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John Kwok (New York, NY USA)
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The Traitor Baru Cormorant
The Traitor Baru Cormorant
by Seth Dickinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.80
27 used & new from CDN$ 11.59

5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Captivating Debut Novel of Geopolitical Fantasy, Feb. 9 2016
In a year that was a surprisingly good year for speculative fiction, with notable novels from the likes of Kim Stanley Robinson ("Aurora"), Paolo Bacigalupi ("The Water Knife"), Neal Stephenson ("Seveneves"), Michael Swanwick ("Chasing the Phoenix"), N. K. Jemisin, ("The Fifth Season") and Catherynne Valente ("Radiance"), there were a number of notable debut fantasy novels, starting with Ken Liu's exceptional "The Grace of Kings", Fran Wilde's "Updraft", and including, Seth Dickinson's "The Traitor Baru Cormorant". Described by some as a geopolitical fantasy, "The Traitor Baru Cormorant" is a compelling blend of political intrigue, imperial unrest, and even sexual passion, with Dickinson writing as if he is Ursula K. Le Guin channeling Graham Greene or John Le Carré. Echoing the finest traditions in espionage/thriller fiction from the likes of Greene and Le Carré, Dickinson keeps readers guessing until the very end, with a compelling, though emotionally and intellectually murky and complex, heroine, Baru Cormorant, whose very actions are described aptly in the very title of this novel. Dickinson has wrought an extremely accessible epic fantasy replete with exceptional world building that should interest literary audiences beyond those in traditional fantasy and science fiction, through both his splendid storytelling and excellent prose. He will keep readers spellbound till the very end, in a most compelling blend not only of epic fantasy and military fiction, but in his economic and sociological depictions of the peoples of the Masquerade Empire, especially those of distant Aurdwynn, whose rebellious inhabitants remain at odds with the empire itself. "The Traitor Baru Cormorant" is a most auspicious start of a trilogy set in the Byzantine-like world of the Masquerade Empire; I am eagerly looking forward in seeing how Baru uses her new-found power and influence to save those who remain dearest to her, the people of Taranoke, her island home. Seth Dickinson has written one of the most important fantasy novels published in 2015, and one destined to remain a perennial favorite, as well as a debut fantasy novel of ample literary distinction.

Wonderful Crazy Night (Deluxe) (Korea Edition)
Wonderful Crazy Night (Deluxe) (Korea Edition)
Offered by Softbay Global
Price: CDN$ 46.36

5.0 out of 5 stars What A Wonderful Crazy Night Indeed for Elton's Best Album in Ten Years, Feb. 6 2016
This is the most joyful, spontaneously happy, CD that Elton John and Bernie Taupin have made in years, with a welcomed return of the Elton John Band, featuring the talents of Elton John Band music director guitarist Davey Johnstone, original Elton John Band drummer Nigel Olsson, percussionist John Mahon and percussionist Ray Cooper (on five of the songs), joined by new bandmates Kim Bullard (keyboards) and Matt Bissonette (bass). While Elton has recorded with many musicians, none of them have captured the musical chemistry that exists between Elton and his touring Elton John Band, especially guitarist Davey Johnstone, drummer Nigel Olsson, and percussionist Ray Cooper, who, along with the late Dee Murray on bass, were his legendary band that recorded on many of his great early to mid 1970s albums produced by Gus Dudgeon. Co-produced by Elton John and T-Bone Burnett, this is the 21st Century Elton John album that represents a true return to roots, reminding listeners of those great Gus Dudgeon-produced albums, with production values that equal those on his first 21st Century album, "Songs from the West Coast".

