Reviews for ‘Elder Race,’ ‘Real Zen for Real Life,’ ‘The Energy of Prayer’ and ‘Buddhism for Beginners’

Spoilers below

Elder Race

This is a 5 star read for me. This is also the third story by Adrian Tchaikovsky I’ve read, and the third 5 star read for him. I am usually stingy when it comes to giving out 5 stars, so me giving this guy only 5 stars means he’s a really good author. This is a short book, at only about 200 pages.

The conceit of this novel/novella is a sci fi/classic adventure fantasy fusion.

Lyn is a rebellious princess who is not taken seriously by her family. She wants to proove herself in deeds of daring do. When she hears that a demon is destroying a nearby kingdom, she sets out to defeat it.

Nyr is an anthropologist from a future-tech Earth, sent to one of Earth’s long abandoned space colonies to study how their society has advanced in the centuries since their separation. He is presently studying Lyn’s civilization, while struggling with depression.

Lyn and Nyr must team up to defeat a ‘demon.’ Nyr, being a scientist, doesn’t believe the demon is a supernatural force. Lyn, being from a medieval society, does believe in magic and the supernatural. They fight, with Nyr trying to convince Lyn about the truth of science vs magic… however he always fails because of the language barrier between them. Lyn literally doesn’t have the words in her language to understand what he means. For example when Nyr says ‘I am a scientist,’ she hears ‘I am a wizard.’ The author’s use of language drift was fantastic.

This book deals with the concept of depression very well. Nyr is VERY lonely. He’s separated himself from the rest of society, for he is the only technologically advanced person on this planet for the last 300 years. He is forced to rely on a brain implant to control his emotions to prevent himself from succumbing to depressive episodes. Even then, it’s not enough. Lyn must help Nyr push through his depression so they can slay the demon together.

Nyr’s struggles with his depression, brought on by both lonliness as well as guilt about him being a ‘bad’ anthropologist. As an anthropologist, he should not assist the colony with their troubles, because they are ‘inferior’ culture which he should not ‘infect’ with his space culture. In the end he comes to realize that his aloof studying of the people of the colony was doing more harm than good, and he has to rejoin with humanity for not only his own mental wellbeing but also for theirs.

Lyn had a coming-of-age plotline, but with the twist of her gaining the respect of her family. Her story wasn’t as nuanced or memorable as his, but it served the story well.

Overall, great book. You should read it. It’s only 200 pages, so it’s not much of a commitment.

Real Zen for Real Life

In my continuing attempts to improve my meditation skills, I decided to reread this lecture series. (Here’s my prior review.) I think that that review holds up. To summarize, this lecture series provides a good beginner’s focus on the religion, focusing on the philosophy, meditation practice, heritage and history. And this is a focus on Zen Buddhism, not Teravada or any other branch.

The Energy of Prayer

This short book of nonfiction is a book on Buddhist philosophy about the healing power of prayer and meditation. It’s by a modern Buddhist monk frequently cited by the lecturer in ‘Real Zen for Real Life.’ This book was short, at 120 pages. I listened to the audiobook, and the audio was only a few hours long. I found this was a bite-sized and approachable, citing scriptures and religious philosophies from Christianity, Islam as well as Buddhism. And it was sometimes funny! Religion/spiritualism doesn’t have to be so serious.

Buddhism for Beginners

This is yet another short book on Buddhism. Where the other nonfiction works I’ve read focused more on the theology and practical meditation techniques of this religion/philosophy, this focused more on day-to-day culture and traditions of the religion. For example, it discusses topics like abortion, self-defense, raising children and the like. Finally, I’ll mention that this was more focused on the Tibetan ‘Diamond Vehicle’ tradition of Buddhism, as opposed to the Zen or Teravada traditions. I suggest you check it out, for it’s only 150 pages, and is therefore not much of a commitment.

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