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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Growing Old in God (I hope I get old before I die)

Last Sunday – January 24, 2010 – was my birthday. I turned 35 years old, and I celebrated it like an old man: I took a nap.

Some of you chuckle because you know that 35 isn’t really “old.” And some of you – some of you kids and teenagers – chuckle because you can’t even imagine being old like Captain Jeff. “Old age” is a matter of viewpoint. If you’re only as old as you feel then some of us are younger than our years and others are far older than our years.

Me? Most days I still feel young. I don’t belt my pants above my belly-button. I don't wear black socks with sandles and shorts. I don’t watch Matlock. I don’t eat dinner at the buffet at 4:30. I don’t grouse about “those ‘dern kids and their rock-and-roll music.” I still believe that if it’s too loud, you’re too old. And I like my music loud.

And yet… I’m starting to notice the occasional grey hair, especially in my beard and mustache. I'm seeing the beginnings of wrinkles around the corners of my eyes. I’ve noticed a change in my metabolism…. I know that I’m not “old” yet, but I can see that I will be, and maybe sooner than I might like.

I used to joke with people that being a Major in The Salvation Army just means that you’re old, but I’ve quit using that joke since I’m only a few years away from being promoted to the rank of Major. “Major Jeff Carter” That just sounds old, doesn’t it? And I’ve realized that in 15 years I’ll be 50. (Yes. 50 seems old to me.) Now to some of the kids and teens, 15 years seems like forever. But I’ve been married to my wife, Mikey, for a few months short of 15 years now, and those years have flown by.

It seems like just a few days ago that Emma was born, and then Dune. But they’re already 10 and 8 years old, and they're almost 11 and 9.  How did I get to be so old so fast?

It’s not that I’m afraid of growing old. Not really. In my relatively short life, I’ve had the good fortune to know many good and godly men and women with grey hair and wrinkles. I’ve admired them and learned from them and hope to be even half as interesting and vital as they are / were.

But as we grow older we are forced to reconsider our sense of identity. If you ask a child on their birthday, “how does it feel to be a year older?” they’ll probably tell you that it doesn’t feel much different at all. But with each additional year, we start to notice things changing.

At 35 years old, The Salvation Army expects its officers to have a complete physical examination. COMPLETE. (You know what I mean. And if you’re too young, to know, then you will later…) It’s a very practical and reasonable expectation. It’s time to take stock of my physical condition. Are there health risks of which I need to be aware? Do I need to worry about my cholesterol levels? My dad did, so that’s something I’ll need to watch. Am I at risk for other conditions – cancer or other diseases? Do I need to change my diet? Do I need to exercise more? These are important things to consider as I grow older.

But more than these physical things, turning 35 has caused me to reevaluate who I think I am and who I want to be. As we grow older we are confronted with this changing self and it can be difficult to look at those changes. Though I remember being the moody teenager and the hyper idealistic 20 something, I’m not that Jeff Carter any more. Some things have changed. Some things are still changing. We’re always changing. And so I have to ask myself – Do I like who I am? Do I like what I’ve become? Do I want to keep going this way?

These are difficult questions that confront us as we grow older. Some people confront them earlier than others. Some only realize them later, when they wish things could have been different. As we grow older we are confronted with this changing self – identity and we have to ask, do I like who I am and what I’ve done?

Like the Psalmist of Psalm 71 (who probably was King David) I’ve known God my entire life. My parents raised me with the understanding that I came to them as a gift from God and that they owed me back to God. They taught me the scriptures. They taught me to pray. And, what is more, they set me loose to find my own relationship with God. My faith isn’t my father’s faith. My faith isn’t my mother’s faith. For better or worse, with all my mistakes and failures, my relationship with God has been my personal relationship with God.

The Psalmist says that he has praised God all his life. From his childhood, from his mothers’ breasts, even from the womb, he has known that God has been with him. He has known God’s goodness and grace. He has experienced the wondrous love and the mighty works of God. The name of God comes to his lips in praise. The psalmist has lived a long and full life in the beauty of God.

But all is not golden in his golden years.

He knows that his fading out of life; his strength is melting away, his vitality is diminishing. He can’t run like he used to, his hips and his knees trouble him. He aches when he stands and is sore when he sits. His back hurts him. His arms are weak. His eyesight is fading and the world is growing dim. His hearing is going. He knows that people are speaking to him, but he can’t hear them or understand what they are saying.

