Is this how Mary Shelley actually invented science fiction? – #bookreview


A Novel of Mary Shelley

Sarah Stegall

Wings Press paperback

Many readers know that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851) often has been credited with inventing science fiction when she wrote Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, first published in 1818.

But why and how did she decide to write it, beyond her famous involvements with the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, plus others during an unexpectedly cold and dreary summer holiday in Italy in 1816? What emotions and other triggering events might have been involved in her decision? Could something from her past, before Shelley and the others, have played a bigger role than suspected? 

California novelist Sarah Stegall’s mid-2016 book weaves a compelling, engrossing tale built around possible answers to these questions. Despite what literary historians generally agree is “known” about the birth of Frankenstein, Outcasts throws new light (and shadows) onto other possibilities, from unexpected directions.

Si Dunn








In ‘One Red Thread,’ a man tries to fix events in his past – #bookreview

One Red Thread

Ernie Wood

Tyrus Books – paperback

What if you could go back a few years into your own past without using massive arrays of equipment and consuming most of the world’s energy in the process?

In Ernie Wood’s 2015 novel One Red Thread, architect Eddy McBride discovers an easy, sensory-driven way to simply stroll back into his past for short periods and observe events that shaped,  or nearly destroyed,  his present.

“History is never diminished,” he realizes. “It’s still here.”

Of course, Eddy understands that he is not supposed to try to change anything that has happened. Nor is he supposed to interact with people who include younger versions of himself and his brother and other relatives. To do so may cause serious consequences once he walks back into his own time.

But Eddy can’t help himself; he wants to fix things and soften perceived wrongs. Likewise, he can’t keep his discovery secret from his wife and his business partner.

What else happens in the book? A lot, but you must read it to find out for yourself.

Ernie Wood is an excellent writer who knows how to tell a good story and pack depth into the paragraphs he builds from generally short sentences. However, One Red Thread is not — to use a reviewer’s cliché — “a fast read.” Nor is it science fiction, beyond the ease of Eddy’s time travel. It is a tale of current relationships and how they are affected by mysteries, hurts and tragedies from the not-too-distant past.

The best way to read this worthy book is to take your time. Savor the interactions among characters who continue living within their present, as well as, past settings.

Si Dunn



JUPITER by Ben Bova – #bookreview

Fifteen years after its publication, Ben Bova’s 2001 science-fiction novel Jupiter is a curious but still-engrossing tale focusing on conflicts between religion and science during life-threatening explorations of Jupiter.

Bova offers imaginative descriptions of what could lie beneath Jupiter’s thick, color-banded clouds and how explorations might occur. His story remains thought-provoking, both from a scientific standpoint and religious standpoint. And it remains good reading.

Si Dunn

Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage, Vol. IX – #bookreview



Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage, Volume IX

Edited by Donna M. Kabalen de Bichara and Blanca López de Mariscal

Arte Público Press – hardback


Four topics are considered key within the works of Hispanic writers in the United States: memory, testimony, femininity, and identity.

This important book from Arte Público Press pulls together a dozen essays exploring those topics, written by literary scholars in the United States and abroad. Some are offered in English, and some are in Spanish.

These works originally were presented at the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project’s biennial conferences in 2010 and 2012. The conferences were sponsored by the University of Houston, Rice University, the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Consulate of Mexico, Bank of America, the Houston Endowment, the Institute of Hispanic Culture of Houston, and the City of Houston’s Houston Arts Alliance.

The more descriptive titles for the book’s four sections are:

  • Recovering Memory
  • Culture and Ideology
  • Autobiography, Testimony and Resistance Writings
  • Femininity and Identity

The book, the editors say, is intended to be “an important tool for scholars of literature written in Spanish within the United States, particularly in terms of its contribution to studies about themes related to the Mexican Revolution, as well as the Hispanic voice, national identity, and culture.”

Many relevant issues are explored within the book’s four main sections. Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage, Vol. IX and its 12 contributors offer significant insights into the contributions of Latino writers within the United States, in time periods ranging from the Spanish Colonial era to the 21st century.

Si Dunn



It’s All in the Genes! Really? – A view from the turbulent interfaces of science, religion, creation, evolution, faith and reason – #bookreview

It’s All in the Genes! Really?

Dr. Gerard M. Verschuuren

(CreateSpace paperback, Kindle)


Dr. Gerard M. Verschuuren is a human geneticist who also holds a doctorate in the philosophy of science. Now semi-retired, he focuses on speaking and writing and has gained a following for his thoughtful views and opinions regarding “the interface of science and religion, creation and evolution, faith and reason.”

