Thursday, June 30, 2011


Finished another book on tape, Snow by Orhan Pamuk.  A rather long book to listen to over a few days.  The story focuses on the many political and cultural tensions found in modern day Turkey through the voice of the lead character, Ka, and later the Narrator who is a friend who tells the story through the reading of Ka’s journals and other correspondence he received from Ka.  Ka is a poet who is drawn to his home country of Turkey after 12 years of political exile in Germany and has not written anything for the past four years. A friend of Ka’s suggests that he go to the town of Kars to investigate the recent suicides of a number of young women in the city. The suicides have caused great controversy between the Muslim communities as suicide is against the law of Muslim religion.

Ka, when returning for his investigation in Turkey, is reunited with İpek, a woman with whom he fell in love earlier in his life.  İpek is now divorced from a man who was very politically involved running for office with the Islamic party while she is the daughter of an atheist.  The religious groups struggle against one another as the global influence has started to enter Turkey’s world and Ka and the people around him are in the midst of the battle.  Ka attempts to learn more about the families of the “head-scarf girls,” while those in power and the military will do anything to keep the local story within their domain, and not in the Western media.  Besides the struggle of the women’s decision to kill themselves, other political battles are occurring all around Ka and Ipek as they witness a shooting of the top local governmental official by a Muslim extremist. The struggle of the women’s independence and ability to choose how to live is a major theme in this mysterious story.  Throw in a military coup at the National Theatre, shootings of top officials, murders of more young girls, and the love affair of Ka and Ipek and one has a thrilling story of a nation which I knew little about.  An underlying story of Ka’s poetry called “Snow” is inspired by his return home which is a mystical experience for him.  His block in writing seemingly lifts during his reuniting with Ipek and his introduction to her sister, Kadife (who has joined and become the leader of the "head-scarf girls," those who insist upon being "covered").   The struggle on what the authorities want and the role that some women want in defining themselves leads to a collision of ideologies. 

The reader gets an inside glimpse into the Extremist world in a non-Westernized country such as Turkey.  The author’s portrayal of Ka and his re-entrance into his former country and the feelings and challenges (like his imminent death) keeps the reader on edge as does his growing love for Ipek.  From the onset and the “snow” metaphor, it was easy to tell this one was not going to end with a “bright sunny ending.”  The writing is poetic and brilliantly “painted.”  Pamuk hits a home run with this novel.   While pretty long, I was entered into a world so foreign, but real with raw emotions and confusion that life really does exist like this.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Look Homeward, Angel

It took me about three weeks of listening to finish this one, Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe.  A classic read (listen in my case) of the tale of the Gant family growing up in Altamont, Catawba, a fictional town.  The story appears to be an autobiographical account of Mr. Wolfe’s real life “coming of age” story.  The town of Altamont is located in the south and follows the life of the youngest Gant, Eugene, from his birth through age 19 years old and is set in the late 1890s through the 1910s.  Eugene’s father’s first wife died suddenly and he married again to Eliza Pentland and had more children, including Eugene.  Eugene’s father is presented as a sickly man who also uses his share of alcohol but seems to come to peace with the joy of his life, young Eugene.  Eugene’s youth is challenged by that which the youth of today experience... peer pressure, unclear goals, and yet a desire to live the American Dream.  He is convinced that education, a Harvard education, will give him the tools for a better life.  The reader is provided descriptive pictures and the scenery of the place, the people, and the idiosyncrasies of the time.  Wolfe is a poetic genius.  His language paints vivid portraits that allow the reader a step inside the world at that time.  This was more of an experience than a story that has a critical turn or learning.  We learn how Wolfe thought, acted, and was challenged during a time of rapid change and hard times.  Money was not easy to come by, especially for those who did not have a trade, or a farm!  While the tale is not one that provides a turning point, I felt I was dropped into Eugene’s world and was better for it.  Don’t expect excitement and a turning point, but do expect well written and documented moments of life that Eugene learned and developed into who he would become because of the people who were around him.  I’d add this to the list, especially when you have a long weekend sitting around the fire place and reminiscing your past days in life. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lies My Teacher Told Me

I never learned history from the perspective presented in Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen. Loewen provides an anti-European view on the history of the United States and reinforces his opinions with very strong supporting cited materials - a requirement which almost every book I read in school must have decided to ignore. From Christopher Columbus, the alleged founder of America, to the racism that still exists in the country, the reader is provided an alternative perspective on how life really was in the earliest days of the United States. Loewen goes into great detail outlining the racist practices of U.S. Presidents such as Woodrow Wilson, Washington, Jefferson, Kennedy, and even Lincoln. Oh my, wasn’t there anyone who was interested in equality, justice, and care for the individual?

