I heard about this book when it first came out in 1973 and it sounded interesting, but I just got around to reading it in 2013.
This book is the autobi...moreI heard about this book when it first came out in 1973 and it sounded interesting, but I just got around to reading it in 2013.
This book is the autobiography of Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon. While there's a chapter on his childhood, it's mostly about his trip to the moon and the next few years of his life after he got back.
On the cover of the book it says, "An American hero's tragic crack-up and triumphant recovery -- the shocking courageous true story". That was pretty much the marketing I heard for this book back in the 70's. Well ... if you're looking for some dramatic story about how the famous and respected astronaut ended up as a drug-addled bum living in a dumpster or some such, this isn't it. He talks about a period of a few months when he sufferred from clinical depression and had difficulty concentrating. He eventually checked into a hospital where he was given medication that pretty much solved the problem, and then he was back on his feet. At the same time he was having an affair and considered divorcing his wife to marry this other woman, but in the end he stayed with his wife. That's pretty much it for the "crack-up and triumphant recovery". While he doesn't give exact dates for these events, based on the few dates he does give, the whole business started and ended in well under a year. Frankly, I've been through worse times myself. I'm sure it was rough while he and his family were going through it. But it wasn't much of a crack-up, and there was no "triumphant recovery" -- he just took some meds and got better. I felt a little guilty when I finished the book, that I was wishing the poor man had gone through some horrible torment just so it would be more entertaining for me to read about. :-)
In general, the book is your basic autobiography: A somewhat rambling account of the life of a man who had the opportunity to do some extraordinary things. If you're interested in the history of space exploration -- as I am -- you'll find a lot of interesting tidbits in this book. He talks about some of the things happenning behind the scenes at NASA, and in general gives a personal perspective on historic events that brings the Moon landings down to Earth (no pun intended when I started writing that sentence). As I presume most readers are aware that Apollo 11 made it to the Moon, landed, and returned safely, there are no cliff-hangers here, nor are there any dramatic revelations. Just a lot about the day-to-day happennings around that event. If you're looking for something exciting and tense, this isn't the book. If you're looking for details and the personal stories behind big events, you should find this book interesting.
One other odd thing: Many books start with the most dramatic event, and then flash back to what led up to that event, and then go on from there. But curiously, Aldrin starts with the public relations tour he went on after returning to Earth. Then he goes back to his childhood, events leading up to the Moon landing, and then forward to what he did after the PR tour. I thought the PR tour was about the least interesting thing in the book. I don't know why he put that first. I would have started with the Moon landing.(less)
This is a difficult book to describe without giving away a major plot development. For the first third of the book is about a mystery. We are introduc...moreThis is a difficult book to describe without giving away a major plot development. For the first third of the book is about a mystery. We are introduced to a group of children in an English boarding school. But there is something strange about this school. There is something terrible hanging over the heads of all these children. Without ruining the story for you, let me just say that they all turn out to be doomed to a terrible fate.
The rest of the book is about how the characters deal with their impending doom, how they cope with their lives and try to find what happiness they can.
The doom the characters face is science fiction in the traditional sense. And yet the story is completely down-to-earth. The characters are totally believable and realistic. This is not Star Wars. There is no spectacle. While if you think about it you realize that there would have to be some impressive technology and fancy machines and all that to make the events in the story happen, you never see any of that. You just see people going about their daily lives with the knowledge that this technology exists and what it means to them.
Minor spoiler here, but I can't avoid it if I hope to tell you why I think this was a great book: What I found most fascinating about this book was that it was totally creepy. The people in the story just accept a fate imposed on them by others. They never talk about escaping or rebelling or fighting back. They just accept that this is the way the world is. And this acceptance is presented in the book so naturally, so matter-of-factly, that I find it completely terrifying.
By the way, this is one of the few books that I've ever read because I saw the movie and thought the movie was good. Unlike some movies, in this case the movie followed the book very closely, in both tone and details of the plot.(less)
This book is a rare combination genre: the science-fiction murder mystery.
This book is set something like 700 years in the future. People have coloni...moreThis book is a rare combination genre: the science-fiction murder mystery.
This book is set something like 700 years in the future. People have colonized other planets, but relations between these "outer planets" and the Earth are strained. Then a citizen of one of these other planets is murdered while visiting the Earth, precipitating a diplomatic crisis. The hero of the book, Elijah Baley, is an Earth detective assigned to investigate the murder and hopefully avert the crisis.
