Los Angeles, CA, United States | Member Since 2009
I wrote my MA thesis on China's politics, economics, and history, so I was expecting more of an in depth look at the US China relationship with this book. I was quite surprised and disappointed with this offering. Unfortunately Jonathan Spence's Making of Modern China covers the historical aspects of China exponentially better than Kissinger.
Where I looked for this book to excel and really pay for itself was in the political mindset of China from the opening of Sino-U.S. relations on. This did not begin to take form until the later half of the book and I could have read the NYTs to get the perspective Mr. Kissinger provides. There are a lot of histories on China that are better than this book and Kissinger just does not provide enough meat for me to recommend this volume.
First, to all of the men and women in uniform: THANK YOU!
I guess after Seal Team Six, there really was no other way to tackle this book than an almost clinical reporting of events. The Seal Team member in question offers shockingly little passion in his words and for the single event every American longed to experience. This really irked me and as his distaste for Obama begins to seep through to overflowing in the epilogue I find him to be less likable.
While it is impossible to not respect and honor this man's sacrifice for our country, as he begins to describe the mission as "just another" mission, shows his irritation at the people who treat him like he has done something special, and is completely oblivious to the cathartic national moment of "WE GOT HIM!", you come to feel that this guy is a jerk.
I can care less about his not remembering what the president said when he met him, or not liking Biden's corny jokes, but what does irritate me is that this event seems to have been experienced by a man who fails to see the enormity of its execution. How much blood and treasure was sacrificed not just by other Seal Teams, but by our armed forces to get to that moment? How many families were put through the torture of losing their loved ones because some caveman had a brain fart? How many people changed their lives or dedicated a decade of their life to this moment? I guess my generation just doesn't get it.
Neil Armstrong understood the moment he was in, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!".
I reluctantly recommend this book if you absolutely have to know what happened. If you prefer to have the fantasy that one of the men who pulled the trigger knew exactly where his place was in history, give this book a pass.
Despite the fact that the basis of this story is lifted from ancient Greek history, reality TV and real wars, and the battle group's number "451" is unceremoniously lifted from Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451", another futuristic take on battling an evil, omniscient government, I found this story engaging just enough to finish the series.
Collins has a tendency to over-write the emotional side of the story, forgetting that the reader has a brain and can inflect their own ideas.
On the other hand, you can literally see the points when she feels she has gotten in over her audience's head and decides to not write anything at all. Instead the protagonist falls unconscious and wakes up days later to find that what, in real young adult literature, should be the conscious raising climax has already concluded, without her participation.
This irked me a lot. This should be the culminating event in the mental development of the young protagonist. The point where she has fought physically and mentally to overcome the obstacles placed before her. She is now an adult and can stand and fight on her own two feet. The reader wants a cathartic resolution. The character wants it. What we are all given is the proverbial "Go to your room while the adults handle this!"
The attack on unions continue. Initially, this book was a wonderful balanced approach to American schools, but somewhere in the second third of the book it got stuck on the Union issue and just never let it go. It went from detailing and analyzing problems to harping on the teacher unions. Yes, unions become a problem when they resort to their lowest common denominator, e.g. really bad teachers, but that happened for a reason.
As a former teacher in Pasadena, California and current university professor in Tokyo, Japan, I have two things to say: First, the grass is not greener on the other side. Education in Japan is not better than education in the US, from my 9 years of public/private experience here. Secondly, as a former teacher, I remember ignoring my union president and principal's orders and doing my own thing, with the result that all of my students' reading and math scores improved. It is about the person in the front of the class and their dogged determination to succeed.
This is one of those issues that touches almost every single American and, having been in a classroom, we all have some ideas of what should or should not happen. As I listened to this book I saw the logic of what was being asked, but then realized that the hard-liners are in control. Union leaders who feel the need to protect every single teacher against every possible offense, and union busting bureaucrats/administrators who want to rule with iron fists.
In the end Mr. Brill presents a brilliant, though one-sided, case about the reform issues in our public education system. It is too bad he does not present a more balanced approach to problem solving.
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