The Corona Pandemic and How it Affects All of Us.

Already in 2011, I published my first pandemic adventure novel TWO JOURNEYS (soon followed by its sequel FIELDS OF FIRE). Both books deal with the dramatic effects of a Corona virus epidemic. The inspiration for these books came from the SARS epidemic that occurred a few years earlier, in 2003.

Both novels continue to gain a lot of attention. This pleases me; first of all as an author and artist, but also as a scientist that has been active in biomedical research and healthcare for many years, also in virology. My books are pure fantasy and adventure, yet they have a scientific basis and… contain a few warnings that are worth highlighting in this post.

Without doubt, the 2020 Corona pandemic has a big impact on society. I blogged some words of advice already. Part of that impact we cannot even start to fathom today. The pandemic will cost all of us a lot of money, that’s for certain. It may lead to political instability and a shift in the global powerplay; examples include the apparent Russian disinformation campaign or Chinese attempts to lay the blame elsewhere. However, most of all, the Corona virus has the potential to create a lot of sorrow and pain.

Surprisingly, crises like these also highlight the strength and good in us humans (listen to these Italians singing; perhaps not completely on tune :-)).

Alan, the hero of TWO JOURNEYS, soon notices that in pandemic times, several forces start to kick in:

  • Facts and truth start to suffer. Today, it seems that a majority of people have difficulty to understand exponential growth-curves, or aren’t interested to build up that knowledge, or even to listen to experts that can interpret exponential growth. Yet, suddenly everybody is an amateur virologist, and every bit if information is (mis-)used for own purposes. This forces some of these individuals to make a 180 degree turn in opinion within mere days – damage done.
  • People start blaming experts, either for not warning early enough, or for being too pessimistic: “they were wrong about the SARS epidemic as well, weren’t they?” This reveals a deep misunderstanding of how science works; which is a serious education issue. If you have no clue how science works, get involved and read up on it… but NOT in the National Enquirer, the Sun or on Facebook or other social media. Don’t develop opinions about things that you do not understand; certainly don’t start spreading those opinions. Read this interview with the prominent virologist David Ho to understand the Corona pandemic mechanisms and the right measures. The pertinent information is out there: for instance at the CDC, at your local government website, but also from multiple doctors reporting directly from Italy‘s Bergamo.
  • Downplaying the crisis or (even worse) creating panic about it. Putting on your blinders for the issue as it develops never helps, especially since you as a layperson do not have all the relevant data at your disposal. At the same time, IF all the advice from the authorities is followed by ALL of us, any emergency can ultimately be contained. And once that tipping point is achieved, not only will the exponential growth curve of a viral infection be broken, but also the growth-curve of all the associated concerns – health, financial, societal. Stay realistic, don’t panic, and always realize that a pandemic is a moving target, where even the best experts and politicians will need to constantly adjust their policies and advice (if you think you can do a better job, I urge you to apply for a job at your local health authority – don’t waste time writing about it on social media ;-).
  • People start to use the pandemic for their own populist agendas. In TWO JOURNEYS this is embodied in the character of the wannabee dictator Somerset, who believes that with a decimated population world-power is within his grasp. Populists play with their citizens’ lives, as they only have their own objectives in mind: to get re-elected, for financial gain, to strengthen their power, or whatever sick idea they follow. Populists, in contrast to sincere politicians, experts or the members of the healthcare staff in the ICU of your local hospital, do not regard helping you as primary objective. They simply can’t, it simply isn’t in their DNA. Populists have a goal, and will filter and (mis)use data that seems to substantiate that goal. Science and common sense do the opposite: collect data first, then define a theory and finally a goal. Needless to say, populists will impact their own citizens’ lives dramatically – and your life too. A pandemic (the word implies the ‘global’ impact of an epidemic) will not stop at a national border… or your doorstep for that matter.

