Monday, September 08, 2008

Book(s) Review

After a flurry of books I thought I would write down some of my reactions - just in case you are considering the same books yourself. Or just in case you are looking for a good book to read.

Same Kind of Different as Me

This is a book about a black man whose modern life is more like a 200 years-ago slave. It is also about a rich white man whose chance encounter with this black man is an amazing read. I've read a lot of books recently - this one is one I would recommend.

This book deals with the common question of why God seems to not answer the prayers of the righteous and fervent. Those plaguing questions have such simple answers, don't they?

The First Three Minutes by Steven Weinberg 

This book goes through modern day cosmological arguments of the universe's origin. It deals with the complexities and recent astronomical and mathematical discoveries. The book is written to me – a layman. It’s hard to follow without some real focus, but it’s simply fascinating.

Reading scientific books can conflict with my faith. But many things do. Science is an evolving body of knowledge. I know that. I position my brain to learn as much as I can within a world view that applies my/man’s knowledge to a expectation of who/what God is. Conflict resolved. 

The Disappeared by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

This fiction novel takes place in the future and mostly on the moon. It addresses the unusual circumstance of appeasing cultural differences between earth and alien civilizations. It’s smart with interesting twists – but it should have been a short story.

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

I first read Mere Christianity in my college ethics class. Man, I missed 99% of it then. There’s no questioning the power of Lewis’ simplistic approach. He’s a smart man handling issues with humility. Reading it again was like reading it for the first time. It was empowering to my faith.

How Come They Always had the Battles in the National Parks? by Peter Bales  

Have you ever wanted to read history with sarcasm? Here’s your chance. This summary of American History around the Civil War period is very enlightening and surprising entertaining. Don’t expect a simple read, though – this is fun, but very academic.

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming  

The movie was fun. I was looking to relive it. But the book is different. Some of the book would have been cool in the movie, and much of the movie would have been cool in the book. This was Fleming’s first Bond novel. Much of Bond hadn’t been refined. But, no question, I couldn’t stop reading.

Where's My Jetpack? By Daniel H. Wilson, Ph.D.  

Here’s a book that walks through the promises of science fiction and investigates how close we’ve come. It talks about Star Trek transporters, travel in space, antigravity, and jet packs. Almost immediately out of date – it was still a fun ride through modern day research projects to make fiction real.

Mountains of the Pharaohs by Zahi Hawass  

Ever wonder who built the pyramids? Hawass is amazingly honest in how little we know. But on that acknowledgement he walks us through the modern day assumptions and the controversies. It’s amazing and fascinating to get a glimpse 5,000 years into the past.

Star Trek: The Entropy Effect by Vonda N. McIntyre  

This novel focuses on Spock’s travel through time to save the life of Captain Kirk. The base plot is so used it almost feels dirty. This book tries to find a fresh twist. In the end, it’s entertaining – but forgettable.

Star Trek, The Next Generation: Gulliver's Fugitives by Keith Sharee  

Were I not on vacation I would not have read this stupid book. It deals with a plant that outlaws creative thinking. The whole concept is silly and self-defeating. Maybe there was a moral I missed.

Star Trek, New Frontier: Books 1-4 by Peter David and John J. Ordover  

Finally, a long Star Trek novel – if it had only been interesting. I think a lot of science fiction authors attempt to recreate a movie or something. In this case, the plot was so “convenient” that there was nothing to really anticipate. It all worked out and it all worked out easy.

Star Trek: Transformations by Dave Stern  

Here’s a story a lot like a classic mummy story. Our friend Captain Sulu has dreams that pull him to a planet to confront the ruler of a culture lost more than millennia ago. It’s got some interesting archeological references and some nice plot devices. Not great, but a better Star Trek novel.

Star Trek: Web of the Romulans by M.S. Murdock

The plague has hit the Romulans and the Enterprise computer is in love with Captain Kirk. Sound cheesy? That’s because it is. Guess how it ends? Happily, of course.

Star Trek: The Kobayashi Maru by Julia Ecklar 

I love the concept around this test. I refer to it all the time because the “no win scenario” is everywhere and it’s healthy to consider it. In this novel, Kirk has the antidote and must deliver it. Does he? Of course he does.

Star Trek, Deep Space Nine: Legends of the Ferengi by Ira Steven Behr and Robert Hewitt Wolfe  

This novel is in Quark’s voice. He reads some of the Rules of Acquisition with illustrative stories.  It’s meant to be cute. I think I caught myself laughing out loud a few times. The whole conundrum with the Ferengi Rules is bothersome – how could a society encourage greed and survive?

Star Trek: Time for Yesterday by A.C. Crispin  

Spock has a son? It turns out he does – born 5,000 years ago when Spock once traveled backward and married an alien bride. The complexities are troublesome and the story churns along just as you would expect it to. It’s not very “Star Trek” if you ask me.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway  

Is your writing style complicated? Do you want an example of simple writing? Writing that is powerful and saturated with emotion? Here it is. My father-in-law received this as a present. I had never read it. So, I got it. I read it and pleasantly discovered one of my favorite novels was waiting and unread.

The Children of Men by P.D. James  

I never saw the movie. I heard the movie was terrible and very political. This book, however, is different. It takes place in England. Like many novels, the main character has explainable access to all angles of the story – from the urchin to the emperor.  In retrospect, I wish I had not read it.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury  

Bradbury’s clever novel has “firemen” burning houses – not saving them. Some type of coating prevents homes from burning – so when outlawed creative material is discovered somewhere, they spray the chemicals necessary to ensure it is all incinerated. It’s a fantastic novel with a fascinating series of events and dialogs. But, the movie is good, too.

The World of Atlas Shrugged by Robert Bidinotto  

Atlas Shrugged is a seriously long book. I like long books, but not this long. The cradle of a new and screwed up philosophy, Atlas Shrugged should not be ignored. “The World of Altas Shrugged” is a summary that tells you the general plot, the characters, and a good deal of its philosophical impact.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi  

Here’s the idea. You help other people out of good nature. Others help you out of good nature. Nothing could get done otherwise. So, you should spend your time working with other people, helping other people, building relationships with other people. Generosity is what makes business gears turn.

Hume in 90 Minutes by Paul Strathern  

Hume was a Scottish philosopher during the 1700’s. He was the first real “naturalist” which uses reason to understand everything. Although it sounds in conflict, it’s interesting to note that Hume was a man of God. Hume dealt with induction (the contrary logic to deduction) a mechanism of forecasting based on past events. It was a popular means of induction in his time and Hume believed few things could be less reasonable.

Thomas Aquinas in 90 Minutes by Paul Strathern  

Aquinas was an Italian church philosopher during the 1200’s. Aquinas’ writings (which greatly influence my own theology today) were condemned by the church in 1270 – he was excommunicated. In 1979, the current pope declared that Aquinas’ theology was a definitive exposition of Catholic doctrine. Quite a turn around, huh?

Aquinas said God is simple, perfect, infinite, and immutable. In almost every way this I echoed through modern protestant theology. He is famous for his five proofs of God:

1. The unmoved mover (the source of motion)
2. The first cause (the source of cause/effect)
3. From Contingency (the source of reliance)
4. From Degree (degrees of perfection imply perfection)
5. From Design (intelligence in design, not in objects)

Joy at Work by Dennis W. Bakke  

This book chronicles a CEO’s work to create a corporate culture that empowers the individual dignities of workers. It is compelling, energizing, and a little inspirational. I thought the book was great, but that the ending was very disenchanting and killed much of the earlier momentum.

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