I found this to be an interesting book. The information about computers and the internet was spot-on, the details about how viruses work seems correct, the characters were well drawn and interesting and the descriptions of what might happen were all computers in the US and Western Europe to suddenly fail both realistic and frightening.
The steps the characters took to try to determine what viruses were at work, what they did and what steps would be needed to stop them all seemed reasonable in light of the computer dependent world we live in today. While there were a few too many coincidences for my liking nothing was completely out of the realm of possibility. My complaints are minor. The books seemed a bit too preachy for my taste, there was a bit too much in the way of technical information for those familiar with the way software works, parts of the book do not lend themselves to narration (the narration of assembler code really does not work. That needs to be seen to be understood) and the author needed to do a bit more research on traveling to Russia. The main characters buy an airline ticket, get their passports and just go. But, of course, US citizens cannot just travel to Russia, they need a visa and that takes special paperwork and time.
Other than those minor items I found the book reasonably interesting without too many glaring issues. All things considered it is a decent (although not great) book about a frightening possibility.
My working hypothesis has been that any book from Alan Dean Foster is probably worth at least considering so, when I saw this as the first of a series on sale at Audible I immediately listened to the sample and, after a brief hesitation, bought it.
The book is a delight. Marc Walker is abducted by aliens while on a camping trip and finds himself, along with a lot of other abductees from other planets, on a space ship traveling through space. He doesn’t know their destination nor the reason for the abductions, but plots to escape along with some of his fellow prisoners. While they don’t know where they are, where they will go or how they will escape, anything is better than remaining as a prisoner. The story is pure Alan Dean Foster, the characters are interesting, the writing first class and full of humor. While not exactly a comedy it is a very pleasant listen. However there are two issues for me with this book.
The first is that the narration, while adequate, is far too slow and, to compensate, I had to play it at 1.25x speed on the Audible player to make listening bearable. The second problem seems to me to be more serious. Audible lists this book as the first in a series (and so it is). However the remaining books in the series are not available on Audible and hence it seems somewhat misleading to place the book on sale as the first in a series if you cannot buy the rest of the books through Audible.
If you are willing to live with that restriction this is a good listen. If not, then you might wait until the remaining books are available (if they ever are). Given that the storyline is left hanging at the end of the first book, the ability to buy the remaining books might outweigh how good the first volume is.
Mr Heppner has created a future world which seems reasonable, consistent within its basic premises and hence credible. In it a new glacial age has changed weather patterns making food far more scarce, petrochemicals far more important and the world a far more dangerous place. China, after years of military build-up, has become both rich from trade and a major military power and has consequently become expansive. America, after years of trade deficits and unbalanced budgets, has become much weaker, much less resolute and shorn of its military alliances. Facing a weakened and irresolute America, China has decided to seize the Alaskan oil reserves by force and thus starts a war between the two countries.
In addition to a logical and credible world situation Mr Heppner has also created a set of characters, American, Chinese and Canadian who are interesting, have reasonable back-stories, and react as normal people thrust into their situation might well react. They are not all admirable, but they are all believable and none are so superior as to make the situations unreasonable. While fiction, the book has the feel of a narration of real events involving real people making real decisions about real life situations and thus is a very pleasant alternative to the normal set of super-human secret agents, all-knowing detectives, mindless zombies and super-duper ninja-like fighters one often finds in current suspense novels. These people make both good and bad decisions, both succeed and fail, both live and die. I found the book so interesting and believable that I decided that I would buy the second book in the series. This may be military fiction but it is not made up of battle following battle but rather is a meld of the personal, political and military and this promises to be a very interesting series. The narration is excellent, the story both interesting and credible and it is not hard seeing the events as real-life news headlines.
Before reviewing this book it seems appropriate to mention that the author, Ian Kershaw, describes himself as a historical structuralist. He thus rejects the Great Man theory in which it is argued that history is created and shaped by the great personalities of history and instead believes that the structure of the society creates the environment which molds and creates the “great men”. Thus, in this argument, Hitler did not create the Third Reich and the associated Nazi tyranny so much as the structure of the German society at the time gave Hitler, as an opportunist, the chance to become dictator. But, if societal forces, rather than individuals, are responsible for great events there seems to be less need for biographies of those individuals and Mr Kershaw states as much at the start of the book. Thus this becomes a very different kind of biography, concerned with societal background as much as with Hitler and, as Mr Kershaw states, the blame for the human tragedy that was the Second World War comes to rest not on Hitler alone but has to be shared by the general intolerant and hateful society that existed in Germany during this period.