These observations could be the ingredients of a highly depressive story line. But every cloud has its silver lining. TWO JOURNEYS is very much a story of hope. It highlights the goodness of people, and their ability to persevere in the hardest of times, together. We can see the same happening in today’s situation: our strength is our willingness to help one another; to be sensible, to focus on facts, in a disturbing, shifting situation. And not to panic. Forget about hoarding toilet paper.

Stay healthy and let’s come out of this stronger, together.

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Our dog Buddy enjoys the outdoors and spots a stork during our self-isolation.

 

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Famous castaways, jettisoned and marooned – stories from people that were left alone

The adventure novel TWO JOURNEYS tells the story of a man who is the sole survivor of a post-apocalyptic event.

How is it possible to survive as the last man on earth? In adventure literature, Robinson Crusoe is probably the most famous imaginary character in such a situation. But real-life people have been separated from humanity for extended periods of time – if not the remainder of their life. These include the likes of Thorgisl, Grettir Ásmundarson, Fernão Lopez, Juan de Cartagena and Pedro Sánchez Reina, Gonzalo de Vigo, Marguerite de La Rocque, Jan Pelgrom and Wouter Loos (the first westerners to set foot in Australia), Miskito Will, Alexander Selkirk, Philip Ashton, Pedro Serrano, Ada Blackjack, Jesus Vidana, Salvador Ordoñez, Lucio Rendo, Leendert Hasenbosch, Chunosuke Matsuyama and Charles Barnard – and there are many more names of people that were forced to live in isolation over extended time periods. Some lived isolated for a few months, others for years… What unites these involuntarily castaways is their tremendous drive to return to humanity.

Some also select to be alone for extended periods of time, such as Gerald Kingsland and Lucy Irvine or Tom Neale (the latter spent 16 lonely years in solitude on the Cook Islands – by his own choice).

Survival is possible, and depending on the character of the castaway, might even be seen as enjoyable … one of the reasons why I selected this theme for my novel Two Journeys: how does an individual thrown from modern society, deal with the prospect of being alone…perhaps for the rest of his or her life?

In my novels Two Journeys and Fields of Fire, this shocking situation is caused by a global epidemic. Humanity has gone a long time without a major pandemic. But recent outbreaks of viruses such as SARS, corona or influenza (e.g. H2N2 or the Asian Flu H3N2; or bird flu) have occurred again and again in the past years. Is humanity prepared? In my books, I show a different path than what some so-called “preppers” or the “prepper movement” appears to advocate. If catastrophe strikes, keeping to the higher ground morally shows that we are human.

Learn more about the adventure books by Clemens P. Suter here.

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FOREST – a Short Story for you to enjoy (for free). 3800 words.

Forest

Copyright 2020, Clemens P. Suter

„Bonjour Max,“ said the man behind the bar. “Salut Pierre,” he answered. It had been raining since daybreak, and Max was happy to be inside and to enjoy a small, hot café. On his way in, he had picked up a newspaper from one of the tables. Pierre brought him his coffee and a croissant. Pierre’s wasn’t very busy this morning, only a few workmen and pensioners at the tables. The high school teacher was correcting exams at her usual place; although Max didn’t know her name, he knew that her husband would join her for lunch, he always did when she was here. He started reading a more detailed political analysis on page three.

“Been out for a walk?” asked Pierre, wiping the top of the bar with a dirty cloth. Max looked up from his newspaper. Time had progressed and the place was almost empty now.

“Yes, the usual. I walked over through the forêt. It was rainy and quite slippery.”

“Better be careful, some of those paths are steep, and the rain erodes them away. Seen any deer?” Max knew that Pierre was a keen hunter. “No, none. I hardly ever see any deer in the forest, or foxes or boars. Only birds. A lot of birds. I hardly ever meet people.”

“Not many hikers or people visit the forest. An additional reason to be prudent, especially if you are on your own. You never know what may happen; in that forest.” Pierre’s face had darkened, and he looked Max deep in the eyes.

Max hesitated. Ever since he had moved into the area and started his walks in the forest, something had been puzzling him. “Perhaps you can help me, as you are a hunter and probably know the forest better than most…”

Pierre looked at him quizzically. The last patron exited the bar, leaving it empty until lunchtime.

