Saturday, February 26, 2005

King Solomon's Mines, by H. Rider Haggard

King Solomon’s Mines, by H. Rider Haggard

Periodically I try to take in a classic that I haven’t yet read; King Solomon’s Mines is one of those tales. I’ve been wanting to read it for a while, ever since picking up Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen a few years ago which has Allan Quatermain (the narrator and hero of King Solomon’s Mines) working with a band of fictional characters to foil a plot against Victorian London. I’ve read the novels from which the other heroes (Mr. Hyde, Mina Murray, Captain Nemo, and Hawley Griffin) originate but not this one. I came across it at Barnes & Noble and couldn’t resist!

While a lot of this tale is quite dated (rampant racism and sexism, for instance) the basic story-line is still engaging: a big-game hunter searching for a fabled diamond mine uncovers a lost civilization. Many of the plot twists and characters are what we today would consider stale or stereotypical, but considering (I believe) that this was the first place a lot of these were encountered it becomes clear why this book remains popular after 120 years. It is obvious how many modern adventures owe their existence to this novel; for instance my mental picture of Quatermain was Indiana Jones, complete with the fedora. I enjoyed this story quite a bit and am very glad I picked it up.

First Sentence:
It is a curious thing that at my age—fifty-five last birthday—I should find myself taking up a pen to try and write a history.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Tom Clancy's Net Force: Springboard, by Perry and Segriff

Tom Clancy’s Net Force: Springboard, by Perry and Segriff

I’d say this book is candy for the mind, but candy is considered to be a good thing and I’m not sure if this qualifies. Maybe I should call it castor oil for the mind instead. In any case, this is clearly the weakest of the Net Force series. The formerly (somewhat) interesting characters have become one-dimensional shadows compared to earlier books (where they weren’t exactly complex and realistic). I did enjoy the ridiculous Frenchman (a redundant phrase if I’ve ever heard one) but the rest of the cast was unintentionally laughable. The tale is set in the near future, but the VR tech portrayed is decades away, if ever. Tom Clancy must be hard up for money to keep his name on these!

First Sentence:
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the tour guide said, “this is the original Paramount Studios wrought-iron gate, built in 1926.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

How to Work for an Idiot, by John Hoover

How to Work for an Idiot, by John Hoover

I really enjoyed this book. There is a lot of political nonsense in here about how to be successful (dress to complement your boss, adapt his hobbies and favorite foods, basically become a sycophant) but the self-evaluation stuff is pretty useful. It brings up the seemingly obvious point that it takes two to make a relationship. (I say seemingly because this hit me like a ton of bricks!) You can’t change bad bosses or peers, but you can change the manner in which you deal with them. Sounds obvious, but if I’d had this attitude a few years ago I’d be better off today. One discussion starts, “One of the worst workplace scenarios imaginable is a disruptive and abrasive team member left to terrorize his peers and a boss who refuses to do anything about it.” This is exactly the situation I’ve had at the office for several years now. There is one guy that is making everyone else miserable and his boss pretends it isn’t a real problem. I’ve been a jerk about it and as a result have no credibility when it comes to issues surrounding him. If instead of publicly arguing with him and trying to point out the trouble he is causing I’d simply let him be his obnoxious self, I suspect he would have self-destructed long ago and be gone by now. Instead, I’ve given my boss two problem employees and he is able to convince himself there are no real problems in the division other than the fact we don’t get along. Sigh.

First Sentence:
Author John Irving advises aspiring writers to write about what they know.

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