Ever since middle school I have been a huge WWII buff. I couldn't get enough of the Manichean clash of good versus evil (with good triumphing naturallEver since middle school I have been a huge WWII buff. I couldn't get enough of the Manichean clash of good versus evil (with good triumphing naturally). As I grew up I developed a more nuanced view of the war. Neat planes and cool tanks were replaced by the appreciation grand strategy and the details of battles. But as the old saying goes, amateurs talk about tactics, but professional study logisitics. And nothing can get to the heart of logistics more than the study of the industrial economies that supported WWII's massive mechanized forces. Tooze does an amazing job chronicling the German economy from the early Wiemar days though the fall of the Nazi regime. Tooze magnificently lays out the details and relationships within the German economy and how it explains the actions and results of WWII.
It was fascinating to learn about the pre-Nazi German economy. Contrary to common belief, it wasn't hyperinflation 24/7 until Hitler took over. Yes, there was a period with run away inflation, but it was actually gotten under control through a rather nifty financial setup. German leaders knew they could never compete with the empires of Britain and France, so they instead sought to align America's interest with their own. Through a scheme of loans from America, Germany was able to amortize their war reparations to Britain and France who were in turn able to pay back their war debts to America. This cycling of money resulted in a stable and growing global economy, more or less completely alleviating Germany of its reparations burden and keeping everyone invested in this scheme.
Then the depression hit and the US government ceased to provide these funds, the Hoover administration not having a suitable handle on the situation to see how it all tied together. Further, the raising of tariffs and economic barriers stifled German exports, which were essential for maintaining their foriegn currency reserve and for debt servicing. German Economic responses (deflation) led to domestic down turn and unemployment, opening the door for the nationalistic political right in Germany, of which the Nazis were members, to step into power.
And interesting recurring theme in the early Nazi administration was foreign exchange reserves. This is the amount of foreign currency available to the economy. It is needed to purchase imports which were essential for the German economy. Germany was short of several key resources, namely food and petroleum, as well key industrial inputs for heavy industries. However, the Nazi regimes resistance to devaluing their currency in order to stimulate exports in the face of a strengthening Reichsmark was not pursued for two reasons: price impact on citizens which would have to pay more for imported and import dependent goods and the servicing of foreign debt.
The Nazi response, which was to play out again and again over the course of the Nazi regime, was to create government coordinating organizations and subsidies to solve the problem. This would get repeated as the state slowly took over more and more of the economy: price setting, labor registration and allocation by a government body, profit caps for corporations, government bureaucrats setting wages. At times I would have to remind myself this was Nazi Germany, not its ideological foe Soviet Communism massively intervening in the economy.
Another new thing I learned was how Hitler's conception of Lebensraum ("living space"), which drove his conquest of the East, was tied to his view of competition with America. Because America was so large it had a massive domestic market which supported large, highly efficient factories to supply it. Coupled with abundant natural resources to feed these factories a European state simply could not compete economically. However, in Eastern Europe there was plenty of space for colonization and key resources to fuel German industry. With Western Russia and Eastern Europe under Nazi rule, Germany could have the same natural benefits America had. Cleanse it of racial inferior peoples, open it up to big German families, and it could compete economically with America. The intermixing of racial beliefs and economics gave me a new perspective on the conflict.
The last major insight this book provided me was how dependent Germany was on imports. Then, as now, Germany was not self-sufficient in many key areas, especially the armaments sector. It needed to import iron ore, grain, animal feed, metals for the alloying process, rubber, and petroleum. It tried to remedy this through technology, but synthetic rubber and fuel plants (which required a lot of coal) never reached the point of providing all of Germany's needs. Hitler hoped that Ukraine would be the solution to the food problem, but Germany faced food rationing pretty much from the outset of the war. The conquest of the West actually made Germany's situation even worse as the areas conquered, the Low Countries and France, were also importers of these key resources. WWII was as much about Hitler trying to secure resources to match America's natural endowment (and maintain the war machine) as it was to realize radical racial ideologies (though as shown above they often intermingled).
Probably the most important area Tooze illuminated was the economic logic of Hitler's war decisions. He didn't declare war in 1939 because he was gambling, but because there was nothing to be gained by waiting. The western allies had seen Germany's rearmament and responded in kind. Hitler reasoned that the advantage he had in 1939 would only diminish over time. Western allies could squeeze Germany economically (recall they were importers of key resources) and there was only so much the State could do to keep the economy humming. Without delivering full employment Hitler risked being forced from power. Likewise in 1941 Germany needed the resource of Ukraine and western Russia to sustain its economy and war effort or else it too would have crumbled. The economic logic of Hitler's situation compelled aggressive foreign action or to be content with being a second rate world power (Hitler chose the conquest option, no surprisingly).
There were tons of other fascinating insights I learned from this book: the doctrine of blitzkrieg was mostly an accident and not fully implemented until the Russian invasion, how key steel production was to the German war effort and the politics behind steel rations, the Speer armament "miracle" that wasn't, and the tension between the idealized view of the German farmer and the economic reality of them.
This was a stellar, if dense book, about a very fascinating historical subject. If you are looking to really get into the nitty-gritty of German economic policy from the 1920's through WWII you absolute must read this book....more
"The world is ending. The message has come down from child to adult, child to adult, passed back down generations from a thousand years forward in ti
"The world is ending. The message has come down from child to adult, child to adult, passed back down generations from a thousand years forward in time. The world is ending and we cannot prevent it. So now it's up to you."
