Review of Fire Watch by Connie Willis

18586183Wow. What an excellent story. Written in diary form, this tale is of a student historian who travels from his time (somewhen in the 21st century, I believe) to 1940s London, St Paul’s specifically, during the Blitz. The task seems to be pretty much to survive for three months until he is recalled to return to the future.

What I really appreciated about this story is its message. What a contrast to ‘Vintage Season’, which had people from the future travelling to the ‘present’ for entertainment and pure, disinterested observation. Even going so far as to pretty much demean and negate the concerns of the locals. Here we have someone from the future who really cares about the people around him, about the integrity of St Paul’s. He befriends people, buries a cat, and gets really mad with his professor when he returns to the future and gets quizzed on a string of facts.

By travelling to the past he learns that history isn’t just about facts and figures, but real lives. Lives and issues that mattered back then. Something we all, living today, could do well to remember. The past is always more complex than just facts and figures. The past is the people, and the people lived in their time with their own perspectives on life. It behoves us to remember that when we view the past, that we cannot place OUR perspectives on life onto those who lived in the past.

5/5 rating

My fellow time travelling readers are:

Timothy C. Ward (on hiatus)
H.M. Jones
DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

Review of The Final Days by David Langford

18586183This short story really got me asking the question “What’s going to happen next?” And I cannot say that I ended it with much sense other than one of foreboding.

If you’ve ever met someone with a very, very big ego, Harman has got to be he. HE. My goodness me. The short story basically covers a televised debate in the run-up to presidential elections, a debate that is somewhat one-sided thanks to a device that can apparently tell how many “Watchers” (their nature isn’t precisely illustrated, possibly Harman himself doesn’t know, but they appear to be some kind of “out of time” entity that watch significant events) are observing a particular person. And Harman is currently garnering all the attention.

I couldn’t convince myself that things would turn out well for Harman. The impression I got was that his policies were more likely to be bulldozer-like in their implementation, and that they were not going to be favourable for the general population. I wonder what gave me that impression…

Harman, as the main character, was definitely not sympathetic. I mentioned a big ego up top, and I meant it. And last time I checked, huge pride tends to come before huge fall….

I am dubious about this story’s addition into the “ultimate treasury of time travel stories”. There isn’t really any indication that the device that counts “Watchers” is something that enables almost “television viewing” for people from another time, or even dimension. I think the time travel connection here is very flimsy.

4/5 rating

My fellow time travelling readers are:

Timothy C. Ward (on hiatus)
Alesha Escobar
H.M. Jones
DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

Rights? What Rights?

WARNING: this is a long read.

A friend messaged me this morning to show me a quote. She sounded dubious about it. So I read it. And sure enough, alarm bells started ringing. So. What’s my issue?

RIGHTS.

Yep, you got it. Rights. Human rights, legal rights, claim rights, whatever right there is, I have a problem with it. First up, let’s consider a dictionary definition of the concept of rights.

Noun. a just claim or title, whether legal, prescriptive, or moral. (dictionary.com)

So, to put it simply and effectively, a “right” is something that someone is entitled to. Probably the simplest rights are encompassed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and can be summarised baldly (taken from My favourite source, Wikipedia*) as:

  • Right to life
  • Freedom from torture
  • Freedom from slavery
  • Right to a fair trial
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
  • Freedom of movement (within country where citizenship is held)

Now, mind, I’m not saying that these rights are bad and should be done away with. God forbid! Many people on Earth do benefit from them, and we who benefit should each be mindful of them, and thankful for them. That said, however, I do not believe this world owes me ANYTHING. Not even that these rights be upheld. Ok. Perhaps one of these listed – the right to life, for reasons which I’ll explain – but as for the rest? <shrug>

Why do I say that?

Because I am a Christian, and because I have read the Bible**. Why is this important? Well. First up, God didn’t provide humanity with a “charter of human rights” (or any other rights, as such) within the pages of the Bible. We received the Ten Commandments, all of which can be summarised by Jesus’ declaration:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40 NIV

With regards to the declared rights as listed above, only one can really be seen running through the words of the Bible, namely, the right to life. God makes it clear, in quite unequivocal terms, that murder (as opposed to kill) is not acceptable (CS Lewis famously draws a distinction between kill and murder – with murder being the operative verb in the original biblical texts when it comes to what has been generally translated as ‘Thou shalt not kill’ – in Mere Christianity). Even animals that take a human life are accountable to God for that life taken (Genesis 9:5).

There is one other right that is not explicitly stated in the Bible, but it is as implicit as the blood of Christ is woven into every book: the right of freedom. Now, while I’m sure you’re wanting me to refer back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and uphold all the ‘freedom’ rights listed there, I’m not going to. Because the freedom I’m referring to is a completely different freedom: the freedom to CHOOSE.

Choose what?

Choose God – or not, as the case may be.

It’s as simple as that. This is, I believe, the one and only inalienable right we have. It is not explicitly stated in the Bible, but it’s implied. Right from the first verses of Genesis, God offers a choice: to walk in communion with Him every day of our lives, or to choose our own way, leaving him out in the proverbial cold. Unfortunately for the vast majority of human beings who have ever lived, someone (usually claimed to be Adam (or Eve, if you’re going to get picky!)) chose their own way, and we’ve all been dealing with the consequences of that choice ever since. However, through God’s grace and providence, the choice is STILL open and available to every single one of us.

Ok. So with that all as my established view on the concept of rights, what bee got stuck in my bonnet this morning? Well. Here’s the quote that my friend sent me:

While I do believe in “personal” prophecy – that is, a word individuals receive that is directly for their lives and circumstances – private prophecy is a distasteful practice. My American friends call it “parking lot prophecy”, and it occurs outside the constraint of meetings or accountability. It lacks integrity and submission to leadership. We must earn the right to minister into people’s lives. If we are living in a godly fashion and are seeking to behave responsibly, we have nothing to fear from accountability.

(from Approaching The Heart Of Prophecy by Graham Cooke)

It all sounds good, right? But if you’ve been listening (reading/taking in…) this far, I think you may have picked out the single sentence I’ve got a problem with. Well. I guess I have issues with the whole paragraph, but only one sentence was the bee: “We must earn the right to minister into people’s lives.”

Excuse me!!!? What on Earth right is that!? I have never, ever heard of such a right, and quite frankly, it does NOT exist. Firstly, we earn NUFFINK, ZIP, ZERO, NADA around here. God GRANTS, we do NOT earn! And what makes someone think they can ever have such a right? Such an opportunity is a privilege from God, certainly NOT a right, and to expect to minister into someone’s life is to have completely the wrong perspective on the entire matter.

Christians: don’t think this is a right you can earn, or even a right that exists.

Non-Christians: if a Christian approaches you claiming to have such a right, RUN, for the love of God (or not, as the case may be…)!

To be honest, I’d rather NOT know when I have ministered into someone’s life, because that removes entirely the thought “I said/did that!” from the equation, which can all too often lead to pride. I would far rather God get ALL the glory, as is RIGHTLY DUE HIM.


 

* Yes yes, I know that academically*** Wikipedia is the worse kid on the block when it comes to reference material, but to be honest, it’s one of the more easily available resources and for the most part does give good information.

** To clarify, by “Bible” I mean the Bible that is generally accepted by the vast majority of Christians, descended from the King James Version, including, but not exclusively, the Good News Bible, the NIV and other generally accepted versions amongst Christendom today. I personally tend to read the NIV, but I’m known to access other versions and translations from time to time.

*** I am not writing this as an academic thesis. If I were, I’d be trying harder to source my quotes!