How much can one man take? What if you were faced with a scenario that rivaled Job's? How would you react and what kind of person would you be? This i...moreHow much can one man take? What if you were faced with a scenario that rivaled Job's? How would you react and what kind of person would you be? This is a book that attempts to answer those questions at least from the perspective of one man. This man was an accomplished Olympic athlete who was on pace to break the 4 minute mile. What happens when someone so physical, so in tune with their body, has all that control and strength taken away from them.
This book starts with his youth and his families tribulations which while interesting and necessary to set the stage are like the prologue that you just want to get over with. You know bad things are going to happen I was just surprised at how bad things got. For the actual war information if you are at all well read on WWII in the Pacific a lot of the information is basic stuff you have probably already heard. It didn't get interesting for me until they reached the Islands and what happened after.
I know many people have heard of what happened on the Islands and to the soldiers but I don't think until this book I ever FELT what happened to them. And then when reading and feeling about all the atrocities that were suffered and just when you think this can't possibly get worse it does. You have admire these men and what they went through and if I am honest I had to believe them better men than I. Maybe a bit of crack into my own soul but I was very impressed by what these men did to survive and to live with themseleves after.
And just like real life don't expect clean answers, neat story lines all wrapped up in a pretty bow. Post WWII wasn't neat and clean not in the US and not in Japan. It was startling to me how the obvious was ignored and how the pain of life was endured and no one could do much about either. That he made it through found his place and lived a life of joy and forgiveness was one of the most impressive things I have ever read.
So much so I kept reading into the footnotes and acknowledgments and in it got a glimpse of the authors life and in credit to her abilities I felt empathy for what she was going through and only a bit peeved that she didn't spell out what had happened to her and how she was doing. I actually found myself a bit worried for a woman I had never met. That I believe is quite a talent and reflects back on the book and it's subjects and how I felt about them. I didn't think all that much of this book as I first read it, I had read much like it before, but unlike so many of those books this one has stuck with me and I find myself thinking about it at times unexpected. It is one of those books that stick with even when you are not sure you want it to. (less)
Fascinating portrait of an era and the people who made it up. The end of WWII in the Pacific a bunch of bored people a horrible accident and the horro...moreFascinating portrait of an era and the people who made it up. The end of WWII in the Pacific a bunch of bored people a horrible accident and the horrors that they went through. The first half of this book is pretty powerful with the intensity of the place crash and the attempts of the survivors to find shelter and food. An amazing look at a culture and a rich world that the world had never really seen.
The book was a great look at a society that really no longer exists as the modern world crashed into it and yet the tone of the book seemed to jump for me. The first half you really got into the survivors and their struggles the second half was an examination of the Papau New Guinea tribes and peoples. It was great to hear what the natives actually thought of the survivors and their rescuers it was at times hilarious to see what was really going through their minds as they dealt with these intruders into their world.
At the same time the tone of the book jumps a bit for me and since their was very little drama in the rescue once they got there, just a bunch of waiting around that the actual rescue which was totally insane almost comes off as ho hum. I don't know that it the fault of the writer as much as it was the fault of the reader (me) who to that point was losing interest in the whole thing. I would recommend, the book has some interesting tidbits and since one of the survivors was an unmarried woman you get some glimpse into the sexual politics of relationships in the 40's that are almost as interesting as the politics of the Natives.(less)
Not going to spend much time on reviewing this. If you love Warren Zevon it is interesting to see where he came from and where he got his ideas. If yo...moreNot going to spend much time on reviewing this. If you love Warren Zevon it is interesting to see where he came from and where he got his ideas. If you are interested in a well written book examining the life of a great person? This isn't it. The writing is atrocious and the character that is Warren Zevon comes off as a self absorbed asshole, even before he was famous. Warren Zevon is one of my favorite artists and I really tried to like the Warren that they presented in this book and even I struggled with it. I in fact refuse to spend even anymore time even thinking about it. Cannot recommend anyone read this.(less)
Not what I was expecting at all. I've enjoyed everything that I have read by E.L. Doctorow and was intrigued by this book when I saw it in a bookstore...moreNot what I was expecting at all. I've enjoyed everything that I have read by E.L. Doctorow and was intrigued by this book when I saw it in a bookstore on one of my travels. I later read reviews equating it to a literary version of Forrest Gump, which I hated by the way, and decided that I should let that stop me from reading this based on past experiences with the author.
