Sunday, August 5, 2018

Book Review: Surviving Immortality by Alan Chin




Reviewer: Edward C. Patterson
Publisher: DSP Publications (June 2018)
Pages: 432

★★★★★
Powerfully fast-moving with now-relevancy

I know I can rely on a good read whenever I open a book by Alan Chin; and Surviving Immortalityis no exception, except it isexceptional. With a believable spark, Mr. Chin presents us with a world devouring itself when promise has given it its greatest loss for hope. All the inchoate faults of humanity, ready today to strike our civilization to the core, leeches out when confronted by a mind shattering development and a simple, lethal condition. Surviving Immortality is masterfully rendered into a work long lingering after the last pages.
The characters are complex, each with their own demon, but honest to their convictions; so much so, there are no heroes, and those who appear villainous can be redeemed by their good intentions. The main thread of the story his told through Matt Reece’s point of view, although all the characters get their turn; but it is Matt’s intense purity, a purity despoiled by circumstances, which unfolds like a night flower in moonlight. Alan Chin crafts an action adventure and psychological political philosophical tale, if there could be such a genre, keeping the pages turning until those pages disappear and time is lost. The elements in the work, and those effecting Matt Reece, are all about us today just waiting for the spark to ignite them. Mr. Chin strikes that spark.
I am a fan of Alan Chin’s other works, but this one combines all the signature touches of them all — ranch life, storms at sea, tropical islands, police procedural, Buddhism, sexuality and a lust for travel. He even includes doffs to his latest wanderlust — Machu Picchu. The world he presents is hisworld as much as ourworld. The arguments are current ones, and I’ll not spoil your read by mentioning them, but whatever opinions you have on those topics, Surviving Immortalitywill not fail to engage you, even if you wind up talking to your night light at midnight in bed. 
Needless to say (but I will say it), I highly recommend this book if you enjoy a powerful fast-moving work with now-relevancy from a major author who contributes to our contemporary literary legacy.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Book Review: Less by Andrew Sean Green


Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Company (May 2018)
Pages: 261
★★★★★

A Magical Adventure

Arthur Less is a little-known novelist about to turn fifty. He receives a wedding invitation from his ex-boyfriend of nine years, a younger man who he is still in love with. He decides it would be too painful to attend the wedding, yet if he doesn’t it will be an admission of defeat to his ex and to all their friends. What to do? Accept a handful of half-baked literary events scattered around the globe so he’ll be out of town when the wedding occurs. What could go wrong?

The answer, Arthur Less finds as he journeys to Mexico, Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, and Japan, is everything!

A romance, a satire on Americans abroad, a musing on success, aging, and the human heart. Lessshows a man blundering through a low point in his life, and along the way he continually raises the curtain on our shared human comedy.

Being both an aging writer and a world traveler, I became engrossed in this Pulitzer Prize winning novel on page one, and had to slow my reading because I wanted to savor the experience for as long as possible. I can’t remember the last time I’ve enjoyed a book this much. Greer seamlessly blends humor with sharp poignancy. The writing is elegantly laced with wit, as much as the story is fortified with wonderfully interesting characters.  

Less goes on my shelve containing all the beloved books I read over and over.


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Gay Authors/Books that Inspire Me: Death in Venice by Thomas Mann


Death in Veniceis Thomas Mann's novella concerning the dangers of sexual obsession. Gustav von Aschenbach, a famous middle-aged author travels to Venice. He takes up residence on Lido Island, and during dinner one evening at his hotel he sees a family at a table nearby and becomes fascinated by the beauty of their adolescent fourteen-year-old boy named Tadzio. His interest in Tadzio at first enlivens in him an uplifting and artistic spirit, however as the days pass his interest grows into an unhealthy obsession. As the weather in Venice turns hot and humid, an outbreak of cholera overtakes the city. Gustav, feeling his health to be in decline, decides to travel to a cooler locale, however a mix up with his luggage, draws him back to the hotel and Tadzio, which he inwardly rejoices. Though Gustav never acts on his feelings regarding the boy he nevertheless feels himself drawn down a path of ruinous inward desire. A classic depiction of emotional suffering, Death in Venicebrilliantly depicts the tragic intensity of inner psychological torment.

