The premise of this book is very interesting (I'd sum it up as "sexual sociopaths in turn of the century Wisconsin"), as is much of the detail the author imagines for the characters, however it's clear that a more capable writer would have delivered a far more compelling story: there are a number of inconsistencies in the story where a character thinks or acts as if they don't know some crucial detail about another character, only to have it revealed later that they knew all along. It happens with enough frequency in the story as to be distracting and ultimately to make conclusion of the book pretty clumsy.
That said, it's a good read, er, listen and is well narrated. For pure escapism you could do worse. Be prepared for a lot of rather explicit and not always savory sex -- the author seems to be downright obsessed.
It is astounding to me that someone of such scientific achievement as Mr. Collins applies virtually none of the scientific method to this topic. In a nutshell, he simply could have written "Go read some C.S. Lewis -- I did" and saved his readers a lot of time.
Every -- EVERY -- shred of "evidence" he trots out that supposedly supports the existence of God or that refutes an objection to organized religion is specious. No credible scientist would EVER make an argument for a scientific principle by saying, basically, "well, it makes sense to me" or "that's what this other guy I know thinks," yet this is in essence what Collins does throughout.
Also, as other reviewers have mentioned, his knowledge of scripture, theology, cosmology, psychology, and psychiatry is clearly wanting and his dismissal of any relevant issues in these realms is arrogant and without substantiation.
I had high hopes for this book -- I am always interested in how those with deep scientific backgrounds reconcile religious faith and/or belief in a creator with their scientific knowledge and process...I have yet to find one that has the courage to seriously apply the scientific method to this most intriguing of questions. I'm still waiting.
If you are a believer with only a passing interest in hard science, this book will probably please you as it is at least an earnest attempt to reconcile science and faith through anecdotal musings on the two, but for those who both believe and want to really find a meaty scientific basis to underpin your faith, you too will have to keep looking.
I highly recommend this new collection of short stories from Jhumpa Lahiri -- the characters are very authentic and the plots of each story have rich and varied directions and surprises, despite all having a common thread of finding one's way in a new place.
I should also note that in general I'm not a fan of short stories, however these are almost like mini-novels with fully realized story arcs -- something that I find is often undercut in much short fiction.
This book is a good read with a great pace and narration, however it stretches its premises quite a bit too far to be thoroughly enjoyable if you're the type who likes to think about their stories as if they could actually be somewhat plausible.
The author here has been compared to Chuck Palahniuk, and while there's some stylistic similarity, what's missing is Palahniuk's ability to tie all the insane plot lines together in way that's almost always satisfying.
I'd say it's more like 3 1/2 stars, but that's not an option. Definitely a good drive time book to pass the time.
A friend recommended this book to me as a good thought provoking read, and I have to say that it definitely is that...Bryson does a very thorough job of not only surveying the history of the hard sciences, archeology, and cosmology, but does so in a witty and very approachable way.
If there's one knock on this book I think it would be the narrator -- I'm not sure why some audio book producers think that having someone with a British accent read their books makes them sound more learned, but it seems they do. The end result is just that you end up being distracted at times by the reading of the material and the pronunciations of some things rather than just focusing on the great subject matter. It just seems a bit affected.
All in all, a very worthy book on some very appropriate topics to consider as we speed into the twenty-first century...and a great way to pass the time in rush hour traffic. Full disclosure however: I already like history and the sciences, so if you're someone who is bored by this kind of stuff, this book isn't going to light a fire for you...it does have a few parts that are a bit slow going, but if you're interested in the subject matter these shouldn't dissuade you.
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