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Natalie

Insect of Terror
Staff member
Forostar said:
You already did and I'm very glad about it. That's why I'm reading it. :)

Haha, excellent.

@ GK: Great minds think alike eh? Nah, joke, but seriously that's exactly what I thought about the book, running around the desert and talking about gom jerrah just wasn't gripping enough for me.
 

Raven

Ancient Mariner
Natalie said:
Haha, excellent.

@ GK: Great minds think alike eh? Nah, joke, but seriously that's exactly what I thought about the book, running around the desert and talking about gom jerrah just wasn't gripping enough for me.

In that case, I strongly recommend that you don't read any of the other books...as much as I love the first novel, I gave up by Children of Dune.

Perhaps the rest of the series is better, but given that Herbert has to resort to the tried-and-tested method of enticing readers by using sex in the final novel (apparently, a cult of sexual dominatrices?), I think he peaked with the first novel.  I could be wrong, but Children of Dune bored me so much that I doubt I'll ever finish the series in consecutive order.
 

Onhell

Infinite Dreamer
FINALLY finished reading El Crimen del Padre Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro). i say finally, because I started said title about eight months ago. I decided to read it after watching the movie years earlier. It is a critic on the catholic church. The writing style is thick, clearly baroque  (Romantic I believe is the label used for literature), with detailed descriptions and little dialog. It is the story of a young priest who was forced into the priesthood by his legal guardian at a young age upon her death. He had no vocation and fancied women quite a bit. After being ordained he is sent to a small town where he falls in love with a young woman with whom he begins a rather torrid and tragic affair. The book does not hold back and critizes the abuse of power by the clergy who ironically bemoan the demise of the Inquisition. Even with the abscence of said institution they are still able to destroy careers (like the girl's boyfriend's), rule towns and literally get away with murder. The character of Amaro in the book is more a shade of grey which makes him a more tragic figure than the one in the movie who starts out a saint and ends up a monster.  Really good book. 
 

Deano

Ancient Mariner
I am usually into more in depth books but picked up The Ruins by Scott Smith for free and gave it a chance. It is the author's second book and I already want to go out and get his other one. It is a very fast read; I read the whole thing in 2 days which is blistering for me (~ 350 pages).

It is a story of a group of tourists down for a vacation in Cancun. They befriend a fellow German tourist whose brother has gone missing with a female archeologist. The 2 do leave a map, so they decide to go out and look for them at the ruins site. Despite warnings by a cab driver and an entire Mayan village, they decide to go deeper into the jungle to complete their quest. They arrive at the site which is a hill covered in lush foliage with beautiful red flowers (and a suspicious lack of any other animal, vegetable or insect life). Once on the hill, the group is not allowed to leave; the aforementioned Mayans do not want them bringing anything back off of that site and hold them there with bows and arrows and rifles. The bulk of the book is about the group's struggle with the environment, lack of supplies, ineptitude and their mysterious companion on the hill.

Enough said. It's a great, quick and satisfying read that I highly recommend.
 

Natalie

Insect of Terror
Staff member
Just finished reading John Locke's A Letter Concerning Tolerance. A short, albeit intricate read, that needs some time to process but essentially isn't hard to read. Very interesting, I recommend it for everyone out there who takes an interest in where our modern ideas of democracy come from. The best part about it is how Locke advocates every person's right to practice their own religion regardless of the state, just not Catholicism :p.  Of course, the letter must be read in the context of Locke's times.
 

Onhell

Infinite Dreamer
Natalie said:
The best part about it is how Locke advocates every person's right to practice their own religion regardless of the state, just not Catholicism :p.  Of course, the letter must be read in the context of Locke's times.

So that's where our ideas of double standards come from too :p
 

Onhell

Infinite Dreamer
Just finished reading The Uncertain Trumpet by Andrew Greeley. IT was a very easy and interesting read about the Priest in modern America. Granted it was written in 1968 in support of the Second Vatican Council and it was written by a priest for priests. It really tackles the issue of transition and what one must keep in mind if the church is to remain relevant in the modern world. It is weird how even though it is roughly 40 years old, its ideas are still VERY pertinent, specially considering the outbursts of scandals predominantly in the United States since 2000. A very good read, don't really recommend it as it isn't meant for a wide audience.
 

