**spoiler alert** I'm not sure if this is the place for this scree. For a while about a decade ago I was very interested in 'end-of-the-world' novels....more**spoiler alert** I'm not sure if this is the place for this scree. For a while about a decade ago I was very interested in 'end-of-the-world' novels. It didn't matter if it was asteroid impact, nuclear war, pandemic disease, alien invasion, or micro-scopic blackholes run-amok -- I read a bunch of these.
Much to my annoyance, nearly all of these books started to sink into the supernatural. If everybody dies of disease, some of the survivors suddenly morph into vampires while others develop magical camoflage abilities...The devil begins to walk the earth and gather a band of followers. Even if the supernatural wasn't the main focus, the stories quickly got into haevy spirituality...meaning of life and finding your inner peace with the world.
Come-on! The world is ending, you are scraping by to survive. Do you really have time to decide that you're Western Catholic up-bringing was wrong and your should accept Sufi Islam as your new path? I'd be too busy trying to find something to eat, thank-you-very-much.
"Fifty Below" isn't an end-of-the-world book, quite. The world hasn't been changed too far that Robinson might not still pull out a "it's all back to normal now" or something close to it ending in the thrid book. However, I keep getting annoyed at the long philosophical asides from Frank the woodland-primate. The "you're toddler is a reincarnation of an important lama" storyline is even more annoying since it crosses the line from navel-gazing sprirtuality and superstition to full-on supernatural...all the while trying hard to maintain paper-thin plausible deniability.
The series claims to be about science. Why can't we just stick to the science?(less)
Between this and 'Blackwater' I want to run a pulp-style RPG in Baghdad circa 2004. The problem is, my players would either become depressed, or they'...moreBetween this and 'Blackwater' I want to run a pulp-style RPG in Baghdad circa 2004. The problem is, my players would either become depressed, or they'd never believe me that this stuff actually happened.(less)
This was an interesting read so close after Carnage and Culture. While the two books don't address exactly the same topic, Lost Discoveries does show...moreThis was an interesting read so close after Carnage and Culture. While the two books don't address exactly the same topic, Lost Discoveries does show how pernicious the Western bias is in many academic works. It's this bias that makes me all the more suspicious of the assertions in 'Carnage'.What kind of surprised me was just how recent the Western bias is. The ancient Greeks gave copious credit to the earlier Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations for their thoughts in mathematics, astronomy, physics, and other fields. The Medieval Europeans knew that much of their sciences were coming from the Islamic world, not just left over from Greece and Rome.That said, Teresi really lost me on some of the cosmology and deep physics discussions. Yes, it is interesting to look at creation myths and see how closely (or not) they mirror our current Big Bang, quantum physics, string theory beliefs. But just because the ancient Hindus kinda guessed right (or closer to right than the medieval Christians did) doesn't make creation myths any less wild-ass guesses or kooky.(less)
**spoiler alert** Butcher has broken from his title naming scheme from this book, and it definitely feels like a pivot-point in the Dresden Files seri...more**spoiler alert** Butcher has broken from his title naming scheme from this book, and it definitely feels like a pivot-point in the Dresden Files series. It feels a little TOO much like a pivot point, I think Butcher was trying a little too hard. He manages to get nearly everyone of Harry's allies in without feeling forced (I missed the D&D playing werewolves. However, he very carefully took Harry's life apart piece by piece -- and that felt forced.
I also have a big plot-hole issue. Everyone can see that "the blood curse can be used to destroy the Red Court" thing for miles off, and I'm glad that Butcher didn't try and make it a surprise. That said, why didn't one or many of Molly, Susan, and Lea just grab some random vamp and stab them while everyone was watching the big fight in the ball-court? Because it would ruin the narrative imperative...which is a bad reason.
I have other qualms: Mouse's spoken attitude is too rough -- he's a big shaggy happy dog - remember that! The Erl King scene took too long and served only to make everyone more rushed. The triple-cross by Martin was too complex and really didn't matter all that much.
Oh, and during the whole bit in Chichen Itza, all I could think was "I'm Cuckoo for Kukulkan!" But I had weird childhood.(less)
If you are playing a game of GURPS (and if you don'...moreThis is not a gaming source book.
It's a meta-gaming source book.
