Monthly ArchiveDecember 2005

Non-fiction 21 Dec 2005 14:58


Jeffrey S. Young & William L. Simon

Steve Jobs is an amazing person, and this book is a great way to get to know a lot about him. From his early years in Silicon Valley, to the founding of Apple with Woz, to NeXT and Pixar and back to Apple, everything is there.

Sure, lots of material are not exactly original: that story has been told several times already, from several different points of view; some parts of the book read a bit like a summary of other books. It is still entertaining, though, even for those who already know the story.

There is a fair amount of new material as well, and material I was not familiar with: the Pixar years, for example, and what was happening at Disney at the time. Also, fairly recent, the story of the return to Apple and the subsequent successes is not one that has been told out of the newspapers many time: this book has it.

Steve’s eccentricity is highlighted in several passages, and not always is a very favourable light. He has his quirks, and can be a very difficult person to handle (or so I’m told; I have no direct experience of this); the book makes no attempt to hide his flaws.

In short, it’s a great business story, and also a great personal story. Jobs is certainly one of the most interesting characters in the computer (and music, and movie) business nowadays, and his story makes for great reading.

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Fiction 12 Dec 2005 15:29

The Da Vinci Code

coverThe Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown

Since most of the civilized world seems to have read this book already, there’s not much left to say about it, really. It is a good book; it is in no way a “deep and meaningful” book, though. You could say that it is the kind of book you’d buy in an airport before taking off in a long flight: it will keep you entertained, and is easily discarded afterwards.

Why is it so successful, then? Well, everybody loves a conspiracy theory, and this book is full of them. Also, it has great characters: Da Vinci, the catholic church, Opus Dei, Jesus, Mary Magdalene… it is hard to resist. And the story is well written, with the right amount of mystery to keep you interested. It is, however, a bit predictable: I found myself solving the puzzles much more quickly than the supposed experts in the book, and guessing the identity of some mysterious characters several chapters in advance.

As a whole, the books seems to have been written with the intention of becoming a movie later on (which it will); it reads almost like a screenplay with explanations. The action is fast-paced, although the description runs a bit long at times (the book is over 400 pages long, but most of the action happens in the span of some 12 hours); part of that is because of background material that has to be presented so that the story makes sense (I’m not sure of how that will fit into a movie; it may get boring or too superficial).

As I said, it is an entertaining book, and I liked it for that reason. I wouldn’t try to read too much into the story, however believable it sounds: it is fiction. I admit that I don’t know how much of it, if any, is backed by actual research (there’s no “further reading” lists at the end of the book, which is disappointing), but I guess I don’t really care: this is not relevant for this type of book.

In short: enjoyable, but not much else.

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