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issue 06/01/2000

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vCity 1.0
by Dr. Adam L. Gruen

20 days in the life of a 21st century virtual city simulation.

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Book of Revelation
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The Blood Latitudes
by William Harrison

- reviewed by J.M. Frank

The Blood Latitudes talks about father son relationships, forbidden love affairs, and life as a reporter in the field, but really this is a book about Africa. This is not the Africa you may have seen in movies with white people on safaris, endless rolling plains, or the other images we commonly are fed. This is the Africa of famine, bloody ethnic power battles, unnamed wars, and unthinkable poverty.

The plot revolves around a father and son who are both journalists. The father has retired from covering the African continent, while the son has just started in that role at the same paper. Things go wrong, and the father must return to Africa to uncover what has happened.

Harrison is a fine storyteller who does an excellent job of creating a striking contrast between the beautiful physical landscape and the human atrocities going on across that landscape. The lives of the main characters are interesting and the characters are well-developed, but they become minor as the setting changes to a war-torn section of Africa and the setting becomes the story with the characters as more of a backdrop.

It has been a long time since I have read a book this powerful. The power is in the simple reporting of humans acting inhumanely to other humans. There are scenes described here that are not for the faint of heart. They linger in the mind long after the book is over. But these scenes are also written in a manner that is both realistic in content and in the reaction of the main characters.

The power of the book comes not only from the frank brutality of these scenes but from what they say about man in general. Because in the end this is a book not just about Africa, and certainly not just about these main characters, but it is about man's natural inclination to often act in the most reprehensible manner. The characters committing the brutality are not just realistic, they are understandable and at times even sympathetic.

This is a fine page-turner that works as a war story, a tale of family relations, but most of all as a powerful testament as to the nature of man.

J.M. Frank welcomes your comments on this review.


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