This week we’re looking at one of those books I love to find where an author takes a topic usually seen as “other” and shows just how human – and how powerful – it can be. This week we’re looking at Other People’s Things by Kerry Anne King.
Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:
New Wrinkle On Oft-Derided Issue. I don’t suffer from kleptomania myself, but as someone who is Autistic and is interested in unique takes on various issues society deems “mental disorders”, I always appreciate books that can take a topic that is often derided and make it much more “human” and much less “other”. Here, King does just this, and she does it in a whimsical manner that has its share of tragedy as well. An excellent book that rarely takes the “conventional” route, and yet tells the story of how one person’s “mental disorder” can actually work to be a very positive thing when the person learns to truly harness her power.. Very much recommended.
A Gold Mine Of Technotyrannical Neoarchy. Wow. Where to begin. I suppose I should specify what I mean by “Gold mine”: It is my personal designation for the worst books possible, the ones where you shift through tons of detritus to find even the smallest speck of anything remotely redeemable. Thus, while some might thing that describing a thing as a “gold mine” is a way of denoting massive wealth, for me it is exactly the opposite – something to only be even considered by those with particularly high levels of pain tolerance and masochistic tendencies.
Here, “celebrated futurist” (according to the book’s description) Khanna basically does all he can to trash anything remotely Western (and particularly American) while seeking a society that is technologically tyrannical and ruled by the young. (Thus, “technotyrannical neoarchy”.) His hubris in claiming that technology and skills are all that matters – and not pesky things like basic human rights and physical geographies – is utterly mind blowing. And his lack of documentation – barely 10% of this advanced reader copy edition I read was bibliography – is truly astounding for such major claims. Perhaps he thinks he gets away with this by claiming to be a “futurist”? Your projections are only as good as your source material, bub, and I expect to see it if you want to make such utterly fantastical claims as claiming that Wakanda is a possibly real society (specifically in saying that Black Panther is a “futuristic” film without ever even alluding to the term “science fiction”, as in “Black Panther is a futuristic science fiction film”) or that iFunny is a major Gen Z social media platform. Also, proclaiming the mobile home to be the “ultimate symbol of the new American mobility” is so utterly laughable in and of itself that this book should not be classified in any genre but humor.
If you’re reading this review and want actual looks at how migration works and the various issues world powers will be looking at over the coming decades, you’re *MUCH* better off with Sonia Shah’s The Next Great Migration or Tim Marshall’s The Power Of Geography and Prisoners of Geography – yes, even with Marshall’s own shortsightedness on some issues.
This book is thus not recommended at all, unless you happen to have high tolerances for pain and are particularly masochistic. Which is a major shame, since the title and subtitle were so promising.
This review of Move by Parag Khanna was originally written on August 23, 2021.
Solid Examination Of The Issues. I’ve read some of the author’s work over the last year in particular on his primary employer’s website (Reason.com), and that is actually how I found out about this book. So I knew roughly what to expect here, and that is pretty well what I got: a fairly solid look at the issues surrounding tech, elections, privacy, free speech, and other related issues from a moderate libertarian (small “L”, to be clear, since these things matter in circles that will likely be most open to reading this book) perspective that is mostly well-reasoned from that particular mindset. As more of an avowed Anarchist (and former Libertarian Party official and candidate, though I myself was more moderate in that era) and software development professional, eh, Soave allows government a bit too much intervention into tech companies than I’m personally comfortable with. Even here, however, most who are more aligned with the left/ right divide in the US are going to be hit fairly equally and largely find various arguments here that they will (and sometimes do) champion and others that they will (and often do) despise. Which in the age of hyperpartisanship and barely-there “reasoning”, is generally a sign of someone who *has* actually seriously and critically thought about the issues he is speaking of. An excellent work that really should be read by anyone trying to urge government action regarding technology companies, and thus one that quite a few should consider as we begin the march into the mid-term elections of 2022 in just a few more months. Very much recommended.
PS: The reason for the star deduction? Light bibliography, at least potentially corrected in a non-Advance Reader Copy version of the book. The ARC, however, had a bibliography that clocked in at just 9% of the text, vs a “more normal” range of 25-33% in my experience across almost 650 books since Jan 1, 2019 alone.
This review of Tech Panic by Robby Soave was originally written on September 14, 2021.
