I cannot apply a sixth star to this book, which prompts me to seriously consider re-normalizing all other ratings in my library to accommodate the facI cannot apply a sixth star to this book, which prompts me to seriously consider re-normalizing all other ratings in my library to accommodate the fact that I was forced by the design of this site to apply only five.
The tone and vocabulary are fairly intellectual and elevated, and as a consequence the book may seem initially too dense to be of any profound value. I would recommend at least a basic awareness of the major subjects in American history (particularly Civil War and immediately following), post-Enlightenment philosophy (Kant, Hegel), theories of jurisprudence, the social impact and context of Darwinism and Determinism, and the development of subcultures in America as pre-requisites for a more complete reading of this book and what (I believe) it implies.
This is a fantastic introduction to the foundations of what I would consider modern progressive thought in America....more
There is nothing I am capable of writing about this book that would be anywhere approaching a semblance of adequacy in describing its magnificence. IThere is nothing I am capable of writing about this book that would be anywhere approaching a semblance of adequacy in describing its magnificence. I am soundly of the opinion that this should be required reading for any history buff, or indeed, citizen, of these United States. May I add, that if I end my career as one-twentieth the public servant as the subject of this epic biography, then I will have rendered the most good to one's country and people that any mere mortal can hope to achieve in the civil service....more
Well deserving of its many accolades and awards, The Quiet War is a novel among those on the new hard science fiction frontier. McAuley artfully bleWell deserving of its many accolades and awards, The Quiet War is a novel among those on the new hard science fiction frontier. McAuley artfully blends genetic engineering, artificial ecosystems, political intrigue, sociology, environment, economics, and space travel. The prose is direct and well crafted, and the ideas simultaneously fulfill both aims of what I love to see in science fiction: exploring future possibilities and holding a critical mirror to the current times.
I think it is also worth mentioning that McAuley's protagonists are strong females with depth, who buck the two-dimensional stereotypes often seen in the genre. The novel also declines to glorify (or vilify) western cultural projections of humanity's space-faring future. Most importantly, this welcome diversity in thought and character does not come, as it often does, at a compromise to craft -- McAuley has bucked the status quo and set a new standard for contemporary science fiction. ...more
I do not presume that my thoughts would add anything meaningful to the volumes of commentary written about this book. I will simply say that I love HeI do not presume that my thoughts would add anything meaningful to the volumes of commentary written about this book. I will simply say that I love Hemingway's sparse, understated style. It's like reading a play. Let the dialog speak for itself. Describe only when you have something useful or poignant to convey.
And here are my favorite quotes from the book.
"It's awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing."
"'Listen, Robert, going to another country doesn't make any difference. I've tried all that. You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There's nothing to that.'"
"'This wine is too good for toast-drinking, my dear. You don't want to mix emotions up with a wine like that. You lose the taste.'"
"'Simple exchange of values. You give them money. They give you a stuffed dog.'"
"That was morality; things that made you disgusted afterward. No, that must be immorality. That was a large statement."
"How did you go bankrupt?" Bill asked. "Two ways," Mike said. "Gradually and then suddenly."
"You know I feel rather damn good, Jake." "You should." "You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch." "Yes." "It’s sort of what we have instead of God."
"I drank a bottle for wine for company. It was a Château Margaux. It was pleasant to be drinking slowly and to be tasting the wine and to be drinking alone. A bottle of wine was good company."
"It’s funny," I said. "It’s very funny. And it’s a lot of fun, too, to be in love." "Do you think so?" her eyes looked flat again. "I don’t mean fun that way. In a way it’s an enjoyable feeling." "No," she said. "I think it’s hell on earth."
"Utilize a little, brother," he handed me the bottle. "Let us not doubt, brother. Let us not pry in to the holy mysteries of the hen-coop with simian fingers. Let us accept on faith and simply say – I want you to join with me in saying – What shall we say brother?" he pointed the drumstick at me and went on. "Let me tell you. We will say, and I for one am proud to say – and I want you to say with me, on your knees, brother. Let no man be ashamed to kneel here in the great out-of-doors. Remember the woods were God’s first temples. Let us kneel and say: ‘Don’t eat that, Lady – that’s Mencken.'"
"That seemed to handle it. That was it. Send a girl off with one man. Introduce her to another to go off with him. Now go and bring her back. And sign the wire with love. That was it all right. I went in to lunch."
"You paid some way for everything that was any good. I paid my way into enough things that I liked, so that I had a good time. Either you paid by learning about them, or by experience, or by taking chances, or by money. Enjoying living was learning to get your money's worth and knowing when you had it."
