Tuesday, November 24, 2020

UnspeakableUnspeakable by Chris Hedges
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is somewhat unique in claiming, sometimes rightly so, that it talks about the topics that modern political discourse completely disregards.

It's not that the subject material (the growing disparity between the rich and the disenfranchised, the total consumption of wealth by military spending, the complete lack of regard for those who don't already have power) isn't real. It's freaking obvious. So obvious it's pervasive and stifling.

No. The point of this book is to say the quiet part loud.

Chris Hedges was a war correspondent -- and not just a normal one that sat in safe hotels waiting for safe tidbits to drop into his lap. He was out in the field and broke news about war atrocities. In other words, he made enemies by following his standard of morals and his sense of right. Throughout his career, and making mistakes that sometimes might not be considered mistakes, but simply the revolutionary idea of standing up for the ideal of truth, he soldiered on.

Whether it was speaking the truth about Iraq's involvement in 9/11, atrocities in Kosovo, prison riots in the States that were more about heating elements to keep the inmates fed, rather than the idea of anarchy, or whether it was about the real tragedy of the Occupy Movement or even Nelson Mandella, the tragedy of the anti-war movement of the '70s or the wry legitimization of war in the '80s under a guise, truth always seemed to die.

Hedges, like Chomsky, has a razor-sharp focus. He refuses to let the standard line get in the way of good reporting. You know, the reporting that we have now. The kind that comes out of money, that relies on big money, that bows before war efforts, corporations, banks, and the blindness of ideals.

He doesn't care what side of a line anyone is on. He has plenty to say about the Right and the Left, and much more to say about the underlying problems of the class divide, institutional racism, and the rise of the current fascism.

Make no mistake. It may seem like old hat now, but he was writing about this long before it became a common household theme.

For this, I can thank him for bringing up all this long before it became a thing on a lot of people's radars.

Suffice to say, we need more of this unflinching honesty and devotion to truth.

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Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (Charlie Bucket, #2)Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having always been a fan of Wonka, it occurred to me that I was a very, very bad man for never having read the sequel.

Was I slightly afraid? Maybe. I mean, the story was all kinds of perfect all by itself. Leaving in that great glass elevator was rather a perfect ending.

And when this book begins, exactly where the other left off, I WAS slightly disappointed. The whole SF aspect was... ahem. Fortunately, it got back to speed once we returned to the factory. I enjoyed the rest just fine. :)

Ah, greed. It never really changes. :)

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Monday, November 23, 2020

Charlotte's WebCharlotte's Web by E.B. White
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very little needs to be said about this one. It's a classic. Even my jaded kid-self loved the original cartoon, but it took ALL THIS TIME to finally get around to reading the book.

Tisk, tisk, right?

In reality, it's a story about a con job and the rise of the PR firm, "Charlotte's Web". It becomes a cottage industry for all the fat pigs out there.

Just because it's heartwarming doesn't mean that we can't interpret it with an evil bent. :)

Oh, and my daughter loved it, too. :)

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Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & PowerRequiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power by Noam Chomsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When it comes to sussing out the state of our world and all the factors that contribute to where we've wound up, I'm not a slouch. I've read hundreds of books and have followed so much news and have discovered, again and again, that Noam Chomsky *Knows His Shit*.

Just from the standpoint that he has also been one of those intellectuals with a fantastic memory, unimpeachable logic, and a burning heart, I should mention that he should be read just because he cares.

The title of this book is pretty inflammatory, no? But my advice is this: read it for the information within. I've read a lot of books that back up each of these concise points in vast detail.

So why should anyone read THIS particular book, though?

Because it's diamond-sharp, doesn't waste a single second of time getting to the point, and it IS based on facts. It should come as no surprise that almost everyone is getting disenfranchised while the rich and powerful are getting more rich and powerful by the second. If you want to get that breakdown in a very short period of time, you would do much worse than to consider this a brilliant primer.

Get your foot in the door.

It's not like the world is getting better. Don't fall for PR or pyrrhic victories. The causes of our problems are still here. We need to understand the problems before we can cure them, and no amount of palliative care is worth the time.

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War in Heaven (A Requiem for Homo Sapiens, #3)War in Heaven by David Zindell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is absolutely no way to review this book with any justice.

Suffice to say, I have to revise my top ten book list.

Mind you, I must put all four books into the pile as one long story because while they can be read individually with their own major punctuation point, there's simply no way to separate one YES, YES, YES from the rest.

What is this book, these books?

They are some of the finest Science Fiction I've ever read. It has everything.

Heart-searching, amazing worldbuilding, philosophy, amazing action, gorgeous prose, and ... even now, after having read nearly 6 thousand books in my life, even manages to CHANGE MY LIFE.

Look. I'm kinda skeptical and I take certain book-journeys with kid gloves. If a book accomplishes what it sets out to achieve, or if it is entertaining, or if I learned a ton from it, I tend to give it full marks just because it was excellent on its own terms. But then there are some books that take me by the back of my neck, stare deep into my eyes, and fill me with a soul-hungry WILDNESS that asks me that single, awesome question:

"How do you capture a beautiful bird without killing its spirit?"

THIS book is the answer.

I laughed, I cried, and I want to scream out to everyone I know... YOU MUST READ THESE!!!!

I can't say it enough. They are amazing. They should be ranked right up there with the best books of any field, not just SF or Fantasy. I say the same thing about Dune. It's not only wise and overflowing with life. It's heart-wrenching.

Don't let the fact that it's hard-SF set in a far future filled with lightships and computer gods and alien worlds. Those are for context. The heart of these books in nature of life, of the injustice of life, and how to live with it. In that respect, it's very much a classic tale.

But when you answer the question that I posed, before, it answers about three dozen other questions and it may simply blow your mind.

I think I'll be putting all four of these books in my place of pride on my bookshelf and read them over and over. Danlo is a friend I will always want by my side.

Oh, and if this isn't that clear, I need to say: OMG ya'll, FIND these, READ them. They BEG for readers.

There is serious injustice going on here. It's hard to FIND them. The publishers SCREWED the author over. These books deserve to have airtime and be gushed over by millions of readers and be subject to endless online arguments and be petitioned for movie deals. But instead, I'm afraid that they will remain forgotten and left to rot under tons of trash.

I cannot stress this enough.
These are CLASSICS. The REAL DEAL. Utterly amazing.

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TroikaTroika by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading Reynolds is always a treat. This relatively older novella doubles down on the old Soviet Space program and turns it into a paranoiacs dream while simultaneously giving us the Big Dumb Object effect. The attention to detail is superb.

The COMMENTARY, however, sneaks up on you. It's not just a great story. It's a slap in the face for everyone else NOT in the old Soviet Era.


Well, I guess everything changes. It doesn't get better or worse. It just gets STRANGER.

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Sunday, November 22, 2020

On Safari in R'lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and CameraOn Safari in R'lyeh and Carcosa with Gun and Camera by Elizabeth Bear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No spoilers, but this fun little Elizabeth Bear story has tones of Lovecraft and R. Chambers while reading like a straight SF novel of scientific and personal discovery.

Did I think it was brilliant? No. But I did think it was solid and evokes all those glorious memes and religious terror wrapped up in an awesome genetic jewel.

It almost makes me believe that the spirit of inquiry DOESN'T automatically lead to 1d6 dead investigators.

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