Feb 182013

So before I tell you how good these two books are please let me warn you: There will eventually be three of them. The first book, “The Name of the Wind” was published in 2007. The second, “A Wise Man’s fear” in 2011. Unless the publisher decides to release the third one early we are looking at a two year wait for the conclusion. The book is written and done, according the the author so I “can’t not know” why they must make us wait. Maybe they’re just mean.

Having said that, go get the books and start reading. It will do my mean little heart good to know that someone else is waiting with me. That, and the books are really good. You now have my opinion and advice. Feel free to ignore the rest of this.

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 Posted by at 10:20 pm
Dec 082011

I don’t remember where I saw the reference to this book, but I think it may have been Business Week. I thought it looked interesting, and have recommitted to the idea that my daily commute should be more useful than just 60 minutes of rock radio, so I grabbed the book on tape and listened to it.

You should too.

The author, Charles Mann writes in an easy, accessible style and as far as I can tell try very hard to tell both sides of every story. In the book we learn that there is some question as to how many people lived in the New World before Columbus “Discovered” it and he spent a lot of time quoting leaders from all points of view. In the end he makes it pretty clear that he is in the camp of those who think there were lots and lots and lots of people here when Columbus landed and makes a strong enough case that I too am convinced. The image we have of a lightly populated country prior to 1492 is just wrong.

In addition to the bigger questions like that the books also delves into the personal. We learn the back story to “Squanto” — enough to know that he was a much more tragic figure than what you were taught in school. We also hear about Haiawatha, founder with Deganawida of the Iroquois confederacy lead by the “Grand Council.” The council still meets today and is only eclipsed in age by the Icelandic “Althing.” The founding story is covered and really resonated with me.

We spend time talking about other pre-columbus cultures and learn many things that we aren’t taught in school. Did you know why the Incans had stairs in their highways? Did you know what a few escaped pigs could do in a new world, and why? Did you know that there are reports of villages along the Amazon River that spanned a hundred miles of shore line? That, and many other ideas are considered.

As I finished the book I found myself full of admiration for the people and cultures that were forever lost when Columbus arrived. I would love to be able to take a ride in a time machine and meet the people who were here, but short of that this book is the next best thing.

I’m now working on 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, I’ll let you know if I enjoy that one as much as I did this one.

Happy reading.

 Posted by at 9:35 pm
Sep 272011

This is an awesome list. As many of you know, I love both genres and read a ton of both. I’ve read 8 of the top 10 and 15 of the top 20 so is with what I consider great authority that I say this list is 100% awesome. The only entry in the top 10 that I struggle with is is the Song of Fire and Ice by George RR Martin. I’ve tried, I’ve really tried but I just can’t like it. I do, however, know that it is widely regarded as a great, nay awesome, series of books.

Anyways, read on brave soldiers. 🙂

 Posted by at 1:43 pm
May 302011

Once I start a collecting something I have a very hard time stopping, which may be why I have 75 different bottles of hot sauce in my home office. Similarly, when I start a series I have a hard time stopping as long as there are books to be read.  In fact, I can’t remember the last book or series I didn’t finish once started. Basically, if I start it I finish it.

This series is testing me; the desire to move on to something else get stronger with every additional book I read.

So, if you are going to read the book let me suggest you first swithc off your brain — that will help with the inconsistencies and plot holes.  Further, if you read and enjoyed the Ludlam books don’t read anything beyond #3. Should you do that you will, like me, keep hoping that Lustbader will eventually find the magic that made Bourne such an awesome story and re-instill the sense of wonder missing so far.

Not gonna happen.

In fact, the series is going downhill rather quickly. Lustbader has managed to create some very fun characters such as Soraya Moore who we met in the last book. In the last book she was smart, resourceful and fearless. The plot of this book apparently required that she behave as if she’d had her brain removed, so she had her brain removed. I have a hard time with a plot that requires that people go out of their way to be stupid, and in this series we see it again and again and again. Frankly, I’m tired of it.

Another aspect of the books that is getting old is the idea that the US government is filled with evil men who are desperate to kill Bourne. This is what, the 8th book in a row where someone in our government tries to kill Bourne only to have Bourne save the day at the end of the story to great acclaim? At some point you’d expect our leaders would say “Hey, maybe we should stop trying to kill this guy. Wadda ya think?” Never happens.

