Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book That Thing! Review of The Little Universe

Book that Thing! is a review blog hosted by Saskia Kanstinger, who just did my book the honor of a thorough review. Here it is below, or you may visit Book that Thing! to keep up to date with the latest reviews there.

The Little Universe by Jason Matthews
Jason Matthews - The Little Universe
This copy was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. (Available at all major retailers as a paperback and ebook.) 
Kindle Edition, published June 16th, 2011

What defines a loser? Jon Gruber wonders if it’s him. He’s an unmarried carpenter without a car. Do I even need to mention he’s over 30? Maybe meeting Webster Adams is a blessing, for the astronomer gives Jon a new outlook on life. He’s a brilliant inventor trying to create a universe in miniature form. Against all odds the experiment works and a journey of wonder and discovery begins. Who created our universe? Does God exist? Just like the little universe and all the questions that arise, Webster’s daughter Whitney intrigues, yet confuses Jon from the get go. He finds himself not sure of anything except the need to see this through.
Ever had a hard time writing a review? I’m raising my hand. Just saying! The Little Universe isn’t something I would’ve picked up on my own. In fact, I probably would’ve steered clear of it for no apparent reason (other than not being able to put it into a category). However, the author offered me a review copy. I had a slot open and thought it’d be a great idea to try something a little – make that a lot – different. Something I’ve never read before. This particular phrase is used often, but I mean it. I have never read a book like this. Let’s find out if that turned out to be a good thing, shall we?! A quote that came to mind: “Success isn’t permanent and failure isn’t fatal.” (Mike Ditka)
There’s absolutely nothing I can criticize when it comes to the writing. Matthews knows his craft. Dare I say better than most? It’s true. The writing was superb. I loved the subtle changes that occurred whenever the situation warranted it. Thus depending on the circumstances the writing took on a slightly different tone. For example Webster’s journal entries or Jon in his work environment versus Jon after hours. Taking the plot’s complexity into consideration it definitely acted as a safety network. A story that had me pondering various issues; a story that raised so many questions - it simply couldn’t have worked had the writing been sloppy.
The character I connected with the most was Jim. Now, this might sound strange, for Jim’s a computer. Sorry, Jim! I know you don’t like being called a computer. In my opinion he was the one constant throughout the book. Jim was aware that his free will was only free within his confines. One could argue it shouldn’t be called a free will after all, but I won’t get into this now. My point is that he stayed true to himself. He used every opportunity to learn and every loophole that allowed him to break through the confines of his habitat. Of course, this wasn’t always possible. He wished for dreams to come true just as a human being would. Funny enough, I was annoyed by pretty much all of them at one point except by Jim. Don’t get me wrong, the others had their allure as well. I focused on the outcome of their experiment. Not as a whole, instead I was especially interested in what it would mean for each person involved.
No doubt about it, the plot was character driven. Then again, the recreation of the Big Bang can only be labeled point of reference. The character development was hugely dependent on the experiment. The little universe affected not only Jon, but also Webster, his daughter Whitney and their two colleagues in ways I found both fascinating and dangerous. Jon and Webster couldn’t have been more different. That’s probably why Webster had no problem letting Jon in on his secret. A very interesting dynamic. I loved it! Similar to the intelligent life they discovered. While Whitney realized the importance of other aspects of these people’s everyday lives, Webster and the colleagues almost exclusively limited themselves to their technological progress. Two different views made for a beneficial tension.
Science fiction with a splash of philosophy. Shaken not stirred!
I’m not religious. I don’t believe in God. However, I’m more than open to the possibility that there’s something out there I could believe in. For the time being I’m the sole master of my universe. Okay, maybe not the sole master. Society’s moral code and all. I obviously didn’t raise myself either. Hey mom and dad! I don’t know if the author intended to send a specific message – an answer to the most pressing question carrying the plot. Does God exist? If he should wish for my answer to be yes after reading the book I’m sorry to disappoint. To me, the beauty of the story was the lack of a convincing answer. Fear not! There was an aspect of the story I agree with a hundred percent. Money makes the world (the little universe that is) go round. Behind all this - the philosophical elements, the religious undertone, the imagination running wild - stood one big whopper of a condition: The economic interests. No funds, no story to tell. Kudos to the author for realizing that!
What didn’t work for me?
More emphasis should’ve been put on the fact that progress of any kind has a healthy pace that was discarded by the success of Webster’s experiment.
The ending, too, rubbed me the wrong way. I found the state and place of mind Webster ended up in absolutely unacceptable. It sent the wrong message, for it was not something to be happy about. Sometimes a wish simply shouldn’t be fulfilled. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean one should do it. Also, I would’ve bought into a connection between Whitney and Jon if it hadn’t been for the random involvement with another female character. I know what the author wanted to achieve with the conflict (Jon’s confusion). It didn’t work. This resulted in the main plot line being dragged along, rather than staying the main focus. For about a hundred pages or so I was waiting for something essential to happen. Unfortunately the drought lasted too long for comfort. I wanted to skip the pages. It felt like Matthews wandered from the path for the same reason Webster did what he did. Simply because he could, not because it was the right thing to do. A mind-boggling read that lost its center for a time. Where there’s a storm, there must be an eye of the storm. Despite its flaws, you should give this book a shot. I was pleasantly surprised for the most part. 3 stars to The Little Universe by Jason Matthews!

