What can be said about this book that has not already been said. It easily belongs to the top tier of historical fiction novels ever written. The superb writing and character development will capture your imagination and get even the most hard-hearted to feel for the characters. As this novel is renowned for, it masterfully covers the deplorable nature of slavery, and the unfortunate situation the United States (and at various periods, much of the rest of the world) was in.
Matching this marvelous writing is an equally marvelous narrator who brings a unique personality to even the most minor of parts.
I highly recommend this book to anyone with even the slightest interest in history as you will not be disappointed.
I must first confess that at the time of this writing, I am only around 17 hours into Worse Than War. However, I feel compelled to write this review due to several irksome tendencies that Mr. Goldhagen has in his writing.
Before I get into my criticisms, allow me to state that Mr. Goldhagen has done a magnificent job in compiling and considering various genocides throughout history. Though he leaves out eliminations prior to the 20th century, he is comprehensive in his coverage of genocides in the 20th and 21st centuries. For example, he does not cover the genocides of indigenous peoples across North and South America since the arrival of Europeans.
That said, my largest complaint would have to be his biased and inaccurate portrayals of Islam and Muslims, as well as communism and communists.
Aside from covering the Turkish persecution and genocide of the Armenians, his primary coverage of Islam pertains to "Political Islam". By which he actually means a wide variety of extremist movements, each with distinct motives, primarily within the Middle East. He tends to cluster extremist Sunni, Shia, Wahhabi, etc together as a single menace with a single goal (which is blatantly false).
He plays up the discredited notion that Al Qaeda hates the West for its freedoms and beliefs, ignoring their objectives for transforming the Middle East and takfiri tendencies. I would recommend The Longest War, The Accidental Guerilla, and Destiny Disrupted for a superior analysis of Al Qaeda's motives and actions.
Additionally, he ignores Western and Jewish culpability with regards to the present situation involving Israel and Palestine. He presents a tremendously complicated situation as having a clear villain, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and a clear victim, Israel. He does not appropriately entertain or consider the legitimate grievances that Palestinians have regarding the creation of Israel and actions taken by Israelis since then.
Similarly, he consistently blames the communism for the actions taken by Mao and Stalin, both of whom used the idea of communism to further their own power and wealth, without being particularly good communists. He never enters into a discussion of the beliefs of communism, but rather treats it as an existential evil. I personally would have expected better, and less biased, analysis from one as well educated as Mr. Goldhagen.
On a less significant note, his writing is also flawed. It tends to be repetitive, primarily to drive home the names of the leaders of past genocides. Additionally, he repeats many of the same points and ideas throughout the book. Even repeating the examples he presents in earlier discussions on those points and ideas. However, this repetitiveness is largely unnecessary and makes the book more of a chore to read than it otherwise might be.
That said, I would recommend the book as part of a comprehensive study of genocide. I would not recommend that this be your sole or primary source as it too often reflects the beliefs of the author, rather than objective fact.
As the title of this review suggests I cannot recommend this book for anyone who does not like being kicked in the gut repeatedly. While the previous two books may have left you hoping that the First Law Trilogy would have a satisfactory conclusion, it not only fails to provide that, it fails to provide any form of resolution to the story as a whole. Moreover, unless you have a completely twisted sense of morality, only the most vile of the characters get anything remotely resembling a happy ending. Every character that can possible be construed as an upstanding individual is repeatedly abused by Abercrombie, and left either insane, suffering, dieing, or dead. There are very few books I wish I had never have read, this is one of them.
Though I personally find the philosophical discussions which this book is filled with less than well-conceived, I was willing to overlook that small flaw and enjoy the characters, plot and world that Sanderson developed. Unfortunately there is one gaping flaw with this novel that I cannot overlook: the pathetic melodramatic way in which Elend and Vin behave with regards to their relationship. If you like shoujo manga or anime you probably will not object to the overdone tropes that pervade their relationship. However, I for one cannot stand the idea that two people would be so foolish as to wander around wallowing in self-pity and self-doubt rather than talk about their concerns with the person they love. If you can ignore their romantic bumbling, and Sanderson's woefully unbelievable attempt to make their relationship into a love triangle, this is a quality novel which I probably would have given a 4.5, but as it is written I can give it no higher than a 3.
Regarding the complaints other listeners have brought up about the narration, it is my viewpoint that Martin Freeman's narration, while different than that of Stephen Fry's, is not particularly worse. I much preferred Fry's voice for Zaphod, but within a couple of hours I was past this minor impediment to my listening enjoyment.
To me, the book lacked much of the humor it's predecessor possessed in abundance, instead it places much more focus upon advancing the plot. That is to say it has less humorous moments, as opposed to the quality of the humor having diminished. Having said that, the conclusion of the book definitely makes "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" a worthwhile read for all those who enjoyed it's predecessor.
While the title of this review may be seen as heresy by the hardcore Sci-Fi fans out there, this is one instance where the drama of real events surpasses even the greatest drama fiction can muster. The English language lacks sufficient adjectives to properly extol the writing and events of Too Big Too Fail. In addition to the superb recounting of the events leading to the collapse, William Hughes does an excellent narration. I have already recommended Too Big Too Fail to my friends and family, and I would recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in the economic events of 2008.
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