Typically this would be the moment when our hero-protagonist would leap into action and save the day. However, in this case, our hero-protagonist, Harry August, is 78 and in the late stages of cancer. Like most people who are 78 and in the late stages of cancer he died and the book ended there
Or would have if Harry was not a kalachakra. An ever returning soul, Harry is literally reborn after his death(s), returned to his humble beginnings in life with a memory of all his previous ones. He is one of many who possess this trait, though why it occurs and who it occurs to is a bit of a mystery.
It is said there are three stages of life for those of us who live our lives in circles. These are rejection, exploration and acceptance.
Of course rejection, especially in the second life, is typically characterized by insanity:
As the full powers of my adult consciousness returned to my child's body, I fell first into a confusion, then an agony, then a doubt, then a despair, then a screaming, then a shrieking, and finally, aged seven years old, I was committed to St. Margot's Asylum for Unfortunates, where I frankly believed myself to belong.
Thankfully there is an organization of kalachakra that look after their own, the Chronus Club, providing support and rescue from the tedium of being five years old with a mind of a three hundred year old. Of course this club is well a well kept secret with very little of its activities being known by "linears":
"Well, it depends on which text you're reading what they have. Some say conspiratorial meetings in white robes, others go for orgies at which the next generation of their kin are created. I don't believe in either, because the Klan has really dented the white-robe fashion down South, and orgies are everyone's first bet."
Eventually Harry comes to terms with his existence and explores the possibilities his condition confers. Traveling the world, learning languages, expanding his mind with philosophy and mathematics and science. Of course he does overlook somethings:
At these words, Ugly Bill grabbed me in a bear hug from behind and, not for the first time, I wondered why in over two hundred years I'd never got round to learning some form of martial art.
Of course there are rules for kalachakra."...you can do whatever you like so long as you don't bugger it up for the next lot. So no nuking New York, please, or shooting Roosevelt, even if for experimental purposes. We just can't handle the hassle." Which sadly means no killing off Hitler (a rule that reminded me of the awesome short story Wikihistory).
This book was an excellent blend of the retelling Harry's for fifteen lives (as the title suggests), exploring the culture and characters of the kalachakra, and, in the last, half, trying to save the world. I greatly enjoyed North's time travel dynamic. Messages can be passed up and down through history by either leaving them in a permanent medium (like a stone tablet) for future generations, or daisy chain kalachakra of vastly different ages to go back in time. Hence the young girl who delivered her warning to Harry in the 1990's effectively got the message back to the Chronus club of the early 20th century when Harry gets reborn; very imaginative and unique.
North does an excellent job highlighting the main tension that drives the conflict in this book:
"In a little over twenty years man will walk on the moon. Hundreds of thousands will die in Vietnam for no apparently sensible reason, dissidents will be shot, men will be tortured, women will weep and children will die. We know all of this and we do... nothing. I'm not suggesting we change the world. I'm not suggesting we know how. What will the future be if these things do not come to pass? But we must do... something."
North deftly segues from interesting world building and character development to what I can only classify as an espionage thriller played out over several lifetimes; sufficed to say it was awesome. There was excellent tension, high stakes, and many devious challenges facing Harry. I was highly satisfied with how well North wove the entire fifteen lives of Harry together to inform his beliefs, actions, and outlook. All in all a stellar book.
But by far the most enjoyable part of the book, for me, was a excellent dry wit. Some of my favorite passages:
You know you are your own harshest critic when you dissect the potential shortcomings of your own suicide: Retrospectively, I realise that three floors are frequently not high enough to guarantee the quick, relatively painless death that such circumstances warrant, and I might easily have snapped every bone in my lower body and yet retained my consciousness intact. Thankfully, I landed on my head, and that was that.
The path to hell is paved with good intentions (and some torture!): "Goddamn it, yes. Because I'm a fucking defender of democracy! Because I'm a fucking liberal-minded believer in freedom, because I'm a fucking good guy with a good heart and damn it because someone has to!"
A question we have all asked ourselves: Why, in all my years in the east, had I not bothered to learn even a little kung fu?
A question few people have asked: No one ever considered the question of the bladder when dealing with matters of subterfuge.
A metaphor David from Steelheart would kill for: The roads weren't much to speak of, and the car's suspension had been welded in by a stonemason resentful of his change in career.
I'd hate to see Pietrok-113: If Pietrok-111 was a one-horse town, Pietrok-112 was the glue factory where that horse went to die.
Reason number one to avoid being a fugitive in Russia: The feeling was exhilarating at first, until the discomfort of the settling night and the damp cold eating through my boots reminded me that exhilaration held nothing over reliable hygiene and warm sheets.
And these are just a few of the great bits of prose. Seriously, this book was a delight to read and I highly recommend it to one and all....more
The name the news outlets were going with - the Georgia Flu - had struck Jeevan as disarmingly pretty."
Just as good things come in small packages, deaThe name the news outlets were going with - the Georgia Flu - had struck Jeevan as disarmingly pretty."
Just as good things come in small packages, deadly extinction level epidemics come in even smaller packages. 99.9% of the human population later and civilization has collapsed:
No more diving into pools of chlorinated water lit green from below. No more ball games played out under floodlights. No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights... No more cities. No more films... No more pharmaceuticals. No more certainty of surviving a scratch on one's hand, a cut on a finger while chopping vegetable for dinner, a dog bite. No more flight.
So yeah, the world kind of sucks now.
There was the flu that exploded like a neutron bomb over the surface of the earth and the shock of the collapse that followed, the first unspeakable years when everyone was traveling, before everyone caught on that there was no place they could walk where life continued as it had before and settled wherever they could, clustered close together for safert in truck stops and former restaurants and old motels.
