bookspluslife

July 28, 2018

Book: The Age of Cryptocurrency by Paul Vigna and Michael J Casey

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:32 pm

imageStarts well. Women in Afghanistan were expected to hand over the money they make to their husbands but their lives changed dramatically when they were paid by Bitcoin.

 

Has fun statements at the beginning of the chapters. For instance ‘Money is like muck; not good except it be spread – Francis Bacon’

 

First the good part – he demystifies the financial system well and the bitcoin technology for non geeks well. He conveys the frenzy and appeal of the bitcoin to extreme libertarians and why it spread to mainstream.

 

Read it for these, and for the nice history of bitcoin origins, what went before bitcoin by way of e-cash experiments and why bitcoin succeeded when others did not. But don’t get taken in by the excessive zeal and erroneous conclusions of the author who seems to have been carried away by the hyped up promise of the bitcoins. More of it later.

 

The author talks of the potential revolutionary nature of the technology, if not the coin itself. He describes how the banks got so powerful being intermediaries of ‘trust’ between the two sides of a transaction – which is exactly what a bank is and how it slices off a small portion of the money for  this privilege, earning enormous returns. The author is right that the technology behind the bitcoin (blockchain technology) strikes at the very roots of the current economic organization and therefore has a disruptive power equal to anything in the past.

 

Excellent introduction as to the fundamental necessity of money as a trust instrument primarily. Also makes you think about what money really is. Or what is the intrinsic worth of a substance like gold and how it derives its value.

 

The initial struggle of the elusive Nakamoshi to establish bitcoin as an accepted medium of trust among cypherpunk community is new material to many and is fascinating. (His communication was using cryptography and so could not be traced to the real email and/ or to the real person).

 

Nice introduction on the earlier efforts at cryptographic transaction efforts and how DigiCash almost did in the 90s what bitcoin did later.

 

I thought initially that the  authors argue that bitcoin would have eliminated the wicked governments from creating the great recessions and the irresponsible bailouts, you take it with a truckload of salt. I do concede that bitcoin eliminates forgery and fraud because the blockchain cannot be tampered with (in theory). Unfortunately even that is not now true as the theft of about $70 million using a flaw in the software demonstrated recently. Since this was written before that event, we will forgive the authors’ assumption that the blockchain is an inviolable register of transactions. But even then, society could not function without debt right? Do the authors envisage a purely cash society using bitcoin with no debt? Do they know how slow the economic growth will be? Once you get debt into the picture, the bitcoin’s power vanishes and you are back in the abuse of financial instruments and the resultant recessions (the highs and lows of the market).

 

But read on and they are very balanced in their view. They admit to all the hacking into Bitcoin sites and theft of coins, candidly describe all the issues bitcoin faces and why it has not become more popular than it is, despite a fanatic fan base that is spread across the globe and also argue how economics would be served by having a currency that cuts out the middlemen and their endless cuts in every transaction. Fascinating. They also are frank about the risks – once you have given it to someone, you cannot get the bitcoin back – for instance if the goods promised were not delivered. They talk about how you can lose forever the coins you have saved if you forgot the long key or password to the account. They talk about the currency volatility which is the most known risk of bitcoin.

 

The speculations of the world in uncovering Satoshi Nakamoto’s identity and the ‘scoop’ of newsweek in identifying him as Dorian Nakamoto only to be denied in a cryptic email by Santoshi that ‘I am not Dorian’ are fascinating.

 

The rise of alternative digital currencies (dubbed altcurrencies) triggers not euphoria among bitcoin fans but fear. Strange.

 

There is a very nice discussion on how bitcoin mining has become an arms race and how there is diminishing potential for miners. No longer will people become millionaires by mining unless they are the very high end. Also great is the description of how transaction costs come creeping in as bitcoins dwindle as previously programmed. The mining produces transaction confirmation as a byproduct, a nice setup where selfish mining produces communal benefit of transaction confirmation. In short a well rounded, balanced discussion despite what I thought initially.

 

He talks of the resistance to digital currencies and how in China solutions already exist using traditional infrastructures (like WeChat) that help the poor do most of the things digital currencies do, without the volatility.

 

While giving the number of financial entities slicing off a bit in every transaction (with the example of buying that Starbucks coffee) they also make a point that cashier these days is an increasingly anachronistic job title. I never thought about it that way but now that it has been pointed out to me, I cannot seem to unthink it! Very true statement.

 

They talk of the electronic pay and other innovations that make the centralized system of payments easy and therefore slow down the adoption of the decentralized systems like bitcoins.

