The One with Ricochet Joe

Wednesday, February 21, 2018
427. Title & Author: Ricochet Joe by Dean Koontz (95 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Thriller
Completed: 20 February 2018

Summary & Review:
Out of nowhere, Joe seems pulled by a force outside of himself to stop evil happening in his town. With the help of a pretty young woman he learns that he has been selected to help in a cosmic battle between Parasite, a demonic force that infects unsuspecting people and controls them like puppets, and Seeker, who has reached out to Joe for his help. When Joe finally tracks down the person unwittingly playing host to Parasite and discovers it is his own beloved grandmother, he must decide if he can do what is necessary to rid the world of this evil.

Every month, Kindle users who are also Amazon Prime members can select a free book to download. Occasionally included in the options of freebies are these shorter format books called “Kindle Singles,” and this book is one of those. At only 95 pages in length, this was a quick, fast-paced read without a lot of room to really develop characters or backstory. But, that being said, it was a fairly entertaining, if superficial, read. I haven’t read anything by Koontz in probably a dozen years—in fact, it’s been so long that I’ve read something from him I don’t have any of his on this list that I started back in 2008. Whatever the last thing I read by him was, it must have left a bad taste in my mouth because I was hesitant to read this, even if it was only 95 pages. But, this little book helped remove some of that latent dislike of Koontz’s writings. Will I read more? Eh….there are a lot of books out there I want to read so it’s doubtful.

Another interesting thing about this book was that it was also in a new format called “Kindle in Motion,” so it had little slightly animated illustrations to go along with the story. It was a little gimmicky, but I’m all for it. Might as well take advantage of the opportunities e-books offer.

Rating: 4.5

The One with Love and Hate in Jamestown

Wednesday, February 14, 2018
426. Title & Author: Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Heart of a New Nation by David A. Price (247 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—History
Completed: 10 February 2018

Summary & Review:
In 1606, just a few short years after the failed Roanoke colony disappeared, three ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, set sail for the New World form England in an attempt to make a permanent beachhead in Virginia. One of the sailors was a former soldier named John Smith who would become an iconic figure in American history. Equally famous, perhaps even more so, is his twice savior, Pocahontas. The events of the early days of permanent English settlement in the New World and the story of John Smith and Pocahontas are expertly told in this accessible history.

This was a great book. When I learn about events like this and understand how important they were to the development of America, I am perplexed as to why we never covered it in school. Sure, the broad timelines of English colonization were touched on, but most of the time the story was simplified to English settlers came and, despite the magnanimity of Pocahontas in saving John Smith’s life, her people were repaid with theft and slaughter.

That doesn’t seem to be even close to the true story (and don’t even get me started on Disney’s absolute travesty, their 1995 animated film Pocahontas). In contrast to the Spanish and Portuguese, the English were very concerned with their treatment of the natives and John Smith was repeatedly reprimanded when we took too firm a hand, like burning a village in retaliation for thefts or attacks. In fact, there were years of peace between the Indians and English as the English settled on land that was either unused or purchased from the tribes. Not until a gruesome, unprovoked massacre by the Powhatans against the men, women, and children English farmers who the Indians were working with, did the English begin to justify taking land by force.

And why isn’t John Smith still popularly celebrated and remembered? He was almost singly responsible for keeping the Jamestown colony alive during the early years through his expert diplomacy, shrewd use of force, leadership, and desire to truly understand the natives' culture and language. And, while we’re talking about unsung heroes, Pocahontas deserves some major kudos as well. She stopped the execution of John Smith and then later warned him and others about a forthcoming ambush. Additionally, she took a keen interest in English culture eventually converting to Christianity and marrying an Englishman named John Rolfe. The example of John Smith and Pocahontas, as two people who looked for the admirable qualities of one another’s cultures, learned the other’s language and religion, and strove for understanding and peace could have set a precedent for English/Indian relations. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be and the massacre of March 22, 1622 seemed to cement the dire fate of the native tribes.

Aside from the fascinating subject matter, Price was also a deft touch with his scholarship. It was deep enough to feel substantial, but he didn’t get bogged down in arcane trivialities.  I would recommend this book.