The best album title song from an Elton John album since 2006's vastly underrated "The Captain and The Kid", "Wonderful Crazy Night", the album's first song, is Elton at his bluesy, jazz-inflected pop-rock best, which may be the best joyful blues-inflected, jazz-oriented pop-rock song he's written since "Healing Hands" from his brilliant late 1980s album "Sleeping with the Past". It may remind some as a stripped-down version of his great early 1970s hit song "Philadelphia Freedom" with a memorable opening riff featuring Kim Bullard on keyboards and synthesizers, Matt Bissonette on bass and guitarist Davey Johnstone on guitar, and a most exuberant Elton singing about the "Wonderful Crazy Night" that he had. It's followed by two other songs which ought to be singles in their own right, the blues-funk mashup "In the Name of You", and the hard-rocking "Claw Hammer" that does indeed, as another reviewer has noted, remind listeners of Peter Gabriel's solo music.

"Blue Wonderful" may be the memorable ballad from "Wonderful Crazy Night" that will remind long-time fans of Elton's music of "Harmony" from "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "Sacrifice" from "Sleeping with the Past", "The One" from "The One", "Blessed" from "Made in England", and "Original Sin" from "Songs from the West Coast". It definitely ranks as among the finest ballads ever written by the nearly fifty year-long songwriting partnership between Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin; a songwriting team destined to be remembered as among the greatest - if not the greatest - in pop and rock music. A songwriting team that remains capable of writing wonderful songs like this ballad, and one whose songwriting remains leagues ahead of many of the most touted, much younger, singer-songwriters of our time. The third single from "Wonderful Crazy Night", it once again features superb musicianship from long-time Elton John Band mates guitarist Davey Johnstone and drummer Nigel Olsson, as well as from percussionist John Mahon, keyboardist Kim Bullard, and bassist Matt Bissonnette, demonstrating why the Elton John Band - which I regard as the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) of Pop and Rock - should have been involved in the recording sessions of Elton's two prior albums.

"I've Got Two Wings" is yet another superb Elton John/Bernie Taupin tribute to a legendary African-American musician, a slower-tempo version of "The Wasteland" from the "Songs from the West Coast" album. "A Good Heart" is yet another of the album's stand-out ballads, but my favorite song on the album remains the next track, "Looking Up". "Looking Up" is Elton John's 21st Century "I'm Still Standing"; a memorable pop folk rock tune that will remind listeners not only of "I'm Still Standing" but earlier classics like "Honky Cat" and Crocodile Rock". It's a cheerful song rich with rich melodic hooks not only from Elton on the piano, but also fine keyboard playing from Kim Bullard, excellent guitar solos from Davey Johnstone reminiscent of those on many of Elton's mid 1970s hits, superbly understated drumming from Nigel Olsson, and vocal harmonies from Davey, Nigel, percussionist John Mahon and bass guitarist Matt Bissonette that will echo those heard on many of the great early 1970s and early 1980s albums from Davey, Nigel and the late Dee Murray. There is exceptional playing from Bissonette on bass guitar, and on percussion from both Mahon and Ray Cooper, especially, on tambourine. Bernie Taupin has written some wistful post-"Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" semi-autobiographical lyrics that have Elton briefly looking back at his career while keeping his eyes planted firmly in the present and the future.

"Guilty Pleasure" is the album's hardest-rocking tune, his 21st Century version of "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" featuring a heavy backbeat courtesy of Nigel Olsson on drums. It's followed by "Tambourine" which acoustically may be the song on the album closest in style and tone with Elton's early great album "Honky Chateau", especially noteworthy for Davey Johnstone's memorable playing on acoustic guitars, and, if I'm not mistaken, mandolin. "The Open Chord" is another potential single, another memorable autobiographical ballad like "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore" ("Songs from The West Coast") and "The Captain and The Kid" ("The Captain and The Kid"), and the most optimistic song ending an Elton John album I've heard since "Blessed" ("Made in England").

