Meh. Spends an agonizingly long time on the golf game, the Fort Knox finale is over in no time, and the Pussy Galore conversion even less comprehensib...moreMeh. Spends an agonizingly long time on the golf game, the Fort Knox finale is over in no time, and the Pussy Galore conversion even less comprehensible than in the movie. A disappointment, albeit peppered with Fleming's often excellent turns of phrase.(less)
I struggled between 2 and 3 stars for this one, so here's my math:
Start with 5 stars and:
(A) subtract two stars at once for the not even remotely veil...moreI struggled between 2 and 3 stars for this one, so here's my math:
Start with 5 stars and:
(A) subtract two stars at once for the not even remotely veiled contempt Fleming has for all things that aren't white, male, British, straight, and fit. I used up my "1950s product of the times" patience with him when reviewing Live and Let Die (which was truly appalling in its racism), now I just feel like a masochist. Something of a minor tragedy too ... This may have played well with a certain target demographic in 1956, but poisoned some of the books for posterity.
(B) subtract another two stars for a fairly boring - nearly nonexistent - plot which isn't even carried all the way to conclusion. Other reviews have commented on the more-travelogue-than-story aspect of DAF, I'd have to agree. In this case add in the occasional jabs and sneers at 1950s America (locale of the travelogue) and it just gets tiresome. A pity, as some of the Bond novels have outstanding plots. This isn't one of them.
(C) add one star back for Fleming's incredible writing style which focuses on bringing out detail in every setting without becoming overwhelming or boring. Bond novel chapters are written like movie scenes. Their richness keeps the story going even when the story is MIA.
Surprisingly good and refreshing as one of the few bond tales not to be carved up and turned into movie fodder. Definitely in my top 3 Bond books so f...moreSurprisingly good and refreshing as one of the few bond tales not to be carved up and turned into movie fodder. Definitely in my top 3 Bond books so far.(less)
Wow, surprisingly good out of a genre I thought I had left behind; beholden to my Goodreads friends for the recommend. I'd agree with some other revie...moreWow, surprisingly good out of a genre I thought I had left behind; beholden to my Goodreads friends for the recommend. I'd agree with some other reviewers that this book evoked the same reaction in me as early King, before I got bored with King's progression ... Almost tempted to say the son may have surpassed the father as this book is in many ways cleverer, more engaging, and more artful than most King I've read.(less)
Excellent story, great writing. At times (especially in the middle) the "epic" nature causes it to drag and become a little redundant. ... But overall...moreExcellent story, great writing. At times (especially in the middle) the "epic" nature causes it to drag and become a little redundant. ... But overall very satisfying.(less)
This book was a pleasant surprise; military history isn't typically my cup of tea but I gave it a crack. While a bit dense it was very enjoyable.
For r...moreThis book was a pleasant surprise; military history isn't typically my cup of tea but I gave it a crack. While a bit dense it was very enjoyable.
For readers who aren't already familiar with the four admirals the book will likely start slow; treating their family histories, Naval Academy years and early careers, there is little to differentiate between the four 'young admirals' as their stories are told simultaneously, and their individual character profiles take time to build up. The payoff for this buildup is that once the narrative switches over to World War II, telling the story of the war in the Pacific through the eyes/careers of the admirals ends up being a very effective way of communicating the history to distant (and in my case, previously disengaged) audiences. While not a page-turner, the book definitely builds in momentum in a very satisfying way.
As a treatise on leadership, the book is interesting but not completely compelling. Clearly (and the book asserts) these are four leaders with completely different leadership styles, but there isn't necessarily a complete connection between having these attributes (as many do) and attaining the leadership role (as many don't). Indeed, the first half of the book makes clear that their ascension to positions from which to conduct leadership was as much about careful, artful, and sometimes lucky choices of next-career-steps (especially within the Navy politics and bureaucracy), as it was about their personal characteristics. Perhaps that is the take-home, but the conclusion seems to imply it was all about their personal character. Another review here makes the case that the book relies as much on emotion as on demonstration; I wouldn't go quite so far, and the emotional content is quite compelling, but the critique that the leadership case isn't fully closed I think still lies.
Regardless, if the subject and content sound intriguing, and readers are willing to embrace a book midway between history, biography, and exposition, I think they are likely not to be disappointed.(less)
I started Skunk Works expecting to like it, but not expecting to love it as much as I did. Other reviews here recap its content well - it covers the...more I started Skunk Works expecting to like it, but not expecting to love it as much as I did. Other reviews here recap its content well - it covers the period of SW history in which the U-2, Blackbird, and F-117A stealth bomber were developed (along with some less well known ventures such as high altitude spy drones and a stealth ship), and does good justice both to the incredible engineering and the cold war context and political climate of the day.
