"The art of life is to deal with problems as they arise, rather than destroy one's spirit by worrying about them too far in advance."

--From Imperium by Robert Harris

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The One with ¡Adios, America!

331. Title & Author: ¡Adios, America! : The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole by Ann Coulter (280 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Politics
Completed: 29 September 2015

Summary & Review:
Immigration is the single most important issue facing America today. But, despite its importance, there are never honest conversations about it. When anyone brings up their opposition to mass third world immigration, accusations of racism are rapidly thrown out and discussion is shouted down. Despite this, Ann Coulter delves into the untouchable subject with her usual mix of humor and wit—and a ton of citations and facts (nearly one hundred pages of them).

Coulter’s position is simple: we need a complete moratorium on immigration and we need it immediately. No halfway, namby-pamby solution will fix the problem. Yes, she means a moratorium on illegal and legal immigration. By the time she presents this solution, she has thoroughly deconstructed the myths that surround immigration and laid bare the facts.

I’ve been in favor of immigration restriction for a long time. People make a culture and a culture makes a nation, so if you change the people you will change the nation. It’s inevitable. Now I’m sure some people don’t see that as a bad thing, or maybe feel like we have a duty let in any impoverished person that wants in, and therefore favor immigration. To me, however, for America to be able to do good in the world America has to exist. With mass immigration of cultures that are not compatible with American culture you are bound to lose the country and the ability to help in the world.

We are not a “nation of immigrations” as we’re so often told. We are, or at least were, a nation founded by incredibly homogenous people with the same language, religion, and culture. I was born here, my parents were, too, as were my grandparents, great grandparents, and great-great grandparents. On one line of my family tree I traced I had to go back to 1740 to find an ancestor who wasn’t American born (and they were born in, big surprise, England). The majority of Americans have similar family histories. Does that really sound like we’re all immigrants? Not to me.

I agree with Coulter that we need a complete moratorium on immigration, a breather, if you will. I’d say for at least ten years. Give the country time to assimilate and incorporate into the nation all the new people who have come to America in the past several decades. Then, we can reopen legal immigration but we should change our criteria for who enters, namely no more family reunification except for spouses and dependent, minor children, and no more H1Bs. And of course, no more birth right citizenship. That’s just insane. We should be able to choose, and be very choosey about, who becomes fellow citizens in our nation and our government should put the needs of the American people first.

Rating: 9.5

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The One with Lego Minifigures Character Encyclopedia

330. Title & Author: Lego Minifigures Character Encyclopedia by DK Books (208 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Other
Completed: 30 August 2015

Summary & Review:
The first 10 series of Lego Minifigures are covered in this book. Each minifigure is given a full page with a backstory, explinations of their character and costume, and interesting facts.

One great thing about having a young son is being able to buy and build Legos without feeling childish. The minifigure sets that have been coming out since 2010 are a fun collection that we enjoy keeping up with. This book was a nice chronicling of the first ten sets and I assume a second edition will come out after series 20. My favorite part of the book was the little known facts included with the characters, like which pieces were new or which had been used before with other characters, etc.

Rating: 7.0

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The One with the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

329. Title & Author: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (215 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction & Humor
Completed: 25 August 2015

Summary & Review:
Waking up to discover that his house is about to be demolished, Arthur Dent’s day is off to a rough start. Things only worsen, however, when his friend Ford Prefect informs him of a few unexpected facts: he, Ford, is an alien and the Earth is about to be destroyed so they had better hitch a ride off it sooner rather than later. Good thing they have in their possession the best travel guide in the universe: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

This was a very British book. The humor is incredibly dry and a little absurd. I thought it was consistently funny throughout and there were some great deadpan lines. I wasn’t familiar with all the backstory behind the Hitchhiker’s series before I read this so I came at it with no preconceptions or expectations. It was bizarre and entertaining and funny and strange all at once.

Apparently there are five books in the “trilogy” (British humor again) and I think I’ll probably read the second one at some point.

Rating: 6.5

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The One with Jack: Secret Histories

328. Title & Author: Jack: Secret Histories by F. Paul Wilson (304 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Young Adult
Completed: 23 July 2015

Summary & Review:
Jack and his two best friends spend hours exploring the New Jersey Pine Barrens on lazy summer days, but when they discover a body buried with a strange artifact, their world suddenly becomes much more exciting—and dangerous. After the police investigation turns up that the victim was murdered as part of a sacrificial rite, Jack and his friends start looking into the mysterious Septimus Order, a powerful secret society.

