Book Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (4 stars)

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson

(4 out of 5 stars)

“Expectation is not just about what people expected of you. It was about what you expected of yourself.”
Much better than The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1), but still not quite a five. This is a coherent story, for one thing. Still a large, rambling cast–many with a full array of foibles and strengths. Everyone is flawed; some fatally so. Way too much back story on Shallan. (All the better to hide a plot reversal in.)

But with this book Continue reading

The Evil Empire Strikes Back by Michael Ramirez

It’s hard not to see the current situation as a classic.

The Evil Empire Strikes Back by Ramirez

Putin’s plan to “federalize” Ukraine would make each province autonomous, effectively dismembering the country, and making it easier for Russia to shallow. (How we we take a proposal to recognize each of our states separately, and absorbing those which could be bullied or invaded into joining some other country.?) Europe and America may not be able to stop Putin, but we should not agree.

eBook Review: Hollow World by Sullivan

I also rated Hollow World four stars. (See my 2013 review on

Hollow World is a great example, as are most Sullivan novels, of a well-developed eucatastrophe. In his essay “On Fairy Stories,” J. R. R. Tolkien writes in The Tolkien Reader, “Tragedy is the true form of drama, its highest form; but the opposite is true of Fairy-story.” The consolation of the unexpected happy ending Tolkien called eucatastrophe. While this story is science fiction, Sullivan is becoming of the eucatastrophe.

Full disclosure: I was also a Kickstarter supporter of this book last year, and received it and some autographed bookmarks.

Reading for Pleasure

A friend recently called reading a “fictional dream.” I totally agree. I liken it to the writer casting a spell upon the mind of the reader, which the reader welcomes.

Incongruities or just plain dullness can break the spell. (In science fiction, it’s most often crappy science. In fantasy, it’s often internal inconsistencies.) Then, no matter how good the setup or the storytelling, it’s hard to stay engaged.

Verisimilitude (following the thinking of Karl Popper) is critical at that point, making possible what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called the “willing suspension of disbelief.” While the suspension takes place in the reader’s mind, it is the responsibility of the writer to maintain the “spell” not waking the reader from the “dream.” J. R. R. Tolkien called it an “enchantment” which “produces a secondary world into which both designer and spectator can enter.” As distinguished from “magic” which “produces, or pretends to produce, an alteration in the Primary World” (from his essay “On Fairy Stories”).

I want to lose myself in the story. I want, for a short time, to be transported to a different time or place and be totally involved in the story.

“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.” C. S. Lewis

Movie Review: Frozen (3 Stars)

Frozen Frozen

(3 out of 5 stars)

BEWARE: Spoilers

(Seen twice: once in theaters, once on Blu-Ray)

Whoever writes liner notes for Disney must be illiterate. “Walt Disney Studios presents a chilly twist on one of the most humorous and heartwarming stories ever told.” Hans Christian Andersen’s “Snow Queen”? I don’t think so. The original Snow Queen was more like the White Witch in C. S. LewisNarnia than the older sister of this adaptation. In fact, this entire story is pretty much cut from whole cloth. (Not that that’s a bad thing, and not that Disney hasn’t turned fairy tales inside out before–often to good effect.)

Making the protagonists sisters was genius. Continue reading

Book Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

Hounded by Kevin Hearne stars out of five)

A fun read. Silly, but fun. With a well-received dash of humor. An urban fantasy about a druid allied to a pack of werewolves and a vampire battling the denizens of the spirit world (mostly Irish) with the hindrance and help from various witches . . . in contemporary Arizona.

Yawn, it’s been done, right? Not so fast, what sets this urban fantasy apart is the storytelling. The POV character is a 2100 year old druid, who has the perspective and insight to see both the dangers but also the humor in his situation.

Reading this book I recognized that I look for Continue reading

Presidential IQs

The other evening I sat through a conversation by liberal friends (yes, I have them) whether Bill Clinton’s IQ was double that of George Bush. See, liberals talk about silly things just like conservatives; they’re just different.

A 2001 hoax email purported that Clinton’s IQ was 182 and Bush’s 91. See:

The crux of the discussion Continue reading

Smaller Families can be Good News

“Slumping Fertility Rates in Developing Countries Spark Labor Worries” (WSJ, March 20, 2014) because the world loves cheap southeast Asia labor to produce cheap goods. Others will see declines in Thailand and elsewhere are good news in the effort to feed, clothe and house the world’s billions.

The trick is to plan for the decline, which has happened in every country since the eighteenth century Industrial Revolution in Europe. Can a smaller working population support themselves and their children as well as the older (sometimes larger) generation before? (Though usually a  decline in the death rate precedes birth rate declines by a generation.) Yes, if the families have the benefit of labor-saving devices in agriculture, transportation and production (not to mention better education and health). It has been done.

There are all sorts of theories why this works, but the simplest is that top-down (intentional) modernization really works from the bottom up, driven by individuals operating in a free market. The freer the market the faster the transition (especially with the information revolution stacked on top of industrial and agricultural ones).

The great theorists always seem surprised that women, often of their own accord, cut family size in anticipation of improving their standard of living, seen as the third stage of Demographic Transition. Only where politics or religion force larger families lags behind. But even there (think of Roman Catholic southern Europe and South America) families sizes fall as women take control of their own destinies.

Bankers and state planners may wring their hands, but the people are usually better off when they control their own destiny. None of us may really control our destiny, but we tend to make better decisions than those in ivory-covered towers and windowless bureaucracies.