Rich's personal story is enhanced with 2-3 page "other voices" sections contributed by program managers, administration officials, test and operational pilots, DoD brass, etc. These add alot of depth and help keep the narrative moving and interesting. You don't need to be an engineer to enjoy this book, but it is a fine and actually exciting capture of the incredible engineering that went into developing these aircraft.(less)
This book appeared most insistently at the top of my Goodreads recommends after I added a couple of Ken Follets, and while I wasn't overly impressed w...moreThis book appeared most insistently at the top of my Goodreads recommends after I added a couple of Ken Follets, and while I wasn't overly impressed with the KFs or the genre, I followed the "trust goodreads" rule and gave it a whirl. Glad I did ... Whole different class.
I confess to having missed the Shakespearean treatment of Richard III (beyond the somewhat perplexing "1930s fascist England" movie version of the mid 90s), knew little of the conventional Tudor histories, and of the period in general... So I found my way halfway through the book before desiring to learn a bit about how much of it was grounded in truth (by that point, the various plots and romances were starting to accumulate to bordering on the potentially contrived). A quick trip to Wikipedia confirmed its authenticity at the expense of divulging "spoilers" (though in a different way increased my satisfaction with the rest of the book). If you're inclined to try this out and want to remain spoiler free, be assured its anchored fairly closely in history, and that it attempts to tell a Yorkist/Plantagenet version of that history unreconstructed by subsequent Tudor historians. (This alone makes it interesting fodder).
I'm no expert but it seems to also be reasonably period appropriate in writing and narrative as well; occasionally I had a vague sense that I might be reading some anachronisms in either language or worldview, but nothing I could specifically put my finger on and nothing so much as to distract or detract from enjoying the story.
Still not sure if I'm a huge fan of historical fiction but if I dip my toe in again, it'll likely be for a Sharon Key Penman novel.
As with some others on Goodreads, I found this book a little hard to rate, thinking it a "3.5" and opting for a 4 star rating from an "E for Effort" s...moreAs with some others on Goodreads, I found this book a little hard to rate, thinking it a "3.5" and opting for a 4 star rating from an "E for Effort" standpoint. Part of this is high expectations on my part based on affinity for Silver's FiveThirtyEight election prediction work.
The book is well researched and covers a nicely diverse array of example topics, including but not limited to economics, betting, sports, weather, climate, earthquakes and terrorism. The diversity keeps the interest going. A challenge here is that few of the examples were unfamiliar to me; ironically as the book is ultimately about Bayesian inference, there may be a little bit of a Bayesian thing going on relative to those most likely to buy/read and those most likely to have prior exposure and be left wanting more. The same thinking might suggest that the book is targeted more towards readers attracted by Silver's political forecasts than those with a wonkish or professional interest in prediction itself.
For the latter, Silver redeems by offering something hard to find in similar popular literature, a high level synthesis across both realms and disciplines in prediction. A contrast with Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow and Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds (both of which Silver draws from) helps illustrate: While these two books are by no means peers (Kahneman's represents a lifetime of scholarship, Surowiecki's is more management faddish), as books, both suffer a bit from "the curse of knowledge" - the authors' over familiarity with the often contradictory details leaves the reader rudderless on how to apply the findings in practice.
Silver, instead, takes a first step towards synthesis. This is welcome, although occasionally questions do arise about the formal correctness of mixing and matching themes and findings from very the different predictive methods (regression, classification, physics based modeling, simulation, etc) covered in the book. Absent a unifying framework to relate these methods (Silver is clearly an applied forecaster rather than a theoretician) the reader must rely on his claims to authority by experience (as well as the depth of research indicated by heavy citation) in trusting the synthesis and recommendations.
Overall, Silver ends up on the positive side of the trust ledger sheet, and even for readers already familiar with the topical examples, he provides enough additional color, as well as thought provoking commentary, to make it all worthwhile.(less)
Wow! This book is not only beautiful but really interesting. Far more than just a nostalgia coffee-table piece, the text is both interesting and thoug...moreWow! This book is not only beautiful but really interesting. Far more than just a nostalgia coffee-table piece, the text is both interesting and thought-provoking.
I found the best chapters / collections to be those on the human form, and on modern art influences. In these not only were the graphics themselves stunning, but the narrative added significant depth. I was a smidge less interested in the chapters that spent more time writing about technical details - the content seemed too deep for a non-aerospace reader, but "already known" for insiders.
