An Audio-Book Review: The Bishops in Check

Furious Gulf (Galactic Center #5)

By Gregory Benford

Published by The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Read by John Polk

 

Oops! I was supposed to post this two weeks ago. On the plus side I’m now set for the next three weeks or more…

The Book:

I think I may finally be warming up to this series. At least that’s how I felt at the start of the story. Bishop Family, along with the remnants of the other chess-themed families are once again traveling through space aboard the Starship Argo, having picked up bunches of people named after playing cards and a few nonhumans from the last strange world they visited. They are still fleeing the “Mechs” a culture of sapient machines intent on wiping out organic lifeforms, although from what I can tell they are not very consistent about it since some seem to be content to keep humans as pets while others want them all dead. I keep hoping I’ll get a glimpse of a plan behind the madness, but I suspect we have to assume that the Mechs do what they do because that is what Mechs do.  It’s also possible that across an entire galaxy that there are various groups of Mechs each with their own priorities and that these various groups have different goals and are not one homogenous culture. Or… Mechs are as crazy as organic life is… deal with it?

Meanwhile Captain Killean, the leader of the people aboard the Argo has set a course for the center of the Galaxy (hence living up to the name of the series) but he has aged a bit since the last book and now is a stubborn, obsessed and possibly crazy older man. Perhaps it’s all those voices in his head. These far future humans have managed to hold on to a technology in which the memories of their ancestors can be implanted as chips in their spines. These chips, called aspects, can be consulted for the valuable memories, but sometimes they can get a little out of hand.

In Toby’s case, one of those aspects is something more, a “personality” of his father’s now deceased wife who Killean wants to speak to directly even though that is against all custom and propriety of these future people. Also, on Killean’s mind is the fact that the ship’s gardens are failing and the slowly starving people on his ship are starting to have mutinous ideas.

So… Killean plunges the ship into a black hole. Okay, I’m leaving a lot out, but that is where it all goes really strange. It turns out there is a human civilization close in toward the event horizon and they seem to have been able to hold off the Mechs and everyone else they do not want. However, this black hole civilization offers an opportunity for trade of both goods and information. However, time is strange this close to the black hole and so is the story.

However, this is not Killean’s story so much as it is Toby’s. Toby has grown up since the last book and is now on the verge of manhood, and maybe just a step over the verge, so amid the strangeness of the setting we also have Toby’s own personal discoveries. In all it’s a fairly rich book with a lot of story to tell.

I’ll admit that because of the fact I was listening and not reading this one, I lost track several times of what was going on and how some characters got to where they were and to where they eventually were going. Had I been reading a real book or even an e-book, I could have flipped back a few pages and tried to figure out what I had missed. Listening, though I had to hope I could piece it all together as it went and that did not always happen.

Yes, I could have gone back to relisten to passages, but as I have explained in the past, I do most of my listening while driving and maybe I’m a bit old-school, but I try not to get distracted from what the idiot in the car in front of me is doing. In most books that doesn’t matter. This time I felt like I had blinked and ended up in a new world at least three times. So, my first recommendation is to read this book, if you can, before attempting to listen to it, or if listening, try to do so as a primary activity and not as background noise. And definitely, do not start the series with this volume! I think you could probably skip the first book and maybe the second without getting lost, although there’s a lot of back story leading up to the tale of the Bishops that help to make sense of it all, but by the third book we have a firmly connected story arc that must be followed volume by volume.

In spite of my confusions, however, this is solid hard science fiction of the sort that it helps to be at least somewhat acquainted with astrophysics, relativity, quantum mechanics, cosmology, etc. because otherwise some of the setting might make no sense to the reader. You don’t have to be an expert with a degree in physics and to be able to understand the math behind it all but having a layman’s acquaintance with some of the concepts definitely helps keep this from seeming like impossible nonsense since Benford was busy telling the story and did not take a lot of time out to explain the situation in detail. That, by the way, is probably a good thing, because the explanations alone would (and have) filled tomes on their own and this is supposed to be fiction, not a college-level course.

