Visits From A Man Named Nobody 85

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 85

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Twenty-Five

June 1, 2038, 2:00 p.m. 

13 Years, 186 Days Ago

Paul fidgeted in his seat teetering between rage and fear. Yet again people brought his mother into the lab. Yet again his mother was carted around like a delivery of groceries some new employee couldn’t quite get to the right shelves. They even sent them back to the original hospital. 

This time, they shoved his mother in at least three machines that he knew of. Each time they would walk in, mutter a few words about how something just had to be wrong, and then they’d cover her in another machine. 

They’d been working since 5 a.m., and not a single person cared to do much more than mutter about how they’d get everything set, and then start over again. Paul passed the time reading the Bible. He was careful to hide that fact from his mother. A part of him kept having questions he wanted to ask, but simply revealing that he’d turned to scripture would lead to anything from some sort of elation that he’d turned a corner to pointed questions he didn’t have a single answer for. So he kept the Bible in the bag they brought his mother’s change of clothes and snacks in, and he was careful only to pull it out when he was sure they were moving her to and from one of the machines that apparently refused to work. 

However, with his mother suddenly sitting and waiting right there with him, Paul found himself out of things to do aside from sit and/or stew. He bit his lip, trying to avoid asking his mother if they’d said anything to her. He’d already asked the question a number of times, so there wasn’t any point in asking again. 

She was reading her own copy of the Bible, which was projected from her PID. That created a new stress. Every now and then, she’d mutter a verse out loud that Paul had questions about.

It wasn’t the same as it used to be, though. Instead of wanting to disprove every passage he heard or reveal it as nonsense, Paul wanted to see how one verse connected to another. Given he hadn’t so much as looked at the Bible in years, he may as well have been reading it for the first time. 

Paul stood up to pace, if only for some reason to be moving, but Doctor Feniker burst through the door, giving both Paul and his mother a shocking jolt. 

“Good afternoon.” Feniker stepped over to a backlight and flipped it on. He opened an off white folder and started hanging MRI negatives up. “Frankly, I don’t know how to explain this other than trying to show you.”

Paul listened as each image slid out of the folder and flopped on the back-lit portion of the wall. 

Feniker hung the last one and stepped back, pointing at the first image he hung. “Do you see that dark spot?” A bony finger pointed at a spot on the right side of the image. 

“Yeah,” Paul said. 

Feniker nodded. “Huh, so I’m not seeing stuff.” He actually sounded relieved. “So here’s the question. Point out the same spot, or anything at all, in the other images.”

Paul stepped up to the remaining five images. He looked intently in the same area. “I can’t make anything out.”

“Neither can we,” Feniker said. “When our techs here failed to find anything, they assumed our machines were broken. That’s why we gave you a referral for another lab. We genuinely thought we needed to order repairs for our machines until earlier today, when the technicians over there called to ask me why I thought I had time to prank them.”

“Prank?” Paul repeated the word as if he didn’t know what it meant.

“I’d have thought the same thing if I took these images of someone who’s supposed to have a tumor.” Feniker smiled. 

Paul scrunched up his face in confusion. “I don’t understand. My mom’s been in treatment for months. Everyone here knows she has brain cancer.”

Feniker shrugged. “Which is why we were trying to figure out what was wrong with our machines. But you’re a scientist. You know that if five tests show the same result, it has to be true.”

Paul practically fell onto his chair. “You’re not saying … Doctor, are you really saying.”

Feniker gave another shrug. “We had had some small hope for these treatments. Tests showed they had a great impact on reducing the size of a tumor. Which is why we tested your mother’s blood as soon as you got here. Apparently, this treatment worked better than we could’ve hoped.”

Paul heard the doctor mutter under his breath. “Or I would have thought possible.”

“You’re saying,” Paul sucked in a deep breath. He didn’t know what to think or feel. “Doctor, I need you to say it plainly.”

Feniker gave a huge grin. “If you wish.” He looked over at Paul’s mom. “Mary, I’m happy to tell you that you’re in full remission.”

She brightened, and her eyes shone with unshed tears. “You mean, I’m cured?”

Feniker looked from her to the images and back again. “Honestly, if I hadn’t have seen it myself, I would have thought the same thing that other lab did. I had to send the original scans with all your information just to prove to them I wasn’t playing a trick on them.”

“What are you saying?” Paul wished he’d remembered any other word in the English language than those four.

“If I’d looked at any of those five images, I’d say whoever that patient was had a clean bill of health. There’s just no evidence anything was there to begin with,” Feniker said. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 84

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 84

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They followed the technician’s directions, and while they waited for their paperwork, Paul used his PID to set up a ride home. 

Paul thought he was just checking on his mother now and then, but once they were in a car on the way home, his mother smiled at him.

