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Reviews Written by
C. Baker "cbaker" (Washington, DC)

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12 Monkeys (Collector's Edition) [Import]
12 Monkeys (Collector's Edition) [Import]
DVD ~ Bruce Willis
Offered by _betterworldbooks_
Price: CDN$ 9.52
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 Monkeys, July 10 2004
Despite the cheesy special effects and some unnecessarily silly scenes that greatly detract from the movie, 12 Monkeys is a very good science fiction movie.
Set in the year 2035, a plague has wiped out much of the human race and they are forced to live deep underground. Scientists of the era send criminals back in time, using imperfect time machine technology, to try to discover the origins of the virus so they can bring a sample back to the future to find a cure, and take back the planet. Bruce Willis plays Cole, who is sent back to find out who the 12 Monkeys are, which are believed to be a terrorist group responsible for the unleashing the virus. Unfortunately, he sent back to wrong time and finds himself in a mental institution. While there he is treated by a psychiatrist played by Madeline Stowe and runs into Brad Pitt - a wacky mental patient. It's hard to tell much more about the plot without giving the movie away, but these two characters play a vital role in the plot.
The director does an excellent job with the time travel elements of the story, an aspect that become quickly inconsistent and ruinous to a movie of this nature without careful attention to detail. The acting is also superb. I would highly recommend the movie.
Also note, the "Making Of" feature on the DVD is one of the few that I actually enjoyed and found quite interesting.

The Federalist Papers
The Federalist Papers
by Alexander Hamilton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 7.29
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5.0 out of 5 stars Vital to Understanding the US Constitution, July 10 2004
The Federalist Papers is probably the most seminal discourse on the U.S. Constitution that has ever been written. While there are occasional inconsistencies and undoubtedly many of the founding fathers that took part in the Constitutional Convention and favored adoption of the Constitution would disagree with some of its contents, it is vital reading if one hopes to understand the original intent of the founders.

Possessing the Secret of Joy
Possessing the Secret of Joy
by Alice Walker
Edition: Paperback
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex and Textured, July 8 2004
Alice Walker states that the secret of joy is "RESISTANCE", which sums up the book nicely. But there is more to this single word. Resistance to what? Resistance to injustice, in this case specifically the injustice of genital mutilation...but Walker clearly means for this resistance to include other forms of injustice. Such as, you ask? Racism, sexism, bigotry in any form.
Walker's books, including this one, convey the psychological damage of perpetual abuse of a person throughout not only their own life but the life of their ancestors. Therefore, racism and sexism heap psychological damage on their victims for enerations--not to mention the clear sociological problems that germinate from them.
Why does "resistance" bring joy? First, if the injustice is eventually defeated it will bring a new found freedom and autonomy. If nothing else, resistance provides the resister with a moral victory over his or her opponents, which in the end, brings our ill-fated protagonist joy.
The more specific sexual aspect of the book is also embraced by this concept. Resistance to the injustice of genital mutilation, on both the individual and collective level, brings sexual pleasure to the individual and to generations of individuals yet to come. So sexual pleasure also is part of the "secret of joy", only in this case it is a specific instance of what "resistance" can eventually accomplish.

by Jeff Noon
Edition: Paperback
32 used & new from CDN$ 2.34

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Cyberpunk at its Best, July 8 2004
This review is from: Vurt (Paperback)
VURT is an average attempt at mimicking the style of the cyberpunk genre using a different set of reality obfuscating techniques. Instead of Cyberspace we have the world of VURT, which one enters via an hallucinogenic drug applied by sticking a feather on the back of the tongue. There really is very little new or innovative in VURT, other than the drug. After reading it, I had a "been there, done that" reaction. The prose style and dark vision of the future come right out of the cyberpunk genre (this prose style or dark world is not unique to cyberpunk either). The attempt at an existentialist obfuscation of reality is also similar to that of cyberpunk and again there is nothing particularly new or unique. Finally, the story itself is not all that compelling. Never does the reader really feel they know Desdemonia, the lover, whose loss and attempted recovery fuel the entire drama.
Overall, a rather mediocre novel.

