Posts Tagged ‘books’

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Yawns

May 29, 2009

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.” Thus starts Seth Grahame-Smith’s new, quirky version of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice.

To tell the shameful truth, I was wickedly excited when I first heard about this novel on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. I like the occasional silly book as much as the next reader (well, more actually), so I went and found myself a copy as soon as the book became available.

I think it comes as no surprise to anybody that this book was a massive disappointment. There was simply no way for Grahame-Smith to keep up the humor that came at the beginning. I suppose the opening pages are funny merely for their shock value – after that is over, the whole book becomes dull and inane.

However, I do not wish to to take away from the sheer awesome-ness of the first few chapters. As a fan of both Jane Austen and ZOMBIES, these first few chapters had me giggling hysterically at my kitchen table, utterly incapable of swallowing my dinner.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies follows almost exactly the same path as the original, with most of the wording precisely the same. The only difference is that the a mysterious plague has hit Britain and Elizabeth and her sisters have been trained to be deadly zombie slayers since childhood. When Mr. Darcy snubs Elizabeth at the party, the only thing stopping her from killing him and recovering her honor was a sudden attack of zombies.

However, it’s impossible to enjoy the book by that point because the whole thing is so deadly dull and monotonous. Seth Grahame-Green simply doesn’t do enough to change the novel into something fresh and new. So my recommendation? Go read the first few pages on the Amazon.com preview and then move on. It’s not even worth going to the library for.

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Site Fights: Divisive Facilities and Civil Society in Japan and the West

May 29, 2009

Daniel P. Aldrich’s Site Fights: Divisive Facilities and Civil Society in Japan and the West is an extraordinarily comprehensive overview of the factors surrounding the placement of unwanted facilities in Japan and France, with some brief mention of conflicts that occurred in the United States. He focuses on three types of facilities in particular: dams, airports, and nuclear power plants. These facilities are both “public goods” and “public bads” in that they provide diffuse benefits to the majority of society in the form of clean drinking water, power, and transportation, but the create high costs that must be paid by a small, geographically isolated chunk of the population. His argument is a simple yet powerful one: civil society affects the placement of controversial facilities. He divides this argument into two main points. States handle initial conflict by avoiding areas with high levels of civil society and thus the most potential for resistance and, when encountering resistance, states use coercion and hard social control first.

As with any book mentioning civil society, Aldrich handpicks his own definition, describing it as “sustained, organized social activity that occurs in groups that are formed outside the state, the market, and the family”(15). This definition is sufficiently vague enough to allow its application to Japan without requiring any messy argument over the existence of a Japanese civil society. He spells out clearly how he measures civil society – through “quality,” the depths of connections between individuals and through “relative capacity,” the number of individuals in a particular civil society. Throughout his examination of controversial sitings in France, Japan, and the US, he shows how these qualities of civil society are the most important in facilitating effective resistance.

Most refreshing is his examination of all stages of the selection process. Rather than merely looking at cases and times when civil society reacts to a public bad, Aldrich looks at what occurs before that, examining the reasoning behind a state’s choice of a certain site. He argues that, while technical feasibility is an obvious major factor behind siting decisions, it is not the only one. Rather, states behave in a Machiavellian manner by purposely seeking out sites with the least potential for resistance.

As clear-cut and articulate as his argument is, it is difficult to imagine a negative critique of this book. Aldrich carefully covers all his bases with clear explanations of all his data and painstakingly illustrates every step he took to get to his conclusion. This book will be an excellent read for all those interested in state strategies against resistance, no matter their country of focus.