“I have noticed that someone is digging in the woods. I’ve come across dozens of pits, some deep, others only superficial. Then, a few weeks back, I came across this woman, skinny, long hair. She came towards me with a shovel over her shoulder, a shovel with a broad blade and a long handle, almost like a coal shovel. I greeted her in passing, but she didn’t greet back. I stared after her until she disappeared in a turn of the track.”

Pierre’s cloth went over the top of bar in slow circles. His face had a serious expression. “Ah. You met her then. Marie.”

“Who is she? Is Marie the person who digs these holes?”

Pierre glanced first at the window to the kitchen, behind which Pierre’s wife could be heard preparing lunch, then at the clock. Pierre put down his cloth. He moved closer to Max, rested his elbows on the top of the bar, and lowered his voice. “Let me tell you. This is a fascinating story.”

It was a Saturday, the day on which Marie always slept in. She got up around nine, took a shower, then dried her hair as she looked out of the kitchen window. A beautiful summer day lay ahead. She fed her two dogs, dressed, and soon the three of them left the house, followed the field and entered the forest.

Marie was secretary in the hôtel de ville and single. She had been born in the area. Her parents had died in an accident, leaving her an inheritance that had allowed her to buy her small house.

The track that she followed went up steeply beneath pine trees. There were many paths in the forest and she still hadn’t explored all of them. She wasn’t afraid to get lost; the two dogs always helped her find the shortest route home. Today, the ethereal smell of the trees pulled her deeper and deeper into the woods. The dogs moved about swiftly, sniffing traces left by wild animals.

Suddenly, the path ended at a clearing. Not really a clearing: weeds covered it hip-high. It had been a long time since anyone had been here; young trees had started to sprout up. She walked across the open circle, butterflies escaping her approach. On the other side, the ground rose steeply and in this natural wall was an opening that let down into the ground. A red boulder rested next to it. The opening was breast-high and allowed a single person to enter the tunnel beyond. She called back the dogs as they started to walk in, sniffing left and right. Who had created this tunnel? Its walls were made of sand, no special construction was visible. Should she enter to explore? No way! The roof might collapse onto her, or she might get stuck. Exploring a tunnel on your own, a single person, would be very foolhardy. No, she decided to turn back.

She turned around and started walking. However, soon she recalled that this path continued for about twenty minutes until the next intersection. Forty minutes lost in total… without seeing anything new. She looked at the sun and her watch, and after only the slightest hesitation she returned to the clearing and the entrance.

The dogs entered the tunnel unconcerned and without delay, and now Marie followed. The ground was flat and without obstructions. After a minute it became very dark, and she was forced to slow down. The dogs apparently were fearless, and by following their sound, she could still move relatively quickly, holding her hands in front and above her face, to make sure that she didn’t hit her head against any obstruction.

After a while, Marie stopped and looked back. She couldn’t see the entrance anymore, and doubt came over her. She felt the walls. Rock had replaced sand. This seemed to be a natural tunnel, perhaps a river in prehistoric times? What to do next, press on, or return?

What if this cave had bifurcations or even junctions? Unexpectedly, a sense of panic came over her; if this was an underground maze of connected caverns, she could get lost quickly. Even turning back might cause her to take a wrong route, a side tunnel that she had missed on her way in. The tunnel suddenly felt damp and claustrophobic, she could practically feel the weight of the heavy, impenetrable earth pressing down on its roof. She had to breathe deeply to regain composure. Slowly her heavy heartbeat quieted down again. She realized that the dogs could help her. She bent forward, and felt their cold wet noses pushing against her arm.

She removed a line from her waist and clipped it on a neckband. “Search, search,” she said. After some hesitation, the dog pulled on the line and started to hurry forward. For an instance she was alarmed, as the dog started to move deeper into the tunnel, but then she decided to trust its instincts, especially as the other dog was already ahead and barking.