But unlike most end of the world/pandemic books, Station Eleven takes a unique approach. Yes, it does detail the events of civilization's collapse, but it was just as much about the events twenty years after the outbreak as events twenty year before the outbreak. It was a book about memories, how they change us, what we keep with us, and how they inform our present. The book is broken into a bunch of different perspectives, all somehow tied to a fateful night where a once well regarded actor dies of a heart attack on stage. The people he directly touched, an ex-wife and son, an old college friend, a little girl in the play, and a EMT in training who tried to save the actor's life, serve as window into this brave new world and the cowardly old one.
The main action in the post-epidemic world was centered around a traveling symphony and Shakespeare troupe.
The symphony was insufferable, hell was other flutes or other people or whoever had used the last of the rosin or whoever missed the most rehearsals, but the truth was that the symphony was their only home."
These brave musicians and actors roamed the land bringing a bit of culture to this hollowed out world. Why? Because survival is insufficient.
Not surprisingly, many survivors turned to religious leaders: "I've heard of a dozen prophets over the years. It's not an uncommon occupation."
As to be expected the near extinction of humanity brings out the worst in humanity, especially those with a religious bent: "I submit that everything that has happened on this earth has happened for a reason...Have you considered the perfection of the virus? I submit, my beloved people, that such a perfect agent of death could only be divine."
However the world is not all evil people running amok. There are many references to peaceful communities among the survivors where society is slowly starting to be built up again. Just because we have lost civilization, doesn't be we are not a civilized people.
This book was bitter sweet take on humanity and its many facets. The writing was excellent, the characters flawed but deeply human, and the story was expertly woven through different spaces and time. It ends on a not of both sadness and hope:
He has no expectation of seeing an airplane rise again in his lifetime, but is it possible that somewhere there are ships setting out? If there are again towns with streetlights, if there are symphonies and newspapers, then what else might this awakening world contain?... If nothing else, it's pleasant to consider the possibility. He likes the thought of ships moving over the water, towards another world just out of sight."
An entertaining story that takes place before the events of A Game of Thrones, during a time when Westeros was still ruled by the Targaryon Dynasty. IAn entertaining story that takes place before the events of A Game of Thrones, during a time when Westeros was still ruled by the Targaryon Dynasty. It tells the story of a hedge knight that got in over his head while trying to do the right thing. The events in this graphic novel are actually mentioned in The World of Ice and Fire history book and they have a major impact on subsequent events. As far as the art goes, it was nothing ground breaking but did a good job conveying the action in the scenes. I think I probably would have enjoyed the novella (also called The Hedge Knight) a bit better since the comic format didn't allow for the expansive and descriptive prose Martin is known for. Still, all things considered, this was an enjoyable read....more
To his most esteemed and gracious lord, Robert Tommen the first of his name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men...
Thus begins a nift
To his most esteemed and gracious lord, Robert Tommen the first of his name, King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men...
Thus begins a nifty in-universe history book about the World of Westeros (and beyond). But just who are the Andals, and Rhoynar, and First Men? Those of you who have paid attention while reading the Song of Ice and Fire books will know a bit about them. The First Men were the first humans to enter Westeros. Thousands of years later another wave of immigration brought the iron toting Andals to Westeros as conquerors. The Rhoynar, on the other hand, were some group of much later immigrants that settled in Dorne. Beyond this not too much is related.
This is where The World of Ice and Fire fills in the stupendous history of Westeros, Essos, and beyond. Written in the format of a history provided by an in-universe Maester Yandel, Martin et. al. does a wonderful job giving the book a voice instead of just being a dry data dump. Yandel follows some excellent historical methodology referencing in-universe primary and secondary sources, like Archmaester Haereg's History of the Ironborn, while also cautioning the reader about the reliability of some sources he references. This writing style works extremely well and was a joy to read. Plus, because he is writing for a king with Baratheon and Lannister blood (view spoiler)[(ok, just Lannister, but he didn't know that) (hide spoiler)], he is overly fawning of both those Houses' histories. A nice touch in my mind.
The structure of this book also works quite well. It starts with ancient times and works its way forward chronologically. It then takes a deeper historical dive into each of the seven kingdoms and their notable personalities. It finishes up with looking at Essos and other lands, really imbuing these rarely touched upon regions with a sense of depth and history.
While there is a lot to be said about this compendium, I want to highlight a few of the parts I enjoyed the most:
Iron Islands/Ironborn: While we get a fair amount of page time with Theon and his sister Asha, we never really got much of a feel for the Ironbown. We know they value reaving and paying the "iron price", they rebelled against Robert and then got curbstomped, but little else. Thanks to this book, we know that the Ironborn have always been the assholes of the sea. Since the beginning of recorded history they have been raping, killing, and stealing everything that wasn't bolted down (which they would just burn if they couldn't take it). It was interesting to see how their culture developed and changed, especially in reaction to the coming of the Dragonlords.
The Targaryan Dynasty: Sure everyone knows about Mad King Aerys and a bit about Aegon the Conquerer and Balor the Blessed, but we don't get much depth about the other rulers and family members (of which there are waaaaaaaay too many Aegons). This book fills in all those empty spaces in history with a very fascinating development of the Targaryons and the uniting of Westeros. Plus we get a really good description of the Dance of Dragons, the Targaryon Civil War. Apart from needing an English History Degree to be able to follow the convoluted family tree (where siblings marry), it was quite informative.
Mysteries of the World: Since this was written as an in-universe document, there is much that Yandel doesn't know about. Mysterious buildings that predate the First Men in Westeros, just what happened in Valyria (though Yandel does list some interesting theories), what exists in the far east of Essos, forgotten and vanished races that left strange structures behind. While I am sure Martin knows the answers to these question, it is nice that e is holding somethings back to possibly drop into the books. Plus it kept the framing device realistic.