There is no plot, there is no action, there are characters and there are events. I could sum up the entire book as two eccentric brothers in New York each damaged in their own way live the 20th Century and experience a lot but particpate in only a little. While a true statement it doesn't convey the book and how it impacted me.
The eccentric brothers Homer the blind narrator and Langley the brother damaged both mentally and physically in the Great War live in the house they inherited from their Parents on 5th avenue. Homer as narrator and the voice of the brothers is a light and breezy voice that carries you along on a series of events mostly pleasant, some disturbing, but nothing that really rocks their world. Meet a gangster? Have their home invaded by said Gangster? Ten pages later Homer is talking about his Piano and his brothers experiments.
I have no idea what the author is trying to say or even what his theme is. To me the House became a character as big and as important as Homer and Langley and it's decay seemed to parallel Homer and Langleys Physical and Mental states. The house represented everything to the characters and after reading this book over a few days I felt that the theme of this book was the Prisons that we build ourselves with our memories, our pasts, our expectations, and our fears. Even as Homer was telling one of his delightful breezy stories I felt the oppression of the house, the oppression of a life that the brothers built and lived in.
Then again maybe the sense of imprisonment of our decisions was my way of interepting life and how in all of this we are all created by our memories and our past, that our own decay defines us as much as our successes and our joys. Life is the simple act of going on and being there and yet things and people are slowly whittled away from us, sometimes so slowy we don't notice and sometimes so suddenly and drastically and cut so deeply we can see little else.
Homer was reciting his memoirs to his muse who you keep waiting to meet and to hear how she is going to impact and help the brothers break from their prison and life what is left of their lives in some sort of sense of freedom from the oppression of the past. If need that type of ending this book will not give it to you. It left me disturbed and trouble and I didn't sleep well after I put this book down. The book's ending rang true and I found that in reading this light and breezy book that I had come to care about the brothers Homer specifically and in putting down the book I hated the ending not for it's quality or truth but simply because contrary to all rationality I had hoped for better for Homer. And that is why this was an excellent book. No plot, no action, no great romances, at least non that lasted long, and the only adventures were of crossing the street to Central Park, and yet I cared what happened to these eccentric men who lived alone in a decrepit mansion on Park avenue in New York City.(less)
I'm starting to think that this summer should be called my Summer of the Apocolypse. Books I've read or have on my shelf to read include the Stand, Th...moreI'm starting to think that this summer should be called my Summer of the Apocolypse. Books I've read or have on my shelf to read include the Stand, The Passage, Robopoclypes, and I just finished Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon. I have a difficult time reviewing this book due to the fact that the investigation of mass death and the misery that goes along with that doesn't seem to settle with me as much as it might have when I was younger. The point of these books are to make you uncomfortable and make you think, while secrety enjoying the vicarious thrill of being along for the ride but not being in the hell on earth that was postulated by the author.
I get the uncomfortable part and the make you think part I just no longer get the visceral thrill of seeing the destruction, the aftermath, and the what if. Maybe because as you get older you realize that life is about loss and that reality tempers the enjoyment of the mythical. I'm not sure about anyone else but for me it takes me a lot to dig in and actually "enjoy" a book like this.
That is what I found myself doing I dug in and I finished it. It was a struggle not because the characters weren't interesting they were. The scenarios where there, the set pieces were exciting, and the depiction of evil was in depth and human enough to make your skin crawl with recognition. This is another book similar to the stand that uses the Apocolypse, this time nuclear war, to set up a parrallel rapture from the book of revelations. Which is fine and since I'm no biblical scholar i can have my own points on this. I'm always amazed at these books that the force of evil is always real and acting and impacting directely where the forces of good or God as it may be is alway speaking in riddles and prophecies and always through intermediaries who rarely get more than a small piece of the picture. All to God's plan I guess.
I gave it three stars because I felt it was well written. Only three due to the fact to me the story has been done so often and this wasn't different enough for me to make me care. I stay at three stars for the quality of the set pieces and I can't go over three stars because I no longer want to wallow in filth and despair even vicariously through fiction.(less)
I enjoyed this book but since I read it after Devil in the White City you can't help but compare the two. This book suffers some; one from being an ea...moreI enjoyed this book but since I read it after Devil in the White City you can't help but compare the two. This book suffers some; one from being an earlier book and two while you really get a feel for the style and format he would use successfully in later novel, it isn't as strong as a book. You we see the basic Larsen characteristics such as how he draws you into a real life story as if it's a novel, and he also displays a tremendous ability to create true to life descriptions and characters based on research, journal entries, and other sources such as biographies. In comparison to his later work it isn't as polished, which for an early book in your career is not a sin or even unexpected.