After a few minutes, light appeared. The tunnel made a slight turn to the left and the light grew brighter. She could see the outside world.  After a minute, the three of them reached the end of the tunnel and hurried out into daylight.

The sudden brightness overwhelmed her, and she had to shade her eyes with her hand. Drops of moisture and insects lighted up in the bright and yellowish light. The world looked different; strong mosaics of black shade and patches of color; yet tranquil and welcoming. The air was filled with honey sweet scents. She sat down on the ground, and for a while simply enjoined her surroundings. The songs of the birds and the buzz of the insects were surprisingly loud. Did she just imagine that the light and sounds were much more intensive this side of the tunnel? The petted the dogs, who lay close by, panting in the warm sunlight.

Again, she used her watch and the position of the sun to find the approximate direction of her house. She followed the path downhill, which after ten minutes hit upon a broader track. The dogs turned left, and she followed.

A big man with short black hair sat in the middle of the track, his legs spread wide and his back towards her. A hiker’s backpack and a bottle of water rested next to him. She stopped and inspected the figure; it wasn’t clear what he was doing. The man didn’t move. She looked back and to the left and right: only forest.

Picking up her courage, she moved forward. The man heard her coming, turned and looked at her over his shoulder. The pain that the movement caused was visible in his face. “Thank God, a human,” he grumbled.

“Can I help you?” she stood in front of him. He had untied his left boot, and she could see a red sock. His foot was swollen badly.

“I’m grateful that you are here. I slipped on the bank and sprained my ankle. I am reduced to a blasted limp! I don’t think it is broken but I need to get off this bloody mountain.”

They considered the options. Marie looked at her watch; the afternoon was progressing. After a while they agreed it would be best if he would lean on Marie, so that they could try reach a road in the valley. She helped him up, and he put his arm around her shoulder. He was heavy and strong, and for a moment she was worried. But he was friendly and kept on talking; about his love for hiking and the forest, his job, his family. He introduced himself as Yves.

They stumbled down the path. Sooner than Marie had expected, they came to a road. They waited for ten minutes for a car to come; they waived it down. The driver was an elderly man, who looked skeptical at first, but after their explanation he agreed to take Yves to the next village and a doctor. It didn’t cross Marie’s mind to join them, and she stared after the car that took Yves away.

As the sound of the engine dwindled, she again became aware of the loudness of the singing birds. She had no idea where she was, so she had to rely on her dogs to guide her home. The animals didn’t take the route through the tunnel.

Patrons came in, and Pierre excused himself to take the couples order. Pierre assembled glasses of water, plates with croissants and coffee cups on a tablet and served them. After ten minutes or so, he came over to the bar again.

“Curious story! What happened next?” asked Max, rather impatiently.

Marie returned home after dark. The day had been exhausting and she went to bed early. The next day, a great unrest came over her. She recalled the heaviness of Yves’ body, the scent of his aftershave, his black hair. She tried to shake off the feeling, but to her own surprise, she continued to feel a need to find out what had happened at the doctor, yes to meet him again. She found an excuse: she would inquire about him in the village and see whether he was ok. A civilized thing to do.

She packed the dogs into her car and drove around the mountain. She came to the road that the elderly man and Yves had taken. Soon afterwards, she arrived at a small medical practice, directly at the entrance of the first village. It was a Sunday, and the clinic was closed, but just as Marie parked her car, a woman came out of the building and started to lock the door from the outside. She was a nurse and had been there the whole of Saturday, but no one with an injured foot had turned up, no one with Yves description. The nurse mentioned a few medical practices and hospitals in the area where Yves could have gone for treatment – there weren’t many, only four.

Over the next days, Marie visited all four, but Yves hadn’t turned up in any of them. Marie was puzzled. She couldn’t imagine that the driver would have taken Yves to the next larger town, which after all was quite far away. Or had Yves asked the driver to take him home instead? Perhaps Yves had concluded that a strained ankle could be cured with an icepack and a few days on a sofa…

She realized there was little that she could do. Over the following weeks, she explored some other ideas, such as asking her colleagues at the city halls of the neighboring villages. She also discussed with a few friends. Nobody could help her. She also talked to the police, but the conversation was discouraging; the woman pointed out that Yves wasn’t her relative, he might have taken a bus to another town, or have been picked up by a friend of family member… She promised to make a note of it, but here really was no reason for the police to become involved, the woman stated.

