Saturday, November 5, 2011

On the Origin of Tepees: The Evolution of Ideas (and Ourselves) by Jonnie Hughes

Rating 4/5

The central idea in this book is that ideas (memes) are subject to Darwinian evolution (natural selection) and, having hijacked our ancestors, are the reason we are so different from all other life on earth. It's an interesting idea and it is explained very well. The author takes us on a journey across America to visit different tribes of Indians, and uses the evolution of the tepee to explain the evolution of his ideas about ideas. And in true road trip form, I was very excited at the beginning, somewhat less excited but still happy to be on the road mid-trip, but 2/3rds of the way there I began asking "Are we there yet?". Hughes managed to get me as interested as I could possibly get (not much) in Native American history and (hardly at all) tepees. Luckily I am very interested in evolution, nature and culture. I'm not sure where one can go with the idea that memes are as selfish and function just like genes. It's definitely intriguing, but will it make a practical difference in how we live as humans if we know intellectually we are just gene and meme machines?

Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1) by Becca Fitzpatrick

Rating 2/5

Even in the YA Urban Fantasy genre, where vampires sparkle, this book takes the cake for ridiculously preposterous. Average teenager Nora Grey meets mysterious guy with intense eyes in biology class. Sound familiar? Seriously, Fitzpatrick could've been a bit more subtle about how much she was ripping off Twilight. Oh, but it's not vampires, it's fallen angels, so it's not the same, right? No, it isn't. Because nothing that Nora does or feels makes any sense, it only makes me roll my eyes. If you are going to write a character that decides on a whim to chase dangerous boys, investigate murders and walk down dark alleys, you might want to give her a personality that suits, or at least one that's struggling with identity issues. I gave this book two stars instead of one because after the gargantuan effort it took me to suspend every molecule of disbelief in my body, the plot became quick and eventful and the story managed to take me out of my own life for awhile, which is really all I wanted out of it in the first place.

See my review of Silence (Hush Hush #4)