Interesting And Well Documented Read. In this book, Duffy shows that what the media so often (and so lazily) proclaims to be “generational” divides… usually aren’t really. Yes, there is a generational component to at least some things, but time period (specifically for that “coming of age” period but also more generally throughout the individual’s life) and life progression play equally critical roles, and in many cases *more* critical roles, in showing how a particular group of people generally feel about a given issue. One of the things that makes the book a bit interesting is that even while presenting this much more balanced view of this particular field, Duffy exposes himself as a “climate” alarmist/ extremist, either not knowing about or outright denying similar work to his own in that particular field. (Ie, work showing that even though media lazily points to one thing, there are actually several different things at play and in some cases far more critical to the issue at hand. One work here on that topic similar to Duffy’s on this one is Unsettled by Stephen Koonin, released just 6 months or so prior to this book’s publication).
Still, this book is truly a remarkable work in its field (at least to someone who is *not* a fellow academic or in that field at all) and seems to be fairly comprehensive in its focus, even as its primary and secondary national emphases are the UK and the US, respectively. It looks at many, many issues from the social to the political and even to the personal, from housing to gender identity and sexual activity to political leanings and many, many more. This is also a fairly well documented text, with its bibliography clocking in at about 32% of the overall text – while not the *highest* I’ve noted in my work with advanced review copies, easily among the higher echelons there. Very much recommended.
This review of The Generation Myth by Bobby Duffy was originally written on September 14, 2021.
This week we’re looking at a book that burns slowly and has a long fuse… but then has quite the bang at the end as well. This week, we’re looking at Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillipi Ryan.
Slow Burn With A Bang. This is one of those slow burn mysteries that doesn’t seem like the stakes are *overly* high… until you find yourself in a situation with guns drawn in broad daylight in the streets of Boston. (Yes, a touch of a spoiler, but a very minor one given the lack of other details. :D) Overall you’ve got three primary perspectives, two in third person and one in first, and everyone is hiding things from everyone for varying reasons and no one really knows who to trust at all, including some of the non-perspective characters. So on that point, this tale works well – if, again, a bit slow and seemingly low-stake. But it is compelling enough to have you want to follow along and see what exactly happens, particularly once we begin to get the third perspective (which doesn’t happen until around the 25-33% of the book, IIRC). Overall an inventive tale that plays with some well worn tropes and spins them a bit in a new-ish way, and for this it is very much recommended.
Erin Brockovich In Appalachia. This is one of those books where the description from the publisher really does tell you pretty well exactly what the book is about: One town’s, and really one man’s, courtroom war against a coal company that was polluting its water supplies. There are the requisite dives into the various histories of the prominent people, including the lawyer, the CEO of the company, and the general region itself – home of the infamous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys – but mostly this is a tale of how the courtroom drama came to be, how the war was waged, and its ultimate outcomes. If you’re looking for a more general examination of Appalachia and its issues… this isn’t that. But if you’re interested in “Little Guy vs Big [Insert Industry]”… this is gonna be right up your alley. Very much recommended.
This review of Desperate by Kris Maher was originally written on August 18, 2021.
Comprehensive History. This tome – and yes, at 600+ pages of dense yet readable text, “tome” certainly applies – is easily the most comprehensive history of guns and firepower I’ve ever come across. Covering nearly 600 or so years from the mid 15th century’s initial adoption of guns in scale to medieval Europe (thus breaking the hold of the pikemen) to their ultimate forms in WWII era Europe and the beginning of the age of rocketry, this book covers all of the great innovations in all level of firearms from small arms to artillery to naval and, finally, air, cannons. Those looking for exacting details on particular developments will probably want to look for more specific books about the particular development you’re interested in, but as an overview of the field, this book truly does a phenomenal job of showing the various developments of firearms and how they shifted the way nations make war – thus shifting the very way nations work, period. All of the high points most anyone who knows anything about guns knows are here, and there is actually quite a bit here that this reader – who generally considers himself decently well-versed in history – had never heard of, such as the naval battle at Turkey in the middle of the 19th century that saw the first heavy use of explosive shot and thus signaled the beginning of the end of the wooden naval ship. Utterly fascinating work, if long. Still, truly very much recommended.
This review of Firepower by Paul Lockhart was originally written on September 13, 2021.