Weeks turned into months and Marie forced herself to forget about Yves. She had to stop chasing this dream.

And she would have given up, but a few unexpected observations threw her back. Marie continued to spend most of her free time outdoors, and during her walks with the dogs, she continued to roam the forest. Unsurprisingly, she was still intrigued by the open enclosure with its red boulder and the entrance to the tunnel. But to her initial amusement, and later wonder and then frustration, she did manage to find the start of the route to the enclosure, but she remained unable to find tunnel itself. It turned into a frustration: she spent weeks trying to locate the tunnel, but she never succeeded to find its entrance, or for that matter the exit.

In addition, she also observed that the feeling of elation, which by now she associated with her passing through the tunnel, was beginning to fade. She didn’t read too much in both observations at first, but when, in addition, nobody could confirm to her that a tunnel existed in the forest, she felt anger growing within her.

One night the anger and frustration exploded, and she grabbed a shovel and started to dig for the tunnel.

Pierre fell silent. The door opened and some regulars entered. “Ca va?” called Pierre and raised his hand in greeting.

“What happened then?” asked Max.

Pierre’s face lost all expression. “Nothing. She is still digging.”

Pierre walked over to the newcomers and started to take care of their order.

After a while, Max ordered another coffee. He sipped it, deep in thought. Not much later, he left the bar, and, taking the shortest route through the forest, returned home.

Max got up early the next day. He packed a small backpack with some essentials; a bottle of water, a few sandwiches, a torch. He put on his hiking boots and selected a robust jacket. Entering the forest, he selected his route with determination. It was leisurely walking at first, but soon it became steep climbing. Max started sweating.

Not many people had traveled this route. Ignoring all crossing paths and bifurcations, Max progressed rapidly. He arrived at a clearing in the forest and walked across it. He set down his backpack on top of the red boulder and inspected his surroundings and the entrance of the tunnel. A raven flapped through the sky, landed on a branch of a large pine and shouted gleefully. It was cloudy and the air was frech. Max was pleased that he had brought a jacket.

He knew this place but had never entered the tunnel. He rummaged through his backpack and grabbed for the torch. Turning it on, he entered the dark hole.

The air was damp and cold. A slight breeze continued to touch his face and hands. With the help if the artificial he managed to progress rapidly. He couldn’t see any traces of anyone having passed through here; neither footsteps nor paws, but he realized that didn’t mean much.

The walls did indeed turn from sand into rock. He could see traces of water erosion in the stone. He hurried along and after fifteen minutes or so, he the exit became visible in the distance.

Shortly thereafter, Max exited the tunnel. The brightness of the sun hit him hard and instinctively he moved his hand above his squinting eyes. He had to wait a few seconds to allow them to adjust to the light.

The air was filled with sounds of insects, that buzzed by at determined speeds. A sparrow swept down and snapped a butterfly, right in front to Max’s face. The suddenness of the movement surprised him, and he took a shocked step back. The sky was blue and most of the clouds had been blown away. Max took off his coat, rolled it up and stored it, together with the torch, in his backpack. He wept the sweat off his face.

Max inspected his surroundings. The forest was quiet and looked slightly different this side of the tunnel. Fewer pines, but more sycamore and eucalyptus trees. It looked more friendly, something to do with the light… he couldn’t put his finger on it. He took a deep breath; the air was invigorating, fresh.

Max started down the path. After a while, he hit upon a broader track.

He came upon a man, sitting in the middle of the track, his legs spread wide and his back towards him. The man had short black hair. A backpack rested on the ground next to the man and he held a bottle of water in his hand.

