It was another good read -- kept my attention well. I am a bit miffed because the ending is something of a cliffhanger for the third book in the serieIt was another good read -- kept my attention well. I am a bit miffed because the ending is something of a cliffhanger for the third book in the series, and I won't have the chance to begin it for a few days.
I appreciated the characters became a bit more well-developed in this book than in the first Foundation novel. The political situations were fascinating and had me reading up on Roman history more than once....more
“Lord of the Morning,” he said, “I have come for you.”
On the island, the air shimmered and coalesced. The black-clad man stood staring at the fiery mountain rising out of the plain. His face twisted in rage and contempt. “You cannot escape so easily, Dragon. It is not done between us. It will not be done until the end of time.”
Then he was gone, and the mountain and the island stood alone. Waiting.
And then, as often, Robert Jordan began books citing some of the prophecy he invented:
And it came to pass in those days, as it had come before and would come again, that the Dark lay heavy on the land and weighed down the hearts of men, and the green things failed, and hope died. And men cried out to the Creator, saying, O Light of the Heavens, Light of the World, let the Promised One be born of the mountain, according to the prophecies, as he was in ages past and will be in ages to come. Let the Prince of the Morning sing to the land that green things will grow and the valleys give forth lambs. Let the arm of the Lord of the Dawn shelter us from the Dark, and the great sword of justice defend us. Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.
—from Charal Drianaan to Calamon,
The Cycle of the Dragon.
Author unknown, the Fourth Age
And then, the grand opening to each of the books in the 11,000-page series, something like this:
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.
Born below the ever cloud-capped peaks that gave the mountains their name, the wind blew east, out across the Sand Hills, once the shore of a great ocean, before the Breaking of the World. Down it flailed into the Two Rivers, into the tangled forest called the Westwood, and beat at two men walking with a cart and horse down the rock-strewn track called the Quarry Road.
And yesterday, 11,000 pages later, I have completed the series. Really, how could I have put down a book with such a majestic beginning as that? It hinted at the epic that was to come, the amazing literature I was going to read. I didn’t read it straight through; I enjoyed books like War and Peace along the way. But what a trip the Wheel of Time series was. The characters were so detailed, so deep, the setting so elaborate, the plots so grand and also so small — everyone from servants to queens were well-represented in the books. Not every section was a page-turner; in fact, around the 4th or 5th book, the series started to plod for a thousand pages or two, reading more like a history book than a novel. Sometimes the prejudices and stereotypes of the characters, particularly the sexism that both the men and women displayed, were frustrating to read. I never quite figured out of this was brilliant writing (making the reader feel frustrated at the plodding pace of the book when it was describing characters being frustrated at the plodding pace of events), or if it could have been trimmed down by 2/3 in some places.
But really, the number of brilliant endings, laugh-out-loud situations, and page-turning suspense that somehow managed to build over hundreds, and then even thousands of pages, outweighed the flaws.
Politics is a foggy mire full of snakes.
- The Eye of the World
“Ah.” Furlan washed his hands in one direction, then rubbed them in the other. “Ah. Forgive me, Master Andra, but Lady Alys is a fierce sounding woman.”
“Only with those who displease her,” Lan said blandly. “Her bite is far worse than her bark.”
“Ah. Ah. Ah. Your rooms are this way. . .”
- The Dragon Reborn
One of the marks of truly good writing is that I leave a book or series with a sense of sadness or nostalgia, leaving characters that seem almost like friends. I felt that after finishing the last book in the series, A Memory of Light. The ending was deep, and satisfying, but ultimately left me wanting even more — even more than 11,000 pages, somehow.
“Elienda and Briain woke from the dream.” She might have been speaking of the weather rather than two deaths among women she knew. “We all must wake eventually.”
- Knife of Dreams
I was often touched by the way the Aiel referred to each other. A desert people, their fond farewall was “may you always find water and shade.” A fitting metaphor for anyone’s life, I think. And they referred to their spouse as “shade of my heart.”
