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andymccoy

Ecletic Reader

I'll read just about anything that might be interesting and love to learn about new things.

Forest Mage

Forest Mage - Robin Hobb The story is very engaging, but I feel myself forcing myself to continue. This is mainly because the protagonist is an awful character. His main characteristic is indecisiveness and he has a serious martyr complex. Just all around unlikable. While I generally don't have a problem with unlikable characters, I can't handle one who is supposed to be a savior. I can't laugh at him because every cowardly and petulant thing he does is harmful to others. If it weren't for the great story behind him I would have quit this series a while ago. For what it's worth, a less infuriating protagonist would have significantly cut down on the needed length of the book without detracting from the story. I'll finish the trilogy because I want to see what happens, but I dread having to spend more time with this cowardly fool.

Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins

Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins - Andrew Cockburn Well written. Kept me engaged through the entire book. I knew some of the information in this book, but I had never heard so many of the problems with the military technology. I can't recommend this enough.

The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life

The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life - Robert Trivers Do not be fooled by the summary, this book has no true topic. It reads as if Trivers posited an initial question and then decided to write a series of tangentially related chapters to fill the book.

The introduction identifies an interesting question and then the remainder of the book fails to address that question. It almost felt like Trivers wanted to write about deception in nature and fell on the "self-deception" angle as a way to bring in readers. He posits that self-deception may be evolutionarily useful because it reduces the likelihood that our attempts to deceive others will be identified. He brings up a few studies that demonstrate the connections between cognitive load and the likelihood that deception will be uncovered; however, these studies are handled in a cursory way and stem entirely from the field of psychology. While I generally find psychology to be a useful social science, Trivers spends 15-20 pages lambasting psychology as unscientific and prone to self-deception. He also takes issue with the the laboratory based experiments that psychology has used because they fail to demonstrate the utility of self-deception/deception. It is curious that the only evidence he uses to support his theory of self-deception comes solely from a field he seems to hold so much disdain for.

The first few chapters focus solely on deception in nature. Not self-deception, and often not even intentional deception. Mimicry, camouflage, and non-human communication take center stage. When he discusses humans it is to note the deception that human genes engage in both in utero and in development in order to increase the the chance of procreation. This chapters are almost completely irrelevant to the topic at hand. While a discussion of the utility of deception in the evolutionary context would have been a useful foundation, the discussion in this text focuses solely on involuntary deceptions (i.e. camoflage) which, while advantageous, have no logical bearing on self-deception. After spending the first half of the book building up this irrelevant base about the benefits of (largely involuntary or unintentional) deception, Trivers gives a very brief overview of the ways that humans may deceive themselves. These generally fall into the cognitive biases that have been identified in psychological studies, again curious considering the issues Trivers has with the field. Immediately after this, he launches into some examples of self-deception by criticizing American foreign policy as well as historical revisionism in a few nations. He discusses self-deception as applied to religion and gives a brief explanation of where religions may have come from. He ends the book with a short chapter dealing with how to avoid self-deception, which mainly boils down to "be conscious of you actions," and "talk things over with others."

Trivers states at the beginning of the book that he wants to deal with self-deception through the lens of evolutionary biology. He fails spectacularly in this endeavor. Nowhere is there any attempt to actually explain the benefits of self-deception beyond a few meager, unstudied, connections. Trivers provides a polemic on the deficiencies he sees with social sciences, going on to call psychoanalysis a long-running fraud and specifically decrying the popularity of Freud. Despite this vehemence, Trivers relies heavily on the laboratory studies in psychology departments, the same ones he alleges are artificial and based on morality instead of evidence, to prop up his lackluster and very weak theory. Even worse, there is not a single new idea posited in this book. The vast majority of the topics he discusses with regard to deception and self-deception have been covered by the fields of cognitive and evolutionary psychology. His discussions of religion and warfare have likewise been studied by evolutionary psychologists, and his take on the political implications of self-deception are left wanting considering the in-depth coverage they have received by political scientists.

Shaman's Crossing (Soldier Son, #1)

Shaman's Crossing (Soldier Son, #1) - Robin Hobb This was the first Robin Hobb book I have read. I'm torn on my rating. I really liked the story. It set up a great world and posed some very interesting issues. However, the main character is a major weakness in my mind. He is clearly incurious, arrogant, ignorant, and all around dull. He takes no responsibility for his actions and can't seem to find a set of values or ideas to act upon. For anyone who is familiar with the Hero's Journey articulated by Joseph Campbell I think my main issue is that Nevare seems to spend the entire story in the "Call to Adventure" phase. This is not a perfect fit, as Nevare is acting as a hero to both the cavalla and the People. As a member of the People his alter gladly accepts the call to adventure and begins the journey. However, the alter is clearly set up to be Nevare's main antagonist. As a member of the cavalla, Nevare clearly accepts the call to adventure, but he spends the entire story whining about the conflict between Spink and Trist, being wilfully ignorant concerning his cousin Epiny, and refusing to understand the magical connection he experiences. All in all, I like the story and will probably read the sequels because I want to see what happens, though I really wish the story was framed with a more interesting protagonist.

