Book Review: 2061 Odyssey Three

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Book Review 2061 Oddyssy ThreeArthur C. Clarke
Del Rey
1987

Only Time is universal; Night and Day are merely quaint local customs found on those planets that tidal forces have not yet robbed of their rotation.

Arthur C. Clarke, creator of one of the world’s best-loved science fiction tales, revisits the most famous future ever imagined in this NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, as two expeditions into space become inextricably tangled. Heywood Floyd, survivor of two previous encounters with the mysterious monoliths, must again confront Dave Bowman, HAL, and an alien race that has decided that Mankind is to play a part in the evolution of the galaxy whether it wishes to or not.

It’s fascinating how generally recent the later books in the whole Space Odyssey series were produced. Usually, when I think of Arthur C. Clarke, I think of classic sci-fi produced in the 1950s and 60s, along with the other masters of the genre at the time. But, the fact is he kept busy throughout his life, with this third entry in the Space Odyssey series being published in 1987, back when I was in Middle School. As a matter of fact, I was gifted a mass paperback copy of 2061: Odyssey Three in 1988, and I recall reading the first few pages, getting bored, and moving on to something a bit more my speed at the time. As a matter of fact, I remember eventually donating it to my high school library without even continuing reading it. I just wasn’t much into science fiction at the time.

It wasn’t until much later, when I bought all four of the books from Half Price Books, that I began reading them all back-to-back. Eh, better than waiting ten or so years for a sequel for catch-up. You can finish one, and start on the next one while it’s still fresh in your plump, succulent brain.

Anyway, the story of 2061: Odyssey Three is set fifty-one years after the events of Odyssey Two, as well as sixty years after the events in the original book. Since then, Jupiter has become a mini-sun that was named Lucifer (because of course), and the moons have been transformed because of this. Specifically, Io has become a violently volcanic lump of magma, while Europa is an ocean world shrouded by clouds, and Ganymede is a temperate world that humans are beginning to colonize. Commercial travel in space between planets is now a thing, and a period of relative peace has been in place on Earth, with bits of civil unrest in South Africa. So, hooray for peace, I guess. Anyway, Dr. Heywood Floyd from the previous novels is now a permanent resident of a space hospital due to an accident that makes regular Earth-bound gravity rather bad for him, and has lived to be a bit over 100 years of age. He’s chosen to be one of the few to be part of a landing party on Halley’s Comet, which is making its way back ’round to our solar system again. Meanwhile, Dr. Floyd’s grandson is piloting a ship that’s going to do a fly-by of Europa (despite the constant alien warning of not doing so…kind of the intergalactic version of Keep Off The Grass), but then the ship is hijacked by a stewardess, forcing it to crash land into Europa’s ocean, stranding the surviving crew. So, now the ship that’s sight-seeing on Halley’s Comet is going in to rescue them; while they’re doing that, a few crew members on Europa decide to do a bit of sight-seeing for themselves, and come across not only a giant diamond mountain, but also another monolith lying on its side…and also the curious indigenous life forms of the planet that have evolved rather quickly since Jupiter became a mini-sun. The ship Dr. Floyd is on finally shows up and rescues them, while the giant diamond mountain sinks into the depths of Europa forever, and everyone lives happily ever after. Oh, and Dr. Heywood Floyd’s consciousness was duplicated by the monolith and lives inside it along with the consciousness of both Dr. Bowman and HAL from the other books, only with the real Dr. Floyd unaware of this. Then we get a glimpse of the year 3001. The end.

This third trip into the world that started with 2001 is…interesting. I mean, so far, with most of the rest of the series, this isn’t exactly the kind of science fiction that would make for edge-of-the-seat action; but, that was to be expected. There isn’t so much “conflict” as there are periods of inconveniences to the characters that give them time to further the hard science-y parts of the novel. Reading 2061 was a lot like watching a Discovery Channel space documentary program that happened to have characters and a subplot story, set in the near-ish future. With very vague alien implications. Overall, this third oddyssey poked my imagination a bit, but didn’t blow my mind as much as the first book did.