No that doesn't sound right either.
If you are playing a game of GURPS (and if you don't know what I'm talking about, just skip the rest of this review)in a magical world, you probably only need GURPS Basic Set Characters to build and run your magician. As you get a little deeper, or if you are GMing a magical world, you want to get your hands on GURPS Magic and GURPS Fantasy to refer to in the middle of the game.
Thaumatology is not a book you should be referring to in the middle of the game. Instead, Thaumatology lets a GM write the source book on magic for their campaign world. Not just a world book (Elves use the Nature College, Dwarves use Earth spells), this book shows you how to rewrite the mechanics for magic radically over a ton of variations (not just a menu of choices) to build a set of metaphysics to jump through just the hoops you want. In many ways, this is a manual on how write an RPG (at least the magic part) not just how run magical characters.
And, because the book goes so deeply into different metaphysics for different conceptions of magic in gaming and fantasy fiction, you end up with a surprisingly effective treatise on the nature of magic in our world as well (or at least magic as perceived by a whole slew of cultures over the ages). This book lets you take a deep look at Qabbala or Hermetic Astrology or Taoist bagua and hexagrams without having a guru try to tell you that theirs is the one true path and all others are false.
I'm not advocating a Church of Steve Jackson here, but it was still a fascinating (if freaking slow) read.(less)
**spoiler alert** Not the most fun of the Dresden books, but well balanced and fun. Amanda had issues with the 'sanctum' spell and naming the island,...more**spoiler alert** Not the most fun of the Dresden books, but well balanced and fun. Amanda had issues with the 'sanctum' spell and naming the island, but I read the passage as Harry more channelling the name for the place than coming up with the name himself.
The other weak-point was the bad guy. Maybe I'm just good at picking apart pulp, but I had peabody nabbed as the bad-guy before he had 4 lines. Never underestimate the bureaucrats and clerks. We know where everything is and how it works. I thought the control Peabody was using would have been more aligned with his capturing of signatures and names, not in mind-controlling ink...but the difference is minimal.(less)
It took me a while to both get through this book and to get around to writing a review (as David's comments below attest).
As a history book, the first...moreIt took me a while to both get through this book and to get around to writing a review (as David's comments below attest).
As a history book, the first 2/3 are good, if a bit dry and slow in places. The real highlight is the wealth of colorful American characters that our country has inflicted on the Middle East - crazy missionaries, Civil War veterans determined to find the headwaters of the Nile, headstrong and star-crossed naval commanders.
By the time we get to WWI, I start knowing the material better myself and the reading went much faster. Oren himself acknowledges a change in style in the post-WWII section (by pointing to a wealth of other sources covering the period). But at this same point, something about the voice of the book started bothering me. I know Oren splits his time between the US and Israel, so I felt myself starting to look for a bias towards a Zionist position. I'd say "I'll bet he's going to skip right over the USS Liberty attack" but then there would be a line about it...not a big soul-searching discussion, but a mention.
I still feel like the book focuses too heavily on the Holy Land, Zionism, and Israel, but I'm not sure what else it needs to be balanced with. I guess that's what I was looking for here, more information about US-Middle East relations that they don't teach in school. I got that for everything before 1947. I feel like I was missing something for the more modern period. (less)
But that's the surface, in this case much of the plot. The deep part is a look at the process of grieving. It isn't the simple seven steps. Our main character Mau (I kept reading it as Man at first...our everyman vs. the gods), is pretty clear that he will not settle for that last step, acceptance.
One of Pratchett's most well known characters is Death. But the likable Death of the Discworld books is not in this book (and yes, the Death of Discworld has appeared in other works by Pratchett not set on that world). Instead we get Locaha, who is much more of a fallen-angel Lucifer than an embodiment of the end of life...more a cheating trickster opponent than a welcome friend.
Maybe I'm reading too far into it knowing that Pratchett has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's.
But Pratchett has the right and the reason to be angry. We all do.(less)
As WWII non-fiction goes, this book went by pretty quickly. I had read some in passing about the Cabanatuan camp rescue, but I had the relative roles...moreAs WWII non-fiction goes, this book went by pretty quickly. I had read some in passing about the Cabanatuan camp rescue, but I had the relative roles of the Rangers, Alamo Scouts, and partisans a bit muddled in my head. I'm glad the Fillipino guerillas got enough billing in here, such indigenous forces have a tendency to be forgotten by later story-tellers. I was a little surprised to come across the Alamo Scouts in the middle of the book with little earlier discussion of the unit or the massively important recon work they had already done.
