There are two things to say about this book: one is about the intellectual content, which is brilliant and thought-provoking. The other is its tone and character, which is nauseating at times and simply boring at most others. Enough is said about that in other reviews, suffice to say that he does it even more in this book than in his previous tomes.
Back to the content then: Taleb asserts that we cannot KNOW the probability or risk of certain events, that is why instead we should focus on its consequences, bad or good. Almost all relevant events are 'non-linear', meaning that the potential benefits far outweigh the potential costs or vice versa. If we focus on reducing the potentially large negative consequences of events and expose ourselves to potentially large positive consequences of others (at little cost) than we are really progressing. He advocates a barbell strategy, of limiting your biggest risks while exposing yourself to the biggest upsides.
Some interesting elements:
(1) the 'via negitiva' or subtractive way of doing things. It is easier to predict the things that in the future will no longer be there (the fragile), then the new things that will arise and be successful. The old is more likely to stay around than the new (it has been around longer). (2) The small, decentral is less harmful than the big central which drags everybody along. (3) 'stressors'. Minor stressors (pains, damage) due to volatility are good for strength. Too much stability creates comfort and lack of strength. This is true for humans: no effort, no strength. But also for government monopolies.
And finally (4) his main point: let us try to intervene less in society, economy and human beings, because practically all intervention has large negative and unknown consequences. Only intervene when not intervening ends most likely very bad. This could be a policy for the military too?
I for one can recommend the content of this book if you can stomach the tone, and am myself still digesting its consequential conclusions.
To start, this book is part of the Vorkosigan Saga series, but does not have any direct relation to the other books as the story is set 200 years ahead of the other books. The story explains the origin of the Quaddies, a strange race of four-armed (extra arms for legs) humans which we encounter also in the Miles books, particularly in Diplomatic Immunity.
Events and places in that book can be better understood if you have read Falling Free, but it is absolutely not necessary to do so. This book can be read on its own without the others, or the others without this one.
I give this book 4 stars because - even though the story is more simple than later novels, and things go a bit too easy (comparatively) - Lois McMaster Bujold once again mixes SF with moral questions and dilemmas in a pleasant way. What to do with a bio engineered race that their creators own, but are conscious. Being humans, it might be easy, but what if they are stranger still? What if they potentially form a threat to the human race? These questions are not answered, but cause different reactions in the various actors in the story.
Particularly interesting it becomes if the morality shifts or people overstep a moral boundary. What would you do?
Grover Gardner is one of the best readers and shows it here once more.
I have been reading the full Vorkosigan series from the very first book, and have taken my time. Each of the books are fun, witty and adventurous; and by reading them in order, you fully understand the world that LMBujold is building. Each book is thus a joy to read and I liked them.
However, from Memory and then Komarr and now A Civil Campaign (ACC), Bujold gives something extra: tension! First the tension within Miles about his own identity, and next the tension in his relationship with the woman he loves but does not dare to court directly.
As far as I am concerned, both Komarr and ACC are primarily about Miles' love for Ekatarin, a love that she proves herself more than worthy for (and who would expect anything less). The adventure story in ACC was, imho, thrown in as a backstory. Let alone the story of Mark and the butter bugs, which was mostly diversion.
What makes this book better than others is that it contains very wise lessons about the nature of relationships. For example that wanting to give the person you love anything she needs, might not be the best for her/him. I also liked the lesson Aral gives desperate Miles about the difference between honor and reputation: reputation is what others think of you, honor is what you think about yourself. You need to concern yourself mostly with the second, because that is your soul. The relationship between Miles and Ekatarin grows as Miles is restraining himself to be a good partner, instead of trying to conquer Ekatarin. And she grows in her role as the future Lady Vorkosigan because of his attention and the world he offers. "If the person is defined by the friends he has, than Miles must be something special indeed" is an interesting way of looking at relations. One that kept me thinking for quite a while (and still does).
That Miles together with Ekatarin save the day can only be expected, and they truly deserve each other. I wish them all the love and happiness!
Memory is a true turning point in the Miles Vorkosigan series, in all aspects. The book cuts the first books, which are steeped in adventure and comic mishaps due to Miles' overconfidence and 'forward momentum' and the next books, which have a more mature and personal character, and Miles is more restraint (relatively :-)). Memory is the stepping stone in between, which is sometimes an odd combination of the two.
If you expect action, you will be mostly disappointed. If you wanted more Miles, you definitely get it, and maybe more than you wished for.