All told, so far, I think that it was worth getting through the previous book to get to where we are now. This opinion may or may not change with the next book, of course.

 

The Audiobook:

Once again, John Polk has delivered a solid reading.  He does not engage in a slew of “funny voices” that grate on the nerves and sometimes are hard to understand. However, as I have said in the past, he also leaves no vocal clues as to who is talking so you really have to listen to the text or you could get lost. Fortunately, Benford writes sufficient vocal tags (he said, she announced, etc.) for a listener to follow and it was hard to get confused in that manner.

One complaint, however. I thought Mister Polk might have been trying too hard. Everything was read in an overtly dramatic tone of voice. I kept thinking of the narrator from the old Batman TV series from the 1960’s. Most folks remember that for the campy writing and performances (sorry, kids, Adam West is still my favorite Batman!), but I also recall that it used to run two nights a week with the Wednesday show always ending in a cliff-hanger to be resolved the following evening. And the narrator would cut in and say something like “How will our heroes escape this time? Tune in tomorrow, same bat-time, same bat-channel!” Of course, the line was even cheesier than that, but hey, it’s Batman! Anyway, Polk’s reading was dramatic in that style and I kept expecting Batman and Robin to swing in for a non-sequitur battle with the Joker. Biff! Pow! Bam!

However, as I said, the series seems to be working up to a fine crescendo and may even have a great finale, so I guess I will tune in next time… same bat-time, same bat channel.

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Three New Titles Available in e-Format and Print

3 new.jpg

The big news this week is that I have three new books available in print and two of them also in electronic formats for the first time. First of all there is the twelfth installment of my long-running series “A Plethora of Deities:” The Care and Feeding of Your Elder God. Enki has been attacked and possibly left for dead and then Ratatosk disappears while looking into the matter, leaving out usual cast of deities, angels and demons at a loss for who might be responsible. As they delve deeper into the matter they find the danger comes at them from out of the ancient world

I first made that available in some electronic formats but can now be found in print at Lulu.com. It is also available in epub format.

Entirely new for the first time is Book 3 of “Gaenor’s Prophecy:Inspired Dreams. Gaenor, Artur and the rest of their party continue on south from Maxforn, just as the on-going war with the Empire of Vohnider begins to heat up. The southern kingdoms are well-versed in advanced technology, but will even their scientific expertise be enough to counter all the new weaponry being employed by their enemies? This is available in print at Lulu.com where it is also for sale as an epub.

And Finally, my current favorite, the first book of an entirely new series of fantasy humor “Tales of a Dyslexic Wizard:Spelling Disabled. Meet Bernie, a general fix-it guy and self-made wizard. To be a wizard one must be a master of the written word, but Bernie has a big problem. He’s dyslexic and sometimes his spells just do not turn out the way he intends. Join him and his demon familiar, Fluffernutter as they stumble from one situation to the next. The day started out fairly well in Bernie’s shop in Padanaram, Massachusetts, but then  a gorgeous blond with a deep “Dixie” accent walked in with a cursed computer. It all went downhill from there. Also available in print from Lulu.com where it too can be purchased as an epub,

As some long-time readers may remember, all my stories are available at my Lulu Author Spotlight and many can be found at Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, the iTunes Bookstore and other online outlets. These new books are currently in process to be found in those same venues and should be available there soon although they can be purchased from Lulu right now.

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An Audio-Book Review: No Battle Plan Survives Contact with the Enemy?

A History of War in 100 Battles

By Richard Overy

Published by HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Read by Stephen Crosley

 

The Book:

 

I have a hard time classifying this book as “A History.” To me, history sort of implies watching a progression over the course of time. Some histories are descriptions of single events and so do not cover a whole lot of time and that’s fine, but the overall narrative of a history ought to get you from the start to whatever arbitrary finish the author decides on.

