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Book Review – Shadow of the Giant

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Shadow of the Giant – by Orson Scott Card

Every time I read a new book in the Ender’s Game series of novels, I’m completely blown away. The original four books, I read without a break. I’ve since gone back and re-read the first novel again, and it was just as good as the first time I read it. The second series, following the “Bean” character from the original book, has been a whole new adventure, which I’ve enjoyed immensely.

This book picks up immediately after Shadow Puppets. Bean is still working, reluctantly, in the service of Peter Wiggin, the Hedgemon of Earth. Along with his wife, Petra, Bean is now intent on tracking down the babies he believes to be born from the embryos, stolen in a previous book. Time is of the essense, because Bean is dying from the same condition that made him the most brilliant military mind the world has ever known. He wants to find the babies before he dies. Also, he is given hope for a cure, but at a huge cost to him and his family.

Meanwhile, Peter Wiggin is working to build a peaceful world. Standing in the way are China and the muslim world, both of which have goals of domination and empire. India, caught in the middle, has defeated the Chinese invaders, only to be controlled by muslim invaders from the West. What’s more, each of these powers has, at its head, a Battle School graduate, two of whom fought with Ender in the final battle against the Bugger threat.

What’s great about these books is that they are just good stories. The science-fiction elements have always seemed toned-down, in favor of character development. I’ve come to know these characters, over the course of the series, and many of them I know quite well. In the end, I have trouble figuring out who is the main character of the second series. Is it the story of Bean and his life with Petra? Is it the story of Peter Wiggin and his quest to unite the world? Is it the story of the Battle School graduates, and how they affected the world?

After reading what may well be the last book in the series (I have no knowledge of the plans of Orson Scott Card. I just read the books) I believe the story is about all of this. This is the story of an extraordinary group of individuals, incapable of not affecting everything around them. We follow grand world politics, military strategy, battles, religion, family relationships, motherhood, and so much more.

I’ve been trying to convince my wife to read Ender’s Game. Every new book in the series that I read becomes the reason she needs to start reading, so she can reach that point. Having read what I believe to be the end, I have to say that this book is a fine reason to start reading the series. This book is what brings a batch of books, which continue a single story, into a single large work that I can see as one.

Michelle Malkin’s New Book – Unhinged

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Michelle Malkin has a new book, Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild. It’s on my short list of books I really want to read. Malkin points out:

“It’s not Republicans taking chainsaws to Democrat campaign signs and running down political opponents with their cars. It’s not conservatives burning Democrats in effigy, defacing war memorials, and supporting the fragging of American troops. And it’s not conservatives producing a bullet-riddled bumper crop of assassination-themed musicals, books and collectible stamps.
“It’s not a Republican who invoked Pol Pot and Nazis and Soviet gulag operators when discussing American troops at Guantanamo Bay. That was Democrat Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, who kept his Senate Minority Whip position and who continues to blame an “orchestrated right-wing attack” for what came out of his mouth.
“It’s not Republicans who suggested that President Bush had advance knowledge of the September 11th attacks or that Osama bin Laden has already been captured. Those notions were advanced by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and current Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean.
“And it wasn’t a Republican who asserted that the war Iraq was “just as bad as six million Jews being killed.” That was Democrat Rep. Charlie Rangel, who has refused to apologize and whom no Democrat leader has denounced.
“The views of unhinged liberals are no longer relegated to the private remarks of a few Democrat politicians or the bloviations of a few fringe figures on the far Left. The syndrome is far more pervasive, intense, and sanctimoniously self-delusional than anything on the Right.”

Freakonomics – Book Review

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I was a bit late in getting my hands on Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. I’ve wanted to read it since before it was released, but until recently, I didn’t have the time to dig into it. As I neared the end of Return of the King, I knew exactly what I wanted to read next. Since my current position left me a lot of free time between scheduled appointments, I got a copy and devoured it between calls.

Devoured is exactly what I did, too. Freakonomics was quite an enjoyable read, covering a wide variety of topics. Notable high points include the fight against the KKK, and how the Superman animated TV show may have dealt the deadliest blow against the organization. I also enjoyed the analysis of the crack-dealing street gang and its business model. The chapter comparing corruption among public school teachers and sumo wrestlers had me chomping at the bit for more.

Steven Levitt and Stephen Drubner have done a great job of presenting economic data in easily readable anecdotes. The fact that the book has no focal point to work from, except in that it is an economics book about strange topics, was a plus. I also enjoyed that the information was presented by an economist with no visible ideological axe to grind.

Now, I’ll pass the book to the wife. Once she’s done, I can think of a few others who might enjoy reading Freakonomics. I know I did.

What’s Next on the Reading List?

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Although I don’t finish off books at quite the speed I did when I was a teenager, I still love to read good books. I’ve got around at least 100 books waiting on shelves, in boxes, in totes, and in stacks that are waiting to be read. There are some priorities in my list, though, that I’m trying to get to in the short term. Here’s an incomplete list.

