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Book Review: The White Dragon

Book Name: The White Dragon
Author: Anne McCaffery
First Published: 1978

Anne McCaffrey was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The only daughter of three siblings and the middle child, she grew up on the east coast of the United States. Eventually, she graduated cum laude from College where she gained a degree in Slavonic Languages and Literature. In 1950 she married Horace Johnson and they had three children: Alec, Todd and Gigi. The family lived in Wilmington, Delaware for around a decade and then moved to Sea Cliff, Long Island in 1965 where they remained until 1970. During this time, Anne McCaffrey began to work full time as a writer and served a term as the secretary-treasurer of the Science Fiction Writers of America. Her duties not only included the publishing of two monthly newsletters for the guild, but she also handcrafted the Nebula Award trophies.

In 1970, McCaffrey divorced her husband and weeks later took her children to live in Ireland. During the 1970s, Ireland offered artists to live exempted from income taxes and Anne McCaffrey, being of Irish descent, emigrated to Ireland to take advantage of this opportunity. Anne’s mother soon joined the family where they stayed in Dublin. It was the following spring where she met British reproductive biologist Jack Cohen, at a science fiction convention where she was the guest of honor, and together they worked on the biological mechanics of what would later become her famous Pernese dragons.

The author finished writing the first two novels of the original Pern trilogy and had a contract for the third book, The White Dragon, when she experienced writer’s block for several years. She and her family moved around the Dublin area many times as she attempted to support herself on alimony and scant royalties from her writing. The breakthrough came when a call for stories to be published in an anthology prompted her to write a pern based story about Menolly, a young female musician who discovers miniature dragons, known as firelizards. This story eventually became the start of her young adult Harper Hall trilogy. The White Dragon was completed seven years after the first two books of the original trilogy were published and the Harper Hall trilogy followed a year later. All of them were huge successes.

The royalties from these books enabled Anne McCaffery to buy her home in Ireland, which she named “Dragonhold” after the dragons that helped her purchase it. Twenty years later, her son Todd wrote that she “first set dragons free on Pern, and then was herself freed by her dragons.” Anne McCaffery lived in Dragonhold until she died of a stroke at the age of eighty-five.

Anne McCaffrey’s most famous novels are the Dragonriders of Pern series. The stories are set on a planet known as Pern that was settled by colonists from Earth in the far future. Due to a biological threat from a nearby planet that had gone unnoticed before the colonists had settled on Pern, the Terrans regress into a feudal style society as the alien “thread” destroys much of their world. Before the total loss of their space faring technology, the colonists create a biological wonder from the tiny native “firelizards” that live on the planet. These winged lizards have the ability to breath fire after eating a certain coal like fuel and could communicate telepathically with the humans they had bonded with at their hatching time. The colonists genetically grew these firelizards into a size that a man could ride and thus create a renewable “air force” to protect their people while the “thread” from the sister world, called the “red star”, rained down from the skies. As the centuries pass, two culture emerge on Pern. The holders, who live in lowland feudal societies led by the Lord Holders and the dragonriders who live in volcanic “weyrs” nurturing and fighting with the now intelligent “dragons”. The dragonriders of Pern are duty bound to fly and fight the “thread” when it falls every 250 years, incinerating it in the sky before it can touch the earth.

The third novel of the series is The White Dragon. It follows the coming of age story of Jaxom, the Lord Holder of Ruatha Hold which lies under the protection of Benden Weyr. Complications arise when Jaxom accidentally impresses a mutant dragon. The dragon is white, instead of conforming to one of the five normal colors a Pernese dragon might be, and is a runt. Not having a color to define its place in the dragon fighting ranks and since it is thought that the white dragon might die early due to its mutation, Jaxom is sent back to Ruatha Hold with the dragon Ruth to wait its death, and to return to his duties as the future Lord Holder of Ruatha Hold. Jaxom is not pleased, as a rebellious teenager he wishes to fight thread as a dragonrider, a far more exciting prospect than managing a large Hold.

Ruth does not die, and flourishes under Jaxom’s care. The young Lord Holder finds that Ruth has abilities and intelligence not found in regular dragons. Jaxom fights for his right to fight thread and for his Ruth to be accepted as a regular dragon. The Benden Weyrleaders consent to allow Jaxom and Ruth to join the fighting ranks of the weyr’s dragons on a visiting basis.

