Author Archives: Jon Meinhardt

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is shaping up as a truly inspiring book. Louis Zamperini’s story of survival against all odds is so extraordinary that some readers may find it implausible. Every page of Unbroken is filled with small details and facts that are often not mentioned in fiction novels, adding to the verisimilitude of the novel. Another unique point of the book is that often times, a story is told from the perspective of one of the central characters. Unbroken is told through the voices of many people whom Hillenbrand interviewed, making it unique in that it doesn’t have a real narrator, which allows for multiple scenes to be described at one time. For example, the thoughts of all of Super Man’s crew are described, rather than just Louie’s accounts of the war. This style of storytelling also able to foreshadow some events in the novel by jumping through time.

The first quarter of Unbroken strongly illustrates how war can result in so much lost human capital. In the case of Louie, an Olympian runner was sent off to war with a low chance of survival. Imagine all of the young American men who were sent off to fight thousands of miles from their homes in the European and Pacific theaters. Many bright students and hard workers never came back. This is why Louie’s story is such an amazing one. Not only did Louie survive the war, but he survived a plane crash, weeks at sea, and (spoiler alert) time in a brutal Japanese POW camp.

I really enjoyed first quarter of Unbroken. Although the beginning of the novel was somewhat slowed down with Louie’s pre-war life. It served as a decent but lengthy lead-in to the rest of the story, but now the plot has picked up. The conclusion of the first quarter left me with a cliffhanger, with Louie’s plane shot down and his real struggle for survival just beginning.

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2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke is proving to be a very fascinating read. The novel is written with vivid descriptions of space technology and other aspects of science fiction. This style of writing is very unique in that it draws the reader into a world that they cannot directly experience.

So far, the main storyline has not yet been fully introduced, but two intriguing subplots depicting extraterrestrial encounters at various points in human evolution have been described. In the first subplot a giant monolith advances human evolution by teaching man-apes to make tools. The second subplot takes place epochs later, in 1999, when a similar monolith appears on a man-made moon base. Planet Earth at this time is on the brink of a global nuclear war, and humans are faced with food shortages and overpopulation. The effect of the second object on humans has not yet been revealed. These two storylines have a captivating effect on the reader, making this book a real page-turner.

Since the plot has not developed substantially enough for me to develop an opinion on characters or storyline, I can only surmise what will happen next. However one quote describing human evolution was very interesting: “But now, as long as they existed, he was living on borrowed time.” (37) “He” refers to mankind, but who are “they”? I imagine that this foreshadows events to come, possibly even the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligent life. Again, this book is a real page turner and I am very curious about how the story will unfold.

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White Fang, Jack London, 9/10

White Fang is indisputably one of the most famous dog stories ever written. The story is told from the perspective of an arctic wolf, revealing the thoughts of animals and their interactions with mankind. The plot when viewed alone may seem trite or commonplace, but the uniqueness of this story is found in the narrative view of a wolf, White Fang.

The story consists of a wolf cub learning the ways of life in the Yukon and developing a knowledge of what can help or hurt him. The cub develops into a wolf in the hands of human masters who teach him lessons of survival. White Fang is abused by his owners and becomes more ferocious than a wolf naturally is. These experiences help White Fang become a more adapted creature than any other living thing in the Yukon. But, as the story progresses, White Fang comes into the possession of a new benevolent master who nurtures more tender feelings in White Fang than he had ever felt before.

White Fang would be a very boring story if it was told from a human’s perspective. However, instead of describing what White Fang does, Jack London described White Fang’s reactions to his surroundings. The story also contains many small details that helped me visualize life in the harsh environment of the far north. Jack London described ‘laws’ of nature that are recurring themes throughout the book. Examples of these laws include basic rules of survival such as eat or be eaten; or complex feelings such as trust and affection. These laws bind the story together and helped me fully understand White Fang’s thoughts and reactions. I understood why White Fang’s survivalist instincts and past experiences caused him to act the ways he did. Jack London did not make White Fang seem too human, but told the story in a way that illustrates basic animal instincts.

This is a book that is best read by audiences mature enough to understand that the story is about more than just a dog’s life, but also how a savage wolf learns the meanings of love and companionship. Older readers are also able to appreciate the historical and geographical setting of White Fang. At first, the story may seem ordinary, but as the book progresses, you will be able to appreciate the unique viewpoint and universal themes that make this book a very enjoyable read.

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