A Few Amazon.com Reviews
by J. Neil Schulman

Jay: A Spiritual Fantasy by Louis N. Gruber
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5 of 5 stars Throwing Christ to the Christians February 14, 2003
"Louis N. Gruber, MD," we are told about its author on the back cover of this book, "is a psychiatrist practicing in a state mental health system." We're also told he's "a communicant of the Episcopal Church." So the author is a psychiatrist working in a state mental health system who believes in Jesus.

That convergence is enough to explain the story line of Jay: A Spiritual Fantasy. Suppose a man comes to you and tells you that he's Jesus Christ, returned to earth. How would you know that he's not a mental patient ... or should be?

That's the thought experiment that Dr. Gruber sets before us. If the man's teachings appear at variance with the orthodox interpretations of the gospels, do we then regard him as a demon meant to draw Christians away from the real, historical Christ? Is the man's refusal to endorse any religion, or condemn any, to be taken as heretical to Christian theology and undermining preaching the gospel? What if he includes a homosexual in his circle of close followers? Does loving all mankind mean that you actually have to tolerate them?

What if Jesus came back and you didn't recognize him or, worse, that you didn't like him or agree with him? Is Jesus only Jesus if he's safely in Heaven and not in your face, if he shows up in slacks and an open shirt on your favorite TV talk show? Do you turn ice cream into the stuff of communion because it's pretty much all he eats?

How would you choose if he could cure the sick and walk on water, but your church condemned him as a fraud because he told his followers not to pray in words but in silent meditation?

This delightful short novel is full of provocative questions for Christians who aren't afraid that provocative questioning is damaging to their faith.

reviewed by J. Neil Schulman,
author, Escape from Heaven

Between Planets by Robert A. Heinlein (Author)
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5 of 5 stars As hauntingly prophetic as Orwell and Huxley March 22, 2000
Between Planets was one of the first Heinlein books I read, when I was ten or eleven years old. I never counted how many times I've re-read it since, but if it's over fifty or a hundred times, at least half of them as an adult, it wouldn't surprise me. This is Heinlein writing adventure with the best of the classics -- Robert Louis Stevenson, Daniel Defoe, and Stephen Crane included. When Heinlein wrote it in the 1950's, his description of the planet Venus as capable of sustaining both human life and an intelligent race of dragons was not impossible. That we have since learned that there are no other planets in our solar system which are friendly to life as we know it is unimportant -- we'll someday find planets in other solar systems that are, and Heinlein wrote about that possibility in other of his books such as Starman Jones. But what makes Between Planets so memorable is the portrait Heinlein painted of the planet earth as politically repressed: where you can't make a phone call without a government agency like today's National Security Agency listening; where you can't go to an airport (it's a spaceport in Heinlein's future) without being X-rayed and body searched; where politically incorrect books are sold only by "bookleggers" (we're not there yet but keep your eyes open). And most importantly, where other planets can fight for independence from a world government on earth where a federal officer interrogating you can inform you that your request for a lawyer is about a hundred years too late to be meaningful. Read this book for the tight action writing, the coming of age story, the politics, the descriptions of meeting with non-human races who can be friendlier than our own kind at times. And give it to your kids to read. They're the ones who are going to have to live in the future Heinlein warned us about.

Reviewed by J. Neil Schulman

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (Author)
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful:
5 of 5 stars A story of a grief observed November 6, 1999
The Catcher in the Rye is one of the half dozen books which I've read over a hundred times in the 30 or so years since I first encountered it. Being a troubled teenager when I read it, I identified with Holden, and when I became a writer, it was hard for me at first to shake Holden's narrative voice and find my own. I've studied the book to death, and read most of the critical books about it and its author, J.D. Salinger, but somehow everyone has focused on the book's language and Holden's teenage alienation, without ever getting their brains around the central point to the book.

Holden Caulfield is a teenage boy who's lost his younger brother, Allie, and is terrified that something equally horrible might happen to his younger sister, Phoebe. All his obsessions -- the title of the book itself -- has to do with his inability to deal with the grief of his loss, his distrust of a universe that could do this, and his wish that he could wrap his arms around innocent children like his lost brother and protect them forever -- protect them from falling off a cliff as "the catcher in the rye.".

