Books: And What Are You Reading?

Huntn

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Just completed the third book of the Red Sparrow trilogy, The Kremlin’s Candidate. Outstanding series if you like the genre and a significant ending that I can’t discuss without spoiling it.

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lizkat

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Am about to embark on Ron Chernow's magisterial biography of Alexander Hamilton.

Got that queued up but I am presently engaged by the delightful Liar's Dictionary (a novel, not a dictionary). It is great fun but maybe mostly if you are fond of words in the same ways the people who scout around for new words are.

The book is created around that fascinating concept of plagiarism deterrence based in use of what are called mountweazels, In dictionaries, encylopedias and assorted other reference materials, a mountweazel is an invented and often trivial instance of a neologism in something like a new edition of a dictionary, but it can also just be a fake entry in a map or list of accounts, ingredients or whatever suits the context into which it is meant to fit and so to trap would-be plagiarists. So if the owner of the copyrighted work sees the term pop up elsewhere, the plagiarist is caught out.

And so to Ms. Mountweazel. She was an original mountweazel and has landed in Wikipedia. She was purported to be
a fountain designer turned photographer, Lillian Virginia Mountweazel, who supposedly died in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles magazine. Allegedly, she is widely known for her photo-essays of unusual subject matter, including New York City buses, the cemeteries of Paris, and rural American mailboxes.
So there you have it. But if you had it in 1975 and you weren't reading the 1975 New Columbia Encyclopedia, the publisher of that tome definitely wanted to have a word with you about plagiarism.

There are of course newer methods now of detecting plagiarism but even these days the mountweazel is occasionally deployed. Also from Wikipedia:
David Pogue, author of several books offering tips and tricks for computer users, deliberately placed a bogus tip in one of his books as a way of catching competing writers who were re-publishing information from his works without permission. The fake tip, which purported to make a rabbit appear on the computer screen when certain keys were pressed, did indeed appear in other books shortly after Pogue published it.

Source for my quotes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fictitious_entry
 

Scepticalscribe

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Got that queued up but I am presently engaged by the delightful Liar's Dictionary (a novel, not a dictionary). It is great fun but maybe mostly if you are fond of words in the same ways the people who scout around for new words are.



And, a friend - very kindly - arranged to take out a subscription for a month on Disney Plus, and has gifted me access (a Christmas gift) so that I can watch the musical Hamilton (which was inspired by Chernow's biography), and which we had discussed, and which - but for Covid - I would have travelled to see performed live on stage.
 
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lizkat

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Katherine Stewart's book The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism

It's about power seekers who have wrapped cultural and political ideology around a cross, largely but not solely packaging abortion as a unifying issue --albeit as a reliable way of converting their congregants to voters-- and have carried their movement into the public square under the banner of the Republican Party. By now they press a claim that the other major political party with its focus on plurality and democracy, seen as entirely secular, has no legitimate place in American government. And the movement regards the public treasury as fair game.

Christian nationalists have put particular emphasis on the intersection of money and education. The Christian right has been hostile to public education at least since Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority called for an end to public schools in 1979. This hostility has its roots in a combination of racial animus and fears of secularism... But Christian nationalists now see in school vouchers—and even charter programs—a potentially vast source of public funding, too.

The book is not about Americans' right to worship (or, not), nor does it assume all evangelicals or indeed adherents to other denominations of Christianity are Christian nationalists.

...some of the most powerful resistance to Christian nationalism may ultimately come from those who identify as Christians themselves. As of this writing, many individuals and groups who identify as religious moderates or who call themselves part of a “religious left” are organizing to meet the challenge. They have many good arguments and can draw on a long tradition in the American past to support their cause, and they may have the future on their side. But they are not in the saddle of history today, and they are not the subject of this book.

It's an alarmingly good read, particularly when getting into the play of big money from the megachurches and wealthy Christian nationalists into the halls and offices of DC politics.

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lizkat

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Taking a break from all things real and political for the weekend, so indulging a fondness for spy novels and such as break fare. Reading Matthew Quirk's thriller The Night Agent. The guy who did 'Shields' is writing a TV adaptation of this thing. I can see why. FBI guy hunting for a mole in the West Wing.

