I like nice pictures but I need to admit I am not fascinated by painting. But I really trust in Captain Baranowski’s talent so I thought however he wrI like nice pictures but I need to admit I am not fascinated by painting. But I really trust in Captain Baranowski’s talent so I thought however he writes is for sure something unusual. And, this time, I also wasn’t disappointed.
First of all, the album is beautifully published. I was not prepared for such a format – heavy and difficult to read. Then I concluded that the size must be big enough as pictures are much better in reception.
There is not much reading though, but the stories are very interesting. In the summary, we can read that, by his descriptions Author is reviving what happens in the paintings. And this is exactly the idea of this book. I couldn’t characterize it better.
More than 200 pictures and a lot of interesting stores
At the very beginning, the amount of work done hits. On Sails on Easels, there are reproductions of two hundred forty works devoted to marine themes. All of them are set in thematic order. We can find there chapters of all sailing topics – Tall Ships, wind and seas, storms, battles, history, legends, fishermen and many more that the painters during the ages were interested in. The seas and sailing ships are very picturesque, and I would gladly put a few of them on my walls.
Stories that accompany the pictures explain not only what we see. More often, Baranowski describes wider perspective and by this occasion, we learn curious cases like for instance: why there is whistling not allowed on deck, or where from Flying Dutchmen appeared, why sometimes its better to run toward the open sea and not to the harbour while a storm is approaching, how long lasted the longest sea battle or how Poland managed without own fleet.
Nice and practical
I love books with indexes at the end. I love Sails on Easels even more as I found a few of them here. The most valuable is the index of all pictures with their miniatures. It is easy to find the work in which we are interested. There is also an index of painters, sailing vocabulary and bibliography.
Each text is filled with a huge sailing experience and the Author’s journalist practice. All this makes Sails on Easels universal album – interesting as well for painters, sailors and, in fact, for everyone who would like to be closer to the world of Tall Ships.
Art experts describe the album Sails on Easels as a source of knowledge unique on a global scale. So far, no similar juxtaposition of marine art with sailing practice has been created....more
I like stories about extreme sports, but till this book I’ve only known great stories about mountains, climbing, snow, cold, too little air etc. I wasI like stories about extreme sports, but till this book I’ve only known great stories about mountains, climbing, snow, cold, too little air etc. I was totally surprised when I’ve realized that the stories about sailing are even more exciting. And it has begun totally by chance. I’ve received a bunch of sailing books from one of the zero-waste groups. Someone was cleaning his grandfather's home, and wanted to give books to someone who will read them one more time. And this was me. After a few weeks I was ready to pick one piece of this pile. This was “A way to Cape Horn'' [Droga na Horn, transl. MK]. I didn’t know what it’s about, but it was a surprisingly good choice!
Now Krzysztof Baranowski is now an elderly man, but in 1973, when he was writing this book, he was a young and handsome captain, who liked lonely sailing by the oceans. “A way to Cape Horn” is a kind of diary from his first expedition around the world. He was one of the three the very first sailors from Poland, and one of the several people in the whole world who achieved this goal. This is a thing!
Baranowski wanted to flow around the world in a great style. He chose one of the most dangerous ways - through the Roaring Forties, as we can read in Wikipedia, is an ocean area that has very strong winds and frequent storms. It’s an area “though to navigate and dangerous for ships”. Baranowski writes that this trip was wild and in the cyclone season even really dangerous. But he didn’t have a choice if he wanted to complete his simple idea: he wanted to flow around the world through this way. And he did it despite many odds. His yacht has flipped around three times and water made a lot of demolitions. He lost the auto-rudder (I’m not sure this is the right word in sailor speak in English). He was fighting with big waves that were 10 - 20 meters high. I can’t even imagine how it was possible in such a small boat.
Only he knew how much effort he needed to put in changing big and bulky sails and their repairs. In fact, if we can look at this book from some distance, we could see that this was a whole-time juggling names of sales and changes. Maybe those readers who don’t like to sail, these parts could be weary, but I liked it. I’ve almost been able to see all this through my eyes. I love to sail, even though I didn’t sail through seas, only in Mazury’s lakes in Poland. I don’t have any sailing license also, because I didn’t need to “draw the ropes”. I was the entertainment staff and my duty was to play the guitar and sing... and watch out the boom. Maybe that’s why I love it so much.
The charm of the books from before several dozens of years
It always amuses me when the book is written straightforwardly. The same is with Baranowski’s book. It is sincere. Inside there is no political correctness (exaggerated nowadays). For example in one moment the captain writes honestly, that he threw away some litter to the ocean. Today he probably would have some eco-freaks on his head with all this no-waste slogans.
In general the book is engaging from the very first page. The Captain is a very good writer (he was also a journalist) and combines nature descriptions and deep thoughts with daily simple routine and sailors regime. There is a lot of charm in this story, and it’s a style I really like: with humour, dynamical, without unnecessary words. There is a lot of black humor also and an optimistic attitude. For example in the moment when it starts to stink under his deck. He realizes that all eggs have gone bad. These eggs were prepared in a special way before the expedition but it turned out that it didn’t work. Baranowski regrets all those meals with these eggs and writes sarcastically about his friends' “great” idea of “special preparations”. Or the different moment when he makes a list of the most important needs and the first position is a hot shower. We can feel the lonely trip mood. We also know that behind the words there is a normal person.
And the composition of the book is nice too. It starts in half of the expedition, and to the very beginning we come back after a few chapters. This is definitely not boring “I’ve made sail and came back”.
Action all the time
I really love reading books about climbing in the Himalayas, but in this sport, dynamic periods are mixed with long time filled with boredom and cold. In sailing books it's the opposite. There is a dynamic period almost all the time. The water has to flow. These big waves that Baranowski describes are totally frightening for me, especially in loneliness. I can't even imagine it, just can’t.
Sometimes it needs only to start from some great book to catch the fascination about something. Baranowski’s book is the great position to fall in sailing. Unfortunately it’s available only in Polish.
PS The best music to read the book with is the longplay of Vangelis “Antarctica”....more
After reading this book, I feel definitely less safe in the world. As I work in IT I already knew that private data safety isn’t the strength of the tAfter reading this book, I feel definitely less safe in the world. As I work in IT I already knew that private data safety isn’t the strength of the technological companies, but now I’ve learned unquestionably that fat scams are real. I also now know the strong argument for keeping the safety of private data, because if we won’t do this, we could let someone from the internet manipulate us and make us a puppet. Arguments like “I’m nobody, who could trace me and for what reasons?” should go away.