"Caves" interweaves two story lines: One is a fairly traditional detective story. The other is a discussion of the world that the author envisions existing in this period.
One negative: The detective-hero is portrayed as the usual brilliant detective, but he comes across to me as a little incompetent. In any detective novel I expect the hero to have to chase a few red herrings. But here -- and I'm trying to avoid a spolier here, so let me just say that there are a couple of places where the hero is just too adamanat about a theory of the crime that is then shown to be false. I get the impression the hero stumbles into solving the crime more than solving it by his relentless detective skill.
To me, the most interesting thing about this book is seeing Asimov's portrayal of the world hundreds of years from now. This book was written in 1953, so we have the advantage of 60 years of hindsight.
Some of the author's wrong guesses are rather amusing. At one point he mentions a scientist using a slide rule. No hint of pocket calculators, much less computers. There's a crucial scene where an important clue hinges on the police using chemical film for photographs. Okay, I don't know if anyone in 1953 foresaw digital photography.
On a bigger scale, much of the book centers on how the world of this era is vastly overpopulated and struggling to support this huge population. The book is set in a future New York that is a huge city that extends deep below the surface and high into the sky to make room for all these people. It is impossible to feed all the people with conventional farms: they must rely on making food synthesized from yeast in huge factories. He says that they live one crisis away from disaster: at one point he says that cities in the past (our present) could have survived for weeks on stored food, energy supplies, etc in the event of some interuption of production, but that in this era they are just days or hours from disaster.
And the huge population that the Earth of this age struggles to support? He gives the number several times: 8 billion. When this book was written in 1953, the world population was about 2 1/2 billion, so he's supposing triple the number of people, and, it is clear, sees this as a number almost impossible to support. In 2012 we actually have something like 7 billion, so 8 billion doesn't seem all that far away. And clearly we are able to feed 7 billion without recourse to yeast factories. While there are, of course, poor people in every society who have trouble getting enough to eat, the only widespread starvation is in places ravaged by war or other man-made problems. Well, maybe the amazing progress we've actually had in agriculture -- the Green Revolution, genetically-engineered crops, etc -- is the real-life equivalent of Asimov's yeast factories. It doesn't look as "science-fictiony", but it's had the same effect.
I think it's interesting how space travel is an imporant element of this novel ... but all the action is on Earth. Indeed, all the action is in New York City. I find that ... philosophically interesting. The Greek dramatic unities, maybe.(less)
It's been a number of years since I read this so this isn't entirely a fair review. But I've long thought of this as the only book I've read by Poul A...moreIt's been a number of years since I read this so this isn't entirely a fair review. But I've long thought of this as the only book I've read by Poul Anderson that I didn't like.
For one thing, this is basically two completely different stories rammed together with the thinnest of justifications. The first half of the book is about a group of people who are immortal, and who over the centuries gradually find each other and go through various adventurers in various times and places. Then in the second half of the book they all get together to go on a space flight. What does the space flight have to do with these people being immortals? Pretty much nothing. I get the distinct impression that the author ran out of ideas for what could happen to these immortals but decided the book wasn't long enough, so he just used the same characters in a totally different story.
Also, in the first half of the book, the writer hops from one obscure historical setting to another. I respect the goal: So many historical novels are set in ancient Rome or medieval England, it's nice to see a story that goes somewhere (and somewhen) else. But I just get the feeling that the author is trying to impress us with his knowledge of history more than entertain us with an interesting story.(less)
"The Long Night", by Poul Anderson, is set several centuries in the future. Sometime before the book begins, humans have explored and settled millions...more"The Long Night", by Poul Anderson, is set several centuries in the future. Sometime before the book begins, humans have explored and settled millions of planets, but then star-faring civilization fell. The settled planets became isolated from each other. Some sank into barbarism, some managed to retain technological civilization, but there is little interstellar travel.
The bulk of the book is about about a time when people are beginning to build a new interstellar society, re-establishing contact with previously lost planets. It is divided into five stories that are essentially unconnected except that they are set in this same hypothetical future. They don't share any common characters or any other connection other than being set in this same universe. (By the way, the stories were originally published separately in several different magazines over a period of 16 years.)
