Damaged Beyond All Recognition (Infinity's Trinity Book 1)
Print Length: 361 pages
Publisher: Alan Felyk; 1 edition (January 1, 2018)
Publication Date: January 1, 2018
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Reviewed by Dr Wesley Britton
I admit it. Alan Felyk has an imagination I simply envy. The tag line for his new Damaged Beyond All Recognition is “Extending the literary traditions of Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams ...” Vonnegut, certainly. Adams, well, from time to time. It’s certainly true that this novel is going to appeal to readers who like high-minded humor laced into a complex, layered yarn.
Three unusual protagonists anchor the proceedings. First, there’s Paul Tomenko who is a famous writer chronicling events in the counter-culture in Colorado in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Suddenly, he finds himself traveling to and from God's library somewhere outside the Universe. That’s the current God, the less than omnipotent being in a long chain of less than omnipotent beings.
For example, there’s no longer an afterlife for humanity to ascend to. Humans can no longer access memories from their past lives in previous versions of the Universe or acquire new memories. So who can replace God when he dies as he is coming very close to that point?
It’s Paul who has to find the solution to this dilemma with the help of his two lovers, the genius genetic Maggie Mae Monahan and the Sci-Fi novelist Allie Briarsworth who intuitively senses events from the past and future.
Paul’s brain creates some unusual supporting players like the gatekeeper to God’s archives who is a doppelganger for Cher and the very helpful librarian who is a doppelganger for actress Katharine Ross. Clearly, these women came from Paul’s unfulfilled carnal wishes. Toss in Gronk and Grita, two six-year-old neo-Neanderthals who are the most intelligent humans on Earth due to reconstructed DNA. Did I mention the story includes traveling across multiple planes of existence or a species of aliens who want to obliterate humanity so they can become the supreme creations of the cosmos?
Metaphysics have rarely been treated with such originality or irreverence. This is entertaining science fiction with a cerebral framework, lively tone, well-drawn characters (with overly restrained sex lives, sad to say), and the unexpected on nearly every page. You should probably make a point of not missing this one as you too might be a figment of Paul Tomenko’s imagination. Wait till you find out where you’ve been. Talk about a Big Bang . . .
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on April 24 at:
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THE GRAY WOLF OF CHICAGO.
"Hitching his way out of Northern Michigan, Gareth Manion, a gutter punk with wolf-like abilities, heads to Chicago to start a new life for himself. Unbeknownst to him, the Windy City is plagued by a super powered gang, whose leader is always seeking ways to increase his own prowess--and Gareth has become their main target.
Unfortunately for them, they don't realize how powerful Gareth really is.
Friendship, romance, vengeance--this is the explosive origin of the hard boiled superhero, GODAN, back when he was known as THE GRAY WOLF OF CHICAGO."
Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1987712870
“Rob Williams’ Sins of Variance poses one of science fiction’s crossroads in a difficult future of dark choices for the human race.”
Sins of Variance takes place 500 years into the future in Gloucestershire County, United Kingdom (near Wales). Mankind has changed through genetic engineering, almost to the point of being unrecognizable from what we know today. Advanced genetics has brought about a complete “optimal” set of genomes preferred by the society. Though variation has been bred out of most humans, there are rare individuals with unique inner characteristics who have been deemed unacceptable by the society. They struggle because of these personal differences, and some find their world is not really what they have been led to believe.
The author would rate the book on the high side of PG-13 due to violence.
The Ardent Writer Press
Author Page on Ardent Writer Press
Fairies, Robots and Unicorns?--Oh My!
A Collection of Funny Short Stories Sarina Dorie
Print Length: 158 pages
Publication Date: April 29, 2016
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC ASIN: B01F06DFDW
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
While I’ve read more than my fair share of sci-fi, I haven’t read all that many short stories in the genre and even fewer intentionally humorous SF yarns. Some have stuck in my mind, such as one tale in which a female author had a group of “Wendys” rebelling from the adolescent chauvinism of Peter Pan and his Lost Boys expecting the Wendies to forever take care of all their domestic needs.