Max stopped abruptly and stared at the figure. The man, obviously unaware of Max’ presence, didn’t move. Max looked back, and then left and right: the two of them were surrounded by vast, empty forest. The insects lighted up as they passed through beams of sunlight, some fast and hurried, others leisurely, each at its own pace.

Frowning, Max moved forward. The man heard him coming, turned and looked at him over his shoulder. He grimaced with pain. “Thank God, a human,” he grumbled.

Max stopped in front of him. He noticed that the man’s left boot was untied, and he could see a red sock.

“I’m grateful you are here,” said the man. “I slipped on the bank and sprained my ankle. I am reduced to a blasted limp! I don’t think it is broken… nevertheless I need to get off this bloody mountain.”

Max didn’t answer, thoughts racing through his head. He continued to stare at the man. “What’s up?” asked the man, staring up at Max. “Think you can help me?”

Max cleared his throat. “Well… yes, I think so.” He tried to shake off his confusion.

“Great!” said the man, enthusiastically. “By the way, my name is Yves.” He stuck out a big hand. Max stuck out his hand too, and they shook. “I’m Max.”

The man continued chatting. Max hesitated in his answers at first, but after a while the apparent honesty of the man somehow managed to reduce Max’s feeling of apprehension. Max looked at his watch; the day was progressing. After a while they agreed it would be best if Yves would lean on Max, so that they could try reach a road in the valley. Max helped him up, and Yves put his arm around Max’s shoulder. Yves wasn’t very heavy, so walking down the hill wasn’t too much of a challenge. Yves kept on talking; about his love for hiking and the forest, his job, his family. They came to a road, sooner than Max had expected.

They waited for a car to turn up. Yves sat down on the shoulder of the road. Max decided that whatever happened next, he would get in the car with the man and find out where he was going. Max felt that he needed to interview the man more, to better understand what was going on. But either the right questions didn’t enter his head, or Yves’ answers were blatantly simple.

A small truck came into view, and Max waved it down. The driver, and elderly man, was skeptical at first, but after some discussion willing to take Yves to the next town and a doctor. The driver waved at his truck and it contents; he apologized to Max that, with Yves in the passenger seat, there obviously was no room for him. Max nodded in understanding.

The doors slammed shut, and the driver started the engine.

Max stared after the truck as it disappeared. He shook his head. Then, he took a sandwich from his backpack and munched it slowly, trying to decide what to do next.

After some more time, he crossed the road and found a path that lead downhill. After half an hour he could see the first houses of a village.

He hit the high street, took a turn to the right. He entered the bar. The high school teacher was correcting exams at her usual table. Max looked at his watch and concluded that her husband had most likely already left.

„Bonjour Max, ca va?“ said Pierre from behind the bar. Max hesitated for a second, but then answered: “Salut Pierre.” On his way in, he had automatically picked up a newspaper from one of the tables. The place wasn’t very busy, only a few workmen and pensioners. After a while, Pierre brought him a coffee and a croissant.

“Been out for a walk?” asked Pierre, wiping the top of the bar with a dirty cloth. Max inspected Pierre’s face, not exactly sure what to say. “Well… yes, the usual. I walked over through the forêt. Beautiful weather… better than yesterday?” Max turned his last statement into a question.

A serious expression came over Pierre’s face. “Better be careful in the forest, some of the paths are steep and the rain erodes them away. Seen any deer?”

Max shook his head slowly. “No, none. Only birds. A lot of birds, and insects. No humans either.”

A cloud moved in front of the sun, and the interior of the bar turned dark. Somehow, Max felt that he could guess what Pierre would say next. He felt his skin starting to crawl.

Pierre continued to wipe the top of the bar, in exaggeratedly slow, circular movements. He stopped, moved his head towards Max and looked him deep in the eyes. His face darkened and he spoke slowly. “Not many enter the forest. An additional reason to be prudent, especially if you are on your own. In that forest, you never know what may happen.”

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The Forest

Interested in more? Click here for the short story THE TUNNEL.