Basically, these are tightly plotted stories. That is, each story presents the heroes with a puzzle to solve. I'll avoid giving any spoilers here, but for example: In the story "Sharing of Flesh", the characters have to figure out why an isolated planet descended into cannibalism and how to end the practice. In "Starfog", they have to figure out how to find the home planet of a lost expedition that comes from a region of the galaxy where the stars are packed so closely together and the space is so full of cosmic dust that normal navigation methods don't work. Etc.
The best things about this book:
1. The grand view of (fictional) history. The author has clearly plotted out a future history of the galaxy spanning thousands of years, and written stories that fit into this framework. (Other Anderson stories fit in to this same history at other places. For example is Flandry books are set when the empire is falling.) It's fun to see how it all fits together. The history seems plausible to me: the pieces all do fit.
2. The individual puzzles are interesting to follow through. While this might seem like an off-the-wall analogy, I think lovers of murder mysterious might also like these stories. It's the same idea: clues are sprinkled through the story, events that might seem unimportant turn out to be crucial clues, etc. When you finally get to the ending, it all follows logically from what came before.
On the minus side:
1. Maybe this is a trivial point, but to me, Anderson has one really annoying writing technique: In any fiction story, you need a certain amount of exposition. In science fiction stories, the writer often needs to explain a lot of things that the characters all know but the reader doesn't, like the culture and history of this fictional future. Anderson routinely does such exposition by having the characters give each other long lectures on these subjects. But why would the characters tell each other on what they already know? In Anderson's books, he constantly adds tacit admissions that the speech is pointless: A character will say how annoying it is that this other person is lecturing him on what he already knows, or he'll make some comment about going on and on because he's nervous or upset, or some such. It's bad enough to have the pointless speech. Having the writer tell us that it's pointless makes it worse, not better.
2. The stories are filled with references to stellar and biological evolution, and several of the stories are pretty much all about the writer's theories about how this particular planet or whatever evolved. As a creationist, I find these totally implausible. I guess if you're an evolutionist they'll make perfect sense to you, but to a creationist it's like reading a story where the plot hinges on the "fact" that putting leaches on a sick person will cure the disease, or the assumption that black people are inherently lazy and criminal.
(1) It is a good short, readable history of the crusades. If you don't know much about the period, it's a good in...moreThis book serves two useful purposes:
(1) It is a good short, readable history of the crusades. If you don't know much about the period, it's a good introduction. Stark relates an excellent overview of the history, culture, and military realities of the era. This is pretty straightforward so I'll leave it at that.
(2) The clear goal of this book is to explain the motivations of the crusaders. The "pop culture" understanding of the crusades today is that it was an unprovoked attack on Arabs by Europeans. Depending on who's telling the story, it was either a bunch of Christian religious fanatics who saw it as their pious duty to massacre Muslims out of intolerance, or religion had nothing to do with it and it was all an effort to steal land and exploit it for profit. Or both.
Stark points out that this makes no sense. The immediate cause of the crusades was that Muslims attacked the Christian city of Constantinople, and the people of Constantinople sent out an appeal for help to the rest of Europe. In the longer term, the Muslims had invaded and conquered huge tracts of land that were populated by Christians, and massacred and/or enslaved the inhabitants. (Including north Africa, Syria, and Turkey -- once Christian places -- and Spain and Italy.) By the time of the First Crusade, Europe was finally mustering the strength and resolve to fight back. The war wasn't started by the Christians: it was started by the Muslims. When Muslims complain about the Crusaders invading the Middle East, what they are saying is that when they invade a country, it is grossly immoral and unjust for that country to fight back.
He also explains that the Crusaders could not have been motivated by greed because the Crusades were not a profitable enterprise by any measure. Building an army, transporting it to the Middle East, supplying and maintaining it were hugely expensive. The lands they conquered or tried to conquer were not particularly wealthy. No one got rich from being a Crusader, and quite a few bankrupted themselves and their families. Not to mention that the majority of the Crusaders died in the effort -- at one point Stark says that only 10% of the people who started out in the First Crusade reached Jerusalem. Some number of these turned back and went home, but most died in battle or from the hardships of the campaign, starvation, disease, etc. I suppose someone could reply to Stark that even if the Crusaders didn't get rich, maybe they thought they would. But the Crusades stretched over hundreds of years. Surely if what people were after was money, after they saw that the first few tens of thousands of people had not gotten rich but instead died terrible deaths, enthusiams would have tapered off rapidly.