 

The conclusions are great. The authors explore the scenarios where alternate currency systems compete for dominance, bitcoin as an exchange network for world currencies, digital dollar where US dollar  becomes digital and crypto currency as a barter like medium of exchange. Very nice, very thought provoking stuff.

 

6/10

 

–   –  Krishna

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Book: O Jerusalem by Laurie R King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:27 pm

imageThis was written after The Moor, which we reviewed earlier but chronologically this is supposed to occur much earlier, in fact right in the middle of the first book timeline (The Beekeeper’s Daughter). However, the preface is annoying. The author pretends that she got the documents by post and knew about what happened. In my view, it is equivalent to Wilbur Smith considering himself quite the historian in The Seventh Scroll.

 

 

The story starts when Holmes and Mary Russell seem to be smuggling themselves into Jerusalem in a small boat in the middle of the night. They travel in tents in the company of a Jew and an  Arab, and come across a scene where their companions’ associates  have been found murdered.

 

After impressing them with her fighting skills and her knife throwing skills, Mary, dressed as an Arab man, earns their respect. All in all, pretty boring, and with delusions of grandeur as all Arabs in Palestine sing the praises of the British, who ‘liberated’ them from the Turkish rule. Yeah, right.  They go on an adventure, visit a village with Mahmoud and Ali and then move on from there. Pretty boring stuff, with Holmes doing nothing but talking about what is obvious. As I commented in the review of The Moors, this is not the Sherlock we know. It is just another ordinary detective.

 

They go in search of a white mysterious evil man and since he had a beeswax candle and a monk’s attire, they start visiting monsateries.

 

When Holmes is kidnapped after their car was rammed in, with Mary being unconscious, Mahmoud, Ali and Mary go and rescue him. They go to the next monastery where they realize that the assassin had visited this place (by the candle smell).

 

Holmes goes in search of the assassin and by the description given to Holmes by an abbot, they realize he is a professional killer who also kidnapped and tortured Holmes himself.

 

Homes is puzzled by a basket that was stolen and returned and sends Russell to an archeological excavation site. She finds a broken phial.

 

Sherlock and Mary do some ordinary legwork sleuthing, which is what I complained about in the review of her earlier work, The Moors.

 

They finally find the tunnel and defuse the bomb kept there to kill the British General Allenby who was to make a speech in the holiest place in Palestine. They investigate and catch the spy in the act of fleeing but he kills himself with a detonator he carries before they can catch him.

 

It is all about the mighty British and how the locals love them despite their conquering habits. Rings hollow but a fairly interesting story.

 

The ending lifts it a bit but not enough to change your opinion that this is a very draggy story with all the negatives of the passive Sherlock portrayal in all of Ms King’s works.

 

Let us say 4/ 10

 

–   –  Krishna

Movie : Ant Man and the Wasp (2018)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , , , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:22 pm

imageThey have found their style! The Ant Man series pokes fun constantly while trying to tell a story and Paul Rudd in the leading role fits right in. And the whole package somehow works, and works well.

 

There is a ton of impossible blather still there – a man shrinking down to the quantum level (Yeah? How? Humans – forget about the dress that they are still wearing – are made up of atoms. If they shrink to anything less than atomic size, their brains and anything else will cease to exist. But you learn not to ask these kind of questions during a Marvel movie because you want to enjoy the show. You know it is pure entertainment and is not there for your education)

 

). Plenty of cool effects like shrinking of a whole building (with an inexplicable handle and wheels to safely wheel it away) or expanding Pez Dispenser and other stuff. Also a whole pile of “Ant’s eye view” experiences (like knives thrown at people etc). There is a new villain (with whom you can indeed sympathize) in the form of (again unbelievable)

 

 

I liked (moderately it would seem) the first Ant Man. However, I have no hesitation in ranking this much higher in my scale of liking. The movie starts with the scientist Hank Pym (played again by Michael Douglas) telling his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily) that there may be a way to bring his wife back from the quantum realm where she was lost in the first movie.

 

But Scott Lang (aka Ant Man) is under house arrest (a follow on and reference to Captain America) and is no longer free to help. He is indeed playing with his daughter with an enormous sliding tube etc constructed with the help of his now idle firm and assistants (Luis primarily, played with elan by Michael Pena).  Humour is sprinkled right through, with Loo, the detective in charge in FBI investigation, becoming impossibly obsessed and impressed with the sleight of hand card tricks of Scott Lang during the investigation.