The World at Large: Essos is awesome. The Free Cities (especially Braavos) have fascinating cultures and histories. Yen Ti, what little we are told, leaves me wanting so much more. And I must know more about Asshai-by-the-Shadow. There is so much potential for amazing stories and characters. In an ideal world, once Martin finishes the series, he will open the universe up to other writers in a manner similar to the Star Wars expanded universe to explore all these fascinating lands and cultures.
The Art: This book has some stunning artwork that really blew my mind. I mean, just look at this gorgeous art:
The Iron Throne as Martin envisioned it, quite a bit fancier than the show's
Robert Baratheon/Rhaegar throwdown
Aegon the Conquerer
The book is chock full of gorgeous art that really enhances the world of Westeros.
This book, however, we not without flaws. My biggest issue was the lack of maps. There was a general map of the known world (with no labels for cities, bodies of water, or regions) and a collection of maps for each of the seven kingdoms of Westeros. There was no comprehensive map of Westeros to fit all the pieces together. I would have found it much better if "Yandel" had provided some maps outlining the Targaryan expansion into Westeros. Finally, given how little we see of Essos in the books, a bunch of maps showing where all these newly introduced areas were would have greatly enhanced the history. I can think of no good reason these were excluded and strikes me as a horrid oversight.
All in all this book hit both my fantasy and history weak spots. I adored revisiting Westeros and learning more about this fascinating world. I know we all want Martin to finish the next book series, but this book really did an excellent job giving the books more depth and weight. This is an excellent read for anyone who has enjoyed the series.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Fatherland takes a well worn subject, what if Nazi Germany had been successful in WWII, and takes an unusual avenue to explore it. Unlike other booksFatherland takes a well worn subject, what if Nazi Germany had been successful in WWII, and takes an unusual avenue to explore it. Unlike other books on the subject Fatherland does not concern itself with the big military picture and it doesn't dally in the political decisions that changed history. It takes the changes as a given and explores this strange and horrifying world through the eyes of a simple police officer trying to solve a crime. It infuses a 1960's Nazi dominated Europe with all the recognizable elements of a noir mystery thriller: abuse of power, a femme fatale, a man just trying to find truth in an otherwise corrupt system, death, deception, and double crosses.
The world that this story takes place in is indeed a depressing one. Nazi Germany has come to dominate Europe and is locked into a cold war with the United States. Xavier March, a member of the German police, is called out to a strange crime scene that propels him down the rabbit hole of Nazi secrets, power plays, and lost history. All the keystones of classic Noir setting are present in this book, but with much higher stakes because, you know, Nazis.
Harris does a top notch job introducing the reader to this strange world. Tantalizing hints are dropped about how this world in different but it never becomes the focus of the book. He explores just what it would be like to live under a Nazi police state through the eyes of a war Veteran that remembers life before the party and is somewhat disenchanted with its ideology. We see how such a society warps and controls children, replacing family, community, or religion with the Party and the State as a center for loyalty. It creates a nation of followers that Harris brilliantly portrays and March cunningly exploits at various points in the book.
Because of this setting the acceptable bounds of behavior of the bad guys is much wider. That cop who threatens to put a bullet in your head isn't crooked, he is just following orders from higher up and would likely get a commendation for his act. March himself is a part of the system and faces the unique challenge of seeking the truth in an environment that is both hostile and fatal for the seekers of certain truths.
Harris also sets up the politics of Nazi Germany quite well. It isn't some monolithic entity of pure evil, but a highly bureaucratic one with many factions vying for power. Harris explores the dark nooks and crannies of the Nazi power structure through March's investigation and gives the reader a good feel for what the banality of evil looks like writ large (spoiler alert: it doesn't look good).
What I most enjoyed about this book was how vibrant the characters were. Relationships felt natural and organic. The repartee with March and his partner (see below) were great and felt like a friendship that was many years old. The SS officers' behaviors made sense within the context of their character and you even feel a bit a sympathy for one towards the end. While I typically get very little out of romantic plot lines, the American reporter that March falls in with was also a great, fully realized character instead of just being a pretty face and love interest.
Finally, the prose in this book was outstanding. Harris really knows how to effectively turn a phrase using the voice of his characters:
"That was how it was with young men of his age. They had come off an assembly line of Pimpf, Hitler Youth, National Service and Strength-through-Joy. They heard the same speeches, read the same slogans, eaten the same one pot meals in aid of Winter Relief. They were the regime's workhorses, had known no authority but the party, and we're as reliable as the Kripo's Volkswagens."
"What do you do if you devote your life to discovering criminals, and it gradually occurs to you that the real criminals are the people you work for?" "I suppose you go crazy." "Or worse. Sane."
"If you think Fuhrertag [Hitler's Birthday] is a security nightmare - forget it. Can you imagine what it'll be like with Kennedy in town as well?" "I think, Max, you are missing the historic dimension of the occasion." "Screw the historic dimension of the occasion. I'm thinking about my sleep..."
"...What did you expect to pick up at the morgue?" "Plenty." "What? Be exact!" Fleas. Lice. A skin rash from his shitty clothes."
Sharp, insightful, witty, all hallmarks of a writing style I greatly enjoy.
All in all this was a great book that I enjoyed reading a lot. Some of that may be due to my love of WWII history (of which this book does delve in to), but I found the setting engrossing, the characters engaging, and the plot both surprising and perfectly reasonable. It kept me guessing what would happen next and followed its internal consistency its natural end. While I doubt he will, I would love it if Harris would write another book or twenty set in this alternate world.