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Movie Review: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

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war for the planet of the apes20th Century Fox
2017
PG-13

“I did not start this war. I offered you peace. I showed you mercy. But now you’re here. To finish us off…for good.”

Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.

So, here we are now, with what I’m assuming is the final Planet Of The Apes prequels. It’s been a rather interesting journey, one that was surprisingly very good as an overall bunch of movies that took the concept of the classic original and managed to build up the mythos of how it all started without making it suck. I was rather anxious to see this installment, as things were going to come to a head, and anything with “War” in the title is expected to be awesome in and of itself. Oh, and something about finishing up Caesar’s story arc. Anyway, was War Of The Planet Of The Apes worth the wait? I’ll get to that, but first…

In the third of the (so far) trilogy in the Planet Of The Apes prequels, most of humanity has succumbed to the Simian Flu pandemic, and now the intelligent apes and the remaining humans live in peace and harmony with one another, bringing about a post-industrial utopia. I almost managed to type that all out with a straight face, there. Juuuuust kidding. Instead, while the apes are just trying to go on with their lives, they just can’t seem to stop being pestered by us humans, always sending in heavily armed military types to wipe out the apes with weapons and stuff. Caesar, the ape that was named after a salad and was raised by James Franco (and also the leader of the apes or something), experiences a particularly bloody battle that sees casualties on both human and apes sides, and decides to send a message back to the leader of the human military in the form of four of his soldiers, not dead and in one piece, back with the message of “would you lighten up, man?” However, this particular colonel (who is just named “The Colonel” here) happens to take his leadership inspiration from Colonel Kurtz, as in he’s rather bat-guano insane and will not stop at anything to wipe out the apes and preserve the human race, and goes in that night to assassinate Caesar in his sleep. Only, he didn’t really get Caesar, but he did kill his wife and son. This, of course, kicks off Caesar’s epic journey to find and confront The Colonel, giving all the other apes a chance to escape to beyond the mountains for a more peaceful settlement in the desert lands. Along the way, Caesar and the three other apes that wouldn’t take no for an answer with tagging along make some rather disconcerting discoveries, one of which involves the gradual devolving of the humans to a more primitive state. By the time they catch up to the army of The Colonel, it looks very dark and grim for the apes, and Caesar has to confront, not only his human enemy, but also his own heart of darkness. See what I did there?

I’m just going to come out and say it: War For The Planet Of The Apes is the best movie out of the three prequels that were produced. This movie is dark, it’s complected, and has so much going for it beyond just a bunch of apes thinks they’re people and start their own society. That reference up there to The Heart of Darkness wasn’t just a throwaway thing (although, there is a blatant Apocalypse Now reference in the movie itself that had me groan a bit, but it’s near the end so it’s okay). The story manages to bring a depth to all of the characters, both ape and human, so that neither side is a mere caricature of Good or Evil, but you can actually understand the struggles on both sides, so there’s no clear-cut villain or hero. Woody Harrelson was fantastic as The Colonel, keeping from going completely over-the-top and managing to make the character chilling as well as commanding. The battle scenes were very much intense and gritty–make no mistake, this is a war movie, like Full Metal Jacket or Platoon, and by the time the movie ends there’s a sense of melancholy mixed in with the hope for the new dawn that breaks.

If it sounds like I’m gushing over a simple little sci-fi flick about talking apes…well, I’m sorry you missed the point of the series. The original Planet Of The Apes was great subversive sci-fi, and these prequels went along way to keep the spirit of the originals. If you’re avoiding War For The Planet Of The Apes because all you’ve seen was that Tim Burton 2001 remake, then you’re missing out completely. Highly recommended.

