Book Reviews

Hyperion-Dan Simmons

I picked this book up awhile ago when I was trying to find a science fiction choice for our book club. After 50 pages or so I laid it down when distracted by some other shiny inviting book and didn’t restart it until all my easy reading fodder had been consumed.

I have no idea how I did that. I’d stopped just short of it getting exciting. I am so in awe of Dan Simmons. I must confess that in some modern books I do think, ‘gosh, even I could craft a better story or finer prose that this!’ But not with Dan Simmons. Again and again with this book I marvel and the structure, references and sheer imagination. Of course in my ignorance it could be that the concepts aren’t exactly original.

Here are a couple quotes on being called to art:

“From my earliest sense of self, I knew that I would be—should be—a poet. It was not as if I had a choice; more like the dying beauty all about breathed its last breath in my and commanded that I be doomed to play with words the rest of my days, as if in expiation for our race’s thoughtless slaughter of its crib world. So what the hell; I became a poet.”

“Belief in one’s identity as a poet or writer prior to the acid test of publication is as naïve and harmless as the youthful belief in one’s immortality…and the inevitable disillusionment is just as painful.”

“…no book or poem is every finished, merely abandoned.”

Didn’t John Lennon say that life is what happens when you are making other plans? I do believe motherhood consists of all the small things, the routine meals, the baths, the repeated simple stories read ad nauseam at bedtime. All the little silly questions volleyed when being ferried back and forth to school.

Sarai had treasured every stage of Rachel’s childhood, enjoying the day-to-day normalcy of things; a normalcy which she quietly accepted as the best of life. She had always felt that the essence of human experience lay not primarily in the peak experiences, the wedding day and triumphs which stood out in the memory like dates circled in red on old calendars, but, rather, in the unself-conscious flow of little things—the weekend afternoon with each member of the family engaged in his or her own pursuit, their crossings and connections casual, dialogues imminently forgettable, but the sum of such hours creating a synergy with was important and eternal.

Working and stay at home moms were sparring on Oprah and one lady said, ‘Anyone can give a hug or read a story.’ Maybe she believes that, but I don’t.

The Third Chimpanzee-Jared Diamond

I picked this book up on a lark when I was in an airport. It didn’t really capture my attention at first. I found myself constantly in contention with the idea in evolution that everything has to have a ‘why’. The reasoning is–I believe–that every trait of man or animal (or plant) has to earn it’s keep by contributing. Don’t know if I buy that argument.

My opinion of vegetarianism is that it’s a sad fact of life that man is a carnivore and everybody should just get over it already.

Somewhere along the scale from bacteria to humans, we have to decide where killing becomes murder, and eating becomes cannibalism. Most people draw those lines between humans and all other species. However, quite a few people are vegetarians, unwilling to eat any animal (yet willing to eat plants). And an increasingly vocal minority, belonging to the animal-rights movement, object to medical experiments on animals—or at least on certain animals. That movement is especially exercised about research on cats and dogs and primates, less concerned about mice, and generally silent about insects and bacteria.

Isn’t this guy a hoot? He points a finger at the hypocrites who just aren’t thinking things through. They’re acting on their emotions, not reason.

Diamond goes through some convoluted arguments to support his views. He tries to justify the Great Leap in biological terms. I can’t still believe that it could have happened without divine intervention. Also he goes on and on about how human DNA is only 1.6% different than chimpanzee BUT didn’t Sapolosky make it clear that genes react to environment and you can’t separate them?

I really liked his holistic approach to history. Many disciplines focus on what they know. Only someone educated in an interdisciplinary way could fuse various ideas to come up with multi-approach explanations of why things happened the way they did.

His ascertain that aging was from multiple causes and that looking for the ONE root of entropy was a wild goose chase made a lot of sense to me. Again, here is an evil perpetrated in the pretext of simplification.

When trying to uncover the purpose of art in evolution Diamond wrote;

“Animals with leisure time can channel it into more lavish signals to outdo the next guy….Those behaviors may then come to serve other purposes such as…channeling neurotic energy(a problem for us…).”

Definitely an entertaining read.

I am going to lump all my book reviews for the year in this one place just for convenience.