 

When Scott gets a dream that can only be surely sent by Hank’s wife, he gives a call to Hank and Hank is stunned. Now he needs Scott and he gets him by tranquilizing him and kidnapping him. He shows the new Quantum Tunnel he is building and he needs one final part that only is there with a shady dealer Sonny Burch. Hope goes incognito to get it from him as he has sold her previously other parts, thinking that her name is Susan and these are innocuous purchases by an ordinary woman. When he refuses to sell it to her (since he now knows who she is and why she wants it) she tries to pry it by fighting as a Wasp. Cool scenes of her running across knives thrown at her follow. Really good to watch, says the child in you.  As she is about to succeed a ghost knocks her down and disappears with the part. This is Eva who is disintegrating without protection and needs to go back to quantum realm to regain her solidity. (See what I mean about impossibility?)

 

She also steals the lab which means Hank has lost everything. He seeks the help of his old partner Bill Foster (Laurence Fishbourne) and it turns out that this man is helping Ava anyway. They are tied up by Ava when they try to sneak into her house where she has kept the lab.

Using Ants in an Altoids box (don’t ask) they manage to get the lab back and also escape.

 

There are many more scenes where the car shrinks and grows and Ant Man grows to a giant size to get the lab back and also fights off Ava. Finally all ends well and Hank’s wife returns and also helps Ava.

 

Great fun to watch and a brilliant mix of comedy and action.

 

8/ 10

 

–  – Krishna

 

 

 

 

 

July 22, 2018

Book: About A Boy by Nick Hornby

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:14 pm

imageStarts really cute. Does it retain its cuteness all the way through? Let us see.

 

Marcus watches his mom break up with yet another boyfriend, Roger, and does not understand why they argued or even what they argued about.

 

In the meanwhile Marcus hates to go to school but has to, nevertheless.  Will, on the other hand, dates a woman with children. She is very pretty and he straightens up his life for her.  But she leaves him and he finds a ‘career’ in dating single mothers and being a ‘nice guy’. Marcus does not fit in and is shunned by kids whom he thinks of as friends.

 

Will cannot find other single women with children so he joins a single parent club, lying that he has a son. He invents a wife, Paula, son Ned and gets friendly with Susie. Finds that he cannot even invite her to his house since his story would blow up in his face.

 

Marcus finds his mom constantly crying. Added to this pressure at home is the bullying he faces at school.

 

When Marcus goes with Suzy and her child out, she meets Will in the single parent club. When they return home, the mom of Marcus was found with an open pill bottle, trying to commit suicide. She is saved, but this traumatizes Marcus. Will is an unwilling participant in all this.

 

Now shaken by the fact that if his mom had died, he would have been alone in the world, Marcus plots to get Will and his mom together and forces them to dinner together. Will decides that he does not want the drama and gets out. But Marcus forces into his life every day and when a trainer bought, the bullies take it away. Two things happen. Fiona gets mad at both Marcus and Will for meeting behind her back and Marcus walks out of the principal’s office when she interrogates him for the circumstances of the theft.

 

He forces himself into Will’s house again.

 

When Will falls for Rachel, with a son called Ali, Will again lies, this time telling her that he had a son called Marcus. He persuades Marcus to come with him to Rachel’s house but Ali drives him away, jealous of his mom being with anyone else but him.

 

They make up but Rachel stands him up in a meeting with Fiona where she says she, Rachel  will help get her, Fiona,  out of her funk. But stands him up.

 

Then when Clive, father of Marcus hurts his collarbone and wants to see his son, Fiona sends him but Ellie, his punk girlfriend, goes with him and since Kurt Cobain, her idol, killed himself, gets down in the middle station and vandalizes a shop. Since Marcus followed her, both of them end up in the police station and have to be rescued by both Clive and his girlfriend plus Fiona (with Will and Fiona’s mom)

 

It ends rather abruptly. It is meant to be in equal parts funny and moving but while it does both mildly, even half heartedly, it does not leave any lasting impression.

 

4 / 10

–   –   Krishna

 

Book: At Swim Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 1:07 pm

imageAnother Irish author, who describes the Irish lifestyle and tries to bring Irish atmosphere to you. But unlike Roddy Doyle, who brilliantly evokes the scenes, for example in Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha or The Barrytown Trilogy, this falls far short.

 

 

The story starts with Mack buying a newspaper. An odd beginning, where he meets a newspaperman. Mack carries the paper around for a while, with nothing major happening at all.

 

After a lot of nothing, Eveline MacMurrah enters the place in a car. The language of Irish is lovely. For instance, the car wants washing not the car needs washing. You are after drinking not that you want to drink. If there was only a story to go with it!

 

This Evelyn has a car and driving it up a hill is a major achievement, especially for a woman, according to the story. The car itself seems to be a novelty because the servants in the house fall over each other to have a chance to wash it.

