Foundation and Empire (Foundation #2)

Foundation 2Foundation And Empire by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The Foundation created by Hari Seldon has come through three crises and several social changes, but now it must face off against forces of Empire. Foundation and Empire, the second book of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, follows how the Foundation and its citizen responded to threats from Empire—one it’s decaying predecessor and one from a budding conqueror.

Unlike like Foundation with its several short stories, Asimov’s second book featured two novellas entitled “The General” and “The Mule”. The first followed the Imperial war against the Foundation led by the titular general Bel Riose who looked to restore the rule of the Empire, but was stopped short by the Emperor who believed him to be using the war to build up himself as a usurper. The fallout of the war leads the Foundation citizenry to believe during its war with the warlord “The Mule” that eventually something will happen for the Foundation to win. But the Foundation falls to the Mule’s forces as its leadership learns that its next crisis was to be civil war. A small ship filled with Foundation survivors makes its way towards the old Imperial capital to find a way to stop the Mule and find that the Second Foundation might be the key.

Although some might believe the two novellas a better format than the several short stories of the first book, I am of a different opinion. The longer length of the stories unfortunately exposed Asimov’s characters as very flat and his writing somewhat formulaic, especially when it came to the identity of “The Mule”. Yet I have to admit that of the two stories, “The General” was the best because it only took up a third of the book thus protecting the characters from being over exposed. “The Mule” became tedious as the reveal of titular character took its sweet time, even as Asimov attempted to show the decay of the Galactic civilization.

While Foundation and Empire was not as good as the first book of the trilogy, there are still some nice passages and ideas that Asimov has written. Though I was intrigued to find out more about the Second Foundation after finishing the book, it was a long slog to get to that point.

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Politics

PoliticsPolitics by Aristotle
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

As Plato’s writings have been a cornerstone of Western thought, so have those of his pupil Aristotle through his own lectures and treatise sometimes agreed and disagreed with his teacher while shaping the views of millions over the millennia. Politics is one of the most important political treatise that has impacted society as it is studied alongside Plato’s own Republic not because they agree, but how they agree through different methods and disagree in conclusions.

Unlike the approach of Plato, Aristotle focused on the examples that the Greek political world knew of to determine the best approach for government of a polis. Classifying the types of government into six forms, three “ideal” and three “perverted”, Aristotle described them as showing their pros and cons in an effort to establish the “best”. Then his analysis turned to various functions of government from laws, offices, and how to pass or fill either. Yet, underlying everything is Aristotle’s insistence that human nature determines everything concerned with governance.

Politics, while thought-provoking and significant in its analysis and conclusions, is unfortunately not without its flaws. The biggest is Aristotle’s argument of natural rulers and natural slaves that is so opposite to the way many think today. The next biggest is that fact that the overall work seems like it is not coherently organized or even complete as many aspects that Aristotle says he will cover never appear and he writes about the bringing about his conclusive best government before actually proving what it is, though given his argument that the best government for a polis depends on how its population is constructed.

Aristotle’s Politics is at the same both thought-provoking and maddening especially given the soundness of his analysis and the disorganized state of the overall treatise. Yet it is one of the most important treatises of political thought of the Western world and is significant in political and historical terms as it has been influential for millennia.

A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too (Living Forest #4)

Campbell04A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too by Sam Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometime over the years an inanimate object becomes something more than it is, whether it is a car or in the case of Sam Campbell a canoe. A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too is the fourth book of Campbell’s Living Forest ranges from the Sanctuary of Wegimind to the wilds of Canada’s canoe country featuring not only animal adventures but also the last year of the Campbell’s durable canoe, Buddie.

