This book is seriously over-rated. It is not in my top 80%, so I gave it 1 star. It is a marketing triumph, but a literary catastrophe.
It's incredibly...moreThis book is seriously over-rated. It is not in my top 80%, so I gave it 1 star. It is a marketing triumph, but a literary catastrophe.
It's incredibly disheartening for any aspiring author to see such a badly written book achieve so much success, while so many very good books and authors will never achieve the success they deserve. It's books like this which put me off wanting to be a writer. It seems that knowing how to build hype counts for so much more than being able to write well.
I was racking my brain, trying to remember a book I could give 1 star to. To add credibility to my good ratings, I ought to give low ratings. If the lowest rating I gave was 3 stars, then I'd be limiting myself to a 3-star system (3 stars being for the worst books, 5 for the best). Further, I believe I should give out my ratings in equal measure. Thus, 20% of my ratings should be 1 star, difficult as it is to hate a book that much and yet read it. It's also difficult to 1-star a book, for fear of upsetting the author. At least they tried. Bless 'em. 2 stars for effort, at the very least. But that would limit me to a 4-star system. I've been given 5 options, so I will use them.
You might say you love this book, and be bewildered by the thought that anybody could give it 1 star. I think it's outrageous that anyone can give it 5 stars. 4, I can accept. But 5 is silly. Did you give it 5 stars because everybody else did? People get hurt that way. Did I give it 1 star, in order to undo some of the damage done by the 5-starrers? Possibly. If this was an obscure book that virtually nobody knew about I would be more inclined to give it a higher rating. As it is, our expectation of this book was elevated by all the hype and praise. Could I give it 2 stars if it was obscure? I like to believe that I would say 'no'. Am I worried about upsetting this author? Not really. His ego has been massaged enough by all the ludicrous 5-star reviews. He needs somebody like me to bring him back down to Earth. I am good for him! He needs to be shown the error of his ways so that he doesn't make the same mistake again.
It frustrates me that the author could achieve so much success with something so pants. Big brown pants. Why do I hate it? Hmm. I found myself in somebody's car one day, on a longish trip. I found this book on the back seat and, for want of something to speed the journey along, I began reading it. When else would you persist with a rubbish book? I could not allow myself to review-and-rate a book that I had not read at all, and normally I would not continue to read a book I was hating. Although, I do usually intend to finish books after I begin reading them. Except this time. Long before the journey had ended I had closed the book with the words "that's quite enough of that". Truth be told, when I began it I thought: "ah, this is interesting and new - I've not read a book like this before". I stopped at about chapter 101. About half way through, I think. The novelty had worn off and I was bored. I decided that looking out of the car window was a better use of my time.
I recall that the chapters were very short. This tactic encourages readers to 'just read one more chapter'. But I didn't need to read any more. I was done. And I have no interest in ever going back to it. Who knows, maybe it gets good in the second half. I'll never know. I care not for the protagonist, and I think I had partly worked out what was going to happen anyway.
When this book was at the peak of its fame, people knew about it because of its gimmick: The story is told by an autistic boy who only uses prime numbers when numbering the chapters. That gets old quickly, and you're left with a very repetitive narrative. Some people have said that it doesn't represent autism properly (but others have said that it does). I think I remember thinking that it wasn't quite right. However, at the time I thought I was mildly autistic. It turns out I just have self-diagnosed OCD. So, I don't know how good the autism is. But the book is successful because of the autism. I'm sure that somebody can do a much better job of writing a story from an autistic angle. However, anybody that tries will be accused of being unoriginal. So this will forever remain the autism book. What a shame.(less)
Pitched as an introduction to philosophy, this book is actually very heavy going. Time and again I found myself re-reading sentences several times unt...morePitched as an introduction to philosophy, this book is actually very heavy going. Time and again I found myself re-reading sentences several times until I concluded that I couldn't get what the author was trying to say, before moving on to the next sentence, with some amount of hope that the previous sentence wasn't important anyway. It seems to me that modern philosophers have all reached the conclusion that the big questions have already all been answered as well as they are ever going to be. Therefore, the only way to find employment as a modern philosopher is to construct confusing answers for the unanswerable questions in order to hide the fact that, essentially, they have nothing new to say.