Even in comparison I enjoyed reading this, in fact as I read it, it was a beautiful summer day warm but not too hot. I read it sitting out on the deck immersed in the sweltering summer of 1900 that was Galveston and the rest of the United States. Sitting there reading about that summer in Galveston I found myself sweating and uncomfortable imaging myself in the pre air conditioned world that Larson painted.
While I think this books suffers in comparison to his later work, that is somewhat the fault of the characters as much as content. As a witness to a storm you at some point are at the mercy of events out of your control and are a passive character reacting versus driving the outcome. Compare this to the constant striving of the characters of Devil and the motivations that drove those characters you feel a distance and a passivity that removes you one step from the events unlike Devil where you felt as if those people were your neighbors and counterparts. That being said there is action, there are decisions that changed the outcome, and there is drama, I would say it is well written if a bit shorter than I would have liked.
Overall if you look only at this book and review it for itself, by itself, it is a good, quick, enjoyable, and informative read. Reading it I felt I knew more about weather than I ever thought I would care about and I felt I understand the history of Galveston and Houston like a native. My verdict? Recommended! (less)
I first read this book in high school and it was the book that open me to the idea that Stephen King is an excellent writer and I should be more open...moreI first read this book in high school and it was the book that open me to the idea that Stephen King is an excellent writer and I should be more open to reading his stuff. I would have said in High School that I loved this book and it would have rated as one of my favorites. My only issue with the book when I first read it was that it ended too abruptly. It was a jarring ending, you had spent so much time on the characters and their journeys expecting a massive confrontation between the forces of good and evil that the ending was unsatisfactory in its sudden ending. It was truly a boom and its over kind of ending.
When Stephen King published an extended version I remember being excited about the prospect that the ending would be fully fleshed out this time. The only thing was that I never had time to read it, there were also too many books to read. From Stephen King alone I got lost into the Dark Tower series which is one of the few things that are longer than this book.
So I finally picked this up and read it. What do I think of the book this time around? Well it is longer, the story not being as fresh and with the fact I'm not as fresh as I was when I read it gave me a different perspective than my teenage self. The writing wasn't as good as I remember but it was even more disturbing than I remember. The death seem more real the suffering more vicious than I cared to experience. I don't remember much joy in this book and I didn't expect it, I seemed to remember more of a sense of adventure and hope. I don't quite get that any longer. I don't feel the hope any longer in this writing and the ending reminded me of the Canticle of Leibowitz in it's total lack of hope and the expectations of life being a wheel of never ending misery and stupidity. A theme that he carried through in the Dark Tower in many ways. At least in the Dark tower the metaphor of time repeating itself was based on one mans choices, this book takes that view of all of Mankind.
Stephen King is a better writer than many give him credit for and his themes are deeper than many believe because of his ability to hide them in violence and outrage. He runs the gambit on you making you thinking of the joy in destruction that others create and believe yourself above them. Then he tuns everything on to the point where you end up questioning is that the truth and am I really that loyal person who always does right or am I really that person who just wants to see the whole world burn? Other authors might ask you the question King makes you ask it yourself and the answer often in the one you expect.(less)
There are those books that you hear about over and over again that for some reason sound interesting but are never interesting enough to actually purc...moreThere are those books that you hear about over and over again that for some reason sound interesting but are never interesting enough to actually purchase. I have had this book in my hands multiple times on the way to the check out, when for some reason I would set it down and leave it in the store. I can think of three times I had this book in my cart at Costco and decided I had bought too much junk and put it down to save money. I guess I just didn't expect the hype to live up to the reality of the book. I was wrong.
Erik Larson created a world that I was able to get lost into, a world of economic uncertainty and great growth, hopes and dreams. But also a time of great uncertainty with the unwashed masses struggling to to find their way in this great machine of the industrial revolutions. You feel the energy and you smell the smells of Chicago. A city that many of us think we know and yet I found myself astounded how little I knew of how the great city became. It is a story of the skyscraper, the elite, the development of the American Identity. The characters were real people that you felt you knew, whether you liked them, disliked them, or hated them. Unlike so many true life stories Larson makes the pages come alive as if you were reading fiction not a dry textbook. I raced through the book like it was the latest pot boiler thriller.
