Three Kingdoms

7119005901.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The long-lived Han dynasty is finally succumbing to effects of a weak Emperor and corrupt government that is cause injustice throughout China resulting peasant revolts while nobles strive to reform the court. Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, probably, dramatizes the 112-year history of the end of the Han dynasty as the empire divided into the titular three kingdoms before being reunified under the Jin while being true to history for nearly the entire text.

The weakness of the Emperor Ling and his corrupt court results in the Yellow Turban Rebellion and the Emperor asks all loyal subjects to come to arms to fight the rebels. Among that answering the call is Liu Bei, a scion of the Imperial clan, who befriends and joins in a sworn brotherhood Lord Guan and Zhang Fei, Cao Cao a member of a long servicing Han bureaucratic family, and Sun Jian an accomplished general. The numerous warlords crush the rebellion but remain in charge of various districts when the Emperor dies thus setting the stage for the warlords vying for power by controlling the child Emperor and then his young brother when Ling’s immediate successor is deposed (then murdered). Sun Jian heads to the Southlands and founds a dynasty that is cemented by his son Ce that eventually becomes the Kingdom of Wu. Cao Cao’s Machiavellian political acumen and military success results in him getting control of the last Han Emperor, Xian, and control of the northern heartland that eventually becomes the Kingdom of Cao-Wei. Liu Bei and his sworn brothers bouncing from district and district trying to restore the independence and good governance of the Han but the warlords that they serve under continue to fight for their own power. Then the brotherhood is joined by a military-political advisor Kongming that uses Bei’s connection to the Imperial house to establish power in the Riverlands, in the west of the empire, to establish the kingdom of Shu-Han. Yet if not for the alliance between the Riverlands and Southland against Cao Cao in the battle of Red Cliffs, the three-fold division of the empire would not have happened. After the death of Liu Bei and his sworn brothers, Kongming becomes takes up their cause by his six campaigns against Cao-Wei are not successful in conquering the whole of the Northern Heartland. Upon Kongming’s death, the Sima family rises within the ranks of the Cao-Wei that they eventually usurp and reunify the Empire as the Jin dynasty.

Though Luo Guanzhong wrote his masterpiece roughly 1200 years after the events of the novel, he used extensive historical records plus numerous legends and popular stories from the period to enhance Three Kingdoms. The resulting novel is considered seven parts history and three parts fiction, the later portions surround the adventures and actions of Lord Guan and Kongming respectfully whose impact on history was either enlarger or their effectiveness increased. On top of that Luo Guanzhong, along with Mao Gonggang who edited the text a century later, had a political agenda to favor Liu Bei over Cao Cao that giving the former great virtue while the latter is considered a usurper. The four-volume 2339-page novel is an engaging piece of historical fiction with a lot of annotation, by Mao Guanzhong and translator Moss Roberts, though it isn’t perfect. From the text itself, there are hundreds of named characters though most of them are minor characters that are hard to keep straight through the major and secondary characters are easy to keep straight. The Chinese name convention of surname given name is followed throughout and after a while it’s easy to get use to; however one of Luo Guanzhong’s decisions was to have some individuals have multiple names, most notably Liu Bei (Xuande) and Kongming (Zhuge Liang) that at times confuses the reader. The majority problem with the novel is unfortunately the Foreign Language Press edition that I read had grammatical and spelling errors on almost every page that too be fair was easy to read through but was a tad annoying.

Three Kingdoms is a Chinese historical classic novel that I found to be a very readable novel thanks to the true to original translation approach of Moss Roberts that gave Luo Guanzhong’s masterpiece it’s full meaning. Though most of my issues are due to the publisher’s grammatical and spelling errors, they didn’t takeaway from the great historical story that was presented and gives the reader an insight into Chinese history and cultural thought.

Advertisements

Nostradamus Predicts: The End of the World

928ff646e243b32597767785051437641414141Nostradamus Predicts: The End of the World by Rene Noorbergen
My rating: 0.5 of 5 stars

The most famous psychic in history is also the most discussed to figure out what he was predicting, Nostradamus. Rene Noorbergen collects numerous prophecies from the French seer that seeming point to a catastrophic Third World War that affects nearly the entire world, you’re safe if you live in southern Africa and Australia, sometime in the 90s.

