Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Forgotten, David Baldacci: The Review

"As the captain signed off on some documents and received his pay in plastic bundles taped down, he looked at the passengers as they were herded up a long metal stairway. They all looked terrified.
They should be, he thought. The unknown was not nearly as terrifying as the known. And he understood quite clearly that these people were well aware of what was about to happen to them. And they also knew that no one else cared.
They were not rich.
They were not powerful.

They were truly the forgotten."

Military Investigator, John Puller while investigating
a disturbing letter his father received from his aunt, is
forced to confront dangerous criminals involved in the
ultimate monstrosity: human trafficking.

The Concept
Have two highly trained, combat experienced, do-things-my-own-way 
(John Rambo type), military men take on a super rich criminal organization
masterminded by one of the world's most wanted criminals. Set it on the
beach of Paradise, Florida, have them pick up a couple of beautiful combat 
ready women, throw in a good number of warzone worthy action scenes 
on land and water, and we're good to go. 

The Story
Military Investigator, John Puller decides to use the rest of his well earned 
leave to investigate what his aunt describes as 'mysterious occurrences at 
night' on the beaches of Paradise. The course of the investigation pits him
against a well resourced, well connected criminal organization kidnapping
people and selling them as slaves.

On the other end, ex military man Mecho escapes from a slave ship on 
the (high) seas, swims most of the way to shore, and decides to turn his 
considerable killing skills on the 'slavers' who abducted him and others like

The story is not only highly unlikely, it is also unfocused, incoherent and
packed with too many happy coincidences.

The Writing
In the beginning, the writing was so poor, I was sure I'd been punked and 
sent  a five man joint authored fan rendition of their version of the original.
But then I persisted, knowing you don't really pick up a Baldacci for its
beautiful writing, and I got my just rewards. Great action scenes interspersed
with poor dialogue, improbable scenarios and a few more action scenes.  

The Resolution
The end is like the rest of the book. If you focus on the action you may
be able to prevent your brain from noticing that everything else is below 

The Verdict
Should your read it? No.
Unless you read a book exclusively for its action scenes or you have a 
thing for things so ridiculous they are unintentionally funny.   

Friday, 15 March 2013

John Mahama's 56th Independence Anniversary Speech: The Review

Hail to thy name, O Ghana,
To thee we make
our solemn vow:
Steadfast to build together
A nation strong in Unity;
With our gifts of mind and strength of arm,
Whether night or day, in the midst of storm,
In every need, whate'er the call may be,
To serve thee, Ghana, now and evermore

Fifty-six years after Ghana gained her independence, the first
Ghanaian president born into an independent Ghana attempts
to strike the right balance between praising the courage of 
Ghanaians in fighting for independence and decrying the the failure
of Ghanaians to fulfil their hopes and ambitions for the independent

The Concept
What better time than Independence Day  to issue a 
rallying call for all Ghanaians to unite and put their shoulders
to the wheel in the continuing struggle to make Ghana " a nation 
whose place of greatness in the world would be timeless and
meaningful, not temporary and mediocre."

 The Writing
It actually is rather well written. Short and concise with an suitable 
mix of hope and realism.

The Story
 Pretty simple actually;
Our valiant and heroic forefathers fought for our right to 'manage 
or mismanage our affairs'. They won, but so far (far be it from me 
to say it out loud), we have mismanaged our affairs. Nevertheless, 
there's no need to despair, even though our peers like Malaysia and
Singapore have long left us behind, we are doing okay, in comparison
with some of our neighbours, we at least have a peaceful nation.   

Any hint of sarcasm you detect, is all in your mind. Even though we
don't have much to be really really proud of, I your president am
proud of what we do have. I do therefore here and now wish to make 
this statement:
"I wish to pledge, once more, that in my first term as president of this
Republic, I will make full use of the advantages our country has,to increase
our prosperity; It is still true today, as it was during our independence years, 
that the vision could be an individual’s, but it will take the millions acting 
in concert to bring it to reality. I wish to invite you once more to join me 
in this venture of nation building by also pledging to believe, to sacrifice 
and to work for the betterment of this nation — our nation."

Come join me and we shall soar like the eagles our forefathers
envisioned us as.

Quite a number of quotes, and what may be characterized as
inspirational messages. My personal favourite;
"I want to use this occasion to appeal to all Ghanaians to embrace the wind of change.
Change does not come easily
There will always be those who want to maintain the status quo; even if they do
not like the world they live in, it is easier for them to complain than to make the effort to
change it. And then, there will always be those who want miraculous change; they want everything to be perfect by tomorrow and when it is not, they decide they are already bored with the whole process and want no part of it. 
But the change we seek is one that is intended to make our nation a better place for all."

The Resolution
The singing of the little known second verse of the national anthem,
was a nice touch, even though the weight of those words might have
been better appreciated if he'd read them with a serious voice.

The Verdict
About the best speech he has given so far, hitting the right notes on
most of the major issues. If you are Ghanaian, you should read it,
if not why should you care?

Read the full text of the speech here

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell: The Review

Pater’ll sigh, “It’s no Eroica, is it?” and stuff it into a drawer; but it’s an incomparable creation. Echoes of Scriabin’s White Mass, Stravinsky’s lost footprints, chromatics of the more lunar Debussy, but truth is I don’t know where it came from. Waking dream. Will never write anything one-hundredth as good. Wish I were being immodest, but I’m not. Cloud Atlas Sextet holds my life, is my life, now I’m a spent firework; but at least I’ve been a firework.

An ambitious, well thought out attempt to engineer a

The Concept
Picture six different stories, each of a different genre,
occurring in its own independent time span, each
written differently, and for all intents and purposes
unrelated to each other except that the author of the
current story happens to stumble on the previous one,
and becomes somewhat obsessed with it.

Then split each of these six stories into two, arrange
the first six in chronological order of occurrence and
the next six in the reverse order, so that the chronological
end is somewhere in the middle of the book.

Make them fit as a single book, make the book
enjoyable to read.

The Story
Each story, a different genre exploring its own unique
(if not totally original) subject matter linked by main
characters who may be related by blood, mysticsm,
ideology or maybe not at all.

The story of the book as opposed to the stories of the
book is one of human nature, human societies and
what they portend for the future of human existence.

(Funny therefore that there's no story about romance.
Mr. Mitchell can't write a romance novel? Of course
he can but serious young writers leave romance to

The Writing
Very well written all through. You should be warned
however that Mr. Mitchell fancies himself a mental
wrestler, challenging his readers' minds with big words,
difficult language, foreign languages, made up words,
and generally doing whatever he can to best the reader.

The consolation if you are looking for one or the real joy
is that it is packed with so many good quotable quotes.

The Resolution
At times a bit challenging to switch from the end of
one story straight into the middle of the previous one.

But the end, despite not being the real end, deserves
by virtue of its gravitas to be the end.

The LetDowns
Of the stories that showed real potential very early,
only the journal manages to sustain the momentum.
The Sonmi story comes to a rather quick, ordinary
conclusion whilst the Rey mystery goes on for a tad
too long. On the flipside the stories that start slow, pick
up on the backend.

It felt like the Kendrick Lamar album, Good kid, m.a.a.d
city to me. A great concept, a number of good stories,
each very well told, but lacking the one big hit song to
define the album.

The Verdict
It's not a question of if it's a great book, it is. It's not a question
of if you should read it, you should, its a question of if it is
perfect book, it isn't.