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The Plot Against America: A Novel
The Plot Against America: A Novel
by Philip Roth
Edition: Hardcover
548 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Alternate History Told Through a Family's Story, January 3, 2005
Many stories involving alternate histories could be considered more science fiction or fantasy rather than plain fiction. Their ideas are usually so far fetched and detached from the reality we know that its hard for the reader to imagine it as a possible alternative to our current life. This is not the case in The Plot Against America.

The changes in American history throughout this novel are all relatively plausible, demonstrating that with a few changes to our nation's history, things in America could have turned out quite differently. The key change is the election of Charles Lindbergh to the Presidency in 1940, defeating Franklin Roosevelt. This results in the United States signing a non-agression pact with Hitler's Germany.

This book, of course, is not a political history of the United States nor an examination of an alternate foreign policy. Rather, this is a story about a Jewish family living in New Jersey, and how they're lives are affected by the election of a President who imposes his anti-semite views on the country. The story's narrator, a young (7 year old) Philip Roth, discusses his feelings and viewpoints as he watches the strain the "new" America puts on his family and friends.

The family vantage point is what really makes this novel. You get to see how these realistic alternatives to American policy would have affected a relatively small, but still substantial, minority of the population in the United States. It is frightening to see how with such a small change the United States could have turned into a country that did not display any of the bedrock principles of equality that the nation was founded upon.


State of Fear
State of Fear
by Michael Crichton
Edition: Hardcover
804 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Science more Interesting than the Plot, January 3, 2005
This review is from: State of Fear (Hardcover)
Michael Crichton's latest techno-thriller involves a group of scientists and lawyers racing against time to stop an eco-terrorist group who's bent on proving to the world at the effects of global warming will be devastating. Throughout the book, some of the characters take the radical standpoint that global warming does not really exist, or, at the very least, has been greatly overexaggerated by the scientific community and politicians.

Throughout the novel, Crichton cites many sources that seem to argue that global warming is not a phenomena that we should be concerned about. Rather, that any effects that have been attributed to global warming should rightfully be attributed to land use or a general warming trend that has been occuring over the past several hundred years. Some sources claim that the the ice caps are now thickening, after a period of melting over the course of the past six thousand years. I am the first to admit that I am in no position to judge such scientific research. Whether Crichton has carefully combed through the scientific journals to find the small proportion of research that supports his novel's claim is beyond me. However, the idea that an idea has become so entrenched in our society that challenging it, even with scientific evidence, is political or scientific suicide is both interesting and, unfortunately, realistic. It is good to challenge ideas that we blindly accept as true. Even if the science in this novel is not generally accepated in the scientific community, examining the research to make sure we truly understand the environmental situation must certainly be a good idea.

The problem is that learning about the science behind the story is more interesting than the story itself. Not that the story is boring or anything like that. But the characters are not particularly memorable and the plot, while at times exciting, does not feel truly original. Most of the time I found myself saying, "yes, that's interesting but when are we going to get back to the science?"

If you're a Crichton fan there's no reason that you won't love this novel as well. It's got action, thrills, and the science that we have all come to love from Crichton novels. However, this novel is probably weaker in its overall plot and characters than most of Crichton's works. Those who have not yet Crichton would do better to start with his more famous works such as Jurassic Park or Congo.


Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order
Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order
by Robert Kagan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.46
224 used & new from $0.01

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Concise Account of the Current Transatlantic Relationship, December 29, 2004
At only 158 pages, Of Paradise and Power by Robert Kagan manages to do an exceptional job at describing the current relationship between the United States and Europe. While some may argue that Kagan's brevity is accomplished at the sacrifice of details and explanations, many should find the length of this text to be refreshing. Most longer works are not necessarily filled with more information, just more ways to say the same few points that could be addressed in half the length.

The basic premise of the book is that the U.S. and Europe practically live in different worlds, where the U.S. still utilizes power politics while Europe lives in a world governed by rules, laws, and diplomacy. Europeans disapprove of America's obsession with power politics and its comparatively large defense budget. Of course, they are allowed to live in the "post-modern" world they occupy precisely because the U.S. undertakes the task of being the global policman.

Kagan at times walks a fine line between being objective about the policies and practices of the U.S. and Europe and appearing to be in favor of U.S. policy and against European opinion. However, these instances are short and never take away from the overall impact of the work. In other words, any perceived bias from Kagan does not nullify his description of the transatlantic relationship.

