Thursday, June 30, 2022
Just Finished Reading: Eureka! - Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Ancient Greeks but Were Afraid to Ask by Peter Jones (FP: 2014) [372pp]
If you’ve ever wondered about what all the fuss is about regarding the Ancient Greeks and were wondering just exactly how to ‘get into’ the subject in a ‘try before you buy’ kind of way, well, this is definitely the book for you! If you’re either starting from a fairly low knowledge point, refreshing your knowledge base or making sure that you have missed anything major so far in your other reading this excellent volume will take you through the civilisations major moments, major achievements and central characters in easily digestible, bit-sized chunks.
Starting from the earliest days – 2000-800 BC – until the end of Alexander the Greats empire the author (who taught Classics at Cambridge before retiring in 1997) picks out developments large and small from the beginnings of writing, the production of epic poetry, the development and expansion of Philosophical thought in all directions (essentially THE basis of ALL Western Thought!), political structures – including (naturally) the emergence of the first Democracy and what it represented (and who it didn’t involve!), the rise of the city-state and its export to the coast of Asia, North Africa, Italy, France and Spain, internal Greek conflicts (although people living in what we now call Greece wouldn’t have thought of themselves as ‘Greek’ at that time!), as well as the classic fight between Sparta & Athens in what we now know as the Peloponnesian War, the equally momentous war(s) with Persia which effectively saved Western civilisation from Persian domination, discussion of The Trojan War and, of course, Homer himself, Tales of ‘The Gods’ and how the Greeks saw them in quite different ways to how we see our ‘Gods’ today, views on slavery and the place of women in various city-states (there was no single Greek ‘culture’ as such until much later. Each city-state had its own views on religion, politics and much else besides), and, of course, the Alexandrian impact of the region together with the series of ‘encounters’ with the rising Roman Republic and, later, Empire. It’s a LOT of ground to cover but the author covers it with authority and quite a bit of humour mixed in – including a rye nod at the contemporary surge of ‘reinterpretations’ of Greek stories/myths.
All in all, this was a fun and interesting read and I was pleased that very little was completely new to me. I’ve been reading (and in various ways studying) the Ancient World for some time now so I think I have a pretty good layman’s appreciation of the subject. But this doesn’t mean that I found this work boring or uninteresting – FAR from it. Not only did the author’s love of the subject shine through again and again he was also sure enough of his subject to see the often-funny side of things as well as to call into question older interpretations of archeological findings and appreciate that more modern views of objects and textual findings might be overturned in the future. We may be looking at long dead civilisations and dead languages but the subject itself is far from a dead one. I shall look forward to other books from this author on Rome and the Ancient World as a whole. Definitely recommended.
[Side Note: FINALLY, the virtual World Tour is back up and running. One more book on Greece to come and then we move on to India. See you there...!]
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
Monday, June 27, 2022
Just Finished Reading: B.E.A.S.T by Charles Eric Maine (FP: 1966) [190pp]
The warning came from Security at the research facility RU8. The facility director, Dr Charles Gilley, was spending a lot of time and resources on a personal project – and without any authorisation. If there’s one thing that governments anywhere don’t readily approve of its people feeding their ego from the public trough. Seeing it as another ‘boffin’ going off the reservation, the Department assigned Mark Harland to investigate further and shut the unauthorised project down. Posing as a replacement in RU8’s security section Mark finds out there’s more going on than anyone outside the facility even suspected. Dr Gilley has been working on giving his computer system a brain – and he may very well have succeeded beyond his wildest dreams!
