This book is really a series of essays. And it's like you're sitting with a cup of tea having a long chat to the man and he's talking about his life, his family, his work, the difficulty of being a celebrity, and he's mentally summing up that life and trying to decide what it all really means. I found it fascinating because, although he's quite a bit older than me, they're the same conclusions I and many others come to as we age. That family, the way your're brought up is vastly important but perhaps not the be all and end all. And that maintaining your curiosity about life, until the moment you breathe your last, is the most important thing for the individual - something I personally agree with one hundred per cent.
One thing I didn't know about Alda was how much of an activist he has been, (and presumably still is) especially for women's rights. He's also someone who has given a lot of speeches at various events and many of those are included in this book to illustrate something he is discussing. I also didn't know that he hosted a popular TV science programme in the US because of a lifelong fascination with the sciences. This is an interesting man with a lot to say and I will check the library next time I'm in there to see if they have his actual autobiography.
Next up Eragon by Christopher Paolini.
The story, as the title suggests, concerns 'Eragon', a boy of fifteen who lives on a farm with his uncle and cousin in an isolated, mountainous part of Alagaesia. This is a country ruled over by a cruel despot, Galbatorix, who is the only dragon rider left since the wars and who has plans to extend his empire by using an army of urgals (vicious fighters) and strange and frightening beings such as the Shade and Ra'zac. Out hunting one night a stone literally falls into Eragon's hands, only it isn't a stone - as he discovers some time later, when it hatches into dragon. While he is away Eragon's home is destroyed and his uncle killed by two Ra'zac. By now Eragon's dragon has grown somewhat and has been named Saphira and the two of them plus 'Brom', an enigmatic old storyteller, set off in pursuit, determined to avenge the killing. A long journey ensues and naturally many adventures befall the travellers, new characters enter the fray and so on. And the end is not really the end as the second book in the series, Eldest, leads straight on, literally, from the first.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this. I knew it was written by a teenager and that the book had been popular enough to be made into a film - which I haven't actually seen. At first it seemed fairly obvious the author was young, too many very short, abrupt sentences for instance, the kind of thing I find distracting. That stopped after a while, the writing settled down and I found myself absorbed in the tale. I notice it has some good reviews on Amazon and some really scathing ones! And I will admit there is not a lot that's original - one reviewer actually accuses it of being 'Star wars with Dragons', a comparison which escaped me I have to confess. Despite *all* of that I did actually rather enjoy this book. It has some interesting characters - I really liked the female elf, Arya, for instance, and there are some interesting villains. Even the 'friends' have questionable motives and may not be what they seem. To tell the truth I'm quite in awe that a teenage boy could come up with something this good (he's now 25 I believe) and am wondering what kind of thing we can expect from him in the future. I already have Eldest and will certainly buy the last of the series Brisingr when it comes out in September.