I never heard of this book...or the author. I found it by doing a search on NoveList. I used to read a lot of good sci-fi when I was younger (like 'St...moreI never heard of this book...or the author. I found it by doing a search on NoveList. I used to read a lot of good sci-fi when I was younger (like 'Stranger in a Strange Land' by Heinlein, Tolkien's 'The Hobbit' and Ring series, and almost anything by Ray Bradbury), but I kind of grew out of it. Besides, a lot of newer sci-fi was too dependent on science minutiae or constant action, and that kind of turned me off to it. When that happened, I knew I had to be a little more particular about the story.
Consequently, I'm very glad I stumbled across this book. It's a great story, and it's told well, even though it's the author's first foray into fiction. Russell's background is actually in anthropology, and I guess that helped her when writing this novel about first contact with aliens on their world. As an added bonus, the people who made the contact are Jesuits. So, the novel fulfilled another interest of mine which is religion.
The novel isn't science 'heavy,' and it doesn't proselytize. So, nobody has to worry about being talked down to in any sense of the word. But the concept of faith is honestly explored in a satisfying manner that looks both at the positive and negative aspects of faith and what a person must sacrifice for that faith.
The Sparrow is told on a two-track narrative which switches back and forth from the present of 2060 after the first mission ship (no pun intended) has returned to Earth, and the past of 40 years previously. The author makes it work. Despite the fact that the reader has some advanced notice of general future events, the author never gives away what exactly happens or the plot of the book. There's a sequel called "Children of God" that I'm looking forward to reading.
The Sparrow is an excellent story, especially if you like very good science fiction where human beings and alien cultures take center stage in the telling of a story of how misunderstand can ensue when two cultures meet and try to relate to one another without a common frame of reference. It's an allegory for the cultural confusion that historically has happened repeatedly here on our own planet. (less)
This is the sequel to Russell's first book, "The Sparrow," which was about the first human contact with another planet and its two sentient species. T...moreThis is the sequel to Russell's first book, "The Sparrow," which was about the first human contact with another planet and its two sentient species. That 1st expedition was led by Catholic Jesuit priests and lay people after music was detected coming from the planet. The second book is more sweeping in scope as it shows what happens to Rakhat society as a whole whereas the first book primarily involved the humans' interaction with one small rural community and one individual city dweller.
There are plenty of surprises, but the book is not formulaic in nature, although some minor characters seem to be a little stereotypical. The main character, Father Emilio Sandoz, suffers a crisis in faith (understandably so) after returning to Earth from the first expedition despite the fact that many Jesuits believe him to be blessed by God. I won't say any more except that it's a good novel for anyone who is interested in the concept of religious "faith" but not in a rigid, unquestioning way. (less)
I've read over a dozen of Vonnegut's books. I've read his short story compilations, his essays and observations, and his satirical novels, of course (...moreI've read over a dozen of Vonnegut's books. I've read his short story compilations, his essays and observations, and his satirical novels, of course (oddly enough, I've never read "Slaughterhouse-Five," but it's on my reading list). I found "Mother Night" to be his most cohesive, and satisfying satirical novel. Although Vonnegut can be shamelessly manipulative in his storytelling (for example, introducing new characters even at the end of his stories), Mother Night comes together in a way that feels considerably less forced than some of his other novels like "Jailbird" or "God Bless You, Mr Rosewater."
**spoiler alert** This is a 600 year old story of a man on a mission and how his quest changed the world.
In 1417, a scribe and former papal secretary...more**spoiler alert** This is a 600 year old story of a man on a mission and how his quest changed the world.
In 1417, a scribe and former papal secretary to a deposed Pope (the first Pope John XXIII, otherwise known as the antipope) went on a quest to recover lost Latin manuscripts written by ancient Romans. Many of these manuscripts (some known, most unknown) were believed to be languishing in remote monasteries where the monks would copy and recopy the texts. This had been going on for hundreds of years, and the scribe, Poggio Bracciolini, hoped to rescue great works of literature and philosophy from eventually being lost forever.
