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Money and the Modern Mind: Georg Simmel’s Philosophy of Money

February 27, 2015

Money and the Modern Mind: Georg Simmel's Philosophy of MoneyAt first, I approached this book because I am looking for an easier introduction before I tackle The Philosophy of Money (believe me, it is a difficult book to read). But, it didn’t turned out as I expected. I want to read Philosophy of Money because I am interested in, well, “money”. What Poggi offered is a bit different…

Poggi only discussed about money thoroughly in this book in ONE CHAPTER. The rests are the historical context of the book, the philosophical genealogy, and the impact of money to the modernity, as suggested in the title. Poggi is trying to put Simmel in a proper place among other sociological thinker, and he is doing it quite well. It is just that is not what I am looking for.

So, if you are looking for a genealogy of Simmel’s thought in Philosophy of Money, this book is perfect for you. But, if you are looking for a companion to read Philosophy of Money, like what I am trying to do, you would be disappointed.

My suggestion, if you want to read Philosophy of Money, read it right away. You can skip Poggi’s work. You are not going to miss much.

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The Egg

February 11, 2015

17563539This is a short story, that you can read for free from the Internet (http://www.galactanet.com/oneoff/theegg_mod.html). It is written by the new sci-fi sensation, Andy Weir. Although he is a sci-fi writer, I am not going to categorize this short story as a sci-fi. It is more a made up spiritualist story like a Coelho’s one.

The short story is really really short, using a common short story standard. Being a short one, there are not much to tell, and the author hit the sweet spot right away, with a twist in the end.

I cannot really discuss this short story without spoiling it, actually, so here we go…

WARNING, DO NOT READ THIS SPOILER IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE SHORT STORY, IT WILL SPOIL EVERYTHING SINCE THE STORY IS VERY SHORT.

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
In the beginning it thought it is going to be a common after-life story, plus the meeting Your Creator, but not quite the ever-judging Abrahamaic God, but the indifference Hindu-Buddhist God (if you can call it “a God”). But in the end, it quite shocked me: the entire UNIVERSE is actually is just AN EGG, with me as the center.

Well, if you are not surprised enough, let me rephrase it. The entire universe is created ENTIRELY for me, as a playground for me to evolve until I reach my Godhood, which will let me to bring about another EGG UNIVERSE for another being to evolve within. This is quite a solipsistic philosophy with a twist.

So, everything that is good or bad in this universe, is created by me, only me. So I am Hitler, Caligula, Jesus, Martin Luther, the Playboy Bunnies, a no-one sitting next to me at the bus stop. They are all: “I”. If I did something good, I did it to myself, I I did something bad, I did it to myself. This is also quite a twist from the Christian teaching: “Everything that you did to my humblest servants, you did it to me,” said Jesus.

In the end this kind of story is the kind of story that provokes thought, not that you read for the plot. I actually want to give it FOUR, but being to short for any literary merit, I can give it only a THREE.

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Half A King

February 4, 2015

23016966Half a King definitely set a new high bar in YA fantasy, that is going to be difficult for other works to follow, maybe including himself.

The story starts with a monarchy crisis following the dead of the king, and the heir, leaving the unexpected in line, Yarvi, a prince with crooked hand, to be raised as the new king, the Half a King.

The world building is Nordic, Viking type. But the socio-religion is a mix of Mediterannean and Northern Europe. The life is full with raiding party, but the trade is also lucrative. Slavery exists, if not rampant. All the region in Shattered Sea submitted to one High King, with several vassal as subject. Some regions are ruled by barbarians and do not bow to anyone (maybe with a price).

Despite aimed for YA, this novel did not follow the common trait of YA fantastic fiction. It is not tuned down for the half-a-wit readers, despite the title. It does not have the uber-romantic-love-triangle. It does not have Mary-Sue character. It does not have the typical teenage angst. In short, it is just as good as the First Law series, only shorter. And since it is shorter, the level of complexity is also reduced, but still to an acceptable level. The only thing that is tuned down is the violence.

