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Book Reviews, Analysis & Possible Spoilers

Fan of Sci Fi, Literature, History, Business/Economics, Philosophy and writing. My readings keep migrating away from the overview and into the technical.

Quick reaction to all three of the Liberation Trilogy

The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 - Rick Atkinson

A quick note on Atkinson's style - very well written, with a surprising number of words I needed to look up in a dictionary. He has obviously read deeply, and incorporates the analysis of others into his work. In particular, I noticed Ambrose's views on Eisenhower appearing, with credit given. Perhaps slightly weak on the tactics, though not the strategies, but very comprehensive.


Having never read up on WWII before, I was amazed at the overall levels of incompetence and waste, both in terms of materiel and lives. Perhaps at the beginning it was understandable, but the learning curve was far flatter than we should have expected. We seem to have overwhelmed the Nazis with more of everything. It makes me wonder what would have been with more efficiency. And to go along with that thought, what would have been if we hadn't fought with the British & French, and instead coordinated fronts like we did with the Soviets. Churchill comes across as much more of a whiner & manipulator that I expected, the Jenkins biography has moved up my to read list as a result. All three are worth the re-read later on, though first I would like to learn more about infantry & artillery tactics.

Quick reaction to Three Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem - Cixin Liu, Luke Daniels

Pretty standard Sci Fi: interesting premise and science contained within a poor narrative structure. The dialogue was mostly exposition throughout, though the book did pick up later on. Narration didn't help, a few of the character voices seemed comical and distracting. Not sure if I will read/listen to the next two, based on ploting, dialogue & characters no, but I am curious enough about the premise that I might take another chance. All in all, pretty standard Sci Fi.


Listened to the audible version after hearing that this is nominated for a Nebula award.

Quick reaction/thoughts on Devil in the Grove plus personal note

Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America (Audio) - Gilbert King

As this was a subject I knew very little about, this was very informative, both from a objective and subjective, emotive standpoint. However the book lacked focus. Mostly the book was about the Groveland boys, but sometimes it was about Thurgood Marshall, who was only partially involved in the case, sometimes it was about the workings of the NAACP, sometimes about the eventual Brown v Board of Education rulings. The narrative often jumped back and forth in a way that could be slightly distracting to listeners of the audio book.


On a personal note, this was a good follow up to The Bluest Eye and will segue into the America in the King Years trilogy I hope to get to later this year.

Quick reaction/thoughts on 2312

2312 - Kim Stanley Robinson

As great as the world building is, and as much as it, maybe inadvertently, seems to continue from the Mars trilogy, the story is flat and Swan is unlikable. Unlike Mars, which worked as a future history, this seemed to be more of a mystery, a mystery that kept getting sidetracked and one that the main character didn't always seem to care about. I have heard others describe this as an important book, which I won't dispute. Robinson has previously written dire warnings about environmental catastrophe that were far more readable than this. 

A few favorite passages from "Mason & Dixon"

   "This one's not rising,- 'deed, 'tis gone below the Line,-"

   " 'Tis the Lens. Ev'rything in the image we see is inverted."

   "The Sky, turn'd upside down? Wondrous! You are allow'd to do this?"

   "We're paid to do this," declares Dixon.

   "Kings pay us to do this," adds Mason.

p 332-3


   They are examin'd skeptickally.  "Not from the Press, are you?"

   " 'Pon my Word," cry both Surveyors at once.

   "Drummers of some kind's my guess," puts in a Countryman, his Rifle at his Side, "am I right, Gents?"

   "What'll we say?" mutters Mason urgently to Dixon.

   "Oh, do allow me," says Dixon to Mason.  Adverting to the Room, "Why aye, Right as a Right Angle, we're out here to ruffle up some business with any who many be in need of Surveying, London-Style,- Astronomickally precise, optickally up-to-the-Minute, surprisingly cheap.  The Behavior of the Stars is the most perfect Motion there is, and we know how to read it all, just as you'd read a Clock-Face.  We have Lenses that never lie, and Micrometers fine enough to subtend the Width of a Hair upon a Martian's Eye-ball.  This looks like a bustling Town, plenty of activity in the Land-Trades, where think yese'd be a good place to start?" with an amiability that Mason recognizes as peculiarly Quaker,- Friendly Business.



   Mason squints thoughtfully, Dixon shifts his Hat about till presently nodding, "Why aye, thah's it,- the Lad with the mechanickal Duck...?"

   "Too true, alas.  A Mechanician of blinding and world-rattling Genius, Gentlemen, yet posterity will know him because of the Duck alone,- they are already coupl'd as inextricably as...Mason and Dixon? Hawhawhawnnh.  The Man Voltaire call'd a Prometheus,- to be remember'd only for having trespass'd so ingeniously outside the borders of Taste, as to have provided his Automaton a Digestionary Process, whose end result could not be distinguish'd from that found in Nature."

   "A mechanickal Duck that shits?  To whom can it matter," Mr Whitpot, having remov'd his Wig, is irritably kneading it like a small Loaf, "- who besides a farmer would even recognize Duck Waste, however compulsively accurate?



