Sunday Book Reviews – 9/1/19

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

Do As I Say (Not As I Do) : Profiles In Liberal Hypocrisy by Peter Schweizer (2005, Random House)

It’s been nearly a decade and a half since this book was released, and it’s still effective. It is a fairly simple work which takes on one premise and aptly presents it: that high-profile Democrats are often blatantly hypocritical, demanding people act in a specific way while not holding themselves to similar standards.

The immediacy of the book is lost to time. Many of the people Schweizer profiles in the book are no longer key political players; they’ve been relegated to the sidelines: Hillary and Bill Clinton, for example, have little direct influence left in Washington, and Michael Moore has had a minor surge in his credibility after successfully predicting the election of Trump in 2016 but retains almost none of the influence he had in 2004.

It’s nonetheless effective on three fronts. The book calls to mind how aggressive the Democrats were about some issues fifteen years ago, often things they maintained were imminent threats to our survival as a species… and how little has changed despite the dire predictions. It accurately presents, though journalistic efforts, the hypocrisy of key Democrat leaders. Lastly, it presents, through extrapolation, the hypocrisy of the “new Left” Republicans.

The last can absolutely not be gleaned from this book, or Schweizer’s later books like Clinton Cash or Secret Empires. Rather, it can be learned through the supplemental information available for most contemporary authors: social media. Schweizer, for all that he would seem to advocate against political duplicity in general (having authored a book called Throw Them All Out), is a creature of sides. He aggressively promotes the current Republican party, despite writing books about Reagan and spending much of the last twenty years calling out political hypocrisy and graft. He is a tireless advocate for the Republicans under Trump, studiously avoiding calling any of them out for ethical or legal violations.

The book is valid; Schweizer’s own hypocrisy does not undermine the work he did in producing it. The focus demonstrates that he is untrustworthy, and more analytical works that deviate from the format of stripped-down journalism are highly suspect.

Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp (1941, Henry Holt)

This book is one of the earliest and most effective works in what would eventually become a subgenre of science fiction, alternate history. The impetus for the story is silly, and de Camp pushes past it as quickly as he can to get to the meat of the book: an archaeologist, studying in Italy, is struck by lightning and transported to ancient Rome.

The book invites comparisons to A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. Both feature a modern time-traveler stranded in the past who use science to elevate themselves. De Camp’s work is structured toward history and research, as well as storytelling.

The protagonist is presented in a simplistic fashion, without significant levels of personality or internal conflicts. This allows the author to focus on the events which were occurring in history at the time the main character, Martin Padway, arrives in the kingdom of the Ostrogoths. His foreknowledge of events to come prove immensely helpful… as do his innovations, which include things like introducing Arabic numerals and thus modern banking techniques. His limited knowledge of engineering restricts him; de Camp does not impart to his character an unrealistic catalog of ready information. Despite the unrealistic premise, the book shines in its presentation of a possible result of a modern person living in ancient times.

The result is a fine example of a pulp-era science fiction story, safe for all ages. It’s enough of an adventure tale to keep young readers interested through the dry historical parts, and enough of an analytical piece to stimulate adults interested in historical fiction.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.