Take Suitonius’ The Twelve Caesars for example. He starts out with the early life of Julius Caesar and finishes up with Domitian. There’s a bit of back-tracking since the lives of those men did overlap and Suitonius spends a reasonable amount of time on who they were and what they did before they became emperor. That’s especially important in covering Galba, Otho and Vitellius since none of them remained emperor for even a year, so their chapters would have been very short had he chosen only to mention their reigns. However, in a “two-steps forward, one-step backwards” manner Suitonius manages to present us with a mostly linear and progressive history.

Overy’s book starts out well enough with a fair-length introductory chapter on “The Truth of Battle” and then proceeds to discuss the battles by placing them in one of six categories; Leadership, Against the Odds, Innovation, Deception, Courage in the Face of Fire and The Nick of Time. The battles of each section are listed in chronological order, which I suppose, might make this a history, and, of course, each battle description is a history of that battle, although most of the battle descriptions are quite short, lasting on the recording between eight and ten minutes. However, taken as a whole, it seems more like a discussion of the nature of warfare rather than a history of it.

As an examination into the nature of warfare, I think Doctor Overy does a fairly good job, but as a history it is fairly disjointed. None of the battle descriptions really lead into the next and there is no real sense of progress with the possible exception the section on “Innovation.” Also, I cannot help but think that few, if any, battle victories can be chalked up to only one of his categories. Warfare is more complicated than who has the newest weapons and courage under fire is a necessary ingredient in any battle.

Considering he begins the book by saying that choosing only 100 battles to discuss was a challenge, I must admit that I do not think he should have included examples that might never have happened at all, such as the Trojan War and the Greek use of deception via the Trojan Horse. Archaeological data seems to indicate that if Schliemann’s Troy was the same as Homer’s, then the place was a quiet fishing village around the time the Trojan War supposedly took place. Actually, I’ve long had other arguments with the whole Trojan Horse strategy. How big was the thing and how many men were hidden inside? Supposedly it was built too large for the Trojans to take into the city (in The Iliad, Sinon tells the Trojans that the horse was a tribute to Athena and its size so that it could not be taken by the Trojans to gain Athena’s favor for themselves.) Okay. I get that. That means to take the horse inside, the Trojans would have to demolish or at least dismantle the gate to the city or else knock a whole in their walls. So, Odysseus and his men were not needed to open the gates for their comrades. But the Trojans could just as easily have sanctified that location to Athena, erected an altar (and later a full temple) there and burned the horse on the spot… with Odysseus and his men inside, thereby sparing future generations of high school students from having to study The Odyssey. Yay, Trojans! Maybe I’m over-thinking this? I am certainly off on a tangent.

There are other battles that are legendary at best and probably did not occur as legend paints them, such as the Battle on the Ice of Alexander Nevsky. Overy, in fact, admits that the earliest accounts of that battle describe it as being fought on the grass beside the lake and yet he goes on to show it as a case of deception in which Prince Alexander fooled the Teutonic Knights into fighting on the frozen lake. Were there not enough proven true examples of successful deception to draw from?

In some few cases there really is not much known about some battles and Overy’s descriptions are based on later conjecture which means that the determining factor(s) are just guesses. They demonstrate his point, but if we do not know if they happened that way, or at all, are they really good examples? I think such legends, myths, and speculations would have been worth discussing in the chapters that introduced each section but not as the given examples. They sort of argue against him or at least weaken his assertions.

However, I did find the book fairly interesting and in spite of my above reservations, he does make and illustrate his points well.

 

The Audiobook:

 The book is written in a scholarly manner and Stephen Crosley reads it in a scholarly manner. His British university style of reading makes it sound like a classroom lecture and adds just the right note to the text. I’ll admit there were several “Oh is that how you want to pronounce that?” moments in which I found myself wondering whether I was wrong or if it was a difference in British vs American pronunciation. And at least twice, that I recall, in which I know he got it wrong, but while that is annoying to listen to, you have to realize that each battle was starting all over again and I never had to listen to an unfamiliar pronunciation for more than a few minutes.

So, given the above provisos, if this is a subject that interests you, I think you’ll enjoy this book and the reading of it really does match the nature of the text making it a worthwhile expeience.

