Sunday, October 8, 2017

"The Atlantis Gene" by A.G. Riddle is riddled with "holes"- review

This book is by A.G. Riddle is riddled with many unscientific "holes". The plot is totally unrealistic on its face. 

Does the author really believes stem cell injection in individuals with autism spectrum disorder could change their brains as if their brains are missing some neurons that can be replenished by stem cells?

How is it that people from mysterious imari organization managed to transport Altantian Bell to Tibet? Does not book say that Bell eliminates any living being not having Atlantian gene?

How is it that Atlantian spaceship with super advanced technology was caught by tsunami unaware and crushed?

This book is a science-fiction book not a fantasy and such blunders are not acceptable without some explanations in my view.

posted by David




Saturday, September 23, 2017

Benjamin Weaver in "The Devil's Company" by David Liss

This is the 3rd book in the series. The story is the most interesting and it is written in a most engaging manner.

Actually, the plot itself in the end is kind of weak but the reader would not know it until very end of the book. 

In this novel Ben Weaver is forced to perform some illegal activities to save his friends. The story is about East India Company and a mystery man with some secrets named Pepper.

It is an international thriller with British, French and Indian interests intercrossed. It shows rise of private corporations that serve as the extension of country's political ambitions. 

posted by David  


             

Friday, September 15, 2017

"The Empire That Would Not Die" by John Haldon - review

This book tries to explain how the eastern Roman Empire also known as Byzantium managed to survive the Arab invasions between 640 and 740 A.D.
 
By 640 A.D. after prolonged but ultimately victorious war with Persians Byzantines under the emperor Heraclius recovered all the eastern territories lost previously to Persia. However,  both empires were quite exhausted from constant warring.
 
It was at this time that tribes from Arabian peninsula became united under the new faith called Islam and started a blitzkrieg to spread it. Within next 100 years, Arabs conquest reached France to the west and China to the east. The speed of Arab conquest was simply unbelievable. North Africa, Syria, Palestine and Egypt, all Byzantine territories with strong Christian population quickly fell to Arabs. Anatolia, the only remaining eastern portion of the Empire was under constant threat of invasion. In Persia collapse of the state was so complete that it did not recover its own statehood until 16th century.
In contrary, Byzantines recovered from initial shock and by 740 A.D. Arabs stopped to represent an existential threat to their survival.
 
So, how Byzantines achieved it? While it is very import to ask the right questions it is more important to have the right answers which here the author failed to do it in my view. I think to understand this question one needs to compare and contrast the fate of Byzantine and Persian Empires following Arab invasions. Why Byzantines survived but Persians lost their state and even their identity and ancient religion, Zoroastrianism? It is clear from the book that Byzantines benefited tremendously from civil wars between different factions of Arab nobility that occurred periodically after initial expansion of Arab state. But what about military capabilities of Byzantines and Arabs? What determined Arab's success in the field? I did not learn anything about it reading this book. First chapter was good by introducing the concept and overall situation but the rest of the book lacked any clear direction.
 
posted by David
 
                  
                         

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Review of "A Rising Man" by Abir Mukherjee

Year 1919. Britain rules India. 150,000 British oversee country with a population of 300 million. Local people started to question moral and legal justification for presence of foreign power on their soil. More they question the more Britain is becoming desperate to maintain its hold on India, because you know, without India there is no British Empire. Draconian laws are introduced directed against locals that further undermines British positions.    
 
So this is background setting when novel opens with gruesome discovery of a murdered British  high placed civil servant in the suburb of Calcutta. Former Scotland Yard detective recently hired in Calcutta police division is tasked to investigate the crime.  
 
It is very interesting and occasionally funny novel. It shows double standards of British rulers (or any foreign rulers for that matter) filled with widespread prejudices against native population.  They looked down on country and people who made them a "rising man". 
 
Highly recommended.
 
posted by David
    

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review of "Plague Land" by S.D. Sykes

This novel is set in 1350, immediately following the Great plague, black death, that had devastated England. Within very short period, a prior social and economical structures that existed collapsed. Religious fanaticism and mysticism are pervasive.
 
Now new relationships are being established. Due to population decline, peasants who survived are gaining economical bargaining power with the land owners. 
 
It is in this environment that two teenage girls are brutally killed. Village people and their priest believe it is doing of a doghead, an evil creature with human body and head of a dog.
 