A surprising side to this book was how many of the advertisements are focused on recruiting, reflecting the early space age ramp up. To this end the ad copy itself is often very interesting as well.
I gather the author is hard at work on another book. Can't wait!(less)
A good lesson against impulse buying based on Amazon "you might be interested in..." recommendations without checking Goodreads first. This book was a...moreA good lesson against impulse buying based on Amazon "you might be interested in..." recommendations without checking Goodreads first. This book was a huge disappointment.
First, the easy: design-wise, the book is awful. Typographically it's a train wreck, even in its attempts to be "nostalgic". The layout is off in many ways, and the graphics frequently include unnecessarily large blow-ups of screened / stippled newsprint type images that make them almost unrecognizable. In some cases it looks like this effect was intentionally applied. It's just ugly and not pleasant to read and the nostalgic angle gets old after a few pages.
With respect to content, it's fairly lazy. Almost completely comprised of very short snippets from old Popular Mechanics magazines with minimal commentary. The order is hodge-podge, and the selections only mildly interesting. The book could have been so much more had it taken a "predicted vs actual" approach towards what was technologically anticipated versus how it turned out. A few items have schlocky "True!" stickers next to them but a perplexingly large number don't, even thought they effectively panned out, just not quite in the ways anticipated in the PM blurbs.
I liked this much more than Red Mars, but the plodding nature of some of the prose still kept it from being a 5-star review.
Green Mars delves (to its...moreI liked this much more than Red Mars, but the plodding nature of some of the prose still kept it from being a 5-star review.
Green Mars delves (to its benefit) much deeper into the human and sociopolitical side of the story. The agonizing "travelogues" of Red Mars as mercifully truncated (most of the time, though occasionally replaced by equally dense forays into the mechanics of lichens). The historical sweep is wonderful and, amazingly, continues to be plausible.
Perhaps the most interesting facet of the book - almost a central theme - is an exploration of what it would be like to live to 140, on a very personal level. Robinson handles this extremely well and brings a fair bit of creativity and color to the topic. It helps to humanize and build engagement with the characters, something I thought was lacking in the first book.
Overall, if you made it through the first book ... Keep reading. The story is rich, deep and rewarding.(less)
Try as I might like, I just can't give this third volume any more than a 3 ("OK" in my book). Readers of Red and Green Mars will want to round out the...moreTry as I might like, I just can't give this third volume any more than a 3 ("OK" in my book). Readers of Red and Green Mars will want to round out the trilogy, and it ends up being satisfying, but as with RM and GM I found this book more impressive than enjoyable (to a greater extent than the first two; GM seemed to be the peak).
The last quarter or so is the best, but it takes a long and sometimes painfully meandering road to get there. I found myself often wishing someone had rolled up a newspaper and bopped KSR on the nose and said "NO!" at one of the many indulgent detours into the details of soil physics, particle physics, yachting, running, or whatever other minutiae on Mars he wanted to write about that chapter. A little on the harsh side, but there are times when BM felt like reading The Gulag Archipelago - painfully documentary rather than enjoyably narrative. This extended beyond the topical deep dives, as way too much of the first half is spent exploring the angst and displacement of key POV characters trying to figure out who they are and what to do, post-revolution - but never ending up anywhere. This is also true of a somewhat dull and narratively pointless excursion back to Earth.
The book picks up towards the end, and there are some very interesting and as always thought provoking chapters on other colonized solar system bodies, a little bit of broader colonized solar system politics, and deeper development of his really well-thought out theme of the effects of hyper-aging and senescence. One POV character's personal journey and transformation is closed out at the end, and it is satisfying, but as above, far too many others (whose 'displacement stories' readers had invested a lot of time and patience into this volume) are left hanging, leaving the impression of several long morality tales without a point.
Fabulous, outstanding, beautiful. Everything worked about this compilation. The design, layout and binding are gorgeous. The photos are lavish and oft...moreFabulous, outstanding, beautiful. Everything worked about this compilation. The design, layout and binding are gorgeous. The photos are lavish and often full/oversized and top quality with just the right mix of iconic and "behind the scenes" to add interest. The text/interviews are interesting enough to read cover to cover (I did and didn't regret it). Over the chapters (one for each film) they begin to get a little formulaic by the time the 80s roll around (not unlike the films themselves): setup on evolution of the story and script, nuggets about the stunts and effects, commentary by some actors, then a final section on promotion, release and reception. That said, the formula works, and the text becomes more interesting again during the Dalton, Brosnan and Craig "rebirths". Completeness all the way through contemporary Skyfall is a major bonus.
At its price tag this book is a bit of an indulgence, but well worth every penny.(less)