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The Bourne Identity

Frequency Score: 8.0                                      Synchrometer: 9.2

Tyus’s Take:

Imagine waking up one day with no recollection of your life. You have no memory of where you are, what you are doing there, or even your own name. This is the condition faced by Jason Bourne after surviving a shipwreck one fateful night, and occasionally by yours truly after a night of Taco Tuesdays at the dining halls.

The Bourne Identity, the first of the Bourne Trilogy by Robert Ludlum, is an up-tempo novel that takes its reader on a journey through the pandemonium and intrigue of the world of government intelligence. Based in the late 20th century, the novel features a manipulative bureaucracy, compromised missions, and an international conspiracy to lure and take out one of the world’s most dangerous assassins, all with the enigmatic Jason Bourne at the center.

One of the central and most interesting elements of the book is Bourne’s struggle to piece together the fragments of his past life. Often he will come across strange clues, or will be stricken with haunting flashbacks that bring Bourne and the reader tantalizingly close to the truth. Even more clues are given to the reader when Ludlum shifts the focus away from Bourne, presenting events from the perspective of a different character. While these clues can bring a semblance of clarity, they often thicken the plot, further befuddling the reader. This leads the reader to ponder seemingly unanswerable mysteries such as what is Treadstone, who exactly was Jason Bourne before he lost his memory, and is it really possible for someone to lose cognizance from eating too many tacos?

Although a bit lengthy, (the book rounds out at around 523 pages), The Bourne Identity is a fun, action-packed novel that will take readers on a rollercoaster-like expedition across Europe and North America. Suspenseful and exciting, the first book in Ludlum’s Bourne Trilogy is a breathtaking read, and sets the bar high for its subsequent novels.

T-Score: 4.2

Collin’s Critique:

The Bourne movies, starring Matt Damon, are based upon a series of books by the renowned author Robert Ludlum.  Interestingly enough, the books and the movies contain fundamental differences The only meaningful commonality is that Jason Bourne is an American spy who suffered a traumatic incident that caused him to lose his memory; everything else is different. The lack of parity between the books and the movies allows fans of the movies to read the books and enjoy a completely new tale with the familiar and beloved Jason Bourne.

The Bourne Identity, is Ludlum’s first novel in the Bourne trilogy. The novel details Bourne’s journey to piece together his obliterated memory. This concept is intriguing; following Bourne’s journey to discover his past life is thrilling. He traverses the globe, falls in love, fights a world famous assassin, and clashes with the American intelligence community. Like any good spy novel, Ludlum incorporates a great deal of intrigue and shock into The Bourne Identity. There are exciting twists and turns with many interesting characters. I greatly enjoyed reading about the inception and evolution of Bourne’s romantic relationship with Canadian economist Marie St. Jacques. Overall, The Bourne Identity has a myriad of positive aspects.

Personally, I became a little overwhelmed by the amount of characters and plot deviations. This caused me to become a little bit confused and enjoy the story a little bit less. The story also dragged on over the course of 500+ pages of small font. Ludlum could have heightened reader experience by simplifying the plot and reducing the overall length of the novel.

This all being said, I recommend this book to those of you who may enjoy spy/mystery novels vis-a-vis James Bond or Sherlock Holmes. The Bourne Identity, in my opinion, would certainly be a good read for those of you who have seen and enjoyed the Bourne movies. If neither of these criterion apply to you, you should probably leave this book on the shelf.

C-Score: 3.8

Cosmos

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Frequency Score: 7.6                               Synchrometer: 9.2             

Tyus’s Take: 

If you are in the market for an educational yet interesting book about outer space, look no further than Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Published in 1980 in order to complement a television series of the same name, Cosmos allows its readers to explore the vast expanse of the universe from the comfortability of his or her own living room.

At once an introduction to the field of astronomy and an attention-keeping dialogue on the mysteries of the universe, Cosmos discusses topics ranging from the Ionian enlightenment to the possibility and mechanisms of communicating with extraterrestrial life. This broad coverage of astronomical thought was what I enjoyed most about the book. The fact that I could learn about the wonders of outer space, but at the same time receive insight into the progression of humanity’s relationship with the cosmos without getting into advanced, technical details was a huge selling point for me.

One aspect of the book in which I was less than enamored with, however, was the philosophical stance that Sagan oft imposed upon his audience. While this may be attributed to certain fundamental disagreements that I have with Sagan’s beliefs, his preaching felt out of place to me in an informational book.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cosmos, and am much the wiser for it. The book holds its reader’s attention like fiction, and makes sense of concepts and beings that seem like they should be. If you are looking to learn a thing or two about what lies past our Earth’s atmosphere, Cosmos is the book for you.