But Oswald de Lacy, Lord of Somershill, an young manor lord who just inherited this land from his father, believes a real person rather some evil creature killed both girls. His curiosity and persistence will lead to an unexpected and truly diabolical discovery. 
 
Highly recommended.
 
posted by David
           
 
   
 

Friday, August 11, 2017

A former librarian in 18th century China turned crime investigator

                                                              

This novel is a first in a series that follows Li Du, a former librarian in forbidden city in imperial China. Li Du was dismissed from his post because he was a close friend with a person who was involved in conspiracy against Emperor Kangxi (Qing dynasty). Li Du was spared of his life because he did not know anything about conspiracy but sill exiled to the town in the periphery.
 
There, Li Du becomes involved in solving mysterious death of Jesuit priest and uncovers the plot that threatens his Imperial Majesty himself.
 
Very good book. Lots of interesting twists and turns. Nothing extra and nothing left out to complete the story.
 
highly recommended.
 
   

In this second book, Li Du travels to borderland between Tibet and China where in a small mountain village he becomes witness to another mysterious death of a Tibetan monk.
 
With help of his traveling friend, Hamza, Li Du manages to reconstruct events that led to death of a monk and not surprisingly reveals that even remote villages occasionally are part of covert affairs between big Empires. 
 
Again very good book. Highly recommended.
 
 
posted by David
      
 

 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

"The Mote in God's Eye" - review

Initially this book was interesting but later it became too boring. It is too long in my view.

I also think that the novel is unequally developed when it comes to advances in interstellar travel and biology. For example, when ship finds aliens and take their samples, they need to send it back to their planet to do a genetic analysis. It is highly unlikely that humanity could achieve an interstellar travel capacity and at the same time could not develop technology that could sequence alien biological forms on board of their ships.

posted by David

  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

"A Fire Upon The Deep" by Vernon Vinge

I am not sure whether to like this novel or not. I managed to read it fully so most likely I liked it though I skipped many pages filled with "descriptive" writings.

I find Skroderiders to be the most interesting among alien in the novel. I can not even understand what they look like but they were  fun to read. Actually, I did not understand much of the story related to "powers" or "blight" or anything to do with space fighting or anti-blight entity.

So, skroderiders are great, but the rest is too conventional or part of too much fantasy.

posted by David




Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Three-Body Problem: chapter 3[the end]

This is a final chapter of "The Three-Body Problem" trilogy by Chinese science fiction author Cixin Liu. 

It is a mess. Very disappointing conclusions, ideas and story lines. It became more like a fantasy book rather than serious science fiction. 

First book is great. Second starts slowly but ends interestingly. Third one, starts fine but as it progresses more absurd it becomes.

posted by David

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Caleb Carr's "The Alienist": psychological analysis of violence in 1896 New York

This is an interesting novel about crime in New York in 1896. Theodore Roosevelt is a police commissioner at that time and JP Morgan, the "nose", rules the city.

The novel tells the story about series of violent crimes committed against juvenile boys prostitutes who represent underbelly of the city. New York's society does not even recognize their existence and crimes against them are not considered worthy of police investigation.

Criminology is in its infancy at this stage. However, using then newly developed science of psychoanalysis (people who practiced it were called alienists), novel's protagonists try to "reverse" investigate the crime and to come up with the psychological profile of the suspect.

posted by David



     

Monday, March 27, 2017

David Liss' "The Coffee Trader" - review


In this novel David Liss recreates Dutch Amsterdam at the time when the city represented center of commerce in Western Europe and where practice of religious tolerance was a norm (unlike most of other places in Europe).

The story focuses on Jewish diaspora in Amsterdam. Some of these Jewish people in Amsterdam came from Iberian peninsula where they were targeted by Inquisition. They brought with them their traditions and laws that were somewhat different from Jewish traditions observed by other Jewish migrants from Eastern Europe. 

At its core the novel is a fictional account of international trading scheme that eventually would make coffee a must to have household drink in Western Europe.

This is very interesting read with quite dramatic ending. 

posted by David







Sunday, March 19, 2017

"The Ten Thousand" - a Greek military adventure in Persian Empire

This novel tells us about the first military adventure Greek mercenaries took that led them deep into Persian Empire between 401-399 B.C.  