I’m aware that I could sound like a crazy person now, but Wylie’s story is true, and you can fact-check it and google it. But it's hard to believe. I’m still shocked a bit because the scale of this scam is really big.
What is it about?
You may already know that Zuckerberg (Facebook boss) was interrogated by the Congress of USA Commission. Maybe you’ve also heard the name Cambridge Analytica, but as far as I know, most of my friends haven’t known the details, what it was about and how serious it was. I didn’t know it either.
Well, Cambridge Analytica (CA) company have stolen the private data of Facebook users (a several dozen millions), and made their psychological profiles. After that, based on this knowledge, with the help of Artificial Intelligence and psychologists, they created hundreds of communicates that were using psychological effects (e.g. priming). Those effects were adjusted to the recipients’ profiles to manipulate them. CA spent several millions of dollars to get to those people and influence their decisions and draw for example anger. It’s a fact that where we are angry we think less about our behaviour consequences, and we generally begin to be less profound, and when it’s happening our decisions or choices could be made without objectivity.
And exactly this happened during the Brexit referendum in the UK and the presidential election in the USA when Donald Trump was elected. Those CA actions had the influence also for the alt-right beginning and rising negative effects like suspicion level of the society, more racist attitude and activities and who knows what else…
Sounds like a conspiracy theory…
Wylie describes everything with details. We have names, dates, circumstances, a lot of psychology and stories about campaign managing algorithms. Author knows everything about it because he was one of the main people who invented, started, and coordinated those actions. After a few years of living with frustrations against the CA manipulations, his moral spine came out stronger than fear. He decided to be a whistleblower and make public all evidence against CA.
It’s not a puff-piece
Wylie is writing about himself that he believed in the big idea. He thought that people would use his findings in a good way. And I want to trust that it’s true and not some kind of his pose. He doesn’t plead too much, and if yes, he writes: “I don’t know why I was doing this. I felt that something was wrong but I still was doing it”. This book carries emotions and it’s important that there isn't too much powder on it. It’s worth knowing that this guy was quite young when he started his career in CA. He was in his early twenties, and he already was managing such big projects. I really respect it.
The book about life
Some rare elements and explanations are really great in this book. For example, there is a great sight of the political “concrete” - fossilized politicians, both in the UK and Canada. We can perfectly see how tough it is to change anything in their world and also that their main goal is only to win and rule, not to build a strong country.
I was also delighted by all these details about sniper targeting and psychology, that was helpful in doing it. In fact, the knowledge, how to reach advertisements recipients and create target groups could be interesting to all marketers, because Wylie really well elaborates on how to do it. And it’s really evident that it’s not an easy process.
Explanation, how the author was “connecting dots” is also great. How he was learning, drawing conclusions, and what analogies he was using. It comes out that every, even the smallest experience could carry something useful. Wylie is interested in the fashion business and this led him to a universal thesis that could be reusable in every social life element, also in politics.
There are also a lot of other “bites”, for example, the conclusion that maybe China is working on their Social Credit System but the USA has also the counterpart: social behaviour modelling program. The main difference is the fact that China is a few steps before the USA and acts rather like a hammer, and the USA is more subtle in these actions. Or the interesting info, that was a mystery for me for a long time, about the high mobile devices saturation in Africans countries, like Kenya. It turned out that it’s because the environment (banks and infrastructure for sure) is not encouraging to create bank accounts, so people use telephone credits on mobiles as the currency and some part of the trade is based on these microtransactions.
This book made me realize how dangerous the whistleblowing was and how complicated it was to make this with so little problems.
I’m really delighted with this book, but the conclusions are at least depressing. I’m curious how big servers CA needed to have to save data from several dozen millions of Americans? And how everything was coordinated and organized, because it was so complex! I’m really impressed and also worried. And I’m also sad that people sort of Nix or Bannon have so big influence and possibilities.
This book is so much about today’s threats, that it couldn’t be more. The threat that is easy to see, usually ignites caution from the very beginning, and it’s maybe not as dangerous as subtle manipulations that are hard to see. They make us split into our own tribes and radicalized and nothing will change in this, because it’s easier to control people who don’t want to create unity and who are under the influence of strong emotions. And the fact that these emotions are ignited on the purpose, and the divisions artificial? There are only a few people who care about it. ...more
It’s hard to believe that the first episodes of Black Mirror were released ten years ago. I was still studying then, Facebook just started to climb toIt’s hard to believe that the first episodes of Black Mirror were released ten years ago. I was still studying then, Facebook just started to climb to the peak of popularity, and Instagram was just a beginner… It’s hard to recall what I was doing to kill free time because there weren’t so many social media then. I didn’t read as much as now. Maybe I was focused on analogue life? I don’t know, I can’t remember. And that's when Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones were starting to create their futuristic, fascinating and dystopian ideas about changes and social dilemmas, that could be caused by advanced technology. That was the time when they began to see in the future of the world and think about what could probably happen. They were quite successful at this because some scenarios are (unfortunately) fulfilling now.
I truly love their visions and the way they are talking about it, so after the first glance at this book, I knew that it’s a must-have for me and I really want to read it. It’s just because I really miss their twisted imaginations. The premiere of the very recent episode, Bandersnatch, was over two years ago, so in this situation, the book with reviews with the authors seemed to be a great idea. I hoped that inside of it I’ll find a short reminder of every episode and I wasn’t disappointed. The only one little sad thing is related to the fact that the book ends in the fourth season, so there weren't any texts about the last four episodes. But it’s just nothing because there is still a lot of information about previous parts, and it’s a load of goodies!
This book doesn’t have a plot. It’s just the set of the interviews with Charlie Brooker, his right hand Annabel Jones and the rest of the series authors and actors from every episode. It’s kind of a crowd because every part it’s the almost separate staff and the original story.
In these interviews Brooker and Jones tell us about the backstage of the series: the beginning with Channel 4 and why this cooperation needed to end and they started filming with Netflix. They often talk about their limited budget because of which they needed to be very flexible to make ends meet. They claim that they were lucky to have great actors. But it’s a part of a true only, because the series is simply great so everyone wanted to work on it.
And the series is great because it’s about technology but also about the people. The technology was only the catalyst for showing general problems, dilemmas and emotions: fear, helplessness, inertia, good intentions, bad intentions, jealousy, uncertainty, hate, betrayal, failure and many many more. Every episode is a volcano of emotions.