Black Hole Detected on Edge of Milky Way. The Dutch Postal System. #NederlandsePost #PostNL #PTT #Brief

My first experience with the cross-border mail delivery capabilities of the Dutch postal system date back thirty years. I had just moved to Germany, and Dutch friends sent me a gift. The box arrived, but the contents had been removed through a gaping hole in the side. This observation of the damage had been written on the package by a German postal worker at a delivery center on the border. I filed a complaint, with no effect. This was my first encounter with the consistently malfunctioning Dutch postal system, a country that is generally perceived as modern and well-functioning on many other fronts.

Years went by, during which family, friends and I continued to attempt to exchange holiday and birthday gifts across the German / Dutch border. Occasionally my parents sent money hidden in Christmas cards. Although sending money by post within Germany or from Germany to any other country is tricky business (thieves seem to have “magical machines” to detect money hidden in envelopes), no envelope with money ever managed to arrive if sent from the Netherlands. Surprisingly, Christmas cards without money sent at the same time did arrive, although always late. In fact, any letter or package consistently arrived with surprising delays, but also damaged… or not at all.

Not surprisingly, expat friends and I became very weary of the Dutch postal service. Years went by, during which I refused to send any package to and from the Netherlands. In contrast, delivery within Germany or to other countries remained as reliable as ever.

Ultimately, complacency would overcome my concerns, so after a while I would again try to send an occasional birthday present to a Dutch acquaintance. I started to notice an additional worrying phenomenon. Whereas in Germany, the addressee of a package is also the owner of its contents, in the Netherlands it may happen that the initial recipient gains full ownership. So, if the mail delivery service leaves the package with a neighbor (e.g. because the addressee isn’t home), this neighbor may well store this package with disinterest under a pile of coats in the hallway. Then after many weeks, somebody (a child, or a pet) will open the package and eat the edible contents. This lackluster treatment of other people’s belongings, combined with a below par delivery service, has caused much frustration and disappointment over the years.

Now, some of you will say that I exaggerate, or have no hard evidence. Aha! Since two years, my two sons have moved from Germany; one to Belgium, the other to the Netherlands. Six months ago, I received election-related documents for them, which I sent on the same day to son 1&2. My sons had to sign a document, and return it to Germany. Then, from Germany the voting document was sent to each son, after which both could vote and return the ballot sheet. A complex procedure, that could not be done by email.

Now, a letter to and from Belgium takes about four days for delivery, and this son was able to vote well in time. My son in the Netherlands had no such luck. After all, a letter to and from the Netherlands takes 7, 9 or even 12 days. He missed the deadline miserably  and was unable to make use of his right to vote.

After this experience I swore that this was my very final interaction with the Dutch postal system. But my wife was still optimistic. In November, she packed two identical boxes with Christmas presents for both sons. My son in Belgium received the package after 7 days, around December 1st. Christmas came and went, and my son in the Netherlands is still waiting. The package could be traced up to the Dutch border, after which it entered the black hole of the Dutch postal system. Arrival pending.

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My books and stories are here.

The Best Books ever! Great adventure stories.

The very first book I ever read was an illustrated children’s story about a small duck. I must have been six, I still remember how I struggled with the first page for weeks, until one Sunday morning I suddenly could read the page in one go. I was so happy that I woke up my parents. Even after all these years I still have that book, torn and frayed at the edges.
I haven’t stopped reading since. I recall the books of my youth, such as the ones by Jules Verne and Karl May. I read Lord of the Rings when I was 13, and then moved on to science fiction: Asimov and Jack Vance. Many books I have read multiple times: some even 5 or 10 times. Good books never get boring.
Since I started writing myself, I have less time for reading, but I do manage to read some exiting novels. Luckily enough my wife prereads a lot of new releases and passes the most thrilling ones to me.

Here‘s my personal list of the Best Books Ever! It is in alphabetical order, but you can easily browse or re-order to your liking. Currently it contains 50 titles, but I will add more over time. And yes, my own books are also in the list, as they have also greatly impacted my life. I hope it inspires you to pick up some great (classic) fiction and non-fiction. Is any particular favorite of yours missing?

