Witches of Lychford

Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford starts out weakly, with what felt like a complex fictional world only superficial developed and told in a rather pedestrian way. I had to go back and check to be sure this wasn’t intended to be a YA novel. But, it develops some fun. It’s kind of like an episode of Buffy, but without the effervescent dialog. The overall story is about a small town facing a big box retailer’s attempt to move in, but this happens in a town with both a paranormal history and a band of nascent defenders, further the big box campaign turns out to be orchestrated by the Big Bad. The titular witches, although not explicitly itemized, interestingly to me, includes a witch, a skeptical new age shop owner, and a new vicar. There’s some interesting themes about finding various faiths in the face of catastrophe and evil. Half way through I wouldn’t have been interested in the sequel, but in the end I enjoyed this enough to be curious. All in all, Witches of Lychford is not as engrossing or developed or thoughtful as Heuvelt’s HEX by lateral comparison, but it was a good enough for a bit of quick escapism.

Paul Cornell Witches of Lychford

I made 28 highlights.

Theoretical Animals

I picked up Gary J Shipley’s Theoretical Animals because a quote from something else Shipley wrote related to Cyclonopedia Studies came up in a conversation so I wanted to check out a full work by him. I got this one because it was an inexpensive short ebook. This turns out to be literary performance art; it has merits but also isn’t for everyone. In editing something, I suppose, there’s a choice whether to fine tune and sharpen the story into a concise narrative or to go the other way and obfuscate and bloat the shit out of it. Don’t get me wrong, both have merits; but Shipley picked and stayed his particular course for this one. For this story, with interesting reflections for me of Farmer’s Riverworld in that there’s a kind of artificial stream of humanity stuck in a mysterious situation, Shipley went for obfuscation. There was lots of interesting turns of phrase, though the vocabulary was not dense; but the story, for me, got lost in a generally unsuccessful experimental outcome. On the other hand, this may be of timely interest to those watching the remake of Westworld, as it has a certain trippy theme of who’s a real human among those stuck in an artificial world … but with more cannibalism and bodies floating in the waters of this Lethean hellscape.

Gary J Shipley Theoretical Animals

I made 89 highlights.

The Assassin’s Road

I’d actually read Kazuo Koike’s and Goseki Kojima’s The Assassin’s Road, volume 1 of Lone Wolf and Cub, with a cover by Frank Miller, back in the late 80’s. I had a friend that introduced me to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, and ended up checking this out as well, probably due to the cover; but I’d also actually already seen one of the Lone Wolf and Cub movies years before.

I was trying to think of a good way to describe the main character in Kazuo Koike’s Lone Wolf and Cub series, and of course it’s pretty obvious to me that there’s a reflection of Dark Knight here, which probably explains the attraction for Frank Miller and perhaps some influence as well. The main character is an über-mench who outsmarts, out-fights, and out-darks everyone he comes to face; and he’s got hidden tricky gadgets. Cub is even a parentless side-kick who sometimes helps out in a minimal and comedic way.

But, either way, whether there’s an overall similarity for you as there is for me, the specifics are the story. The main character is an anti-hero. He doesn’t really start that way, but it sure turns out that way as this volume progresses. He’s a mary-sue of appearing to be an anonymous underdog but turning out to have been a better prepared and better skilled veiled personage than anyone that mistakes his reserve and self-control for weakness instead of cold and tempered steel revenge. He’ll fuck you up, son. He’ll also let you die if you’re a complication or not worth his notice, so that sucks for you. He’s a right shit at only putting effort into getting to his goal, and you’re in the way today which means it’s your time to die. He’ll stand by while that happens because you’re not important to his story. You got what you deserved, apparently, for being meaningless in his scheme of things.

I don’t know if the language in the original Japanese was compelling, but it’s pretty minimal and not a reason to pick this series up. The story is good, the art is better, but the dialog is underwhelming in translation. The dialog services the story and plot, but that’s about all. It’s not literature, at least, not in English as it appears here.

The art is surprisingly minimal and folksy, but really does something amazing about providing details of environment and expressions; simplicity that provides complexity. There’s plenty of those peculiar moments of non-action action that I love much in other Japanese art and anime, and seems only to be found delivered with confidence there.

All in all, a worthy reputation was earned by this work of art, and I find myself with renewed interest in the following volumes, which I didn’t ever read, as well as not only my beloved Kurosawa movies, but also interest in even re-approaching things like Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, which I also read one volume of and then lost interest, I know not why.

Where is this Eight Gates of Deceit? Looks like a ritual! I want to go to there. Someone needs to write this ritual so I can go to it.

Koike Lone Wolf and Cub 1 Eight Gates of Deceit

Hey, I wonder if O-nibawan (meaning Spy, or “government-employed undercover agents established by the 8th Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune (1684–1751). They are sometimes described as ‘ninja’.”) is where Obi-wan Kenobi’s name comes from?

Koike Lone Wolf and Cub 1 O-niwaban

Koike Lone Wolf and Cub 1

Her Scales Shine Like Music

Pleasant language pleasantly written, with a few pleasant word surprises, and an interesting future world built quickly in Her Scales Shine Like Music, a short by Rajnar Vajra, was worth reading, though the very end left me slightly underwhelmed as it didn’t feel quite right to me. Seemed to me that the very end would have been more interesting and thought provoking and possibly poignant if ………(spoiler: hover over to reveal)……………….. so as to leave me feeling and wondering more than it did.

Rajnar Vajra Her Scales Shine Like Music

I made 4 highlights and noted 2 errors.

The Sons of Osiris

The idea behind this little ebook-only release is pretty awesome. This little ebook-only release is a fucking embarrassment. This ebook is part of a series Weiser Books put out a few years ago that was a combination of re-packaged, but notable and not readily available, public domain material selected by Lon Milo DuQuette and several Freemasonic side-degrees selected from a private collection, each with a little intro essay by DuQuette. But, it is completely plain that whomever was responsible for producing these at Weiser Books didn’t even bother to so much as glance at the text between simply running source pages through an OCR and quickly pasting the unchecked output into the template for the series.

I picked up several of these, mentioned them on the library blog when they came out, but I have not read any of them after slogging my way through a couple that revealed the trouble was endemic to the series, not just one book in it. I only made three highlights in The Sons of Osiris: A Side Degree. Two were errors that made me laugh aloud, and the third was a particular point in DuQuette’s introductory essay that is of note. This specific book isn’t unreadable, but it is so riddled with enough errors that it hurts to read.