T-Score: 3.6

 

Collin’s Critique

The 2014 hit PBS series Cosmos, starring Neil deGrasse Tyson, was watched by upwards of 8 million viewers. Enough viewers that stacked on top of one another they would orbit the Earth six times. (Disclaimer: fact 100% fabricated) Tyson’s Cosmos brought science to the forefront of American pop culture for the first time since, well… Cosmos.

Carl Sagan, famed astrophysicist, was the founder of the space-based scientifically-driven show, Cosmos, that was released nearly 40 years ago. This series covered topics of cosmological significance including the birth of stars, climate change, and the solar system. It sparked the dreams of many aspiring young scientists and piqued the curiosity of many interested viewers.

Cosmos, the novel, was coreleased with the movie with the intention that each entity would supplement the other. Each of the Cosmos thirteen chapters is aligned with an episode from the tv series.

The book is every bit as good, if not better, than the tv series. Sagan manages to explain complex astronomical phenomena in an easily understandable manner. Even more, Sagan is able to entice readers’ appetites for scientific knowledge by describing the universe with stellar prose. Sagan writes about the universe as a poet writes about his muse. Sagan’s literary prowess coupled with his scientific knowledge yields a page-turning pleasantly-written book filled with scientific fact. Readers of this book will be infused with Sagan’s undying enthusiasm for the universe.

Let’s end with some exposure to Sagan via a selection of his best quotes:

“We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.”

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”

“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”

“We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”

C-Score: 4.0

 

 

This Side of Paradise

Frequency Score: 7.7                        Synchronometer: 9.0

Collin’s Review:

This Side of Paradise was written by renowned American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Published in 1919, it preceded his most famous work, The Great Gatsby, by six years. In This Side of Paradise readers will glimpse flashes of Fitzgerald’s literary prowess that is more fully on display in The Great Gatsby.

The main character in This Side of Paradise is the intelligent, egotistic, and often misguided Amory Blaine. This story traces his development through his relationships and major life events. Amory is a unique character, he always seems to be caught up in an attempt to please others. Usually this is a romantic interest, but at other times he is trying to gain approval from his mother, his mentor, or one of his college friends. In this way, Amory is reliant on the judgement of outside actors to confirm his inner worth. Fitzgerald develops this dynamic with tact, forcing readers to think about their own lives and to consider if their happiness is dependent upon others.

Amory becomes romantically involved with several women. These relationships are characterized by tremendous emotional swings with intense initial yearning always followed by a  falling out that leaves Amory completely devastated. I found the character of Amory Blaine to be perplexing. I still don’t know whether I liked him or disliked him. However, I certainly enjoyed reading about him.

Interestingly, many events in Amory’s life mirror events in Fitzgerald’s life. Amory attends Princeton, fights in World War I, and suffers heartbreak. Fitzgerald graduated from Princeton University in 1914, famously broke up with his first love in 1915, and enlisted in the army in 1917. The similarities between Fitzgerald and Amory’s life make This Side of Paradise quasi-autobiographical. If Amory wasn’t based directly off Fitzgerald, he certainly shared many similar qualities with the author.

Fitzgerald fails in the plot development of this novel. The plot seems disjointed throughout as there isn’t a big point of conflict or even a common collective series of conflicts. Personally, the lack of coherence in the plot caused me to become distracted while reading.

Overall, there was a lot to enjoy in Fitzgerald’s first novel. This Side of Paradise contains the elegant rhetoric that Fitzgerald further develops in later works. Amory Blaine is a unique literary figure who is worth getting to know. Amory’s relationships and inner dialogue raise intriguing questions that may aid readers in reflecting upon their own lives. Fans of The Great Gatsby should definitely check out Fitzgerald’s formative novel.

C Score: 3.6

Tyus’s Take:

This Side of Paradise, the novel that broke F. Scott Fitzgerald onto the literary scene, is a truly unique book. I first discovered the work after reading The Great Gatsby in my junior year English class. I enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby so much that I was left quite enamored with Fitzgerald, and decided to seek out more of his writing in hopes of reciprocating the reading experience. This Side of Paradise, although very different in premise and style, fully delivered on my lofty expectations, and cemented Fitzgerald as one of my all-time favorite authors.

The novel, set in early 20th century America, details the life of one Amory Blaine and his search to discover himself in the midst of a tumultuous, extrinsically-driven world. Although there is hardly any semblance of a plot, (calling the book episodic would even be a stretch) Fitzgerald’s writing style fully immerses the reader in the struggles Amory faces on his quest to find his place in the world. Fitzgerald does this masterfully, as he exhibits an uncanny ability to make the mundane seem interesting.

