The Application of Hopeby Kristine Kathryn Rusch—Victoria Sabin is a captain in the Fleet. Her people have traveled the stars for generatio...more Novella
The Application of Hopeby Kristine Kathryn Rusch—Victoria Sabin is a captain in the Fleet. Her people have traveled the stars for generations, always moving from one place to another, never settling down and never circling back to a previous stop.
Years ago, her father's ship disappeared. That loss pushed her to develop her engineering, science, and leadership skills so that she could personally be involved in the search. Now, years later, another captain has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Will the application of hope be enough to see her through the crisis?
I really enjoyed this story. Enough so that I'll be checking out Rusch's other books set in this universe. It seemed to hit some of the same emotional notes as Stone to Stone, Blood to Blood but from a different direction. Easily 4 stars.
Stone to Stone, Blood to Bloodby Gwendolyn Clare—"Two young men living on a planet far from us in time and space take off on a desperate attempt to out run their destiny.“Duyi, the heir to the Regency, and Feng, his bodyguard brother, attempt to escape from the palace. Waiting for them if they fail: Duyi's upcoming ceremony where he has to make a personality changing oath of loyalty to Duyi's sister: the Regent. They'll try to change their fates and that of their culture. 4 stars.
Arlingtonby Jack Skillingstead—In 1982, sixteen year old Paul Birmingham got lost above the Olympic Peninsula, while attempting his first solo cross country flight. Thirty years later, he's living alone, in great pain, slowly dying. He buys the plane he flew in 1982 and tries to retrace his earlier flight and the events that followed. What happened to him in 1982 changed his life forever, trapping him in a solo existence. 4 stars.
Lost Waxby Gregory Norman Bossert—Artists battling the revolution with their hearts and hands reveal the terrifying weapon that can be sculpted with Lost Wax. I'm not even sure how to describe this story. Steampunk? But with vats of yeast as the motivating agent instead of steam? It was odd. And interesting. And contained mechanical golems, called golethe. And possibly about what makes us human, in and among the machines. I'll give it three stars.
The Ex-Corporalby Leah Thomas—"It had been several weeks since the ex-corporal had replaced our father. The ex-corporal wore his skin very well, seeping right into Dad's follicles and wrinkles, occupying Dad's dimples when he smiled.”
Dad abruptly started suffering epileptic seizures. After his seizures, he acted like a different man. Did the seizures propel his consciousness to different worlds in the multiverse? Did someone else visit our world, through his body? Or was it all just mental illness? 4 stars.
This may be my favorite issue of Asimov's yet. I liked all but one of the stories and I really loved several of them. I've been thinking about canceling my subscription, after reading some of the previous issues. This one really makes me question that and makes me excited to see what's ahead in September's issue. Overall, 4 stars. (less)
It's time to throw in the towel on this one. It's been on my "currently reading" shelf for 7 months now. It's time to move it to the "started-not-fini...moreIt's time to throw in the towel on this one. It's been on my "currently reading" shelf for 7 months now. It's time to move it to the "started-not-finished" shelf.
I bought this book last February, when Amazon had it on sale for just $1.99. I'd heard other conservatives reference it, as a good insight into the Reagan years and the problems President Reagan dealt with. I'd hoped it would be both entertaining and informative. It wasn't.
At the outset, I thought the diaries were bland and mechanical but I kept pressing through. I had a moment of optimism when I read the January 18 1983 entry. Reagan said: "I think I've been doing wrong in these diaries for 3 yrs. I've made them a logbook of the days schedule & those schedules are all in the archives. I guess I should be noting other things so I'll start now." The entries got a little bit better but they still weren't what I was looking for.
Mostly, I found the entries to be short on real detail and repetitive. I was looking for vivid pictures of the various world leaders and important figures that Reagan interacted with. What I got were generalities ("We got along well and I think he'll be a true friend"). Most of the entries seemed to fit into one of several templates. For instance, while visiting a foreign nation he'd often write: "We drove the streets and the people lined the side for miles each way. We were told it was the most enthusiastic reception any American had ever been given." On domestic politics, he'd frequently write: "Meet with House R's. They're for us but powerless against the D's". Or: "Met with Senate R's. Sometimes I think they're more against us than the D's are". Or: "Gave a speech. Calls have been coming in 10-1 in our favor".