This gradual diminution of the physical body was evidence of his gradual descent into Sheol – the pit – into the grave – the place of the dead where existence is minimal and men are strengthless.

And added to this weakening by gradual decline is the threat to the psalmist from his enemies. They pursue him and challenge him. They watch him closely, waiting for an opportunity – a weak moment – when they can overtake him. They can see that he’s not the victorious conquering youth any more. They see his age and they delight in his weakness.

The psalmist says “I’m a wonder unto many” (KJV) “Many were bewildered at me” (NJB) – an expression which has confounded translators and commentators. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Do people look at him and say “Oh, how wonderful?” or do they look at him and shake their heads in disdain? Do they wonder why he has suffered so much? One translator (1)  has suggested that the line should read “I have been like a target for archers.” They have shot their arrows at him. They have hurled poisoned words and malicious accusations. They have abused him and hounded him.

And he is tired.

He is old and he is tired. These were supposed to be his golden years when people would stand in his presence and honor him. (Leviticus 19:32) His white hair should have been his crown of honor. (Proverbs 16:31) But instead, they are plotting to destroy him.

Weakened by physical decline and by the unrelenting assaults of his enemies, the psalmist imagines himself to be in the lowest circles of Sheol. He feels like he’s already dead. He has exhausted his energy and there is nothing left.

There is nothing left except hope. “I will always hope,” he says. “My hope will never fade. I will ever add to your praise.” Even though he is dead tired, even though he is pursued by foes and slandered by his enemies, he has hope. He has hope in God even though he knows that is God who has led him through all these calamities.

“Though you have made me see full many tribulations, quarrels and wrongs,
You, God, have shown me much misery and hardship,
but you will give me life again, you will restore me to life.”

God has led him through the valley of the shadow of death – and even into death, and yet the psalmist is confident that God will be faithful and that God will restore him to life, that God will resurrect him, as it were.

God has always been his refuge, his stronghold, his fortress. God has not failed him. And now, even at the end of his life, he knows that God will not abandon him. God will not fail him in his hoary old age. God will not be far away (though, it may feel as he is). The psalmist is confident that God will let him live – long enough, anyway to tell the next generation about the goodness of God. The psalmist wants only to tell the children at his knee about the faithfulness and goodness of the God who has protected him and defended him through his life. He wants to tell them of the God whose love never fails, whose promise never fails, whose word never fails.

At 35, I know that I’m not old yet. But I am aware that I’m getting there. (No faster, no slower than anyone else). May it be that I can say, like the Psalmist, that God has been faithful to me – even to my grey haired old age. I trust that God is good.

(1)  Dahood, Mitchell, The Anchor Bible Vol. 17 Psalms 51 -100 Doubleday, Garden City, New York, 1968. page 173
In the Irony Department - The Who - who did not (excepting drummer Keith Moon) die before they got old will be performing at the Superbowl next week.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Howard Zinn - Dissident, Teacher, Seeker of Justice

Howard Zinn - (August 24, 1922 – January 27, 2010)

"Why should we cherish 'objectivity,' as if ideas were innocent, as if they don't serve one interest or another?  Surely, we want to be objective if that means telling the truth as we see it, not concealing information that may be embarrassing to our point of view.  But we don't want to be objective if it means pretending that ideas don't play a part in the social struggles of our time, that we don't take sides in those struggles.

"Indeed, it is impossible to be neutral. In a world already moving in certain directions, where wealth and power are already distributed in certain ways, neutrality means accepting the way things are now. It is a  world of clashing interests - war against peace, nationalism against internationalism, equality against greed, and democracy against elitism - and it seems to me, both impossible and undesirable to be neutral in those conflicts.

"... I do not claim to be neutral, nor do I want to be.  There are things I value, and things I don't.  I am not going to present ideas objectively if that means I don't have strong opinions on which ideas are right and which are wrong.  I will try to be fair to opposing ideas by accurately representing them.  But the reader should know that what appears here are my own views of the world as it is and as it should be.

"I do want to influence the reader.  But I would like to do this by the strength of argument and fact, by presenting ideas and ways of looking at issues that are outside the orthodox.  I am hopeful that given more possibilities people will come to wiser conclusions.