A scathing section on how we treated the first inhabitants of America, the Native Americans who attempted to provide support to the European immigrants, was supplied by Loewen. The Europeans exposed the Native Americans to less hygienic practices which caused dysentery, smallpox, typhus, and other massive illness which led to significant death among the native populations. And yet this is not what history students come away with, as emphasis is placed on celebrations like Thanksgiving, where the Europeans “invite” the natives to eat the food that the Europeans allegedly grew.

The major question is how did this misinformation continue to be taught in our schools? Has nobody stopped it from being printed in a textbook? Why not offer competing or diverse perspectives? Did we become a community where only positive and good news is the history of the day? Loewen offers some answers, and also illuminates the challenges that our society faces in getting the “other side of the story” to be taught.

Overall, Loewen’s book is a must read for young history buffs, let alone anyone who never had the opportunity to hear the other voice. I appreciate all of the citations that Loewen provides to make his points, the interesting pictures, and clearly some new thoughts on how our leadership, including the Presidents of the US of A, have been functioning. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Infections and Inequalities

To really understand the injustice that our society continues to allow to happen, one needs to read Paul Farmer, yes the great humanitarian doctor, who provides a ethnographic review of the lives and the challenges of Haiti being ravished by AIDS.  The book, Infections and Inequalities, begins by discussing the modern plaques, AIDS and the re-emergence of TB.  He quotes Richard Wilkinson in 1996 stating, “the health effects of inequality have shown us how deeply people are affected by these structural features of our society… great equity would add to the average length of life … Not only is the cost of inequality a cost we incur for no economic benefit, but all the indications are that it imposes a substantial economic burden which reduces the competitiveness of the whole society.”  Farmer describes his foray into helping those in rural parts of Haiti and the challenges faced in attempting to make a difference there where medicines, tools for screening, and human support were almost non-existent.  Each chapter provides another view into the deadly diseases of AIDS, and TB.  The belief that woman were immune from HIV and that gay men were the only ones at risk proved even more deadly as the disease spread rapidly, especially in places that had little to no education and prevention.  Farmer provides an overview of the spread of AIDS from its earliest detection in the late 1970s through the books date of publication, 1999. (In many ways, I wished that he would provide a further update on the progress and challenges the disease continues to face.)  The personal stories of native Haitians from birth to death further indicated the depth to which Farmer himself has connected with people who had limited understanding of their own medical condition.  There are a few stories of success, though for the most part, as is with HIV, no long term success, especially at the time of the publication.  Farmer talks about the need for our society to intervene and not make this issue a “poor person’s” reality alone.  He speaks as a role model through his regular trips from Cambridge to Haiti to attempt to make a difference.  His data is compelling, comparing various female/male, monogamous/multiple partners, gay/bisexual/heterosexual, type of work environment, poor/affluent, and urban/rural villages.  The question we need to answer: what will make one act and be conscious of the disease and strife that face the poor?  I made my small contribution to Doctors without Borders today, how about you?  A compelling read for those who have a heart, but more important for those who need to grow one!  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

Did you ever wonder what happened in Jesus’ life between ages 13and his 30s?  Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal is a “tell-all” spoof on what may have happened from the perspective of the 13th disciple, whom was never identified in the Bible.  Biff is number 13, not the perfect dozen as those who have read the Bible thought lived among Jesus and his travails.  Christopher Moore, the author, approaches the book from a comedic view of how the disciples had sex, quarreled, and interacted through all of the well-known parables in Gospel verses of the New Testament written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  The made-up stories include how the disciples came to be connected to Jesus.  You see Biff is brought to life by an angel who tells the “blow-by-blow” leading to Jesus crucifixion on the cross.  Moore uses sarcasm, spoofs, and other “tricks of the trade” to share the parables, the beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, the Ten Commandments, you name it.  For those who have not read the Bible, this will be a hard one to understand (a lot of inside jokes), but you know what… I got the jokes but didn’t really think they were funny.  Maybe I am an uptight Catholic guy… but I really want to laugh.  Moore does draw from the Biblical references often and he is able to connect his story to that in the Bible, I just thought Biff was a buffoon, yeah I know that’s what he was trying to do, just didn’t get the inside joke... even though I did…  For me, not something I would pick up or recommend;  too many other really good books out there.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dance Dance Dance