On the minuses:
(1) There's a lot of discussion of specific places and routes in this book. This army marched along such-and-such a route and a battle was fought in this city and so on. But there are only a few maps and most of these have little detail. I think I have a fairly good knowledge of geography, but I certainly don't know the name and location of every small town in the Middle East in AD 1090.
(2) The book is almost entirely from the Crusader's point of view. I don't mean "pro-Crusader" here, though it is that. I mean, I think it would have been helpful if he had included more discussion of what was going on in the Muslim side. Maybe this is an unfair criticism: maybe that just wasn't the author's purpose or would have made the book longer than he wanted.
(3) At a few points Stark defends the Crusaders with the argument that some action violates our standards today but was accepted at the time. Most notably, he offers this defense for killing the inhabitants of a city after a succesful siege. Personally I don't buy this argument. Even if it's true that "everybody was doing it", that doesn't make it right.(less)
This is, of course, a classic pamphlet written at the start of the American Revolution to inspire Americans to rebel against Britain.
It has basically...moreThis is, of course, a classic pamphlet written at the start of the American Revolution to inspire Americans to rebel against Britain.
It has basically three parts: 1. A critique of monarchy. 2. Why reconciliation with Britain is impossible. 3. Why American can win.
I found section 1 the most interesting. I suppose monarchy isn't all that popular today -- at least other than ceremonial monarchy -- so criticizing it doesn't seem all that groundbreaking or courageous. But most people today who would say that monarchy is bad might have a hard time refuting arguments given in its favor in the 18th century. For that matter, I saw a recent survey of people in the Middle East that found that a majority believe that the best form of government is a "strong leader" who holds office for life. Even if today they call him a "president", he's more like the traditional idea of a king. Anyway, Paine takes the justifications for monarchy -- or a "strong leader" if you prefer -- one by one and shoots them down.
The second section was, perhaps, necessary to say at the time, but in retrospect seems so obvious that it was pretty dull. The gist of his argument is, Now that there has been active shooting between the two sides, the marriage is over. There's no way the two sides could ever trust each other again. The king would never allow the Americans to again be in a position to rebel, and so if they once again submitted to his authority he would be actively working to keep them poor and week. Presumably any peace treaty would require Americans to lay down their arms, and once they did, they would be helpless against any further action by the king. Etc.
As I say, that all seems pretty obvious to me. Maybe it wasn't so obvious to people at the time. I suppose many hoped that with a little negotiation and compromise they could restore the peace and everything would be happy. Then wishful thinking turns into unrealistic planning.
Contrasted with the insight of the first two sections, the third seems, well, somewhere between unrealistic and funny. Paine goes on at length about how America could build a navy that would rival the British navy. Of course nothing of the sort ever happenned. It took the intervention of France to give us any hope at all of even beginning to challenge British naval power.
**spoiler alert** In a future time, society has found a niche for children born with severe handicaps: They are encased in metal shells, attached to a...more**spoiler alert** In a future time, society has found a niche for children born with severe handicaps: They are encased in metal shells, attached to all sorts of electronics, and used to run factories, cities, and star ships.
The heroine of this book, Helva, is such a child, who has been built into a star ship. She IS the ship. She figures out how to sing through her electronic speakers, hence the title.
At heart, this is a romance novel. The "brain ships" of the book are paired with an ordinary human pilot. Helva and her first pilot fall in love, a romance in all but the sexual sense. Given that ship and pilot are alone together for months and years on end and are constantly working together, this doesn't seem implausible. You'd have to end up either loving or hating each other. Then -- WARNING! MINOR SPOILER COMING -- her pilot dies. Most of the book is about Helva dealing with grief and searching for a new love.
While I'm not a big fan of romance novels -- note I checked the box for "male" in my profile -- at its best this book is an excellent example of what science fiction can be. The author takes a speculative scientific premise: what if handicapped people could be made productive by wiring them into a spaceship like this? Then it examines the implications in an entertaining story. What would it be like to be wired into such a ship? How would such people fit in society? What would be the legal and moral implications? Etc.