First off, they didn’t even fill in the placeholder text on the copyright page. I mean: they didn’t minimally put in even that much effort.

Originally published as (or excerpted from) [insert original author, title, publisher, and year]

In the introduction, which I presume was not written for this book specifically, and vaguely recall appears as the introduction in another side-degree issue in this series, Lon writes:

What is of primary importance is that the master key to the initiatory method itself becomes a permanently installed fixture in the individual. Once we have learned the process of becoming something greater than we are, we can and eventually will, apply that same alchemy to ourselves to achieve the supreme attainment.

Now this has to be a curious statement that has stuck with me and percolated. The suggestion here seems that it isn’t the Mysteries, the specific content of an initiation, that matters so much as the experience of mystery and the internalizing the overall initiatory process as a lesson. It’s not the content, but the experience of the structure; and internalizing that meta-level of initiation. Lon said something in one of his in-person classes that struck me similarly as an odd thing when, I don’t have my notes at hand at the moment to be more clear or to phrase this how he said it, he suggested that learning the Kabbalah was about getting the ego self out of the way with busy work so it didn’t get in the way of the Work. That and this seem to me to be similar. Isn’t it odd in ostensibly extolling Kabbalah in a class about Kabbalah, Lon says learning Kabbalah isn’t about Kabbalah per se and in talking about initiation Lon says initiation isn’t about the initiation or the particular symbol and meaning system internal to the initiation per se; rather, both are about the meta-level effect of either giving the self busy work so it doesn’t get in the way or of having the experience of the initiatory method which one can internalize. The latter reminds me of something I’ve been known to say about the initiation experience being a way to become comfortable with the uncomfortable experience of not knowing, meaning that there’s a meta-level benefit to the experience (which, I’ve suggested, one wouldn’t get from just a reading of the script or, moreover, ever get from the experience if one read the script beforehand); but, there’s more to this that that. If I ever do an interview for the library with Lon, this will be something I’d love to discuss with him. But, it’s something, if even the only, I’ve felt was a great takeaway from this book and I’ve had in my thoughts ever since.

Then, buried under the bulk of not-at-all amusing textual and formatting errors, I still laugh when I think about Zeus and his “frank incense”.

ZEUS.—“Now spray him with the frank incense of the gods.”

I see and hear Laurence Olivier in full Clash of the Titans costume booming this line out and it just totally cracks me up. Another thing that I imagine from this is some awesome Rocky Horror style audience participation in these side degrees. There’s a little voice in the audience of my imagination that calls back “Don’t laugh!” or “Don’t call me Frank, Shirley!” or something each time I recall this mistake in the text.

Weiser Books hasn’t even corrected a mistake in the Amazon detail text, and this ebook was released in 2012. It’s been like that for years. Obviously, no one has looked at this either, so, you know, par for the course.

Lon Milo DuQuette Sons of Osiris Amazon detail

Apparently no one gives enough of a crap to fix even that, flapping in the wind for all who might otherwise be tempted into purchasing the book to see, let alone to have done it well in the first place. Furthermore as far as I can tell there’s never been an update to the text of the book itself either. A quick glance at the current “Look Inside!” for this book displays this exact same error I highlighted still on the first pages. I can’t bring myself to look further lest I relive the horror because, it turns out by page one of the preview text, it’s even worse than I remember. They didn’t even fill in the copyright year placeholder for their own cover!

Lon Milo DuQuette Sons of Osiris look inside

This is just an awful disappointment, and as much as the source material could be of fun for people to read; there is no way I can recommend this book to anyone. And, unfortunately, this is not the only book I read in the series with egregious errors. There’s another book in the series with many more errors than this one. I’m embarrassed for Weiser Books and embarrassed for Lon Milo DuQuette as his name is attached to this series.

Wish I had access to the source material, in the private collection from which this was curated, so I could put it up on the library because I’d actually proofread it. These side degree rituals are actually of interest both in and of themselves but also something that local bodies of Whatever∴ Whatever∴ & The Other Thing∴ could put on for fun and enjoyment in a local body or something.

But, no. Don’t bother with this edition unless you’ve a strong stomach for dealing with extremely distracting copyediting errors.

Lon Milo DuQuette Sons of Osiris

I made only 3 highlights, all mentioned above, and submitted 60 corrections.

Lost Horizon

I’ve seen the Lost Horizon movies, both 1937 and 1973 versions at least a couple times, but for some reason I’d not picked up James Hilton’s actual 1933 novel. I was very pleasantly surprised.

Of course, this is a classic that introduces mysterious Shangri-La. The book’s framing story sets up the sense of verisimilitude for the narrative in a fun way, provides an instant sense of discovering something through the obscuring mists of memory. The framing story also gives a good sense of longing for what was lost and the sense that the quest is ongoing for everyone, to some degree, no matter how lightly touched by the experience. I felt there was an noir quality to it. There’s essentially a detective story here that unravels a mystery but I was surprised how amusing I found the dialog in places.

I was a bit uncomfortable with the main protagonist and another plot element fulfilling the white saviour trope twice. And there’s an under-developed escape from sexism in the coda that feels like a bit of a let down to me. I mean, it’s a solid story per se, but I guess I feel it doesn’t really rise above the time it was written in some particular aspects. In others, such as the voice and tone of narration and dialog, I felt surprised by how modern it felt to me in spite of being written over 80 years ago.

The philosophical underpinning of Shangri-La should be amusing to those familiar with other quasi-religious abbeys, and while it doesn’t dive into “Fais ce que veulx” territory, there’s another different sense here of interest to those, like me, who ever wondered on which word the emphasis falls in the phrase “all things in moderation”.

“If I were to put it into a very few words, my dear sir, I should say that our prevalent belief is in moderation. We inculcate the virtue of avoiding excess of all lands—even including, if you will pardon the paradox, excess of virtue itself. In the valley which you have seen, and in which there are several thousand inhabitants living under the control of our order, we have found that the principle makes for a considerable degree of happiness. We rule with moderate strictness, and in return we are satisfied with moderate obedience. And I think I can claim that our people are moderately sober, moderately chaste, and moderately honest.”

and

“I can only add that our community has various faiths and usages, but we are most of us moderately heretical about them.”

