Monday, February 26, 2018

Diamond Smuggling Is Forever!

Diamonds Are Forever (James Bond, #4)Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bond slips into the diamond smuggling market and the American mafia.

Not a bad installment in the Bond series. I don't recall ever seeing the movie version, so I can't say if they parallel much or at all, but I can say that Diamonds Are Forever makes for a fine little read.

It's not exactly the most exciting spy thriller ever. In fact, there were a number of spots through out the book that had me ho-humming. It seems like Fleming wanted to flex his prose muscles a bit with this one. There are some nice descriptions of characters and places, but they do tend to slow down the action a bit. Or perhaps there just wasn't all that much action to begin with. I guess there was a shoot out and a tense, butt-clenching moment during a hot mud bath scene, but that didn't really even involve Bond.

There are also some racial issues with Diamonds.... I was listening to this on audiobook and during a moment when I wasn't paying the closest of attention, I thought I heard a distressingly racist passage. Racist dialogue is one thing, but when the writer includes it in the narrative it's an entirely different thing. I don't know, I could be wrong. I didn't bother going back to verify. Maybe I should have, but ya know, I just didn't feel like wallowing in that kind of mire. If I were black, I'd probably just stay away from the Bond series all together. For example, I know "negro" was once acceptable, but its usage comes from an error of an era that ought never to have happened and one that needs to be burned, buried and put in the past forever.

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Jesus Christ!

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of NazarethZealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jesus was no messiah, but rather a kind of zealous bandit. This is what you will take away from biblical scholar Reza Aslan's Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.

After having read the book, I can't disagree with his conclusions. Not everything Aslan proposes rings true or is backed with solid evidence. But hey, we're talking about a sketchy 2000 year old history here! No matter where you stand on the topic, a lot of so-called "facts" about Jesus are clearly tenuous at best. However, Aslan's suppositions on some key points seem solid.

As a kid, I was baptized, circumcised and christianized. I understood what all that meant and had a vague notion that they didn't all jell together, but lately I've been reading up on the world's religions for shits and giggles, and just it has occurred to me just how disparate these acts and ideas are: how divorced from Catholics were the Baptists; how peculiar it seems for a Catholic to undergo a very Jewish ritual with the wee-willy snipping. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth drove home these points.

The book starts off playing all nicey-nice, acting as if everything's kosher, there ain't nothing wrong, and we're all gonna act cool like a bunch of Fonzies. However, by the midway point Aslan really begins tearing down Jesus, denying the miracles, calling him out on his lack of messianic achievements, and basically attempting to reveal that Jesus was just a Jewish hero, not a Christian god. That's not going to sit well with the people that love their Baby Jesus and Virgin Mary. And honestly, if you want to believe in the Bible with all your heart and refuse to see any fault in it, go ahead. Cling to your beliefs if you feel it's doing you any good. Just avoid faith-shaker books like this. Me, I enjoyed this. I'm not all caught up in the myth, the legend, the whatever-it-is. I don't need all the extracurricular Christian activities, I just like the "be a good person" message and I'll continue to live by that, regardless of what really happened 2000 years ago.

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