 

Our man talks to a boy whose job is to clean the middens (before modern plumbing for waste was invented) and shows him compassion. My God, even telling the story is so boring, like watching one of those 70s artsy movie from somewhere like Czechoslovakia where they show the trees dripping raindrops for half an hour.

 

He torments his son with not buying a proper set of pants and is humiliated when an aunt does it for his son.

 

A dandy friend from the past, in the army, comes back but Mack realizes that he is taking him for a ride. The son becomes good friends with the father’s army friend’s son.

 

This story is about Doyle the friend who has socialist tendencies and the son, Jim. Their friendship with trace suggestions of gay relationships, a priest who has his hands wandering all over Jim’s chest in another indication of his gay intentions.

 

Mack Sr (Jim’s da) gets caught while trying restore a torn picture of UK government and is arrested for vandalizing. This earns him the respect of the priest. Also, the priest walks in front of the car of Evelyne and Mack Sr takes him in her car to the hospital.

 

There are then explicit scenes of what the author calls buggery, with the priest McMurray raping a boy. The boy is Doyler and he tries to protect Jim from the depredations of the priest. You learn to sympathize with Doyler and appreciate the deep friendship between him and Jim. Intertwined in the story is the struggle for Irish independence from the English and the struggle to preserve Gaelic from extinction, as well as communist class sympathies (of Doyler)

 

My God McMurray with his anthropomorphic Dick and Scrotes and the college lecture type of talk is so boring.

 

The two friends are edging into a gay relationship (love) tentatively. It is a time when the relationship, if known outside can ruin a man’s future.

 

Jim learns that his dad and Doyle’s dad were also best pals and when his dad became a sargeant, he insulted Doyle’s dad for having unpolished buttons and broke the friendship.

 

An interesting love story of two boys and a pedophile priest.

 

Gordie has made a girl pregnant and Aunt Sawhney keeps her in her house and there she gives birth.

 

There are poignant passages as to how the Irish, including their most famous son, Oscar Wilde struggled with the homosexual feelings and how it could have tarnished a whole career which could otherwise have been exemplary, for instance in the struggle for an independent Ireland.

 

However, McMurrough’s predilections border on paedophilia, his hunting small boys to seduce and so the message gets lost in the vileness of the crime in the reader’s (at least my) mind.

 

There is a moving portrait of Jim and Doyle swimming across to Wales and having sex for the first time in an abandoned island, watched by McMurrough from a boat. Weird. And when Doyle almost drowns on the way back it is McMurrough who rescues him, gives him first aid (throws some clothes on both boys) and gets him medical help.

 

Jim decides to join the rebel army for Ireland’s freedom from the British and sneaks off.

 

Then the whole story goes to dogs. MacMurrough and Doyler have sex again and then go in search of Jim and McMurrough beats up a constable and then they join the rebels, get arrested as prisoners of war and so many crazy things happen. The last few pages are full of rambling prose with the story wandering all over the place and ending even more weirdly.

 

Very odd, weird story.   3/ 10

 

–  –   Krishna

July 14, 2018

Book: The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:38 am

imageAnother book in the Saxon series from Bernard Cornwell. This follows the earlier books –   The Last KingdomThe Pale Horseman , The Lords of The NorthThe Sword Song. The Burning Land and The Death of Kings.

 

Wow. This series is getting better and better. This book is spectacular. In addition to the usual dose of the historical events and fabulously tense war scene, there are twists and turns and intrigue that gets unravelled well into the book. Bernard’s ability to tell a story has never been better.  The story continues.

 

Uhtred goes with his entourage to rescue a boy from the church and kills a head priest and a boy in the process. Uhtred the reckless, as always. All to rescue his elder son who was made a priest, just to throw him in a dung heap and disown him, and name his younger son Osbert as Uhtred.

 

Now his woman is kidnapped by Cnut and when he goes to find out why, he realizes that Cnut’s wife and kids have been kidnapped by someone who had flown Uhtred’s flag! When this misunderstanding is cleared up, they have food and wine together when Uhtred realizes that Hastaen has joined Cnut.

 

Cnut realizes that Uhtred had nothing to do with it and lets him go. Uhtred does not read the signs of treachery all around him.

 

The killing of the priest causes him to go on exile, again poor, again with just a handful of people. The scene where Ethelred comes with Finan to save him from being lynched by angry priests is classic Bernard Cornwell.

 

They then buy a ship and go towards Babbanberg, Uhtred pretending to be Ranaulf Wulfson, a Dane. They are forced to hide out until bad weather is there, which is needed.

 

When the weather finally turns bad, they go out and get a small fishing boat and erect a show for Aelfric to see of struggling sailors in a storm. He overcomes the force that came to investigate and his other part pays money to Aelfric and stays inside the fortress as ‘guests’.

