I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which covers the journeys of several refugees and refugee families from Africa and the Middle East to their final destI thoroughly enjoyed this book, which covers the journeys of several refugees and refugee families from Africa and the Middle East to their final destinations in Europe. The author traveled with the refugees and experienced many of the same dangers and challenges that they did, which must have been a monumental task, but allows him to see inside their lives. He also interviewed many other people involved in one way or another with refugees, including people-smugglers, immigration officials, aid workers and resettlement officers. The barriers put up to control refugees are frequently based on misinformation and false assumptions, and the toll in human life is high. The resilience and determination of the refugees themselves is portrayed with compassion and sensitivity here.
Kingsley also puts today’s mass migration into context: people have been migrating to Europe for centuries, and in large numbers since the 1960s, so the current movement should be no surprise. For the most part, Kingsley lets the stories stand on their own, and allows the reader to decide what should be done to change this situation. As of today, trends in migration to Europe show no sign of abating, so even this story of refugees in 2015 remains relevant and important....more
This 1971 sci-fi thriller is built on an interesting idea: what if a mutant plastic-eating bacterium was unleashed on the world? True to the best scieThis 1971 sci-fi thriller is built on an interesting idea: what if a mutant plastic-eating bacterium was unleashed on the world? True to the best science fiction, it combines a healthy dose of real science along with a suspenseful adventure story: a group of scientists investigating a sudden electrical failure in the London underground find themselves trapped after an explosion and fire caused by the bacterial destruction of the insulation on electrical wires all over the city. They need to find their way out through darkened tunnels festooned with foul-smelling pools of melted plastic. The authors did their homework on chemistry, microbiology and other areas of science as it was in 1971, and the gradual uncovering of the mystery of the mutant bacterial strain keeps the plot moving nicely.
The writing is inconsistent, though, and the book could have used more editorial polish, but characters and dialogue are competent for the most part. There is a budding romance that plays out to a satisfactory conclusion, and a corporate malefactor who comes to a violent end. Much of the boardroom bickering is dull but necessary as we see how executive greed led to the disaster, and how a scientific consultant with moral integrity finds a solution to the problem.
Plastic-eating bacteria do exist, and although they are much less voracious than the strain described here, it is interesting to contemplate what would happen if the plastic in our world ever came under attack--it would quickly destroy civilization. Mutant 59 does a credible job of showing us how that might happen....more
What a delightful book—I have never read a book about writing that was as thoroughly fascinating. In fact, most books about writing are far less interWhat a delightful book—I have never read a book about writing that was as thoroughly fascinating. In fact, most books about writing are far less interesting and fun to read than this one, and we have to thank Stephen King for the wisdom he has chosen to share.
I was puzzled at first that he devoted so much space to autobiography, but it becomes clear once he begins to talk about the craft of writing that individual experiences play an important role in an author’s style, inspiration and subject matter. King’s own background—a mixture of comedy and tragedy, like most people’s—led him to write horror fiction, and gave him a wealth of background material to draw from. Indeed, this book was written soon after he survived a near-death experience, the details of which are chilling.
The section on writing is full of unorthodoxy: he dismisses writer’s workshops as a waste of time and prefers to rely on a simple method of learning how to write: read a lot and write a lot. He gets feedback from his wife and a few close friends, but generally works “with the door closed”, meaning that he uses his own judgment. I was pleased to hear this, since I can’t afford workshops and I hate getting opinions from strangers.
This is not a how-to manual, although it has plenty of good advice on writing and editing a publishable book. He discusses plot, dialogue, descriptive narrative, character, and backstory using his own books as examples. I’m not a huge King fan, but I’ve read about a dozen of his books and was intrigued to discover that he does very little outlining, preferring to let the story create itself on the page. Reading his own rules of writing and editing gave me a good deal of insight into King’s unique style.
King is pleasantly humble about his own skills, given his astonishing decades as a bestselling novelist, but he cautions that talented writers are born, not made. The rest of us can only aspire to be competent, or at best, good. ...more
Pamela Painter has devoted four decades to refining her mastery of the short story form, and this book displays her skill as a keen observer of humanPamela Painter has devoted four decades to refining her mastery of the short story form, and this book displays her skill as a keen observer of human relationships. Each of these stories portrays the interconnected lives of men and women, husbands and wives, parents and their adult offspring, and nearly all of them deal with death in the recent or distant past. These relationships are messy, uncomfortable, full of deep love and almost always pain, just as in real life. Each character fights a constant battle with regrets and self-recriminations mingled with desire and the intense grief of losing a loved one.
There is also plenty of humor, much of it gentle mockery at a character’s inability to see the absurdity of his or her emotions, as in the unfaithful husband’s longing for his estranged wife in the title story. And there is the hilarious description of the Home Depot within sight of a young couple’s home, its noisy loudspeaker intruding on an awkward visit from the in-laws.
Painter is particularly good at playing out a character’s inner life in both contrast and poignant harmony with unforeseen social challenges, as when a mother must deal with her son’s girlfriend’s suicide attempt while agonizing over her own husband’s suicide. In another story, a young man relives his sister’s death from cancer while playing pranks at his job in a parking garage. Appropriately the characters find solace in the love and support of those around them, while mustering their own inner resources.
