One of those books where the movie is almost as good. In some ways, the movie is better. Carl Sagan is a bit of a poet and philosopher, but this is hi...moreOne of those books where the movie is almost as good. In some ways, the movie is better. Carl Sagan is a bit of a poet and philosopher, but this is his first novel and it shows in the pacing and how the story takes shape. The overall premise is fantastic and shows the dreamer that Sagan really was. The main thing that I get out of the book is that it shows that religion and science do not have to be at odds. Neither precludes the other except in the limited thinking of one side or the other.(less)
We picked this book up at the gift shop at Multnomah Falls about 13 years ago and it has languished on my bookshelf ever since. I finally picked it up...moreWe picked this book up at the gift shop at Multnomah Falls about 13 years ago and it has languished on my bookshelf ever since. I finally picked it up when I was looking for something to read and was pleasantly surprised by its readability. Clear and well written for the layman. The first half of the book describes the challenge by a geologist named J. Harlen Bretz to convice the geology world that a catastrophic flood hundreds and, in some locations, thousands of feet deep swept across Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. The authors do a good job of explaining the geology and history that made this a tough story to believe for much of the academic world. The second half of the book details the geology and explains the impacts on the land in more academic terms. A bit tougher to follow for a layman, but not too bad. The age of the book is a bit telling at this point with black and white photos and charts and graphs that look like they were put together in 1951 (and probably were). All in all a very readable book and very interesting for the geologically minded.(less)
Not one of the better stories of the Kathy Reichs books I've read. There are lots of cases and some of them come together to form a cohesive story, an...moreNot one of the better stories of the Kathy Reichs books I've read. There are lots of cases and some of them come together to form a cohesive story, and some don't. Relatively easy to pick out the bad guy and lots of whining from Brennan about her love life. Lots of forensic info, as usual, and an attempt at suspense by putting Brennan in a life and death struggle on page one and then flashing back. All in all, a decent read, but no more.(less)
Another Bruno and Boots. Not quite as good as I remember, but it has been a few decades since I read one of these. This one was written much later tha...moreAnother Bruno and Boots. Not quite as good as I remember, but it has been a few decades since I read one of these. This one was written much later than the others, that might have something to do with it. Still a good book and had a few classic Gordon Korman moments.(less)
**spoiler alert** Worst Tom Clancy book ever. This book is the latest in the Jack Ryan series. Ryan is contemplating a return to the White House and do...more**spoiler alert** Worst Tom Clancy book ever. This book is the latest in the Jack Ryan series. Ryan is contemplating a return to the White House and doesn't know that Jack Jr. has enlisted in the shadow organization (the Campus) that Ryan set up before he left the White House. Clark and Chavez are summarily dumped by the CIA after the new administration decides to take a softer/electronic approach to intelligence gathering. Anybody that didn't foresee Clark and Chavez joining the Campus hasn't been paying attention all these years. The Campus continues to hunt down The Emir, who is the architect of 9/11 and myriad other terrorist incidents.
There is virtually no character development in the book. If you didn't already read the first 12 books in the series you wouldn't know who anybody is. There is no side dialog. Very little internal musings. Everything is very tactical or strategic. Little happens outside of the main plot line. When it does it feels very out of place, like when Dom picks up a girl at a restaurant and leaves her apartment in disgust after she pulls out a vial of cocaine. Nothing is elaborated on or expounded on. The author(s) could have used the scene to make some point or round out the character, but nothing happens. Dom leaves, doesn't say anything, and it never comes up again. Jack Jr. wrestles with some weighty issues. He doesn't spend any time wondering whether it is wrong to kill someone outside of the law, he spends his time debating whether he has what it takes to do the killing.
There are multiple typos throughout the book. Words missing or in the wrong order, one point where the word BY is in all caps in the middle of a sentence for no reason, and one point where the wrong name is used to describe what the character is doing. Brian is named instead of Dominick. These mistakes I chalk up to an editor who didn't earn their money. However the massive factual error on page 630 of the hardcover is inexcusable. While describing international politics in the Middle East and discussing the interrelated goals of Iran, Iraq and various terrorist organizations the author(s) state that Iran is trying to protect the Shia minority in Iraq from the Sunni majority. Every source I can find says that the Shia have a 60%-70% majority in Iraq. Unforgivable factual error.
Clancy has been putting more and more political discourse in his latest books. I understand that he writes about military and associated matters, and that by default the majority of his characters are going to have a distinctive lean to the right. That's fine. He's managed up to now to not bring much politics into the story. Whether you vote Democrat or Republican doesn't matter much when you're flying an F-14 Tomcat over the North Atlantic and trying to avoid the Mig on your six. He's managed to write some very entertaining and engaging stories without discussing the validity or fairness of the estate tax. In this book almost every character is decidedly conservative/Republican. The two exceptions I can think of are Arni van Damm and Sally Ryan. Arni is at this point more of a convert to Ryan and while he might disagree with some of Ryan's politics he believes Ryan is the right man for the job and the opposition is not a valid option. Sally Ryan is portrayed as rapidly becoming a militant vegan and is ridiculed by the other characters, including her brother. What little dialog in the book that is not devoted directly to the story line is devoted to ridiculing/dismissing such topics as vegetarianism, environmentalism, and government oversight. The main theme of the book seems to be that the only option left in politics is the right because everybody on the left is too corrupt, stupid, inept, or short sighted to keep from screwing things up.
It's hard to know how much to blame on Clancy's ever narrower focus on the world and how much to blame on having a co-author. This is the first Jack Ryan book to have a co-author and that might explain why I disliked it so much. I have never liked the Op-Center and other Clancy series that seem to be written by others and stamped with the Tom Clancy label. I don't like the Clive Cussler and James Patterson books that are labeled "written with". Maybe I have to make a decision not to read any more books that the author can't be bothered to write himself/herself. My comment directly to Tom Clancy would be that he can't need the money that badly. If he can't write the book on his own, maybe he shouldn't try to push it.
Update 1/21/11: I just finished listening to Tom Clancy's Patriot games, not his best book, but one of my favorites. On the next to last page Ryan is talking to the Prince of Wales and gives this advice about living with terrorists: "I guess maybe it comes down to justice. If people believe in their society, they don't break its rules. The trick's making them believe. Hell, we can't always accomplish that. But you try your best, and you don't quit. Every problem has a solution if you work at it long enough... You just have to make it work for everybody, and do it well enough that they believe. It's not easy, but I think you can do it. Sooner or later, civilization always wins over barbarism." This is right after Ryan almost killed the man that attacked his family. If he can find that much faith in the justice system when its involving something so very personal how does he become the man 20 years later who is so disillusioned with his government that he has to set up a secret police that operates outside of the law?(less)
Not as good as the Da Vinci Code. This one not only focuses on conspiracy theories and ancient secrets, but on esoteric beliefs in ancient mysteries t...moreNot as good as the Da Vinci Code. This one not only focuses on conspiracy theories and ancient secrets, but on esoteric beliefs in ancient mysteries that will transform the way we think about science and religion. At first I couldn't believe that Brown was actually using some of these theories as plot devices, but he manages to tap into a optimistic approach to human potential and a skeptic's view of organized religion to keep me interested. (less)