Moving Mars: A Novel
Moving Mars: A Novel
by Greg Bear
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Moving Mars by Greg Bear, July 8 2004
The key failure of MM that greatly deterred my enjoyment of it is the flat characters and relationships. Bear's main character, Casseia, is a weak attempt at portraying not only a female character but a political power. It seems Bear attempted to give Cass a Heinlein-like, unassuming, brilliant, politician/scientist aura--but it falls flat. Completely flat. As does all his other attempts to describe human relationships. The personal interactions just did not seem real. FLAT seems to be the best word to describe them.
Bear's description of the political interactions also seemed flat. Here I refer to the entire build up of the Martian independence movement, the creation of the constitution, and the new government struggling to maintain power. The entire construct did not seem to fit very well and the evolution of this movement did not seem cogent. There just did not seem to be the kind of motivations necessary to sustain the impetus of the movement for a new government or a full explication of Earth's motivations in sujugating Mars. Further, while nanotechnology seems to be somewhat of a fad in SF these days, I felt the unexplained abilities nanotechnology in MM to be almost silly. And, even though the theory of the "descriptors" that were manipulated to change the "reality" of matter, by the end of the novel it seemed almost contrived.
So why did I give the novel 4 stars? I found I did enjoy reading the novel quite a bit.

Green Mars
Green Mars
by Kim Stanley Robinson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.54
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5.0 out of 5 stars Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, July 8 2004
This review is from: Green Mars (Mass Market Paperback)
This second volume of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy is a very worthy Hugo winner. Although there are elements of RED MARS I did not like (which I'll not go into now), with RED MARS as a background, I found GREEN MARS to be brilliant. If you haven't read Red Mars, don't tackle this volume first.
KSR really did his homework in studying the social scientific aspects of his novel (as he did with the rest). The metanational and transnational corporations are a believable outgrowth of current economic trends and their reactions toward Mars and its denizens in GM logically follows their development in the novel. KSR also did a better job of staking out the various issues and ideologies involved in terraforming, giving the policy and political middle-ground between the Reds and the policy of the Transnational Authorities (which is terraforming as quickly as possible moving toward a viable atmosphere on Mars).
The Part entitled "What is to be Done" was excellently written and extremely realistic (even if I have trouble believing that with all the political elements represented that some didn't opt out because of ideological extremism). That the group left without any real political action plans made the section even more convincing. The culture of the youth born on Mars seen through the eyes of members of the First Hundred shows a wonderful sense of cultural development with all the elements it entails including genetics, the Martian environment, and how they were raised (interacting with the first two). KSR does not do quite as well at developing individual characters in GM but his characterization does lend itself to understanding the motivations of individuals and empathy
The long descriptions of the Martian landscape is at times hard to appreciate given that I have never been to Mars and have never studied photos of Mars' surface and landscape. I like the two places where there were small maps of Mars in the text. The development of large, complex living environments with the limited resources of those outside "the net" or the umbrella of the metanational corporations that control most of Mars is hard to perceive too. But this is easily overlooked at the sake of the larger picture that GM paints.

For Country, Cause & Leader: The Civil War Journal of Charles B. Haydon
For Country, Cause & Leader: The Civil War Journal of Charles B. Haydon
by Charles B. Haydon
Edition: Hardcover
27 used & new from CDN$ 2.86

5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Civil War Soldier's Life, July 8 2004
This is a truly fascinating first hand account of what the Civil War was actually like for the common solider, something you don't fully appreciate from academic accounts of battles and campaigns. It is accounts about soldier's day to day life as they are fleshed out in Haydon's journal that are really illuminating.
For many Civil War soldiers, as for all soldiers, day to day life is tedium and it is the small every day things that make up their daily life. Haydon almost daily notes what the weather is because it was of such great consequence to someone who slept and lived outdoors for the most part. He dwells more on the weather when it is rainy than when it is nice. He also frequently talks about the state of his belly. He often tells us what he ate that day and whether or not the rations are any good. Much of the time he spends complaining about the lack of quality and quantity of the food. He also, at one point, goes into great detail about the massive quantities of coffee he and the other soldiers drink and comments how quickly one gets used to strong, black coffee made with muddy water. He also admonishes the extreme lack of discipline in the men, the many fights, and the massive consumption of alcohol (he drinks in moderation). He laments that he can see many good men as "worthless drunkards" in five years at the rate they are going. He also comments on the stealing, giving some darkly humorous accounts of how the soldiers steal everything not nailed down or guarded. He humorously states that "If the men pursue the enemy as vigorously as they do the whores they will make very efficient soldiers." Sickness of the men is also prevalent, especially diarrhea and fatigue. All this is the life of one solider in the Civil War.
Hayden is also somewhat introspective. He talks of having given up a law career to join the Michigan 2nd and take up arms against the rebels, seeing it as his duty. After being in the rearguard at the first Battle of Bull Run he notes more frequently how he does not expect to live out the war and that his chances of coming out of it alive are less than fifty-fifty. He does not seem terribly troubled by the prospect and notes that he has taken to a soldiers life quite well (unlike some others). He seems somewhat resigned to his fate. Coming into Baltimore where sentiment there was positive sentiment for the rebels, tension was high and he notes that he "rammed his first load ever intended for a human mark" and leaves it at that. After his first "kill" he said he was surprised by how "cool I took it." He even talks about gazing at the stars and the enjoyment he gets out of it on a clear night. He is also fairly good at describing the land he's in. He noted that he was somewhat surprised at how he was able to adapt to living as a soldier with little sleep, sleeping outdoors, in rain, in leaky tents, in the cold and having gotten used to poor food.
Although there is poignant account about feeling otherworldly in the heat of battle and wondering about his own bravery once the shooting starts, he doesn't seem to be afraid of bullets or battle and says his heart pounded more during a Dress Parade in front of the general than when bullets go whizzing by. He also has a good sense of humor that pops up frequently and is surprising given his situation. He must have been fairly well respected because he became a 2nd Lt. in fairly short order.
A very interesting account of a solider life.