I read this as part of a set of man vs machine science-fiction novels I’ve been picking at over the last year or so. As I’ve read some Maine before I was expecting a reasonable work of SF while taking into account its age. It started off reasonably well with a decent premise – rogue scientist, dangerous project etc. Unfortunately, it very quickly descended into something approaching farce. It did have a surprisingly good idea embedded in the heart of the story though which honestly impressed me – the idea of Artificial Intelligence being produced via evolutionary computing. That’s a VERY modern idea for 1966! Again unfortunately, this excellent idea was completely ruined by both very bad writing and several ridiculous sub-plots including the AI ‘taking over’ the good Dr in order to ‘reproduce’ and the storyline around the very attractive, and very popular, Scandinavian programmer who was ‘involved’ with most of RU8’s scientific staff. It was, needless to say, both incredibly sexist and completely unnecessary. I can only imagine that the author/publishers wanted something ‘spicy’ to attract the young male readership of the ‘Swinging Sixties’. I certainly can’t think of any other good reason for it. Oh, and the ending was truly awful – as if that made any difference at that point. Despite a decent premise and a very good central idea this was, honestly, terrible and I only really finished it because it was so short. Most definitely not recommended.
Sunday, June 26, 2022
Saturday, June 25, 2022
The way things are moving in the US right now (AKA Backwards) it's looking like there's going to be a bright future ahead for smugglers of contraceptives and condoms. Personally, if I was (much) younger and living in the States, I'd start stocking up around now if you can..... There's money to be made and pregnancies to be avoided.
1001/1292 Books (Part 3)
Having a reasonable backlog of reading, I’m always on the lookout of ways to prioritise what I’m going to be reading next. What I don’t want to do, and what I do find myself sometimes slipping into, is simply reading the top book off the nearest pile or just the next book in a series I’ve already started. One way not to do that (the lazy thing) is to look at lists of recommended reading – like the one referenced over on Hannah’s Blog which is essentially a beefed-up 1001 Books to Read BEFORE You Die. So far, I’ve gone through the List looking for books already read and one’s that I own but have yet to schedule (yes, we get to the point finally!), which will help me going forward – I've already got a mini-stack together to slot in these books into my reading whenever possible. Naturally, the next part of the equation is future book buying (like I need an excuse). So, it will come as no surprise at all to know that I purchased two books off the List this week – although one was by George Orwell which I had intended to read (along with his major works) before seeing Hannah’s helpful List. So, here’s the next batch of my readings:
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
The Rebel – Albert Camus
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
The Plague – Albert Camus
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Farewell My Lovely – Raymond Chandler
The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
To Have and Have Not – Ernest Hemingway
The Postman Always Rings Twice – James M. Cain
Testament of Youth – Vera Brittain
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence
Steppenwolf – Herman Hesse
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
A nice mix there, I think! Some classic SF, Noir, Fantasy and classic Classics too. More to come.
Friday, June 24, 2022
Thursday, June 23, 2022
Just Finished Reading: Kristallnacht – Prelude to Destruction by Martin Gilbert (FP: 2006) [269pp]
Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, took place across Germany over 9th-10 November 1938. It involved the organised and vicious attacks on Jewish properties, businesses and Synagogues as well as targeted arrests, beatings and killings of Jews throughout the country. Although it was far from the beginnings of Nazi oppression of Jews and other so-called ‘undesirables’ it showed its citizens, and the larger world, the horror that was coming in just a few short years. The events of that day, as well as those in the months following, not only shocked the world – as they were reported by international journalists who could still report from German held territory – but added an additional sense of urgency to the increased rearmament efforts of France, Britain and the Soviet Union following the earlier Anschluss between Germany and Austria.
Regular readers here will know that I hardly ever read directly about the Holocaust. It is, to be honest, a subject I tend to avoid. Although I do not know everything about that horrifying time in European history, I know enough to realise how depressed and emotionally upset it would leave me to read into the subject deeply enough to truly understand it. I know it happened and I know enough about those events to be aware of the parameters of the tragedy as it unfolded. So why, you must be asking yourselves, did I read this book? It’s a good question actually! I picked it up some years ago (although not as far back as 2006 I think!) almost on impulse. It’s been sitting in a stack since then waiting for me to (almost) have the courage to read it. Despite everything I’m ‘glad’ I did. Let me explain...