After battling thread, Jaxom falls ill with a deadly illness brought on by teleporting on his dragon while wet and he and the white dragon are sent to the Southern Continent to recuperate. While there, Jaxom and Ruth find an old settlement that the ancient Pernese have left behind. Ruth’s special abilities in teleportation and time travel come into play as they learn more about Pern’s ancient past and how the Pernese might permanently remove the threat of thread from their skies for all time.

Of the first three novels in the series, The White Dragon is my favorite. I remember as a young teen, waiting for it to come out in my local bookstore and saving my pennies in order to purchase the book. I was not disappointed. Many of the themes that Anne McCaffery developed in her first two novels mature in this one. The dragons take on a new life of their own and become far more interesting as characters instead of being backdrops of the humans who ride them. While you should likely read the books in chronological order, you could start with The White Dragon as a stand alone book and be very entertained. The book is still in print in its original Micheal Whelan cover, which is famous as being a launching point in this illustrator’s career as this novel was for the author’s as well.

The White Dragon Book CoverThe Dragonriders of Pern Series:

Dragonflight
Dragonquest
The White Dragon
Dragonsong
Dragonsinger
Dragondrums
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern
Nerilka’s Story
Dragonsdawn
Renegades of Pern
All the Weyrs of Pern
The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall
The Dolphins of Pern
Dragonseye
The Masterharper of Pern
The Skies of Pern
A Gift of Dragons
Dragon’s Kin
Dragon’s Fire
Dragon Harper
Dragon’s Time

Book Review: Foundation

Book Name:Foundation
Author: Issac Asimov
First Published: 1951

Isaac Asimov was an American author, a professor of biochemistry, and is best known for his science fiction and popular science books. He is considered one of the most prolific writers in history, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters or articles.

Asimov is renowned as a master of the science-fiction genre and was considered one of the “Big Three” who developed the genre along with authors Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. His most famous work is the Foundation Series, which started as a trilogy and then expanded into fifteen novels. Later, Asimov combined his Galactic Empire Series and the Robot Series into the Foundation universe that created a unified “future history” for a total of twenty-two novels that are considered part of this unified series.

Most of his popularized science books examine scientific concepts in a historical way. He begins by going back to when the concept was first in question at its simplest stage and then follows the idea through history, providing the nationalities, and biographical of the scientists as well as pronunciation guides for the technical terms.

A lessor known fact about the author is that he also wrote under the pen-name, Paul French. Under this name, Asimov wrote the popular juvenile science fiction series known as the Lucky Starr Series.

Foundation is the first novel of the original trilogy that Asimov wrote. It appeared as four novellas in magazines before it was combined as a true novel in 1951.

The Foundation Series follows the ideas developed by fictional mathematician Hari Seldon, a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a sort of mathematical sociological theory. Using the laws of mass action, this theory can predict the future, but only on the largest of scales. It explains that the behavior of a mass of people is predictable if the quantify of this population is extremely large, equal to quadrillions of humans. The greater the number of people in the equation, the more predictable the future will be.

Seldon, by using this theory, realizes that the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire is about to occur and this descent will encompass the entire Milky Way Galaxy. There will follow a dark age that will last for thirty thousand years before a second great empire will rise from the ashes. Seldon is disturbed by thought that so many people will be lost for so very long. Using his science of psychohistory, he also understands that there is an alternative where the intermittent period will last a scant one thousand years, if events are helped along. Seldon decides to make it his mission to push humanity into this alternate future history. He creates two Foundations to guide humanity, each at opposite ends of the galaxy. One is large and in the open, the other, secluded and secret. Both locations are places where all human knowledge is stored.

The novels are not about Hari Seldon the man, but more about the Seldon Plan as it is used by the Foundation to guide humanity into creating the second great Empire and the obstacles it must overcome to do so.

I first read Foundation in the 1970s as a teenager. It was not one of my favorite stories, but I had heard so much about Asimov that I wanted to read his famous trilogy. Although I have not read the entire body of his work, I find that the stories by this author that I have read, whether I enjoyed them at the time or not, stay with me permanently and make me think about the world around me in a new light.