“Assuming my health could turn for the worst in another thirty seconds, I promise I’ll let you know if that happens, but this has to be the fiftieth time you’ve asked if I feel OK, and I have to admit it’s starting to make me nervous,” she said. 

Paul stared at her. 

“I know you’re worried.” She put a hand on his shoulder, probably in an effort to spare some of his feelings. “I really do feel better. I’m tired, and honestly hungry. If I feel any pain at all, I’ll tell you.”

He shrugged, supposing he’d get self conscious if someone kept asking him if he were OK. “Do you at least want to shut your eyes a bit on the way home?”   

Her eyebrows furrowed in though. “That would actually be nice.”  She leaned over to rest her head on her window.  After a few moments, her breathing slowed. 

Of course she’s exhausted. Even setting aside how long they were at the hospital, the sheer punishment her body went through would be enough to make anyone want to sleep for a week. 

Paul felt guilty having to gently shake her awake when they got to the house, but it was only a few minutes until he had her in her own bed and resting comfortably. She muttered a few times that she was still hungry, which was odd given how her body recently treated any kind of food, but she never really came awake enough to do much more than that. 

Once she was back asleep, Paul went to the kitchen to set up some food for her so it was ready when she woke. The motion of it gave him a chance to think. She’d said time and again that she really did feel OK. She hadn’t needed to vomit. Maybe she really was feeling better. 

Paul immediately set the package of saltine crackers he was arranging for his mother to eat down. “Um … thank you.” He shut his eyes. “I feel like an idiot. But I asked that she not be in pain, and she says she feels alright, and I’m grateful for that. I know what I said back at the hospital, and all of that is still true.”

He fought back a surge of emotion that was some odd combination of relief, fear, and sadness. “Whatever else happens. She’s not feeling that incredible pain anymore. She’s not asking for death. I just wanted to thank you for that. I hope she doesn’t go through that again. Whatever happens, just don’t let her feel that sort of agony again. Um … Amen?”

He felt foolish, but he codlin’t deny what just happened. Of course the doctors gave her medicine. Of course they did whatever tests they thought to do, but it was more than that. They were a part of something that was so much bigger. He had to admit what he’d felt all along. There was a God. Maybe that God hated him. But even then, he’d asked God for something, and God answered.

Paul finished setting up his mother’s snack while his mind raced to try to understand it. He hadn’t felt this curious and energized since he’d first met Nobody. Only instead of trying to figure out teleportation, he was trying to understand a being who, if he really, truly existed, would be so far beyond human understand as to be laughable to try. Except just like back when he first met Nobody, the place to go for answers remained the same. 

Paul walked as if in a trance to his room. His mother had made a few changes over the years. But the old wooden nightstand remained. Paul hadn’t so much as looked inside since Bill died. The room had new carpet. The mattress and bed frame were new. While the nightstand was still there, surely its contents would have been emptied. 

Paul’s hand shook as he reached for the drawer. He pulled it open, and there sat the Bible that Nobody had given him so many years ago. 

“Why not replace this nightstand?” Paul wondered aloud. “Why is everything else here new?”  

His mother hated things looking out of place. If she started working on something, she almost always finished. But in more than 10 years, she’d just never gotten around to replacing a simple night stand, and Paul had never even thought to look in it since Bill had died. 

He lifted the Bible up and opened it. A slip of paper fell to the floor. Even as it floated to the ground, Paul let out a wry chuckle. He stared at the note as it lie on the carpet. He sat on his bed and reached down to pick the paper up. 

Don’t just read it. Read it with an open heart. Ask Him to open your mind as you read. He is listening. Now it’s your turn.

P.S. I’m glad she’s feeling better, too.

Paul looked up from the paper. He didn’t see the tell-tale spot of water condensation anywhere, but the last part of the letter confirmed it was delivered that day. Paul felt the urge to call out to him, but Nobody wouldn’t be there. Nobody had never wanted Paul to listen to him; he wanted Paul to listen to God. Bill had wanted that, too.

Paul sat back on his bed and opened up the book. The first time he’d done it, he read it just to see what the big deal was about. But it was more an exercise in reading. This time, he’d read it again, and he’d read it hoping to understand a being he feared hated him. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 83

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 83

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A tear fell down her cheek.  “It hurt so much.”

Paul moved to her and wrapped her in his arms. “I’m sorry. I hate that this is happening to you. But don’t feel guilty. You don’t have to put yourself through pain.”

His voice cracked, but he managed to get it all out. They held each other there, unsure of how much time passed, until Dr. Feniker walked in. 

He smiled down at them. “It’s obvious the treatments are having an extreme effect. With only one treatment to go, I think the best thing to do is at least take a look at your scans to see if there’s been any impact.”

“What if there hasn’t been?” Paul asked. “She couldn’t possibly go through all of this again.”