Solid History, Perhaps A Bit Too Optimistic On Future Tech. In showing the history of how humans have been using crude genetic engineering essentially since we first began interacting with the world – both plant and animal – and in showing how our more modern techniques – including CRSPR – came to be, Shapiro does a great job in showing just how much humans have *already* shaped the evolution of non-human life on this planet. In the ancient world, she uses a lot of her own experiences as a scientist in that exact field, and even in the more modern cases she is discussing techniques she mentions in the earlier sections as having used extensively. On these points, Shapiro is truly excellent.
Where she stumbles a bit – not enough for a star deduction, but enough for a bit of commentary – is that she is perhaps a bit too optimistic about how genetic tinkering will be used in the future. Yes, she discusses the various quandaries, but even in such discussions- *even when discussing the GMO humans created in China a couple of years ago* – Shapiro tends to just hand wave over the negative, darker sides of the technology even while acknowledging their potentially cataclysmic power. This is where a solid dose of science fiction is useful, showing that even when scientists such as Shapiro have the best of intentions… things may not always turn out the way they think, and thus caution truly is warranted. (Yes, I’m thinking of a specific book in this particular example, but the reveal that GMO is used within it is a *massive* spoiler, and thus I’m not naming it here. I *will* note that it is by the same author and indeed part of the spoiler is that it uses some of the same tech as described in HUNGER by Jeremy Robinson, which is another cautionary tale of the “benefits” of genetic modification.)
Still, for what it is and for what the description claims it sets out to do, this truly is a solid examination of the history and current state of the field, and for this it is very much recommended.
This review of Life As We Made It by Beth Shapiro was originally written on September 10, 2021.
Friendship In The End Stages Of Life. This is one of those books that covers an area not usually written of – single women in their 70s. Here, we see an introduction where three women come together at the Verrazzano Bridge in New York City by pure chance, followed by the ‘meat’ of the story taking place 20 years later, after these women have been best friends since that first day they met. Life has tossed them a few curve balls, but we see them as they are dealing with what they have in this stage of their lives – including a couple of gentlemen interests, various community activities, a kid and a grandkid, and a whole lot of meddling – from every angle. Ultimately both depressing and hopeful at the same time, this is one of those books that anyone who has ever *had* a single grandmother in her 70s will likely see as being all-too realistic, as I do from having had such an experience myself. If you’re looking for an action-oriented book… this isn’t for you. But if you want a strong character study involving characters in demographics that don’t often get to be the primary focus of a story… this is a remarkably good one. Very much recommended.
This review of And The Bridge Is Love by David Biro was originally written on September 8, 2021.
Interesting Romance In (Arguably) Underserved Setting. Maybe there are more gay romances set in India written in Hindi and/ or marketed to Indian audiences. This American that doesn’t know any human languages other than English can’t say. But *in my experience* as someone for whom this was Book 189 on the year and who has read over 600 books since Jan 1, 2019 alone… this was unique in setting and primary characters.
Further, as someone in tech (who actually manages – and thus interacts near-daily with – teams of Indian nationals), the workload described here sounds realistic. (For better or for worse. My guys are *awesome*, but they *do* tend to work quite a bit.) The interfering family dynamics are something Nicola Marsh has written of fairly often in her straight romances involving the Indian diaspora (such as July 2021’s The Man Ban), and the struggles of coming out vs submitting to familial and societal expectations are well known and told quite often in American literature and culture at minimum. Hell, even in the US gay sex was officially illegal even this Millennium!
All of this to say, as a romance, I think this book actually works in showing a (mostly) seemingly realistic view while still falling into the standard rules of the genre. Yes, there is a fair amount of sex, on screen though not erotica level explicit. Yes, there is a happily ever after. And yes, there is a fair amount of angst getting there, culminating in a massive fight that splits the couple up before finally coming together – fairly standard stuff for the genre, and yet filled with details specific to its setting. While I don’t know if the Indian law that plays a fair role in the background of the story was ever actually overturned and I have no idea when this fight was going on, it doesn’t play enough of a role to detract from the story not knowing when this was – though those that *are* more familiar with that particular fight may be able to identify a bit more with the book just from seeing what was happening in their own lives at that time. While I’m not sure that I personally would classify this book as romantic *comedy*, there were a few funny moments and it could well be that there is more humor to be found here for those more familiar with Indian culture.
Overall a strong and interesting book, and very much recommended.
This review of The Other Man by Farhad J Dadyburjor was originally written on September 8, 2021.