I find a few flaws in Asimov’s writing when it comes to characterization. Many of his character’s personalities are flat and the majority of them are male. They are also a reflection of the time when they were written. This distanced the story for me personally, since as a woman, I found it more difficult to relate to the characters as people. However, the original science concepts of the story makes up for this lack and I found myself fascinated by the unique ideas found in these novels. Ideas that are as fresh today as when they were written decades ago. While there is currently no such science as psychohistory, I would not be surprised if it came into being, inspired by these classic novels, much as the science of robotics as we know it today was formed by the ideas found in Asimov’s Robot Series. Asimov is the man that coined the term “robotics” and wrote the three laws of robotics that are now used by AI developers. This saga of the futuristic “fall of the roman empire” is well worth the time to explore, keeping in mind the time when it was written.

Foundation Book CoverThe seven novels of the original “Foundation” series in chronological story order:

Prelude to Foundation
Foundation
Foundation and Empire
Second Foundation
Foundation’s Edge
Foundation and Earth
Forward the Foundation

Author Interview: Ian Walkley

When I first learned of Ian Walkely, I was impressed by the following he has built up for his excellent thriller. He is an Australian author with a flair for executing personal goals. I am pleased to feature Ian here on No Wasted Ink.

Author Ian WalkleyI’m someone who likes change and experiencing new things. I wanted to be an air force pilot but a hearing loss prevented that. I didn’t have a plan B, so I’ve worked as a marketer, a social and market researcher, government policy advisor, and in business development. In 1993 I had a mid-career crisis and started my own consulting business, which I grew to an $8 million business with 35 staff. I sold my share in the business in 2008 so I could follow the dream of writing novels. I have a wife who’s a primary teacher and three grown-up children, two dogs and a cat. Life’s pretty good, really. Oh, and I’m also a very determined person when it comes to achieving goals.

When and why did you begin writing?

Like many writers, it started with a passion for reading. In my late teens I loved to immerse myself in a Wilbur Smith adventure or Robert Ludlum thriller. I began writing novels many times over the years, but never got past about thirty pages. Finally, I cut back to 3 days a week in 2008 and began writing. Just when ebooks began to take off and publishers almost stopped looking for debut authors.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When Kirkus Reviews gave me a good review of my debut novel No Remorse.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

McCloud, or Mac as they call him, is a Delta Force special operations soldier, a highly trained killer, but not the type to just blindly follow orders. He makes mistakes, and is governed by a strong loyalty to his friends. I don’t think readers want to have more invincible heroes. They want them to have faults and prejudices that get them into trouble. Mac is not great with women, for example.

The bad guy, Sheik Khalid, he’s into all kinds of evil – kidnapping, drugs, slavery, organ transplants, terrorism. Yet he’s not a Bin Laden stereotype. I wanted a bad guy who readers could hate, but not just a terrorist. Khalid has rebelled against the teachings of Islam, especially since his first love was stoned to death. He is determined to overthrow the Saudi regime, and impose a more democratic regime, which would give people more freedom. But with his type of freedom comes a heavy price.

There are three tough female characters in the book, Tally, Sheriti and Anastia. The three female characters are all strong in very different ways. Tally is a computer genius, Sheriti is a trained Mossad agent, and Anastia is a skilled sniper for hire from Bulgaria.

The plotting in No Remorse is complex. It was quite tricky logistically to make it work, especially when you have seven POV characters, each with their own story, travelling between the US, Europe and the Middle East on planes and boats. I had to check, for example, that Mac could physically get to the island of Andaran in a certain time, given that he had to catch three separate flights, because there wasn’t a direct flight from London. Actually, that enabled me to write in a scene on a plane where he is confronted by a female assassin, which was a lot of fun to write. Some novelists don’t worry about that sort of detail. I know we’re writing fiction, but I like things to be realistic.

What inspired you to write this book?

