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".
I really enjoyed this book. In my opinion, there are different kinds of science fiction: the futuristic, usually filled with tons of new gadgets, the war genre, and the biologic type. This is the biologic type and my favorite. The most famous and, probably best representative, is Michael Crichton books. This book comes very close to one of his books but not nearly as well written. However, the premise is compelling: That the Human genome contains the ability to change due to environmental forces in order to allow it survival. This, of course, borders on Lamarkianism but recent discoveries in genetics gives its more credibility. Many people don’t accept the premise that the living body is really only a vehicle for the genes and a book like this will turn them off. The book was excellent because it wove together several different controversial themes: the politics of disease, the status of humanity at the present time, xenophobia, the inability of governments to deal effectively with change, human rights and the place in science in government. All these are topics are worthy of a book and, the fact that Bear did so successfully, is to be praised. I disagree with most of the negative reviews and fear that their opinions were shaped by the daunting science explicated during the story in order to provide credibility. I have a high understanding of biology and, myself had to re-listen several times to these sections, in order to fully comprehend the meaning. When I look at the status of our world today, there are times that I would hope for a genetic change to remove the unbelievable hated, conflict negativity that seems to pervade almost every aspect of our lives. In my opinion, if a change doesn’t come soon, the homo sapiens branch of the tree of life will end up being a withered jin and another branch will continue to grow.
I hate books like this. I feel so duped when a book has a great premise and then falls so poorly in delivering the goods that I just want to throw it in a nice hot fire. I felt like I was listening to a third year college student's final story of the year in his creative writing course. He really wanted to write a story about a life form that existed 130 million years ago on earth (maybe extraterrestrial?). 130 million years ago. That's twice as long as the dinosaurs went extinct yet these people could have easily been a wandering tribe in the movie "Apocolypto". I won't even go into the ridiculous premise that a piece of clothing, even with incredible strength, could be found a few feet under the topsoil after 130 million years. In the text, the author takes pains to explain to us stupid non-geologists that even Mt. Killmanjaro wouldn't be there after only 25 million years. The language was sophomoric and the story completely uninteresting. But how to write this story. OH, he falls upon the technique of inventing a main story in which an ACHD neo-geek (being a geek lately is not enough to be considered beyond socially acceptable) has a psychokinetic gift that allows him to sense the life of whatever had touched it when he touches it. Voila', he now has two story lines from which he can bounce back and forth and double the word count. Just to beef up the work count a little more, he adds a bizarre sub,sub plot that is a possible explanation for his agorophophic and anal compulsive behavior; he reveals that his cop father made him use his talents when he was young to help him solve murders. Somehow this really screws him up for life. It's really a pathetic attempt to foster a reconciliation with the father at the end. But don't fear, fearless reader, he is cured by a gorgeous nubian babe. The story starts by his, for the good of science and lots of cash, by touching a part the outfit of one of these 130 million year old creatures and goes into a trance and, thus, can tell the story about them. We are supposed to fall in love with them (even though in the beginning he describes them as totally repulsive life forms who, by the way, really stink) and their hardships (They are constantly being harassed and eaten by flying predators and they lose their poor "newest" and "new") as he falls in love with them. Yeachhhhh! Maybe the story was written in his Senior year of Prep school. And then there's the sub plot of the evil scientist who is using the hero's gift to make money. Oh horrors. I'm telling you, this was, perhaps, the worst book I have read in several years and I strongly recommend this only for teenagers with social problems. I see the future and it is an awful movie. There's no justice in literature. Did I tell you that this book is horrible?
There’s no question the book is compelling but to be truthful the readers (they are to be praised for a magnificent read. They made us hate all the characters so much that we just had to know what motivated them) saved it from failure. The moral ambiguities that the story brings out are worthwhile to discuss, ie. Is the death penalty moral?” but the story doesn’t do it justice. The author definitely succeeded in forcing me to finish to find out what really happened but I felt (don’t want a spoiler here) the ending was somewhat non-believable. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the book but it was no, “Gone Girl”. When I finished the book, I realized that I didn’t “believe” any of the characters even though I knew them well. Was this Ms. Silver’s intent? I don’t think so. I think it is just a case of a first novel lack of depth. I know it’s not fair to compare but when I read a book like this (here I mean the author’s linguistic gymnastics), I’m forced to think of a book like “American Pastoral”. After all, we have to set the bar somewhere. When I think of the characters in Noa P, they are so anemic and thinly drawn that they disappear almost as quickly as the earplugs are out. During a talk to librarians on Youtube, Ms. Silver admitted getting the idea for the plot while taking a capital punishment course in law school but only began writing the book in earnest while she was working on a real life capital punishment case. That sounds about right to me; she was working out her own ambiguities of the issues in the case in fiction. The problem is that she had too much law and not enough character in the writing. Although she tries to describe the legal system objectivity, if she stays in the legal profession, I would be shocked. Her dislike of her chosen profession is so obvious. I think that is ultimately one of the flaws of the book. During due diligence of the revisiting of the case, the inadequacies of the trial are so numerous, that it’s hard to believe a death sentence makes any sense. I think Ms. Silver lucked out on getting such a boost of publicity. We were all “Jonesing” for the next “Gone Girl” and voila’ “Noa P appears. Great premise and potential and great marketing but ultimately the book doesn’t deliver. I have to place this book in the “a good quick summer read while waiting for the next really great book” category.
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.
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