Much more nuanced emotionally than other Ripley novels. Moreso than any of the other Ripley novels, this one made me feel for the demise of one of RipMuch more nuanced emotionally than other Ripley novels. Moreso than any of the other Ripley novels, this one made me feel for the demise of one of Ripley's acquaintances and showed that Ripley himself could genuinely care about someone he was using....more
One of the few instances where the movie is better than the book. The book, though excellent, is missing much of the torment and emotional subtext ofOne of the few instances where the movie is better than the book. The book, though excellent, is missing much of the torment and emotional subtext of the film and was more focused on the schemes of Ripley. ...more
Let me say the real score I’d want to give this book is a 3.5 or 3.75.
First, on a more superficial level, it could have used another round or two ofLet me say the real score I’d want to give this book is a 3.5 or 3.75.
First, on a more superficial level, it could have used another round or two of editing. There are multiple occasions where he hammers home the same point multiple times for the same culture, particularly in Chapters 6-8 dealing with the Greenland Norse. This book could have been slimmer by a solid 40-50 pages without losing much.
Also, he rarely cites his sources directly in the text, often just referring to researcher names. The “Further Reading” section lists many of the sources he used but is incomplete and for the most part doesn’t given the specific content/pages for the information he’s using. This is a real shame, especially given the high degree of scrutiny the book has received. I imagine the choice was probably motivated by a desire for the book to appeal to the masses more, but it also damages the book’s ability to back up its claims. Also, I think it can allow the author to be sloppier with his analyses and conclusions.
This book, on the whole, is a very worthwhile and compelling read. The explanation of possible collapses is engaging and relevant to our world. Overall, I think he does an excellent job of giving plausible reasons for why past collapses have had large environmental causes. The comparisons between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, as well as the further explanation behind the Rwanda genocide, were especially illuminating. He uses a lot of actual data that is hard to argue with and gives enough evidence and reason to support importance of being good caretakers of our environment, for both the present and the future. He also uses his own experiences to serve as useful examples of his larger themes.
There are flaws. A few times when something was in dispute or not clear based on the available evidence, he leaned toward environmental reasons that supported his thesis. Often he would interject that some of it was merely his speculation, but countering views were not always addressed fairly (though many were). This may have as much to do with Diamond as it does with the demand of audiences and publishers to have focused books that don’t allow for too many perceived uncertainties (more a problem with popular science non-fiction than with research journals and the like).
Overall though, I felt he was as objective as a biased person can be. I don’t mean that as an insult but a compliment. He clearly is on the side of environmental concerns but I think he was about as objective as someone can be when they passionately fall on one side of an issue. For a counterexample of that, I recall a review that claimed Diamond was constantly bashing Bush towards the end of the book, but in fact he only brought him up directly one time that I recall (the 90-day perspective).
There are a few areas of his research that raises questions as to the validity of some of his claims. In particular, some of his claims about Australia. See http://www.ipa.org.au/library/EE%2016... and http://www.abc.net.au/rn/science/ockh... for further details, though be skeptical about some of those claims as well. For example, Marohasy claims Diamond says in “Collapse” that Australia imports most of its food (which it does not). However, Diamond did not claim that, as on page 395 he writes “Australia produces more food than it consumes and is a net food exporter.” There are some other inconsistencies/errors in Marohasy’s work but she does indeed point out some of Diamond’s errors as well.
Also, about Easter Island, see: http://www.staff.livjm.ac.uk/spsbpeis... which includes many of the objections to Diamond’s version of events. I find this paper to be much more dubious than Marohasy’s, as it is very aggressively argued and contains less scientific data. Additionally, the author claims cannibalism is a myth of European fear, but there is some potential (not overwhelming by any means) evidence for cannibalism on Easter Island that he ignores, as well as much more conclusive evidence in other cultures that cannibalism does not result only out of isolated pockets of desperation, all of which he denies. He also criticizes Diamond for relying on oral histories and early European reports, then goes on to do the same thing when it suits his goals. However, some of his points and the research he uses is reason for skepticism about the collapse of Easter Island.
About the photosynthetic ceiling which Diamond briefly brings up in Chapter 15, this is a good and reasonable rebuttal: http://www.isg-fi.org.uk/spip.php?art... that shows that much of Diamond’s reasoning and extrapolations are rather flawed about this detail.
I bring up these examples so that people can explore differing data and explanations of similar data and also to reinforce the fact that gathering evidence and making it fit coherently is difficult. Diamond is incorporating an immense amount of data into a large thesis and so I think one should not expect him to be perfect nor to dismiss him because of some errors.
So, in short, read this book. It’s important and I think makes a largely supported and valid case that we need to pay greater attention to our environment or else we will suffer in the future. But don’t accept everything at face value and do seek out other explanations (and question those as well); the Internet is a very valuable resource. One can’t possibly investigate every detail and every source, but some effort in this regard will pay off in a more balanced perspective. I say try to step away from the us versus them dichotomy that seems to afflict many reviews of this book as well as interpretations/analyses of this book. As often is the case, the truth is nebulous but rarely centered at either extreme. ...more
As per usual with Highsmith, the physical and mental machinations of the main characters are highly engaging. What I loved most about this book was thAs per usual with Highsmith, the physical and mental machinations of the main characters are highly engaging. What I loved most about this book was the end and the unforeseen humanity that came out of betrayal and cruelty. ...more
This book was recommended after my disappointment with Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." I cannot say it was an improvement.
The characters in the novel arThis book was recommended after my disappointment with Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." I cannot say it was an improvement.
The characters in the novel are largely one-dimension with little contrast and their interactions are superficial and or stereotypical. John is the lifelong geek who finally gets a thrill. Moira falls for Dwight based on a few half-drunk interactions; this kind of quick connection is the kind of poorly-earned romance typically found in bad movies. Mary is the stereotypical housewife of the 50's whose denial of the reality of what faces her borders on stupidity (count how many times she asks if it's really going to happen to them). In fact, as a more enlightened 21st century reader, there's a lot of subtle sexism and chauvinism in the book that I found rather unpalatable. The men are pretty much all stoics and the women are the only ones showing much emotion. Dwight's by-the-book mentality, even right at the end, is a bit difficult to stomach. I also found his method of coping with grief to be a bit too much to buy -- maybe I would have if everyone else didn't have some measure of it as well.
On the whole, I found most of the book difficult to accept as genuine. The author wanted denial to be an evocative and reoccurring theme of the book, but I never feel he earned it with what he wrote. Plus, he never really goes into any deeper issues of what coping with the end of humanity would be like. It's mostly kept on a mundane level. Plus, where's the diversity of reaction? Are we really to believe everyone reacts in mostly the same way? The book was emotionally empty.
There was little of interest in the plot. I don't need action to keep me interested, but much of the plot seems extraneous in that it didn't really advance the story. A lot of the narration could have been excised without really losing anything.
The author's writing was very unimaginative and rote. He overuses words far too much (count how many times you see the word "presently" and then count how many times it was unnecessary (hint: the numbers will match)). The characters often talk in very formal, stilted language. There was one bit of dialogue, no more than a page's width, that had the word "ought" three times. Most all of the descriptions are very plain and to the point and never access anything higher. He often introduces knowledge he wants the reader to know (such as why the war started, why there's still electricity, etc) in a forced and obvious way via dialogue through his characters.
This was a very simple (but true!) story about a very stupid man. This book is rightly a comedy as Joey does just about everything possible to screw uThis was a very simple (but true!) story about a very stupid man. This book is rightly a comedy as Joey does just about everything possible to screw up his million dollar find. The retelling of his attempts to hide the money initially is a striking example. Best anti-drug message ever.