I learned some things while reading the book. It was especially interesting to see early mentions of people like Donald Rumsfeld, who would later have much more prominent roles in other administrations. But in the end, it felt like I was wading through a lot of uninteresting, repetitious entries to get to those nuggets. I hardly ever picked it up and read it. I finally decided that I should admit defeat and concentrate on something else.(less)
It felt really long. Obviously, it was long. But some long books feel short and some short books feel l...moreI have a few thoughts after reading this book.
It felt really long. Obviously, it was long. But some long books feel short and some short books feel long. This book felt really long.
How in the world did we manage to elect a neurotic, insecure, narcissistic man like Nixon to the Presidency? Especially one who would work in close partnership with another thin-skinned neurotic, in Kissinger? Sure, Johnson was also a power hungry manipulator. But he wasn't actually mentally unstable the way that Nixon appears to have been.
Why does Dallek always refer to Nixon as “Nixon” but mostly refer to Kissinger as “Henry”? It seems very odd.
It's a wonder that the U.S., and the rest of the world, survived the Nixon / Kissinger partnership as well as they did. Between Chile, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pakistan War, it was pretty bad. But it could have been a whole lot worse.
The book was aptly titled. It was entirely about situations that involved both Nixon and Kissinger. Dallek focused exclusively on foreign policy. He entirely excluded domestic policy from the book. Aside from the inescapable inclusion of Watergate during the last 6 months of Nixon's Presidency, you could be forgiven for forgetting that anything outside of foreign policy even happened between 1968 and 1974.
Even Nixon himself disappeared from the pages of the book when he wasn't dealing with foreign policy. Dallek focused almost exclusively on Kissinger's actions during the last 6 months of Nixon's presidency.
If you want an overview of the Nixon presidency combined with his partnership with Kissinger, I can't recommend this book. If you're interested in the detailed day by day account of Nixon and Kissinger's foreign adventures together, this is the book you've been looking for.(less)
Start with a family reunion. Focus on the black sheep of the family. Make him wealthy. Now give him a nerdily interesting, checkered past. Finally set...moreStart with a family reunion. Focus on the black sheep of the family. Make him wealthy. Now give him a nerdily interesting, checkered past. Finally set him up as the creator of a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game that's built around making money in creative ways that other MMORPG's find distasteful.
The MMORPG is called T'Rain, built on the back of a truly nitpicky landscape generator called TERRAIN. (Terrain, T'Rain, get it?) It's set up with the careful attention to detail , accuracy, and knowledge of geek culture that only Stephenson can provide.
This is all part of the setup and it does take a while to set up and to start the story rolling. But once stolen data is encrypted by a virus (called REAMDE) and held hostage for (virtual) ransom, things start rolling along. Stephenson sets up a story that rolls along like billiard balls or a Rube Goldberg machine. One set of characters takes action that results in then careening into a new set of characters who are then jolted into action and sent careening into a new, completely separate and different, set of characters. And the actions just bangs along from one continent to another.
Or, at least, it seems to at the beginning. But once Stephenson has introduced all of the characters, he seems to lose control of the narrative. Within a short while, the book consumes itself with the intricate details of how, exactly, characters move from one location to another. Given the sheer number of characters Stephenson introduced, that poses a bit of a problem.
The story just switched from character to character to character to character to character, showing how they were moving around. Even the action sequences, when they finally came, suffered as too many characters were doing too many things in too many different locations. It was a chore to keep track of everyone and where Stephenson last left them. The ending, when it finally came, was a blessed relief that even managed to feel rushed.