Fatherland is definitely worth checking out for those who enjoy alternative histories, WWII, thrillers, or some combination of the three....more
So this short little book is a collection of stories by Truman Capote, the flagship and most famous being Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Breakfast at Tiffany'So this short little book is a collection of stories by Truman Capote, the flagship and most famous being Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Breakfast at Tiffany's: I honestly had no idea what this was actually about. The extent of my exposure to this was the image of Audrey Hepburn:
And an incredible racist Asian caricature portrayed by Mickey Rooney:
Thankfully the book did not have a terribly racist caricature (which makes me wonder why the movie had one) and was in fact rather engaging. Told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator, we get caught up in the whirlwind that is Holly Golightly. Characters are sharp, relationships feel, and the plot was surprisingly engaging. Certainly worth checking out, it is a short, quick read that I finished on a plane ride.
House of Flowers: A short little story about a Caribbean prostitute that finds what she thinks is true love with a mountain boy. Great prose but a rather meandering and uninteresting story.
A Diamond Guitar: A somewhat bittersweet take about friendship and betrayal in a southern work prison.
A Christmas Memory: Another bittersweet tale about the love between a young boy and his mental diminished much older aunt. They have a very touching and loving relationship and this story centers around a Christmas tradition of making fruitcakes.
All in all a mixed bag, I enjoyed Breakfast at Tiffany's a lot but felt the other stories just didn't resonate with me. Capote is clearly a very talented writer, just not my cup of tea. ...more
Another excellent addition to this fantastic series. I had a great time reading it and while the end left me a little disappointed (view spoiler)[(I rAnother excellent addition to this fantastic series. I had a great time reading it and while the end left me a little disappointed (view spoiler)[(I really wanted to see the Malazan army tangle with the forces of the Apocalypse) (hide spoiler)] it was still a top notch read.
As this been out for more than a decade AND has more than 400 reviews, there is little substantial I can add (for great reviews by fans of the series check out Conor's and David's reviews). We got a raft of new characters and characters that were minor in other books got much bigger roles. There was a nice taste of what will no doubt be revelations of a cosmic scale in later books and we see the fallout from the previous books land among this cast of characters. So, you know, standard Malazan stuff.
I do want to take some time to discuss Karsa Orlong, the badass Thelomen Toblakai warrior who didn't take shit from anyone, even gods. He is a rather complex character that goes through a lot of development in this book. I classify him in the same group as Jaime "I defenestrate children to hide my incestuous love affair" Lannister. You can like a lot of stuff the character ends up doing, but he has committed some major sins that there may not be able atonement for ((view spoiler)[mostly rape of his fellow Treblor and the wanton slaughter of humans to satisfy his need for glory (hide spoiler)]).
I think I am going to enjoy seeing his character grow over the series but I am concerned that he is overpowered. It doesn't seem like much of anything can do significant damage to him now, sorcery has little bite on him, he has a badass sword, and is generally a beast when it comes to fighting. He is like a hot chainsaw in a world made of butter. That doesn't make for a terribly interesting character in my mind, but I have faith that Erikson can finesse the character just right.
So, as I am want to do when reviewing this series that has been reviewed by far more and better people than me, I present to you, fair reader, some quotes and interactions I thought were just the bee's knees:
Nature has but one enemy. And that is imbalance.
This was a major theme with this installment, along with SO MANY MENTIONS of chains. But I think this one is a more enduring theme that plays out over the entire series.
Karsa: Not exactly Attila the Hun: To the shores of Silver Lake, where farms quatted like rotted mushrooms and children [humans] scurried like mice. Back then, there had been two farms, a half-dozen outbuildings. Now, Karsa believed, there would be more. Three, even four farms."
Not quite dreaming big, is he?
I'm Steve Erikson and I actually think out the cultures of my intelligent races based on their psychologies and not just what sounds cool (though my stuff usually sounds cool too): When failure was honorable, their [T'lan Imass] sentient remnants would be placed open to the sky, to vistas, to the outside world, so that they might find peace watching the passing eons. But, for these seven, failure had not been honorable. Thus, the darkness of a tomb had been their sentence.
I have immense respect for Erikson's ability to come up with rational culture practices for the diverse populations he has created the flow naturally from their circumstances.
Torvald and Karsa need a radio talk show that never goes off air:
Tovald: We should go hunting Karsa: Leave that to me Tovald: You? You can barely stand- Karsa: Even so, I will kill it. Tovald: Well, can't I watch? Karsa: If you insist.
Tovald: You needn't worry about the oarsmen Karsa: Are they slaves? When we shall free them. Tovald: Slaves? I don't think so. They wear no chains, Karsa. Mind you, they have no heads, either. As I said, I don't think we have to concern ourselves with them.
Tovald: I've been thinking friend. Karsa: You should do more of that, instead of talking, Torvald Nom. Torvald: It's a family curse. My father was even worse. Oddly enough, some lines of the Nom House are precisely opposite - you couldn't get a word out of them even under torture. I have a cousin, an assassin- Karsa: I thought you had been thinking. Torvald: Oh, right. So I was...
Words of wisdom that sadly apply to the real word: Hatred is a most pernicious weed, finding root in any kind of soil. It feeds on itself.
Steven Erikson writes pretty: Pikes wavered and flashed blinding glares through the dusty air of the parade ground like startled birds of steel. The sun was a raging fire overhead.
Abbot and Costello have nothing on Steven Eriskson: "And have you a name, soldier?" "Maybe." "Well, what is it?" "I just told you. Maybe. Do you need me to spell it out or something?" "Can you?" "No. I was just wondering if you was stupid, that's all."
