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Posts Tagged ‘Strong to High Book Recommendation’

A Classical Primer” (2012©)  —  book review
This review is for the book: “A Classical Primer: Ancient Knowledge For Modern Minds“, written by Dan Crompton.  Crompton studied Classics and Linguistics while attending Cambridge in England.  This book (or an earlier version) seems to be part of a series of books loosely titled:  “I Used to Know That .. Book Series“.  This book is #19 of #28.  I guess they are things you should have been taught in grammar or high school and either you weren’t paying attention or you’ve dumped the extraneous information from you primary memory core.  For me, it’s probably a bit of both.
Apparently, a “classic” (in western sensibilities) has to do with either Greek or Roman history.  The first chapter is the longest and to me the least interesting.  The book is 194 pages and the first 58 are specifically about the languages – letters, words, cases, tenses, prefixes and suffixes – and how much of this is carried forward today into English (American and British).  Like I said, mostly not particularly interesting…
After that, come chapters on history, literature (Greek, then Roman), philosophy, architecture and finally science / technology.  The author is casual in tone and entertaining.  I felt I was actually getting information which was interesting and (maybe) useful.  As an aside, I was watching a news clip today and they flashed by a building and I thought, “Wow! Ionic / Corinthian mixed columns!”  I never recognized the differences before, so seeing them never meant anything to me before.
As mentioned, this is a short (and small) book with relatively large print and, therefore, a very fast read.  Final recommendation:  Strong to highly.  If you know little to nothing about “Classics”, this book will be a useful and enjoyable introduction.  I don’t remember EVER getting taught ANY of this stuff in school (other than the geometry portion), but then I never went out of my way to delve into any of this stuff.  If it was taught, it certainly wasn’t emphasized.
Anyway, I find it interesting to get reminded how much I don’t know about the world (and history).  My greatest fear (well, one of them anyway) is that I might die uneducated.  Reading this “primer” type of book reminds me how far I have to go to avoid that fate, but the author taps you on the forehead in a fun way and I think that’s among the best ways of getting your eyes opened to the world around you.   Slowly, slowly…
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On This Day In:
2019 I Don’t Think We’ll Be Serving Them Cake
2018 New And Old
2017 Ever
2016 At The Center
2015 True Value In Life
2014 A Potential To Be Concerned
2013 Fine No More
2012 Have You Checked Your Height Lately?
2011 Are You Convinced?

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High Justice” (1974©) — book review
Today’s review is for an “old” science fiction collection of short stories written by Jerry Pournelle.  Most of the stories were originally published in “Analog: Science Fiction And Fact” magazine.  Analog has been around since the 1930’s and has published a whole lot of “pulp” SciFi over the years.
Pournelle (and his partner – in many other works – Larry Niven) is one of the “greats” of SciFi.  I have my standard of SciFi “demi-gods”: Robert Heinlein, Arthur Clark and Isaac Asimov.  Pournelle (and Niven) rate just below this level.  He is definitely amongst the historically significant writers in SciFi from the last century.
Pournelle is considered a “polymath”, that is, a person who is accomplished in more than one scientific / technical field.  After many years in the aerospace field, he changed career and concentrated on writing.  He created a number of SciFi (actually military / paramilitary SciFi) novel series which I’ve enjoyed over the years.  The series I have most enjoyed (of his) was his “John Christian Falkenberg” series.  I purchased this book thinking it might be a prequel to that series.  It isn’t.  Well, it kind of is, but not really.
(The Falkenberg series is a similar vein to the “Hammer’s Slammers” military SciFi series by David Drake which I also like.  But that’s for another post…)
Anyway, this set of stories is not “really” about military SciFi.  It’s more or less a precursor book to what has come to be know as Pournelle’s “CoDominium Future History” series.
Pournelle’s personal politics leans to what is known as “paleoconservative” and this is reflected in this anthology.  Basically, think Ayn Rand “lite”: government’s are welfare traps, society is going to hell in a hand-basket, corporations will save the world (if we get out of the way and let them), and, (of course) unions are bad.
Putting aside the politics, Pournelle has some insightful views of where the world is headed over the “next” 50 to 100 years – basically, where we are now.  Or, where we soon could be.  (Remember, these stories were written back in the 1970’s.)
The stories deal with clean power, corporate greed, political corruption, increasing food production, space based manufacturing (and asteroid mining), and rights and laws in space, in general.
So, are the stories any good?  Yes!  Once I finally got the hang of his theme, I quite enjoyed all of the stories.  Pournelle is considered a “hard” science SciFi writer. This means he goes into some detail about the science behind the technology discussed in each story.  If you lean more to the fantasy (“horror, dragons or magic”) SciFi, you may not care for his writing.  I found the technology being proposed (like using icebergs to get fresh drinking water) interesting.  They are definitely BIG engineering ideas which would take governments or very large corporations to fund.
Final recommendation: Strong to Highly recommended.  Not the “action” SciFi I normally prefer, but I enjoyed it and look forward to looking back at more of his future histories.
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On This Day In:
2018 True Measures
2017 Hoping For Tapes
In It Now
2016 On Viewing This Mudball
2015 It Takes A Village
2014 In God’s Eyes
2013 We Root For Ourselves
2012 Like A Shark
2011 Discernible Virtue

