Thursday, January 21, 2010

winner stands alone book review

I am still trying to make sense of this book . I have read almost all of Coelho’s book till date and  this book stands out from the rest .
Cannes film festival is something we all see on T.V. , in this book Coelho has gone back stage and expains the hardships and the pusedo lives that the people live . We get a peek into lives of models , directors , actors , producers etc . The way he moves the characters makes you think they are real.
There are four central characters to this book . And as the author says in his preface , three of them get caught in the ‘trap’ . The Winner Stands Alone is candid and makes you wonder why anyone would even think of being a big ’star’ .
The reason why I am still trying to make sense of this book  is because  of the character Igor . On one hand he is portrayed as a man of principle who becomes a serial killer , in hope to winning his wife back . On the other hand he is shown as Mr. Devil through the eyes of his ex-wife .  Being the good and the bad is maybe what defines ‘normal’ , maybe . We have ‘the angle’ and ‘the devil’ in us , yet who controls the hand is the question .
The Sterotypes usually end with the bad guy being caught . Then  there are those in which  nothing about the bad guy is shown and he just escapes . The book will fall under the latter .
I loved the book , yet I hated the character Igor . Some how it seemed to represent the knife edge which lots of people sit on . Not that there is anything wrong with that , but if you are a person like me , who doesn’t believe in violence or killing others , a serial killer getting away on his private jet seems pretty hard to accept.
Of course that is the reality , the superclass get away with everything (?) . But the question which keeps popping up is , why does the book seem incomplete ? I wonder if it is just me . Or maybe reading his other books , I had a picture in my mind and this some how doesn’t fit in .

Concluding the book is good . It flows well . Another new theme explored by Coelho . And the reason why I haven’t mentioned the philosophy us because , I think , when I say it is a Coelho’s book , it is taken to be there , infact , it gels with the theme really well .
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Angel and demon book review

Like the majority of readers, I read Angels & Demons by Dan Brown after reading The Da Vinci Code. I would venture that most people reading this review are asking the question, "How does Angels & Demons compare to The Da Vinci Code?" The short answer is that they're very similar. If you enjoyed The Da Vinci Code, you should enjoy Angels & Demons.
Angels & Demons introduces the character of Robert Langdon, professor of religious iconology and art history at Harvard University. As the novel begins, he's awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from Maximilian Kohler, the director of CERN, the world's largest scientific research facility in Geneva, Switzerland. One of their top physicists had been murdered, with his chest branded with the word "Illuminati." Since Langdon is an expert on the ancient secret society known as the Illuminati, he's asked to help solve the murder. A high tech X-33 plane transports Langdon from Massachusetts to Switzerland in a little more than an hour.
The murder victim is Leonardo Vetra. Not only is he one of the world's leading physicists, he's a Catholic priest. He's a priest who has adopted a daughter, Vittoria, who is also a scientist at CERN. This was the largest suspension of disbelief for me, a man who is a priest, a father, and a top physicist, but accepting it sets the rest of the story in motion. Vetra and his daughter were using the world's largest particle accelerator to create antimatter, and then suspend the antimatter properly in canisters so that it doesn't interact with matter. If a canister is removed from the electrical system which keeps the matter and antimatter separated, then backup batteries will serve the same purpose for 24 hours. When those 24 hours expire, the two will collide in an instantaneous explosion of unprecedented power.
Lenoardo Vetra created the antimatter to simulate the Big Bang. In his mind, this would show proof that God exists, being able to create new matter and antimatter in the same way God created the universe. Vetra's murder, though, allows one of the canisters to be stolen. The question of who stole the canister and what they planned to do with it is soon answered. The canister is quickly found on a security camera in Vatican City, with its LEDs counting down the time until the batteries run out. The security camera, however, is nowhere to be found, leaving the canister's whereabouts a mystery too. Langdon and Vittoria Petra are quickly sent off to Rome and Vatican City, to help find the canister and return it to CERN before it explodes at midnight.
Not only does the canister threaten to destroy Vatican City, but with the recent death of the Pope, the cardinals of the Catholic Church are all within the city for the conclave to choose the new pope. They are all about to be locked within the Sistine Chapel where, according to church law, they must remain until a new pope is chosen. They are awaiting the preferiti, the four cardinals from four different European countries who are the preferred candidates to become the new pope. While Langdon and Vittoria are trying to convince the captain of the Swiss Guard and the camerlengo, the Pope's chamberlain who leads the church until the new pope is named, that the antimatter bomb is real, a phone call is received from a man who claims to be from the Illuminati. He has the four cardinals, which he will murder one by one, and then allow the bomb to destroy Vatican City, which houses not only the church hierarchy, but also its possessions and wealth. He has no demands; his only wish is the destruction of the Catholic Church in retribution for the church's treatment of scientists and the Illuminati over the centuries.
Langdon and Vittoria Vetra are in a race against time. They dig through archives and ancient mysteries to find clues, which also requires an extensive background in art history and religious symbology. This makes Robert Langdon the expert tour guide through all this arcane knowledge with his congenial and scholarly fashion, doing his best to educate without seeming superior with his own intelligence. Much like The Da Vinci Code, Langdon understands enough about each mystery to go in search of the missing pieces necessary to solve each puzzle, which leads him to the next one. Vittoria is beautiful, tough, intelligent, and determined to avenge her father's murder and keep the canister from exploding. The two of them are constantly one step behind the Illuminati, and once it's clear that the Swiss Guard and Vatican City have been penetrated by the ancient society, they don't know whom to trust. This leads them through churches, fountains, crypts, forgotten passages, secret passages, and catacombs. Death stalks them at every turn, in one form or another.
So it's time for the comparisons of Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. In some ways, Angels & Demons has a more suspenseful storyline with the antimatter bomb and the race to prevent the destruction of Vatican City. Both share a hired assassin, a tough and beautiful woman as Langdon's sidekick who's mourning the murder of a loved one, and mysteries that require extensive knowledge of art history, religious symbology, and secret societies. Robert Langdon is a protagonist that you can't dislike in any way, with just enough vulnerability to go along with his intelligence and right amount of charm. Angels & Demons is a looser story. It takes longer to get going, each new puzzle takes longer to solve, and too much character background is given for too many characters. While Dan Brown's writing style will never be called literary, he's obviously matured as a writer between the two books. The chapters in The Da Vinci Code are shorter, tighter, and the suspense is never allowed to wane.
While some judicious editing might have made it a tighter and more focused novel, Angels & Demons is still a highly enjoyable read. For those who love plot-driven novels, and for those who love thrillers and mysteries full of strange bits of information that tie everything together, grab a copy of Angels & Demons and find a comfortable chair. It's time well spent.
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Digital fortress