Lost Horizon is a good casual read, but becomes a welcome addition to the list of remote mountain / travel spirituals with Franz Hartmann’s earlier (both in terms of being written in 1910 and in having been read by me just recently) With The Adepts, perhaps John Uri Lloyd’s 1897 Etidorhpa and, no doubt, plenty others that come to mind, more or less contemporary, such as René Daumal’s unfinished 1959 Mount Analogue and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 The Holy Mountain.

James Hilton Lost Horizon

I found a lot of interest here as I made 152 highlights.

Nightmare Abbey

As I read Thomas Love Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey, published in 1818, I kept seeing this story in my mind’s eye as a darker Dahl, Tim Burton stop action, Fallen London thingy. It felt like one of those modern period pieces. Surprisingly modern to the point of seeming anachronistic to the setting and the period in which it was actually written.

I quite enjoyed the story for itself but also I went a bit highlight crazy on this one because of all the fun thoughts Peacock had about his Romantic friends and milieu, especially Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley & al.

There’s a wonderful sense of bedroom farce absurdity here with the comedy of slamming doors in the face of attempts by the main characters to hook up in some combination, though amusingly the idea of a plural arrangement as a solution to the conundrum is actually contemplated, though dismissed. The whole is only more delicious in that it hides a glimpse of how contemporary society, and Peacock, saw the Shelleys.

I enjoyed the author having a fun poke at friends, society and culture around him. And, there are plenty of amusing little digs at the aspirational political science of the age, which at that time was quite heavily flavoured with active and contemporary Illuminati and Rosicrucian groups.

“He began to devour romances and German tragedies, and, by the recommendation of Mr Flosky, to pore over ponderous tomes of transcendental philosophy, which reconciled him to the labour of studying them by their mystical jargon and necromantic imagery. In the congenial solitude of Nightmare Abbey, the distempered ideas of metaphysical romance and romantic metaphysics had ample time and space to germinate into a fertile crop of chimeras, which rapidly shot up into vigorous and abundant vegetation.

He now became troubled with the passion for reforming the world. He built many castles in the air, and peopled them with secret tribunals, and bands of illuminati, who were always the imaginary instruments of his projected regeneration of the human species. As he intended to institute a perfect republic, he invested himself with absolute sovereignty over these mystical dispensers of liberty. He slept with Horrid Mysteries under his pillow, and dreamed of venerable eleutherarchs and ghastly confederates holding midnight conventions in subterranean caves.”

And there is some solid satire about the method of groups like Weishaupt’s Illuminati, which was a contemporary movement when this was written, in spreading the Enlightenment through authoritarian, even paternal, means and structures.

“Knowledge is power; it is in the hands of a few, who employ it to mislead the many, for their own selfish purposes of aggrandisement and appropriation. What if it were in the hands of a few who should employ it to lead the many? What if it were universal, and the multitude were enlightened? No. The many must be always in leading-strings; but let them have wise and honest conductors.”

Of course, the spreading Enlightenment triggered much larger and less controlled revolution ultimately than such organizations could actually manage. But, for those interested in such things as I am, there is plenty of material like this in the rest of the work to find this an amusing and enjoyable experience.

I picked up the free version of Thomas Love Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey, so I didn’t get the advantage of reading a critical essay about the allegorical nature of the characters. You should get a critical edition, or do some reading online, to get the full flavour of the biting satire and commentary.

Thomas Love Peacock Nightmare Abbey

I made 180 highlights and submitted only 15 corrections, mostly formatting issues.

Off to Be the Wizard

I picked up this series over a year ago but accidentally waited to read Off to Be the Wizard until after it had not only been revised but also upgraded to Kindle-in-Motion, which includes additional art and animation by Liz Pulido, and I quite enjoyed that added bit of flair.

Shades of both reality-in-a-simulation Matrix and humor-behind-the-magic-curtain Myth-Adventures, the story follows what happens when the main character discovers one ultimate secret about reality, and the silliness, with occasional seriousness, that ensues. I enjoyed the idea of technical reality manipulation and time travel, exploring the necessary implications and complications, the setting and situations, and the well-developed characters in dialog; and am pleasantly excited to check out the next installment … but find myself hoping that the subsequent books are upgraded by the time I get to them.

Scott Meyer Liz Pulido Off to Be the Wizard

I made 77 highlights.

Doriana: Succubus at Large!

B L Lacertae’s Doriana is a sequence of three shorter stories about a succubus on vacation, undercover as a librarian, who accidentally becomes a dominatrix for kicks … as one does. I loved the worldbuilding, snarky tone of the main and diabolical character as narrator, and occasional self-aware self-deprecation breaking the fourth wall. Most of that was in the first part, and I could almost recommend stopping there. The second part was almost entirely simple erotica with barely any of the fun narrative frame. The third part finally warmed up to a welcome return to the narrative frame of the main character, and a suitable escalation. A quick and dirty quickly dirty read, with a fun and funny framing story that was the actual worthy part in and of itself.

B L Lacertae Doriana

I made 33 highlights. I didn’t keep track of errors, but there were some.

The Mindful Geek

I picked up The Mindful Geek by Michael W Taft because Al Billings was talking about it. After finishing it, I feel like up until now I’ve been lied to about the purpose, techniques, and outcomes of meditation. I mean, that’s okay, but, if you’re not seriously into meditation and already have had this epiphany long ago, I can recommend this is as a great practical compelling introduction to revolutionize something you probably think you already know about. I feel like my understanding of the purpose, techniques, and outcomes of meditation has been revolutionized.

You can pick up a free copy of this book, and find downloadable audio of the exercises, at the author’s site The Mindful Geek. After reading the book and awkwardly doing the exercises on my own with half an eye on the text, I made a playlist of the audio files. I shuffle the playlist when I set aside time, so I get a random exercise each time I sit during daily practice. But, the important point is that the book and audio files are all free. Check them out, and consider enhancing, or adding this to, your daily practice.

The amply supported discussion of the outcomes for mindfulness meditation described by Taft are grounded neurobiological improvements in concentration and depth of the complex interconnections between physical human sensations, thoughts and emotions. The crux is that Taft details how mindfulness practice has been shown to actually and practically grow the part of the human brain that allows for greater focus and deeper, broader human experience. This is entirely different than the outcomes I have heard espoused in the past. This is an entirely more welcome outcome than I have heard espoused in the past. This revelation alone is enough to recommend this book.