The Intern's Handbook: A Thriller

The Intern's Handbook: A Thriller - Shane Kuhn A quick read with an interesting story line and a somewhat surprising ending. The dialogue is snappy and overall I enjoyed the book. There was room for improvement, but I think the author made the right overall choices.

Excellent Sheep: Thinking for Yourself, Inventing Your Life, and Other Things the Ivy League Won't Teach You

Excellent Sheep: Thinking for Yourself, Inventing Your Life, and Other Things the Ivy League Won't Teach You - William Deresiewicz This book should be required reading during every freshman's first semester if not before. It brought up a number of issues I have complained about before, including rampant grade inflation and the destruction of learning in academic atmospheres.

The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam

The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam - Barbara W. Tuchman Overall I found this to be an informative and interesting book, though I'm at a loss to say what it's purpose was. It pointed out that governments pursue policies that are contrary to their self-interest, but there was very little in depth discussion as to why this occurs. Tuchman never seems to offer a diagnosis of the problem, merely stating that personal ambition and "wooden-headedness" can lead to folly. She acknowledges that political pressures can prevent even well meaning leaders from avoiding folly, though she doesn't seem to reconcile this with her idea that governments act in folly.

No solution is offered to combat the problem of folly, nor does it feel like the book goes beyond the thesis of "governments sometimes engage in folly." While the information is interesting and potentially helpful to those eternal optimists who believe that government always acts in the nation's interest, I feel like this book was a real missed opportunity. So much could have been done to look at the causes of folly or propose solutions, but instead it felt like a polemic on incompetent governance.

Beyond the issue of clarity and focus, I found the style to be unwieldy. Sentences containing multiple premises were rampant. I found myself on more than one occasion trying to parse sentences containing two or three sub-clauses in order to understand the point of a statement. While I did enjoy reading this book, I don't think I'll be recommending, mainly because I don't see its utility.

Warriors

Warriors - Most of the short stories in this collection were great. I felt that some did not really fit with the theme, though the stories themselves were still enjoyable. I definitely have some new authors to check out, and maybe some more works by authors I've already read.

Rogues

Rogues - I loved the short stories and thought that all had some very interesting story lines. Some were weaker than others, but this definitely makes me want to look into some authors I might not have thought about before.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness - Michelle Alexander I gained a lot of interesting knowledge, though I was not as shocked by the main thesis as others may be. I agreed with the authors main argument prior to reading the first page and found many of the arguments I have made to others contained within the pages of this book. While this book is well written and concisely argued, I did not find it's main premise to be surprising, but I do feel that this should be required reading at either the high school or introductory college level.

Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers - Robert A. Heinlein Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I had a hard time putting it down and sped through it. For a military adventure set during a war it had a surprisingly small amount of action, though it added to the realism. All in all I would recommend this book to just about anyone.

The Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You

The Sandman, Vol. 5: A Game of You - Colleen Doran, Todd Klein, Shawn McManus, Bryan Talbot, Dick Giordano, Stan Woch, George Pratt, Neil Gaiman It took me a while to remember the connecting characters with Vol. 2, but the connections of various story lines really increases the enjoyment for me.

Foundation's Edge (Foundation, #4)

Foundation's Edge (Foundation, #4) - Isaac Asimov I think this may have been one of the best books in the series. It starts off a little disappointing, rehashing the Foundation vs. the Second Foundation issue. It was solved but then, magically it's no longer solved. However, after this issue, the story takes several exciting turns and expands the mythos of the Seldon Plan.

V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta - David Lloyd, Alan Moore Amazing. Introduces ambiguities and explain so many other issues that the movie glossed over. I understand why Alan Moore is unhappy with movie adaptations of his work.

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris I really enjoyed this book, though my need to finish all the potential lines by trying to follow the rules was frustrating towards the end. I was having a bit of a hard time trying to find the paths to the chapters I hadn't read yet, and I'm pretty sure the hardcopy has a typo in it because none of the options I found told me to turn to page 38, which was a necessary page to hear from Penn Jillette. I would probably have enjoyed this book over a longer period of time, but I would still recommend this to everyone.

Marvel 1602

Marvel 1602 - Neil Gaiman, Richard Ianove, Andy Kubert An interesting one-shot. It could have been better, but overall it was an interesting issue.