Strange Cases

I never had the opportunity to read the “Strange Cased of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, so was encouraged when I noticed that the book was available for free on Amazon. I consider myself a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson ever since I first saw the movie Treasure Island, and read the book. I’ve since had a number of opportunities to read other works of his, and I’ve never been disappointed.

I have to admit that considering Jekyll and Hyde wasn’t exactly a no-brainer for me, I had heard so many different takes on the character over the years, with probably more than one done by Disney in one animated form or another. And often the “refreshed” versions of classic tales leave a great deal to the imagination.

Most tales I’ve heard or seen about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde revolve around the story of the man and his attempt to release his hidden side, the one we all keep carefully tucked away behind a mask that we’ve put on with the help of society. Whether you care to admit it or not, you are not wholly what you present to the outside world, you are a creature molded by your family, your friends and even strangers, who make silent comment by the way they look at your person.

It’s not entirely a bad thing, to be concealed by a well worn mask, something that allows us interact and be acceptable in society, it is often those who don’t wear a mask, and are too obvious about their wants and desires and too easily swayed by their inner selves, who find themselves either at the mercy of the law, or in hospitals awaiting evaluation by a psychologist.

In the “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, Jekyll finds himself fascinated by this mask, and seeks a way to allow his baser emotions to be revealed. But I get ahead of myself.

The story is really about Mr. Utterson, the lawyer to Dr. Jekyll, and how he comes to know about Dr. Jekyll and his nemesis Mr. Hyde. You see, Mr. Utterson slowly learns of Mr. Hyde when he is on a stroll with his distant cousin and is told about an incident where a “little man” ran into a little girl, and trampled her body on the sidewalk, then proceeded down the lane and entered a nearby house. Remember, this is set in 19th century London, the girl wasn’t run down by a car, but by the plodding feet of the little man as they bumped into each other, and the little man must have stepped on her as he continued onward. Whether he stepped on her in haste, or perhaps pounced in some way isn’t exactly clear, but it seems that the little man hurt the girl significantly enough to cause the family to seek reparations, which is given to them in the way of a cheque made out on Dr. Jekyll’s account.

Needless to say the “little man” was none other than Mr. Hyde. And this is how Mr. Utterson comes to know of Hyde, and slowly comes to realize that this Hyde person is in face a contemporary of his good friend Dr. Jekyll, for whom he has recently drawn up a will, in which this Mr. Hyde is named as benefactor.

So Mr Utterson becomes involved in finding out how Dr. Jekyll could associate with such a person, and later when a murder is committed by the same person, he is really having misgivings about the will which names Mr. Hyde as a benefactor. He becomes quite the researcher and it’s really a tale of his discovery, but ends with the truth being outed by Dr. Jekyll himself, in his own handwriting, which is given to Mr. Utterson, and which is used to close the story.

Definitely different than I had imagined it, and all due to the “translation effect.” That is, the effect of the story being retold and renewed both on the big screen and the small, until you really don’t know what the true story is. The same thing happens every day, just go ahead, play a game of Telephone with 5 of more people, and tell me how the phrase changes at the end.

A gap in time

When reading books, there is often a space of time where you find yourself other than when you started, that is, you’ve escaped to a different world or realm, when reading “Awakened” by Jason Tesar, you not only find yourself in a different world, but in 2 different worlds!

Awakened is the tale of a chosen one who can bridge the worlds and perhaps bring them back together, or at least prevent the bad guys from making too much of a mess. Awakened is a series of books, and the latest one, “Hidden From Men” finally reunites father in son in a strange land. Well, strange to them anyway, for you and I, it’s home.

I downloaded the first book in the series in April of 2012, and have been keeping an eye out for each sequel. I’m one of those buy a bunch, read a bunch type of readers, and if something is particularly good, I’ll try to get a few similar stories all together. For instance, I waited a bit before picking up #4 & 5 of this series so the pleasure of reading them would last just a little bit longer. They definitely are “series” books, and can be a little difficult to read from the middle. Although I do have ot say that the fourth book, “Seeds of Corruption” seems to be able to do a pretty good job of standing on it’s own.