Words of wisdom that sadly apply to the real word, Part II: My loyalty was misplaced. I served only glory. Words, my friends. And words can wear a false nobility. Disguising brutal truths."
Badass quote: You delivered pain. Unacceptable. I am not one to feel pain. I only deliver it.
Just call him Karsa Marx: The rewards [of settle agricultural work] seemed to be exclusive to the high born landowners, whilst the labourers themselves had only a minimal existence, prematurely aged and worn down by ceaseless toils. And the distinction between high and low status was born from farming itself - or so it appeared to Karsa.
Your reminder of how much fun Iskaral Pust is: No time? Of course you have, lad! There's much to be done, and much time in which to do it! Doesn't that make for a change? Rush about? No, we can dawdle! Isn't it wonderful?
Introducing Greyfrog, the demon that could give Pust and Kruppe a run for their money: Confident. They are too preoccupied. Disappointed. I have eaten but two guards, the wards sleep, our path of retreat is clear. Things are coming. Suitably ominous. Frankly. I admit to fear, and advise we... hide.
A fell night, this one. Ghosts, assassins, warrens, silent battles. Does no-one in this world ever sleep?
There is no term for "I was wrong" in the Tiste Liosan language: [After having been introduced to explosives and barely escaping with their lives]Brother Enias: Were those truly th ones who rode that ship through our realm? Jorrude: They were. And I have been thinking. I suspect they were ignorant of Liosan laws when they traveled through our realm. True, ignorance is an insufficient defence. But consider the notion of innocent momentum. Malachar: Innocent momentum? Jorrude: Indeed. Were not these trespassers but pulled along - beyond their will - in the wake of the draconian t'lan Imass bonecaster? If an enemy we must hunt, then should it not be that dragon? Malachar: Wise words. Jorrude: A brief stay in our realm to resupply and requisition new horses, along with repairs and such, seems to reasonably obtain in this instance. Malachar: Truly judged, brother.
Words of wisdom that sadly apply to the real word, Part III: The glory of battle... dwells only in the bard's voice, in the teller's woven words. Glory belongs to ghosts and poets. What you hear and dream isn't the same as what you live.
Tons of other great passages and unforgettable characters. Lots of great action, intrigue, and mysteries unveiled. A worthy addition to the series.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The Providence of Fire was an excellent follow up to The Emperor's Blades. While I found this book to be similar to The Emperor's Blades in so far itThe Providence of Fire was an excellent follow up to The Emperor's Blades. While I found this book to be similar to The Emperor's Blades in so far it did little to push the boundaries of the High Fantasy Genre, it was a heck of a ride. Every chapter seemed to end with a new revelation and cliff hanger that just kept those pages turning. Much like the first book this one was primarily composed of POV chapters from the late Emperor's children (with a few chapters from another POV which was quite enjoyable).
If you found The Emperor's Blades too slow, try to think of the trilogy as one big book. The first part was mostly character set up and world building with some excitement at the end. This installment was primarily action with a world expanded a bit, but the characters coming into many more conflicts, both with antagonists and among their allies (plus some great scenes with the siblings together briefly). I could see clear (and very rational) character development both from the primary characters and the supporting ones. Everyone is very different by the end of this book and that is a good thing, it made all the trials and tribulations they go through mean something instead of just being fun scenes to visualize.
One thing I will give Stavely credit for is infusing this book with a lot of paranoia. Both the characters and myself had no idea who to trust or how to interpret events and the actions of other characters. Heck, I still don't know if I can trust some characters who have gotten into the good graces of the protagonists. The fact that the somewhat cliched "ancient race bent on destruction of humanity" look exactly like humans and can pass as humans also adds a bit of paranoia and suspense to the story. the fact they can perfectly mimic human behavior is just the cherry on top of the creepy pie.
I think what Stavely does best in this book is give the supporting characters a lot of depth. They aren't just props for the heroes but fully realized characters with their own agendas and passions. Valyn's wing is just awesome (even and especially when they are fighting) and I love the Skullsworn, Pyrre, that falls in with them; her nonchalance but deadly efficiency is a nice contrast to the soldierly professionalism of the Kettral. I also thought the "advisor" that joins Kaden was fantastic and offers a fascinating perspective on events.
I did think Adare was once again the weak link in the book. It wasn't that Stavely can't write female characters (this book is populated with many kickass female characters who Stavely could have easily used men for but chose not to) it was just that Adare struck me as a very passive character. She seemed to be at the mercy of events instead of taking control of them. I am not sure why the Adare struck me in this way but it is what it is. I didn't think her chapters were bad, just not as good as the others.
All in all this was a great piece of high fantasy literature. The stakes were appropriately raised, beloved characters die, and there was some great development. If you had any positive feelings towards the first book, but are unsure about continuing the series, I would highly suggest picking this up. If you are still unsure, Tor, the publishing company, has been kind enough to provide an early look at the chapters of this book:
Legal disclaimer: I have never listened to an audio book before. I have never read a John Grisham book before. I have never read a courtroom/legal booLegal disclaimer: I have never listened to an audio book before. I have never read a John Grisham book before. I have never read a courtroom/legal book before. I am not a lawyer. I do have some good lawyer jokes though.
With all that out of the way let me say I enjoyed the heck out of this audio book and it served me well on long car trips.
Right off the bat Dennis Boutsikaris does a very nice job with the audio portion of this audio book. He has a nice cadence, great inflections, and does a wonderful job giving each character their own voice. I could tell who was speaking in a long conversation just by the speech patterns he was using. I think his Chicago accent would occasionally stray into a Bostonian accent but it wasn't very distracting. Boutsikaris was a great voice for this and I was pleased by the quality of his contribution.