Movie Review: BEYOND THE GATES

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beyond the gatesIFC Midnight
2016
NR

After their father’s unexplained disappearance, two estranged brothers reunite to sift through the contents of his stubbornly anachronistic VHS rental store. Among the inventory, they find an old interactive VCR board game. Intrigued, the brothers pop in the tape…and soon discover that this video is no ordinary game, but a portal to a nightmarish alternate reality: one with deadly consequences for anyone who dares to press play.

Like a lot of horror flicks I come across, I heard about Beyond The Gates by way of other online reviewers. There are some whose word of mouth have more weight than that of the professional movie reviewers everyone else listens to. In this case, it was a vlog by the Horror Guru and Count Jackula on You Tube where they gave Beyond The Gates a rather enthusiastic thumbs-up, calling it a great love letter to the 1980s style of horror movies. And since I am a child of the 80s and remember those horror flicks rather fondly, that was enough to send me out to watch Beyond The Gates.

The story involves two estranged brothers, sons of a video store owner who disappeared mysteriously, who are begrudgingly reunited to clean out the video store they grew up with to sell the property, due to their father being missing long enough to be considered not returning at least. One of the boys is fairly straight-laced if not a bit uptight, while the other is the wild child, getting drunk and essentially being the cooler of the two. Anyway, due to them both going through the memories of the store and staying at their childhood home, they bond a bit…and then stumble across an old VHS board game called Beyond The Gates that may or may not have something to do with the disappearance of their father. So, they begin playing, and weird things begin happening: the host of the video seems to be talking directly to the players specifically and knows about their father, certain portholes begin appearing inside the house, and then there’s the gruesome results of the side quests they’re sent on. All the while you have to wonder, are they going to succeed in getting their father back, or are they merely unleashing a literal hell on earth?

You know, thinking back, while I remember quite a few stories and some movies/television episodes involving a haunted game of some sort, I can’t recall any that dealt with a cursed VHS board game. Having never really played one of those kind of board games before, I don’t really know the dynamics of engaging in the game. But, that’s beyond the point, really. What Beyond The Gates boils down to is a fun, dark, spooky horror flick that, honestly, could have fallen flat on its face in the delivery, but managed to make things charming and effective throughout. The acting is passable, yes, and it takes a bit to get going. But when it does, it has some rather nifty fun with the ride.

Overall, Beyond The Gates is a fun, low-budget B-Movie horror flick that doesn’t pretend to be anything but that. I enjoyed this greatly, and thinking this can be paired up with a double head with the 1986 cheese classic The Gate some night.

Movie Review: The DARK TOWER

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the dark towerColumbia Pictures
2017
PG-13

“It’s a hotdog.”
“Savages. What breed?”

Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black. The Gunslinger must prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower, the key that holds the universe together. With the fate of worlds at state, two men collide in the ultimate battle between good and evil.

The Dark Tower. What started off as a series of short stories collected together into a small novel, that suddenly exploded into an epic western/dark fantasy/sci-fi saga of the last Gunslinger in a world that has moved on, questing to find the Dark Tower, the nexus that holds the multi-verse realities together, a quest that is not only personal, but also to protect and save it from being destroyed by the Crimson King. Along the way, he travels to different dimensions, meeting others who would join him on his quest, as they make their way to the ultimate goal. It is a saga that is held in as almost as much regard as The Lord Of The Rings, with fans that are just as passionate about the books and other adaptations and lore.

They made a movie about it, now. I’m pretty sure you may have noticed by now, but yeah. After what seems to be decades of trying to bring it to the big screen, it’s finally happened. And, after a week or so having to wait due to scheduling issues, I finally watched it with some key members of the Coven of Exalted Geeks.

