My Review of Dragon Lensman

The Dragon Lensman (Second Stage Lensman Trilogy, #1)

The Dragon Lensman by David A. Kyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


E.E. “Doc” Smith was most famous for his series of books about the Lensmen, who were selected by the Arisians to battle against the forces of Eddore. This series is often regarded as the height of Golden Age Space Opera. The core of the series was a story of a breeding program to produce an advanced group of beings who could do what the Arisians themselves could not do, and kill the Eddorians. The breeding program was established on four planets and four different races, but the main focus was of course on the human race and their Lensmen. The Penultimate human specimen, Kimball Kinnison, did something hitherto unknown and go back to Arisia for additional training and become a Second Stage Lensman. But this also happened for the 3 other races, and they also produced Second Stage Lensmen.

David Kyle was given the opportunity to write a trilogy where each book focused on one of those three other champions. This one, Book #1 in the trilogy, focuses on Worsel of Velantia, and begins the story arc that will carry through all three volumes. If you are a fan of the original Lensman series this is worth picking up, but as a stand-alone it would lose much of its appeal, in my view.



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My Review of Lensman from Rigel

Lensman from Rigel (Second Stage Lensman #2)

Lensman from Rigel by David A. Kyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


E.E. “Doc” Smith was most famous for his series of books about the Lensmen, who were selected by the Arisians to battle against the forces of Eddore. This series is often regarded as the height of Golden Age Space Opera. The core of the series was a story of a breeding program to produce an advanced group of beings who could do what the Arisians themselves could not do, and kill the Eddorians. The breeding program was established on four planets and four different races, but the main focus was of course on the human race and their Lensmen. The Penultimate human specimen, Kimball Kinnison, did something hitherto unknown and go back to Arisia for additional training and become a Second Stage Lensman. But this also happened for the 3 other races, and they also produced Second Stage Lensmen.

David Kyle was given the opportunity to write a trilogy where each book focused on one of those three other champions. This one, Book #2 in the trilogy, focuses on Tregonsee of Rigel, and continues the story arc from Volume #1, Dragon Lensman. If you are a fan of the original Lensman series this is worth picking up, but as a stand-alone it would lose much of its appeal, in my view.



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My Review of Z-Lensman

Z-Lensman (Second Stage Lensman Trilogy, #3)

Z-Lensman by David A. Kyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


E.E. “Doc” Smith was most famous for his series of books about the Lensmen, who were selected by the Arisians to battle against the forces of Eddore. This series is often regarded as the height of Golden Age Space Opera. The core of the series was a story of a breeding program to produce an advanced group of beings who could do what the Arisians themselves could not do, and kill the Eddorians. The breeding program was established on four planets and four different races, but the main focus was of course on the human race and their Lensmen. The Penultimate human specimen, Kimball Kinnison, did something hitherto unknown and go back to Arisia for additional training and become a Second Stage Lensman. But this also happened for the 3 other races, and they also produced Second Stage Lensmen.

David Kyle was given the opportunity to write a trilogy where each book focused on one of those three other champions. This one, Book #3 in the trilogy, focuses on Nadreck of Palain, and concludes the story arc developed over all three books. If you are a fan of the original Lensman series this is worth picking up, but as a stand-alone it would lose much of its appeal, in my view.



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My Review of Empires of the Sea

Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521-1580

Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521-1580 by Roger Crowley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


For millennia the Mediterranean Sea has been the site of naval battles, and in many cases crucial battles that determined world history. Athens defeat of the Persian fleet at Salamis in 480 BC was one of the most significant since the history of the West would have been very different had Persia prevailed. And in the 16th century another crucial conflict between East and West occurred, this time pitting Europe against the Ottoman empire. This started with the Ottomans driving out the remaining Crusader states in the Eastern Mediterranean located on the islands of Cyprus and Rhodes. Then a key naval battle at Lepanto in 1571 inflicted a major defeat on the Ottomans (Venice and Spain combined to win this) and ended their mystique of invincibility. But the last big battles were over Malta, to which the Knights Hospitaller, driven out of Rhodes, had gone in 1530. Because this location was near Ottoman lands in North Africa, it had great strategic value. But despite major effort by the Ottomans, Malta held out and is today part of the European Community.



