Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chuseok Reading List

  • Old Man's War by John Scalzi - My friend The Stumbler lent me this book, which turned out to be a very good mix of hard sci-fi and battle action. In Earth's future, we have begun to colonize the galaxy, where we encounter other colonizing species, often interested in the same finite number of habitable planets. To recruit manpower, the Colonials offer new bodies--superior, genetically-modified, nanobot-enhanced bodies--to elderly humans near the end of their terrestrial lives. They fight in the Colonial Army to protect colonists from vicious alien lifeforms in the hope that may one day retire to a colony themselves.
  • On Speaking Well by Peggy Noonan - Noonan is a superb poltical speechwriter, for Reagan, the first Bush and others, who unfortunately can't put aside her political leanings long enough to make a valid point about speaking well. With the exception of Teddy Kennedy's eulogy of his brother Robert, every example of a good speech is by a Republican, and every bad speaker is a Dem. Her overweening lesson is that every speech should be simple, every point simple, every sentence simple. Of course, she lives in a simple-minded world--she's a conservative. Okay, that's a cheap shot, but she likes those, she makes enough of them.
  • Ten Second Staircase by Christopher Fowler - A story from Britain's "Peculiar Crimes Unit", in which fallen celebrities are being murdered by someone dressed as a stand-and-deliver Highwayman. Meanwhile, the PCU's boss is hoping to get the two aged chief detectives of the unit to retire, but following the law of unintended consequences, the Home Office is moving to shut down the entire office. This is one of a series, and not the first one, but that didn't really impact my reading enjoyment--the characters were lively and interesting, the crimes quite mysterious and the denoument surprising but suitable.
  • The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg - Juvenilia about four sixth graders who make up their school's Academic Bowl team, and kicking butt over seventh and eighth grade teams throughout the county, the district and the even the state. But mostly it is about the events of the summer preceding their sixth grade year, and about how the four became friends once school started. The structure is quite interesting, as we meet one character, then that character meets the next, who meets the next until we know all four. Charming but not too deep, and a Newberry Medalist.
  • No One Will Hear You by Max Allan Collins - Riveting, non-stop action and creepiness in what may become a classic of the serial-killer genre. JC Harrow is a small-town sheriff who has come to fame as the host of an "America's Most Wanted" style show called Crime seen! His team of forensic experts and criminologists have a problem on their hands: a pair of competing serial-killers who want to become famous on Crime seen! Meanwhile, JC is becoming a bit too fond of the lady detective from LAPD assigned to the case. Complex characters, clever criminals, perfect pacing and a show-biz backdrop make for a one-sitting read.
  • Confessions of An Economic Hit Man by John Perkins - This book is abut corporatocracy's insane and ultimately self-defeating march to global empire, and the author's somewhat overstated role in it. While I think the nuts and bolts of this account are generally factual, I don't buy 100% into Perkins's overarching theme that the purpose of the IMF and World Bank is to enslave lesser developed countries by way of overwhelming debt obligations for their infrastructure problems. Further, he fagellates himself incessantly about the part he played in corporatocracy's march to global empire: he was an economist, who habitually inflated projections in order for his accounts to get bigger, more lucrative projects, and thereby saddle the poor, dumb LDC with a loan that was more impossible to repay. Perkins has had an interesting life, but the conspiracy in which he was engaged strikes me as rather ho-hum.

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