I don't know if the lead character is the worst architect in American history that almost ruined the American Architecture forever or he was the greatest Architect of his time whose influence was tremendous and powerful and still resonates today. I do not have the skills or knowledge of the subject matter to make either judgement. I will say that as a manager of men and a leader of an enterprise that is as much a dream as a business enterprise I did like him and felt inspired by his belief and his ability to convey that belief to others. This is not say he didn't make mistakes, he did, and they made him human.
At the end of the book you get the feel of history and how the path of humanity builds up and leads to the what makes our world and what makes us human. I very rarely feel the need to recommend a book that most book lovers have already read I would just say that if you know someone who hasn't read it, pass it along, put a copy in their hands and no matter what they think they are getting, I bet they are surprised.(less)
I won't get into a review of Mark Twain. At this point is seems silly to even consider whether to review his actual writings. He is Mark Twain. Enough...moreI won't get into a review of Mark Twain. At this point is seems silly to even consider whether to review his actual writings. He is Mark Twain. Enough Said. He is also Samuel Clemens of course who is basically a different person. Makes sense, the man versus the writer. This is almost immaterial. This collection is just one of three eventual volumes (I believe) and is a serious scholary attempt to collect his writings in the format that he wished them to be published. A large segment of this book is based on the historical reconstruction of how this was written and how they determined the order of the book and the writings to be included.
It is fascinating review of history but also a bit dry and leaden. When you start in with Mark Twains actually writings you almost feel a weight lift and the writing becomes interestings and fun. Even when he brings out his cynical and dark world view which was honestly come by when you learn of his life. If you have any interest in great American writing, Mark Twain, or the books of Mark Twain I would recommend that you read this. (less)
The concept of the stranded generational starship isn't new. It is a great platform to discuss society and the authors belief of society and how press...moreThe concept of the stranded generational starship isn't new. It is a great platform to discuss society and the authors belief of society and how pressures of proximity allow for a condensed version of time to show how societies grow and evolve or de evolve however the case may be.
The difference in this book is in the quality of the characters and her ability to add in teh concepts of high fantasy into the setting of a technological world. She uses the tropes of magic and of "spirits" into a modern sci fi fantasy world. The concept is that a sufficiently advanced technology is no different from Magic extroplated into an nano and AI infused future.
Very strong female characters and a society that sexual mores that might be considered outside the norms of today's world are presented matter of factually as a matter of how you love someone is more important that who you love and how does gender impact that and how does it matter?
This is the first part of three books and it will discuss the world and it deals with politics, history, and society it ultimately will make you ask the question is it okay to continue to expand is it okay to colonize and develop just because no one can stop you? Should we live within our means and temper our hopes and dreams and expectations so that everyone has a place even if it's not what we have had in the past? Is the place of others more important than your own?
This series asks those questions and even if you don't agree with her answers it is a fun ride and at the same time throws in some points to think about while you are thinking about sword fights in space. This is the strongest book in the series perhaps because i didn't necessarily agree with the conclusion but I enjoyed them all.(less)
I loved this book. Okay that might be a little strong, but if you ever wonder what a solid political team should look like this is great indication. T...moreI loved this book. Okay that might be a little strong, but if you ever wonder what a solid political team should look like this is great indication. This book has more management tips and advice that are more practical in dealing with those with large ego's than almost every business book I've ever read.
Now as far as the book, I had not heard of many of the members of Lincoln's cabinet and so the first few pages keeping track of all the players was a major chore. I hung in there and keep reading and when I did I found it fascinating and by the end of the book it was reading like a thriller.
I do walk away amazed at how Lincoln was able to get together so many large egos and get them to work together for the benefit of the nation. Lincoln made some mistakes as well which is almost as fascinating. There are so many biographies of Lincoln that to really see him from a new perspective yoiu almost need to see him the way those who worked closest with him, really thought of him and how that changed over time as they grew either closer or more distant.
If you have any interest in Lincoln, politics, or just managing people this is an excellent read. My only minor critiscm is that there we never any doubt how the author feels about Lincoln and at times the book has a distinct bent of creating and adding to the Lincoln Myth versus exposing him as a real man with real issues. Again a very minor thing and I had mostly lost that feeling by the end of the book.(less)
As a follow up to the Flood as solid book. It covers some of the same territory so at times you feel that the book is a bit padded with unnecessary de...moreAs a follow up to the Flood as solid book. It covers some of the same territory so at times you feel that the book is a bit padded with unnecessary details. It also seems that Stephen tried to present a slightly more optimistic view with this book but refused to get too carried away and kept most of it dark and hopeless. That seems to be his theme in most of his books that take a longer term view of humanity.(less)