 

His plans are foiled by dogs which recognized him too soon and he is surrounded by the army of the King’s son and he thinks he will certainly die that day. He ends up killing Aefric and getting the son and wife of the son Uhtred away. She, realizing that her husband hates her and that Uhtred (the ‘real’ one) is inherently a good man, opens his eyes to the plot between Cnut and Haestan to hoodwink her husband and attack Mercia. He goes to Aethelflad’s rescue. He just walks into Cnut’s fort as Cnut was away and the remaining men guarding the fort thought he was a Dane who had come to pledge allegiance. When the Danes refuse to go, he stages a killing of Cnut’s daughter to send them away

 

He captures the fort and then uses the hostages to release Ethelflaed who was besieged in another city. Then he goes pillaging and burning deep in Cnut’s territory and waits for Cnut to come back in rage.

 

The way he lures Cnut and stands against him near a ditch, in the completely hopeless situation of being outnumbered thousands vs less than a hundred of his men is fabulous. What he does to slow down the enemy is great and how, in true Bernard Cornwell fashion help arrives is told well. There is an amazing last scene when you think that the story has ended that makes this book irresistible to put down. Well done. The end is also stunning.

 

9/ 10

–  – Krishna

Book: The King of Torts by John Grisham

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:31 am

imageWe have reviewed other books by this author before. For examples, see The Street Lawyer or The Chamber, to name just two.

 

The nice thing about John Grisham’s books is that the stories may have the same style and may have to do with legal matters, but the story is so different from each other that it is refreshing to read them. Not many other authors do this. For instance, Perry Mason novels are so close to each other that you cannot keep the story apart in your head after reading five of them. Wilbur Smith has very similar tales of the different generations of Courtneys and Ballantynes. Not so John Grisham.

 

Take this book, for instance. A very nice story of the rise and fall of a young lawyer starting full of idealist notions.

 

Tequila Watson, just 20 years old is arrested after killing Pumpkin in broad daylight with a gun and is hauled to the court. Court appoints Clay Carter to defend him, against Clay’s wishes.

 

Carter is a reluctant defence lawyer. He wanted to swim in money after law school by joining his own dad’s firm but dad went bankrupt in the last year of law school.

 

He meets Clay. Who seems to say that he killed the man because ‘he needed to shoot something’ that day.

 

He meets Talmoud X who runs the tough rehab centre where Tequila was before he committed the murder. This part reminds you of which earlier book by Grisham? (The do gooder person giving up a good life to help – probably many of them!)

 

Another common theme is the scheming parents of his love, Rebecca – the vain and name dropping Bennett Van Horne and his dutifully status conscious wife Barbara.

 

The book really comes into its own, and branches out into thankfully new territory when Carter is summoned by an anonymous lawyer and given a lot of money for settlement because there is a drug touted as cure for addiction,  which took shortcut in clinical trials that is the cause of Tequila and one other person going on a killing trip.

 

Clay is offered unbelievable amount of money to set up on his own and go after a settlement with the mysterious medical company. He accepts. He then convinces all seven of the victims to accept the settlement. Then he is offered an even bigger deal to go for tort case against a competitor’s drug called Dyloft.

 

He teams up with a mammoth lawyer called Patton French. They go after Dyloft, on a ‘throw everything in the fire’ kind of gamble for Clay. Clay goes from strength to strength and is called ‘The King of Torts’ by the media frenzy. He goes petulantly with a hired top model to Rebecca’s wedding and gets thrown out politely by the bodyguard.

 

He now goes after a new medicine with Pace all by themselves for a bigger slice of the profit and gets nailed by the press.

 

Everything starts to unravel when FBI reveal that Max Pace is a criminal and they are investigating Clay too for insider trading. And Healthy Living, a mass tort client, files for bankruptcy, ruining the millions Clay had spent in that case.

 

He find himself pilloried, and also under FBI investigation for insider trading. The papers and his former victims are ecstatic.

 

The grief piles on. His total losses could overwhelm him any moment. He may also end up in jail. Add to it his remorse when he goes to the town where the cement company which closed due to his greed and sees the impact of what he has done, not to mention a trap where he was lured with tantalizing promise of inside information and was attacked in the street, his woes are complete.

The insider trading case against him is dropped.

The ending comes fairly swiftly but it is very well told. One of his more interesting books.

8/ 10

–  –   Krishna

Movie: Hereditary (2018)

Filed under: Hollywood Movies — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:22 am

imageHereditary is a weird movie. First of all, I rely, like most of you probably, on the Wikipedia of movies, Rotten Tomatoes to review ratings as I find that my tastes and generic audience tastes largely coincide. Sometimes it does not. This is one of those times. When I saw the rating at the time of going to the movie it was 98% (and has now slid to a still very respectable 89%). I think it is overrated. The other movie where I was similarly fooled was the Bridge to Terabithia, so long ago.

