What a fun series. I loved Wool, and Dust and Shift both gave us the backstory to explain the world and how it ended up. I think the first book was by...moreWhat a fun series. I loved Wool, and Dust and Shift both gave us the backstory to explain the world and how it ended up. I think the first book was by far the best, but this gave us a nice conclusion.
(view spoiler)[It was the conclusion we wanted to see - the people finally get outside! My problem with this book is there were lots of holes. A lot of the other reviews have pointed this out too, and I'm not sure if the fact I know it was self-published is biasing me to say it could have used more editing, but feels that way a little. But the writing was great.
There were lots of things that weren't cleared up or never really fully made sense. The major one is why Thurman really felt the need to destroy the whole world - feels like there could have been a lot more to that. It also wasn't clear how he really accomplished that - was it all nuclear or was it nano? If nuclear, wouldn't the world really be a wasteland?
Whatever happened to silo 40 and other silo's that went dark? I was kind of expecting that they had already broken outside and would have been waiting there. Or perhaps they already went to the sea and Hugh will tell us their story later.
What happens to the other silos after silo one is destroyed? Didn't it power their server rooms and probably provide other stuff including guidance to the silo heads? Will they make the 200 years on their own?
The mystery of silo 17 and why the dead bodies at the top didn't rot was never really explained. I'm guessing they were kept whole by healing nano's, but it felt like there was more to that story.
I didn't understand why Anna didn't come back to life. If Thurman could do so after being killed by Donald, why not her? All the love stories (Juliet and Kyle, Donald and Anna, etc ended up sadly - I wanted one happy one. (hide spoiler)]
If anything, I think this book is about hope and resiliency. Jules and Donald and even Solo weren't perfect, and suffered through a lot, but the only thing that kept them going was hope of a better life, and determination to keep themselves alive. That determination defined them and was what we admired about them. The hope was what gave them their drive. Hope is a powerful and necessary part of human psychology. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I tore through The Pillars of the Earth, and couldn't wait to pick this up. Set in Kingsbridge but a few centuries later, the story has a lot of simil...moreI tore through The Pillars of the Earth, and couldn't wait to pick this up. Set in Kingsbridge but a few centuries later, the story has a lot of similar elements: a cathedral that needs repair, a brilliant young builder (Merthin), a love story, a priorship up for grabs, and of course political manuevering, backstabbing and evil church officials. Also like the first one, the characters were developed well, the book was hard to put down, and yet it wasn't a deep book, just a fun one. Thank goodness I finished - it was causing me to lose sleep.
I did enjoy learning about the plague, and medieval ideas on health and medicine. Amazing that the plague wiped about a third of the human population, and how little they knew about it. Was frustrated by the lack of the Monks openness to learn new things, and how little they trusted women. For instance they believed in bleeding as a solution to everything when it actually is harmful in most cases. Also was interesting that there was no such thing as a doctor - instead nuns/monks/etc served that role. (less)
5 stars for being a un-put-downable page-turner, full of interesting and engaging characters I empathized with, and for teaching me about the politics...more5 stars for being a un-put-downable page-turner, full of interesting and engaging characters I empathized with, and for teaching me about the politics and religion of the middle ages. Follet is a thriller writer, and it shows.
Fascinating that in medieval times, most villages were surrounded by walls (or were inside a castle) - because you couldn't count on the law to marauding rival lords from raping and pillaging your village. And the largest buildings other than the local lords castle, were cathedrals. Why did people spend so much time an energy building these huge monuments to God that took 10-20 years to build? The book explains that bit, with the importance of the Church in society and it's relation to the crown.