The main power of this novel is its plot. Despite using just one POV, the main character POV, the novel is quite enjoyable. Using just one POV also provides an advantage; the main character is oblivious to the development of the story beyond him, which makes him vulnerable. Of course, it has several disadvantages also; the level of complexity is reduced, we have only one character scheming while the other characters waits.

It looks like that Abercrombie has a tender spot for cripples and bastards and broken things, to quote Tyrion Lannister. Yarvi is physically flawed, just like Sand dan Glokta in the First Law series. But the mind is the weapon, and he is wielding his weapon with expertise. And of course we love a smart and cunning character. But even with all the brain in the world, we are all under the spell of fate, which gives us no escape from it.

One additional praise to Abercrombie, I like that he reversed the common role of deity in this novel. The warlike is depicted as a female trait, while the peaceful to male. Sun is also a male, and moon is a male. Interesting!

I actually wants to give this novel only a four star, but the last chapter really hooked me as a bitter sweet ending, and I finally upgraded it to FOUR AND A HALF STAR, rounded down to FOUR STAR. Well, there is still room for improvement…

four star

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Echoes of Honor

January 28, 2015

77741The pace is already set from the previous book. The goal is clear, to escape from the prison planet Hades. The question is how?

Using his inner cadre that survived the death while escaping from Peeps prison ship, Harrington is making a plan. Fortunately, she has quite a resource with her. What she does not have is manpower, which are plenty in this prison planet.

At the home front, Harrington ideas are put into design, the new Medusa class Super Dreadnaught, the missile pod carrying dreadnaught, and the LAC carrier. Both are expected to change the playing field with the war against the Peeps.

The plot and pacing is already tense in the beginning, unlike the previous book (In Enemy Hands) that almost bore me to death. Even though there are no big surprises, the plot is satisfactory.

There is a change of form starting from this book for this series. Now Weber is using more multiple point of view. Some readers do not like the idea, since they don’t want to care what the enemy is thinking. I am clearly on the other side, I want to know what happened with the enemy. It makes the story richer. Anyway the enemy is not as clear as black and white. There is always a shade of gray in both camps. And this book supplies a good view on what happened in the enemy’s camp. Some characters are going to be influential in the next book.

Starting on this books also, the book is getting thicker. As long as it is not full of the hero worship and romance crap, I can take it.

Final verdict, it is way better than the previous one, which I think keep the series alive. Not the highest point, but certainly not bad at all. FOUR STAR.

four star

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A Princess of Mars

September 16, 2014

A Princess of Mars (Barsoom, #1)If I were younger, I would appreciate this book much better. It has lots of action, scantily clad woman, flying vehicle, sword and laser. What else would you expect? But, I grow up (old), and all these things has lost their magic.

The story is simple. A (brutish) man John Carter, somehow magically transported to Mars. Somehow he has a superpower strength, thanks to the fortunate luck of being born on the surface of higher gravity planet Earth (Mars is about 1/3 of Earth’s gravity). Imagine Clark Kent, but from Earth to Mars. And on planet Mars, he finds a princess in distress, falls in love, and rescue her. Typical knight-in-shining-armor in a fairy tale.

Don’t expect any “science” in this science fiction. It is almost indistinguishable from fantasy books. All the technology is just there without any effort of explanation. What you have is green men on Mars (although not little and with six limbs), with weird plants and animals, without any effort to explain the evolution or ecosystem of Mars.

To defend this book, at least the author tried to make this novel astronomically accurate. There are description on the canals of Mars, the two Moon of Mars which are pretty accurate. The crisis faced by Martian is parallel with the observation from Earth that Mars is barren and the atmosphere is thin.

There is one little hint that the writer is mocking the communal living usually practiced by socialist group. The green men of Mars is depicted as the Spartan-like society, with little familial love. And the conclusion is simple, love conquers all. Simplistic, but maybe that’s all that we need.