I started with the God chapter and it soon became apparent that the author is trying to prevent the reader from 'thinking' for themselves, by subtly peddling his mildly atheistic viewpoint. At least, I think that's what he was doing. It's hard to know for sure when you find yourself unable to read so much of it. To quote page 151: "To jump the gun a little, I am going to present a fair number of reasons against supposing that anything recognizable as religious belief is true. Some readers may feel threatened by this. They can take some comfort from the tradition in theology that the more unlikely a belief is to be true, the more meritorious is the act of faith required to believe it. But at the end of the chapter, the restless spirit of reflection will cause us to look at that view as well." Look at the nice long words he uses. And the long meandering sentences. This isn't even an example of one of his most impenetrable paragraphs. This is the paragraph that first alerted me to the fact that the author is not neutral, but wants us to think he is. Condescendingly, he tells us here that believing in God is reasonable, but wrong. I think :oS
So, that whole chapter is devoted to semi-dismissing some of the weaker arguments FOR the existence of God. Some people will be delighted and encouraged by the conclusions that the author shepherds us towards, but religious people, agnostics, free-thinking philosophers and even open-minded atheists (I know there are some) will be disappointed. Whoever you are, whatever you believe, you have to admit that there are zero bomb-proof arguments for or against the existence of God. From a religious point of view, that can only be a good thing. Evidence of God's existence would remove the need for faith, and with it all those meritorious benefits of faith-based belief. If there were any bomb-proof arguments against God, then we wouldn't keep getting fed with all the weaker arguments.
What would have been nice, and neutral, is a substantial section in which Simon exposes the flaws of the most common atheistic arguments AGAINST the existence of God. However, if you are a non-neutral author addressing this subject, then probably you are only ever going to be interested in arguing your side of the debate. Missed opportunity, epic fail. Did he do that because he is not confident enough in his atheism? If he was confident then he'd have no need to worry about arguing the other side. To paraphrase Epicurus: "Is Simon willing to be neutral, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is biased. Is he both willing and able? Then why argue only one side of a debate? Is he neither willing nor able? Then how can we call him a philosopher?" Shazam, my friends. Sha-zam!
The rest of the chapter is subdivided into bite-size chunks, but the sources he quotes are often even harder to digest than his own words. The first one is 11th century medieval monk St. Anselm. I won't repeat it here, but suffice to say it is written in a way which might have made sense to Anselm and his chums nearly 1000 years ago, but is pretty difficult to read for us today. Okay, one small part of Anselm's quote: "But when this same fool hears me say 'something than which nothing greater can be thought', he surely understands what he hears, and what he understands exists in his understanding; even if he does not understand that it exists (in reality)...". Urgh, is the word. Translation required, Mr Blackburn. Request denied.
Please don't allow this book to put you off the subject of philosophy. I have several philosophy books which are all much more readable than this. After reading most of the God chapter I can tell you that so far I have learned nothing interesting. A basic introduction, in terms of subjects dealt with, it may well be. But a basic introduction needn't be this difficult to read. I suspect that the people who say this is a good book, or not deep enough, are people who want to tell the world how intelligent and well-read they are. I am very intelligent, but I couldn't read this and I don't mind admitting it.(less)
Just finished the prologue. Am reading this concurrently with another Cornwell book, Azincourt, set 100 years later. I had high hopes to begin with be...moreJust finished the prologue. Am reading this concurrently with another Cornwell book, Azincourt, set 100 years later. I had high hopes to begin with because Cornwell has such a high reputation. But both these books are weird. Harlequin is more so.