Ultimately, Reamde is a book with some good ideas about the MMORPG gaming world and how it interacts with the real world. But it's a mediocre action story that could have used a good bit of reductive editing.(less)
After reading (and being disappointed by) Darkship Renegades, I decided to read something from Heinlein himself, to cleanse the palate. I’d heard about Tunnel in the Sky last July, from a blog comment on Tor.com.
Whenever you’re sitting around and thinking to yourself, “You know I could really go for a novel in which is exactly like Lord of the Flies, but only in space,” then this is your book. Funnily enough, this book was published the same year as Golding’s Lord of the Flies and if it were up to me, it would be taught instead. The primary SF conceit of the novel deals with interplanetary colonization through big teleport jumps. Naturally some younger folks get stranded and certain ugly aspects of human nature are revealed. The only one of Heinlein’s “juvenilia” that I feel gets overlooked, and easily my favorite from that period.
It’s a short read and I ripped through it pretty quickly. But it’s a good one. As a “juvenile” (what we’d now call young adult) novel, it’s a coming of age novel. Heinlein writes a story that’s character driven, moves quickly, and is entertaining.
Heinlein spends a lot of time talking (through the story’s events) about responsibility, proper attitudes towards survival, and what makes civilization. He uses the story to make a strong argument that proper government is a necessary component of civilization. That sounds odd, coming from a libertarian, but I think he wins his argument.
The government doesn’t have to be large, overbearing, or especially powerful. But there are certain tasks that need to be done to protect the civilization (no matter how small it is). There are certain matters of organization and defense that need to be arranged. Someone has to give those orders and everyone else has to accept those orders as legitimate and proper.
Humanity invented government to allow that to happen. The type of government will differ in different times and different places. And each group of people will need to make their own decisions about what constitutes legitimate authority. Heinlein effortlessly illustrates all of this through the story as these lost students (high school and college aged) work to build a society once they realize that they’ve been stranded on an alien planet.
This story works on all levels. It’s both thought provoking and entertaining. The philosphy doesn’t interfere with the adventure, it merely backs it up and deepens it. This is definitely a story that I’ll be recommending to my daughters as they grow older.
Murder on the Aldrin Express—The hard nosed captain of a solar transport investigates a potential murder....moreThere were some decent stories in this issue.
Murder on the Aldrin Express—The hard nosed captain of a solar transport investigates a potential murder. There are more than a few references to a similarly named Agatha Christie story.
Creatures From a Blue Lagoon—Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an intergalactic, inter species veterinarian? Probably not nearly as much fun as you'd think. But this story was fun.
Life of the Author Plus Seventy—Debts. Cryogenics. And statutes of limitations. Can you win against the machine?
Wreck Support—Archaeological find of an ancient tech support document.
The Dresden series continues to be the most interesting urban fantasy I've ever read. Dresden's Chicago feels very real. The people feel real. They do...moreThe Dresden series continues to be the most interesting urban fantasy I've ever read. Dresden's Chicago feels very real. The people feel real. They do stupid things, for petty reasons, that have horrible consequences. When ghosts and vampires are involved, those horrible consequences can actually be very horrible indeed. Butcher's vampires are different from the traditional fantasy vampires, giving them an aura of reality too.
I continue to like the fact that Dresden is very much the opposite of an invulnerable hero. This book continues the trend of letting Dresden get the crap beat out of him, forcing him to continually reach deeper just to keep moving forward. The only complaint I have is that there are a few instances in which it feels like he should be completely finished. Instead, he's saved by a conveniently timely rescue or an extra burst of power. But that's a small complaint for what is, overall, a very good story.
And the final fight sequence is worth the price of admission all by itself. If I could watch that on the big screen, I'd be a happy fan indeed.(less)
I've probably read this book 4 or 5 times over a 15 year period. I like it as much now as I did when I first read it. I can unreservedly recommend it....moreI've probably read this book 4 or 5 times over a 15 year period. I like it as much now as I did when I first read it. I can unreservedly recommend it.