Rating: 9.0

The One with The Name of the Wind

Wednesday, January 31, 2018
425. Title & Author: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (729 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Fantasy
Completed: 28 January 2018

Summary & Review:
When the man known as Chronicler is attacked by terrifying beasts, a mysterious stranger kills the creatures and saves his life. After coming to, he realizes that this stranger is none other than the legendary Kvothe. After much persuasion, Kvothe, who now lives as a simple innkeeper under the name Kote, agrees to tell Chronicler his story beginning with his days traveling with his family as part of a theater troupe, his homelessness on the streets of Tarbean, and finally his time at the University where he began to hone his skills with the magic known as Sympathy.

This was on one hand a substantial fantasy novel, but was also kind of like Harry Potter. The stories have a lot of similarities, but Rothfuss is a more serious and detailed fantasy author. The world that Rothfuss created is very well thought out, maybe not quite to Dune (#353) levels, but still impressive, and within this world he has placed some very intriguing characters.

It took me about 75-100 pages to really get into the novel, but then for the next 400-450 pages, I was really into it. But, the last 100-150 started to drag a bit for me as I saw that much of Kvothe’s story would not be told or resolved in this book, but would be saved for the second and still-unpublished third novels.

Rothfuss is clearly a talented writer and by and large I enjoyed the book. Was 700+ pages a bit long for the amount of story that actually happened? Yes, but many fantasy novels are excessively long so I won’t hold that against Rothfuss, much. Other issues I had were Kvothe being just a little too good at everything and Rothfuss expecting us to believe that stage training and music are so important in a world with dragons and magic.

One last thing, Denna is a **bad word redacted** and Kvothe is a little punk for letting her stick him in the friend zone to be used and abused.

Rating: 6.5….maybe 7.0. Let me read the second book and we’ll see how Rothfuss develops the story and Kvothe as a character.

The One with The Field Day from the Black Lagoon

Wednesday, January 24, 2018
424. Title & Author: The Field Day from the Black Lagoon (Black Lagoon Adventures) by Mike Thaler (64 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Children’s Literature
Completed: 21 January 2018

Summary & Review:
When it’s announced that field day will be happening in just one short week, Hubie knows he has to get ready for whatever they might throw at him. Monsters? Tightrope walks over sharks?  Anything is possible and Hubie is going to do everything he can so that he makes it through field day alive!

Fox, Jane, and I have read several of these young-reader chapter books together, such as the Dragon Masters series and Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot series. This book was definitely a step down in terms of sophistication and quality. The humor was very, very cheesy and forced and the story was nonsensical, even for a children’s book.

Rating: 2.0

The One with Goodbye to Berlin

Wednesday, January 3, 2018
423. Title & Author: Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood (206 pages)
Genre: Fiction--Novel
Completed: 2 January 2018

Summary & Review: 
During the interwar years of the 1930s, Berlin is a city undergoing tremendous change. The former glory of the Prussian empire is gone, leaving little more than tattered remnants behind, and in its wake is rising a terrible new force. In this atmosphere, Isherwood lives and writes, learning much about dem Deutschen Volke.

Isherwood is undeniably a talented writer and this was an interesting book to read. Naturally, after having lived in Germany for four years, my interest in the country has increased considerably. Plus, the interwar years in Germany are often glossed over, in high school history classes for example, and the student only learns about WWII. Sure, passing mention is given to the Weimar years, mainly in relation to how it brought about the Nazi regime, but details are scarce. I found it fascinating to read these vignettes of everyday German life during those troubled years.

But, what would one of my reviews be without some political gripe?! And I have a biggie with this one! The first five novellas that make up the book are largely apolitical and barely mention Nazis or the political climate in Germany at all. These were what I was referring to in my comments above. The final segment of the book, “A Berlin Diary (Winter 1932-3),” is almost exclusively about the changing political climate and the rise of the Nazis in the city. Isherwood, rightfully so, does a powerfully effective job showing the evil behind the Third Reich. But, the guy is 100% freaking sympathetic to the Communists! Books like this do so much damage because they focus solely on the evils and terrors of fascism and ignore completely those of communism, and that is why today it is wholly socially acceptable to be a communist or socialist, but beyond the pale to be a fascist. Any fair minded person would see the insanity of this as the murders racked up by every. single. communist regime far, far, far surpasses those committed by fascist dictatorships. Isherwood deftly captures the fear and anguish felt by those persecuted by the Nazis, but what of the fear felt by those under communist governments? Berlin suffered under the Nazi yoke for twelve years, but then the city was crushed by the boot heel of Marxism for over four decades! Where is Isherwood’s condemnation of the Soviets and those who rule the DDR with an iron fist every bit as terrible—if not more so—than the Nazis? It is insane to me, absolutely insane, that people find it acceptable to be a communist or socialist. That label should be just as toxic as "Nazi" or "fascist."

