Author Topic: Grand unified books thread  (Read 300138 times)

Razgovory

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4005 on: February 03, 2020, 05:03:02 pm »
A Distant Mirror


Eh...

Not a Tuchman fan?


She's a very talented wordsmith, and has a knack for making historical characters come alive.  The Distant Mirror tries to compare 14th century Western Europe to 1960's America.  That leaves a lot to be desired.
I've given it serious thought. I must scorn the ways of my family, and seek a Japanese woman to yield me my progeny. He shall live in the lands of the east, and be well tutored in his sacred trust to weave the best traditions of Japan and the Sacred South together, until such time as he (or, indeed his house, which will periodically require infusion of both Southern and Japanese bloodlines of note) can deliver to the South it's independence, either in this world or in space.  -Lettow April of 2011

"I love how Raz just becomes the caricature for exactly what he is claiming doesn't actually exist...and he doesn't even know it! He is 100% oblivious to the irony of his own statements." - Berkut telling a lie.

Raz is right. -MadImmortalMan March of 2017

Admiral Yi

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4006 on: February 03, 2020, 05:05:49 pm »
She's a very talented wordsmith, and has a knack for making historical characters come alive.  The Distant Mirror tries to compare 14th century Western Europe to 1960's America.  That leaves a lot to be desired.

I thought that was March of Folly (Pelopenesian War) in relation to US in Vietnam.  Never heard that about Distant Mirror and 1960s.  Don't see how it makes any sense.
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dps

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4007 on: February 03, 2020, 05:23:00 pm »
She's a very talented wordsmith, and has a knack for making historical characters come alive.  The Distant Mirror tries to compare 14th century Western Europe to 1960's America.  That leaves a lot to be desired.

I thought that was March of Folly (Pelopenesian War) in relation to US in Vietnam.  Never heard that about Distant Mirror and 1960s.  Don't see how it makes any sense.

I think you're correct, but it's been a long time since I read A Distant Mirror, and I haven't read March of Folly at all.

Admiral Yi

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4008 on: February 03, 2020, 10:10:29 pm »
I just read a review of March of Folly.
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Razgovory

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4009 on: February 03, 2020, 10:41:04 pm »
She's a very talented wordsmith, and has a knack for making historical characters come alive.  The Distant Mirror tries to compare 14th century Western Europe to 1960's America.  That leaves a lot to be desired.

I thought that was March of Folly (Pelopenesian War) in relation to US in Vietnam.  Never heard that about Distant Mirror and 1960s.  Don't see how it makes any sense.


Not so much the Vietnam war but the social unrest at the time.  The truth is that trying to create any parallels between modern and pre-modern societies is pretty iffy.
I've given it serious thought. I must scorn the ways of my family, and seek a Japanese woman to yield me my progeny. He shall live in the lands of the east, and be well tutored in his sacred trust to weave the best traditions of Japan and the Sacred South together, until such time as he (or, indeed his house, which will periodically require infusion of both Southern and Japanese bloodlines of note) can deliver to the South it's independence, either in this world or in space.  -Lettow April of 2011

"I love how Raz just becomes the caricature for exactly what he is claiming doesn't actually exist...and he doesn't even know it! He is 100% oblivious to the irony of his own statements." - Berkut telling a lie.

Raz is right. -MadImmortalMan March of 2017

The Brain

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4010 on: February 15, 2020, 04:26:40 am »
Finished Sengoku Jidai: Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu: Three Unifiers of Japan, by Chaplin. Pretty nice thick and detailed book on the three. I spotted a few mistakes but overall seems to be reasonably OK factwise (but it's not written by a "real" historian). I would love to see more general books in English about this era (among other things about stuff that isn't directly related to the three main guys, things were going on all over), but so many books in English are limited to arms or armor or the most famous campaigns.
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Eddie Teach

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4011 on: February 15, 2020, 05:27:38 am »
Charlie?
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The Brain

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4012 on: February 15, 2020, 05:59:25 am »
You are gay.