The structure of alternating chapters between the Ranger's mission and the travails of the "Bastards of Bataan" works better than I would have thought. The details of life in Cabanatuan and other camps are pretty harrowing. That said, parts of me kept comparing these accounts to accounts from other camp complexes of the time...the life of an American in a Japanese POW camp was a vacation next to the Holocaust, or the Gulag. For the Chinese of cities like Nanking, the mere idea that the Japanese took prisoners would seem absurd.
Am I belittling these men their their travails? I don't mean to. I'm just trying to remind myself that Americans aren't anything astoundingly special that we should face this sort of abuse less than anyone else.
The single best aspect of Sides story is how well he captures the voices of the men involved. Especially when the prisoners speak, I can feel many of the same cadences and turns of phrase that my maternal grandfather used in some of his more unguarded and effusive moments. I can very much imagine him there among Bob Body and Dr. Hibbs and the other men instead of (relatively) safe as crew on a troopship out at sea.(less)
Yes, I pulled this out because I had seen the preview for the Kate Bekinsale movie. I haven't seen the movie, but I'm amazed at 2 items from the previ...moreYes, I pulled this out because I had seen the preview for the Kate Bekinsale movie. I haven't seen the movie, but I'm amazed at 2 items from the preview.
1. Kate Beckinsale? What? Carrie Stetko is no Kate Beckinsale (and this is a good thing in my opinion).
2. Lilly has been replaced by a male UN inspector. Again, why? Rucka was involved in the filming so I can't see why he allowed these two changes.
Whiteout is a tight little noir murder-mystery. Like most noir, the setting is a major character, with all of Antarctica (called "the Ice") standing in for such classic noir cities San Francisco, LA, or New York (usually referred to as "the City"). Also like good noir, what saves a pretty standard mystery from total mediocrity is the depth of our detective main-character. Carrie Stetko is nobody's victim (asserting that is what got her stuck on the Ice in the first place). She also is expressly written and drawn as a real woman with faults that make her all the more interesting. Lilly Sharpe, the British agent, plays the role of our blonde-bombshell femme-fatale, except she also refuses to use her sexuality to affect the situation (even though it being female is all the more affecting is a setting with a 200-1 male to female ratio). We still get sparks between these two, especially when Stetko compliments Sharpe on her "ovaries of brass".
Whiteout at time feels like an attempt at a post-feminist story, but it tries a little too hard. I think it is sad that Hollywood had to cast a sex-symbol for our main character and swap the other female role for a male, either to add sexual tension or because it otherwise had 'too many' strong female characters.
OK, like most of the books posted on this shelf, I'll admit to not having read this book cover-to-cover (I generally follow that standard for other bo...moreOK, like most of the books posted on this shelf, I'll admit to not having read this book cover-to-cover (I generally follow that standard for other books). I only ready the assigned chapters and I really wish the professor had saved me the money by just placing these three chapters on library reserve.
There's nothing wrong with Choo. It's a bit dense and the discussion of how information becomes knowledge feels a bit like a librarian playing around in a philosopher's playground. Eh, it was Masters-level reading. I retained information but lost my opinion once it hit the online class discussion board. I know I should care more, but I don't.(less)
**spoiler alert** Re-reading this book for May, our 4 1/2 year-old, just helps to show me how pitch-perfect Terry Pratchett is here.
The reason my wife...more**spoiler alert** Re-reading this book for May, our 4 1/2 year-old, just helps to show me how pitch-perfect Terry Pratchett is here.
The reason my wife picked Wee Free Men for May's bedtime book was to help balance-out The Hobbit, which May thoroughly enjoyed, but we realized had no female characters.
So we get Tiffany.
And we get so much more as well.
