2021-07-26

"Deception Point" by Dan Brown


 

Publisher: Pocket Books
Copyright: 2001
ISBN: 9781416524809

I reviewed Mr. Brown’s book Digital Fortress a couple of weeks ago, and he is back with another great story that will keep you turning the pages. This time he takes on the entire political structure of the US Government, and it’s relationship with NASA and a number of other factors. It is an election year, and the president is  vying for a second term in office. His opponent is a ruthless senator who will stop at nothing to ensure he is elected instead, no matter what it costs.

The story revolves around the locating of a meteorite that was determined to have fell to the Earth in the early 1700s, and has been buried in the Arctic ice ever since. A team of civilian personnel are sent to investigate the meteorite, and discover some absolutely startling information. What this information is I’m not going to tell you, but if it is true then the whole world will be changed.

Once again the lead character in this novel (as in Digital Fortress) is female, which definitely adds (in my humble opinion) to the overall story as these types of novels have been dominated from the beginning by males. In many cases these males were also portrayed as essentially being super-humans, with a few minor flaws which makes them almost laughable in many cases.

Another great story, looking forward to the next book.

2021-07-19

"Relax, Dammit: A User's Guide to the Age of Anxiety" by Timothy Caulfield.


Publisher: Allen Lane
Copyright: 2020
ISBN: 9780735236325

This book takes the reader on an interesting journey though a single day, and highlights the myriad of different things that humans (yes, you!) typically worry about during that time, in the order you normally will encounter them. Most of these things were ones I'd personally never given any thought to, but upon reading about it realized that they are part of my life as well (except for the coffee part).

The book is split into three main sections Morning, Afternoon & Evening, and within each of these Dr. Caulfield examines the various things that are part of our lives. There are of course certain things that are present in all areas, such as our fascination and slavery to our cell phones, but like he says "Relax, Dammit!" Each of the topics he surveys are very informative, and for the most part addressed from a rather unique point of view, which is both enlightening, and at times quite humorous.

I don't want to spoil the read for you, but as a bit of a teaser he examines such things as waking up, weighing yourself, vitamins, parking, hand washing (something we are, or should be quite aware of in today's world), public toilet seats, coffee (yuck!), stand-up desks, soap, water drinking, the ubiquitous five-second rule, napping, hugging, television, and much more.

Dr. Timothy Caulfield is the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, as well as a Professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, in Edmonton. He has written a two other books "The Curefor Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness, and Happiness" and  "The Science of Celebrity ... or is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?"

An excellent read that will definitely open your eyes. Highly recommended. If you ever get a chance to hear Dr. Caulfield speak, take the time out of your busy schedule and do so. Also don't forget to Relax!


2021-07-12

"Digital Fortress" by Dan Brown

 


Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Copyright: 1998.
ISBN: 9780312263126

This is the second book of Dan Brown’s that I’ve read (I read The Da Vinci Code first, not realising that it was the second book in a series). This story however is a stand-alone novel that concerns the American National Security Agency (NSA), and its cryptographic division who have a sophisticated computer program that can decode anything in a matter of minutes, until it comes across a code written by a former employee.

A high level cryptographer in the NSA is called in to solve the riddle of this new code when the agency is essentially held hostage by a code system that threatens to put put them out of business, and ensure 100% privacy to everyone in the world - something no security agency would want.

Unlike numerous thriller novels there isnt tonnes of violence, with everybody armed to the teeth, etc. This novel is could easily be considered a classic as it requires the reader to think, and understand rather than just experience the visceral pleasure.

It is great to see the emergence of strong female characters in Brown's books, as the spy/thriller genre has been centred almost solely on males for decades. An excellent novel, looking forward to reading more of his work.

2021-07-05

"Hoax, A History of Deception: 5000 Years f Fakes, Forgeries and Fallacies" by Ian Tattersall & Peter Nevraumont


 

Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal
Copyright: 2018
ISBN: 9780316503723

Hoax takes the reader on a very interesting journey through the minds of perpetrators, as well as others who have had something to do with hoaxes, cons, etc. It is an extremely interesting read that will surprise you. In all the authors examine 50 hoaxes starting in 2800 BCE and going through to present day, dealing with such topics as The End of the Word, the myth of Noah's ark, Gladiators vs. Professional Wrestlers, various religious topics such as sacred relics, the Shroud of Turin, Priory of Sion, etc. They also cover the typical ones such as the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, and Piltdown Man. But in case you might think this is mainly about things that happened many years ago, they also looks at the vaccination debate, homeopathy, race, fake memoirs, fake bomb detectors, and much more..

I found this book to be quite informative, and even though I had heard of some of these topics before, others were brand new to me. The chapters are rather long, but do present the information in a well written and concise format. I can see this book being valuable to students in junior and senior high school especially considering the amount of misinformation that is present in the world today via the internet.

Well worth the read! I hope the authors consider doing a second volume as there has to be more hoaxes they didn't have a chance to cover.