Feniker grimaced. “I wish there was something I could say. For now, there are too many questions, and the answers won’t come until we see what’s going on. We’ve prepared the examination room for her MRI, and someone will be in soon. Once we get a look, we’ll at least know what we’re up against.”

“Does she have to do it now?” Paul asked. “Can’t she get some sleep?”

“I slept for hours. Once they gave me all that medicine, I fell asleep, and they went looking for you.” She pointed at his forehead, where the red mark from sleeping on it was probably still present. “Looks like you were getting some sleep, too, wherever you were.”

“I thought I’d only dozed off for a minute.”

Feniker coughed. He’d probably wondered if they had forgotten he was there.

“Looks like we’re as ready as we’re going to be,” his mother said. 

Feniker nodded. “A tech will be here shortly.” He left.

True to his word, for once, a tech arrived after another few moments. The slender woman brought a wheel chair with her. “Let’s get you into the examination room.”

She helped Paul get his mother situated on the wheel chair. Paul pushed the chair, following the tech to the lab. They hadn’t done any additional scans since his mother was diagnosed, but he felt comfortable helping to place her in the machine. The tech pointed to a waiting area, and Paul went and sat there, waiting for them to finish their work. 

Paul rested his head in a hand, rubbing at his temples with his thumb and middle finger. Please, let it be that the tumor is small enough. Please don’t put her through any more.  

Without anything else to do, Paul felt strangely comfortable each time he prayed. However, to his mind the prayer was over. As he waited, he was more or less thinking in God’s direction, and he wasn’t sure that counted. It would be pointless to try and work or rest. His thoughts kept jumping to his mother. 

After a while, Paul realized that it had been a long time. He figured he was just worried, so he checked his PID. Then he waited another hour. It wasn’t as if he could go to anyone to ask what was going on, but he started tracking the time. Another hour passed. By that point, Paul was willing to talk to the first person he could find. He stood up to do just that when the technician came through the door with his mother. 

“I’m so sorry for the wait,” she said. 

“What happened?” Paul asked. 

Her face scrunched up. “I don’t actually know. We tried to do the scan, but something must be wrong with our machines.”

“Machines?” 

“We have two, so we brought her to the second one, but whatever is going on is happening to both,” she explained. “We tried each machine at least three times, but we can’t get  … “ she paused as if thinking about how to explain her point. “We can’t get a clear reading.”

“So whatever is happening is affecting the reading?” Paul asked.

The technician shrugged.

“They must have put me in there a half-dozen times,” his mother said. “But after each time, they just asked me to do it again.”

Paul must have glared at the technician because she put up her hands defensively. “We were only trying to get a clear reading. But there’s nothing else we can do.  Maybe the scan was affected by what we gave her for her pain. Maybe it’s the machine. Either way, we know the fastest way to get results is to send her to another hospital. We’ve set up an appointment for you at another laboratory.”

“Are we heading there now?” Paul asked. It had already been 16 hours at this hospital. Nap or no nap, Paul knew his mother had to be exhausted.

“The appointment is in three days,” the technician said. “That way, the pain medication will have had time to leave her system. So if that’s what was affecting the scan, we’ll know it won’t this time.”

“How could her medication affect her treatment?” Paul asked.

“Sometimes different medications had an impact on the brain. It can cause MRI results to be hard to make out,” the technician answered, turning to look at Paul’s mother. “As long as you’re pain free, we can wait.”

“What if the pain comes back?” Paul asked. 

“You’re mother says the pain and other side effects are most severe the night of a treatment, so there’s a good chance to worst of it is over. We just want to get that scan done before the next treatment is supposed to happen.”

Paul looked at his mother, who shrugged. “You still feel better.”

She gave him a weak smile. “I’m just tired, and there really isn’t anything these people can do.”

Paul nodded. “So we can go home?”

“We just need to finish off the paperwork, and you’ll be on your way,” the technician said. “When you check out, you can pick up the referral for the new scan.”

Book Review Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

This image was taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: In Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson, Spensa is trapped in the Nowhere, which, as it turns out, is somewhere. It’s a strange place composed of various fragments from various planets. Spensa must travel a path that will help her unlock her powers, but each step forward brings her closer to the Delvers she’s trying to defeat.

Character: Spensa and M-Bot have always been a cute duo. This book takes their relationship with readers to a new level. There is one particular scene in this book that down-right forced a tear (just one mind you) from my eye. It’s one of those horrific moments where you realize what’s about to happen, but you’re helpless to do anything about it. We meet other characters who are equally charming. These characters are why the series is so strong, but it’s not what make the book special.

Exposition: For a third book in a series, this book doesn’t have the inordinate amount of exposition one would expect. Given how much I read in that universe before this book came out (see my previous reviews on Sunreach and ReDawn), I think I just kind of mentally skimmed over it. Given the worldbuilding, there is a lot of dialogue-based exposition, but it’s spaced out in a manner that keeps the pace moving.