I admit most of my experience has been with the idea that meditation was a tool to clear the mind of thoughts. The techniques outlined by Taft in this book are clear and concise methods to practice focus and depth with thoughts, emotions and feelings. This isn’t mindlessness practice. This isn’t a practice to stop the mind. This isn’t a practice of body hate or combat to kill sensation or volunteering for deliberate extended body torture. This is a set of practices that increase skills with and capacity for focus and depth with one’s mind, body, and emotions.

Even Crowley when talking about “awareness, one-pointedness, mind-fullness” in On Concentration still suggests, and frankly kind of muddling what Hatha Yoga actually was as a precursory practice to prepare the body for and not the same as meditation, “to stop the mind altogether. That is Yoga.” And suggests the idea is to “sit down in Asana to quiet your mind.” However, the discussion of focus in this volume seems to me quite in line with other supporting statements that come to my mind about concentration and focus.

“Your nail must be hard, smooth, fine-pointed, or it will not move swiftly in the direction willed. Imagine then a nail of tinder-wood with twenty points—it is verily no longer a nail. Yet nigh all mankind are like unto this.”—Liber CL, De Lege Libellum

This further revelation of the practical neurobiological outcomes of this practice for me is even more important, I think. The outcome of increasing depth and breadth of being human potential for thought, sensation, and emotion revealed here should hearten every practitioner. But, specifically, as part of leading toward an overall clear, concise and unobfuscated practice of sex magick, the outcome of strengthening the neurobiological capacity for focus and sensation should be obviously desirable.

“Wisdom says: be strong! Then canst thou bear more joy. Be not animal; refine thy rapture! If thou drink, drink by the eight and ninety rules of art: if thou love, exceed by delicacy; and if thou do aught joyous, let there be subtlety therein! But exceed! exceed!”—Liber AL, II, 70–71

Taft has offered here a practical discourse that is quite literally and precisely “the method of science, the aim of religion”, a phrase familiar to readers of Crowley material and here reified. All obfuscation and frou-frou of superstition is keenly stripped from the nitty-gritty details and a case is made clear that practical application of the techniques will bring about outcomes worthy of one’s work.

I was surprised to connect the discussion in this book to New Thought. If one ignored the cruft and superstition, New Thought’s admonition to breathe deeply and engage in positive thinking are, interestingly to me, quite well supported by the practical techniques and proven neurobiological outcomes discussed here.

Another thing I found myself thinking about is a personal hypothesis I’ve long had that damaged people are more interesting, and tend, I think and feel, to be the only people worth talking to. People who have not struggled, not faced hardship and setback, seem to me to be exquisitely boring and useless. As I was reading this book, it occurred to me that the inward facing reaction to strife, the self-examination and inherent reflective practice of hardship in life might be seen as a practice of mindfulness and that creates, as discussed as an outcome of mindfulness practice, an actual neurobiological depth of capacity for thought and emotion and sensation. That which does not kill us, actually does (with apologies to Nietzsche and The Cure) make us stronger; bigger and sleeker and wider and brighter.

Michael W Taft The Mindful Geek

I made 84 highlights and submitted 39 corrections.

Dear NSA

Dear NSA by Harmon Cooper is a collection of more or less purely insane short stories. Stand outs “Pedo Drew” and “Feeding Governor Christie” are worth the sticker price alone for sheer amphetamine wackiness, but there’s more! These are quick reads that have rapid fire internal pacing. Basically, this is a series of fitful indigestion-fueled dreams of a pre-therapy John Cleese funny-walking through your brain.

Harmon Cooper Dear NSA

I made 38 highlights.

The Weirdness

The Weirdness by Jeremy P Bushnell is a terrific twisty toboggan ride of a read. Good thing the author is an instructor because this is a well-crafted writing masterclass in fun fiction.

The protagonist is jerked through a shocking, surprising character arc. There are fun plot twists that change everything. There are several bites of fine, healthy wisdom folded within this narrative confection, but also mixed with some zesty flavor grains of good surreal absurdity. Fun little nods to actual esotericism are just enough chocolate sprinkles on top, but not too much or too literal. The main antagonists have Zelazny’s Amber-level meta-capability compared to the protagonist, and yet, somehow, like Heinlein’s Job, the hero soldiers on through hell, food-service hell, even public-speaking hell, and back, and all with a tidy satisfying aftertaste beyond.

Jeremy Bushnell The Weirdness

I made 69 highlights and submitted no corrections for this book.

King Dork is Partridge to Andromeda Klein’s Scooby

A while ago I read and reviewed Andromeda Klein, and one of the things I mentioned was that I was going to read King Dork, Frank Portman‘s first book. Well, I did.

My Andromeda Klein review has recently been re-published in Sekhet-Maat‘s journal Lion & Serpent V. 15 n. 1, so I’ve been revisiting this and realized that while I did, in fact, read King Dork, and even made notes for a review after; I didn’t actually do a matching review.

Okay, maybe not “matching” so much as musical chairs.

But, wait, before starting this, I think it’s important to set the mood. You should be listening to the right kind of music as you read this review, and, frankly, while your read King Dork. So, you should have prepared a playlist. Be sure to select some post-punk. For this review, I’ve selected for you some samples from the Best of the Mr T. Experience, Frank Portman’s group, and can also suggest a Mr T. Experience station on your Internet radio of choice.

And, really, you’ve simply got to have the MTX track “Even Hitler Had A Girlfriend” in there somewhere. Okay?

King Dork is the story of Thomas Henderson and his struggles to find his place in the world in and out of high school through the lenses of music, sort of, and The Catcher in the Rye, sort of. Yeah, he’s a wannabe rebel without a tune. But, he’s working on that.

Look, by now there’s been plenty of other reviews for this book, so I’m going to just talk about what I want to talk about. Instead of just going over the story I’m going to talk about other things, however I will say KD is a better book that to me is not quite as good as AK. Don’t get me wrong about this, because I really liked KD a lot, but I’m glad I read AK first. I think KD reads easier and feels more solidly written and speaks in a voice more grounded.

That’s not to say that both aren’t grounded. I find this groundedness to be one of the best parts of both these books and that they are both quite essentially real. I made a comment in my AK review about possible connections to the Wold Newton universe (and, there’s even internal cross-over between KD and AK), but on reflection I think that the passing and silly suggestion of moving these stories into the world of the pulps would seriously be a disservice to the essentially real nature of these two narratives. Although wild and wonderful, there’s really nothing in either of these books that couldn’t be some person’s non-fictional lived experience. That’s especially important, for me, for AK, but it’s also true of KD.

