Wow. I started reading this at 6am on a Saturday morning and could not stop until finished that evening.
I've seen Hitchens before on news programs, and the man's opinions and intellect are irrepressible so I had some idea of what I was in for. Still, this book is just amazing. Bracing. Uncompromising. Informed. Secular.
Hitchens' assault on Religion is without reprieve and may serve as a significant crossbeam in the structure of any atheist's mental architecture. I imagine that the faithful reading this to 'study up on the enemy' will find only things that make them very angry or uncomfortable. I do NOT think Hitchens will lead to any conversions; his style is far too abrasive. However, some folks do respond best to aggressive intervention.
For me though, the best of this book is the clear breadth and depth of the author's mind. I simply cannot recall the last time I read anything so damned erudite. Agree or disagree with him, Hitchens is an amazing American intellectual.
From here, I'm actually returning to one of Hitchens' cited authors, Bart Ehrman, whom I've explored only marginally before, but that is one of the real joys of this book –if you're a sincere explorer, Hitchens points out a dazzling number of fascinating areas on the map of human progress to explore yourself. Even if you don't accept his conclusions, you may be reminded of all those Enlightenment and earlier figures who form the dim constellation of our understanding that you glossed over in (perhaps graduate-) school, if at all. I'm certainly inspired to brush up.
I love that this is narrated by Hitchins himself, which seems the best way to experience it. Those who feel they may need to recall and reference his arguments again may want a visual version in print or ebook format, but, especially now that esophageal cancer has taken his voice from him, I feel very fortunate (dare not say blessed!) to have this edition.
Why was this written?
NOTE - My comments are about the writing, and I see from other reviews I'm in the way, way, way minority. I have nothing bad to say about the Audible narrator, though. He did great with less than great material.
It’s quite literally a (nearly) day-by-day account of a pandemic that turns everyone into undead zombies who ravage the planet, told from the perspective of a fairly bland lead character, an American soldier/deserter originally from who gives a s**t now holed up in who cares Texas.
The timeline is January through April, and we get to hear about each day -especially technical bits about solenoids and aelerons- in a detail that I wish was lavished on the characters, the plot, or the imagination.
It’s told as journal entries and you know the protagonist wrote each entry you’re reading so…there can only be so much suspense.
I wonder if this is some kind of sub-genre I don’t know about, like Survivalist Porn or something. Especial in all the details about militaria and munitions and equipment. It’s all VERY flat.
Ultimately, this made me think of (how I imagine) the Romance pulps my sisters read when I was a kid. Everything according to plan and formula. Brief character outlines. Lots of going through paces. No surprises. No joy. At least the pulps had some sex (I presume).
There’s an interesting concept I hadn’t seen before in Zombie fiction —radiation from nuclear bombs killing the bacteria that would otherwise speed up the decomposition of the walking dead— but it’s tossed in along with a few other things and never spoken of again. The way this story is told, none of it really means much.
Towards the end, there is enough plot variety (not twists) to barely hold your interest, but by then I was listening at 3X speed.
When it ends, it just ends. Not even with a thud. More like an afterthought.
It’s not terrible or poorly written (excepting for the plot. I mean —what actually happens?!) but I finished it and the next second thought, ‘Why was this written?!’
The book may be the first in a series being set up, but if it’s more of the same voice and format, why bother?
Save your cash/credits. If you want some popcorn Zombie tales, try Peter Clines’ Ex Heroes and Ex Patriots. And if you want the best of them all (holding aside the upcoming movie which I fear will be weak and at best merely 'inspired' by the source material), get World War Z.
Not that Buddhism (in my experience and practice), is particularly faith-driven. Still, many may be surprised to hear a religious 'father' advocate and articulate universal morality and ethics without faith-based or doctrinal foundations.
The book is short, practical, well-reasoned, easy to follow, and includes positive prescriptions that can be carried out in the everyday lives of even busy secularists. (I was deeply affected by Hitchens' 'God is Not Great', which did not dislodge philosophical Buddhism's appeal to me, and this book reaffirms my comfort with that affection.)
More than a few readers may be surprised by just how well-read the Dalai Lama is in contemporary neurology and recent science about the brain. Indeed, I look forward to contrasting his opinions here with those of a moral atheist like Sam Harris or a behaviorist like Steven Pinker. If you read more by His Holiness, I think you will be struck by how vigorous and stimulating his intellectual life is.
It must be hard as a narrator to find the 'voice' of the Dalai Lama in a short treatise like this, and while Mr Sheen does a fine job, I found it a distracting listen at times perhaps because he is so well-known. A less high-profile reader may have been called for here.