Songwriting-wise, I think Elton's best recent albums may have been "Songs from the West Coast" and the greatly underrated "The Captain and The Kid", with such notable songs as "Hey Ahab", "Gone to Shiloh" and "When Love is Dying" from "The Union" and "Oscar Wilde Gets Out" and "Fifth Avenue" from "The Diving Board" as among the finest examples of the John-Taupin team's 21st Century songwriting. But consistently, "Wonderful Crazy Night" works well as an album with every song a fine addition to their vast body of work, and with several, most notably, "Blue Wonderful" and "Looking Up", destined to be remembered as those worthy of comparison with earlier 21st Century songs like "Dark Diamond", "American Triangle", "Original Sin", "The Wasteland" and "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore" from "Songs from the West Coast", "Answer in the Sky" and "All That I'm Allowed" from "Peachtree Road", "The Bridge", "Tinderbox", "Blues Never Fade Away" and "The Captain and The Kid" from "The Captain and The Kid", if not necessarily, some of their classics from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. This is indeed a most welcomed return to form for Elton with the Elton John Band accompanying him on a studio album for the first time since "The Captain and The Kid", and one that may yet be remembered as yet another instant 21st Century classic from Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Wonderful Crazy Night (Limited Deluxe)
Wonderful Crazy Night (Limited Deluxe)
Price: CDN$ 14.97
28 used & new from CDN$ 14.97

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What A Wonderful Crazy Night Indeed for Elton's Best Album in Ten Years, Feb. 5 2016
This is the most joyful, spontaneously happy, CD that Elton John and Bernie Taupin have made in years, with a welcomed return of the Elton John Band, featuring the talents of Elton John Band music director guitarist Davey Johnstone, original Elton John Band drummer Nigel Olsson, percussionist John Mahon and percussionist Ray Cooper (on five of the songs), joined by new bandmates Kim Bullard (keyboards) and Matt Bissonette (bass). While Elton has recorded with many musicians, none of them have captured the musical chemistry that exists between Elton and his touring Elton John Band, especially guitarist Davey Johnstone, drummer Nigel Olsson, and percussionist Ray Cooper, who, along with the late Dee Murray on bass, were his legendary band that recorded on many of his great early to mid 1970s albums produced by Gus Dudgeon. Co-produced by Elton John and T-Bone Burnett, this is the 21st Century Elton John album that represents a true return to roots, reminding listeners of those great Gus Dudgeon-produced albums, with production values that equal those on his first 21st Century album, "Songs from the West Coast".

The best album title song from an Elton John album since 2006's vastly underrated "The Captain and The Kid", "Wonderful Crazy Night", the album's first song, is Elton at his bluesy, jazz-inflected pop-rock best, which may be the best joyful blues-inflected, jazz-oriented pop-rock song he's written since "Healing Hands" from his brilliant late 1980s album "Sleeping with the Past". It may remind some as a stripped-down version of his great early 1970s hit song "Philadelphia Freedom" with a memorable opening riff featuring Kim Bullard on keyboards and synthesizers, Matt Bissonette on bass and guitarist Davey Johnstone on guitar, and a most exuberant Elton singing about the "Wonderful Crazy Night" that he had. It's followed by two other songs which ought to be singles in their own right, the blues-funk mashup "In the Name of You", and the hard-rocking "Claw Hammer" that does indeed, as another reviewer has noted, remind listeners of Peter Gabriel's solo music.

"Blue Wonderful" may be the memorable ballad from "Wonderful Crazy Night" that will remind long-time fans of Elton's music of "Harmony" from "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "Sacrifice" from "Sleeping with the Past", "The One" from "The One", "Blessed" from "Made in England", and "Original Sin" from "Songs from the West Coast". It definitely ranks as among the finest ballads ever written by the nearly fifty year-long songwriting partnership between Elton and lyricist Bernie Taupin; a songwriting team destined to be remembered as among the greatest - if not the greatest - in pop and rock music. A songwriting team that remains capable of writing wonderful songs like this ballad, and one whose songwriting remains leagues ahead of many of the most touted, much younger, singer-songwriters of our time. The third single from "Wonderful Crazy Night", it once again features superb musicianship from long-time Elton John Band mates guitarist Davey Johnstone and drummer Nigel Olsson, as well as from percussionist John Mahon, keyboardist Kim Bullard, and bassist Matt Bissonnette, demonstrating why the Elton John Band - which I regard as the Wiener Philharmoniker (Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) of Pop and Rock - should have been involved in the recording sessions of Elton's two prior albums.