There are also many technical things here about shot actions and details that are doing the job. For example they explain how they designed graphic projects for buildings and places, or usability and the user interface of gadgets that were used by the characters. Authors did the best to use all the reasons why we are in love with technological toys, we want to have them and use them. They made an effort to show all details.
They were also experimenting with the music and incorporated into it the particular sounds like this signature sound for new messages or this specific sound for interference in your headphones caused by the mobile call. I haven’t noticed most of it at all while watching the series for the first time. I need to watch it again!
The genius of the chaos
Brooker and Jones talk a lot also about the coordination of the work, that wasn’t, to say the least, very well-organized. It happened sometimes that the ending of the episode was changed while filming or even the work on the scenes started without a full scenario. So now, when I know, from what chaos the series was created, a lot more I appreciate the eventual effect. Especially that the authors told many times that they couldn’t afford this and that. Despite dollars from Netflix, their budgets were still limited.
So, how to make a movie and create interesting characters and plots to attract people? This book is all about it. It’s interesting too that Brooker shows himself as a total pessimist, who always is thinking that his success was partly gained by chance. But Jones has the opposite attitude, she moderates his rough behavior.
All the stories from Brooke and Jones show that every moment in our life, every experience, even the smallest and dumbest, could inspire new, great ideas. For example, it could be the device from Legoland, that for an additional fee is telling you where there aren’t queues to amusements or device from the toilet where you can tell how pleased you are (because the toilet was clean or wasn’t clean enough), that inspired Brooker to create a user interface for the teddy bear from the Black Museum episode.
One of the very few things that were interfering in this book that was this sweet, exaggerated tone - puff pieces from each other. I didn’t know also that they were sitting together or those are separate interviews, and only Brooker and Jones are in the same place and comment on others. It’s hard to say because sometimes their parts are ragged and sometimes smooth. Maybe it’s because of my Polish translation? I regret a bit that I haven’t read the English version, but it doesn’t matter, to be frank, because this book is still full of interesting information and it has also summaries all episodes, and this was the most important for me.
And there is something more in this book that I really appreciate - indexes. In the Black Mirror Behind the scene, there are two indexes - alphabetical index of inspirations and the list of the names, so you can check where the authors say about budgets for example. WOW. Great work. Great series. Great people. They have totally f*cked minds. I love it....more
Nowadays, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is surrounding us almost everywhere. We don’t even realize that it’s AI responsible for the improvement of our Nowadays, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is surrounding us almost everywhere. We don’t even realize that it’s AI responsible for the improvement of our photos in cutting-edge smartphones to reach the effect of the beautiful moon (and not white, burnt spot). But what does it even mean “Artificial Intelligence”? What is related to? What can it do? What is it used for? Is it really intelligent and whether we are approaching the moment when AI will gain self-consciousness and it will become the singularity. About all these things are the talking authors of this book: Aleksandra Przegalińska and Paweł Oksanowicz. I have to enlarge that Przegalińska is IMHO one of the most important women related to technology in Poland and worldwide, and I’m a big fan of her.
The book “Sztuczna inteligencja. Nieludzka, arcyludzka” [Artificial Intelligence. Inhuman, arch-human] is about the current stage of work on a wide issue, that in some kind of simplification we call Artificial Intelligence. In any case, Przegalińska suggests that in some time, with the next steps of the development, Artificial Intelligence won’t be a proper name any more, and we will begin to call it more suitable to the actual stage of work. The author proposes new terms that were implied in the technology environment, for example, active inference or designed intelligence. It’s because the word “artificial” is associated with something made of plastic, and what if we add wet wear to the algorithms? It won’t be artificial any more.
So much knowledge
I learned a lot from this book and I think that everyone should read it and at least try to understand because Artificial Intelligence will surround us more and more.
Przegalińska writes about Artificial Intelligence in a very wide way. She talks about the past, and future but the most important is here and now. She tries to explain the general terms. What is intelligence? Whether intelligence can exist without consciousness? What is consciousness? What are the algorithms? What is the difference between deep and machine learning? Why we don’t understand how deep learning works and how important it is to make it explainable. What has the ethics to AI further development? Who should take the responsibility for the autonomic car accident? Who will supervise AI? What is data science and what is generally the data nowadays? Can we trust AI? How systems like Alexa influence people, for example, what is the influence on children's communication behaviour? What are algorithmic biases? And even whether AI is ecological and what is the carbon footprint of it? And this is only half of the issues touched in this book.
We can find here also a galvanizing chapter about China Social Credit System and some info about the Cambridge Analytica scandal. We’ll learn a lot of new terms like cobot, cobotization, unnecessariat, or coopetition. And with the authors, we will walk through the most renowned and important pop culture books and movies, that use the AI idea into the plot.
In this long interview with Przegalińska we can also find shorter interviews with other specialists related to the technology. They work on something else and don’t have such spectacular achievements like Przegalińska, but their perspective is also interesting and contributes some new thoughts from the business or politics side.
Apart from one chapter where authors are talking about mathematical algorithms, the book is mostly very straightforward and explains many things from the basics, so everything should be understandable even for the complete beginner.
The future is unknown
Briefly, this book is a very trustworthy and comprehensive source of knowledge about AI for the 2020 year. Probably it will remain up-to-date for a few years, but the technology develops and expands so rapidly that some part of it could be obsolete earlier.
What is the general conclusion that is coming up from this book? AI is undoubtedly the future, but we don’t know what it will look like, because we can’t foresee the long-term evolution. For sure we shouldn’t be afraid of the visions in which AI is destroying or even threatening biological life on Earth. We should be more afraid of people and their ideas to use AI to manipulate. That’s why we have to follow carefully what is currently happening in this matter and in the future look with the hope that AI further evolution will help to overcome our current human problems, and won’t create too many new ones. And if it does, hopefully, they won’t be more serious than the ones we already have. ...more
When for the first time I was watching the V for Vendetta movie I didn't realize that this is the comic’s adaptation. I noticed it much later by chancWhen for the first time I was watching the V for Vendetta movie I didn't realize that this is the comic’s adaptation. I noticed it much later by chance. I was very curious if there are differences between the book and the movie and if yes, how many those will be.