Sam and Giny Campbell return to their animal sanctuary in early spring 1945 and find their durable canoe, Buddie, in bad shape and because a concern throughout the book even though they’re able to repair it well enough. Recovering from the bad news of their canoe, they are happily surprised to find Still-Mo with a family only because they thought she was a male. Soon they learn their island home’s resident woodchuck has also become a mother. As they enjoy the new residents of the island, Sam and Giny have another new young neighbor boy, Hi-Bud, who met Sam in St. Louis years before and has moved close by. Throughout the spring and summer, Hi-Bud becomes a welcome guest and nature-enthusiast-in-training that the couple enjoys having over. Late in the summer they welcome their friend Sandy on leave from V-E Day injury before his deployment to the Pacific only for the war to end, suddenly allowing the three of them to take their long awaited journey to Canadian canoe country to find an isolated lake to observe and research animals without hardly any human interference. Unfortunately this is Buddie’s last trip as it’s damaged so much that after their return they decide to burn the canoe in a pyre at the end of the book.

Although the book is the a little longer than the previous two books, Campbell packs a lot of stuff in this book though in his usual engaging and easy reading prose. Like the last book, a war-experience soldier brings some of philosophical thought to the front especially as he now is looking towards his future post-combat. With young Hi-Bud, youthful exuberance brings out another kind of philosophical thought from Campbell that is very enlightening especially in connection with the imaginative youngster. There is religious faith is written about, though not as prominent as the previous book.

A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too while very much like the previous three books of Sam Campbell’s series, it is also different as it gives the reader an impression about how things changed for people after World War II ended as compared to when it was going on. If you enjoyed the previous books that Campbell has written you’d enjoy this as well.

Living Forest

The Wars of Gods and Men (The Earth Chronicles #3)

The Wars of Gods and MenThe Wars of Gods and Men by Zecharia Sitchin
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It seems that Earth has always been a battlefield, from today all the way back to the beginning of history humans have been fighting one another, or maybe we learned from others in prehistory? In the third book of his series The Earth Chronicles, Zecharia Sitchin examines ancient texts from cuneiform tables of Sumeria to Egyptian hieroglyphs to the Bible itself to reveal long memory and devastating results of The Wars of Gods and Men.

Sitchin begins the book going over the wars of the ancient world and how the chroniclers of those wars described that the gods intervened in those wars and determined the outcome, following this he went over the wars of the gods for supremacy of Earth from Horus against Set in Egypt, the generational wars of the Greek pantheon, and battles of the Indian gods. Sitchin then set about showing that all these tales of battles reflect events in prehistory of members of the ruling house of the extraterrestrial Anunnaki, fighting for supremacy of “heaven” (Nibiru their homeworld) and Earth, with the rivalry between royal brothers Enlil and Enki extending into their children and grandchildren. Soon these wars began to include the “gods” human followers joining them in battle after the beginnings of civilization in Sumer, Egypt, and the Indus valley. Sitchin details that some of the Anunnaki put their personal interests above their own families resulting in various alliances with cousins against their own siblings, and parents in some cases, which began a chain of events that led Abraham out of Sumer to Canaan and how Sodom and Gomorrah were obliterated by nuclear weapons.

This book began as a more academic read like its predecessor, The Stairway to Heaven, but Sitchin quickly switched gears to more engaging prose as he brought forth his evidence for and the explanations of this theories. Sitchin did not rehash his evidence and arguments from the previous two books, only alluded to his findings so as to allow the flow of the book to progress along the line of thought he had focused on. Yet even though Sitchin did not rehash his arguments, he did contradict some of his findings in The 12th Planet in this book—namely with the identity of “ZU”—but did not state that further research had changed his conclusions which would have made a better book. However, the most intriguing part of the book was Sitchin’s discussion about Abraham, his family history, and his journey to Canaan especially in light of his theory that extraterrestrials were the “gods” of the ancient world (though he does not specifically name which Anunnaki sent Abraham on his journey).

The Wars of Gods and Men is a very intriguing, well written book with a theory and evidence that Sitchin lays out in an engaging matter. Even with the academic beginning and with some unacknowledged reversals in some Sitchin’s findings, this book gives the reader a worthy follow up to The 12th Planet that The Stairway to Heaven was not.

The Earth Chronicles

Unseen Academicals (Discworld #37, Rincewind #8)

Unseen AcademicalsUnseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The wizards of the Unseen University love their food, alcohol, and tradition which Lord Vetinari exploits to ensure that the chaotic football matches taking place get under control. Unseen Academicals is Terry Pratchett’s 37th Discworld book and the last focusing on Rincewind and the wizards of the Unseen University, even though it seemed that they were of secondary concern throughout the book.