Traveling and teaching this week at the National Housing Training Institute so I doubt I will have ANY time for reading or listening to books.  The schedule is GRUELING.  7am – 10pm, so I’ll try and pick up more reading next week and will give an update of sorts on my experience when I return to the blog! Now the book I read….  I have become a fan of Haruki Murakami, reading my fourth by the author, this one Dance Dance Dance.  Murakami mixes dream state/fantasy/mystery murder in this very complex story that reads relatively fast.  I couldn’t put the book down as the character development was strong as was the mystery behind the Dolphin Hotel, a place that the protagonist (we never get his name!) used to frequent as a brothel of sorts but learns that the Hotel is now a high-end Hotel minus the paid female companion, KiKi.  The protagonist is a mid-thirties Japanese magazine journalist.  He is led to the Dolphin Hotel by something that draws him back to find out about Kiki.  The journey introduces him to a female front-desk receptionist, a 13 year old, and a former high school buddy who is now a well-known commercial television star.    The protagonist is confronted with disappearances and the deaths of a few of the people he interacts with.  The story ends with a twist that is unnerving and haunting.  Murakami writes a “tight” story that engages the reader and provides a surreal backdrop where sex, love, intuition, and pain go deep in the lives of the characters.  I really couldn’t put this one down.  It reminded me of where our friend Holden Caulfield could have been 20 years after his experience.  The protagonist finds true love not in marriage but in a woman he paid for sex and holds on to something that was not real.  Secondary themes include abandonment, loss, and searching for the past even when you know it can’t be reclaimed.  Not going to provide a great deal of detail on the plot and the characters as I don’t want to give too much away. I would add this one to the list.  Murakami’s star hits new heights with me in this book.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Song of Solomon

After reading this one for a few days on and off again, I finished Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.  Lots of levels in this one!  This one is best for the English major or at least someone who connects things at multiple points.  Macon “Milkman” Dead III is the protagonist.  How’d he get that nickname?  Well he was caught breastfeeding with mom at an older age than most thought he should! Love the characters names in this one – his sisters:  First Corinthians and Magdelene (Lena), his best friend: Guitar, and his aunt Pilate.  The book starts with a man “flying” to his death and ends in a similar situation with Milkman.  In between there is the tryst between characters, the desire of Milkman’s niece Hagar (for him!!), and the attempted murder of Milkman by his best friend Guitar (who believes Milkman has stolen gold that the two of them were to have found and shared the profits jointly).  Milkman lived in Michigan as an African American man trying to find out more about his heritage and also dealing with the challenges of being a black man in the US understanding his identity and what he could and should be able to experience.  As a reader there were scenes that really engaged me like the scene where Milkman drove down to Virginia in search for his heritage and parent’s history and landed in a situation where he was almost killed by Southern black men.  Many themes emerge in the text: the role of the black woman and what level of equality she has in the black community, and how does one find their heritage as a black person when so much was erased, even for Milkman who learns that his grandfather’s name was actually transcribed wrong when he registered after the end of slavery.  The names of a number of the characters have Biblical significance, as does the title.  There is also a spirit/evil theme in relation to some of the characters and how they act out.  This is a story with many stories throughout.  Morrison, in her own way, paints a picture that demonstrates the shear grit of life at the time, the struggles, the sexuality, the inability to escape, and the desires from one person to another.  Hard at times to place the cultural context of the time that the story was being told, as it resonated to me as 1930s, but certainly much more 1960s.  I know I missed a good deal of meaning and so this is a book that needs concentration AND probably a second or third read.  I liked it.  

Friday, June 10, 2011

Unaccustomed Earth

Road trip means listening to books on tape, this one is Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri.  I listened to one of Lahiri’s other books and I found this one to be very similarly written, with the same storyline, same characters, but different results.  This book is a series of short stories, well written and is a great read for those who are not as familiar with the Indian culture and how it is experienced in the United States.  Lahiri’s stories deal with very intelligent characters, doctors, lawyers, accountants, writers, all of whom attend MIT, Yale, Swarthmore, Cornell, Penn and yes, NYU.  It seemed like each description of the lead character started with their educational pedigree and what academic dream they needed to follow (based on what their parent's expectation was for them).  Each character also struggled with expressing their true emotions, must be a theme with Indian culture (although I know a number of native people from India and this is NOT the case), probably not something that folks from India would say is common in their culture?  I’ll have to speak to some of my colleagues on this concept.  Love, lack of intimacy, inability to challenge parent’s dreams, and not learning how to express feelings were consistent in each story.  Parent relationships, girlfriend/boyfriends, and arranged marriages with no feelings towards spouse were explored in the stories.  So many missed opportunities and unreached dreams, Lahiri gives the reader an opportunity to ensure we don’t fall into the same patterns that her characters fall into.  Each of the stories end with a perplexing conclusion, a death, a father who disappears to go to his woman love, an alcoholic brother being ostracized for almost killing his nephew, and the tsunami taking the life of the main character’s true love.  Lahiri’s style is engaging, yet redundant.  I feel like most of the males have an inability to speak honestly about how they feel, women who want to turn from their parents, parents who determine what their children will do with their lives, etc.  I think if you read one story, you get the gist of Lahiri’s writing.  Thanks Jeff (RA who recommended it).  A good read, but again, felt like I had already read this one a few times already….