Tiffany is more than just a witch-in-waiting (witches really aren't good at waiting) who uses her little brother as monster-bait. She is in many ways an ode by Sir Terry to his geek fans - those people who are, on some level, forever the precocious children who couldn't help but correct their teachers and educated themselves out of any and all books they could get their hands on. When the fairy Queen attacks Tiffany as being just a strange little girl whose mind has been addled by too many books, any geek can remember the sinking, awful desperation of a childhood in which you knew you could never fit in. When Tiffany says one of the other witches is being "metapahorical", I see every one of my college and beyond friends who have outed themselves as being self-educated by not knowing how to pronounce the concepts that they have known for so long. The same ones who can't help but correct you when you call a whale a fish - even as they are appalled by the correction themselves.
Tiffany as strong female geek is a big part of what makes this book great, but not all of it. The deep connection to the land, a land, a landscape of your ancestors, is something that I feel and would also like to pass on to my daughter. Her family has been in New England for hundreds of years (on one branch, likely for thousands). I want her to feel the pride of a swamp yankee when she goes apple-picking on a crisp October day. Tiffany's link to the Chalk is very much of the same stripe of pride.
Then there is grief. In the past few years, I have lost two grandparents, both the deep quiet strong ones - as opposed to their boastful or controlling spouses. Pratchett has Tiffany exploring her grief over the loss of her grandmother at the same time as she faces fairy creatures and fends off the end of the world. His ideas about how a person's works, and ideas, and memories can live on in the people and world left behind resonated for me in a way I didn't expect. Like Tiffany, I can only hope to be the person that my grandparents want me to be.
That's pretty deep.
And now you're thinking - right, and how much of this did a 4-year-old get?
You'd be surprised.
Yes, my daughter is precocious and amazing, so you mileage may very, but a lot of the credit falls to Pratchett as well. May asked many questions. Bits in fairyland of dreams within dreams got confusing for her. But the central conflict was accessible to her. And thanks to Pratchett's skill as writer, the magic and glamour of fairies work very well as metaphors (metapahors?) for dealing with people and societies in real-life. I could talk with May about how the Queen is focused on appearance of strength and beauty and power, but is truly a small and weak thing while Tiffany looks small and weak but is very solid and real at her core - and that works at both the level of metaphysics and interpersonal relationships. May followed the discussion of a "school for witches" (a Harry Potter reference I'd never gotten before) at the same rate as Tiffany, and understood (I think) the tension between Tiffany and Fion. There is much more for her to find years from now when she can read this book again on her own.
And, never forget, the Nac Mac Feegle are fall-on-the-floor funny, especially when you read them out loud. (less)
All loose ends wrapped up...In my review of Fifty Below I worried that Robinson was going to pull some magic "it'll all work out" bit. The thing is, h...moreAll loose ends wrapped up...In my review of Fifty Below I worried that Robinson was going to pull some magic "it'll all work out" bit. The thing is, he did...and I didn't even see it until it was done. He uses a sort of narrative time-warp to go from pie-in-the-sky brainstorming to 'maybe we can do this' to 'up and running'. What I'd expect to be a ten-year plan suddenly is going in about a year of narrative time. Hell he wraps up with a trple wedding (close-enough).
That said, I enjoyed the book. The Frank/Caroline spy-thriller side feels a bit Crichton-esqe forced at times. My favorite parts is how the world changes and so many people just go forward with the new normal. Odf course we're putting up solar-cells, or course we're home gardening, blackouts are a normal part of winter in DC.
The end of the world screaming is alwaysinteresting and entertaining, but there is no real end. Everything keeps going. The unthinkable becomes history - how could it have happened any differently?(less)
Manda and I had a discussion on this book...it really felt to me like Neverwhere was one of the first if not the ur urban fantasy novel. Manda and Wik...moreManda and I had a discussion on this book...it really felt to me like Neverwhere was one of the first if not the ur urban fantasy novel. Manda and Wikipedia corrected me and pointed to The War of the Oaks as the accepted beginning of the genre.
While Gaiman makes it clear that there are comparable mystical undercities in Berlin, New York, and Bangkok at the least, Neverwhere doesn't feel like the kind of book that could be written about many other cities besides London. The depth of history is so great in London that few other cities can compete. Or maybe I'm just too much of an Anglophile here.(less)
My wife mocks my reading of Harry Turtledove because it's so far from literature. To her, the flat characters and forced plots pull her out of t...more*Sigh*
My wife mocks my reading of Harry Turtledove because it's so far from literature. To her, the flat characters and forced plots pull her out of the story to often to enjoy the ideas or just the ride. Conroy shows me much more of what that must feel like for her.
