The short-short version of what became my review: A gripping spy thriller that brings back all that Cold War Nostalgia; but Tom Clancy has obviously nThe short-short version of what became my review: A gripping spy thriller that brings back all that Cold War Nostalgia; but Tom Clancy has obviously never met a lesbian before in his life.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but Tom Clancy's work is not high literature. He will never rank up there with Ernest Hemingway  or David Foster Wallace or Angela Carter. He'll be published long after his death as an historical literary study, a snapshot of late-stage Cold War Paranoia--but those are elective seminars in the History annex, and not part of the upper-division English rubric. That is totally fine though; this is why we bother cracking the covers on a Tom Clancy novel--for the thrill ride that is his particular flavor of military/political techno-thriller. His schtick is to razzle-dazzle his readers  with the nitty-gritty details of this or that weapon (real or hypothetical) and to go on tangents that involve world history as told through the lens of the Military-Industrial complex and/or to speculate on (then) contemporary socio-political machinations as told through the lens of world history as told through the lens of the Military-Industrial complex. We're not in it for the metaphors, we're in it for the bombs. And the lasers.
My first exposure to Clancy was in the late-80s or early-90s, starting with Red Storm Rising and working my way through his books. At some point between ages 10 and 14, I read The Cardinal of the Kremlin.  Having re-read RSR back in 2006, I thought it might be worth re-reading another Tom Clancy book. A re-read 20 years in the making, I thought to myself. I had only two memories of this book, one vague  and one specific , and thought that, if nothing else, at least it would be like reading a book for the first time.
So I borrowed my Dad's paperback and queued it up for a January read.  My vague recollection (footnote #4, vide infra) turned out to be pretty close--so at least that much was memorable, but I'd forgotten some of the other depth. Though calling it "depth" is maybe too generous? What Clancy does with this book is go bonkers with the espionage and counterintelligence business. He goes out of his way to include every facet: the analysis and speculation, the field operations, agents, double-agents, counter agents, double counter agents, spy satellites, submarines, extractions, kidnapping, disguises, botched missions, and the kind of at-the-highest-levels manifestations of what can only be boiled down to extortion. It's all in there.
And/but I had completely forgotten about the whole sub-plot with "the Archer" and all the Afghan mujahideen stuff. The spy junk that makes up 70-80% of the book is great--but it would have been a completely two-dimensional arc. It helps to be reminded that the conflicts between the super-powers did not take place in a vacuum, and what was it that Archimedes said about long-enough levers?
But there was also a huge let-down here. The big Act Two climax that bridges us into those closing chapters had a bizarre and almost nonsensical setup. (view spoiler)[Clancy presents us with Bea Taussig who works in the administrative staff at the Tea Clipper project and is a lesbian who has fallen in love with Candace Long, one of the scientists on the project who happens to be engaged to the brilliant lead scientist on the project, Alan Gregory. On the surface, the whole "secret unrequited love" bit is not all together awful or implausible. What's awful about it is that it seemed hastily tacked on to give her a motivation for her treason--only it doesn't explain it all. There is a bunch of narration in there about how Bea dislikes Alan Gregory, and how her friend Candace can do better--but it's all framed pretty hetero-normatively: as though Bea were simply a prissy spoiled brat who looked down on "the geek", and that same narration is lacking any sort of outward disdain for men in a general sense.  But even if an outward disdain for men in a general sense were a good marker for us that Bea were a lesbian (and I'm saying that it's not) then we still have the problem of motivation--because why would she sell state military secrets to the Soviets? to a totalitarian regime--even one in the middle of liberalizing itself--that had a history and an active policy of sending queers to labor camps? Was it then just the money? If she were motivated simply by the money, I could get by on that--I could give Clancy a pass. Now: clearly Bea is not motivated by ideology (because there is no evidence in the text for that, and because we're assuming that she is motivated first by the money) and maybe-just-maybe she is motivated by the excitement that comes with the danger of spying (there's some evidence in the text for that, too), but we still have that long last-mile to bring us up to that final mark where she assists in Gregory's kidnapping. Suddenly we go from "spoiled materialistic chick with a mis-guided sense of adventure" to "lovesick-to-the-point-of-delusional lesbian accomplice kidnapper"; passing microfilm with state secrets in the dressing room is one thing, but assisting in a KGB-sponsored kidnapping is quite another. Especially since the follow-on was for her to start awkwardly groping Candace (with Federal agents right downstairs) not 24 hours after Gregory is reported missing. And even if you were still on board after that, you have to then accept that she would completely fold/break-down and spill everything to the Feds about her crimes. Right: the woman who was in it for the thrill, the woman who didn't bat an eyelash when the KGB proposed an on-American-soil kidnapping, was going to hastily and predatorily move in on her distraught friend, and then (and then!) just spill everything? (hide spoiler)] I'm sorry but I'm just having too tough a time making that leap with you there, Tom.