"In my years of teaching, I never listened to the advice of people who said that a teacher should be objective, neutral, and professional. All the experiences of my life, growing up on the streets of New York, becoming a shipyard worker at the age of eighteen, enlisting in the Air Force in World War II, participating in the civil rights movement in the Deep South, cried out against that.

"It seems to me we should make the most of the fact that we live in a country that, although controlled by wealth and power, has openings and possibilities missing in many other places.  The controllers are gambling that those openings will pacify us, that we will not really use them to make the bold changes that are needed if we are to create a decent society.  We should take that gamble.

"We are not starting from scratch.  There is a long history in this country of rebellion against the establishment, of resistance to orthodoxy.  There has always been a commonsense perception that there are things seriously wrong and that we can't really depend on those in charge to set them right.

"This perception has led Americans to protest and rebel.  I think of the Boston Bread Rioters and Carolina anti-tax farmers of the eighteenth century; the black and white abolitionists of slavery days; the working people of the railroads, mines, textile mills, steel mills, and auto plants who went on strike, facing the clubs of policemen and the machine guns of soldiers to get an eight-hour workday and a living wage; the women who refused to stay in the kitchen and marched and went to jail for equal rights; the black protesters and antiwar activists of the 1960s; and the protesters against industrial pollution and war preparations in the 1980s.

"In the heat of such movements brains are set stirring with new ideas, which live on through quieter times, waiting for another opportunity to ignite into action and change the world around us.

"Dissenters, I am aware, can create their own orthodoxy.  So we need a constant reexamination of our thinking, using the evidence of our eyes and ears and the realities of our experience to think freshly.  We need declarations of independence from all nations, parties, and programs - all rigid dogmas.

"The experience of our century tells us that the old orthodoxies, the traditional ideologies, the neatly tied bundles of ideas - capitalism, socialism, democracy - need to be untied, so that we can play and experiment with all the ingredients, add others, and create new combinations in looser bundles. We now as we come to the twenty-first century that we desperately need to develop new, imaginative approaches to the human problems of our time.

"For citizens to do this on their own, to listen with some skepticism to the great thinkers and the experts, and to think for themselves about the great issues of today's world, is to make democracy come alive."

- From Passionate Declarations: Essays on War and Justice by Howard Zinn, Perennial, 2003.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Audio / Visual for Sunday

Some preachers like to wait till Saturday night to prepare for Sunday morning's service.  I try not to wait so long.  I spent most of today working on material for this Sunday (January 31, 2010).  Our text will be Psalm 71.

This will be the image on the screen ,and this will be the music for one of the songs.  The picture was made in photoshop, and the song was made with Ableton Live using (among other things) a few samples from FreeSound

I haven't yet finished the rest of the material, but I still have a couple of days.

Friday, January 22, 2010

430,000 Words of Legendary Awefulness

I have just finished reading one of the most dreadful pieces of writing ever published.  Battlefield Earth by founder of Scientology, L. (Lafayette) Ron Hubbard.

It weighs in at 819 pages (in the hardback edition available at local Public Library) of consistently terrible prose, flat 1 dimensional characters, and plot holes you couldn't believe.

I think you could probably cut at least 50 pages from the book simply by removing the word "had" from Hubbards vocabulary.  Consider this from a page at random:

He had bunked down in the car in the outskirts.  He had the old Chinko map of the ancient city, but he had no curiosity about it.With a few shots of kerbando, he had eased himself off into sleep, ...
The car, however, had grown ..... Maybe it had been footfalls that had awakened him.
... He had seen horses... But he had never seen...
Only this one had  a second body...

The two beasts had now turned ...
He had his quarry trapped...

None of those sentences need the word "had" in them.  In fact they could all be improved by removing it. - He bunked down in the car in the outskirts [of the city]. He carried the old Chinko map in his pack, but wasn't at all curious about it.

The book (Originally titled Man, Endangered Species) is set in the year 3000, a millenium after the successful invasion of earth by the evil Psychlos - a malevolent species of 9 ft. tall creatures who have conquered planet across multiple universes in order to strip mine them for the profit of their intergalactic mining corporation.

Humanity has been reduced to a handful of primitive tribes living in mountainous regions of the earth - living as hunters and gatherers, wearing furs and skins, and wielding nothing more dangerous than clubs and spears.

