The Canadian Steyn inject quite a bit of humor into this book, which you'll probably like if you tend towards the conservative, but which may strike a...moreThe Canadian Steyn inject quite a bit of humor into this book, which you'll probably like if you tend towards the conservative, but which may strike a discordant note if your sympathies lie elsewhere. Steyn presents the case that radical Islam of the Wahabi strain has been aggressively exported around the globe due to the oil money flooding the middle east. While he acknowledges America's culpability in this, his main point is that American is the only country positioned to have an effect on the spreading Muslim influence. Britain and France have very large Muslim minorities, and he argues effectively that these minorities do quite a lot to influence how tough (or how easy) these countries go on Islamic terrorism. He uses demography to illustrate that many of the countries associated with western civilizations (Italy, Spain, Britain, France) have birth rates that are below the replacement rate, i.e., they are dying out. The youth in those countries and the energy belong to the Muslims, and bit by bit they are implementing their agenda.
He makes the point that in our haste to clarify that we are not at war with Islam as a whole, we are failing to react to the very real threat of change that would result from a worldwide shift to countries ruled by Islamic values, which are undeniably much different than our own, and not in a good way. Lack of respect for women, intolerance of gays, brutal punishments for crimes, these are all looming for countries close to adopting Sharia law, as Britain inches closer to doing.
I tend to be of the mind that there are good and bad in every religious group, and my instinct is to ignore these warnings and continue to grant the benefit of the doubt. But I also must acknowledge that much of the current prosperity of the world comes from the Christian values (I am not a Christian by the way), and general respect for the individual that is our western heritage. And I agree wholeheartedly with Steyn that if the enemies are radical Muslims, we should say so. We should not be so afraid of being PC that we show the enemy that they can hollow us out from within.
Another point he makes that strikes a chord is that the economic prosperity associated with Europe is largely subsidized by the U.S., whose forces around the world provide security. If they were forced to spend on defense what we spend, it would be a different story, certainly, and this refutes the idea that somehow the European welfare state has some magical idea that we should embrace. Indeed, as he points out with demographics, soon the cradle to grave entitlements and 30 hour work weeks enjoyed by the aging European populations will be in the hands of a growing contingent of Muslim youth, who may decide they do not wish to carry it on their backs, at least without taking control first.
You'll probably hate reading it if you're a liberal, but if you're independent, as I used to be, it'll be useful to hear someone point out why the U.S. is not only not a terrible country, but indeed represents the last remaining outpost in a Cold War that the rest of the world has lost the will to fight.(less)
Douglas Feith was the undersecretary of defense for policy in the Bush administration leading up to the Iraq war, working directly underneath Donald R...moreDouglas Feith was the undersecretary of defense for policy in the Bush administration leading up to the Iraq war, working directly underneath Donald Rumsfeld. He provides a detailed, annotated account of the things that were being discussed, and the documents proving it. Rumsfeld loved to write things in memos, called "snowflakes" for his habit of sprinkling them everywhere, and one benefit to this is that we have a clear picture of what was going on behind the planning.
Mistakes were made, and these Feith does not sugar coat, but he presents a convincing case for Saddam as an imminent threat to national security, as well as statements from various government officials echoing this sentiment, even though they now speak differently on the subject.
This is the most comprehensive of the Iraq war books to date, of a different flavor than ones such as the one penned by Scott McClellan, which offers conjecture and hearsay and opinion, but nothing close to the precise details offered by Feith.
It's also a very interesting read, for being 500+ pages.(less)
Read the review by Doc Opp; I think he covers it quite nicely. He explains how Tolkien was the forefather of fantasy writing, and why that makes his b...moreRead the review by Doc Opp; I think he covers it quite nicely. He explains how Tolkien was the forefather of fantasy writing, and why that makes his books important. He also shares his opinion that the historical importance sort of causes people to overlook that Tolkien couldn't write worth beans.
Opp posits that perhaps it has something to do with the concept of heroism being different in Tolkien's days than it is now. I'm not sure I agree with that. I mean I agree that his characters are a study in perserverance without being able to really fight or do anything but perservere, I just don't know that I buy that it's a sign of the times. I think Tolkien was just boring.
I don't disagree, also, that the Shannara series is essentially the same storyline with a better writer at the helm.
My venom towards Tolkien is greater than Opp's perhaps because we read for different reasons. I have very little patience with writers who have great ideas or imaginations when it comes to the physical world, but can't get inside the head of a person to save their lives and thus can't tell a story. This sort of writer is often found in sci-fi/fantasy, because the genre is geared to reward the most innovative and plausible inventing of a future or past timescape.