The whole Bea-Candi-Gregory not-quite-love-triangle bit aside, the novel was a fun read and full of every kind of semi-kinda/sorta-mostly realistics it-could-happen spy business you could want. It certainly tickled my Cold War Nostalgia.
 And I don't even particularly like Hemingway.
 Largely males ages 18-65? Largely white? Largely dudes who self-report their favorite movies as "Top Gun" and/or "Rambo" and/or "Red Dawn"?
 Yes, I was effectively a child.
 I knew it was about spies, and SDI lasers.
 I remembered the scene where Mary Pat Foley scribbled "Let's give these microphones a hard-on!!"
 And/but/which would still not paint a picture of Bea as a lesbian, though that might have painted a picture of her as a lesbian as seen through the lens of the Conservative White Male. Maybe. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is one of those books where you see the truth in those "don't judge by the cover" cliches. I picked this one up through some sci-fi book club thaThis is one of those books where you see the truth in those "don't judge by the cover" cliches. I picked this one up through some sci-fi book club that I had joined. "Get 10 for a dollar each!" Since I'd been playing a lot of Wing Commander on my PC at the time, this novel's cover really spoke to me. Too bad the story seemed thin and barely engaging.
Also: I think this was the first time I'd ever encountered a writer that used "effing" instead of just ... you know ... CURSING....more
This was my dad's old paperback. He gave it to me in... high school? The story around the book (that Farmer wrote it as Kurt Vonnegut's fictional scieThis was my dad's old paperback. He gave it to me in... high school? The story around the book (that Farmer wrote it as Kurt Vonnegut's fictional science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, effectively making it like... meta-fan-fiction?) is more interesting than the story in the book itself. The story itself is "just OK", following along with some fairly familiar sci-fi tropes and adding a sprinkling of puerile sexuality. I smirked a few times, but never chuckled. To me it was more interesting to try and imagine that I was in a by-stander in a Kurt Vonnegut story reading some actual Kilgore Trout. (From there then imaging what it would be like to read the stories written by the fictional authors in the story by the real author's imagining of another author's fictional author.)...more
I'll admit it. At age 14 when I first bought this, I thought I was getting some sort of compendium of alien species as described by abductees and otheI'll admit it. At age 14 when I first bought this, I thought I was getting some sort of compendium of alien species as described by abductees and other close encounters. A sort of creative non-fiction. Instead I got a compendium of creatures from science fiction. Still good but imagine my disappointment?
That said, the artwork in this book is fabulous. It's a neat little companion book for sci-fi fans; it has wonderful illustrations of all the various organisms that have been portrayed in some of sci-fi's classic and canonical works. And along with those illustrations? Little one-page write ups on their biology, social structure, etc....more
(The bit about Arthur and Fenchurch is OK; but this one kind of... just... rambles? And not in that usual glorious aimlessness that characterizes Adam(The bit about Arthur and Fenchurch is OK; but this one kind of... just... rambles? And not in that usual glorious aimlessness that characterizes Adams' work. This one's just... what happened? Back on Earth; Arthur falls in love with a woman who floats; they fly (and fool around); Ford shows up out of nowhere and they flit off to see God's Final Message to His Creation which is out of order (or not); then end.)...more
I like to think of this book as the anti-Independence Day. Childhood's End is a pretty typical piece of Clarke fiction -- that doesn't make it bad jusI like to think of this book as the anti-Independence Day. Childhood's End is a pretty typical piece of Clarke fiction -- that doesn't make it bad just that you have a pretty good idea going into it of what you're going to get. That said, I would venture to say that it's probably best served up to some mid-to-late-teens burgeoning sci-fi fans that are in need of a twist to the Asimov, Bova, and Pohl that they've likely been reading....more
**spoiler alert** Excellent. Almost perfect. To all of those that say that this is Heinlein's best work: I agree, and would go so far as to say "by fa**spoiler alert** Excellent. Almost perfect. To all of those that say that this is Heinlein's best work: I agree, and would go so far as to say "by far".