Without this last section, or if perhaps Isherwood weren’t so completely blind to the terrors of communism, this book would have scored much higher.

Rating: 5.5

2017 Reviews in Review

Wednesday, December 27, 2017
I had set a goal on Goodreads to read 50 books in 2017 and I....didn't quite make it. Counting audiobooks, I read 45 this past year. Maybe in 2018 I can get 50. But, I thought I'd look back over the past year and sum up what I read.

Audiobooks
One of my favorite experiences with books this year was listening to the Harry Potter books on CD as we road-tripped around Europe. Paige and I have both read and re-read the series, watched all the movies multiples times, gone on a Harry Potter-themed walking tour in Edinburgh, and even visited the movie studios outside London where are the films were made. So, we had a great time listening to all the books over again starting in July 2016. We finished the last disc of the last book in May of 2017 as we drove home from the Munich airport after finishing up our last trip to Oslo, Norway.

I also listened to Max Brooks' excellent World War Z which I had originally read in April, 2014 and I've also been slowly making my way through the A Song of Fire and Ice saga by George R.R. Martin, but only finished A Storm of Swords this year. I'm currently listening to A Feast for Crows.

Now, on to the real books:

Best Book I read in 2017



I gave this book a sky-high 9.5!

In my review I said, "This was a great book. Well written, well researched, and Howarth’s conclusions were well argued. I had the basic knowledge of the events of 1066 before reading this, but now I feel like I really understand it all. Plus, Howarth did a great job explaining what life was like for an English villager in the middle ages."

Worst Book I read in 2017



Both books scored a 2.0 on my scale. Scarlet Sky was not a good book, but Conclave was much more disappointing for me. I love Robert Harris. He's my favorite contemporary author and I own all his novels. Not only that, but this book had the potential to be great. From my review of Conclave: "This book ticked me off. If it had ended ten pages earlier than it did I would have given it an 8.0 rating. The setting was interesting, the characters were well rounded and full, and getting to learn some of the ins and outs of the Vatican was fascinating. Harris had crafted a great novel that was far from boring even though it largely involved old men sitting in the Sistine Chapel voting. BUT, HE HAD TO GO AND SCREW IT ALL UP BY UNNECESSARILY INVOLVING CONTROVERSIAL POLITICS! So stupid."

Most Underrated Book I read in 2017



Everyone should read this. Mass migration is the most important issue facing every advanced Western nation and ignoring the problem will not make it go away.

From my review of Murray's excellent book: "I thought the book was well written, clearly organized, and persuasively argued. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in immigration, Western Civilization, Europe, history, or demographics, etc. I am glad Murray was able to write and publish this book so that a broader audience could understand what has happened—and still is happening—in Europe and everything that is at stake."

I gave The Strange Death of Europe an 8.0

Most Overrated Book I read in 2017



All of my friends who have read this book loved it. And they're not alone as none other than Steven Spielberg is releasing a big-budget movie of this book very soon.

My thoughts on the book? From my review: "Honestly, Cline’s story is so clichéd and predictable that even with the fun that nostalgia can bring, the book was a chore to read. He constantly defaults to tired tropes like “fascist corporations are out to destroy the cool things we love, man” and “we used up all the fossil fuels now we don’t have power!” (What about nuclear?). Anyone that uses the word “fascist” without irony to describe something in the modern world just cannot be taken seriously."

I rated Ready Player One 5.5--generously.

Most Surprisingly Enjoyable Book I read in 2017



World War I is really kind of an overlooked event in most popular culture. How many movies about WWI can you name? Now, what about WWII? See what I mean? So I loved reading an entertaining, funny, insightful, and historically accurate book about the War to End All Wars.

From my review: "First, this was a great book. It was well written, the protagonist Otto was a great character whom the reader couldn’t help but root for, and Higgins deftly presented a look into a largely forgotten time and culture."

I rated A Sailor of Austria 8.0 and thankfully my wonderful wife bought me the complete four-book set of this series for Christmas so I look forward to reading more of Otto Prohaska's adventures in 2018.