My name is Vendetta
The story is based in England, in an alternative future in the XXth century, and takes many ideas from Orwell’s 1984. The society is under total control, and the government is spying people all the time. The propaganda is flooding from the television. For first sight, it’s not a dramatic situation, but people aren’t free. They need to obey the ridiculous laws and the lack of total obedience could cause tortures and death. In these “pleasing” circumstances we met Evey and V who are the main characters. For those who have seen the movie already, the comic’s plot won’t be surprising. But when we’ll meet details we could see many differences, because apart from the main storyline everything else is different.
Movie vs comic book
The characters in the comic are deeper, they have other motivations and we can better see their emotions and fears. The plot is also much more extended. We can learn more about the social and political situation at those times. The author also explains how propaganda works and we have also the additional materials. At the beginning of the comic book, we can read the short text from the comic drafter. It’s like a page from his diary that is the warning for the reader. It warns those who aren’t certain of their opinions because reading this comic could change their mind irreversibly. What has been seen… We also have the short introduction and a longer article at the end of the book written by the scenario’s author. All those texts are explaining the circumstances of comic making and other titbits about it like stories that aren’t incorporated into the plot eventually. So in this edition, we have everything about V that has been released.
The drawings are quite specific. Pictures aren’t much colorful and the outline doesn’t remind anything drawn in nowadays. It isn’t surprising because this comic was drawn in the 80s. To be frank I don’t know how this comic book could enjoy anyone but the comic maniacs or the movie version fans. I think that before buying you should be certain that you will like this style. I’m mesmerized but I belong to both categories, so if anyone is identifying also, I really recommend this comic book. ...more
When I think about things that Andrzej Klim described in his book I want to laugh and weep simultaneously.
I want to laugh because of some ridiculous aWhen I think about things that Andrzej Klim described in his book I want to laugh and weep simultaneously.
I want to laugh because of some ridiculous and funny stories related to movie production in communistic Poland (PRL - Polska Republika Ludowa, 1952 - 1989). And weep at once because of the circumstances and environment these movies were made. Communistic times were very hard in Poland and other infected countries. Nowadays these kinds of situations are beyond comprehension, but then it was a daily routine.
I like Sexmission (the movie), so I need the book!
Usually, my compulsive book shopping is the same - I read an interesting review, going to an online store and buying. And this time wasn’t different. But I thought it’ll be an easy and frictionless book, with a lot of pictures and I was surprised because it wasn’t.
This is a three hundred page brick with a small font and only a few photos. It had to ripen on my shelf for almost one year, but I’ve read it eventually. And with pleasure I can say that the book is very good. It contains stories about these in-communism-made movies, which I’ve seen and I love. I really didn’t know it was so tough to make a movie those times.
What does it mean?
In this book, there are texts about ten Polish movies - the most significant and famous in those times: “Ashes and Diamonds” (1958), “Knife in the Water” (1962), “Our Folks” (1967), “A Trip Down the River” (1970), “The Promised Land” (1975), “Nights and Days” (1975), “Teddy Bear” (1981), “Sexmission” (1984) and “Interrogation” (1989).
It was a really great pleasure to dig into the making-off circumstances, especially the “Sexmission” is one of my favorite movies ever. Unfortunately, it was a pleasure only for me, because for creators surely it wasn’t. In movies created at those times, the staff was using only what was at hand. So to make the scene with the burning tenement house they had to use a real building in a real district and... napalm. But the napalm is unquenchable so everything had to burn up. There was a real danger the fire would spread out to other inhabited buildings.
My favorite story is this about “Teddy Bear”. This is a classic movie about funny and ridiculous situations in Poland. For example, there is one probably most renowned in Poland phrase (in my free translation): “we say categoric NO! to frankfurter’s secret-guttlers” (original: “Parówkowym skrytożercom mówimy stanowcze nie!”). It’s probably not funny at all without some explanation. Somebody from the staff has stolen and eaten some frankfurters which were dedicated to retakes And there were no retakes because there were no more frankfurters. And in those times you couldn’t simply go and buy it in some store, because stores were empty.
It’s worth taking into account the text about “Sexmission” also. We have here details about GREAT work of all staff: director and actors, especially Jerzy Stuhr, who was creating his role at the moment he was acting. He has put all his heart and gave us these renowned in Poland perfect bon mots: “woman is hitting me” or “what a junk” (which should be pronounced exactly as in the movie). There is information about technical problems too. Klim writes about strong noise on a movie set. This forced moviemakers to do a voice-over of all of the actor’s dialogues.
We should remember too, that it was a game-changing movie because of a lot of nudity in some scenes. Klim describes especially one iconic moment in the lift. There was a strip dancer employed exactly to this scene, but even she was embarrassed by so much attention from the movie staff.
This book is interactive!
After unboxing I was intrigued by a sign suggesting this book is interactive. On the cover was a “play” sign and info that I can see a video. It was new to me because I didn’t know how I should “click” in a paper book. I felt strange, but I’ve realized I’m stupid and I need to download an app that scans pictures. And then I could see online a few minutes of videos from these movies on my device.
I have to admit - an interesting solution, but I’m not sure it will be widespread. You need to have a quite bright light to do a proper scan, and the app has some bugs so sometimes it could be hard to use it. And of course, you have to be online and have a decent internet connection to see videos.
The book is super interesting. There are lots of intimate memories about daily life in communism which could popup in every minute. They even had no camera tape!
Reading is really absorbing especially at the end. I’ve felt the author was warming up during writing and in the text about the last movie he was really spirited. Andrzej Klim described some big problems that had “Interrogation” creators with the distribution of their movie. Communistic government was very unhappy because of the plot. For six years “Interrogation” was forbidden and the director emigrated to Canada after the disciplinary dismissal.
And that’s how movie-making was in communist Poland....more
This recently renowned book that delights lots of people didn’t impress me.
The Handmaid’s Tale
We are in a vague future, in the Republic of Gilead thaThis recently renowned book that delights lots of people didn’t impress me.
The Handmaid’s Tale
We are in a vague future, in the Republic of Gilead that is located in the USA’s area and it’s a place extremely unfriendly for living, especially for women. In this place, social roles are assigned really strictly. Women could be Wives or Teachers or Prostitutes or titulars Handmaids and nothing more. In this situation, a lot of women have problems with getting pregnant, but we don’t know exactly why. Handmaids have one goal - to give birth to a child as a result of impregnating during a ritual rape by male owners.