Lines like "John farted and everyone laughed" and "somebody went for a piss" cause my eyebrows to ascend on most pages because I didn't expect such juvenile coarseness from the merry old gentleman pictured on the first page. Does the author really need to be coarse in order to make his coarse characters sound coarse? I don't think so. Then there are lines like "I'll pray by God's bowels that I will get revenge". God's bowels?
Most of the rest of the writing is quite good at building the medieval atmosphere I crave. The weirdest thing so far occurred between pages 10 and 11. The treasure is revealed to be the lance that England's St. George used to kill the dragon. Wha? If it had been the lance used to pierce Jesus' side when he was on the cross then that would have been historically verifiable. But dragons? Is this book one of historical fiction, or fantasy? I don't want to read fantasy.
And as for the lance being England's lance, because St. George is England's patron saint. Er, St. George has been claimed by lots of countries and territories. George almost certainly never visited the British Isles (or even western Europe), and lived several centuries before the country we call England came into existence. We adopted him as our saint because we needed a famous warmonger to inspire our troops during the crusades.(less)
I did not think I would see the day that I would read the biography of a celebrity, let alone love it. I spied it on my brother-in-law's bookshelf and...moreI did not think I would see the day that I would read the biography of a celebrity, let alone love it. I spied it on my brother-in-law's bookshelf and picked it up for some reason. After reading the back cover I just knew I wanted to read the whole book. I read it all inside a few weeks (which is good for me). Duncan wasn't my favourite dragon before I read his story, but now I am a fan.
This isn't a criticism, or at least I don't intend it to be, but in places he surprises me with how freely he talks about the private details of his love-life. The bigger surprise, however, was on page 231. I was not expecting that sort of thing from somebody who has everything. It was a revelation.
I would take issue with him on one front, however. That 'anyone can do it'? Even before I was half-way through, I had been convinced that his life is not the life for me. The risks he took to get his businesses off the ground, and the people he had to deal with (including turf wars and extortionists). Not anyone can do what he did, and I give him full kudos for having dragon-sized balls. I would like to believe that when he began his quest to become a millionaire businessman, there were 99 other people in the same situation, with the same talents and vision. But one-by-one they fell by the wayside as the risks they took ended in bankruptcy. 1 of those 100 entrepreneurs survived to tell the story. Here it is. Enjoy.
(Duncan, do you know what happened to all the baddies? Did the extortionist end up in jail? Is Paddy still selling ice-cream from a van? Did your Navy superior get his comeuppance? I'd really like to know.)(less)
Shortly after beginning this book I went on Amazon to see what people were saying about it. I expected 1-star and 5-star reviews to dominate, but I di...moreShortly after beginning this book I went on Amazon to see what people were saying about it. I expected 1-star and 5-star reviews to dominate, but I didn't expect the 1-star reviews to be well-argued, including by some persons claiming to be Christians. I expected the 1-stars to come from teenage boy atheists who had no intention of ever opening the book, let alone reading it from cover to cover.
I read it cover to cover, which is good going for me as I rarely get into books enough to get as far as 50 pages. I don't remember all of the criticism for this book, but one bit stands out. The bit where he actually tames a real tiger as part of his Kung Fu training. Did he have to fabricate this story in case anybody bought the book thinking it was about tiger-taming? The problem with it is that the tiger is white, and white tigers have been pretty much extinct in the wild for several decades, and certainly not known to exist in China. I don't know. To me it seems like a minor thing. I expect that most of the important details in the book are true. Why would Tony jeopardise his credibility by writing easily refutable lies, that just aren't important? So maybe it was true. Maybe there were white tigers in the part of China where he lived, but conservationists don't want their existence to be public knowledge in order to keep poachers away. I know of a peregrine falcon nest in Northumberland, but the RSPB would not want me to publicise such details. Or maybe the tiger he met was an albino, or just really pale, and he thought it was a white tiger because that's what his grandfather told him it was.
