In screenplay format, four characters debate the real identity of Shakespeare, using Bayesian statistics to justify their conclusions.
English professor Beatrice and mystery novelist Claudia learn about statistical analysis and, under the guidance of statistician Martin and engineer/entrepreneur James, use quantitative methods to investigate the likelihood that Shakespeare’s plays were actually written by a man from Stratford. The book is divided into scenes, each focused on a single aspect of Shakespeare’s identity, although the characters use the name Shake*Speare (“The asterisk should remind us that we are dealing with someone whose identity we have not yet decided”) to minimize the bias for or against their candidates: the Stratfordian William Shakespeare, the Earl of Oxford, or some unidentified person or group. For each question—Was Shake*Speare educated? Did he visit Italy? Is there a hidden message in the sonnets’ dedication?—Beatrice and Claudia produce probability matrices to evaluate the factor. (The reader is invited to complete the same matrices and submit their guesses at the companion website.) The frequent criticisms of Bill Bryson’s The World As a Stage (2007) may leave readers wondering if this book is intended as a reply; if so, it’s a curious decision, since Bryson’s brief pop-history is hardly an authority on Shakespeare studies. This book’s characters are determined to keep an open mind about the authorship question, which gives them plenty of discussion fodder but may be off-putting to anyone who sees no cause for dispute. The screenplay format is an unusual choice, but it works well with the content, despite some stilted dialogue: “Well, of course, I am not a betting person, so I am not used to thinking about probabilities.” Readers may also take issue with the characters’ methodology, as they jump from one “admittedly wild conjecture” to another. A more serious shortcoming is the book’s failure to acknowledge the limitations of probability. Like a hitter’s batting average, the odds Beatrice and Claudia calculate for each Shake*Speare candidate might be useful if this were an experiment that could be repeated numerous times, but they reveal little about a single event in the past.
A thought exercise delivered in a unique format that provokes more questions than answers.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.