Immediate promotion to my top 3 of-all-time in the category of humor/farce. The situations are so silly as to be borderline annoying, but the dialogue...moreImmediate promotion to my top 3 of-all-time in the category of humor/farce. The situations are so silly as to be borderline annoying, but the dialogue is golden. Wodehouse infuses just enough humanity into characters that may otherwise run a great risk of infuriating the reader. With his deft touch, you sympathize with their inane crises and can go along for the roller coaster ride of language and levity. I describe it this way because he has a knack for extreme over- and under-statement. Blended with quirky turns of phrase and fired at you on full automatic, it really tickles the old noodle! Toodle-pip. (less)
Brilliant. Beg your pardon while I quietly dodge the question of why I waited so long to read this. [Charlie surreptitiously nibbles a tea-cake and shr...moreBrilliant. Beg your pardon while I quietly dodge the question of why I waited so long to read this. [Charlie surreptitiously nibbles a tea-cake and shrinks out of view.](less)
OK, this series has come into its own. I've liked each book one star more than the previous. Halfway through book 3 I had already decided it is gettin...moreOK, this series has come into its own. I've liked each book one star more than the previous. Halfway through book 3 I had already decided it is getting 5 stars, but had a niggling doubt that it may just be because I was getting more into the characters (those who actually still survive). The doubt was misplaced. The thing kept getting better. I'm going to re-read the last 400 pages as soon as I finish $$
The odd thing is, my buddy put the series down after this book, saying that he understands it is all part of GRRM's grand plan, but he just wasn't interested in how the author was going about it. Me? I'm on that train. Pass the Kool-Aid.(less)
Hard-hitting action candy of the highest order. No explosions necessary or included. I wish I could have read it straight through in a long sitting. I...moreHard-hitting action candy of the highest order. No explosions necessary or included. I wish I could have read it straight through in a long sitting. I'll certainly read it again.
Just don't expect too much in the way of a plot. It's mostly just Hank moping around, getting beaten up repeatedly and feeling rotten--punctuated by frequent bouts of the old ultra-violence. (less)
Willie Loman's life and dreams are emptiness incarnate. His story possesses the full majesty and splendor of a high-speed train wreck. It is with gut-...moreWillie Loman's life and dreams are emptiness incarnate. His story possesses the full majesty and splendor of a high-speed train wreck. It is with gut-wrenching fascination that I look upon the tapestry of hope and delusion that he weaves. The wreckage goes on for miles....
[2011 Update: I am re-reading this after not quite 2 years. I have come to regard this book as the best non-fiction I've had the pleasure of reading,...more[2011 Update: I am re-reading this after not quite 2 years. I have come to regard this book as the best non-fiction I've had the pleasure of reading, and recommend it emphatically if you have an interest in any of the subjects in which I have it categorized on my shelves.]
A masterwork, better even than Mr. Diamond's Pulitzer-winning Guns, Germs and Steel. Collapse bridges the gap between anthropology and environmentalism, and critically connects each with our own welfare, both collectively and as individuals.
Diamond rightly takes to task environmental attitudes that appear to mindlessly value endangered birds or coral reefs above people's interests or livelihood. That said, he also clarifies which aspects of the environment we should care about and why. He tallies dollars cost and lives lost. He illustrates in example after well-documented example the consequences for societies disregarding their resource base or destructive practices. He repeatedly and explicitly asks the question: "well it obviously sucks to be a blue-footed bubi bird, but why should Joe Blow Logger care when he has the more pressing need to feed his family?" Well he should care very much about forests because he depends on them for his income. If he wants those children not to struggle with poverty and a declining society and standard of living, he should further care about many other aspects of the environment.
The biggies throughout history that have played a primary role in virtually every societal collapse are deforestation and soil erosion and/or salinization. To that we add a host of other common problems that can and must be solved, including habitat loss, water management and pollution, greenhouse gasses, resource over-exploitation, and energy supply.
Diamond goes deeper than simply blaming corporations for their destructive practices. He examines the policies and economic realities that drive corporations in polluting industries like mining to behave as they do, or the pressures they face. The fact is, in a market economy, where profit is the motive, successful companies will pollute to the full extent that our laws and attitudes allow. He states: "I also assign to the public the added costs, if any, of sound environmental practices, which I regard as normal costs of doing business. My views may seem to ignore a moral imperative that businesses should follow virtuous principles, whether or not it is most profitable for them to do so. Instead I prefer to recognize that... government regulation has arisen precisely... for the enforcement of moral principles."
Of course the rest of the book demonstrates how it is far more urgent than a mere moral principle, but a practical one necessary to ensure any society's long-term survival. (less)
I anticipated a mind-scrambling, reality-bending book of epic proportions, but this exceeded all expectations. It is among the most remarkable books I...moreI anticipated a mind-scrambling, reality-bending book of epic proportions, but this exceeded all expectations. It is among the most remarkable books I've ever read.