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

She’s Come Undone

An interesting read by Wally Lamb, a faculty member at UConn, called She’s Come Undone.  This had everything and the kitchen sink.  The tale of a young woman’s struggle after her parent’s divorce, mother is institutionalized, the young woman gets raped, and lots of family deaths.  Really uplifting, huh?  Lamb’s character, Delores Price is more than believable and it seems that at every turn she is abused in some way or another.   Lack of self-esteem is the catch phrase here and Lamb really captures the emotional struggles that exist for a person who is “up against the world.”  Set in New England, the reader experiences a slice of life that can be found in every town in the US.  Delores’ abusive father first attacks mom, who has fallen apart after miscarrying her second child, and then leaves the family for another woman.  Delores and her mom move in with grandma, a devout Catholic, after her mother is institutionalized.  Delores becomes friendly with the upstairs married neighbor (whom her mother has an affair), unfortunately at the tender age of 14, she is unaware of his drunken advances and he takes her for a ride to the woods and rapes her.  Delores spiral continues downward with years of emotional eating and missing school, becoming the butt of all jokes from her classmates.  Her mom fights to get Delores to go to college, while Delores objects.  After her mother is fatally injured in a car accident, Delores turns to her high school guidance counselor (Mr. Pucci) who convinces her to go to the college her mother helped her get accepted to.  College turns out to be a continuation of high school, more jokes and harassment.  Delores has a lesbian encounter with an overweight janitor and begins to realize her choices are getting her further in a downward spiral, to the point she attempts suicide by trying to swim with the whales in the Atlantic Ocean.   She is hospitalized, loses the weight, and connects with her former college roommate’s boyfriend, Dante (whom she only knew from the letters she stole from her roommate).  After a period of time, she marries Dante without telling him her history, which later comes out.  Delores eventually divorces Dante (after he learns the truth), Grandma dies, more drama with her old neighbor from home, who is a radio host for the local Sunday polka show, she reconnects with Mr. Pucci, whose boyfriend is dying of AIDS, and other crazy excitement when she decides to stay at her grandma’s house and enter school again.  Delores seems to finally accept her life and live it. The story is full of turns at each corner and can be viewed as a real downer, at least by me!  It is wonderfully written with real life characters from the local grocery store and the reader can only feel for Delores and all of the pain she experiences in her life.  What a really sad and lonely person.  Certainly makes me think, hmmm, let’s make sure I treat all people with dignity and respect.   Lotta of pain in this one.  I wonder how women feel about a male author portraying this type of life experience.   Just curious…  I would not recommend this one during grey days of winter.  

Monday, June 6, 2011

Resurrection Psychology

An interesting read by Margaret Alter called Resurrection Psychology.  The book connects healing from a psychological, physical, and emotional perspective connected to the Biblical passages of the life of Jesus.  She sees therapy as a “value-connected” process and each of her examples are drawn from her clinical work as a psychotherapist.  The real life stories illuminate how she believes that Jesus’ life on Earth provides much of the answers and support for how humans are fragile and can move towards self-healing when connecting to the messages and stories of Jesus' life.  Some of the chapters focus on things such as the central part of forgiveness, why there are laws, how to respond to a life of “perfection,” creating the holiness of understanding one’s “humanness,” the function of responsibility, being ok with uncertainty as we won’t know the path anyway, creating your vocation for concern, how to approach evil and restraining from it, and finally, the significance of having scars.  The last chapter really wrapped things up as the physical scars we have are really much more rooted into the scars of hurt, loss, and insecurity.  This was a compelling way to look at psychology, especially for those who come from a Christian background, although I’d say a good read for those who are from other belief systems and even the Christopher Hitchens crowd as well.  It’s a series of ten discreet chapters, so not necessary to read all to get a flavor of the book.  Those with Christian background will certainly know the stories which Alter shares to make her thesis.  A good read for those in understanding the curious nature of this life.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hit Man

