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Flashback
Flashback
by Dan Simmons
Edition: Hardcover
103 used & new from $0.01

6 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too transparently political, September 8, 2011
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This review is from: Flashback (Hardcover)
I made it all the way through this and found the core storytelling decent, but it's really loaded up with lots of "specifically Barack Obama completely doomed the whole world" stuff that's really over the top. I could have enjoyed maybe one interesting "unintended consequence" of some Obama thing changing the 2030 world, but it's like the author went to Tea Party PR Camp or something and feels obligated to get every last talking point crammed in there somehow.


Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
by Jared Diamond
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.70
1460 used & new from $1.05

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Broad explanatory power; appeals to common sense, February 17, 2000
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It's been a long time since I've read a history with such explanatory power and such well-written prose. Diamond undertakes to survey all of human history from the last ice age on down, and chart the rise of civilizations--and specifically, to explain why cities and complex societies arose in some areas more quickly than others, and why in still other areas they never arose at all. His thesis is that ultimately a combination of environmental factors in particular areas nudged the inhabitants of those areas in the direction of intensive food production, which led to increased populations, complex societies, better technology, and in the end the displacement and even eradication of peoples and societies who were less fortunate.
Diamond does not restrict his focus to a particular region, civilization, or people. Rather, his text is replete with examples and case studies from around the world. We learn why horses were domesticated but zebras were not; we learn why agriculture arose first in southwest Asia, only later in Mexico and the Andes, and not at all in ancient Australia and California even though the latter two areas contain regions which seem perfectly suitable for it. Best of all, though Diamond is greatly interested in explaining the causes of the European expansion in recent centuries, he time and again illustrates his thesis with examples from -other- encounters between peoples of different environmental and technological backgrounds. The breadth of his examples, and the common sense appeal of his arguments, lends great credibility to his thesis.
My own degree is in history, and I have worked professionally as a designer of computer games intended to tell the story of human history. So I've read quite a few books on this sort of subject and this is by far the best written and has one of the most interesting (and useful) theses. I recommend the book without hesitation for both casual and serious students of history.


Pleading Guilty
Pleading Guilty
by Scott Turow
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
522 used & new from $0.01

36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great legal thriller that also makes you laugh!, January 29, 2000
An extremely well crafted legal drama/mystery. Turow has always developed his characters superbly, and his study of narrator Mack Malloy is masterful. Malloy is a deep and believable character, and his personality gives Turow even better opportunities than usual to exercise his wit--how often does a page turner legal thriller also have you rolling with laughter on several occasions? I highly recommend this book, and I second the notion that this is the perfect place to start if you're wondering if Scott Turow is for you.


The Laws of Our Fathers
The Laws of Our Fathers
by Scott Turow
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
391 used & new from $0.01

52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some parts gripping, some parts off-putting, January 24, 2000
There is a great 600 page thriller hiding inside the 800 pages of The Laws of Our Fathers. Specifically, I'd suggest losing the last 100 pages and most of the first 100. The central account of the trial is powerful and gripping, and the flashbacks to the sixties are well done as well. The characters, as is usual with Turow, are deep and interesting. But there are LONG detours into what I found to be excessive tangential and background material. This happens on and off throughout, but most of this is concentrated into the last 100 pages of the book, by which time you've already had the climax wrap-up of not one but -both- main plot lines, and you're thinking "and now why do I have to go through ANOTHER 100 pages?" No good reason presents itself (from a thriller reader's point of view) just a lot of wallowing around in characters' minds. I have no argument with those who say Turow (or probably more accurately, this book) "isn't for everyone", or that the book has touches of "literature" as opposed to simply mystery/thriller (One of the editorial review clips called Turow the "thinking man's John Grisham" which gave me a chuckle). But first of all I'd take exception with the view that the "literary" elements were exceptionally well executed, because they do have a tendency to bring an otherwise gripping plot to a grinding halt. And secondly I think it's fair to warn readers looking for a mystery/thriller (even a deep complex one) that it will take 100 pages or so before you start getting what you paid for. I enjoyed this book, but you should go into it with eyes open.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 16, 2013 6:42 PM PST