(The most implausible thing for me across either of these book was the library in AK being full of weegie books that has survived in a so very complete and unmolested form for so long, but even that I can, kind of, conceive of existing in the real world and, at least, in any case, it’s not, no matter how unlikely, an entirely impossible thing that required a complete conceit. Yeah, I know, it’s not that the geeks win … I’ve got to allow myself some necessary illusions, right? Moving on …)

But, hey, check this out: KD has a dénouement, or maybe for KD more appropriately a coda, which kind of wraps it all up; the absence of which in AK makes me wonder if this was something the publisher demanded in KD. I think this is part of what makes KD more readable and smooth, but also is interestingly less idiosyncratic in comparison. It seems a bit like a bizarro Clockwork Orange, where the retrospective ending got added instead of lopped off.

Well, KD sure seems to be more popular …

… ah, and there’s the rub, innit? I mean, KD is kind of a romantic comedy. (And, whereas Buffy asked what if the cheerleader kicks ass, AK sort of asks what if then Buffy died, and kinda skips to Season 6?)

I made such a big deal out of AK not being an orphan in my other review, that I have to get this out of the way. King Dork is an orphan, of sorts, due to his dad being dead. But, KD doesn’t really have super powers … or does he? (Compared to my life, he sure seems magical.) But, no, really, I’m getting distracted from the fact that my point here is to back-peddle, so … I think it’s great and awesome that AK isn’t an orphan. I’m slightly miffed at how formulaic KD is, as a loser boy who turns out super cool and gets the chicks; but, you know, I’ll get over it. Frankly, I identify more with AK and I wish I were more like KD; but, you know, I want to be both, really.

So, KD is pretty heroicly the outsider, reading this first book made me realize again how awesome it was to have the main character of AK be a woman, and moreover a woman engaged in magick in a real way. I know this post was really supposed to be about KD, but I’ve already blurred the two and I can’t pass up this chance to hit the high note in the refrain about how wonderful AK is. There’s still a lot of explicit and implicit misogyny in ceremonial magick and it’s important to point that out, but also to celebrate, in order to recover and reveal, the often hidden work of women. Yeah, yeah, I know AK is fiction, but it’s part of an important trend of telling women’s stories. There was a post over on Plutonica a little while ago that also points some of this out, and it’s something that shouldn’t be ignored; I’ve also certainly noticed what seems like coded (and, honestly, sometimes completely open and plain) misogyny in the way that some ceremonials talk about witches, for sure, and even in the way those two terms seem inherently gender segregated. (At the same time, it’s important to recognize that some of this expression is about the larger cultural context, not always inherent in the specific system, in which those expressing it are in, and so sometimes, but not always, a symptom not a disease.) AK is a woman, fictional to be sure, doing magick, moreover ceremonial magick. (I don’t know, but it’s also something interesting that like both Starhawk and Moina Mathers, this woman is also of Jewish descent. Why do these things seem to colocate? Is it an exotification filter?) Even within the realm of fictional stories, so very often the main protagonist is male. There’s been a strong recent trend in stories featuring Sheroes, for example Garth Nix’s Abhorsen Trilogy and the extensive series of Tortall stories by Tamora Pierce, in which AK participates by virtue of her gender; and it’s a good thing that we’ve moved not away but to include more than just the boy who would be king or jesus in our current cultural mélange of metaphor and myth.

KD is a hero of course. He gets more action in the couple of months covered by the book than I did in my entire high school career, and let us not even mention the state of my life now, okay? No reason to end this in tears, after all. Yeah, that’s a sad thing to admit, I suppose: even the fictional KD gets more action than I do.

But, as much as KD is a hero to the geek in me, AK is more dear to my heart. I think it’s really quite simply down to the interiority of AK, which speaks more to my own experience and my experience of my thoughts in the world. I have to admit AK feels more real to me; but, KD is a more grounded read. But, here’s a thing: the more or less ease of the read seems to reflect the interior confidence of the character through whose voice each story is told. In AK, the narrator is essentially uncertain with her own self, and struggling through the exterior world in order to find her inner strength. In KD, the narrator is essentially confident of his interior life, but is struggling with finding a place in the exterior world that reflects that inner confidence. These seem to directly reflect stereotyped cultural gender identity norms of expectation and experience. So, I actually find the differences in voice as they appear through the text as I’ve read them to be reflective of the characters themselves, and some really important exploration of culturally defined gender as it is displayed in identity formation for each individual.

There are wild similarities wildly made in my mind between these two books, like the characters and quirks were tossed into a bingo hamper and spun around. I suppose that’s one reason that I’m finding myself talking about both at the same time so much, but …

… parental invasive-compulsive disorder, mysterious death, duplicitous sidekick, disguised girls, hyper-dysfunctional mother, kinda-cool father figure, vicious school environment, special-effect laden bully comeuppance, mystery message, character with twisted word problem, topical obsession by main character, a hospital visit near the climax, a bit of mistaken Satanic Panic …

… you know, to sum all that up: they both are about teenagers in high school.

As similar as the two are, in a kind of mixed-up fairy tale kind of way, there are marked differences. And here’s the crux of it as it seems to me: where AK was seeking connection and meaning through interiority, KD is yearning for connection and meaning through exteriority. About the interiority in the one versus the other, I have to wonder if that’s reflective of a gender stereotype somehow; but, I already talked about that.

Okay, so now check out the covers. See the hand-drawn “suicide” King of Hearts sans mustache only partially revealed on KD. Now, check out the tarot card on the front of AK. Hearts are equivalent to cups. So, KD is represented by the King of Cups to AK’s 3 of Swords. (If you’re inclined, chew on that for a while, and then come back. I’ll wait.)

The illustration of KD as the King of Hearts on the cover actually contains several interesting symbols which are meaningful to the story without really giving anything away without having read the story, which was one of the points I made about the AK cover. In the old decks, the King of Hearts was Charles, and thus Charlemagne. Charles is Tom Henderson’s middle name. In Alice in Wonderland, the King of Hearts is merciful but childish. Being sans mustache, as opposed to the actual appearance of the King of Hearts, points out pre-pubescence and youth, or at least the ascension of youth to the trappings of adulthood. And, a Suicide King is topically relevant to the story.