This is the first young adult novel that Wilson has written and I really liked it. It would probably be best aimed at a young teen or older pre-teen as far as reading level. Notwithstanding that, it was a fun book. Wilson did a great job tying in some of the larger themes older readers are familiar with from the Repairman Jack Series (one of my favs) in this book about Jack’s younger life. This book is the first of a trilogy of young Repairman Jack so the story didn’t fully resolve which left me looking forward to the next installment.

Another thing I really liked about this book was how deftly Wilson worked in advice to teen readers within the story. He offered words of wisdom on topics from a friend struggling with alcohol and drugs to developing a work ethic to honesty and honor. Plus, he also introduced a young reader to some excellent vocabulary and gave their explanations without sounding too teacher-y. Well done, sir!

Rating: 7.5

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The One with Shadows in Flight

327. Title & Author: Shadows in Flight by Orson Scott Card (237 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Completed: 19 July 2015

Summary & Review:
After leaving Earth with his three children that are afflicted with same genetic condition that will lead to their untimely death after adolescence, Bean soon becomes too large to do anything but lie in the cargo hold of their starship. Centuries pass on earth as they take advantage of relativity hoping for a cure. As they travel, they encounter something entirely unexpected: a bugger ship in orbit around an inhabitable planet.

This is the fifth and currently final book in the Shadow Series, the parallel storyline to Ender’s Game from Bean’s perspective. Up until this book, I thought this was actually a stronger series of novels than the Ender Quartet. They were more consistent in pacing and tone than the Ender Series. But this novel did not follow that pattern. First of all, Bean was more of an ancillary character in this book. Second, the tone completely changed here. Rather than the geopolitical and military chess and intrigue of the first four books in the Shadow Series, this novel was more contemplative, similar to Speaker for the Dead. Card is a good writer so the book was still entertaining, just unexpected.

I do have one major bone to pick, though. So far I’ve read eight books in the Enderverse and the entire time there has been one understanding of the buggers. This book completely threw that out the window and changed basically everything about the aliens with no warning or any justification for the change in the other books. B.S., man.

Rating: 6.0

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The One with Starship Troopers

326. Title & Author: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein (340 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Completed: 5 July 2015

Summary & Review:
Leaving behind his civilian life against the wishes of his parents, Johnnie Rico enlists in the Mobile Infantry, a futuristic military branch of airborne infantry with powered armor. As he progresses from boot camp recruit through non-com to commissioned officer, Johnnie will help in the battle against the “Bugs” and learn what is means to be a soldier.

I loved this book. Heinlein is one of the most influential science fiction writers of all time and I could see aspects from this book that other authors, such as Orson Scott Card, have used in their own novels. It wasn’t a plot heavy book, meaning the major action of the bug war was almost only there as a backdrop against which Heinlein could explore military life and, more specifically, the life of a infantry grunt. Almost a third of the book was spent on Rico’s time in boot camp and other large chunks were devoted to his pre-military education and time at OCS. During these scenes, Heinlein expounded on the virtues of military service, explained why war is sometimes necessary, and offered solutions to some of the ills facing modern society. It was a great book and I understand why this was one of the first books put on the USMC’s reading list.

Rating: 8.5

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The One with A Man in Full

325. Title & Author: A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe (742 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Novel
Completed: 28 June 2015

Summary & Review: 
Charlie Crocker is seeing the destruction of his real estate development empire. His grand vision of a great outer-Atlanta development put him too far in the hole to the bank and now the bank has come knocking to recoup its money. Conrad Henley, a young man with a small family, has just been imprisoned unjustly after being fired from his miserable frozen foods warehouse job. Roger “Too White” White, a black Atlanta lawyer, is proud of his station in life but often feels isolated from the black community. These men, and more, get swept up into the controversy when a star black athlete at Georgia Tech is accused of raping the daughter of a prominent white family. As tensions swell across the city, these men will all be defined by their actions in the coming storm.

This was the second novel of Tom Wolfe’s that I’ve read. I first read The Bonfire of the Vanities (#274), which is a modern classic and I loved it. This book started out just as strong, but as Steve Sailer noted, the ending sputters. I hear Wolfe was in poor health and couldn’t do the ending justice. While the wrap-up was rushed and slightly unsatisfying, reading to that point was very enjoyable so I will still look back on reading this book fondly. Wolfe is a keen observe of American culture and humanity at large and his books are always worth the time.

Rating: 7.5