Excluding one anthology of Harry Harrison stories, Fairies, Robots and Unicorns was the first collection of light-hearted offerings I ever sat down to read. I’m glad I did. I don’t plan on it being the last collection of such fare I spend time with. In particular, Sarina Dorie is often wickedly clever, laugh out loud funny, and extremely original, one of my favorite characteristics from an author in any genre.
For example, “Five Tips for Slaying a Unicorn” is a bit of humorous advice told in a list, a literary device the author wanted to experiment with. “Speed Dating Books” is about a trip to a bookstore where books try their seductive best to get buyers to take them home. “Debbie Does Delta Draconis III” plays with thinly-disguised characters from Star Trek, or at least alien surrogates for them, who invade a lawyer’s dreams.
Some stories aren’t so much comical as offbeat or simply quirky.” Eels for Heels” is a weird modern fairy tale where a woman is cursed by a sea witch who gives her eels magically attached to her heels until she finds her true love. Not every tale tries to be comic. In one of my favorites, “The Quantum Mechanic,” a more straight-forward sci-fi story features some hiccups in the space-time continuum with happy results, at least for one soon to be involved romantic couple. Likewise, “Cinderella’s Holo-Wand” is a cautionary tale about wanting to use technology to transform from an undesirable body into hopeful physical perfection.
In such a collection, few readers are likely to like everything. I wasn’t too fond of “Red as a Pickle” which has aliens draining away all the colors on earth until they are outwitted by a housecat. “The Office Messiah” is a rather underdeveloped play on the philosophy of Jesus as juxtaposed against workplace realities. “Blackboard Galaxy” is a simply odd tale of a human teacher trying to deal with alien children who expect to be eaten when they are bad. Eaten but restored to health unlike digested human food.
Some yarns are obvious parodies as with “The Optimist Police” where negative thoughts are criminalized. I’m certain every reader who’s ever tried to work with tech support from any company you can think of will emphasize with a starship captain under attack from aliens unable to get help until he extends his warranty in “Interstellar Tech Support.” Speaking of parodies, “Lady Chatterly’s Computer” is a very clever take-off of the D.H. Lawrence novel.
Some titles, like “Confessions of the Orgasm Fairy” and “Robo-rotica,” might suggest the collection isn’t intended for YA readers. But the content really isn’t anything too heavy for most teenagers. “Robo-rotica” is the most explicit of the fantasies, describing hot sex between two machines. If that titillates you, then be concerned. Be very concerned.
Among the many characteristics we learn about Sarina Dorie is that she has a background of classroom teaching, that she has an Italian mother, she likes food, and, of course, enjoys sex. At least invoking it in her writing. This collection is but a thin slice of her 100 or so short stories which you can learn more about at—
Fairies, Robots and Unicorns is entertaining, light reading with its occasional social commentary delivered with more than a spoonful of sugar, sometimes just silly, often simply twisted, sometimes wickedly funny. It’s the sort of collection you can read in short sessions as some of the tales are extremely short indeed.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on April 7, 2018
BEYOND THE BEATS: Rock & Roll’s Greatest Drummers Speak!
Publisher:Music Square Media; 1 edition (March 13, 2018)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
Being a longtime drummer myself, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to review this book when I saw its title. Once I scanned the table of contents, I realized author Jake Brown is a tad younger than me. I was part of the generation where young drummers venerated the likes of rockers Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, John Bonham, and jazzers like Elvin Jones, Gene Krupa, and Buddy Rich. The only stick-man from those times Brown interviewed was Doug “Cosmo” Clifford from Creedence Clearwater Revival. Many of the drummers Brown interviewed, it soon turned out, also admired the same drummers I did.
Brown interviewed an profiled the likes of Lars Ulrich(Metallica), Joey Kramer (Aerosmith), Tommy Lee (Mottley Crew), Taylor Hawkins (The Foo Fighters), Chad Smith (The Red Hot Chili Peppers), Tico Torres (Bon Jovi), Matt Sorum (Guns N Roses), Jimmy Chamberlin (The Smashing Pumpkins), Kenny Aronoff (John Meellencamp/ John Fogerty), Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction), and Steve Smith (Journey).