2021-06-28

"Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown


Publisher: Doubleday
Copyright: 2003
ISBN: 9780385504201
 
This is the first book of Mr. Brown's that I've read, and to say the least I was very impressed. The plotting, characterizations, research were fantastic. Unfortunately (at least for me) it is the second book in the Robert Langdon series, which I didn't know, so now that's I'm hooked I've got to go read Angels and Demons.

The lead character is Robert Langdon, a symbologist is summoned to the Louvre in the middle of the night as the curator has been murdered. Unbeknownst to Langdon he is the chief suspect, but with the help of the police's cryptologist he begins to uncover a evidence the leads him to the discovery of a shocking historical fact, one certain people groups will do anything to keep a secret.

A number of christian sects, most notably the catholic church were quite upset as the book supposedly misrepresented their rituals, and beliefs, however as Mr. Brown stated in an interview with Martin Savidge "99 percent of it is true. All of the architecture, the art, the secret rituals, the history, all of that is true, the Gnostic gospels."

In any case it is an absolutely great story, and I'm looking forward to his other novels.

2021-06-21

"The Time Traveler's Guide to Restoration Britain: A Handbook for Visitors to The Seventeenth Century 1660-1700" by Ian Mortimer


Publisher: Pegasus Books
Copyright: 2017
ISBN: 9781681773544

The Time Traveler's Guide to Restoration Britain is a fascinating look into what life was like in the mid to late 17th century in Britain (in particular 1660 to 1700). This was a time that has been portrayed in a number of movies, and books, but there were many details that the film makers got wrong. Whether this was due to lack of research, or they just didn't think anybody would notice is questionable, but Mr. Mortimer's book should hopefully eliminate any future errors, assuming that the movie types bother to read it.

This book is Mr. Mortimer's 8th dealing with history, which is where his expertise is as he is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and has been described by the London Times as "the most remarkable medieval history of out time." He has two other books in the Time-traveller's series one on Medieval England, and another of Elizabethan England, both of which are fascinating as well.

"Restoration Britain" delves deeply into a wide range of topics such as living in London, as well as outside it ad the differences can be quite startling to say the least. He also discusses the people themselves, their character, the basic essentials of life, the colette they wore, travelling, where it is possible to stay when travelling, what you as a traveller could eat, drink and smoke, the health and hygiene of the peoples, the law, and entertainment.

This book as well as the two others in the series would be priceless resources for any author writing historical fiction set in Britain in any one of the three eras. I hope Mr. Mortimer will consider expanding this series with other books as well.

Highly recommended.

2021-06-14

"Cibola Burn" by James S. A. Corey


Publisher: Orbit
Copyright: 2014
ISBN: 9780316217620

Cibola Burn is the fourth book in the Expanse series and carries the storyline into the far reaches of space.

The Ring Gate has opened access to thousands of new worlds, but this has caused some problems in that some people decide to stake a claim on an unoccupied planet. Seeing nothing wrong with this they choose one, after all there were thousands to choose from, however it turns out the planet they chose was rich in Lithium, and they didn't consider the fact that a major corporation might want it instead.

These two opposing views end up in violence, as can be expected. Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are dispatched by Chrisjen Avasarala and Fred Johnston to act as mediators in the dispute. As expected though it turns out to be more than a simple mediation trip however, as many other factors come into play the least of which is the Holden soon comes to suspect that maybe his mission was meant to fail.

An excellent continuation of the series, I found the 4th season to parallel the book quite well, but as expected there were some changes, but none that seriously detracted from the storyline. As so far they have done a very good job of adapting these books into the series.

2021-06-07

"How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution" by Lee Alan Dugatkin & Lyudmila Trut



Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Copyright: 2017
ISBN: 9780226444185

This book is a detailed and fascinating account of the experiments undertaken to determine if it was domesticate the silver fox in Russia, in the early to mid 20th century, under the guidance of the Russian geneticist Dimitri Belyaev and Lyudmila Trut.

It also details a lot of the political intrigue that had to be dealt with in the early years due to the way the communist system at the time worked, or rather didn't work due to the overbearing hatred of genetics and science in general by Stalin and Trofim Lysenko. Luckily for science shortly after Nikita Kruschiev came to power in 1953, Lysenko was sacked.

Due to Lysenko’s influence / over bearing hatred of science the experiments had to be disguised as breeding experiments to increase the fox population for the production of furs.  

When the news got out of what they were really doing and the fantastic benefits to science that they were discovering the entire scientific community got behind the project.

The fox farm project continues to this day, and the advances and discoveries they have made continue to astound those in the field of animal research.

This book would be a great read for anybody who is interested in seeing how science actually works, and some of the pitfalls they have to deal with.

Highly recommended.

"Deception Point" by Dan Brown

  Publisher:  Pocket Books Copyright: 2001 ISBN:  9781416524809 I reviewed Mr. Brown’s book Digital Fortress a couple of weeks ago, and he i...