I will pause right now to say that, in case you’re just reading this, and haven’t gotten around to checking out my book reviews, I am what you would call a Stephen King Constant Reader, and have been since I was 14. I’ve also read all of the Dark Tower novels, and some of the comics as well. So, yeah. Dark Tower nerd, here. Anyway…

One more time around the wheel, I guess: So, there’s this tween-ager named Jake Chambers who, for a number of years now, has been having these really detailed dreams involving a mysterious man in black (not Johnny Cash, I’m afraid) trying to destroy an even more mysterious dark tower, while being pursued by a gun-slinging cowboy. This “gun-slinger”, if you will, is seeking revenge, because the man in black, it turns out, killed a bunch of people with magicks, including the gunslinger’s father. Little Jake has been drawing pictures of these dreams and more, and everyone things that he’s a bit…insane because of this, including his mom and step-father. That’s why they decide to send Jake off to a special retreat for crazy kids. Only, the people from the retreat who show up aren’t really people, so Jake parkours his way to freedom and goes to a house he dreamed about and activates a portal that takes him to Mid-Wolrd, the home of the real-life gunslinger. And also the guy in black. He meets up with the Gunslinger, and they go on a journey to find the man in black’s hideout, where he’s taking kidnapped children that have psychic powers to use to topple the Dark Tower, to stop him. Along the way, they make a pit-stop back in New York to stock up on bullets and a certain soda brand they couldn’t get the license for, so they couldn’t show the logo or say the name out loud.

Oh, there was a lot of nerd rage over this movie. Not as ridiculous levels as with the 2016 Ghostbusters movie; there was quite a bit, though, some of which I overheard going out of the theater after the movie. But, this is my review of the movie, and thus you will have my not-so-humble opinion on this movie. And remember, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been a long-time Constant Reader of Stephen King’s work, and have also read the entire original saga of books and hold them as kind of my Lord of the Rings. Ready? Deep breath, here, aaaaaaand…

…I rather enjoyed The Dark Tower. No, really. I did. I went in knowing that they weren’t trying to adapt the books–because, really, that would have been nigh impossible, even if you got Peter Jackson in his prime in on things–but essentially do a continuation of the books. Really, even Stephen King himself mentioned that this wasn’t an adaptation attempt, but kind of a sequel to the books. I don’t want to go into the details, but if you’ve read the entirety of the saga, you know why I’m saying this. Also, it’s been documented by the makers of the movie that this was the intention. As such, there were elements that were lifted from all of the books–and some other Stephen King books outside of the Dark Tower universe proper–that have been included here and there, with more of a focus on Jake’s perspective of the story rather than Roland. And yes, I was nerdy enough to pick out the easter eggs abounding.

Beyond that, though, as a movie in and of itself, I would have to say that The Dark Tower was much more enjoyable than most of the reviews I’ve come across have made it out to be. I found it to be a rather well-made, well-acted, gorgeously shot western fantasy with a creamy sci-fi center that entertained me for the surprisingly tight 90 minute run time. Because, if anything had the right to go over the 2-hour limit, it would have been this. But, the filmmakers showed restraint, and it helped things out in that area. Idris Elba was the perfect choice to play Roland Deschain, as he managed to emote more with his eyes to give that haunted look needed for the character. And what can I say, but Matthew McConaughey nailed it as the Man In Black, the evil known as…Walter. Okay, you can probably laugh at that, but that’ll be the last thing you’d do. The guy can charm you one second, and then chill you to your spine the next, all while never changing cadence or going over the top. That said, he may have been underused. The action scenes are probably where you’re going to get the majority of the groans, especially if you have even a rudimentary grasp on basic physics. But, with just a bit of strength to the suspension of disbelief, you still get some very action-packed scenes mixed in with your dark fantasy, here. And I do believe the movie’s best part happens when Deschain arrives in New York City. Some fish-out-of-water comedy to flavor things up.

Overall, yeah, there were some flaws to this iteration of The Dark Tower. I wasn’t happy with how easily the resolution at the end happened. But, when it was all said and done, The Dark Tower managed to entertain me, and did so without feeling the need to cram something happening at every moment of its run time. It was a rather satisfying blended genre flick that, honestly, I hope they make more of the story. Even in television form, which I think would work better overall. But, we shall see if survives the whiners. For me, this is recommended, more of a matinee, but definitely on the big screen if you can.

