Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Daniel Quinn: Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

Date: 08/2014

Title: "Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit"

Author: Daniel Quinn

Duration: 2 hrs and 56 mins Abridged

Review: This book uses a Socratic dialogue between a hyper-educated gorilla and his observant and nimble  human pupil to expose some very interesting ideas.  What is the mythological basis underpinning modern culture? Civilized people are enacting a story in which we need to destroy the earth.  This story is collectively called Mother Culture in this book, and the tales that Mother Culture tells are instantly recognizable to us moderns: that humans are the pinnacle of evolution and that we were "created" to dominate the earth and other animals, that we'll keep inventing our way to ever more resources through exercising our god-given cleverness, AKA being productive.  That this productivity is moral and good, and that the opposite of this is bestial and lazy. The effects or consequences of this world view on ethics, especially in regards to ecology, sustainability, our future, and on basic justice have been building for some time and are now accelerating and quickly coming to a head.  I recommend this book to anyone willing to look deeply at what s/he believes makes us human.  This book is very short and dense, yet totally accessible. I liked this book a lot.

Dave Eggers: A Hologram for the King

Date: 08/2014

Title: "A Hologram for the King"

Author: Dave Eggers

Duration: 7 hrs and 52 mins

Review: Dave Eggers is one of my favorite living writers.  This book is ambitious in its scope and very deliberately and expertly crafted in its language.  What does it mean to be an American in a globalized world? What does it mean to be past your prime as a salesperson, as a man? What does it mean to be a father, unable to make good on promises and expectations? What does it mean to be human being among strangers? This sad, very well-written, slow little novel probably won't win any awards, but I liked it a lot by the end.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Daniel Suarez: "Daemon" and "Freedom"

Title: "Daemon" and "Freedom"

Date: 08/2014

Author: Daniel Suarez

Duration: 27 hrs and 44 mins

Review: Superfun, near future, techno-dystopia. I really enjoyed the ideas in these books.  The dialogue is wooden, and the characters are cardboard cutouts; the writing, in general, is pretty weak. But, the ideas are amazing. The gist: a genius programmer/game designer with the engineering capability of 10,000 Googles creates a distributed program to replace a government that's been taken over by corporate interests.  In the world of this story, much like our own, corporations have government in their pockets.  Unlike our own world however, corporate power, in the world of the book, is completely unchecked, used to achieve uniformly selfish and myopic ends, and is in short, always evil.

The corporations, first with the aid of government, and then on their own, battle this program for control of the masses.  Aside from the very detailed and realistic illustrations of the  risks posed by the hyper-connected, insufficiently diverse, overly complex, brittle systems on which we depend for our survival, the book also attempts to weave through consequences of the fragility of these systems to democracy, meritocracy, and individual and collective agency.

I loved it!