Worldbuilding: This is what sets this book above others. This book reveals not just a more expansive universe, but also a historical aspect that’s really intriguing. For me, just this worldbuilding wouldn’t have been enough. To be blunt, the plot line is essentially a travelogue through the history of this universe. So while interesting, it’s not compelling to me. However, this connected with compelling characters (and a few other bits of mystery) really flesh out what would otherwise have been a flat (if still enjoyable) read.

This image of Brandon Sanderson was taken from his author bio page on his webite.

Dialogue: Sanderson reminds me of Koontz in how his dialogue can seem witty and fun. It’s a style I try to emulate. This only happens when the characters are well established. Spensa’s relationship with M-Bot remind me a lot of Buffy’s relationship with Xander. I’m not really sure why, but it does. There’s a element of innocence mixed with admiration (though not romantic in this case) that I find lovely. The playfulness is charming, too. That tear moment I mentioned above, that was in dialogue. It all came together well. Yes, the inevitable “teacher” shows up, and that individual has to give all the expositional data on how the Nowhere works, but it’s still presented in a charming fashion.

Description: While I was happy with the description in the story, I think, perhaps, hard scifi fans might be disappointed. It’s a balance I don’t worry over too much, but it exists. I saw what I needed to see. Sanderson unlocked my imagination and let it do the rest. I feel like scifi fans want more. They want to see what the author sees, where as I just want to see enough to let my mind do the rest of the work. I’ll probably blog about that in the future. Regardless, I was happy.

Overall: This book is equally underrated as Redawn is. I’m honestly hard pressed to put one above the other, but I’d give this book a slight edge. This series is better than the average YA book series out there. It’s fresher than the Divergents and Hunger Games, and also less dark even though it’s still dystopian and still has some deep content to consider. Frankly, I still think this series should get some Hugo consideration.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 82

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 82

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It took Paul a few moments to orientate himself after a nurse shook him awake. His arm, and probably forehead, had a red spot from where he’d slept on it. He took in the pews and the religious stained-glass windows. He looked from the cross back the the nurse, a rather rotund young man, who woke him. 

Then his mind finally came fully awake. “What’s wrong?” Paul leapt to his feet looking around.

The nurse scuttled back a few steps. “Everything is fine,” he said. “I’ve just come to tell you your mother is in her room resting. It’s room 2201.” 

Paul hoped whatever he muttered sounded like a thank you as he rushed in the direction of his mother’s room. He glanced at his PID. It had been two hours since he brought her to the hospital. The nurse said everything was fine, but what did that mean? Did it mean his mother was just comfortable, or did it mean that she really felt better? 

Paul took the stairs, wanting to be moving instead of waiting for an elevator. He took them two-at-a-time until he got to the right floor. Then he sprinted to the room, ignoring anyone who shouted at him. 

He entered the room, startling his mother, who was sitting up in her bed with her back against the headboard. She was reading. That didn’t mean too much. His mother would read the Bible if she were on fire, but she didn’t look to be in any pain.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “What’s going on?”

She smiled at him. Something about the smile struck him. Then he tried to remember the last time he’d seen her smile. It might have been before that first reaction to the treatment. She probably smiled between treatments, once the side effects wore off. 

“I’m waiting for an MRI,” she said. “They examined me and gave me a bunch of doses of drugs I’m not certain I can pronounce, but I feel much better.”

“Then why do they want to do the MRI?” Paul asked. He pulled up a nearby chair and sat as close as he could to her bed.

She shrugged. “They said they want to see what’s going on. I only have one more treatment to go, and they’re hoping the treatment has had an effect already.”

“Maybe they’re hoping to skip the last treatment.” Paul was essentially thinking out loud. He looked at his mother. “So you feel better.”

She took a deep breath, which meant she was thinking carefully about what she was going to say. 

“I do right now.”

They stared at each other. Neither of them were likely to forget what she’d said. 

Paul broke the silence. “You don’t have to fight for me.”

She gave a look that was full of guilt, verifying that she wanted very much to stop fighting. 

“I don’t want you to be in pain. I don’t want you to hurt. I don’t want you to suffer.”

… to be continued …

Book Review Redawn by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson

Book Review Redawn by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson
The cover for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: In Redawn by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson, Even as the Galactic Superiority offers peace and placation, the last remaining humans receive a warning in the form of Alanik, the alien who crash landed on Detritus to warn Spensa of the coming threat. She’s woken up, and now she wants to defend her own home, and that will require a different alliance. Secrets are revealed, and everything will change before this battle for Redawn is finished.