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My Review of In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat

In Search of Schrödinger's Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality

In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality by John Gribbin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Quantum Physics is very bizarre. As Richard Feynman said “[Quantum mechanics] describes nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And yet it fully agrees with experiment. So I hope you can accept nature as She is – absurd.” And Feynman maintained to the end of his life that no one really understands Quantum Physics. But this book is a pretty good place to get as much of an understanding as you can for a layperson. Gribbin takes us through the key discoveries the led to Quantum Physics, and introduces many of the key people who developed it. Einstein was one of the key people in the development, but could never bring himself to accept the implications of his own work. Neils Bohr led the group that made the Copenhagen interpretation, but even now we have mathematics that works to predict the outcome of experiments without actually any understanding.



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My Review of The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver Through the Anthology

The Beatles as Musicians

The Beatles as Musicians by Walter Everett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is ne plus ultra of books musically analyzing what The Beatles accomplished in their music. This volume was the first written of the two volumes, but it covers the latter part of their careers. And this is not exactly a “fan” book. There is some historical material here, but if you wanted Beatles history you should go to Mark Lewisohn’s magisterial Tune In, which is the last word on that subject. This is a book for musicians, and frankly would probably be mostly incomprehensible to anyone without a grounding in music theory. But if you have the background, I would sit down at a piano and work through this book for a deeper appreciation of the group that changed popular music for their time.



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My Review of The Making of the President 1960

The Making of the President 1960

The Making of the President 1960 by Theodore H. White

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


When you look at political history there are some figures that stand above the crowd, and Theodore White is one of them. This was his first book about a presidential election, the election of 1960 that saw John F. Kennedy defeat Richard M. Nixon. White went on to document the following three elections: 1964 (Lyndon Johnson v. Barry Goldwater), 1968 (Richard Nixon v. Hubert Humphrey), and 1972 (Richard Nixon v. George McGovern), and while they are all good books I have enjoyed reading, I personally think this first one was the best. It gives a view of the election as it would have appeared ot people at the time, not as we look back on it. Kennedy has received numerous hagiographies as a result of this assassination, which make him appear better then he really was, while after Watergate Nixon is viewed as irredeemably evil. But neither of them was viewed through those lenses as the election of 1960 took place.

This book won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1962.



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My Review of Germany: A History

Germany: A History

Germany: A History by Francis Russell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


In preparation for a trip in Germany, I picked up this volume to refresh my mind on German history. I is a survey of the kind that says “so-and-so did this, then someone else did something else,” so I would not suggest it gives you any great insight, but for what I wanted it was perfectly serviceable. I may follow up at some point with something that has more depth to it.



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My Review of Rendezvous with Rama

Rendezvous with Rama (Rama, #1)

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Arthur C. Clarke is one of the “Big Three” of classic science fiction, along with Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, and this is one of his best. It won the Hugo, The Nebula, and a bunch of other awards. and it recently gained some interest when an interstellar visitor named Oumuamua paid us call in much the same way as the fictional Rama. Rama is a large object, assumed at first to be natural. Clarke had postulated an asteroid impact in the late 2000’s leading to the establishment of a deep space warning system, which first detects the object. But when they do flyby it is clearly artificial, and an expedition is mounted to investigate further.

Inside Rama is an alien world inhabited by creatures part biological and part machine, which is coming to life as Rama approaches the Sun. But eventually it passes the Sun and goes off into interstellar space again. But Clarke put in a classic cliff-hanger line at the end about Ramans doing everything in threes, implying two more objects, though he has said he had no plans when he wrote this, it just seemed like a good ending.

Any time you have one of the best novels by one of the best writers, you should take a look.



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My Review of Get What’s Yours

Get What's Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security

Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security by Laurence J. Kotlikoff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


My brother, who has an MBA from Wharton and knows a thing or two about money, told me to study this book “like a Rabbi studies scripture”, and I took that to heart. Kotlikoff is one of the recognized experts in the field, and this book is full of good information. I’m glad I studied it before I thought I would need it, since my position was eliminated very suddenly and I found myself retired a couple of years earlier than I had planned. But I had made all of the proper preparations and so my retirement has been just fine.



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