Beware of Spoilers!
A few of my favorite quotes for those of you who are interested:
° “It was my first conversation with a computer, and I felt a little awkward about what to say.”
° “If I can create a universe…then what does it say about who created ours?”
° “The more he studied the universe, the more complex it remained. He realized he was just one person on a little planet drifting in a cosmic ocean without a guide.”
° “Religion is a mythical history used by primitive people to explain the world and heavens…”
° “I needed a reality check from the lab…”
° “You are the creator and the creation. You are the director and the actor and the play.”

Thank you, Saskia. Your review was thoughtful and thorough!
Home Page of author Jason Matthews.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Extreme Skiing and Psychedelic Mushrooms: The Art of Chasing Fear

There's a new and free short story ebook called Extreme Skiing and Psychedelic Mushrooms: The Art of Chasing Fear. It's based on a true story from my life with one or two dramatic licenses added, almost entirely based on actual events from a day in 1992 that etched itself in memory due to many factors.
This is a short story of 8,522 words and involves co-workers/friends at a ski area pushing their limits. It also involves fear of the known and unknown, and attempting to get past fear whether it's a physical boundary, a sexual desire or a complex psychological entity.
Like the title indicates, there are psychedelic mushrooms involved with extreme skiing in the backcountry, so if that sounds like something you might enjoy, please check it out.
It's freely available at Smashwords in every ebook format - and also at Scribd - as a pdf file.
Click here for the home page of Jason Matthews, spiritual fiction author.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Edgar Cayce's Psychic Teachings Missing Link to New Age Novel

Back in 2000-2005 when writing The Little Universe, I knew the most incredible discovery of the science project (the universe generator) would be from planet Theta and its people. The Thetans were to be a source of profound knowledge, so deep that they'd be able to answer any question imaginable. At the time, this concept was pretty overwhelming for a young author who didn't want to presume knowledge about life's biggest questions. Fortunately, that's when I stumbled into the readings of Edgar Cayce and found spiritual lessons much in line with the doctrines of the greatest teachers in history and even beyond (in my opinion). Those readings became the perfect voice for The Grandmother and other Thetans mentioned in the story, which enabled me to finish the novel.
If you're not familiar with Edgar Cayce, he's arguably the most famous recorded psychic in history with over 14,000 documented readings. He was born in rural Kentucky and lived from 1877-1945. He's been called "the sleeping prophet" and without any schooling past the 6th grade, he had his greatest success helping others with medical/physical ailments as well as spiritual lessons. You might find this YouTube video of him fascinating. There's loads more on him at the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.).

Home Page of author Jason Matthews.

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Friday, September 09, 2011

Jana Matthews Runs Around Lake Tahoe

Jana Matthews runs around Lake Tahoe
My lovely wife, Jana Matthews, just ran around Lake Tahoe. That's right, all the way around, and it's a big lake if you haven't heard. 72 miles around the perimeter, not an easy run. Okay, so it was more of a very brisk walk than actually running, but it's still pretty impressive if you ask me, not some walk in the park that any joker could do. It took her many days, enduring all kinds of weather conditions like sunny, party cloudy, mostly cloudy and partly sunny. As you can see many people began the journey. (They're represented by all the masses of humanity on the left of the picture.)

Jana Matthews pink cutout

But very few made it the entire way. Approximately four and there were also a couple that turned around and went back, but they're not pictured for showing off. Weather could have played a factor for those that couldn't rise to the challenge, not to mention the vastness of what 72 miles really means. Oh sure, it's easy to say, "I think I'll go walk around Lake Tahoe," but it's another thing to actually do it. It's like starting a New Year's Day resolution and being pretty good about it for, like the first few days, and then just going back to those old, lazy routines. But not Jana; she's got determination and follow-through.
Jana Matthews pink cutout

Just in case you think I'm fibbing, here's a close-up of Jana at the finish line where California meets Nevada and people like to gamble away their hard-earned money. She's the pink one on top. Yeah, the picture's a little fuzzy, but that's really her. I know what you're probably thinking, how could you be married to a little piece of paper? But I don't see it that way. I love her for who she is inside, and that's a very special being who just happened to walk around Lake Tahoe. Go girl!

Jana Matthews

Hah, had you going there for a minute. She's really real. And I'm a lucky guy, not some schmuck married to a little piece of pink paper. Besides, paper cut-outs can't really walk around Lake Tahoe anyway. But Jana can-a.

Nice going, babe. I love you.

Home Page of author Jason Matthews.
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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Author Jess Buike Reviews The Little Universe

Very pleased to see this recent review of The Little Universe by author and reviewer, Jess Buike. Just my opinion, but she really nailed it. This review can also be seen as her website,


The Little Universe
Author Jess Buike's rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though touted as a "spiritual novel," this book really can appeal to all people interested in existentialism, evolution, creationism, sci-fi, science, and more!

Imagine being able to create a self-contained universe in a room, and being able to monitor how it evolves and changes throughout millions of years while you are only experiencing days - that is the intriguing concept behind this book. Would you want to learn more about spirituality? Or scientific advancement? Or human nature? Evolution? Something else?

All those views are held by the various scientists and staff working on this large project. As a reader, you are drawn in and asked to examine your own beliefs about life and what true advancement as a race really looks like.

The characters are remarkably developed, and feel like they could be someone in your own life. The situation is made more believable by the in-depth use of scientific explanations - but they are all written in everyday language so that you don't have to be a scientist to understand what is happening.

I hate giving spoilers, so I will just say that there is a fun "stunner" three-quarters of the way through the book that will shock you - I usually can tell what will happen ahead of time, but this book actually surprised me!

Overall, this is beautifully written and well worth the read.