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The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events
The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events
von Bernard Grun
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen Captivating, and eminently browsable, 18. September 2000
This is a really interesting idea, and the authors have done a terrific job with it. It makes one wonder what future historians, if we have much of a future, would choose to place in a description of the year we are in now... Look at the "daily life" column of each year, while you leaf through this. A lot of the most unexpected surprises are in that column... Also, it is quite an experience to choose some period of history about which you might be relatively poorly informed, and just leaf through the appropriate pages. I chose the 7th century A.D., as a time that, to my mind at least, was a virtually total blank. Before I knew it, I found myself going to the library, reading up on the precursors to the Merovingians in France; the kings of Wessex in England; the origins of Islam; the re-settlement of Britanny by Celtic peoples; the early medieval popes... and not only that, it really is a pretty global book. There is a lot of stuff, throughout the book, on the African empires of Songhay and Mali; the various Chinese dynasties; the bloody adventures of Timurlaine; the flowering and eventual decay of the Mayans... I suspect that this might have some value to a PhD candidate in history, or a writer of historical fiction, but its real value lies in its ability to just open the eyes of the average person to the sheer wealth and breadth of history. Two thumbs up, and I'm trying to make my big toes go "up" too, just for emphasis.


The Dark Is Rising (The Dark Is Rising Sequence, Band 2)
The Dark Is Rising (The Dark Is Rising Sequence, Band 2)
von Susan Cooper
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 16,68

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Disturbing, exciting, 21. Juni 2000
I actually met Susan Cooper once, and she is a really interesting, fun lady. This book, and the whole series, are rightly considered to be classics of the genre in many ways. The only things I would bring to a new reader's attention, is that you might want to stop and mull over the feelings you get from reading this book.
The Old Ones, in some ways, are like the ultimate In-Group, the ultimate club. Some of the things that happen, when the Old Ones are around, e.g. the way they can stop time for ordinary mortals while they talk among themselves, can be read as highly realistic depictions of interactions between, say, the popuilar kids in school, when someone of lower standing is in the room. Watch out for stuff like this. The psychological experience of forming an in-group, of knowing secrets that set you apart and above, is what Susan Cooper is setting in stone here. Considered as a spiritual experience, you should remember that this has its drawbacks. For example, if you look at the descriptive adjectives applied to the defenders of the Light, the words "grim", "cold", and "high" come up a lot, but you almost never hear them described as "kind", or "warm". Also, they are locked in a highly abstract struggle -- how about the actual acts of daily compassion or kindness that someone might perform? These seem to get sort of lost, glossed over, because they aren't as imposing or grand-sounding as ideas about the Light and Dark clashing. My feeling is that a lot of this stuff comes out of Susan Cooper's own experiences in a very class-ridden society, and at Oxford University. The ideals in this book are not things that Thomas Jefferson would have supported, to put it mildly. I am being a little facetious here, but I am serious at the same time.
Susan Cooper set out to write an exciting story, and an involving one, and she has certainly done that. I like Susan Cooper a lot, I consider myself very fortunate to have been invited into her home. I love this book, and I know I will read it to my children someday. But for someone coming to it fresh, just try to be a sophisticated reader, while reading this, and ask yourself if you might be being asked to accept things that we might all be better off not accepting. Try to ask yourself whether any of the "magical" ideas in here might be a mythologized way of looking at very real, disturbing parts of social interaction. That's my advice, anyway. Definitely worth reading, but please remember what I was saying about whether these impressive Lords of the Light could be, maybe, a little kinder.


A Wrinkle in Time (The Time Quartet)
A Wrinkle in Time (The Time Quartet)
von Madeleine L'Engle
  Taschenbuch