The title is taken from a quote by Friedrich Schiller: "Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens." ("Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.") The novel is divided into three sections: "Against Stupidity", "The gods themselves", "Contend in Vain?". Asimov features completely different characters in each of the three sections. The story revolves around parallel universes and the different physical laws that affect each universe. The physics of our universe and the para universe are absolutely integral to the story.
Specifically, the strong nuclear force is weaker in our universe than it is in the parallel universe. This has all kinds of interesting effects. The para-suns are smaller and cooler than our own. Because the strong nuclear force is stronger there than it is here, it's possible for matter to stick together even as the atoms are farther apart. This, in turn, means that life there is different. Life forms can change their solidity at will, even thinning out to an amorphous gas without actually losing physical cohesion.
Asimov uses these physical differences in the parallel universe to comment on society and sex in our own universe. The para universe has many interesting parallels to our own society, even as the story stays true to the physical laws of the para universe.
As you'd might expect, the novel also deals with stupidity and pride in its various manifestations in varying people. I liked the portrayals of each of the main characters and their motivations. The characters' attitudes drive the story. They act according to their own motivations as they each grapple with the physical laws and the way that the physical laws vary between universes. (less)
Literary fiction. It’s the one genre (if you can call it that) that the reviewer has studiously avoided. And, yet, here he is. Writing a review of a literary novel. And not just any literary novel. Joe’s writing a review of a novel that was picked by Oprah, for her noted national book club.
The reviewer thinks it’s worth reflecting on how Joe got here. There was definitely some overconfidence and hubris involved. There was a sense that Joe could read the tea leaves better than others. Joe bet on the outcome of an election and lost. The tide of events was stronger than the strength of his convictions. In losing, he temporarily sacrificed control of his reading time.
Joe’s good friend Adam believed that Joe’s loss reflected bigger things. (That, at least, is how the reviewer chooses to view matters.) Perhaps a view of culture that’s too constricted. Maybe an unbalanced reading list. Or a narrowness of mind. Whatever the reason, Adam assigned him the task of reading and reviewing Freedom.
Joe immediately suspected that this book represented the heretofore avoided “literary fiction” shelf. Never having actually bothered to fully define literary fiction, he was forced to do so. Naturally, he consulted Wikipedia on the topic.
Literary fiction, in general, focuses on the subjects of the narrative to create “introspective, in-depth character studies” of “interesting, complex and developed” characters. This contrasts with paraliterary fiction where “generally speaking, the kind of attention that we pay to the subject in literature … has to be paid to the social and material complexities of the object”.
Literary fiction does not focus on plot as much as paraliterary fiction. Usually, the focus is on the “inner story” of the characters who drive the plot with detailed motivations to elicit “emotional involvement” in the reader.
The tone of literary fiction is usually serious and, therefore, often darker than paraliterary fiction.
The pacing of literary fiction is slower than paraliterary fiction. As Terrence Rafferty notes, “literary fiction, by its nature, allows itself to dawdle, to linger on stray beauties even at the risk of losing its way.”
Neal Stephenson has suggested that while any definition will be simplistic there is a general cultural difference between literary and genre fiction, created by who the author is accountable to. Literary novelists are typically supported by patronage via employment at a university or similar institutions, with the continuation of such positions determined not by book sales but by critical acclaim by other established literary authors and critics. Genre fiction writers seek to support themselves by book sales and write to please a mass audience.
Joe found that this description captured what he’d always feared about literary fiction. The genre represents novelists, freed from the constraints of financial or popular success, writing slow, serious, dark, plotless novels about the inner lives of characters. It sounded like a recipe for a boring, depressing book. And his honor depended on him reading it, finishing it, and reviewing it.
The thought of this book filled Joe with dread. He had to spend nearly a week nerving himself to start it, expecting weeks of painful slogging. Reality was a pleasant surprise. (The last time in this narrative that it would be.) Freedom was easy to read and did give the reader some incentive to progress through the story. Once started, he didn’t feel tortured by his continued progress through it. Nevertheless, his fears weren’t groundless. It was slow, serious, dark, and mostly (but not entirely) plotless. It focused on the inner lives of its characters, for the purpose of revealing their flaws and selfish motivations. For this reason, Joe would never consider it a page turner or book that he was eager to pick up.
