Goose the Blog 2.0

"Oh, ha! Sarcasm: The last refuge of sons of bitches!"

a new 30 second book reviews

by John at 8/02/2006 10:28:00 AM

Unlike it's namesake, this is a particularly weak episode. If I had any shame I would wait until I had more and better things to say - but as time passes my memory of each of these books fades, and I find I have less and less to say about them. And who knows, maybe I will never have anything better to say? I'm out of my depth on at least three of the books listed below anyway. (Although, sometimes, on the drive home from work when my mind is relaxed and unoccupied with distracting thoughts, I compose really incisive stuff - Hey! Watch out for that squirrel!) My apologies.


Walden - Henry David Thoreau
Remember how I was having a hard time finishing this book? well, I buckled down and did it. Really, it wasn't as bad all the way through as I thought it was when it started out. Some of Thoreau's description of Walden Pond and the surrounding environment is really wonderful, and his apparent misanthropy relents somewhat while his love of nature really comes out. He even seems to show an occassional appreciation of the special economic and social circumstances that put him in the privileged position he holds in the world; a position that allows him to live a "deliberate" life on borrowed land next to the most beautiful pond in world. Not a must read, but a classic definitely worthy of your consideration.

On the Duty of Civil Disobedience - Henry David Thoreau
This text was attached to my copy of Walden, so I read it again. It is short and brilliant, and everyone should read it. There you go, an accurate review in far less than thirty seconds.

Common Sense - Thomas Paine
In another short one, Paine makes his arguments for the immediate independence of the American colonies from Great Britain. His classical liberalism and some of his theory of government are apparent. This stuff seems obvious to (most many of) us today, but it was pretty radical thinking for the time. Illuminating, but is it relevant? Maybe, if you happen to live in a nation that is currently being oppressed by an occupying army. Can you think of any places like that? I'm at a loss.

Clans of the Alphane Moon - Philip K. Dick
This one is another good sci-fi tale. It's a little more straightforward than some of Dick's other works, but the premise is enticing. After a war between Earth and Alpha Centauri, a small moon in the Alphane system becomes an indepedent state run by the former inmates of a mental institution. A mild mannered CIA programmer with a harridan wife, while trying to kill each other, both get entangled in the plots to annex this moon full of crazy people by both Earth and Alphane governments. Know what? I think every PKD story should be a movie.

The Simulacra - Philip K. Dick
See if any of this sounds familiar: The United States government is a fraud run by corporations and an unknown shadow power. The President is, literally, a puppet. One of the two possible escapes from the grinding authoritarian state is a cult of personality with a goal of ephemeral fame surrounding a never-aging First Lady, and the other is a one-way trip to Mars. It will all end in tears, I tell you. This is yet another fast and fun short novel by PKD. Recommended.

Space Race: The Epic Battle Between America and the Soviet Union for Dominion of Space - Deborah Cadbury
If you are a Junior Space Cadet (First Class) like me, you'll love this book. Cadbury follows the parallel careers of Wernher von Braun, celebrity former Nazi rocket scientist, and Sergei Korolev, the Soviet Chief Designer whose identity was kept secret from foreigners and countrymen alike until his death. This is a really good story that collects the triumphs and failures of each man as they both reached for their dream of putting men on the Moon. It's filled with amazing details of both the US and Soviet space programs that I did not know. I found the number and quality of the one-off tricks pulled by the Soviets to demonstrate superior progress in space, and the American response, especially amusing. While often lighthearted, the book is also a window into the homicidal madness of the Nazis and the grinding fear, oppression, and deprivation of Soviet totalitarianism. I imagine most people would like this book - it's not just for Moon junkies like me. Check it out. (The book is supposed to accompany a BCC documentary on the same topic - which also aired on the National Geographic Channel , which I don't receive. Anyway, the book stands on it's own, and I'll look for the DVD, or maybe I can find a bittorrent.)

Glasshouse - Charles Stross
This is a sequel, of sorts, to Accelerando, but having read Accelerando won't actually help you get this story. The plot, while not that complicated, is full of sci-fi singularity stuff that makes it hard to summarize, but I'll try. It's about 600 years in the future, and after having his memory wiped for reasons he isn't sure off, Robin is being hunted by an unknown power. In order to disappear into anonymity, Robin joins a sociological experiment to recreate the society of our current day, where he will be given a new identity and will hopefully be able to hide from his pursuers. However (duh!), it turns out it's not as straightforward as it seems. The story starts out a little slowly, but then burns along at a good pace, even though it gets pretty dark sometimes. I think people unfamiliar with this sci-fi genre may not get a lot of the story. Will you prove me wrong?
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