Sunday, July 29, 2012

Review of Assume the Physician by John Hunt, MD

It’s Joseph Heller meets Samuel Shem in Assume the Physician, an extremely entertaining, sobering satire of about 100,000 words by John Hunt, MD.  The novel is available now in electronic format at  I was privileged to read an advance copy. 

In Assume, a brash but na├»ve young medical intern, Dr. Eddie Markus, tries to make sense of the baffling, contradictory administrative realities that plague modern medicine.  He is guided through the mindless medical morass by his omniscient mentor, known simply as “Dr. Blow,” while receiving sympathy and support in other ways by the beautiful, idealistic Nurse Maid.

Dr. Hunt (pictured) knows firsthand the kind of obstacles that are constantly thrown in the way of good doctors by well meaning but nevertheless inherently evil government regulators and self-important administrators.  Every page of Assume will find the reader laughing at the inane antics and Catch-22 scenarios faced by Dr. Markus--that is, until the reality sinks in that every situation described is scrupulously based upon the actual medical environment of today.

The main theme of Assume is “doctors are sheep,” and it is about time that one of the sheep stood up and said so.  Doctors blame everybody and nobody, everything and anything for the healthcare crisis...except themselves, where the true blame lies.  As Dr. Hunt points out in his ironic, prophetic tale, if doctors would only stand up for themselves and, more importantly, their patients, the so-called crisis in healthcare could be solved almost overnight.

Dr. Hunt had the guts to write Assume the Physician.  I hope America and the rest of the world will have the guts to read it and heed it...before it is too late.

Review of The Book of Qat by Lavie Tidhar

The Daily Science Fiction ezine ( published Lavie Tidhar's novella, The Book of Qat, as a serial with one installment each day from July 23 to July 27, 2012.  A white man finds himself trapped in a mysterious tropical island netherworld filled with magic, shape-shifters, ghosts, monsters, and dark-skinned natives.  The tale is at once a fantasy, mystery, ghost story, war story, and love story.

The Book of Qat is not so much about the destination but about the journey.  The rich narrative, full of imagery and mystery, is delivered in short snippets between breaks--sometimes only a sentence at a time--as Henry, the main character, moves from dreamworld to almost-reality as he tries to make sense of his surroundings and to remember who he is.

If you like Zora Neale Hurston and Ovid, as do I, you'll probably enjoy reading The Book of Qat.  I gave each installment 6 or 7 rocket dragons.  My advice:  check out the first installment and then take it from there.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Review of "Twenty Ways the Desert Could Kill You" by Sarah Pinsker

"Twenty Ways the Desert Could Kill You" by Sarah Pinsker is today's offering from the Daily Science Fiction e-zine (  An eleven-year-old girl's mother, without explanation, moves them to an isolated, desert dwelling in New Mexico; the girl copes by making lists.  Is the mother running from or to something?  I almost gave this one 7 rocket dragons, but gave it 6 because the end kind of left me hanging.

Review of "The Mechanical Heart of Him" by Cate Gardner

"The Mechanical Heart of Him" by Cate Gardner appeared in the Daily Science Fiction e-zine ( on July 18, 2012.  Ms. Gardner describes a world in which tiny homunculi inhabit people, varying in size and influence depending upon the feelings that their hosts have for the people that the homunculi represent.  This is the most original piece of short fiction I have ever read.  7 rocket dragons.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

John Hunt's Premier Serialized Novel, Higher Cause, Now Available for Free Viewing

Dr. Hunt summarizes his premier novel, Higher Cause, as follows:  "The search for a powerful ancient artifact hidden during the Mutiny on the Bounty is the backdrop for a modern day highly topical and suspenseful story.  Petur Bjarnasson battles against mercenary terrorists and violent agents of a Mexican revolution as he gathers investors and scientists to create a vast new source of wealth sufficient to overcome the catastrophic global currency devaluation orchestrated by the world’s central banks."

John and I attended Amherst College together...a long time ago.  We both became somewhat disillusioned doctors, served in the military for a while (Air Force for me, Navy for him), then decided to try our hands at writing for a living.  I was privileged to have a sneak peak at the introduction to Higher Cause and must say I am looking forward to reading the entire work.  The first installment is available for free at: .

Friday, July 13, 2012

Review of "The Suicide Witch" by Vylar Kaftan

"The Suicide Witch" by Vylar Kaftan is today's offering from the Daily Science Fiction e-zine (  A witch/mortician enslaved to a Duke in a feudal-China-inspired fantasy world, seizes a chance to escape from bondage when the Duke's son comes to her for aid that only she can render.

Mrs. Kaftan is an expert story-teller--a real craftsman.  Her command of dark imagery puts the reader right into the dank, cellar prison of the witch and creates a mood of horror, revulsion, and hope all at once.  The story is so well-written that the predictable plot may be overlooked.  I debated between 6 and 7 rocket dragons, and finally decided to give it 7.

Mrs. Kaftan is no stranger to short, speculative fiction across all sub-genres.  She has an impressive list of publishing credits, including a Nebula Award nomination.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review of "The Most Complicated Avatar" by Mary E. Lowd

"The Most Complicated Avatar" by Mary E. Lowd is today's offering from the Daily Science Fiction e-zine (  A mother frantically tries to locate her missing ten-year-old girl using virtual reality.

Is the daughter lost in cyberspace?  Is the mother in cyberspace?  Is the girl logged on to a computer at a location unknown to mom?  I asked myself these questions as I read.  The answer became clear at the end, but to avoid confusion, the answer might have been clearer sooner--say at the beginning.

Told in the first person present tense, the story is narrated as though it is happening now--right now.  I found this scheme to be awkward and off-putting.  It was almost as bad as reading a story written in the second person.  You know what I mean.  2 out of 7 rocket dragons.