Jason (jcreed) wrote,

Books finished recently:

The Island at the Center of the World. Got this for christmas. A really fun history of the early Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. The author, Russell Shorto, has a very obvious axe to grind; he tries to convince the reader that the Dutch had a lot more influence over the culture of New York City --- and, indirectly, the united states as a whole --- than we give them credit for. This being because (a) the English basically were the proverbial victors who wrote the history books, and (b) a lot of the documentation of that early colonial period before the English took over has been hard to find and/or untranslated for a long time. Maybe Shorto goes a bit too far in filling details with his own educated-guesswork and imagination, but I am more of an armchair mere-reader than a real historian, so heck, it works for me. The story as told is engaging and vividly full of human breath. (8/10)

The Eight, by Katherine Neville. I read this as a kid --- I was probably twelve or so --- and I think I enjoyed it. But I didn't have a great time with it this time around. It wasn't hard to get through; the plot is rather page-turn-y. But the premise is straight out of Dan Brown, and the sentence-level writing just feels... I don't know, weak somehow. And the ending is magnificently disappointing. I'm not going to even spare you spoilers, because you shouldn't bother: in the last ten pages, Our Heroes scrape together some fraction of the pieces of the MacGuffin --- not even a particularly notable fraction of them, as far as I can tell --- conclude that nonetheless this is a sufficiently big portion that they could, if they wanted, work out the Magic Formula and achieve Ultimate Power in a few decades. But no, Man was not meant to Have Such Power, so they bury it all. Hundreds of pages of hunting the hidden MacGuffin result in... hiding the MacGuffin again, but this time we're going to make sure it's really hidden. Yawn. (3/10)
Tags: books

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