On the down side, I thought this book tried too hard to tug at my emotions. Or perhaps I should say, the author's efforts were too abrupt. Characters were introduced and three sentences later I am apparently expected to care about them. I don't even know them yet. You need to build more. Too many characters with too many personal problem raced by too quickly. The pacing was just too fast for me to get emotionally involved with any of them but Helva herself. I think this book would have been better if it had had fewer characters and fewer "episodes", but had discussed each in greater depth.(less)
As you might gather from the title, the author, Burton Folsom, proposes that the policies of the Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression...moreAs you might gather from the title, the author, Burton Folsom, proposes that the policies of the Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression did more harm than good to the economy.
This book is clearly politically charged, which makes truly objective reviews difficult. I've seen many reviews of political books which say almost nothing about the actual quality of the book, but rather use the book as a springboard to expound on the reviewer's own political opinions. I'll try to avoid that here and actually talk about this book.
This book is clearly well-researched: there are 38 pages of endnotes. It is filled with quotes from speeches and writings of people who were members of the Roosevelt administration, members of Congress at the time, and a sprinkling of newspaper stories. There are also some statistics on unemployment, international trade, and the like.
Folsom claims that FDR's policies not only failed to help the economy, but that they came at a huge cost in government corruption and loss of individual freedom.
Folsom provides economic statistics to show that FDR's policies didn't reduce unemployement or increase incomes. For example, when FDR took office in 1932, unemployment was 23%. After six years of his policies, in 1938 unemployment was 19%.
But this sort of statistical economic analysis isn't the strong point of this book. Folsom's real point is to talk about the loss of freedom. This is, by its nature, more anecdotal than statistical. He talks at length about the mass of new regulations imposed on business. For example, he describes a major court case where a butcher was arrested and jailed because he allowed customers to choose a chicken for themselves rather than giving each customer the next available one, which government agents saw as an attempt to subvert price controls. He talks about a small tire manufacturer who was forced out of business because government regulations forced him to increase his prices. When customers had a choice between buying the "name brand" or his "off brand", in the past he could make sales by charging a lower price, but when hw was forced to charge the same price, customer's chose the name brand. And he talks at length about the government programs that paid farmers to produce less food at a time when millions of people were starving.
Folsom also devotes major sections to how the big spending programs led to corruption. He quotes from mailings sent out by administrators of these programs telling people that they are expected to donate such-and-such an amount of money from their government benefits back to the president's party for use in the next election campaign or their benefits will be cut off. They're quite blatant about it: no subtle hints, you must donate $x or you will be kicked out of the program.
Folsom is at his best when discussing specific cases of loss of freedom and corruption. His claims are all well-documented, with quotes from letters sent by government officials and memoirs written by members of the administration. An opponent might argue that he has picked a few outrageous examples -- surely every administration has a few corrupt officials or a few overzealous bureaucrats who apply a law in a stupid way -- but he has so many examples, and many of them are SO outrageous, that this sort of rebuttal seems unconvincing.
The author is much weaker when he writes about statistics and macro-economics. There are a few charts, but even these are often abbreviated, just showing "selected states" or "sample imports". These arguments would have been more convincing with more complete numbers. A critic could easily claim that he is cherry-picking numbers to fit his thesis. I think the real explanation is that the writer is more interested in human stories than in a maze of numbers, but he makes himself vulnerable to this sort of criticism.
The final chapter summarizing the long-term effects of the New Deal is probably the weakest of all, filled with vague generalizations.
The real strength is the middle chapters, where he describes case after case of how bureaucrats destroyed people's lives carrying out their pet economic theories.
Oh, I should mention that Folsom does not hesitate to note policies that considers good ideas, like FDR's efforts to negotiate agreements with European countries to try to get international trade flowing again. And perhaps I should mention that he is quite critical of the Hoover administration as well as FDR.(less)
I want to read more classics, so I just got around to this one. Do I need to worry about spoilers with such a well-known classic? Well, I'll avoid giv...moreI want to read more classics, so I just got around to this one. Do I need to worry about spoilers with such a well-known classic? Well, I'll avoid giving away the ending just in case.
Other than calling this a "classic", it is difficult to classify. It's something of a horror story. In one sense it's all about a town with a mysterious "headless horseman" whose midnight rides haunt the area. In another sense it's a comedy, maybe you'd call it a romantic comedy, about a man chasing a girl and vying with a rival very different from himself.