Over the course of 264 Quatrains and other prophetic passages by the titular seer, Noorbergen gives a description of the lead up to and military action of a four-year world war that features tactical nuclear strikes and biological warfare that devastates Europe but also other parts of the world, except Australia. In response to an alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union (thus showing this book’s age), a Middle Eastern nation conquers the region and allies with China to achieve world domination. The two powers attack Europe, but the Middle Eastern power goes for two-thirds of Africa while China does the same for Asia and the Pacific (except for Australia). England and Wales somehow flood while London becomes an island which affects how the British help other European nations, a Papal controlled Italy is devasted followed by France, and the two conquering powers are joined by East Germany and Poland. The United States and the Soviet Union basically don’t do anything for 2-2 ½ years before finally “counterattacking”, first taking out China before facing off against the Middle Eastern threat which ends somewhere in Iran.

First published in 1981, the predicts were first said to happen sometime in the 1980s but for the 1991 release some of the predicts were changed for the 1990s though references to the conflict happening in the 80s were still in there. The chronology of events is all over the place with Noorbergen going by “campaigns” though with events on the other side of the world happening simultaneously but only being written about five chapters later it made events appear disjointed. The fact that the book was rereleased in ’91 because of Desert Shield/Storm and was promoted around Saddam Hussein is not surprising since many Christian writers did the same thing by predicting that Hussein would be the Antichrist on the rise, only for the Coalition to win the ground war in 100 hours making everyone have egg on their face. Although everything in the book is farfetched, the one that took the cake was the United States and Soviet Union/Russia not really doing anything while other nations used nuclear and biological weapons; let’s just say they would have, strategic nuclear strikes on military targets of the two aggressive powers and the war is over with a far less death toll.

Nostradamus Predicts: The End of the World is a cobbled together book of prophetic predictions by the titular seer, interpreted and arranged by Noorbergen to fashion a not so good prediction about World War Three. It’s really out-of-date and when it was first published wildly nonsensical, if you have it just recycle it.

2019 Book Haul #3

DSC00549
McKay Used Books Haul

One of the good things about having a used book store is that you can find out-of-print book series from the history genre. However, it might take years for the entire series to appear on the shelf at the same time so you can buy it. At the beginning of August I got the chance to get Allan Nevins’ Ordeal of the Union series, which chronicles U.S. history from 1847 to 1865 through eight volumes:

Ordeal of the Union: Fruits of Manifest Destiny 1847-1852
Ordeal of the Union: A House Dividing 1852-1857
The Emergence of Lincoln: Douglas, Buchanan, and Party Chaos 1857-1859
The Emergence of Lincoln: Prologue to Civil War 1859-1861
The War for the Union: The Improvised War 1861-1862
The War for the Union: War Becomes Revolution 1862-1863
The War for the Union: The Organized War 1863-1864
The War for the Union: The Organized War to Victory 1864-1865

I really wanted to get this series after reading The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party last year.

2019 Book Haul #2

DSC00548
Barnes & Noble haul

Right after buying those two books on Amazon, I went to Barnes & Noble because I had got extra discount coupons (as long as they weren’t on sale or bestselling hardcover).  As seen above I purchased five books.

I picked up The Curse of Oak Island by Randy Sullivan first.  I fully admit that I’m addicted to the History Channel show of the same title that Sullivan used for his book about the treasure hunt on Nova Scotia island.  Although the show isn’t perfect–the narrator’s script is awful–I love the mystery and the guys that are the center of the show.  With the show’s season premiere on November 5, I’m going to be reading this in October.

Since the fire of Notre Dame, I’ve looked to get the most famous book about the historic cathedral.  It also so happens that Victor Hugo is one of those authors one might want to read if you’re interested in the classics and the Barnes & Noble edition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame was on sale.  So easy buy, but it’ll be a while until I read it.

The last three books I decided to continue to collect Brandon Sanderson Cosmere books, though now I’m only lacking his graphic novels.  The Alloy of LawShadows of Self, and The Bands of Mourning make up Mistborn: Era II.  While I plan to read a lot of Sanderson Cosmere books soon, these will go behind some other fantasy books I’ve gotten.  So like the book above, these won’t be read for a while.

