This book was originally written in 1970's so some of the language is a bit dated. Additionally some of the characterizations of women are likewise from a time when the women's movement was just starting to raise the consciousness of individuals, so sexist language and sterotypes still pervade this book (ironically underscored by the male narrator doing female voices). Reading this book, you can almost visualize the gold lamae shirt (unbuttoned to the navel) and choker chain around the neck of its primary antagonist Alan Carpenter (or Alan Carpentier as its pronounced through at least part of it). Once you get past the dated elements, the plot is an interesting retelling of Dante's Inferno with reference to Dante throughout. As Carpenter trudges through the circles of Hell his guide explains to him the sins that each level punishes.
Throughout it all the most interesting thing is the constant questions of justice. How can a just God demand punishment for all ETERNITY for acts done in a finite lifetime? The value of this book is its attempt to grapple with this question. In the end it is as influenced by C.S. Lewis as it is by Dante (which becomes explicit in the sequel)and it is clear that the author is not the agnostic skeptic that his protagonist is. Still it ends up being an interesting discussion of a weighty issue.
Two things I would note. The book should be considered long midrash on Dante, as a result it does not move very quickly and if you are not intrigued by the religious elements in it, it will not be for you (as a professor of Religious Studies I ended up liking it). So while its categorized as sci-fi/fantasy its really more religious fiction. Second, on the upside if you have always wanted to read Dante but 14th century poetry is not really your thing, this is an entertaining way to get much of it and may compel you in the end to re/turn to the original.
Peter F. Hamilton is known for his immense and spell binding space operas. For fans, this series does not disappoint. It has all the complexity and intrigue of a great story with a variety of storylines developing and then merging together perfectly. I will say I like this series even better than the reality dysfunction series which I felt had a disappointing ending. Not the case here, all comes together in a logical and sequential fashion and is immensely satisfying. I highly recommend this book and its sequel "Judas Unchained." You will need to get both as this one does end on a cliff hanger.
In this book we see the continuing adventures of Alan Carpentier in hell. When we left Carpentier (Inferno) it was the mid 70's the height of the cold-war.
Much has changed in the 30 years between Inferno and Escape from Hell. The world is no longer divided between the U.S. v. Russia. Now countries that were previously thought of as mere "client states" suddenly have a prominence of their own. Since the Cold War the U.S. discovered the rest of the world replete with different countries, faiths, values and aims. The world has changed, Religion has changed and in this book Hell has changed.
In Inferno Hell was populated with westerners who were all at least culturally Christian. But now Hell is much more confused, middle-eastern suicide bombers walk the landscape. Now there is a place for the Mayans, Tribesmen and other "heathens" absent in the first book. Hell is in the midst of a technological upgrade as its records are computerized and the results of Vatican II have caused major bureaucratic nightmares. One is overwhelmed by the confusion raining in hell.
But its not just Hell's management, the book itself seems confused as well. Carpentier doesn't know what he's doing. Whereas inferno wrestled with the paradox of Hell and a Loving God, its not clear what the message of Escape is. The politics alone are idiosyncratic, liberals who invested in school funding experiments that went awry are in Hell as are the architects of the Iraq War. The reasons people are in hell are also strange, Trotsky is in for dividing the communist party and Oppenheimer is in, not for creating the nuclear bomb but for some obscure interpersonal betrayal. Is it intention or actions that gets you sent to hell? It is not clear. Meanwhile Sylvia Plath is an unlikely voice of naive spirituality with a judgmental spirit that would make the inquisition proud.
Flawed, but still an accessible intro to Dante.
I teach "Introduction to the New Testament" in a Public University in North Carolina. This is without a doubt the best introduction to the New Testament that is currently available. The book is accessible but always scholarly. I assume Ehrman has taken his notes from his New Testament class and expanded them into a book, because this is precisely the material one would get in a New Testament class at a University. Evangelicals will find the material challenging, but Ehrman (a former evangelical himself) works hard to show the evidence and answer the objections he knows are coming. I cannot say enough good about this book. Buy it, listen to it, and your understanding of the New Testament will be enhance and possible transformed.
The problem with a lot of books about globalization is that they get too mired in mind numbing statistics that profess to tell much, but actually tell very little. More often motivated by a free-trader zealotry, these authors are so focused on pushing a particular economic agenda that their arguments become suspect. Dr. Fareed Zakaria's book "The Post-American World" is a refreshing change from all that.
Many people will be familiar with Zakaria from a variety of sources. Still it is interesting to see the brilliance he conveys when not limited to the 30 second analysis. Zakaria's advantage over others who have written in this field is that he takes a broader view. Not solely focused on China and India as the only games on the block (though much of the book is about them) he views them as two of the most important aspects of a larger phenomena he calls "The Rise of the Rest."
The ability to contextualize globalization in truly global terms is what gives this book its fascinating and helpful slant. Additionally, Zakaria is not burdened by cold-war baggage. He is able to view the history of China and India as not mistaken blind alleys that only needed to be discarded, but as an integral part of the process that led them to the place they now are. His focus not on just history but culture as well allows him the sort of breadth that contextualizes the present in a way others cannot.
Zakaria is likewise not interested in frightening his readers. His view is the globalization is as inevitable as it is positive. He decries the sort of jingoism and isolationism that both American political parties have engaged in and recognizes that there is simply a new game in town. Americans must now learn to play under the new rules. These new rules require multilateralism and global structures and show that no longer can we go it alone. But if America is willing it can still be the world's leader.
The problem with Robyn Meredith's book is that she cannot make up her mind. Alternately a fundamentalist free-trader and then demanding more government regulation, she fails to have more than an ad hoc understanding of China and India. Perhaps this because she has no clear understanding of either countries history. Content with caricatures, she never really tries to understand the broad sweep of either of these countries 3000+ history or culture.
The other thing the alert reader will find distressing is her easy switching between anecdote and statistics and real numbers. The combination of which appears to make an argument, but in reality actually hides the truth rather than presents it. When Meredith states that "tens of millions of Chinese have been lifted out of poverty" that sounds impressive until one realizes that such a number would still leave more than 90% of the country impoverished. By failing to stick with more consistent statistical percentages, Meredith can create an illusion of greater prosperity than is really merited.
Certainly, this is a better introduction to the issues of Globalization than Tom Friedman's rightfully excoriated work and yet it suffers from some of the same problems of substituting isolated anecdotes for real data. It is by no means a scholarly book and should be taken as a business reporters reflections rather than a real contribution to understanding the economics of gloablization.
A word also about the audiobook for audible listeners. The narrator here has a mechanical voice that I was convinced was computer generated for quite a while. Her lifeless reading makes the book that much more difficult to take. When combined with the myriad flaws of the text itself I would give this book a pass. I am still looking for a good book on globalization on audible. If I find one I will update this review.
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