"I've Got Two Wings" is yet another superb Elton John/Bernie Taupin tribute to a legendary African-American musician, a slower-tempo version of "The Wasteland" from the "Songs from the West Coast" album. "A Good Heart" is yet another of the album's stand-out ballads, but my favorite song on the album remains the next track, "Looking Up". "Looking Up" is Elton John's 21st Century "I'm Still Standing"; a memorable pop folk rock tune that will remind listeners not only of "I'm Still Standing" but earlier classics like "Honky Cat" and Crocodile Rock". It's a cheerful song rich with rich melodic hooks not only from Elton on the piano, but also fine keyboard playing from Kim Bullard, excellent guitar solos from Davey Johnstone reminiscent of those on many of Elton's mid 1970s hits, superbly understated drumming from Nigel Olsson, and vocal harmonies from Davey, Nigel, percussionist John Mahon and bass guitarist Matt Bissonette that will echo those heard on many of the great early 1970s and early 1980s albums from Davey, Nigel and the late Dee Murray. There is exceptional playing from Bissonette on bass guitar, and on percussion from both Mahon and Ray Cooper, especially, on tambourine. Bernie Taupin has written some wistful post-"Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy" semi-autobiographical lyrics that have Elton briefly looking back at his career while keeping his eyes planted firmly in the present and the future.

"Guilty Pleasure" is the album's hardest-rocking tune, his 21st Century version of "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" featuring a heavy backbeat courtesy of Nigel Olsson on drums. It's followed by "Tambourine" which acoustically may be the song on the album closest in style and tone with Elton's early great album "Honky Chateau", especially noteworthy for Davey Johnstone's memorable playing on acoustic guitars, and, if I'm not mistaken, mandolin. "The Open Chord" is another potential single, another memorable autobiographical ballad like "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore" ("Songs from The West Coast") and "The Captain and The Kid" ("The Captain and The Kid"), and the most optimistic song ending an Elton John album I've heard since "Blessed" ("Made in England").

Songwriting-wise, I think Elton's best recent albums may have been "Songs from the West Coast" and the greatly underrated "The Captain and The Kid", with such notable songs as "Hey Ahab", "Gone to Shiloh" and "When Love is Dying" from "The Union" and "Oscar Wilde Gets Out" and "Fifth Avenue" from "The Diving Board" as among the finest examples of the John-Taupin team's 21st Century songwriting. But consistently, "Wonderful Crazy Night" works well as an album with every song a fine addition to their vast body of work, and with several, most notably, "Blue Wonderful" and "Looking Up", destined to be remembered as those worthy of comparison with earlier 21st Century songs like "Dark Diamond", "American Triangle", "Original Sin", "The Wasteland" and "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore" from "Songs from the West Coast", "Answer in the Sky" and "All That I'm Allowed" from "Peachtree Road", "The Bridge", "Tinderbox", "Blues Never Fade Away" and "The Captain and The Kid" from "The Captain and The Kid", if not necessarily, some of their classics from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. This is indeed a most welcomed return to form for Elton with the Elton John Band accompanying him on a studio album for the first time since "The Captain and The Kid", and one that may yet be remembered as yet another instant 21st Century classic from Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Updraft by Fran Wilde (2015-09-01)
Updraft by Fran Wilde (2015-09-01)
by Fran Wilde
Edition: Hardcover
4 used & new from CDN$ 49.90

5.0 out of 5 stars A Notable, Quite Unforgettable, Debut Fantasy Novel, Jan. 22 2016
One of the finest debut novels of 2015, "Updraft" is a most beguiling blend of political intrigue, family secrets and exceptional world-building from fantasy writer Fran Wilde that should attract a readership larger than those devoted to heroic fantasy. It is among the finest recently published coming-of-age tales I have read, with a memorable heroine, Kirit, who is indeed among the most amazing characters ever encountered in heroic fantasy. Wilde is both a superb prose stylist and storyteller, letting readers see Kirit's saga unfold through her very eyes. Like some other, more notable, reviewers, I didn't want to leave the breathtaking world of cities constructed of bone and barely visible cloud-sized predators that Wilde has so expertly fashioned, once I finally found myself on the last page. "Updraft" is a most auspicious start to Wilde's nascent career as a fantasy novelist; I am eagerly looking forward to reading what will come next.