The merit of this book is that it is being a classic. At least we know what science fiction looks like in the beginning of 20th century. But only that. Compared to the pinnacle of sci-fi, there are many better books that this one. The book does not offered much compared with any other pulp fiction books.

PS: The mode of travel from Earth to Mars is not explained. But if you are familiar with astral travel, it looks like that. So actually it is not John Carter’s physical body that travels to Mars, but his astral body. In other words, he is just dreaming.

two star

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In Enemy Hands

September 9, 2014

In Enemy Hands (Honor Harrington, #7)This is the weakest link in all this series that I have read, so far. If not by the merit of the ending, or the flow of the story as a whole, I would have give this book a TWO stars.

The title already suggests (so I don’t think that it is a spoiler) that our heroine Lady Harrington will be captured by the enemy. No surprise there. But the important thing is how the story goes.

The beginning is just too slow, too damned slow. nothing really happened. It will be much better if it is cut into half. Honor is back into the regular of Manticoran navy, after the succesfull mission as a commander of a Q-ship (or armed Merchant Ship). Everything is back to normal. And normal is boring.

The love interest story is totally unnecessary. Maybe the author wants to keep that as an investment in a long term, but I think he should cut it to a minimum level. Just give a little hint of it, without telling it in more than one page. It is boring and against the flow of the novel as a whole.

The actual story only begin when Lady Harrington is captured. And the action starts. Luckily the story is good, otherwise it will fail to redeem the rest of the novel. There are plot twists and tragedy. Many things are lost, too many actually, for better or worse. Fortunately, luck is always in her side (otherwise the whole installment will stop, right?)

Final verdict, a THREE, and I am already being nice.

three star

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Frankenstein

September 2, 2014

FrankensteinI just reread of this novel, which I read about twenty years ago. Obviously, there are many new insight gained.

First of all, I think most people will assume this novel as a horror novel, a Gothic monster novel. It made into many horror movies, right? That’s what I thought twenty years ago. But after a careful second reading, I get much more. (I read it in a translation version the first time, and I read the English version for the second time).

The monster in this novel is not just merely a monster which horrifies us. The monster is the monster created by science. The monster is the personification of science goes wrong.

On a deeper reading, Frankenstein story retold the myth of creation. It contained the tension between the creator and the creation. It is a myth told and retold over and over again. You can see it in the Bible’s Genesis, Greek theogony, and many other creation mythologies.

In Genesis, Adam was created by God. Initially he was innocent, until he gain knowledge from the fruit, which open his eyes. The same theme also occurred in Frankenstein. The monster was created by Victor Frankenstein. The monster initially was innocent and virtuous. He became a monster only after being rejected by the society. There is a hint of knowledge by picturing that the monster learned to read, and actually read Paradise Lost, Plutarch’s Lives, Volume 1, and The Sorrows of Young Werther. (Wow, this monster is more well-read then I do.) But a bolder reading will see that it is not telling about the creation of Adam, but the creation of Satan. In this case, Satan rebelled against God, just like the monster rebelled against Frankenstein.

The monster decided to wreck havoc his creator’s live, because Frankenstein refused to create a companion for him. It rings a bell again, a parallel with Book of Genesis. Only the difference is that God obliged to Adam’s request, and created Eve for him. It looks like that Frankenstein is crueler than God, even though the ending is pretty much the same, the creation was banished.

As an end note, I would like to ask a question. Is this novel a science fiction? Some would said yes, because it is dealing with a scientific theme when a creation went awry. But some others would said that it is just a horror novel, but a little pinch of science. In Goodreads, more people categorize it as a horror rather than a science fiction. I myself would say that it a literature. It might be categorized as a science fiction, but the ingredient is just not enough. It deals too much on the personality side, that it might be just become a psychological novel. Science fiction nowadays is a bit detached from the personality of the character, but instead focusing on the science itself. So, I will not group it with science fiction, but as a literary books.