Yet within a year of being captured by Terl (the Psychlo security chief stationed on earth) the hero - Jonnie Goodboy Tyler - is able to pilot fighter aircraft, has mastered advanced chemistry, nuclear physics and multiple languages.  Furthermore he has mined a over a ton of gold from a nearly inaccessible cliff-side, taught a band of warriors to pilot the fighter craft, and fought a successful revolution against the highly armed and overwhelmingly numerous Psychlos.

And the way that Jonnie Goodboy Tyler manages to win his final victory is too klutzy to be plausible.  The Psychlos don't breath air.  They breath "breathe-gas" which inexplicably explodes in the presence of radiation.  Jonnie and his band of rebels manage to teleport some nuclear weapons (which they found laying around , and after 1,000 years of neglect, were still operational.) to the Psychlo home planet and blew the whole thing up.

The book is also full of Hubbard's hatred for Psychologists and Psychiatrists (hence the name Psychlo given to the sociopathic aliens).  The Psychlos, Hubbard tells us, are led by a "medical scientist cult" known as "catrists"  (get it?  Catrists... Psychiatrists... Catrists... Psychiatrists ..).  In December 1980, two months after he completed the book, Hubbard told fellow Scientologists that "I was a bit disgusted with the way the psychologists and brain surgeons mess people up so I wrote a fiction story based in part on the consequences that could occur if the shrinks continued to do it."

And the Pyschlos themselves were made to be sociopathic and cruel by small devices implated in thier brains shortly after birth - which would kind of relate to Hubbards idea of engrams

The book may not have become anything based on its own merits.  So the Church of Scientology guaranteed to buy 50,000 hardback copies, and mounted a massive publicity campaign to support the book.  Individual Scientologists were encouraged  to go out and buy two or three copies. 

Former presidential hopeful Mitt Romney cited Battlefield Earth as one of his favorite novels.  Yikes!

The movie adaptation of Battlefield Earth is one of the worst movies ever made (thank you very much Mr. Travolta and director, Rodger Christian). 

The movie - a personal pet project of Travolta for many years - covers only the first half of the book.  Travolta had hoped to make a second to complete the tale,  but poor box office results meant that the world would be spared that sequel.

To offset reading this monstrously bad book, I also read a non-fiction book about L. Ron Hubbard.  Bare-Faced Messiah: the True Story of L. Ron Hubbard  by Russell Miller.

Mr Hubbard had a truly bizarre life - and in this case, the truth of his life is much much stranger than the fictional biographies (yes, plural) that the Church of Scientology has published about L.Ron. 

And to make this all a very timely post - Mr. Hubbard died on Januray 24th , 1986.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Upcoming Art Show

I recieved a phone call today from the good folks at the Art Center in our little town.

They saw the paintings I had on display last month at the hospital.  They liked them and now they are inviting me to participate in an artist show in March.  I don't have a lot of details just yet, but when I do, I'll be sure to pass the word.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Psalm 29 – A Hymn to the Lord of the Storm

Give Yahweh, o sons of God
Give Yahweh glory and praise,
Give Yahweh the glory due his name!
Bow down to Yahweh
In the splendor of holiness.

The voice of Yahweh is upon the waters,
The God of glory rolls the thunder;
Yahweh is upon the mighty waters.
The voice of Yahweh is strength itself,
The voice of Yahweh is very splendor.
The voice of Yahweh shivers the cedars,
And Yahweh shivers the cedars of Lebanon;
The voice of Yahweh cleaves with shafts of fire.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
And Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of Yahweh convulses the desert,
Yahweh convulses the desert of Kadesh.
The voice of Yahweh convulses the terebinths,
And strips the forests bare;

While all in his temple – all of it,
All cry ‘Glory!’
Yahweh has sat enthroned since the flood
Yahweh is enthroned as King forever.
Yahweh will give his people victory,
Yahweh will bless his people with peace.

The curious thing about this hymn to the Lord of the Storm is that it may have started out as a hymn to the Canaanite storm-god, Baal. It seems likely that the biblical writer of Psalm 29 found in this hymn many statements that were true – not of the pagan god Baal who was worshipped as the lord of the storm by the Canaanites, but of the One True God -Yahweh, and so adapted the hymn to the praise of Yahweh. Missionaries often work this way – by finding the “hidden” gospel in the culture and folklore of the countries to which they are sent, and by using these to teach the truth of God to those who don’t yet know him. The Apostle Paul worked this way as well; he utilized an altar on Mars Hill dedicated to “an unknown god” to teach his audience about Yahweh, and the Son he sent to redeem mankind.

