No Turning Back, Joanne Lees

930696.jpgI wasn’t sure about this book.

I picked it up when I bought two others about the disappearance of Peter Falconio, but had second thoughts and put it back on the shelf.

Two weeks later and it was still there, so I decided to buy it.
I’m glad I did.

To others Falconio’s presumed murder, and the attempted abduction of Joanne Lees were merely a story to be told or a case to be solved.
To Joanne Lees it was personal experience. It was her life as she would never wish it to be.

This book gives a totally different perspective on the events surrounding Falconio’s disappearance, and what Lees experienced afterwards as she had to cope with the probable murder of her boyfriend, as well as the threat she faced from the assailant.
She then struggled to cope with media attention and the unhelpfulness of police, who seemed to have no idea of what to do with her, and apart from one or two exceptions, gave her no support as a victim.

She was also shocked to find herself under suspicion, openly in the press but more discreetly by some of the police.

I’ve read a lot of negative things about this book, but after reading it for myself I can say that the negative reaction is completely unfounded. I have to wonder what motivated those hostile reviews.

Lees’ account is a simple, unembellished telling of her experiences, from the early days of her travels with Falconio, through to the result of the court case where Bradley Murdoch was found guilty of Falconio’s murder.

Others have expressed doubts about Murdoch’s guilt, but Lees is certain that he was the one who killed her boyfriend and from whom she was able to escape beside a Northern Territory highway at night. I suppose only Murdoch can know for sure whether her memory and certainty are valid.

Steven

Song 24 of my “31 Songs”.

From the Welcome to My Nightmare album.

I often listened to this in my university days while I was writing stories for my creative writing course.

I heard this song again after seeing the Alice Cooper interview I posted about a week ago.

 

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Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Green MarsThis is science fiction with the emphasis on the “science”.

Robinson is either a polymath, able to weave countless obscure, genuine scientific concepts into his work, or he’s incredibly inventive, able to create plausible (though fictional) ideas into the narrative of his books.

Or maybe there’s a combination of the two at work.

For me his science (actual or imagined) tends to get in the way of story-flow. To others with a harder scientific leaning that is probably not a problem, but even though I have an aptitude for science (albeit not exercised for a while), as I read the book I long for more story and fewer scientific labels and references.

Apart from having familiarity with the many geological and botanical references used, it may be helpful to read the book with an atlas of Mars at hand. But then, I’d have to ask which places are genuine and which are fictional before trying to follow journeys along invented landmarks.

As I write this I’m about a quarter of the way through and on my second stint of reading it after already taking a few week’s break from the book. I’m being tempted to put it down again, but want to persevere for as long as I can. Hopefully I can finish it before the end of the year, but I suspect I’ll be turning to another book or two before I get there.

Along with the science, Robinson dives deeply into the likely politics of an earth suffering the stress of increasing population and decreasing resources, and a Mars with the potential to ease both. But who should make the decisions, who should be in control?
The nations who initiated the exploration and colonisation?
Or the commercial entities who have become more powerful and wealthy than nation states?
And what about the settlers, and subsequent generations of Mars residents, whose links with earth grow increasingly distant?

With this series (this is the second volume) Robinson demonstrated significant optimism in his timetable for the visiting and colonising of Mars. That optimism continues in the degree and speed of technological advancement portrayed in the books. To me the series’ main failing is giving its events dates, such as first man on Mars in 2020, and the beginning of colonisation in 2026.
The series could have been made more plausible by avoiding an out-dateable timeline.

Alongside this fictional account of man’s exploration and exploitation of Mars, I’ve been listening to NASA podcasts about the work being done in their space program with the intention of a crewed mission to the red planet. One of those podcasts in particular highlights the extreme difficulty of going to Mars, (Mars is hard, here’s why) that further emphasises the optimism of the author’s timetable.

mars

God, Drugs and Rock & Roll

During my years at university studying creative writing (early 1990s), I often listened to Alice Cooper as I wrote my short stories.

Here is a side of Cooper not often recognised.
His faith. His experiences in the music industry. His celebrity friendships. Golf.

And more…

Apollo Pilot

The Memoir of Astronaut Donn Eisele

apollo pilot

Apollo 7 was the first time I became aware of the American space program. I was 10 years old, and if I recall correctly, my primary school class at the time had a student teacher from Canada, and he made it a topic of interest.

I don’t recall ever knowing about previous NASA space ventures.

Apollo 7  was the first manned mission after the fire that killed the Apollo 1 crew. Another tragic mishap would likely have put an end to American ambitions to reach the moon, or at least set them back sufficiently to let the USSR get there first.