The storyline without giving much away: Miles is not fully recovered from his death when because of that he makes a horrible mistake. A mistake which is compounded with him trying to hide this mistake from his Imperial masters. When they do find out, Miles has got to re-invent himself. He does find his identity by doing what he does best: helping his dearest friends by pushing on where others would give up. By following up on hunches and thinking through its logical causes and consequences. This story gives you more of the familiar people in the background, like Illyan, lady Alice Vorpatril and to a lesser extent, Ivan and Gregor. And that is a good thing.
Well worth the read for a more mature audience.
Yes, again and again! Because of the wonderful conversations and the way the actors play with words. Alice is a bit silly, but there are so many weird and funny characters that I never knew were invented by Lewis Carroll, it is simply fantastic fun!
The conversations and events, and the way they are acted by the cast. Very entertaining!
Not only David and Jo, but the audiobook has a full cast that brings the story completely to life. I even started to talk like them myself as I got totally into the story. "Off with his head!!"
Yes and no. Yes because of the fun, but sometimes it gets a bit tiring to listen to all the different voices. In two or three sittings however, very good indeed!
Apparently, this book is also a criticism of Victorian cultural norms. That may be, but I did not read so much in this. That might be my ignorance in the matter. It does not detract from the wonderful story though....:-)
It is a pretty good book particularly for its content: the tribunal that judged the 23 war criminals of the Nazi era. I was not familiar with the background and that is interesting
There are no characters, unless you call the war criminals 'characters'. That would be too much honor for them.
The narrators read the transcripts of the radio transmissions of American Forces Radio of 1945 and 1946, and provide a very good feel for the mood and sentiments of the day. It is clear that there being a War Crimes Tribunal was not as likely as it might seem today
This book is not good for a movie, but a documentary would be fine outlining the sentiments of the day: "kill those f*ing basterds!"
The reading is good and the interview with an aged Harold Burson at the end is a fitting and welcome addition to the report. However, the 'report' stops after the trial of the first 3 to 5 criminals and does not return to the trial. I would have enjoyed the book more if it would have returned at the final stages of the trial with the sentences of the criminals and their arguments. That would have rounded it off. But maybe those radio transcripts were no longer available...
Once in a while I buy a book because I have a credit, not because I have a desire to read it. So this book stayed on my shelf for more than a year. And lucky me! If I would have started it earlier, I would have been hooked to the series much earlier and would have read all 16 of them in the past months! And had read no other books...
This is the start of the Vorkosigan series, and together with its successor Barrayar outlines the details of how Miles' parents met and came together. I will not spoil anything by saying this. The story is believable and entertaining at the same time. Cordelia and Aral are slowly showing their own character in the various actions that fill this first volume. And some other characters are introduced which become more important in the next episode. Although I rate Barrayar a bit higher due to suspense and story, Shards of Honor does not disappoint and it is a worthwhile introduction to the series.
If you don't like this book, than you can skip the rest too.
By the way, the start of the story of Miles Vorkosigan himself is with 'The Warrior's Apprentice'. Some reviewers feel it is better to start with that one.
Grover Gardner is great as always.
Your inner fish, what a great book this is!! Neil Shubin is a professor of paleontology, the study of old bones. He has a particular expertise in fish, that's the reason for the title.
But he could have chosen any animal in the heritage line of mankind to make his point, as long as it was sufficiently far in the past (say 300 million years).
The gist of the book: evolution does not create entirely new beings that better fit the environment, but rather, repurposes creatures for a changing environment. Evolution in this sense can be compared to a house which has been renovated many times, in which bedrooms become bathrooms but still retain the old plumbing. Doors are used as windows and floors might get strengthened over time, but the basic layout cannot change much. This has benefits (build on what works in the past), but also drawbacks. The main one being that you cannot start anew and throw away unnecessary complexity. Humans are very complex, but some of it is just a burden. For example, the way our nerves twist and turn through the human body is the result of nerve-ends (sensory, muscular or organs) that were in a different place in our ancient ancestor beings. With a more direct route from brain to nerve-ending.
Shubin explains how certain parts of our body have developed through the main evolutionary steps. Our bone structure, or eyes and ears, our brains itself. And proofs that indeed, we have a fish inside us.