The title suggests that it’s the story of a Handmaid. Her name is Freda. She can’t possess anything, read, talk without permission, she can't do almost nothing. She can do only one thing - get pregnant. Only then she will mean something for society.
We meet Freda when she is assigned to her third house. It’s important because according to Gilead rules women have only three chances to get pregnant. If she fails, she loses her status and will be exiled to an even worse place than Gilead (but it’s hard to imagine a worse place). Freda has the only and last chance and tries her best.
The scary world isn’t enough
I bought this book because one of my friends published a review on Facebook that this book is really shocking and tells the story about the world that is hell for women. I wanted to know why it’s so scary, but after reading I have the feeling that something was missing. Possibly it’s because of the calm style of this tale. It was told by a woman that accepted her faith. There are no sinusoidal emotions or hysteria. We have only a gentle, steady story that IMHO doesn’t fit the plot.
Generally, it was easy to read. A bit distracting were too long the world’s explanations and many retrospections too often interrupted the main plot. Freda also has annoying thoughts and personality jumps. Once is an almost broken woman, forced to live against herself, and once consciously twirling her bottom in front of guards, just to interest them or maybe embarrass them. It’s missing something. Maybe subtlety? Cohesion? But maybe the author wanted to write it in exactly this way, and the main character started to have some mental illnesses after all these bad experiences?
The most powerful part of this book is about stages when women were losing their rights, lives, and the possibility to make decisions. Definitely I don’t want to lose my job and the power to manage my bank account just because I’m a woman. Nevertheless, the world that Margaret Atwood gave us is quite original, but the vision it could be the real future scares me a lot. ...more
Do you work in a call center, eatery, factory, or as a journalist, lawyer, accountant, copywriter, or doctor? Do you write books, compose music, or arDo you work in a call center, eatery, factory, or as a journalist, lawyer, accountant, copywriter, or doctor? Do you write books, compose music, or are you the designer? There is a possibility that in the future your job will die. These and other professions will probably be automated. Maybe only partly, but maybe all these skills will be completely automated and people will be no longer needed. And about this is the book “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future” written by Martin Ford and it’s not a science-fiction. It’s happening now and all the time.
Before I will write about ideas from this book I would like to calm you down - there is no reason to fear. The complete automation won’t come quickly, if ever. Besides, there is a great chance that artificial intelligence (AI) will create totally new professions, that we can’t even imagine right now. BTW it already had happened with the automobile industry in the XIXth century. The carriage disappeared but there were new things - automobiles and mountainous factories that gave a new work for all these people who lost their old jobs in dying industries.
The same situation was when the internet was spreading around. For example, publishers started to have tough lives, but there appeared new internet-related professions - social marketing, content marketing, programming, or SEO. For sure, lots of things will totally change, but we don’t know how many or how it will be. We will see this in the next few years, and we should look for these changes and be flexible because we can’t deny the changes are inevitable and we can’t stop it.
Apart from a bit of apocalyptic visions, the author in his deliberations goes further. He shows us how exactly automation could influence individual branches, society, earnings, job offers, politics & government, and other life-related things. Of course, for now, these are only predictions, but we can see that could be very plausible.
Inside this book, there is something invisible in other similar publications, we have here explanations. There is now a lot of information and books about employment and unemployment, but authors couldn’t or don’t want to go inside deliberations about reasons for this complicated situation in the labor market. Ford is not afraid and gives us a lot of suggestions about why it’s happening in this way that the work isn’t worth too much. I don’t want to write that all this is because of AI. It’s only the part of the truth. Maybe it will smell like a utopia now but I think that the main reason is inside ourselves. Humanity and their life approach, attitude to other people is the greatest reason for the tough situation inside the labor market. We are so much absorbed by the pursuit of money that we easily forget about other people.
There is also the mathematical ground for these claims. Ford in a very clean way explains how the level of earnings (mostly from the poorer majority of society) influences the general well-being of the nation throughout and why the middle class is. Summarizing, if you are interested in the look of the future world, this book is for you.
I’m so happy that I’ve read this book. I have so many thoughts and conclusions. The predictions or visions are so vivid and complementary that I think the author very well thought through everything he writes. I agree with him - the time of the machines is coming. The effects of the automation are seeable even now. I have this luck I work in IT so for now, I don’t need to be afraid about losing my job. Maybe that’s why I’m so calm writing this review because Ford’s vision isn’t optimistic. You can read “Rise of the Robots” in one breathe, and there are not so many books on this topic that are written in a straightforward style so this is a big advantage. But there is a drawback too. Ford’s visions could get old in no time. The First edition of this book it’s 2015. In my language, it was released in 2017 and I know that already some of these ideas that for the author are only probable, now are reality. But there are so many other ideas (still, only in our imaginations) and for those, it’s worth reading this book. ...more
We could compare False Mirrors to Black Mirror, even though False Mirrors it’s a book written almost twenty years ago.
For sure the plot of False MirrWe could compare False Mirrors to Black Mirror, even though False Mirrors it’s a book written almost twenty years ago.
For sure the plot of False Mirrors could be one of Black Mirrors episodes, only the technology is different. In Lukyanienko’s time, devices and ideas were old fashioned. It could cause some confusion while reading, especially for those who are interested in cutting-edge solutions. Fortunately, it doesn’t disturb so much when you try to see the bigger picture.
False Mirrors it’s a second novel of the Labirynth trilogy. Previously I thought there were only two parts, but I’ve realized the third novel simply wasn’t released in my language. So in False Mirrors, we have a continuation of Leonid’s story. He was a diver in The Depth, virtual reality which is described in detail in the first novel. Now the Depth is changed. The diver’s skills are no longer needed. Nobody knows why and what happened. Leonid desperately tries to find the new meaning of life. He has some health problems and a lot of dilemmas, memories, and grief because of the lost diving possibilities.
The action starts right after the sudden death of Leonid’s friend. It turned out that one of the VR companies made a third generation weapon that can kill not only VR avatars but the real humans. This weapon could make a deadly spasm and then the heart stops beating. Leonid wants revenge, but to make it real he needs to go through the Death Labirynth, the game inside The Depth. The Death Labirynth is something like Far Cry but you have to fight in a team with other people. Leonid’s mates are guys he met in this game. There are lots of funny situations but eventually, they help him in accomplishing the goal.
Deeptown within The Depth
The world created by Lukyanienko is so much interesting, so I’m a bit sorry that these books were too short. Similarities to Black Mirrors episodes are vivid. There are so many technical details that show how The Depth could work now. I think that the next generations of VR will make a difference and move us to parallel places.
