Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Like most sequels this book is not as good as the first. There are various reasons why this is so, the chief among them is that the original read as a solidly researched, backed by data, interesting book with interesting theories. The new book reads as a set of anecdotes picked solely to be contrary. It's still a readable book with some interesting tidbits, but it wont stun you like Freakonomics did.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Greatest show on earth - Richard Dawkins

In a way I'm glad Prof. Richard Dawkins wrote this book. So far I had a fairly rudimentary knowledge of evolution, and this helped me understand a bit more about it. But in a way I'm sad that books like these have to be written , not to inform or educate, but to refute the ignorant, the stupid or the dishonest(Like someone has said after reading this book they can no longer call themselves ignorant).
Prof. Dawkins has a lucid writing style, and when it comes to explaining science , I feel that he is only second to Carl Sagan. There is also the sense of sincerity and wonder about science that comes through in the writing, that makes anyone who has even a little of bit of curiosity, join Prof Dawkins on his journeys and explanations. Prof Dawkins manages to keep your interest even when he is discussing elaborate and intricate material like Richard Lenski's grand experiment. I read this section of the book on the train on the way home and I couldn't stop reading inspite of Prof Dawkins' warning to not read this at the end of a busy day.
The book itself covers a wide range of the evidence of evolution and discusses the various Creationist/Intelligent Design ploys and their fallacies, and Prof Dawkins deals with these issues appropriately(Warning if you are a creationist , it isn't pretty) . The book is full of witty anecdotes and I couldn't stop laughing at J.B.S. Haldane's 'You did it yourself and it only took you 9 months'. Professor Dawkins makes a comprehensive case for the various independent streams of evidence we have for evolution and the way that each one of them could have been falsified (take that Ann Coulter).
For those who are scared away by Prof Dawkins' atheism, this book does not touch on the subject (except in the preface) and even if you are , there are other books about evolution that you could and should read. If you discount evolution because of your religion, then you should remember Carl Sagan's words
'How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, "This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed"? Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.'
After reading through this book I'm curious enough to read other books on evolution, on a couple of that interest me, this book has stoked my curiosity on the subject, and I'm sure that for Prof Dawkins, who is also an educator an who takes his teaching seriously , that is high praise.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Sandman Vol1 - Vol10 - Neil Gaiman

I reread all the original Sandman volume's (thanks to Fremont library) and I am still struck by how well these volumes have stood the test of time. I originally read a few stories haphazardly and at that time my taste ran more towards say A Death in the Family or the Reign of the Supermen. But even when I didn't understand what the story of the Sandman was about, there was still a haunting lyrical quality to Gaiman's writing. As the years went by, I read more of Sandman, the turning point being the Season of Mists , where I thought I mostly got what Gaiman was trying to say ( I was wrong) but at that time I did realize that Sandman was worth reading. And then I read books written about the Sandman where Gaiman is asked to summarize what Sandman is about in a single sentence and he said something like 'In life you have to change or die and the Sandman makes his choice'. It was an epiphany of sorts. The ending which hadn't made any sense to me when I first read it , now had a different meaning. And finally after all these years after having read all the books in one sitting, it's about what Gaiman said and so much more than that too. It's probably futile to say much about the Sandman, you have to read it.
What surprises me still is that everytime I read Sandman I still find that there are nuances I have missed, but it still was amazing reading the books when I didn't know the nuances were there.
There are three books so far which have ended with what I believe are perfect endings. Calvin and Hobbes, Lucifer and Sandman (take that Harry Potter).
Gaiman has never managed to match Sandman in his other writing (Asimov's Nemesis curse) , which isn't to say his writing has been bad, just that it hasn't been epic. But I think it is a matter of scope as well. He had years in which Sandman was written, whereas his other works have been far shorter , and a necessary ingredient of an epic story is time. It's probably unfortunate that Gaiman has succeeded in other mediums (unfortunate for us), because he probably cannot dedicate the amount of time to any Sandman like comic project, but we can always be thankful that the Sandman was written.
And to quote an introduction ' if the Sandman isn't literature I don't know what is.'

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Preludes Nocturnes - Neil Gaiman

I am a dire wolf, prey-stalking, lethal prowler.
I am a hunter, horse-mounted, wolf-stabbing.
I am a horsefly, horse-stinging, hunter throwing.
I am a spider, fly-consuming , eight legged.
I am a snake, spider-devouring, poison-toothed.
I am an ox, snake-crushing heavy footed.
I am an anthrax, butcher bacterium, warm-life destroying.
I am a world, space-floating, life nurturing.
I am a nova, all exploding, planet-cremating.
I am the universe-- all things encompassing, all life embracing.
I am anti-life, the beast of judgment. I am the dark at the end of everything. The end of universes, gods, worlds ... of everything. And what will you be then dreamlord?
I am hope.

The Book of Lies - Brad Meltzer

Interesting for the Superman fan, a bit too pat as a thriller, and yeah I already knew the secret of immortality.