I specialize in reviewing Print-On-Demand (POD) published books for my website and Midwest Book Review. Please query for a review by email to hgunther234@hotmail.com.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

IRON MAIDEN by James R. Musgrave

Contemporary Instructional Concepts
6784 Caminito del Greco
San Diego, CA 92120

Genre: Fiction/History
Rating: Very Good
ISBN: 0977650359, $28.00, 355 pp.

Iron Maiden is an eclectic collection of historical and literary subjects strangely woven together to create a unique novel–maritime activities during the Civil War; inventor John Ericsson’s battleship–the Monitor; readings from and references to Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Moby Dick and The Bounty; John Wilkes Booth’s attempted assassination of Ericsson; three romances; slavery; anthropological research about the South Pacific islands, Easter Island; and Plato’s Republic. Quite a feat–tying it all together!

There’s adventure, romance, intrigue, deception, betrayal and power struggles throughout. John Ericsson tricks the U.S. Government into buying more of his Monitor-class ships for money to escape the war with seven others to create his own version of Plato’s Republic on Easter Island. To find out whether or not John succeeded, you’ll have to read the book.

I generally like to include a sample of the author’s writing to give you an idea of his style and for this I have chosen an excerpt from John Ericsson’s Journal, pages 255-256:

"My grand experiment is going smoothly, even though the addition of Sinclair and his wife has caused me to change some of my plans. I have had time to reflect and to read, and it has been Plato who has been my ultimate salvation. His Republic has given me the inspiration to design my plan so that it will serve us well in our new environs. Combined with my exploration into the characters of my passengers, this philosophical treatise will become the bedrock upon which we will build our community on Easter Island.

"First, off, Plato’s understanding of the human soul has been of great assistance to me in my own designs for the future. He believed that each of us could be categorized according to our class and according to our interest and virtues. And, beneath our surface life, there is the motivation of the soul. . . .

"I note, with pleasure, that I can place each of my new citizens into one of these three categories. For example, Sinclair and Greene are perfect candidates for the Warrior Class. They have the spirit and courage that is demanded of these ‘Guardians of the Republic,’ as Plato calls them. I know that Green has been aspiring toward something he believes is knowledge, but the Transcendentalists are not true philosophers. Emerson never lived in Nature, about which he preaches so profoundly. And Greene has been truly fooled by the chimera of unity. It will not take me long to put him back into the class upon which his soul is truly based, the warrior of spirit and courage! As for Sinclair, he is the epitome of Platonic spirit. He even saw the South as men who were fighting for honor, and thus he became a compatriot for their cause. Sinclair will be easily swayed by the manipulations I will use on him.

"The Commoner Class shall, of course, be the natives on the island, as well as Mister Charles McCord, the Catholic. Even though McCord fools himself onboard ship, once he gets out into this pleasure-seeking wilderness, he will become his old self again. We will work on his temperance." Ah, and how power corrupts!

So now that you know a little about the book and the author’s writing style, let me tell you something about the Jim Musgrave, and I quote from the back cover:

"Following reading experiences such as Camus’ The Stranger . . ., James Musgrave began his own odyssey to become a published author of ‘radstream’ (radical as opposed to mainstream) prose. His nonfiction title, The Digital Scribe: A Writer’s Guide to Electronic Media (1996), was his attempt to teach techies how to write with their entire brains, and his three novels soon followed in an attempt to teach humans how to read with their brains damaged by American ‘bestsellers.’ . . . He presently teaches collegiate humans in San Diego how to think (and hopefully write) with their brains damaged by the American K-12 system. His motto: Carpe nocto!" (Latin for: Seize the night!)

It’s not a bad read and you just might learn something, one way or another.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 29, 2006


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