03/17/13

The Flu—A Personal Review

2EakinsTheGrossClinic

The Flu—A Personal Review

 

The flu. The name sounds mundane in this age of modern vaccines and miracle drugs. For most people, if they think of it at all, it is only as a reminder of that annual rite of passage: the late fall or early winter vaccination.

But it hasn’t always been such. We should not forget that at one time, and this was not so long ago, the flu—influenza as it is more properly recorded—killed more people than any other illness in modern history. The 1918, pandemic killed fifty million people world wide, fully three times the number of folks killed in all the years of World War I, which was one of the most terrible wars in all of human history.

The 1918 flu was the great equalizer, afflicting a whopping 25% of the US population. Incredibly, so many Americans died in that one year that the average life expectancy in the United States dropped by twelve years.

The 2012 flu is nothing like the 1918 flu, of course. A few people have died, perhaps even a few more than usual, but it certainly isn’t creating a panic in the streets. Nonetheless, it is out there. And I am living proof of that.

I was vaccinated against the flu in the late fall. A few weeks ago it nearly killed me.

Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I was never anywhere near death, though the idea had a certain appeal at the worst of it.

It began one evening with achiness in my legs, which quickly spread to include every muscle in my body. Such myalgias are common with the flu. What was different this time was the severe and unrelenting nature of the aches, as if I had run a marathon. Uphill. In a cold rain. Ever fiber of my being became involved before this little piece of misery was over. The soreness was biblical, with an absolute sense of being not just ill, but afflicted. And this was before the headache, which came on within a few hours and was its own little torture. At times, my head positively swam between nausea and a vice-like pressure. Misery abundant.

I took to chanting: “there is no pain there is no pain there is no pain there is no…” For brief moments, this mantra seemed to clear not only my mind but my body too, and I would lie still for minutes at a time, afraid even to breathe for fear of breaking the spell. In this fashion I passed several barely tolerable days, though in the nights my tormentor seemed to redouble her efforts. She seemed a jealous bitch, determined to keep sleep from me.

The early mornings, 2-6 am, were the worst. I couldn’t get comfortable and tossed constantly. Sometimes I got up and showered, which somehow seemed to relieve the worst of it, if only for a few moments. I took four showers in ten hours on the third day.

My appetite was not affected, though eating was a chore because I was always so tired. And I never had any trouble breathing, no pneumonia, no cough, no belly pain. Nonetheless, the flu engulfed me, occupying every part of me in the worst way. I was hot, with perhaps a moderate temp of 101-102. The world alternated between burning and freezing. And just wiggling my toes spun my head till I felt like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. I couldn’t imagine a world in which head splitting misery wasn’t at the forefront of existence.

By the morning of the fourth day, the aches had begun to recede, though it took another thirty-six hours for them to dissipate altogether. The headache was a bit more tenacious, especially at the back of my head and top of my neck. I wondered for awhile if I might have a bit of viral meningitis. If so, I appear none the worse for it.

I never tried tamiflu. Possibly that antiviral agent might have reduced the intensity and or duration of the illness. I dunno. I did drink constantly, as staying well hydrated in such a circumstance is key. Rest and relaxation are the other orders of the moment, though, to be honest, I had no choice but to stay horizontal. I couldn’t function for the best part of five days.

The verdict: A difficult five days, but tolerable enough in the end. If you gotta be sick, you could do much worse than this little piece of genetic material. As a deadly illness, I give the 2012 influenza a flimsy 2/5 Stars (uncomfortable, potentially life-threatening, but a pale imitation of the real thing—though as close as I care to come for the foreseeable future). In terms of the more mundane flu we have come to know over the past decade however, this was right up there—a real whopper.

Give it a pass if you can.

03/16/13

A New & Independent Review of BLADE MAN

A Review of BLADE MAN by Edison McDaniels

Posted on  by DEFINITELYNOTFORTHEBIRDS

Blade Man Cover0Firstly, I want to thank Edison McDaniels for sending us a free copy of Blade Man in order to hear our opinion.  We are honored and very grateful.

Note:  This review is a bit shorter than most, as Blade Man is a novella and a very quick read.  It is also rather suspenseful so in effort not to give anything away, my comments will be brief, although my praise is high for this novella.

Most of the time, I avoid anything classified as or even remotely related to Horror.  The genre… well it impacts me.  It sort of gets my imagination going a bit too much; all sounds suddenly morph into sounds a murderer is making while he is slowly creeping towards me to deliver me my doom.  Yes, it gets quite ridiculous and stressful hence my hesitation.  However, I didn’t look too closely at the genre of this novella.  I normally don’t, and I am very glad that I didn’t.  If I had, I probably would have shied away from it and thus missed an excellent piece of fiction.