Drummers are certainly going to be the most appreciative audience for these interviews as we are given a detailed analysis of many of the beats for some of rock’s biggest hits. We get other insights as well such as Tommy Lee’s revelations about how he incorporated showmanship into his on-stage presentations. These performers share their perspectives on how to stay on top, decade after decade. They offer advice for future drummers, compare live with studio drumming, discuss the usefulness of click-tracks, and praise their mentors. They talk about the interaction between their roles with other musicians, engineers, and producers. Drummers will appreciate their notes on the types of instruments and equipment they like.
But fellow drummers shouldn’t be the only readers to enjoy the stories of drumming creativity and how these musicians became the stars they are. If you’re a fan of one or more of the bands covered, the price of admission will fit just fine. If you’re a devotee of hard rock and metal, this is a must-have volume, whether or not you’re a stick-man. Or stick-woman.
(Beyond the Beats will have an audiobook release on May 15, 2018 featuring bonus content like audio excerpts from each of the drummers interviewed in the book.)
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on April 2, 2018:
Publisher:Zowie Press (March 20, 2018)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
Matt Ginsberg’s Factor Man is a cerebral read that seems targeted for a selective audience, namely techno-geeks and nerds, especially those knowledgeable in advanced math and science. This is especially true for the first third of the book where Ginsberg lays out the background of what Factor Man can do, how he hides from the entire planet, and just how important his factoring is. Ginsberg’s book couldn’t be timelier with its use of e-mails and blog entries to partially tell the story of online issues with security and privacy and the powers of companies like Google and Apple.
The plot centers on the world-famous “Factor Man” who claims he can break the 256-bit encryption codes making online privacy and secrets completely impossible. There’s lots to worry about if “FM” has really discovered what computer scientists call “God’s algorithm.” The evidence for his claims builds up as the unknown genius who solves increasingly complex factor problems in a public countdown to the day he plans to reveal his identity. Day after day, all sorts of individuals including Will Wheaton, Sylvester Stallone, and Jimmy Fallon submit long strings of numbers for Factor Man to factor—you’d think every celebrity in the world was interested in complexity theory.
Assuming FM can survive to the day he is willing to lose his anonymity is no sure thing. FM sets up a schedule to sell his technology first to the highest bidder, one year later to the U.S. Government, and finally make it available to everyone. The Chinese, with the most to lose, are deeply unhappy and send out an assassin to track him down. The FBI and NSA follow the lead of Congress who pass laws attempting to block FM from selling his tech to any private entity. So law enforcement agents conduct annoying surveillance on innocent citizens in the Texas desert while the Chinese agent kills two innocent Americans. Throw in an investigative reporter who also chases FM all over Europe, especially in Austria and Switzerland. It’s this section of the book where readers don’t need a math or science background to get into what is essentially an espionage thriller.
Along the way, we hear Factor Man telling his own story, including his clever journey to evade discovery and capture. Layered into the tale are the accounts of the reporter, Chinese operative, and officers from various government agencies and other characters sharing their roles in the hunt they tell in the first person.
When I said the book is timely, that’s on several levels. The story opens in 2017 and concludes in 2021. You’d think the short trip into the future would qualify the story as science fiction. However you classify the novel, Factor Man is an original work of fiction with subject matter that is fresh with a mostly lively approach and tone. I admit I could live without the interruptive series of numbers e-mailed to FM which all readers, I presume, will quickly skim over. I also admit I have a hard time buying into a large media event I can’t fairly describe here. On the other hand, the thrill-ride that leads up to this event is as suspenseful a chase as you’ll ever read. Best of all, we get a warm, positive ending. I love it when I’m not experiencing a dystopian future. I like it when the good guys win.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on March 26, 2018:
My Life as a Book Reviewer
By Dr. Wesley Britton
I don’t know for certain, but I’m pretty sure my first published book review came out in 1981 for Joseph P. Lash’s Helen and Teacher, the historian’s dual biography of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy. I forget the name of the periodical, but I recall it was a newspaper printed for the Dallas-based Association of Individuals with Disabilities.
