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  1. You stopped with Bakker already in the first book? I don't share the enthusiasm of many others here (and got myself stuck somewhere in the 3rd book) but with all its problems I think it is quite original at the beginning. The main problem of the first book is the "double false start" that tends to confuse and irritate readers. As for Dan Brown, I completely agree. I managed to finish the Da Vinci Code but it is a horribly bad book in almost any respect from the poor writing to the fake history and overall plot. One reason I have little hope for our civilization is the fact that Dan Brown is the most successful writer.
  2. I took a break from Helliconia, but because it was only 1.99 EUR for kindle, I started "Report on Probability A" because this seemed to be the second most famous by Aldiss after Helliconia. I am about a third in and it is a very strange book. I wonder if there are going to be any twists or if I already missed the point (if there is any).
  3. So I finished the second volume. This was something of a drag I have to admit. Maybe partly my fault (I simply took too long to read it, reading several other books in parallel) but I think that like the first one this is actually a book where "ideas" (the odd seasons and the correspondingly strange cultural and historical developments) are far more important than characters and plot. This is obvious and well executed in the first book. It is also true of the second book but Aldiss somehow tries to also pull of a long complicated plot (more than half of which is told as a long "flashback") with characters that are supposed to be interesting and passionate but are in effect not sufficiently developed to draw the reader in (or at least not me). As for the mentioned f-m dimorphism, I think he is quite inconsistent. In the first book there is a description of the (cold-adapted) people as "barrel-like" and they lose one third of their weight if they survive that illness that apparently acts as an adaptation to the hot periods. But even before that, some characters (e.g. the spinster-scholar who perpetually rejects one of the "heroes") are described as thin/bony and from how women are described in erotic scenes the reader would never assume far less dimorphism than in humans, i.e. despite being as tall as men? even in the cold times, women have a different body shape, breasts basically like humans etc.. Likewise, in the second book taking place in a hot period where supposedly anyone alive must be fairly ektomorphic (because they are descendants of those who survived that illness) this change in shape apparently "drops out" because it affects everyone, seductive women are still described as curvy etc.
  4. I think this has been fairly similar for decades in Britain and a lot of Europe. Sometimes it seems that it is getting worse (and one hears about 13 yo kids being rushed to the hospital after drinking binges), sometimes it is reported to be exaggerated but I guess that at least from about 16 onwards there is a certain percentage of hard drinkers (in Germany and of what I have heard about college age kids in Britain it is at least as bad there). I have very little nostalgia for teenage pop culture (never cared about it - I was so clueless that when some 1950s songs like "Don't know much about history" became popular again in the 80s because of some movie? I wasn't even aware that the song was so old), more for certain toys and shows I enjoyed as a small kid (mid-70s - early 80s). But most of all I have a general nostalgia for a mostly happy childhood in a beautiful rural region, precisely not mainly defined by gadgets and TV/pop culture.
  5. The real Myshkin would never ban anyone... he was such a mild and nice guy. It's been more than 20 years that I read "The idiot" (twice, once with about 19, once about three years later) and I don't know if I would be as enthusiastic as I used to be about it. But back then I found the first part, beginning with Myshkin's arrival and encounter with Rogoshin and ending with that mad evening party at Nastassya Filipowna's the most enthralling and captivating thing I ever read. After this there is something of a "break" as far as I remember and it can take some effort for the reader to continue. Although it could not have continued at the intensity of the beginning for another 500 pages.
  6. I am not at all sure if it is generally considered among his better ones. This was just my opinion. You are not wrong in your analysis, but I think especially for the white middle class couple it is precisely the point that the guy is self-obsessed and shallow although he thinks of himself as a great environmentalist and writer. You are basically supposed to hate the guy. Most of Boyle has this exaggerated satirical aspect, it's a feature, not a bug. The illegal Mexican couple is not satirized but they suffer an almost biblical array of misfortunes, so there is some exaggeration here as well.
  7. "Tortilla Curtain" is probably the only book by Boyle I read twice. It might have been the first of his I read so I did not realize that he is re-using similar tropes in/from most of his books. Sure, the message is sometimes a bit too heavily laid on but I still think that it is quite impressive.
  8. No, it does not really have a huge pay off. If you don't like the first book it is fairly unlikely that you will like 2-4 much better. It stays both fascinating and confusing. If you are not fascinated by the first book, better cut your losses and read something else.
  9. The most famous book where I got stuck in the middle and never finished is "Anna Karenina". I certainly want to read it again some time but the Kitty-Levin-arc was too boring and I got too busy and after a few weeks break I was "out" and would have had to start over again. (Another one that was actually pretty good but also hard and confusing (far more so than Tolstoy, it is more modern with skipping back and forth between viewpoints and times) and I got stuck around halfway was Heimito von Doderer: "Die Strudlhofstiege" set in early 20th cent. Vienna. The eponymous Stiege is a fairly impressive pedestrian's stairway between two streets.) I read "Moby Dick" in translation as a teenager (it might have been slightly abridged but not much, lots of the whaling details were still in there) but got stuck after a third or so when I tried it in English 10 years later. (I finished Ulysses in translation after one or two futile attempts; have not yet tried to read the original.) Two books I never finished because I lost them while travelling were "Sophie's Choice" (this one was actually stolen with more of my luggage...) and "Portrait of the artist as a young man". I never bothered to get another copy and try again. Of genre fiction I got stuck in the first quarter or so of the 3rd Bakker book and have not returned to it in the last 2 years. I also finished the first respective volumes of "Prince of Thorns", "Black Company" and "Riddle-Master" without becoming sufficiently fond of them to continue with the subsequent volumes although in the last two cases I have multi-volume pbcks.
