This is a superb book and one that should be required reading for every human being. Instead of reading some of the drivel (classics) in high school, kids should read about the single most important element in life, water. There is something enigmatic about our attitude about water. Our attitude about water is something akin to the old song line, "you only really appreciate something when you lose it". This book is not a polemic or screaming about yet another crisis. Although water is becoming a crisis, his point is educational. He talks about every aspect of water. I especially like the parts in which he described the chemistry and physical uniqueness of water. One fact about water that absolutely blew me away: Every molecule of water that is on the Earth has been here since its formation. We neither add nor subtract water. It just gets moved around. We are so spoiled regarding water in the US especially in the part in which I live. He points out the confusion in our minds about water. The author compares our 24/7 water accessibility with the supply in India. In most Indian communities, even the wealthy ones, water is only available one or two hours a day. In some parts of India, an entire day is consumed (mainly by school aged girls) walking to a distant water supply and carrying it back on their heads. For us, water is virtually free and we waste it with impunity. People complain about a dollar a month increase in the cost of water supply while they remain silent about a 10% cable TV charge. Is it really necessary to flush our solid waste with purified, chemically treated potable water? Suffice it to say that after reading this book, my head was straightened out and I now turn off the water when brushing my teeth. The book is very well written and Charles Fishman does a great job, as always. This book gets my vote for Science book of the year.
I really liked the movie and liked the book even more. The story was very fast paced, maybe even a little too fast with the jumps in time being somewhat agitating. However, the main characters were well drawn but the minor characters somewhat cartoonish. Ellie was the main character and the driving force behind the book. The character of Haddon was also really fascinating. I really learned a lot about astronomy although in parts it was a little above my head. Still, the book made a plausible case for extra terrestrial beings and Sagen's spin on how we were on the brink of destruction rang true. The only part of the book and the movie that I didn't buy was the conspiracy ending. It made no logical sense and the world's governments all rejecting the stories of these five brilliant people was ridiculous. I am still not sure why Sagen ended it this way. I guess he ran into the same problem all science fiction writers run into: how to plot a satisfying believable ending. The reader was really great and I will look for other books she's read.
Jeffrey Archer's style is wearing very thin. In past books, his plots were much more believable and less reliant on melodrama. These characters are completely non-believable. For example, Emma has to be the most accomplished woman in history. Rising from nothing, gaining her way in all sorts of situations through her incredibly strong personality, picking up waitressing in two weeks, making her way to the United States by obtaining a three week only job on a ship and then finding her non-husband who is the father of her child, blah, blah blah. Even writing this plot makes me nauseous. The fact that this is going to be an ongoing five part series borders on theft. This series is one step above comic book level.
I really enjoy John LeCarre books. They are all so erudite. However, I have two complaints with this reading. First, the language of the British elite becomes very annoying over time and very difficult to understand for a non-Britisher. Do they really speak this way? It was almost as if LeCarre was reading at 1 1/2 speed. I even tried to listen to the book at .75 speed but it sounded ridiculous. My second complaint is that this plot seemed exactly like The Constant Gardener. It's nice to think that there are people like the protagonist who is willing to sacrifice his life for "the truth" but I find it hard to believe that a person with his experience in Government service would have stayed in this service. The fact that several innocents who are collateral damage in a botched plot would drive all of these hard bitten men to sacrifice their lives is too much to swallow. I think the statement by the "bad guy" at the end who said, "if you want to see collateral damage, watch the films of drone strikes," was really the most rational argument against the protagonist's idealistic pleadings. The plot veered to much towards a "Bourne Identity" one in that every move the protagonist made was instantly known and acted upon by the Government and its henchment and undercut LeCarre's belief that the Government was stupid and plodding. The fact implied in the book that the Government was bought and paid for by private industry and that its agents had the ability to instantaneously react to a phone call is not believable. The ultimate feeling one comes away with is that the situation is hopeless and all good mens' actions are a waste of time and they will die in the attempt to fulfill their ideals. Wasn't that the take away from The Constant Gardener?
Five star after five star after five star. How could I resist? Little did I realize that the reviewers all must have been computer game nerds who sit in their rooms and play nothing but games all day and night. I guess I'm too old to appreciate the sophistication of the "avatar" life and all of the references to swords and magic spells and solving codes. To me a book that deserves a five star rating has a spectacular plot, well drawn characters and understandable lines of reason. This book has none of these. It has so many plot holes that I began to lose interest halfway through and, truthfully, couldn't finish the book. The love relationship was between two make believe characters (avatars) who admittedly could be in reality, trolls. I gave this book three stars only out of pity for the poor souls who live in this dungeon and dragon world. Word of caution for a serious reader; this book is only for a very narrow spectrum of reader for whom this drivel is perfect.
