Book Review: “A Clockwork Orange” (Anthony Burgess)

Summary: The paths of violence navigate through a forest of moral choices-what is the worth of the
automatic man?

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes or our website:

Review: The depth of this work is not fully realized in a passing read. Indeed, the author himself dismisses it as much too pedantic to be artistic. Yet, the work does seem to have layers with which the reader can be drawn into thoughtfulness. It is a violent work, born in part, from a violent act. Burgess’s wife suffered an attack not unlike one of the horrendous acts which the main character perpetrates. This fact alone make the work mind-boggling and curious. Why would the author write a work like this, told from the perspective of the actual criminal mind?

And yet, he distances himself from all the violence. Blurring the heinous crimes with a hypnotic made-up language that populates the book. Burgess admitted this. The language of this book, perhaps a bit difficult to get through at first, becomes more and more familiar as we are sucked along in little Alex’s head and all his misadventures. It covers over the violence and keeps the reader from being completely turned away. Perhaps we even feel a strange sympathy for the main character when he is being used by the political forces in this world? As we might be sucked in by any charismatic criminal.

Moral choice? In the book, the main character is evil, but the government attempts to make him good by physically disabling him from doing bad. The religious figure, a prison Chaplin, decries this saying that without freewill a person ceases to be a person. By contrast a prison warden scorns that the government’s action is missing the point – for where is redemption without punishment “an eye for an eye” and all that. The government officials in the conservative party say that the only point of all this is to lower the crime rate (and in so doing to get reelected). The scientists who invent the special technique which transforms the main character don’t even want to get into ethics at all. But what about Alex’s parents and former social worker? They all sort of seem perplexed by him or maybe indifferent. And the main character himself is unconcerned with all this – he just wants to get back to his old ways as quick as he can.

If you read the 21st chapter (the one originally cut out in the American version) you end on a different note. The character grows up. Seemingly all on his own. His change appears to come from within. Yet, I feel it is not completely from within – for at the end – he has a job doing something he likes (which is not destructive), and he is now earning money NOT stealing it. Back in his crime-filled sprees it was easy come – easy go. Yet little Alex, now big Alex is not so quick to part with his cash when he’s been meant to become a part of society and earn his keep. So, when Alex gets set up doing something he likes (associated with his love of music) his destructive ways are diverted.

But compare this with Alex’s companions: George, the droog who had a notion to take over leadership – falls victim to his own criminal ambitions. Dim, a lack-witted brute, throws in with Alex’s enemy– perpetrating his old violent tricks now as a corrupt (or sadistic) police officer. Then there is Pete who was the least violent in the group, who renounces his old ways and finds a girl—moves on—matures—grows up. We are led to believe that Alex might follow in Pete’s footsteps. Did he come to this conclusion on his own? Did the government help him to it by providing him a way of making a living with something positive he is interested in? Or did it just become tired of being a criminal (or more mature). After all, the last chapter is the “21st” chapter and made to be symbolic with the coming of age at 21 years.

In Alex’s world, everyone connected with the criminal way seems to be using everyone else. Alex and his droogs use people by preying on them. Then Alex is preyed upon by the government for political reasons and exploit. Despite Alex’s unforgivable lifestyle, we are still left feeling unsatisfied with the government’s solution. Somehow we can’t quite swallow turning someone into an automaton. Burgess makes sure of this by making the governments technique have the side effect of causing him pain and awful discomfort whenever he hears music (his one arguably redeemable quality). And this side effect is then exploited to cause Alex to try to “snuff it” (end his own life). This would be unacceptable, for if the government had wanted that, then they simply could have administered capital punishment in the first place.

This book is very successful in sucking you in to a sort of comfortable and hypnotic read of things that would otherwise jolt you off the page, and then after you’ve gone too far into the character’s head it’s too late to turn back. You are caught in the bright and harsh lights on the big moral issues at stake surrounding crime, morality, maturity and freedom of choice.

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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Book Reviews


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Mildred – a tale of psychological suspense is FREE right now

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Posted by on September 14, 2014 in News


Book Review: “I Am Legend” (Richard Matheson)

Even depression and alcoholism can’t defeat a vampiric-zombie apocalypse.

Despite its vampire origins, this book originated many medical, zombie, dystopian thrillers. Robert Neville is alone. Very alone. Well, not completely alone. His family, friends, and neighbors have all come down with a bad case of vampirism. However, this sickness more closely resembles zombism (without the brain eating). The vampires have an intelligence much closer to (but slightly above) your typical walking dead.