In my opinion, the true subject of his story is the artist’s search for perfection and the impossibility of ever possessing it. At the moment he achieves absolute fulfillment, the artist’s life is snuffed out. It is a story where the quest for perfection leads to physical and moral decay. He knows he must escape the putrid atmosphere of a city steeped in cholera, but instead of fleeing to save his life, he is held captive there by his own desire. He cannot bear to absent himself from the Tadzio. Thomas Mann leaves the cause of death open. Does the protagonist succumb to the disease, or is he simply not able to live without the beauty he has fallen in love with?

A masterpiece in both plot and language. In my opinion, it is a must read for anyone interested gay fiction. Mann is one of the greats, and this is perhaps his greatest story.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Gay Authors/books that Inspire Me: Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley




First love is never easy for a gay boy. But when the new kid in town is secretly being abused by his father, first love may be the only thing that can save him. Two teenaged boys living in a countryside setting, commit themselves to one another and are assaulted for it by an abusive father and the blistering meanness of rural bullies. But through the force of their passion for each other—and with a confirming grace that love comes from the universe itself—they and their hopes are miraculously saved.

A heartwarming love story marred by violence which seems all too real. I love this story, both for its beautiful prose and its compelling story where love overcomes all, even death. It is heartbreaking and also uplifting. It is a well-crafted story that flows exquisitely into a breathtaking ending. Grimsley shows the power a simple story can fashion.

The story’s power and poetry continues to astound me every time I read it. It is my favorite in Grimsley’s impressive stable. 


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Gay Authors/Books that Inspire Me: The Hoursby Michael Cunningham


The Hours interweaves the lives of three women from three different times: Clarissa Vaughan, who one New York morning goes about planning a party to honor a beloved poet/writer; Laura Brown, who in a 1950s Los Angeles suburb begins to feel the constraints of a “perfect” family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to writer her beloved novel Mrs. Dalloway. These three tales come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace that few gay authors could have pulled off.

It is a beautifully written novel about relationships, living and dying, and love.

Of all the gay-themed books I’ve read, I believe this is not only my favorite, but also the finest example of gay literature we have. The author’s deep empathy of his characters as well as the extraordinary resonance of his prose continues to astound me every time I read it. It is, in my opinion, Cunningham’s most mature and masterful work. I can think of no other work by a gay author that has influenced and inspired me more.

https://www.amazon.com/Hours-Novel-Michael-Cunningham/dp/0312243022/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531331587&sr=8-1&keywords=the+hours+michael+cunningham&dpID=51nJi6kvjrL&preST=_SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_&dpSrc=srch 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Author Laury A. Egan reviews Surviving Immortality by Alan Chin



A Propulsive, Suspenseful, Dystopian Novel: Surviving Immortality

Reviewed by Laury A. Egan

Surviving Immortality—a provocative title (an oxymoron?) that raises a myriad of questions, chiefly: How can someone survive immortality if one is already immortal, i.e., there is inherently no need to survive if a person already will live forever? How can the state of immortality exist? What would create such a state? As I approached Alan Chin’s new book, these were my initial thoughts. 

The novel is a cautionary tale about how society and, indeed, our civilization has been poisoned by people’s need “to convince themselves that they are relevant in an irrelevant universe.” Chin cites three pernicious threats that are destroying us: Religion: “The myth of God and a hereafter [that] gives [people] a false sense of importance.” Greed: “the idea that we are what we own…that gluttonous pigs want not only the best of everything…but they don’t want others to have what they’ve got.” The third is that “people [are] willing to defend themselves and their cause at all costs. Their sense of heroism gives them relevance. They have a deep distrust of governments, other religions, and other tribes.” In our present times, these insidious menaces are eating at the fabric of our humanity, eroding our democracy, our belief in truth, our feelings of empathy, our trust and morality, and our system of justice and government. Surviving Immortality is a serious warning about where the human race is headed and a very relevant one.

