Mitchell N. (MilesGrey) - Reviews

1 to 16 of 16
The Art of War
The Art of War
Author: Sun Tzu, Thomas F. Cleary (Translator)
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 23
Review Date: 4/9/2009
Helpful Score: 4


The Art of War by Sun Tzu is itself an elegantly simple text, filled with clear, but deep deep insights into the nature of reallity and humanity, worthy of reflection. The text as it appears in this book is expounded for the reader by 5 or 6 later writers who wanted to share their insights into the great general's meaning. Their comments are interspersed with the actual text. While Tzu's own words are picked out in bold type, reading the mixture is like herding long-tailed cats or stretching taffy, rewarding perhaps, but very sticky and wearisome. If you desire the insights of the great general prepare to work hard at picking them out and consider seeking a different edition.


Brave New World
Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 98
Review Date: 8/28/2011
Helpful Score: 1


Of the great dystopian novels, Brave New World is the one that you really don't have to read. One should not underestimate it. Huxley captured well the horrifying potential for soft dictatorships to silence the oppressed by substituting thoughtless laughter/staring for screams. He also clearly portrays the danger of emotions/ aesthetics being manipulated. Yet his strength is his weakness. He wallows in the tyranny, sinks in emotionality, drowns in totalizing his vision. Government control of genetics is ridiculous. The real pitfall, however is that Bradbury scooped him. Fahrenheit 451 captures Brave New World and 1984 in a crisper, more efficient way. But Huxley will always be king of the Feelies. Now one can take that from him.


The Cat Who Walks Through Walls
The Cat Who Walks Through Walls
Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 120
Review Date: 8/28/2011
Helpful Score: 1


The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is like Alien Vs. Predator. Heinlein devotees will like it, but it is short on literary merit. We delight to revisit the world of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, with a bit of who-dunnit thrown in, but after a little while we end up meeting characters from other works in a heavily meta-literary setting, that is just a bit much. So if you like Heinlein this book is fun, but it falls short of the majesty of Moon, and the innocent wonder of a work like Have Spacesuit Will Travel. Good, but not great.


Children of the Mind (Ender, Bk 4)
Children of the Mind (Ender, Bk 4)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 361
Review Date: 11/2/2009


Children of the Mind is not Card's best work. This is Orson Scott Card enjoying spinning out an idea, seeing characters to the end of their troubles, and catering to his die-hard fans. It plays well enough if you really love the Ender characters, but it is a fair distance from being literature.


Empire (Empire, Bk 1)
Empire (Empire, Bk 1)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.2/5 Stars.
 38
Review Date: 6/12/2012


Empire tells a lively parable, critical for our time, about the depth of ideological divides, particularly the current one between Conservatives and Liberals. This fictional civil war story proposes that we have reached a crux of cultural division which could leave us all subject to a new Caesar Augustus, a dictator who quietly and cleverly uses party division to give himself supreme power. Some of cards favorite themes make odd reappearances as plot devices here. If you liked the jeesh of Ender Wiggin, you might love to see such characters operating in a world even more real than that of Card's Shadow series following his other Ender world characters, primarily Bean. More importantly though it follows a lively "Modern Warfare" story which should concern all those who love freedom.


The Farthest Shore  (Earthsea Cycle, Bk 3)
The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle, Bk 3)
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 47
Review Date: 1/3/2018


Which is more important, to do what you long for or to live in balance with the Right? Can life exist without death? When a Prince is sent to warn the Archmage Ged that magic, hope, and life are draining from the world, the two must sail to confront the unknown. I don't agree with all of Ursula LeGuin's ying yangey themes, but she beautifully portrays the need to respect human beings, to love their excellence and try to redeem them from the gutter of existence.