The Gate to Women's Country
The Gate to Women's Country
by Sheri S. Tepper
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.87
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Gate to Women's Country, July 7 2004
Tepper's The Gate to Women's Country has been a lightening rod of criticism for its frank, some would say, unfair treatment of males. Having read and heard many negative comments about the feminist agenda pursued by this novel, I fully expected a diatribe against males and a utopian society ran by women to the be the centerpiece of the story. Little did I expect the unfavorable assessment of both sexes found here. Males are depicted as being violent but easily manipulated by symbolism and perceived threats to of their "manhood". Women are depicted as weak-willed and inclined toward poor judgement. The Gate to Women's Country is not "hard science" fiction, nor is there much action or plot to engage the reader's interest. Nevertheless, it is a compelling work that explores, sometimes stereotypically, male and female behavior.
The Gate to Women's Country is set in a post-holocaust Earth, segments of which have been settled and ruled by women. Inside walled enclaves women have established a system whereby males are forced to live outside the society of women in armed encampments unless, at specified ages, they expressly desire to live in "Women's Country" and abide by the rules established therein. The rigid military caste set up by males on the outside, however, puts an unrelenting amount of pressure on males to reject Women's Country and remain warriors. A cabal of women, through a variety of measures, including espionage and violence, effectively subjugate the male population or warrior caste. The socio-political nature of Women's Country vis a vis its male subjects is intricately woven into the plot.
The story centers around Stavia who grows up accepting the social institutions around her but questioning their utility. She falls in love with a young warrior, Chernon, who is depicted as the typical male. Tepper uses their relationship, especially once free from Women's Country, as an especially poignant commentary on the relationship between males and females generally. Tepper paints a dismal future for both relationships.
Tepper is equally scornful to women as to men here. Women's Country is an undemocratic society ruled by a self-selected group of councilwomen. These councilwomen are secretive and deceitful toward the remaining population of Women's Country. They feel this necessary because women take foolish actions based on "infatuation" (with particular males of course) and cannot be trusted with the secrets of Women's Country. The council looks, with some disdain, upon the rest of the women, who are easily manipulated using the same symbolic rhetoric and gestures used to control and manipulate the male population. Indeed, the women seem very compliant and unquestioning of the prerogative of the council to rule. The compliant nature of the women and the cyclical revolts of the men are implicit comments on the basic nature of the sexes.
The society set up by Tepper is really a "negative utopia" along the lines of George Orwell's 1984 or Adolus Huxley's A Brave New World. Stavia's eventual acquiescence in the methods used by the council in Women's Country to maintain its dominance over males and its own female subjects is defeatist. Through Stavia's eyes the reader realizes the emotionally barren and socially dysfunctional result of the rift between males and females. Through this example, one can see parallels to our own society.