The Good: The setting.  The setting could not have been more mundane or more perfect for this story.  I believe it was the mundane-ness that perhaps made it all the more spooky.  It is set in the middle of a blinding blizzard  – or a howler, as the protagonist so often reminds us.  A blizzard, believe it or not, is the perfect setting for this story.  Vision is blurred, as are the lines of reality.  The ambiguous nature created by this setting really sets the mood for the whole story – a mood that is crafted with great care…. and with a truly wonderful result.

The voice of the protagonist was also very unique.  I enjoyed his crassness and it added a whole other dimension to the story.

The build up of suspense was also wonderfully done.  Words and phrases were often repeated and I found that this really helped to expertly build up the tension.  There was also one crucial moment, one that I am not going to specify for sake of not spoiling the book, that was absolutely amazing.  It continued with the theme of ambiguity and also scared me.

The end.  It blew me away!  I really don’t want to give too much away, but it was very well crafted.  I was once told that a good ending should be surprising, but at the same time entirely logical, given the world of the story.  I believe that McDaniel’s had heard that somewhere once before as well …. in any case, he accomplished just that.

I just really found myself amazed at the plot unfolding and the true depth to it.  It was also easy to read, yet the writing didn’t come off as trivial due to the true, real sounding voice of the protagonist.  It’s also a memorable story – one that I will not be forgetting any time soon, if ever.

The Bad:

The only negative I found is that at very rare points, the main character’s voice can become a bit unsteady.  That is to say, he is portrayed as a gruffer man, speaking in vernacular.  The picture I had in my mind was of someone not overly educated and a bit “old school”.  For example, McDaniels writes “innernet” instead of “internet” when this character is speaking.  I believe this is the persona that we are meant to imagine.  Occasionally, the character will use a phrase or word that somewhat goes against this; words that I would assume to be beyond his vocabulary.  However, this is rare and it does not distract from the other wonderful qualities of this story.

The Verdict:

Don’t Read if:  McDaniels himself warns not to read at night if you are home alone.  I, however, did not heed this warning.  I was alright, but I definitely think it should be said that it might make the reading experience less spooky… something I probably would have been okay with.  So you may want to keep that in mind.  If you aren’t a fan of suspense or stressful reading, this is definitely not the novella for you.  Also, if you are looking for something longer, this will not be a good choice.  It is a very fast read, even for a novella.

Read:  Even if horror usually isn’t your thing, I encourage you to take a look in to this.  The murky sense of ambiguity and suspense are what really makes this novella great – something that most people can really appreciate.  If you are looking for a quick read, this would be perfect.  The writing is light but still smart, and the content/suspense drives you to devour the novella.  I read it easily in one sitting, mostly because I just couldn’t put it down.

Thanks for reading!  And just in case you do happen to read this novella and you happen to enjoy it, I thought I would mention that we have more work from Edison McDaniels in addition to this piece.  I am in the process of reading it now, so stay tuned for a review on that.  The title is Not One Among Them Whole: A Novel of Gettysburg, and I am really enjoying it so far.

Thanks again!   And I hope you all have a marvelous weekend!

-R

The original posting of this review can be viewed at DEFINITELY NOT FOR THE BIRDS

Click here to go to the Amazon buy page.

02/23/13

IndieReader Review NOATW

IndieReader Review

Not One Among Them Whole: A Novel of Gettysburg by Edison McDaniels
Available in eBook (Kindle, Nook, Kobo) & trade paperback.

Reviewed by Brid Nowlan for IndieReader Feb 22, 2013

 

Verdict: A vivid, engrossing story of one battle, told from the perspective of the soldiers that fought it, and the surgeons who tried to patch them up.

IR-Approved-StickerIn “Not One Among Them Whole,” author Edison McDaniels, takes us by the hand and leads us through the horrors of battle as witnessed by a handful of individuals. It serves as a timely reminder for the video game generation that might see war as a glorious endeavor from which heroes emerge triumphant and whole. There are no heroes in McDaniels’ book, only people coping as best they can with desperate situations. There’s no black and white, only a grimy grey through which the novel’s characters grope for relief from the relentless horror that envelops them.

The story unfolds during and immediately after the Battle of Gettysburg, which lasted for three long days. The statistics are grim: 8,000 died on the battlefield with another 27,000 wounded. McDaniels set himself a difficult task in attempting to humanize those numbers; he has risen to the occasion. The characters in the novel are individuals with their own stories, brought together through the vagaries of a war that, in its time, was the most destructive the world had seen.

Two soldiers—one from each army—introduce us to the battle and it’s horrific aftermath. McDaniels describes, in sometimes gruesome detail, just what it might be like to lie in a field full of dead, wounded, and dying men—not to mention the scavengers (both animal and human). Even the weather, a supposedly disinterested element, seems to conspire against the soldiers and add to their misery.

The book, though, really revolves around those not intimately involved in the fighting, especially the surgeons who do their best to save the wounded. Those wounds are described in clinical detail. And the descriptions of surgery carried out in primitive conditions, before germ theory and universal hand washing, are equally detailed and not for the squeamish. (The surprise is not that so many died, but that anyone survived.) These surgeons are also wounded, by their past and present lives, and their individual tales are woven through and around the story of the two wounded soldiers.