Kynisk Sokol

Ancient Mariner
So, recently I read Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis, author of the infamous American Psycho. True to his style, this novel is a black comedy in the same vein of his previous works, which satirise the vacuous, aimless lifstyles of the yuppie generation. In Glamorama, the yuppie 80s of New York,  which was the setting of the aforementioned American Psycho is exchanged for the 90s although in the same locale. The 'story', for lack of a better term revolves around a hopelessly vain, arrogant and shallow (well...practically all his characters are like that so it's a bit redundant to give a character description, no matter how brief) model by the name of Victor Ward as he goes through complications of opening up his own uber-hip nightclub, while cheating on his girlfriend, leading a rather disorganised rock band, taking in copious amounts of drugs and being what a character in an Ellis novel should be. After meandering in a simultaneously purposeful and purposeless manner, the novel takes a 180 turn, when Victor is asked by a diplomat named Fred Palakon to go to London to search for one of Victor's ex-girlfriends, who has gone missing. Quickly, the novel takes a paranoid turn into a rather surreal work, not willing to describe whether the current scenes are fantasy or reality. Of course, in true surrealistic manner, Victor gets mixed up with a group of terrorists...who happen to be models as well. Yep...I'll leave it at that. As with any of his work, it contains the trademark dark, biting humour, the excess labelling and celebrity name-dropping (to the point where some critics have called it a list of commericals and famous names) and unflinching depictions of violence (although not on the same level as American Psycho, there are a few). And of course, you'll probably end up worshipping it or considering it a waste of your time...up to you really.

I also read The Cult of The Amatuer by Andrew Keen, a Silicon Valley insider and critic of the Web 2.0 generation. His argument is that the likes of Wikipedia, YouTube and MySpace (along with blogs and the like) are undermining professional talent, expertise and are creating a "digital forest of mediocrity" as he describes in the book. While it may have the blogosphere up in arms, with them labelling Keen as an elitist (as if there's anything wrong with that), it certainly is refreshing to see a bit of criticism of teh intrawebs, especially with another term of his called "digital narcissism", which describes the MySpace generation perfectly. Yeah, I'm not describing it very well at all since I'm tired. Check out his site, there are also some great video links and hilarious comments left by disgruntled MySpaz peasants.
 

LooseCannon

Enterprise-class aircraft carrier
Staff member
I just finished Fifteen Days by Christie Blatchford.

Blatchford is a journalist who has spent many months embedded with the Canadian Forces currently deployed in Afghanistan.  Fifteen Days is a collection of individual stories, recollections, and personal tales surrounding dead and wounded Canadian soldiers.  Each chapter details one day in particular, as well as the lives and service of the soldiers slain on that day.

This is one of the hardest books I have read in a long time.  Blatchford was present for some of the incidents, whereas others are recounted through soldiers she established strong rapports with - Maj. Bill Fletcher & Lt. Col. Ian Hope, PPCLI in particular, with some regular infantrymen like Sgt Pat Tower (who was the first recipient of the Star of Military Valour, Canada's second highest decoration for bravery under fire) and Willy MacDonald.

The book speaks about many deceased Canadian soldiers, but the ones who stand out in my mind are Capt. Nichola Goddard and Regimental Sergeant Major Bob Giraude.  Both soldiers represent tragic "firsts" - Capt. Goddard was the first Canadian woman to be killed while deployed on a combat mission, and RSM Giraude was the first Canadian RSM killed in combat since World War I.  Blatchford had interviews with many different people from these unfortunate souls' lives - husbands, wives, fathers and mothers, former commanders and fellow troopers who, in some sad cases, watched their friends die of their wounds - or had to pick up the pieces to put them into body bags.

Yet the book is, in its own way, inspiring.  Blatchford's interviews include time spent with Brigadier-General Dave Fraser, who was the NATO commander in the south of Afghanistan for 9 months, as well as the occasional interview with Rick Hillier, Canadian Chief of Defense Staff.  Usually these stories from the "top" are only as needed to set the scene for the terribly personal tales Blatchford tells us, though occasionally, she relates an anecdote - like how Hillier pulled strings to allow veteran who lost his eye in Afghanistan to enroll in officer training at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, or how Gen. Hillier loaned his wedding band to a decorated soldier who wanted to propose to his girlfriend, but forgot to bring the ring to Ottawa.

