Mar 24, 2005

The Cassandra Compact; by Robert Ludlum


This book is about Covert-One spy Jon Smith. He is called by his spymaster, Fred Klein, at his Bethesda home. Klein tells him that Smith has to make an extraction in Italy of a Russian agent with some important information. Smith flies to Italy and meets the agent, only to watch him be brutally shot him to death. Smith gives chase to the killers, only to watch them be killed themselves.
He finds a note uncovering a conspiracy that goes to highest levels of NASA to find the Russian store of the Smallpox virus and make it instantly fatal. The head astronaut of the next flight is planning on operating on the virus in zero gravity, where it will grow quicker. He gets to the touchdown point in time to get inside the shuttle and make sure the virus is killed.

I thought this was a very exciting thriller. Just like all the other books written by Robert Ludlum, they leave you on the edge of your seat, wondering what's going to happen next. I recommend this book for anyone who likes suspense like this and isn't looking for a book about unicorns and magic.

Mar 17, 2005

There is Room For You: Charlotte Bacon

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This book tells the story of a mother and daughter who have never understood each other. The mother, Rose, had a unique childhood growing up British in Northern India. The local Indian children shunned her because she was white; the British children shunned her because her mannerisms were too Indian. After being sent to school in England and then working and marrying in the US, Rose has never felt that she belongs anywhere, except the place she least expects to find comfort.
Anna, Rose's daughter, grew up with a distant mother who had a mysterious past in a foreign place which was never spoken of. After Anna's trying divorce she decides to go to India for a while and disassociate herself from the life she is leaving behind. She has many adventures from 'adopting' and helping a beggar child, to dealing with a tragedy concerning a friendly English university student, to falling in love with a Israeli military man.
This is a story with as many twists and turns as a train ride up to Darjeeling, tea country. Everyone could relate or find interest in some part of this book.

When I went to India I took this book with me thinking that I would have plenty of time to read. I was wrong, but out of all of the books I have read on India this gave the most true-to-life impression of what it is like to be a tourist in India. Bacon accurately describes the rush of auto-rickshaws zooming down the road, not being able to understand the chatter of local people who sometimes make a point not to speak in English, and the wonderful hospitality of the Indian people.

Mar 16, 2005

Feed, M.T. Anderson

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So this book is a futuristic/dystopia kind of thing, really accessible story, a good read overall. What strikes me, though, is that although it is supposed to be a dystopia, I walked around for a couple weeks wishing I had the 'feed' in my head. How annoying to walk to the computer to look something up, like the definition of a word, or what time a movie is playing, after reading this book, I wanted to be able to just look it up in my head by thinking about it. Imagine how much more satisfying life would be, if you are an uber-curious person like me, to have the answers to all your questions coming to you in your thoughts.

I didn't really like that tv shows and movies were all through the feed, nor did I think I would like talking to people through the feed, chat style. I like alone time, and it seemed like talking through the feed all the time would eliminate all privacy - which I guess is much of the dystopian point.

The book is totally right on, though, if we had that technology, it would be immediately hi-jacked by corporate interests trying to make us buy their crap.

Mar 12, 2005

Bound, Donna Jo Napoli

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A really interesting Chinese cinderella tale, especially if you are into historic Chinese culture, especially foot binding. Especially if you have a strong stomache and can handle things like toes being eaten off by a raccoon because they are so stank-nasty from being bound. Bleck! But interesting, in that traffic accident can't turn away kind of way.

The highlight for me is when Xing Xing gives the prince an interrogation before going off with him. Granted, it's short, but she's pretty much guaranteed at least a better life than she has. But I like that she's really up front about who she is and what she needs from this person she's going to marry, and that she at least makes sure of those things before the happy ever after. It makes the whole thing way more real and firms up my total respect for her as a character.

Mar 4, 2005

Double Helix, Nancy Werlin

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I pretty much liked this book, but had two basic problems with it.

1. Way too much foreshadowing. From page one, you know something is up, but don't know what it is. Every single page re-inforces that foreshadowing, and it goes on through the whole book. You don't find out what the big secret is until there are only twenty pages to go. By that time, I was tired of the whole deal, and had really high expectations about what this big deal secret could be. Of course it couldn't live up to that, so the whole thing was dissapointing.

2. This book touches on all sorts of biotechnology ethics issues, but comes to its conclusions too fast. So Eli and Kayla are chimeras. And immediately they freak out and are mad (Kayla I can understand a little more, with the HD diagnosis and all that). Of course I don't think it's ethical to make experimental people, I don't even think it's ethical to make experimental rabbits! But there are a lot of good questions here, and the answers are much more complicated than the book allows them to be.

For example, there is that one part in the book, where Eli's professor is at the conference, and the man with Downs Syndrome gets up and asks why the scientists want to kill them. Suddenly, everyone is assuming an egg and some sperm is a human being, which is such a huge controversial issue. And with that assumption, all the ethical controversies are too neatly wrapped up. I guess what I'm saying is that I definately don't have the answers, but I like to think about it and weigh the different sides against each other, even if I never come up with an answer for myself. This book seems not really to think about it, but to leap to the ending. It could have left it a bit more open and messy in the end, I think.