29 June 2010

59. The Demolished Man

The Demolished Man - Alfred Bester

This may be the most enjoyable science fiction novel I have ever read. I loved it.

It was published in 1953 and was the winner of the first Hugo Award.

The year is 2301. There are no guns. There is no crime. There has not been a murder for 76 years. All this is accomplished through the use of telepaths ("Espers" or "peepers") who can read the minds of the population and detect intent to commit crimes before the events occur. The crimes are stopped before they are commited.

One man changes that. He is the richest businessman in the galaxy and only has one real competitor. He wants to own it all and will go to any lengths to accomplish this...including murdering his rival.

The story unfolds across a wide variety of places. Mostly New York City on Earth (Terra), but also Mars, Venus, Jupiter's moons, and a wildlife sanctuary built on an asteroid. The world in which these folks live is similar to what we have today, but is different in many ways. Personal cars that fly ("jumpers") for instance. Rockets to far away planets take off regularly from Idlewild (now JFK airport). They even use "computors". Interesting, since in 1951 they did not have such things available to all but governments and such.

The world of Terra, where most of the story takes place, was wonderful. It was a post nuclear war world, but the devastation had limited areas. it was still inhabitable. New York City contained large old homes and a devastated city area that has been taken over by an underworld dealing in whatever people needed. The society where the use of psychics is so prevelant was interesting also. The way Mr. Bester built this universe in order to tell the story was believable and sounds like it could actually happen in 300 years.

The characters were excellent. I especially liked Ben Reich (the businessman), Gus Tate (a peeper psychiatrist that runs interference for Ben), Lincoln Powell (police prefect peeper), and Duffy Wyg& (yes, written that way)

Some of the writing itself was different. Names like @tkins, Wyg&, and others stood out as something I had not seen before. The authors technique for writing what the Espers were communicating without speech was also interesting, even if it was difficult to read it with any semblance of understanding. These "styles" were called "graphologic deviations".

The book is science fiction but was not so far out there that it felt impossible. Maybe it did feel that way in 1951. We have come a long way since then. Maybe what felt totally fictional then feels reachable today.

58. Fablehaven

Fablehaven - Brandon Mull

This was a book written for people younger than me, but I still found it to be a fun story.

Kendra and her brother Seth have to go stay at their Grandma and Grandpa's home for about three weeks. They find that this is no ordinary home. It is actually a snctuary for mystical creatures and has been there for centuries. Their grand parents are the current caretakers of "Fablehaven".

Needless to say, the kids get into a lot of mischief and run across many magical beings. Fairies, witches, golems, satyrs, oges, nyads, imps, a giant cow that makes magical milk, and many many more.

It was a lot of fun, but probably not something for many adults. I think I will give this one to my kids now. They will like it.

24 June 2010

57. The Sky Unwashed

The Sky Unwashed - Irene Zabytko

This book was outstanding. It is the story of a Ukrainian widow, Marusia Petrenko and her family. They lived in the small village of Starylis near Chernobyl. The story is about their lives and the effects of the nuclear power plant disaster on the family and the lives of their friends.

Marusia lives in a small home in an agricultural village. Her son, Yurko, daughter-in-law, Zosia, and two grandchildren live in the same home. They live a simple life. She is a retired widow. Yurko and Zosia both work at the power plant. Yorko is at work the night of the explosion and does not come home for three days afterward.

The first part of the book is pre-disaster. It is meant to give you a feel for their way of life and to get to know the characters and the other townsfolk. The author did a fantastic job with this aspect of the book. Building the characters was done excellently.

The book does not dwell on the actual disaster at all. It does not take you to the plant and describe the problems there other than a brief moment when Zosia tried to go to work and turned back. The disaster is not what the story is meant to be about. It is about the effects of that catastrophe on the lives of these people.

Descriptions of the way the air changed, the taste and smell, were outstanding. They knew something was wrong days before they were told about the problem. The evacuation of the village and the time spent as refugees was heartwrenching. The problems this family encountered and the changes to all of them made me feel for them in ways I rarely have for any charachter in a book.

