Sunday Book Reviews – 10/4/20

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

A Cry From the Far Middle by P.J. O’Rourke (2020, Atlantic Monthly Press

There’s no hate in this book. There isn’t even contempt. For that reason alone O’Rourke validates the title, in that he is unwilling to engage in the histrionics which are seen from large percentages of the two most prominent American political parties.

The result is a book that feels like it’s had its edges intentionally dulled. There is much to condemn about the Presidency of Donald Trump and the Republicans, and the author doesn’t do that. Instead he chastises them and demonstrates why they are being hypocritical, foolish and incoherent. This is the general tack he’s taken for decades with the Democrats and which has been directed toward the most notable pundits in the Republican field for more than a decade.

The Peej can be felt throughout the entirety of this book shaking his head and saying, “I warned you” to his readers, most of whom are older Republicans and Libertarians. And he did. Whether in “How the Hell Did This Happen?” (2017) or “Don’t Vote, It Just Encourages the Bastards” (2010) one can see his fire targeted at characters like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. He’s now in the position of the disappointed uncle who is watching his niece or nephew dealing with the results of their catastrophic decision.

What the reader is treated to is a mix of casual humor and summarized lessons in history and economics. The book is broken down into short chapters and uses fairly large typeface, both of which are common in humor books because it allows a shorter book to be padded to an appropriate size. Clocking in at just over 200 pages, it raises serious questions about whether it’s worth a $26 pricetag.

I think it is… but then again, I’ve been a fan of O’Rourke for a while. I’m biased.

Don’t expect any righteous vitriol from these pages. You won’t find it. On the other hand, this may serve as the perfect present for older Trumpers following an expected loss in 2020… a way to make them feel better about their loss and maybe even shift them over to a more sane pundit for a change.

Nightfall and Other Stories by Isaac Asimov (1970, Fawcett)

Compilations with this title have been around since the late 1960s, using different stories for their tables of contents. Typically they revolve around Asimov’s earlier work, and all of them include the titular story, Nightfall.

Asimov was a key author in the field of science fiction. He was particularly adept at extrapolation and problem-solving, both of which are represented throughout the hundreds of novels and short stories he penned. His early fiction (Nightfall was originally published in 1941) showcased those skills at the expense of characterization, often resulting in a cross between futuristic adventures and Agatha Christie stories.

The title story, a classic of the field, presents a world that is closer to the galactic core and cycles around multiple suns simultaneously. Day always exists because there is always a sun shining at any point on the planet. The planet’s multiple moons are about to simultaneously eclipse all of the suns which are currently visible to one side of the planet, and preparations are being made by scientists to document the experience of “nightfall”.

There are opportunities here which would be seized upon by contemporary writers. The world in which the scientists live is very similar to ours, without serious consideration of the changes which would develop in a society that always had sun, or the different flora and fauna which might develop in such a world. Avoiding such analysis makes the story less realistic… but it also prevents the story from meandering, instead presenting an effective punch at the end of the tale.

It focuses on how people think, like many of Asimov’s early works, and that is why his fiction remains enjoyable more than 75 years after its publication. This is a collection worth purchasing for anyone who is curious about the early history of the field.

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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.