We know, of course, that we are able to worship God in the beauty of holiness wherever we are. We are not bound to this building (though in Minnesota winters, we appreciate it), we are not confined to this space; we are not restricted to this room. There is no place in the universe where we could not experience the transcendent presence of the Living God. We can worship wherever we are.

And the author of this psalm demonstrates that for us. The psalmist is watching as a fierce storm blows up from over the Mediterranean Sea and sweeping over the land. The thunder crashes. Rain pours through gashes carved in the sky by jagged knives of flashing lightning. Hear the crash of the thunder; see the flash of the lighting. Feel the sting of the driving rain against your skin.

We know that thunder is the sound produced by lightning. The sudden increase in pressure and temperature from lightning produces a rapid expansion of the air surrounding and within a bolt of lightning. In turn, this expansion of air creates a sonic shock wave which produces the sound of thunder. We know this. But people of the ancient near east did not. When our children cringe or cower because of the noise of the storm, we can tell them that it’s “just” thunder. But it wasn’t so for the ancients. They heard the thunder and they feared.

They feared the crash of the thunder and the flash of the lightning because these were uncontrollable forces that threatened to undo them. The storms that swept across the countryside could bring fertility and fecundity to the land – or they could bring death and destruction. But there was nothing they could do to control this force. The ancients feared the thunderstorm with its loud cacophony and its violence, and so they sought to appease Ba’al, the god of the storm, the god of rain and thunder.

The ancients often thought of thunder as the voice of God. Now, we might scoff at such an unscientific notion; we know that thunder is the shock wave produced as super heated air explosively expands and contracts in the wake of a lighting bolt, and that lighting is the discharge of electricity from the cloud to the ground. We might dismiss their primitive superstitions. We might scoff at those in our past who believed thunder and lightning to be manifestations of the gods.

Yet even the biblical writers understood these natural phenomena to be (if not literally, then symbolically) to be manifestations of the presence of God. Repeatedly throughout the scriptures the voice of Yahweh is compared to the sound of thunder – at Mount Sinai when the people of Israel received the torah they heard the voice of God in the thunder. When Elijah was hiding in the wilderness he expected to hear the voice of God in the thundering storm. And even in New Testament times thunder was equated with the voice of God. When Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River, God spoke saying “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” Some who heard it thought it was an angel speaking, others (those more skeptical and modernish, perhaps) dismissed it as “merely” thunder.

Merely thunder?

The sound of Yahweh’s voice could be heard thundering over the mighty waters – the biblical symbol of all that is chaotic. From the very beginning Yahweh’s voice was thundering out over the chaotic waters. When the world was nothing but a twisting, seething, foaming, crashing, expanse of chaotic waters, Yahweh spoke – thundering over the waters; calling the chaos into order and pronouncing it good.

The ancients feared the storm because it was an uncontrollable force. By offering sacrifices as an appeasement to the storm god, Baal, they sought to control their world. And still today in our modern, skeptical lives we want to control our world. But we can no more control the weather than the worshippers of Baal could. We can’t even predict the weather with confidence or high degrees of certainty. We may understand the general patterns of moving fronts of hot or cold, moist or dry air… but we cannot control or predict it. There are too many variables, too many particles moving in too many different directions at different speeds. If we miss one little bit all of our predictions are invalidated. (The butterfly effect, “a butterfly flaps its wings in China and there’s a thunderstorm in New York…)

We may not be afraid of a thunderstorm anymore (though many rational people are still sometimes spooked by the crash of thunder and the flash of lightning) but we are still afraid of the uncontrollable. We want to be in control. We want to be the shapers of our destiny. We want to be the authors of our own lives. But, like the ancients, we cannot, and we are afraid.

We plan for the future – or we try to anyway. We set money aside for expected expenses. We save for important things. We set goals. We dream about what we would like to do in five years or ten years. We plan for our children. We plan for retirement.