None of this means that the life and character of Hitler is ignored. I have read a great many books on the Second World War and the times leading up to The Third Reich and none of them have provided me with the wealth of information contained in this book. Here you will find details about Hitlers time in Landsberg Prison, the negotiation process that resulted in Hitler becoming Chancellor, the arguments involved in defining the German Racial Laws and much else, none of which I have seen in other books.
The book also does a wonderful job of describing Hitler’s early life, his years as a purposeless vagrant in Vienna, his change during his time in the German Army during World War I and how he was shaped and largely created by the years after the end of that war. The creation of the Nazi Party, the years during which it struggled, gained a niche in the German political scene and grew, the other people involved in the party development and their relationships with each other, are described in considerable detail.
While there is a thicket of information about people who do not normally get written into books like this (philosophers, writers, economists and so on), the book never loses the center of it’s attention. Hitler is always there, often being forced by circumstances to take actions, and the descriptions of societal forces never overshadow the subject of the book. It is hard to see how any other biography could be more interesting, more instructive or more compelling. This is a long book and only covers the period up to the occupation of the Rhineland in 1936. Still I found that it moved very quickly and frequently I had a hard time putting the book down. The narration is first class and a good match for the writing and the book is long enough to include information describing details normally left out of historic overviews. Rather than being a negative, the amount of detail clarified a lot of events and made me more interested in buying the second volume.
There is one negative. Sections of the book include considerable psychoanalysis of Hitler and his actions and sometimes they seem to degenerate into “psycho-babble”. With no live person to put on the psychoanalysis’s couch this seems like a futile and silly endeavor. It seems, at times, more than a bit annoying but the book is so complete and so well written and narrated that it seems worthy of at least 5 stars. I highly recommended for those with an interest in this period in history.
This was my first Ceepak book and, since I had no prior experience with the characters, I had no idea what to expect. The reviews were good but that did not guarantee that I would enjoy the book. For me, a good mystery has to include interesting and believable characters, a decent plot and a light-enough touch to relieve the tension. Robert B. Parker, great, Ellery Queen, good, Dashiell Hammett, not so much. What I found was an absolute delight.
First, the characters. John Ceepak, the main character, is a bit of a stretch. A completely by-the-book ex military detective who would never bend the rules or lie, it is hard imagining anyone so bound to the straight-and-narrow. Still, the character is interesting and his companion, Danny Boyle, fills out what John Ceepak lacks. The two, mentor and apprentice, form an almost perfect team with the believability, honesty and humor that makes the tension bearable. The mystery, involving the poisoning of an elderly man, has enough suspects and red herrings to keep the tension alive and enough twists to keep you guessing and the solution, although not a big surprise, provides a satisfying end to the story. The extra characters, Ceepak's mother, Ceepak's father (a reader will understand why I listed them separately rather than as a couple) and the suspects round out an interesting cast of characters although mostly not a group I would be interested in meeting.
The narration is almost pitch perfect with Ceepak's flat tone as a counterpoint to the more well-rounded Danny Boyle. This is book 8 in the series and I enjoyed it so much that I bought book 1 so I can start the series from the beginning. Most of the mystery books I have bought in the past have been more story than mystery (for example, almost all of the Robert B. Parker Spenser books) and this, as a real who-dun-it, forms a nice other-side-of-the-coin book. Highly recommended as a light read.
I always thought that Dr Kissinger's life would be interesting. A refugee from Nazi Germany who grew up to become a National Security Advisor, Secretary of State and a successful businessman. I had read Mr Isaacson's book on Einstein and found it to be interesting, informative and fair minded and naturally thought his book on Kissinger would also be worth reading. Unfortunately this turned out to not the case.
This book covers all of Dr Kissinger's life but mostly dwells on his time as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. While the portions of the book covering the rest of his life treat him fairly, the time covering his time as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State is of a different sort. Little that Kissinger did during these years is presented in an even-handed fashion and the author's descriptions of him fairly bristles with scorn and distain. Even actions that would normally be considered open minded, inclusive or far seeing are presented as somehow representative of personal faults. Some examples -
As a graduate student at Harvard then Mr Kissinger became heavily involved in a symposium involving present and future leaders of foreign countries. A graduate student involving himself in such a symposium might be considered far seeing, thoughtful and interested in the world at large but, in Mr Isaacson's view, this indicates that Kissinger had already decided that he was going to be in government and all of this effort was to secure his future. Even if this was true it is hard to see how it is a failing.
During the Viet Nam war Mr Isaacson says that Dr Kissinger reached out to anti-war protesters, met with them and tried to convince them that the Nixon Administration was trying its best to end the war. Such an action would normally be seen as an indication that the government was being inclusive and willing to listen to it's critics but Mr Isaacson sees this as an manifestation of Dr Kissinger's insecurity.
