An entertaining book but also something of a struggle to read, mainly because it is about 500 pages longer than it needs to be. It has some charming c...moreAn entertaining book but also something of a struggle to read, mainly because it is about 500 pages longer than it needs to be. It has some charming characters who are genuinely interesting but the only action they really get is running from one danger to the next. Chase sequences can go on for pages and pages and become very tedious, especially since they very rarely end with the character having more information than they started out with. And they all get caught and face imminent death about 10 times each - any sense of tension in these situations is eventually lost because they are so numerous. You would think that the "evil cabal" the main characters are fighting against would just shoot them in the head after they continue to interrupt proceedings. But no, the cabal continually leave the job to someone else and act surprised when the main characters pop back up later on.
The trouble with this book isn't the plot or the characters or the ideas. They are all good. The trouble is that none of them are really used. The conspiracy doesn't amount to much of anything, it is never explained what exactly the "process" or the glass books are and no one learns much of anything about each other or themselves. Many, many characters are introduced to make things seem complicated but it is really all surface. Ultimately, nothing really happens. Yes, the characters go through a lot - they are continually running down streets, jumping onto trains, getting lost in mansions and being poisoned, knocked out and held prisoner - but they never gain a thing from their efforts. Perhaps this is because the author is withholding information for the sequel? But without any sort of payoff at all it just feels like you've read 700 pages of empty chasing.
It's a shame really because there is a lot of good ideas in here. They are just obscured beneath hundreds of pages of padding.(less)
Mandlebrot does a good job of writing for both mathematicians and those who simply have a passing interest. He makes it easy to skip over the in-depth...moreMandlebrot does a good job of writing for both mathematicians and those who simply have a passing interest. He makes it easy to skip over the in-depth mathematical sections whilst still providing solid explanations of the concepts being discussed. I will admit that some of it was way over my head and there were sections that could be quite dry. However, it was thrilling to gain a greater understanding of fractals like the Menger sponge, Koch snowflakes and Cantor Dust along with how they can be applied to things like star distribution in the galaxy or modeling ecosystems. Definitely worth reading.(less)
If you are looking for a book that will give you a general history of Britain then this is not the book you are looking for. Schama rigidly sticks to...moreIf you are looking for a book that will give you a general history of Britain then this is not the book you are looking for. Schama rigidly sticks to the politics of the English monarchy and covers little else. Scotland and Wales are mentioned only when their histories cross with England. Social history is barely touched upon, technological and scientific history is ignored and Schama has a terrible habit of mythologising his subjects.
On the whole, I came away from this book terribly depressed. It's a chronology of men with too much money and power forever fighting one another for more money and power. Schama tries very hard to make it sound majestic and noble but this often leaves a bad taste in the mouth when he's talking about the slaughter of thousands of men. I was left wondering about the British citizens. The ones who fought the wars, worked the fields, drank in ale houses and raised the children. What did they think and wear and play? This book isn't interested in telling that story.
If you want to learn about the Kings and Queens of England then this book is a good choice but I can't recommend it for anything more than that. I certainly came away more informed about the monarchy than before I went in.(less)