In 1983, I became a graduate student in American Literature at the University of North Texas. Very quickly, I began hearing the oft-repeated mantra of “Publish or Perish.” That phrase sounds very simple, but not so fast.
Back in those days, unless you were part of a Creative Writing department, publishing “primary sources”—meaning any creative writing, poetry, short stories, or novels—didn’t count toward your career path. The research-oriented English departments wanted “secondary sources,” meaning scholarly studies of recognized classics or even short studies of other book-length scholarly studies. It was all about critical analysis. Your resume could also include book reviews, especially reviews of literary histories, biographies, or even more scholarly studies. With luck, you could present your non-paid-for articles at academic conventions where, of course, you paid your own way to attend.
Those conventions turned out to be goldmines in terms of networking, especially meeting editors of academic periodicals who gave out book review assignments. Especially for new scholarly editions written by and for academics in specific subject areas. These often-expensive tomes were nice items not to have to pay for.
Which lead to my earliest reviews for publications like Texas Books in Review, The Journal of American Studies of Texas, Southern Quarterly, and American Periodicals. In turn, this to me becoming the main reviewer for the then-new online list-serve, The Mark Twain Forum. For years, I wrote many reviews for them and I believe you can still see all of them today at the Forum’s archives. That was where I learned online periodicals didn’t have to worry about word counts, always an important consideration for print assignments.
After I earned my Ph.D., I had one quest in mind. Writing reviews for which I got paid. That didn’t always happen. For Choice Magazine, I was assigned titles for which I wrote very short reviews of around 300 words for librarians who had one question in mind—is this a book we should buy and shelve? That was another good example of knowing your audience—writing for a specific purpose with a very limited word count.
Then I did get paid work from Magill’s Book Reviews, Literary Annuals in between writing all manner of encyclopedia articles. During those years, my target audience was very broad and very non-academic. It was a very different approach from most everything I’d written before. It was very liberating.
By 1999 or so, I decided I was tired of writing short things. I wanted to write books and have reviewers review me. So began my four books on espionage in the media followed by my six book sci-fi series. But I kept my hand in book reviewing. For around a decade, I reviewed all manner of fiction and non-fiction for online sites devoted to spies in one guise or another. Once again, I had a very specific audience, readers already familiar with spy novels, TV shows, or films. If your audience is already knowledgeable in one subject area or another, then you pitch your approach to those who might know as much or more than you do about the topic.
Somewhere in all that, all manner of projects opened up for me. I don’t recall when or why, but editor Norm Goldman invited me to join his cadre of reviewers for BookPleasures.com. I still write for him. What really opened up was the range of books I could review—murder mysteries, histories, celebrity memoirs, espionage thrillers, sci-fi. And the assignments come in a variety of ways. Several times a week, Norm sends out blitzes of press releases from authors, publishers, and publicists seeking book reviews at BP. We reviewers than express our interest in whatever titles intrigue us, and Norm makes his assignments. These days, I also get press releases sent directly to me usually because a publisher or publicist likes something I wrote. They hope to interest me in other books by the same author or books of a similar nature.
Along the way, I also reviewed books, CDs, and DVDs for BlogCritics.org. What made them different was the meticulous nature of their editors. I have always treasured good editors, and BC had some excellent ones. I stopped writing for BC when they made changes in their submission format and really made reviewers work to post reviews with all sorts of hoops to leap through at their site. Well, since they weren’t paying anything, getting free books, CDs, and DVDs just wasn’t worth all the hassle.
So what have I learned over the decades and what can I pass along to you?
It seems pretty clear one key lesson is to know what audience you’re writing for as that frames so much of our reviews. It can determine length—especially for online sites—and the content—do you have a knowledgeable audience or are you addressing the general reader?
