Books / Year 2000
Date: 2000-12-21 (permlink)
Author: Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth
Name: Avaruuden Kauppamiehet (Space Merchants)
Rating: Reread

Been a while since I've read this one. Some funny extrapolations of capitalism, but it's a bit naive for the the modern reader and too pulp-ish for my tastes.

Date: 2000-12-13 (permlink)
Author: Douglas Coupland
Name: Miss Wyoming
Rating: 5 stars

Excellent book. As I can't think of anything original to say about it, I'll just quote from the book's own backcover: "The awful banality of American life is rendered with hilarious precision...A consistently enjoyable read." That's as good a description for the book as any I could come up with.

Date: 2000-12-08 (permlink)
Author: Richard Dawkins
Name: Unweaving The Rainbow - Science, Delusion And The Appetite For Wonder
Rating: 5 stars

Excellent reading. Contains many fun facts to throw in the face of your delusional friends who believe in creationism, astrology or other such nonsense :)

Date: 2000-11-22 (permlink)
Author: Iain Banks
Name: Canal Dreams
Rating: 3 stars

Quite average for a Banks book. Fun to read, yes, but not much depth in there.

Date: 2000-11-15 (permlink)
Author: Joseph Conrad
Name: Heart Of Darkness And Other Stories
Rating: 1.5 stars

If a book is 219 pages long and it takes you almost a month to read it, I think that says about all that needs to be said. Conrad's whole writing style is totally unreadable. His sentences are so long and convoluted that you have no memory of the beginning of the sentence when you finally get to the end, so you have to read the whole thing through again, but it still doesn't work, so you try reading the beginning, skipping the middle and jumping straight to the end, and only by using that technique, do you sometimes master whole sentences.

Maybe the style could be overlooked if the stories were good, but they're not. I could summarize all three of the stories' entire happenings in 30 seconds. The 95% of the text that doesn't move the plot along is apparently thrown in just so that literary critics and professors can spend their careers analyzing it down to the tiniest details, trying to find hidden meanings in it. But that's not my idea of fun, so I think I'll skip Conrad's work from now on.

Date: 2000-10-20 (permlink)
Author: Paul Theroux
Name: The Mosquito Coast
Rating: 5 stars

"How can I be wrong if I'm going against the current?"

The above quote from Allie Fox, the main character of the book, is a perfect summary of his attitude. Though he says it in the context of a river journey, you get the feeling he has the same approach to everything else, too. A truly paranoid person, who has managed to half-convince his family that he's right. A really fun book to read, where you don't have a clue what's going to happen next, and that's really refreshing.

Date: 2000-10-09 (permlink)
Author: Iain Banks
Name: Whit
Rating: 6 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

The best mainstream Banks book that I've read so far. I can't think of a single thing wrong with this book. I especially liked the fact that Isis starts out as a humble member of a strange sect, and gradually learns that the founder is just a dirty old man and there is no magic involved. The last 2 pages even strip her of any magical powers of her own, which was a very welcome surprise, since that was about the only thing I would've been left unhappy with by the end of the book.

Date: 2000-10-03 (permlink)
Author: Iain Banks
Name: Complicity
Rating: 5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Excellent. This time I can't even complain about the drug use, since Cameron gets ill at the end, which was a major moral victory for me :)

Date: 2000-09-29 (permlink)
Author: William H. McNeill
Name: Plagues And Peoples
Rating: 6 stars

As a rule of thumb, I only give six stars to non-fiction books that have significantly changed my world view in some way. Using that rule, this book deserves all six stars. I always wondered why, in the past few millennia, there have been several periods of hundreds of years with seemingly no progress at all. This book offers the view, and I see no possible way of denying it, that those "quiet" years were actually critical in preparing humankind for the following advances. So what happened in those times? In short, various diseases and human populations both adapted, changing those diseases from epidemic to endemic, and altering the future of the world radically in the progress. For more details, read the book, which you should do anyway. It's a bit repetitive in places, but it's bearable.

Date: 2000-09-05 (permlink)
Author: Iain Banks
Name: The Crow Road
Rating: 5 stars

Very readable book. Interesting characters, gritty dialogue, and it manages to stay in this universe throughout the book. Only thing I could find fault with was the continuing casual drug use by almost every person in the book, a theme common in Banks' books.