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An Audio-Book Review: Doon, Arruckus, Dessert Planet…

Dune

By Frank Herbert
Published by Audio Renaissance
Narrated by Simon Vance
with a full cast including Scott Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, and Ilyana Kadushin

The Book:

(Note: Sorry about the gap in posts, but I’ve been listening to some long  books lately. This week’s selection is one such example as is the next in my queue. Stay tuned, because I have not stopped reviewing by a long shot.)

You know a work of science fiction or fantasy has truly become a classic when a publishing house produces a parody of it. For example, for Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” there was the Harvard Lampoon’s Bored of the Rings (not to be confused with the really boring Glenn Millar satire). Well, in the 1980’s National Lampoon did a similar job on Frank Herbert’s Dune. I manage to snag a copy 1984 at the original cover price of $2.95… I think it may have been worth at least $1.95. This, however is not a review of the parody even if the title of this review is a nod to that book.
Okay, while it is possible to find someone who has read Dune and not enjoyed or even appreciated its place as one of the classics not only of Science Fiction but of modern literature in general, they are vastly over shadowed by those who truly love this book. I have to admit that I stand somewhere in the middle. I can see where the fans of Dune are coming from and much of the time I agree that this is a complex, well-written story composed of multiple threads, woven together as a rich literary tapestry. However, I can also understand where some readers just are not into the Byzantine political situations and Machiavellian philosophies that hold it all together.
However, I have to admit that the book is a masterpiece that, like The Lord of the Rings, has transcended the SF/Fantasy genres. Quotes from and references to it show up in other shows, such as in Earthworm Jim in which Peter Puppy mutters the Bene Gesserit “Litany Against Fear,” or the bank pass code in Grand Theft Auto 5 which turns out to be “Wormsign.” And, if you have read “Dune” you will note many features that were obviously influenced by “Dune.” Then there’s Lisa Simpson’s line when Marge feeds her “Spicy” food, “I can see through time.” King of the Hill had a reference to aliens kidnapping one of the characters and selling him for spice. The list goes on. So, yes, the book has had a profound effect on media outside of itself.
Like I said, it is a rich and complex story; perhaps too rich at times. I think my attitude toward it varies by my mood. Sometimes I just want some light, escape literature and that is not something you will find in Dune. However, even in my least interested mood, I have to admit that Dune is one of the truly great pieces of science fiction. It represents, in fact, a quality of story-telling that Frank Herbert was never able to duplicate in the rest of the series. Similarly, the additional library full of related books by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have never quite equaled this first-born of the series. Others, like Dune Messiah turned out too simplistic and others, like Children of Dune were just too complex (I felt it was a case of over-compensation) leaving the interweaving threads in a mess of tangles, losing the story the author(s) were trying to tell. These others were stories that might have been received favorably had Dune itself not existed to be compared to. The best of them just cannot stand up to the expectations of the readers and the less than best… well, they come off as attempts to get blood out of a franchise that was bled to death years ago.
However, once on a time in the past I quoted a friend who when discussing any of the series would say, “Dune. It’s a good book. You should read it.” I agree with him.

The Audiobook:
I am not sure if I should call this an audiobook or an audioplay. The recording seems to be marketed as an audiobook, but with a full cast of actors playing the parts, I am more inclined to equate it to a radio-play even if it has never been broadcast. I have one other gripe in that it is marketed as being unabridged. Strictly speaking that is not quite true as the dialogue tags (Paul said, Jessica replied, Chani laughed and so on) have been removed. In a play I would expect that, but unabridged means to me that nothing has been removed from the text. However, unlike some abridgements, no actual dialogue or descriptive text seems to be missing. No chapters were shortened or removed in the presentation.
The performances were fairly good too. I’ve read some other reviews and while most were favorable the ones that were not seems to be due to listeners expecting a one-reader audiobook. There is a big difference between one reader and a full cast, but I think the biggest is that with a full cast you have to think of it as a play. If you want a book, keep shopping for a recording in which a single narrator reads it all.
One nice thing about this recording is that there is no trouble keeping track of who is saying what. Each major character has a different actor and each one had a distinctive voice. The downside is that each voice is different from the others. For me, at least, I take a few minutes to get used to the reader’s voice, but in this case, the voice keeps changing.      As I think about that, it might be why I usually abhor the use of funny voices, since they, too are a big change from the others when used. The good news is that there are no “Funny voices” in this recording, but yes the voices do vary quite a lot.
However, I think that’s my personal take on things and for the most part I did enjoy the experiences of listening to this take on the classic.
So, Dune really is one of the great books of science fiction and this is a good recording of it.