In a future where the world has become obsessed with fashion, a kind of nanotechnology virus infects girls to turn them into "dolls", which might best be described as android-vampires. The dolls endure ostracism, extermination, and finally ascension into extra-dimensional demi-gods as the epidemic spreads.
Among the bewitching ideas at play is that because the nanotech robots operate on such small scales, they employ quantum effects to defy "Euclidean" reality and create parallel worlds akin to cyberspace. Evidently, the dark fantasies of the virus's creator acted as a template for the dolls' genetic proclivities. Hinted at in the first book/part Dead Girls, Calder launches this premise into the stratosphere in the second book (Dead Boys), wherein history itself seems to have been re-written by and for the infected. Or perhaps the future has devolved to resemble the dark dreams of the past. The third book, Dead Things is set in the present (1990’s), but it is an alternate present, warped by future events related in the previous two books, and riddled with flashbacks of Primavera and Iggy’s earlier/alternate lives throughout history (and future). As the story progresses, some of the dolls, our protagonists among them, take it upon themselves to undo alterna-creation, to exterminate all life, history, and un-reality. Partly for retribution against the crimes of mankind, and partly because it is in our nature, and therefore the dolls’ nature, to seek entropy and oblivion.
Not making much sense? It has to be read to be believed. I hesitate to say 'understood' because the story is inscrutable, paradoxical, and deliberately disorienting. Not an easy read, but a fascinating one. Trying to summarize the story in any way was an exercise in futility so I'm done with that.
Fittingly, the book dilates time and threshes my psyche such that each and every page took 5 minutes to read. The nihilistic prose and exotic vocabulary grated my nerves for the first 20 pages, but once I bought into it, I did an about-face and came to relish the way it is written.
The only thing that remains to be commented upon, indeed a glaring omission from this review, is the boundless prevalence of sex and violence in the narrative. This is not a book for anyone with an even remotely delicate sensibility. The level of depravity is without measure; allusions to Marquis de Sade are not overblown. A small sample of the recurring terminology gives a flavor, if you'll let your imagination run to the most debauched implications:
marauder; fellatrix; slink-riven; sex-traitress; girl-meat; Metasex; the bellyspike; superfemeninity...
The language is beautiful and delicious, fiendish and treacherous. Words like "twisted" fall short of the mark. I do not have the words to describe those of Calder. That’s why you have to read them.
Don’t expect explicit sex and violence in the modern, Hollywood sense. It is not a romance novel, nor is it action-packed. Calder regards reality as tyranny, and reveres sex-death as "a loving cruelty." The most bizarre love story ever told.
I’d like to claim that the book was right up my alley, but frankly, it ran circles around me. I try to avoid histrionics, wary of the boy who cried wolf, but this one threw me sideways. It is high-brow smut, eulogizing the connection between sex and death. This is the central theme of the book—death of the body, of gender, of reality, of time and causation, and of the universe, all for lust, loss and love. Annihilation as the cosmic Demiurge. LSD in printed-word-form, available to you for the low, low price of $15.95. Oh ghod, I'm talking like him now! Get out of my mind, Richard, you fiend!(less)
Terrific, original engineering writing. Mr. Zubrin is a visionary thinker. I agree with the comments that a program such as this should have been exec...moreTerrific, original engineering writing. Mr. Zubrin is a visionary thinker. I agree with the comments that a program such as this should have been executed long ago, and it remains an important goal.
We are now nearing the end of the 10-year window Zubrin laid out for establishing continuous human colonization of Mars. I remember several sources indicating that NASA took the research seriously, but apparently not enough to pursue it, which is a shame.
After all the ingenious engineering recommendations, I found the height of the book and its greatest contribution to be the final chapter on why it is imperative that we take on the challenge of settling Mars, not later but now.
This work had a significant inspirational impact on my life and probably encouraged greater accomplishments than I might otherwise have made. In fact, I now find myself an engineer even though I was a dreamy (flaky) student of planetary science 9 years ago when I read The Case for Mars. (less)
I found this book inspiring. The little guy overcomes hopeless odds over and over through cleverness and a thrilling, canny self-confidence. It's the...moreI found this book inspiring. The little guy overcomes hopeless odds over and over through cleverness and a thrilling, canny self-confidence. It's the book Harry Potter wanted to be. All this set in our world with characters that are by definition loveable and fragile... they're rabbits. By that ingeneous device, it creates peril and terror more real than any horror ever could have done. You'll never see the world the same again after seeing it through the rabbits' eyes. There's a reason this book is still around decades later. It's that good. (less)