Book That Absolutely Everyone Should Buy I read in 2017


My mom's book, of course! I gave M.J. Evans' The Stone of Courage a perfect 10.0 out of 10.0!



From my review: "Wow! I’m know I’m a little biased since my mom is the author, but I thought this was a fantastic young adult fantasy. I’ve been able to read my mom’s books since the very early drafts of Behind the Mist (#175), and it has been so fun watching her grow as a writer. Here she has created a fun, layered world that fits squarely in with other Fantasy novel worlds and is true to the genre. While many of the creatures that populate the land of Crystonia will be familiar to fans of mythology or fantasy, e.g. centaurs and cyclops, Evans has given them new, interesting qualities and civilizations that brings a fresh feel to them. I can’t wait to continue on with Carling and her friends in Book 3!"

Visit Dancing Horse Press to buy this and all her other fantastic books!

And that wraps up 2017! Maybe next year I'll do more traditional categories like Best Fiction and Best Non-Fiction. But, I hope you enjoyed this round-up of my 2017 reading.

Happy New Year!

The One with The Attack of the Shadow Smashers

422. Title & Author: The Notebook of Doom: Attack of the Shadow Smashers by Troy Cummings (91 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Children’s Literature
Completed: 18 December 2017

Summary & Review:
Something strange seems to be going on with the shadows in Alexander’s hometown of Stermont: They don’t seem to match up with the people casting them. With the help of his friends Rip and Nikki, Alexander discovers that a group of monsters called Shadow Smashers have been eating the townspeople’s shadows and want to cover the city in perpetual darkness!

I was a little bummed that the big revelation of Nikki being a vampire was so quickly covered, almost like an aside, in this book. Cummings should have just written one of these just about that storyline. Instead, he squeezed it in to another story altogether.

Rating: 4.0

The One with The Afghan Campaign

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
421. Title & Author: The Afghan Campaign by Steven Pressfield (459 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Completed: 17 December 2017

Summary & Review:
Matthias, a young Macedonian youth from Apollonia, grew up worshipping his two older brothers who went off to war with their young, charismatic leader Alexander the Great to fight for the glory of their country and family. When his chance finally comes to join them, he will enter a war far removed from the tales or heroism and courage he has heard about from the poets and singers. Rather than grand, honorable battles, the Afghan campaign into which Matthias is thrown, is one of guerilla warfare, ambushes, village raids and massacres, and executions. Worse still, it seems like the war will never end and victory will never be achieved.

Steven Pressfield does a great job with military historical fiction. I’ve read or listened to three other of his books and have enjoyed all of them (I rated Gates of Fire 9/10). This was another great one. It was fascinating to read about the Macedonian army, about Alexander as a leader, about the everyday life of a grunt, about the Afghan culture, and to find parallels in all of this to modern wars in the same region.

Rating: 8.0

The One with Flurry of the Snombies

Wednesday, December 13, 2017
420. Title & Author: The Notebook of Doom: Flurry of the Snombies by Troy Cummings (91 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Children’s Literature
Completed: 11 December 2017

Summary & Review:
Alexander, Nikki, and Rip aren’t exactly thrilled to be dropped off at summer camp for the week, but when mysterious things start happening, the three members of the Super Secret Monster Patrol jump into action. This time, they must battle the Ice-Crusher, a frozen monster who loves feasting on children, and his army of Snowmen zombies, a.k.a. Snombies.

This book was a little bit faster paced and more action packed than the Dragon Masters books we’ve been reading lately. While I like the storylines of those better, Fox seemed to enjoy the adventure in this book.

Rating: 4.5

The One with Masterpieces in the Van Gogh Museum

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
419. Title & Author: Masterpieces in the Van Gogh Museum published by the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (140 pages)
Genre: Nonfiction—Art History
Completed: 5 December 2017

Summary & Review:
The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is home to some 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 800 letters of the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh. Dozens of his most important paintings in the collection are reproduced in full color in this large gallery guide, along with accompanying text about the paintings and brief biography of the artist. Also, many works owned by the museum by contemporaries of Van Gogh are included in a final section of the book.