Some have said that this work will come to be as important has Huntington's Clash of Civilizations. This is entirely possible, as the rise of the European Union and current U.S. foreign policy will have a drastic and important effect on the U.S.' relationship with it's European allies. Anyone interested on better understanding this relationship and where it is heading int he 21st century should pick up this book.


Plan of Attack
Plan of Attack
by Bob Woodward
Edition: Hardcover
624 used & new from $0.01

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fact-filled Account of the Planning of the War in Iraq, November 15, 2004
This review is from: Plan of Attack (Hardcover)
This is the second book by Bob Woodward that I have read, the first being Bush at War. Those who were fans of that book will find this one interesting as well. It provides more insight into the inner-workings of the George W. Bush administration and the politics provide planning the first preemptive war in American military history.

I think the most important thing to note about this book is that Woodward provides a roadmap or diagram of the processes behind planning the war. He outlines the varying steps and decisions that had to be made along the way to go from the initial planning stages to the actual implementation and the first days and months of the War in Iraq. This book is NOT, however, an analysis of those decisions and the actors involved in the planning process. Those readers looking for a critique of the Bush administration should look elsewhere. This book is designed to provide the reader with the necessary information in order to reach their OWN opinion with no interference from the author.

That being said, this book offers incredible insight into Bush's cabinet, especially Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and, to a lesser degree, NSA Condi Rice and President George W. Bush. While Woodward was allowed to interview President Bush on two separate occasions for several hours each time, Bush is not the "strongest" character of the book. Instead, his cabinet members are flushed out considerably and their personal policy preferences become relatively apparent. Increasingly apparent is how the administration pushed aside the views and preferences of Secretary of State Colin Powell in favor of the apparent fervor of going after Iraq displayed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney.

At almost 450 pages, the book does get tiresome, especially because it is, simply put, a timeline of events throughout the months leading up to the start of the war. Towards the end of the book I was ready to be done with it so I could move on to something else. This may be do to my poor attention span rather than the book itself. Never the less, this book offers an insight into the decision-making process of the administration. Since Woodward does not interject his own opinion throughout the book, it allows the reader to form their own opinion. This should also lend some credibly to the book and should be accepted by both the left and the right as an accurate account and description of the current administration.


Spider-Man 2 (Widescreen Special Edition)
Spider-Man 2 (Widescreen Special Edition)
DVD ~ Rosemary Harris
Price: $4.99
784 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superior to the Original in Every Way, November 2, 2004
Spiderman 2 is superior to its predecessor in every way, and that's saying something. The original Spiderman was an amazing accomplishment, matching action and special effects with excellent storytelling. Spiderman 2 expands on that ideal, with bigger and better special effects and a more in-depth emotional backdrop.

Spiderman 2 finds our hero Peter Parker suffering from the increasing strain of leading his double life has college student Peter Parker and superhero Spiderman. This strain can most notably be observed in his relationship with Mary Jane, who has become increasing annoyed with Peter and his apparent unreliability to be there when she needs him. His best friend Harry Osborne is still spiteful about Peter's "relationship" with Spiderman, who he blames for the death of his father, the Green Goblin from the first film.

This time around, Spiderman must take on Dr. Octopus, played by Alfred Molina. Molina's performance is probably one of the most memorable for a villian. Willem Dafoe's performance is the first film was very good but at times a bit over the top - Molina does not suffer from this drawback. Dr. Octavius has his mechanical arms welded onto his body during a lab accident. Soon, the arfitical intelligence that governs the arms have corrupted his mind, turning him into Dr. Octopus. Doc Ock becomes obsessed with rebuilding his fusion reactor to create an unlimited energy source and resorts to crime in order to achieve this goal.

The special effects are turned up a notch in this film thanks to it's larger budget. The fight scenes between Spiderman and Doc Ock are more intricate and convincing. While this makes the film more enjoyable, what really separates this film from other superhero movies is the story revolving around Peter Parker. Unlike other films, this movie is just as good when we are watching Peter as when we are watching Spiderman. The action isn't required to carry the entire film, which allowed the film to explore Parker's life as well.

This is definitely the best superhero movie of all time, hands down. Fans of the Spiderman comic book will be thrilled with Sam Raimi's ability to accurately capture the web-crawler than fans have enjoyed the past 40 years. If you're not a comic book fan, this is probably one of the few films that you might still enjoy. Give it a try. You won't be sorry.


