Thursday, 30 August 2012

Holiday Reading

Today I set aside my chosen reading material for a few hours in favour of a novel I picked off a bookshelf in the villa - Firefight, by Chris Ryan.  (I like to expand my cultural horizons from time to time.)  It's about a former SAS Captain undertaking a covert mission in Afghanistan and London: the dialogue's rather clunky but the plot moves along briskly.  And the hero displays a welcome revulsion against torture.  People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like, as Abraham Lincoln probably did not say.

However.  The prologue features a "young Pakistani student in Rome", who speaks English better than Italian, and uses it because it's "more widely understood than his native Arabic".  Pakistani muslims will know some Arabic from studying Islam, but their native language will be Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Urdu, or some other Indo-Iranian tongue.  Much later, the hero flies back from his mission in Afghanistan, and realises that something is wrong when he wakes up on the plane and realises that they should have landed in Oxfordshire hours earlier.  This turns out to be because they've been redirected to Poland.  Which is not very far east of a straight line route from Afghanistan to England.  How could an SAS operative, his editor, and the rest of the publishing team he acknowledges not know this?

Much more memorably, I've read The Rodwell Files.  If you're a bridge player with an interest in advanced card play, I strongly recommend it.

If I can't tempt you to that, you might try The Universe in Zero Words, a readable and not unduly technical history of various important equations. The author seems more at home in a couple of places with the maths than the physics, and in particular understates the genius of Maxwell's equations and their prediction of electro-magnetic radiation (which I miss no opportunity to emphasize). But the book is an excellent idea very well executed. If you read and understand it but learn nothing, you should have written it yourself.

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