Also, if it weren’t for the back cover text revealing the relevancy of Catcher in the Rye, the cover would be pretty brilliantly subtle on that point.

Now the whole deconstructed book cover for the book cover thing I noticed for AK makes more sense, right? It’s another theme, another cross-over echo between the two. I hope future books from Frank Portman keep it up, and don’t drop the theme for a re-design and break what I now see as an awesome aesthetic for something “more marketable”. Bah! and Blah! I say. (Yes, I’m looking at you, US editions of Winter Wood. You make me cry, you!)

Oh, one thing I know is going to sound pedantic, and inevitably dorky; but I have to take exception to the way that “D&D” is called “D and D” in the book. It’s a silly thing maybe, and maybe that is actually how the kids are doing it these days; but it’s “D&D” damnit. (And, I can never manage to suppress a giggle when the Dialogue and Deliberation community calls itself “D&D” …)

Swear to gods, I want KD and crew and AK and crew to meet. I can’t decide whether I’d rather they coöperate or compete. Maybe it can be like a mirror, mirror Partridge Family meets Scooby-Doo, bus to van and group to gang, snapping fingers, snapping fingers, in Zombieland?

Image used with permission of Travis Pitts
[flickr,imagekind,threadless]

From a post on the Telstar Logistics corporate blog

Only, there’s so many similarities with a twist between these two books that it’s more like some rock-opera about a time when the Mystery Machine drove past the Misery Machine …

… and with perfect comedic timing, and a double take shaking of heads and rubbing of rummy eyes, forced to ask, “was it an illusion? an hallucination? or … the beginning of the best mirror-mirror crossover story arc ever?!” And, “um, hey, isn’t that the same actor in both?!” And, “Sure, of course, Buffy/Daphne, but, damn, Willow/Velma sure is hot, yeahs shir!”

I find I desperately want to read the story which pits the 93’s against the Chi-Mo’s in a race to unravel a magical, mythical, musical mystery where they ultimately, gloriously team up in a battle against the machinations of a murderous conspiracy between the Black Brothers of the P∴M∴R∴C∴ and the diabolical minds behind elevator music and boy bands. Maybe they can be rivals across a couple of books, or at least one, before they team up and form the Justice League of Angst? (Say, what’s Joss Whedon up to these days, anyway? Oh, right, Dr. Horrible 2. Yeah! But, also darn.)

Look, I’m being silly again with the suggestions. But, like the awesome first segment in Shaun of the Dead, there’s a way to go places grounded but through a lens. Both KD and AK have threads of core mystery within the tapestry of these stories, and there’s a way to ask “what does it look like in real life?” when exploring esoterica, like AK did; while still being fun, like both do.

See, I want my Scooby Doo with some ambiguity, because there’s no freakin’ way that those junkyard Rube Goldberg disguises and machinations would have actually fooled anyone as completely as the gang was constantly, unless something very interesting was really going on; and, I don’t need to have that explained, and even prefer it have a bit of that unknown remain in both process and result. As for Scooby, I suppose I don’t mind some scientific rationalism in my mix as long as it is neither all there is nor is it just plain dumb.

So, I don’t really mean to suggest to change the essential groundedness of either. I just mean, this is the stuff I found myself thinking about. And, the real point is: “Please, sir, can I have some more?”

And, as long as I’m on the topic of comparing, as a parting thought, I can’t help but noticing that KD is contained in both King Dork and Andromeda Klein; but in a reversed reflection (a relefection? anybody? anybody? can I keep it? huh? can I?), as if what was plainly revealed in the first is hidden and concealed in the second, or to be cute about it, “half known and half concealed” (Liber CCXX, I, 34). (And, since I mentioned Scooby Doo, seriously, Velma’s initials are VD. I mean, really … that’s just messed up.)

Oh, and, the appearance of Sam Hellerman in both books is a hint of possible things to come … maybe in the forthcoming King Dork Actually … or, I should be so lucky, volume 2 of Liber K? Oh, I’ll settle for the Will Ferrell movie adaptation of King Dork, fo’ sure (and, if Ferrell is the dad, pb-pb-pb-pb-pb-pblease, can Anna Friel be the mom?) … for a while; but, I’m looking forward to more. (Or, you know, maybe like Lt. and Mrs. Columbo … they both have a series where the other never appears but they end up mentioning each other in funny anecdotes?)

Anyhow, one thing is for damned sure: I need to join a band. I have a strong feeling a song is coming on. And, while I’m in the garage with my band, you know, coming up with cool band names until we learn to play something … pick up King Dork and revel in the rebel once again.

King Dork by Frank Portman
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
February, 2008
ISBN: 0385734506 (ISBN-13: 9780385734509)
Paperback, 368 pages

Andromeda Klein is unrepentantly and uniquely kickass.

Andromeda Klein

I ran into mention of Frank Portman‘s Andromeda Klein in one of my various frequent search safaris. Here was a “young adult” novel that showed up on my radar because of a surfeit of esoteric references. It seemed unlikely that the story would live up to the seriousness of the references that brought it to my attention. But, even the first few pages seemed thick with terms that most readers might not manage to get past.

For just a minor example, in the first few pages one runs into references to Hermes Trismegistus, Thoth, Mrs. John King van Rensselaer, the ancient Egyptian city Hermopolis, mention and description of several specific tarot cards including Two of Swords, the term ‘soror’, the Warburg Institute, A. E. Waite, Aleister Crowley, Francis Yates, Pamela Coleman Smith, Celtic Cross spread, the Qabalah, some Hebrew letters, the world of Yetzirah, the Sephera Chokmah, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Giordano Bruno, Madame Blavatsky, witches, Lemurians, gnomes … and, not last or least, bone disease. This is all within the first ten pages … of a young adult novel.

I mean, I’m into this stuff and so I can hardly imagine what it would be like to read this story if I were coming to it fresh without background. Picking up this book for a newbie must be a bit like going into an initiation of sorts. One might have some sense of the general idea that’s going to be explored, but the specifics are going to be a surprise unless you’re the kind that ruins that sense of adventure by reading ahead. But even still, there’s this sense that things just won’t necessarily make sense right away, and maybe only make sense after doing research over time.