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An Audio-Book Review: How to Conclude a Dragon Series

How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury

By Cressida Cowell

Published by Hachett Audio

Read by David Tennant

 

The Book:

 

We have reached the conclusion of this long series. In a way I am sorry to have finally arrived as I have enjoyed every minute of it.

Now as I have said in past reviews of this series: forget nearly everything you know if you have only seen the two movies based on these books. “Based” is probably too strong a word. “Inspired” is more accurate because aside from some of the names (like Hiccup, Toothless, Stoic the Vast, Fishlegs and Snotlout) and the fact they are Vikings and that there are dragons involved, the similarities pretty much end there.

Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III is still the main protagonist of the series and in the earlier books he is the runt character who must prove himself, but by this final book of the series, he pretty much has proven that he’s a darned good swordsman, having won the tournament that had been intended to choose a new king two (or was it three or four?) books ago before certain complications turned everything upside down handing the right to the crown to Hiccup’s nemesis, Alvin the Treacherous. Even so, under Alvin’s harsh p-re-reign many Vikings were already starting to turn toward Hiccup. But now we find Hiccup stranded on an island with the ancient sea dragon, Woden’s Fang and a particularly cheerful and friendly but horrifyingly stupid Hogfly type of dragon for company while various hunting dragons of the Dragon Rebellion seek to hunt him down and kill him on the orders of their leader, the Dragon Furious, formerly the dragon friend of Hiccup’s ancestor, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock II (son of Grimbeard the Ghastly, the last king of the Wilderwest).

Meanwhile it is the final day of the Viking Yule holiday season, Doomsday, on which the new king will be crowned on the Island of Tomorrow and Hiccup has no easy way of getting there in time. Will he make it in time? He is the protagonist, after all, but things have not been going his way over the course of the series so there’s no sure way to know in advance. Worse, Hiccup has amnesia and has forgotten who he is, why he is there or even who his friends, Fishlegs and Camikazi are when they try to rescue him.

Worse, whoever is crowned king will have to enter in one-on-one combat with the Dragon Furious. If it is Alvin, he will use the Dragon Jewel of Grimbeard to destroy all the dragons. If it is Hiccup, one gets the feeling he would never use the jewel that way, but if not, then how might he prevail against a dragon the size of a mountain?

Want to know? Read it for yourself!

This is a fitting conclusion to the series and a lot of fun no matter what your age.

 

The Audiobook:

David Tennant. Need I say more?

 

 

Yeah, okay, I will. Fans of Doctor Who will know him well. There are those who say he is the best Doctor ever. I won’t weigh in on that subject, but he is one of the best actors to play that part. He is fun to watch on the screen and immense fun to listen to in this book. He is one of the few readers who can use “Funny voices” in a reading and make it work without being annoying. (Interestingly, Tom Baker, another former Doctor Who, is another.)  Having listened to Tennant’s reading for twelve books now, I think it is safe to say that he makes even the sometimes-heavy material of Hiccup’s travails fun to listen to and I suspect Tennant enjoyed the story as much as his listeners.

So, a great conclusion to a really good series. Are they children’s books? Who cares? A good story is a good story and I’m glad that only David Tennant read them all.

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An Audio-Book Review: Here We Go Again!