AVP: Alien vs. Predator (Widescreen Edition)
AVP: Alien vs. Predator (Widescreen Edition)
DVD ~ Sanaa Lathan
Price: $6.17
314 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disapointment, but not nearly as bad as it could've been, October 28, 2004
Two of Fox's major franchises are combined in Alien vs. Predator. A film that has been rumored ever since fans saw an Alien skull in the Predator's ship at the end of Predator 2, AVP fails to live up to the standards set by its two individual franchises. While some of this could be blamed on the intense anticipation that has built up around the project for the past 10 years, some of it must rightly be placed on the fact that the movie was of poor quality.

First, look at the director. The predator and alien franchises have been helmed by directors such as James Cameron, Ridley Scott, and John McTiernan. Besides the Alien or Predator films, these directors have done Terminator, Die Hard, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and many more. The director of this film: Paul W.S. Anderson, who has directed such classics as Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil (great games to be sure, but lousy films). From the start, this film is already at a disadvantage compared to its predecessors. It's hard enough to live up to the legacy that is the Alien and Predator films; it's even harder when you lack the talent to even try.

The biggest problem with the film is that it feels rushed. At only 88 minutes, the movie is over before a strong cast or story can be achieved. The story involves a team of scientists who find a temple under the ice of the antarctic through satellite imagery. There, they discover that within the temple is a chamber home to an Alien queen who lays eggs that impregnate humans used as sacrifices. Those aliens are in turn hunted by a small group of predators who must defeat the aliens as a rite of passage.

In terms of the speed of the film, I had two major problems. First, the team of scientists is relatively large, which I thought would allow for both species to have plenty of victims. However, most (but not all) of the humans are killed off through various manners in one 5 minute span. The purpose of this seemed to be to narrow the cast down to just a few key players, but since the characters are never properly developed, this ploy just does not work out. Instead, it serves only to bring about the end of the film quicker. The same can be said of the flashback that is used to explain the presence of the predators and aliens. It's a quick flashback that is quickly explained by the pictographs found on a wall in the pyramid. It felt more like Anderson thought this was an annoyance that had to be done rather than an integral part of the film.

There has been outcry over the "friendliness" of one of the predators in the film. I understood why this was necessary (it would have been difficult to have the humans be the only characters who had any interaction outside of violence) but it just did not come off right in this film. Instead it seemed more childish than anything else.

There are some good aspects however. The special effects are good, especially because it does not rely solely on digital effects for the creatures. The sets, specifically the pyramid itself, are great and create an excellent atmosphere.

This is not a horrible film, but it is only average. What makes it worse is that it's the combination of two successful franchises, both of which contain films better than this one. Die hard fans might enjoy this film nonetheless, but others should stay away.


The West Wing: Season 3
The West Wing: Season 3
DVD ~ Martin Sheen
Offered by MightySilver
Price: $18.41
39 used & new from $0.93

68 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emmy Winning Drama Show, October 21, 2004
This review is from: The West Wing: Season 3 (DVD)
The third season of The West Wing follows President Bartlett and his staff as they kick off his re-election campaign. This comes in the wake of President Bartlett's admission to the public that he has M.S. and concealed it from the public during the campaign.

The season actually starts off with an episode entitled "Isaac and Ishmael," a stand alone episode written in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Many people did not like the episode (although it has gained popularity) but I really enjoyed it. After that, the season resumes where it left off in "Two Cathedrals" (the second season finale). Ron Silver comes on as Bruno Gianelli, the campaign director for Bartlett's re-election. There are some spectacular guest appearances throughout this season (besides Silver). First is Mark Harmon, as a Secret Service Agent who is assigned to protect CJ Cregg after she receives several death threats. Also, Hal Holbrooke is great as Assistant Secretary of State Ablie Duncan.

Bartlett's opponent in the presidential race is Republican Governor Richie, a man with a President George W. Bush-type persona. Besides having to overcome his lie about his medical condition, Bartlett must compete with a candidate who seems to be more like the "average American" and he must decide whether to try and take that path, or stick with being himself, an academic liberal from New England.

All in all this is a great season, although perhaps not as consistent as the first two. The last episdoe, "Posse Commitatus," is a great finale in which the President must decide whether or not to use military foces to assisinate a foreign leader. West Wing fans should own this season as it continues on the tradition of superb writing, wit, and drama.