Although the book deals with weighty themes and edges into the category of dystopian fiction, it is primarily a fast-paced thriller wrapped around a coming-of-age story about Matt Reece Connors, an eighteen-year-old boy who, over the course of events, becomes a man. The beginning chapter sets us on a ranch in Nevada. Matt Reece is a fine horseman and cowboy who lives with his father, Jessup, and his stepfather, Kenji—the two are married. Matt Reece himself is gay, though without any sexual experience. At first, the reader may expect that a western—perhaps in the mold of Brokeback Mountain—is about to unfold. Then, suddenly, as we are settling in to life on the ranch, a tornado of events engulfs Matt Reece, and he is forced to rush headlong into a journey that takes him to multiple exotic places and thrusts him up against a cast of villains who embody all that is wrong with our world. 

Alan Chin writes with an impressive knowledge of science, medicine, technology, sailing, horsemanship, and also masterfully describes numerous national and international locations. The action is propulsive and suspenseful, yet never loses sight of Matt Reece’s personal challenges: his quest to overcome his fears and to find his identity.—Laury A. Egan, author of Fabulous! An Opera Buffa  

Published by Dreamspinner Press. Available in paperback and eBook.


Additional Information
Format
ebook and print
Length
Novel, 446 pages/154331 words
Heat Level
Publication Date
05-June-2018 
Price
$6.99 ebook, $19.99 paperback, $19.99 bundle
Buy Link

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Little Vin at Dreamland by Edward Patterson


Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Dancaster Creative (April 21, 2017)


An Enchanted Adventure 

Every once in a while a book comes along that has a unique voice, a fresh and vibrant set of characters, and has the ability to transport me into another world for an adventure beyond my limited imagination. I recently experienced a writer who took me on an adventure filled with history and wonder and valor found in unexpected places. The author is Edward C. Patterson and the story is called Little Vin at Dreamland.

Little Vin at Dreamland takes the reader back into 1910 during the zenith of Coney Island’s Dreamland amusement park. Out of this rich history comes the journey of one young man, Vincent Grainger, who dreams of breaking free of the hard-toiling life in the Irish immigrant community, and expanding his acting/dancing talents in Dreamland Park’s Congress of Oddities.

Vincent (Little Vin) starts his journey mucking out livery stables while keeping an eye open for opportunities to bringing in pocket change and keep aspirations afloat. And he finds opportunities - posing for artists and waiting tables and dancing for dimes. It’s a time to sparkle for those with ambition; and little Vin has the spark to get him through the best and worst of it.

Although Little Vin is the protagonist, the main character in this novel is the dazzling world of Coney Island in its heyday, and the wide spectrum of Brooklyn society, ranging from the posh to the seedy. Little Vin takes the reader on a journey through this interesting and vivid landscape, from the thousand lights of Dreamland, Luna and Steeplechase Parks to the early days of the silent film industry at Fort Lee, NJ. 

This is a story about loyalty, duty and determination. Loyalty to family, to friends, but mostly loyalty to that dream that burns within. It follows Little Vin’s efforts to balance family duty with his burning aspirations, and the stakes are raised when love blossoms in the most unexpected way.

This story is a vivid, imaginative, and often humorous romp through a pivotal point in American history. I found it a delightful read, a feel good story where love and hope and all that makes American society great eventually triumphs. 

This is a character driven story (I do consider the location a character), and Patterson skillfully presents these characters with marvelous depth, using an excellent blend of tragedy and humor.

The author’s consummate skill at crafting prose and his well-researched details kept me fully engaged until the last page. I would recommend this read to anyone who enjoys multifaceted characters, humor, and a well-crafted story.

http://www.dancaster.com/