What did Joe read? He read the story of Walter and Patty Berglund, a socially aware couple, leading the gentrification of a neighborhood in St. Paul, Minnesota. Outwardly, they were well matched and successful. They had two kids, a nice house and a secure income.
The reality was less pretty. Patty Berglund doted on her son, Joey, to the exclusion of both husband Walter and daughter Jessica. Walter, perhaps in reaction to Patty’s weird indulgences of Joey, constantly fought with Joey and doted on Jessica (whom Patty nearly ignored). Patty always claimed (both to herself and to others) that Walter was the center of her life. But she really lusted after Walter’s college friend, Richard Katz, being nearly unable to sexually resist him. Richard was a struggling, principled, indie rocker. Walter constantly competed with him, like the brother that he’d always wished he’d had. Patty constantly wished she could be with Richard but feared irretrievably damaging Walter’s psyche.
Freedom starts with an overview of the Bergland’s early life in their neighborhood, focusing on Patty’s interactions with their neighbors. Then it suddenly detours into about 200 pages of Patty’s therapeutic autobiography before jolting back to the main narrative. The reviewer had to read about the inner life of each Berglund, as well as the inner life of Richard Katz. The narrative showed how Patty’s screwed up family life led to the screwed up way that she treated her own children. It showed how Walter’s screwed up family life led to the screwed up way that he treated his own children. It showed how Katz just enjoyed screwing up everyone’s life.
(The reviewer should mention, at this point, that there are no pleasant or sympathetic characters in this novel. At multiple points during each character’s time on screen, he entertained fantasties of throttling each character and walking away. The reviewer cheerfully admits to avoiding “stupid” people and resents that Franzen thinks there is something to be gained by spending large quantities of time with said stupid people.)
(And, how is the reader supposed to interpret Franzen’s portrayal of Patty? Does she really say “ha ha ha” in a pathetic attempt at sarcastic humor? Or is that merely Franzen’s lame attempt at communicating the sound of laughter during those times in which he doesn’t want to just say “she laughed”?)
Freedom is so named (so the reviewer thinks) because it portrays a modern American family, living a life full of “freedom”. But, ultimately, that freedom doesn’t really make them happy. Pretty much everyone is miserable in some way, at every point of the story.
Now that he has finished the book, the reviewer does have a trinitarian question. “So what? What’s the point? Why does this book exist?” Are Americans really that oblivious to the life around them that they require a novelist to document it and point out its flaws? Does a certain, perhaps self-righteous, segment of society enjoy reading how about other portions of society go about ruining their lives?
At the risk of either boasting or appearing self congratulatory, the reviewer feels that he has a rich and detailed introspective view of his own life. His own inner narrative sounds remarkably like a literary fiction novel. No aspect of human nature, revealed by Freedom, was a revelation to him. It was ultimately dreary and uninteresting. If the reviewer wants a revealing view of human nature, he need only open the newspaper. (The sad story of General Petraeus and Patricia Broadwell teaches us that much.) He finds that literary fiction may be enlightening without being entertaining.
I've spent the last 85 days either reading about, or thinking about, the Third Reich. I certainly never intended to do that. Thanks to the magic of eb...moreI've spent the last 85 days either reading about, or thinking about, the Third Reich. I certainly never intended to do that. Thanks to the magic of ebooks, I had no idea that this was an 1100+ page book. But I'd been realizing that I didn't really know that much about World War II or the Nazis, so I added it to my Kindle and started reading it. By the time I realized how long it actually was, I was hooked.
This is one of the most footnoted books that I've read. But it wasn't boring or dry. Shirer writes like a journalist (which he was), keeps the narrative flowing, and strives to entertain the reader. He was in Berlin before and during the rise of the Nazi party. He had familiarity with all of the major actors and many of the major events. He's not shy about relating those observations and judgments. Some of the best parts of the book are his casual putdowns and insults of the Nazi leaders. He'd seen the buffoonery first hand and isn't afraid to point out just how ridiculous these evil men could be. These personal observations and commentary do much to bring the narrative to life.