I enjoyed this book. The first half covers his Kung Fu training in China and later career as a bodyguard. The second half is all about his time in prison and his subsequent conversion to Christianity. Is he a three-time Kung Fu world champion? Possible. Can he wander through the Saudi Arabian desert with only a little water? Yeah, maybe. Did he tame a white tiger? I don't know. Should he have been more remorseful about the motorcyclist he killed. I don't think so, I think he was a bit over the top about that bit, probably in order to deflect some flack from stone-age types who go around preaching "an eye for a eye". Should he have lied to the police about it. No. Could he have gotten away with it by saying his headlamp was broken when he hit a deer one night, as he initially believed. I reckon. However, it turns out, going to prison (both times) was very good for him.
I'd like to meet Tony Anthony one day. I don't know what I would say to him, but I think I will have to try hard not to invent some sort of Kung Fu move for him to deal with. I expect he gets it all the time.(less)
I was more than a bit disappointed by this book. You expect it to be great because everyone has heard of it and several films have been made from it....moreI was more than a bit disappointed by this book. You expect it to be great because everyone has heard of it and several films have been made from it. But ultimately, it's all just a bit short and simple. There are good writers and good story-tellers, and never the twain shall meet. CS Lewis must be a good story-teller, because the writing isn't up to much. Four times in the first few chapters he remarks at how silly it is to climb inside a wardrobe and close the door behind you. I don't get that. Why four times? It's a good children's story, and not much more. I'm far too old to be enchanted by it now. Why did I expect I would be? It's a story which mirrors, very loosely, the story of Jesus. Aslan dies in order to save Edmund, and then comes back to life. You see it coming a mile off. And in case you are wondering, I'm certainly no atheist. Definitely not. I just feel this book is not for me. Maybe I will enjoy reading it to children one day.(less)
I can't rate this book as I have not read it, but I do have a question. What is exponential love?
I first heard about this book a few years ago through...moreI can't rate this book as I have not read it, but I do have a question. What is exponential love?
I first heard about this book a few years ago through Richard and Judy's book club thing, in which they showed a video of the authoress talking about her book. When she mentioned exponential love I jumped out of my chair and shouted "WHAT!!" at the television. But maybe she actually meant 'excellent love', or something similar. However, the very first paragraph of the book finishes with the words 'to be loved so exponentially'. What is she talking about? Does she think exponential is a synonym of 'excellent' that makes her sound erudite? I was furious at the time, but I've calmed down a bit since then. How could this writer get TV publicity? If her first paragraph wasn't even proof-read, then I fear for the rest of the book. I won't be touching it again.(less)
I started this book several years ago. I read most of it 2 years ago, but have only picked it up to carry on once since then. I was lost, so I put it...moreI started this book several years ago. I read most of it 2 years ago, but have only picked it up to carry on once since then. I was lost, so I put it down again. There are about 700 pages, and I am about 100 from the end. I will finish it one day, but I don't think I will read the sequels. It's just so long. I think it's very well written and the characters are very good too. I'd have written a better review 2 years ago because I can't remember much now.
Why did I stop? And why don't I finish it? I don't know. I just got bored I guess. I'm not craving to find out how it ends, because it's only part one of a trilogy. Having said that, I'm not even craving to find out what happens next. I guess it's just not my type of literature. But if that's true, how did I get so far through it?(less)
I learnt from this book that it is better to begin reading a book with low expectations and positive hope. With this book, however, I began with high...moreI learnt from this book that it is better to begin reading a book with low expectations and positive hope. With this book, however, I began with high expectations and negative hope, and so I was ultimately disappointed and somewhat relieved. Let me explain...
I wrote a book, which I would describe as funny and profound. My brother read it and told me my style is much like that of Robert Rankin. He then bought me a copy of this book, which he describes as his favourite novel. I respect my brother's opinions in matters like this, having grown up in his footsteps; liking the things he likes, and disliking the things he dislikes.
I was scared when I received The Book Of Ultimate Truths. I was worried that it would be much better than my effort. It was not just my brother's favourite novel, but the reviews on Amazon were all glowing with 4 or 5 stars. I did not want to discover that there was an author of great reputation, who was better than me and much earlier to the market. I wanted to be disappointed with this book. But I was also expecting great things.
