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« October, 2006 »

Bringing Down the House : The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions   book icon  
by Ben Mezrich (2002)

read: 28 October 2006
rating: [+]
category: non-fiction

This is an odd story which is told like some sort of hollywood movie, yet it involves real people committing some very real crimes. The author has a connection with one of the people involved in part of the story and the rest of the story is told through this possibly disgruntled person’s eyes. It’s all about a ring of smart MIT students who used a system to play blackjack with teams and break the bank, or at least always win, at Vegas casinos. The whole time they were on this team, they were “run” by some shady underworld figures that no one really knew very well. Towards the end they start getting figured out and things get desperate, some people decide to stick it out in the risker business of evading tighter and tighter scrutiny and some got out. This book describes it all in detail. The system, the steps they took to avoid getting caught, the steps the casinos took to shut them down. It’s an interesting wacky caper story with the “criminal masterminds” just being some average suburban kids with a good head for math. Good reading, drops off a bit towards the end and definitely an early book by an author whose better writing is probably ahead of him.

Forever Free   book icon  
by Joe Haldeman (1999)

read: 21 October 2006
rating: [+]
category: fiction

I really enjoyed this. I like Haldeman’s other book Forever Peace and it took me far too long to get to this one. It’s a little strange. All the characters from the earlier books are long gone and we’re in some far flung future where most people have settled on other planets and a few have stayed nearly as homesteaders on this planet. Then they get restless and decide to explore. I read it a ways ago and so a lot of it isn’t quite clear to me. I do remember the presence of other humanoid people on the planet who were not human, and the fun involved in a future world where people are of varying ages with ranges in the hundreds of years thanks to being in suspended animation during long space travels.

There is a lot of interesting back and forth about whether to stay on the current planet or leave, and Haldeman’s strength lies in the depth of his characters and the complicated nature of their relationships. The last few chapters of the book have a very odd twist to them that didn’t sit totally right with me, but my overall reflection on this book was that I was pleased to have read it.

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