I came to this book after hearing Seligman's interview on the HBR Ideacast where he talked specifically about his work on behalf of the US Army and developing Post-Traumatic Growth.
This is an enjoyable and stimulating read, with some provocative ideas and surprising data. I did not expect but thoroughly enjoyed the many personal stories, not so much of patient progress, but behind the scenes glimpses of the politics of science, psychology, and higher ed. The author is not shy about expressing his opinion, and calling out professional disagreement. This was appreciated.
There are plenty of stories and material to take back to the workplace and the classroom (one and the same for me) for trial, as well as personal activities worth a shot.
This book is NOT to be dismissed as mere Positivism or promotion of Happiness as a mood, this is rather a look into the state of the art of well-being –the history, the research, and the prognosis.
The narrator is a great stand-in for Seligman with a comforting, paternal voice and no condescension. I'd listen to more.
This was a surprising read, not for it's impact on my own faith (non-Christian and so unchanged), but for it's walk through the logic and history of textual criticism, and for Ehrman's personal journey.
I've heard the author many times before speaking on NPR's FreshAir (some of those interviews are available here at Audible for pennies, and from NPR for fee), and while this book, an early one intended for a popular audience, is not quite as charming as listening to the author in conversation, it's still a great read.
The opening and closing chapters, with some peppering in between, address the story of Ehrman's personal journey through faith, and this was unexpected; I thought this would be a work of pure scholarship and in no part memoir. The final chapter is particularly warm.
I can only speculate what believing readers will take from this book. Literalists (and this is the camp that Ehrman hailed from and which lead him to his studies) may need to work hard to square things after this. Non-literalists and those interested in Christian history will find a LOT of good stuff in here, either to talk about, to refute, or to look into. There are some fascinating glimpses at the politics of the early church. I personally do not think this is a sensational book (in a pejorative sense); the intention is a scholarly work for the masses, but which reflects deep research and intimate familiarity with the source materials and issues.
Also surprising to me was Ehrman's stated aim to make a book about textual criticism for the masses, introducing the discipline and conventions as they relate to the study of the Bible. The exploration of the necessary logic and systematic cataloging of decisions current and past, secular and sacred was really fascinating. Oh, and there's some great history, especially stories about how a few ancient texts have emerged within the last 150 years.
I'm not sure if I'd rather have this book in audio or a print/ebook. Ehrman is specific (and scholarly) to include chapter and verse references for each of his citations, and this sort of referencing might be sufficient in the audio edition were it not that the chapters are all screwed up! As with some older Audible books, chapters in the printed book do NOT correspond with chapters in the Audible app. I personally hate that, but it also makes the job of finding references later extremely hard, unless you annotate as you go, but I routinely wipe my device after a read and so all bookmarks disappear. (Until Amazon/Audible makes this a feature of their syncing services.)
Davidson is a fine narrator without odd pronunciation and his inflection implies understanding and appropriate emphasis for effect. There's also a few brief seconds at the beginning and end where George Guidall narrates some Audible masthead.
I'll be reading more of Ehrman's books this Xmas season –and there are quite a few available here– along with some additional history and philosophy; I'm inspired to follow more leads!
On it's own, this is a likable book. The characters in Ship Breaker are fine and appropriately likable/hatable, but Bacigalupi has engaged me more deeply with less time and words in previous work. Also, I'm not a YA reader, for whom this book is intended. There are elements here reminiscent of RLS' Treasure Island (without being derivative), but I picked this up because I wanted to know more about the world I saw in The WindUp Girl. There's too little of that here for me, but if you liked Bacigalupi's The Alchemist, I think you'll be happy with Ship Breaker.
I read WindUp Girl less than a month ago, and then proceeded to DEVOUR everything else published by the author over the last few weeks. I read that Ship Breaker was set in the same dystopian future of WindUp Girl and wanted more of that. If you too are looking for more of that, you're better off reading and re-reading Bacigalupi's short story collection Pump Six. Indeed, shorts like 'Pop Squad', 'The People of Sand and Slag' and 'Pump Six' will stick with me longer than anything in Ship Breaker.
Still, I do leave this book thinking more about its big theme –the ties that bind people together– into families (genetic and impromptu), gangs, corporations, and the nature of loyalty, and what we do with all those things when everything else breaks down.
I'm sad there's no more Bacigalupi to devour at the moment, but interested in reading something like Cormac McCarthy's The Road that may give me what I'm looking for.
* NOTE - While I'm used to Jonathan Davis reading Bacigalupi, Joshua Swanson does a great job handling the voices of men, women, children, and even dog-men.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.