While Dr Kissinger was National Security Advisor and Secretary of State he was involved in turf battles with other officials. Normally this would be seen as normal in a political environment. Mr Isaacson sees this as an indication of Dr Kissinger's insecurity. During this time Dr Kissinger was also involved in political arguments with While House cabinet officials. One would think that this would be seen as normal but Mr Isaacson finds such actions examples of Dr Kissinger's aggressiveness and insecurity. During international negotiations Dr Kissinger would present only part of the whole to each party in an effort to reassure them and convince them that he was on their side. One would think that this would be considered regular negotiating tactics but Mr Isaacson sees this as an example of how secretive and devious Dr Kissinger was. Dr Kissinger was known to flatter President Nixon. One would think that this was the normal way subordinates acted when talking to the President but Mr Isaacson sees this as an example of how fawning Dr Kissinger was to his boss. It almost appears that Dr Kissinger's political enemies were interviewed and quoted extensively, his political friends far less so. And the list goes on. Practically nothing that Dr Kissinger did while in government is presented without Mr Isaacson saying that how it was done was somehow indicative of Dr Kissinger's dark side.
The only events that Mr Isaacson seems to think were worthy actions on the part of Dr Kissinger were the opening to China and the Salt negotiations. In this section of the book Mr Isaacson has (almost) only good things to say about Dr Kissinger but, based on this book, one could easily believe that everything else Dr Kissinger did involved misleading, lying, distorting or conniving and was probably done to further his own best interests. Dr Kissinger is said to be brilliant but difficult to deal with, as though this was somehow an unusual combination. Nixon is quoted as telling soon-to-be-President Ford that Kissinger was brilliant but had to be watched since he sometimes was difficult to handle and sometimes had bad ideas. This is supposed to be unusual? It is important for me to stress that these comments that Mr Isaacson makes about Dr Kissinger are not an occasional reference, but for a drumbeat throughout most of the book.
Toward the end of the book Mr Isaacson writes about how well Dr Kissinger was thought of, even years after he left government. There are portraits of how well he was received when traveling for business in places like China, Indonesia, Japan and the Middle East as late as the 1980s and 1990s. Such actions on the parts of the governments involved, when Dr Kissinger was only a private citizen, seem odd if one is to believe Mr Isaacson's view that Dr Kissinger deceived the government leaders of those countries, lied to them or told them half-truths.
While the view of Dr Kissinger presented in this book seems to me to be unfairly influenced by, I assume, Mr Isaacson's political views, the book does provide a very good history of the events of the Nixon and Ford Administrations involving both the well-known and less well-known events and, as a history of the period, I found it very complete. I found it far less so as an even handed and fair presentation of Dr Kissinger's actions.
The narration is very well done but I was surprised that quotes from Dr Kissinger were given in an imitation of his voice, including his heavy German accent. However it soon became clear that the narration of all of the famous people being quoted was done in a credible imitation of their own voices. It was so well done that it became easy to identify who was being quoted by just listening to they voices.
If you believe that Dr Kissinger was Dr Strangelove from the Stanley Kubrick move "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb", this is your book. If you are interested in an even-handed and fair look into Dr Kissinger's life you might want to look elsewhere.
WEB Griffin is one of the most prolific authors on Audible (the last time I checked he had 53 books available) and there is a reason for that. His stories are interesting, his characters seem real and are engaging and the world he presents is consistent across all of his books. His characters live in the world of the military (or other similar organizations like the police or fire-fighters), with its structure, rules and obligations and those organization, and most of the people presented, are honorable and live within the general constraints of those rules.
This particular book involves the search for a stolen 727 aircraft along with the concern that the aircraft may have been stolen for use in a terrorist attack somewhere in the US. The search involves some of the major branches of the US Government (the CIA, the DIA, Homeland Security) and local police forces and probably presents a likely sequence of events as some organizations make wrong decisions, some make right decision and some concern themselves with their own promotion rather than cooperating with each other. Those familiar with Griffin's other work will have a feel for how things will turn out in the end but the story is immensely satisfying, the characters realistic and likeable and this book, like every other Griffin book I have, seems well worth the time and cost.
I must admit that am a big fan of WEB Griffin and have the complete series of The Brotherhood Of War. I found those books wonderful and this book, the first in a different series, fits into the same mold as the others. That does not make the books boring since the events and the people differ from series to series, but the books are clearly Griffin's writing. The only negative comment I could think of for any of his books is that the people and the organizations presented are somewhat idealized. In his books the Army is presented as a big family with all members looking out for others in the family. While that may be a bit of an exaggeration I can say, after 3 tours of duty in the military, that this is the way those who are career people think of themselves and of the organization they are part of. The picture presented in the book may be somewhat idealized but it represents the way those people see both themselves and the military.