I shed tears during this book.  Many times.  Once was when I realized that Nichola Goddard passed through my current hometown of Antigonish, graduating from high school here just four months before I came to town.  There are various quotes and stories about the dead and the living that brought tears to my eyes - Bill Fletcher standing at attention at a friend's "ramp ceremony" (wherein caskets are loaded onto airplanes to be brought home), despite having had his legs badly wounded by shrapnel - the story of an 84 year old veteran showing a picture of his brother to a grieving mother and father in a small Nova Scotia town, telling them that his brother who died in the Second World War was buried in France and they were lucky to have their son come home so they could properly grieve - a tale told by Maj. Anne Reiffenstein about Nichola Goddard's reasons for joining the Forces; Reiffenstein had joined because no woman ever had become a combat officer, while Goddard did it because it was the thing to do if you wanted to serve, and that gender wasn't a barrier.

You read about Ian Hope explaining why he created the multinational Task Force Orion, spearheaded by the PPCLI, and he explains it like this: "[It was] a new organization unbounded by any narrow norms or attitudes of a minority group.  All military occupations, all ranks, all services, and both genders - and any sexual orientation - were automatically part..."  A small thing, but it was a unit purpose-built to find camraderie in one of the world's most hostile locations.  And then there's the tale of the family of RSM Giraude - a son who volunteered to deploy after his father's death, a wife who joined the Forces while he was deployed, and a daughter who signed up after her father was killed.

For me, as a member of a military family, there are places that are touching and scary.  You never know when the ship leaves, or the airplane flies away, or the truck drives off if those loved ones inside are coming back.  But you know they're going for a reason - because it's a job, but because there's a purpose.  Good or bad is up to the voters to decide, but it takes someone of strength and honour to put their lives on the line in the name of their country.  The best of my country is being spent in Afghanistan to give the people there a chance - convincing them that this chance is the real deal, trying to help them turn around a country rent by warlords and superpowers, religion and drug politics - being spent to try and keep down the forces that smote a heavy blow on an ally.  It is touching to see that these families, these friends, still hold the torch high, despite the terrible cost.
 

Kynisk Sokol

Ancient Mariner
This week, I had finished reading The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in The Dark by Carl Sagan, Professor of Astronomy and Space Science at Cornell University. First published in 1996, it lambasts and attacks common superstitions such as alien abductions, New Age beliefs and other faith-healing fluffy nonsense and also laments and questions the fear of science received from the general public and its unpopularity as an academic practise. Written in a very lively style with plenty of humourous metaphors and analogies, I'd recommend it to someone who is either curious of science or needs to rethink their attitude towards it.
 

Onhell

Infinite Dreamer
This past weekend I finished The Neverending Story and I found it an incredible read. Very easy read considering it is aimed at children, but like Dr. Seuss or Don Quixote, it seems to be a book that the older the get the more things you'll find in it. Like a doubt a child will understand what Xayide meant by her will is able to control those who are empty... I found it very clever how Ende Begins each chapter with a letter of the alphabet and how well thought out the book was... sometimes they seem to simply flow well, this one you can tell not only flows well, but it was planned meticulously. I found a lot of religious (Christian) symbolism throughout the book as well as deeper universal wisdom. I highly recommend it, very easy, very enjoyable and a perfect balance of food for thought and a good entertaining adventure.
 

Forostar

Ancient Mariner
Dutch readers have chosen the best foreign book of all time. The top 10:

1. J.R.R. Tolkien - Lord of the Rings
2. Marianne Fredriksson - Anna, Hanna and Johanna
3. Lev Tolstoj: War and Piece

Here the other 7 titles (in Dutch):

4. Gabriel García Márquez: Honderd jaar eenzaamheid (1967)
5. Louis-Ferdinand Céline: Reis naar het einde van de nacht (1932)
6. Jane Austen: Trots en vooroordeel (1813)
7. Annie Proulx: Scheepsberichten (1993)
8. George Orwell: 1984 (1949)
9. Fjodor Dostojevski: De broers Karamazov (1880)
10. Umberto Eco: De Naam van de Roos (1981)
 

Wästed The Great

Minister Of Chicks, Metal&Beer; Cool & Froody Dude
Staff member
I just finished "Variable Star", co-written by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson.  The most interesting thing about this book is that Heinlein died 20 years ago, and the book was published in 2006.  Heinlein was my favorite author of all time, and he left his last work on the shelves in 1987.  About 6-8 years ago, an old manuscript was found, it was rough, but was the last published work solely by him.  The outline and a few pages of this current book, along with some index cards, were found in his estate early this century.  Spider Robinson routinely references Heinlein in many of his books, was a friend, and had been asked by the estate to 'flesh out' this outline to create a nove.  It was started by Heinlein in 1954 in Colorado Springs, and finished in 2005 on Bowen Island, BC. 

