Patterson covers all the bases—an essential book for studious fans of Heinlein, with valuable lessons for anyone hoping to...

ROBERT A. HEINLEIN

IN DIALOGUE WITH HIS CENTURY VOLUME 2: THE MAN WHO LEARNED BETTER

Second and concluding volume of Patterson’s wide-ranging biography of the renowned science-fiction author.

As Patterson (Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve, 2010) notes, Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) did not limit himself to what was then a small, if growing, genre of popular fiction. By the early 1950s, “he was in boys’ and girls’ markets, books, pulp, and film, all at the same time”—part of a concerted, thoroughly thought-through effort to free himself from the pulps while making a living as a writer. Patterson is well-versed in the Heinlein oeuvre, and a significant contribution of his biography is to place Heinlein’s works in the context of his life and the evolution of his politics. As Heinlein was writing his best-known books, among them Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and Starship Troopers (1959), he was making a political arc from beyond–New Deal Democrat to right-of-Goldwater Republican, a transformation helped by a second marriage to an activist conservative. Though he was friendly with L. Ron Hubbard, he resisted taking the path into invented religion and instead used his fiction to explore philosophical questions of meaning (one reason that Stranger became such a hit in the ’60s counterculture). The ’50s, Patterson reveals, were lucrative and satisfying for Heinlein in some respects, though the ground was always shifting; his Hollywood period closed with a thud when the production company he worked with closed its doors. He was on firmer footing in the ’60s, and though reviewers were often antagonistic (Patterson quotes a few, including some from this publication, that were friendly but more that were not), his books did well—encouraging fan mail that, as Patterson recounts, was full of detailed questions “about everything from economics to where Robert parted his hair.”

Patterson covers all the bases—an essential book for studious fans of Heinlein, with valuable lessons for anyone hoping to make a living with the pen.

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-1961-6

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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