Updraft
Updraft
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Notable, Quite Unforgettable, Debut Fantasy Novel, Jan. 22 2016
This review is from: Updraft (Kindle Edition)
One of the finest debut novels of 2015, "Updraft" is a most beguiling blend of political intrigue, family secrets and exceptional world-building from fantasy writer Fran Wilde that should attract a readership larger than those devoted to heroic fantasy. It is among the finest recently published coming-of-age tales I have read, with a memorable heroine, Kirit, who is indeed among the most amazing characters ever encountered in heroic fantasy. Wilde is both a superb prose stylist and storyteller, letting readers see Kirit's saga unfold through her very eyes. Like some other, more notable, reviewers, I didn't want to leave the breathtaking world of cities constructed of bone and barely visible cloud-sized predators that Wilde has so expertly fashioned, once I finally found myself on the last page. "Updraft" is a most auspicious start to Wilde's nascent career as a fantasy novelist; I am eagerly looking forward to reading what will come next.

The Three-Body Problem
The Three-Body Problem
by Cixin Liu
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.49
32 used & new from CDN$ 12.20

5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Memorable First Contact Hard Science Fiction Novel, Jan. 19 2016
This review is from: The Three-Body Problem (Hardcover)
Quite deserving of its Hugo Award, Cixin Liu's "The Three-Body Problem" ranks favorably with those from the likes of Gregory Benford and Arthur C. Clarke, and yet stands on its own as a riveting exploration of Modern Chinese history, as well as near future speculative fiction. Translator - and a notable recently new talent in speculative fiction in his own right ("The Grace of Kings") - Ken Liu does a marvelous job in retaining Cixin Liu's Chinese worldview without trying to make it read as though it is the latest addition to Anglo-American speculative fiction, in a terse literary style that demonstrates why he is among the newest superb literary stylists currently writing speculative fiction. It is also clearly one of the most unique "First Contact" speculative fiction novels ever written, and one that will appeal not only to long-time fans of Benford and Clarke's work, but even those familiar with great cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk speculative fiction from the likes of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Neal Stephenson, in an almost film noirish milieu recognizable to devoted fans of China Miéville and Haruki Murakami. Cixin Liu has assembled a remarkable set of characters, most notably astrophysicist Ye Wenjie - from whom we see a bird's-eye view of recent Chinese history beginning with the Cultural Revolution - and nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao - who becomes addicted to an online video game connected with the alien Trisolarans. Without question, "The Three-Body Problem" remains one of the most important recent works of hard science fiction and, with this translation, a most appealing introduction to Cixin Liu, widely regarded as China's foremost speculative fiction writer.

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe
Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe
by Lisa Randall
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 25.66
20 used & new from CDN$ 25.66

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding Account of Cutting-Edge Physics, Astrophysics and Geology, Dec 19 2015
Noted theoretical and experimental physicist Lisa Randall offers a spellbinding account of her current research into dark matter and how it relates to other cutting-edge science in astrophysics and geology in her latest book, “Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe”. This is a riveting exploration into how science is done, describing in ample detail not only her research, but also notable ones from paleontologists, planetary geologists, and other geologists pointing to the likely culprit for the terminal Cretaceous mass extinction (66 million years ago). The “Great Dying” that wiped out nearly two-thirds of Earth’s biota, not only the non-avian dinosaurs, but also other terrestrial organisms and those dwelling in the late Cretaceous oceans, ranging in size from relatively miniscule single-celled planktic foraminifera to titanic mososaurs resembling the one in the film “Jurassic World”. An extraterrestrial culprit, a comet, its motion disturbed enough by unseen dark matter, altering its remote Oort Cloud orbit into one spelling doomsday for much of Earth’s biota.