Book Review: The HARLAN ELLISON COLLECTION: I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream

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I have no mouth and i must screamHarlan Ellison
Ace Books
1984

Slowly but surely I am assimilating eBooks into my reading habit. Not that I’m fully converted to the digital style of reading a book; I’m still very much old-school when it comes to that, I can assure you. But, even I have to admit that there are some advantages to reading something electronically. Like when you’re on a rather long download at work, and can access the ebook account there for some quality reading time while you’re waiting for that dial-up download to go through. Seriously, in this day and age, why do are there still dialups going on?

Anyway, one of the ebooks I purchased was this nifty thing featuring seven short stories by science fiction icon Harlan Ellison. Mostly because for years I’ve been hearing about how the title story was one of the more haunting and scary pieces of science fiction horror written. But, also as kind of a taster for the author himself, as I wasn’t really all that familiar with Ellison, beyond his reputation of not being able to play well with others. Also, he wrote a classic episode of Star Trek TOS. Here are the stories and my thoughts on ’em:

“I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream”
…the classic story of a sentient computer that came self-aware during World War III and killed off all of humanity, save for five, which it (he?) keeps alive for the simple reason to torture them throughout the centuries. I have to admit, this is a very haunting and nihilistic post apocalyptic tale, very effective. Just the way I like it. I can see why this is loved in the Science Fiction community.

“Big Sam Was My Friend”
…a sad tale of an intergalactic circus performer that was put to death due to his interruption of a virgin sacrifice. Also, he can teleport. Also, his circus chums let it happen due to business. It’s quite bittersweet, really.

“Eyes Of Dust”
…on a planet of perfect beauty, the “ugly” couple have a kid equally as ugly, and it doesn’t sit well with the Normals. This one is rather brief, and I get the feeling that there could have been more explored within the context of the story, but it just kind of escalates quickly and then ends.

“World of the Myth”
…three space-faring explorers crash-land on a planet, and while waiting for their rescue ship to arrive, have a run-in with an indigenous species of insects. And yes, wackiness ensues. This one kind of reminded me of a variation of the Outer Limits episode “The Sandkings”, with the insects that are more than what we would perceive them as. Or, more to the point, as they would perceive us as.

“Lonelyache”
…a divorced man slowly goes insane. It doesn’t end well, as you may have deduced by now. Very bleak, very melancholy. Also, it makes me question my desire to not remain single for the entirety of my life.

“Delusion for a Dragon Slayer”
…an average man living a mundane existence happens to be a mere few minutes late on his usual routine and is crushed by a wrecking ball…and that’s when the adventure begins. This was more a straight fantasy, like one of the Dreamland tales of H. P. Lovecraft, with a rather melancholy ending. Not too bad, this.

“Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes”
…a down-on-his-luck guy uses his last literal dollar on a slot machine in Vegas, and begins to win big; the reason of which involves the ghost of a lady that died playing that very slot six months prior.

I have to admit, I had no idea of what to expect when first taking in the stories. It turns out that Ellison’s style is really more of a blend of science fiction, some fantasy and horror, with everything marinated heavily in dark existential nihilism. It’s kind of like Philip K. Dick without the mental illness, and just jaded and grumpy. Which is what I dig. Also, his introductions are insightful, yes, but also a riot.

As a first timer checking out his work, I found this collection to be more than beneficial. I was rather sad that it ended so soon, really. Highly recommended to check out.

Movie Review: KONG: Skull Island

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kong skull islandWarner Bros.
2017
PG-13

“An uncharted island. Let me list all the ways you’re gonna die: rain, heat, disease carrying flies, and we haven’t started on the things that want to eat you alive.”

Scientists, soldiers and adventurers unite to explore a mythical, uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean. Cut off from everything they know, they venture into the domain of the mighty Kong, igniting the ultimate battle between man and nature. As their mission of discovery soon becomes one of survival, they must fight to escape from a primal world where humanity does not belong.