The development of Amory’s character, however, is the true essence of the novel. At once overflowing with confidence yet afflicted by a paralyzing self doubt, Amory makes quite a curious protagonist. Although he can be frustrating at times, Amory’s evolution is admirable, and presents a theme that resonates with any reader. The decisions he makes, and what prompts them, provide insight into why we are who we are, and make a profound statement on the fluidity of identity.

It’s not often that a novel that has no overarching storyline or significant action is as compelling as This Side of Paradise. Inquisitive and thought provoking, the novel calls into question many flaws with society and an individual’s perception of him or herself that are still evident today. While it does not quite reach the same level as The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise is enjoyable and intellectually stimulating, and is more than worth a read.

 

T-Score: 4.1

 

The Sword of Shannara

Frequency Score= 8.05      Synchronometer= 9.1

Collin’s Review

The Sword of Shannara Trilogy is a fairly obscure fantasy/adventure series written by Terry Brooks in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Each book in this trilogy introduces new characters and distinct plots. However, there is some carry over between the books. This being said, each book is able to stand alone.  In this review, I will be discussing the first book in the series, which is aptly titled The Sword of Shannara.

I first read this novel in middle school at the urging of my dad. He bought me a thick book that contained all three novels. Walking the middle school halls with a 1,100+ page book in tow didn’t exactly bolster my popularity.  However, it did impress many teachers. In turn, hurting my popularity even further. Finding myself at the bottom of the middle school food chain with a tree trunk of a book had some unforeseen positives. Over time, I found that The Sword of Shannara, as well as being an awesome book, could function as a step stool, or more satisfyingly—as a bully bludgeon. Enough about me, on to the book!

This book plays on many themes common to the fantasy/adventure genre. This series is similar to the Lord of the Rings, eerily similar in the first book in fact. An awesomely-powerful, yet cryptic character assembles a team, one could say a “fellowship,” to vanquish evil in a far-off land. Asides from human warriors, dwarves, and elves, an average-Joe type character is selected to go on the journey due to his family lineage.

Though this book and the Lord of the Rings series share some initial commonalities, the differences soon become evident, especially in the later books. However, fans of the Lord of the Rings and other similar fantasy/adventure book will surely find a lot to like in this book. There are great battles, an evil warlock lord, magic and sorcery; everything one could want in a fantasy/adventure books.

Brooks’ descriptions of battle scenes, unique places, and the landscape are excellent. He is able to transport readers to another place and time.

Also, Brooks does a superb job of developing characters. If you read this book, you will grow fond of the Ohmsfords, Menion Leah, and Balinor. You will be intensely curious about the druid Allanon. Brooks infuses the plot throughout by introducing interesting minor characters such as Panamon Creel.

Ultimately, this book is worth reading in order to read the next two books in the series which are even more fantastic. The second book in the series, The Elfstones of Shannara, is my favorite novel of all time.

Overall, I found this book to be a highly satisfying read. For those of you interested in Lord of the Rings type stories, this will be a perfect read.

C Score: 4.25

Tyus’s Take:

I was actually introduced to this book by Collin in the midst of our junior year of high school. Due to my trust in his opinion and my fondness of the Lord of the Rings series, I decided to give it a shot. This was a fantastic decision, as The Sword of Shannara series quickly became one of my favorites. That being said, the premier book and namesake of the series has its fair share of shortcomings.

The Sword of Shannara is a lightning quick-paced, adventure filled novel that boasts mighty warriors, mystical evil forces, and unexpected heroes. It takes the reader on a journey across the fantastical Four Lands on an action-packed quest to obtain the mysterious Sword of Shannara. On its own, the book has all of the makings of a top-notch fantasy novel. However, the similarities it bears to The Lord of the Rings (published years earlier) presents a startling red flag.

One of the most enjoyable elements of The Sword of Shannara is its colorful cast of characters. This is tarnished, however, when they are compared to those of The Lord of the Rings. A quick analysis shows that practically every character in The Sword of Shannara is a near carbon copy of one of their Tolkien counterparts. This takes away from the individuality of the novel, and ultimately diminishes its integrity.

Nevertheless, although it may be difficult to get past the book’s resemblance to The Lord of the Rings for many Tolkien fans, The Sword of Shannara is still a worthwhile read. It is a fast, enjoyable read, and if nothing else provides a foundation for the far superior books that it precedes.

T Score: 3.8