I am having trouble putting my finger on what I liked about the book. To friends who asked, I can't sell it every well. But it was a epic saga of love and power, and I loved every second. I think in the end, the lesson was that creating enemies leads you to get what you deserve. This might be a good summary of the book:
(view spoiler)[ For the record, I hate William Hamleigh. I love Jack - he reminds me a bit of Howard Roark. And Aliena was inspirational. Philip was a prude but a good dude - I still can't believe he forgave Remigius. Interestingly, Waleran is once described as good person who just misunderstood his priorities - but I don't buy that. (hide spoiler)]
The Circle is a new bay area company, but is really Google+Facebook. It dominates search and social media, has a huge sprawling campus in the south ba...moreThe Circle is a new bay area company, but is really Google+Facebook. It dominates search and social media, has a huge sprawling campus in the south bay, and is full of intelligent, ambitious young employees. This story is I think a take on where the connected nature of the internet might be taking us. It's essentially a discussion about privacy vs openness, and I think a serious 1984-esque warning about being too open.
I thought a lot of the book was kind of shallow and unrealistic. The characters weren't very well developed. And I can't imagine an HR department that would get on your case for not using social media or attending a brunch you were invited too - it was just too extreme to believe. But I suppose that was on purpose, as the author was just making a point. I appreciated the point (see below), but didn't love the story.
Mark Zuckerberg has been fairly public on saying that he believes a more open society is a better one. The notion is exactly the one Mae learns with the kayak incident - if your whole life is open to your friends and family, it's very hard to do anything dishonest or that you might regret. The premise of the Circle - that privacy and secrecy are bad - is taking this idea to an extreme that I doubt Zuckerberg or anyone else who runs a social network has ever contemplated: complete openness. Or as its motto says:
It is easy to imagine us eventually living in a world like the Circle contemplates. With public video cameras everywhere that document everything we do, and tons more data (photos, videos, texts) available to search engines to scan through. Already there are startups like Dropcam that enable public video feeds that are archived. There are atm and building and traffic cameras everywhere that the police already use. I heard of another startup that puts a video camera on you and it takes photos of everything all day and creates a montage of your day that is searchable/sortable for you. In many ways, we should already start acting like everything we do at least outside of our homes is being recorded on camera.
I think the central question the book poses is the one Bailey contemplates with Mae: is there such a thing as a good secret? Should we have privacy at all? Or would the world at large be better off if all secrets are known? I think we know where Mr Eggers stands on the subject, as the book seemed to be written in a dystopian, mocking kind of way. But it is in an interesting thought experiment, as many secrets would ultimately be better overall (not necessarily for the disclosing party, but for the overall situation), if they were known. For example you don't want to tell your friend that you know their significant other is cheating on them b/c you aren't supposed to know, but ultimately it would be better for them to know. Can you think of a secret you know that should be a secret?
But of course, there are lots of secrets that should stay secrets. Ignorance often truly is bliss, and people often just need to be weird and express themselves in ways that not everyone would appreciate if it were open. We are private beings, and yet our dignity and sense of self-worth largely stems from how others perceive us. I think this book is a thought-provoking story that shows us how our society is changing. (less)
**spoiler alert** The conclusion to the epic of Hyperion, and a worthy one at that. I loved this series, and didn't expect I'd find the love story of...more**spoiler alert** The conclusion to the epic of Hyperion, and a worthy one at that. I loved this series, and didn't expect I'd find the love story of Aenea and Raul so powerful.
In two words, this series was about evolution and love.
The Hyperion story is Yet Another Science Fiction Story About Artificial Intelligence (YASFSAAI) - but it's a damn good one, and more thought out and intricate than any I've ever seen. The Core is split into factions - the TODO - that fight and war amongst themselves, much as humans do.
The Core evolved from people. Core entities lacked empathy - or the ability to love - and were thus never able to evolve past being a parasite on humanity. (view spoiler)[The farcaster network was their first parasitic approach, the cruciforms were their second. (hide spoiler)]
It's kind of sad that the Catholic Church is the evil character in the book. But is equally clear that after a great traumatic event like the Fall of the Farcasters, humanity turns to fear and uncertainty, and thus to religion. Unfortunately, the people in charge of that religion are the wrong sort, whose goal is power rather than the good of humanity.
