The book become more complex and interesting in the final stretch, although it didn't quite get over the hump to earn four stars.
My early complaint, tThe book become more complex and interesting in the final stretch, although it didn't quite get over the hump to earn four stars.
My early complaint, that the central characters had what amount to superpowers — the smartest person you know would eventually apply to three of 'em, and the toughest person on the planet to another. It's one thing to instantly appeal to reader identification because of a juvenile wish-fulfillment of being the misunderstood or maligned Chosen One, versus organically building an attachment for a character (even an unlikable one) through understanding or even exposure to their actions under difficult circumstances. Instead, towards the end, we've got a gut-punch of unfaithfulness and betrayal that would only make sense if the characters involved were adolescents, not seasoned veterans of how miscommunications can bring death. Where was the, "Wait, am I making any assumptions here?" moment? Not there, because the author is jerking the readers around by the emotions.
The whole character-with-superhero aspect never went away, but the world-building became engrossing enough to compensate....more
Frankly, I'll probably never get around to reading this, because I'm one of the converted.
My only qualm here is that human nature itself is fundamentaFrankly, I'll probably never get around to reading this, because I'm one of the converted.
My only qualm here is that human nature itself is fundamentally conflicted between cooperating with others (i.e., collectivism) and trying out-compete everyone else (referred to as "defecting" in game theory, sometimes termed "competing" in casual use, but more like free-riding or parasitism). I suspect that aspect will slow down the final stages of "the moral arc" from decades to thousands of years.
P.S. After initially posting this, I glanced through some of the other reviews to see if it was likely I would be missing anything important. According to Bilblio Files' review, Shermer has a libertarian bent. There was a hint of this in the radio/podcast interview, but I'm dismayed to see that it was evident in the book. That "cooperate/compete" contradiction in human nature I referred to often expresses itself as a collectivist vs. individualist ideology, and libertarians are the ultimate individualists, adhering to a political belief system increasingly at odds with a densely-populated high-tech planet that is struggling to get along. If I read this, I'm afraid I might have my dentist asking when I started to grind my teeth ("well, doc, that actually started when I read a different libertarian-biased book that could have otherwise been excellent")....more
This appears to be the recommended translation, per Wikipedia. But do I go for the very cheap Kindle version ($1.99), or actually dish out ten times tThis appears to be the recommended translation, per Wikipedia. But do I go for the very cheap Kindle version ($1.99), or actually dish out ten times that for a hardback, y'know, to put in the bookshelf for show-off purposes?
Ah, and I notice that the Kindle version has lending set to "Nope, sucker!" Hmmm. Or maybe just borrow a copy from the library, since they've got 24 copies of this edition....more
Wall Street Journal bureau chief Blackmon gives a groundbreaking and disturbing account of a sordid chapter in American history-the lease (essentially the sale) of convicts to "commercial interests" between the end of the 19th century and well into the 20th. Usually, the criminal offense was loosely defined vagrancy or even "changing employers without permission." The initial sentence was brutal enough; the actual penalty, "reserved almost exclusively for black men," was a form of slavery in one of "hundreds of forced labor camps" operated "by state and county governments, large corporations, small time entrepreneurs and provincial farmers." Into this history, Blackmon weaves the story of Green Cottenham, who was "charged with riding a freight train without a ticket," in 1908 and was sentenced to "three months of hard labor for Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad," a subsidiary of U.S. Steel. Cottenham's sentence was extended an additional three months and six days because he was unable to pay fines then leveraged on criminals. Blackmon's book reveals in devastating detail the legal and commercial forces that created this neoslavery along with deeply moving and totally appalling personal testimonies of survivors. "Every incident in this book is true," he writes; one wishes it were not so.
I'm rating this for-and-a-half stars, rounded down to four. If I hadn't just finished Ann Leckie's Ancillary Sword, I might have rounded up. Caliban'I'm rating this for-and-a-half stars, rounded down to four. If I hadn't just finished Ann Leckie's Ancillary Sword, I might have rounded up. Caliban's War was a great adventure story — definitely a great read — but it while it does everything really well, it nothing it does is pathbreaking, which is why is suffers in comparison to Leckie's effort. Still, read 'em both. Great stuff....more
I'm somewhat ambivalent about Pinker's foray into this domain, but the Economist recommended it highly, so I hope to give it a shot. Writing: TalkingI'm somewhat ambivalent about Pinker's foray into this domain, but the Economist recommended it highly, so I hope to give it a shot. Writing: Talking sense....more