I haven’t studied Van Gogh too closely. I never ended up taking an art history class during my major that covered 19th century European artists, so most of what I know about Van Gogh is from my survey classes and from my mother who loves Impressionism and the artists inspired by it. Many people think that Van Gogh was completely unappreciated during his life, but that isn’t really the case. His work was accepted into many major exhibitions and he received favorable reviews by contemporary art critics. He was also friends with the other important artists of the time like Gauguin. Thus, his life wasn’t tragic due to lack of recognition, but simply due to mental health issues resulting in his suicide at a young age.

The book was a nice presentation of the Van Gogh Museum’s collection. While I wasn’t blown away by the museum when we visited it, I did somewhat enjoy this book.

Rating: 5.0

The One with Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Wednesday, November 29, 2017
418. Title & Author: Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan (515 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Completed: 25 November 2017

Summary & Review:
During the final years of World War II, young Pino Lela’s life in Milan will be changed forever. While still only a teenager, the boy escorts groups of refugee Jews over the alps into Switzerland, becomes the driver of a powerful Nazi general, spies on that general, falls in love, experiences unimaginable tragedy, and somehow tries to persevere and maintain his faith in God.

According to Sullivan, this is a “true story,” but because they couldn’t corroborate “minor details” he published it as a novel rather than a biography. Personally, I think a lot of what Sullivan was told is unlikely to be one hundred percent true. To me it sounded like the embellishing of someone who loves a grand story and loves being at the center of that story. For example, in the afterword, Lela said he had a ticket to be on the flight that was bombed and crashed in Lockerbie, Scotland but was convinced not to get on it by a friend. He always puts himself at the forefront of these major moments in history, but for one person to have experienced all this in person, firsthand is a stretch. As he tells it, Pino is an expert race car driver, top-notch skier, master mountaineer who happens to be hand-picked by the #2 Nazi general in Italy to be his personal driver and confidante and who then lets him in on all his important meetings with the likes of Mussolini himself and then later witnesses his cousin shot in the head just seconds after talking with him, watches the love of his life get executed by firing squad, figures out that the deportation and mass murder of Jews at Auschwitz is occurring, single-handedly conveys critical information to the Allies that help them defeat the Nazis and Fascists, happens to be walking down the street when Mussolini is strung up from a Milanese gas-station sign, delivers the Nazi general to the Allies after driving him through a war zone surviving only by the skin of his teeth when a US tank fires at their Fiat but the shell only grazes the back fender of the car, and on and on and on. It’s all too much for me to believe. I’m sure Lela has some incredible, terrible, etc experiences from living through the war, and maybe he even did some heroic things like help Jews escape. But, the way this book is written, he just always happened to be in the right place at just the right time and it was a little too convenient.

Aside from the questionable authenticity of the story, I wasn’t a big fan of Sullivan’s writing style. This book was offered as a free Kindle book and when I was deciding which of the six free books to download, I picked this one because it had a 5 star rating with tens of thousands of reviews and was on Amazon’s “Most-read” Charts. “How could this many people be wrong?” I thought. Well, either they are or I am, because I didn’t like it.

Additionally, I’m a little burnt out on WWII books. They are constantly best-sellers and people can’t seem to get enough of stories of the Holocaust and how horrible the Germans were. Maybe I’m biased because we lived in Germany for four years and I love that country and their culture, but I’m a little bored with the subject. Yes, the Nazis were evil, but a lot of people and countries and cultures have done a lot of terrible things, even worse than the Nazis did, throughout history. Does anyone else think it’s time we stopped making Germany grovel for WWII? Why do we ignore the millions murdered by Stalin? Or Mao? Or Pol Pot? Or the North Koreans dictators? What about the war crimes the Japanese committed during the Second World War? And that’s just from the Twentieth Century, if we went back through history the list would be infinite. Enough with picking the scab of the Nazis.

Rating: 2.0

The One with Saving the Sun Dragon

Wednesday, November 22, 2017
417. Title & Author: Dragon Masters: Saving the Sun Dragon by Tracey West (90 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Children’s Literature
Completed: 19 November 2017

Summary & Review:
Shortly after narrowly escaping trouble in the tunnel under the castle, Ana’s dragon Kepri falls ill. As the Dragon Masters rush to find a cure for the ailing dragon, they must travel to Ana’s homeland to find Kepri’s twin, a Moon Dragon.

These are pretty fun books and the kids, both Fox and Jane, enjoying our reading time at night so there are not too many bad things I can say about it.