The curiously named "Void Which Binds" is the true all-encompassing force in the universe. It is described in the following quotes:
The one thing I never understood about this series is the Shrike. Why does he exist? In earlier books he's an evil entity. And now we learn something more about his relationship with Colonel Kassad, but not enough to explain his presence or why Aenea is able to rein him in - he almost becomes a good guy.
The thing I love most about this book, is that the true path, which Aenea is leading humanity on, can only be explained as a love story. Her and Raul's love is a worthy and necessary ending to The Cantos.
A fun fast paced book that sucks you in right away and doesn't let go. The remnants of humanity live in a 150 story silo below the earth and can't lea...moreA fun fast paced book that sucks you in right away and doesn't let go. The remnants of humanity live in a 150 story silo below the earth and can't leave as the outside is now toxic. This is a bit of an odd thing to have happened, but it gives us a nice palette to think about things.
Everything is rationed, including how many children you can have. People self-identify by their profession and where in the silo they live: farmers and mechanics in the lowers, IT in the mids, and professional class in the uppers. The working class wear color coded uniforms to easily distinguish them.
The book was a lot about control. How to control a contained civilization, and give them hope (eg a live feed of the outside) and yet keep them in harmony and doing their functions. Strange mechanisms of control were built all over the silo: communication was oddly limited given the IT resources they have - many messages had to be delivered by courier as emails cost valuable money to send. Most strange of all - there is no elevator, which forces anyone wanting to travel the length of the silo to spend 2-3 days on the journey.
The cleaning ritual was a strange bit of culture. (view spoiler)[Upon reflection, I can see why it was necessary. If people never go outside, uncertainty of it still being bad would creep in, and people would need to try it. As perhaps happened in Silo 17. (hide spoiler)]
I really liked the unraveling of Bernard, and how he went from repulsive/annoying, to understandable once you understood his role and responsibility. (view spoiler)[His role is to eliminate any doubt in the delicate balance of the silo. Opening the book up with the doubt of Holston was brilliant as it sucked you in immediately. (hide spoiler)]
I liked Juliet too - she was the right combo of being determined to do right, and having brains and grit. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
A fascinating and heart-wrenching look inside a slum of Mumbai. A good reminder some of us have it much better than others - but also that human willp...moreA fascinating and heart-wrenching look inside a slum of Mumbai. A good reminder some of us have it much better than others - but also that human willpower still matters.
One of the most interesting things portrayed was just how different the rules are for the poor in India. When your family is one bad hospital bill away from being on the streets and starving, human life takes a different value. The story that stuck with me here is when one of the boys got hit by a car on his way to school, his mothers reaction was fury - because if it were any worse it would have bankrupted the family. This quote sums it up well:
But my favorite part of the book was seeing how entrepreneurial people had to be in order to survive. Whether its sorting garbage, being a garbage middleman, or any of the other pursuits various people did to make money, it seemed that at least in one respect the rules of the slum are the same as everywhere else: you've got to work hard and be good at what you do to get ahead. It's just that in the slum, it's so easy to lose it all. Poverty begets poverty, wealth begets wealth. (less)
A hilarious romp through the known and unknown universe that exposes how ridiculous much of US copyright law is. Written by the founder of Rhapsody, w...moreA hilarious romp through the known and unknown universe that exposes how ridiculous much of US copyright law is. Written by the founder of Rhapsody, who knows a thing or two about music and the copyright surrounding it. What I didn't expect from a book by an entrepreneur is a funny book - and this book is not bad. It is being compared to Hitchhikers Guide, which nothing can approach, but its not bad. My only gripe would be there are a ton of footnotes that attempt to extend the humor and most of them didn't work for me.
The basic premise of the book is brilliant; that aliens have been listening to - and thus pirating - our music since 1977, without our knowledge. Because US copyright law states that a single case of intentional copyright violation can be fined $150,000 - this means the entire universe is many times over in debt to humanity.