I want to write about the things that happened to these people, but I won't. I do not want to ruin the book for other readers. I recommend you read it when and if you find a copy.

Was this an exciting, edge of the seat kind of book? No. Was it full of surprises and unexpected plot? No. Did I learn more about the Chernobyl disaster? No. So, why recommend it? This story was about people and the effect on them and thier way of life when something beyond their control changed the world. That story was awesome.

I lived in a village much like Starylis is described. I lived thier for a month while adopting our daughter. The town was called Sakhnovshchina. The people led simple lives and it was centered around agriculture. This story took place in 1986 and the years following. My visit was in 2006. Twenty years later, but much of the way of life what was written about was still happening. The people were happy, but it was a hard life. I envied them in some ways. That experience changed my perspective. This book brought back many of those memories and for that I am thankful.

20 June 2010

56. Panic

Panic - Jeff Abbott

Lots of guns and violence and plot twists. This was a non-stop battle between an "innocent", the CIA, a rogue group of killers, and all kinds of other people somwhere in between good and bad guys.

This book was so full of twists and turns that it was hard to tell who was lying, who were the good guys, who were the bad guys and how the story would turn out.

Of course, from the beginning I thought the main character would end up with the girl. He did. They live happily ever after. They beat the international ruthless gang of killers. They beat the CIA. They beat MI5. Yeah, yeah, yeah...but it was fun to follow along.

I really enjoyed the Des character. He was such an awful human being.

The book didn't have a lot of substance, but it sure was packed full of action.

55. Angel Rock

Angel Rock - Darren Williams

I read this book because I wanted to read something written by an Australian author and this one was on my shelf.

It was a good book whose strong point was probably the strength of the characters and the depictions of the surroundings. It was a bit like reading poetry as the author described people and places. I enjoyed that aspect of the story a lot.

The story itself took place in a small town in the Australian outback. Two young brothers get lost, one reappears days later. Shortly after a teen girl is found dead in Sydney, a suicide, and is from the same town, Angel Rock.

A Sydney policeman goes to Angel Rock to check on the suicide. A local policeman investigates the disappearance of the younger brother. They talk with lots of folks in the town and through these investigations a history is revealed.

The story meanders through the lives of many people in the town. What is revealed is that there are many folks who have had losses in their lives and they deal with these losses in different ways. The book spends a lot of time in the heads of a few people trying to deal with these hurts from their pasts.

I enjoyed reading the book despite the story being kind of depressing. Children die. Children are abused. Suicide. Depression. Sadness. Loss. I was impressed by the writing despite the dark subject matter.

13 June 2010

54. Godless: The Church of Liberalism

Godless: The Church of Liberalism - Ann Coulter

Why does Ann Coulter call Liberalism a church? She explains how many liberal beliefs can't be proven and must be taken on faith. Faith is religion. Here is what the back of the book says:

"In this completely original and thoroughly controversial work, Coulter writes, “Liberals love to boast that they are not ‘religious,' which is what one would expect to hear from the state-sanctioned religion. Of course liberalism is a religion. It has its own cosmology, its own miracles, its own beliefs in the supernatural, its own churches, its own high priests, its own saints, its own total worldview, and its own explanation of the existence of the universe. In other words, liberalism contains all the attributes of what is generally known as ‘religion.' ”"

Coulter makes some very good points while discussing liberal views on many subjects. There are the typical hot spots; abortion being a big one, crime is another,  government schools and teacher's unions, the environment, embryonic vs. adult stem cell research, AIDS, etc.

She makes some very good points, but then with many of them she walks right off the cliff into a canyon of "gone-too-far".

What are some that I found to be interesting?

The Cindy Sheehan/Jersey Girls way of debate. 9/11 happened. Iraq happened. Liberals advanced their causes using these emotinal women who have suffered a loss. It is difficult to show your differences with someone in this situation without them being able to point at you and say "You hate grieving mothers", or some such equal nonsense. Used by both sides I am sure.