The wizards at the Unseen University find out that their budget is tied to a trust fund that only pays out if they play at least one football match a year, after realizing this means a change of diet they decide to play a game of football. This pleases Lord Vetinari who then asks the wizards to organize the sport so it can be taken from the street. But this changing of the game has an effect on the rest of the city, especially four workers inside the University whose lives and identities turned out to be tied to the success of the new version of football.

Although the wizards do have their share of point-of-views, Rincewind hardly appears in the book as well as The Librarian but the focus on Ponder Stibbons somewhat made up for it, they turned out not to be the focus of the book. In fact the most important character was Mister Nutt, an orc, who was “civilized” and was sent to Ankh-Morpork to change the minds of people about orcs. Yet Nutt was pushed into the background several times for his friends Trevor Likely, Glenda, and Juliet who had their own story arcs. All-in-all there was a lot of narratives that created the story, but it all felt unfocused especially when it came to the satire that felt more like painting the numbers than what Pratchett had previously done.

While enjoyable, Unseen Academicals is unfortunately all over the place with the narrative focus and set in and around the Unseen University the wizards took a back seat. Overall the book was good, but it just didn’t grab me and it didn’t make me laugh like previous books.

Discworld

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo–and Still-Mo (Living Forest #3)

Campbell03Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo… And Still – Mo: Lessons In Living From Five Frisky Red Squirrels by Sam Campbell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What happens when you decide to adopt five baby red squirrels? Based on the events in Sam Campbell’s Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo—and Still-Mo your life will definitely not be dull. This third installment of the Living Forest series like its predecessors follows the misadventures of titular squirrels and other animals in the Sanctuary of Wegimind that entertain and provide life lessons, but is different in that main story revolves around a friend of the Campbells.

The events chronicled take place over two years at the animal sanctuary run by Sam and Giny Campbell during World War II, most likely 1942-43. While the titular squirrels and their actions—especially early in the book—form a narrative thread throughout the book, the main person in Campbell’s narrative is his friend Duke. Visiting the sanctuary just before his deployment of the South Pacific and during a convalesce stay, Duke cares for the young squirrels when they first arrive at the sanctuary and is latter pivotal in finding most of them after they had left the island during the intervening winter. Yet his correspondence with the Campbells between his visits allows Sam not only relay the squirrels misadventures with one another but with other animals but Duke’s reaction to them, giving the reader a feeling of being a part of the experience ourselves.

Though being as long as the previous installment, this book’s focus on Duke and his experiences doesn’t take anything away from series focus on nature instead it provides greater depth to it. Campbell’s contrasting descriptions of Duke before and after his first deployment shows the affect that war has on an individual and how he relates to things especially those he loves. However Campbell also shows how nature can help those affect by war by providing a calming place to compose oneself, even if that individual knows he’s soon go back to “finish the job”. Religious faith, Christianity in particular, is talked about more in this book than the previous two books but not prominently and not until very late in the book close to end of Duke’s visit.

Although Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo—and Still-Mo is a little different from the previous two Living Forest books, Sam Campbell’s engaging writing of animals and nature is given a different focus during a very different era in U.S. history, though it’s still relevant today.

Living Forest

2018 Reading Plan (February Update)

Hello everyone,

So January was a very successful start of the year as I completed NINE (9) books, which is the second most I’ve ever read in a calendar month.  Those nine books represent 20% of my reading goal for this year, seven of which were from my original list which is 15.6%.  All together a very successful month, which will allow me to approach some upcoming books that are either lengthy or dense in content without pressure of my yearly goal in mind.  The only downside has been that I haven’t able to write a film review this month, especially since I’ve been attempting to write one for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

I am currently reading Unseen Academicals, which is the 37th (of 41) book of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.  This year I will end my 4 year long read through of Pratchett’s fantasy-humor series, which has been a very good reading experience and I’m sad to see it end.  My friend Bookstooge inquired if I was going to be replacing it with anything and I am.  If you scroll down to the last quarter of my list you’ll books with (Dirk Pitt#) beginning with Pacific Vortex.