The story opens with the protagonist literally boarded up in his home, living off a generator and the food he manages to pilfer during daylight hours. Over time, he has managed to find a way to survive in a world where people (and sometimes animals) are dying of this strange disease that very closely resembles vampirism. Despite the best efforts of the world’s scientists, everyone had gone to rot except Neville (or so we think). So he has shored up his existence with a greenhouse full of garlic, strategically placed mirrors and the occasional Christian cross. All this helps to keep the relentless vampire apocalypse at bay during the wearisome nights. During the day, Neville makes repairs to his fortifications, hunts downed weaken vampires and dispatches them with wooden stakes and picks up supplies around the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The author brings a nice sort of thriller-suspense element to the table as he plays with this constant cycle of safety and danger as the sun rises and sets.

The nights are where the fun begins. At sundown, Neville must be back home safe and sound or risk being overwhelmed by the masses. The vampires are not too strong physically, but at night they are at full strength and they come out in never ending swarms. Every single evening, Neville sits in his home stares at a mural of some nameless and beautiful landscape of a long forgotten time of yore and drinks himself into numbness at he listens to the vampires throw rocks at his windows and mirrors, beat on his walls and (in a particularly chilling way) call out his name.

The author makes interesting leaps into scientific plausibility for this plague that has besot mankind. He mixes in classic vampire legend with microbiology and psychology. It’s a great mix for pleasing modern readers. The theories for how some of the vampire legends evolved from truth (like the chemical qualities in garlic scent being repellent to the vampire germ) and some are just psychological (the Christian vampires fear a cross because somewhere in their infected brains they have memories that tell them they should be). The main character is just a plant worker, an everyman. Yet, we follow along with him over the months as he educates himself with library books on how to learn about microbiology and test out theories and hypothesis on the vampires so that he can learn what happened and why its happened, and see if maybe he can change the course of things. He’s pretty much alone with a lot of time on his hand (in between vampire slayings), but it may be a bit of stretch given that he does have daily maintenance on his home/fortress to keep up and supplies to obtain (and there is nobody around to help him). Still these ideas of working science into legend really help to build up the mystery, suspense, and tension. They are also the precursor elements for many similar books to come.

The true story is here. It’s not about vampires, zombies, or zombie-vampire hybrids. It’s about a man who thinks he’s the only person left in the world. Who has buried and reburied his loved ones. A man utterly broken and alone, fueled on fumes of whisky to carry out the primal instincts of his body. Survival. Some reviews may disagree, but the book has real strength here. We get inside this man’s head and really feel his struggle and his sense of hopelessness. We follow his ups and downs as little glints of hope dash past him and then are snatched away by the cruel reality of this dystopian world: his mind’s struggle with his body’s desire—the impetus of life. Of particular note, is Neville’s struggle with carnal temptation when the female vampires outside his house try to tempt him with their attributes of flesh, his spiral into deeper and deeper alcoholism and his violent lashings of frustration at the trappings of his environment. All of this is felt and related to the reader in a very compelling way. This, my fiends, is the heart of the story.

The ending, which is a bit of a twist, sets a nice perspective on things. It’s dark and sort of unsuspecting. The author goes from spending a vast majority of the book, zoomed tightly and claustrophobically on a sole protagonist to suddenly panning wide and taking in a much broader view. Sort of inline with the Twilight Zone style that the author helped create when he wrote for that show.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes or our website.

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Posted by on September 2, 2014 in Book Reviews


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Review: “I Am Legend” (Richard Matheson), “I Am Legend” (Francis Lawrence), “The Omega Man” (Boris Sagal), and “The Last Man on Earth” (Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow)

Ryan Sean O'Reilly:

New podcast episode – check it out!

Originally posted on No Deodorant In Outer Space:

July Review – Episode Seven


Listen to the podcast here (click to play/right click and select “save target as” to download):

Episode Seven – “I Am Legend” (book and movie), “The Omega Man,” and “The Last Man On Earth”*


Ryan: 4 Stars “…Even depression and alcoholism can’t defeat a vampiric-zombie apocalypse…

Wilk: 5 Stars “…The story is bone chilling and has started a genre of literature and cinema…

Rick: 4 Stars “…In many parts of the book, Robert Neville- seemingly the last man in the world, struggles to keep himself sane in a world gone rotten with vampires…

Mike (guest): 4 Stars “(really more of a 3.5)”

(Click the links to read full written reviews on


“I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson

Book: “I Am Legend” (Richard Matheson)

“Robert Neville may well be the last living…

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Posted by on September 1, 2014 in Podcast


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Book Review: “The Running Man” (Stephen King)

Summary: Dystopian thriller of prescient vision

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes or our website:

Review: Stephen King wrote this novel very quickly under his pseudonym, Richard Bachman. He talks about this in the book’s prologue. As many reviewers point out, he also provides a major spoiler. So don’t read that first (unless you don’t care).

