Melbourne, Australia | Member Since 2007
This book takes sex as a mechanism of evolution for its scope, and doesn't stray much beyond this. It covers all aspects of sexual reproduction, mainly from the perspectives of anatomy and physiology. It also covers some aspects of behaviour that arise directly out of physiology, but doesn't go into any depth about sexual behaviour beyond what directly relates to evolutionary theory.
For example, the book's discussion on homosexuality considers how this appears to be a counter-evolutionary trait. It then analyses homosexuality from the perspective of how it may contribute to evolutionary success, or how it may arise as a byproduct of other genetic traits that bring evolutionary success. This is certainly a refreshing view, but probably controversial to some.
Though the book does limit itself to only published academic research (almost), it presents many ideas that arises from only limited research, and thus must be considered as tentative knowledge. To be fair, Sharon Moalem does frequently make this clear throughout the book, along with her repeated statements that we are rational creatures not completely enthralled to our genetic urges.
Overall, I recommend this book to senior secondary school and university students looking to round out their knowledge of sex.
In this story we see Georgie show some insight, but not much foresight. She is engaged by a Duchess to help a far-flung heir to the duchy learn the ways of the aristocracy. As she says herself, she doesn't show much aptitude to this task.
Then of course there is a murder and Georgie has to help solve it. The pace of solving the murder is extremely uneven, but I suspect probably quite realistic. No real progress occurs for ½ the story, then Georgie has a lucky guess in the last 10 minutes so that everything falls into place.
Fans of whodunnit stories may find this book frustrating, but those looking for a story of pleasant characters in living in the dying days of English great houses will be rewarded.
The history of the Mongol Empire has been done a great disservice in the traditional Western education. This engaging, flowing book puts this right. It starts with the story of a young Genghis Khan that draws heavily on a semi-mythical history. However once it reaches the period of Genghis Khan's leadership of all Mongol people in the elected role of Great Khan, the narrative transitions into a less emotive style that still holds interest.
The book continues after the death of Genghis Khan to cover in detail the continued growth of the Mongol Empire until its zenith under Kublai Khan. The narrative closes with a summary of the decline of the empire, and how Western history has inaccurately and negatively portrayed the history of the Mongol people.
However what particularly interested me was all the detail on how the Mongol Empire functioned using a distinctly enlightened set of ideas. These included such concepts as religious tolerance, paper money, a cheap postal network, public education, a public service run on merit, and a frequent promotion of trade in preference to conquest. The Mongol Empire applied many ideas fundamental to modern Western civilisation many hundreds of years earlier than they appeared in Europe.
The book does play down the horror of Mongol conquest, and they did like conquest. After all the Mongol Empire didn't get so large without it. Once the Mongols had conquered an area though, it appears that the benefits of their good government flowed quickly.
I have a keen interest in the history of civilisations, and this book on the Mongol Empire is an excellent addition to that canon. I recommend it to anyone interested in the history of ideas.
Ender's story builds on an English theme of children off at boarding school getting up to adventures and growing up before their time. Ender's battle school in space is harder than most, and the story of his challenges there as teaching focussed on simulated battles is engaging. There is always underlying doubt in the integrity of the teachers, and I waited the whole book for confirmation or refute. This thread of the narrative is well spun.
However ultimately the book fails because Ender doesn't really grow up. The stream of ideas that flow from Ender's mind from the time he is 6 until he is 13 doesn't change. He starts as 6 going on 16, and goes through what is the typical psychological journey of a young soldier. Yes we are told that Ender is a genetic extreme, but ultimately he is too grown up to be believable. I know that child prodigies exist, and Ender is clearly one, but prodigies still have some aspect of children's behaviour. Psychological evolution is not that fast.
Jack Reacher stories are amphetamine in writing. A friend 'pushed' me into them last Christmas - the first 2 consumed every spare moment from my week's holiday, and a good many more moments than they should have. At the time I thought luckily there were no Audible versions.
Now there are! Initially I didn't like listening to this first one I experienced. Jeff Harding has the right voice for the genre, but his women's voices sound like little girls. It took me a long time to latch into the story.
