Thursday, August 23, 2007

Yesterday I finished Londonistan by Melanie Phillips. Londonistan is a non-fiction book about how the UK has become a haven for radical Islam, even after the Tube bombings in 2005.

The factual part of the book is pretty interesting - Phillips has put together an compelling list of Islamic radicals who have been allowed to not only enter and reside in the UK but have been invited at times to take part in the political process and recruit from the British Muslim population. The only problem with this part of the book is repetition - sometimes a piece of writing will re-appear almost verbatim after a few pages or even a few paragraphs. This seemed particularly true on the section on anti-semitism.

The more editorial parts of the book are weaker. Like many conservatives, she things that the core values of western civilization are Judeo-Christian ones instead of just being developed in a Judeo-Christian context. She also doesn't seem to be able to distinguish between what are core western values and what are not. Instead, she asserts that Muslims in Britain should simply go along with the majority simply because it is the majority. I wonder if she would be OK with Sharia law if Muslims became the majority in the UK? Somehow, I doubt it. In another example, she asserts that Muslim self-segregation in Britain would be less if they were prevented from marrying inside their own circles - I'm not sure how she would square banning Muslims from marrying who they want with western ideals of individual rights but she offers no explanation.

Overall, an interesting book about some of the problems the UK has faced, and will continue to face, but I would look elsewhere if you are looking for intelligent philosophy or well thought out solutions to these problems.
Amazon Link: Londonistan

Monday, August 20, 2007

I finished His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik last night. It's kind of an odd duck - take Patrick O'Brien writing about Napoleonic Europe and add dragons as an air force. I've seen this book in the stores but it always looked a little cheesy to me so I never picked it up but while looking up Blindsight on the web, I noticed that it had been nominated for a Hugo, science fiction's top award, and that I had read four out of the five novels nominated for the 2007 Hugo. That inspired me to pick up this one to complete the set before the Hugo's are announced in a few weeks.

This is a perfectly pleasant book with some sympathetic characters and nice writing but I don't think it is really of the same calibre as the other nominees. It's an odd idea for a book, particularly since the existence of dragons doesn't seem to have effected anything other than creating a military air force.

The Hugo is a fan voted award, so anything could win but if I was voting I would probably go for Michael Flynn's Eifelheim.

Amazon Link: His Majesty's Dragon