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Absolutely a classic, 5. Juni 2000
I have loved this book since childhood. In certain ways, I literally have even used it as a sort of ruler, against which I can measure my own spiritual growth... But remember one thing, O book buyer -- this is not science fiction. Whatever you may have heard, you have to realize that this is a book about love, and about learning to value yourself for the person you are deep down, even if that person has some outwardly appalling qualities -- and about trying to love others, even when there is little apparent reason to do so. There are a few quasi-scientific elements to the story, but that isn't really the point...
Read this for the fantastic characters you will meet. Meg is relatively normal in many ways -- she has braces, and is sort of plain, and gets a lot of grief from all the jerks in her school who like to make fun of people. She has depth, but I will let you discover that for yourself. Charles Wallace, her brother, is one of the most interesting characters in all of children's literature. Think of Linus from "Peanuts", but even younger, and with a mysterious rapport with angelic figures. He is sort of a "genius" in many ways, but is viewed by his fellow townsfolk as the village idiot, much like "the fool on the hill" in the Beatles song who's mind's eye is drawn by the wonder of the word spinning 'round, while all those around him mock him for his lack of attention to more mundane concerns.
The Murry family in general is really neat. You will want to belong to it. The parents are both brilliant scientists, Meg and Charles Wallace are two of the children, and then the twins have some good moments in Madeleine L'Engle's later books. They live in a beautiful old house, and are the only dreamers in their town, the only ones connected up to larger things... In some ways I was once disturbed by what I percieved to be a certain class bias in this book, i.e. the Murrys seem to have inherited their house, and there are no signs of any financial worry. However, if you have this feeling as well, look to some of the sequels for L'Engle's efforts to rectify this situation, especially "A Swiftly Tilting Planet".
The tesseract is a "wrinkle in time", which is similar for story purposes to Dorothy's tornado; Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter's wardrobe; Milo's tollbooth; or any number of similar devices... Bear in mind when this was written, when you get to the part about Camazotz, the Conformist Capital of the Known Universe. This book came out first in the early 60s, and in many important ways can be seen as a reaction to Eisenhower era suburbia, with its plastic cheerfulness. A few years later, I wonder if the market for this might have diminished. At any rate, I am glad it was published, it has a lot of important things to say.
Please read this if you are a child, or if you are an adult. There are different things you might take away from it, but I cannot imagine anyone reading this without being touched by it.


Waiting
Waiting
von Frank M. Robinson
  Taschenbuch

3.0 von 5 Sternen Pretty good as a thriller, but such awful science..., 5. Juni 2000
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Waiting (Taschenbuch)
The basic idea of this book is indisputably neato. I found myself really looking forward to how the tale might unfold, once I got the basic idea of a race of not-quite-human-beings having existed alongside us for 35,000 years. However, there really could have been a lot more research put into this. The science just didn't make sense to me, compared with, say, a Michael Crichton novel. It was very, VERY skimpy to say the least. Anyone with the slightest scientific background will probably feel kind of insulted on that point.
That said, the book isn't without its redeeming features. There is a lot of tension built up, as we wonder which of the hero's friends are human, and which... aren't. There are a few flaws... I think the very last few pages were probably supposed to be an unexpected "twist" ending, designed to give the reader that certain, satisfying jolt, but for me it didn't exactly work. I probably shouldn't go into it here, really, so suffice it to say that it concerns the hero's son.
Read this as a thriller, if you enjoy thrillers, especially thrillers heavy on chase scenes and police work. But the science really isn't too well done, so please be prepared for that if you are in the market for science fiction.


Life, the Universe and Everything (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Band 3)
Life, the Universe and Everything (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Band 3)
von Douglas Adams
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 5,99

5.0 von 5 Sternen Watch for the Anti-War subtext, 12. Mai 2000
Another winner from Douglas Adams. Arthur Dent, I increasingly believe, can perhaps best be compared to Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit, from J.R.R. Tolkien's classic books. He is a basically very humdrum guy, who gets pulled into this kaleidoscopic world of adventure through no wish of his own... In this book, at any rate, the references to the game cricket went mostly over, or perhaps under, my American head, but most of this book has to do with the insanity of war, which of course is a pretty universal message.
The White Robots of Krikkit sound a lot like the stormtroopers from Star Wars, but it's probably better to compare then directly with the Nazis from which those stormtroopers themselves were in all likelihood derived. The theme is of how most people from the planet Krikkit want to enjoy life, listen to music, have their own little farm to raise a family on, etc, while the warlords that run their government are constantly trying to get them fanatically worked up to go forth and conquer the universe. Trillian gets some of her first real character development in the whole series, or at least a few solid lines, when she is the one to piece this simple fact together, along with some other, less simple facts. Again, a very cool book, and one which makes you think in a good way about some really important stuff.


The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Band 2)
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Band 2)
von Douglas Adams
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 7,49

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Yeah, Baby!, 12. Mai 2000
Great stuff. There are tons of cool little things going on... If you haven't read this one, look forward to learning about the Total Perspective Vortex, and why the one thing people should NEVER strive to have is a sense of perspective. Moreover, this book features a rock star who is spending a year dead for tax purposes. It's worth the money for that part alone.
Also, Marvin is back, hapless as ever, which adds something to the experience of this book, although to call it a positive addition goes somewhat against the spirit of Marvin... whatever. It's still hysterical. The central plot of this story, to the extent that there is one, is Zaphod Beeblebrox's desperate attempts to totally avoid any adult responsibility, and to simply enjoy life. Again and again, he is thrust into circumstances that he himself set up, in sort of a previous incarnation (not exactly, but if you read the story you will see what I mean), and again and again his one goal is to flee his responsibilities and try to party harder than any sentient being has ever partied before. You could not possibly ask for a more hilarious anti-hero. I loved it. And, as usual, along the way Douglas Adams makes you think about a whole range of issues, from meat-eating, to the economic perils of putting all your eggs in one basket, to the inanity of making documentaries on disasters when the disaster is happening all around you. Seven thumbs up.