Apollo Pilot tells the inside story of the Apollo 7 mission from the perspective of one of the crew. Donn Eisele’s account is candid, judgemental of his peers and their employers, and at times brutally graphic – like when he describes having to listen to recordings of his deceased colleagues’ death screams when investigating the Apollo 1 fire. As well as his description of having to inspect the burnt out capsule.

Apollo VII

Mission patch

Eisele briefly describes the journey that led to his acceptance as an astronaut. He also details the rigorous selection regime of interviews and health checks that helped to weed out those not physically or temperamentally suitable.

Some of the most interesting and evocative parts of the book are the details he gives of the Apollo 7 mission, from launch through to splashdown; and how it was for three men to live in such close proximity in very restrictive conditions.

There is the sense of wonder at seeing things so few had seen to that point, and the challenges faced in the tasks they needed to carry out in an extended stay in space. An important aspect of the mission was to replicate the time required for future missions to travel to the moon and back, as well as simulating some of the maneuvers those missions may need to carry out.

It’s only a short book, around 180 something pages, but Eisele seems to fit in a lot of experience within those pages. Sadly he died quite young, and maybe if he’d had the time he would have written more. However the last two chapters, one written by his wife Susan Eisele Black , help to fill in a little of what he missed.

The astronaut lifestyle became one of parties and womanising, conducted in private rooms to avoid attention from the press; while their wives were back home in Houston caring for families. While some saw their extra-marital activities as casual affairs, some maintained long-term relationships.

While he doesn’t name those involved, his (2nd) wife’s chapter of the book makes it clear that he was one of the latter kind. His first marriage ended soon after the Apollo 7 mission. He was the first astronaut to divorce, and he married Susan, the woman he’d been seeing during his frequent trips away from home. The divorce seemed to put an and to his career as an astronaut, even though many others later followed the same path without the same kind of recriminations.

 

Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus (2)

Onesimus Files

fleeing finding.jpgIn my previous post about this book I mentioned my initial disappointment when it didn’t seem to fulfill my expectations regarding testimonies of Muslims coming to faith in Jesus.

Then I recognised that “finding Jesus” wasn’t only applicable to new converts fleeing their old religious affiliation, but it also applied to professing followers of Jesus who would find a deeper relationship with Him when they faced unimaginable adversity.

My initial expectation was eventually fulfilled, but the hoped for evidence of Muslims finding the truth of Christ was often closely related to existing believers finding that deeper faith, as the security of their past was stripped away.

“For me as a believer, life is even better now than it was before ISIS. There are new opportunities and open doors to speak out loud about Jesus, to talk about Islam. A lot of Muslims are questioning who is God, and you only need to look…

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Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus

fleeing finding.jpgThis book wasn’t exactly what I expected.
I thought it would be about Muslims who fled from ISIS controlled areas, and in the process of fleeing to safety, found faith in Jesus.

That in escaping extremist Islam, their experiences not only made them question their own Islamic faith, but through that experience they came to know the love of God through Christ.

At first I thought the title was misleading because it didn’t fulfil that expectation. However, about halfway through I recognised the title had a different kind of application. That recognition came when reading the story of a man, an Iraqi Christian from a Christian community. He tells of experiencing a change:

“…it was as if someone took away all my sadness and gave me another light shining on me. I started a new relationship with Jesus, and I felt like a new man, a new person. I found my hope in Christ. I began to see that in some ways I lost everything when ISIS came to Qaraqosh, but really I found Jesus.”

A related, significant reality I found expressed in this book, is the gaping disconnect between the lives Christians in the west, and those of believers elsewhere.

The man mentioned above didn’t have anything like the prosperity that the west takes for granted, but when he lost what he had, he found something much more valuable; something he thought he already had –  and then with the loss of everything else he recognised a sufficiency and wealth only available through closeness to Christ that he’d not experienced before.

There is a vital lesson to be learned by Christians in the west. A lesson that will challenge the seeming obsession with maintaining and protecting a perceived quality of life that is often attributed to God’s blessing. The price of protecting those “blessings” is often a denial of help to people in need, a failure to share those “blessings”.

The author writes of the generosity of the nation of Jordan, who welcomed so many refugees from neighbouring Syria and Iraq, that refugees now made up one in four of the population.

“If that were the United States, it would be like half of Mexico and all of Canada moving in”

Is it necessary to say anything else to address the difference in attitude displayed by western nations with an alleged strong Christian foundation?

The author continues, describing the hardships that have been created,

“…the influx of people looking for cheap accommodations had caused both rents and the prices of staple goods to rise sharply, making life even harder for Jordan’s population. And yet still they open their doors and invite refugees in.”

On questioning a local about the inconvenience of this, he received the reply “What else can we do? Wouldn’t you do the same?”

Sadly most in the west clearly wouldn’t. And neither would many western “Christians”.

I wonder what it will take for THEM to find Jesus.