Painter leaves many of her characters’ challenges unresolved but somehow mitigated, as when in our daily lives we learn to accept that which we cannot change. This gave me a much greater sense of satisfaction than if all the stories had ended happily. We may not always solve our problems, but we can often find a way around them.
Above all, Painter’s prose is a joy to read—evocative yet earthy, elegant yet admirably concise. The reader feels not only that they are in the story, but that they belong there. Anyone who admires the short story as an art form will consider this book a treasure trove....more
This elegant, faux-antique volume was both a delight and, at times, a bore. Written and designed to resemble a classic adventure novel, the story dealThis elegant, faux-antique volume was both a delight and, at times, a bore. Written and designed to resemble a classic adventure novel, the story deals with a band of adventurers led by the Ogden brothers: the spoiled and egocentric Arthur and soldier-turned-mercenary John, whose cutthroat troopers accompany them on a round-the-world journey during the final months of World War I to find the mysterious, ever-shifting City of Shambhala.
The book is that new hybrid breed, with part of the story told in graphic novel style—nicely illustrated by Rick Ross—and the rest in text. The two styles intersect nicely without disrupting the story line and the graphic parts add a dimension that might be lost in text only.
The writing is designed to imitate adventure novels of the late 19th century, which will probably disenchant some readers. I enjoy that kind of thing and I was entertained by the ornate prose and the well-done rendering of Irish, Scottish and British speech.
What lacks is the story itself, which meanders along, takes us down subplot side-trails, and tries awkwardly to develop character, suspense and a bit of romance. I kept expecting more than I got, and the ending—intended to leave me lusting after Volume II—was a decided let-down. We are left wondering about characters’ motives and what exactly happened, which is never made clear enough (at least, not for me). And although the City of Shambhala is attained at last, it is not all that interesting.
I will buy the next volume, but I do expect more from it. This book was moderately engaging, and hopefully the story will improve....more
A delightful read and very informative. I was looking for a book that wasn't too dry or academic, about witchcraft in Africa, and this was perfect. MiA delightful read and very informative. I was looking for a book that wasn't too dry or academic, about witchcraft in Africa, and this was perfect. Miller spent many years living and traveling around Africa, and the book documents his gradual understanding of how witchcraft works, what it achieves and what it destroys. He sees it as a source of social power for certain people, and the witch-hunt as a very similar form of exploitation. He further touches on the role of religion--traditional, mainstream, evangelical, and syncretic--which he doesn't see as differing much from the fundamental tenets of witchcraft.
Giving numerous examples from history and from his personal experience, Miller describes his meetings with a variety of experts, officials and practitioners of African witchcraft, each of whom sheds light on witchcraft and sorcery in a different way. By the end of the book, I was putting the pieces together with my own experiences during a decade in Africa.
I love Miller's style: he is clearly very well-versed in African history and culture, but he doesn't bog down his story with analysis and pedantic details. Instead, he follows his line of inquiry from one decade to the next, starting from the early 60s up to his last visit to Africa in 2002. His explanations are clear for the non-anthropologist, and his has a sly sense of humor. His many photos add additional whimsy and detail to the book.
I'm very happy that I had a chance to read this great book. ...more
Vermillion is a wonderfully imaginative romp in a fantasy world full of remarkable characters, with a bizarre mystery at its center. Other reviewers hVermillion is a wonderfully imaginative romp in a fantasy world full of remarkable characters, with a bizarre mystery at its center. Other reviewers have outlined the plot, so I'll only note that Lou Merriwether is one of the most intriguing protagonists that I've encountered in many years: my interest in her fate kept me flipping the pages on my Kindle. Setting the story in the western US in the 1870s makes it even more interesting, for a story featuring ghosts and vampires, and adding the intricacies of Chinese ghost-hunting--replete with colorful details from Chinese mythology--made this book weird and unpredictable. There is a nice balance between suspense and action, and the secondary characters are drawn in rich, fascinating shades, from the clever and seductive Shai to the grimly horrible Lazarus Panacea. The end leaves wide room for a sequel, which I will eagerly await, looking forward to another grand adventure in this strange new world. ...more
In 1994 the 86-year-old anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss was persuaded to go through over a thousand old photos that he had from several trips he maIn 1994 the 86-year-old anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss was persuaded to go through over a thousand old photos that he had from several trips he made in Brazil in the late 1930s. During these journeys he visited the Bororo, Mande and Nambikwara tribes of the western Amazon, and gathered ethnographic data that became the basis for much of his anthropological writing. This book is a collection of 180 of these photos with a prologue and captions.
It is marvelous because it tells the story of Brazil in the 30s, a country with a few small cities and a vast outback of forests and rivers about which very little was actually known. Although most of Brazil's indigenous peoples had died out long before, Levi-Strauss visited a few communities that survived.
These black-and-white photos are clear and well-composed, often contemplative studies of hunter-gatherers living in a wilderness little touched by western civilization. Levi-Strauss treats his subjects with kindness and respect and is unreserved in his praise for their beauty and their often casual existence without clothes, using the most rudimentary of shelters and tools. They are often shown comfortably coexisting with birds and animals. Levi-Strauss also records some of the challenges he faced in his journey through undeveloped wildlands, by truck, horseback, canoe and on foot.
It is fortunate that we have this photographic record of a past era, and that Levi-Strauss himself took the time to annotate these pictures. An invaluable historical document....more