Ben Richards lives in squalor and because of his refusal to punch it in like other cog fodder for the rich elite, he is outcast and unable to find suitable work. His refusal, as explained, is a refusal to put himself into a horribly unhealthy work environment. Unfortunately his idealism has caused the family unit further financial woes and his wife is forced to forsake her marriage vows to make ends meet. What could be worse? Well, how about a young child who is suffering from a curable aliment, but one which the protagonist cannot afford the medicine. Richards hates this and it spurs him into taking his idealism into full bloom, which he does by signing up for a game show that can earn the family money based on how long the participate can stay alive. If you survive for a certain amount of time, then you are home free, but of course nobody ever has.

The game show uses the complete world as its stage. The protagonist literally is a “running man” being chased by man hunters who will kill him when they find him. The whole thing is televised and the general public can earn money by reporting on his location. A further twist, is that Richards has to video record himself twice a day and mail the tapes in by a certain time – otherwise he’s disqualified (oh and the man hunters will still kill him). Although, it’s claimed that the game show won’t use his mailings to track him – it’s highly suspect.

Before Richards begins, he is advised by the game show’s dubious host to hide out among his own i.e. the poor (as they are the only ones who probably won’t turn on him). Richards takes this advice to heart. What follows is a maddening thriller of short successive and numerically titled chapters that count down toward the end. You can really picture yourself, as the main character. Where do you go? What do you do? Your face is plastered all over the state-run television system and everyone in the entire world will know your face and likely be motivated to turn you in for money. Do you run? Do you hide? King does a great job of letting you feel the natural paranoia that would accompany such a scenario. Every person the protagonist passes by, every time Richards stops to rest he thinks – they know! They found me out already!! Even if he can’t be sure, he can’t risk sticking around to find out. He must just keep moving.

And yet, it would be almost impossible to go it completely alone. You would have to trust someone, somewhere, sometime. Again King does a good job of fleshing out the other people who Richards inevitably comes into contact with and whom he must decide whether or not to trust (sometimes without option). Through Richard’s interactions with others, we get a bigger sense of his world. This story is set in a dystopian future where the government’s manipulation of media and culture gets into 1984 type levels. The divide between poor and rich has become ocean wide, to the point that the “have’s” now even have a different currency system. Not surprisingly, we learn the powers that be are likely furthering the subjugation of the poor by worsening environmental conditions and then lying about it.

Which brings out another good thing about this book, there is a struggle in the main character between looking out for his own interest (surviving the game how to provide money for his sick and struggling family) and fighting the oppressive powers dominating the poor. He knows its bad out there for everyone. Oh how he knows, how he has lived it. In fact, it’s so bad, that he’s decided to give up and make a last bid for money as he “checks out”. A sort of giving up. This is what the totalitarian regime wants. Don ‘t care don’t try. Just give in and play along. A classic scenario. And yet, the more the regime tries to get Richards to play along, the more he starts to wake up. To evolve. Suffice to say, the story culminates to a grand conclusion (that won’t be ruined if you don’t read the prologue).

As far as Stephen King goes, this is a fast fast fast book! It reads very quickly and is devoid of his usual long-winded descriptions. You know that a Stephen King book (whether written as Bachman or as himself) is going to be written at a certain level – and this book is no exception. I would definitely recommend this story for those who don’t know King outside horror. He’s written in a lot of other genres – and done it quite well. Though, you still get his mastery of scaring. There is a particularly suspenseful and frightening scene involving a sewer pipe and raging fire that kept me quite on edge and is totally classic King.

All in all an enjoyable read. Perfect science fiction, dystopian, thriller for a plane ride or vacation trip. And a great introduction to King’s talents for those (few) who might have overlooked him all these years.

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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Book Reviews


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Mildred – trending in Top Ten FREE list on Amazon

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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in News


Mildred – a tale of psychological suspense – FREE for Kindle

My new story, MILDRED, is free at Amazon today:

Synopsis: A diary, noises from the attic, a resident cat, and piles and piles and piles of boxes cast shadows over Josephine as she digs through her new home and discovers the disturbing circumstances surrounding her purchase of the place.

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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in News


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