However eventually I did, and I enjoyed it. Jack Reacher is the 21st-century Odysseus, and like all good myths, this one resonates on multiple levels. In addition 'Echo Burning' builds the tension slowly, and eventually it hits a point of pushing more adrenaline than ice climbing. It kept me coming back for more. I suspect that it will for all who like reading of an interesting hero sorting through interesting problems.
I have always enjoyed the SQPR stories more when Decius gets out of ROME, and this recounting of his adventures in Gaul particularly shines. A good part of the SPQR stories comprises the historical descriptions; taking the reader into the world and mindset of ancient Romans. With this story Mr Roberts gives us some experience of life in the Roman legions. That adds a lot more interest than another series of descriptions about the minutiae of life in Rome.
Decius's adventure with Caesar's legion unfolds at a satisfying pace. It is well dosed with humour and interesting characters. Decius is clearly a 'modern' man that we can identify with, and is also clearly a man out of his time. His contemporaries mostly think him mad, but I find him totally sane.
Anyone with an interest in historical novels will enjoy the delicate substance of this story intermingled with historical narrative. Anyone with an interest in the history of Ancient Rome would be foolish to miss this book.
Terry Pratchett appears to have got a little obsessed with his panoply of characters when he wrote Moving Pictures. The book brims to overflowing with lots of little stories, but the core story feels short changed and shallow. It was so shallow that I can't even remember seeing it.
Ms Cunning (a more obvious pseudonym I couldn't imagine) has given me a treat. She manages to set a fun series of erotic encounters into an authentic context, and then add an engaging romance into the mix.
Myrna's adventures with Bryan give the reader plenty of excitement. However the budding relationship between them, hindered by the shadow of her past, keeps everything 'real' and uncertain. I had a good time listening to this story - thanks Ms Cunning.
Stories of war frequently fall into simplistic clichés, with portrayals of faultless heroes fighting nameless evil. Sean Parnell though, has avoided all the clichés (well almost all) to write a lucid, engrossing depiction of war in the 21st century.
He provides a rich, complete picture of the infantryman's experience, both physical and psychological, when trying to enforce peace in the face of insurgency. Sean avoids the political issues of why US soldiers are in Afghanistan, but doesn't shy away from the realities that his soldiers face as a result.
The book's most important contributions comprise its examination of the motives of each soldier for going to war, and how the army's organisation, their training, and their battle experience builds the intense brotherhood between them. In this Sean has given a contemporary perspective on a profession as old as human civilisation, that of the warrior.
After the typical opening of a young adult romance, the story moves into the brutal consequences of a 16-year old girl being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This sets the scene for the core story, which starts 12 years later.
For most of the book, Ms. Roberts provides a graceful, witty story of growing love between a fearful women with an Asperger's-like character and a gentle, confident man. Over this romance hovers the dark shadow of potential discovery and subsequent violence. This tension gives the book its unique character. I don't read romance novels, but knowing that the unfinished story of the book's start needs resolution, I stayed with it.
Resolution occurred, but it avoided cliché, so I got to the end realising that the journey was more fun than the story finished. Consequently I listened to it all again, and again.
If ever one needs an example of practice makes perfect, read an early Discworld novel and then read Snuff. With Snuff, the Pratchett pair have written a delightful, gracefully paced and poignant novel. It's full of humour too.
The story stars a frequent character in Discworld novels, Commander Sam Vimes. He has matured along with the books, but retained his core character that endears him to both myself and his wife Lady Sybil Ramkin. However, like all Discworld novels, the book contains a delightful ensemble cast, with Willikins, Chief Constable Upshot and Lady Sybil being just a few interesting people that I would love to know better.
In Snuff, Terry Pratchett has composed a well-paced plot that moves steadily along, introducing multiple threads, to eventually tie up many in an satisfying way. Snuff has none of the indulgent flights of fancy that appeared in some of the earlier novels, and just the right number of side-tracks.
Of course, like all good Pratchett novels, Snuff contains a light, but thoughtful meditation on several significant philosophical issues. Three that stuck in my mind are the 'rule of law', slavery and the treatment of minorities on the fringe of society. I can think of no more entertaining manner to consider a complex issue than read a Pratchett novel.
But let me not forget the lashings of humour that Snuff contains. In the course of Sam's journey into the countryside, Pratchett lovingly pokes fun at cricket, Jane Austin novels and the countryside itself.
With Snuff, the Pratchett pair have written their best novel yet!
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