King Kong. What can I say that hasn’t already been said, really? He’s one of the, if not the original Giant Monster of cinema, with Hollywood trying again and again to capture that movie magic of the original…and the results being mixed at best. I mean, I did rather enjoy Peter Jackson’s King Kong movie from 2005, even though it did seem a bit too big for its own britches. And that’s a phrase I never though I’d be using ever.

Now, here we are in the Teens of the the 21st Century, and the big trend right now is making everything that can even remotely be shoehorned into a shared cinematic universe, no matter how ridiculous sounding, given a movie that does just that, their standalone movie being an introduction to that character. Yeah, we have the Marvel Cinematic Universe to thank for that. Anyway, it seems that there’s a push for a shared kaiju universe that may or may not have been planned out when the 2014 Godzilla movie came out, but here we have Kong: Skull Island, which does indicate that there’s gonna be a Giant Monster Universe of movies that are going to be popping up in the near future. And quite frankly, if they’re all going to be of the quality that Kong: Skull Island was, then I’m all in.

Before I proceed, full disclosure: I never got around to watching Kong: Skull Island when it was in the theaters. The plan was to watch it in the local Second Run theater, where the ambiance of the place lends to the atmosphere of watching a giant monster movie. It’s what I did with the 2014 Godzilla movie, and I just wanted to continue the trend. Alas, I was a bit too busy, and by the time I found time, it was already out of the Second Run and on DVD/streaming. Anyway, on to the movie itself…

After a flashback where we see a couple of World War II fighter pilots–an American and a Japanese–crash land on a South Pacific island and have their ideological differences smacked away soundly by a giant ape hand, we fast-forward to 1973 (good year, that) and the end of the Vietnam War. Here, a government agent decides to take advantage of the military’s sudden down time and hires them to help with an expedition out to that remote South Pacific island, known now as Skull Island. Because of course it would be named that. Bringing along some scientists, a photojournalist and the helicopter squadron the Sky Devils, they arrive at the island, and–with some choice Black Sabbath blaring along–suddenly find themselves dodging trees. Not because they were flying so low, but because the trees were being thrown at them. The source of this being King Kong, the giant ape, so everyone should be thankful that he was lobbing trees at them, and not something more…scatological. Anyway, they all crash at different points on the island, and everyone discovers the hard way why Skull Island is not in the running to be the next vacation destination. One group stumbles upon the surviving American WWII pilot, makes friends with the natives and learns more about Kong and what he does (hint: he’s actually rather fond of the humans), as well as the other nightmare fuel monsters that dwell there. They also found the way off the island. Meanwhile, group two, lead by Lieutenant Colonel Samuel L. “Insert One Of His Famous Catch-Phrases Here” Jackson, decide to deal out a bit of the ol’ eye-for-an-eye on Kong, due to so many dying by the initial tree attack. Of course, this just rouses out the island’s actual big-bad, which shows up to make everyone mess themselves while trying to get away. Too bad Kong is all crispy and dead and all. Just kidding, of course he’s all right. I mean, how else are they going to do the sequel, amiright?

Kong: Skull Island was…awesome. There, I said it. I didn’t think I would enjoy the movie as much as I did, but here we are. We have a nice, tightly made King Kong movie that comes in at a nice 90 minutes, doesn’t waste much time to getting to the Giant Monster action (and not making everyone wait over an hour to even get to the island, Mr. Jackson), and still manages to flesh out the characters and story enough to keep you engaged until the after credits scene that effectively previews all the movies they’re wanting to make in this universe. The scenery and effects were rather good, as was the nightmare fuel that were the indigenous creatures of the island. And yes, the action scenes were breathtaking. The actors were fantastic, giving credence to their motivations, especially Samuel L. Jackson’s Lieutenant Colonel, which has kind of an Ahab arc through this.

Overall, I have to say that Kong: Skull Island is a great giant monster movie. A really entertaining giant monster movie that doesn’t seem too long, and actually makes me kind of excited about this whole shared universe of movies they’re going for. Definitely check this one out some night, maybe as a double-header with the 2014 Godzilla. Recommended.