  • Foundation and Empire – Isaac Asimov
    Over the years, I became quite a fan of Asimov. The funny thing is, I was a fan of his non-fiction. Not once during my heavy SF years did I read a single work of fiction by the man. Months ago, I finally grabbed a copy of Foundation from the bookstore and read it. I have to admit, it was pretty good. It wasn’t the BEST science-fiction I ever read by any means, but it was a quick and fun read. Now, if I can just find that hardcover trilogy I’ve got lying around somewhere, I’ll read the second book.
  • High Druid of Shannara: Jarka Ruus – Terry Brooks
    Next up in the Shannara series for me is this new book in a new trilogy. It’s been out for a while, but I have yet to see a copy of it in anything but a full-price bookstore. I’m waiting for this one to fall into my hands, and then it is likely to be immediately devoured, ruining any other plans for the next few days. If you like fantasy, and haven’t read a Shannara book, find a copy of the Sword of Shannara and get started.
  • Dune: The Machine Crusade – Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson
    Another one of those great SF works I never read when I was younger was the Dune series. As an adult, I’ve been reading them and enjoying them quite a bit. I’ve still got a couple books to go in the original series, but they’re not as high a priority in my list as the new prequels. Going back and reading the history of how things led up to the original Dune has turned out to be more enjoyable than reading the later Dune books. The Butlerian Jihad was a thrilling book to read, even more so than the great houses trilogy that came before. I’m hoping these guys keep up the great work. I haven’t got a copy of this one yet, but it’s another one that will force itself to the top of my list as soon as I do.
  • Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien
    That’s right, another of those great authors I never read back in the day was Tolkien. I’ve been fixing that problem, though, and have one book to go before my quest will be done. This book sits on my bedside table, waiting for me to act. Soon, soon.
  • Executive Power – Vince Flynn
    As an adult, I stopped reading as much science fiction. Most of the later SF had become unrealistic as modern technology advanced. I moved over to techno and political thrillers. A few years back, I discovered Vince Flynn’s first book, Term Limits. That’s one book worth a read if I’ve ever seen one. He’s continued to put out quality, exciting work. I’ve had a copy of this one for a while, and have kept it near the top of my list the whole time. Unfortunately, when I’m averaging a book read every couple of months at best, it’s easy to keep a book at #2 or #3 on my list for a while. Maybe I should just move this one to #1 and get it done, since it will read MUCH faster than The Two Towers.
  • Smoke Screen – Kyle Mills
    Reading the first two books by Mills got me hooked on his work. While I ran the bookstore, I had several mad customers who had gotten hooked on this author, but then found it impossible to find any more books by him. I just couldn’t keep them in stock. If I managed to get one of his books, it would sell immediately. Mills is the son of a retired FBI agent, and writes exciting books with characters you can get to know. I’ve seen copies of this book on the shelf, so I know it exists, but they dissapeared before I could get my hands on them. I’m still looking.
  • The Teeth of the Tiger – Tom Clancy
    I’ve had a copy of this in hardcover for a while. Unfortunately, I’m just not in good enough physical shape to read a Clancy book in hardcover. His prose is so dense, and detailed, and LONG that it takes a long time to read. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE that he is so dense, detailed, and long. He covers a lot of bases, and writes a fine book. I do a lot of my reading in bed, though, and holding up a thick hardcover book for that long can be hard on the shoulders. When I get my hands on a softcover of this one, though…

Like I say, it’s an incomplete list. I’m still reading my Bible in One Year, and there are some non-fiction books I need to read. There are still some surprises to be found.
For instance, as I finished up this post, I looked over and saw a paperback of Foundation and Empire on the shelf. I forgot that I found it. I guess I know what’s next.

Mike Adams Suggested Reading List

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Over at Town Hall, Mike Adams gives a nice list of books that you, your high school kid, or anyone else should read if they want to know what communism and socialism are really all about. It’s a great list, with some great comments. Although I haven’t read them all, I’ve got to say I’m right with him on those I have read. I’m probably going to have to fill some gaps in the list ASAP, too.
Adams starts his list with the #2 book on my list of books to read to learn about communism. I start with the Communist Manifesto. The manifesto is where you can discover what two of the founders of this evil system really think. Once you’ve digested this evil puke, you’re ready to start learning WHY it is such evil puke. That’s why you need to read We The Living by Ayn Rand. Rand gives the reader a semi-autobiographical look at the life of a young woman growing up in post-revolutionary Russia. We see “equality” in soviet terms as the tearing down of those who have succeeded in life. We see attacks on “speculators,” and the training of youth in the false economics necessary to believe socialism will work. I think it very interesting that so much of this book could have been written 70 years later, with the subject being the Democratic Party instead of the Communist Party. The only difference is how much power they have to punish people for political disagreement. Today’s Democratic Party is no less evil than the Communist Party of the 1930s. They just haven’t completely taken over yet.
He also includes my #3 book, Animal Farm, which I believe needs a good historical prologue before it is read. That’s why it is #3. Animal farm, through satire, tells of the early years of communism from the perspective of those in power.
There’s much more, and they’re all great. I especially loved reading Treason, by Ann Coulter. I loved it even more when I got my hands on the primary source material she used in writing this book. Democrats try to paint her poorly by calling her names, but she paints them poorly by documenting how they’ve ALWAYS stood with the enemies of post WW-II America, and backing it up with proof.

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