Book Review: Empire by Orson Scott Card

I have read many of Card’s books, and I have always found them enjoyable. This was the first complete fail of his that I’ve read. Well, maybe complete miss was a bit strong. I was into the book for the first half and was excited to keep reading. Then he lost me. If you plan on reading this book, stop reading this review now. He lost me by doing the one thing a writer is always cautioned against doing, the one thing that will make people put down the book and refuse to finish it. He killed the main character. While I want to admire him for doing something that goes against the grain and spits in the eye of convention, I can’t. The reason is, Card killed the main character midway through the book. Death is the end. Game over. I was no longer invested in the story. I didn’t care how it turned out. The book had the feel of a post-party hangover after that point.

I was apprehensive about reading this book, knowing it is a political book and knowing Card’s politics, but he makes a case in this book that polarizing your beliefs is about as damnable as anything you can do. I agree with the sentiment. I am a liberal and an atheist, but I am also someone that sees all sides of arguments and am always willing to exchange thoughts with people that can be civil.

Advertisements

Book Review: Isaac Newton by James Gleick

James Gleick offers here a fun look at one of the world’s most important and respected thinkers. Having never read anything about Newton since I was a child, I was stunned by how much of a pompous, arrogant bastard I found Sir Newt to be. To rail against the church for conducting itself in Latin only to publish his own works in Latin to keep it out of the hands of the commoner in the height of ass-holishness. The Hooke feud is a great story, but I felt it was under-developed in this biography, if Neil deGrass Tyson’s Cosmos is to believed. All in all, this was a fun read and gave me a better understanding of a man that I’m happy to admire from a distance.

Book review: The Evolution of God by Robert Wright

Wow. This book should be mandatory reading for everyone. Regardless of your beliefs, this book will force you to examine your own belief system through new eyes. You will not just read what was said but also when it was said, how it was said, to whom it was said, and who was really saying it. As an atheist, my beliefs did not go untouched by Robert Wright’s brilliant work. He broke apart atheism in a way that I have never seen before, and while I’m still an atheist, it left me things to contemplate, and I love that.

The real power of this book is its kid gloves. Wright treats every sacred doctrine as…well…sacred. But that doesn’t stop him from researching the origins of particular beliefs in the religions that claim that the books are the word of God/gods and then question strong held beliefs of cultures that contradict the sacred scriptures. The religions that you think you know, you really only know the cultures, cultures that have been shaped by histories of power struggles, manipulations, and outright lies. To read this book and come away unchanged is unthinkable to me.

Book Review: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is a great writer, and the ideas he presents should not be ignored. In this book Gladwell tackles the idea of underdogs in a broad and detailed examination. The basic thesis for the book is that underdogs can win when they do the unexpected and the things that others do not think they will do. He presents many examples, from the book’s names sakes to a group of rich, white girls that win basketball games of far superior players by using a true full court press. I was reminded, as a boxing fan, of the countless upsets that I’ve seen over the years. Ali breaking all convention by urging the huge Foreman to keep hitting him (the legendary Rope-a-dope). Holyfield telling everyone that he was going to fight Tyson on the inside, and then doing just that and eliminating Tyson’s devastating lunging punches. I could go on for hours naming different strategies boxers have used to deceive or confuse their opponents and pull off upsets. But for every story like that there are thousands more of the people that get in there and do what is expected and get obliterated as expected.

I read this book with a different perspective in mind though. I was looking at it in regards to Donald Trump. Trump is the political outsider entering a race that he refuses to follow the unspoken rules. He won the primary by being that guy. By being the least presidential candidate in history, Trump put himself in a position to make a real run at the White House. How did he do it? By talking about his penis size, by insulting women, interrupting his counterparts, using a first grade vocabulary except when making it PG13, and by representing himself as the worst of us rather than the best. It was a strategy nobody was prepared for and as the polls come in and he has narrowed it to a coin toss, this strategy has worked. People are surprised, yet most people agree with H.L. Mencken: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”