In a lot of ways, I don't blame the othor for most of the problems in this book - I blame the editor. It's the editor's job to point out when the author swaps point-of-view in the middle of a conversation. It's the editor's job to put in this extra line breaks between shifts of focus and to try and balance the chapters to some form of consistency. It's the editor's job to cut unneccassary referrence to future events (a bomber called "the Polish Pope"?). I really feel like the editor said "It's alt-history, who cares if it's badly edited, these morons will read anything."
So am I a moron for reading it?
The idea that Japan would fail to surrender after the triple-blow of two nuclear bombs and a declaration of war from the Soviet Union seemed like a stretch to me when I first picked up this book. I was not aware of the Kyujo Incident, an attempted coup to prevent Emperor Hirohito's surrender to the Allies. With a successful Kyujo Incident as his point of departure, Conroy spins a believeable history right up until his characters become a bit too involved. Then we get a deus ex-machina (or emperor ex-helicopter, as the case may be) ending that leaves reader scrathing their heads feeling a bit as if they've been robbed.
Nope, Conroy is not my new Turtledove. More's the pity.(less)
I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. At times it feels like some of the fairy tales are rather shoe-horned into the story (the pickled peppers and pumpki...moreI enjoyed this novel quite a bit. At times it feels like some of the fairy tales are rather shoe-horned into the story (the pickled peppers and pumpkin-eater episodes jump to mind), but I don't feel like the story would be ruined if I didn't know those nursery rhymes. Instead, knowing the rhymes sort of intruded on the story.
I personally feel like Willingham snuck an extra fairy-tale in there with the names. The elder Piper brother, Max, goes into the woods and declares himself to be a Wild Thing. Maybe I'm reading too far. Even more of a stretch is the fact that I kept on wanting to read Peter Piper as Peter Parker...and I'm not even that much of a Spider-Man fan!
Max definitely makes this book. He is clearly evil and Willingham makes a point to note that it is Max that has corrupted the magic flute Fire, not the other way round. But I also feel like there is a story about breaking children, child soldiers, and traumatic events in Max's story. The invasion of the Adversary's army catches, and breaks, Max at a vulnerable time, at the utter self-centeredness of 14. Maybe he still would have become an evil son-of-a-bitch without his breakdown. Maybe he would have resented and hated Peter, but I get the feeling that he stopped growing at that point, and was frozen in that moment of selfishness, fear, and sudden realization that the world of adults is not nearly as safe as children always thought it was.(less)
**spoiler alert** This not one of Turtledove's better works.
The initial idea is interesting. Why did Nazi Germany accept Allied occupation when so ma...more**spoiler alert** This not one of Turtledove's better works.
The initial idea is interesting. Why did Nazi Germany accept Allied occupation when so many other countries have fought long guerrilla wars against occupying forces? How is 1946 Germany different than 1979 Afghanistan or 1960s Vietnam? How is it like the former Confederate States in the 1860s?
These are important and valid questions that I feel were swept under the rug. Instead, the narrative seems strongly linked to the US experience in Iraq circa 2006 (before the Sunni Awakening and troop surge). However, if this book is a veiled commentary on Iraq, then Turtledove missed a perfect opportunity to weigh-in on one of the major debates in policy regarding the War on Terror - namely the use of extralegal force (torture, detention without rights, rendition, etc.). The division of post-war Germany into Western Allied and Soviet zones creates a opportunity to contrast the effectiveness of different tactics in counter-insurgency - between a buy 'em off/win hearts and minds plan used by the Americans and unbridled force used by the Russians. In our own history, these are the tactics that those two regimes did use. Instead, Turtledove shows us that the Soviet NKVD is certainly ruthless, but he never even mentions the Marshall Plan (which, in his defense was discussed but not yet implemented within the time-frame of the book.