Kristallnacht and the obscenity that followed are, beyond question, examples of the worse aspects of humanity writ large. Such events need to be remembered if, for nothing else, we can hold tight to the idea that they will happen Never Again. But as this book reminds us, in the midst of such inhumanity acts of heroic humanity shone through. On the night itself, and over the subsequent days, friends, neighbours and complete strangers, helped Jews displaced from their homes (and often at great personal risk to themselves) to find shelter, food and ways to escape the coming storm. Local police gave warnings of raids, turned blind eyes to those they were tasked to find and ignored valuables (often the only items carried) held by refugees as they crossed borders. Organisations across the world, often run by Quakers, put together rescue schemes like the Kindertransport which helped thousands of Jewish and other children escape to England. What I was most impressed by were stories of consulate officials who worked tirelessly (and often against direct orders) to issue exit visas to anyone who asked for them. Some officials issued THOUSANDS more than normal, working 18 hour days, and one (I think he was from Portugal) actually continued issuing them whilst returning ‘home’ after being recalled. As he crossed the border he produced his last visas on any scrap of paper he could find to save the last few people before returning home in ‘disgrace’.
But while some did everything they could to help as much as humanly possible, others stuck to outdated rules that restricted the number of legitimate immigrants and even, on far too many occasions, turned ships around to return their frightened human cargo straight back into Hell. On some level you can almost understand it. They, at least, didn’t have access to the knowledge we do. Although the world knew about German concentration camps, the existence of death camps was still in the future. But still, even without this foreknowledge, it almost beggared belief that officials could turn desperate people away and still sleep at night. There was even debate in the US Congress about what to do with German Jews on student visas and whether their stay would be extended for the duration of the war! Incredible.
Given the subject matter, no matter how professionally conveyed, this is certainly NOT a book for sensitive souls. It is an examination of both the worst and some of the best of humanity in action. Both the worst and the best should not be forgotten – especially the best examples of humanity who give us hope and stand as examples for the rest of us. This is why I’m ‘glad’ I read this. It gives me hope for our future.
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Monday, June 20, 2022
Just Finished Reading: Caliban’s War by James S A Corey (FP: 2012) [595pp]
The shooting war between Earth and Mars is over – at least for now. Not that it means everything is back to normal. Not even close! It’s almost as if the System is holding its breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Of course, the first shoe was bad enough with an all-out war narrowly averted to say nothing of the asteroid near-miss of Earth and then whatever the hell is going on with Venus. Holden and his crew meanwhile need to pay for things like food, air and docking fees and Fred Johnson offered to hire them out to run down the inevitable pirates looking for easy prey. As mundane and reasonably straight-forward as it feels, the crew of the Rocinante know that they’re drifting, waiting for something. So, when they hear news of a secret lab on Ganymede and the possibility that whatever is going on there involves the proto-molecule that’s been the cause of so much trouble they know they have to be there. Meanwhile, on Earth, UN undersecretary Avasarala is trying to get to the bottom of just what game Mars, the outer planets and the unknown actor are playing and how exactly she can fuck up their plans. With the help, inside knowledge and brawn of a displaced Martian marine she might just be able to do that – if they can’t sideline or silence her first. What FUN there was to be had!
This is the 2nd book in the Expanse series (9 books in total) and covers parts of series 1 and 2 of the TV adaptation. Told from various points of view – Holden, Prax (a botanist on Ganymede), Avasarala (my 2nd favourite character in the series: book AND TV show) and Bobbie Draper (Marine Gunnery Sergeant). I was more used to it this time – to be honest this layout in the first book came as a bit of a shock and took some getting used to after seeing the TV show and being aware of things that the books can’t really show in this format – so happily flitted between the viewpoints and ‘voices’ of the main characters. Not only was I delighted that Avasarala appeared (she was in the TV series from the start but only appears in the 2nd book) but that she was written exactly the same way as she is portrayed by Shohreh Aghdashloo on screen. Likewise, Bobbi Draper is exactly the same character in the TV show as in the book, right down to her Māori roots. Although my favourite male character doesn’t get his own PoV (yet?) there’s still plenty of Amos to go round and to admire – both for his laconic speech and his violence when violence is needed.