I Am Legend
I Am Legend
Author: Richard Matheson
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 374
Review Date: 7/28/2009
Helpful Score: 1


Like Philip K. Dick in his epic "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", Matheson used this sci-fi vampire tale to embody a powerful idea, in this case post modernism. The hero Robert Neville is a lone survivor amid a world of vampires. By day he works to survive, by night he holes up in his barricaded house, trying to stave off madness, induced by fear, grief, and being alone. Gradually, in a process that seems to mirror evolutionistic human history, Neville transcends his primal human needs to try to control his world, but ultimately he must face the absolutely fundamental changes to a world no longer his. The novel shares more with the spirit of the grim featurettes that one finds as bonus material on the "I AM LEGEND" DVD than with the hope injected into Will Smith's feature film. A deathly dark tale, excellently told, "I AM LEGEND" follows the spirit of postmodernism by its story form, as well as voicing its darkest vision of the world.


The Legend of Luke (Redwall, Book 12)
The Legend of Luke (Redwall, Book 12)
Author: Brian Jacques
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 91
Review Date: 8/29/2011
Helpful Score: 1


The beauty of Redwall stories is that they have a strong exciting adventure in a moral context with none of the witchcraft and wizardry that some people object to in other fantasy literature. They make excellent reading for children from 11 to 13. Other than Martin the warrior and Mossflower they tend to be a bit canned because all the others are at heart stories about how Redwall Abbey thrives and prospers un-endingly. We rarely suspend expectation as to whether the good guys will win and evil will cease to prosper. But for the kids at the right stage, the stage before their tastes mature to more serious literature, beyond the world of 'chapter books', the Legend of Luke, like the rest of Redwall, is a good read.


Lord Jim
Lord Jim
Author: Joseph Conrad
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 6/12/2012
Helpful Score: 1


Lord Jim narrates the SAGA of a young British seaman, a hero who lost his way, and found it again, striving after a goal of showing his courage. We briefly introduce the middle of the story, when Jim, disgraced, is working honorably as possible as a clerk who arranges resupply of ships. Then we come back to the very beginning of the story, when Jim is raised the second son of a parson, and sent to learn sailing at the first sign of inclination. He is smart enough and built like an ox and he gets on well, till he shows his flaw. He thinks too much, dreams too much of a chance to show his courage and quality. When he gets a chance in sailing school he misses it. He then begins brooding to console himself that this chance wasn't real, that he will shine in a true opportunity. Thus Jim finds his adversary, the circumstances of the sea, and begins a LONG circuitous tale heading for apparent defeat, that show him as a coward and a final confrontation that will let him show his quality.


Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies
Author: William Golding
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 1788
Review Date: 11/2/2009
Helpful Score: 1


Lord of the Flies is a journey into the heart of darkness. By stranding a group of British schoolboys on a tropical island without adult supervision, Golding examines how fragile civilization and decency are and how strong are the primal urges which can impell any of us toward barbaric evil. It is not a pleasant book, nor for the faint of heart, but it mixes realistic storytelling with subtle thematic commentary to tell a powerful story. Golding does not dwell on the gruesome for its own sake, but he pulls no punches in his examination of the way men are.


The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 32
Review Date: 7/28/2009


Robert Heinlein must have been the man of the '60's. He loved writing far out novels exploring alternative consciousness and 'free love'. In "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", Heinlein lovingly pairs a newly sentient computer with a radical libertarian society based on various forms of group marriage. How can he accomplish this plausibly? A lunar prison colony which has blossomed into a society because once you live a few months in the moon's low gravity you can never go back. As the prisoners became a society they of course tried to maximize the comfort and 'enjoyment' of the disproportionately small female population. They built a whole civilization of multiple pressure domed cities, a bustling colonial economy, and a society without formal government, or self rule. Into this society the main computer of the Lunar (Prison) Authority awakens as it communicates and bonds with its favorite technician Man(uel). When Man and some friends decide it is time for the moon, with good reason, to seek self rule, Mike the computer gets on board for a wild ride of revolution that defines the scope of the novel, giving shape to its delightful, well enfleshed story on these and other themes. Heinlein's excellent performance as a story teller keeps his bizarre ideas from sounding preechy. His control of highly technical details (like theory of consciousness, and the computer science of programming) makes the story quite plausible, well out to the boundaries of a generally educated person's understanding. I.e. it sounds good as far as you or I get computer lingo. On the whole an excellent tale, lovingly told, and well worth a sci-fi fan's reading, even if you don't buy his ideas.