Character: The characters and their arcs are the main reasons why this book is surprisingly wonderful. I don’t mean that I didn’t expect it to be fun or good. I just didn’t expect it to be this good. Jorgen absolutely steals the show. The weird part is that the story is told from Alanik’s point of view, an there are times when I feel like I’m reading her summary of Jorgen’s story, and that is awkward. Alanik’s arc is far less interesting than the things going on around her.

Exposition: Other than the necessary reviews that happen with any book in a series, this book is pretty seamless. Honestly, this book flew by for me. It’s probably my second favorite book in the saga (Cytonic was cool for a few reasons). So any time the pages fly, I know it wasn’t bogged down by needless data dumps.

Worldbuilding: We see a new planet and a new culture here. There are some interesting cultural elements in Redawn that I enjoyed. I liked the scope this story created. We’re starting to see the greater universe of this story, and when that’s combined with compelling characters, the story is exponentially better.

This image of Brandon Sanderson was taken from his author bio page on his webite.

Dialogue: One of the biggest character and plot points actually happen as a result of dialogue. Honestly, if one wanted to study up on how to use dialogue to develop character and plot, this book (heck now that I think of it, there are two) is a great case study. The impact moment occurs during the plot. A big turning point. (Now I’ve thought of three!) This book really is packed full of beautiful moments (both good and bad) that work well because of how the dialogue worked.

Description: The description here worked just fine for me. I wonder how fans of hard science fiction would feel about it. Most of the historically best-selling science fiction novels I’ve read have an amount of description and details that annoy me (but not too much). The books I hated are the ones that just annoy me to no end and seem to freeze the plot. This book never comes close to freezing the plot. I’d say there’s probably more description than an average Sanderson novella, but given the amount of new characters and locations we see, it makes sense.

Overall: This book is severely underrated. Yes, it’s a YA novella, but man is it compelling. It exemplifies that a book doesn’t have to be large to be great. If I were a voter, I would actually strongly consider nominating this book on its own for a Hugo in the category. I don’t think it would hold up. Frankly, most Hugo winners are more … contemplative than narrative, but I think this book is fantastic despite what it is (not “for what it is”).

Thanks for reading,

Matt

p.s. I worked very hard to get an image of Janci, but whatever is going on, I can’t seem to save her image.

Vits From A Man Named Nobody 81

Vits From A Man Named Nobody 81

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The door burst open, announcing the EMTs. 

“Mom, you’re going to be OK,” Paul said even as he moved back to allow the to emergency responders to do their jobs.

“I don’t want to be OK!” She sounded as if she were in agony. “I want perfect peace. No pain. No tears.”

Paul stood there staring as the emergency responders worked on his mother, muttering to one another. It might have taken a few minutes; it might have taken forever, but eventually they got her up on the gurney. 

One of the women approached him. “She’s reacting to chemo?” She must have talked to his mother a bit. 

Paul nodded. He was regarded as quite the scientist, but he couldn’t even think about what medications his mother was taking. His intelligence was failing. He had his wretched father’s build and strength, but that couldn’t fight a single cancerous cell. “The list of medications is on the fridge.” The words came out like he was back in college trying to remember a particularly tricky formula. 

The woman nodded. 

“Where are you taking her?” Paul asked. 

Of course, they were taking her to where she got all of her treatments. Why would take her anywhere else. 

The woman helped her partner raise the gurney and they moved toward the ambulance. Paul wasn’t sure if he locked, or even shut, the door behind himself. He just followed the EMTs out to the ambulance. He didn’t know if people were allowed to ride in an ambulance or not, but no one stopped him from climbing inside. 

The trip was quiet. Whether they gave his mother something to help her sleep, or the pain had faded, she seemed to be breathing deeply in sleep. Paul realized he was watching her chest rise and fall again. Every breath was somehow a relief and a threat. 

The ambulance came to a stop, and Paul tried to stay out of the way as they pulled out his mother and rushed her into the emergency room. Paul stopped in the waiting area and watched his mother be carted away. 

She wants to die. Death is a release to her.

A part of Paul remembered something about death being a good thing to Christians. It had to have been something someone said during Bill’s funeral. 

Paul stumbled around, stunned. A distant part of him knew that it would be a long time before anyone knew anything. He just wandered, trying to process what his mother had said. She was obviously in a lot of pain. Was she fighting just to stay with him? Did he want her to suffer like this just for the chance to live longer?

He didn’t even look up as he walked. The white-tiles on the floor of the hospital was the only way he knew he was moving. 

He didn’t want to lose her, but he didn’t want her to suffer. 

The tile floor suddenly turned into a dark, thin carpet. Paul looked up to see a religious area. He certainly didn’t know enough about Christianity or Catholicism to know which the room was built around, but the stain glassed windows that lined the walls to his left and right certainly depicted scenes even he could remember from reading the Bible all those years ago. 

