Friday, February 25, 2011

Reflections: Treasure Island

Adam C. Zern gives his thoughts on Robert Louis Stevenson's tale of adventure Treasure Island:

"I enjoy reading the 'classics' since most of the time they have been almost entirely distorted by modern entertainers and artists.  (For evidence of this, read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to see just how far a story can be ripped from its roots).  When I started to read Treasure Island, I genuinely had a difficult time not visualizing the Muppet's Treasure Island movie.  Also, the idea of a pirate has been somewhat caricatured in recent times, e.g. Jack Sparrow.  Instead of being ruthless villains and criminals, pirates in modern entertainment have become clowns.  I was stuck with this idea and visual at the beginning of the book as well.

However, if you stick with Mr. Stevenson's book you soon realize that this is not the type of pirate that exists in his story.  You can clearly see the inspiration for many of the pirate stereotypes that exist in modern stories (talking parrot, bottles of rum, lost treasure, of course).  Led by Long John Silver (who hasn't heard that name?), Mr. Stevenson's pirates are brutal, somewhat witless, and altogether immoral.

At its core, Treasure Island is a 19th century young adult book.  It has more substance than you would find in much of young adult fiction today, but it's not exactly a literary masterpiece.  But it's not trying to be.  It's entertaining and a quick read.  The best part of the book for me was to see the beginning of a new character class: the pirate."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reflections: The Great and Terrible, Vol. 1: Prologue, The Brothers

Cortney Brown Howes offers her thoughts on Chris Stewart's book The Great and Terrible, Vol. 1: Prologue, The Brothers:

"The Great and Terrible series has become a must read among Latter-day Saints.  I received the series for my birthday and I have heard a great deal about how wonderful the books are.  After reading volume 1, The Brothers, I have mixed feelings about the book.  It begins with an amazingly written prologue. The reader is looking through the eyes of a General at a funeral.  You see the family, a young mother and her daughter, and the casket which showcases a medal of honor.  You do not find out who this person is or what they have done during the prologue but it leaves you wondering and wanting more!  The descriptions are filled with emotion and concern.  I was crying by page 2!

After reading the prologue I had high hopes for the story and the writing style of the rest of the book.  However, I was somewhat disappointed with what I discovered.   The meat of the story is set in the pre-earth life.  Four siblings are faced with the decision to follow one of two plans.  I was intrigued by the idea of what may have happened at this point in our lives.  The author had to use a lot of creativity to come up with a story with this setting.  This may explain the choppiness of the writing.  I also felt that the names that were chosen, Luke, Ammon, Sam, and Elizabeth were quite cheesy. Why couldn’t he have chosen names that don’t already have major stories in history attached to them?  At first I thought it was “THE LUKE” spoken of in the Bible but it wasn’t and neither were any of the other characters.  I also had a problem with the editing.  Doesn’t an editor get paid to find misspelled words and missing words?  Not to mention other grammatical errors…

The book ended with an equally well written epilogue as was the prologue.  I am intrigued to read the rest of the series.  I have been told that after you make it through the first book (only 200 pages) you will fall in love with the rest of the series.  I hope these statements hold up to be true!"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reflections: Three Cups of Tea

Adam C. Zern offers his thoughts on Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin's book Three Cups of Tea:

"I first heard about Greg Mortensen's work and subsequently book because I listened to a speech he gave at Brigham Young University.  While reading the book, I was reminded a great deal of Doctor Tom Dooley and his charitable and astonishing work he performed in Asia (some of which is recorded in his book Deliver Us From Evil and is an excellent read).  Greg Mortensen, through some rather serendipitous events, became devoted to the cause of building schools for children, especially girls, crippled in poverty in Pakistan and eventually Afghanistan.  His story is inspiring, but it was also frustrating for me to read.

It was frustrating because it seems that entire region of the world is trapped in a perpetual cycle of poverty and ignorance.  I wondered repeatedly in the book: "why can't these people, this nation, do for themselves what Greg Mortensen is attempting to do for them?  Why do they need an American savior with American dollars to provide some of the most basic attributes of a working society?"  It was difficult for me to not look for a diagnosis of the real problem, which Greg Mortensen never really gives.  Ignorance was brought up again and again by the authors as a cause for much of the problems in that region of the world, but why is ignorance so rampant?  What is holding the people and their nations back so much in that region of the world?  The authors of the book spend as much time defending the people's cultural practices as they do pointing out some of its faults.

Three Cups of Tea is a thought-provoking book, but it left me feeling just as an unsure about the success of Greg's mission as it did hopeful.  There seems to be some underlying and lingering problems in that region of the world that even the most "balanced" education will have an extremely difficult time eradicating."