One weekend, the NSA’s top cryptographer, Susan Fletcher, gets an urgent call from her boss, Commander Strathmore, to come to work. She arrives to the shocking news that TRANSLTR, the NSA's incredibly fast and infallible code-breaking machine against which even the best computer encryption software is useless, has at long last come face to face with its nemesis. Codenamed the Digital Fortress, it is an unbreakable code created by an ex-NSA cryptographer, Ensei Tankado, who had threatened to make it available for public use if the NSA didn’t make TRANSLTR’s existence known to the general public. As the repercussions of this comprise a deadly threat to the nation’s security, it sends shockwaves through the corridors of the NSA.

Even as Susan scrambles to find Ensei’s secret partner, she is puzzled, angry and scared that Commander Strathmore has inexplicably sent her boyfriend David, an ordinary university professor, on a dangerous mission to Spain to retrieve this unbreakable code’s key. Does the key really exist, and if so, will David ever find it and live to bring it back? It’s a race against time as secrecy, deceit and lies escalate, and Susan finds herself smack dab in the middle of it all. Faced with betrayal and terror, this young woman has to fight for love, life and country.

Once again, this Dan Brown novel emphasizes cryptography and details its origins, uses and various forms, and the subject makes for fascinating reading, if a bit dry. Through the central character of Susan, we come to see how cryptography has evolved in today’s time and also something about the NSA, its functions, capabilities and awesome power. With an ingenious plot whose exciting premise is further bolstered by a rapid pace, lots of suspense, interesting characterizations and a romantic entanglement thrown in for good measure, Digital Fortress is a cutting-edge techno-thriller that compels the readers to wonder how much the government is concealing from the public, and whether big brother is really watching everything everywhere. Dan Brown’s laudable detailed research makes this book so realistic it’s scary. Moreover, it will provoke readers to think and wonder if this loss of privacy and violation of human rights is justified by the number of horrific terrorist plots foiled and lives spared daily -- an interesting dilemma.
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