Monday, January 12, 2009

This Week at the Library (11/1)

Books this Week:

My reading this week was fairly light, as I began preparations to return to school -- and did, on Friday. I began by continuing in Rick Riordian's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series with The Sea of Monsters. In the last book, we were introduced to Percy Jackson, a Hero in the Greek sense: the offspring of a Greek god (in his case, Poseidon) and a mortal. Percy, becoming aware of his status as a hero after repeatedly being attacked by monsters and rescued by a centaur and a satyr, comes to Camp Half-Blood, a sanctuary for demigods like himself. Owing to who his father was, young Percy was caught up in divine politics between the various gods of the Pantheon, giving us our story last time: the thunder of Zeus was stolen, and He blamed it on Poseidon, while both suspect that Hades was orchestrating a frame-up job. In the last book, Percy discovered that the current cause of conflict between the Big Three was really caused by the Titans stirring. The Titans, for those who know little of Greek mythology, were once in charge. Zeus felt his father Kronos was doing a poor job of things, though, so He threw Kronos and all of his siblings into various pits. Well, after a few thousand years of that, Kronos is bored and wants to rise to resume control over the Cosmos (well, Earth) and destroy western civilization, which in his opinion is overrated. In The Sea of Monsters, Kronos' attempt to rise is on-going, and again impacting Greek politics. Percy, Annabeth, and the daughter of Ares are tasked with reclaiming the Golden Fleece in hopes of protecting Camp Halfblood while at the same time rescuing Percy's satyr friend Grover from...getting married? The story is light and fun. This isn't as good as the first book: there's less wry commentary on humanity, for instance. It's still fun, though.

Continuing with the idea of evil rising, I read Darth Bane: Rule of Two -- the second in an unfinished Darth Bane trilogy. Last time we were introduced to Darth Bane, a miner turned Sith soldier who attracts the attention of Sith lords and is trained in the Dark Side by the Brotherhood of Darkness. He was repulsed by what he saw as the Brotherhood's betrayal of Sith ideals and sought his own path. His path happened to involve finding a way to destroy all of heretical Sith and restore the old ways. His quest to realie the fullness of the Dark Side took him to various places, ending on a planet where an army of Jedi and an army of Sith were struggling against one another. The first book ended shortly after he completed his first mission and after he began to rebuild the Sith Order. Rule of Two continues from there, and documents his growth as a Sith Master, his apprentice's growth in the Dark Side, and Jedi/Republic politics. This book was quite good. It was written in only a few months, but I couldn't tell. It was a riveting story and I recommend it -- to Star Wars fans at the very least.

Lastly, I read Isaac Asimov's Atom. I wanted to read a little science, and my eyes fell upon -- as luck would have it -- Atom by Isaac Asimov. The book is an informal introduction to the world of subatomic physics, but written with a historical perspective. Asimov does not simply introduce the reader to electrons and quarks and muons and so on: he tells the history of scientific research dealing with subatomic physics and links it to studies in other fields (electromagnetism and planetary science, for instance). Even though he introduces a historical narrative into it, he is still able to explain the significance of various concepts. It is both informal and detailed. Although Asimov's style is clear and he does a good job of explaining matters, my concentration kept leaping to my impending return to university life, and so I did not give this book the attention it deserved. I will return to it, I think.

Next Week:
  • In the Presence of Mine Enemies Harry Turtledove
  • Only Begotten Daughter, James Morrow
  • Sway: the Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior, Ori Brafman

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