Michael Lewis is one of our great non-fiction writers. He has this amazing ability to take complex problems and make it understandable to the ordinary person. Moneyball joins his other books like "The Big Short" and "Liars Poker" that digs into the baseball industry, turns over the rocks and watches the insects scatter. Unlike the movie, which turned the book into a maudlin story of giving up money for being with his daughter, the book is a hard edge, no BS look at how his system of baseball team construction could be based on statistical analysis of player value. Although he was successful at portraying the success from the financial aspect, Lewis never really explores the consequential loss of the fun side of baseball. That is, some of the most enjoyable aspects of baseball like base stealing, sacrificing, hit and runs, squeeze plays etc. are virtually eliminated from ordinary play. Basically, Billy Beane turned his teams into no risk, maximum value only decisions that are really boring.
Robert Moses is a classic example of the enigmatic political giant. Simultaneously, a genius and heartless dictator, it is difficult for me to make up my mind about his true value. The book is spectacular in portraying both his unbelievable accomplishments and the heartless manner in which he achieved them. Although he did build many public works, it appears that these parkways, expressways and bridges, although visually monumental, were ultimately damaging to the healthy growth of New York City. It’s clear that he built all of these structures for the facilitation of the automobile. His total dedication to the automobile, his genius and his stubbornness are aptly portrayed in one small vignette: When he designed and constructed all of the Parkways in New York, he made all of the bridges that crossed them, less than eleven feet of clearance. He acknowledged that this would prevent the passage of any busses. This has prevented the use of these Parkways for public transportation and would have helped reduced traffic congestion. It’s clear that he wanted visible monuments to himself because he refused to have any tunnels constructed. His solution to traffic congestion caused by his bridges was to build more bridges even though the evidence was that bridges were the cause of the problem not the solution. Had he spent one tenth the money and effort on public transportation, the horrible traffic congestion and urban sprawl that resulted would have been eliminated. As a study in the attainment in power, this book is superb and is easily on the same level with Machiavelli’s, “The Prince”. Although Moses achieved so much, it is hard to like a man who was so arrogant and condescending to everyone. He was the living example of how absolute power corrupts absolutely. One strange omission was the sage of the Brooklyn Dodgers. As a Brooklyn Dodger fan, I was disappointed that Caro didn’t point out that Moses singlehandedly forced the Dodgers to move to California. This is a great book and one that is both educational and exciting.
Wow! is all I can say after finishing this book. It must stand as one of the great biography's of all time. Caro has woven a tale of such complexity that it defies any summary. Having grown up during the years of this book, I was completely unaware of the enormous achievement of Lyndon Johnson during the six months following Kennedy's assassination. I had not read the previous three volumes and so was unaware of the complex nature of Johnson. It didn't matter. Caro so thoroughly revealed his character and so seamlessly wove it into the history of those pivotal years that the book almost seemed like a novel. I literally could not stop listening at certain points in the book. It was engaging as any of the best suspense novels: How will he get that bill passed? Who will he have to threaten, who will he have to massage, what promises will he have to make? He was able to facilitate the passage of the unpassable, stalled in Congress for thirty five years, Civil Rights Bill in four months at one of the most volatile moments in our history. He began the process four days after assuming the Presidency. Unbelievable! People (myself included) took this unbelievable achievement with a blase' attitude-Oh, no big deal. This book puts this dismissive in a deeply buried coffin where it belongs. As always, the superficial picture of famous people is often taken as the truth of who they really are and what they really achieved. It has often been said that the legacy of John F. Kennedy was most greatly served by his assassination. Although a cruel statement, this book proves this assertion. The book shows that Kennedy was completely impotent in domestic affairs. He had no idea how to deal with a recalcitrant Congress who ran circles around him and he had not achieved one significant piece of legislation during his three years. He had great ideas but it took the political genius of Lyndon Johnson to bring them to fruition and change the course of American history. It is sad that Johnson's great achievements will always be overshadowed by his horrible decisions regarding the Viet Nam war. Caro hints at this Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde dichotomy at the end of this book. The greatness of this book is how well Caro elucidates Johnson's internal contradictory devils, how these devils were used for the greatest good and then for the greatest evil. Caro also pulls the curtain back on how Washington really works. Considering what is happening in Washington today, it is illuminating to see how things have not changed much. It only emphasizes the greatness of Lyndon Johnson and how his particular political genius single handedly moved our Country to a level of greatness that may never be achieved again. When the moment called, he rose to it like no other President in our history. Hopefully, history will give Johnson credit as one of the great President's we've had. If you like biography, put this book at the top of your list.