 

To be fair though, Rotten Tomatoes shows the critic’s score as 89% but the audience score is only 58% and so perhaps it has not gotten it so wrong after all.

 

This movie is supposed to be a creepy horror but just comes out weird. The central character Peter, played by Alex Wolff is wooden and lifeless and even the animations (God, the scene where the girl serenely floats up to the treehouse) could have been done in any off the shelf image editor by a twelve year old boy. Add a lot of silver paint and naked people in it, standing mute and watching the others (supposedly menacingly) and you get the ‘creepy atmosphere’ that they were going for.

 

The central theme is also totally stupid and seems to have been stitched together in a hurry.

 

What is the story, such as it is? Disjointed scenes, strung together. An old woman (Peter’s grandmother) dying and Peter seeing her keeping her eyes open; a bird crashing into a window and similar stuff. No link to anything else in the story after.

 

The only place where there seems to be a story is where the sister of Peter is forced on him to go to a party because the parents (correctly) suspect that it is an underage drinking party with teenage sex and drugs involved and then this kid, who is severely allergic to nuts eats a cake with nuts and goes into deep anaphylactic shock.

 

Instead of dialling 911 the brother packs her into the back seat of the car and tries to drive home. Right. And also has an accident. OK. And she dies. Great. Then the story goes into weird directions again, its brief coherence lost forever.

 

The father, mother try to cope with the shock while Peter seems to be curiously unconcerned. Not intentionally by the writers but it seems like that to the viewers.

 

The mother creates a panorama (which is what she does for a living) and a private one depicting the accident and the sister’s death. Hmm.

 

While she reluctantly attends a group therapy for her shock, Peter’s mom Annie meets joan, who also lost a loved one and forces her to go to a weird séance. And then the movie takes a cult turn where the dead are looking for a new heir to the throne and… need I go on?

 

The cast looks humdrum and the sister especially does not look or act the part.

 

Full of meaningless jumble, in my opinion.

 

2/10

July 8, 2018

Book: Under the Dome by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:16 pm

imageAn epic sized door stop of a book. When it came out, there was a controversy since a central plot was similar to the one in the Simpsons the Movie which had just come out. The author had to clarify that he had written this many years before and was doing redrafting and publishing and that he had not been influenced by the movie plot.

 

For all this, the book starts so beautifully and holds your total interest almost from the first page till nearly the end. (Why nearly the end and not the end? Read on, and I will explain).

 

Also it is no secret that I like this author and therefore have reviewed many of his stories earlier. (For a sample, see Revival or Lisey’s Story).

 

Let us dive into the story right away.

 

Claudette Sanders, wife of townsman Andy, is fond of flying. After learning to fly, she wants to buy a plane. Her plane explodes suddenly and a woodchuck dies, cut in two. Why?

 

Barbie (Dale Barbara) is a chef in Sweetbriar Rose and has had it with the town when he was beat up in the parking lot. He almost makes it out of town but a girl who he asked for a lift never stops. He is the one walking on the road when he sees the plane explode. A bullying boy beats him up in the parking lot of the restaurant where he works as a chef.

 

Angie McCain, another employee in Sweetbriar Rose is in love with Frankie but Junior Rennie son of the owner of Rennie’s Used Cars, comes to her house in a rage induced by a brain tumour that was not diagnosed yet and batters her. When she gets seizure in the middle of the attack, he panics. And chokes her to death.

 

A few people get cut off by the invisible barrier as it comes down. Some died and some lost their limbs. Birds hit it and died all along the perimeter. People are beginning to realize that something truly weird is happening.

 

Billy and Wanda hit the invisible barrier while arguing and driving an old jalopy. Elsa and Nora rush to their help. Billy is dead’; Wanda injured mightily. And subsequently Nora crashes into it and dies. The Sheriff, nearing retirement goes to investigate, overruling the Second Alderman, the bumbling Rennie senior but dies when his pacemaker explodes.

 

Junior goes back to Angie’s house to cleanup but Dodee the drug addled daughter of Andy and Claudette goes to see Angie when he is in the house. She is killed too, and Junior is very afraid he will be arrested, but is made a part of the reserve police instead!

 

We learn that Barbie is Captain Barbara and was ex army, where he was great at finding hidden explosives, and he is now requested by an ex colleague to see if the source of the dome could be from within the city.

