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Old 03-05-2011, 01:24 PM   #8526
ATDrake
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Another that week in which few books were finished, but I finally did get to Tim Powers' Declare, which I read in one sitting and which was excellent, by the way.

I got this basically because Charles Stross mentioned it in the back of The Atrocity Archives as a kind of alternative take on how his story might have gone, so I was expecting it to be more about
Spoiler:
Lovecraftian references and not so much the Biblical/Arabian Nights stuff
, but it was creepy and compelling entertainment anyway.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in mashups of Cold War spy thrillers and supernatural horror.

And I might as well mention Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan, which I finished slightly before Declare and which kind of had some bearing, what with the world divisions which led to the tensions and so forth.

This was a non-fiction history book about the post-WWI Treaty of Versailles which basically set up the world as we know it today.

MacMillan concentrates mainly on the personalities of the decision-makers (back blurb says she's a descendant of British PM Lloyd George) whose petty rivalries and failure to grasp stuff influenced things a lot more than you might think. There are also chapters devoted individually to the influences and outcomes of each smaller nation/area from those little Balkan places to the Mediterranean regions and how they lost/gained land and eventually ended up the way they are now.

It's actually more compelling when focusing on the dysfunction between the big 3 (Clemenceau, Wilson, Lloyd George) because she goes into a lot more detail about them and provides plenty of anecdotes about their backgrounds and interactions and those of their frustrated assistants (Lord Curzon, etc.).

The chapters about the smaller countries, while interesting, suffer a little by comparison because MacMillan probably couldn't provide much more than a few mostly factual details about their leaders and such perhaps due to lack of readily available English-language sources and while informative, they read a lot drier by comparison. It does pick up again when the book reaches Japan/China and the Middle East in which the "Great Powers" have a greater stake and act accordingly by having their representatives meddle in ways that have thoroughly messed up those regions to this day.

Overall, a very interesting (and long, at 11000 locations, though the last 12% was for the references) look into how interpersonal politics ends up shaping official policy.

All those special conferences of world leaders where they supposedly get together to make high-and-mighty resolutions for their countries (Kyoto, G-whatever)? Beneath the pomp and circumstance, turns out it's all backstabbing and petty jealousy and endless bickering while trying to sabotage each others' goals, which makes it vastly more entertaining than the official news coverage we regularly get on these things.

Also, since I earlier noted that this e-book (from the library) was flawed by having no links to its many numerically subscripted citation footnotes scattered throughout the text, I should mention that I finally found one lone properly linked footnote at the 70% mark. It was to a comment which helped explain what something in particular which I forget was.
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