Jordan touched on quite a few themes of religion and philosophy. In that quote above, he has the Aiel referring to death as waking from a dream. An intriguing metaphor, isn’t it? He even writes conflicts of philosophy, religion, and culture into the series.
I was particularly impressed with his treatment of theodicy and the problem of evil (the argument and religious response relating to the presence of evil in the world in the face of a loving God.) It is the most impressive treatment I have seen in fiction, and does a better job of advancing the theodistic argument than many philosophers have, I suspect. It is hard to really go into that one here because of the length and potential for spoilers.
I can, however, comment on his treatment of existential nihilism — the theory that life and the universe is without meaning, and the sometimes-related comment that “what does anything matter then anyway?” Here are a couple of quotes:
“In Maradon, I saw what had been done to men who followed me. I saw Light in them, Min. Defying the Dark One no matter the length of his shadow. We will live, that defiance said. We will love and we will hope. And I saw him trying so hard to destroy that. He knows that if he could break them, it would mean something. Something much more than Maradon. Breaking the spirit of men…he thirsts for that. He struck far harder than he otherwise would have because he wanted to break my spirit.” His voice grew softer and he opened his eyes, looking down at her. “And so I stood against him.”
- Towers of Midnight
“What if I think it’s all meaningless?” he demanded with the loud voice of a king. “What if I don’t want it to keep turning? We live our lives by the blood of others! And those others become forgotten. What good is it if everything we know will fade? Great deeds or great tragedies, neither means anything! They will become legends, then those legends will be forgotten, then it will all start over again!”
Why? Rand thought with wonder. Because each time we live, we get to love again.
It felt relaxing to stare out at that distant light, so welcoming and noble. “Storms will soon come,” it seemed to say. “But for now, I am here.” I am here.
- The Gathering Storm
I unfortunately can’t put in in its proper context due to spoilers, but it is a pivotal turning point in the series, relating to the preservation of the world. By giving what we might normally call a characteristic or behavior — evil — an almost-human voice and character, it can be discussed in interesting ways.
We are always more afraid than we wish to be, but we can always be braver than we expect. Hold on to your heart, and the Aes Sedai cannot harm what is really you, your heart. They are not nearly so far above us as we believed. May you always find water and shade, Egwene. And always remember your heart.”
- Lord of Chaos
“Eben is dead. Would you want to forget your pain if you lost that hulking giant of yours? Have your feelings for him cut away like some spoiled chunk of flesh in an otherwise good roast?”
- The Gathering Storm
These quotes are examples of characters in the series dealing with difficult situations. In one, a character is yelled at for offering to use her special powers to numb the pain of another person over a death. It brings up a question that those of us that have known pain might find interesting: would we really have wanted our pain erased? And suggests perhaps not. That there is a benefit to it. That we get through it by embracing it — by embracing it while still being true to our heart.
He had four rules concerning action and information. Never make a plan without knowing as much as you can of the enemy. Never be afraid to change your plans when you receive new information. Never believe you know everything. And never wait to know everything.
- Lord of Chaos
Sometimes the series treats us to logical thinkers, whether they are generals or innkeepers, and gives us little tidbits like this one.
Androl brushed off his hands, smiling. Children were so adaptable. Before them, centuries of tradition, terror and superstition could melt away like butter left too long in the sun.
- Towers of Midnight
And sometimes, things to chew over. Isn’t that an interesting comment on prejudice? Children aren’t born prejudiced; we can see how easily they make friends with anyone. It is sad that we teach them to be, isn’t it?
Wheel of Time is a fine story, expertly woven. But it is not just a story. It is true, in the sense that it illuminates truths, just like Romeo and Juliet can. In it, I see lessons and echoes of the civil rights era, comments on what makes good leaders, characters wrestling with decisions without adequate data, people putting on a mask of emotions, sacrifice, and the overall theme of the entire series: the power of love and compassion.
