A rollicking spy story all the way through, vray. There is quite the ballet of character movements as the plot pullA fitting conclusion to the series!
A rollicking spy story all the way through, vray. There is quite the ballet of character movements as the plot pulls us along at a steady pace -- active but not rushed -- all the way to the end, with just enough suspense to keep us reading without exhausting our patience....more
One of the best works of fiction in any genre, in any language. (Yes, it's that good.) Capek takes on humanity itself and leaves no one standing. TheOne of the best works of fiction in any genre, in any language. (Yes, it's that good.) Capek takes on humanity itself and leaves no one standing. The lessons of his imagined catastrophe are chilling in their realism and as applicable today, 80+ years after it was written, as to centuries past. Smart, incisive, and most of all timeless. My only regret is that I didn't read this sooner.
One could devote an entire book to the study of this one -- not just the content but the form. While there is a definite flow to the narrative and some of the characters occasionally reappear, there is not a protagonist in the classic sense. In fact, Capek takes pot shots at such human self-centeredness (where we readers imagine ourselves the protagonist) with the character of Mr. Povondra, the humble doorman who believes everything that has happened has hinged on him.
Without a central protagonist, Capek explodes the concept of a novel. Each chapter is a slice or vignette that illustrates in one episode some part of the larger story of man's encounter with the newts. Some chapters are straightforwardly narrative; others read like transcripts; one has copious footnotes; newspaper articles are quoted at length; and the last is the author talking to himself -- and this some 30 years before Vonnegut.
If that seems off-putting, it isn't. That's its genius. It not only "works," in that it tells a compelling story, you will see echoes of contemporary events that Capek couldn't possibly have predicted -- and not just looming catastrophes like the environmental crisis, but our current preoccupation with "fake news" and the cult of celebrity. Imagine yourself writing a book as elegantly applicable to the year 2100 as to today. That's the achievement....more
Peter Bowler is an Irish historian of science who is known for his studies of evolution as an "-ism". This is undoubtedly his magnum opus and is one oPeter Bowler is an Irish historian of science who is known for his studies of evolution as an "-ism". This is undoubtedly his magnum opus and is one of the best introductory texts on this subject available.
But, a word of caution - this book is not for everyone. With notes and index, it comes to 432 pages, and, as Bowler himself notes in the preface, it is intended for undergraduate students or as a survey text for the specialist. That having been said, his prose is approachable and one does not need to have a background in history or science to follow the argument.
Also, unlike many other texts on this subject, Bowler does not descend into triumphalist or other such ideologies that remove science from its own social context. In the words of the author:
"Finally, we must look more closely at the problems the historian faces as he tries to chart the rise of scientific evolutionism. In particular, these problems arise from the normal view of science as an objective search for knowledge and the suspicions of many critics that scientific theories are themselves value-laden contributions to philosophical and ideological debates" (Bowler, pg.4).
He does an excellent job of explaining not only the theories and their evidence but does so by relating them to their own social and historical context. His analysis is also distinguished from many of its predecessors (and descendants, unfortunately) by its breadth and scope. Bowler does not confine his study to the merely biological, but begins with geology and early modern ideas of nature and change, or more appropriately, the lack thereof. Furthermore, he brings the reader up to the date of publication with a healthy discussion of the current debates, which once again stresses the idea of "evolution" as an "evolving" concept.
This is a history text. Thus, this book is for the novice, whether initially hostile to the concept of common descent through natural selection or not, who wants a comprehensive and scholarly introduction to the material, as well as for the biologist who finds herself caught in the throes of "biology as ideology," and wishes to read a scholarly text testing science's absolute claim to truth....more
The entire book -- I can tell you without giving anything away -- takes place in one room of a hospital. Of course, when you start the book, you don'tThe entire book -- I can tell you without giving anything away -- takes place in one room of a hospital. Of course, when you start the book, you don't know that (except now you do because I just told you) so you don't approach like it's a play in novel form, but it's totally a play in novel form. It's not a novelization of a play. It's an original novel. But it has the structure (and length) of a play, which makes sense given that the author, real name Elizabeth MacKintosh, was also a talented playwright.
The detective of the story is flat on his back for all of it. He can't even sit up until 3/4 of the way through and can't stand until the end, which means the entire book is nothing but the conversations he has with the nurses and people who come to visit him, all while lying down. That's it -- pages of dialogue and introspection.
On top of that, the mystery that occupies him is a historical one -- the disappearance of the two princes in the Tower, whom Shakespeare tells us were killed by Richard III -- already hundred of years old by the time the book was written. No one brandishes a gun. There's no chase scene. No one finds a body in the next bed.
But it totally works. Tey holds your rapt attention for 200+ pages with nothing but a man in a bed. Seriously great writing.
(Side note: this is a must read for any serious Game of Thrones fans. As I understand it, GRR Martin based a lot of the action on the English Wars of the Roses, with Ned Stark as a paradigmatic Richard III, and that really shows here.)...more