I remember the huge AIDS scare fromt he 1980s. AIDS was found in homosexuals and intravenous drug users but it was going to jump into the heterosexual population and devastate us. Oprah was spouting the liberal line of how one in five heterosexual people were going to be dead from AIDS by 1990. I guess not. I think I missed the story about how 20% of the population died. Where is the massive increase in heterosexual AIDS cases? According to this book the huge majority of AIDS cases in America were and are still within the homosexual population and among intravenous drug users. Sure, there are some others, but seriously far from the end-of-the-world predictions made by liberals in the 80s.

She spends quite a bit of time on Darwinism. Believe in God or not, Darwinism is a joke. It is nothing but conjecture and theory. When i went to school it was taught as theory. Now it is being taught as fact and liberals fight to the death over it. One scam after the other has been exposed. The fossil record contradicts evolution. Coulter goes through item after item of why Darwinism is ridiulous, what Darwinists make up next when something is disproved, and why the Darwinists cling to this theory with all their might. I already knew much of the specific items she discussed. I learned some new ones along the way.

Darwin must be true in order for liberals to say there is no God. How can people be true to the State if there is a God, a higher power, to exalt? The State must be the be-all end-all for the people in order for liberalism to mean anything at all. I agree with that logic. I think liberals want a more powerful central government to control the people in what is always said to promote the common good. The State will take care of everyone. Darwinism helps promote that goal by trying to eliminate faith in God. Whatever.

It's funny how it actually takes more faith in the unknown to believe Darwinism than it does to believe in God, but the Darwiniacs point at Christians and say they are backwards and stupid. Say what you want. Believe what you want. What I found so far in my life is that the people who want to believe in Darwinism will fight to keep their belief beyond reason. They will talk of science and the scientific method and then disregard the information found using their own tools.

FYI...I wrote much more about this book. It all disappeared. I am not going to type it all again. Whatever.

11 June 2010

53. Kristin Breaks Loose!

Kristin Breaks Loose - Kristin Andersen with Linda DuBreuil

If you care about the exploits of a hooker turned madam in 1974 you might like this better than I did.

Kristin travels all over America looking for the sex scene in the places she goes. Swingers, pedophiles, beastiality, necrophelia, slavery, bondage, cheaters, conventioneers, massage parlors, etc etc. She travels all over the place looking at what she says is real.

So, she ends up finding people all over the place that do lots of things that are not main stream or that they would be ostracized for if the neighbors knew.

Whatever. Like it is a big shock that people were felt free to do whatever made them feel good in 1974. The 60s free love era was coming to an end.

This book was a waste of my time.

10 June 2010

52. The Hot Zone

The Hot Zone - Richard Preston

This book has been on my shelf for years. I added it to the "To Be Read" challenge just to get it off the shelf. Now I don't have to look at it ever again.  :-)

Richard Preston also wrote The Cobra Event. That was an awesome book that had one scene that still haunts me to this day. I expected this book to be somewhat like that one. It was not.

This book is non-fiction. It recounts times and events that occured in the 1970s and 1980s concerning outbreaks of deadly diseases like Ebola and Marburg.

It was interesting. It was scary to think about what could happen in the worst case scenarios. It was even scary to think about lesser scenarios. The book failed to alarm me to the point where I care enough to worry about it once finishing.

Much of this information was used to create the fictional Cobra Event novel. That was much more exciting. Then again, this book was true. It was interesting. That's about all. I was not thrilled.

05 June 2010

51. Common Sense: The Case Against Out-Of-Control Government

Common Sense: The Case Against Out-Of-Control Government - Glenn Beck

What can I say about this book without discussing its author first? Probably very little. The name Glenn Beck alone stirs up emotions in people. I had the same feelings before I started reading. I think I have seen Glenn Beck on Fox News and heard him on the radio, though I can not recall anything specific at all. It is almost like I have had a dream of listening to him, but I can’t remember anything other than he was in it. Does that mean I have heard him or have only heard of him? I am not really sure.