As for the book portion of the audio book, Grisham presents the reader/listener with a very colorful cast. From the grumpy Oscar Finley, to the hustling Wallace "Wally" Figg, to the earnest David Zinc, to all the many supporting characters we come across there is more than enough personality to go around. Grisham does a great job having the characters play off against each other and giving relationships a deep sense of history. I really liked how Grisham crafted the characters and relationships, making them all feel very natural and real.
The story was also a lot of fun. Instead of just focusing on the courtroom drama of a major litigation, the vast majority of the book detailed all the out of court maneuvering by the mass tort bar, the tiny firm of Finley and Figg, and the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the questionable drug. It was fascinating to see how these sorts of things play out, how opportunistic the lawyers in question were, and strategy the corporation used to defend themselves.
But beyond the legal drama, this was a book about people. We learned and sympathized with Oscar's marital troubles, we got to know Wally and his challenge to stay sober, and we got to root for David as he cast off the golden shackles of a giant legal firm for the uncertainty of street law. More importantly, we got to see some of the other law they practiced and what drove them as people. I greatly enjoyed how the characters and story lines interwove themselves and was left with a very satisfied feeling as all the loose ends were (logically and reasonably) tied up by the end.
All in all this was a great first audiobook for me. I was constantly engaged, laughed out loud many times, and found the story lots of fun. The audio was great, the book was great, it was all great!...more
Texts from Jane Eyre takes a nice poke at some of literature's greatest characters and works, re-imagining them in a world with texting. Ortberg doesTexts from Jane Eyre takes a nice poke at some of literature's greatest characters and works, re-imagining them in a world with texting. Ortberg does a lovely and loving job magnifying the flaws of great literary characters through this medium. Here are some of my favorites:
Medea: anyhow so to SHOW YOU how soft my feelings are I got you guys a wedding present!!!... Glauce [Jason's new bride]: oh! you must mean the box that came on Thursday Medea: yessssss I TOTALLY MEAN THAT Glauce: it's a dress Medea: It's a wedding dress Glauce: thank you I mean, I already have a wedding dress picked out but this is very sweet Medea: do you know what you should do though you should put it on you should put it on your skin and wear it for just a minute (be sure to put it on your skin) :-):-):-)
Medea: I sent you guys something Glauce: I don't think we have anything Medea: look outside Glauce: it's another box Medea: THE BOX IS FROM ME (are you surprised) Glauce: a little bit how did you know where we live Medea: i mean how does anyone know anything right you should open the box right now Glauce: it's a cake Medea: for your wedding! so just go ahead and eat some right now to make sure that it's normal and good for the wedding and tell me if you like it!! Glauce: Medea Medea: are you eating it how does it taste Glauce: Medea I'm not eating this cake Medea: oh sorry can you not eat processed flour i should have asked do you have allergies Glauce: Medea I'm not going to try on the dress of eat this cake Medea: why not??? Glauce: you know why they're both full of poison Medea: whaaaat Glauce: the cake is black and the icing ate through the box Medea: how would poison even get in there Glauce: the dress caught on fire that's how much poison was on it Medea: well i'm going to i'm going to have a very stern talk with that seamstress ill get you another present to make up for it Glauce: please don't
Rudyard Kipling: I'm bored Let's shoot something Friend: okay What Rudyard Kipling: i don't care a tiger or a Boer Friend: what was that last one? Rudyard Kipling: I mean a bear Friend: oh OK Rudyard Kipling: haha must have been a weird typo it's illegal to hunt men but exhilarating Friend: what? Rudyard Kipling:I said it was illegal and also execrable execrable was the second word I said
Enjolras: where are you? Marius: I am so there this barricade is going to be an absolute HAPPENING you guys don't start without me I am on my way in like five minutes Enjolras: Marius I'm concerned that you don't really understand the reason for our movement MArius: oh my god what do you mean Enjolras: I sometimes question your commitment to the cause Marius: how could you possibly even question that Enjolras: I don't know Marius maybe it's because you have missed every one of our clashes with the police because you were still studying for the bar Marius: to bring down the system from within! Enjolras: Marius your father is a baron He's an actual baron Marius: well only a Napoleonic baron Enjolras: That's still a baron Marius: well when you say it like that
Jake: Brett Brett did you get that picture I sent you Brett: I did, yeah Jake: the picture of my penis I mean Brett: yes Jake: Brett guess how much of my penis I still have left you know after my accident after my penis accident Brett: I don't really want to play this game, Jake Jake: come on, guess Brett: I don't have unlimited texting these messages are kind of expensive for me Jake: I'll give you a hint it's definitely SOME
Holmes: this is quite a puzzle, Watson Watson: damned right, Holmes hell of a puzzle what I want to know is how did the vicar know the archbishop's Pekingese had developed an immunity to snake bites? Holmes: there's only one thing we're missing only one thing we need that will help us solve this case Watson: we need to question Lady Emily again Holmes: no, Watson Watson: oh it's not ... Holmes: COCAINE, WATSON Watson: ah Holmes: we're going to need loads of cocaine SCADS of it
As you can see no cow is sacred and there is more than a little truth in these portrayals (especially Marius, man do I loathe that guy).
I will say that, even though I am somewhat well read, there were many references that went right over my head. Overall though, this was a brisk and entertaining read. I would certainly checkout a sequel if one was written and if you are familiar with the classics you will also enjoy the heck out of this book....more
There is so much I want to say about this book. It is so jammed packed with interesting ideas and characters that there are a million places to start.There is so much I want to say about this book. It is so jammed packed with interesting ideas and characters that there are a million places to start. Perhaps I’ll just get the crude and vulgar out of the way first.
