8.53pm

My ten word review of Big Game

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7.13pm

51a5k0THlNL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The Better Angels of Our Nature takes a place as one of the most fascinating books that I have ever read. It’s a monster of a book with over 600 pages of text and 400 pages of references.

It’s HUGE.

Even though it’s a big book, it’s actually quite easy to read. This is because the chapters and sections are quite short.  This serves to break it all down into easy to read chunks to read when you’re on the train, having a dump, or chilling on a Sunday afternoon.

Another thing that makes it easy to read is the information contained within it; it’s really interesting! Like this description of a medieval game:

A pair of players would have their hands tied behind their backs, and then, using only their heads, they had to batter to death a cat that had been nailed to a post.

Sounds like a great night out doesn’t it! See? History can be fun if you read the right stuff!

In addition to being an examination of human violence over the centuries the book serves as a solid history lesson. It tracks human progress from early times to the dark ages, the Middle Ages, the enlightenment, through to our modern era. Everything is covered, from death and torture as a punishment for owing debts of as little as ten dollars through to the many genocides that have occurred through our history. It reminded me somewhat of a book version of Dan Carlin’s podcast Hardcore History.

It is not a light read and is pretty heavy going in a lot of places, but if you’re a history nerd like me, you’ll love it.

It held a special interest for me too. As a former Jehovah’s Witness, the book’s premise of examining if the times we live in are more or less violent than the past caught my eye. This is because JWs believe that the “increase of lawlessness and war” mentioned in the gospels are an indication that we are nearing the end of world. This is an absolute core doctrine; things will get worse and worse on earth until God steps in and cleans things up with Armageddon.

So as an escapee of that religion, what better to show if that doctrinal interpretation is accurate than a 600 page deep dive on this very subject?

Spoiler alert, the JWs are completely wrong in thinking that there has been an increase in violence. The author has painstakingly examined history and has conclusively established that we are now living in the best most non-violent time in human history.

Anyway, I digress, that’s a subject for another day!

I highly recommend this book and if you can take the time to churn through it, I think you’ll find it very fascinating.

7.29am

UK_Big

“Religions have been in this predicament before. This is just science banging on our door once again”

So goes a quote from a character in Dan Brown’s new book called Origin. I’ve read all the other Dan Brown books, and was pleasantly surprised when this one seemed to get released out of nowhere.

This one is another story with Robert Langdon as the protagonist, and instead of focusing on religion and history and clues and puzzles, this story focuses more on technology, humans, and the future. Religion definitely plays a part as you can tell from my opening quote, but it is by no means the thing the story revolves around as it was in previous Langdon books like The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

So what’s it about? Here is the synopsis:

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend a major announcement – the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

In Origin, Brown does something that he does a lot in his novels; he takes a long time to get to the point. It takes him over a hundred pages to get to Kirsch making his big announcement, the thing that kicks off the events of the book. Its not as if those hundred pages were boring or uninteresting, but I did find myself a couple of times going “wow look how much I have read and nothing of real substance has happened” but Brown’s writing style has a way of making even the mundane sound interesting.

When things start happening, given that this is not just a Dan Brown book, but a Robert Langdon story, you naturally expect there to be a series of clues and codes to be deciphered, you expect to go for a dive into history and have it revealed that something everyone knows to be one way is in fact completely different. But this…doesn’t really happen in Origin. There is no real puzzle solving and chasing of clues apart from one main one which is Langdon and his partner Ambra searching for – wait for it – Kirsch’s computer password…

Yes you heard that right.

And again, don’t get me wrong, it’s not boring and it is the usual fun Dan Brown ride, but as I moved through the book, I felt like I was missing the usual beats of his earlier work.

There is also some weird and awkward humour in it too, an example being the following:

Without a word she held it over the railing and let go. Langdon watched the phone plummet down and splash into the dark waters of the Nervion River. As it disappeared beneath the surface, he felt a pang of loss, staring back at it as the boat raced on.

‘Robert,’ Ambra whispered. ‘just remember the wise words of Disney’s Princess Elsa.’

Langdon turned. ‘I’m sorry?’

Ambra smiled softly. ‘Let it go.’

I remember reading that and thinking “HUH?”

It seemed to come out of nowhere and felt like a shoehorned dad joke put in for no apparent reason.

Anyway, I might be coming across as negative toward this, but please don’t get me wrong. While its no Da Vinci Code it certainly is a good fun read and the sort of story that is great for light reading on a commute or flight.

1.47pm

Every now and then Mrs B and I like to re-watch old movies; movies that we saw a few years ago, have forgotten the plot and details from, but which we remember enjoying. We recently spotted Munich on Netflix, and during the holidays decided it was due for a re-watch.

Wow.

It is such a good movie, and even on a second viewing it shines as a masterpiece of storytelling, tension, and pacing.

Steven Spielberg directs Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, and Geoffrey Rush in a story examining Operation Wrath of God, the mission undertaken by the Mossad to eliminate the architects of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre of members of the Israeli team.

It is a powerful film, and still holds up more than ten years after release. Eric Bana is absolutely outstanding in it, and the whole cast is in top form, a testament to Spielberg’s direction and influence.

It handles the subject matter well, and rather than being a flag waving “let’s get some payback” type story, it shows the impact this mission had on the lives of those involved.

If you’ve never had the chance to see it I suggest you track it down, or if you saw back in 2005 when it came out, take the time and give it a second viewing.