This book was thoroughly enjoyable. I liked that the technical terms were not watered down. Any tech savvy person will appreciate that. Not only was it captivating from start to finish but it also has a lot of political nuances that indict our modern economically-based, oligarchical power structures. The discussions about the parasitic nature of international power brokers that pull the strings of world governments were particularly fascinating.
In fact, there is almost a novel within a novel for those who wonder how modern plutocrats could be challenged by the masses. Amazingly enough, those who have never heard of plutocrats or oligarchs will not be put off by these discussions since they are usually presented in the context of video games.
That is the beauty of how the story takes shape. Some characters see what is happening as nothing more than a video game while the major players know that the outcome will shape the future of mankind. I promise that if you read the book, everything I just said will make sense. So strap yourself in, because it's going to be quite a ride.
This material is mainly for advanced physics students and is math heavy. That's probably not a problem for the typical person looking for Feynman lectures. The problem is that there are no accompanying visual aids. Some audiobooks come with pdf downloads and I think this one should too because he is drawing on a board as he speaks. Not being able to see the examples and formulas detracts from one's ability to absorb the material.
He speaks quickly, at a speed that makes this suitable for a quiet room where you can take notes and create your own visuals. Unless you're as smart as Feynman himself, listening in your car or while exercising will probably be a challenge. He doesn't skimp on the math so brush up on your differential equations.
This book was an exhausting look at a man on a soap box waxing eloquently philosophical about American foreign and domestic policy. With an opening sentence like the one I just typed, you might think that I disagreed with the author. On the contrary, I agreed with almost every view he expresses in this book but having read "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" just a couple of weeks ago I can tell you that, that book is all you really need.
The first third of this book is a recap of "Confessions..." mentioned above. The second third is filled with anecdotes like (I'm paraphrasing), 'When I went to China the MBA students knew so much more than ours...', When I was in Ecuador I met people who understood nature...' The rest of the book degenerates into well-worded fluff with lots of statements like, 'We've got to reign in...', 'We the people have the power to...', 'Governments must tackle climate change...' and on and on,,,
I've never before been so thoroughly disappointed listening to something I agreed with entirely. If you are a Progressive, you could buy this book just to hear someone say all the things you've always wanted to hear--or--you can read something that provides evidence to go along with the words because this book provides no evidence at all for the opinions expressed within. It's like a candy bar. It provides a burst of energy that seems filling but is lacking in real substance.
My compliments to the narrator though. He did a miraculous job, all things considered.
Overall, this book is a nice continuation of the story. The story arc allows for an interesting mix of action, politics, and character development. Having said that, the author seems to be developing some annoying habits if you have followed his writing style from book 1.
There is far too much filler material. For example there are long boring sequences where he describes conversations between humans and tree cats, where he describes in detail the tree cat's hand movements as they use sign language. Describing hand and finger position and the motion of the gestures as the tree cat spells a word letter by letter is excruciating. Imaging watching a closed-captioned broadcast with someone speaking in your ear who explains with as much detail as they can, what the person signing is doing. This would test anyone's patience. Normally a translator would simply tell you that the person is signing followed by the translation. Five minute descriptions of hand gestures is massive overkill and I found myself using the fast-forward key frequently, lest I fall asleep.
Ditto the author's annoying tendency to have us attend entire religious services where he takes us through a complete religious service with lengthy scripture readings and pastoral comments, rather than simply giving us the first few lines like any author who wants to keep us engaged would do, followed by a synopsis of what was said so we can get back to the story. Again, making us sit through complete sermons is massive overkill and again, thanks for the fast-forward button. I probably skipped 20-30 minutes of this novel.
Lastly, the author has for the last 2 books picked up the annoying habit of everyone's lip twitching and tightening whenever they are surprised. That never happens to me so I can't relate to it. And since it happens over and over and over, it gets irritating. There are other ways to depict surprise in writing but the author seems to be getting lazy.
I still like the story a lot but each novel seems to move more slowly and there are several bad habits the author is picking up that make me pinch my nose and press on. Since this story is not entirely self-contained and ends abruptly with several important things dangling, I'm sure there will be another soon. I just hope negatives don't get worse or I will probably tune out.
After reading the first book, "Daemon," I complimented the author's subtle indictment of global plutocrats while presenting the daemon as an alternative path. After reading the second book I see my assessment was on the money since the author said the word plutocrat specifically in Freedom.
With this in mind, this book offers much food for thought for those who perceive the current up-channeling of wealth from the poor and middle-class to upper-class elites. The author has clearly given this train of thought some careful consideration and the book addresses it well.
Though the book treats serious social issues with an appropriate seriousness, it is nevertheless a thoroughly enjoyable story with loads of fun from start to finish. If I had to make one criticism it would have to be for the one thing the book did that I wish it had not done--it ended at some point. If there were to be just one series in life that never ends, it should be this one.
The value I took from this book was hearing first hand descriptions of the post Civil War era from someone referring to them in present tense rather than as an historic event. That aside, I found this book so optimistic that I have to question whether he deliberately omitted the atrocities committed during the Jim Crow era or if he was simply THAT ignorant. (except a quick reference to some unfortunate 'incidents' over which he does not elaborate.)
To put these things in context one must read W.E.B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, and especially "Slavery by Another Name" by Douglas A. Blackmon. These authors tell the real story about the black experience in the South.
Washington was too politically timid to write a hard-hitting book. In fact, he constantly refers to "my race" in an instructive phrasing that clearly indicates that his intended audience was white. He tap dances around every substantive issue and says several times that his purpose for writing the book is to show that every man can succeed with the right attitude and that one's color can't get in the way of talent and hard work. This was exactly what southern whites wanted to hear at this time but it was far from the truth. Talented, hard-working blacks were being abused or killed so often that Washington HAD to have been aware of it but he chose to say nothing.that would endanger his position.
My main reason for reading this was to see if the criticisms of Washington being a conciliationist were consistent with his own words. Every side has 2 stories after all. Again, Washington's book is EXCEPTIONALLY positive so you can draw your own conclusions from the following: How can an exceptionally positive book give an accurate accounting of an absolutely abysmal time period for the overwhelming majority of black people in American history? It can't. But if it's positive that you are looking for...
I liked the first book in the series but this one reads like the entire story was concocted to justify a second video game. For example in a scene where he fights clones of himself and the rancor-eating monster, I couldn't help thinking how this would provide the game's near-impossible to beat "boss" levels. Sure enough I buy the game and find these sequences so difficult I gave up playing it. It's not the first book to inspire a game but I got the distinct feeling while reading this one that it was the other way around.
As in the first book, Darth Vader is portrayed as a second rate force user who is tossed around by Starkiller like he is nothing. It is very different from the way Vader is portrayed in the Star Wars movies and a bit disappointing...again.
Overall I'd say the series is going downhill. I think I will stick with the other Star Wars titles from now on. Like most Star Wars fans, I like almost anything set in the Star Wars universe. This one may be a bridge too far.
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