Sleepy Hollow is very much a period piece. The best thing about the story is how it really gives you a feel for the life of the town. In a pretty short book, you feel like you know all about the culture, economy, family life, etc of these people. You know the hero, Ichabod Crane, like he was your best friend.
I have mixed feelings about the ghost story aspect. There is no real sense of mystery. There is certainly no unfolding of the story or revelation of secrets. There is little sense of dread or foreboding. This isn't a very scary ghost story. I don't think it was intended to be. It's presented more as an interesting local legend than a cause for fear. It's local color, not terror. For what it is it's well written, lots of color and style. I guess my problem is that I would have preferred a truly mysterious story. Maybe I'm being unfair here: I feel like I'm criticizing the story for not being the genre I prefer to read. Like criticizing a romantic love story for not having enough violent action scenes with marauding aliens.
I think the biggest drawback of this book is the characteriation of the hero, Ichabod Crane. He's the only character drawn in any depth, and he's just not very likable. He's certainly not evil or villainous. But there's nothing very appealing about him. He's basically just ... annoying. When he gets involved in a romantic rivalry I wasn't rooting for him to win. I wasn't hoping he loses. I just didn't care. I don't insist that the hero of a book be flawless. I want a character who's flawed enough to be believable. But I want a hero to be likable. Mr Crane is awkward, selfish, and stuck-up. If I don't like the hero, why should I care what happens to him? (less)
This isn't a bad book, but I think it's highly overrated. People often talk about a key feature of fiction being "suspension of disbelief". In "Ender'...moreThis isn't a bad book, but I think it's highly overrated. People often talk about a key feature of fiction being "suspension of disbelief". In "Ender's Game", I found it not hard to believe that someday people will build faster-than-light starships and that we will fight cartoonish bug monsters from other planets. But what the author never makes believable to me is that the war will be led by a 6 year old boy.
Why a child? Why? Okay, I could believe that starting very young might be the way to train someone to be the best at something. Even if you want to dispute that idea, surely you wouldn't doubt that there might be people who believe it is true and who would act on it, especially in a time of crisis. The whole brutal training regimen they put the small children in the story through strikes me as pointless and sadistic, but I could believe that a society faced with destruction by a dangerous enemy would try anything, even torturing their own children, if they thought that was the only way to survive.
But the whole point would surely be that you start training at 6, so when the child is 20 or 30 or whatever he's had a lifetime of training and practice and now combines the experience of men much older with the vitality of youth. But in the book, they start the boy training at, what is it, 5?, and have him leading troops in combat at 9. I'm sorry, I just don't believe it. It's absurd.
Maybe the author could have given some explanation to make this plausible, but he doesn't. He doesn't even try to explain why they do this or how it could possibly work. We're just supposed to accept it. (less)
This is very much a "mood piece" about people moving through a dark world where everyone else is in a forced sleep.
The premise of the book is that hum...moreThis is very much a "mood piece" about people moving through a dark world where everyone else is in a forced sleep.
The premise of the book is that humanity faces an energy crisis -- a term not used in the book, but that's the concept, and a little prescient as the book was written in 1971 -- which is solved through the discovery of a new power source. But there's a catch: When these generators are turned on, they create a field that renders everyone in range unconscious. So the machines are only turned on at night. One in a million are naturally immune or can learn to fight the effect, and so are able to move about while everyone else is in a forced sleep. A conspiracy has found a way to use this field to not just put people to sleep, but to control their actions.
The book then veers off into a plot line about advancing technology bumping into the supernatural.
A good science fiction story should carry the reader along with the scientific or technical premise. When there are flaws in the science, a good writer can "bluff" you past them or at least toss in a glib explanation, like blithely declaring that the speed of light has been conquered with a "hyperdrive" or whatever. "Sleepwalkers World" was a little weak on this. It brought a lot of technical questions to my mind that the author never attempted to answer. Like, the sleep effect apparently has a limited range, as they only turn the machines on "at night", which of course is a different time in, say, the Carribean than in England, and the story moves between both places. So rather than just suffering with this sleep effect, why couldn't they build the power stations in some uninhabited area, like the poles or the Sahara desert? And how do they maintain the machines and keep them operating, as presumably no one is able to even observe them while they are running, much less tune them or otherwise work on them? Indeed, did anyone anticipate this effect when they were inventing the machine? If not, then the first time someone turned it on, it would have put the inventor to sleep, and how did anyone get near to turn the thing off? Etc.
