April 8th, 2017

Dead Dog Cat

49, 50+

Bits and pieces this week and so I hit the first goal.

First book finished was Osprey Campaign #42: Bagration 1944: The Destruction of Army Group Center, the battles that completely changed the strategic initiative on the Eastern Front in WWII. Nicely done in a fairly short format.

Next was Osprey Elite #54: UN Forces 1948 – 94, a good review of United Nations peacekeeping efforts during that period.

Then, Lamb: A Global History, in other words lamb as food. There's some recipes at the end of the book.

I followed that with Osprey Fortress #60: The Forts of the Meuse in World War I, which brought back memories of playing an old board game called 1914 by Avalon Hill. Interesting material.

Finally, Osprey Men-At-Arms #60: Scandinavian Armies in the Napoleonic Wars. Aside from what the British did to the Danes, I was unaware of most of this historic material so I found it pretty fascinating. The plates are meh, but the supporting text was worth reading.

Book #18: The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster

This is a book I studied at school and decided to read again; since it's quite short, I managed to read it in just under half an hour.

It's quite easy to forget quite long ago this was written (in 1905), since it feels way ahead of its time, and almost feels like a satire on humanity's dependance on technology, which feels even more relevant today than it was when it was written.

In the book, people live underground in small honeycomb-like cells, dependant entirely on a single machine to meet their everyday needs. I suspect that E.M. Forster had in mind some sort of large industrial-type device, and not a computer as we might imagine nowadays, but it makes for impressive imagery nonetheless. I noticed some good social comments about people becoming very segregated; for example, it is no longer acceptable to touch others, and the surface of the earth is considered too dangerous to go to, as people supposedly cannot survive.

Based on the book's title, you can probably guess how it all ends.

There are two main characters, a mother and a son, and they live on opposite sides of the world. The first of the three chapters deals with the (evidently very agorophobic) mother going to visit her son in an airship, at his request, while the second tells of how he visited the earth's surface. It was interesting to see how E.M. Forster played out the relationship between the two characters, with the son acting as the voice of reason, and the mother portrayed as stubborn and entirely trusting in the machine. And the final chapter, where the inevitable happens, is very shocking, and very sad; one of the lines that struck me most was about repair equipment that was itself in need of repair (where evidently this wasn't possible).

I enjoyed reading this book just as much as I did when I was a teenager.

Next book: The Big Six (Arthur Ransome)