I traveled a lot in business, and I’d often buy a book at the airport bookstore. They were invariably thrillers—global conspiracies, exotic places, heroes bigger than life chasing nasty bad guys and beautiful women. I wanted to write a thriller like that. And did.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I have tried outlining, but I tend to keep diverting from any plot I try and flesh out. So I guess I have a big picture of the story, and do a little plotting, then write, then figure out whether I’m on the right track. I throw out lots of scenes. But sometimes I put them back in later, or hold them for use in a later book.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

I tried fifteen titles for two years before I came up with the title, No Remorse. I wanted the title to reflect a theme. No remorse is often associated with a criminal’s attitude. However, in this case, it’s the protagonist’s attitude. He’s like Liam Neeson in Taken. Totally ready to take on the bad guys and destroy them.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The theme is that we need to destroy the evil in the world before it takes advantage of our goodwill and destroys us. And sometimes one has to follow one’s own judgment rather than accept authority at face value.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

There is a great deal of research gone into the book. I traveled in the Middle East, and researched many of the elements of the plot, such as slavery, illegal organ transplants, missing nuclear material, financial banking scams and so on. So while No Remorse has the action of a James Bond thriller, it could be happening right now. That’s what my readers tell me.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

In my younger days I enjoyed Wilbur Smith, Alistair Maclean and Robert Ludlum, Isaac Asimov and Philip Dick. More recently Harlan Coben, John Grisham, David Baldacci and Lee Child. I don’t think they’ve influenced my life, but I’ve enjoyed reading their stories. They’re inspiring now because I’m writing, and I can appreciate even more the wonderful imagery, and powerful characters and plots that they create.

I read a variety of genres, and even occasionally literary fiction and YA. I enjoyed The Hunger Games and Harry Potter. I forced myself to read Fifty Shades of Grey, but like many others I found it hard to understand the phenomenon’s appeal. To me it’s a romance that doesn’t deliver on its promise. I’m loving Game of Thrones at the moment. But mostly I read thrillers and crime.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

I would love to have a mentor. Perhaps someone like David Morrell, who lectures in writing thrillers. But I think the sessions I attend at writers’ conferences and the courses I have done are as close as I’ll ever get. Often a writer presenting will have one pearl of wisdom that resonates for a long time.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I ran a competition among graphic design students at the Queensland College of Art, and chose the best one to work with me. Her name is Nicole Wong. Unfortunately, she has disappeared. I’m trying to find her because she expressed interest in designing my next book. So far without success. A real life mystery.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I guess I would strongly recommend to emerging writers to study the craft by attending courses and conferences. They say it takes at least five years just to learn the basics. Writing is something one can only improve on. And for self-publishing authors, I would strongly recommend paying for a professional editor. I hate seeing poorly formatted self-published books with typos and grammatical errors that give self-publishing a bad name.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

My first novel took three years to write. I love getting feedback from readers who’ve enjoyed No Remorse. Fortunately, I get lots of kind words, which inspire me to continue. Writing is not an easy job. It can be lonely, and for me, anyway, there is lots of re-writing and editing before I get it right. “Emerging” writers like me need lots of four and five star reviews on Amazon to help readers become aware. So please, if you like No Remorse, write me a review (and write to me too).

No Remorse Book CoverIan Walkley
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
FACEBOOK
TWITTER

Publisher: Marq Books
Cover Artist: Nicole Wong

Purchase No Remorse at:
AMAZON
SMASHWORDS
BOOK DEPOSITORY
BARNES & NOBLE

Author Interview: Patrick C. Greene

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and was seeped in the legends of Bigfoot, or the Sasquatch as the Native Americans in the area call them. Naturally, I found myself interested in a fictional story based around these old legends. I want to welcome Patrick C. Greene and his novel Progeny to No Wasted Ink.

Author Patrick C GreeneI’m Patrick C. Greene; actor, martial artist, horror geek, comicbook nerd, metalhead, cineaste, father, husband, philosopher and…oh yeah; author.

When and why did you begin writing?

