I can't recall who exactly recommended this to me when I first picked this up back in 2010 or 2011, but I do recall the cautionary note that they tookI can't recall who exactly recommended this to me when I first picked this up back in 2010 or 2011, but I do recall the cautionary note that they took as they described it and the author's conclusions. The global recession had begun four years earlier, since which time I had just barely been able to sell a house (seriously--I closed the sale of the house the same week that Bear Sterns ceased to be), had graduated from law school at perhaps the worst time for new attorneys to be entering the work force, and had managed to find a good, but not great paying, job at a local company. Financially speaking, the future seemed bleak, and I was not sanguine about my prospects for future income. Aftershock: Protect Yourself and Profit in the Next Global Financial Meltdown seemed like a warning voice against future economic calamity, so I picked it up and gave it a read.
Unfortunately, I was, largely, disappointed. Falling into that category of financial reading that seems to best be described as "fear mongering," I found it full of doom and gloom, threatening prognostications, and warnings about the future. I suspect that authors David and Robert Wiedemer, and Cindy Spitzer have made better money of the sale, and subsequent editions of, the book than most readers have from the advice they give.
This isn't to say that there may not be substance to their arguments. Looking at a succession of financial bubbles, including both the dotcom bubble and the more recent housing bubble, they posit that the bubbles have led the Federal Reserve to engage in reckless market manipulation that is going to result in 50% unemployment, a 90% stock market crash, and 100% annual inflation, starting in 2012.
Their advice? Sell your home, cash out your stocks, and convert your assets into gold and inflation pegged securities.
That's a stark transition, and from a set of authors who are perhaps inflating their own expertise in economic prophesy a bit further than their resumes merit.
Meanwhile, we find ourselves in 2014, the economy on the mend, and the catastrophic events predicted by Aftershock as yet unrealized. I suppose that there is still time, and I don't want to give the impression that everything is smelling of roses, but perhaps the take away is that the success of Aftershock is more about marketing for its authors than about economic prediction relevant to readers. ...more
Ron Suskind's a good writer, but he's also in love with Barack Obama. Well, maybe not in love, but he's certainly not an objective or dispassionate obRon Suskind's a good writer, but he's also in love with Barack Obama. Well, maybe not in love, but he's certainly not an objective or dispassionate observer. Even while he's observing that Obama may not have been ready for the Presidency, he's lavishing praise on the politician.
I read as long as I could, but after a third of the book fawning over Obama without really examining what was going on, I started to tire. Barack Obama is no villain as he's been portrayed by many, but neither is he a semi-deity or Olympian hero. Further, much of the material that Suskind covers is not new, having been reported in other sources. If you've read nothing else about the last few years, it's not a bad way to become familiar with some of the major players, and it's not horrible writing. But if you're looking for in-depth analysis and reporting, there are better books out there. "Too big to fail" is a good place to start.
I may come back to it later, but right now, it feels repetitive. Meanwhile, life's too short to read books that duplicate what you've already read. I'm moving on to a new book tonight. ...more
**spoiler alert** It's always hard to follow up a great book with an equally enjoyable sequel. While I have speculated that this is because the best i**spoiler alert** It's always hard to follow up a great book with an equally enjoyable sequel. While I have speculated that this is because the best ideas tend to get used up in the first book, it goes without saying that so many sequels fail to live up to their predecessor. With "The Gripping Hand," Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle present their attempt to follow up the success of "The Mote in God's Eye," and while it is an admirable effort, I believe that it falls short, if only just.
The first book in this two book series, "The Mote in God's Eye,"(and no, it has nothing to do with God, or with His eye) presented mankind's first encounter with alien sentient life. In Niven and Pournelle's universe, mankind has left earth and spread through the universe under the rule of an enlightened dictatorship. One day, an alien probe, of sorts, appears in one of mankind's remote systems. An expedition is quickly dispatched to the source of the probe, a distant solar system known as the Mote. When the danger to human-life in the alien civilization becomes apparent, mankind blockades the only access route out of the system, narrowly avoiding genocide, either for man or them.
"The Gripping Hand" opens up twenty-five years later. Suddenly, a new exit from the system is opening, and the Empire of Man is scrambling to prepare for what may be imminent war with the Motie civilization.