A strange chuckle escaped Paul. One day ago, he’d have grumbled and turned around. He would have been annoyed at just being around a church. That day, Paul realized he would have had to wind up right exactly there. The room was empty. It was strangely quiet given that it was tucked inside a deep corner of a hospital. Four rows of pews led to a small stage where a cross hung behind a podium. 

Paul walked to the far-back pew and sat down. 

“Are you here?” 

Silence responded. 

“Figures,” Paul said. “You never really wanted me to talk to you; did you, Nobody?”

Nobody didn’t want Paul to seek him for guidance. Bill didn’t give advice based on what he thought. They always wanted Paul to go to the one being Paul never really wanted to acknowledge. 

He looked up, and tears flowed from his eyes. 

“I think you hate me.” The words came out in a soft, chocking manner. Even though he wanted nothing more than to sit there and weep, he didn’t know what else to do. 

“I know I said I hate you. You made that man my father. Then you gave me Bill and took him away. I was so angry.”

His head sank. It took him a few moments to gather himself. 

“I am angry. I’m angry all the time, and I don’t want it. But if you are there, then you’re really in charge. If I live in a universe created by an all-powerful God, I have to acknowledge that, that same God is in charge of everything. So I’m powerless. You can do whatever you want. Bill said that what you want most is people to come to you. Nobody said that, too.”

He wasn’t really sure what he was saying. His words were more about collecting his thoughts than anything else. 

“I’m alone. My mom is in there, and she wants to die, but even if she survives this, we all die.”

His voice cracked as more tears fell. “You can do whatever you want. Just please don’t let her hurt anymore.”

He fell forward, resting his arms on the pew in front of himself and burring his head in his arms. 

“I don’t want to lose her. I don’t want to be alone. But I don’t want her to hurt either. I don’t know why you took Bill. I don’t even know who Nobody is or why he hasn’t appeared in so long. All I know is I love my mother, and if anyone is going to save her, it has to be you.”

He looked up. “I’m sorry I hated you. If you’re there, you’re the being in charge of everything, and all I’ve done my whole life is try to fight you.” Paul spread his arms. “I’m done. You can do whatever you want with me. You can do whatever you want to me. I deserve it. I’m angry. I’m violent. I push everyone away. So I I deserve it.”

Paul looked out the door of the church, or whatever it was called. He couldn’t really be sure where his mother was, but he wanted to believe he was looking in her direction. “But she’s done everything I know a person who follows you should. And she’s tried so hard to get me to surrender to you. She’s been patient. Sh—“ He needed another few moments to collect himself. “If you’re there, you’re the one who decides when a person lives or dies. Just don’t let her hurt anymore.”

He waited another moment. 

“But please save her. I need her. I know, that if you’re real, it’s moronic to fight you. It’s just plain stupid to go against you, so of course I need you. I just … please don’t take her from me now. But please don’t make the time I get with her painful.”

He gave another of those odd chuckles. “I keep saying ‘if.’ I don’t know anything. But I think … I think you’re real. And that wouldn’t change if you saved her or you didn’t. I’m just asking, even though I’m the last person you should ever do anything for. My whole life I thought that if you were real, that you owed me, but that was never true. You don’t owe anyone anything. You didn’t have to make us. So I get it. This isn’t a trade. This isn’t a bargain. All I can do is ask, so I’m asking.”

Paul let his head rest on his arm again. He’d said all he could think to say. He didn’t know where else to go, so he just sat there. Eventually, his tears ended and sleep arrived. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 80

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 80

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Twenty-Four

May 29, 2038, 10:34 p.m. 

13 Years, 189 Days Ago

Paul gently held his mother as she retched. Her heaving stomach had long since emptied itself of it contents. She wept. 

“It hurts!” The statement was barely a whisper, but it still carried with it the implication of immense pain. 

She heaved again. Despite doing so for at least five minutes, nothing came out. Each time she finished convulsing, she fought to take in a breath before another wave of nausea hit her. It was like she was being suffocated by the illness. 

“I’m here,” Paul said. “I’m sorry. I … I don’t know what to do.”

Each bout of nausea got worse after each treatment. This session, the fourth, there was no optimism as they sat the treatment room, and Derek administered the treatment. They waited for the inevitable aftermath, and it came just five hours after they got home.

This time, Paul’s mother didn’t even sleep. She didn’t eat. She just went into her bathroom and waited with Paul, and the nausea, as expected, hit harder than ever. 

Paul stared at his mother as she heaved again, but this time, something plopped into the bowl. 

Paul glanced inside and froze. Dark red blood swirled in the water, changing it’s color in a terrifying moment. 

“We’re taking you in,” Paul said. 

He tapped his PID, activating it so he could press the emergency button. After a few painful moments, during which his mother coughed more blood into the toilet, a man’s face appeared on the PID.