Savonarola

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4013 on: February 15, 2020, 06:05:23 pm »
I've been reading Sean B. Carroll's "Brave Genius" a biography of Jacques Monad and Albert Camus.  I've just gotten to the fall of France, and the author is covering life during the first months of occupation.  He quotes some speeches of Winston Churchill; which I find myself reading in the Churchill voice.  He quotes a French language speech Churchill did; and I found myself wonder "Well how would that sound?"  As it turns out, not that different from his English language voice.
In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace—and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock

Sheilbh

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4014 on: February 15, 2020, 06:10:47 pm »
This is a bit of a trend. I know there are Brits who can speak foreign languages convincingly. But.....well.... :blush:

Same goes for Blair speaking French:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c3DWN_EaLY

Or the Queen:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxQpdHz7t2o
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grumbler

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4015 on: February 15, 2020, 08:53:50 pm »
I've been reading Sean B. Carroll's "Brave Genius" a biography of Jacques Monad and Albert Camus.  I've just gotten to the fall of France, and the author is covering life during the first months of occupation.  He quotes some speeches of Winston Churchill; which I find myself reading in the Churchill voice.  He quotes a French language speech Churchill did; and I found myself wonder "Well how would that sound?"  As it turns out, not that different from his English language voice.

He actually sounds much better in French to an American ear.  His wartime speeches read really well, but if you listen to his delivery, the way he drops his voice at the end of every sentence sounds really boring to the American ear.  He sounds like even he is bored with and unconvinced by what he is saying.
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Sheilbh

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4016 on: February 21, 2020, 06:31:13 pm »
First two volumes of Steven Kotkin's biography of Stalin (the third and final volume is out later this year).

The first book is very good and worth reading for the first few hundred pages in which Stalin barely appears. The central argument running through the books is that Stalin isn't just a megalomaniac or a bureaucrat, uninterested in ideology but was actually driven hugely by his ideological analysis. It also gives an interesting picture on the early years of the Soviet state. In many ways in the early years Stalin is a fairly sympathetic part of the Soviet state - certainly in comparison with Lenin - as the outsider who actually understands and knows how to work with the multi-national character of the Russian Empire.

The second book shows the link between that domestic ideology and Stalin's foreign policy - especially in Spain. But is also excellent on the Terror and has a convincing argument on Stalin's views in the run-up to war. It's a more challenging period for a biographyer because at this stage Stalin doesn't move anywhere near as much, so the entire biographical narrative is in his office, his dacha and occasionally down in Sochi for health treatments. So it's like a collage of the different reports and documents and testimonies that crossed Stalin's desk. It's very striking on the famine - he rejects the idea that this was a "Ukrainian" famine, saying it was a Soviet famine and pointing out the really grim death figures in Kazakhstan and the Siberian near east in particularly which were worse hit than even Ukraine (I think those regions still haven't recovered to pre-famine levels of agriculture, maintly pastoral).

There's a good-ish reason for why Stalin decided to initiate the Terror but it's still not totally enough for me, though I think the comparison with the other totatlitarians is instructive in that this may be another example of something that required the Marxist-Leninist ideological grounding to happen. This could be the biggest flaw - and probably the biggest difficulty with doing a Stalin biography - he wrote a lot and left a lot of documentary evidence but the shift from talented auto-didact running a dictatorship, but not an obvious sociopath around him to someone who launches a purge of the people closest to him and hundreds of thousands of others is really difficult to explain. Kotkin refers to Stalin having an increasingly dark side in his comments etc in the late 20s which then just expands over the 30s, but isn't really able to identify possible reasons for that. Beyond, I suppose the cliche about absolute power.

The foreign policy section is fascinating jumping from China to Spain, the obsession with Trotsky and with British imperialism, to dealings with Nazi Germany. Though there are links to the domestic in general Stalin comes across as primarily crafty and fairly realist but he makes two misjudgments one about British intentions due to his deep suspicion of British imperialism and British conduct in the First World War, and he misreads Hitler as a realist like him partly because of the 1939 pact but also because of German conduct in executing it.

Generally really interesting though and I will get the final volume.

A rather different tone was China Mieville's Perdido Street Station which is sort of steampunk fantasy (with interesting politics as you'd expect from a Trotskyite activist :lol:). It's set in a semi-industrial city sort-of police state teeming with multiple different races. It starts with two semi-linked narratives of an impoverished renegade human scientist living in a slumish bit of town and his girlfriend, a khepri (human body, sort-of a dung beetle for a head) artist from the more bohemian bit of town. But then kind of spills out into other things - a malfunctioning cleaning robot, a visit to the embassy from Hell, the arrival of a new drug in town, an inter-species dockers strike and reaction by the militia. As you'd expect from a Trot the story sort of judders through crisis and transition.