  10. You will find me attacking the SPD and the Greens even more harshly for their behavior. It is true that other parties have also made 180 degree turnarounds. But mostly in the last 15 years or so. The FDP has been doing this since the late 1960s and lived very well on it for decades. While of course they use the narrative of standing up for the little master carpenter or freelance writer, the FDP is very clearly the party oft the top 1-10% (not master carpenters but rather tax advisors etc. check out the regions where they get most of the votes; it is usually the richest regions in the whole republic, e.g. most of the Taunus region north of Frankfurt where the fat cat banksters, tax evasion guys etc. live.) I am not aware of any laws the FDP put forward recently that helped contain international big business in favor of more local smaller businesses (e.g. closing tax havens in the EU the sawmill in the next village will not benefit from but Ikea does). In the last 35 years the FDP has been the strongest factor in the neoliberalization of politics in Germany. The so-called Lambsdorff-Papier in the early 1980s was the beginning of that. It is true that CDU and SPD used to be industry-friendly but they at least pretend to care for workers getting decent employment and enforced general notions of solidarity (at least until recently when they became neoliberalized as well). Whereas the FDP has often shown open contempt for anyone not smart or lucky enough to secure a good job. They are the people who inherited millions and are utterly convinced that they fully deserve it. (Whereas someone living on welfare is exhibiting roman decadence.) They are the anti-solidarity party. For me they are by far the most contemptible of the bunch (although some single persons in the AfD or CDU might even be more disgusting). If there is going to be a Jamaica I really hope it will be the final kiss of death by "Mutti" for them and they will get below 5% again. More general, here is a pretty good analysis of the dire situation
  11. There is no fixed set of enlightenment values. If we put the beginning of the "enlightenment" around John Locke there were about 150 years of enlightenment "compatible" with slavery for many of its proponents, more than 200 years without women's suffrage and about 300 years of enlightenment before anybody thought that same-sex marriage could even be thinkable. Now it is supposed to be a self-evident truth that anyone not supporting SSM is some kind of nazi. (So we were almost all nazis 25 years ago.) It was enlightened for many to put the lazy poor into workhouses in the 1800s and advocate eugenics in the early 1900s etc. Basically, the core of liberal democracy is mostly formal and procedural (that's obviously both its strength and its weakness.) If 70% are against SSM, is it democratic to disregard them? If 60% vote democratically to introduce Sharia Law? But I think it would be derailing the thread to consider the fateful dialectics of enlightenment that are mostly ignored in the current debates. But it cannot be denied that liberal democracy can destroy itself if if does not manage to offer the citizens enough that they don't go for parties who would rather abolish (at least some parts of) liberal democracy, be they reactionary right wingers, extreme leftists or djihadists.
  12. The immigration/refugees issue is certainly important. However, I think after 2015 and early 2016 it cooled down a little. I cannot back this up with stats but I think there are several factors at work. It is simply true that especially in the East there is a deep seated antipathy towards foreigners that seems almost independent of actual contact with them. (There are almost now foreigners in rural regions in the East but people are xenophobic anyway. More than 10 years ago, probably around 2003, a professor who taught in Berlin or Potsdam then told me that foreign (black or brown or with such a spouse) looking colleagues or visiting scientists were advised not to move to the rural region around Potsdam because the xenophobia was so high.) Then there are people who are apparently seeing their neighborhoods falling to pieces, apparently because of the prevalence of some kind of foreigners, usually not refugees but rather "balkanese" gangs who moved in since the Schengen expansion in 2007. That's where you get second generation or other established people with immigrant background voting AfD! They live in a working class neighborhood that is turning into a violent slum because of more recent gang warfare. But generally I think that immigration is actually more important as a focus or projection of general frustration and a deep feeling of powerlessness. About 50% of the AfD voters don't really care about the contents but they want to give the established parties a big middle finger. Recall that the AfD was founded as an anti-EU and "no support for broke Greece" party. Basically, it is 15 years of "TINA" policy, first with Schroeder and far more clearly with Merkel. With the utter failure of the Social Democrats to show even a nominal alternative option and the flexibility of Merkel and the opportunism of Greens and FDP it seems virtually impossible to get rid of her. Imagine how people who see that everything is going to pieces around them (rural East, large cities, jobless, precarious or poor senior) and being told everyday not only by Merkel's campaigners but all the maintream media that Germany is doing great and we are all rich! They'd do any to feel a little less powerless.
  13. If you have not read Fry's "Making History", you should! Hail Gloder!
  14. The FDP is not really "tough in immigration". Besides the general warning that this party has switched almost any position to its opposite if it was politically useful in the past, what they want is an "immigration law". As Loge says, Germany never really systematically ruled immigration in the way countries like Australia do. Nowadays some of the leftists still seem to tend to "open borders for everyone" (so they find the suggested laws too strict because it will pick the able and educated, not the needy) but the rightists (not only AfD but also CSU and parts of the CDU) don't really want such a law because they uphold that Germany is not an "immigration country" (Einwanderungsland) like US or Australia. For the FDP the demands of international big business will always trump even modest nationalism/protectionism. Qualified immigrants lower wages because there is more competition for a certain number of jobs, so they like it. The rightwing parties reacted to "green cards" (suggested by the the red-green government) with "Kinder statt Inder". Still, I think it is a valid point that immigration policy and humanitarian help have to be distinguished (and both the rightists and the leftists tend to confound them to suit their purposes). The good Samaritan helped the guy who had been robbed and even paid his bill at the inn but he did not offer him to live forever in his house.
  15. As I said, people are losing their minds. There will never be Eurabia. Even if you believe that France, Britain and Germany are so weak that they will be "assimilated", you could trust in Poland, Hungary and Russia to prevent it.