A Philosophical Investigation
A Philosophical Investigation
by Phillip Kerr
Edition: Unbound

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical, July 7 2004
Book Review by C. Douglas Baker
London 2013. Genetic typing has allowed the British government to identify men with a predisposition to serial killing. Now, someone is going around murdering all the men on the list! Thus is the setting for Kerr's A Philosophical Investigation.
As a science fiction work, Kerr has painted a very believable future with a variety of insights on the day-to-day ramifications of modern technology. Gene typing allowing the government to identify potential serial killers could be used for nefarious purposes by an over zealous government. In this case Kerr avoids the "big brother" syndrome, instead showing that the existence of this information becomes dangerous, despite the government's humane intentions. An example of the everyday affect of new technology: a female detective gets a call in the middle of the night from a colleague, answering her picta-phone without thinking she inadvertently exposes herself and the caller makes a lecherous comment about her (...). Homosexuals now use a new, thicker condom less likely to break. Overuse of "reality approximation devices" (virtual reality), is likened to the overuse of LSD; many who overuse such devices begin to lose touch with reality. None of these tidbits are at all central to the story, but along with other small insights, build up a believable future environment.
Readers will recognize many of the developments in 2013 London, both technologically and socially. [NOTE THESE CULTURAL VIEWPOINTS BELOW ARE EXPRESSED BY CHARACTERS IN THE BOOK, THEY ARE NOT VIEWPOINT OF THIS REVIEWER.] Women continue to advance in social equality. Cynically Kerr depicts governmental organizations, such as police forces, as being forced to accept women equally. One British Minister is a black female but a former Olympic sprinter with good looks, which no doubt immensely helped her rise to this position. Again a pessimistic, although realistic, depiction of the social advancement of women. While the women may not always be looked upon as equals by their male colleagues, they continue to prove themselves the equal of men in most cases, and in some tasks they are deemed even better.
Unfortunately, as a mystery novel, A Philosophical Investigation does not come off as well. Kerr could have done much more to add to the suspense of the novel. The culprit is found out early on and the conclusion seems preordained from that point forward. The tracking and catching of the killer is mildly entertaining at times but for the most part is mundane.
The real strength of this book lies in its setting and the creation of a recognizable 2013. Kerr's understanding of the ramifications of technological advances allows him to depict the use of technology in a realistic, day-to-day fashion that is not common in the science fiction genre. The plot and story itself are less satisfying but there is enough of interest here to entertain the casual reader.

White Queen
White Queen
by Gwyneth Jones
Edition: Hardcover
15 used & new from CDN$ 3.83

3.0 out of 5 stars Sedate Alien Encounter Novel, July 7 2004
This review is from: White Queen (Hardcover)
Book Review by C. Douglas Baker
Set in 2039-40 A.D., this novel of first contact creates an almost credible near future earth and avoids the cliche of vastly superior aliens swooping down to subjugate humanity and strip its resources. Instead, Jones' aliens live among humans for awhile, cloaking their existence, until a strange emotional relationship between Johnny Guglioli, a UFO chaser, and Agnes/Clevel, an alien residing in Africa, leads to their discovery. Jones spends a lot of time creating our future world doing a credible job on technological and ecological aspects but the socio-political aspects are more alien, and unlikely, than the extraterrestrials. For example, the United States has been overthrown by socialists and are minor players in world politics. Equally unlikely is the lackadaisical response of the Earth's population to the discovery of aliens and the central role played by politically marginal actors in dealing with them.
Johnny Guglioli, the most interesting character, is infected with a "petrovirus" that destroys the substance "blue clay", which evidently has replaced silicon as the key data processing material. Being a former "eejay" or engineering journalist, his occupation is destroyed because he can no longer work with computers or similar machinery because his virus destroys the data processing capabilities of the "blue clay". Having his livelihood ruined he chases UFOs as a hobby, leading to his encounter with Agnes/Clevel, an alien who reveals itself to him. Enter Braemer Wilson, a journalist ostensibly searching for a story who seems to have information about aliens possibly living in Africa. The emotional triangle that develops between Guglioli, the alien Agnes/Clevel, and Braemer Wilson leads down a winding path of human and alien interaction, neither side quite trusting nor understanding the other. Through the emotional attachments of these characters the reader learns about the physical and spiritual components of the aliens. Their interactions raise the intensity level of the story and serve as a microcosm of the meandering search for understanding, frequented by severe misunderstandings, between alien and human throughout the novel.
White Queen's depiction of earth a little over fifty years from now does not seem quite authentic. And even though the aliens attempt to shield themselves from human observation, the groping attempts at mutual understanding seem too restrained for such a momentous event. White Queen is barely saved by its interesting human/alien interactions.

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