Termination Shock

 Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson

The opening scene reveals a small plane, piloted by the Queen of the Netherlands, landing in Texas just as a herd of feral pigs swarm the runway beneath them. The result is a wrecked plane,
a number of injuries, and a very messy tarmac. 

Set in the near future, climate change has raised temperatures and water levels all over the planet. The Dutch Queen and other leaders have been invited to witness a demonstration of new, privately owned technology that could prevent weather disasters and even reverse some of the damage already done. While this sounds good, there is one glitch: what will benefit some areas of the world has the potential to cause major problems for others - and they aren't about to let that happen.

What I liked about this book is the matter-of-fact way climate change problems are addressed. It's realistic - it's likely we're headed for exactly some of the situations described - but there's a lack of hysteria that is refreshing. Problems are squarely faced, disasters borne and plans made to mitigate damage in the future. There's a minimum of angst and a maximum of putting heads together to find solutions.

What I didn't like was not getting to know the characters very well. Granted, it's plot driven, but I do wish I'd been able to feel some connection with one or two of them. They are interesting people, but they kept their distance.

Another thing that didn't appeal to me was all the technical detail about how various things are built and how they function. I found it tedious but expect it will be more interesting to some readers.

Interesting concepts and characters, and a good read, just not quite as riveting as Seveneves, the only other Stephenson novel I've read so far.

The Year of Living Biblically

 The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs

This is A.J. Jacobs quest "to live the ultimate biblical life" for a year. He wanted to see what "the most influential book in the world" was all about, if it could change his spiritual status as a long-time agnostic, and to record the experience for a book. It's the first of his I've read, but his very entertaining writing has convinced me to put two more on my library list (The Puzzler, and The Know-It-All).

He began by reading through the Bible and taking note of every command, rule, and bit of wisdom he found. Then, with 72 pages of listed requirements for living, he set out to follow them all and see where it would take him. Knowing he'd need guidance and accountability, he gathered a team of people to be his advisors, including people from the Roman Catholic church, various Jewish sects and several different protestant faiths. 

Though he found some of the rules more than a little ridiculous, he treated the Bible and the people of faith he met with respect always. I appreciated that, and his honesty about the things he found contradictory or simply couldn't understand. I was sometimes perplexed by the things he chose to be completely literal about, but it was his quest, not mine, and there is insight to be gained by seeing it from a non-believer's point of view. 

The result of his year-long experiment is a funny, yet touching book that chronicles not only what he learned about the Bible and religion, but the personal changes it worked in him and in his outlook on life. I won't tell you what those changes were, but I will say the book is both engaging and thought-provolking whether you find yourself in agreement with his conclusions or not.

Why Not Women?

 Why Not Women? by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton

Let me begin by saying I'm no expert in theology and make no claim to have studied this particular topic in any depth. But I am a woman who has read through the Bible and found the restrictions placed on women in the church contradictory. Parts of it talk about women in what seem to be leadership roles while other parts deny us the right to even speak in the church. How can both be what God wants? 

These two authors thoroughly examine the Old and New Testaments, the place of women in history and culture, and, referring to the orginal languages of Scripture, the possibility that there has been mis-interpretation. I know some will find the very idea offensive, but I tried to see it as a challenge: if I was firm in what I believed there would be little harm in hearing what they had to say, but if I had questions - and I did - then this book might offer some insight.

It gave me a new perspective on some things and though I couldn't agree with everything in it, their 35 pages of references and citations at the back do give a lot of weight to their arguments. Well worth reading.


 Hotline by Dmitri Nasrallah

A young woman and her son emigrate to Montreal from war-torn Lebanon after her husband is kidnapped and presumed dead. Struggling to make ends meet and look after her son, she finds the immigrant life not all it was promised to be. 

A French teacher in her own country, she'd been told it would be easy to find work in Canada, but the reality is no one wants to hire a foreign single Mother without references. Desperate, she takes a job with at Nutri-Fort, a weight-loss center, as "A hotline operator, a phone-order taker, a shipper of boxes, an ear whose only purpose in life is to swallow the sadness of strangers."

In their tiny apartment Muna sleeps on the worn sofa, giving her son, Omar, the one bedroom so he'll be rested for school and have a space that gives him some feeling of permanence, of home. Her dreams are filled with memories of her husband, still alive and at her side, talking to her, touching her; her waking hours with wondering what might have happened to him, what might be happening even now. She worries about Omar being alone and unsupervised between the time he gets home from school and when she gets off work, and fears she's beginning to lose him. 

This male author's capacity for viewing life from a wife's and mother's perspective, and for understanding and expressing her emotions, is impressive. Muna's internal dialogue reveals so clearly who she is and how she experiences her loves and losses. Each time I closed the book and glanced at the author's name I was surprised again that it wasn't written by a woman.

Quite a few Lebanese terms are used in the writing but most can easily be figured out from context. I googled some I was curious about and had no trouble finding English equivalents. Other than that the language is uncomplicated and easy to read. I got quite caught up in it and didn't want to put it down, but had to so I wouldn't finish too far ahead of our book club meeting - my aging brain doesn't hold on to things as well as it once did.  

The title I thought was a little misleading, but it seemed more apt after she compared herself to a hotline - connecting her present life to her past, coming to terms with who she was then and who she is now. Still, the real story is not her job but her struggles as a wife, mother, and immigrant. The first part of the book did introduce us to some of her clients, even had me wondering if one of them might become a problem down the road, but later the story veered away from them and focused on Muna, Omar and the missing husband again.  

A poignant, ultimately hopeful story about moving on from a traumatic past and doing whatever it takes to make a new home in a foreign country.