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Posts about books (old posts, page 53)

The Reality Dysfunction (Night's Dawn, #1)

The Reality Dysfunction (Night's Dawn, #1)

Peter F. Hamilton

1996


Science fiction on a epic scale. You can hear the echoes of many modern writers in this work, perhaps most clearly William Gibson and Iain M. Banks, but it's also positive and heroic in the way that Robert Heinlein and E.E. "Doc" Smith were: there's no loss of confidence in the face of danger. A lot of the set pieces are wonderful, as are the descriptions of the technology and its implications. I'm looking forward to the other two books of the trilogy.

4/5. Finished 29 July 2018.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Utopia for Realists: And How We Can Get There

Utopia for Realists: And How We Can Get There

Rutger Bregman

2014


A paean to what's to come, to the need for radical changes in the economy and social norms in the face of a "utopia" of automation and globalisation. It's a provocation of the first order, strongly in favour of universal basic income, strongly against nationalism and hard borders. As such it feels "utopian" in the classic sense of being an unrealisable dream – but a closely-argued dream that highlights desirable changes, and well aware of the irony that the world we live in, with health and wealth and many jobs being automated, is exactly the world that most of human history aspired to.

3/5. Finished 29 July 2018.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

All the President's Men

All the President's Men

Carl Bernstein

1974


A story of dedicated reporting in the face of both active and passive discouragement. This book is interesting because it, again, it written before the end of the story is known: before Nixon's resignation and all the subsequent fallout.

Being written so in the moment, there's an assumption that the reader lived through and followed the events being described: Woodward and Bernstein don't seem to be writing for posterity. As such the book makes little sense unless the reader has at least a passing – and actually more than a passing – acquaintance with the events and characters. That can make it hard to keep up with.

4/5. Finished 29 July 2018.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI

Killers of the Flower Moon: Oil, Money, Murder and the Birth of the FBI

David Grann

2017


A narrative history of a largely forgotten mass murder. It's a very American tale, in many ways: the Osage Native American Nation is exiled from its homelands and forced to live on a rocky and barren reservation of worthless land – which then turns out to sit on top of huge oil deposits. In many ways the tribe is lucky, because the laws of the US have advanced sufficiently that they are allowed to licence their oil rather than being moved on again; in other ways they are unlucky because, in order to avoid making native rich too easily, a system of "guardianship" is instituted whereby "incompetent" Native Americans have their interests looked after by local whites, which turns out to be an open invitation for fraud, theft, and murder. It becomes such an industry that husbands can honestly say, when asked their profession, "I married an Osage".

The killings and the investigation are carefully and dramatically described, but the real sting is in the tail, the last chapter that demonstrates how the investigations were really only the tip of an iceberg that gave rise to a huge number of unexplained and unexamined deaths as whites sought control of the oil revenues. While the case gave rise to the FBI in its modern form (and was used ruthlessly by J. Edgar Hoover), its investigation was plainly deficient and limited in order to generate maximum victory with limited wider scandal. It's an open question how many other allegedly "closed" cases hide a similar secret.

4/5. Finished 26 May 2018.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)