I’ve always felt the primary purpose of a reviewer is to give potential readers enough information so they can decide for themselves if they want to try a specific book or not. That’s one reason many reviewers mention the names of authors who are similar to the title being reviewed, giving readers a connection to familiar writers of the same genre.
Whether or not I like a specific title really isn’t the point. So in pretty much every review, I’ve ever written, I point out just what audiences would be most interested in a particular book. Just because I don’t like or am mildly responsive to a new book doesn’t mean there’s not a readership out there who would love it.
I admit, over the years, I’ve gotten my fair share of grumpy responses from authors. Mostly, they didn’t think a specific review was glowing enough. Or I didn’t praise enough one aspect or another of their effort. I don’t think I’ve written that many out-and-out bad reviews. I can think of two; one was simply a dishonest project, the other was supposedly a non-fiction study so personal that it was not worth the time of the subject’s fans.
I also admit I still have a hard time getting excited by Amazon reviews. Recently, I was part of a Facebook group’s debate over whether reviews posted at sites other than Amazon were equal to the usual short paragraphs posted on the Zon. Yes, most readers go to the Zon and perhaps nowhere else. On the other hand, many serious readers—and therefore potential buyers—go to other places to get more developed reviews than the often general and unedited paint-by-numbers Amazon reviews. Consider sites devoted to specific genres, for one example. Consider such reviews aren’t likely paid for or written by author friends or supporters. Consider the in-depth analysis places like BookPleasures.com or BlogCritics.org offer.
True, there are countless personal blogs that don’t have a lot of credibility. The lack of proper editing is one problem with such places. And credibility can be a valuable thing when publishers hunt for useful blurbs and quotes to promote books. After the reviewer’s name, the name of a reliable publication is not a bad thing at all. The Zon doesn’t count. So I’ very happy to see excerpts from my reviews included in other author’s media kits. Or reposted at places like The Midwest Book Review or The New Book Review Blog.
Writing book reviews can help build up your writing portfolio, especially if you can find ways to have your reviews posted at sites that have good reputations and a good-sized readership. These days, reposting our reviews is good for both the book authors and the reviewer. Getting published at a good site or periodical is the beginning, but then you can repost at Amazon, your personal blogs at Goodreads, Book Likes, or wherever, And at the book’s page at Goodreads. Normally, you should include where the review originally appeared so that publication can get credit. Like the authors we review, we too want to reach a wide readership.
Contact Wesley if you’re interested in a review exchange.
Dr. Wesley Britton,
Author, The Beta Earth Chronicles
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Blackbeard: The Birth of America
Print Length: 544 pages
Publisher: Mount Sopris Publishing (February 6, 2018)
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
Over the years, I’ve read a number of Samuel Marquis’s historical thrillers. I’ve become a fan who’s happy with pretty much every volume, many of which are set during World War II. Among the many surprises of his new Blackbeard is the time period the story is set in. I’ve never associated Marquis with the early decades of the 18th century or the seas of the Caribbean and the pirates that sailed on them circa 1716-1718.
Another major surprise is Marquis’s portrayal of Blackbeard, the privateer turned pirate. I was surprised to see the pirate always referred to as Edward Thatch and not Edward Teach, the surname I always associated with Blackbeard. Well, Google for both names and both names will come up in multiple entries. Whatever handle Marquis gives his character, few readers are likely to anticipate seeing Blackbeard painted in the most heroic portrait possible, at least for the first two/thirds of the book.
Marquis’s Blackbeard tries to avoid violence by only attacking ships that offer little resistance to minimize the carnage his crew might endure. He’s a giant figure, a charismatic leader able to use eloquence to sway his extremely democratic sea-farers to his point of view. The pirates operate within the rules of the “articles” that give every man an equal vote in important decisions and an equal share in any booty. There is no racism. We see this most evident in the character of Cesar, a former black slave now devoted to Blackbeard.