It was book 5, “Hidden from Men” that started giving a synopsis of the previous books, which makes it easier to get into the story. I heartily recommend the series, and you can still get the first one “Awakened His Eyes” for free. But trust me, when you start, you won’t be able to stop. A fair bit of mysticism, some spy action, and a fair bit of adventure awaits. It’s funny, the books seem to have evolved from primitive to modern, but that’s mostly because the worlds are not all equal. Our world is far more advanced that Kael’s world,and who know’s what advancements may be present elsewhere?

The books talk of the Earth being split between 3 worlds, with there being an elevated plane as well. The story starts on a world that might be best described as stuck in the middle ages with fortified cities and towns, although there are some areas that are more advanced thanks to a controlling power, one of 9 beings who sought to create worlds for themselves to rule as gods. Seeing a that went wrong, and only 3 worlds were created, there is some amount of conflict, and it is up to the Awakened to put things right. Whether he will eventually “merge” the three worlds, we don’t know yet, but I’ve a feeling that won’t happen, but perhaps we’ll get a chance to visit between worlds on our summer vacations.

So far we’ve seen the world of Kael, and our present day earth, but we’ve not yet traveled to the third world, so perhaps that’s still to come. Or perhaps that world will remain sealed off for all eternity. There’s really only one way to find out, keep reading.

The Tournament Trilogy

B.B. Griffith may have been inspired by the games of the coliseum when he wrote this trilogy, or perhaps medieval games, like jousting. The Tournament itself is a secret game for multi-millionaires/billionaires to gamble their vast fortunes, make business deals, and recently, to settle political disputes. It seems to be a game for the 1%, where they can enjoy a little high stakes gambling, without having to leave the comforts of their own mansions. Yes, it’s online, but through secure channels.

The story, though, is really about the players, some who are rough criminals, and some who are just in the right place to make the cut. The players are modern day gunslingers, without the blood and guts. Using a specially crafted bullet called a diode, they can shoot each other, suffer the pain of getting hit by a bullet, without dying. The players hit will eventually go into a coma, from which the Tournament doctors can revive them.

The first novel introduces us to the game, and the idea that the diode is not as safe as they claim, with one of the lead designers dying after getting hit by a diode. This results in an investigation that threatens to reveal the truth of the Tournament to the public.

Well written action scenes put you in the middle of the actions, whether you find yourself in the middle of a lunatic spraying “diodes” all around a nightclub, or cool hands using surgical precision to take out their targets. The novels follow the 8 teams as they try to win the latest round of the tournament, the investigation of the death of the scientist who helped develop the diode, which threatens to expose the Tournament, as well as conflict from within some of the teams.

The three novels include murder, mayhem, and misguided attempts to change and control the tournament. The action is well paced, and the intrigue is, well, intriguing! I loved the books, I love the way the players work together and against each other, how the teams collide in some very interesting locations.

If I were to have to mention one drawback, it’s that the three books really have to be read together, reading one without the other may find you missing key information, and stopping in the middle will leave you missing a proper resolution. It’s not one of those series where each story is integral to itself, they are related too much to each other. Which is probably a plus for the author, the first book was a freebie, and was so good I had to purchase the next two, and it was well worth it!

The Dog Ran

This is a short fiction piece that stemmed from the title phrase that stuck in my head for a few days, the result was this story, written originally in my journal, and subsequently edited for online publication.

The dog ran towards the fence, and I followed him.  Again, like I did when I was twelve.  This time was a lot like that time, a little bit of running away,and a lot of running towards.  It seems like I was always running towards something.

*  *  *

When I was just a little boy, it wasn’t the schoolyard bully that frightened me, it was my uncle Tom.  Uncle Tom lived with us, and shared a room with my ma.  My dad left us when I was just three, so I have no real memory of him, I only know that uncle Tom was always at home.  I don’t know what he did while I was in school, I only knew he was there when I left in the morning, and he opened the door when I got home in the afternoon.

Mom went to work as I was getting up in the morning, and often returned home only as my sister and I set the table for supper.  My sister, Laura, went to high school, and took the “big bus” at the same time as I took my school bus.  But she stayed after school for clubs, which is what I would be able to do the next year, I hoped.

