Tuesday, August 25, 2009


This book by Tad Williams is the first in an epic fantasy series. It purports to have many things about fantasy that I love, such as medieval weaponry, magic, intrigue, and adventure. However, I felt like this book did not deliver as promised. In 500 pages of reading, I was probably only reallyinterested in 75 of them. This is disappointing to me because Williams has pretty good cover art, and also because I have been planning on reading another trilogy by him for quite some time. Perhaps his other writings are more exciting.

Because of my lackluster feelings for this book, I stopped consuming it two nights ago, when I was about 500 pages into the total 750 pages. This seems to be kind of a waste, because I felt like I might stop early after as few as 200 pages. Therefore, in order to combat this inefficient allocation of my free time, I hereby resolve to end consumption of any literature if I am not engrossed after consuming one third of its length.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves

Here is another delightful installment by P. G. Wodehouse. This novel has Bertie endeavoring to keep one of his chums affianced. If his friend breaks off the marriage, Bertie is worried that he will be forced to step in and become engaged to the lady in question. Jeeves eventually solves the problem pretty handily.

It seems to me that most of the Bertie/Jeeves stories are pretty similar and involve Bertie trying to avoid becoming engaged, and Jeeves coming to the rescue at the end, to the delight of all interested parties. However, they are just so hilarious that it makes no difference that they are similar. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions while consuming this book.

Readers of this blog may be interested to note that Jeeves was mistakenly referenced in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The narrator remarks that the pharoah's butler was "the Jeeves of his time", but Jeeves was not in fact a butler. He was a valet, a gentleman's personal gentleman, whereas a butler is merely the head of a number of servants.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

not a book

This article about health insurance in America is spectacular. Although it is quite long, I definitely recommend reading it if you have a spare 20 minutes. The author's recommendations are on the last page, if you really want to skip ahead.

A teaser (I'm not sure how to do block quotes in Blogger....):

"Let's say you're a 22-year-old single employee at my company today, starting out at a $30,000 annual salary. Let's assume you'll get married in six years, support two children for 20 years, retire at 65, and die at 80. Now let's make a crazy assumption: insurance premiums, Medicare taxes and premiums, and out-of-pocket costs will grow no faster than your earnings-say, 3 percent a year. By the end of your working days, your annual salary will be up to $107,000. And over your lifetime, you and your employer together will have paid $1.77 million for your family's health care. $1.77 million! And that's only after assuming the taming of costs! In recent years, health-care costs have actually grown 2 to 3 percent faster than the economy. If that continues, your 22-year-old self is looking at an additional $2 million or so in expenses over your lifetime-roughly $4 million in total."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blade Runner

This book is also called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, by Philip Dick, and a movie called Blade Runner was based on the book. It is set around 2020 after a nuclear war, and androids are prevalent and convincingly human. In fact, the main character's job is to track down androids masquerading as humans and kill them, ostensibly because they are a danger to society.

The book deals with the issue of what constitutes humanity, and was actually quite good. The bounty hunter had to go after these androids that look and act just like humans, except for the fact that they don't feel empathy. It really made me muse on artificial intelligence and how humanity will cope with it when it arrives. If humans are able to program a sort of empathy into machines, how will they be any different than humans? Would machines that actually feel emotions ever be able to get into heaven?

In thinking about it more, I'm not really sure what would distinguish humans from Really Good Robots. In Blade Runner, androids are discovered because they lack empathy. However, isn't it possible for a human not to be empathic? I have it in my mind that autistic people sometimes do not exhibit a ton of empathy. Are they sub-human? What do you think would be the line of separation between humans and robotic replicas?

I usually don't consume science fiction, even though it is often very similar to my chosen genre of fantasy; I'm not really sure why that is. Perhaps I just really like books that use medieval weaponry and therefore focus on physical prowess, which science fiction often does not feature. However, I can't imagine I would like a book about modern knife-fighters very much. For whatever reason, I consistently like science fiction less than fantasy. Even this book, which was pretty good, started dragging toward the end, and I couldn't wait for it to finish so I could start something else.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One, Two, Buckle my Shoe

I just finished this mystery by Agatha Christie yesterday. It revolves around a dentist's death that is made to look like a suicide, but Hercule Poirot suspects something is up. The plot thickens when a fabulously wealthy, powerful, and force-for-good-and-stability-in-England-and-therefore-all-civilization banker becomes a target.

One thing that bothers me about many of Christie's novels that I have consumed (which, admittedly, is not a huge number) is that the stakes are so high. In this, the potential death of a banker could lead to a worldwide communist regime; in The Big Four, an international gang threatens to overthrow all governments; etc. I suppose that these high stakes may make things more dramatic, but I can't help looking at all of these premises as a little absurd. I would prefer more quotidian mysteries, such as a simple murder, theft, or parking infringement.

As far as Christie's mysteries go, I think this one is somewhere in the middle. Two pluses: this is the first Poirot mystery I have read that was not narrated by Captain Hastings, which I think works out well; also, Inspector Japp seems much less bumbling in this book, which adds some credibility to his character. Overall, this book was diverting, but I don't think I would consume it again.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Thank You, Jeeves

This is another hilarious Jeeves installment by P. G. Wodehouse. I discovered him only a few months ago, and he is already one of my favorite authors. As my younger brother will agree, Wodehouse can turn a phrase in the most comical of manners.

As usual in the Jeeves books, Bertie Wooster gets himself into an imbroglio, this time regarding an unwanted fiancee, a drunken valet, and a bit of un-PC black shoe polish. Also as usual, Jeeves buttles above and beyond and saves the day.

I believe that "jolly" is the mot juste for this book.

Fancy meeting you here

I am now feeling refreshed after my three-year hiatus, and am perhaps ready to reenter the world of blogging!

Actually, I have lately been thinking I should make a record of the books I read, for reference in future years. So this blog will be an experiment in that. I plan on giving a short entry after every book I finish, stating my thoughts on the book for all you readers in need of literary suggestions.

One caveat: by "read", I really mean "consume." Abbie is skeptical that listening to books counts as reading, but I think it basically does for most books. And since my listening time is much more abundant than my actual reading time, I'm counting the listening. If you are a purist, you can just skip most of my posts!