Ultimately, it turned out that I had nothing to worry about. I got through it quite quickly, but every time I put it down I asked myself: "When is it going to get good? When is the author going to achieve his potential?" There are some good words in there, and I didn't dislike the story. But the humour takes a back seat, letting the plot do most of the driving (in my book, it is the other way around - I focussed upon making it funny, and neglected the story). As for the truths. Well, they are not profound or ultimate in any way. Ballpoint pens get themselves lost, while screws breed-and-multiply inside electrical appliances. We knew that already. A book of ultimate truths, this is not.
In conclusion, I feel a bit harsh giving this book only 2 stars. But 3 would be too generous, I think. I would give it 3 stars if I didn't already know about my book. It's not bad, but I won't read another Robert Rankin book, and I will be more cautious when listening to my brother's recommendations in future. If you read it without suffering lofty expectations, or hoping to hate it, then you will probably enjoy this book. Me, I've got more to fear from Douglas Adams, the author I was inspired by.
(If you disagree with this review, then you might not like my book, as you will begin reading it hoping it will be bad, but expecting it to be good.)(less)
You're going to be a bit disappointed in this book. When you first find out about it you'll think it's going to be brilliant but very soon you realise...moreYou're going to be a bit disappointed in this book. When you first find out about it you'll think it's going to be brilliant but very soon you realise there are only so many different email scams. You'll think how did the author write a whole book on this subject without repeating every scam 2 or 3 times? Then you might find out that he only went and wrote two more Bob Servant books. I don't know about them but I believe the third one is more of a Bob Servant (auto)biography. Maybe the second book is also different in some way. As for this, the first book, I will admit that there are some very funny moments that make you snigger a bit out loud.
The way he makes each chapter different is not by what the the scammers are trying to sell, but what crazy adventure Bob chooses to take them on. I like how he gets in trouble with the postman, then captures him and keeps him prisoner under his stairs and then ultimately they become best friends and so Bob no longer needs the legal advice he is sort of being sold by the scammer. That chapter wraps up nicely. Others are a bit more messy. One memorable one is where he makes more and more outlandish requests of Sasha as part of the business arrangement when Sasha (pimp) and Olga (girl) comes to stay with Bob in Dundee, from Russia. Would Sasha mind living in a bin? No. Would Sasha mind helping Bob try and beat his own record for weeing for a long time? No. Bob gives up. Obviously Sasha is on to him, and probably has been for a long time.
The book is introduced as though Bob is a friend of the author, but I suspect that Bob is entirely fictional, along with most of the correspondence he gets involved in. Maybe the original emails are true, and maybe up to half of some of the conversations may have occurred. But I also suspect that a lot of the book is entirely made up. That doesn't really take away from what is fun about this book. But by the time you get to the end of it you will have realised that this book is not quite what you thought it was going to be. Even if the correspondences are real you can be sure that the author has embellished them for the purpose of the book. The stories just come across as a bit too unbelievable at times. Maybe the author could have included shorter chapters in order to show that his stories don't always pan out. What happens when Bob has a really funny story planned but the scammer quits long before he finishes it? The fact that the chapters are all approximately the same length is something I find to be suspicious.(less)
There's a popular saying: "The film is never as good as the book". The Princess Bride is probably my favourite movie. I subsequently read this book. I...moreThere's a popular saying: "The film is never as good as the book". The Princess Bride is probably my favourite movie. I subsequently read this book. It's good, but it's not as good as the film. I like the bit at the beginning where a door is slammed in somebody's face, when something else should have happened instead. But apart from that, I can't remember anything else in the book which is good and isn't in the filmovie.
I disliked the long rambling sections about S. Morgenstern's original story. I got a bit tired of the author constantly telling me that this is only an abridged version of somebody else's epic story. It's too long as it is, so perhaps I should be glad that I didn't read the original version? Perhaps I ought to be grateful that Goldman abridged it for us.(less)