I do remember hearing Rush and Hannity and Colmes and Liddy and Huffington and Howard Stern (joke) and Boortz and Maher and Gillette and Miller and Olberman and Malkin and Coulter and Stewart and maybe a zillion others. I remember their voices. I remember their faces. With Beck, I don’t have that. Maybe I somehow have never heard the man.

If that is the case then I avoided listening to him on purpose. I know his reputation. I know he has been in the news for saying things that are very controversial and sometimes mean.

I picked up this book with a pre-conceived idea of what it would say and what Mr. Beck stood for. I was half correct. Why half? Well, I was right in the fact that he would obliterate all the happenings in Washington DC with the Democrats in charge. What did I get wrong? I did not expect him to obliterate the Republicans also.

I thought Beck was a right-wing blow-hard much like Rush Limbaugh. I expected to read how the left wing was destroying our country and how the right wing would bring us all into a utopian society of brotherly love.

Beck crushed both parties. He is articulate and explains his position well. What is the best part is that I actually agree with much of what he is saying. It really is not that hard to figure out. Like he says, it is “Common Sense”.

What does the book talk about? How the DNC and RNC argue with each other over the subject of the day while both or either party whittle away at our freedoms. How the “system” is no longer representing the people or a government with the country in its best interests. It has become a perpetual cycle of say and do what you must to get reelected because politics is a career.

Beck spends a lot of time covering debt and financial issues. He says Social Security is just a legalized government version of a Ponzi scheme. The same thing Bernie Madoff was imprisoned for because it was illegal to RIP PEOPLE OFF. He calls Medicare Part D a “$100 trillion bipartisan betrayal” of the people. It was strictly to buy votes short term and mortgaged our countries financial future.

He spends time explaining how we used to have a “fair tax” and it was changed to a progressive tax and that this tax system is now used to do favors for special interest groups and attack political enemies.

He busts both parties chops for gerrymandering congressional districts to ensure re-election or incumbents and for campaign finance rules heavily favoring them also.

Then Beck got into “progressives”. He defines progressives differently than most people. He says the word usually is synonymous with “liberal” or “Democrat”. He then says “Progressivism has less to do with the parties and more to do with individuals who seek to redefine, re-shape, and rebuild America into a country where individual liberties and personal property mean nothing if they conflict with the plans and goals of the State.”

That goes way beyond just Democrats and Republicans. They are both that way and so are lobbyists, special interest groups, unions, corporations, and government bureaucracies.

Beck discusses global warming, the second amendment, eminent domain, privacy rights, education, charity, public service, volunteerism, term limits, etc etc.

What did I learn? I agree with Beck. I like what he had to say and think his ideas are interesting.

I wonder what his political affiliation is.

03 June 2010

50. Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis

Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis - Jimmy Carter

I read this book knowing that I disagree with much of Mr. Carter’s political ideals and that I think his way of caring for people I see as counter-productive in the long run. Despite my feelings for his political beliefs I decided to read his book. Sometimes it is good to read the views of others even when you know it is different than your own.

I found that Jimmy Carter wrote a very good book which covers both the religious and the political realms. I found him to much more eloquent than I remembered. Maybe that is because I was pretty young when he was President.

Mr. Carter discusses many different subjects over the course of this book. These included: pre-emptive war, women's rights, terrorism, civil liberties, homosexuality, abortion, the death penalty, science and religion, environmental degradation, nuclear arsenals, America's global image, fundamentalism, and the welding of religion and politics. He managed to keep tying these back to a moral code which he believes is the code this country was founded upon and should be living within today.

What this came down to for me was a difference in political philosophy and a difference in the interpretation of what is required of Christians. He believes the government has a moral duty to care for and support its citizens. This moral duty is tied to a few scriptural quotes and some explanation of the traditions of the Baptist Church.

One: I agree the government should care for and support its citizens, but I do not think we should be going nearly as far with this aid as Mr. Carter wishes. I think his form of aid becomes a trap for people who become dependant on the aid and are stuck in a Nanny-State system.