“Emergency services. An ambulance is already on the way. My name is Don. Please tell me the emergency.”

“My mom’s coughing up blood,” Paul said. “She’s been going through chemotherapy, and they told me to report any blood immediately.”

Don’s holographic head nodded. “Someone will be there soon. Are there any other symptoms.”

“It hurts,” Paul’s mother whined. “I feel like my head is going to explode. God, I don’t want to do this any more. I don’t want this pain. Lord, I’m ready. Call me home and end this suffering.”

Paul fell back against the bathtub as if he were shoved. Did she really just ask to die? Is the pain that bad?

A siren screamed in the distance, and Paul shook his head and sucked in a breath. “Let’s get you up.”

He reached over to help his mother up, but she tried to push him away. “I said I’m done!” Though the comment was barely audible, the anger in her tone was clear.

“OK,” Paul said. “I’ll just go let them in.”

He rushed to the door. Coincidentally, the ambulance came to a stop in front of the house right as Paul opened the door. The large white vehicle’s hybrid engine seemed to both rumble and whine at the same time. Red lights flashed on the top of the vehicle. 

Two people, both women, exited the front doors and quickly walked to the back. They opened the rear side of the ambulance and rolled out a gurney. 

“The door is open!” Paul shouted. “We’re in the bathroom in the master bedroom.”

Paul didn’t wait for any reply, rushing back to his mother. 

He got to the bathroom and found her sitting on the stool crying. She held herself, awkwardly crossing her arms in front of her chest and yet still twisting her hands around so they could clasp together. 

“I can’t do it anymore!” Her comments came in quiet whispers of agony. “Please take this pain. Please don’t make me go through any more.”

“The ambulance is here,” Paul said. “They’re going to get you to the hospital and make you feel better.”

She looked at him, her full lips trembling, holding in a scream. She took a deep breath. “I don’t want to feel better,” she said. “I want the pain to stop.”

“That’s …” Paul didn’t understand. 

“I don’t want comfort,” she said. “I want it to end.”

“I … “  Paul couldn’t think.

“I love you,” she said. “I’m sorry I can’t fight any more. I just can’t do this any more.”

… to be continued …

Book Review Sunreach by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson

Book Review Sunreach by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson

Spoiler free summary: In Sunreach by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson, FM and Jorgen must work together to understand the Taynix and how they are able to do the amazing things they do, but the Galactic Superiority is working that much harder to eradicate humanity before they have that chance.

Character: The book takes advantage of the relationship readers probably have with these characters already. I think people just picking up this book might not really connect because they don’t have the same history. They’re not bad or boring at all, but the bulk of my sympathy for these characters was developed in the first Skyward Flight book. What I appreciate is that these characters grow. We see them evolve from that book. It’s not just more of FM or more of Jorgen, it’s a true continuation of their development as characters, development we wouldn’t have had without these novellas.

Exposition: Given that this novella is a side project from a larger series, there are several points where information dumps are just plain necessary. While they do exist in this story, they occur at proper times and in the proper amount. It’s sort of like being forced to eat your vegetables during your meal. It’s probably not your favorite it part, but it really does balance everything out.

Worldbuilding: I’d say the bulk of this book itself is based on worldbuilding. It’s like a giant demonstration on how the magic system of this world works. Normally, that would annoy me. What makes it work is we get character development and progression woven in with all the technical fine points. I don’t know if the most stout fans of hard scienc fiction would enjoy this. I don’t know that the most stout fans of epic fantasy would like this. They might. But what I do know is that fans of both worldbuilding and character development will enjoy it.

This image of Brandon Sanderson was taken from his author bio page on his webite.

Dialogue: This felt like a typical Sanderson novel. A little wit, a little snark, a dash of off hand punchlines, and we have ourselves an entertaining story. I read Chasing the Skip by Patterson a long while back, and she had that same flavor. It’s not surprising given their professional relationship. I saw a few v-logs about this series, and some people were down on this series because it wasn’t an exclusive Sanderson story. I don’t really feel that way. This was fun. I blasted through it and the rest of the series quickly. That speaks well of it, and the dialogue is one reason it was so easy to read.

Description: I honestly think I could have had a bit more here. I’ve seen Brandon show pictures of Doomslug, but the writing (and name) feel a bit off to me. Now there is enough of it for me to get a better picture, but for half the saga, I’ve been thinking a Taynix as something that might fit in your hand (you know, like a slug), but I think one was described as roughly the size of a loaf of bread (I think). So the visuals could be a bit stronger here, especially since we’re looking at creatures that don’t exist. However, this didn’t bother me as much as it might others. I don’t honestly care what stuff looks like, so I tend to glaze over description anyway. But as I think back, I realize it’s a bit hard for me to picture some of the elements of this story.

