August 21st, 2011

books: is there anything they can't do?

Review: The Company Man by Robert J Bennett

The Company Man by Robert J Bennett:

Finally one of the larger detectives tackled him and wrapped around his legs, bringing him to the ground. The conductor wept and struggled with him and clawed at the floor. Several patrolmen ran to him, and on took out his truncheon and raised it high.

"Stop!" shouted a voice.

The officers looked over their shoulders to see Samantha furiously striding toward them. They paused, unused to dealing with well-dressed women, particularly ones who were shouting at them.

Synopsis: In an alternate-history Seattle, where one company holds all the cards, a very peculiar man and his assistant set about tracking a labor union leader, the last honest cop works himself to a grizzled nub and everyone conveniently turns a deaf ear to the strange noises the city itself has started making.

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  • crimes

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

What it's about:

Pratchett (of Discworld fame) and Gaiman (of Sandman fame) may seem an unlikely combination, but the topic (Armageddon) of this fast-paced novel is old hat to both. Pratchett's wackiness collaborates with Gaiman's morbid humor; the result is a humanist delight to be savored and reread again and again. You see, there was a bit of a mixup when the Antichrist was born, due in part to the machinations of Crowley, who did not so much fall as saunter downwards, and in part to the mysterious ways as manifested in the form of a part-time rare book dealer, an angel named Aziraphale. Like top agents everywhere, they've long had more in common with each other than the sides they represent, or the conflict they are nominally engaged in. The only person who knows how it will all end is Agnes Nutter, a witch whose prophecies all come true, if one can only manage to decipher them. The minor characters along the way (Famine makes an appearance as diet crazes, no-calorie food and anorexia epidemics) are as much fun as the story as a whole, which adds up to one of those rare books which is enormous fun to read the first time, and the second time, and the third time..

My Thoughts:
I bought this book over a year ago and just now got around to finally reading it. I've heard raves about this book and almost no rants. Now, I personally thought it was a pretty good book but overrated at the same time. I loved the part of the book about Crowley and Aziraphale (The Bad & Good Angels) but alot of the other characters were just boring. I also found that the book wasn't as funny as I was expecting it to be. Don't get me wrong, certain places in the book were really funny but others were meh...then again I think you really have to enjoy British Humor and most of the time, I don't. Overall though, I would say that it's worth trying to read. I just wish that they would write a book about ONLY Crowley and that would be a great book.

Stars: 3.5

Number of Pages: 412

The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout

They look like you and me, they have no conscience, they cannot be cured, and they make up 4% of the population.

The Sociopath Next Door

Random House, 2005, 256 pages

We are accustomed to think of sociopaths as violent criminals, but in The Sociopath Next Door, Harvard psychologist Martha Stout reveals that a shocking 4 percent of ordinary people, one in 25, has an often undetected mental disorder, the chief symptom of which is that that person possesses no conscience. He or she has no ability whatsoever to feel shame, guilt, or remorse. One in 25 everyday Americans, therefore, is secretly a sociopath. They could be your colleague, your neighbor, even family. And they can do literally anything at all and feel absolutely no guilt.

How do we recognize the remorseless? One of their chief characteristics is a kind of glow or charisma that makes sociopaths more charming or interesting than the other people around them. They're more spontaneous, more intense, more complex, or even sexier than everyone else, making them tricky to identify and leaving us easily seduced. Fundamentally, sociopaths are different because they cannot love. Sociopaths learn early on to show sham emotion, but underneath they are indifferent to others' suffering. They live to dominate and thrill to win.

The fact is, we all almost certainly know at least one or more sociopaths already. Part of the urgency in reading The Sociopath Next Door is the moment when we suddenly recognize that someone we know, someone we worked for, or were involved with, or voted for, is a sociopath. But what do we do with that knowledge? To arm us against the sociopath, Dr. Stout teaches us to question authority, suspect flattery, and beware the pity play. Above all, she writes, when a sociopath is beckoning, do not join the game.

It is the ruthless versus the rest of us, and The Sociopath Next Door will show you how to recognize and defeat the devil you know.

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Verdict: Psychology is a bit of a squishy science, and Martha Stout is a bit of a squishy author. I found The Sociopath Next Door interesting and it held a few valuable lessons for me, but it's a very broad, not very deep overview of what makes sociopaths tick. Stout cites some pretty old studies and draws some very personal conclusions which I don't think are at all universal. Nonetheless, it's an interesting, sometimes chilling read despite the relative lack of serial killers. It's not for the serious student of abnormal psychology (which I am not -- gotta admit, I always kind of squint at AbPsych students...) and it's probably not going to help you much if you are already unfortunate enough to be ensnared in a sociopath's web. But it might save you from untold grief if it teaches you how to avoid them.