But it doesn’t take much to bring our plans into ruin. A sudden storm blowing into our lives can undo all our plans. Things like cancer or lay-offs can crash our well made plans. An unplanned pregnancy. An aging parent that requires our care. Accidents.

The fear of a loss of control leads to all sorts of interpersonal violence and struggle. From the bully on the schoolyard to international conflicts and wars, people everywhere are attempting to control the world around them. “We fear the unknown and our lack of control. And it is this fear of the unknown that is at the heart of human violence. People who turn to violence nearly always do so with the assumption that they know how history should turn out. Violence is a tool humans use to ensure that their vision of the future will prevail over someone else’s.” (Choosing Against War: A Christian View John D. Roth, pg. 110)

We want to be the shapers of our lives, the masters of our destinies, we want to be the author of our own stories. But this is narcissism. We can no more shape the events of our lives than we can control the weather. Yet we find it difficult to let go, and let God. And for many of us this leads to a fear of the storm – the uncontrollable swirling and crashing around us.

But if we can recognize the voice of Yahweh thundering over the waters – speaking into the chaos of our lives – we will begin to recognize that he is calling that chaos into order, speaking his goodness into effect in our lives. To live in this way is to live humbly and with humility. We have to learn to yield our wills; we have to learn to surrender our desire to control to the one who speaks in the storm.

It may be that this surrender of control results in miraculous blessings – health, wealth, and the desires of our hearts. It may be that by yielding our control we find ourselves in a place of wonderful contentment. But it is also possible that we will find ourselves in a difficult and demanding situation. And this is hard for us to accept. We want a faith that is simple. We want a faith with easy answers. . We want it to be “merely thunder.” We are afraid to release control because there is the possibility that bad things will happen.

But bad things will happen even despite our attempt to control the world - and often happen because of our vain attempt to control the world. But in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, in bright blue skies and in dark stormy nights, our God, the Living God, the Lord of the Storm is with us. His voice thunders through the world bringing order from disorder, creating form from the formless.

Either way – in bright sunny days and in dark dangers storms -we learn to live humbly, sharing with Jesus in the agony of his execution, and in the triumph of his resurrection.

We are in the beauty of his temple. And we cry ‘Glory!’

Yahweh sits enthroned over the flood
Yahweh is enthroned as King forever.
Yahweh will give his people victory,
Yahweh will bless his people with peace.

Dracula the Un-Dead:

At the library the other day my wife spied a novel that she thought I would find interesting:

Dracula: The Un-Dead

and she was right.  I like a good vampire story, and this one - written by Dacre Stoker, the great grand-nephew of Brahm Stoker seemed promising.

I should have given up after the first 60 pages, but instead I marched doggedly through the entire 389 pages of this dreck.  It was aweful. And I'm surprised.  Really surprised.

It seems as if Dacre Stoker (and his co-conspirator in this grave robbing, Ian Holt) don't have any respect for the novel that inspired this sequel.  Set 25 years after the original, all the surviving characters are misanthropic and unsympathetic.   Johnathan Harker is a drunkard who hates Mina and frequents prostitutes, Mina Harker has become a semi-vampiric nymphomanic.  Johnathan and Mina have a 24 year old son, Quincy, who spends the entire novel whining, "ehhhh, my daddy is too hard on me...."  Arthur Holmwood is a self loathing recluse, Dr. Seward is a morphine addicted lunatic. Van Helsing - oh man! his character is completely inverted. All the good and noble (though crazy) aspects of Van Helsing are tossed out the window and all that's left is a narcissistic and foolish old man.  And when Dracula,the "dark prince" (as he is constantly called) finally shows up he's an emasculated weakling not the the immortal monster of Bram's novel.   It's as if Stoker and Holt set out to disgrace Stoker's characters.  And even more - it's as if they wanted to disgrace Bram Stoker himself, who plays a role in the novel.

The plotting is clumsy  - with numerous side plots and diversions.  The inclusion of a Jack the Ripper connection was poorly executed and ultimately confusing.  The action sequences are contrived and implausible.  The characters are, as i said, unsympathetic and their motivations are contrived and unrealistic.
And the writing is poor.  POOR.  OH MY GOODNESS PAINFULLY POOR.  In places it was like reading an essay written by a jr. high schooler. 

Save yourself the time.  Keep your love for Dracula.  Don't read this one.
Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
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