I got this book on the recommendation of a friend without really reading the description. I did not know quite how Christian this book was before I bought it. I think many of the insights in the book are valuable, but the authors seem to assume you are enthusiastically Christian to begin with. As a non-christian, I found the constant Bible references, moral certainties, and ad librem assertions to distract from the self-help value of the book. Caveat Emptor.
If you've read the the rest of the Annals of the Former World, you will no doubt get this book. I enjoyed it, but the mix of history and geology in this one is a lot clumsier than it is in the other books. The book is most similar to Rising from the Plains, in that it seems to contain more anecdotal history than geology. The difference is that McPhee doesn't fuse the anecdotes and the science seamlessly like he does in most of the other installments. If you're new to the series, I'd recommend starting with Basin and Range.
There isn't really anything wrong with this book, but you can probably find a better use for your credit. Contrary to the title, short selling and market contrarians play a minor role in the book. Most of it is about the author's time as an SEC enforcement attorney, and the main problem with that is that the investigations this guy participated in are still going on, with no end in sight and no relevance to most of us. It was more appalled at the ineffectiveness of the SEC than excited at a whodunit story. Short selling and market contrarians only come in when short sellers pestered him to launch investigations into the issuers they had shorted, and when he left the SEC to work for a short selling hedge fund that eventually went under. If you're looking for something captivating like The Big Short (which I was) look further.
I thought this version of the Rubaiyat would have the poem itself as well as some background or translation notes to help understand the meaning of the quatrains. I was wrong. The vast majority of the book doesn't seem to have anything to do with the poem. The book follows the following format for each verse:
1. The verse is beautifully sung (30 sec each)
2. Explanatory notes on people or objects mentioned directly in the poem (30 sec)
After that, there is several minutes of commentary that was utterly meaningless to me. Maybe I'm too Western or lack the appropriate background, but the thrust of the commentary is thus: "Omar meant blah blah blah central oneness of the universe blah blah blah your mmmmmmm penetrates the depths of false existence yada yada yada." In short, unless you are specifically looking for the hippie-yogi interpretation of the poems that comprises 90% of the book, you will enjoy another version more.
I've read most of David Weber's books and enjoyed this series the most. The series has all of the exciting elements we've come to expect from Weber, but what really sets it apart is that it sheds a lot of the triteness found in his other books. The story does not rely on the main character conveniently developing new abilities just in time to save the day. Prince Roger is, in fact, deeply flawed, making him a much more interesting character than perfect, goody-two-shoes Honor Harrington (in my opinion). That the book retains the fast paced action and the political aspects of the Harrington series while vastly improving characterization makes this Weber's best yet.
After reading this book I can't tell you anything more about the Thirty Year's War than I already knew; the author failed at storytelling. I've read tough histories (e.g., Thucydides) before, but this book abandons all pretense at chronology. The chapters themselves are coherent, and many are well written. However, the book reads as if the various chapters were scattered to wind and then those that were recovered were stitched together in approximately the right order with great stretches of the narrative gone. More than once I reacted to the disclosure of a date like "What?! its 1640? I though we were still talking about 1626!"
I had hoped that in ten years the author would have learned to write a less disjointed plot. He has not. I still found myself forgetting who the characters were and where they fit into the plot. This book, like all of this author's books, demands attention, and getting distracted for a few minutes leaves you lost in a land of square pegs and round holes. Obfuscation is not art.
However, the joy of this book is also its weakness. The command of the English language displayed in this book is stunning. It merits the comparison to Jack Vance's Dying Earth; the very complexity of the language creates a sense of other-worldliness that, combined with imagery, creates a captivating world and a captivating story. Like Vance (or like Shakespeare for that matter), this book is a high-effort, high reward read.
This is one of the great works of science fiction. It is imaginative and adventurous without the comic-book quality of so much other Soviet-era science fiction; It is also thoughtful and philosophical without being dull. The performance is great in that the narrator fades into the background of the story. Highly recommended.
I understand that this is a children's book, but the narrator reads it as if he's playing peek-a-boo with an infant. I shut the book off after a few minutes because I couldn't stand it. Do yourself a favor and listen to the sample before buying.
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