Mostly Harmless (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Band 5)
Mostly Harmless (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Band 5)
von Douglas Adams
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 5,99

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Always philosophical, but rarely upbeat. Beware..., 11. Mai 2000
People seem to have mixed opinions about the character "Random", Arthur and Trillian's (biological) daughter. Her presence in the story constitutes more of a Statement than a character as such, I think. She is Douglas Adams' way of saying "hey, we all feel lost, alone, helpless, overwhelmed, uncertain where we belong, etc etc etc" Even so, she probably could have been a little more fleshed out...
The "Guide Mark 2" is really pretty creepy. It makes you think about some of the big questions, unsurprisingly, if you have read any of Douglas Adams' other stuff... Also, although the plot just goes hogwild for 95% of the book, it really does all pull together at the end. The book is relatively self-contained, compared to some of the others in the series. In general this book is less wacky, and generally a bit darker, than the other books in the "trilogy". Reading this is a little like going to "The Cable Guy", when you are expecting a usual Jim Carey movie. It does make you laugh, but also makes you think, and not always in very comforting ways.


The Light at the Edge of the Universe: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Cosmology
The Light at the Edge of the Universe: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Cosmology
von Michael D. Lemonick
  Taschenbuch

5.0 von 5 Sternen Folksy Cosmology, 10. Mai 2000
This book takes an unusual approach to this subject matter. It is primarily a compilation of interviews with actual cosmologists, and it absolutely gives you a feel for the way this community feels from the inside. You hear the stories behind the unfolding of current cosmological theory.
The closest thing I have to a complaint, and the only reason I didn't give this 5 stars (I still may go back and just give it 5 stars anyway, it is really superb), is the fact that there were really virtually NO equations or diagrams. I have heard that it is a truism in science publishing that every equation an author incorporates into the text will halve sales. Perhaps that is why there is no math here. I guess, even if there were no math, a couple of more visual elements such as maps or charts would have been nice. There are photos of cosmologists, however, which is interesting to see.
Basically a great book. If you want pictures, that Kip Thorne book about "Black Holes and Time Warps", which I believe is the title, can provide a fair number of relevant illustrations.


The Cat in the Hat (Beginner Books(R))
The Cat in the Hat (Beginner Books(R))
von Dr. Seuss
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 6,99

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5.0 von 5 Sternen I laughed, I cried, 10. Mai 2000
High drama, thrills, spills, chills... Uh, okay, not really. But if by some miracle you do not know of this book, perhaps if you have only recently learned English yourself, you really ought to know about it. It is so worth it. Everyone loves "The Cat in the Hat", it is a major part of our culture, at least in terms of what culture we expose our children to. Very funny, very helpful as a beginning reader.


The Stand: Expanded Edition: For the First Time Complete and Uncut (Signet)
The Stand: Expanded Edition: For the First Time Complete and Uncut (Signet)
von Stephen King
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 9,00

5.0 von 5 Sternen A Story that Sticks to your Ribs, 9. Mai 2000
Epic, complex, full of superbly-drawn characters... This novel features all the hallmarks of King's writing that we have come to expect, and then some. I almost wish I could start an argument in my high school English class about whether Harold Lauder was a tragic figure or just a villain. Several of the characters are like this -- they stick to your ribs. After you put the book down, these people stay with you for quite awhile.
The science is very cool, as well. You can't stop wondering if it might ever really happen -- some Ebola-like plague that the army cooked up deliberately just somehow escaping, and wreaking uber-havoc on mankind.
People have mixed views about the religious, eschatological components to this story. The fact that some people get so worked up about is actually a sort of praise -- it is easy to forget that this is just a story. It feels so real. If you look through people's reviews, some folks seem to feel like Stephen King was just writing down his personal vision of what the end of the world might be like, and people feel obliged to take sides against him. To these people, I would say -- guys, it's just a story. A powerful one, I had that reaction myself, bigtime, but still. Come on. Lighten up.
That said, it definitely does get you thinking. I liked Hemingford Home a lot, and found myself wishing I could go there to meet Mother Abigail. Basically there are a lot of really powerful themes going on here, and cool characters, and I recommend picking it up -- you won't regret it, and you won't forget this book.


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