Needless to say, I loved this book (actually a bit more than the first one) as much as the TV show which I think is some of the best on-screen SF EVER. I LOVE the fact that they don’t have shields or FTL and how REAL the politics feels. I did love the political maneuvering of Avasarala in the book which I thought showed a real understanding of how real politics works – not the bullshit we see whenever a politician gets in front of a camera but what REALLY happens in private offices and between meetings. One of the things I did find interesting in the book is just how different parts of it was to the small-screen version. Obviously, we’re talking about two separate mediums here and SFX in print is cheap but still... The general thrust of the narrative was the same and the character to screen transfer rate was probably around 90% (more of a problem with the low-gravity Belters than with anyone else for obvious reasons), but some sections near the end of the book where quite different. We had a variation of Amos and his “I am that guy” moment, just without that excellent phrase, but a space battle fought around Ganymede was VERY different (both versions were good but I actually preferred the tensions in the TV version better). Overall, both book(s) and TV show are very highly recommended if you like your Space Opera to feel REAL.
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Saturday, June 18, 2022
1001/1292 Books (Part 2)
Continuing my look at Hannah’s 1001/1292 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, below you’ll find the next 20 I’ve managed to accidentally (and all too often randomly) read over the last 30 years or so. Of course, one of the great things about this kind of list is that can give you ideas or just the motivation to try new books or new authors that you may not have encountered otherwise. Presently I’ve just been prompted to ‘bump up’ some books I already own higher up the planned reading pile. Later, if I get that far, I’ll start investigating other books and other authors I haven’t tried or bought yet. I guess we’ll see! But anyway....
The Godfather – Mario Puzo
2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick
Chocky – John Wyndham
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez
In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
The Graduate – Charles Webb
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert Heinlein
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Cider With Rosie – Laurie Lee
The Midwich Cuckoos – John Wyndham
The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
The Long Goodbye – Raymond Chandler
Casino Royale – Ian Fleming
Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
Foundation – Isaac Asimov
Of course, if I wasn’t such a fan of SF (and to a much lesser degree Fantasy) I’d have hit a LOT less than the 80 odd I managed (6% remember!) of the long list on Hannah’s Blog. As I’ve said before, although I do read a lot (at least compared to the ‘average’ person) I am not, and do not regard myself as, particularly “well read” in any sense. I am making the effort though and I’ll be using this list as at least one element of continuing down that road.
Friday, June 17, 2022
Thursday, June 16, 2022
Just Finished Reading: Jurassic Mary – Mary Anning and the Primeval Monsters by Patricia Pierce (FP: 2006) [196pp]
For some at least, fossils were a problem. For others, like Mary Anning, they were both a source of wonder and speculation and a much need way to earn some money. Born in the coastal village of Lyme Regis in 1799 she was forced, after her father died, to turn her ‘hobby’ of fossil hunting into a full-time profession to help feed her mother and brother. Luckily for her, and for posterity, she was very good at her job with a keen eye for the unusual and exotic. Whilst fossilised sea shells and small ammonites could bring in a few pennies her larger finds changed hands for the equivalent of hundreds or even thousands of Pounds in today’s money. Whilst such finds kept a roof over their heads and food on her table, what they didn’t do was bring her anything like the reputation and recognition she deserved. Although the great geologists and paleontologists of the day presented her finds at scientific meetings, the name of the finder was rarely mentioned. After all, not only was she an uneducated woman she was also ‘in trade’ and had merely sold her skill to her ‘betters’ - so why would they mention her in polite and educated circles?
But the ‘problem’ of who procured the fossils was the least of their problems. The biggest problem, for the great and the good in the new disciplines of Geology and Paleontology, was explaining them. Most people recognised the fact that the finds were of creatures previously unknown to mankind. Most even recognised the fact that these creatures had not been seen before because they were extinct but this caused a larger problem and more questions. It was still, largely, believed at the time that the Bible correctly set out the origins of life on Earth and that, it followed, God’s special creation resulted in all species of animal in their fixed and eternal forms. But here was seeming evidence of species extinction. So why would God create a species only to extinguish it later? Then there was the problem of the age of the fossils. It was generally agreed that the Earth was created less than ten thousand years previously. But the fossils discovered so far appeared to be from a much earlier age. Not only before Man but, impossibly, before the existence of Earth itself. If they could not be dismissed as fakes and could not be identified as casualties of the Biblical Flood then the inescapable conclusion, disturbing as it was, was that the Earth was MUCH older than the Bible seemed to indicate. If that was true, then what else had we been wrong about for so long? Where would such questions lead and should they be allowed to lead there?