Just an idea of the kind of evolutionary routes which the book describes:
- the first hard body parts that developed were teeth. And the first skull is nothing more than a lot of teeth. Re-use what you have and what works
- ancient meat eaters (sharks) have wide jaws, levered through extra bones in the jaw. These extra bones have mutated over time to the ear, in which certain elements have 2 and humans have 3 bones (hammer, anvil, and another one). The animals with 2 ear bones have an extra jaw bone. In this way, all (I guess) skeletal creatures have a similar basic structure. Same with eyes, where the basic sensor is identical for all 'seeing' creatures.
This is how evolution re-uses elements of what worked before.
Shubin is also a good storyteller, so the book is not a dry telling of the facts. I will definitely try Shubin's other book which goes back even further in time.
So, what kind of book is this actually? It is part biography, part history, part science and part fun stories about the weird characters in the ultra running-scene. A short outline of each of the parts of the book:
1. biography: the search of Chris McDougall for how to run injury free, finally culminating in his participation in a 50 mile ultra-marathon in the Copper Canyons with the best racers in the world.
2. history: how running developed and what it has meant for human beings over time. Also the recent history of running (Nike) and ultra-running. This is really fun stuff, even if you don't like to run yourself. You feel yourself in the excitement of these extreme races that last sometimes more than a day in deserts, over icy mountains and through rugged forests.
3. science: running causes an amazing amount of injuries, where many people believe it to be healthy. It seems modern runners entertain the entirely wrong running style/method. This sounds strangely true, and other science books confirm this hypothesis.
4. story: there are about 10 great characters in the book, which are described vividly although almost too fantastic to be true. The main ones are Micah True (Caballo Blanco), Scott Jurek (the greatest ultra-marathoner ever) and the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico.
Although McDougall has a tendency to exaggerate, the story develops at a good pace and it has both riveting sub-stories as well as many nuggets of knowledge related to running. The most perplexing the one about persistence hunting: the ability of humans to hunt prey by running after them until they die of a stroke. Apparently, this is the very first means of hunting mankind employed, only later abandoned for easier/faster methods.
I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who knows someone that likes to run, so can empathize a bit with the sport. You don't have to like it yourself, this book will not turn you into a runner (I am still not), but you certainly get a better feel of the thrill that people feel with running long distance and particularly trail and ultras.
I am listening to the Vorkosigan books in order, as many recommend. So this is my second one, after Shards of Honor. I enjoyed the first book, and like the second one even more.
While listening to this book on my way to work and back home, I often find myself drive slower or even stay parked in the driveway to hear how the story develops. Particularly the latter part of this book (I won't spoil anything) keeps you on the edge of your seat as the pace picks up and tension mounts to the climax. And then you are still left wondering what happened to certain crucial characters in the book.
So, the book has plenty of action. Fine and well worth reading for that. Where it exceeds a normal action book is the depth of its characters: Aral, Cordelia and to a lesser extent Piotr, Bothari, Kou and Drou can be understood and up to a point empathise with. The star of course is Cordelia, who almost always seem to keep her nerve and never rises to pure emotional reactions.
This is maybe the only drawback of this book, and that is where I give it 4 instead of 5 stars. Aral and Cordelia are a bit too perfect for me. Sure, they get mad, and make emotional decisions. But they seem to never be overwhelmed, or too upset to think clearly, even when the world around them is in total chaos. This makes the book a bit too predictable at critical times, because you feel what the right decision would be (for A or C) and that is also what they do in the story.
Nonetheless, thoroughly enjoyable for readers of soft SF (no robots or aliens) who are also interested in character development.
Grover Gardner is a fine reader.
Og Mandino writes a biblical story which is portrayed as a sales book. Or the other way around, I am not quite sure. Anyway, the story is about how the best Salesman in the world around the year 33 AD came by his extraordinary wealth. Apparently, this is due to 10 scrolls with eternal wisdom on it, like do your best every day, live as if this day is the last of your life, love everyone around you, act act act, etc. All good as such, but not new (maybe at the time) and owing homage to Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie.
But the story is very slow and although the book is short, I felt it dragged on a bit. Also due to the repetition within the scrolls. Mandino says you should do one scroll every week/few weeks and I think he might be right. In one go, it is boring.
That in the end it is the apostle Peter who receives the scrolls was a bit too much for me.
Now, the book is not all bad and outdated. Certain scrolls give a fresh perspective on how to behave in life as well as in sales situations. For that, I give it 3 stars. For the limited price and time, it has enough value.
The reading of Og Mandino takes some getting used to, he has quite a strong accent.
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