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Today’s reviews are of a movie I watched earlier in the week and a book I finished today…
Movie Review: Star Trek: Beyond (2016)
This is the third movie in the Star Trek reboot series which stars Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Bones/McCoy) and Simon Pegg (Scotty).  All the main characters are well played as all the actors seem to have settled into their on-going roles.  Sadly, I never saw this movie in its original release.  To be honest, I just never made time.  As good as a 50-inch screen may be from three feet away, it’s still not the same as having to use your peripheral vision to absorb the spectacle of the big screen theater experience.  But, then again, there is much to be said for a pause button, having your own kitchen / food / fridge, and a toilet ten steps away.
Is the movie original, any good, plot, action, does it make sense, etc.?   No, not really.  Yes, very enjoyable.  The plot is okay.  The action is reasonable, but I found the special effects to be only so-so.  Does it make sense?  Does it have to?  It’s Star Trek!  Okay.  Yes!  It makes sense (as long as you don’t try to think about it too hard).  The “best” Star Trek has always been a commentary on its current times, with a sub-textual message that we can get through this if we work together (aka “the future is hopeful”).  I would only say I’m getting tired of the Enterprise getting destroyed.  This is like the fifth time in fifteen movies.  Enough already!  We’ve seen this Fx get worked to death, now.  All in all, I’d say this was the best of the three reboots.  Highly recommended, particularly if you are a Trekkie (like me).
Book ReviewJack Reacher Series #2: Die Trying  (1998©)
This book is the second in the Jack Reacher series of “male / adventure / action” genre books which I enjoy reading.  The series is authored by Lee Child.  Although it is the second book in the series, it is actually the third book I’ve read.  I got out of sequence because I read the book which corresponds to the Tom Cruise movie which came out several years ago (2012).  I enjoyed the movie, so I read the book.  I enjoyed the book (#8 in the series), so I decided to go back and read the series in order.
In this book, Jack is kidnapped (with a female FBI agent) in Chicago and taken to a posse comitatus (aka right-wing crazies) encampment in Montana where he must foil an attempt to secede from the United States.  All in all, the book is pretty standard faire for this genre and for this series.  Having said that, you will either enjoy it or you won’t.  I did.  Again, nothing earth-shattering here, just a good action / adventure story.  Even though it’s over 500 pages, it’s a fast read.  Strong to highly recommended book recommendation.
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On This Day In:
2015 Tell Me…
2014 Live Forever (To Remember Me)
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2013 More Than Just Words
2012 Egotist, n.
2011 Good And Bad