Long intro, but as a huge fan, it was like a new release of an album by your favorite dead rockstar.

The book was great, and in classic Heinlein fashion.  It starts somewhere in the 'near' future, and had a graduating high-school boy running away from the girl he loved, for a home among the stars.  She had suprised him by being someone different from who he thought she was, so he went on binge of drinking and drugging, ending up hundreds of miles away from home, and dead borke.  He is a 'genius sax player' and comes from a farming colony, so he gets onboard a starship heading on a 20 year voyage to a distant planet to set up a new colony.  In typical Heinlein mode, the main character is self centered, but eventually finds his way in life to become someone that everyone respects.  The Robinson parts are felt with all the references to music (which he regularly uses in his stories) and the harsher language (I don't think I have ever seen a profane word in a Heinlein story before).  There is a pretty startling conclusion to this book, and I was as happy at the last page as I was when I  saw it in print for the first time.

If you like classic sci-fi, like Heinlein, Orson Scott Card, or Isaac Asimov, you will probably like this.
 

Genghis Khan

Ancient Mariner
I've read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley few weeks ago, but didn't get around to posting.

In the future, individual thought is gone and everything is predetermined by directors at human hatcheries that plan each person's fate.  You're selected to be a caste depending on what society needs you to do and are given proper hormones and sensory stimuli to ensure you will like your future station in life.  The descriptions of the Brave New World are excellent, but the characters are hard to relate to.  Even the Savage who supposedly has the most amount of independent thought and morality is not all that relateable.  Huxley, himself, has remarked that he'd have written the novel a little differently if he was the kind to rewrite.  The Savage who rejects this modernism of full planning and zero independence forsees only two choices he can set out for himself.  He can blindly do as the rest of society, by doing mediocre work and popping 'happy pills' called soma to control negative emotions or he can become a recluse.  The problem is that the reader is not given a more reasonable third alternative.

It is still a great book and a warning about designing our future to the point of having no room for surprizes, errors or indulgences.

EDIT: Grammar.
 

Shadow

Deluxe Edition
Staff member
I recently read two books by Kurt Vonnegut; Bluebeard and Hocus Pocus. Both are fictional autobiographies of characters who did not have that much success in life.

Bluebeard is the story of Rabo Karabekian, an Armenian-American painter who in the book was a prominent figure in the development of abstract expressionism, the first specifically American art movement to gain worldwide influence. Due to a bad choice of working materials, Rabo's own paintings have literally fallen apart, but he retains the world's most valuable collection of abstract expressionist paintings, given to him by his friends before they became famous to settle little debts. Rabo now sits on his large Long Island property writing down memories of his childhood, his apprenticeship under a renowned illustrator who detested modern art, his adventures during the depression and the Second World War, his relationships to his fellow abstract expressionists and so on.

Hocus Pocus is a similarly structured story about a Vietnam veteran and college professor, who realizes he has killed exactly as many people as the number of women he has had sex with. After returning from the war, he teaches at a college for the uneducable, but is fired and instead becomes a teacher at a nearby prison, before it suffers a massive prison break. Presently he himself is an inmate, under suspicion of involvement in the breakout. He spends his time in the prison library writing about his life on scraps of paper lying around.

Neither story is told in chronological order, or indeed with any particular coherence. Instead, the stories unfold in a series of short passages describing the past or present event the fictional authors happened to be thinking about, with various thoughts and opinions thrown in here and there. Often when a writer tries things like that, it ends up muddled and incomprehensible, but thanks largely to his ever-present dark humour and satire Vonnegut manages to create two very vivid characters, surrounded by a rich supporting cast.