The supernatural angle is very vague. Exactly how has this technology tuned in to the supernatural? Maybe that's deliberate, but I found it unsatisfying.
The moral core of the story is also vague. The hero and the villain both dismiss the ideas of "good" and "evil" as simplistic and primitive; they are "above" such things. But then, by what standard is the hero superior to the villain? The villain seeks power and his own benefit, while the hero is working for freedom and the good of all. Okay. Is selfishness "evil" and generosity "good"? Is tyranny "evil" and freedom "good"? If not, why should we prefer one to the other? If there is no good and evil, then what makes the hero a hero and the villain a villain?
Well, I guess I've harped on the weaknesses of this book, but it is a good read. It succeeds in creating a creepy mood, especially in the middle. And there's a good mystery about just who the villain really is.(less)
Well, I wrote this book, so don't look for an objective review here!
I've heard a lot of statements over the years about how the Bible is filled with s...moreWell, I wrote this book, so don't look for an objective review here!
I've heard a lot of statements over the years about how the Bible is filled with scientific and historical errors and internal contradictions. But in almost every case, when I looked for details, the problems evaporated. Criticisms often turned out to be based on "absolutely no benefit of the doubt" assumptions, or arguments that boil down to "I don't care what evidence you offer -- that just sounds unlikely to me and I refuse to believe it".
So I decided to put together a book listing a bunch of these criticisms and giving my reply to each. I've collected information from a variety of sources, including science, ancient historical writings, archaeology, even a little bit of mathematics.
And yes, there are some criticisms that really have some validity and that are tough to answer. I've included those in the book because they are, after all, the most interesting.
This book is something of a classic, so I don't know that I need to say much about the plot. It's about the fall of a galactic empire and how a new em...moreThis book is something of a classic, so I don't know that I need to say much about the plot. It's about the fall of a galactic empire and how a new empire begins to rise to take its place.
I think a big reason why I loved this book is because the scale is huge and I like to think in terms of the "big picture". Like, I'll read a book about "World War II", but rarely will I read about "the Battle of Leyte Gulf". The book spans literally half the galaxy: it starts on a planet in the center of the galaxy and then shifts to a planet on the very edge, and regularly goes back and forth. It spans hundreds of years.
The key premise -- and this isn't a spoiler, you learn this in the first few pages -- is that a scientist has developed psychology to the point where it has the predictive power of the physical sciences. A physicist studying atoms can't predict the behavior of an individual atom, but he can talk about probabilities, and when there are billions of atoms, all those probabilities tend to even out so he can predict the behavior of the mass as a whole. Likewise, the psychologist in the book has developed psychology to the point where he can't predict the behavior of individual people, but when there are millions or billions of people all the randomness averages out and so he can predict the behavior of masses, i.e. he can predict future history. And so he calculates that the Galactic Empire is going to fall, resulting in a dark age of violence and poverty, and he develops a plan to create a new empire to take its place and minimize the length of this dark age.
In my humble opinion, it's unlikely that such a science of "psychohistory" (as it's called in the book) is possible. I think history is highly dependent on the actions of individual people. Like, was it really inevitable that the Roman Empire would conquer the entire Mediterranean world? Or was that the product of the actions of one man: Julius Caesar? If Caesar had never lived, would someone else just have had to come along to give the same results? You could say the same about many events in history. Would there have been a World War II without Adolf Hitler? What would be the state of our technology today without Thomas Edison? Where would philosophy be if there had never been a Plato? Etc etc.
But that's what makes this kind of "big picture" book so interesting. Even when you disagree with the author's theories, it's interesting and fun to speculate and debate.
This is one of the few books I've read more than once. I first read it 30-something years ago when I was in high school, I re-read it maybe 15 years later, and then when moving a few years ago I found it in the course of packing and read it again.
PS This was first released as a trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. Much much later the author came out with a sequel, Foundation's Edge, which I considered much weaker. I think it was more, the publisher told him he needed to write another book in the series and make a bunch of money, than that he had anything additional to say. (less)