Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is The Magician by Raymond E. Feist. The book originally was published in two parts. Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master. I first discovered this book when I was about 15 years old. I’d found a copy that had both parts in one (I didn’t know about it being two parts for years). It’s a great adventure that follows a young man by the name of Pug as he inadvertently becomes the apprentice of a magician and proceeds to become one the most influential people ever (I want to say more, but I can’t spoil anything). The series, titled the Riftwar Saga, has four books (this is the first) that spins an incredible story. Just trust me on this one. The fact that I’m struggling not to spoil anything right now should be an indicator about its ability to draw you in. Anyway, the four books of the Riftwar Saga tell an amazing story. Then there are several other books that progress the story even further and follow different characters. So, if you love the main book(s), there are more to keep you going if you are someone who likes to dive into a series. The entire collection is called the Riftwar Cycle. The Saga being the core books. I’ve read only a few books that followed the Saga. I’ll admit I haven’t read the entire Cycle, but I enjoyed every book I’ve read that was a part of it.

Probable Cause

The old, tarnished red truck pulled to the side of the road as the patrol cars flashing lights glinted off the rear-view mirror and into Ben’s eyes. He sighed, put the truck in park, and waited for the officer to come to his window. He checked his side mirror to see the officer get out of his car but instead saw a second patrol car pull up behind the first. He wasn’t in a hurry, but he hated wasting time. At least, when he wasn’t actively choosing to waste it. He waited for several minutes before the officer from the first vehicle opened his door and approached the window.

“License and registration,” the cop said.

Ben offered the documents. The officer took them and returned to his patrol car. Ben sighed and waited another five minutes as the officer took his time running the information through the system. The officer came back to the truck, but didn’t return Ben’s documents.

“Please step out of the vehicle, Mr. Mason,” the cop demanded.

“May ask what this is about, officer?” Ben asked.

“Please step out of the vehicle.” Ben noticed the other officer had stepped out of the second patrol car. She was short, but just as stone-faced as the clean-shaven, buzz-cut asking him to get out of his truck. He complied hoping it would speed up the process.

“Place your hands on the vehicle.”

Ben did as he was told. “I think I deserve to know what this is about, officer,” he said.

The officer remained silent as he patted Ben up and down. The female officer had made her way around them and began searching through the cab of the truck.

“Alright, come on-”

“Keep your hands on the vehicle, sir.” The first cop placed a hand on Ben’s back. The other officer, who’d paused at his movement, returned to searching the cab.

“You can’t just look through my stuff,” Ben said. He turned around and the officer backed away.

“Return your hands to the vehicle,” he said with one arm raised and the other resting on his holstered gun. Ben raised his hands to show he was no threat. The second officer had stopped looking through the cab and stood frozen. Her hands hovering near her pistol.

“Whoa,” he raised his hands further, “I just need to know what’s going on here.”

“Place your hands back on the vehicle,” the first officer shouted. When Ben did not comply immediately, he drew his weapon and the second officer did the same. Ben raised his hands further.

“Just calm down,” he said, “I haven’t done anything. You can’t just-”

“Place your hands on the vehicle,” the female officer yelled this time.

“I’m not under arrest. I wasn’t even speeding. You have to tell me what is going on.” He was beginning to get irritated, but the guns pointed at him kept him in check.

Neither office said anything. The one who had pulled him over kept glancing at the other. Ben thought maybe he was a newbie and was looking for direction. If that were the case, he would get answers from the second officer. He turned to face her and a gun went off. The force pushed Ben into the truck and he fell to one knee. He heard a whispered “fuck” come from the male officer and a louder “shit” come from the female’s direction.

Ben sighed. He heard the female officer’s voice call for an ambulance over her radio. Ben rose and looked at his shirt. The officers backed away, surprised and ready to take further action.

“You ruined my fucking shirt,” Ben growled. He examined the hole the bullet had made. The skin underneath was unblemished. No blood. A slight bruise barely visible. “Goddammit. Are you going to pay for that?” He looked up at the rookie officer and saw eyes wide with fear. The gun was still pointed at him, smoke drizzling out of its barrel to disappear into the evening air.

Ben took one step forward, realizing the mistake only after the second bullet hit him. This time he stayed on his feet. He looked over at the shorter officer. Fear overcame her stony features. She fired again. He didn’t move. The younger officer was calling for backup when Ben pushed the female officer aside and climbed in his truck. He slammed the door and stomped on the gas pedal. He saw both officers scrambling for their cars in his rear-view mirror. He sped up and they disappeared from view.


 

It was dark when he’d gotten home. The two officers never caught up to him and he decided they must have gotten lost. The back roads were winding and had low visibility, but he knew they’d come for him. They still had his license. He started packing as soon as he walked through his door. He knew someone would be here shortly, and he didn’t want to stick around to find out why. There was something off about the lack of communication from the officers earlier. They either didn’t know why they were searching him, which means they were ordered to, or they were simply dumb-asses. Despite the evidence, he doubted it was the latter.