The other irritant is that in this world time and space don’t seem to matter. It seems like you can pick up the phone in one country and call someone in another without worrying about what time it is there. Nor does traveling from one hemisphere to the other leave anyone weary or in need of sleep. I don’t mind the idea of suspending belief to advance the plot on occasion, but one of the selling points of the thriller genre is that it is set it the world of what is. This series has piled unbelievable action on top of unbelievable action to the point of being set in the world of what never was nor will be.

So I’ve made the call, this series will go back to the bench unfinished. There are too many other books that I want to read to spend more time here. I absolutely love the Jason Bourne developed by Robert Ludlam. Further I really liked Lustbader’s Ninja Cycle. I really, really wanted to like his treatment of Jason Bourne, but as of now I’ve given up.

 Posted by at 9:44 pm
May 222011

We all know that I tend to look at the world through humor filled lenses. That may be one of the things that make me enjoy Stanley Bing as much as I do. If you ever forget that he is telling you a joke the magic leaves and the books are no fun. The parallels between Bing and Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert are many. They both start and made good livings in the worlds they lampoon. Both bring a healthy dose of cynicism to their works. The biggest difference may be in the depth of that cynicism. In either case, I enjoy them both for a lot of the same reasons.

In Rome Inc., Bing takes the rise and fall of the Roman Empire and casts it in the light of an American Corporation, referring to the leaders as CEO. The book isn’t very long so there isn’t a lot of detail about great stretches of Roman history and when we do hear about a period of history it is fleeting and transitional. Still, there are lots of laughs to be had. I enjoyed his description of the forming of the Roman empire, the changes brought about by Julius Caesar and really enjoyed his description of Marc Anthony being lead around by his gonads. I’m not sure about the accuracy of everything written here, most especially his conclusions about the Rome & Carthage war. SI still enjoyed reading about the conflict.

With the subject being Roman history there are a few references to sex and with the author being Stanley Bing there is some salty language, including half a dozen bombs of the eff variety. While not a true page turned the book is an easy read and the level of humor is pretty high. If you are a fan of history or work in a corporation its worth the effort. Happy reading.

 Posted by at 4:42 pm
May 132011

I’ve decided to do a longer review of this book than the first four, mostly because I can. This is the second book written by Lustbader and it further reinforces the difference between Ludlum and Lustbader. When Ludlam was the writer he portrayed a very multidimensional character that went far beyond the usual “James Bond” normally seen in this genre. In book one while he was running for his life we see Bourne struggling with the question of who he is. In book two he is busy trying to fulfill his mission while struggling with the duality of the Borne and Webb identities. In book three we watch as Bourne struggles with the impact of his advancing age. In each of the three books the conclusion ties both the James Bond action and the other aspects of the story up and leaves very few questions unanswered. If Bourne is injured at the beginning of a section he stays injured for the rest of the story, healing at what would be a normal rate. Time, place and season are all correct and complete.

In  Lustbader’s version of the series the deeper aspects of Bourne are lost. When book three closes we leave a Jason Bourne who is clearly struggling with the idea that he is nearing 50 and he can no longer perform physically as he could before. There is a very marked tension between the two aspects of his personality. In the books by Lustbader his age is never mentioned again. The two aspects have seemed to reach a peaceful accord where the proper personality takes control at the proper time. Once Lustbader takes over the multidimensional Jason Bourne/David Webb character becomes a paper thin James Bond.

Having said all that, this was a very enjoyable book to read. The basic plot involves Islamic terrorists and I felt like Lustbader did a very nice job of fleshing out their motivations and emotions that drive their actions. The plot was more straight forward than previous books and there was many fewer characters as well. While there wasn’t much real growth in Bourne, we did get to meet some new, fun people. I particularly enjoyed meeting Soraya  and Tyrone. Soraya filled the same role as Marie in previous books as the very competent female foil for Bourne without the angle of the love interest. Tyrone was cast in the role of Cactus the younger and I really enjoyed his resourcefulness and drive. If a movie is every made of this story Tyrone will steal the show.

As to problems or shortcomings, the book ended with more of a whimper than a bang, and left a number of loose threads that I didn’t think were tied off well enough. I would loved to have heard a bit more from Soraya and Tyrone after the book ended, perhaps that will come in the next book. Finally, there were a few glitches in the book. There was a scene where our man Jason was stabbed in the side and then spent the next 24 to 36 hours dealing with it and then all of a sudden it wasn’t a problem any more. I don’t remember this ever happening in the Ludlum books.

Overall I give the book a Transformers rating, lots of fun to read, very engaging but not a lot meat. There isn’t a lot of swearing, no sex at all that I can remember and tons and tons of huge, over the top violence. Read it and enjoy.


 Posted by at 2:48 pm