This is the story about how one ancient Latin poem, De rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)was rediscovered and its subsequent affect on the world after it was reintroduced. The epic poem was originally penned around 50 BCE by Lucretius and it reflected the scientific beliefs and the moral philosophy of a Roman named Epicurus who lived from 341 BCE to 270 BCE.
Why is this important you're probably asking. It's important because the Latin poem was the basis for a great deal of the Enlightenment and the Renaissance due to the fact that it greatly influenced both the scientists and philosophers who later read it.
As a note, it's interesting to read the Catholic Church's reaction to the text once they realized how threatening those views were to Christian orthodoxy. For example, Lucretius wrote about how everything in existence was composed of smaller matter known as atoms. Also, the poem promoted the idea that there was no afterlife because the soul died with the body, and the gods took no interest in human affairs. That was pretty radical stuff for a church which was later engaged in what became known as the Inquisition.
It's timely considering the current reaction of the Catholic church to the whole issue of contraception. At least nobody will be burned at the stake in 2012. That's progress.
Franks was the author of the 2004 book, "Whatever Happened to Kansas," That particular book looks at how American conservatives managed to align thems...moreFranks was the author of the 2004 book, "Whatever Happened to Kansas," That particular book looks at how American conservatives managed to align themselves with the working class, getting elected on social issues, and then pushing an economic agenda that actually hurt the very people who voted for them.
In many ways, this book is an extension of his earlier book, except that it chronicles how the Right has managed, against all odds, to exploit working class outrage regarding the economic collapse of 2008. Unlike the aftermath of the economic catastrophe of the Great Depression when Democrats established a solid coalition of voters who kept the Democrats in power for decades, the new Right has managed to capture the popular sentiment of average Americans who are angry at the state of the nation and our economic fall from the grace of good times.
Do they blame corporations? Not really. The Right blames government, regulations, and, of course, liberals.
It's an interesting and funny read. But it's also a head-scratcher because it's just so difficult to understand how so many people can be side with the political party who championed the policies which allowed Wall St to run wild and unchecked for years. You would think that most average conservatives would rethink their love of deregulation. Apparently not. It seems that the resurgent Right is now in love, more than ever, with capitalism in its purist unregulated form.
There is also a beautiful deconstruction of Ayn Rand's book, "Atlas Shrugged," that is worth experiencing.
And, of course, the conservative media and erstwhile RW tea party groups get a closer examination.
This is a VERY informative book about the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) law, why there was a need to create it, and how it's been...moreThis is a VERY informative book about the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) law, why there was a need to create it, and how it's been ignored or circumvented in the aftermath of 9-11.
Prior to the law taking effect, the book chronicles the governmental abuses by presidents from both political parties when in power. Those very abuses are what led to law being enacted in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. The book also details how, ostensibly with the intention of protecting the US after 9-11, the law was ignored by the Bush administration despite the fact that FISA was updated in the Patriot Act in order to meet the expressed concerns of the Bush administration.
Greenwald chronicles how Bush (as well as the telecoms) violated the law from 2001 through 2005, despite Bush's repeated public assurances that no Americans' communications were being monitored without a warrant.
Also of note in the book is how Congress rallied to give the telecoms immunity from law suits even as the law suits were in progress. Congress and the administration also shielded the gov't from accountability on the basis of 'national security' concerns.
The book also covers other end runs around Americans' constitutional rights such as indefinite detention without formal charges, or legal representation, or a trial.
The beginning of the book starts about a year before the financial meltdown and progresses through to the election of President Obama and his first 2...moreThe beginning of the book starts about a year before the financial meltdown and progresses through to the election of President Obama and his first 2 years in office. It details both the financial market collapse, the gov't response to it, as well as the push for health insurance reform (which originally started out as health care cost-control reform).
The book includes quite a few insights into the workings of Wall St, the Obama WH, Congress, and, of course, the powerful men and women who essentially run the country behind the scenes.