This may be the best 1100+ page overview of a subject that you'll ever read. And it's definitely an overview. Shirer does cover the rise of the Adolf Hitler, the Nazi party, and the Third Reich and its eventual downfall. He covers the major events, turning points, and decisions of World War II. The further I got into the book, the more I realized just how much he was leaving out. He only gives a cursory mention to some of the major battles, events, and characters of the war.
How could it be otherwise? There was simply too much going on during this period of history for any one book to cover it in great detail. This book can't do that, but it can give you the lay of the land. Afterward you've read this, should you desire to read more, you'll certainly have a good idea of what topics you could dive into. And Shirer's detailed footnotes (20% of the book!) will give you some great ideas of where to go diving.(less)
I first became interested in this book when I read N. K. Jemisin's write up in Scalzi's "Big Idea" feature.
I’m supposed to talk about the idea that to
...moreI first became interested in this book when I read N. K. Jemisin's write up in Scalzi's "Big Idea" feature.
I’m supposed to talk about the idea that touched off the Dreamblood duology here, but if I talked only about that, this would be a really short post. That’s because it wasn’t a very big idea, at least at first; really, I just wanted to write about ninja priests. Nothing grand or revolutionary, nothing especially thought-provoking, no gods or universes at stake. Just shadowy figures who would creep into people’s rooms in the dead of night and… I dunno, bless them to death or something. “Missed you at confessional today, Bob.” “Wha — AGCK!” That was how all this began.
But that’s the punchline of a bad joke, not a story, and fortunately the image that popped into my head to accompany it was considerably less silly than the idea itself. I envisioned a man — tall, shaven bald, remarkable in his stillness both physically and spiritually — standing at the foot of a bed and contemplating the person who slept there, whom he meant to kill. This man, this priest, would work only at night; indeed, night would be a holy time for him. And the clincher of his character was that he wouldn’t be doing it for some paltry material reward or to satisfy a bloodthirsty god; he would be doing it because he cared. He would intend only the best for his victims; indeed, he would be trying to save them from a far worse fate. He would love them. And what could be more effective — or relentless — than an assassin motivated by love?
It's a rare gem. A fantasy novel, based on Egyptian and Nubian culture with a magical system based on dreams called narcomancy. Yes, please. I don't finish many of the series that I start but this one is looking like a definite exception.(less)
I've heard of Robert Silverberg, of course. It's hard to be fan of the "golden age" of science fiction and *not* have heard about Silverberg. But I've...moreI've heard of Robert Silverberg, of course. It's hard to be fan of the "golden age" of science fiction and *not* have heard about Silverberg. But I've never really read him before. (My library growing up had a far larger selection of Asimov and Heinlein than it did of Silverberg.) In many ways, this was my first real exposure to his stories.
And what an exposure it is. All of these short stories are excellent. As he explains in the introduction, this was the beginning of the period in which he began to take his craft seriously and to write stories that he could be proud of. These are, dare I say it?, literary science fiction stories. Oh, the wonder of strange things is there. But the stories are more focused on what it means to be human than they are on what the technology is.
My favorite story of the collection also happens to lead off the collection: *To See the Invisible Man*. What if your sentence was to be legally invisible for a year—no one can respond to you, talk to you, help you, or hinder you in any way. Would it be heaven? Or hell?
*Neighbors* concerns two men who have hated each other their entire lives. *Hawkwsbill Station* is a bleak story about political prisoners who have been exiled to the Paleozoic era, where trilobites are the only life. *Bride 91* concerns a man who marries for the 91st time—every marriage to a female of a different alien race. All of these stories are superbly written and bleak in some way that's truly human.