It's pretty ridiculous that the music industry got such a big fine to be passed. I think one of my favorite parts of the book was learning about the law firm that Nick Carter works for, and seeing a little under the hood of how they operate.
A fun, dark, slightly comical western about two killers (Charlie and Eli Sisters) on their way to California for the gold rush. Going into the mind of...moreA fun, dark, slightly comical western about two killers (Charlie and Eli Sisters) on their way to California for the gold rush. Going into the mind of a killer is a strange experience - I'm not sure I totally enjoyed it. But what I did really enjoy was the authors writing; it was clean, fun, and even poetic - which made this book a quick enjoyable read.
I loved all the introspective one-liners that Eli kept throwing out. For instance:
I struggled however to find the point of this novel. What lesson was I meant to take away? What did we learn from Charlie and Eli's adventure? I suppose if anything the theme of the book was transformation. (view spoiler)[We witnessed Warm, Morris, and Eli have the courage to transform themselves and change their lives. In other words - it's easy to let life dictate your path. Eli's story of how Charlie sucked him into a life of crime was fascinating. Warm had a similar story of how he became a thief. We didn't learn about Morris's past, but we did see the difficulty of his decision to leave the Commodore's employment. (hide spoiler)] It takes guts to transform oneself - especially for the better. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
A fascinating story of world war one. I knew the basics, but it was fascinating to hear the story told through some of the characters involved, and se...moreA fascinating story of world war one. I knew the basics, but it was fascinating to hear the story told through some of the characters involved, and see how it all played out.
On the surface, WW1 was started pretty stupidly. The arch-duke of Austria was assassinated, so in retaliation Austria invaded Serbia. Serbia had an alliance with Russia so they stepped in, and then Germany had an alliance with Austria, so suddenly Germany and Russia were at war. Russia and France had a treaty and since they surrounded Germany, the Germans went on the offensive in France, which dragged in Britain. And then the US got dragged in later by Britain and b/c Germans were sinking our ships.
But there was more to the story. These countries didn't have to honor these treaties - they could have found a way to not commit to a war. It's almost like they were all war hungry. Follett also tried, through some of the female characters like Maud, to indicate that if the world had been controlled by women then war would never have happened (probably true). This was a great quote:
One issue of the war I hadn't considered was the financial pressures it brought to bear once a country had committed. This was brought up artfully by Ethel's husband Bernie. Once Germany, Britain, etc had declared and spent a ton of money building their army and fighting the war, they were stuck. The people in power - the aristocracy - needed to win or they would go bankrupt and risk losing power. They were pot-committed, and too proud to turn back.
My one criticism of the book was that the character Fitz was made out to be a real simpleton. Ethel and Billy seemed to intellectually walk all over him and he never defended himself (or it was left out) - didn't seem terribly realistic.
I think my favorite part was learning about the Bolshevik revolution - that was a piece of history I really didn't know enough about, and it was described in great detail through Grigory and his story. Czar Nicholas II fell from power during the war, and the Bolsheviks staged a revolution and took over. But its hard to control a country!
The class struggles in England, Germany and Russia were clearly a major theme to the book. In each country Follett was careful to show how the aristocracy were fools and didn't know what they were doing. It really highlighted why a democracy is a better way of doing things! (less)
This book takes us into the crazy world of North Korea. Imagine a world where the government controls all information and creates a ton of propaganda....moreThis book takes us into the crazy world of North Korea. Imagine a world where the government controls all information and creates a ton of propaganda. There are loudspeakers in every home that tell this propaganda every morning and every evening. Everyone believes their leader is a saint, that the rest of world (especially Americans) are out to get them and could sneak attack at any moment, that South Korea and America are more poor than they are and thus the Dear Leader is sending them food for aid, and on and on.
The books tells the story of Jun Do, who grows up in an orphanage as the son of the Oprhan Master, and while he claims he's technically not an orphan, it's clear that in effect he is. Orphans are portrayed as lost souls, the bottom of the ladder in society, and always on the search for a father-figure. The first half of the book tells a fairly normal story of Jun Do doing work for his country.