Instead of answering deep military/historical questions or addressing the policy and moral arguments of the war he is modeling off of, Turtledove instead gives huge benefits of the doubt to the Nazi partisans. Heydrich's organization is presented as monolithic, with no internal power struggles. While their tactics are often taken from the al-Qaida playbook, Heydrich's men also succeed in multiple truck bombings of national monuments (proposed but only rarely completed by al-Qaida) and a dirty bomb attack. Competence at this level is not seen now and was not seen in 1940s Germany (Just read up on the many attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler to see just how large the logistical and pure luck challenges of such campaigns can be). The most annoying benefit given to Heydrich though is in the surprising backbone given to Republican opposition to Truman's prosecution of the war in Germany. Although Congress does control the purse-strings, and progressives did argue strongly for cutting-off funding for the Iraq War after the 2006 mid-term elections, a successful recall of troops from an overseas war due to Congressional budget-writing never saw a chance of happening. In Turtledove's world it sailed through entirely too easily.
In all, I feel like this book was forced. Ideas were not well thought-out and our heroes were hamstrung by an author who failed to properly research their options.
This book was something quite different from what I expected. Going in I expected a book focused on J.R.R. Tolkien almost exclusively, with discussion...moreThis book was something quite different from what I expected. Going in I expected a book focused on J.R.R. Tolkien almost exclusively, with discussions of the hells of the Western Front in WWI and then a deeper discussion of the themes of loss or nature and industrialization play out in The Lord of the Rings. I was looking forward to that analysis of the 'coming of the machine age' that Peter Jackson had played up so beautifully in the movie version of The Two Towers.
Instead, Garth treats us to a view into a group of Victorian friends with discursions on the philological and poetic world/myth building that Tolkien was working on at the time. The group of friends are the four self-appointed members of the 'Tea Club and Barrovian Society" (shortened to TCBS for most purposes). The grand name concealed what was no more than a high-school clique. I'm reminded of my own high-school poseur-gang dubbed "the D-Men" although in practice, the TCBS was closer to Tufts University's Film Series club.
Each of the four members of the TCBS saw themselves and the group as having the potential to change the world and bring forth works of immortal quality. Garth asserts that the TCBS was purely middle-class, but there is a strong strain of upper-class Victorian exceptionalism in Tolkien's peers views of their world. After being split apart to attend Cambridge and Oxford, the four friends still exchanged letters, poems, writings, and music and periodically met in what were referred to as ‘Councils.’
It’s all very idyllic and the reader can’t quite say whether these young men were destined to be the next Algonquin Round Table or just a group of high-school alumni pen-pals. And then Tolkien’s generation of young academics was swept-up in the Great War. Three of the four TCBS members were young officers leading patrols and assaults in the Battle of the Somme, the fourth was on a battlecruiser in the Battle of Jutland. Only one of the three sent to France came back. Tolkien was infected with lice-borne “trench-fever” and spent second half of the war on home guard duty and medical convalescence.
Garth makes a good argument for the power of Tolkien’s experience in the Somme for shaping much of his mythic background for Middle-Earth, particularly the stories that went into his Book of Lost Tales and The Silmarillion. I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the conceptual links between Tolkien’s mythology and books of H. Rider Haggard.
In the long Postscript, Garth makes an effort to place the writings of Tolkien in a literary universe defined by post-Great War writing. He makes a case that Tolkien was writing about his wartime experience without falling into the two major camps of war-writing of the period. Tales of Middle-Earth are neither the ‘high diction’ propaganda created by imperial powers in the image of Haggard and [William Morris} to impress their people and drive in recruits nor the studied, modernist, or gritty writings of [author: Robert Graves] or Sigfried Sassoon. Instead, Tolkien sought to create a new style. In the process, he created a whole new genre of popular literature. (less)
This is a surprisingly meaty book for essentially a children's take on Greek mythology. The most obvious nod to being aimed at children is the use of...moreThis is a surprisingly meaty book for essentially a children's take on Greek mythology. The most obvious nod to being aimed at children is the use of "married" for what many classical scholars describe as rape (i.e. the rape of Europa of the rape of Persephone).
The body of the book covers the First and Second World Wars when the relatively isolated harbor served as the primary port for Great Britain's main fleet (the Grand Fleet in WWI and the Home Fleet in WWII). The position of Scapa Flow gave the fleet the best staging ground for intercepting any German warships attempting to break out into the Atlantic or shipping attempting to break the British naval blockade applied in both wars.
