Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Technologists : A Review

Wow! That is the best way to describe The Technologists, a 500 page novel by Matthew Pearl.

Whether it be the setting, the characters, or the plot, the book was one of the best I have read in a long time. The setting was Boston. MIT had its start in the years following the American Civil War - and to a city that was growing with the industrial revolution, its creation was a scary proposition. Laborers feared for their jobs, industrialists fear the free technology that the school provided, and the people feared the unknown. Boston was a thriving city and still growing. It provided a wonderful place for the beginnings of homegrown terrorism.

MIT’s students had excelled during their four years at the institution. Now, weeks before the first class was to graduate, it looked like someone was out to take out their institution. The students included sons of Boston’s elite, charity students (did anybody really want them on campus?), and even MIT’s first female graduate and faculty member. During the course of the book you grow to love and hate the roles played by the various characters.

The plot’s various plots and twists kept the reader guessing till the very end. With flashbacks to the civil war, a look into modern (for the era) industry, romps through the campuses of Harvard and MIT, and vacationing along the coasts of Massachusetts, all contributed to an engrossing story that kept this reader on the edge of his seat.
This review is based on a free electronic copy of the book provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Unconquered : A Review

I was first introduced to the issues surrounding contact with uncontacted, indigenous tribes when, in 1956, a group five American missionaries were massacred in Ecuador by Huaorani Indians. That tribe is no longer counted as “uncontacted”.

But those are not the only Indians to maintain a life deep in the jungles of South America. Brazil has implemented policies that protect these peoples and their environment - setting up protective reserves where the Indians already make their homes. The purpose is to protect both the health and the lifestyles of those who have inhabited those jungles for generations.

The Unconquered tells the story of one journey into that jungle following the Amazon River Basin from the mouth of the Itaquai River. An expedition led by Sydney Possuelo to track one uncontracted tribe, the Arrow People, an uncontacted tribe in the Vale do Javari Indigenous Land.

The book, a true story written by a member of the expedition, is a fun read - reading more like a novel than an memoir. Yet, as one reads the book, the reader is drawn into the story and gains an appreciation for the efforts others have made to preserve the lives of people who have never heard of a telephone, an automobile, or a railroad.

The book is not just a story of a people - but also of the land they live on. The members of the expedition make their camps from the trees and foliage in which they find themselves. They carry little food - so they must hunt for their food. But the plants and animals they come across are not just for encampments and food - they are also bearers of poison, and, in some cases, medicines.

As a child I was enthralled with the stories of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Unconquered is better - it is the story of real people on a real journey.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Voice - An Artistic Translation

The Voice - New Testament

A Review

I purchased this book before receiving an electronic review copy. I pre-ordered a copy of the The Voice Bible: Step Into The Story of Scripture on September 29, 2011. I am looking forward to receiving a copy of the completed translation in April of 2012.

I come to this translation with a mixed reaction. The translation is unique in that it is not only translating the words of scripture, but also a sense of the personalities found in the individual authors and speakers seen throughout scripture. How well this is accomplished needs to be addressed by scholars better trained in the original languages than I am.

Having said that, I have found the translation to be interesting and helpful in getting a grasp of purpose of each author. This was accomplished by relying on scholars who were familiar with the original language and scholars, artists, writers, and pastors who were familiar with the best forms of English as a communication medium. Together they have come up with a dynamic translation that communicates the content of the New Testament to our modern culture.

Though I have enjoyed reading this translation - I sometimes stumble over its presentation. Because of this, I would be fearful of using The Voice as my standard Bible. I would want to have a clearly written English translation at my side. At the same time, I enjoy having The Voice at my side as I read my standard translation.

As I wrote earlier, I am looking forward looking forward to having the complete Bible available later this Spring.
This review is based on a copy of the book purchased for personal use. I also received a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Murder in Academia

The Professor’s Assassin


Matthew Pearl

A Review

This extended short story is a fictionalized look at historical events surrounding the murder of Professor John Davis at the University of Virginia. The characters to whom we are introduced, including William Barton Rodgers, would, in the near future, leave for Boston to become the founding faculty of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. William Barton Rodgers was the founding President of MIT.

The mystery, apprehension, escape, and death of Professor Davis’ assailant form the core of the story. At the same time the reader is introduced to the philosophical opinions that defined the early founders of higher education in America.

If the writing found in this short story is any indication of what is coming in Matthew Pearl’s The Technologist, it will be worth reading.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.