First half of the book is quite good and fast paced, however later narrative slows down and becomes overloaded with descriptive information.

History tell us that Greek forces were hired by Cyrus who wanted to challenge his brother, then a Persian King. However, during the decisive battle near the ancient Babylon, Cyrus is killed and Greeks end up in the middle of the Persian Empire with their leaders betrayed and murdered. Thus begins famous retreat towards Black Sea under the leadership of Xenophon, who one studied with Socrates. Greeks are constantly tested in each region they pass by local hostile forces and Greek military training and tactics reveals its superiority. These experiences were later used by forced led by Alexander the Great.   

posted by David



   

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"from ALCHEMY to IPO" - review

I found this title "from ALCHEMY to IPO" when browsing openlibrary.org website. It  was published in 2000 and recounts some of the details of how biotech industry came to existence in late 1970s in USA.

The author, Cynthia Robbins-Roth, as she writes, was one of the early employees of biotech pioneer Genentech (at the time of the book publication though she had her own biotech consultancy business). Genentech is considered even today after 40 years since its foundation a leading biotech company and consistently ranks as one of the best, if not the best place to work for biotech oriented researchers.

Regarding this book. It is quite superficial and takes overly positive look at the industry. It lacks critical assessment. It is for readers who do not look for understanding but rather for general information regarding what is biotech and how it started out.       

posted by David


Monday, March 6, 2017

Review of José Carlos Somoza's "The Athenian Murders"

By most part this novel was very interesting to read.
 
Story covers two time periods: 4th century Athens and much later period, I am not exactly sure whether it is present time or far in the future.
 
The novel begins with translation and analysis of ancient Greek novel of unknown author that is carried out by a narrator-translator.  
 
As narrator translates chapter after chapter he becomes more intrigued and obsessed with what he believes is a hidden message of the novel. The novel itself is a story set in 4th century BC Athens. At this time, Athens is ruled by oligarchy imposed on Athens by Sparta following its defeat in Pelopennesian War.
 
The novel opens with discovery of a dead body of a young Athenian man. Two people, one private investigator and another philosopher, work together to uncover mystery behind this and other similar murders.
 
In the end, the story resolution and its explanations is a little bit unconvincing and confusing. However, I would still recommend this novel. First it describes Athenian culture at the middle of 4th century. Second, it analysis and contrasts both  philosophical and practical approach to life.
 
posted by David
 
 
              

Sunday, February 19, 2017

"A Conspiracy of Paper" - 1st financial bubble in European history

Set in London in the beginning of 18th century this mystery novel describes fictionalized account of financial machinations that later has became known as bubbles.

Ben Weaver has become involved in investigation of what appears to be an accidental death of his father, a stock-jobber (as stockbrokers were known initially).

As investigation progresses, Weaver realized that his father was murdered by people who wanted to protect their illegal activity related to forged paper funds. If knowledge of existence of such falsified papers would become a public knowledge it could have created a panic and collapse of newly developed financial market based on selling and buying companies' shares/funds.    

This is fast paced novel, full of twists and turns and the real perpetrator of crimes would not become known until very end.

A good read indeed.

posted by David

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Shinju: the conspiracy of 21 against Shogun

This was an interesting book. I liked the main character, an idealistic and non-conformist detective who uncovers political conspiracy by investigating what appears on the surface a "double forbidden-love suicide", shinju. 

This detective, Sano Ichiro, did not back down under political pressure and until very end it appeared he is going to lose his life as well, besides have already been dismissed from his job due to insubordination. 

However, by exposing conspiracy against Japanese Shogun Sano Ichiro regains his prestige and name.

posted by David
  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Year of the Hyenas" and end of the bronze age

This is quite entertaining piece of historical fiction that describes the final days of Pharaoh Ramses III reign. It was time of general decline of bronze age society and ancient Egypt was no exception. 

The plot of the novel is a power struggle for succession between Pharaoh's sons involving reigning Queens and several noblemen. Novel follows investigation into mysterious death of a aging priestess. Semerkent, the Clerk of Investigations and Secrets in ancient Egypt, is a main protagonist. He will uncover major plot that links priestess death to the threat of elimination of Ramses III.

As historical novel goes, it is fun  to read and recommended for general knowledge audience.

posted by David