The plot in the second novel is more tweaked than the first. There are lots of technical details, moral and philosophical deliberations. What if inside VR someone could kill us for real? What artificial intelligence will become? Maybe will it envy real bodies to humans? Will the machines destroy the world? At once while reading I’ve gathered the impression that the characters in this book are a bit naive. Big boys took the toys and went to find a justice like vigilantes. But I think that in this story it’s acceptable and even nice because it gives for the book a mood like from American movie - easy and not complicated fighting between justice and bad guys. It’s really good entertainment even though it could be longer. ...more
Is it worth reading science-fiction books written about twenty years ago? Sergei Lukyanenko’s book “Labyrinth of Reflections” proves that yes, it’s woIs it worth reading science-fiction books written about twenty years ago? Sergei Lukyanenko’s book “Labyrinth of Reflections” proves that yes, it’s worth it.
I’ve hit for Lukyanenko’s work a long time ago. According to a text on a cover, in Russia, he’s as popular as J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter’s author), but in Poland is different. His book “Spectrum” is one of my favorites books and now I’ve decided to read something else. From the first pages, I knew already, I’m reading this book at least ten years too late but, better late than later.
Originally I wanted to write this review after reading the second volume, because “Labyrinth of Reflections” is only the first part of the whole story but after reading it I changed my previous plans. I did that because I realized this is the separate, finished story and the second volume will be about something else.
The universe that the author created is very interesting. The book was written twenty one years ago (1997 year, polish edition in 2002) and tells the story about the near future. Though the dates aren’t exactly known we could imagine it happens thirty, maybe fifty years later but the topic couldn’t be more up-to-date. Lukyanenko is narrating about the world that we have now. He’s inventing very advanced virtual reality and according to his vision humanity discovered the secret of connecting the brain with the computer. This gives the opportunity to get into VR directly, using only helmets and jumpsuits that additionally simulating natural body behavior.
Maybe games such as Second World (2003) or Minecraft (2009) are familiar to you, maybe not. If not, you should know that inside these environments you can create everything by yourself, including your personality and explore the whole world without any borders and restrictions. But you should know also that this Russian author twenty years earlier has written about VR idea and did it much deeper what is a reality now.
This VR world has a name: The Depth and after you’re inside you generally can’t go outside by yourself. To end the connection you need to have an outside program that will wake you up. I said generally because there are some exceptions. There are people who can break the surface by themselves and they are called The Divers, but there aren’t many of them. They are some kind of a legend in the Depth, everyone heard something about them, but almost no one met. And this book is telling us about Leonid’s adventures. He’s one of the Divers and the freelancer. One day he gets the task to solve some anomaly inside the Depth and this is the start of the plot.
The ideas from this book aren’t new. We can name now what the author used: VR, matrix idea, quantum physics, and other galvanizing theories, and we know these technologies with our own experience. But he connected all these in a very surprising story. And it’s still surprising, even now when we know that some of the author’s ideas aren’t science-fiction already. And it’s very important that Lukyanenko asks questions that are still very up-to-date. For example, he asks about artificial intelligence - if it happens, what will it be? In what way it will change the whole world and people? In what way will it change our life experiences, VR senses, and our eagerness for connecting with VR directly? The answers we will have to find out by ourselves of course, but I like when apparently straightforward literature can talk about these topics. Even though the book has “its age” already I haven’t felt outdated technologies so much, but of course, there are some issues like floppy disks, CD’s, modems, or Windows Home… Personally I’m not a big fan of the Microsoft environment and I would like the author to create something totally new or at least tell somewhere there is a product placement here…
It’s interesting also that the users of the Depth are using as their avatars old-fashioned stars from ‘90 like Stallone or Schwarzenegger. But all these little odds aren’t interfering in the pleasure of reading. The story is gripping and to those who like floating on a plot, this book should be really nice. ...more
“Claws and fangs” surprised me a lot in a very positive way.
“Claws and fangs” [original: “Szpony i kły”] it’s a set of short novels based on the witch“Claws and fangs” surprised me a lot in a very positive way.
“Claws and fangs” [original: “Szpony i kły”] it’s a set of short novels based on the witcher's universe, but Sapkowski (writer the originals) wasn’t the author. Inside the book are eleven stories that were created as entries to the writers’ competition organized by “Nowa Fantastyka” [New Fantasy it’s a Polish magazine with fantasy topics]. According to the info which is on the fantastyka.pl website Sapkowski blessed this volume. On the cover of the book, there is a claim that Sapkowski “read it carefully and didn’t interfere”. And this was a good decision because there is nothing to interfere here. But let’s start from the beginning.
In the prologue, I’ve started to afraid a bit that this book will be a waste of time. But this fear was unnecessary. This prologue is too much preservative like the author would be too much unsure about the value of these stories. Needlessly. But I need to say that I have totally different opinion from the jury about these stories because first text IMHO didn’t burn my ass. The plot is OK but the style is too squared, too harsh for me and I had some difficulties while reading. Or maybe the first story was under the influence of the prologue and I treated it like a run-up?
But starting from the second story all next are very equaled in level and have very high quality. We have some Geralt’s adventures, but also a lot about other characters from other books and games. It’s very interesting that the authors of those novels are acquainted with the games’ plot and they incorporated this knowledge into their stories. This is really great and yes, I’m saying this as the Witcher games lover. Maybe someone who hasn’t played won’t be so happy because some details could be hard to understand. But well… too bad. I really recommend playing or even watching gameplay on Youtube.
Nevertheless, the book has stories about Triss, Lytta Neid (Coral), Jaskier, Coen, Lambert, or a few completely new characters. We’ll meet some new monsters also and we’ll back to some events from the past like the Batlle of Sodden Hill. By the way, it is surprising how often this battle is recalled in this book. And it’s really cool because we know not so much about it from other sources.
When I started reading “Claws and fangs” I was trying to have no expectations because it’s easy to disappoint yourself. Maybe that’s why I was so positively surprised? I’ve caught myself in prolonging reading. I wanted to have longer pleasure from being inside the witcher universe again.
All stories in this book are complementing themselves which is in fact quite surprising because it all has separate authors and they were written to the competition. And that causes a lot of randomness but here we had a fortunate coincidence and all stories are like puzzles and fit together to one big picture.