Fortunately for Mary, a devout non-Conformist, such conundrums were rarely asked of her. She found her fossils, identified them, often reasoned her way to placing them in biological context with their living ancestors and, very occasionally, published her considered musings (though not, of course, in recognised Scientific journals!). With her findings over decades of beachcombing, Mary presented the world with some of the first irrefutable evidence of Evolution. Later used by Darwin and others to revolutionary effect it changed forever our perception of our place in the world. Told with a passion for the subject and a desire to ensure that Mary herself is not forgotten, this is an excellent insight into both the importance of her discoveries and Mary herself. Definitely recommended.
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
Monday, June 13, 2022
Just Finished Reading: Motherland by Jo McMillan (FP: 2015) [258pp]
Tamworth, the English Midlands, 1978. Thirteen-year-old Jess knew it was hard enough being a teenager – especially in Tamworth – but being a teenager with a reputation was worse. It wasn’t even her reputation. It was sort of guilt by association, kind of. As the daughter of the only (at least the only publicly outspoken) Communist in town it was hard to be ignored, hard to fade into the background. But standing in front of the butcher’s shop every Saturday trying to sell copies of the Communist Morning Star newspaper wasn’t exactly the best way to go unnoticed. At least with the offer of her mother teaching in East Germany for the summer would give Jess the opportunity to really disappear for a few months every year. Her mother was the excited one though. The chance to see ‘real living Communism’ was almost too much to bear. But Jess had no idea where such opportunities lead – to love, friendship, disappointment and her rise within the ranks of the UK Communist apparatus. The question was – did she want any of that?
This was most definitely an odd one! I picked it up, completely by impulse, in my favourite end-of-run bookstore and thought that for £3 it was worth a punt. It was. Part coming of age story, part mother-daughter tale this was an often poignant and heart-warming look at what happens when you lose faith in the beliefs of a parent. Jess was an interesting character (she must be at least partially based on the author I’m guessing) who initially went along with her mother for emotional support as much as anything else. Communism was, it seemed to me, both a faux act of teenage rebellion and one of solidarity with her widowed mother, Eleanor. I did feel for Eleanor though. She was, to be honest, an emotional wreck only held together with her fervent belief in the Communist cause. This belief was all powerful and overwhelming. Watching Jess deal with this and deal with her mother’s growing realisation that she was on the wrong side of history was funny, sweet and sad in turn. Written with both warmth and wit this was an enchanting and often touching read. Very evocative of the late 80’s vibe in the UK and often laugh out loud funny. Definitely recommended if you’re after a very different historical novel. [Side Note: As the ‘action’ is almost exactly split between England and East Germany I’m going to give ½ to each country in my fictional world tour. More geographically focused reading to come].
Sunday, June 12, 2022
Saturday, June 11, 2022
1001/1292 Books (Part 1)
As a lover/consumer of bookish lists I was intrigued by the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (enhanced to 1292) list of books over at Hannah’s Blog – Among Stories. Naturally I looked through the list ticking off the one’s I’d read and came to a satisfying 80 odd. This was rather less satisfying when I realised it represented a mere 6% or so of the total. But I did also find a number of books as yet unread but owned which will take it over the 100 mark. So, as I know several of my regular readers also enjoy book lists – as well as the fact that some of those listed are not classics so haven’t been mentioned here before as they were read pre-Blog – I thought I’d register those on Hannah’s Read Before You Die list I’ve read which might give other people ideas too! Win-Win, I call that. So...
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Player of Games – Iain M. Banks
The Cider House Rules – John Irving
Less Than Zero – Bret Easton Ellis
Legend – David Gemmell
Empire of the Sun – J.G. Ballard
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Neuromancer – William Gibson
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
The World According to Garp – John Irving
The Shining – Stephen King
Interview With the Vampire – Anne Rice
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
Fear of Flying – Erica Jong
Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman – John Fowles
I think that’s a pretty good list all told. A few of them I didn’t like very much but most were either above average to outstanding. As always, more to come.