As the subtitle of “Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe” suggests, Randall covers much ground in her lucid explanations of relevant aspects of cosmology, planetary geology, paleontology and particle physics, frequently relying on pop cultural and political references recognizable to American readers. She literally boldly goes where no one else has gone before in her informed scientific speculation, proposing that a unique form of dark matter was responsible ultimately for the great K-Pg – for Cretaceous/Paleogene – mass extinction. Dark matter which may explain why geologists and especially, paleontologists, have observed cycles within the stratigraphic and paleontological record, approximately 32 million years in length, that have some correlations with higher rates of extinction on a regional, if not global, scale. As a former invertebrate paleobiologist, I am surprised and delighted by Randall’s coverage (Chapters 11 and 12) of the five great mass extinctions during the Phanerozoic Eon (the interval of geological time that began approximately 540 million years ago and continues to the present.); it may be the best I have seen so far in a popular science book. She also excels in explaining how a new, catastrophic, view of Earth’s geological history has supplanted a more traditional, uniformitarian, gradualist view championed by geologist Charles Lyell that had its most notable expression in Charles Darwin’s version of the theory of evolution via Natural Selection, which remains the core of the Modern Synthesis (current) evolutionary theory in biology.

Randall stresses repeatedly the importance of scientific teamwork, noting how the extraterrestrial agent for the terminal Cretaceous mass extinction – a comet - was identified by teams of geologists and astrophysicists, most notably the University of Arizona planetary geology research group led by Bill Boynton and his graduate student Alan Hildebrand, which stumbled upon the Chixculub impact crater off the coast of Yucatan, Mexico, starting with studying the stratigraphic record in relevant rock formations in Texas and Haiti, pointing to the existence of the impact structure. She also describes clearly how University of Chicago paleontologists David Raup and J. John Sepkoski recognized the existence of the five great mass extinctions, proposing an extraterrestrial impact of an asteroid or comet as the “smoking gun” for the terminal Cretaceous mass extinction. She concludes with an almost memoir-like recounting of the history behind her research team’s work on dark matter, offering evidence and well-reasoned scientific speculation pointing to the existence of a new form of dark matter. If for no other reasons than these, Randall’s explorations into how science is being done in astrophysics, particle physics and the geological sciences demonstrate why “Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs” is a notable new book of popular science, and one of the most notable new works of nonfiction published so far this year.

Demon&Hunter Relaxed Series Men's Loose Fit Relaxed Jeans DH8009
Demon&Hunter Relaxed Series Men's Loose Fit Relaxed Jeans DH8009
Offered by Demon&Hunter Flagship-Store
Price: CDN$ 46.80 - CDN$ 156.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Casual Men's Jeans, Nov. 12 2015
I recently put these jeans to the test by wearing them as I was walking nearly three and a half miles on November 1, 2015, photographing both spectators and runners at this year's New York City Marathon. These are some of the finest made, most comfortable, jeans I have worn, and they look attractive even at some semi-formal events I have attended recently here in New York City. Though I have obtained a free sample from the manufacturer, this did not bias the writing of my review. Instead, I was much more interested in seeing how well they fit, as I walked, and occasionally, ran, as I was photographing the New York City Marathon. Without hesitation, I highly recommend them to any man interested in wearing loosely fitting, very comfortable high quality jeans.

Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped
Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped
Price: CDN$ 13.79

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explaining Why Vladimir Putin Is an Ever Present Danger, Oct. 28 2015
It would be easy to dismiss “Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped” as a polemical attack upon Vladimir Putin, but Garry Kasparov, with the assistance of Mig Greengard, has written a most thoughtful account on the history of Russian politics since the rapid decline and fall of the Soviet Union; a cautionary tale explaining how the democratic aspirations of the Russian people were derailed by uninspired leadership from Boris Yeltsin, the unlikely succession and subsequent consolidation of power by his successor Vladimir Putin, and the West’s inability in promoting democracy during Yeltin’s rule, and then, in turning a blind eye to Putin’s revival of a one-party dictatorship. “Winter Is Coming” should be viewed as required reading by politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen throughout the Free World who think we should maintain “normal” diplomatic and commercial ties with Putin’s dictatorial Russian regime. What makes “Winter Is Coming” especially compelling is in recognizing it as a notable historical overview of Russian politics in the last quarter century seen personally through the eyes of Kasparov, a notable Russian democrat and critic of Putin’s kleptocratic dictatorship. A notable critic who recognized immediately, the seismic shifts in Russian politics months, even years, before many Western diplomats, historians and political scientists. (For example, he predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union months before it occurred, offering a realistic assessment of current Soviet politics which eluded American foreign policy experts, including the likes of Brent Scowcroft and Condoleeza Rice.)