Two: I am not a Baptist. I do not think like a Baptist. I do not have beliefs like a Baptist. I do not think America’s values are or should be based on Baptist Church beliefs.

Add one and two together and I get a general disagreement with much of Mr. Carter’s conclusions. What I did learn is that I respect the man for thinking through his ideas and having reasons for his convictions.

One thing that did strike me as dead on accurate with my own beliefs the last few years concerned nuclear non-proliferation. Mr. Carter rambled on about different treaties signed and ratified and broken and discarded. It was all interesting.

What it comes down to is that he wants to eliminate nuclear weapons from the planet. I agree with that completely. I will even go as far as to suggest we should do it unilaterally. We have an abundance of nuclear weapons. Do we need them? Will we ever use them? Can we save a heck of a lot of money by dismantling them?

I have tried to think of a scenario where we would use a nuclear weapon. Even if we were justified in the use of such a weapon, would the United States actually launch and detonate a warhead? Would we launch a first strike against anyone? Would we launch a retaliatory strike against Moscow of Beijing? Would we nuke Tehran if Iranian terrorists detonated a dirty bomb in New York City? Would we obliterate a marauding horde of Arabs overrunning Israel?

I think the answer to all these scenarios and any others I can think of would be no. We would NEVER push the button and actually launch the weapons. So, then why have them?

Are we keeping them around in order to deter someone from attacking us because we will turn them into vapor? I don’t think anyone in the world thinks we will use nukes and therefore they are not actually the deterrent we claim them to be.

Then there was the display of power in Iraq. The world saw what the American military is capable of. We are so far above and beyond any other force on the planet that we don’t need nukes. We can obliterate anyone with conventional arms in exactly the same way we did in Iraq.

So, Mr. Carter and I disagree in many ways, but we definitely agree in one that is pretty major.

As for the book, I found it very interesting to hear his point of view and work through the reasoning for his conclusions. I enjoyed the read.

49. Doomsday Warrior

Doomsday Warrior - Ryder Stacy
In the year 1984 the Soviet union launched a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States. The US retaliated in like kind. The Soviets fared better due to some secret defensive weapons.

Now, it is 2089, and the Reds rule the world. They have ruled the world for over 100 years. Granted, it is a post nuclear war world that is full of massive areas that can not be utilized for anything. Massive dead zones are everywhere.

The Russians occupy America and the American people are it's slaves. America is nothing compared to what it once was, but the resistance is growing stronger and getting better equipped.

Who is the hero? Who is the "Ultimate American"? He is a man named Ted Rockson. He has mutated due to his parent's radiation exposure. He is very large, thick skinned, resistant to radiation, quick to heal...in general, he is a perfect warrior.

The story follows Rock as he and his men stage attacks and raids against the Russians. He is an awesome warrior whom the KGB and the Red Army are hunting. His adventures are quite action packed and very exciting.

At some point in the novel he needs to take a patrol group deep into the dead zones in search of a weapon created by a mutated group of humans. This weapon will help him defeat the Russians and free America and it's people from their enslavement.

The descriptions of the altered world America has become in the 100 years following a nuclear attack of massive proportions is one of the best aspects of this book. Plant life is different. Animals are different. The climate and weather is different. Even things that should be considered absolutely normal have been changed in fun and exciting ways. Whole new species and life forms have come into existance. The whole world of Doomsday Warrior was fascinating.

Overall this was one kick-ass story. It was like the old movie Red Dawn, but after a much longer period of time and with nuclear weapons.

The downfalls? Maybe the Reds were too easily defeated. Maybe they were too stupid. Maybe they were supposed to be like a big dumb bully on a playground. Nothing but brawn. Losing the battles to the much smarter, more agile and "good" kid who was supposed to be a serious under-dog. Then again, who really cares. This was supposed to be a kick butt for America book.

Also, there are like 19 or 20 sequels to this first novel. I don't know that I can dedicate that much reading to one writer, but I sure will read parts two and three for the fun of it all.