 

Meanwhile Junior and his partner rough up the town, abusing citizens. Looks like Barbie was a Captain in the army and the federal government promotes him to a Colonel and puts his in charge of Chester Mill.

 

Rory Dinsmore, a mechanical minded kid, waits until the town has congregated for a protest demonstration (near the dome) as well as a prayer meeting also near the dome. The local shopkeeper sees the chance to sell hardly moving and old weiners in hot dogs and make a killing. Joe goes in his father’s ATV and shoots at the dome, hoping to shatter it but the bullet ricochets and enters his brain through his eyes, sending him to a grossly understaffed hospital.  An old and retired doc Doctor Haskell is brought out of retirement to tend to people and after losing Rory despite a fight, he himself dies shortly after.

 

Barbie gains the trust of the Police Chief’s wife.

 

Brilliant depictions of how Big Rennie has been making money on the side and how he learns to his chagrin that Barbie is now the boss.

 

But Rennie rejects the whole notion, including the fickle President whom he did not vote for. When the priest has doubts about the illegal meth operation, Rennie kills him and is witnessed by Rennie Jr, who now has a hold on dear old dad.

 

When the missile strike totally fails to even cause a crack in the dome, Barbie realizes that he is in trouble from Big Jim. In the meanwhile he finds that Propane is disappearing and tries to see if it is stored in the city hall controlled by Big Jim.

 

The story really looks like turning supernatural when boys seem to get seizures and all of them talk about “pink stars falling”.  But you quickly realize it is the dome and smog which caused the effect.

 

Meanwhile Piper rescues a raped Shawna and is enraged to find that the rookie cops are responsible. Her (earlier life) suppressed rage takes over and in her confrontation with them, the dog gets killed by the cops.

 

They try to frame Barbie for murders to eliminate him from the scene. In the meanwhile an ill thought out plan to close the grocery store in town provokes a riot.

 

Barbara is arrested while helping Rusty tend to riot victims and Rusty is scandalized. He argues with Linda, a police officer who came to arrest him. Barbie is brutalized in the cell with mace and punches.

 

Randy is brought to the morgue secretly by Linda and Julia to examine the alleged victims of Barbie. He realizes that the reverend and Brenda have been killed by Big Rennie but is powerless to expose him.

 

Shawna kills Ginny and Frank who were part of raping her, right there at the hospital. Ginnie was there with her jaw smashed by a stone during supermarket riot and Frank had come to visit her.

 

Phil Bushey consoles a depressed Andy Sanders by introducing him to meth.

 

Finally Linda and Jackie agree to spring Barbie. Send him a message in the cereal.

 

Meanwhile Colonel has a tiff with Big Jim and he disobeys the President’s order to abdicate. Fires Jackie when he learns that she is the ‘favoured’ person to take over the city administration.

 

Rusty goes with Jeff and the boys plus the grocery shop owner and finds the instrument. He cannot destroy it, and even his aluminium padded cloak burns up on impact, leaving no traces. He realizes that this seems to be some alien technology. Swears the others to secrecy.

 

Meanwhile Rennie gets admitted to the infirmary with arrhythmia at the same time that his son gets admitted with severe red eye and apparent loss of realization of his surroundings.

Col Cox steps up the pressure by creating a media circus of relatives outside the dome meeting those inside, and requesting Rennie to attend and answer questions about the alleged meth lab and imprisonment of Barbie.

 

Rusty unwisely confronts Rennie in the hospital and gets thrown in jail, after his hand is crushed, for his pains – into the same cell as Barbie.

 

Meanwhile, Andrea gets the Big Rennie secrets in a document meant for Julia and hides it, reading it all. The good guys plot the rescue of Barbie and Rusty.

 

Rennie plans to send his minions to kill Andy and the Chef while the town is distracted with the meeting, and coincidentally, Barbie’s rescue is planned at the same time, as well as the plot by Junior to kill Barbie all thinking that they can use the distraction of the meeting for their own purposes.

 

Andi resolves to shoot Big Rennie in a meeting in front of the entire town. All of those come together wonderfully in an explosive few chapters, way before the book ends. Junior’s end and Barbie’s escape are nice to read.

 

The group slowly congregates beyond the radiation zone.

 

The Chef and Andy, when Big Rennie’s team comes to take away their propane, are killed but unleash such a terror into the Dome that in the resulting fire and lack of oxygen, almost all of the townspeople are killed.

 

Finally his deputy turns on Big Rennie with a gun. He falls for the wily Big Rennie’s prayer routine and gets killed instead. At a crucial moment, Big Jim’s heart and lack of air cleaning propane puts paid to Big Jim himself/

 

When all of the handful of survivors start dying one by one Julia gets an idea to resolve the issue.