The pirates’ motives are in part economic, part political, and part a lust for the free life. At first, pirate captains have charters given to them by royal governors based in the New World to attack Spanish and French ships. But many dislike British King George from the House of Hanover and would prefer the crowning of James III from the House of Stuart. For such reasons, Blackbeard’s small but powerful flotilla start attacking British ships in part to rebel against those who are rich and abusive to the common man. The pirates start describing themselves as “Robin Hoods,” distributing wealth much more fairly than royal charters.
Another major character is Steede Bonnet, a Barbados plantation owner who throws it all away to become a pirate for the freedom of a life at sea despite his less than adequate knowledge of sea-going ways. Woven throughout the scenes set in the Caribbean and up the Atlantic coast, we also spend time on land with Alexander Spotswood, the despotic, vindictive and tyrannical lieutenant governor of Virginia. For Spotswood, capturing Blackbeard is a political move calculated to curry favor in England. Very unpopular with his colony’s citizens, he suppresses any desires brought to him from the Virginia House of Burgesses that might erode his powers. He despises the new term of “Americans” and, in many ways, embodies the complaints the founders of the United States would fight against in just over fifty years.
So the “Golden Age of Piracy” is portrayed as the precursor for the American Revolution with Blackbeard and his cohorts the real patriots, at least in their own opinion. In Marquis’s realm, these salty dogs never lacked for self-righteous self-justification. I suspect it’s my own preconceived notions, but I frequently found it difficult to accept the verisimilitude of these noble scalawags. I am perhaps a modern victim of the propaganda that cast Blackbeard as a vicious criminal in Boston newspapers of the time. I was also put off a bit by Marquis frequently repeating his points over and over which seemed like rather overdoing it. Padding?
The book never really builds up a head of steam, at least until the final third where Blackbeard realizes his flotilla has grown too large, that the British admiralty is about to end the age of freebooting piracy, and he makes some turning-point choices very different from what we’ve come to expect from him. Lots of surprises in this fast-moving section of the book.
Throughout, Marquis’s gifts for description and character development are on full display to take his readers to times and places that, in this case, are captured in ways few of us would expect. His closing end notes make it clear he sketched out most of this novel drawing from a wide spectrum of resources, many of them of rather recent vintage.
So, from page one to his appendices, unless you too are a Blackbeard scholar, Blackbeard: The Birth of America will be a constantly eye-opening series of surprises. You’ll feel certain you’re learning something as the story progresses. Pirates as the original American revolutionaries? Marquis builds a vivid and convincing case that is so.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on March 20, 2018:
You get to choose which books you want to read. Make sure to pick up mine, Murder in the Canyon.
Kalma: Alnenia turned her cran to one side and looked thoughtful. "It's the fourth day," she said to herself. "It is finally seeming to work." Her face told that she had come to a decision. "Yes, it is the time for truth." She sat back and smiled. "Know you anything," she asked, "about the Ming-ti plant?"
"No, I know not," I told her cold. "What is the Ming-ti plant?"
She picked up a skol-stick and tapped it nervously on her desk. "It really should be Doret or Elsbeth to explain it. What I know, they told me. The Ming-ti plant is a heaf that grows not natural on the Old Continent. It's one Doret ordered seeds for from Menzia. It's a powerful, ah, ah, well, when its leaves are dried and cooked into foods as spices or ground into powder and put into nectars, it, ah, ah," she smiled broad, "considerably enflames our natural drive to be speared. It creates a strong need, very strong, in women for a man-stalk bonding. In your case, the results should be very, very interesting."
"Interesting!" I thundered. "You've poisoned me and call that interesting! What mean you?"
Alnenia looked hurt and shook her head. "Poisoned? Oh no, there is nothing toxic in Ming-ti. The only possible trouble you could have is, well, if you were unable to act on the stimulus inside you. But," her smile returned, "your acting on it is the point. It is long past time for Malcolm to part your legs with full thrusts in between."
I stood and paced before her desk. Questions filled me, and the first was obvious.
"Have you others taken this Ming-ti?"