My father was a journalist and novelist so I had a good bit of exposure to the business as a child. I was writing, in a sense, before I knew how via drawings and telling nonsensical stories, even if nobody was around.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In about the seventh grade, I decided I would be a writer. I was small for my age, and easy target for bullies, and of course the “weird kid”, so at some point, I decided to learn how to defend myself and quickly became obsessed with martial arts, setting my interest in writing aside to train and learn all I could about fighting. I didn’t start writing again seriously until right after high school, when I was pursuing a career as an actor and decided to write my own screenplay to star in, as Stallone did with Rocky. I started knocking out short stories as well, just for fun. Ultimately, coming to a place of calling myself a writer was a gradual process that took many years.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

In PROGENY, Owen Sterling is a successful author who has just bought a large tract of forest land from a Native tribe. Soon after moving into his new house, he experiences a series of strange events that lead him to believe a family of sasquatches lives close by, and further, that they are potentially quite dangerous. He refuses to let local hunters come anywhere near the property, coming off like an aloof, wealthy outsider. Zane Carver, the alpha male of the locals, decides to ignore Owen’s directive, and takes a group of hunters, including his increasingly rebellious fifteen-year-old son Byron along. Pretty soon, the inevitable happens-hunters and monsters cross paths in a tragic manner, and the result is a game of cat-and-mouse that favors the creatures, forcing Zane and company to seek shelter with their old nemesis Owen.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always been intrigued by Bigfoot, and I was always trying to come up with a way to write something about the phenomenon, without resorting to the usual band of teens being offed with Bigfoot as a stand-in for a slasher figure. The idea of a three-way struggle appealed to me, as it blurs the lines between “good” and “bad” and makes potential outcome less predictable.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’m tempted to say “neo-splatterpunk” because I read a lot of stuff from that era. I’m not one of those writers that finds no value in gore (though it can be overdone). I think literal viscera can be used to underscore figurative viscera, and a visceral experience is definitely what I hope to achieve. I am an emotional guy so I write about people in highly emotional states. I believe readers want to care about their protagonists, beyond even whether they will come out all right by the end, but also what it would mean if they didn’t–what that protagonist might potentially leave behind.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

PROGENY relates to the three father/son relationships that are highlighted in the story, especially Owen and Zane. Owen, the writer and Zane the hunter both have boys with whom their relationships are not ideal. Both are struggling, in different ways, to bridge that gap, to build some foundation for a long-term relationship as the boys grow, and the night of the siege is the crucible for that.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

As a father, it was important to me to address for myself what that means. It’s dedicated to my oldest son Deklan, an exceptional writer in his own right. His mother and I broke up when he was still very young so I haven’t had as much time with him over the years as I would like. The message, I suppose, would be to treasure every moment with your child.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Not so much the horror elements, but some of the clumsy efforts by Owen and Zane to maintain good relationships with their own sons are very much influenced by my own experiences, not just as a father but also as a son. All the characters have pieces of people I know.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

I think Poe suffered from depression, as I have from time to time, so the way he used it and created from it is inspiring.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Definitely Vincent Hobbes, because he has bent over backwards to make sure PROGENY and the short stories I’ve submitted for THE ENDLANDS have been top notch. He always has time to help other authors and offer encouragement and I’m very grateful.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Jordan Benoit is the cover artist, and I couldn’t be happier! His work on this and THE ENDLANDS is intriguing, mysterious and captivating. I wish I could take credit for choosing him but he was hired through PROGENY’S publishers, Hobbes End.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes, and it’s nothing you haven’t heard before: if you’re driven to write, you should be doing it. If the ideas are pounding at your brain seeking release, then release them, dammit! If you love your man or woman then write about it. If you’re afraid that the words just won’t come when you try to write, then write about that. The more you write, the better you’ll be at it, and the more you’ll want to write. So go! NOW! Do it!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I want to hear from you guys! Love my work or hate it, or find it pointless-let me know. And thanks for the time you set aside to read PROGENY or my short stories or even just this interview. I love having the opportunity to tell you a story!

Progeny Book CoverPatrick C. Greene
Asheville, North Carolina

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AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE
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Progeny was published by Hobbes End Publishing, LLC

Book Review: Les Miserables

Book Name: Les Miserables
Author: Victor Hugo
First Published: 1862

Victor Hugo was a genius who would have excelled at any medium he undertook. He was a poet first and then a novelist and dramatist. His hobby of sketching was such that it is said that had he chosen to become a painter instead of a writer, he would have out done the masters. He is remembered as one of the more well-known French Romantic Writers of his time. In France, Hugo’s fame comes more from his poetry, but to the world he is best regarded as the author of two novels, Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

Hugo was born two years after Napoleon Bonaparte came to power as Emperor of France. His father was an officer under Napoleon and later became the administrator of several provinces under the Emperor. Due to his career, the Hugo family was forced to move often during Victor’s childhood. His mother, a devout Catholic and royalist, grew tired of the travel and settled with the children in Paris. She then had much influence over Hugo’s early beliefs and interests during his early years because of this, but during the events that led up to France’s 1848 Revolution, Hugo rebelled against his Catholic Royalist education and upbringing and instead embraced the ideals of republicanism and free thought.