The world of Jennifer Government reads like an Ayn Rand wet dream. Corporations have free reign in what is called the United States of America but actually comprises North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and the British isles (of, for you George Orwell fans out there, Oceania). The government makes Nozick’s Night-watchman state look like Soviet Russia and even most basic services are provided by companies.
The teacher jotted something in his folder. McDonald's sponsored schools were cheap like that: at Pepsi schools, everyone had notebook computers. Also their uniforms were much better.
But all is not happy go lucky in this Capitalist Paradise. Where the government does not have a monopoly on violence, those that deal in violence are attracted to the highest bidder. A corporate Cold War is on the verge of heating up, and in this case the customer isn't always right.
The battle lines have been drawn. Every Team Alliance company is in competition with every Team Advantage company. Every customer who flies T.A. airline will buy a computer from Compaq instead of IBM. Boeing is with us because otherwise United Airlines won't buy from it.
With this as the backdrop we are introduce to a wide cast of characters whose threads eventually get entangled with each other and much bigger events.
John Nike (because in this world you are your job, or at least your last name is your company) is what John Galt would be if Ayn Rand had a halfway decent editor. He condenses Jon Galt’s (in)famous ninety page radio speech into two paragraphs that absolutely represent the spirit of the age:
Look, I am not designing next year's ad campaign here. I'm getting rid of the Government, the greatest impediment to business in history. You don't do that without a downside. Yes, some people will die. But look at the gain! Run a cost-benefit analysis! Maybe some of you have forgotten what companies really do. So let me remind you: they make as much money as possible. If they don't investors go elsewhere. It's that simple. We're all cogs in wealth-creation machines. that's all.
I've given you a world without Government interference. There is now no advertising campaign, no intercompany deal, no promotion, no action you can't take. You want to pay kids to get the swoosh tattooed on their foreheads? Who's going to stop you? You want to make computers that need repair after three months? Who's going to stop you? You want to reward consumers who complain about your competitors in the media? You want to pay them for recruiting their little brothers and sisters to your brand of cigarettes? You want the NRA to help you eliminate your competition? Then do it. Just do it.
He is a ruthless, amoral, sanctimonious, asshole and thrives in the world corporations have constructed.
It's my job to increase sales. Is it my fault that [killing kids to create buzz] was the best way to do it? If Government had the muscle to enforce the law, it wouldn't have made economic sense, but they don't and it did. this is the world we live in. If you don't take advantage of the rules, you're a sucker.
If it doesn’t have a dollar sign in front of it, isn’t connected to a board of directors, or wear a short skit, he isn’t interested. He is pure id in the empire of id.
Jennifer Government, the book’s namesake, is a bit rougher around the edges, hemmed in by Government limitations that prevent her from seeing justice done. In order to pursue a murder investigation she has to convince the victims' families to pony up money for a budget.
"The Government's budget only extends to preventing crime, not punishing it. For retributive investigation, we can only proceed if we can obtain funding."
She is a but rough around the edges and nicely fits into the loose cannon cop trope while still delivering both a softer side with her daughter, and a more interesting backstory than most who populate the trope.
In a way, Jennifer felt bad, busting into such a nice place in full riot gear and scaring the crap out of everybody. But in another, more accurate way, she enjoyed it a lot.
The world itself is quite dystopian. All the places in the USA are homogenized (be they LA, Australia, or England). The overwhelming cultural impulse is to do anything to get ahead, to get yours and to hell with other people. People have internalized this to the point where that commit immoral actions (child abduction, murder, assassinations, etc) or suffer psychological breakdowns when they finally burn out. It is a culture driven by consumerism and consumption at the cost of overseas workers, the environment, and our shared humanity.
Thankfully things like this:
The cheap roads were clogged, even at six-thirty, but he was only four blocks from a premium Bechtel freeway and that was eight lanes, two dollars a mile, and no speed limit.
Well, at least emergency services will never devolve into this:
"Sir, I need to know if the victim is part of our register. If she's one of our clients, we'll be there within a few minutes. Otherwise I'm happy to recommend-" "I need an ambulance. I'll pay for it, I don't care, just come!" "Do you have a credit card, sir?" "Yes! Send someone now!" "As soon as I confirm your ability to pay, sir. This will only take a few seconds."
(Goddamnit world, this book was not supposed to be a how to guide!)
Anyway, doomsday prophesying aside, this was a very fast read. Chapters were just a few pages long and the action jumps among a wide cast of characters. The writing is sharp (see below for some of my favorite quotes) and Barry does a great job bringing this Calitalizm nightmare to life. I did think the ending was a bit lacking, much like Lexicon (link to review), but I greatly enjoyed this book in spite of this. If you like economic dystopias or just think the setting sounds fun then by all means check this out.
Also, if you are feeling ambitious, start and run your own nation at Nationstates, a site affiliated with this book.
Now, without further ado, fun/horrifying quotes:
Companies were getting a lot tougher on labor contracts these days; Hack had heard stories. At Adidas, if you quit your job and your replacement wasn't as competent, they sued you for lost profits.
"I want to commandeer your vehicle for Government business. We pay three hundred dollars per hour of use, plus any necessary repairs. Also, you have the satisfaction of knowing you've helped prevent crimes in your community." "Three hundred up front?"
Companies claimed to be highly responsive, but you only had to chase a screaming man through their offices to realize that wasn't true.
There was no place for irony in marketing: it made people want to look for deeper meaning. there was no place in marketing for that, either.
There are lots of other brilliant and funny lines as well, you should read it and see them for yourself! ...more