The book does not cover the various missions and encounters that the Royal Navy engaged in with much detail. Instead, the focus is on activities in the harbor itself. The two most dramatic incidents both involved German warships in the Flow. First, Scapa Flow hosted the German High Seas Fleet when it was interred after the end of WWI. On the summer solstice in 1919, two days before the Versailles Treaty would have ordered the ships of the German fleet distributed to the various victorious allies, the German admiral in charge ordered the whole fleet scuttled.
The next dramatic moment came in the early days of WWII when a German U-Boat penetrated the insufficient defenses of the harbor to sink the British battleship Royal Oak. This incident lead to a major build-up of defenses and forces in the Orkneys, and listing these defenses and emplacements is where this little volume shows its greatest value.
Hewison assumes that his reader already knows a fair deal about the two world wars, the Royal Navy, and the general geography of Great Britain and the Orkneys. The strength of the volume is in the details and the point of view of a native Orkadian.(less)
**spoiler alert** I'd been meaning to get around to reading this for at least 15 years. And it wasn't bad at all.
I'm not too deeply steeped in super-h...more**spoiler alert** I'd been meaning to get around to reading this for at least 15 years. And it wasn't bad at all.
I'm not too deeply steeped in super-hero lore, so maybe I'm missing some of the deep meaning.
I find it more of an interesting take on what the world was like and expected back in the mid-eighties. It's amazing how quickly I had taken that "we're all gonna die in a nuclear holocaust" fear and shoved in a box in a back closet of my mind -- not forgotten, just not perticularly useful right now and not likely to be used again any time soon. The fears of the early 21st century are different - both more personal and immediate (geez this packed train platform would make a great bomb target -- what did that guy just drop in the garbage can there?) and more heart-freezingly long-term (Will my daughter be able to live a life as affluent as mine - or will energy be too expensive, food too expensive, chunks of New York underwater, and the US handing off world leadership to China by then).
Anyway, the spoiler-rific part that stuck with me revolves around the final moral question of the book. Is killing 3 million New Yorkers worth it if it prevent an inevitable nuclear war?
The answer, of course, is mu (you question is based on false assumptions). From 1985, I can see how Moore thought nuclear war was just a matter of time. Even through the duck-blind of his character Ozymandias and a modified world history, I really do think that the author thought we were all doomed.
He was wrong. Ozymandias was the smartest man in the world and he was wrong. We made it past the end of the Cold War, we made it through the 1990s (when Viedt predicted the world economy and environment would collapse without war). Things aren't all rose-colored, but Moore never said they would be.
The ends rarely justify the means because you can never truly know what the ends will be.
OK, I've got some issues with the morality that the Greek gods teach. This book has Hermes blatantly telling Percy that it is OK to break the rules if...moreOK, I've got some issues with the morality that the Greek gods teach. This book has Hermes blatantly telling Percy that it is OK to break the rules if you succeed in doing "something amazing". That's right, ends justify means and you can avoid punishment through dramatic gestures.
The Greek gods mete-out punishments when they are offended. Something is wrong because these powerful beings say so, not because of their ethical value in and of themselves.
Rick Riordan is true to the Greek myths as usually presented in this. So I suppose I can't really challenge him for being true to his source material.
That said, I'm beginning to wonder if the bad guys, Luke and Kronos, don't have a valid point that Western Civilization needs replacement - or at least revision. I know this leaves me in the realm of hubris (in good company with Annabeth here). Aside from the "it's not wrong if you win" idea, Percy's world also continues to be a very patriarchal one, even with the token characters of the smart girl (Annabeth) and the angry bad-girl (Clarisse).
There has to be a way to build something better.(less)
This a good bathroom-read book. Stories are short enough that no one is banging on the door waiting fro the loo and you don't even need to read things...moreThis a good bathroom-read book. Stories are short enough that no one is banging on the door waiting fro the loo and you don't even need to read things in order (though I did because I'm just wired that way).
Some stories are fun, some miss the mark a bit, several area real stretch to fit the MacGyver-ism rubric. I'm not sure I'd by it, but it was a nice stocking-stuffer (yes, it took 6-months to find enough bathroom breaks to get it read...my life is different than yours).(less)
This is a harrowing and wonderful read. The descriptions of life in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya feel like a alien world to privileged w...moreThis is a harrowing and wonderful read. The descriptions of life in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Kenya feel like a alien world to privileged white American male like me. But the author never gives us a feeling of "you wouldn't understand". She works hard to make the world, her mind, and most importantly the thoughts of others around her understandable and accessable.