King Dork

And, the story is definitely thick with references and only some of them are explained at all. My initial thought was that for the generation that’s never been without google or wikipedia, that’d be a good thing … reason to look stuff up and find things on their own. It definitely doesn’t apologize for the data, and after finishing the novel (in spite of the glossary unceremoniously placed at the end) there are many references that aren’t explained. Seems like the author’s first novel, King Dork might be a bit like that too, actually; including having a glossary at the end, but with different kinds of references. Frank Portman seems to not make much by way of concession in talking down to the reader. That’s actually kinda refreshing. I’m not sure it’s the best strategy for a nominally “young adult” novel, but it’s definitely different. And, really, why not have a difference from the bazillion bland books being bandied about by bookshops as hopefully half a fraction as attractive as Harry Potter, books heavy on the fantasy but light on the quality. Here’s a book that takes the laudable chance that standing out, and being different, is worth it in the end. But, this doesn’t seem to be a book for kids. Definitely this seems like something for an older target audience than kids, and, indeed, the suggested age is 14 and up. But then again, kids nowadays …

Okay, except, here’s one thing that struck me. The cover of this book seems to have a gratuitous lightning bolt.

Andromeda Klein detail

My first reaction was that It seems an annoying thing if the only reason that’s there is to resonate with Harry Potter fans. There’s no reason for it that I recall from the story, so it seems simply to be deceptive visual marketing. I’m not saying the cover isn’t nice. I like it.

Andromeda Klein EP

Frankly, I like the cover of the two song EP [also,et], which music was composed and sung the author, better as visual art, but the book does have a nice cover design, though not spectacular. Again, it’s different than the many copycat covers trying to simply knock off the Harry Potter cover styles, but in a way that kind of makes the superfluous lightning bolt even more cheap as a design choice. Then again, it occurs to me that I can rationalize the cover as a graffiti riff off the Harry Potter cover font and design, with a self-consciously mutilated printed page; that is to say, this could represent a DIY-culture statement of self-conscious identity both claiming and disclaiming connection. Other than that, the cover is brilliant in the same way that the GranPré covers for the US Harry Potter books tie into some main part of the plot without giving anything away in a spoiler.

On the other hand, if you’re looking at the hardcover, be sure to check out the inside of the dustcover. There’s a great, and even more great because unnecessary, touch there. (If you want to check it out, there’s a picture of that here.) At first sighting, I thought it was an alternate cover meant to look like one of Andromeda’s school textbook or notebook covers, the kind I was always doodling on back in the day my own self. But, it’s mainly just a bonus bit of design, which is as entirely appropriate to the story as the primary side of the dust cover. (Some day one of these series of books is going to make the spines create an interesting image on the bookshelf when they’re next to each other, and it’d be neato if this idea of using an alternate cover design were how that’s done.)

As I read Andromeda Klein, I felt the pacing and delivery to be appropriately punkishly quick and even a little syncopated (especially given the author’s background). For me it’s fast-paced with information, but it’s also fun. Could I even say a hint of Tom Robbins in feel to me? Sure, I can say it. There are lots of things that are revealed in the story, and not just plot points. There are a lot of terms, concepts and ideas that are explained a paragraph or more past where they first appear. But, there are also some that take a lot longer or aren’t explained at all. In at least one case, I found myself wondering if the choice to not explain a reference was strategic: Anton LaVey is mentioned but the abbreviation “CoS” is never explained to “Church of Satan”. That choice seems a bit ironic since there’s a bit of appropriately absurd satanic panic included in the plot, but it might just be one example of something that is simply never explained. Seems to me this would either be something a reader would love or not love, and that’s another refreshing thing; instead of being denatured in order to be more accessible.

Look, this is to Harry Potter or Harry Dresden as The Invisibles series is to The Illuminatus! books. It’s punk, damnit. Andromeda Klein is grounded in the gritty reality of a world where kids do things like have sex, drink, cut, die, fight, and, of course, are attracted to the occult. This is also a world where both kids and adults can be troubled, irrational, suspicious, narrow-minded and cruel. But, there’s also striving to find meaning and connection. And, for a rare few, there’s the drive to develop and change the world, even if that’s just one person at a time starting, like a well-known conversation between Krsna and Arjuna, with the self.

This story has a style, which seems to be the overall style of the author, which isn’t compromised. That’s a delightful thing. The story might have been told without this style, but why? Why make the telling of a story just another bland porridge of words lulling the reader along easily toward a final “meh”? The style of this story makes the reading of it an experiential example of the way the main character thinks and sees the world. Some of this distinctiveness is mediated by the realization that it isn’t completely unique since it appears at first blush to be the author’s overall style as well in King Dork; but, it really works for this character and this story natheless. (This, of course, must needs be tested by reading King Dork, ASAP!)

The references are a bit thick, and it’s also got its own idiom. There’s a lot to decypher in this story, just like in much of the source materials contained in the esoteric books mentioned within. Won’t say or imply it’s Clockwork Orange level of idiom, but to me it’s got a kind of Whedonesque flavour in its willingness to develop its own language and quick (oc)cultural references. At first it seems to be doing self-conscious name and concept dropping, but I came to like it. It’s part of the fun. Won’t say or imply it’s a got a lot of hidden meaning that requires one to actually treat the text to analysis through esoteric techniques, but the story demonstrates and models the main character going through a lot of esoteric thinking, pattern seeking and connection exploring.

One of the consistently fun dimensions of this story for me was the use and playfulness of language, terms, concepts, idiom, malapropism … it’s word play without being superfluous. Unlike, say, a Xanth novel where the story simply seems to end up being a delivery method for word play which came before or independently from plot development, instead the word play is integrated and an essential character to the development of this story and character, where language and the fractured nature of that is a reflection of the nature of the main character. Not a few times, I thought to myself as I was reading a passage with a fun malapropism: I wish I could more spontaneously talk like that. The only other time I recall right now I’ve felt that was reading some Heinlein dialog, the parts where there are several conversations going on at once, syncopated. I feel this is a unique experience of the written word when compared to others nominally intended for the young adult audience, although I somewhat gather that there will be a similar sense to the author’s other work. The point is that this story definitely has a voice, and one that was compelling to me.

Andromeda Klein has got a lot in there to offend uptight parents and squares, with magick, sex, drugs, death, language and more attitude. Even those uptight about esotericism will likely get tweaked. It’s kind of refreshing, actually. There’s way, way too many stories with weakly developed “magic” in them. I mean, she does an LBRP in the library and is actively practicing Liber Jugorum, for just an example among many. And the frankness about which a wide number of topics are discussed is interesting and similarly refreshing. It’s spiffy.

