Monday, November 28, 2016

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1)

by Sylvain Neuvel

Sleeping Giants is a transcription of interviews of an undercover operation that is unearthing pieces of a giant robot. The group does not know where the robot came from or what its purpose is, but they believe it is a weapon. They have assembled a specialized team of scientists and linguists to help with putting the parrts together and operating the robot. Throughout, you are never really sure whose "side" they are on or who is conducting the interviews.

The book begins with an initial discovery of the giant's hand by Rose, an 11-year old girl. Fast forward 20 years, Rose grows up and is now leading the discovery team. You'll just have to set aside the unbelievable idea that the hand would be ignored for 20 years. The first two thirds of the book are a fast paced adventure, but then it takes a turn into a Lisa Nowak (you remember her, the astronaut who went berserk over a boyfriend) type love story that abruptly ends, leaving you hanging.

The second installment is due to be released next Spring. I found the book's format added to the plot even though it left the characters a bit shallow. And had it not been for the romantic turn of events I would not have hesitated to read on, but not so sure now. Still, if you are a Sci Fi reader, you'd probably enjoy this book.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

by Jack Weatherford

This book had been on my to-read list for several years, but every time I looked at it I thought it'd be over my head. So I started with trepidation but immediately got sucked into the narrative. Weatherford bases his account on "The Secret History of the Mongols" and therefore he is presenting a kinder perspective of Khan than the traditional idea of a massacring conqueror.

Some interesting things about Genghis Khan: he seemed committed to the idea of community. He introduced ideas that were counter to current culture, in particular that all people were subject to the laws, including the rulers. He purported equality of all people and freedom of religion. His battle tactics were also unique. He began by sending in scouts to a region, having them get a sense of the people, their skills and their ability to be influenced. He would find ways to use their own weaknesses against them, confuse them and cut off their food and supplies. According to Weatherford, he did not use massacre campaigns, but killed only those unwilling to subject themselves to his rule. He attempted to take advantage of each culture's skills and use them for his advancement. Afterward he would begin spreading rumors of annihilation in the hopes of scaring surrounding communities into subjection.

Unfortunately, the account of Genghis is really abbreviated. I would have preferred more information on him before the successor follow up. I am sure scholars could find all sorts of flaws in this version, but it is a different outlook that was easy to read and I found interesting. If you like history you should read this book.