Fox’s Rating: 10.0

The One with Hosts

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
416. Title & Author: Hosts (A Repairman Jack Novel Book 5) by F. Paul Wilson (383 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Thriller & Science Fiction
Completed: 13 November 2017

Summary & Review:
A woman in desperate need calls Jack for his help and when Jack meets the woman face-to-face he realizes it is his own sister who he hasn’t talked to in fifteen years. His estranged sister explains that her partner has seemingly been brainwashed and become a completely different person and Jack agrees to help her. As Jack looks into his sister’s problem, he realizes that the woman has been infected by a virus that takes over one’s personality and makes the host a member of a “hive mind” with the others who are infected. Once the virus takes control it only has one goal: survival at all costs.

I had to backtrack to read this book since I had skipped it before. The used copy I had purchased from Amazon reeked of cigarette smoke so I just skipped it and moved on to the next book. Eventually, I threw that copy away and bought a new one and decided I had to read it before I got to Book 15, which is the last in the series. It was kind of fun to go back in time and see Jack just starting to learn about the massive cosmic battle going on behind the scenes that will eventually come to dominate his life. Also, this was an important book because not only did Jack reunite with his sister, but she was killed during this story. Later books often reference the loss of his sister and I finally read how it all happened.

I can’t wait to read the last book in this series! Thankfully, Wilson has also written a prequel Repairman Jack trilogy, so Book 15 won’t be the last chance I get to read about Jack.

Rating: 7.5

The One with Song of the Poison Dragon

Wednesday, November 8, 2017
415. Title & Author: Dragon Masters: Song of the Poison Dragon by Tracey West (90 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Children’s Literature
Completed: 16 October 2017

Summary & Review:
As the new dragon master Petra is showing off her hydra dragon, the beast panics and accidentally poisons the king. With the help of the other dragon masters, especially Drake, Petra must learn to connect with her hydra and learn how to save the king before it’s too late.

This is the fifth book in the series—we had to skip 2,3, and 4 because Fox says they were already checked out from his school’s library—but the story was able to stand alone on its own pretty well. Both Fox and Jane really got into this one so we’ll call the experience a success.

As far as ratings go, I don’t really know how to rate these kids’ books. If Fox were rating it he’d probably give this one a 9.0, but if I gave it a 9.0, that would be on par with classics like Animal Farm (#220) on this list. Anyway, I liked this one a little better than book 1, so I’ll bump up the rating a half point.

Rating: 5.5

Arguments Summed Up: The Strange Death of Europe

Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Title & Author: The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray
Genre: Nonfiction--Current Events & Politics
My Rating: 8.0

Summed Up:
Douglas Murray is straight forward when it comes to his opinion regarding Europe’s future: it doesn’t have one. “By the end of the lifespans of most people currently alive Europe will not be Europe and the peoples of Europe will have lost the only place in the world we had to call home.” (1) How is this suicide being committed? Unchecked, uncontrolled mass third-world immigration. Murray explains that “In all Western European countries, this process began after the Second World War due to labour shortages. Soon Europe got hooked on the migration and could not stop the flow even it wanted to. The result was that what had been Europe—the home of European peoples—gradually became a home for the entire world. The places that had been European gradually became somewhere else. So place dominated by Pakistani immigrants resembled Pakistan in everything but their location, with the recent arrivals and their children eating the food of their place of origin, speaking the language of their place of origin and worshipping the religion of their place of origin.” (2)

But why is this movement of people destroying Europe? Because the host cultures are sick and unable to assimilate the newcomers. Murray states, “And while the movement of millions of people from other cultures into a strong and assertive culture might have worked, the movement of millions of people into a guilty, jaded and dying culture cannot.” (7) But, the ruling class continues to pretend this could work. Murray states, “It’s like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre.” (16) The cultures of Europe have lost faith in their beliefs and traditions.

During this entire transformation, the peoples of Europe have been wholly against mass migration and the loss of their cultures. How have politicians responded? With a dismissive, “get over it,” or simply stating that the changes were “inevitable.” Murray comments, “But there is something cold about the tone of such remarks. Not least the absence of any sense that there may be other people out there not willing to simply ‘get over it,’ who dislike the alteration of their society and never asked for it.” (26) Politicians either don’t know or care that the vast majority of their peoples do not want this change to happen.