2019 Book Haul #1

DSC00547
Amazon Haul

So at the end of July, I decided to go online and grab some books I’ve been considering buying for some time.  Honestly I was spurred on by a Facebook post by artist Sara Richard that there were only a handful of The Ghost, The Owl available on the site.  So I snatched one of those copies up before they sold out.

To get free shipping I decided to get another book and decided to the history route, though something of the more recent variety.  I grabbed Too Big to Fail about the 2008 financial crisis.  Though the book originally came out in 2009 or 2010, can’t remember off the top of my head, this edition has a Afterward for the 10th Anniversary of the crisis.  This book falls just outside my 10 year rule when it comes to book concerning history.

So this is “haul” number 1, in a few days will come number 2.

Mothra vs. Godzilla (Godzilla #4)

b00006fd9h.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Mothra vs. Godzilla
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

The 1964 film Mothra vs. Godzilla is the fourth film of the Godzilla franchise and second of the Mothra that were matched up after the success of King Kong vs. Godzilla two years before and the successful solo 1961 Mothra film.  The screenplay was written by Sinichi Sekizawa following up his work on the 1961 film while Ishiro Honda directed his fifth kaiju film.

A typhoon wrecks the coast of Japan and the aftermath is covered by reporter Ichiro Sakai and photographer Junko Nakanishi and unknowingly find a radioactive scale from Godzilla.  Later that day, a giant egg is discovered off shore and the duo go to investigate it, trying to interview Professor  Shunsuke Miura who is testing the egg when he is stopped by entrepreneur Kumayama who has bought the egg from local villagers to make it a tourist attraction.  Kumayama is the front man for Jiro Torahata of Happy Enterprises and during a meeting they are confronted by a tiny pair of twins who want the egg released, but they try to grab the girls.  Sakai, Nakanishi, and Miura are meet in the same hotel when they come across the twins and agree to help them, but their efforts come to naught and the twins leave with Mothra to Infant Island.  The Godzilla emerges from under typhoon debris then begins ravaging the countryside, killing Torahata after he kills Kumayama after the two have a falling out, even though the Japanese and American militaries attempt to stop it.  Sakai, Nakanishi, and Miura go to Infant Island to ask Mothra for help though they have to convince the atomically assaulted natives and the twins to allow them to speak to the native kaiju.  Mothra agrees knowing it’ll soon die and battles Godzilla to protect its egg but can’t last, but Godzilla loses interest in the egg when the military reappears.  The egg hatches and two larvae emerge and battle Godzilla, forcing it to retreat to the sea before heading to Infant Island.

With a runtime of 88 minutes, the film is an attempt by Honda to be a message of warning for the consequences of atomic warfare however unlike the original film that message is undermined.  Without a doubt the best features of this film are the top-notch special effects and the kaiju battle in the last third of the picture.  Unfortunately, the lead up to the kaiju showdown was underwhelming as the human subplots were well written either because they didn’t make sense, meandered, or had no point other than just taking up screen time to get to the kaiju battle.  The Kumayama/Torahata subplot was a total waste of time as it added nothing to the overall film though sent the other human subplots on tangents that hurt those subplots.

Mothra vs. Godzilla is built on the kaiju battle and delivers, however the road to get there meandered in sense or had no point that it frustrates the viewer that just wants to see Mothra and Godzilla go at it.  Given that these two kaiju are probably the two most popular in the genre that this film is so poor is disappointing but if you can make it through the first two-thirds of the film the battle delivers.

Godzilla

Redemption in Genesis: The Crossroads of Faith and Reason

b0073xicny.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Redemption in Genesis: the Crossroads of Faith and Reason by John S. Nixon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Bible is all about Jesus, he is pointed to or followed in every book, but Scripture begins in Genesis and within its well-known stories John S. Nixon reveals Christ and the plan of Redemption. Although many might say that eight passages covered by Nixon—Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Enoch, Noah, and three events from the life of Abraham—show Jesus or aspects of the plan of Redemption, Nixon doesn’t touch the surface but truly goes deeper. As a part of this depth, Nixon begins his book by explaining that a 21st Century believe must use both reason and faith but only if the latter comes first. With this approach the reader must be ready for a very thought-provoking study, however Nixon doesn’t overwhelm the reader with overly theological prose but presents his in-depth study in very reader-friendly wording. Though deceptively short at around 160 pages, this book will take time to read but it is worth it.