   "Oh, and more.- "Twas as if this Metropolis of British Reason had been abandon'd to the Occupancy of all that Reason would deny.  Malevolent shapes flowing in the Streets.  Lanthorns spontaneously going out.  Men roaring, as if chang'd to Beasts in the Dark.  A Carnival of Fear. Shall I admit it? I thrill'd.  I felt as if I ran fast enough, I would gain altitude, and fly, I would become one of them.  I could hide beneath Eaves as well as any.  I could creep in the Shadows.  I could belong to the D------l, - anything, inside this Vortex, was possible.  I could shriek inside Churches. I could smash ev'ry Window in a Street. Make a Druidick Bonfire of the Bodleian.  At some point, however, without Human prey, the Evil Appetite must fail, and I became merely Melancholy again."




Examples of Chandler's writing style

The High Window - Raymond Chandler

I enjoy reading Raymond Chandler for his witticisms and the way he puts words together. For example:


P45 “A long-limbed languorous type of showgirl blond lay at her ease in one of the chairs, with her feet raised on a padded rest and a tall misted glass at her elbow, near a silver ice bucket and a Scotch bottle. She looked at us lazily as we came over the grass. From thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class. Form ten feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from thirty feet away.”


P98 “The ringing bell had a sinister sound, for no reason of itself, but because of the ears to which it rang”


P103 “He looked up, surprised. The girls at the pinball machine looked at me, surprised. I went over and looked at myself in the mirror behind the counter. I looked surprised.”


P116 “I looked at Spanger. He was leaning forward so far he was almost about out of his chair. He looked as if he was going to jump. I couldn’t think of any reason why he should jump, so I thought he must be excited. I looked back at Breeze. He was about as excited as a hole in the wall.”


P140 “The man at the window turned around and showed me that he was going on fifty and had soft ash gray hair and plenty of it, and a heavy handsome face with nothing unusual about it except a short puckered scar on his left cheek that had almost the effect of a deep dimple. I remembered the dimple. I would have forgotten the man.


P258 “I said roughly:  “Her not giving you much salary is a characteristic touch and your owing her more than you can ever repay is more truth than poetry. It would take the Yankee outfield with two bats each to give her what she has coming from you. However, that is unimportant now.”

Trying to write like Saramago to appreciate him more

The Double - José Saramago, Margaret Jull Costa

A journey into a Saramago novel is a unique experience, In what way, might I ask, Well for one he eschews the modern, and ancient, conventions of separating out dialogue into new paragraphs, That could be a bit confusing, There is more, he also eschews the use of quotation marks, which can make it hard to know who is speaking at any given time, Eschews isn’t a word used in everyday conversations, is it, Neither is a lot of the language that Saramago uses, But he didn’t write in English, No, he wrote in Portuguese and a professional translator made it available for English speakers, So Saramago might not have used words like eschew then, We can’t imagine that a translator would willingly change the character and feel of a manuscript, But they could, It is possible, but they might be a fan of the author and want to honor the work, True, but they could also just be doing it for the money and want to finish early and do something else, it is said that the grass is often greener, But if this translator, who is looking longingly towards the other side, doesn’t do a good job, they won’t receive future commissions, which would make the grass on the other side brown, Yes, I suppose so, I retract my earlier questioning of the translator’s motives, please continue with your review, Sure, and I don’t mind these interruptions, I don’t want to be a nuisance, You aren’t, questions should always be asked, how else do we learn, As long as I am not bothering you, Not to worry, Saramago also, and I will refrain from using the word eschews here for your benefit, Thank you, Forgoes a lot of punctuation that the vast majority of other authors would be mortified to leave out, he allows his sentences to go on for a country mile, so to speak, So he is a stylist, what about his plots, I, personally, like his plots, let’s take The Double as our guinea pig, Odd choice of words again, are we going to dissect the plot,  Saramago looks at the world differently from you and I and his choice of language, that the translator brings to us, reflects that, and yes, we will dive into the plot, but just a little as I don’t want to give anything away for anyone who has made it this far into my review and would like to read this novel,  but the basic premise of the book is that a seemingly quiet life is disrupted when our innocuous protagonist, or hero if that is the way you prefer to look at literature, finds a duplicate of himself, which is quite shocking, I can imagine, I would be quite shocked myself, And sets out to find out who he is, and of course the plot develops further, more drama ensues, new revelations occur, and all else that is expected of a good plot occurs, with the big climax at the end, and all happens in really long sentences, It sounds like he can be hard to read, I used to think that, But now you don’t, No, once I got used to his style, I find it quite natural, really, yes, there is a beauty in his flow that I really enjoy, it allows Saramago to go around, over and through all the aspects of his novel, To what end, I don’t know if there has to be an end, not as in the final stage of life, but rather as in a purpose, I understand the difference, please continue, It gives the author a chance to look at everything from all standpoints, which provides a lot of perspective, which I enjoy, So do I, nice review, Thanks, but I think you might be slightly biased.


Originally posted on Goodreads