Saturday, February 18, 2017

Vincent Czyz's The Christos Mosaic



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Vincent Czyz, author of this book, has written three books that I know of and from the reviews of his other books his writing has been well-received. I, however, am not in love with this book. I'm willing to own my own boredom.

In a world where so much is being written and revealed to the general population about church history, this book seems a bit underwhelming to me. The revelatory content could have been drawn more fully while also being repeated far less. It was as though the author didn't think the reader could follow. It was repetitive. Said again and again. Repeated ad nauseum. Suggested that the reader needed to read revelations again. 
And again.

Allow me a moment to offer quick reminder about the premise of  The Christos Mosaic: Drew, an American, is involved in the recovery of a newly discovered Dead Sea Scroll. Not surprisingly the scroll contains source and historical information that overturns everything that the Christian church puts forth as church doctrine and upon which that church has built its stories upon which the church rests. The church is seeking to keep the scroll from becoming public. Drew, a man with deeply-held Christian beliefs again and again and again and again and again in the book has to reconsider information about the beloved institution of his faith that he thought was fact. 

I won't tell you what the scroll reveals but I will tell you that the story and its intrigue could have been better. I found it tedious. Someone new to reading about early church history might truly enjoy the wealth of research material to follow but I found much of it redundant to materials I have read in the past. Therefore I must conclude that it is the writing that is at fault in this read.

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While I didn't love the book I did love its setting, mostly in Instabul. At the moment I am watching some Turkish dramas available on Netflix and I have enjoyed learning about the area and the history. I find it amazing that we here in The West never really learn about or appreciate the significance of Turkey and that entire Black Sea area. It is such a crossroads of culture. In its time Istanbul and the Muslims have attained vast power and vast riches. But we seldom learn about this part of the globe and its people without negative connotations. 

I give this book three stars for one really good supporting character.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Christos Mosaic


This is one of those books that seems like I'd be bound to read sooner or later: The Christos Mosaic by Vincent Czyz. I hadn't heard about the book until about a week or two ago, though it has been out for about five months. I have also never heard of the author Vincent Czyz.

I've read about half of the book at this point and I'm slightly underwhelmed. I have to prod myself to read more, hoping that the intrigue builds or someone dies or something happens to keep my interest. The Christos Mosaic, at this point feels very derivative, and not in a good way. 

One of my favorite reads ever was The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown and if you haven't read The DaVinci Code but rather watched the lame movie, then RUN, no not walk, out to buy yourself a copy at the nearest yard sale. That book was AMAZING. The DaVinci Code offered high quality intrigue from page one.

The Christos Mosaic has been compared to The DaVinci Code, though I'm not at all sure why, except for the concept. Secret knowledge, esoteric documents and wisdom, churchy conspiracy thugs, secret groups and gangstas...it all seems familiar. I do hope that there is more offered by Vincent because at this point I'm just not intrigued.


How to summarize...

I know you have some familiarity with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Well, our hero in this book Drew has somehow become embroiled in a series of hijinx as he inherits a newly-discovered scroll that is being sought after by treasure hunters of antiquities, unethical scholars, and unscrupulous buddies. As Drew races to understand the Christinity-changing secrets that the scroll reveals, he and his gang of Turkish partners-in-crime are being pursued by nefarious agents who are trying to prevent the information from the scroll being revealed and who have killed and are willing to kill again to keep the information in the scrolls secret. The scramble takes the gang across Egypt and Turkey as they seek information and trustworthy partners.

While this all sounds pretty exciting I just find myself kind of bored. Perhaps I am not moved by poor Drew's crisis of faith as he begins to piece together what he is learning from and about the scrolls and the early Christian church because while it is obvious that our Hero of a Thousand Faces is on a journey, most of it is of the intellectual variety and, I fear, kind of pathetic. Perhaps the revelations simply don't surprise me. Perhaps I'm spoiled by Dan Brown's far better writing. And perhaps my overall antipathy toward Drew and his merry gang of fellows plays a part in my lukewarm following of this book.

But I'm going to continue reading with the hope that things will improve. One thing I do seriously enjoy is the accompanying research that I get to do as I read, so I'm learning about some things right along with Drew.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Andrew Sean Greer's The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

SRSLY



It took me several days to read through
The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer. Partially because I was reading slower, partially because I was savoring it. Now this is a book with some surprising time travel, so allow me to set the stage:



The book starts out with our first and our real Greta Wells living in 1985. In 1985, Greta's beloved twin brother Felix dies of complications from AIDS. Greta is devastated. This major loss is then complicated by the break up with her long-time partner Nathan. Greta Wells becomes severely depressed and chooses a fairly radical psychiatric treatment to alleviate her debilitating depression. The treatment, though, has unexpected and bizarre effects when Greta finds herself whisked to previous lives she might have had if she'd been born in a different era. It might be enough to know that those Gretas are also submitting to some form of ECT, electroconvulsive therapy, shock treatments, in those lives as well...

During the months of her treatment Greta cycles between her own time in 1985, another alternate life in 1918, where she is having an affair with Nathan and where her brother Felix is alive and well, though struggling with his identity, and a life in 1941 where Greta is married to Nathan and mother to their son. Separated by odd time and interesting changes in social mores, Greta's three lives populated with the same people, albeit achingly different relationships. In each time period Greta finds herself longing for those people she has lost in 1985, though the prices of those realities might be too high to bear.



Who hasn't wondered the what ifs of life? What if I hadn't lost that person in my life? What if that relationship had continued? What if I had the power to know the future? How does my life affect those around me? Can I be happier with other choices? What would I give up to have back those whom I have lost? What could life be like if I had what I thought I wanted?

Have you ever wondered what life was like generations ago? Greta gets to walk through her own apartment, on her own street, through her beloved neighborhood in New York City in three different eras. Enjoying the prosaic events from one life: walking down the street, dressing, preparing a meal, hearing the news, responding to community events. Moving with Greta through 1917 and 1941 was a delight because Andrew Sean Greer so obviously delighted in his research. He so obviously enjoyed creating Greta's home and neighborhood of the past and for that I thank him. What a surprising thing to say, hey? But the flotsam of one life can be simply magical when seen through the eyes of someone from another time.

I didn't expect this book and I think I can highly recommend it...

And now for my favorite part of any review:  I have two favorite excerpts from The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, though Greer's writing is quite lovely to read I could have included dozens of pieces. See if you don't love these pieces as much as I do:

 Our heart is so elastic that it can contract to a pinpoint, allowing our hours of work and tedium, but expand almost infinitely - filling us like a balloon - for the single hour we wait for a lover to awaken.

and

It's easy to say something is all in your head. It's like saying sunset is all in your eyes.

 One last thought about a secondary character, Greta's Aunt Ruth. This character provides another complex relationship for Greta to transit, yet Aunt Ruth's presence is a wonderful touchstone for the reader. In each of her lives, Aunt Ruth is Greta's beloved yardstick of reality. Aunt Ruth offers Greta both continuity and comparison. Her flaky, consistent, even bohemian lifestyle couches Greta in each life and helps her to process many of life's lessons...for the most part. I had a wonderful seasoned actress in mind any time Aunt Ruth appeared on the page and she made me smile, often.


So enjoy the luscious prose.
I give this surprising read a nice rating of six stars.