Are they different than Sapkowski’s stories? Of course, they are. They have a different language and trying to make more influence to your senses like smell, sight, or touch than for intelligence what was doing Sapkowski. But I think in this book everyone can find something for themself.
PS. I would really love to read Lambert’s, Adda’s (or even Triss’s) diaries…. :D Maybe someone will write it someday?...more
I wish you and myself this year to be like the style in the Jerzy Pilch’s book entitled “Wiele Demonów” - very very nice.
In the beginning, I need to sI wish you and myself this year to be like the style in the Jerzy Pilch’s book entitled “Wiele Demonów” - very very nice.
In the beginning, I need to say this isn’t an easy book. After the very first 100 pages, I was wondering I did a good thing reading this specific title because it was my first book of this author. I’ve felt confused by frequent flashbacks and “jumping” between threads. I was fighting with myself because I wanted to put this book off and never come back again. But, fortunately, I’ve lost this fight. My curiosity was stronger. After some time (about 30% of the book) I got used to the author’s style and from this moment it was only better and better.
Long story short
Jerzy Pilch tells us a story about people from a small countryside named Sigły where recently happened something very strange. Aleksandra Mrak, one of the natives disappeared. She was one of two Lutheran pastor’s daughters. There are lots of theories what happened to her, but we don’t know it for sure until the end of the book. Some people say she ran away, some that she was kidnapped and murdered.
But she isn’t the main character, she’s only a base for stories about other people from this place. We’re reading their thoughts and reflections about the latest events. We can see their demons - fears, superstitions, and hate for diversity.
The author in a bold way shows us the daily, tough life which had members of this small community and without hesitation tells about all awkward events. Descriptions are vivid and straightforward. One of these daily mini-stories is about a white coat for a teenager. Some young boy was wearing this coat every day, it was his usual outfit. What’s strange? Nowadays nothing. It’s totally common to have white clothes because of the washing machines, but in the ‘50s (in Poland) white color was very unpopular. It was easy to dirty it and very hard to clean up. Poland was very very poor at these times and wearing so “luxurious” fabric had a great impact on people in this village. Emotions related to this “clothing act” were very different, from delight to roast. Only because of the coat color.
But it’s not the end of the white coat story. It was made an unforgivable crime - someone cut sleeves of this coat because there were too long for his young owner. In these times this was a really big waste. There was such a high level of poverty, that clothes were worn by at least a few people, sometimes several generations. There are more stories like this in this book that show us how though was life in these times.
Despite my initial doubts and problems with adjusting to the author’s style, I’m really glad I’ve read this book. Because of this nice style, the book is easy to read and very entertaining.
But there were some drawbacks too. For example too long and too distant side stories or meaningless dialogues, which the main goal seems to be playing by the words and stuffing up more pages. A few times I’ve realized I don’t remember what the main plot was about and I had to get back to previous pages.
Nevertheless, I recommend this book. Maybe it’s not so easy topic but the world and problems which are contained there are worth to know. ...more
In the beginning was the word... Later, in the ’90s Bogusław Polch drew the first comic book. Nowadays we have more comics and The Game made by CDProjIn the beginning was the word... Later, in the ’90s Bogusław Polch drew the first comic book. Nowadays we have more comics and The Game made by CDProject and other stuff related to The Witcher, but my text will be about this first one comic which was (“quite”) recently released again.
Before I’ll start writing about comics, I need to explain who Bogusław Polch is, because he is a great figure. We owe him lots of great drawings, not only the first Witcher cycle but Expedition (based on Daniken’s theories) and Kapitan Żbik also.
His drawing style is characteristic. I love it very much, but I know there are people who don’t. But for a real fan of the Witcher’s universe, it shouldn’t be an obstacle because these comics contain stories that aren’t in the original books or games… And there is more! Maciej Parowski, the comic scriptwriter said these stories are approved by the author Andrzej Sapkowski, so it seems they are canonical.
What about the stories?
The very first comic had six parts, and every part was released independently. In 2015 polish publishing house Prószyński & S-ka decided to get all together and print in one big, collector’s edition named “The Witcher”. I had all of them in original printing, but at Christmas I got the big one. <3
Four stories are based on novels, so it’s nothing new for fans. But the rest of them (“Droga bez powrotu” i “Zdrada”) are about Geralt’s parents, his youth in Kaer Morhen and witcher’s exercises. There is a story about his gray hair too.
I need to say (with shame) I couldn’t remember where in novels is an explanation of why he had gray hair. I always thought it was because of the trial of the grasses (quick googling confirmed it) but in comic there is an alternative version where Geralt is gray because of PTSD, but I won’t spoil it for you.
Apart from tales about Geralt there are other stories related to sorcerers, magic schools, some politics, the universe descriptions, and other characters. We can find there lots of info about other witcher schools, eg. combat force and reasons for the final end of the witcher guild.
At the end of all stories, the print house decided to add two short texts - an article, a short interview with Maciej Parowski, the director, and a few beta boards without colors and dialogues.
Short and subjectively
I really love comic books, so the Witcher is very precious for me simply because it is a comic book. But I’m a big fan of everything in this universe too, so I had to have it on my shelf eventually.
I strongly recommend this edition, because apart from the new stories it’s really nice and neatly released a big part of the witcher’s universe.
PS In this comic there is one of my favorite neologisms in polish - “ciżmopsuj”. It means something like shoe-breaker but there is an untranslatable charm in this polish word. ...more
Are you looking for a nice and easy book with no politics and boring descriptions? If yes, “Najlepsza załoga Słonecznego” [The best crew of Solar - thAre you looking for a nice and easy book with no politics and boring descriptions? If yes, “Najlepsza załoga Słonecznego” [The best crew of Solar - the title is my own translation] written by Oleg Diwow is a perfect choice for you. Especially that tales with so straightforward plot (and still great) aren’t released so often.
This book is a space opera in two parts written in a great, dynamic style and has everything that should a space opera have. There is dynamic action, romance, naked women, naked men… There is a big love too, but fortunately, it’s only a side story. Something good for everyone. And everything in a language you want to read (maybe because it’s a Russian book, and I love Russian sci-fi). It was a recommendation from my friend, as something easy, funny and it really was easy and funny.
Space opera in two parts
The first part is about interplanetary spacecraft - the Earth government's property - which received a very strange mission. We meet all crew commanded by general Raszyn, hard but honest Russian and complicated relationships between them. We dig in the situation in the ship quite well, and apart from a little bit of chaos, craziness and strange behavior sometimes, we start to like them all. The plot isn’t elaborate but eventful. It’s enough to say that the adventures they have aren’t harmful. But it was foreseeable - it’s still the first part.