It's not a stodgy, facts-only oriented book. In fact, it's written in story form, almost like a novel. I enjoyed the book because I learned a lot about the behind the scenes interpersonal relationships of the people involved, as well as many facts about the financial crisis I didn't know.
As an example, Obama had a heads up warning that the financial system was in trouble back in 2007 because he was friends with UBS-America president, Robert Wolf, who had access to people and information about derivatives and how out of control they were.
Another thing I didn't know is one of the ways that American banks came back into profitability so quickly even though they were famously not loaning money again. What did they do? They used essentially free gov't money to buy T-bills which paid an interest rate of about 3%. Imagine that! They brought down the economy. Then the gov't (the taxpayers) bail them out. Then they use taxpayer money to increase their earnings at taxpayers' expense. It boggles the mind.
If that doesn't bother you, think about this. Many of the same practices that got our economy into this mess, are still going on, unabated. The latest Bank of America losses in the billions of dollars attest to that.
I supposed I should include a couple of caveats about the book. They're not reasons to not read the book. They're just a couple of annoyances and a heads up about a possible problem.
One annoyance is that the book was not a linear narrative. As such, the story continuously shifted in time, and it wasn't always clear as to the date. As an example, sometimes the principals were remembering an earlier time in their lives. Another mild annoyance is the fact that stories would temporarily end in favor of another story arc, and they would reappear later, sometimes far later. It would have been helpful if their titles of the principals would have again been mentioned.
A possible problem is that there isn't any attribution in the book. There are several times in the book that you would read about a conversation that only happened between two people, including ones between President Obama and another person (President Obama was interviewed for the book). So, one criticism of the book might be that, without attribution, it's not completely clear if the recounted conversations aren't somehow self-serving to whomever the source was.
And just in case anyone is worried that this book is a love fest of the president and the entire administration team, I can assure everyone that it is not.
The people who emerge as the real bright spots and real heroes in the book are fairly unknown to the general public. One that stands out in my mind is Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman, Gary Gensler. (less)
For anyone interested in how Southern conservatives think in modern day America, you don't need to look any further. This book is an excellent place t...moreFor anyone interested in how Southern conservatives think in modern day America, you don't need to look any further. This book is an excellent place to start.
We're supposedly (because we're supposed to be) a nation of laws and not men. But that's not really true, as Greenwald more than adequately portrays i...moreWe're supposedly (because we're supposed to be) a nation of laws and not men. But that's not really true, as Greenwald more than adequately portrays in this, his latest, book.
It's one thing to understand that fair and equitable treatment within the criminal justice system is not perfect, After all, nothing is. But there is a huge difference between occasional miscarriages of justice and institutional favoritism which quite often gives the rich and powerful very little punishment, if any punishment at all, while ordinary citizens are subjected to increasingly harsh and long sentences for violations of relatively modest transgressions of the law.
This book is a must read for anyone who's interested in knowing the disparity between the high-sounding American ideals our leaders espouse in public and how our legal system actually works in reality.
As a novel about a dystopian future, "The Road" succeeds in a way other such books can fail; It doesn't overwhelm the reader with too much in the way...moreAs a novel about a dystopian future, "The Road" succeeds in a way other such books can fail; It doesn't overwhelm the reader with too much in the way of details of the future disasters that lay waste to our society. Actually, the opposite is true. The reader has little information at all. For example, we never even know the names of the main characters. However, the lack of information about what happened years before doesn't detract from the horrible reality of the protagonists' present circumstances.
I should note a few annoying writing habits of the author that are somewhat distracting so the reader is prepared for it in advance. First of all, McCarthy uses a lot of incomplete sentences, for effect, I suppose. Personally, I think the author overuses it because it slows down the reading. Secondly, McCarthy seems to have a problem with apostrophes when they're used in contractions. So, for example, he'll just write 'couldnt' without an apostrophe for the absent o.
But all things considered, "The Road" delivers some truly terrifying moments on a small scale. Be prepared to be shocked.(less)