Guardians of the West

Book One of The Malloreon

By David Eddings

Published by American Printing House for the Blind

Read by Hal Tenny

 

The Book:

The Malloreon is a series sequel of Eddings previous series, The Belgariad. In general, I was fairly well impressed by the first series. I forget when I reviewed it, but when I did it was the entire series as a set mostly because I had listened to them some time before I started writing reviews, but also because they were all read by the same person and somehow saying, “See what I said last time,” four times in a row was just not something I cared to do. Anyway, it’s been a while since I listened to the Belgariad and it has been even longer since I actually read the Malloreon so this is almost a fresh start.

It was nice revisiting my favorite characters from the first series even if by the time the Eddings wrote the prequels about Belgarath and his daughter Polgara, I was staring to get a bit tired of them, but the story here picks up not too long after the conclusion of Enchanters’ Endgame, with Belgarath, Polgara, his husband, Durnik, and the strange child, Errand, on their way back from the Isle of Riva to their home in the Vale of Aldur. Naturally such important and respected persons could not be allowed to travel without an escort, which allows us to become reacquainted with some of the other members of the cast and also to toss in some recaps from the first series in a more or less organic manner.

My main complaint is that while the book is not entirely without a plotline, it serves no other purpose than to set up for the rest of the series. I will not drop spoilers here, but I am fairly sure the one incident that really starts their next quest could have happened in the first or second chapter and the rest could have been alluded to or dropped entirely with little to no damage to the rest of the series. Indeed, most of the time nothing is really happening in this book. Oh, there are some attacks on some characters, all of which are either foiled or result in the deaths of minor and non-essential characters. We certainly do not need to struggle along with Garion as he begins his own investigations into the prophecies that are at work in both series. Being told he had been studying would have accomplished that. So, what this book really does is serve to detail the roughly ten years between the end of The Belgariad and what is about to happen in the rest of this series. Interesting, I suppose, but very verbose and not all that essential.

However, I did enjoy the story, albeit I did so more on the first reading than the second when I knew what was coming ahead. This time around I kept waiting for the real story to start, for which I shall have to wait until I can listen to The King of the Murgos.

 

The Audiobook:

 

Hal Tenny is far from the worst reader I have listened to. He does his best to delineate the characters by stretching his rather flexible voice. However, by now I think regular readers will know my disk=like of the use of “Funny voices.” For example, the character Silk, aka Prince Kheldar, is frequently described as having a weasel-like face, but I never thought he sounded particularly like a weasel. And Belgarath is a very old man at about six thousand, but somehow, I don’t imagine his voice as quite as rough as Mister Tenny portrays him, especially when in some party of the text it is demonstrated that he is in excellent physical shape in spite of his actual age and as a story-teller, Belgarath’s voice is supposed to be a powerful tool, so what we hear does not quite fit.

However, like with most readers, I eventually got used to the reading style and was able to enjoy the performance. So, yes, this book and this reading of it is worth the time, although if you are re-reading the series and have a good memory for details, it might be worth skipping through it here and there and then move on to the second book.

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An Audio-Book Review: Another Political Book?

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership

Written and read by James Comey

Published by Macmillan Audio

 

The Book:

 

I’m pushing this one ahead in my queue because it’s such a recent book that if I publish this review this week, it is almost still timely as it is still being talked about. So… here’s my two-cents worth:

I was of two minds about reading/listening to this book. First of all, by the time I got my copy I was fairly certain I had heard all the salient points, not only from the various pundits, but by having lived through it in real time. Oh, I knew that a lot had to be happening behind the scenes I was not privy to. I mean, really! It’s the FBI! Most of what happens within the bureau we outsiders don’t hear about ever and the rest usually only when an investigation has been concluded one way or the other. However, Mister Comey had been unusually transparent as the head of the FBI and I was curious what else might come out in the book. I did not always appreciate his openness and candor at times, but I was interested in hearing his at-length explanations as to what was happening and how it came about.

Second, I was tempted not to spend any time with this book because I had already heard Mister Comey in several interviews and everything he said was completely consistent with all the extracts that various reporters and reviewers had already revealed. How much more could there be?