In the second part, the author comes to the core of the story. We meet Solar’s system environment, where the Earth is shaken with lots of problems like famine, a weak economy, galactic pirates and a black market. In this universe, there was no particular political system, because none of them wasn’t effective. So they have social capitalism. The Earth is divided. After the nuclear war, there are no countries any more. They evolved to some kind of holding company where every resident has shareholding and right to vote.
The story in the book starts at the end of the brotherhood war with people from Mars. These martian communities wanted to break free from the Earth’s control but couldn’t do this and lost this conflict. After this incident, the government didn’t know what to do with soldiers, so they mix them in some shady deals to get rid of them. At all costs.
Why is it worth reading this book?
It’s worth because it’s a nice and simply compact book. I like books that aren’t lengthy and have brief environmental descriptions, and this book definitely is not lengthy and has brief descriptions. But still, there is a consistent, wide world, which for sure could be base for a bigger universe. Characters have sharp personalities and they are sufficiently deep to stay natural. We have here a little bit of politics and relationships also. There are some sad events, and some happy. Briefly, there is everything that the book should have.
The author’s style (and plot) is very dynamic so reading should be quite quick. Sometimes we could see some curses, ambiguity and sex scenes, so maybe it’s a bit young adults’ book? But all is in troops style - straightforward and maybe a bit broad. I’ve read a polish translation from Russian, and it was very good. Unfortunately, I don't know if there is an English version.
But there are some distractors too
Maybe I’m touchy but I see the propaganda here. Very subtle and harmless but still. The book was written by Russian, where the main characters are Russians and in a big short they try to save the world. Maybe I’m exaggerating but... maybe not?
The second thing is the fast-ending syndrome which has lots of authors. At the end of the book I felt that Divov wanted to end the story as soon as possible and some threads are very hard compressed. It’s a pity because I would like to read much more about these characters.
This book was written and released about ten years ago, so we could say this is an almost antique story. ;) But for sure it’s still decent entertainment stuff. Especially because it was made by Russian and Russian science - fiction is different (and better) from European or American, more surprising, more easy-going. And one more thing - the author was not afraid to cross the political correctness but I don’t know if it's because of the time it was written or maybe it was supposed to be this way? You have to find it yourself....more
Ballet, scandals, and homosexuality in tsarist Russia. These few words quite well describe what you can find in this book. And everything is based on Ballet, scandals, and homosexuality in tsarist Russia. These few words quite well describe what you can find in this book. And everything is based on a life story of the great, talented and very tragic figure - Wacław Niżyński (1889-1950).
Niżyński the god of the dance
Wacław Niżyński was one of the very few people with Polish ancestry, who gained entry to the prestigious Imperial Theatrical School in Petersburg. According to Lucy Moore, the author of this biography, there were a few thousand applicants for only several dozen spots in this school, so getting there was a big success already. Niżyński proved very quickly he is very talented and in classical dance (ballet) he is very exceptional, only one in his kind. His great abilities opened the door to a great career, but still, Niżyński had to work enormously hard and made a lot of sacrifices. And eventually, his career and life were way too short.
Moore decided she will tell the story about Niżyński’s youth with broad descriptions of social life at the edge of the XIX century so we can really vividly picture life in these times. The Niżyński’s parents were dancers too, but they were the part of the migrant dance troop which didn’t have a constant income. This uncertainty was the cause of sinusoids in their standard of living - once they were rich, and another scraped along. Niżyński’s mother was very eager to save his son from this uneven life and she decided to send him and his sister to this school in Petersburg.
From one side this place was at the finest level - tsar allowed a great amount of money for teaching the best of the bests, but there was a second, more dark side. This school was the reason for losing grip on reality and could be compared with staying in a monastery. And probably this was the main reason for Wacław’s problems. Later, after graduating, he couldn’t tackle his life.
I’m not able to use as sophisticated style as the author of this book so I won’t create a long tale. I’ll say only that the very important reason for Niżyński’s success (and tragedy at once) was Siergiej Diaghilev, the renowned Russian ballet impresario, coordinator of the famous Ballets Russes. He led Nizyński’s career in the finest ways: he enabled him to focus only on dance. Unfortunately being Diaghilev’s subordinate was related to being kind of submissive in a physical way also. Diaghilev was gay and from his subordinates required “total” dedication. Regarding the book’s author words Wacław didn’t have any objections. He treated this relation as a necessary sacrifice, which gave him the frictionless opportunity to make what he loved the most - dance. Later in his diary, Niżyński wrote he loved Diaghilev in some way, even he was rather heterosexual.
Based on Niżyński’s life book we can learn about Russian ballet from XIX and XX century and take a breath with a heavy air of a toxic art environment fulfilled with intrigues and jealousy. We can find out that the dancer profession was questionable in a moral way, and every dancer was some kind of property and had to do what his owner told. In addition, it’s good to know that in Russia after 1835 homosexuality was legally forbidden, but this wasn’t an obstacle for these kinds of relationships between dancers and wealthy protectors. More, it was tolerated. Not so nice...
Niżyński thread is guided very well. It focuses on the most important points of his life, and it’s fulfilled with realistic historic details from the first decade of the XX century. But I need to say that I didn’t like Niżyński himself as a person, nevertheless, I really admire his talent and sympathize with him. But why I didn’t like him? The author quotes other dancers’ descriptions of him which vividly show he wasn’t a kind person. He was “weary”, “had rage attacks”, “was a poor coordinator”, “didn’t behave like a normal human”, “talked in monosyllables”...
Eventually, he conflicted with his promotor-lover Diaghilev and lost the possibility to dance. In the face of this situation, he got a mental disease and died in 1950.
My point of view
I need to say that Moore did a great job with this book. About 20% of all content is bibliography and glosses. Apart from the facts, we have a psychological analysis of Niżyński and his close environment. The uneven, toxic mood and falling Niżyński into the mental illness are so vivid I was anxious while reading too. Fortunately (or maybe not) reading so much influences me that I'm really affected by the mood for a long time. Usually, I need more time to read tough texts, but here the story was so absorbing I was genuinely interested in the plot and read this book in only a few days. I think if there is someone who is only in a minimal way interested in ballet, or history, or art in general, this is the book for him....more