Friday, June 10, 2022
Thursday, June 09, 2022
Just Finished Reading: Age of Anger – A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra (FP: 2017) [346pp]
I’m definitely not alone in wondering just WTF is going on with the world. I know I’m probably looking back on my youth with rose tinted glasses but even the 1970’s and, yes, even the 1980’s seemed much simpler and most definitely calmed times than today. So, what changed? Essentially, no so much according to this thought provoking and often fascinating thesis.
Yet again I was surprised where this book went and what it focused on (that seems to be a habit with me these days) as I fully expected it to dissect the ‘present situation’ seen from the year or so before publication date. But that’s where things got really interesting and gave me LOTS of food for thought which I’m still (slowly) digesting after finishing this around 3 weeks ago. Where the author points his well-read finger is back to The Enlightenment and especially to the French philosophers of that turbulent time. The problem, as he intriguingly points out, is that these men (not surprisingly exclusively male for the time & place), sitting around in their salons putting the world ‘to rights’ were generally rich, well connected – to each other – and had almost zero idea of what it was like in the real world. What was worse, for the worlds they gave birth to, was that they never intended for their ideas of liberty or ‘personal growth’ to be applied to everyone. Indeed, they would have probably been horrified at the idea, once they stopped laughing, that the servant bringing their wine could have, use or even want, the same privileges, rights or liberties that they demanded for themselves contra the wishes and powers of monarchy or aristocracy. Despite often being anti-monarchy and anti-church they were most definitely not, as a rule, pro-democracy. The very idea to them was simply absurd and that’s where it became a problem. Each of the philosophers, in their own way and (largely) for their own benefit and that of their class of intellectuals, produced tracts, pamphlets and books which, rather inevitably, fell into the hands of those they were never intended to – the moderately educated and relatively poor lower classes (probably what we would call the proto-middle class and then further ‘down’ to the increasingly educated proto-proletariat). Ideas of liberty, individualism, democracy and much else naturally spread like wildfire and, once out of the bottle (or the book) could no longer be reclaimed. We forget, again pointed out by the author, that the post-Enlightenment, post-Industrial Revolution world was one of revolution, unrest, assassination and upheaval. As their ideas spread across the globe, translated, copied, understood and misunderstood, chaos followed just as it had in its European home during its painful and bloody birthing. Should we be surprised, therefore, that a similar round of revolution, unrest, assassination and upheaval has followed in their wake?
Once I got my head around it (as the author delves DEEPLY into the ideas of the 18th century Europe and their immediate consequences), I found the authors central idea both interesting and compelling. Proposing the idea that the Enlightenment philosophers were dangerously divorced from common human experience and that their subsequently flawed ideas were never actually intended for universal application has significant explanatory power. Our forgetful ignorance of the consequences of their ideas being adopted by those they were never intended for and too often applied in ways that would not have worked – even in the ideal world of those who created the ideas – explains why we are surprised by the chaos we see around us today and why we shouldn’t be. Of course, it also means that this age of upheaval isn’t going away anytime soon and will, in fact, probably get worse as global problems multiply and increasing numbers of people become increasingly frustrated at the failure of ‘the system’ to satisfy their needs, ‘rights’ and expectations that, again all too often, is and always has been beyond its capability. This is a densely argued and sober read. It is definitely something you cannot simply skim through to pick up the gist to bring up in casual conversation. With MANY historical references throughout, it would help if you knew your Dreyfus from your Durkheim, your Rousseau from your Romanov and your Spencer from your Stirner. Luckily, with my reading over the years and my later University studies I had at least heard of many (if not all) of the intellects mentioned between these covers. Overall, this is not an easy read but, I think, it is very much worth the effort to do so. Like all good books of this type this will provide you with a framework, a viewpoint, to see the world and events within it in a new light. A very impressive line of argument and definitely a recommended book.