head of a European crime syndicate. In exchange for romancing Tracy, Bond asks Draco to find out where Ernst Stavro Blofeld is. After returning to London and having an argument with M, Bond travels to Portugal and romances Tracy then later learns through Draco to investigate a law firm in Bern, Switzerland. Bond finds out that Blofeld is looking to claim a noble title and corresponding with a member of the College of Arms, Sir Hilary Bray. Posing as Bray, Bond infiltrates Blofeld allergy research clinic in Switzerland where he is brainwashing young woman to be bacteriological warfare carries throughout the world. Bond, as Bray, attempts to persuade Blofeld to leave the country only to be discovered as an imposter which results in a ski chase and leading to Bond finding Tracy. After a car chase results in a few hours respite, Bond proposes to Tracy who accepts. The next morning as the chase ensues once again on skis; Blofeld sets off an avalanche and captures Tracy while Bond is briefly buried. Hearing from London, Bond learns that Blofeld is prepared to hold the world ransom and that it would be paid and directly orders him not to interfere. Bond then enlists his future father-in-law to mount a rescue attempt of Tracy and destroy Blofeld’s facility. After successfully rescuing Tracy, Bond chases Blofeld via bobsleigh until the SPECTRE mastermind is snared in a tree branch injuring his next. The film ends with the new Mr. and Mrs. Bond leaving their wedding and while stopped on the side of the road to remove flowers from their car, Blofeld drive by and kill Tracy in a hail of bullets with the film ending with a distraught Bond cradling Tracy in his arms.

From the beginning of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service there were two arcs of the plot, Bond romancing Tracy and Bond continuing his pursuit of Blofeld from You Only Live Twice, which were both independent and interwoven creating well-crafted story. With a new actor playing the main, producers wanted a film with plot over gadgetry to highlight this was the same character even with a new face. However this created a plot hole with the Bond-as-Bray infiltration of Blofeld’s clinic as while Blofeld had had plastic surgery, the film had gone to great lengths with references early in the film that the James Bond on screen was also the same in the previous five films which meant Blofeld should have instantly recognized Bond. Along with a new face as Bond and a return to plot, the stale formulas were either scrapped or toned down even in an attempt to let the new main man show his chops. George Lazerby’s sole outing as James Bond is very good, his portrayal was not perfect by any means especially in some of the more action and confrontational scenes but when it came to the love story with Tracy and the emotional ending he was excellent and better than Connery would have been. Diana Rigg’s Tracy is one of—if not—the best women in the franchise given the era when the film was produced and the actress portraying her. Telly Savalas’ Blofeld was a major improvement from the portrayal by Donald Pleasence in the previous film and frankly the Savalas Blofeld is to me is one of the best Bond villains.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the best film in the Bond franchise, while Goldfinger might be more iconic, Lazerby’s sole installment is slightly better. While it would have been interesting to see Lazerby’s continued portrayal of James Bond, his dissatisfaction over the film and later pay would result in the return for one last go around for the man who made the character famous.

James Bond