 

The ending is sort of disappointing but I guess it is kind of logical and perhaps the only solution to the problem. Still it sounds and feels inadequate to me. Brilliantly narrated, of course.

 

Nice story, the rocket speed of the story is maintained almost until the end  – now you know the reason for the ‘almost’. Satisfying read.

 

8 / 10

– – Krishna

Book: Absolute Power by David Baldacci

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:02 pm

imageThis is my first book of the author. I did go in knowing that he writes thrillers, and it is likely to be a pure entertainer at its best and all fluff. So, at the end, I was happy and got what I wanted. This is not for the thinking man or for those who are after education with entertainment. But entertain it does, and well. Let us look at the plot.

Luther Whiteley is a high end crook who burgles rich people’s houses. He is getting ready for another job.  But just as he reaches into the house there are unexpected visitors and he is forced to hide inside the safe he had opened. The force being an one way mirror, he realizes that the lady of the house has brought a stranger who is violent to her and when she tries to attack him, the stranger’s aids come in and kill her.  The stranger turns out to be the President of USA.

 

In the meanwhile, Jack Graham dated Kate Whitney but is now with the beautiful and brainy heiress Jennifer. He is a lawyer and Kate walked out as he defended criminals and adding insult to injury, he liked her estranged father.

 

As Luther watches from the hiding place, they try to cover up the murder. But not before the secretary has sex with a President out like a light in a drunken stupor, right with the lady’s corpse lying nearby.  Hearing a regular patrol car, they clear out but not before Russell, the lady assistant, pockets the knife with the President’s fingerprints all over it.

 

But Luther gathers it and runs away with them in hot pursuit. Lovely stuff, this.

 

Jack, a lawyer, is preparing to go to a Presidential dinner. He shakes hand with the President and hates every moment of being with his fiancee who is all about power and money. He contrives to ‘bump’ into Rebecca again. In the meanwhile, the fleeing Luther is enraged that he let the President get away with murder, literally.

 

Seth Frank is assigned as a detective when a routine security patrol notices the dangling rope from the window, calls the police and they discover the body of the woman.  Seth is puzzled by many things : the alarm disabled but still the rope dangling down the window, the fact that there were two attackers, the fact that she was kneeling or lying down when she was shot, the fact that the second bullet was carefully removed, the fact that the place was professionally cleaned.

 

The grieving husband hires a professional assassin cum investigator McCarthy to find and kill the person who killed his wife.

 

While Seth tries hard to piece the evidence, seeing the President hug Walter Sullivan and ‘promising’ to get the killer who killed his wife, an enraged Luther returns. Meanwhile, the assistant lures one of the guards – Collins –  with sex but he blurts out the whole truth to the senior aide, Burton.

 

Burton befriends Seth and when he gets a fingerprint by the superb forensic expert from the police, identifies Luther. He stakes out the house and sees the daughter Kate visit the house.

 

He persuades Kate to lure his father to a rendezvous to be handed over to the police and she agrees. The plan by Burton is to ‘accidentally’ kill him so that the President is never implicated, which Frank does not suspect, nor does Kate.  When the husband hires a professional killer, the plan fails and Luther is arrested. Jack learns of Kate’s treachery from Kate herself.

 

Luther clams up and Seth, disturbed by what he finds in Luther, decides to confide in Jack who is representing Luther against the will of both his law firm and his fiancee Jennifer.  Jack is unsuccessful in getting Luther to open up and he realizes that Luther fears for Kate’s safety if he opens up.

 

With reason, it would seem. Right in plain sight of the police and agents, Luther is killed from afar by two bullets to his head. Jack is astounded – he was escorting Luther to the courthouse.

 

Walter Sullivan tries to call the President from his hideout to tell him that he knows about the President and his wife but is killed by Burton who had followed him over. Seth creates trouble for the President by refusing to let go of the case.

 

Jack realizes that he needs to break up with Jennifer and does. ‘There goes his career in flames’.

When Jack finds that a package has been deposited in his office, he goes in the middle of the night and gets it, Walter Sullivan is there with a mistress. He narrowly escapes the assassins, who kill Sullivan and the girl, destroying the career of the high and mighty lawyer in his office.

 

When Jack is framed for this, he goes to a private place to give the letter opener to Seth and he then is again confronted by the assassins. He escapes again but loses the evidence.

 

How he outwits the agents and the President is the rest of the story. Beautifully told. This story is like James Bond or Jason Bourne. You just do not question it but take it as it comes. Then you are sure to enjoy the ride.

 

I enjoyed reading this, even if this is pure fluff. I would say a 7/10

–  –  Krishna

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