The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour (1967) VHS ~ Ringo Starr

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4 of 5 stars Fellini meets British Music Hall November 4, 1999
Magical Mystery Tour is more interesting not for what it was but for what it would become. It was a musical video album before MTV; a series of Monty Python skits before Monty Python's Flying Circus first hit the air; a performance by an Elvis impersonator before the King died and his impersonators were everywhere.

One can wish that Richard Lester had directed it, or that the Beatles had actually given Federico Fellini a call to direct it since it's obviously an homage to him; or even that Terry Gilliam had been given this film as one of his first directing jobs. It's not as funny as it should be but that could just be my prejudice as an American not tuned to the sensibilities of English Music Hall burlesque skits.

Nonetheless, the Beatles' music was magical and this film contains some of their best.

Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent (Author), et al
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
5 of 5 stars This book opened the door -- now see what's behind it. October 6, 1999
I first read Holy Blood, Holy Grail when it originally came out in the United States in the early 80's. I found its claims, and the documentation of them, interesting, but unproven. At the time I was a novelist, and my second book was just about to come out. Then, last year, having found myself as the publisher of a new book publishing company, I was offered the source material which confirms what Holy Blood, Holy Grail had claimed. I accepted the book for publication and it is now available for the first time to other than initiates. I doubt that Amazon.com wants these reviews to be used to plug other books, but since this "other book" is also available for sale from Amazon.com, I hope they will understand why I'm using their review for a cross-reference. If you were fascinated by the claims of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, please do a search on Amazon.com under "Joseph of Arimathea," who is the author of The Book of the Holy Grail, now on sale from Amazon.com. The Book of the Holy Grail contains a translation of the original almost 2,000-year-old manuscript which proves the claims made in Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and explains what the bloodline of Jesus have been doing for the last two millennia ... and much, much more. The Amazon.com catalog listing includes a full description of the book, its table of contents, and an introduction by the current Merovingian Patriarch and Grand Master of the Templars / Illuminati.


Sliders: The Classic Episodes by Brad Linaweaver (Author)

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5 of 5 stars Classic Sliders -- Not Caffeine Free Diet Sliders February 9, 1999
Once upon a time there was a TV series called Sliders, produced by Tracy Torme, son of crooner Mel Torme. Tracy tried to do something on television which is always great while it lasts, but usually doesn't last long: produce a TV show smarter than its viewers. Joe Straczynski must have a deal with the devil because Babylon 5 managed to run 5 years with writing as good as any classic science fiction by Heinlein, Asimov, or Clarke. Torme wasn't as lucky. He managed only to get a couple of seasons of his masterpiece out before the bean-counters and the ratings watchers figured out they could get better ratings for this show by dumbing it down. Brad Linaweaver reminds of why the first few seasons of Sliders is a TV event worth remembering in the same breath with Babylon 5, The Prisoner, and those few TV shows which take politics seriously -- which means doing on TV what Orwell, H.G. Wells, and Heinlein did on paper. He didn't kiss up to the Wag-the-Dog Hollywood establishment, but instead used the science fiction genre for what it does best: comment on the present human condition by showing us the unlived alternatives. Linaweaver's episode guide takes this show's politics seriously and sympathetically. Unfortunately, this means that both Linaweaver and Torme himself are bound to be attacked by those who either are bored by politics completely, don't have the wit to appreciate genius when they see it, or are simply hostile to the libertarian messages floated in a sea of maudlin, predictable politics-of-the-pragmatic. I resent the new Sliders because without Quinn having Professor Arturo to bounce his genius back and forth against, like the episode where intellectuals were treated like NBA stars, the character of Quinn has devolved into a whiner. Brad Linaweaver understands the forces at work behind the scenes and, amazingly, has managed to say what needs to be said about this show without corporate censorship. Must reading for any intelligent Sliders aficionado.