Well, content-wise, I think the reporters really did get most of the salient points, although only in matters relating to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Only a few mentioned the administrations of Barrack Obama and George W. Bush. Of course, by now, anyone who has been the least bit interested had heard all the highlights Comey’s career, but it really is worth hearing it in his own words although with certain formative events that made him the man he is today.

There are also several keen and sometimes amusing observations that, somehow, the pundits missed, but when you get right down to it, this book is not about Donald Trump and his administration. It is not really about the investigation into HIllary’s emails nor about the investigation concerning Russia’s attempt to influence the presidential election of 2016. It is also not about how Mister Comey got hired as the head of the FBI nor how and why he was fired.

No, this book is really what the title implies, Mister Comey’s view as to what it means to be truly loyal to one’s country and just what the nature of honorable leadership is. All the incidents within it merely stand to underscore his points. Yes, he does stress his observation that Donald Trump runs his administration in the same manner as a Mafia boss would, but, you know, that was not news to me.  Even without sitting in on those private meetings, I already thought that was exactly how he operates. The whole picture of an executive who thrives on chaos and likes to pit the members of his staff against one another (which James Comey did NOT say in this book so far as I recall) that we have heard from other sources fits right into that dictatorial style of governing. My opinion of Donald Trump has never been high, and that is not a new thing, it goes back into the 1980’s when I first heard of him, and I would have been skeptical that it could get any lower, but this book pulled out the backhoe and dug the pit a bit deeper just for me.

When you come down to it, however, how you see this book, is determined by the same factors that determine how you see any of the other books that have been published regarding the Trump administration and the 2016 campaign (see my reviews of Hillary Clinton’s What Happened and Michael Wolfe’s Fire and Fury). Who do you believe more? The author or Donald Trump (or when he “writes” his next book, the ghostwriter who actually writes it for him)?

Not long ago, I read an article that reported a recent poll had pitted Trump vs. Stephanie Clifford as presidential candidates in 2020. Clifford won by several points. However, when the same poll asked that same question, this time using Ms. Clifford’s stage name (Stormy Daniels – I think most of us have heard of her by now), it was Trump who came out slightly ahead. You may draw whatever conclusions you want from that… although if you make your living starring in adult entertainment and want to enter politics, it might be a good idea not to use your stage name… but it seems obvious that there is a strong “Anyone but Trump “ mood in the nation at the moment.

So, when it comes to credibility I have to admit that while I do not entirely agree with him and with what he has done, I do believe James Comey over Donald Trump every time. Certainly, I have not seen anyone catch him in an intentional lie. The closest I have observed involves some nit-picking of the facts he presents and even there, most of it was based on how one saw the incidents. No, I think it is obvious that Mister Comey was giving us the truth, edited, perhaps, only where it involved classified information. I came away with the feeling that he is an honest and honorable man even though I have not approved of some of his actions.

Did he affect the results of the 2016 election by publicly re-opening the investigation into the Clinton e-mails? Good question and one we are not likely to ever know for sure. I do know that the maximum effect of news on any election can be achieved by releasing it eleven to fourteen days before that election so his timing could not have been better had that been his goal. And then announcing that the investigation was closed again only two days before would have a minimal effect. However, I do not think that had been his intention nor would he have done anything differently had he been an ardent Hillary supporter. He was, as he explains, honor-bound to act in a completely non-partisan manner and, at the time, he really did think the re-opened investigation would continue on for weeks. I do not agree that he should have made that announcement when he did, but I have to admit that I speak with 20-20 hindsight.

Did he affect the results of the election? Perhaps, but as I think back on the events of 2016 and before, I believe it was merely one drop in the bucket. There were a lot of shenanigans going on in that campaign and we all sat through a roller-coaster ride of emotions and news cycles that has only been surpassed in the last year and a half since the polls closed. There were a lot of contributing factors and James Comey’s announcements were just a small part of it. I doubt any one of those factors were enough, but all together?

Anyway, I highly recommend this book it is an excellent study in what it takes to make a great leader. The book, I felt, was a bit preachy at times, but not unbearably so, and it carries a powerful message, made all the more immediate by the author’s reading.

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