24 July 2008

Next -- Michael Crichton

Usually this book is not a one day read, at least I don't think under normal circumstances I would have read this so fast. However, I was stuck in the Newark airport from 7pm until my flight finally took off after 3am. After rummaging through my bag and getting a muffin, I decided to pull this book out and start reading. It was quick paced, short chapters and a lot of dialogue, the only parts that slowed the reading a bit were the "news" stories interspersed throughout the book.

The problem with Crichton is that you never know what is specifically true. I know enough about chemistry and the other sciences to know that most of what was happening scientifically in this book is a little premature. But, the main point of the book was right on target. This book appeals to those that are concerned with the litigious nature of our society or those that are not but should be. It appeals to those whom are concerned with the growth of the biotech industry because of the lack of knowledge of those who make decisions and the reckless propaganda of those who actually know what is going on.

I am not saying biotech firms are evil. Quite the contrary. However, read this book and you will understand where the concerns are. There is a lot of benefits to these products and services. They should be rewarded accordingly. However, the courts make rulings where they don't understand the facts. The scientists inside these companies are willing to compromise high academic standards in trade for sensationalizing in front of a scared, misinformed public. Obviously not all are doing this, probably only a few, but the point remains. I highly recommend this book because I agree that the world most people expect to be here in 100 years is already here in many ways.

Specifically about this book, I found the stories to be somewhat jumbled and in some cases were wrapped up hastily and were found lacking. He tried to interweave many different stories and was successful in most ways, however it seemed to me that too many different plot lines were introduced in order to account for less depth and development in all of them. It was an enjoyable read however and the negative aspects in the story telling were outweighed by the skill that was shown in what was there.

23 July 2008

The Bourne Supremacy -- Robert Ludlum

The second book in this series kept up the excitement right where the first one let off. I enjoyed the setting of the first book, primarily France, because I am somewhat familiar with this area. However, the setting of the second book, primarily China during the 1980s, was quite interesting. Not being an expert on the region, it was a welcome change of scenery and language. The customs were different and the whole scope of the novel was much different. Jason knows a lot about who he is and is now using this knowledge, whereas in the first book it was more of a personal scavenger hunt.

The action was very well paced and again it was a very quick and easy read. I had trouble putting it down at times when I had to get back to other work. The character development seemed better and the action sequences were described in a manner that allowed them to be visualized more easily. I often felt as if I was watching a movie while reading because the descriptions are quite good.

Negative aspects of this book were few but they were still there. I am not sure actually if it is a negative or just my fault. Having read the first one so close to the second, it felt so often that he was repeating himself or dwelling on explanations of past events that I already knew about from just reading the first book. I suppose this cannot be avoided in a sequel, but it was still rather annoying at times. Other than this, we had to once again suspend disbelief to the brink at points, but it was done in a way that didn't really hurt the overall story. All in all, I definitely recommend this novel, after reading the first of course. I read on Amazon that a lot of people thought this was the better of the first two, I would say that I agree for the most part. But they are somewhat hard to compare in my mind so I leave it to you.

18 July 2008

And Then There Were None -- Agatha Christie

I read this book rather fast and there is good reason. It was a bit dated in language, but it was still riveting. The mystery had me going until the end. I did not fully understand that whole story until the very last page. She broke the book up into smaller sections and there was quite a bit of dialogue, hence it read very easily. The twists and turns were well designed. I haven't read a mystery novel in a long time, this one did not disappoint the genre. I will definitely be reading more mystery and for sure more Christie. I very much recommend this book, it can be read in a couple days and it is a very enjoyable experience.

The Bourne Identity -- Robert Ludlum

I finally read this book. I had been meaning to after seeing the first movie years ago. I still never managed to see the second or third movies. Not because I did not like the first, but rather I just never seemed to get around to it. I thought this was somewhat of a good thing, because then when I read the three books I would not have known the entire story yet. After reading this book though, I do not think it would have been a problem. This book is so much different from the movie that I remember that I believe the second two movies are probably also very loosely based. I thoroughly enjoyed this book however. The fact that Carlos was actually in this book, albeit that most of the character in the book was false, it still lent a bit of realism to the story.

It has been a very long time since I read what I would actually call a page-turner. I could not put this thing down. Near the end of every chapter there is some new twist that nearly forces me to read on and find out what happens next. I have been reading mostly biographies lately and, before that, nothing I would call action for quite some time. Hence, this book may seem much better to me because I am not engrossed in this genre. But, it was very well executed. Obviously there were times were some disbelief needed to be suspended. Further, I did not fully buy certain characters motivations and feelings throughout. But, I don't always understand why people do certain things in real life either. Thus, with limited skepticism, I believe this is one of the better action-packed novels I have ever read. I fully recommend this book to anyone. It is a very quick read. I am certainly looking forward to the next two.

10 July 2008

The Agony and the Ecstasy -- Irving Stone

This book was fantastic. It took me a while to read, but it was well worth it. I started looking up how to sculpt marble while reading it, that is how well it was written. It portrays the artist with such authority and such a breadth of knowledge that it feels as if you are right there beside him. Michelangelo's life is more than amazing, it verges on the unbelievable. If the works of art and the historical record did not exist, I would not believe such a fantastic tale about one man's life.

The style of the book is novelized biography. This was a new area for me, as I have only read biographies that were meant to be as such. Traditionally, they verge somewhat on the dry fact based novels that they are. Relaying important information and attempting to analyze the life being portrayed. Irving Stone accomplished this in the form of a novel. I had to constantly remind myself that what I was reading actually happened, that this was in fact a biography. Obviously, Stone had to take quite a few liberties with the story and fill in a lot of gaps. However, his ability to tie together the history with such a great story was truly a work of art in itself. I highly recommend this book as the definitive manner in which to enter the life of Michelangelo. His life was filled not only with great work, but also with great intrigue and fantastic stories. It does not disappoint anyone looking for a novel nor looking for a biography. It really does fill both needs simultaneously and thus look no further for either one.