Someone gave me a copy of Anathem when it first came out, and it's taken me until now to get around to reading it. Don't know why I waited - I found tSomeone gave me a copy of Anathem when it first came out, and it's taken me until now to get around to reading it. Don't know why I waited - I found this very enjoyable. Neal Stephenson doing his usual thing, but making it work better than he has since Cryptonomicon. It's also an old-school "big ideas" sci-fi novel, and he just keeps new stuff coming for most of the book.
I think what I liked best though, is that it's also such a good introduction to the history of ideas and thought. Apparently Stephenson has put some notes on his website pointing the way to the historical analogues of the thinkers and philosophies mentioned in the book, and I can see this being a great introduction to the history of knowledge, as well as a strong argument that the quest for understanding is never-ending and important to us all. ...more
Possibly it doesn't translate well into English, but for me the plotting and characterisations are very poor.A bit of a disappointment, unfortunately.
Possibly it doesn't translate well into English, but for me the plotting and characterisations are very poor. The characters come across pretty much as cyphers who project their various roles in fairly unconvincing fashion, and the plot is lifeless and predictable.
Essentially, The Shadow of the Wind seems to be not so much about the layered mystery story that it advertises, but about Spain and the ghosts of the civil war. In itself that isn't a bad thing, but the theme seems to have overtaken and dominated the story and the characters to the exclusion of all else, which is. In this it reminds me a little of Klas Ostergren's novel Gentlemen, which uses a similar device to discuss post-war Sweden. However, Ostergren either translates better, or does a better job of keeping the plot and characters lively and interesting.
As far as layered mystery novels with slow-burn plot revelation - especially with a literary and/or historical bent - any number of modern authors do it better than Zafon, starting with his countryman Arturo Perez-Reverte....more
Interesting revisionist take on the history of the British in India, centring on one of the earliest corporations, the Honourable East India Company.
IInteresting revisionist take on the history of the British in India, centring on one of the earliest corporations, the Honourable East India Company.
I read this primarily as a quick overview of the history of the Company, needing a primer for some more detailed research on family members who served in the Company's hybrid private/public military force, the Bengal Army.
Robins has something of an agenda - his thesis is that the EIC is the template for the modern amoral corporation, and that a failure to remember the lessons of its history led inevitably to the 21st century corporate malfeasances of Enron and others. More deeply, he suggests that large corporations are inherently corrupting of markets, of their own executives, and ultimately of themselves. That they are, essentially, not a useful construct.
In passing he also makes a case that British imperialism in India was almost an afterthought - an artifact of the British state trying clumsily to deal with the aftermath of the EIC imploding. An interesting idea, rather at odds with the traditional historical model of the British Empire, but not without merit.
Well written, with a reasonably straight narrative of the main historical points, embellished with the theses noted above....more
This was a hoot to read - a great little piece of pseudo history that joins a lot of tenuous dots together to provide a new slant on the famous musketThis was a hoot to read - a great little piece of pseudo history that joins a lot of tenuous dots together to provide a new slant on the famous musketeers and man in the iron mask.
Macdonald does a very nice job of summarising the important events of the period, and showing where the people on whom Dumas based his characters slot in. I have a new appreciation for D'Artagnan - the historical version is if anything more impressive than Dumas's character.
However, Macdonald also goes a lot further than his cited evidence justifies in speculating on some of the details, and in his take on who the man in the iron mask actually was. It makes a good conspiracy story, but is not sufficiently supported with evidence.
Well written and fun to read, but not to be taken too seriously....more
I was a little disappointed in this book. It's rather uneven in depth, and has some very incongrous passages justifying or praising Walsingham's behavI was a little disappointed in this book. It's rather uneven in depth, and has some very incongrous passages justifying or praising Walsingham's behaviour and motives. Without doubt Walsingham was a talented and dedicated man, but he hardly needs a modern apologist - at a distance of four centuries we can observe his actions with reasonable objectivity, and surely no reader of Elizabethan history needs to be reminded that the standards of the time were much different to our own.
An interesting aspect of the book is Hutchinson's rather dismissive treatment of Elizabeth. One can't help suspecting that he is dulling her a little so that Walsingham might shine more brightly, but as there are any number of authors over-hyping the Virgin Queen, that is perhaps understandable.
Readable, and has some useful information, but far from the definitive work on the subject....more