Book Log – God, No!

God, No! by Pen Jillette

Pen Jillette is an asshole.

And I mean that in the nicest way possible.  He is the kind of asshole that every society needs.  Irreverant, brusque, and very direct in what he says.  There’s a lot of opinion about atheism and religion, of course, but there’s more to it, and many amusing stories of being a Las Vegas performer slipped in.

He’s good to have because even if you disagree with him (and a few times I did), he definitely makes you consider why you disagree with him.  At times, I thought I disagreed, but after thinking it through, I had to admit that he really wasn’t wrong.

It’s a thought-provoking and amusing, if scattershot, book.  I recommend it.

If it has a flaw, it’s that he tends to repeat himself.  By which I mean, he’ll reiterate what he says a lot by repeating it.  If he says something again and again, I have to believe it is for emphasis.  He gets his point across, through repitition, and perhaps extends his word count.  But maybe repeating himself, which he does often by rephrasing the same concept, is an effective persuasion technique.  Because hearing it again and again, because he writes things over and over, maybe you’ll really have to consider what he’s saying before you can move on to the next thought.

Also, Pen apparently knows a lot of strippers.

Book Log – Rhubarb

Rhubarb by M.H. Van Keuren

By way of disclosure, I must clarify that I know the author. As William Hurt said in The Big Chill, “a long time ago, we knew each other for a short period of time.” Back then, he was a filmmaker, and he was funny. Today, he is a writer, and he’s still funny.

I’ve read a Van Keuren before, in unpublished, prototype1 form. It was good… really good. And so imagine my surprise when the book he actually publishes a couple years later is a completely different book.

The first book was easy to categorize… Hard Science Fiction. No doubt.

Rhubarb is… different. I expected, from the whimsical title if nothing else, something with a Douglas Adams feel. It’s funny, but it’s not eccentric. There’s more of a solid texture2 and real storytelling, perhaps somewhat similar to Adams’ later works. (As opposed to the early Hitchhikers which were pieced together from various version of radio scripts).

But this is not Douglas Adams. This has a flavor all its own. A regular guy, just getting by best he can in a traveling account manager job, starts to notice some odd things about the towns he travels through. Is his brain being influenced by the long hours on the road listening to radio call-in shows, or is he on the trail of a massive, x-files style cover-up?

I could tell you the ending, and it wouldn’t really matter. Like Hitchhikers, the joy is more in the telling than the plot (though the plot is strong). Interesting, small-town characters mixed with good dialog, witty running gags, and a comfortable pacing all add up to a darn fine novel.

I could gush, and spout hyperbole, but you’d attribute it to me knowing the guy. So I’m just going to say that it’s a good read, just in time for summer. Here’s your opportunity to discover a new author, right at the start.

“Oh I read Rhubarb when it was in its first printing,” you’ll say, racking up the hipster cred.

“Dude,” I’ll respond, “I read Legitimacy before it was even done.”

And you will all bow to me.


1 I’m an engineer, not an author. I’m sure authors call it something writer-y.
2 I’ve never been to the Billings, Montana area before, but now I feel like I have.