An imaginative but somewhat stilted portrait of a mechanistic yet gushingly self-aware world.

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THE LOVE STORY OF CREATION

BOOK ONE: THE CREATIVE ADVENTURES OF GOD, QUARKIE, PHOTIE, AND THEIR ATOM FRIENDS

Divine grace begets astrophysics in this grandiose cosmological fantasia.

Ruetz, a Catholic priest and eco-communitarian, offers this fable as a mythic reconciliation of Christian-ish themes with scientific theories of the Big Bang and evolution. In the beginning, it seems, there was a Quaternity of one God in four Persons: Elohim, his wife Sophia, their son Dabar and a feminine Holy Spirit called Ruah. Their heavenly bliss needs constructive outlets, and before you can say “Through our ecstatic love, we will create space-time as a home in which these possible new creations will live,” a 100-trillion-trillion-degree “red bubble-womb” erupts. As the new universe cools, the laws of physics takes over, anthropomorphized by a Disneyesque cast of talking subatomic particles, including the squabbling trio of Quarkie, Quarko and Quarkoff and an alliterative photon named Photie. (Sample soliloquy: “Felicitous, faithful friends, potent perseverance calls you to fastidious fidelity.”) They conduct us on a 15 billion-year narrative in which gas clouds coalesce into galaxies and heavy atomic nuclei are synthesized in supernovae and they gravitate to the nascent Earth. Despite the long-winded dialogue, Ruetz’s fable imparts interesting lore about the developing universe at a level that young readers can digest. Unfortunately, kids and adults may get lost in the story’s second half, which bogs down in details of molecular biology—“First, let us build an RNA messenger made of nucleotide bases from our free-floating raw materials and RNA bases”—as loquacious atoms plan the evolution of bacteria into eukaryotic cells. Throughout, Ruetz blends theology into the science: the fundamental forces of physics are but elaborations of a primordial impulse toward love and fellowship, while free will makes the cosmos open-ended rather than deterministic (dangerously so for a hydrogen atom whose sinful pride draws him toward a black hole). Neither scientists nor religious traditionalists are likely to be swayed by Ruetz’s vision, but it may resonate with those of a determinedly ecumenical mindset.

An imaginative but somewhat stilted portrait of a mechanistic yet gushingly self-aware world.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2010

ISBN: 978-1440188404

Page Count: 388

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2010

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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