I'll give this book very high marks for historical accuracy - down to the cold, wet summer of 1348 and the livestock falling to the pestilence as well as humans. Compare that to Follet's World Without End, where it is always bright and sunny.
The story itself is pretty good - a group of travellers are thrown together and try to outrun the plague, while we learn about their lives and secrets. I suppose you could say the same about your typical zombie movie. It's working here, however. My main criticism would be the "twist" ending (no spoilers), which is wholly unnecessary to wrapping up the story. I suppose it does resolve the question as to why the author chose that particular voice as narrator, but the story would have worked just as well without it.
I'm a history buff chose titles based on what I find interesting at the time. I hadn't spent a lot of time on the naval war in the Pacific, after Coral Sea/Midway. From a distance, everything just looks inevitable. This title was chosen by my book club, and they found a real winner.
Inevitable is clearly in the eye of the beholder. Hornfischer makes a compelling case that the Imperial Navy still had a lot of arrows to loose, and the USN was still had a lot of catching up to do in its forced transition from a peacetime navy to the dominant force on the water it would become.
This would make a fine history on its own, but Hornfischer's writing is a real treat as well. I'd read his writing if the history of 1960's macrame were the topic.
I downloaded this for a road trip with my 12 yr old budding geologist daughter. The characters are the strongest part of this story, along with Pierce's vision of stone magic. The storyline is good as a whole, but can be a little shaky. (dodging spoilers) The party seems to take an inordinately long time to figure out what is going on, and as the climax is approaching we are treated to two or three chapters of pointless argument.
I guess I'd differ from the rave reviews of the narration - I found it pedestrian at best. The narrators could have brought so much more to the table with some well-chosen emphasis now and again. To be fair, they were hobbled by Pierce's dialog which may have passed on the page, but become labored aloud.
Sweeping generalization laced with unsupportable assertions, tied together with the theory that if it had something in common with the Second Punic War, it must be a direct result of Cannae.
Cannae was a very dark day for the Roman Republic to be sure, but many of the trends O'Connell declares were a direct result were already well under way before Hannibal left Iberia.
Some of data regarding the organization and tactics of the Roman and Carthegean warriors is presented well, but it felt a little like digging through knee-deep mud in search of agates. I eventually gave up.
I've listened to several Cornwell books on Audible. Usually they're compelling, tense and with superb narration. While this one held my interest, the tension was a little forced, the narrator simply "acceptable" and the audio quality suspect in places (at least places other than a school gymnasium).
I'm not clear on why the characters are a little more shallow than the typical Cornwell - perhaps he's trying to stick closer to the written record of the Penobscot expidition. I'd have to add that I really appreciate the "Author's Notes" Cornwell includes at the end of his novels, wherein he expands somewhat on the historical context and his departures for the purposes of narrative. That was sadly absent in this edition.
Hmmm... History as a travelogue.
The format works extremely well here. While the actual history is well, pedestrian, that's not the point.
By framing the exposition as "Here is what you'll find..." or "this might surprise you..." the reader is engaged with the culture on an intuitive level seldom experienced outside the trappings of historical fiction.
The title pretty much sums up the authors main thesis - that the Mexican War was unique in both molding the characters of many notable figures of the Civil War, as well as strengthening the bonds they'd already formed through their tenure at West Point.
His coverage of the war itself sometimes takes a back seat to the "characterizations" of Grant, Lee, Jefferson Davis and George Meade, but is still compelling - especially from a political perspective. However, there were some gaffes in offhanded comments about the War of 1812 and the Civil War. For example, characterizing Pickett's Charge as a "one of the great *cavalry* charges of the Civil War" left one scratching their head - especially given that George Pickett was one of figures highlighted (albeit only briefly).
Still, the book is worth the effort, if only to shed some light on an often-ignored chapter of American history.
The author has some interesting ideas, and there are certainly some important questions that have never been satisfactorily answered.
However, to support his hypothesis, he must be extremely selective in the evidence he chooses, and disregard a great deal of testimony to the contrary. Granted, testimony is often inconsistent (and meant to agrandize to the speaker). Still, it was disposed of almost out of hand.
At various points, the author characterizes Longstreet as a loose cannnon, JEB Stewart as Lee's most trusted lieutenant given a secret mission, and for no obvious reason George McClellan as a simpering twit. He obviously walked the battlefield, but relies on what he saw - including the *current* level of forestation - to suggest what a mounted man, 150 years ago, may have been able to observed.
There is some plausibility to his ideas, but he hasn't helped his case by running roughshod over the evidence.
I was somewhat acquainted with excerpts of the Canterbury Tales, though it has been many years. I was looking forward to catching the full work.
I should probably do a little research here, but I won't have my opinion restricted by fact! I was expecting a lot of archaic words and phrases - after all the work predates Shakespeare by a couple hundred years.
The fact that there are very few leads me to believe this has been "translated" into a modern dialect.
Whoever did this attempted to retain the rhyme and meter of Chaucer, but the result is a very labored verse. The narrator does absolutely nothing to dispel that allusion. My suspicion is that a fifth grade reading class would be able to match the narrator's inflection and phrasing, give or take a sniffle or two.
The author of that particular review seems to have taken issue with an imagined slight against northern Europeans.
>>He starts the book by stating that he's out to destroy the claim that genetic differences is the cause of the global disparity in civilizational achivement between different peoples and races, a claim he considers low and immoral. Then he proceeds by asserting that the inhabitants of Papua New Guinea are genetically superior to whites. This self-contradiction is not rendered any less stupid by the fact that it's done without reference to any evidence beyond the mere hunch of the author. <<
That is a mischaracterization of a key thesis. Diamond refuted the notion that genetic variation between races lead to a disparity of intelligence producing a decisive competitive advantage to Indo-europeans. Diamond noted that many of the indigenous people he'd encountered may have relied on primitive technologies, however in no way did they appear to be "slow thinking". However, he made no claims that New Guineans or any other race enjoyed "genetically superior intelligence".
He did however note that by virtue of centuries of living with domesticated animals and high population densities, the Indo-europeans and Asians enjoyed a relative resistance to diseases characteristic of those environments. This in turn led to a decisive advantage as these peoples unwittingly unleashed their germs (note the title) on unresistant populations.
>>it might very well be that once the civilizational process is begun, there emerges a feedback effect, which by making the more intelligent in each generation more fit for reproduction, gradually increases the overall cognitive ability of the peoples inhabiting the evolving civilisations. <<
The reviewer is obvioulsy offering a pet idea that lacks substantiation. I think we can forgive Diamond for not including it.
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