The Dirk Pitt series, written by Clive Cussler and since 2004 with his son Dirk, are adventure/techo-thrillers focused on the exploits of it’s titular character around the world in nautical settings of various types.  I first learned of the series in 1994 when I the book cover of the just released Inca Gold and it caught my attention.  Several years later, my parents and I began going to a used book store, McKay’s Used Books and CDs in Chattanooga, in which also resold audiobooks and when I saw Inca Gold I had to have it.  I purchased several more audiobooks of the series over the years until I couldn’t find anymore.  While I still have those audiobooks, I haven’t listened to them for over a decade mainly because of technology changes and the fact that they are abridged which means I’m missing a portion of the story.  Last summer I walked down the aisle containing Cussler’s book in McKay’s and saw all the Dirk Pitt novels available.  After considering how old Mr. Cussler is (86), what occurred at the store when Sir Terry Pratchett passed away (the books were wiped out fast), and that I really wanted to read them, I began grabbing them up as quickly as possible which turned out to be a whole lot easier than it had been for the Discworld series.

Another thing I would like to point out is that my primary reading list is a four book sequence consisting of a nonfiction book, fiction book, Discworld, and a reread book.  After I reread Balance of Power, the fifth Op-Center book, my book sequence will be changing to a five book sequence that will alternate between nonfiction and fiction each book with genres ranging from history, philosophy/political thought, and religion for nonfiction and adventure (Dirk Pitt), fantasy, literature, mythology, science fiction, and thrillers for fiction.  The various series that I am rereading have been fitted into this sequence and early on will go from every fourth book read to every fifth and on occasion every tenth.  This new sequence will allow me to read more of the unread book on my bookshelves while also reread and reviewing previously read series.

Okay, this was a really long update so thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions, I’ll be happy to answer.

Founding Myths: Stories that Hide Our Patriotic Past by Ray Raphael
How’s Inky? (Living Forest #1) by Sam Campbell*
Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron by Nicholas Fraser
Beowulf
Making Money (Discworld #36) by Terry Pratchett
Too Much Salt and Pepper (Living Forest #2) by Sam Campbell*
Mirror Image (Op-Center #2) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists by George R. Knight
Foundation (Foundation #1) by Isaac Asimov
Unseen Academicals (Discworld #37) by Terry Pratchett
The Wars of Gods and Men (Earth Chronicles #3) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
Politics by Aristotle
Foundation and Empire (Foundation #2) by Isaac Asimov
I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld #38) by Terry Pratchett
Games of State (Op-Center #3) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
The Wonder That Was India by Arthur Llewellyn Basham
Second Foundation (Foundation #3) by Isaac Asimov
Snuff (Discworld #39) by Terry Pratchett
The Lost Realms (Earth Chronicles #4) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
William Miller and the Rise of Adventism by George R. Knight
The Martian by Andy Weir
Raising Steam (Discworld #40) by Terry Pratchett
Acts of War (Op-Center #4) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
The Political Writings by St. Augustine
Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life by Herman Melville
The Sheperd’s Crown (Discworld #41) by Terry Pratchett
Genesis Revisited by Zecharia Sitchin
The Stuart Age by Barry Coward
Ulysses by James Joyce
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Balance of Power (Op-Center #5) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-Day Adventism by George R. Knight
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
The Major Works of Anselm of Canterbury
Pacific Vortex! (Dirk Pitt #1) by Clive Cussler
When Time Began (Earth Chronicles #5) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown
The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party by Michael F. Holt
The Mediterranean Caper (Dirk Pitt #2) by Clive Cussler
Light Beareres: A History of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church by Richard W. Schwartz
State of Siege (Op-Center #6) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides
Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire by Lawrence James
Iceberg (Dirk Pitt #3) by Clive Cussler
Divine Encounters by Zecharia Sitchin
Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

* = home read