I had read this book 40 years ago when it first came out and loved it then. Except for the basic story, I had forgotten most of the detail of the book. Listening to this book was a great experience and, as always with a great reader, better than the written text. It's hard to imagine that the author wrote this book in 35 days. In these days, it seems that author's do years of research so that they can accurately document the detail in the novel. When I think about it, who cares whether the gun used is a P-24 semi-automatic rifle with a 10mm short stroked bored and blah, blah blah. I guess this is to satisfy readers of "Rifle Today" magazine. This story was so realistic and so engaging that the specifics of the gunnery were show to be irrelevant. There were several plot holes that I found annoying. For example, having the mistress of the Minister of Air Force in position to relay information seemed contrived. Forsyth needed this desperately to keep the Jackal one step ahead so I understand this need. The second gripe is the negative attitude of the Council when Lebel couldn't find this unknown assassin in three days. This was really hard to accept. This book reminded me of Martin Booth’s 1990 novel A Very Private Gentleman. I could easily see the Jackal as the protagonist in this book. I made me wish that George Clooney had played the Jackal instead of Bruce Willis in the movie remake. Of course, Clooney would not have gone along with the ridiculous plot rewrite. Why mess with a great story? The ending of this book was so fantastic that it deserves to be remade. Was George Smiley of John LeCarre fame the basis for Lebel?
I usually love Nelson DeMille Books and I especially like John Corey. This book was not quite up to his best. The Panther was a very weak villain and like James Bond movies, a book is only as good as the villain. The Panther seems to have been left out of the middle half of the book. He opens it up and then disappears until the last few pages. I thought it was a feeble attempt to vilify him by making him a turncoat American. What made the Lion so good was the believable history for his actions and his continual presence and evil behavior during the entire book. In the Panther, Corey was at his quippiest but they seemed a little strained. And where was Kate Mayfield? She's disappeared as an active character. And what was the intimations that Corey was attracted, very attracted, to another sexy military woman about? "Kate Mayfield is the love of my life but boy do I wish i could be in the same vehicle alone with the young lady doctor and who's maybe wearing a wet T-shirt." I don't know, maybe I'm getting a little soft but this attitude seems not very John Coryish. The real enemy seemed to be the CIA and the book seemed to be a set up for a sequel to seek revenge against them. DeMille seemed to be struggling to find one consistent enemy. He waffled between Al-qaida, the Yemeni chieftans, the Yemen secret service and the CIA. I guess this was his attempt to keep us guessing but his effort was too muddled and became boring. Usually, DeMille's books have a good mystery raveled up in the story but in this book there was no mystery. Corey was bait and he had to find the Panther before he found him. Usually, I'm sad when one of his books is over. When I finished this one, I longed for "The General's Daughter".
Although I really like Gregg Hurwitz and his books are always turbo charged, there are times when his exchanges between the main characters get maudlin and overextended. This is not helped by Scott Brick's feeble attempts at voicing the sensitivity being expressed. (listening to two Scott Brick books in a row is like nails on a chalkboard) Although character development is not at the top of the list in books like this, Gregg Hurwitz has done a better job than most in this genre. However, the characters in this book often become cardboard when they have sudden behavioral changes that help the protagonist out. For example, his estranged father suddenly decides to help Nate after a fifteen year absence. Nate himself suddenly becomes dedicated to his daughter after ignoring her for five years. All this is explained away by his decision to not commit suicide but I didn't buy it. The extended love scenes between Nate and his wife became so annoying that I had to turn the book off or else be drowned in butterscotch. Also, the entire storyline of the book, that Nate had to obtain the contents of the bank security box was absurd. The villain could have easily gone into the bank several weeks later with a new crew and retrieved the contents himself. One of the best parts of the book was the manner in which Hurwitz nailed the personality of a 15 year old girl in LA. She was so totally obnoxious, so totally self-absorbed and so totally out of control that how Nate could even stand to be around her was a fantasy in itself. Why he would sacrifice his life for her was beyond me. I also thought the way that PTDS soldiers were treated was a disgrace. Dumping these poor guys because they are psychologically damaged is like divorcing the guy because he has no legs. Yeah, he's scaring the daughter. So what! That's the sacrifice we all make for those who put themselves in harms way. I also thought that the ability of the Ukranians to track every step of Nate's was somewhat contrived. It reminded me of the movie, "Enemy of the State". I could see it if the tracking agency was Governmental but a small group of foreign thugs? Nah! After reviewing this comment, I'm not sure it deserves the four stars I gave it but, on the whole, if one's cynicism is suspended, its a good hurricane read.
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