Kasparov offers us a far more realistic appraisal of Putin than historian Stephen F. Cohen, who has argued consistently that Putin is more a creature of the nomenklatura – the entrenched Soviet Union-born bureaucracy – and the powerful oligarchs controlling and manipulating Russia’s economy. Instead of this relatively passive view of Putin, we are introduced instead to a real-life Mafia don emerging from the pages of Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather” trilogy, “The Last Don”, “Omerta” and “The Sicilian”; all of which Kasparov regards as required reading for anyone wishing to understand Putin and what makes him tick:

“…..A Puzo fan sees the Putin government more accurately; a strict hierarchy, extortion, intimidation, a tough-guy image, eliminating traitors, the code of secrecy and loyalty, and, above all, a mandate to keep the revenue flowing. In other words, a mafia.”

“ As long as you are loyal to the capo, he will protect you. If one of the inner circle goes against the capo, his life his forfeit. Once Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Khordorkovsky, wanted to go straight and run his Yukos oil company as a legitimate corporation and not as another cog in Putin’s KGB Inc., he quickly found himself in a Siberian prison, his company dismantled and looted, and its pieces absorbed by the state mafia apparatus of Rosneft and Gazprom. Private companies were absorbed into the state while at the same time the assets of the state companies moved into private accounts. State and corporate power merged. It became a perverse combination of Adam Smith and Karl Marx in which the profits were privatized and the expenses were nationalized.” (pages 160 -161)

Kasparov condemns all of Ronald Reagan’s successors as President of the United States, who have consistently tried normalizing relations with Russia, instead of demanding extensive and radical reforms to promote democratic values and free market capitalism. Some of his worst criticism is aimed specifically at both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, whom he thinks missed ample opportunities to demand genuine reforms from Putin’s government, possibly discouraging it from seizing territories in neighboring Georgia and Ukraine. He also blames Russia’s first post-Soviet Union president, Boris Yeltsin, for not instituting political and economic reforms akin to those implemented by Czech playwright Vaclav Havel, who, as president of Czechoslovakia, ensured not only a peaceful dissolution of his country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but also the survival of democracy and free market capitalism, allowing both to become spectacular political and economic successes in post-Soviet Empire Eastern Europe. He casts ample doubt on the actions of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, calling into question Snowden’s asylum request, and implying that Snowden may have been aided and abetted by Putin’s KGB. Kasparov concludes by demanding that Western – and indeed, all of the Free World - political leaders try emulating the moral leadership shown by Reagan and Havel, in insisting that human rights remain the cornerstone of any diplomatic and economic overtures to the Putin regime and other newly ascendant enemies of the free world, especially ISIS in the Middle East. Kasparov thinks that when Western political leaders cease offering appeasement to the Putin regime and other dictatorships, then we may no longer fear that “Winter is Coming”.

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Slim Portable Optical Drive, Aug. 31 2015
One of the finest external portable drives I have used, I tested the Ruban 24X USB Slim Portable Optical Drive with two Dell SSD laptops operating with recently installed Windows 10 Professional, and this worked superbly with both. It has a remarkably small profile that might lead potential users into thinking that it is an external hard drive, not an optical drive. Ruban offers plug and play usage with this optical drive, with its software easily installable. It is quite fast, and quite possibly, faster, than other optical drives or other external CD/DVD player drives I have used. Although I received a sample from the manufacturer for testing, please note that mine is a sincere, heart-felt, review of this superb external optical drive.

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