Archive for October 2020

Rage by Bob Woodward


With the United States Election day only days away, I went into reading Bob Woodward's latest book Rage with a pretty clear idea of what to expect. I read Woodward's 2018 book Fear in which he documented President Trump's tumultuous election and first year in the White House. To say the things uncovered in that book were disturbing would be an understatement. Woodward gained prominence as one of the two journalists who broke Nixon's Watergate scandal. His previous work covering Donald Trump was meticulously reported and backed by verified sources, public interviews, and cross-referenced records. Still, Trump reverted to his usual tactic of calling any unfavorable reporting on him "fake news". To be fair, Woodward was never granted an interview with President Trump, but all of that has changed in this latest book. Donald Trump granted Woodward 18 recorded interviews over the course of several months. Buckle up, folks. This is a wild ride. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been at the forefront of most American's lives since we were first told to quarantine in mid-March. Despite various attempts to re-open states and get back to a sense of normalcy, our country hasn't been able to effectively lower the number of positive cases. In fact, this week saw us hit a record number of reported positive cases for a single day. Naturally, much of the political debate surrounding this year's presidential election has focused on the government response to the health pandemic. The bombshell of Woodward's reporting in Rage centers upon what Donald Trump knew about the virus, when did he know it, and what was his response. Woodward reveals that the President was warned about the severity of the virus in January. His strategy has been recorded and quoted word for word by Woodward. "I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don't want to create panic."

Beyond the obvious mishandlings of the health pandemic, Rage provides some exclusive insights into the President's strange approach to foreign affairs. Despite warnings from both his Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, Donald Trump began a bizarre relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Woodward obtained letter correspondence between the two leaders. In the letters, both men gush about the brilliance of the other and their combined competence in forging an unprecedented relationship between their respective governments. It was widely reported that General Mattis resigned from his position after Trump took military action that was counter to Mattis's recommendations. While it ultimately seems like the worst ramifications of some of these actions have been avoided, it is the President's continued disregard for the informed advice of his advisers that continues to be one of the most disturbing parts of his presidency. 

If Fear was a stunning portrait of dysfunction within America's highest governing office, then Bob Woodward's Rage is the first-hand confirmation of those assertions. As Donald Trump's first tumultuous term as President of the United States comes to a close, it is one that will be more remembered for scandal than any legislative achievement. What I always find striking about books like this is that there really aren't any new revelations. Anyone paying attention is already aware of everything that this book confirms. As always, it is the direct quotes from the mouth of the President that are the most striking. Through the wide-ranging interviews that Woodward conducted, we see a man who is completely over his head in leading the country. Woodward says it best, "Trump is the wrong man for the job." It has been said time and again, but I'll say it one more time. Vote!

For more information visit the author's website and Goodreads

(2020, 45)

Prey by Michael Crichton


Even if you've never heard of him, you probably have some sort of familiarity with Michael Chrichton's work. His bestselling novel Jurassic Park spawned a juggernaut film series that continues to thrill audiences to this day. Chrichton was anything but a one-hit-wonder. In fact, he had 26 novels to his name before succumbing to cancer in 2008. Since then, three more of his novels have been posthumously published, giving audiences another taste of his brilliant ability to combine high concept thrillers with down to earth characters. It has been a while since I last read one of his books, but his 2002 novel Prey has been waiting patiently for me to read it for several years now. I finally gave in this week and was instantly reminded of why I'm such a Chrichton fan. 

As is typical to most of Chricton's work, there is a heavy speculative science slant to the plot. In this case, he imagines a lab building the latest in nanotechnology. The programmers at the desert lab created these microscopic robots to mimic patterns found in nature. They are supposed to flock together, working as a group to complete various tasks. As is always the case with well-laid plans, things quickly go awry. The robots escape the lab. The flock soon becomes a predatory swarm, feasting upon the smaller animals surrounding the lab and becoming completely uncontrollable. Worse, it seems to be evolving, learning from past experience, and become unstoppable. 

Chrichton balances the high concept science fiction with drama rooted in the relatability of domestic life. His main character, a father and husband who has recently taken on the role of stay at home dad after losing his job with a tech company, is about as every-man as you can get. He is struggling to come to terms with the fact that his wife is now the financial supporter of the family. The couple bicker about the best approach to parenting and the time she spends away at her job. He grows suspicious as she begins to change her routine, arriving home later and later each day and showering immediately when she gets home. He fears his marriage is falling apart and his wife is being unfaithful. The reality is something much worse. 

Michael Crichton's Prey has all the makings of a quintessential sci-fi thriller. There's the high concept tech experiment gone amock grounded by an equally riveting family drama. All in all, I couldn't stop reading it. I was hooked on this one for the entire duration. Still, I'd hesitate to call this my favorite Chrichton novel. It follows the formula of scientists unprepared to deal with the ramifications of their science that often finds its way into his writing, but it veered a bit too far into the outrageous for my tastes. And that's coming from someone who loved his book about reanimated dinosaurs! All in all, Michael Chrichton is usually a safe bet for some clever thrills, and Prey is no exception. 

For more information visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads.

(2020, 44)

Powered by Blogger.