I'd say Hocus Pocus is the stronger of the two, although neither of them reach the level of The Sirens of Titan and Slaughterhouse-Five. If you've never read Vonnegut, you're probably better off starting elsewhere.
 

Kynisk Sokol

Ancient Mariner
So yeah, I'll just give a brief review over a few books I have been reading over the past few weeks:

Tomorrow's People: How 21st Century Technology Is Changing the Way We Think and Feel, by Baroness Susan Greenfield. Originally intended to be written as a dystopian/cyberpunk type novel, the author of The Private Life of the Brain decided to go back to the drawing board and write what is essentially a non-fiction version of Brave New World, or indeed, any dystopian/cyberpunk novel that would detail mankind's dehumanisation and regression into a passive, sensation-laden state through the omnipotence of technology. While I do generally agree with the author on these particular subjects (I find myself trying to avoid excess use of communication technology, television, internet etc. (LAWL EYERONEE) more and more lately), I can't help but wonder why I just didn't dig out my copy of Brave New World again (the novel, not album, smartass). Not to say I didn't find Greenfield to be a poor or inarticulate writer, in fact, I hope to search out The Private Life of The Brain sometime.

Daily Life of the Aztecs, by Jacques Soustelle. Although considered by some to be outdated (first published in 1955), former politician Soustelle nevertheless provides a very in-depth, literate and exquisite view of the (yes, you guessed it) Aztecs' lifestyles, customs, traditions and their famed ritual sacrifices. One particularly humorous part was their punishment for those who engaged in public drunkenness, often the offender would be strangled in public to be shown as an example to the young not to engage in drunken behaviour, if it were officials, they would be stripped of rank and title, although first time offenders would merely have their heads shaved and be humiliated in public. Okay, not really 'ha-ha' funny, but maybe bringing this over to Ireland might change things a bit (or maybe not). Anyways, I enjoyed this detailed account into Aztec history.

Is It Just Me Or Is Everything Shit? by Steve Lowe and Alan McArthur. Published in 2005, this hilariously scathing book attacks, well, everything in modern life, really, although it's really aimed for the British market. Whether it's Tony Blair, novelists writing about current issues, pubs selling shit art, Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation is about as indie as My Chemical Romance) loyalty cards, Mac junkies, interactive media, Trade Union leaders pretending to be hard or Alain de Botton, it's here. Along with The Cult of The Amateur, this is my new (not nu) bible, so yeah…and objects (not stuff).

Anyways, I’m leaving it at that, so that’ll be enough digital narcissism for one week. Worth checking out if you’ve got time and money to burn (or if you’re silly enough to believe some person who, for all you know, could be in the pay of a publishing company to promote certain books, you never know). Anyways, I’m off to buy a mainstream newspaper to irritate leftist bloggers.
 

Onhell

Infinite Dreamer
I just finished reading El Sueño de Inocencio: Ascenso y caída del Papa más poderoso de la hitoria (Innocent's Dream: The rise and fall fo the most powerful pope in history), a historical novel about Innocent III. I absolutely LOVED this book. As a Religious Studies Major I wrote several papers on the Fourth Lateran Council and it is no secret Innocent is one of my heroes. The author does a marvelous job of interweaving fiction and history or rather, unlike Umberto Eco, crystallizing history in a clear narrative. It tells the life of Lotario de Segni, an Italian noble in love with a heretic girl, who later becomes Cardinal and later Pope thanks to his family's influence in secular and religious politics (his uncle was pope Clement III and his nephew, Ugolino de Segni, later became pope Gregory IX). Another thing I loved about the book was the treatment given to other historical characters, specially those of St. Dominic and St. Francis. One as raving madman and the other as a sincere, humble and if not enlightened at least coherent young man respectively. In fact, Francis is the one that makes Innocent rethink what he has done, and while too late, comes to the realization he has done more harm than good and wants to undo the evils he has brought forth, but it is too late as he is poisoned by those who's interests are being threatened by such actions. Great read, if you can find it in English pick it up.
 

Deano

Ancient Mariner
I just picked up Mars by Ben Bova. I will give a definitive review upon completion but I am about 50 pages into it thus far and am already impressed with the character development. This novel is touted as a scientifically accurate book and could be construed as a peek into what an actual future manned mission to Mars may look like. We'll see.
 
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