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James Luce

Writing: Author of The Mount of Megiddo, First of the Blue Battalion Chronicles, a future history/mystery/political thriller series; Chasing Davis, an Atheist’s Guide to Morality Using Logic and Science; science fiction short stories; travel articles; political commentary and editorials. The second Blue Battalion Chronicle is awaiting publication; the third is in outline format. Blog: www.lucelyspeaking.com
Background: Born in 1945, Ohio; grew up on ranches in Pennsylvania and California; graduated Yale ’66, BA, Psychology; Office of Special Investigations (USAF), Federal Agent, 1967-71; Santa Clara Law, ’74, Magna Cum Laude; practicing trial attorney  ...See more >


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"The year is 2017, and the United States is in turmoil. After a devastating terrorist attack on San Diego, the country devolves into civil war. Various rebel forces form, and the government has passed the Espionage Act, allowing for all kinds of powers that reach beyond the Constitution. At the helm of this tumultuous nation is President Meryl Montessori.Though Washington, D.C., is one of the more stable places in America, Montessori wakes up one morning to find her female lover dead. The president assembles a team of sorts to make sense of the impossible murder, sending them down a bizarre path that leads everywhere from the war zones of America to the gravesite of George Orwell. As the plot progresses, it drifts ever further from the initial murder and into more abstract realms, such as the fragile nature of human history and the universe itself. Fortunately, the president’s confidants are prepared. Team members range from the stovepipe-hat wearing science advisor Dr. Frank N. Stein to the beautiful NYPD Officer Rachel Rothberg, who, though a savvy and daring police officer, can never bring herself to lie to her mother. This wacky cast of characters only gets wackier as they try to sort out a series of clues and survive various active hostilities around the world."

Kirkus Reviews

BOOKS REVIEWED BY KIRKUS:

Pub Date:
Page count: 496pp

Luce’s zany, near-future adventure (Chasing Davis, 2012).

The year is 2017, and the United States is in turmoil. After a devastating terrorist attack on San Diego, the country devolves into civil war. Various rebel forces form, and the government has passed the Espionage Act, allowing for all kinds of powers that reach beyond the Constitution. At the helm of this tumultuous nation is President Meryl Montessori. Though Washington, D.C., is one of the more stable places in America, Montessori wakes up one morning to find her female lover dead. The president assembles a team of sorts to make sense of the impossible murder, sending them down a bizarre path that leads everywhere from the war zones of America to the gravesite of George Orwell. As the plot progresses, it drifts ever further from the initial murder and into more abstract realms, such as the fragile nature of human history and the universe itself. Fortunately, the president’s confidants are prepared. Team members range from the stovepipe-hat wearing science advisor Dr. Frank N. Stein to the beautiful NYPD Officer Rachel Rothberg, who, though a savvy and daring police officer, can never bring herself to lie to her mother. This wacky cast of characters only gets wackier as they try to sort out a series of clues and survive various active hostilities around the world. Though the humor of this zany gang greatly depends on the reader’s tolerance for puns and other simple word play, the team also has its sophisticated moments. Allusions to Kazimierz Pulaski, Emperor Haile Selassie, and others provide a welcome infusion of world history, however, these references show the heroes may too easily outwit villains who can’t think beyond racial slurs and coarse grammar. One main scoundrel, for example, is apparently so dumb it took him six years to graduate from the University of Tennessee. If this is the best the world can put against them, how can Montessori’s team fail?

Frequently silly and violent though occasionally insightful, the plot can be difficult to follow though by no means impossible. Rooting for characters who, for instance, respond to an “air-head” driver by saying “Yah…and she’s obviously got air-brakes too” proves much more difficult.

Pub Date:
ISBN: 978-1469732312
Page count: 694pp

Luce sets out to explain why only science and logic are reliable guides for morality.

With his debut philosophical treatise, Luce enters the arena of the “new atheists”—Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and others. While those writers have tended to focus on a narrow theme within an atheistic framework, Luce tackles religion, morality, history, law, social convention, autobiography and more. He begins, like Hitchens in God Is Not Great (2007), by sharing his personal history of growing up in Davis, Calif., where he first felt “that to be at peace with oneself only required one be in harmony with whatever it was that was going on around one.” The author’s quest in his book is partly to regain that sense of peace as an adult, to “chase Davis.” It was also as a child that Luce first doubted the moral teachings of religion. In addition to explaining why he is an atheist, Luce provides a detailed review of what he sees to be the failings of traditional moral guideposts—religion, philosophy, government and law. He explores a wide array of issues within each of these areas and offers numerous examples for his propositions, which bolsters his argument that only science and logic are trustworthy guides. Luce adds a few original ideas to the “new atheism” debate, most notably the intriguing yet unproven conjecture that humans require a certain amount of space in order to get along and that violating this requirement has made the entire species “insane.” His critique of religion is wide-ranging but tends to treat religion merely as a set of premises. This approach has merit but ignores the complexity of how religion is practiced and experienced. Likewise, his critique of philosophy focuses on a few classic philosophers but ignores major atheist thinkers from Hume to Sartre, to whom his book is indebted. He also characterizes the views of philosophers as merely belief systems, a peculiar attack on the field that developed both logic and science.

A thorough treatment from an atheistic perspective, with numerous examples but few original hypotheses.

Page count: 233pp

Luce’s (The Mount of Meggido, 2013) latest installment of the Blue Battalion Chronicles.

Two years have passed since the events of the author’s previous sci-fi novel, featuring near-future political wrangling and a host of eccentric characters, including the Rolls Royce–driving, stovepipe hat–wearing Dr. Frank N. Stein. It’s now 2019; the United States, now slightly altered and known as the Federated States of America, is recovering from a recent civil war, and violence is still rampant. After crime fighter Peter Hassel (a man who “knows almost everything about everything”) and voluptuous former New York street cop Rachel Rothburg survive an attack, they discover that it’s connected to a complex plot by the director of the FBI, Beatrice Orange. She has no qualms about murder and maintains a seemingly unquenchable thirst for power (“Her driving dream is world domination”). As Frank, Rachel, Peter and other members of the Blue Battalion investigate Beatrice and her motives, they trace a long series of seedy activities to Yale University, the Skull and Bones Society and other organizations. The story is complex and zany in its construction, with wacky, Thomas Pynchon–esque characters and secret societies, as well as regular bursts of gunfire. It’s at its best when it follows the stoic actions of its good guys (such as when Peter and Rachel handle an assailant) and brutality of its bad guys (including Beatrice’s cool-headed violence). That said, the story occasionally veers into confusion and sluggishness. The blunt character descriptions (“She has a Master’s in political science from San Francisco State and a law degree from Bolt Hall”) aren’t always particularly insightful or exciting. Similarly, a dinner scene at a New Haven club adds little to the story other than to show that one particular character is capable of eating a lot of food. These are mere bumps in the road, however, and readers looking for a wild tale of lively, violent people are unlikely to be disappointed.

A complex, sometimes-muddled novel but one that’s worthy of comparison to Pynchon’s work.  

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