The inspiration of the series for me — well, it is there, but it may take a few more days to figure it out. I think it has something to do with this: “The wind rose high and free, to soar in an open sky with no clouds.”
Some very good points towards the beginning, but all the angst about infertility towards the end was completely skippable. (I got the point after abouSome very good points towards the beginning, but all the angst about infertility towards the end was completely skippable. (I got the point after about 5 pages, and there was no need to have multiple chapters on it.)
Still, a good read and recommended. It provided an interesting window into the lives of some, and sadly unsurprising view of how poorly many churches deal with these issues -- and a surprising view of how well some do....more
This book was thorough at what it tried to do: prepare people for an exam. It had a few inaccuracies including one flat-out wrong answer, but overallThis book was thorough at what it tried to do: prepare people for an exam. It had a few inaccuracies including one flat-out wrong answer, but overall seemed OK.
My gripe is that it does a poor job of explaining concepts. Most of the book presents one question after another from the NCVEC test bank, offers a paragraph of explanation, and then the correct answer.
I prefer the approach from the ARRL license manual series. They have chapters on concepts, usually going in to a lot more detail and providing clearer explanations than this one. You really come away understanding the material better from the ARRL series. That will not only help you pass the exam, but also actually put the knowledge to use. I feel like from this book, I've figured out how to memorize some information but have a poorer grasp of material than I did from the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual that I used for the technician exam....more
Each year around Christmas, I read some "light" books I might not ordinarily read. This was one of them. It was, indeed, a fun, light read.
It was fairEach year around Christmas, I read some "light" books I might not ordinarily read. This was one of them. It was, indeed, a fun, light read.
It was fairly predictable, and somewhat overly-cliche. But still it kept my attention and I enjoyed the read.
The characters were sometimes old-fashioned enough to be my grandparents -- old-fashioned in a somewhat out-of-touch way. But it seemed to work out well. It's a good, light read for a time when you don't want anything too serious....more
I had followed the Twitter feed for awhile, and enjoyed it. This book is more than just snippets from Twitter. It has longer stories, and was a lot ofI had followed the Twitter feed for awhile, and enjoyed it. This book is more than just snippets from Twitter. It has longer stories, and was a lot of fun to read. Funniest thing 'I've read in quite awhile....more
Rick Steves is known for writing books, and producing public TV shows, about travel to Europe. He encourages people to get out of their comfort zone,Rick Steves is known for writing books, and producing public TV shows, about travel to Europe. He encourages people to get out of their comfort zone, advocates staying in homes instead of hotels, and giving yourself permission to struggle to communicate in a land of unfamiliar language. That way, you get to experience not just the landmarks, but the culture and history. That was the approach we favored in our recent trip to Europe, and after being there (and seeing tour groups), I think Rick Steves is right on.
On the plane to Europe, I read his Travel as a Political Act. This is not a guidebook, but more a book about the philosophy of travel. As usual with my book reviews, unless indicated otherwise, all quotes here come from the book. He starts out with this statement:
I've taught people how to travel. I focus mostly on the logistics: finding the right hotel, avoiding long lines... But that's not why we travel. We travel to have enlightening experiences, to meet inspirational people, to be stimulated, to learn, and to grow. Travel has taught me the fun in having my cultural furniture rearranged and my ethnocentric self-assuredness walloped.
I read this book mostly on the plane to Hamburg, or the week prior to leaving. I can credit Rick Steves directly for encouraging me to strike up a conversation with a random German on the bus from Hamburg to Lübeck, which I'll discuss here in a couple of days. Probably the biggest lament from Rick Steves is that the people that really ought to travel -- the ones that are so sure that their ways are correct and best -- are least likely to do so.