Between 3 o’clock and 5 o’clock is what uncle Tom called our “Little Boy’s Time.”  I didn’t like it.  Uncle Tom told me that it was normally for boys and their daddy’s, but because I didn’t have one, he had to take over.  Because it was “Little Boy’s Time,” I wasn’t allowed to mention it to ma or Laura, even if I wanted to.  Also, because it was supposed to be for boys and their dads, I couldn’t tell my friends at school, or I’d get in trouble.

I still thought it was wrong, and knew I had to go to high school, so I could stay after school.  Only if ma let me though.

Laura was three years ahead of me, and I wanted so much to catch up, to maybe play soccer, or basketball, anything after school so I didn’t have to do “Little Boy’s Time”

Whenever it was that time, we had to lock our dog, Buster, in the workshop.  Uncle Tom said he was a distraction.  I reluctantly agreed to locking him up, but I wanted him around afterwards, when I cried.

It was almost summer when Buster managed to break out of the workshop.  It was the best day of my life.  “Little Boy’s Time” was never fun for me, and I always tried to find a way out of it, and that day was no exception, but uncle Tom was even more angry than ever before.  I thought we was going to hurt me more than he ever had.

That’s when the door to the workshop crashed open, and Buster leaped at uncle Tom.  Buster bit him so hard that uncle Tom screamed loud enough for the neighbors to hear.  He was bleeding a lot, from a bad bite, but uncle Tom didn’t move.  He seemed frozen in place, holding himself to keep from bleeding.  Buster left him there and ran out othe back door of our house, and I followed.  We ran as fast as possible, and I’ve never looked back.

*  *  *

That was almost twenty years ago, and here I was running after another dog, Blacky this time, only now I was running towards something, not away.

Laura jumped out of her SUV with her husband Tyler and their 2 children.  They were here for summer vacation again.  Blacky jumped around the twins and I hugged my big sis.  She had told me years before about “Little Girl Time,” and how she used her after school activities to protect herself, much as I wanted to do.  She ran too, after me, and we helped ma get out from the thumb of “uncle Tom.”  He’d be in jail for a few more years, and didn’t know where we all lived, which was good, very good indeed.

Noble Intentions

With all good books, come a few not so good ones, and sometimes it’s just a change in focus that can be appreciated by some, but not by all.  A little while ago I mentioned that I had started reading “Noble Beginnings” and was eager to write a commentary on it.  It turned out to be a very good book, written by L.T. Ryan, and I immediately started looking forward to the next book in the series, “A Deadly Distance.”  Sadly, I was disappointed by the way it started, and couldn’t get much further than the first couple of chapters.  So I’ve put it aside, for now, and will return to it at a later date.

Truth be told, there are a few books that I’ve had to do this.  And those that have been sitting aside, were eventually read with a fresh outlook, and generally really enjoyed.  So I’m still hopeful for “A Deadly Distance”

But really, let’s get to the one that started it all, and was, in my mind, a really good book, and really well written, “Noble Beginnings”.  This is obviously the start of something, and the main character, Jack Noble, turns from a life in military intelligence.  Well, this book actually focuses on his last (maybe first?) foray in Iraq, and what happens to turn him out of the military.  He’s put in a bad position of having to defend himself for something he hadn’t done, get’s framed for murder and assorted crimes, and is put on the run from the law.  Noble or not, he’s in a lot of trouble, and has to work his way out, and find out what hands are holding the strings on the puppets that are after him.

It’s quite the chase, from Iraq, to America, and from North Carolina to Washington DC, and seemingly all over the east coast.  His quest, with his partner Bear, to prove their innocence and find those responsible takes many turns that would exhaust just about anyone.  And it was a book that proved difficult to stop reading, late nights turned into very early mornings while I read the book, and had me finishing it in record time.  It also left me quite sleepy after it all!

Next, as you know, I read “A Dance with Dragons” which I enjoyed and twisted my insides a bit for my favorite characters.  I also read the classic “War of the Worlds” by H. G. Wells, nothing more need be written about this, as everything that can be said has already been said, a true masterpiece, too bad the recent movie didn’t quite bring it to life with the same feel as the original book.

Also, over my winter vacation, I read a few other books, and just finished a series by B.B. Griffith called the Tournament.  More on these over the next few days.

**Something new!

Over the next little while I will be opening a new section of the blog for original writings by yours truly, short pieces that come to me in my sleep, or somesuch.  Look for the “Writings” tab for these.