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Huntn

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I just finished the Andromeda Strain (1969) Michael Crichton. I had read this before a “techno thriller”, the mark of most Michael Crichton stories, which generally I enjoy. This one is about a US space capsule that brings back deadly alien life to Earth and the team of scientists tasked with discovering exactly what they are dealing with. I’ll say the first time I read it, I thought it was great. However this time, I think, the movie does a better job of projecting tension and there are several moments of tension and intrigue, such as what does a healthy baby and a sick old man have in common to avoid being struck down by this alien virus-like bug?

Now I have to decide between some more science fiction, maybe some Earnest Hemingway Or something else. :)
 

Clix Pix

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I'm in the middle of Ian Rankin's aptly-titled A Song for the Dark Times. I've read most if not all of his books -- he's been a favorite for years.
 

theSeb

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An appraisal is always appreciated. :)
Oooh, sorry.

Line War is the final (5th) part of the Agent Cormac series set in his Polity universe, which is based in the far future where society is run by AIs originally created by man. The AIs overtook all forms of government in a quick and bloodless coup. It quickly became apparent that they were better at running public institutions than human politicians ever were, so a large majority of humanity are perfectly happy with the situation. The books are set far after this AI take over event.

This interesting premise is what attracted me to Asher's Polity universe in the first place. There are other series and stand alone books all set in the same universe within different timelines. Some of the series have recurring characters. I have read all of the other series, but not all of the standalone books.

For some reason that I cannot put my finger on I have enjoyed this series the least and I am struggling to find the desire to finish the book. I think that the previous 4 books have spent so much time putting all of the pieces into the right positions on the board, that the outcome is pretty much inevitable and predictable. I started to lose interest in the 4th book.

This is not meant to be a bad review, but for whatever reason the stories in the other series in the same universe felt much more compelling and engrossing. Asher's universe building is really good in my opinion. I do prefer Scalzi's in this regard, but it is certainly better than what was presented in the Expanse series of novels. The far out future tech is explained in mostly logical ways and the things that happen seem believable, because the universe where it's happening seems believable.

In general one does wish for a bit more shades of grey in the main characters, but it is nowhere as bad as "I am amazing at everything and the most self-righteous man in the universe" Holden from the Expanse.
 

Scepticalscribe

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Will write about Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton when I have finsihed it.

Took a brief breather from American history and lost myself in The Last Light Of The Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay.
 

Clix Pix

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A fascinating book called Master Class, by Christina Dalcher -- it's a novel set in a future time with some reminders of
The Handmaid's Tale, but in a different way. I'm midway through this very well-written book and have already ordered a copy of her debut novel, VOX.
 

Thomas Veil

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I just finished the Andromeda Strain (1969) Michael Crichton. I had read this before a “techno thriller”, the mark of most Michael Crichton stories, which generally I enjoy. This one is about a US space capsule that brings back deadly alien life to Earth and the team of scientists tasked with discovering exactly what they are dealing with. I’ll say the first time I read it, I thought it was great. However this time, I think, the movie does a better job of projecting tension and there are several moments of tension and intrigue, such as what does a healthy baby and a sick old man have in common to avoid being struck down by this alien virus-like bug?

Now I have to decide between some more science fiction, maybe some Earnest Hemingway Or something else. :)
I must've read "The Andromeda Strain" five or six times, enjoying how Crichton ratchets up the suspense and also explains some points of biology and medicine.

That looks like a first print edition. I have a hardbound one that is almost as old. It came out when the film did and has the same basic design but includes a (discreetly) naked man, which was part of the movie marketing.

I loved the film. I even bought the soundtrack, which back then was vinyl of course. It came in a silver album cover that had six flaps that you had to open to get to the record, which was also hexagonal, like the alien life form.

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Clix Pix

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My copy of VOX arrived today from Amazon, so since I have finished the other book, I'll immediately delve into this one, too. Master Class was chilling, to say the least, and I expect this one will be as well.
 

Clix Pix

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Almost finished now with VOX and my guess that it, too, would be chilling was right on the money. Actually, you know, I'm really glad that I've been reading both of these books now during the new Biden administration rather than before, during the Thug -- err, Trump one..... I could all too easily envision both books becoming reality under an extended Trump regime. Whew!!!

Liz, ScepticalScribe, Alli, and every other woman on this site: read these two books. They'll horrify you, terrify you and make you glad that the world they portray has not come to pass....... Thankfully, good resolution at the end of Master Class. Haven't finished VOX yet but I assume there is a good ending there as well.
 
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