Saturday, December 19, 2009

A few days ago I finished A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester.

The subtitle says it is about the medieval mind and the Renaissance, but those two subjects are, respectively, only briefly discussed or barely mentioned. The book is really three essays.

The first is a very brief and cursory overview of the medieval period. This is so cursory that it seems to over-simplify in many ways and is heavily criticized in online reviews.

The second is a detailed overview of the Protestant Reformation, and is much better than the first. It covers a lot of the major events, including the lead up to Martin's protests and the reasons why they were more successful than previous heresies. Very interesting and well written.

The third is a profile of Ferdinand Magellan, whose expedition was the first to circumnavigate the globe, though he himself died in an ill considered battle in the Philippines.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I just finished Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.

This one is as good as his first book, Elantris, and better than his latest, Warbreaker. It tells a self contained story, but is also the first book in a trilogy.

The things it has in common with the other books are an new type of magic that the world is built around, a deep feeling back story and believable characters. This is definitely a strong suit of this book compared to Warbreaker, where the characters felt much less fully realized.

I can see why this series was his break out work, leading him to be thought of as one of the new authors to watch in fantasy writing. Too bad that it lead him to get the contract to finish the mediocre Wheel of Time series rather than writing more new novels of his own.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A few days ago, I finished Behold a Pale Horse by William Cooper.

I've always wanted to read a book by a conspiracy nut, and now I have. Cooper rolls in so many of the standard conspiracy subjects - the Illuminati, UFOs, AIDs, the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission - that you might think he is writing a parody like the Illuminatus! Trilogy. That is, until you find out that he was actually killed after shooting a police officer that had come to serve a warrant on him. The guy is actually so nuts that he questions easily verifiable physical facts, like the moon always keeping the same side facing the earth.

The book is really a few short essays, tied together with copies of public documents and a few other pieces of conspiracy lunacy from others, including one that he claims was found on a salvaged copy machine. Of course, Cooper takes this as evidence that it is a genuine government document instead of the product of another mind as warped as his.

Given that he served without incident in the Air Force and the Navy, he must have been sane enough at one point. He describes things he saw from those days, relating to UFOs and other conspiracies, that seem to indicate he might have had problems even back then.

Overall, it was good to have read it, but I wouldn't recommend it. A very difficult read.