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Mark has commented on (5) products.

The Ballad of the White Horse by G. K. Chesterton
The Ballad of the White Horse

Mark, April 21, 2006

I can't say I'm very knowledgeable about epic poetry, but this book is very good. Just the story itself is poignant, tragic, and glorious all at once. It's a stirring reminder of the importance of working to maintain the best things about humanity, even when the course of events seems to be flowing the other way. I don't know enough about poetry to comment on its quality, besides just saying that it sounds good to me. But hopefully the story is the more important thing.
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(6 of 14 readers found this comment helpful)

A certain justice by P D James
A certain justice

Mark, April 21, 2006

P D James is a marvelous writer, and this book is no exception. As always she writes in a rich, pleasurable style. The murder set up is creative, and the surrounding cast of characters is varied and interesting. She does a particularly good job in this one with describing the personality and development of the main suspect, and the connections of the victim with the suspects give the reader a lot to ponder. And of course, while he's solving the case Adam Dalgliesh shows that he's so much more than a brilliant detective. I'd say one of the best features of James's writing is her reflection on humanity and the way she illustrates it in Dalgliesh, his team, and the people caught up in the mystery. This story especially makes the reader consider important questions besides just the mystery she's created.
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(5 of 15 readers found this comment helpful)

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
The Da Vinci Code

Mark, April 21, 2006

This book didn't impress me very much on the basis of writing style or character development, both of which I would describe as "flat". It does move quickly with a sense of suspense, though the short chapters and constant cliffhangers get predictable. That may be part of why there never seems to be time for us to get to know the people in the story, to care about them, or to get a sense of why they say or do the things they do. And for a story set mostly in and near Paris, there's no sense of scenery and place, no sense of the environment. If he had chosen a different artist whose work is featured in a different city, he wouldn't have had to change a thing.

I suspect if he hadn't begun by asserting the claims to Fact, especially the last one about "descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals", and if the premise didn't strike at the root of historic, orthodox Christianity, this book would have been one among many rather than the phenomenon it's become. Maybe he'd want to distinguish between his descriptions and the interpretations of the descriptions that the characters use to unravel the mystery. But since his characters sound just like him and they have a tendency to lecture (another annoying part of his style), it's not surprising that a small industry has arisen pointing out the weaknesses of the interpretations along with the errors of fact. But even that's good for business, I'm sure. People asking me questions about it was the only reason I read it. Which of course affected my perception of it, which you should keep in mind as you consider my comments.
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(22 of 34 readers found this comment helpful)

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Mark, April 21, 2006

Don't let the length of this book intimidate you, it is excellent! Neal Stephenson does a great job of weaving stories and characters from different time periods together. It's impressive the way he keeps several plot lines going at the same time, most of which could have made good books by themselves, and brings them all together in a way that fits. He also develops his characters well. Each is unique and identifiable, and they're consistent in their actions and words. There are a lot of scenes that are so much fun they repay several re-readings. Be careful to have some free time available when you get into this book. Things will get put off when you get into the story.
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(17 of 30 readers found this comment helpful)

The Pilgrim's Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism by C. S. Lewis
The Pilgrim's Regress: An Allegorical Apology for Christianity, Reason, and Romanticism

Mark, April 21, 2006

Fans of Lewis, of Intellectual History, or of spiritual journey stories will enjoy this book both for what they learn and for some great scenes that we can relate to from our own lives and the people we've run into. It's a bit obscure in parts, some of which he tries to address in the preface. And (to use a contrast he employs in the story) I'd say our time is more 'Southern' than 'Northern', a reversal from his day, which makes some of his discussion less relevant than it would be otherwise. Still, he rarely fails to be insightful and at times hilarious, and the descendants of some of his characters are still active today in the news.

Although this is not one of Lewis's better known books, it's an important one for understanding the roots of some of the thinking that he works out in his later Christian writings. Since this story allegorizes his personal journey to Christian faith, it can be helpful also to read _Surprised By Joy_, where he tells the same account in a sort of spiritual autobiography.
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(11 of 18 readers found this comment helpful)

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