"No," Alnenia admitted. "We knew nothing of it until Doret spoke of it after our visit to the Mother-Icealt. None of us, ah, have ever needed the stimulus. We thought of experimenting with it, naturally. For Doret, she'd probably only need a very small amount. Then again, all Malcolm has to do is reach his hand up her tunic, play with her nipples, and irresistible shockwaves, well, you know. Or soon will."
She laughed. "Joline is about your body weight although not as strongly built or muscled." She laughed again. "But, then again, you'd only have to show Joline the plant, tell her of its purpose, and its effect would be complete on sight."
I stared at her. "So, how much of this Ming-ti is in my blood?"
Her eyes lit up. "That's what is extraordinary! Very, very extraordinary! Again, Doret can better answer your questions. Normally, I understand, one meal only is sufficient. You've —." She paused and looked at me in wonder." You should, by now, be unable to do anything else but think of being speared. I'm tempted to alert Yil and tell him to clear all males out of —."
"You'll do no such thing!" I exclaimed with full power, pulling her door open. "I am sufficiently disciplined and self-controlled to fight this poison! I will go find Doret and find a cure for this mean trick!"
Reinventing Pink Floyd: From Syd Barrett to The Dark Side of the Moon
Hardcover: 260 pages
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (February 9, 2018)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
Bill Kopp is far from the first rock critic to take on the legendary history of Pink Floyd, focusing on the formative years when band founder Syd Barrett captained the group’s first album to his departure and replacement by David Gilmour to the group’s various experimental projects up to the seminal release of the highly influential Dark Side of the Moon in 1973. I was intrigued to read Kopp’s introduction where he admits the Pink Floyd he knew best for many years was the period after Dark Side of the Moon with little awareness of what came before. That was exactly the reverse of my experience. Back in high school, we “heads”—to use the then prevalent term to describe those of us into non-mainstream music—usually owned at least one Pink Floyd album including The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets, Umma Gumma, Atom Heart Mother or Meddle. Then and now, my favorite Floyd songs are “One of These Days,” “Interstellar Overdrive,” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” All are pre-Dark Side tunes.
So when Dark Side came out and took the world by storm two years after my high school graduation, I was rather bemused by all the new listeners the band earned. I could understand why. Dark Side was, as someone I don’t know observed, the Sgt. Pepper of the ‘70s. Still, perhaps it was simple snootiness when, for years, I maintained the pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd was the Real Pink Floyd.
I got over that sentiment a long time ago. Now, I really have no excuse for any snootiness after reading Kopp’s new critical analysis of Pink Floyd’s evolution from 1967 to 1973. While this book was far from the first history of the band I’ve read, I learned something new on pretty much every page. For my money, two things distinguish Reinventing Pink Floyd from what has been published before. For one key matter, Kopp goes beyond the usual process of interviewing participants and contemporary observers and draws from his own background as a musician to comment on and analyze the songs, albums, and live performances from a musician’s perspective. For another matter, Kopp benefited from the release of the extensive 2016 The Early Years box set, a package he refers to at least once on nearly every page.
Even the most devoted Floyd fans are likely to learn tidbits they didn’t know before like the band’s first producer was Norman Smith who had worked on many of the Beatles albums. I knew about the existence of Pink Floyd film soundtracks, but not the details behind the creation of the usually experimental scores for the often-experimental films.
Fans who think of the post-Barrett Floyd as essentially the David Gilmour and the Roger Waters band with the late Richard Wright and Nick Mason as mere supporting players may well gain a new and deeper appreciation for the band’s keyboardist and drummer. Richard Wright aficionados, in particular, should appreciate reviewing in minute detail just how much he contributed to the music of this period of the band’s creative development.
Clearly, this is a book strictly for Pink Floyd fans, especially for readers who aren’t intimately familiar with the pre-Dark Side era. It would help to have some knowledge of musical terminology, especially the equipment and techniques used in the recording studio. In the end, Reinventing Pink Floyd is a treasure trove of musical history for a very particular audience. But it’s a worthy addition to any rock fan’s library.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on March 11, 2018:
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