December 30th, 2015



I'll wrap up the 2015 Fifty Book Challenge well short of the goal. Book Review No. 18 is Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, which I picked up as a consequence of the hoopla accompanying the recent release of a television version of the story.

It's a different twist on alternative histories in which the Axis wins, or at least draws, World War II.  Robert Harris's Fatherland envisions a different sort of Cold War, in which German ingenuity knocks England and the western Soviet Union out before the New World mobilizes, and Star Trek's "The City on the Edge of Forever" turns on the death of an American pacifist who Captain Kirk takes a shine to.  The critical death in High Castle is ... not Anton Cermak.  (The link contains a spoiler.)

But after the war, residents of the Japanese-occupied Western United States take to an ancient Chinese oracle, and there's a resident of the neutral mountain states whose subversive book, about the war turning out more like it really did, makes for the plot and character development.  Or does it?

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)

9: Empress Dowager Cixi

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 9: Empress Dowager Cixi

A biograpy of the woman who ruled "behind the veil" for decades.

Years ago I read Anchee Min's novels about Cixi, Empress Orchid and The Last Empress, and absolutely adored them. So I felt it was high time for me to read a proper biography.

Jung Chang is the acclaimed author of Wild Swans, but she's been heavily criticized for the controversial arguments in this book. Cixi is traditionally seen as an evil empress whose pride was the cause of many lost battles. Yet Chang sees her as a revolutionary ruler.

As I'm far from being an expert in Chinese history, it is difficult for me to have an opinion about the issue, but after a bit of research on the internet, I realized Chang is not the only researcher who seems to defend her. So are the arguments as controversial as some claim? Not sure.


10: Lord of the Flies

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 10: Lord of the Flies
10 LORD OF THE FLIES William Golding (England, 1954)

Following a plane crash, a group of young boys find themselves on a desert island without any adults.

I'm glad I finally got around to reading this classic. Lord of the Flies is a solid commentary on human instincts, violence, and leadership. While it can be a little tedious to read  an entire novel written the way children speak, Golding's story is powerful precisely because it deals wit children.


11: Le Cote de Guermantes

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 11: Le Cote de Guermantes
11 LE COTE DE GUERMANTES (Eng. Tr.: THE GUERMANTES WAY) Marcel Proust (France, 1920)

This is the third installement of In Search of Lost Time.

The narrator is now fully a part of Parisian society, where politics and art are discussed in the most fashionable salons.

This third volume is the most political so far, as the Dreyfus Affair is discussed everywhere the narrator goes. The shallowness and hypocrisy of the aristocracy are also starting to reveal themselved to the narrator, who becomes increasingly disappointed with society.