So, THREE stars.

three star

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Honor Among Enemies

August 26, 2014

Honor Among Enemies (Honor Harrington, #6)Honor Harrington is back from exile. Although she is reinstated into the Manticoran navy, circumstances does not allow her to be a captain of the list. Thankfully, there is an opening for her to be a merchant escort, due to some changes in situation in Manticoran navy. She is given a Q-ship (an armed merchant ship) to patrol the Silesian sector, a sector rampant with pirates.

So the story goes, she is the leading captain, patrolling the Silesian sector, hunting for pirates. There are no politics, no crazy war development, just pirate hunting.

Fortunately, the side story telling what happened among her crew is interesting. For this mission, she is getting the scrap of the bottom crew, the crew that other captains want to get away with. And she is damned lucky to have all the competent officers with her. With them she can beat this crew into some reliable fighting force.

For the first time in this series, we encounter the Andermani empire, a German speaking star kingdom. Maybe they will play an important role later in the series. It looks like that they are a bit cunning, not exactly black or white. Their strongest point is their spy network. I am looking forward to seeing more of them later.

In the end, she is facing a notorious pirates. The character of this pirate is too one dimensional to be interesting. He is just cruel, that’s it.

The final conflict which I will reveal here is interesting. Harrington again will be tested beyond her limit. With just a Q-ship, she must face a real battleship. The chance is not on her side, and she does not have the best crew with her. Will she survive? Of course, she is the salamander. It is just somehow that she is too lucky to be true. That is the only part that I don’t like in this series.

Verdict, so so, with some interesting parts. THREE stars.

three star

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Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm

August 19, 2014

Household Stories by the Brothers GrimmNot the best book for entertainment or filling your head, eventually. But anyway it is a significant book if you are interested in mythology-fairy tale comparison.

I read this book as an assignment for Coursera. My first impression when joining looking at the lecture and reading this book is that it is oversexed. Everything is too Freudian, which I don’t really like. But again, maybe it is just my personal taste.

For example, the ever-going enmity between between the witch or queen (usually barren with no children) and a maiden is depicting the struggle of virginity and sexual maturity. It is the social mores that in one way holding virginity up-high, but in the end the maiden is forced to enter a marriage life, therefore loosing her virginity.

On my side, I tend to read the story more on the political side rather than sexual. What I see in the text is the struggle of class. Such theme is depicted in “Frog Prince”, which are a struggle between the working class (the frog) and the capital owner (the princess). Or in “Goose Girl”, showing the rebellion of commoners (the lady waiting) against her mistress (the princess).

So in the end, this is the book that you need if you are interested in looking at the symbolism that predates our modern world. For I am more interested in visionary theme, I would rather say that this kind of book is not my cup of tea. 3 STAR is more than enough.

three star

//

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Flag in Exile

April 23, 2014

77738Lady Harrington is on exile. Not because of her fault of course, but when you do everything straight, it is guaranteed that you are not going to make everybody happy. So, she is on half-pay (meaning she is stripped from the command), and fortunately the there is a chance to fill in her office in Grayson. So, Grayson it is…

Now, she is involved with all the politics of Grayson. Even though the Masadan conflict is over, there is no guarantee at all that she will meet no opposition. Beside holding the office as a steadholder, she is also enlisted in the Grayson Navy (and it is complicated, because she also belongs to the Manticoran Navy). And she is given an admiral rank! The heat is on! The culture in Grayson is as misogynistic as ever, saved for some enlightened people.

I find that the Grayson part of the story is refreshing. Seeing how Weber described the fundamentalist way of thinking (in Grayson) really show us the reality today. When the book is published, the Oklahoma bombing happened. It rings a deeper meaning that what is written as fiction is novel actually happened in our real world.

One more important part in this novel is the ENGINEERING porn! Weber is getting serious with the structural engineering. If you have a slight understanding of mechanical engineering, it is surely interesting to see how the engineers of Grayson work! What a design, what an investigation!

I might be biased in reviewing this novel, because I enjoy the Grayson setting more the Manticoran setting. So I give this novel a 4 STARS.

 four star
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