The book is enjoyable, and Niven and Pournelle do a wonderful job of presenting the Motie culture in contrast to human nature, creating space battles that span hundreds of thousands of kilometers, and developing characters that have changed over the decades between the books. They stick as close science as possible, or as much as one can without dipping into a fast and loose "Star Wars" type of universe (where the space ships make noise, fly like fighter jets under gravity and an atmosphere, and a mystical power called the Force allows just about anything...not that I'm knocking Star Wars...), which makes the books more credible and enjoyable and suspension of disbelief less difficult.
The weakness in their story telling is, for me, in the development of characters and culture. In "The Mote in God's Eye" we meet a culture that is closer in its morality to Edwardian or Victorian Great Britain than the looser morals of the twenty-first century. By the time the events of "The Gripping Hand" take place, however, just twenty-five years later (and mind that this is all over a thousand years in our future), sexual mores have digressed to the point where the marriage relationship means little. Whereas in the first book a couple would not even consider sexual contact outside of marriage, sexual pairing in the second appears at time to be almost recreational, bearing no connection to relationships.
Please do not mistake me--Niven and Pournelle keep their books PG or PG-13, and I do not recall any language, sexual descriptions, or even gratuitous violence. However, the characters act more like the Hollywood set than would be expected after a mere twenty-five years beyond the very careful and chaste Victorian modes of interaction. The reason behind this, I believe, is in large part because the first book was written nearly 20 years ago, and Niven and Pournelle are trying to make their book more palatable and readable to a far more sexually active culture (ours) than that in which they wrote. I think it does not serve the book, and in fact weakens the character development.
The second complaint I have is about the ending. While "The Gripping Hand" appropriately builds the tension and quickly ends after the resolution, the final resolution gives the impression that Niven and Pournelle just ran out of ideas and energy. And that was where they ended it.
Whatever the cause, these two complaints result in an almost five star book getting knocked down to three. It is worth reading if you want to know "the rest of the story" after "The Mote In God's Eye," but that's about it. It doesn't have the same energy, but is merely a sequel....more
I didn't manage to finish this...it was just too slow. That said, I really enjoy Henry James use of language, his careful description, and the way heI didn't manage to finish this...it was just too slow. That said, I really enjoy Henry James use of language, his careful description, and the way he steps into the protagonists. At times, I very much felt the creepy that he intended.
However--get to the point. Dan Brown isn't a fabulous writer, but he could teach James a few lessons about pacing....more
**spoiler alert** 776624 Father dies after surgery. Much younger second wife throws a scene. Daughter of first wife mourns...while resenting younger s**spoiler alert** 776624 Father dies after surgery. Much younger second wife throws a scene. Daughter of first wife mourns...while resenting younger step-mother?
It took me most of the story to become interested in the story. one night, I just flat didn't want to read it because it was so boring. The protagonist felt flat and emotionless for so long that I started to wonder if I any conflict really existed at all. Finally, the character starts to express some emotion, starts to show some feeling, and suddenly snaps...but it took so long to get there, even for the short and quick book like this one is.
All that aside, there are perhaps redemptive qualities to this short novel. Welty examines the different experiences and qualities that different people bring to a relationship, and to a marriage, and the effect that those qualities and experiences bequeath to their children.
To be honest, though, this probably is not my type of book. Too much melancholy, dying, and nostalgia and all that looking back mournfully is just too droll for me. Further, not unlike McCormac, if not quite so, Welty is almost painfully sparse in her language, describing just enough to move the story along.
Should you read it? Maybe. If you like Welty. ...more
While I found The Road interesting and at some level gripping, in the end I thought it was overrated. Sure, love and hope are a reason to live, and thWhile I found The Road interesting and at some level gripping, in the end I thought it was overrated. Sure, love and hope are a reason to live, and the stark struggles of life in a wasteland always have that attraction that is not unlike driving by a bad car wreck on the highway, hard to turn away from, but difficult to look at also. However, the writing is so sparse that I couldn't help but wonder if it was overly simplistic. Occasionally, especially in the last paragraph, I found myself wondering if McCarthy was being simplistic and obtuse just to be simplistic and obtuse, but without any real point (or willingness to reveal that he did not have a point).
Read it once, and enjoy it, but it doesn't deserve the Pulitzer....more