Woman reading Clemens P. Suter's CELETERRA

Find my books on iTunes.

More interested in watching movies? My list of some of the best movies ever made!

 

Qatar – three days immersed in the Middle East

Below the lobby of the hotel where I was staying. The room was freezing cold, air ongoing full blast, but the hotel was pleasant enough. Although: the breakfast buffet had a price tag of $30 – how much can a man eat for breakfast? I discovered that Qatari cheese is very salty and rubbery, takes gettin used to.
I learned a lot from my colleagues how the state of Qatar ticks and functions. It is intriguing how this society differs so much from ours, with strict Islam implemented.

Below: the skyline of Doha. Skyscrapers ate being built at rocket speed (like all over the world, seems to be the new pastime) but the country itself is mainly desert. With 300,000 Qataris and 2.5 million expats, the demographics are exceptional. There are a few additional cities, but they are in the desert, close to the natural gas fields and intended for the laborers. Here’s a tourist secret:… Doha is the most mind-numbing boring city that I have ever visited (and I have visited a few). My impression is that the Qataris hide and party (?) with their families behind the walls of their country estates; the migrants forlornly wander the boring streets trying not to think about alcohol: there isn’t any / much. I neither drink nor miss alcohol, but even for me Doha offered a new perspective on boredom.

Below: to defy the Saudi boycott, which kicked in 2018, the Qataris have put up portraits of the Emir all over to show their  solidarity. The Arabs had hoped that the Qataris would topple their Emir, but no way, Jose.

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First-class Pandemic Apocalyptic Thriller “What a fantastic book!”

Here’s another five star review for TWO JOURNEYS, this one is by “St. Louis Cards”. You can find it here at amazon.com: LINK.

Here’s the full text by this reader

Book Review: Two Journeys
Author: Clemens P. Suter
Publisher: BookBuzz/CreateSpace
Publication Date: April 1, 2012 (NetGalley Archive Date: August 30, 2019)
Review Date: August 21, 2019
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.From the blurb:
“During a routine business trip to Tokyo, Alan finds himself to be the sole survivor of a global pandemic. A viral disease wipes away all of humanity… and Alan’s past life. Fearing injury, sickness and hunger, he sets out to travel back to his family in Berlin, straight across Asia and 10,000 miles of hardship and adventure.Suter combines post-apocalyptic elements with an adventurous road novel in this book about a man left alone on earth. The hardships and landscapes (the Gobi desert, Siberia) are described in all ferocity. A few other humans have survived as well, some eager to use the disaster for their own advantage. Electrifying chapters describe the encounter with Somerset, a charming yet psychotic warlord, who is assembling an army to conquer Moscow, if not the entire world.”This is a first-class apocalyptic thriller. I find most self-published books to be absolutely dreadful. The exception is often science fiction/apocalyptic thrillers and other books of this type category.Two Journeys is no exception. What a fantastic book! Better than I expected. It is written in the first person, and I often felt that I was reading a memoir of events that actually happened. Suter’s style is very easy to read; I couldn’t put the book down.

A caveat: it is a fairly long book, 551 pages. It took me 3-4 days on nonstop reading, which is much longer than it usually takes me to read a book.

The character of Alan, the protagonist, is well built, as well as the few other characters encountered during his journey. The plot is perfect; I appreciate how slowly Suter built up the story and all the details of the journey he included. The settings were well written and an important part of the book, as horrifying as they often were.

There were a few mysterious elements that added to the depth of the story.

I highly, highly recommend this book, 5 stars! The author has written a couple of sequels to this book that are available as Kindle books, for only $1.99 each, so I plan to finish out the series.

Humanity has gone a long time without a major pandemic. Outbreaks of viruses such as SARS, corona or influenza (e.g. H2N2 or the Asian Flu H3N2; or bird flu) have occurred again and again. Are we prepared? 

 

Interested in a copy? Get it here: www.clemenssuter.com/books

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