"Never once did he look up. He made it stronger that way, and did it for himself, too, as well as for her. Because he did not look up to ask if it pleased he did it all for himself inside, and it strengthened him, and yet he did it for her, too."
"Everything is on such a clear financial basis in France. It is the simplest country to live in. No one makes things complicated by becoming your friend for any obscure reason. If you want people to like you you have only to spend a little money."
"Oh Jake," Brett said, "We could have had such a damned good time together." Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly, pressing Brett against me. Yes," I said. "Isn't it pretty to think so?" ...more
Clear, understandable, irrefutable. I have long believed in evolution by natural selection in the same sense that I believe nearly all scientific explClear, understandable, irrefutable. I have long believed in evolution by natural selection in the same sense that I believe nearly all scientific explanations. That is, I am inclined to trust scientists in their own field of expertise, even if I don't fully understand the particulars, so long as the overall principle makes sense. Just as I wouldn't expect a psychologist to tell me how I do or do not know how to design a propulsion system, I would certainly not presume to second-guess her evaluation of the pilot's mental condition upon landing though I know little about the details of clinical flight psychology.
Now, finally, I understand the concrete evidence and solid reasoning that makes evolution by natural selection one of the most well-established and rigorously proven scientific theories we have. I am not a biologist, nor do I keep up with the field on a regular basis, yet Jerry Coyne was able to very clearly make his points without loss of either specificity or generality, and they were conveyed in a manner which satisfied my engineer-brain's desire for rigor and logic.
I did think that Coyne's defense of Darwinian evolution could have been accomplished quite successfully without the occasional barbs directed at creationists. Today's culture wars being what they are, I can understand the reasoning for putting such offhand snipes in the book, but to me the argument stands on its own and needs no such undue provocation. To his credit, Coyne does make sure to point out at several points in the book that evolution explains the origin of species, including our own, not the origin of life. Further, he refutes the claim that acceptance of evolution by natural selection means a rejection of morality, God, spirituality, or human meaning. He is also frank about where the unsolved mysteries are, and what particular details and consequences of evolution remain subjects of open research.
All in all, a fantastic read and among the best works of scientific writing for the masses that I have come across. I recommend it for anyone looking to learn more about a scientific fact that has been unfortunately politicized and demonized by those who interpret their worldview to be threatened....more
I grew up learning Buddhist philosophy and religion as part of my culture. While the core principles of the religion are excellent and continue to strI grew up learning Buddhist philosophy and religion as part of my culture. While the core principles of the religion are excellent and continue to strongly affect my personal philosophy today, I could never shake the nagging feeling that Buddhism was coldly detached, academic, and borderline nihilist.
I have been lukewarm about reading this book, despite stellar reviews from friends; in my preconception it was more of the same, possibly even worse as a westernized watering-down of the core beliefs.
I stand corrected. "Siddhartha" is the best capturing of what I have always sensed is there in the essence of Buddhism that I have ever come across. It is Buddhism stripped of its ritual decorations and laid bare at a very human level. Five stars, and highly recommended to any Buddhist or philosophically-minded non-Buddhist....more
In terms of interest, the plot is little better than decent. Also, the characters are somewhat emotionally flat. The redeeming quality, overwhelminglyIn terms of interest, the plot is little better than decent. Also, the characters are somewhat emotionally flat. The redeeming quality, overwhelmingly, is sheer force of ideas -- in quantity and quality. Anathem exemplifies one of my favorite roles of science fiction as a genre: to play with the possible and to spur highly intelligent imagination.
This is a difficult book to review without spoilers, and I'm not going to even try. However, Though knowledge thereof is not necessary to understanding the book, I can recommend Anathem highly if you enjoy any of the following subjects: mathematics (particularly geometry and topology), quantum physics (particularly the many-worlds / world-branching hypotheses), Latin, the structure of religious orders, hierarchies of thought, philosophy, metaphysics, the sociology of religion, cycles in history, individual spirituality, and/or political intrigue.
I think it is destined to enter the canon of Great Science Fiction Novels That Any Self-Respecting Fan Should Have At Least Read....more
This is now the de facto bible of artistic philosophy for my theatre company.
Not all of it is wholly understandable, in-line with what I think is rigThis is now the de facto bible of artistic philosophy for my theatre company.
Not all of it is wholly understandable, in-line with what I think is right, or necessarily applicable to many of the practical challenges we face; it is, however, full of brilliant writing that inspires and offers poignant examples of issues that should be considered and reflected upon carefully.