He’d closed his suitcase and ran down the stairs when headlights flashed across his front windows. Several of them. He put his bag down close to the back door. If he ran now, they’d run him down in their vehicles. If he ran, they’d think he’d actually done something. He walked over and sat down in his recliner in the living room. He wasn’t going to open the door for them. They could only come in if he invited them, or if they had a warrant. He knew that much. He hadn’t done anything wrong, so only his invitation would get them through the door. He hoped.

The knock came. “Mr. Mason, open up, it’s the police.”

“What do you want?” he yelled from his recliner.

“We need to speak with you.”

“You can hear me from here, can’t you? What do you want?”

“Open the door Mr. Mason.”

“You’re not getting in here unless you have a warrant.”

“I do have a warrant Mr. Mason.”

“Bullshit. I haven’t done anything.”

“This warrant says otherwise.”

Ben didn’t respond. He waited until the words penetrated the wood of his front door.

“For assaulting a police officer and for resisting arrest.”

“I was never placed under arrest. And I acted in self-defense. Your officers shot me.”

The door burst inward and several officers walked in wearing bullet proof vests, helmets, and wielding shotguns. They veered off in different directions. Each one yelling “clear” as they swept through the house. Ben remained seated, drew in a deep breath, and let it out in a long sigh. They were testing his patience. It didn’t help when several of them trained their guns on him as he sat, no longer comfortable, in his recliner.

Once the armored men gave the all clear, a man in a simple suit walked in and went straight to him. “Mr. Mason, I presume.”

Ben looked him up and down. “No one else here.”

“So it seems,” the man said, then pulled a piece of paper from his suit and handed it to him.

Ben looked it over. “This doesn’t even have a judge’s signature,” he said and looked up at the man. The man nodded to someone behind Ben and before Ben could react, the solid metal of a baton smashed against his skull.


 

Ben woke to a single, florescent light dangling above him. His head hurt, and the bruises from the three bullets, however faint, ached. Otherwise, he was uninjured.

“Where am I?” he asked the empty room. He sat up on a table in the middle of a small room. A reflective glass window covered one wall.

“You are in a safe place,” a voice said over a speaker.

“Yeah, I bet,” he said under his breath. “My house was a safe place too, until those goons showed up with that bogus warrant. Who are you?”

“We’re the good guys Mr. Mason. We protect everyone.”

“You aren’t protecting me,” Ben said.

“But we are. We are protecting you and everyone else by having you here with us.”

“You’ll have to explain, cause I ain’t following.”

“We can’t just have a bullet-proof man just wandering around Mr. Mason,” the speaker spit out, “How do you think the populous would react? They’d think you were inhuman.”

“I’m just a man, just like everyone else.”

“But you’re not. You’re different.”

“I’m not that different. No one seemed to care before you loons showed up.”

“No one knew about your…. peculiarity. But now the news is out.”

Ben doubted there were any news stories out there about him. He was even certain the two cops, if they weren’t apart of this, were paid off to forget the whole thing. Money can reveal a man’s character more thoroughly than a nuzzle on his skull.

“Well I’m a citizen of the United States and you can’t keep me here. I would like to speak to a lawyer,” Ben said confidently, then added, “and I hope you have a large budget because you’ve got a lot to pay for.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Mr. Mason,” the speaker announced, “You are no longer a citizen. You are the property of the United States Government.”

Book Recommendation of the Week

This week’s book recommendation is Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I wrote a post a long time ago about authors and characters and the focus eventually focused on Mr. Gaiman. You can find it here if you like. But back to the book. This book is good. I greatly enjoyed it, but I have to admit that I liked the movie even better. With a stellar cast (no pun intended….maybe) and Neil’s added influence, it is a fun time. Robert DeNiro is hilarious. I recommend both the book and the movie, and I think whichever you go with first might be the one you prefer. The book isn’t that long so it’d be a quick read.

Neil’s written a lot of books and many have been adapted into film. I have a feeling most of you have already read (or seen) at least one of his works. If not, then you’ve just been introduced to a plethora of great stories. Thank me later. He has short stories, novellas, books, comic books (his Sandman comics have a large following), etc. He even reads his own books if you like audio books. He is also a great guy in general and I hope I meet him one day. I could go on, but this is a book recommendation and not (purposely) an author recommendation (even though they are pretty much the same). Happy reading.

Children of Changyang Mountain

His pack was heavy. The sun was high in the sky, midday, and Haaru had been walking since dawn. The ache at the base of his back had begun and his feet needed a short break, but he kept on. He’d been walking for years and knew his body well. Another hour wouldn’t change anything, especially since he’d found a forest path where the trees shaded the sun’s rays. The air was thick and a sheen of sweat made his clothes cling to his skin. This climate wasn’t new to him despite having left the thin mountain air only two weeks prior.