The author’s approach to a wide variety of topics is refreshing and unique. Probably nothing exemplifies this more clearly as a single example to give the character of the rest than the simple fact that Aleister Crowley is not a boogeyman in this story even though he and his work are included both implicitly and explicitly throughout the story. But, these references are matters not treated with sensationalism or as an ersatz archetype of evil, both of which are so very often the case when authors seem to take the easy, lazy way out. Rather, the life of Andromeda Klein is suffused with fictionally drawn and developed, to be sure, but also essentially normal and natural magical practice and rite and thinking in both action during the story and exposition of events outside the timeline in the book.

All this, you know, talking about interesting things, can’t come without cost, of course. I read that one of the author’s appearances at a school was cancelled because of parent complaints. And, I think this actually is the book that all the reactionaries thought Harry Potter was, as far as even only the esoteric references go. But, you know, even if you took all that out there’d be plenty left to cheese off the same kind of people that couldn’t even handle Judy Bloom, maybe enough even on just about any single page. However, I’m really heartened by the statement on the copyright page that “Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.” That statement doesn’t appear on the copyright page of the edition of King Dork that I picked up that includes a preview of Andromeda Klein, so that statement appears to be uniquely in this book. Good on them, anyhow, to stand up with and for a work like this. And, I suppose one of the best things for getting the word out would be for more people to freak out and thus only advertise wider that it exists but also essentially prove that the book is something worth reading.

I once lamented the treatment of magick in stories like Harry Potter and others, essentially convenient literary mechanisms with no real meaning or necessity. What would a story look like if it were written with real magick in it, I wondered. Well, this story may be the closest thing to what I imagined yet. The Universe moves or not for Andromeda because she’s making progress working on herself and her environment in accordance with her inner drive to find and then fulfill her own individual purpose.

This story shows a kind of magical thinking that isn’t offered in other stories. It’s explicitly ceremonial and symbolic. It’s not just a MacGuffin or Deus Ex Machina to drive the story, it is the story. Rather, magick literally has personality. Moreover, magick has several characters. There is a demonstrated Intelligence, and that makes the story surprisingly intelligent.

I find myself feeling that Andromeda Klein will have a place next to The Various and Below the Root for me. While reading I held up that hope it would hold up. At times, I even crossed my fingers. In fact, for me the comparison to Below the Root is apt, especially because of the way that Snyder’s novel was frank about sex and drug use as well as also being similar in that it faced complaints from parents and adults for that treatment.

And, know what else is cool? She’s not an orphan. it’s a little thing, but that’s refreshing too. Of course, there’s Harry Potter and quite a few current literary protagonists like Lyra and Lirael and Sabriel and Dorothy and Superman and Batman and even Dahl’s Matilda was essentially, if not technically, an orphan until the end of her story. Further, there’s Moses and Vulcan/Hephaestus to name only a few more historical examples. The archetype of orphan is an almost obligatory line item in the pedigree of literary children with special powers, and it is extremely overused even if I also recognize that it has very strong resonance. [see,et,et] As I read the story, I actually had a creeping dread that Andromeda would turn out, somehow, to be an orphan just because of how overused that trope is in such stories.

However, while not an orphan Andromeda is very much a rough ashlar, of course, but the formula is different. She still fulfills an archetypal function which represents a flawed origin. Andromeda is Batman to Harry Potter’s Superman. She is not miraculously the chosen one, but rather has gotten to be who she is through hard work and lots of research. Andromeda is maybe a post-modern Everyman or Chauncey or Zelig, on a kind of Fool’s journey toward attainment, even so far as to starting out, not as the blank protagonist, but rather as a physically, socially and emotionally flawed former sidekick to her late best friend. So, actually, in some ways, Andromeda is, perhaps, like a young Robin in a universe where Batman died too soon and his parents didn’t (See, because even Robin was also an orphan!), learning to become Nightwing on his own, without actual super powers but still a hero with amazing skills and a story worth telling.

As I read this story, it was in my mind’s eye like a mashup as if Welcome to the Dollhouse [also] would have been directed by Alfonso Cuarón [see].

The library angle is definitely a nice touch. The excitement I thought I’d feel while reading is what I thought I’d feel reading Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat after such heartfelt recommendations from the librarians I once worked with, though for me Weetzie Bat didn’t quite live up to my built up expectation. There’s not nearly as many library science references as there are esoteric ones, but there’s mention of interlibrary loans, reference desks; and, the politics of the public library as part of a library system and in the community is definitely part of the story.

So, honestly, after finishing the book, I’m actually not entirely sure that the ending was quote-unquote satisfying. But, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. This was a story that was also unique in that it wasn’t a perfect Hollywood ending wrapped in a perfectly explained and ordered bow. Like many European or non-Hollywood films, I’m left with the experience of a compelling story, regardless of some notion of being satisfied, that I could hardly put down and read the whole way hoping for it not to end all the while looking forward to each new revelation. There’s ambiguity left over at the end, even if there were, to be honest, also a couple bits of dénouement that had me rolling my eyes or feeling an opportunity was missed, and not just sequel-ready ambiguity. Sublimely, some of that ambiguity is around the ultimate nature of magick, and that such a central element to the story is left as an exercise for the reader to decide about for themselves seems to me to be a beautiful thing because first and foremost it rejects a fantasy of magic for a truth of magick. In fact, I can imagine how hard it might be to develop a sequel to this story, as there’s so much character and world development in the esoteric references and thinking that to re-hash that, as sequels often are forced to do to bring new readers up to speed in case they’ve not read the first installment, would require re-telling so much of the same story as to be ponderous and overwhelming. This could easily be forever a standalone novel, even with the left over ambiguity. Maybe even better because of that left over ambiguity after all.

Even though I find the ambiguity and uniqueness praiseworthy, I find myself drawn to wonder idly where does Andromeda fit in the Wold Newton family and how long until there’s an appearance of Andromeda in Wizard Rock. Perhaps these are just whimsical questions, but I did find myself wondering about them.

However, in spite of, but moreover maybe because of the apparent flaws; I, for one, would happily read the other, as yet unwritten, 21 volumes of Liber K. And, I recommend this book to both you and your precocious, precious little snowflakes.

Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman [kindle, paperback]
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
August, 2009
ISBN: 0385735251 (isbn13: 9780385735254)
Hardcover, 432 pages