Date: 2000-08-29 (permlink)
Author: Philip K. Dick
Name: The Game-Players Of Titan
Rating: 1 stars

Boy am I glad I didn't live in the sixties. Pulp science fiction didn't get its bad literary rap for nothing, and here is a prime example. Every single aspect of the book is so bad it boggles the mind, so I won't even try listing them. The only positive aspect in this whole business is that at least the book was on sale when I bought it.

Date: 2000-08-24 (permlink)
Author: Iain Banks
Name: The Bridge
Rating: 3.5 stars

Not the same quality as his previous or following (Espedair Street) work. The real-life interludes were fun to read but the bridge stuff was totally uncomprehensible. If it was all supposed to be one big metaphor I didn't get it.

Date: 2000-08-12 (permlink)
Author: Henry David Thoreau
Name: On The Duty Of Civil Disobedience
Rating: 2 stars

Out of date, boring, misguided, not even a book really. But I've spent 25 minutes of my life worse than this, so no big loss.

Date: 2000-08-10 (permlink)
Author: Iain Banks
Name: Walking On Glass
Rating: 4.5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Fascinating ideas, but it doesn't all come together, and the three stories don't intertwine nearly as much as you'd expect. Still, great fun reading about Grout's adventures and discovering that Graham was being just as naive as you suspected.

Date: 2000-08-04 (permlink)
Author: Alex Garland
Name: The Tesseract
Rating: 4.5 stars

A very readable book. But, unlike all the reviewers' blurbs on the book covers say, I didn't find any deeper meaning hidden beneath the surface. Maybe it was hidden too well for me to uncover, or maybe it just wasn't there.

Date: 2000-08-02 (permlink)
Author: Iain Banks
Name: Espedair Street
Rating: Reread

I started rereading the good bits again right after I finished the book the first time, and ended up reading it straight through again. The book has an atmosphere you just don't want to leave just yet.

Date: 2000-07-31 (permlink)
Author: Ron Kovic
Name: Born On The Fourth Of July
Rating: 3 stars

I can't decide whether the movie was similar to the book or not. Definitely there were some differences, and the book has a more realistic feel to it, but mostly the changes were just re-ordering stuff around to make it more linear. Anyway, a short enough book that it's not a huge investment of time to read it.

Date: 2000-07-29 (permlink)
Author: Christine Vachon with David Edelstein
Name: Shooting To Kill
Rating: 4.5 stars

Everything you ever wanted to know about the life of an independent movie producer. And who better to tell it than Vachon, the producer of Kids, Happiness, Boys Don't Cry, and all those other classics. Essential reading for anyone interested in movies.

Date: 2000-07-25 (permlink)
Author: Richard Dawkins
Name: Climbing Mount Improbable
Rating: 4.5 stars

Well, I can't seem to think of anything witty to say about this book. It was fun to read and I learned new things. Can't ask for much more than that from a popular science book.

Date: 2000-07-21 (permlink)
Author: Richard Dawkins
Name: The Blind Watchmaker
Rating: 4.5 stars

Interesting reading. Dawkins has a habit of over-explaining things though, so it's a bit too long in some places.

Date: 2000-07-12 (permlink)
Author: Iain Banks
Name: Espedair Street
Rating: 5 stars

An excellent book. It's been too long since I had a book that I just had to read every chance I got. Very refreshing, though it does have a definite 80s feel to it, but that's just because it circles around the music business, and that's changed a bit in the last 13 years since the book was published.

Date: 2000-07-09 (permlink)
Author: William R. Trotter
Name: A Frozen Hell - The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40
Rating: 5 stars

So, I finally find out what the phrase 'Kollaa kestää' means. I don't really want to say anything more about this book/subject, since I just know I'd regret it later.

Date: 2000-07-04 (permlink)
Author: Nicholson Baker
Name: The Fermata
Rating: 3.5 stars

Nice book, but it lacks that certain something. A real plot, for starters. It's just random events told in stupid flashbacks, with no progress, no coherency, and some really stupid sex scenes thrown in. Vox was much better.

Date: 2000-06-29 (permlink)
Author: Nicholson Baker
Name: Vox
Rating: 4.5 stars

Pretty hilarious. 165 pages for a single phone call, and not boring for one minute, is quite an achievement. Despite claims to the contrary, however, I did not find the book particularly erotic. It has a kind of a detached outlook on the whole thing that keeps the subject matter fairly clinical.