For those who do disagree with mass migration, it has become dangerous to express this disagreement. As Murray notices, “The upsides of migration have become easy to talk about: to simply nod to them is to express values of openness, tolerance and broad-mindedness. Yet to nod to, let alone express, the downsides of immigration is to invite accusations of closed-mindedness and intolerance, xenophobia and barely disguised racism.” (27-8) Thus, if you embrace the loss of your country you are good, and if you oppose it, you are an evil, racist, bigot. Murray continues later in the book, “in each case the price that local people were made to pay, for taking anything but the most positive attitude towards the arrival in their towns and cities of hundreds of thousands of people from another culture, was just too high. Whole careers not only in politics, but in any walk of life, could be ruined by any recognition of the new facts, never mind any proposed alteration to them. And so the only thing left for people to do—whether locals, officials or politicians—was to ignore the problem and lie about it.” (113)

These attacks against those who oppose immigration have prevented any sane discussions of the issue. Murray states, “It soon became clear that nothing could be learned because nothing could be said.” (224)

One of the most common ways that European leaders dismiss critiques of contemporary immigration policies is by claiming that this is nothing new, that is has all happened before and has been happening forever.  “The movement of people in recent years—even before the European migration crisis—was of an entirely different quantity, quality and consistency from anything that had gone before,” Murray says. “Yet despite this fact, it remains one of the most popular ways to cover over the vast changes of recent years to pretend that history was similar to what is happening now. Not the least advantages of this suggestion is that any current problems arising from migration and nothing we haven’t dealt with—and triumphed over—before. It falsely presents any current challenges as normal.” (27)

But, are those benefits of migration really worth it? Murray doesn’t think so. He says, “The reality is that whatever its other benefits, the economic benefits of immigration accrue almost solely to the migrant. It is migrants who are able to access public facilities they have not previously paid for. It is migrants who benefit from a wage higher than they could earn in their home country. And very often the money that they earn—or much of it—is sent to family outside the United Kingdom rather than even being put back into the local economy.” (43) As to the costs of immigration, Murray points out that “A continent which imports the world’s people will also import the world’s problems.” (302)

Deeper down, mass immigration seems to be a result of cultures that have given up on themselves. Proponents have the impending demographic replacement claim that “either that the country of arrival does not have a culture, or that its culture and identity are so especially weak, worn out or bad that if it did disappear then it could hardly be mourned.” (31) Additionally, in the new multicultural Europe, “the only culture that couldn’t be celebrated was the culture that had allowed all these other cultures to be celebrated in the first place.” Thus, newcomers should constantly be encouraged to be proud of their cultures, but the indigenous, native Europeans either have no culture at all, or have one that they should be ashamed of.

A pervasive guilt has seeped into modern Western societies for real or perceived wrongs from the past. Murray claims that “The desire to continue to feel yourself guilty arguable finds its end point in modern European liberal societies: the first societies in human history who, when they are hit, ask what they did to deserve it.” Thus, a culture that is so overwhelmed by its own guilt has no energy to defend itself against invading cultures and peoples. Murray observes that “it is not possible for a society to survive if it routinely suppresses and otherwise fights against its own origins. Just as a nation could not thrive if it forbade any criticism of its past, so no nation can survive if it suppresses everything that is positive about its past.” (305)

In sum, “Europeans are blamed for what is happening to them, are denied any legitimate way to object, and the views of the majority are made to appear not just dangerous but marginal.” (246)

You can read my review of The Strange Death of Europe here. 

The One with Truly Madly Guilty

Wednesday, October 25, 2017
414. Title & Author: Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty (418 pages)
Genre: Fiction—Novel
Completed: 15 October 2017

Summary & Review:
Six friends gather together to enjoy a backyard barbecue on a beautiful early spring day. One couples’ two little girls run around enjoying the twinkly lights as food and wine is served and the conversation sparkles. Then, disaster shatters the peaceful evening leaving marriages and friendships tattered and strained in its wake.

Well, this definitely wasn’t my favorite novel by Moriarty that I’ve read. There was a solid nugget of a story here that I wish Moriarty had focused on rather than trying to include so many issues and topics into the story. The idea of exploring how friendships and marriages would be tested by the accident that happened could have been an interesting, intriguing novel on its own. However, Moriarty then threw in a ton of other stuff. The whole hoarding storyline was particularly superfluous. Moriarty is still a talented writer, but she could have benefited from an editor encouraging her to tighten up what she really wanted to explore in this book.

Rating: 5.5

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