The hour passed and he felt a new ache begin. The ache caused by the weight of his pack. It was time for lunch. He searched a little more and found a trickling stream. He removed his pack by squatting until the earth took its weight. Then he pulled from the large bag his lunch. Roasted fowl, two pears, and a handful of mushrooms. He removed his shoes and carefully tied them to the bag then climbed atop a large stone where he could place his feet in a small pool interrupting in the stream. The water was cold and felt incredible. A chill ran through his bones despite the heat still swelling his muscles. He ate slowly. When he finished, he pulled himself up on the stone and laid across it. His feet dangled a few inches off the end, but he was comfortable enough to doze after closing his eyes.

He woke to the sounds of children. His muscles were stiff but no longer ached. He realized he’d slept too long as the sun was closer to the horizon. A child’s laughter rang through the trees and he looked for its source. Silence. He looped his arms through the straps and, with a grunt, relieved the earth from the weight of his pack. The laughter echoed again. He looked round, a smile creeping across his features. The laughter reminded his thick, cord-like muscles of his own childhood. When he would run endlessly, climb trees, swim for hours. More laughter and this time he grasped a direction. It was away from his path, but he packed food for a more days than was needed. A half day detour wouldn’t harm anything, so he followed the laughter.

The trees were thin and roots protruded from the ground making little room to move unhindered. The laughter grew louder as he walked and then soon danced around him. He could not see anyone, but they were near.

“Hello,” he called out.

“Hello,” a muffled sound responded a few inches from him.

He froze, slowly turned his head to the voice, and saw an old set of armor leaning against a tree. Mold had nearly covered its entire surface so it looked like part of the forest itself. Except its shape, and the voice inside it.

“Who are you?” The muffled voice said.

“I am Haaru,” he said, then ventured, “and what is your name?”

“Shigeru.”

“Are you here alone, Shigeru?”

“No.”

Haaru looked around but saw no one else. The laughter he’d heard earlier was gone. Only silence filled the still air.

“Why don’t you come out of there?”

No muffled answer came. A second later the breastplate opened with a squeak of metal on metal and a young boy came out. The armor returned to its resting state without a sound.

“Hello Shigeru.”

The boy smiled politely.

“Where are your friends?”

The boy pointed, “Mishi is over there.” Haaru followed the boys arm to see another moss-covered helmet leaning against a tree. Half of the armor was missing. “And Koturo is there,” the boy said, pointing in another direction at yet another set of armor. “And Jensai, and Mido, and Deku, and-”

“How many of you are out here?” Haaru stopped the boy.

The boy shrugged as an answer.

“Where are your parents?”

“Back home.”

“And where is home?”

“Changyang.”

“But that’s…” he paused. But that’s over three hundred miles from here, he thought. “How did you get here?” Haaru asked the boy.

“Orders.”

“Orders from who?”

“General Xing,” the boy said pragmatically.

“How…” he paused. General Xing has been dead for 700 years. “…how long have you been here?”

“A long time,” a different voice said. Haaru turned to see another boy sitting on the metal legs of the suit of armor Shigeru had called Mido.

“How long is a long time?”

Mido sighed and leaned back against the armor but said nothing.

“We’ve forgotten.” Haaru looked over to find another young boy he assumed to be Deku.

“I see,” Haaru said. Around him were several young boys. All sitting or standing on a suit of armor. Some of which he hadn’t noticed during Shigeru’s introductions. “How many of you are here?” he asked again.

No one answered him. Perhaps they don’t remember that either. Haaru bent his knees until his pack rested on the ground. He dug through its contents until he found what he needed. A brush, ink, and a roll of parchment. He sat on the forest floor. “Would you mind telling me your story?” he asked as he readied the ink. He looked up to find every child had disappeared. “Shigeru?” he called but was met with only silence.

He remained seated as the sun retreated from the sky. Something within him knew this was where he was needed. He built a small fire and waited long into the night. His eyes grew heavy, and after some time he gave in and rested them for a moment. He almost didn’t notice the sleep pulling him toward unconsciousness, but before slipping away he jerked his eyes open to find himself surrounded by a crowd of young boys. They stood around the fire. Hundreds more were laced through the trees. Seen only by moonlight through the canopy.

“We will tell you our story,” Shigeru’s voice came from beside him.

Haaru gripped his brush and nodded for the boy to continue.

Book Recommendation of the Week

This weeks book recommendation is The Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He was most known for creating Tarzan, but this book (the first of eleven) has influenced so many of today’s popular science fiction stories including Star Wars. First written in 1912, this story follows a civil war captain named John Carter. A movie by that name was made in 2012 by Disney, and despite its poor reception in theaters I thought it was pretty good. Without the movie, I wouldn’t have found the books.

I think this book stands up today because all of the “future technologies” (that usually date science fiction stories) are actually machines from Mars and were not based on anything really plausible or predicted to happen on Earth. I recommend this book to anyone who likes science fiction and/or the history of science fiction. If you read this book, you may find things that seem familiar but from a different, modern story. Just remember that this book was written over 100 years ago and therefore would be the precursor to today’s shows and books. You may even learn something about your favorite science fiction stories after reading this.