This relentless misery, one of the book’s most salient characteristics, makes it difficult reading at times. Some relief is provided by snake oil salesman Jupiter Jones, who has gathered a crew of misfits to help sell his miracle cure: Jupiter’s Oil. But even that is short lived and the story soon returns to the battlefield.

Despite the death and decay that permeate the novel, it is a compelling read, largely because of the skill with which McDaniels unfolds his characters’ stories, day by day, minute by minute. Equally skillful is the manner in which he brings together all the characters and crafts dramas within dramas against the backdrop of the American Civil War and this one important battle. So compelling are those stories, the war fades into the background as the fate of individuals hang in the balance.

02/23/13

Five Star Review from Amazon Top Reviewer

5.0 Out of 5 Stars By a Top Amazon Reviewer!

A must for Civil War buffs! January 22, 2013

By P. B. Sharp (NM) – See all my reviews

(TOP 500 REVIEWER) (VINE VOICE) (REAL NAME)

This review is from: NOT ONE AMONG THEM WHOLE: A Novel of Gettysburg (Kindle Edition)

Gettysburg, 1863. Once a meadow of golden wheat, now a playing field of horror, where men were programmed to play a part, to play a position. If their part was to die, they did. If their part was to heal others, they did. North and South came together in an unholy skirmish in which men were drained and bled and left somewhere on that playing field shattered in body and in mind. It was dog eat dog to the men in blue and grey- kill or be killed. “The only real commodity was suffering and the only true coin was death.”

The surgeons working in unspeakable conditions, perhaps in an old church or in an abandoned shed had to resort to ingenuity, such as making a splint from the bone of a dead horse, or creating a tube into a soldier’s shattered windpipe by wrapping a wire tightly around the neck of a bottle, breaking the bottle and gently inserting the wire in place. Author McDaniels is a surgeon and he takes you there, takes you into the heat of battle and introduces you to the horrors that were Gettysburg.

The novel is built around vignettes. McDaniel’s fine Civil War novel is not the world of Robert E. Lee or Ulysses S. Grant or even Abraham Lincoln. McDaniel’s Gettysburg is a microcosm, a seething world of its own from which no player escapes. The reader follows the characters as they play their parts in the murky tapestry of civil war. There will be a price to pay, not only death but indignity, the exposure of the souls of those who survived. Gettysburg is a very level playing field.

Plying his trade of undertaker, Jupiter Jones, an elderly black man who had graduated from being a snake oil salesman to a salesman of another sort- making the dead look decent. Jupiter is perhaps the most interesting character in the book. Wearing an old green bowler atop his head and always accompanied by a small monkey named Archimedes, Jupiter would set about transforming the cadaver beneath his hands into something that almost -at least Jupiter thought so-resembled life. Pumping some sort of arsenic mixture into the body, Jupiter would affectionately pinch the corpse’s cheeks like one would pinch a child, tuck a wad of chewing tobacco inside if the dead soldier’s yellow-stained hands revealed tobacco use. Snake oil, a concoction garnered long ago from trees in Africa was applied to the open eyes, plumping them out. Jupiter waxed philosophical, talking to the doctors laboring beside him, talking to the bodies. “The dead talk to me” he remarks even though “nobody gets out of life alive.” Although the doctors work with the living, and Jupiter with the dead, somehow the macabre rituals are the same.

The surgeons, laboring under unspeakable conditions, using the altar of an old church as an operating table, can only push their weary bodies so far. Author- surgeon McDaniels does not spare the reader. Throughout the novel the horrendous wounds and their infinite variety and the procedures of the embattled surgeons are described in great detail. Perhaps the most interesting surgical operation concerns the trepanning of a young soldier who had been shot in the head. Surgeon Hardy had made the appalling discovery that the barely- alive boy was his own son but Hardy could not force himself to operate, so Doctor Boyd, although addicted to laudanum, performs the very tricky drilling into the boy’s skull. What makes the medical narrative so authoritative is, of course, due to the author’s expertise. But the information has to be honed to fit the appalling conditions, where instruments were never sterilized, where doctors could not wash their hands, where the floor of the operating theater was slimey with mud and gore. Doctor McDaniels will take you there.

On the battle field two soldiers fall together side by side, one a Yankee, the other a Rebel. The two former enemies are bonded together in misery and indeed they do bond in extremis, giving each other comfort by reciting the Beatitudes. The Yankee boy, Ezra Coffin, manages after great effort as each physical move is agony to get the Rebel’s gun, thinking that he can kill them both to put them out of their misery. But there is only one ball left in the gun’s chamber…

What goes around comes around, even in war, even in tragedy. Good springs from evil and author McDaniels will bring his novel to a satisfying close. Perhaps, when you finish the book you will find yourself thinking of Gettysburg not so much as a shrine but a place where humans suffered horribly and where the healed America rose- I will say it- like a phoenix from the ashes.