The weekend ends on a good note, Hit Man by Lawrence Block.  This was a fun novel to read.  The story follows the life of the protagonist, John P. Keller, an actual Hitman.  He is a hired murderer to rid his customers of the people in their life who have hurt them, hold them back from family riches, or for lots of other reasons.  Keller has some serious deep psychological issues which are examined through his relationship with his psychologist.  One of the weirdest twists in the book is when the psychologist finds out who Keller actually is (Keller never reveals himself to anyone, yet is often investigated by others) and uses it to his advantage by having Keller get in a relationship with his wife (whom later is killed by the doctor, though it will appear as a suicide).  The story is very engaging but unfortunately one finds out at the end it is part of a trilogy.  Can’t any good books just be in one volume?  That is probably my only major critique.  I would say there are a number of directions that the author started to go down but didn’t really address, though maybe the next two volumes do so.  I wanted more.  This author is a master of character development and building a story that is engaging and believable.  I really enjoyed this one.  I don’t want to give too much to this review as I might give out the storyline, which I want you to read.  A fun read with a pretty awful story line (hired murdering).  Has a bit of No Country For Old Men (in the senseless act of murder), but the character of Keller is much more complicated when we learn of his childhood.  A good way to end my weekend reading!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Magic Time

Sci-fi time once again, this time Magic Time by Marc Zicree and Barbara Hambly (funny how the last two sci-fi books took two people to write them, huh?).  So does the cover of this book give you any insight into how scary this book is going to be?  At least they could have gotten a better picture, huh?  So where do I begin with this one?  Well for one, these scary creatures are coming at you in New York City (these authors must have lived here as they are constantly referring to places all around my place in the East Village!), DC, and yes that wonderful state of West Virginia.  The stories all tie together in the end for sure, but boy the bouncing around is annoying and doesn’t work for me.  First we have the lawyer, Cal Griffin, and his young sister, the future ballerina who studies at School of American Ballet (yeah Kellie!), who find these crazy monsters stalking Central Park, Times Square, etc and then in the coal mines in West Virginia and the powerful governmental agencies in Washington, DC.  Our friend Cal, seems to be the only one willing to find out why and how these creatures are invading the country.  First I didn’t find the story all that compelling and then when it tied so nicely together, ugh! Another one of those books.  And the kicker, this is a series… there are more to go!  NO, please don’t tell me that!  Cal was a nice enough guy trying to save his “dead” sister and how he gets to West Virginia to save the dying scientist and his diabolical brother, but a bit too over the top.  For me, I never really felt the story compelling or scary enough.  I kinda was hoping that Cal would have been ripped to shreds to end my misery.  I guess I was sci-fi’d out after the other day’s reading.  You know I can only take them in small doses.  Skip this one as it probably will be running some late night on the sci fi cable channel.   

Friday, June 3, 2011

Mind Power

Moving in the right direction with recovery so yes I read another book today!  Thanks for this one Kati, had to buy it though as she never sent it to me LMind Power by John Kehoe is one of the quintessential books for any coach to pull off the shelf and share with a client.  The subtitle says it all: “Techniques to harness the astounding powers of thought.”  Kehoe’s work is reminiscent of that great movie… Field of Dreams, “dream it and they will come.”  There is another view of reality says Kehoe, by using Shakespeare’s quote: "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of by mere mortal men."  And yes there are.  First we need to use our consciousness, (love this passage): "If you think of your thoughts as a reality existing side by side with what we call the physical reality, you will be closer to understanding the unique relationship between the two."  He suggests we live simultaneously in two worlds, the inner reality of our thoughts and the outer reality of people, places, and things.  And as humans, we tend to become dominated by the outer world.  We give up our thoughts and dreams because basically it is trampled by others and WE allow it to happen.  Time for MIND POWER to take its place.  So how do we move forward?  Here is the brief overview: Visualization (there you are, Field of Dreams!) – it’s all in our minds and don’t forget it!  Kehoe provides lots of examples of how people who never thought they could be successful do when they use the power of the dream and the thoughts we have!  Powerful stuff here!  What’s next?  Seeding – that’s right, always seed the feeling that you have the thing you want, that you have already achieved it, and seed regularly each and every day for at least five minutes (yes creating some level of meditation is key).  Affirmations, acknowledging and using the subconscious mind are next, followed by using your intuition, dreaming and positive self-image.  He also suggests that one needs to be creative in this approach.  There are no problems, only opportunities that face us each day.  For those who are challenged by creativity, here is a list worth noting: Be an explorer (it’s one thing to be open to new ideas, it’s quite another to actively seek them out.)  Ask questions: question everything in life!  Get lots of ideas – talk to people!  Break the rules (not those you would get arrested for). Use your imagination and, finally, fill the well - which means nurture your inner self.  What great advice, huh?  This is really a no brainer read for anyone stuck!  Highly recommend.  Good read Kati, so the $1.25 on was worth it.  Give this book to someone who is stuck or has no idea how much they have within themselves, worth the price for sure.  