The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth
The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth
by Paul Hoffman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.99
150 used & new from $2.66

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading for biography fans, January 19, 2000
I received this book as a gift, and as a non-mathematician I thought it was both an interesting biography and an engaging overview of some of the key events and themes in modern mathematics.
Fair warning: it won't in particular teach you any mathematics per se; it's more about painting a picture of how mathematicians go about doing the things they do, and what makes them tick.
I would recommend this to those who like to read biographies, or those who are specifically interested in Paul Erdos himself, or those who are interested in the mathematics profession (that is, about what mathematics is like as a pursuit or profession).


Personal Injuries
Personal Injuries
by Scott Turow
Edition: Audio Cassette
71 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent on Audio Cassette, January 19, 2000
This review is from: Personal Injuries (Audio Cassette)
I listened to the audio cassette version of this while driving from Alabama to Maryland and found it absolutely superb. One of the best and most involving books-on-tape I've listened to in recent years (I always listen to one on long cross country drives). Very involving, kept me thinking & suspenseful throughout the trip.
Also, based on this experience I'd certainly recommend Joe Mantegna as a reader--a superb performance, really great & consistent character accents.
I found the story itself compelling and suspenseful. Convinced me I should go out and get a Scott Turow novel or two in paperback rather than wait until the next trip!


The Burden of Proof
The Burden of Proof
by Scott Turow
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
625 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent choice for fans of legal drama, January 19, 2000
I quite enjoyed this book, and having finished it went and immediately purchased another Scott Turow book.
It's a pretty intricately woven legal drama, so it requires some up front investment from the reader in terms of getting oneself sufficiently submerged in the characters & events to figure out everything that's going on, but the investment pays off handsomely as the characters are very three dimensional and the puzzle very interesting.


The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence
The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence
by Carl Sagan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
122 used & new from $0.01

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile reading for anyone of any generation, December 5, 1999
One of my all-time favorites, I actually read this book with, of all people, my Grandmother, who was at least equally enchanted by it.
The book is a fascinating account of the evolution of the human brain, and makes some powerful points about the ways in which our reptilian and other ancestors are still very much with us.


Darwin's Radio
Darwin's Radio
by Greg Bear
Edition: Hardcover
172 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting concepts; plot feels unfinished., December 5, 1999
This review is from: Darwin's Radio (Hardcover)
I'm normally a pretty big Greg Bear fan, but I'm going middle-of-the-road on this one. It's got some very cool concepts, develops some interesting tensions & plotlines, but the ending is pretty darn unsatisfying, feels like it leaves too many things up in the air w/ no real reason. Towards the end of the book I found myself skimming more quickly, thinking "yes, yes, I know all that, can we hurry up and get to the cool resolution of all this..." and then suddenly there I was at the end w/ nothing particularly cool happening. Everything that -did- happen at the end had already been described in rumors & foreshadowing, so there was nothing unexpected left for him to end on.
That said, I'll probably buy the sequel if there is one (surely he has to do a sequel to this, what with pretty much everything left unfinished), because I definitely enjoy a good Greg Bear book all griping aside. If you're a read-everything-by-Greg-Bear person like me, get this. If you're new to Greg Bear or just looking for some really cool SF to read, go get Anvil of Stars (also by Bear).


A Deepness in the Sky
A Deepness in the Sky
by Vernor Vinge
Edition: Hardcover
72 used & new from $0.14

5.0 out of 5 stars You won't be disappointed, December 1, 1999
This review is from: A Deepness in the Sky (Hardcover)
If you haven't read Vinge's related work, A Fire Upon The Deep, go read that first, because it's even more brilliant and gives you useful background. But if you're like me and check the "V" section every time you hit the bookstore thinking "Please God let Vernor Vinge still be alive and writing science fiction", you won't be disappointed--it's great!


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