A few thoughts:
(1) Chapter twenty-six is probably one of the best single chapters in science fiction literature. Maybe all literature.
(2) Heinlein prevents this from being a five-star work with (surprise!) how he portrays women. Hamstrung, they are, when they ought to be in power. He drops hints that the Lunar society has the most empowered women in history, and yet the families are not matriarchal; and though the Revolution seems to start with Wyoh, she quickly fades into the background (politically); and tben every other little detail (one of the kickers for me being during the climactic War Cabinet meeting when our narrator refers to one of the women as "a good little fem that knows when to stay quiet" [or something like that:]). Sigh.
A decent but not terribly impressive or memorable werk; I think there is a spark of talent buried in there and I hope it matures. This little collectiA decent but not terribly impressive or memorable werk; I think there is a spark of talent buried in there and I hope it matures. This little collection has a few fleeting moments of brilliance but overall doesn't linger with much substance. For every passage that suggests depth and insight, there are two on each side that feel vapid -- heavy on the style, like he's searching for his voice and spends too much time imitating others....more
Malmont manages to pull off some neat tricks with this book. Using some of the classic pulp authors as his protagonists, he creates his own pulp aboutMalmont manages to pull off some neat tricks with this book. Using some of the classic pulp authors as his protagonists, he creates his own pulp about them -- a delicately over-the-top yarn full of larger-than-life villains, narrow escapes, square-jawed heroes, and a skin-of-their-teeth ending. And he does this all rather thoughtfully: he stays true (or true enough) to the pulp style while giving it his own, somewhat more modern spin.
And he manages to blur his own lines of "what's real and what's pulp?" a few times as well.
If I recall correctly, my mom picked this one up for me from a bargain basket somewhere. As I was working through the Weis/Hickman DragonLance books aIf I recall correctly, my mom picked this one up for me from a bargain basket somewhere. As I was working through the Weis/Hickman DragonLance books at the time, I think the connection was made there. This was ... well, an average fantasy effort that seems (in retrospect) like the author's attempt at dissecting the genre's popularity through its own narrative. (Or some such pretentious thing.)
While it wasn't all together bad, it was also not particularly memorable....more
I got into the Dilbert comics sometime during high school. I was working part-time in the head office of a construction company, alphabetizing invoiceI got into the Dilbert comics sometime during high school. I was working part-time in the head office of a construction company, alphabetizing invoices and de-stapling paperwork. Gimpy stuff. "Office bitch" type stuff. The hours and pay were good though and my boss looked almost exactly like the Dilbert Boss -- but with a mustache and without being an idiot. Just the same, everyday's three panel strip clearly illustrated some incident that had recently occurred.
This book was given to me somewhere during that time period and was then consumed in asynchronous chunks, usually while on the toilet. In my mind, it remains a philosophical gem that (for better or worse) illuminates and updates all of the same points that Machiavelli was making hundreds of years ago. But Adams includes pictures.
I tend to think of this as the follow-up piece to The Dilbert Principle. Except whereas The Dilbert Principle was Adams writing as himself, attemptinI tend to think of this as the follow-up piece to The Dilbert Principle. Except whereas The Dilbert Principle was Adams writing as himself, attempting an exegesis on the business world of the late-20th century, Dogbert's Management Handbook is Adams writing as Dogbert, handing over what many would imagine is the tome given to managers after they learn the secret handshake. Though amusing and bitingly satirical, its content is not particularly original and most of the jokes are predictable fare from Adams. That doesn't make it bad; that just helps me justify the ... erm ... asynchronous nature of my consumption of said text....more
Complex subject matter discussed adeptly and in-depth while keeping the language and concepts clear enough for a lay-person. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh managComplex subject matter discussed adeptly and in-depth while keeping the language and concepts clear enough for a lay-person. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh manages to raise critical questions about the nature of language (and language acquisition) in this analysis of her work with Kanzi, taking special care not to anthropomorphize the bonobo too much. Beyond the intriguing scientific discussion, the book is also an engaging story about the author's work and the relationship she has built with her subject.
A few other notes:
* The title is a bit over-the-top and over-states the case a bit. That Kanzi appears to have developed his own language and grammar does not necessarily make him "at the brink of the human mind". Reading about his behaviors, he is still very much a chimp. * The images (photos, illustrations, diagrams) are very helpful in making sense of some of the text. * Videos would be helpful as well. Too bad you can put videos right onto the page. I would suggest you look for some out on the web. They're really quite amazing....more