Thursday, June 2, 2011

In the Castle of My Skin

Another day of being home in recovery… which means, read a book.  George Lamming’s In the Castle of My Skin tells the story of a young boy growing up on the island of Barbados.  It is an autobiographical story which gives insight into the culture and ways of life as a black child who witnesses the challenges that exist on a tropical island.  The story occurs in the 1930s with the backdrop of riots and struggles of the island versus its motherland, Britain.  The book has a series of short stories all tied around the narrator’s experience on the island and what the villagers face during this tumultuous time.  Lamming’s character, himself, is able to escape and leave after his difficult time studying in high school, tapped by the elders to attend, though he finds this is not the direction for him and he plans for his departure to another Caribbean island, Trinidad.  Trinidad, known for its carnival and rugby players who annually visit Barbados for the tournament, offers Lamming an escape for things that are better, much in keeping with his friend who leaves for the American Dream to the US.  The underlying theme is leaving as soon as one can for a better life, though as he later learns when his friend returns from the US, there is a pecking order in every country, and the islanders are at the bottom in the US.  The book is very much a “coming-of-age” story of the young man who learns about his family, then his village, and then that there is more out in the world for him to experience.  This seems to be very much a similar sentiment in many of the books written during the time of Lamming’s work, learn by seeing a larger world! I will say that Lamming paints a pretty harsh series of images of the flooding, the rioting, and the struggle between men and the role that women must play based on cultural traditions.  The elders are in control and have no qualms in flogging a young child who does not pay attention to orders.  Having recently spent time on one of the Caribbean islands, Trinidad, I was not very surprised by the consistency in experiences and the very traditional roles of the family and society.  This was a relatively quick read and has a significance to the members of the Barbados community as one of their “must read” books written during the time of their independence.  Lamming paints a pretty clear picture as to what was happening during the time.  History buffs will certainly appreciate this one, as will those interested in sociological perspectives on societies.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lucifer’s Hammer

Home, not feeling well, so time to do some reading or in this case listening.  Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle is another one of those post-apocalyptic sci-fi books.  Tim Hamner, an amateur astronomer, co-discovers a comet that is coming towards Earth and sponsors his own tv documentary through the wealth he has accumulated as the owner of a soap company. His connection with political big-wig Senator Arthur Jellison allows him to study the comet with a space mission.  While many do not think the comet, renamed the “hammer” by the media hype, will hit, some earthlings get nervous fueled by televangelist Henry Armitage that the world is coming to an end! But guess what, the scientist are wrong and the “hammer hits!” with devastating results, goodbye Europe, goodbye east coast of Americas and most of the world.  The rest of the story focuses on the aftermath in the great old state of California; my favorite, right? Not!  Amazing to see how people respond, all for one and one for themselves.  Hamner struggles to survive riding up the vast mountains of the northern California region where he finds former colleagues, including Jellison, who is hiding out in a compound and unwilling to help others at the fear that his food supply will dwindle.  He is not the only challenge for Hamner (in his SUV which he paid $250,000 for after the comet hit).  Reverend Armitage has galvanized his forces and started a colony of cannibals who he says are the ones who will start the new world order.  A fantastic fight to the end occurs when Jellison, whom Hamner has convinced to fight to save those left, has it out with Armitage’s “religious cult.”  Will the cult win or will Jellison’s group defend human life?  Overall a pretty captivating tale.  I really am not into the sci-fi “end of world stories” but this one is better than most.  The authors utilize many of the beliefs scientists have of the fault lines and astronomers predictions, so kudos to them for making this pretty realistic.  I thought that the early portrayal of the characters was not in line with much of the story, i.e. they were pretty much a caricature of rich people, Russian cosmonauts, and the televangelists.   Some funny lines in the story as well.  Middle of the road book for me, would make an interesting movie.  Not on the top of my list.