Date: 2000-06-27 (permlink)
Author: Aleksis Kivi
Name: Seitsemän Veljestä
Rating: 3 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Another classic read, and this time it wasn't even too painful. I don't quite know how to approach this book, since I don't know how Kivi meant it to be. At times, at least to a modern reader such as myself, you can't help thinking that it must be a satire, but at other times it seems deadly serious. At least one misconception is now cleared, I always thought the main characters ended up badly, and through the whole later part of the book I was waiting for the inevitable disaster to happen, but it never did.

Date: 2000-06-14 (permlink)
Author: Nicholson Baker
Name: The Mezzanine
Rating: 3.5 stars

Interesting concept, "a book about nothing", some nice ideas in there, but as a whole it just didn't come together for me. Even at a measly 135 pages, I couldn't wait for it to end, and it took pretty long to read for such a short book. For some reason this stuff works better on Seinfeld than in written form. (Usually, anyway. The "I left the library relieved. Progress was being made. Someone was looking into the problem. Mr. Czaplicki, in Poland, would take it from there" part in the end was strangely familiar to me.)

Date: 2000-05-29 (permlink)
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Name: Honor Among Thieves
Rating: 1.5 stars

Easily the worst Archer I've read. Characters are mind-numbingly unoriginal and onesided, the plot has more holes than...a thing with many holes...and, worst of all, the whole subject of the book is ridiculous. I did some fact-checking, and the original "Declaration of Independence" has actually almost completely faded away, making copying it relatively impossible. Not to mention that stealing and destroying the thing in the first place couldn't matter less to us mere 99.6% of the human population that doesn't happen to live in the fabled "United States of America." You know a book can't be all that good when you're cheering for the Iraqis...

Date: 2000-05-20 (permlink)
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Name: Stormy Weather
Rating: 3.5 stars

Stupid decision by Hiaasen to reuse many of the same characters from Double Whammy. Hiaasen's kinds of books don't really work too well when you know beforehand what the characters are like and that they're going to live through the book. Most importantly, the characters are annoying. The only ones I even remotely liked were Max and Edie. Bonnie in particular got me angry several times by acting very stupidly, but sadly, me yelling at the book didn't change her actions. Very surprising, that.

Besides the characters, Hiaasen's views are a bit disturbing. All the good guys are so macho that they can beat up any baddies that come their way, and they usually do. Forget the law, let's just dump the sucker into a swamp and let him starve to death. Before that, let's torture him a bit.

Still, even though you dislike most of the characters and their actions, it's a fast read.

Date: 2000-05-16 (permlink)
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Name: Double Whammy
Rating: 4.5 stars

The earlier, grittier Hiaasen at work. Fast read, but the characters are just way over-the-top. They're not quite believable, or for that matter, likeable. And the women in the book behave even more irrationally than the men, if that's possible.

Of course, maybe Hiaasen intended it just this way, what do I know. I'm not the multi-million dollar author, he is. (If you're reading this, wanna switch places?)

Date: 2000-05-11 (permlink)
Author: Susan Faludi
Name: Takaisku (Backlash)
Rating: 6 stars

Right on, sister! Give us daycare or give us death!

Seriously, it's been a while since a book managed to change my worldview this much. Of course the book is 8 years old and I'm kinda late in reading it, but it's still very much on topic. In the USA, anyway. I would insert a reference to our female atheist president here in Finland but taking cheap shots at USA is so easy it's no fun anymore.

Date: 2000-05-04 (permlink)
Author: Nigel Andrews
Name: True Myths - The Life And Times Of Arnold Schwarzenegger
Rating: Reread

Decided to reread the first couple of chapters for inspiration, ended up reading the whole book.

Date: 2000-05-01 (permlink)
Author: Jared Diamond
Name: The Third Chimpanzee - The Evolution And Future Of The Human Animal
Rating: 4.5 stars

I'd call this book 'The Naked Ape' by Desmond Morris, only done right. Most of Diamond's ideas are backed by actual facts, so you're much more likely to believe them. I particularly liked the chapter on genocides, it really gave a new perspective on some things in this world. As I'm one of the few lucky ones in this world to live in a place that wasn't originally settled by other people (at least to my knowledge, I could be wrong...) that were later killed by my ancestors, this gives me the nice opportunity to ask every white American and Australian and lots of other people I meet how they can live with the knowledge that their country was based on genocide, without being a hypocrite. Should make for a very interesting Thanksgiving dinner in America if I ever were to participate in one ("So, we're celebrating the 500th anniversary of the massacre of 18 million Indians. What's the turkey for?")

