A clearly written but uneven work about human survival.



An analysis argues that the science of finance provides the key to humanity’s continued survival.

Criniti contends that “money has become an essential survival tool for everyone in our globalized civilization.” In that case, it becomes an absolute imperative to master finance—“the science of management of wealth”—since it is prosperity that most effectively draws people safely back from the “edge of survival.” The author expounds on this insight in biological terms—specifically Darwinian evolutionary theory—by arguing that humans have evolved in such a way that technological progress and wealth are now the key features of their fitness. These governable variables demonstrate that evolution, at least for humans, has itself evolved. Criniti describes the demands of the future in idiosyncratic terms: “Robotic forms and other technology are slowly filling this planet through the use of money. You need money to purchase the robotic parts for a cyborg, and you need money to make an android. If the nonliving come alive one day, then they may also need money to survive. The survival of the richest would then continue.” The author’s approach is a comprehensive one—for example, he devotes a large amount of time to defining life, death, and survival, though the book could have taken notions such as these for granted. At one point, while discussing survival in the wilderness, he defines wilderness. He even discusses at length the thorny issue of “why we should want to survive.”

Criniti’s prose is unfailingly lucid and offers some rich and informative details along the way. But he would have been better off deferring to convention, since some of his definitions can be counterintuitive. For example, he includes “thinking” as a criterion of life and simply stretches what counts as thinking beyond all reason: “All living things (such as bacteria, fungi, or plants) must make big decisions at some point in their life cycles.” The author’s overall strategy is to replace rigorous arguments with peremptory definitions and assertions. For example, he claims “everything must subordinate to the goal of survival,” a philosophically dubious statement, and encourages readers who disagree to discontinue perusing the book. In addition, he claims his work “may also serve as a direct learning tool to help you create your own path to economic and financial independence,” but he provides no specific or actionable counsel. Overall, Criniti’s book is a collection of thoughts leading up to a few sweeping and arguable main points. He dramatically promises to disclose uncomfortable truths about human nature, but that warning will strike many readers as a bit histrionic: “If you do not have the stomach to read about the horrors of survival or the truth about the current human predicament, then I suggest that you do not read this book. The conclusions are not easy to accept, and acceptance may only come after breaking down the inner walls of safety that our minds put up to protect us.”

A clearly written but uneven work about human survival.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9884595-4-0

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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