WILDERNESS WANDERINGS: The Journey So Far…

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NecRoSarX Chronicles Header

SOUNDTRACK:

Here we are, the so-called “Dog Days” of summer. It’s nearly the middle of August already. Soon, it shall be September, and leading into my favorite time of the year. But for now, I’m taking a bit time to bring everyone up-to-date as to my self-imposed wandering around the wilderness that set on at the end of April.

You might recall the reason for my doing this, but just in case there is need of a refresher, this should bring you up to speed. Needless to say, while I’ve been keeping to myself mainly during my spiritual…quest? Does that sound too pretentious? I’m sure I’ll think of a better word hours after I’ve posted this. Anyway, despite this being somewhat private for me, I thought a bit of blogging about things so far will do me some good.

The thing to understand, first off, about so-called Wilderness Times, or wanderings, or Desert Times, or whatever spiritually-sounding euphemism you want to go with, is that they never really go the way you expect them to do. You start off, thinking you’re going to go out and isolate yourself (figuratively in my sense; I’ve known plenty who have done so literally…and a couple with a literal wilderness and/or desert of some sort), and spend one-on-one time with Father God, Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and have a splendid time and grow spiritually and find out my next chapter in my life and blah blah blah. I always get these Disney-fied ideas of what I think is going to happen: I walk outside to a sun-shiny morning, a bird or two land on my shoulder or my outstretched finger, a deer wanders out of the bushes, along with maybe some bunnies or squirrels or something, and then the Hillsong United song starts playing out of nowhere and everyone’s singing along. Then I read the Verse of the Day on Biblegateway.com, and the rest of the day just falls together perfectly. You know, much like it happened with Jesus for those forty days in the desert [citation needed].

But then, you say something stupid. And by “stupid”, I mean “in a superficial manner”, or “glibly”, “thoughtlessly”. During your prayers or whatnot, you say or write down something like, “Break me,” or “Refine me with Your Holy Fire, o Lord my God”. Because it sounds so gosh-darned super-spiritual, right? Been there, done that. I never really meant it back when I said those things before. I would say, “refine me in Your fire,” during my prayer sessions, sometimes out loud with others who were praying with me, not really expecting much of anything to come of it.

But then, a funny thing happened, something some of you who have been through this before could see coming from miles away: God said, “Okay,” and took me up on it. Not to get into details on that, on account this is about my current Wilderness Wandering thing, but the point is that God was serious about His relationship with me, even though I, for lack of a better turn of phrase, wasn’t. To say that was a wake-up call is to understate things greatly. And in case you were wondering, that happened when I was 19. I’m 43 at the time of this writing, and the whole “refinement” process is still an ongoing thing.

Through the years, I may have a much deeper understanding on how serious God is with His love and desire for me to be sanctified through His Holy Spirit; but no matter how many Wilderness Wanderings I go on, He always manages to pull the rug out from under me, completely destroy my preconceived ideas of what to expect, and brings up some dross I never knew I had.

The refining process sucks. It always does, and never gets easier, no matter how many of these I go through. There’s no sugar-coating this for you freshly-minted-by-the-Holy Spirit types: If you’re serious about your faith and not just playing some stupid Christian game, God is going to do the same with you. But…it’s a good thing. Just like it is with what I’m going through right now.

As to what that is…I’m not ready to share that specific detail. I’m still wrestling with it, sometimes late through the night, letting the Holy Spirit to His thing, trying to suss out everything in my head. It’s complicated. Maybe one day I’ll be able to put it in words. I can say I’ve talked about it with a couple of people from church that I trust with this information, which has helped a bit. But for now, I continue to wander the wilderness, seeking God and letting Him be Who He is and all that.

That’s it for now. Any questions and/or comments can be directed to my email: necrosarx@gmail.com

Cheers, all.

::END TRANSMISSION::

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