The narration is first class, the writing is first class, the story is interesting and very believable and the characters feel real. There is really nothing nothing negative for me to say about this book. Highly recommended for those who already are, or are willing to become, WEB Griffin fans.
The Enemy is a smart and intelligent mystery with an interesting, if somewhat far-fetched, plot and characters who seem both real and believable. It is the 8th book in the Reacher series but, from the perspective of the calendar, the first and hence a good book as an introduction to the character and the series.
While the plot is far-fetched and hard to credit, the development of the story, the clues, the characters and the situations in which we see all of them together are well drawn and the story as a whole hangs together very well. Since the whole story does not come out until the end it is easy to find yourself up until that point drawn in and I was, at points, unwilling to put the book down to take care of things that needed to be done.
The narration is first class and although I do not think of Jack Reacher so much as an honorable person as a persistent one who is unwilling to be chased off the track, he has admirable and honorable traits. However some of his actions are, in my view, unethical as well as illegal, but the book as a whole is satisfying. Recommended, with reservations.
I first read Clarke's Childhood's End when I was very young. At that time I spent most of my waking hours when out of grade school in the Public Library and I remember reading through this book and feeling that all of my questions about war, cruelty and fate were answered within its pages. I never forgot the book and carried fond memories through my life. Of course when I saw it on Audible and realized that it was a Daily Deal I immediately bought it.
My experience with this book as an adult turned out to be quite different from that when I was a child. What I thought of, as a child, as clear analysis and thoughtful solutions now seem to me to be naivety and silly suggestions. Clarke has presented us with answers that work well for a child but which I, as an adult, can only think of as foolish nostrums and wishful thinking. Some examples of Clarke's ideas in this book:
War and violence solves nothing. Of course I was told that as a child and Clarke's statement of it in this book made perfect sense to me when I was 13 years old, but as an adult I know how silly that statement actually is. Heinlein had the right answer to that statement in Starship Troopers when one of the characters refers to the end of World War II as proving that often violence is the only answer to some problems. All one has to do is think about The American Civil War, The English Civil War, the fate of Napoleon, The Punic Wars, The Battle of Salamis, The Battle of Thermopylae and the list goes on. It is not nice, it is not pretty but it is often true.
Theft and robbery would disappear if everyone had enough to satisfy their basic needs. One only has to look at the crime statistics from the Soviet Union where everyone had about the same level of goods to see that is not true.
A world constitution is easy to create and would satisfy all of the nations. And more ...
Clarke's writing is, of course, wonderful and his characters and control of the story are superb. Clarke was a wonderful writer and a great storyteller. Unfortunately, as an adult, this story strikes me as mostly silly nonsense and my sense of disappointment after re-reading as an adult it is profound. This book is wonderful for a young teenager but not so great for an adult aware of the limitations of the world. Many of the ideas presented are very simplistic and the notion of how humanity would likely react when they finally saw the Overlords seems like a far cry from reality.
Many reviews would probably take issue with my analysis and point out that the core of the book is about what happens after humanity is "reformed" and "changed" but getting past the initial assumptions, which occur somehow painlessly and without violence, is a bridge too far for me.
Of course this is a science fiction book, but I still expect it to reflect a basic level of reality as regards human beings. As well read as this book is I feel I have to differ from many of those reviewing it and say that I can only recommend this book if the reader is willing to suspend common sense. On the bright side the narration is excellent.
An astronaut is accidentally stranded on Mars when his colleagues wrongly believe him to be dead. It is hard to imagine any scenario where someone would feel more alone and less able to cope with his surroundings, but Mark Watney is a game and resourceful fellow and this is the story of his attempt to establish contact with Earth and survive until he can be rescued. It is interesting, funny, tragic and hopeful, all at the same time.
It is also the story of those who left him, believing him to be dead, and those back on Earth who try desperately to save him. All of the characters are interesting, all of the dialog rings true and the motives and hopes of all are presented in a way that makes this story all the more believable.
There is not much more to say here. The storyline is linear with few plot twists and there are no villains, but what could be a boring story of the attempt to stay alive takes a life of its own and is engrossing from start to finish. There is some harsh language but it has the ring of being how people would be reacting in the circumstance and thus is not gratuitous. The whole story feels real, the narration is excellent and it is hard to find a single thing to complain about.
Highly recommended if you are interested in the story of a survival attempt against all odds.I will look for more books by this author.
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