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A Mile North of Good and Evil Paperback – June 19, 2015
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About the Author
Charles D. Hayes is a self-taught philosopher and one of America's strongest voices in support of lifelong learning. Promoting the idea that education should be thought of not as something you get but as something you take, his work has been honored by the American Library Association and featured in USA Today, in the UTNE Reader, and on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation. Hayes' September University: Summoning Passion for an Unfinished Life has been described as a "must read" for anyone aspiring to a better world. His previous book, The Rapture of Maturity: A Legacy of Lifelong Learning, upholds the importance of seeking truth and serving others to achieve our full potential as human beings. Hayes spent his youth in Texas, and then served as a U.S. Marine and a police officer before embarking on a career in the oil industry. Alaska has been his home for more than 40 years.
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I have read it twice and enjoyed it each time. It is a general fiction novel, yet so much more; containing a snippet of science fiction, mystery, thriller, the didactic vision of a profound philosophy text, and it's a good read.
The characters are vivid and eclectic, providing a panoramic view of humanity; humanity with it's fears, failures, questions, and hopes.This brings an inherent three dimensional aspect to them, one that provides for a book that is lively ,thought provoking, and intensely human.
The author weaves the story threads into a literary life that immerses the reader in a world of challenging questions and challenging answers.
I promised no spoilers, I have kept that promise. I hope this review encourages you to read, what I consider a great book, a book that takes your intellect on a marathon run.
The second book, A Mile North of Good and Evil jettisons off into an even more complicated domain: facing and understanding death and its mirror image, life. Fair warning: this text is not for everyone. Without some knowledge of history, philosophy, human nature, and philosophy, a reader might feel lost in the forest of ideas. And it isn’t a quick read. It requires an agile mind and the ability to leap from idea to idea without what might generally be thought of as “continuity.” It requires patience . . . and even a degree of re-reading. But that is the very pleasure of the challenge. As one turns the pages and works her/his way through all kinds of styles, characters, and explorations, the demands become sometimes staggering, sometimes comforting . . . but always thought-provoking. For some strange reason, I find myself remembering woodcuts and writings from what the French have called: Danse Macabre. (No matter what one’s station in life, the Dance of Death unites us all.) Shifting through setting, time, and place, the book turns in sometimes predictable cadence, but often in totally unpredictable leaps and turns. And it is always a “danse macabre,” a dance of death.
“Emperor, your sword won’t help you out/ Scepter and crown are worthless here. /I’ve taken you by the hand/ For you must come to my dance.
Who was the fool, who the wise (man), \Who the beggar or the Emperor\ Whether rich or poor, [all are] equal in death.”
Just when the reader thinks s/he has the writer in scope, the next short chapter moves in a totally unexpected way. Characters come and go like characters on a stage. Sometimes they have an ephemeral character; other times they are as solid as rock. Some are essentially good and decent people, others are almost totally evil. And sometimes there is a drift among the delineations.
I keep thinking of Shakespeare as I read the work of Charles Hayes. For it is not all about death at all; it is also about life and celebration. “What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason,’ how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god.” But at the same time, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.” Hayes walks deftly between these two extremes, a version of Morality . . . and of Mortality.
As the novel moves towards its denouement, there is a strange event: “The president said that a recently discovered, very dim and hard-to-detect binary star was thirty-three years away from obliterating our solar system with gamma rays. What he described was alike to a death star, or “doomsday star,” as media pundits would thereafter refer to it. There was no doubt about the data. Scientists from nearly every country in the developed world had been over and over the information to confirm it before the broadcasts, with no holdouts making statements to the contrary. “
But at the last minute, that prediction turns out to be wrong. And humans have to redefine themselves all over again. Mortality redefines Morality. Hayes writes, “It is the temporal nature of things that makes love possible. Since nothing lasts forever, we naturally love that which is fleeting because it is fleeting.” And thinking about death doesn’t have to be a bad experience at all. “To the contrary, it gives us our life experience to appreciate those exclamation points as we mine our life experience for something worthy of leaving behind.” Hayes reminds his readers that as Marcus Aurelius suggested long ago, death is a mystery of nature and . . . that composition and decomposition are the same. This novel is 465 pages long, so my brief review does not begin to do it justice. And you will find yourself shuttled backward and forward in time and place. There are long chapters and chapters of one page. But you will be changed by your reading experience; that I can guarantee. (Be sure to look at the cover when you find this edition of the novel. So many times publishers get the theme wrong. Not this time. There is a proud wolf looking out at you with yellow eyes . . . and you will understand perfectly.)
Darlene E. Erickson, Ph.D.
own category--SciFi Philosphy. It mixes a new twist on time-travel with the
search for a serial killer across the Alaskan wilderness and a new drug that
offers near-immortailty just as the Earth is about to be destroyed by shock
waves from a supernova. All this action spawns illuminating give-and-take
Socratic dialogs in which the author brings down to earth the meaning of
existence for those of us who don't normally read the great philosphers.
This is a very fun book for those who love a good tale and care about the
future of humanity.