This is probably the best volume of short stories that I've read in a long time.(less)
I majored in Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh. While there, I took a course called Human Information Processing. We studied how the...moreI majored in Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh. While there, I took a course called Human Information Processing. We studied how the brain works, how people perceive information, how they store information, how they remember, etc. It was fascinating and gave me many good insights into how I could help myself — and others — learn.
Brain Rules is a layman’s version of my college course. Medina concisely and entertainingly walks us through things that we know — or think we know — about how the brain works. He’s careful to only relay information that’s been confirmed by multiple independent experiments. He clearly distinguishes between what we’re pretty sure we know and what we only suspect or guess at.
He starts out by emphasizing the importance of exercising to brain function. It persuaded me to start walking more and to look for more ways to become more active. He included a startling statistic: doing aerobic exercise just twice a week halves your risk of general dementia. It cuts your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent.
He also focuses on education and learning. For instance, the brain’s attentional “spotlight” can only focus on one thing at a time (rule #4). We’re incapable of multitasking. And we are better at seeing patterns and abstracting the meaning of an event than we are at recording detail. These facts suggest new ways for teachers to educate students.
Teachers need to make classes interesting, so that students’ minds don’t wander to other things, tuning out the class. And teachers need to put content into patterns that students can see, rather than just giving students a hodgepodge of facts.
I found each chapter to be interesting and thought provoking. I can definitely recommend it as a way to learn more about yourself and how to optimize your life.(less)
I’ve been looking forward to this book, ever since I read Master of the Senate two years ago. I knew it would involve the Johnson presidency but not the entire thing. So, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I finally picked it up.
The book covers Johnson’s flawed and failed candidacy for the 1960 Democrat Presidential nomination and Johnson’s experience on the Kennedy-Johnson ticket. It covers his 3 years, as Kennedy’s Vice-President, and then his succession to the Presidency itself and what he did during his first 7 weeks in office—the time from Kennedy’s assassination to the 1964 State of the Union address.
Telling you that doesn’t really convey what the book is about though. Here, in Caro’s words, is the center of the book.
[T]he succession of Lyndon Johnson deserves a better fate in history. For had it not been for his accomplishments during the transition, history might have been different. Because the headlines in that first blizzard of news—PRISONER LINKED TO CASTRO GROUP; SUSPECT LIVED IN SOVIET UNION—have long been proven false or exaggerated, it has been easy to forget that for several days after the assassination America was reading those headlines, easy to forget the extent of the suspicions that existed during those days not only about a conspiracy but about a conspiracy hatched in Cuba or Russia, two nations with whom, barely a year before, America had been on the brink of nuclear war.
… Nor should other aspects of the transition be passed over as lightly as they have been. Because he moved so swiftly and successfully to create the image of continuity that reassured the nation, it has been easy to overlook how the Kennedy men might simply have resigned. It has been easy to overlook the obstacles—the shock and mystery of the assassination, the mushroom cloud fears, the deep divisions in the country over his predecessor’s policies—that stood in the way of unifying America behind his Administration; easy to overlook how difficult to unify even his own party: to rally into line behind his Administration’s banner labor leaders, black leaders, liberals, many of whom had, for years, been deeply suspicious of him and who would have needed little excuse to fall irrevocably into line behind another, more familiar banner, the brother’s banner, that could so readily have been raised within party ranks; to fall into line behind a leader they knew, and were quickly beginning to love.
This book is the story of that transition. Everything else in the book is designed to set the stage for the transition. Caro wants you to understand, the man, the times, the place, and the history leading up to that transition.
In true Caro style, we get a mini-biography of President John F. Kennedy. We’re treated to an up-close look at how Johnson lost his opportunity and 1960 and what he endured as Vice-President. But all of that is window dressing, to set the stage for the transition. Caro’s focus on the transition is truly illuminating of both President Johnson and of how power is wielded in America.
This book was a shorter read than Master of the Senate and was truly engaging. I had trouble putting it down, once I started it, and was once again drawn into Caro’s portrayal of this era of American history. Once again, I have to highly recommend Caro’s work on Johnson. You won’t regret reading it and you’ll definitely learn from it.