Buffy The Vampire Slayer - The Complete First Season
Buffy The Vampire Slayer - The Complete First Season
DVD ~ Sarah Michelle Gellar
Offered by arrow-media
Price: $19.97
23 used & new from $0.01

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Television Show that blows it's movie counterpart away, October 19, 2004
First off, if you have seen the film version of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," don't hold that against this show. This show ignores the existence of the film and starts over again (Thank God).

This 12 episode set (Buffy was a mid-season replacement) starts with Buffy Summers (the "chosen one" or "vampire slayer") moving to Sunnydale High School after being kicked out of her last high school for burning down the gym (fighting vampires of course). There, she meets up with her new "Watcher" Rupert Giles, and fellow high school students Xander, Willow, and Cordellia. Together, the gang fights the forces of evil that gather around the Hellmouth that lies under the town of Sunnydale.

What's great about this show, especially in the early seasons, is its mixture of action/drama and comedy. The comedy is not slapstick, like in the film. Rather, the comedy is the witty banter that occurs between all the characters. It's never enough that you don't take the danger the characters are in seriously. Instead, it just lightens the mood and makes you laugh. The later seasons seemed to lose some of this wit, becoming much more darker and sinister, but the earlier seasons are free from this. Also, the first season is a more episodic format, with each episode being a self-contained story (although if you watched them out of order, there are some references that you may not understand). It was not until the later seasons that season-long story arcs were used that tied the whole season together.

The action is first rate in this show. Perhaps the only thing about this show that surpasses the action is the superb writing from Joss Whedon. If you liked Buffy on television, you should start up a DVD collection. If you missed the show on tv, give it a chance and you won't regret it.


Stargate SG-1 Season 7 Boxed Set
Stargate SG-1 Season 7 Boxed Set
DVD ~ Richard Dean Anderson
20 used & new from $6.49

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Still Great After All These Years, October 19, 2004
Season 7 is the first season to be produced under the ownership of the Sci-Fi Channel. There are some changes in the show, some related and some unrelated to this change in ownership.

First and foremost, Col. Jack O'Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) has a reduced role on the show (this was at his own request - he wished to spend more time with his daughter). Because of this, Carter, Teal'C, and Daniel Jackson (who returns in the first episdoe of the season) have to pick up the slack. Each of them do, with episodes that are more character driven than in the past. Also, the return of Dr. Jackson means the departure of Jonas Quinn (Corin Nemec) back to his home planet. Those who were fans of Jonas might be disappointed, but he does make a guest appearance later in the season (I'm sure the numerous Jackson fans are excited about his return, however).

There is also less use of the Stargate than in past seasons. Most episodes in the past would focus on SG-1 traveling to another planet in order to assist the indigenous populace or fight the Goa'uld. In this season, the team stays on Earth much more often, with episodes that deal with the individual characters or the uncovering of political plots against the program. This departure from episodic television format is reminiscent of The X-Files, when Mulder and Scully began uncovering the government conspiracy against them that dominated the show for the past several seasons.

For fans of Stargate SG-1, this is a must have. There is no reason not to continue your collection of DVDs with this season. Those new to the series should start with earlier seasons, both for storytelling and stylistic seasons. Either way, you'll eventually want to get this DVD set.


24: Season 1
24: Season 1
DVD ~ Kiefer Sutherland
Offered by Anchor*Media
Price: $14.43
44 used & new from $0.01

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best shows on television, October 18, 2004
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: 24: Season 1 (DVD)
I missed the first season of 24 when it was on television - I didn't start watching until the second season. Afterwards, I loved the show so much that I bought the first season on DVD and watched it in about 2 days.

For those who don't know, 24 follows CTU (Counter Terrorism Unit) Agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) in a format where each episode represents an hour of real time action (the "clock" keeps counting while the commercials are on). After 3 seasons, the first is still the best.

In the first season, Jack Bauer has recently reconciled with his estranged wife and daughter, but their family reunion is put on hold when Bauer is called in to work one night, only to get caught up in an assassination plot against an African American Senator running for the U.S. Presidency.

While some of the events that occur stretch the limits of the imagination (when you think about it, an impossibly amount of things occur in the 24 hour period), the twists, turns, revelations, and action more than make up for it. One of the best action/drama shows on television


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