6.22.2013

My Review of Leviathan Wakes



The first book of “The Expanse” Series,  Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey is a scifi/space opera story set in the period after mankind takes to the solar system but before it spreads out to the stars beyond our own. The book’s two protagonists, Holden and Miller, come from this in-between version of mankind: spectacularly advanced but also wholly recognizable.

In the solar system of Leviathan Wakes has been colonized by billions, political power is spread unevenly between Earth, Mars, and the far-flung colonies of the Asteroid Belt and outer planetary moons. Though each party has their own needs and wants, they remain more or less interdependent and antagonistic. When Holden’s motley crew of ice miners stumble into a mysterious derelict ship, the chain reaction threatens the entire balance of the system.

Meanwhile, on Ceres Station, one of the most populated dots in the Asteroid Belt, Detective Miller is assigned a kidnap job–track down the missing daughter of some Luna-based bigwigs. Miller’s search leads him to where his bosses would rather he didn’t go, and eventually across Holden’s path. Together they try to avert a war, or something much, much worse.

Leviathan Wakes reads like a summer blockbuster. It’s quick-witted and perfectly paced, and the scifi elements strike the perfect balance between fantastical as hell, and hard enough to make sense and stay out of the way. The book is also occasionally terrifying. Not just thematically, but in specifically describing scenes and events that you’ll have trouble shaking.

Pick it up for the thrills, stay for the incredible world building, the humor, and the insanely fun (and just plain insane) rabbit hole mystery. Pretty much from the time this book came into my possession until the time that I finished it I could. not. put. it. down. Definitely check it out.

6.20.2013

Cleveland Parish Stares Down Austerity, Excommunication


As forced austerity continues to result in deeper cost cutting, as only the voiceless and vulnerable feel the pain of these cuts, and as protests against this injustice rise up from Greece to Chicago, one quiet community in Cleveland made front page news again today. The group raising their fist in the air against one of the the world's largest bureaucracies: The Community of St. Peter.

First, let's rewind a bit.

In March of 2009, Bishop Richard Gerard Lennon, spiritual and administrative leader of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese announced his plan to shrink the diocese by 52 churches. Twenty-nine churches were closed outright, the remainder merged with other parishes nearby. To Cleveland's 750,000 Catholics, the cuts were shocking. Eighteen of the shuttered churches were in Cleveland proper, and many more were in poor and ethnic communities.

Church communities who had grown up together over several generations were being scattered. Vibrant ethnic communities proudly living out the traditions of their varied homelands were told, essentially, it was finally time to assimilate. The region was rocked by the news.

The process of appealing this decision, an appeal that would need to be made to the Vatican, was incredibly daunting. More incredibly, several of the closed communities made such appeals and won.

One other parish, described in the Plain Dealer article first detailing the cuts as a "liberal-leaning downtown parish" that was "historical, financially solvent, growing and a provider of social services in a neighborhood of homeless people" was St. Peter Church.

The congregants of St. Peter took a third path. Rather than leave, rather than appeal, they simply decided to go on. They were told to close, they didn't. They were evicted, and so they scraped together enough money to move to an empty warehouse space on Cleveland's near east side. Known now as "The Community of St. Peter," they're still meeting today.

St. Peter's Church--and that's St. Peter, Jesus' headstrong disciple who would come to be known as the first pope--still practices a completely orthodox Catholic mass, but the Catholic Church and the Diocese of Cleveland don't see that way, and have deemed them an illegitimate breakaway.

The priest in charge at St. Peter, Rev. Robert J. Marrone, has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Members of the church have been warned that continuing to attend St. Peter would place their salvation in jeopardy. And this week, Sister Susan Clark, music director at St. Peter, was pressured by her superior Sister Margaret Gorman of the Sisters of Notre Dame (an order whose stated mission is to educate and care for the poor) to leave the parish. Likely facing excommunication from the greater church she has devoted her life to serving, Clark complied.

Remarkably, The Community of St. Peter soldiers on. They are committed to keeping up their humanitarian mission, and are active in the Greater Cleveland Congregations, an interfaith group dedicated to improving lives through advocacy in health care, food accessibility and criminal justice.

The tension between the parish and the diocese continues, recent talks between the two parties were fruitless, but the congregants' courage is remarkable. By continuing to live out their faith in this community, and with this mission of social justice, the parishioners at St. Peter are choosing to believe that Lennon is incorrect about their eternal damnation.

Christ commanded those who would follow him that they should feed the hungry and care for the poor. It would seem that The Community of St. Peter values those commands over the commands of a cost-cutting bureaucracy.

6.18.2013

Remembering Michael Hastings

This evening news broke that journalist Michael Hastings has died in a car accident in Los Angeles. I'm crushed by this news, and I never knew him. His death is a loss for journalism and for the truth. He told stories others missed, or were too timid to report, and he did it with a brashness and a compelling pace that left no mistake that what he was saying was the truth, raw and uncomfortable.
Hastings fearlessly cared more about the important story than about ensuring his continued access. His account of the second Obama campaign, Panic 2012, was unique in that its coverage was shaped by the fact that he was granted some access, but not much. It was consistently obvious that there was little love lost between the Obama press flacks and the man who brought low their celebrity general.
That general, Stanley McChristal, was cut low by his assumption that Hastings' desire to continue covering him trumped his interest in accurately portraying his team's roguish behaviors and disdain for civilian leadership. "The Runaway General" for Rolling Stone, and its book-length follow up The Operators peer under the carefully crafted media narrative to show a war far more grotesque, more cynical, and less winnable than the one on cable news.
I never knew Michael Hastings, I'm just a guy from Ohio who loves good journalism, but he took the time to reach out to me on several occasions. He thanked me for reading and reviewing both of the aforementioned books, and engaged with me on a couple of other occasions. Trivial as it sounds, I was flattered that he actually followed me back. My heart goes out to his friends, colleagues, and especially to his wife. His voice was important, and it will be missed by everyone who heard it.