The King of Diamonds by Louis Tracy

“Is there no hope, doctor?” Fifteen-year old Philip Anson’s question was spoken in a brave, if not hopeless, tone. He and the doctor stood by his dying mother’s bedside.

The key to this book lies in the doctor’s answer—never stop trusting God. Philip doubts that there is any hope, however, even with God. His point-of-view is only strengthened when he is left a penniless orphan on the dark streets of nineteenth century London.

Like the storm clouds that scuttled over the city, the boy’s outlook becomes increasingly darkened until at last he decides life is no longer worth living. But, like all children, there is a destiny for Philip Anson; a purpose God designed before he was even born. With a dramatic act of heaven, the youth is snatched from the very precipice of pre-mature death. A diamond-filled meteor crashes into the tiny courtyard behind his slum lodgings. Recognizing the heavenly intervention, he is a changed person who lives the rest of his life as a godly, thankful man.

But his rise from pauper to prince is a long and often hard one that is both thrilling and extremely interesting. Our whole family enjoyed listening to the exploits of the fifteen-year old hero and his amazing journey. Though a certain amount of suspended disbelief is needed for this novel, it is saved from utter fantasy by the overt spirituality the author skillfully weaved into the story. He achieved an almost “boys’ Elsie Dinsmore” feel by letting the actions do the preaching.

Due to the time-period (the book was published in 1904) there are some disappointing Jewish slurs, but nothing violent or otherwise extreme. Drinking and smoking are also mentioned but generally in a negative light (remember that Elsie Dinsmore correlation). Probably the most disturbing aspect of the book is the violence in the latter half. The now grown Philip is literally beaten to a near death, stripped and thrown into the sea. (Though even here God’s blessing can be inferred as he is miraculously saved by some fishermen.) In a beautiful twist, both of the criminals are forgiven by Philip and aided by him in starting new lives.

Ultimately, the message introduced at the beginning of the story rings true—hope is not dead. It never can be dead in the life of those who trust God to guide and care for them.

Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Continuing my recent trend of older titles, here is another unique story, A Princess of Mars. Edgar Rice Burroughs is the author of the great Tarzan stories. If you haven’t read Burroughs, you need too. For his time period, the early twentieth century, he writes remarkably well; unlike some of his contemporaries, Burroughs has well developed stories and plots. Oh, and his stories are creative and very unusual. Don’t expect the usual run of the mill stuff with Burroughs.

Having read and enjoyed Burroughs’ Tarzan stories while in highschool and college, when I came accross this lesser known title at Librivox , I decided that I had to check it out. I wasn’t dissapointed and you aren’t likely to be so either. Burroughs took some of the charm of Tarzan and set his new hero, John Carter, in a new jungle: Mars.

To start at the beginning, the story is introduced by a young man who was a friend of John Carter. This young man had known Carter before the Civil War at which time Carter had gone to fight for the Confederate States. About twenty years later, Carter returned unchanged by the years and very wealthy. In the ensuing years, John Carter became a hermit and wrote the story of his time on Mars. At the end of his life, Carter palced the young man introducing the story in charge of his estate and order him to print the story of A Princess of Mars.

When John Carter awoke on Mars, he discovered several important facts. First, he discovered that gravity was different on Mars and this enabled him to perform great feats of strength and acrobatics. Secondly, he discovered that he was not alone. Finally, he learned that most Martians are at war…. It was only his great acrobatic abilities that enabled him to survive the first few moments on Mars. From there, Carter tells the story of love, loyalty and tradgedy; his love for Dejah Thoris, the loyalty of Woola his pet Calot, and tradgedy as some fink commited an act of terrorism against the atomosphere production facilities.

Carter travels the great red planet and meets many pleasant and not-so-pleasant characters. Throughout the story, he attempts to encourage the warlike peoples of Mars to live with higher ideals and better moral characteristics. (Burroughs was obviously influenced by religious belief, but like most men of that day, he accepted evolutionary concepts with his religious understandings.)

One odd/potentially bothersome point immediately pops up with this story. That is the matter of dress, or shall we say, the lack thereof. None of the Martians wear clothing and this includes John Carter. Now, Burroughs always maintains the highest sense of propriety in his writings, except for the issue of no clothing. Carter remains the gentleman in every sense even when he falls in love. Never will you find a place where they act innapropriately. Anyway, the absurdity of this speaks for itself…. Still, I don’t see that this should be the deciding point for or against the story as it is easily a forgettable issue.

Enjoy reading (or listening to) this entertaining book.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

As a satire, Animal Farm is quite amusing and even light-hearted. Yet the message one can delve from George Orwell’s masterpiece is deep and compelling. The message is, namely, that communism does not pan-out as equality, liberty, and prosperity for all, but is rather, and will always end up being, tyranny, servitude, and depression for the masses and wealth and control for a despot or oligarchy. The events of Orwell’s fairy-story are surprising and far-fetched, but they come as expected because Animal Farm is a satire on how communism came to Russia.

The major subject of Animal Farm is undoubtedly the argument that communism is not unmeasured equality and freedom but is rather another name and face of totalitarianism. Orwell depicts this fittingly by beginning his tale with an animal rebellion against the anachronistic “slavery” of the dominion of men. He then expands and proves this topic by illustrating the rise and fall of their own leaders and forms of analimalistic (read communistic) despotism; communism wasn’t all it claimed to be.

The second point that Orwell develops in Animal Farmis an exposure of the lack of rule and order in which communism abounds. Oh yes, communists are great at micro-management, but when it comes to levelheaded order, they haplessly fail. This point was probably the loudest and most humorous, for Orwell portrays this by having a constant revision of the Seven Commandments that bind his satirical Animalism. Each revision is made by the emerging tyrants and, ironically, benefits and elevates them alone. Orwell forcefully arrives at the apex of this absurdity with the commandments of Animalism finally degenerating to the one great oxymoron: “ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.”

And now, the third prospect that one can learn from Animal Farm is one that needs greatest address today. This last point is subtle, but its subtlety brings it to force. At the end of Animal Farm, the animal despots of the Animalistic experiment meet with their neighboring human farmer/despots. These two parties, who were prior enemies, gather for a wild party where peace and closer contracts are made. It is in how and why these two parties, the one mammalian and the other human, gather that this advantageous lesson is to be found; both desire only power, rule, and riches, and both will get it by the most beneficial means they can. Though Orwell does not recognize this, the bond that unites these enemies is that they are both shirkers of God’s eternal Law and are mere power-hungry despots. The point is chilling, and the reader is left with a strong and disturbing picture of our present age, the age where, communist or not, men have chosen to act upon their own terms and ever-evolving principles.

Animal Farm gives illustration that though communism promises equality, it only breeds tyranny and slavery; though communism promises public good, it only steals God-given liberties; though communism seems fair and just, it is at war with God’s unerring Law and is in no way fair or just. Animal Farm shows that communism is nothing but an oxymoron.