Victor fell in love as a young man with his childhood friend, Adèle Foucher. They had five children together. His first child died as an infant. His eldest daughter, Leopoline drowned at the age of nineteen along with her husband who perished trying to rescue her. Hugo learned of her death while in traveling in the south of France with his mistress, learning about her death impersonally while reading a newspaper at a café. Hugo wrote many poems in honor of his daughter, but never quite recovered from her loss. Later in life, Hugo would also lose his two other sons and his wife.

When Napoleon III took power in 1851, Hugo left Paris and went into exile. He lived in Brussels, the Channel Islands and then to the smaller island of Guernsey in 1855. Although Napoleon III proclaimed a general amnesty in 1859 when Hugo could have returned to France had he wished, the author stayed in exile and refused to return until Napoleon III was forced from power as a result of the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. After the Siege of Paris, Hugo returned to France where he remained for the rest of his life.

Hugo’s early work brought him fame at an early age. His first collection of poetry published when he was twenty years of age earned him a royal pension from Louis XVIII. His work was a reflection of the romanticism that was popular in France and combined with his new passion for Republicanism. Unfortunately, it was his political leanings that lean to his exile from his home country. However, as he continued to publish, he revealed himself to be a natural master of lyric and creative song. Much of Hugo’s poetry has been adapted to music and become the inspiration of many musicals and operas.

After the success of his poetry, Hugo began to work on longer works. His first full-length novel was The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. It shamed the city of Paris into restoring the Cathedral and it inspired a renewed appreciation for pre-Renaissance buildings which fueled the tourist trade for France.

The author began the planning for his next major novel which would feature social misery and injustice as early as the 1830s, but he would take seventeen years to complete the manuscript for Les Miserables and publish it in 1862. It was an instant success with the first installment of the novel, labeled: Fantine, to sell out within hours. The book would have an large impact on French society and the novel remains his most remembered work. It is celebrated around the globe and has been adapted for film, television and the stage. Les Miserables the Musical is one of the most long running musical productions in history. I’m sure the new Les Miserables motion picture will also be a huge success.

Les Miserables can be translated from the French as The Miserable, The Wretched, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims, but in English the publishers have chosen to keep it in its original French title. Even the musical is usually referred to as “Les Mis”. Perhaps the translation is too dour for popular tastes to describe what is considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century. The story begins in 1815 and finishes in 1832 during the June Rebellion, the novel details the lives and interactions of several common people, focusing on the struggles of an ex-convict named Jean Valjean and the steps he takes to gain redemption. The story of Les Miserables is incredibly complex and details the misery that the common people of France lived in. From the corrupt innkeeper’s family, to Fantine who dies while trying to support her illegitimate child Cosette, to the struggles of Jean ValJean and his nemesis Javert, and finally the students who fight against the royalist army and lose their lives. The misery transforms into poetry and through their suffering you gain a sense of hope for the human race.

Perhaps the best description of this masterwork comes from Victor Hugo himself:

“So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century – the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light – are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world; – in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Misérables cannot fail to be of use.”

Like many people, I saw the musical first before I read the book. The musical Les Miserables is a masterpiece in unto itself and it transformed me into a lover of live musical theater. I realize that many people do not go on to read the original novel by Hugo. I feel that this is a mistake. This is one of the greatest novels ever written and it is one that should be on your must read list. Do let those that say that this novel is another “book by some dead white guy” mislead you. The human condition is not dependent on race, century, or country, but it is a universal constant. Let the ideas of this long ago genius transport and change you as he has done for me.

Les Miserables Book CoverYou can find the complete unabridged version of Les Miserables free of charge at Project Gutenberg. Be warned, the full version is full of tangents and long passages about subjects that do not have direct bearing on the plot itself, however many of the subjects are quite fascinating. I feel it is worth the time and effort to read the full complete version of this work instead of the abridged version.