Jun Do had training to withstand pain, ostensibly in case the South Koreans or Japanese captured him. I found the tidbits mentioned around this very interesting - though not sure how accurate they are. One was to establish a place in your mind with lots of light, and don't leave it, no matter how much pain. The other, which I think sounds useful in general, is more for prisoners or any cooped up, and is summed up in this quote:
The second half of the book was completely different from the rest of the story, and it was so out of left field and odd that I didn't enjoy it as much. (view spoiler)[Jun Do assumes the identity of Commander Ga and gets the most beautiful woman in North Korea to accept him? Really? I didn't really like the story being told from the interrogators point of view either. But I did like learning more about Sun Moon - especially her relationship with the Dear Leader. (hide spoiler)]
Another criticism is that a lot of the dialogue read like it was people in America chatting. A Korean friend also noticed this - it didn't feel very Korean in many places - and thus didn't feel very authentic.
But what I loved most about the book was just the glimpse into North Korea. It's amazing how complete a people can be controlled if you can control their information inputs. I loved the part when they visit America and the Americans keep whispering "You know you lost the war, right?" - because they knew the North Korean government tells it's citizens they won.
I wonder if the internet has changed things? There are a few members of Goodreads who put North Korea as their country - but we have zero traffic from that country, so perhaps they are all expats/escapees.
I'll leave you with my favorite line from the book:
**spoiler alert** A very well written series of short stories. There was no "main" character, though I was curious and counted and out of 13 chapters,...more**spoiler alert** A very well written series of short stories. There was no "main" character, though I was curious and counted and out of 13 chapters, Sasha was in 5 and and Bennie Salazar was in 4. The story wove and dipped in and out of their lives, and occasionally into surrounding characters. I thought it was a little hard to keep track of all the stories and how they related, though.
If this book has a theme I think it's something to do with how people change as they get older. "Time is a goon" was quoted in two different chapters, and if it means "goon" as in a thug, then the implication is that time "beats us up' - or changes us - as our lives go on. We remain the same people underneath, but we are defined by the experiences we have, and the more time we live the more life shapes us into totally different people.
In the last chapter I loved the concept of the parrots - or people who sell out and endorse a product to create "authentic" word of mouth. As someone who is building a social network I think this is an interesting perspective, and one that I think is definitely a trend. It's nothing even new - celebrities have been selling out and taking money to endorse products for a long time.
But what is new is that celebrities aren't the only ones with followings anymore. Now with Facebook and Twitter and other social networks (yes, even Goodreads), regular people can amass hundreds and even thousands of friends. And maybe instead of paying one celebrity with 100K followers to promote something you pay 100 people with 1K followers. Indeed this is already starting - some friends of mine helped start Ad.ly - which lets you buy celebrities tweets. (less)
**spoiler alert** An interesting book in terms of it's structure: 5 distinct stories that cascade into each other in subtle ways, then wind back out....more**spoiler alert** An interesting book in terms of it's structure: 5 distinct stories that cascade into each other in subtle ways, then wind back out. This way of doing the structure was unique, and certainly very cool to see the subtle way they were tied together. But in the end it was kind of gimmick and probably not necessary.
I generally don't try to summarize novels in my reviews, but in this case there was so much going on that the exercise was helpful.
Story 1: The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing. Later revealed to be a journal in other stories. A story about a rather weak-willed protagonist, who is constantly taken advantage of by others (the ships captain, Dr Goose). Interesting side story about the peaceful native Moriori tribe and how they were taken advantage of.
Story 2: Robert Frobisher. Perhaps my favorite story - about a penniless young musician who as a last-ditch attempt apprentices himself to an old master musician, Vyvyan Ayrs. The story is told through letters to a friend, Sixsmith, who appears in the next story. The story is about how Frobisher, the apprentice, goes from being overjoyed to have a job to being resentful that the master is using him and stealing his stuff. Robert sleeps with VA's wife the whole story, but ends up falling in love with the daughter in a cruel twist of fate.