I'd only read Mieville's non-fiction before (October his history of the Russian Revolution is a great, sympathetic version that, again, mainly moves through these kinetic crises as seen from the street) and there are similarities but he's really able to tell a story and has incredible narrative drive - it's like a train.
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Razgovory

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4017 on: February 21, 2020, 06:37:05 pm »
Reading a Biography on Queen Nzinga of Ndongo.  For years I've looked an accessible history of 17th Century Angola.  This probably the best I will ever do.


Okay, so it turns out that everyone in Angola was a sociopath.
I've given it serious thought. I must scorn the ways of my family, and seek a Japanese woman to yield me my progeny. He shall live in the lands of the east, and be well tutored in his sacred trust to weave the best traditions of Japan and the Sacred South together, until such time as he (or, indeed his house, which will periodically require infusion of both Southern and Japanese bloodlines of note) can deliver to the South it's independence, either in this world or in space.  -Lettow April of 2011

"I love how Raz just becomes the caricature for exactly what he is claiming doesn't actually exist...and he doesn't even know it! He is 100% oblivious to the irony of his own statements." - Berkut telling a lie.

Raz is right. -MadImmortalMan March of 2017

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4018 on: February 22, 2020, 06:31:12 am »
Finished Adrian Tchaikovsky's "Children of Time," winner of the "30th Arthur C. Clarke Award" in 2016.

About 450 pages.

Enjoyed this one a lot, though I assume it won't appeal to everyone. The book opens with ambitious geneticist Avrana Kern getting ready to seed a terraformed planet with monkeys who are going to be uplifted with a nano-virus - an ambitious project for mankind who are trying to gain a foothold in the galaxy. The plan is to drop them off, then go into stasis and be re-awakened when the uplifted primates are able to reply to the mathematical tests Kern's habitat broadcasts at the planet.

However, the project is sabotaged, the monkeys burn on entry, and Dr Kern barely manages to get into the stasis pod and uploads her consciousness to the habitat's AI computer. Earth descends into war that results in an ice age, with all solar colonies of mankind being destroyed in a mix of conventional, NBC, and electronic weapons. A scavenger culture on Earth survives, barely. However, when the ice thaws, they realize that Earth has become so toxic that human life won't be possible anymore. So they send out ark ships to where they think the Old Empire had colonies.

The evolutionary nano-virus has meanwhile found a new target on the terraformed planet. While the scientists made sure it would not affect other mammals, it finds fertile ground among other Earth species seeded onto the world - primarily the spider Portia Labiata, and - to lesser extent - some insect races.

The book primarily charts the ascent of the spiders and their society, developing their own alien technology and civilization on the one side, and on the other side the events on a human ark ship as its crew tries to keep the vessel intact over millennia (dropping in and out of stasis) while trying to find a new home for half a million humans; both arcs inevitably intersect.

The scale of the spider civilization's narrative calls to mind Asimov's Foundation series and its historic scope, while the human story, primarily told through the observations of a a classicist specialized in the pre-apocalypse Old Empire reminded me of Forever War, as every time he is woken from cold sleep he finds the situation on the ship changed, first in minor ways, and eventually quite drastically.

Now reading Children of Ruin, set in the same universe. :)
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Razgovory

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Re: Grand unified books thread
« Reply #4019 on: February 22, 2020, 05:35:58 pm »
That sounds interesting.
I've given it serious thought. I must scorn the ways of my family, and seek a Japanese woman to yield me my progeny. He shall live in the lands of the east, and be well tutored in his sacred trust to weave the best traditions of Japan and the Sacred South together, until such time as he (or, indeed his house, which will periodically require infusion of both Southern and Japanese bloodlines of note) can deliver to the South it's independence, either in this world or in space.  -Lettow April of 2011

"I love how Raz just becomes the caricature for exactly what he is claiming doesn't actually exist...and he doesn't even know it! He is 100% oblivious to the irony of his own statements." - Berkut telling a lie.

Raz is right. -MadImmortalMan March of 2017