Sunday, November 7, 2010

Three Books I'm Reading

Here are three books I'm in the process of reading or have recently finished.

Finished: Day of Empire. 

This book makes the point that states that are the most racially and religiously tolerant are typically more successful.  One example of this is the Dutch Republic, one of the few places in Europe to practice religious toleration during the early modern religious wars.  The result being that they attracted huge numbers of Protestants, Jews, and others, people whose skills and connections helped make the Dutch a commercial superpower.  A counter-example is Nazi Germany, who drove out its Jewish scientists--who then came to America and helped create the Atomic Bomb.  The only way the irony could be more severe is if the European war went on a bit longer and Berlin (the Nazis' political capital) or Nuremberg (the Nazis' spiritual capital) ate a nuke.

The book also has some really interesting stuff about the efforts the U.S. made to attract skilled immigrants from Europe early in its history and how downright nasty various European states got trying to stop skilled people from coming here.  The British required clergy to sign off that someone wasn't a skilled practitioner of certain trades if they wished to emigrate, while the Venetians transferred all of their glass-blowers to some island (!) and threatened would-be emigrants with death (!!).  It also discusses how China attracts professionals from elsewhere to work there, but it doesn't offer them Chinese citizenship or cultural acceptance, something the U.S. is far better at

It does have some minor errors in it, like suggesting Nestorian Christianity was a hybrid of elements of Eastern religions and orthodox Christianity, or referring to Justinian II Rhinotmetus as simply "Justinian," a name which generally refers to Justinian I, he of the Hagia Sophia and attempts to reconquer territories in the West.  However, the macro-point still stands.

In-Progress: Space Wolf Omnibus: Spacewolf / Ragnar's Claw / Grey Hunter (Warhammer 40,000).

If I played Warhammer 40,000, I'd play as the Chaos Space Marines or Tyranids, but if I absolutely had to play as Space Marines, I'd play as either the Space Wolves or the Ultramarines.  The Space Wolves have got the "Vikings in SPAAACE" thing going, plus according to some of the lore, they periodically put the hurt on elements of the Imperial government if they believe said elements are abusing the common folk.

(Given the Space Wolves' effectiveness and popularity, the Inquisition has decided to tone down its oppressiveness/evil rather than being on the receiving end of a "War of Compassion" or try to excommunicate and exterminate the Wolves.)

The novel tells the tale of Ragnar, a young man from the planet Fenris, and how he becomes a member of the Space Wolves.  It's fun to read.  I wonder if the PINES library system has Space Wolf: The Second Omnibus (Space Wolves)

In-Progress: Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form.

I borrowed this from a member of my Lawrenceville writing group, who said it would benefit me.  I'll try to read more from it before I decided whether to finish it or give it back, since I've had it awhile and another member of the group wants to borrow it.

My writing group meets at 1 PM today, so I'll read some more of it and see if I want to keep it for a bit longer.

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