Date: 2000-04-16 (permlink)
Author: Stephen King
Name: Different Seasons
Rating: 4 stars

And now for something completely different: a review with three sentences, each one absolutely independent of each other. Enjoy.

I've read The Shawshank Redemption before but not the other three stories so I'm not classifying this as a reread. I wonder why every one of King's stories ends up as a movie..three out of four stories in this book are also movies. I have to agree with what some review of the movie made out of Apt Pupil said, the idea of a hiding Nazi commander killing stray cats in his oven is absolutely ridiculous.

Date: 2000-04-13 (permlink)
Author: Alex Garland
Name: The Beach
Rating: 4 stars

When I saw the movie before reading the book, I thought everyone was being a bit unfair saying what an awful movie it was, I kinda liked it. After reading the book, I'm forced to admit that the movie was lightyears away from whata it could've been. The book and the movie aren't the same thing at all! The only thing they share is the setting, a secret beach. Characters are different, the plot is different, everything is different. Sadly, the movie made all the wrong changes, instead of the right ones.

For example, while the sex in the movie was pretty superfluous, the total absence of it in the book is more mystifying. Here we have a small group of young people living in seclusion for years, and I'm supposed to believe sexual tension doesn't appear in any way?

Date: 2000-04-05 (permlink)
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Name: First Among Equals
Rating: 4 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Some books you can't pick up, and some you can't put down. Archer's books usually fall in the latter category, and this one is no exception. Couple of things stood out, however. The transformation of Charles in the end is totally out of character for him, I didn't understand what the Queen stuff in the end was all about, and the ending was totally bizarre.

Notice how all those things are at the end? I suspect it was necessary, because you can't have 4 people fighting for being Prime Minister at the same time, so he had to do something to get two of them out of the way. I think that's just bad planning, however. As a whole 4 main characters were too much, I never really got to know anyone of them.

Date: 2000-04-02 (permlink)
Author: Stephen King
Name: Firestarter
Rating: 3 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

The trouble with inserting lots of cultural references in a book is that no matter how hip and cool it may seem at the time, 20 years later, reading a book like that is a uniquely weird experience. Every other page has a reference to a person or TV show or snack or whatever that totally yanks you back to reality, "oh yeah, this is just a book written 20 years ago". Otherwise it has some gaping holes in the plot ("lets go hide out in my grandfather's cottage nearby that he left to me, I'm sure the secret government agency won't think of that!"), but manages to stay pretty readable throughout.

Date: 2000-03-15 (permlink)
Author: Connie Willis
Name: Impossible Things
Rating: 2.5 stars

For an author who in her forewords declares that she's not a "woman writer", whatever that is, she certainly writes like a stereotypical example of one. Too many of the stories are all emotional baggage, and not much else. And what's up with all the Shakespeare stories? I know nobody in the English-speaking world has the courage to admit that they don't really give a fuck about Shakespeare or his works, but I'm getting sick and tired of hearing about the guy being praised as Holy Savior #2 all the time..

Date: 2000-02-29 (permlink)
Author: Stephen King
Name: Cujo
Rating: 4.5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

I had totally forgotten how good King could be. The characters are well done, the plot is enjoyable, and there's a definite edge in his writing that lifts the whole thing up to a higher level. I would have liked a happier ending, though...

Date: 2000-02-27 (permlink)
Author: Richard P. Feynman
Name: The Meaning of It All
Rating: 5 stars

Especially the third lecture, "This Unscientific Age", is even more valid today than it was in 1963 when it was given. Absolutely everyone should read this book, as it contains among other things, an excellent discussion about doubt and uncertainty, and how one should embrace them, not fear them. There's lots of other good stuff in there too.

Date: 2000-02-21 (permlink)
Author: Alfred Bester
Name: The Stars My Destination
Rating: Reread

The ending remains as one of the most powerful pieces of writing I've ever read.

Date: 2000-02-04 (permlink)
Author: Iain Banks
Name: The Wasp Factory
Rating: 5 stars

A brilliant book, and I don't say that just because the main character enjoys torturing and killing wasps (For those of you not in the know, I don't like wasps very much...)