Sunday Book Reviews – 8/23/20

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

Kicking the Sacred Cow by James P. Hogan (2004, Baen Books)

This is a wonderful, dangerous, terrible book by a man I corresponded with and who was never anything but friendly and encouraging to me. I wish I could recommend it without caution, but the opposite is true.

First, the good: this is a book of scientific analysis by a veteran storyteller who had a background in engineering. It delivers on its promise of challenging mainstream scientific thought. He presents some excellent points and well-researched studies that undermine commonly held beliefs. The technical skill of his writing is among the best of any scientific analysis book I’ve encountered.

Next, the bad: He grants equal validity to any contrarian, no matter what the relative rationality of their doubts may be (a view that eventually led him, in the weeks before his death, into Holocaust denial territory). This immediately renders every supposition, much less conclusion, that he reaches suspect. For a book that focuses on convincing the reader to question authorities it is refreshingly recursive, but it’s not meant to be.

Last, the dangerous: This book absolutely cannot be taken seriously on its face, but some of the points within not only seem to be valid, but have subsequently been demonstrated to be accurate. Because he successfully anticipated a couple of changes in scientific thought he seems to be granted a level of wisdom that is absolutely undue. Worse still, his overall message: that authority cannot be inherently trusted but must be checked against available facts and data, is a correct one.

This book’s value, in my opinion, lies in its usefulness as a master course in avoiding and debunking conspiracy theory and separating truth from untruth. It should not be purchased by anyone seeking to simply be informed, because that will in no way happen.

The Corpse Steps Out by Craig Rice (1940, Simon and Schuster)

This is the second book in what would become a series of eleven novels and many short stories featuring streetwise lawyer John J. Malone and his friends Jake and Helene Justus. The series was known for mixing the hard-boiled style exemplified in some of Bogart’s classics with broad comedy… The Thin Man crossed with I Love Lucy.

The mysteries themselves are good, with one major issue that is found in not just The Corpse Steps Out but many other classic works, particularly the most famous ones: the central conceits of the mystery have been subsequently used by other authors. The result was an odd feeling of deja vu during the final chapters, even though I had never previously read the book.

This in no way made the book less enjoyable. It reads today like a period piece because it was written in the 1930s, but the humor still works and Rice was able to write action when appropriate.

It’s a fun book in a fun series, and a good chaser to the many issues with Sacred Cow.

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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.