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Jack Reacher Series #1: Killing Floor  —  book review
Every great book series has to start somewhere, and this is where the Jack Reacher series started…
Roughly two years ago, I reviewed the Tom Cruise movie: “Jack Reacher“.  I enjoyed the movie, found out it was based on a book series and put it down on my list of things to look into later.  Last month I finally got around to reading one of the novels in the series: (“The Enemy“).  That book was actually the eighth book in the series, but I decided to read it first because it was a prequel to his leaving the military and starting out his civilian career.  I was hoping to jump into the series with background from before the series.  As it turns out, this was probably a great idea.
The book I just finished: “Killing Floor” (1997©) written by Lee Child, is the first in the series and begins shortly after Reacher has left the Army and more or less relates the story of his becoming a Paladin (of sorts).  Although Reacher considers himself to be a fairly amoral person who doesn’t want to get involved with other people’s problems, in the end (actually, very early in each story) we see that, in fact, he chooses sides, and it’s usually for “right” as he understands it or for whomever he judges to be the underdog in any given situation.
Without giving too much of the book away, the death of someone close leads to the “decision” to help.  There are “very bad” bad guys.  There is murder.  There is money (the root of all evil).   There is an indifferent local populace and, of course, the beautiful damsel and the righteous hero.  There are twenty books in the series, so the hero always survives (ho-hum).
If I have one complaint (comment), it is the typical criminal mystery / drama / action story tendency to have the hero “intuitively” solve the mystery around 90% of the way through the book and then not tell us what (or how) he figured out the answer.  Instead, the hero spends the remainder of the book unravelling the proof for us so everyone else in the story (and us) are left to recognize how smart Reacher is.  Despite this minor fault, the movie and the two books I’ve read have all been very entertaining.  Final recommendation: strong to high.  A fast read with a good mystery, action, non-graphic sex and the bad guys get their just desserts in the end.  One other side comment, I now understand (and agree with) the folks who complained about Tom Cruise playing Reacher in the movie.  Cruise gets away with the role (adequately if you’ve not read any of the books), but he is NOT Jack Reacher.
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On This Day In:
2015 Avengers Assemble II
But If I Had To Perish Twice…
2014 Turning Pages
2013 We Are All Accountable
2012 American Sign Language
2011 Happy Disproof
2010 Book Review – Managing Your Government Career

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The Enemy (2004©)  —  book review
This book is #8 in the Jack Reacher series written by Lee Child.  Yes, I admit it.  I’m coming late to the party…  (More on this later.)
A couple of years ago, I borrowed the movie “Jack Reacher” from my brother (review here).  I enjoyed the movie so much I actually watched it several times in the weeks following and then looked up the character on Wikipedia.  There I “discovered” the movie was based on a series of books by Lee Child.  This book is the eighth book in the series, but it is the prequel to the entire series.  That is, the first book starts with Jack out of the Army and goes from there.  In this book, Jack is still in the Army.
The book is about a series of murders (duh!) and some missing papers which might lead to a “problem” for the Army.  To say more is to give away much of the book.  (Sorry…)  We also learn about Jack’s family.
I bought this book with a gift voucher my Hil gave me for my birthday back in March.  I also picked up the first volume in the series, so there will be a review of that in due time.  I was reading the book in the waiting room of my blood testing facility.  I have to give blood every month because I’m on blood-thinners for my AFib.  An older lady (I’d say seventies or early eighties) was sitting next to me and she was also reading.  She asked what I was reading and I showed her the spine and said: “One of the Jack Reacher series…”  She interrupted, “I’ve read them all.  They’re terrific!  If you like that series, I also recommend James Patterson (and she held up the paperback she was reading).  My reading club loves both authors and get them as soon as they come out.”  How’s that for a personal recommendation from a stranger?!?  (My wife got a chuckle out of this, too, because, as she says, I’ll talk to anyone…  Including random, little old ladies I sit down next to in a waiting room.)
Anyway, final recommendation: strong to high – a fast, fun read.  Because I’ve seen the movie and now read a prequel, it’ll be interesting to see how I like the series from the start.  For now, this book is very much like the movie – a fast experience (read), with lots of mystery / who-done-it, intermittent high-action and a sprinkling of non-graphic sex.
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On This Day In:
2015 Getting The Story Right
2014 Like Shells On The Shore
2013 More And Why
2012 How To Gain Effective Fire
2011 Patriot Act

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