The Bible or the Axe

I realize I don’t have anything very quippy to add to the title of the book I’m reviewing, but there we are.

I met William Levi at the Father-Son camp in downstate Illinois when he was a featured speaker. I was attracted to him, as I am attracted to all African ex-pats, but his story was surprisingly moving. The Bible or the Axe is his memoir of an interesting childhood and a gripping escape from Sudan.

William’s education is as an engineer, and it shows in the writing. It can be dry and pedantic, and of course he’s dealing with multiple variables of racism and culture as he’s writing cross-culturally. Nevertheless, the further I got into the book, the tighter the prose became, and I was hooked into the narrative as things got personally interesting for him — particularly during his escape from Sudan.

This book is a great reminder for Christians that our citizenship is in heaven, and that every decision we take here will affect our witness for that Kingdom, whose King is the Prince of Peace. Levi had an opportunity to live that struggle in a very personal way, but not just under the jihadi rulers of Sudan. It played out differently among secularized Christians in Egypt, and with American college students who unwittingly mocked his “easy” life.

It’s also a good book for people who want to see the reality of life under jihad, especially for someone whose experience of it greatly precedes 9/11. I found it encouraging, considering some of the anti-theism and anti-Christianity that seems to be growing in parts of our society. While it seems far-fetched right now, the days may not be so far off before we are called upon to make some similar choices to those faced by William Levi.

In all, I think it’s a worthwhile read, although the early chapters dragged a bit, and he can be “preachy” at times. For this last element, it’s usually when he’s decided to tell, instead of show, his point. In other words, the point is valid, but it would be better for him to trust the reader to get it from his narrative.

An Unexpected Gem

Many years ago, before the Internet and cell phones, it was often difficult to find games for the Mac at the stores where I normally shopped. As a result, I would sometimes impulse-buy things on the possibility that it might contain something that I would later enjoy. One of these things was the Mac Game Cube, a stack of CD Jewel Cases that was cubic, and that included quite a few games. I played with a few of them, but ignored most of them — shovel ware was more of a problem on Windows, but it did exist for the Mac (as indeed, it still does).

Years later, as I was going through my software, I found the installer for System Shock, installed it, and found myself blown away by the fantastic game. There was another Mechwarrior-like game whose name I don’t recall, whose premise was silly, but the gameplay and graphics were amazing (for the time).

This experience showed me that the first impression you have of something isn’t always deserved, and sometimes you can get something for nothing (or at least, thrown in with what you were looking for).

I don’t know which extravaganza of free books I was perusing when I stumbled upon Monster Hunter International, but I do know that it was quite a while ago, and I had put the ebook onto a virtual shelf and not thought much more about it.

The cover was a little overly dramatic, and I wasn’t sure that I was ready for a blood-and-guts monster romp. Finally, while I was overseas, I decided it was time for me to check it out. I synced it to the Kindle app on my phone and started reading.

The opening didn’t grab me, partly because the style was kind of flippant, and I have had some bad experiences with Indie authors, but by the time I finished the first chapter, I was intrigued.

Monster Hunter gets so many things right that it would be difficult for me to list them (especially without giving away too many spoilers). Principally, although the book is predictable in the sense that you’re pretty sure the good guys are going to win, Larry Correia managed to introduce plot twists again and again without doing crazy deus-ex-machina things to get there. Every time I started to roll my eyes and sigh and say, “I suppose he’s going to do this next,” he did something very different, and he pulled me through to the end of the story, and left me wanting more. (There are at least six books in the series, so I shouldn’t have any trouble sating that desire.)

Larry is a “gun-nut”, a competitor in multiple civilian gun competitions, and it showed in what he wrote. The main character is passionate about his guns, and the loving detail given about them throughout the book is a lot of fun. There’s some fun Libertarianism throughout, as well, which is a refreshing contrast to the socialism that infects so much Sci-Fi. Most of all, Larry’s style is engaging, his characters are flawed, but likable, and he doesn’t need an editor with the same desperation as many other lesser-known authors (or he’s used one).

Content warnings: quite a lot of anatomical violence, primarily against monsters, but occasionally against the protagonist. There is some sexual content, but it’s generally very discrete. Finally, the characters have a modern sense of foul language, and the book is full of obscenities. I would not recommend this book to a younger reader who needs to establish a moral framework, nor to someone who struggles with bad language, nor to someone squeamish about gore, but it’s otherwise a delightful read, and highly recommended to other readers interested in a modern fantasy/sci-fi urban fantasy action adventure.