My wife commented that Ayaan was making her jealous...because I would randomly start conversations with "...she just went out to a refugee camp on the Kenyan border..." My wife would be thrown for a minute as to who "she" was. I was just that absorbed.
As for Hirsi Ali's central theme, I have trouble finding a single issue that can improve the quality of life for more people than women's rights. Women in thrid world Islamic countries represent the most abused of the abused. I salute anyone willing to speak the truth in the face of death threats, anyone who holds Reason higher than tradition.(less)
**spoiler alert** I'm sorry to say, but I think this was the weakest of the Potter books. By the end I found myself shaking my head and saying "what a...more**spoiler alert** I'm sorry to say, but I think this was the weakest of the Potter books. By the end I found myself shaking my head and saying "what a muddled mess."
My wife was surprised by the body count...but I thought it seemed a bit low at times. "OI, there's a war going on here!" But magic doesn't seem as deadly as if the Death Eaters had assault rifles...OK I'm showing my military history interest here. But really...why was everything broken down into duels? Get behind cover and start picking people off!
The theme of self-sacrifice was a little over-done too...and muddled. Who's on that list? Lily, Dumbledore, Wormtail, Harry, Harry again. (is this Aslan-style Christian imagery? I can't tell) I couldn't keep track of who would die if Voldy killed Harry at various times. Just ran with it.
Amanda has issues with the limited use and roles of women in the whole series; and I can see her point as well.(less)
And just as I was kicking myself for not being able to keep up with Martin's depth in his world, he ups the ante with 2 more religions and yet more ba...moreAnd just as I was kicking myself for not being able to keep up with Martin's depth in his world, he ups the ante with 2 more religions and yet more backstory and conflicting motivations.
I still feel like Dany is living in the world of Conan while everyone else is in an over-sized version of Great Britain during the War of the Roses, but it'll be interesting when those worlds finally meet.(less)
I knew something of this conspiracy from Shirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" but had no clue how close to pulling the trigger they came.
Whethe...moreI knew something of this conspiracy from Shirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" but had no clue how close to pulling the trigger they came.
Whether the coup would have succeeded is a counter-factual that we can never know. That said, from this book it seems that the conspirators had a better shot at not just killing Hitler but also overthrowing the whole Nazi regime in 1938 than Count Stauffenberg and other later plotters ever had.
Reading about Chamberlain's appeasement policy is always frustrating, especially with Churchill sitting in the wings acting as if he had received a message from the future laying all of WWII out before him. But if you can get your mind into the limited view that these men actually had, you can see the heart-wrenching choices they had to make.
Knowing what WWII would become, the decision is easy. Without that knowledge it is much harded to commit to marching to war or commit to supporting a coup. (less)
Like with Neverwhere I found myself wishing I had more first-hand experience with the city setting, in this case Seattle.
A generation ago, a bigger than historical Seattle was flooded with deadly, zombie-making gas (called The Blight) and walled-off when a local mad-scientist type drove a mining machine straight out of those old GI Joe cartoons through the downtown. Now it's the 1880s, the Civil War is still raging, and the son of the mad scientist wants to go into the dead city to exonerate his long-gone father.
Except the city isn't dead. People live there depending on absurd steampunk mechanisms to pump in air and keep zombies out. So now the kid's kick-ass mom has to go into the post-apocalyptic city to get him out.
Through much of this book, I could feel the book-club or gaming group hashing out the world on a results-centered basis. "They need to wear those cool steampunk goggles...but why? I know, the Blight can only be seen through a polarized lens!" "But why would people go through all that trouble to live in the city? Oooh, what if you could make a drug out of the Blight? Good one!" The author is also in love with grand names for characters: Leviticus Blue, Andan Cly, Croggon Hainey, Hale Quarter, and don't forget Jeremiah Swakhammer!
There's a feminist scree in here somewhere about how our main character, Briar Blue (nee Wilkes) is defined by the men in her life, her father, her husband, her son...but she still gets to shoot zombies with a Spenser rifle, so it's all good, right? (less)