Mossflower (Redwall Bk 2)
Mossflower (Redwall Bk 2)
Author: Brian Jacques
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 75
Review Date: 8/29/2011


Mossflower is the best of Brian Jaques' works. It tells a classic 'there and back again' story with the twist of catching up a hero in the midst of wandering and following him as he tries to travel in a circle to gain help and confront his great foe back where we met him. Its hero is gallant and pure of heart. His world seems fresh. "Redwall" started Jaques' success, but this story of a heroic journey of three companions provides the bedrock on which all his later acclaim was really built. In this book he well deserves his reputation as a teller of adventure tales.


One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Author: Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ralph Parker (Translator)
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 66
Review Date: 11/2/2009
Helpful Score: 1


One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich gives any reader a reachable introduction to Solzhenitsyn. By dwelling on the concrete and living within Ivan's thoughts about his practical problems, Solzhenitsyn soulfully paints a lifescape of the goulag and the effects of Communism on regular people.


The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oxford World's Classics)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oxford World's Classics)
Author: Oscar Wilde
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 11
Review Date: 7/28/2009


An excellent tale exploring conscience and the soul. Dorian Gray belongs to that genre of imaginative fiction that uses the fantastic as a medium but denies explanation, skirting around either fantasy or science fiction proper. Dorian symbolizes something like the beauty and irresposibility of youth, separated forever from the process of aging to heighten its contrast. His friend, Lord Henry, voices Wilde's own epigrams, deliciously compact observations of the world. Together they achieve that rare balance of focussing on the aesthetic and transforming rather than neglecting the process of story telling.

-Mitchell N.


The Songs of Distant Earth
The Songs of Distant Earth
Author: Arthur C. Clarke
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 80
Review Date: 12/29/2012


Songs of a Distant Earth is not very song-like. Clarke writes more in Jules Verne sci-fi tradition, exploring the immediate implications of a technical idea, rather than broader contemplation. The story revolves around a space ship arriving at a colony. The colonists have never seen actual terrans; they were started by machines from DNA samples after a long slower than light journey. The new, faster than light ship has fled the destruction of earth, with cryo-sleeping passengers. We hear their disparate stories of a new colony scrabbling for full life on a planet with little land. We hear of the demise of earth and the mass psychosocial consequences of its impending doom. We see their mixing and the first risings of a new semi-intelligent race. That's it. Little is developed, changed, or resolved. We gradually reveal these two twined stories, then, like a music box out of power, the Songs of a Distant Earth stop.


The Worthing Saga
The Worthing Saga
Author: Orson Scott Card
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 65
Review Date: 7/28/2009
Helpful Score: 3


The Worthing Saga is the best kind of Orson Scott Card fiction, the kind he rewrote from his first days until he got it really right. The germ of the Worthing Saga was Card's first sci-fi-fantasy story, Tinker, but as it evolved into his short story collection "Capitol", building on the ideas of Asimov's Foundation series, the stories gained three key ideas. First, the drug Somec allows individuals to sleep un-aging through vast time periods making possible great achievements like interstellar spaceflight, planet-wide city building, and dissolution of the social fabric of vast empires. Thus Card explains the social-imperial breakdown which Asimov attributed to general stagnation. Beyond the Empire, Somec becomes a plot device for the main character who developed out of his second theme, telepathic (and later telekinetic) powers. Jason Worthing is born a telepathic 'swipe' long after his dead father convinced the Empire that swipes should not exist. Abner Doon, however, the Hari Seldon master manipulator of Card's world, wants to create a fresh society with telepathy in the mix, so he sends Jason to found a remote colony. The rest of the Worthing Saga tells how Jason and his gift influence that world. Eventually, in a very spider-man-esque twist, Worthings descendants use their gift to take greater power and responsibility than even he could have dreamed, but do they wield it with true compassion? In this theme Card's Mormon ideas emerge to create a tender and interesting, but flawed view of Incarnation, how God ought to dwell with man. An excellent work rivaling Card's masterpieces Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead and securing his place among the great sci-fi authors of the past century.


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