Monday, October 04, 2010

What I read -- September 2010

“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. Started this at the cottage, because I found it in the shed. I don’t think I ever had to read it before, but as I told my dentist, you can’t go wrong with Dickens.

“The Flooded Earth” by Peter D. Ward. I got this out of the library because I read some favourable references to it online, probably in Salon and the Toronto Star, and also because I love true future disaster books. It took me less than a week to read, but I had some problems with it. Like for example, my mind would wander because of the excess of compound complex sentences. There were like two simple sentences per page! He was trying to cram as much information into each sentence as he could, and that’s good, but I would lose track of the subject, or the sentences wouldn’t lead smoothly into each other. It was sort of like reading a really long essay by a precocious high schooler, sometimes. He was very passionate about the content, but sometimes he’d go on a crazy tangent. Like, there were two pages in the section about salt intrusion where he ranted about road salt. I mean, I agree that road salt is really damaging to the environment, and we ought to rethink our excessive use of it, but it did nothing to support his thesis.

I found the rhetorical devices not very subtle, and some of it was kind of Malthusian. I thought the definition of peak oil was over-simplified, and that made me question the rest of the book. I don’t like Stephen Harper (because I have a vague feeling he hates women), and yet I don’t think he’s fairly treated. I didn’t feel like the futures he depicted were consistent with each other (maybe they were and it was a failure of my imagination) from chapter to chapter.

This book was frustrating I guess, because as I think Bertollucci said, you can only argue with someone with whom you basically agree. But for example, I don’t feel like the government ought to be planning more than 50 years in advance, for example. It would be great if they did, rather than planning four years in advance, like I feel like they do, but didn’t this guy read “Foundation”? Doesn’t he know that in that amount of time, the Mule will appear, and all your mathematical predictions will have to be thrown out the window? So yeah, perhaps this wasn’t the book for me.

“Wizard’s First Rule” by Terry Goodkind. Never sure how to pronounce the last syllable of the last name, so it’s just as well I’m writing this down. The boy has read this series, beginning to end, about three times, and he basically forced this book on me. Fortunately, it’s very easy to read 60 pages at a sitting. Goodkind does know how to end a chapter so I’ll say “oh, just one more.” However, I found it kind of emotionless. I had no idea Richard was so filled with repressed anger until I was told; up until then I’d thought he was filled with teenage angst. Also, I found the politics exhausting, especially the gender politics. The fight scenes were fantastic, though.

There were a lot of things wrong with this book. There were things that I found unintentionally funny (the double-down Star Wars ending amused...) But the fight scenes were great, as was that 60-page torture scene. Wow, it made me wonder if Mr. G. had written some hard core porn in a previous life.

Also, looking at his author’s photo, I’d be afraid not to like this book, lest he beat the crap out of me.

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