This is a very good work of historical fiction. Told through the eyes of Uhtred, a Northumbrian child who is "captured" by the Danes during their invaThis is a very good work of historical fiction. Told through the eyes of Uhtred, a Northumbrian child who is "captured" by the Danes during their invasion and is essentially raised as a viking. After betrayals and various personal losses, he retreats to Wessex, the only section of England not yet conquered by the Danes. Uhtred grows as a warrior, deals with the conflicts of being both English and an adopted-Dane, and sees the battles of a exceedingly devout Alfred the Great holding off the pagan hoard of Norsemen.
This was a fairly balanced view of a personal story coupled with the names, places, and battles of history. I expect subsequent books to lean more toward the history side now that Uthred has grown up, and that will probably not be a bad thing, but only reading them shall tell for sure.
Finally, I appreciate that place names are spelt in a form of Anglic, or at least how they would have been pronounced at the time. The look-up table in the front of the book helps to denote some of the odder or more obscure places. At times the old spellings did get distracting but I found they offered some interesting historical connections. For example, we find that English cities that end in -staple or -stable are in fact evolved from -stopol ie Barnstaple was once Baerdestopol. This just reinforces that the Vikings settled and conquered all over Europe and Asia. After all how many Russian cities still end in -stopol!...more
**spoiler alert** An enjoyable read from the author that brought us "Thank You for Smoking". Boomsday tackles the surprisingly not boring problem of S**spoiler alert** An enjoyable read from the author that brought us "Thank You for Smoking". Boomsday tackles the surprisingly not boring problem of Social Security. Already Baby Boomers are retiring and collecting Social Security and as more and more do, the already faltering system breathes its last gasps. Boomers want their benefits but where does the money come from? Why from the Gen-Xers, Gen-Ys, Gen-next, and Millenials or collectively the U30s (under 30 years old). With ever higher taxes and no real chance of Social Security being around for them the U30s are moved to rebellion.
Enter Cassandra Devine, our heroine. Her blog posts encite U30s to storm golf courses and retirement complexes. Still, the Boomers refuse to reform Social Security. So Devine decides to go all reductum ad absurdum and gets a bill into the Senate to reform Social Security. This bill would give tax encentives to anyone who "Transitions" (commits suicide) by age 65. The bill is designed to spark honest debate over SS and perhaps get a rational reform started. Unfortunately this is where Buckley drops the ball. We never see debate on the floor of the Senate over this bill and certainly no alternative is mentioned. (view spoiler)[ It is true that at the end, Devine becomes head of Social Security but we still don't know how she plans to reform SS Spoiler alert> Since this is a real issue at least mention of options people have discussed would be nice to include. There's at least the two extremes from the current parties: privitizing SS or Nationalizing (Socializing) things like health care and the like. Enjoyable read but a little more meat in needed. --Ben (hide spoiler)]...more
The thing about Angels and Demons is that despite mangling the research on both the science and religion end, having to stretch all credulity to motivThe thing about Angels and Demons is that despite mangling the research on both the science and religion end, having to stretch all credulity to motivate his characters, and resorting to the basest brutality and spectacle to interest readers, Dan Brown does deliver a page turner. Perhaps that's just the nature of mystery/adventure stories in general - one wants to know how they turn out. As long as the pacing is decent and it isn't too outlandish people will want to read it.
It is natural to want to compare A&D to The DaVinci Code, the problem is in many ways they're the same book. Art is the key, a secret society with ties to the Masons is at war with the Catholic Church, Renaisance artist/scientist hides clues about said society, beautiful smart woman gets Langdon out of a number of jams, the fanatic is the betrayer; the list goes on and on. DVC is more accessable for those who like the problem solving side of the mystery/adventure - the clues have a bit of art in them but also math, history, simple code breaking and wordplay. In A&D to guess where the clue points to, you need to know a lot about a specific artist. Unless you're an Art Historian, that's just not going to happen. Also, DVC is generally "smoother" than A&D. It makes sense for Teabing to be the traitor in DVC, its still a surprise that he is but very little explanation is needed for his motives. Brown takes six chapters to explain the Camerlengo's motives and then we find that he's basically insane which wasn't really hinted at earlier in the story. Finally where DVC often stretched credability but was believable, A&D has some just down-right horrible research that the editor should have caught, some so basic a middle-schooler would catch (i.e. Langdon saying that Christian Communion was borrowed from the Mayan "god-eating" despite communion being around for centuries before Europeans went to the new world). (Tangentially, while ambigrams are cool, I hardly think they're as difficult as was constantly stated in A&D. I've seen them before, clearly the artist used for this book could create them. I'm not saying that anybody could make an ambigram of any word but clearly it is not an impossible task that geniuses for centuries could not accomplish)
In short DaVinci Code is probably the better book, but A&D is a decent read. I'd still take Michael Crichton over Dan Brown any day in terms of story, science and character development but if you like the mystery thriller you could do worse. 4/27/09 Ben...more