Overall: This was a pretty nice little story. I’m glad I stuck with it, because the others are so much better, but this one sort of tops out at “not bad.” The characters are sympathetic, and the magic system is interesting. I made the effort to listen to this story (audiobook) because I was already invested in the saga as a whole. I don’t think it would do well as an introduction to the series, but I do think it’s a fantastic side story in a very underrated saga.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

p.s. I worked very hard to get an image of Janci, but whatever is going on, I can’t seem to save her image.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 79

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 79

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Each time she took in a deep, restful breath, he took a bite, but he didn’t realize that was what he was doing until he was halfway through his meal. He set the bowl down and just watched her.

A series of agonizingly long minutes passed until he picked up the bowl and went right back to rewarding each of her breaths with another bite of food. It was literally all he could do. Sure he called the hospital and helped her get back to bed, but he was utterly powerless in this situation. 

He set the bowl back down; there were only a few stray noodles remaining. Paul pulled out his note pad. The truth was no man every really had any power in any situation. A person could exercise, eat right, see a doctor and dentist regularly, and still end up killed just as easily as anyone else. 

Paul imagined most people understood all of that, but the illusion of power gave comfort. Paul’s mother was aways strong and beautiful, even now. She ate right and lived a life most people would describe as good no matter what their beliefs. Regardless, there she was, lying in a bed and completely helpless to do anything. 

Paul threw the notepad down in frustration. The slap it made on the hardwood floor caused his mother’s eyes to burst open.

Idiot! He couldn’t even reign in his temper for the sake of his mother?

She looked around, smiling when her eyes met his, and then smiling wider when she saw the bowl still steaming on her night stand. 

“Is that for me?” she asked.

Paul smiled. “I wasn’t sure if you were hungry or not, and I didn’t mean to wake you; I’m sorry.”

She gave a soft chuckle, and Paul grimaced as she winced in pain. “I’m sure whatever it was won’t do whatever it did again.” She must have noticed his concern as he stood. “I just felt a moment of discomfort.” She reached out a grabbed his hand. “I’m OK, and I’d love a few sips of that broth.” She pulled back her hand.

Paul nodded and sat back down. He picked up the bowl and scooped up some of its contents.

Paul had created machines that could generate vacuum fields without the aide of any containment device. All of that required skill and dexterity, but in all his life, he’d never been so cautious and gentle than he was in those moments. 

She opened her mouth, and he guided the spoon to her lips, letting her slowly sip the liquid in. She gave a thin-lipped smile and let out a contented sigh. “I’m truly blessed to have a son who cares for me so.”

Paul let out a frustrated chuckle, but her eyes caught his.

“Should I focus on the pain?” she asked. “Should I focus on my concerns? Am I such a fool for choosing to be grateful for what I do have? Am I so stupid and naive for counting what good things I can count?”

“Of course not,” Paul replied. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to laugh like that.” He completed his apology with another spoonful of broth.

“I know you’re worried about me,” she said. “And I love you. And I’ve had my fair share of doubt and sadness and even anger. But if I just think for a minute about all the wonderful things I have, I can smile.” She did so, looking at him. “The first thing I always think of is you.”

“I was the worst son ever.” Paul scooped up more soup. 

She accepted another bite but them lied down. “I could say the same about my parenting skills.”

“Don’t go there,” Paul said. “We talked about that. What were you supposed to do?”

Her eyes were almost shut when the question came out, but they popped back open. “Care for you. Protect you.” A single tear rolled down her cheek. 

Paul thought for a moment. “You believe in forgiveness.”

“I have to,” she said.

“Whatever you may have done, whatever you’ve done in my life, know that the only thing I think about is how wonderful you’ve been to me.” The tone and forcefulness in his voice seemed to increase as he spoke. “I don’t think you need my forgiveness because I don’t hold it against you, but if that’s something you’re still holding on to, then know that I forgive you.” 

“Thank you,” she said softly. “And, you, who said you were such a bad son, you’ve made me so proud. I want the world for you. I love you, and I think you’re a wonderful son to me. Whatever you think you’ve done, I forgive you. You are my son, with whom I am well pleased.”

That last part tickled something in Paul’s mind, and he couldn’t understand why the phrase hit him as hard as it did. Whatever the reason, Paul had to scrub at his face and sniff in a suddenly runny nose. 

“So it’s settled,” he said. “We’ve forgiven each other, and I’m going to take care of you until you’re healthy.”

“That’s nice.” Her eyes drifted shut.

“I’ll be here when you wake,” he said. “I won’t leave you.”

“That’s … so … kind.” 

“I love you.” 

“Mmm hmm mm hmmmm.” 

Paul watched her sleep, careless of the time. He sat by her side and just watched until sleep came to claim him, too.