Story 3: Luisa Rey. Modern age story about a young journalist hot on the heels of a big scandal involving an energy company. Sixsmith is an engineer who leaks the story to her, and also has the letters from story #2. Classic detective-esque story, with lots of people willing to kill to protect their secrets and power.
Story 4: Timothy Cavendish. Modern age story about a book editor who gets a smash hit, then the author's mafia-esque family get's on his case and he's on the run. He lands in a old-persons home/prison. This story is kind of a nightmare, and is revealed to be a movie in the next story.
Story 5: Somni 451. One of favorites, for how different it was. Set in the far future in an asian country, humans have genetically created clones that serve as slaves. This lower class is regarded as unintelligent and controlled with drugs - but our protagonist, Somni, breaks through and becomes self-conscious. The scary thing is I can easily see this happening! Told as recollections in an interview.
Story 6: Sloosha's Crossin'. Story of Zach'ry and Meronym in post apocalyptic Hawaii. Somni is now their deity. Story of the Valleysmen people and their struggle for freedom against neighboring tribes.
All six stories were very graphic and real, and had extremely good character development. Mitchel could with a single sentence describe someone that you understood in a way I can't describe here.
I wish the stories had more themes in common so I could say what I learned from this book. Though I suppose if I had to put my finger on it, the major theme was freedom and slavery. Ewing was under the control of Dr Goose and the ship captain, Frobisher became an unwilling servant to Arys, Luisa Rey needed to find the truth in order to free herself from the corporate villians, Frobisher was a prisoner bent on escape in a nursing home, Somni was literally a slave in her society and focused on freedom, and Zach'ry's people were captured and enslaved. All the stories touched on various ways people can "enslave" and control other people for various reasons.
I suppose the point is human beings are all greedy and will try to control other human beings, but if we are strong we can survive and find a way to free ourselves. Sounds good anyways, so I'll stick with that - but am interested to hear what other people thought. (less)
**spoiler alert** Critics aside, Dan Brown can sure write a thriller. I was stuck in an airport with no book and picked this up, and was done with it...more**spoiler alert** Critics aside, Dan Brown can sure write a thriller. I was stuck in an airport with no book and picked this up, and was done with it in 2 days.
The first half of the book was really gripping, and promised big things. We were going to learn about the secrets of the Masons, and about the "ancient wisdom" that has been lost through the ages. Sounds cool - I wanted to learn more about the ancient wisdom. But the end of the book just fell really flat. The villian was predictable, and we learned nothing about this ancient wisdom.
I also have to say that I almost fell out of bed laughing with Dan Brown plugged Twitter at the end of the book. To be fair, he's right - people are excited about Twitter because it (along with many other websites) is helping cause a shift in our society. But I can't help wondering if 5 years from now, when Twitter is MySpace, people will read that and think "wtf?".(less)
A quick read, but I enjoyed the focus on generic engineering - which is a topic that rarely think about. It's full of moral decisions and politics (of...moreA quick read, but I enjoyed the focus on generic engineering - which is a topic that rarely think about. It's full of moral decisions and politics (of course) - but also lots of science. In the end the climax of the book fell short of being interesting, but I felt the substance of the book, along with getting me to think about new things, deserved at least 3 stars.(less)
**spoiler alert** I equally loved book 2, and am definitely hooked. I did feel it took a little while for them to get to sea, but I guess we can't bri...more**spoiler alert** I equally loved book 2, and am definitely hooked. I did feel it took a little while for them to get to sea, but I guess we can't bring in a love interest if we aren't on the land!
My favorite thing by far was the Lively, and the descriptions of how fast she is and how much care the crew took keeping her a crack ship. Pride in what you do can be a great motivator. I also loved how Jack made them work the guns against all the batteries for practice. (less)