In his latest book, Dr. Verschuuren passionately argues that “DNA is not all there is” to human life. “If  human beings were really nothing more than DNA,” he writes, “then it must have been the DNA of two scientists–the ones who discovered DNA, Watson and Crick–that discovered DNA. Think about that statement for a moment–DNA being discovered by DNA. If Watson and Crick were really nothing but DNA, then Watson’s and Crick’s DNA must have discovered itself. That would be real magic. That would be like the magic of a projector projecting itself or a copy machine copying itself.”

On that latter point, perhaps we are not all that far now from 3D printers being able to print copies of themselves. Nonetheless, Dr. Verschuuren makes some excellent arguments on behalf of numerous questions that we humans have pondered and debated for perhaps most of the existence of our species. For example, where does morality come from? Where do religion and rationality come from? And what are the roots and limits of human “free will”?

This well-written book provides an overview of recent genetic research and why there is a certain amount of truth to “It’s all in the genes.” Dr. Verschuuren, however, also makes compelling cases, on several fronts, for why he now believes “there is more than genes in life.”

Si Dunn

(Note: One quick improvement could be made to this book. The rear cover text in the review copy I received has several unneeded hyphenations that should be fixed at the CreateSpace publishing site. People do judge books by their cover, including the rear cover text.) 


Heist and High – A true tale of prescription drug addiction, crime, prison, and a second chance at life – #bookreview

Heist and High

Anthony Curcio and Dane Batty

(Nish Publishing – paperback, Kindle)

This is both an engrossing true story and an important cautionary tale about what can happen when someone becomes addicted to prescription painkillers.

Anthony Curcio was an outstanding high-school athlete and promising college football player who quickly became addicted to Vicodin after suffering a relatively minor sports injury.

Heist and High clearly and graphically recounts his painful descent, starting with lying about his need for refills and then stealing prescription painkiller medications from family and friends. Soon, he was both working and stealing to support a $15,000-a-month drug habit. But even that wasn’t enough. He meticulously planned and then carried out the robbery of  a Brink’s armored car, taking about $400,000 in a heist that made national headlines.

The well-written book also explores how Curcio almost completely destroyed his family while he abused other drugs as well as painkillers and then ended up in federal prison, enduring hell-on-earth confinements for five years. Finally, it shows how Curcio began to turn his life around and strive to reconnect with the people on the outside who still loved him despite his crimes.

Published near the time of his release in 2013, Heist and High ends up as a story of hope, but one that no doubt also will be tested, likely for many years to come, by Curcio’s actions and his continued commitments to family, friends and others around him.

“My addiction was so ruthless,” he writes. “It robbed me of all my morals, all my integrity and really everything that made me human. It nearly robbed me of my entire life.”

Si Dunn




Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field – How two physicists literally changed the world – #bookreview


Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field

How Two Men Revolutionized Physics

Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon

(Prometheus Books – Kindle, Hardcover)


Almost everything we value and use in our modern lives can be linked to the discovery of the electromagnetic field. Electricity, the Internet, television, radio, cable, wi-fi, cellphones, computers–all of these and much, much more have evolved from the collaborative discoveries of two 19th-century British scientists, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell.

“Faraday and Maxwell’s field was intangible and space was not just an empty geometrical container for bodies with mass, but a coherent interconnected system bearing the energy of motion,” the authors, veteran science writers Nancy Forbes and Basil Mahon, point out. “It was the seat of action, rather than just an empty backdrop for Newton’s point particles being propelled by straight-line forces. These were ultraradical concepts for nineteenth-century minds trained to think only of things that could be touched and measured.”

In this well-written and nicely researched narrative, Forbes and Mahon skillfully and clearly interweave biographical details and each man’s scientific achievements, while also detailing how they worked together. The authors likewise highlight some key contributions of others who drew from, and helped advance, the discoveries of Faraday and Maxwell,  including Heinrich Hertz, Oliver Heaviside, Nikola Tesla, Oliver Lodge, and Guglielmo Marconi.

Faraday and Maxwell changed the world by using only simple tools and the combined power of  imagination, reasoning, and mathematics. For any reader who cares about modern scientific research and hopes to engage in, or support, discovery, this book can be both a revelation and an important inspiration.

Si Dunn


Get the book here: Kindle, Hardcover