Make a decision that on any trip you take, you'll make a point to be open to new experiences, seek options that get you out of your comfort zone, and be a cultural chameleon--trying on new ways of looking at things and striving to become a "temporary local." ... My best vacations have been both fun and intensely educational ... Travel challenges truths that we were raised thinking were self-evident and God-given. Leaving home, we learn that other people find different truths to be self-evident. We realize that it just makes sense to give everyone a little wiggle room.
The book is set with an introductory encouragement to travel, followed by seven vignettes of different countries he's visited, and descriptions of how it's impacted him. He gave a lesson of the opening of the German Reichstag (parliament building), which he was present for in 1999. He was surrounded by teary-eyed Germans -- and a few tourists "so preoccupied with trivialities -- forgotten camera batteries, needing a Coke, the lack of air-conditioning -- that they were missing out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate a great moment with the German people."
He comments that we can learn from other countries -- that no one country has a monopoly on good ideas, and it is plenty patriotic to insist what we adopt good ideas (such as drug policy) from other countries and adopt them for our own.
Particularly touching to me was the description and photo of a memorial in El Salvador, very much looking like the American Vietnam memorial -- except that one remembering loved ones lost fighting the United States. How many Americans even know that we were involved in a damaging war in El Salvador?
A large part of his book was, for me, "preaching to the choir," as this comment illustrated:
In the European view, America is trapped in an inescapable cycle to feed its military-industrial complex: As we bulk up our military, we look for opportunities to make use of it. (When your only tool is a hammer, you treat every problem like a nail.) And then, when we employ our military unwisely, we create more enemies...which makes us feel the need to grow our military even more. If an American diplomat complained to his European counterpart, "America is doing all the heavly lifting when it comes to military," the European might respond, "Well, you seem to be enjoying it. We're building roads and bridges instead."
That's a sentiment I've agreed with for quite some time already, and as such, some parts of the book moved slowly for me -- though I imagine his target audience included people that had never seriously considered these arguments before. Then there were surprising facts:
by the end of World War I, an estimated half of all the men in France between the ages of 15 and 30 were casualties. When some Americans, frustrated at France's reluctance to follow us into a war, call the French "surrender monkeys," I believe it shows their ignorance of history.
And again, I'd agree with him on that point.
The vignette on Iran was particularly interesting, as he described his experiences in person, they sounded far different than the picture we often get in the media.
I have realized, incidentally, that I am terrible at writing book reviews. So rather than inflict more paragraphs upon you with this one, I'll summarize by saying that this is a touching, informative, and motivational book, which I highly recommend. I'll leave you with this quote:
Mark Twain wrote, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." These wise words can be a reallying cry for all travelers once comfortably back home. When courageous leaders in our community combat small-mindedness and ignorance... travelers can stand with them in solidarity.
I didn't travel to make some sort of statement or as a "political act." But I was enriched in many ways by travel -- of course the obvious ones of contemplating the history of a 900-year-old beautiful church, but also in seeing the different character of different cities, being with two families for a couple of days, and seeing different approaches to common problems. I am very glad I wasn't shut off from this behind a tinted window in a tour bus.
A very interesting read -- lots of detail, and a page turner, despite knowing how it all turns out. My only real gripe is that the author seemed to haA very interesting read -- lots of detail, and a page turner, despite knowing how it all turns out. My only real gripe is that the author seemed to have a severe case of thesaurus envy -- or was it vocabulary insecurity -- and tended to reach for a thesaurus whenever possible. The result was sometimes obscure words that captured the meaning less well than more common ones, and came across to me as rather pretentious....more
I enjoyed The Odyssey more than the Iliad; it didn't feel so long and drawn out. The one exception might be the final arrival at the end, though it ceI enjoyed The Odyssey more than the Iliad; it didn't feel so long and drawn out. The one exception might be the final arrival at the end, though it certainly kept my attention as well. It showed a lot of more caring feeling than Iliad, and that was a nice thing to see as well. All in all, a good read -- I again used the Butler translation....more