If guys like Opp were always doing the commentating I might not hate Tolkien with such a passion, but unfortunately the world is filled with people who don't read sci-fi but who recalled their lit teacher spoke Tolkien's name once and probably said something about how he was the father of modern fantasy, and those people went on to shout Tolkien's name from the rooftops to the extent that a movie even got made out of it. Now the movie I could actually stomach (a little) because Hollywood realized they couldn't completely bore the pants off of people and still make money. But I digress.
I cannot conceive of any reason one would read these novels unless they were forced e.g. for a class. And even then, it'd better be a history class and not a writing class, unless the objective was to teach how not to write. There's no pace, no character development, the focus shifts between groups of characters ala Robert Jordan without any of Jordan's redeeming qualities (although Jordan certainly has faults as well).
The most compelling reason to read these novels is so that you can rip someone a new one when they bring up Tolkien by making a point by point case where you describe all the things he does wrong.
Let me put it this way, I have read some of the most God-awful books in my time. I mean when I was younger I would read a phone book if it was handy. But I could not finish the Fellowship of the Rings.
Comparing Tolkien to Asimov is just...I mean that's like comparing me to Asimov. I have an imagination and so does Asimov, comparison ended. Asimov came up with a plausible future that was interesting, and then he wrote characters within that adventure that were compelling. Caves of Steel is brilliant because whatshisface the detective is sort of an everyman and Asimov deals with things such as embarrassment because your Dad's job doesn't rate you high enough to eat at the right hydroponics diner. I'm mangling things, but you get the point. Asimov may have been the best ever at having really cool ideas and not wasting them by forgetting to write about people.
I hate Tolkien, I blame him for his vacuous and enraging fan base, I blame him for every author that followed him that spent 5 hours describing a blade of grass, I hate him for taking a genre that I like and making me want to vomit on it, even if he was the first. It makes me want to burn my entire fantasy bookshelf down to the ground.
These books were one of the first series I got into when I began reading sci-fi/fantasy. They are what you'd call whimsical, in the sense that Terry P...moreThese books were one of the first series I got into when I began reading sci-fi/fantasy. They are what you'd call whimsical, in the sense that Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams are whimsical. I've probably re-read these 10 times over the years; they're shorter books, and they don't require a lot of mental energy. There is an element of satire to them that isn't cloying. Books like Speaker of the Dead (Orson Scott Card) that beat you over the head with the moral direction of the author piss me off and make me feel like I signed up for a course in ethics when I wasn't looking and the professor is an arrogant, dry bastard who won't let anyone leave or fall asleep. Light satire, on the other hand, isn't so bad.(less)
Neuromancer is the hugo-award winning (or nebula, can't remember) offering by William Gibson. It's a futuristic book where the aspects of the future d...moreNeuromancer is the hugo-award winning (or nebula, can't remember) offering by William Gibson. It's a futuristic book where the aspects of the future dealt with most heavily have to do with the internet, only it's not called the internet it's called some other cute name.
It's a little disjointed, which after having read Count Zero (another, similar book by Gibson), I understand is part of Gibson's writing style. I always enjoy the construction of the future-scape best when it's done not merely through descriptors (such as Tolkien spending 5 paragraphs on the wheat blowing in the breeze), but also through the feelings/thoughts of the characters, and Gibson does a good enough job of this to make me think of this book somewhat fondly.
Hard sci-fi readers will probably enjoy the plausibility of the landscape Gibson created, with physical augmentations, for example, that allow software to be plugged directly into people. In other areas he was a bit more cautious about how many changes he introduced. For example, interfacing with the net still requires some sort of console (a "deck") and typing, with the main difference in peripherals being electrodes you attach to your head. He takes more chances with what you can see and do inside of cyberspace, making it a sort of visual landscape (virtual reality meets actual hardware/software) which is a common leap that one sees made in sci-fi; the assumption that a plausible direction for the internet to progress is towards a virtual reality.
Whatever. I don't read sci-fi entirely for the plausibility of the future world. I read it for the same reason I read any other book: because I want characters that I like. Their reactions and thoughts have to be consistent with their surroundings as much as their surroundings have to be consistent with their surroundings. And on that level, this book succeeds.
I don't know that I'd slap a Hugo on the thing for sheer readability but then again Harry Potter and the Speaker For The Dead won Hugos so apparently dog-doo wins Hugos.(less)