Book Review: “Under the Mountain” by Maurice Gee

Reviewed by Octavia.

Gee, Maurice. Under the Mountain. Auckland: Puffin Books, 2006.

First published 1979.

Under the Mountain has had the dubious pleasure of horrifying me twice in one lifetime. As a child, I was scared silly by the thought of the Wilberforces and what it would take to defeat them. As an adult, the horror was different – several weeks back, I went to the cinema to see the newly-released movie version and it was dreadful. The characters had the same names, and that was about all that could be said for it. Everything that contributed to the charm and thoughtfulness and grief of the original had been systematically stripped away. I was so horrified I went out and bought a copy of the book, to reread and reassure myself that the original was as I remembered it.

It was.

Under the Mountain is the story of Rachel and Theo, twin children who are almost complete opposites. Rachel is a dreamer, Theo a scientist. She feels, he thinks. On a visit to their family in Auckland, they learn that they are in the middle of the last battle between the last representatives of two great alien races – and that they are the key to defeating the side that wants to destroy all life on Earth and turn it into a planet of mud. The rapacious slugs of the  Wilberforce family, and the good but frail Mr. Jones can both take human form – Mr. Jones at least is more comfortable that way as it makes him feel less lonely. Loneliness is one of the subtle over-arching themes of the book, as Rachel and Theo must in their own way learn to use weapons that will destroy the invaders. Though children, they must become killers – not just of individuals, but of an entire race – if they want their home to survive. Yet killing, even in self-defence, is never an easy thing. There is no help, and no hope. It is murder or nothing.

Continue reading

Historic First: Secularist Organization Meets with White House Staffers

On February 26, 2010 was a historic first: the first time any Presidential staffers ever met with members of a secularist lobbying group. It was the Secular Coalition for America, a lobbying group supported by several secularist organizations, from American Atheists to Camp Quest to the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers to the Society for Humanistic Judaism.

They had three main concerns:

  • Protecting Children from Neglect and Abuse as a result of exempting religious organizations from the standards applied to other organizations. A certain Liz Heywood has suffered from a long-running bone infection that led to a leg amputation, all because her Christian-Scientist parents believed that the physical world is an illusion, that disease is really false beliefs, and that materialist medicine is worthless. She was unable to show up, so a SCA staffer read a statement from her.
  • Ending Military Proselytizing, including coercing or pressuring soldiers to attend religious services.
  • Fixing Faith-Based Initiatives; ensuring that religious organizations that receive Federal funding for secular activities not discriminate or proselytize, and that secular alternatives to them be available.

Continue reading

RichardDawkins.net forum to close

Hello Everyone,

Just a public service announcement here. For those who haven’t heard, the RichardDawkins.net forum is closing down – in its current form at least. You can see the announcement made by forum staff here.

The current version of the forum is apparently remaining in read-only format for 30 days, so if you want to archive any of it, or download any posts you have made, or private messages in your inbox, now is the time to do it.