Book Review: Conquering the Chaos

Book Review: Conquering the Chaos by Ravi Venkatesan

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the publisher in a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.


This book is subtitled “win in India, win everywhere” and part of its message is that a multinational company that learns how to compete in India will be able to export that information to the global market.  To be a bit more clear, this book is not about offshoring (moving your night customer service to India, say) or how Indian business people succeed in their own country.  It’s aimed at executives whose multinational wants to do big business in India.

Mr. Venkatesan has experience in the field, having served as Chairman of both Cummins India and Microsoft India.   He also interviewed a number of other executives, successful and not so successful, about their experiences in India.

I have to say I really like the cover, with its sunny colors.  Overall, I’d say that the Harvard Business Review Press did a good job on the presentation, and since I don’t usually notice such things, that’s actual praise.

The book itself is a little dry and heavy on the business jargon; this is not a book for the layperson.  (As it happens, I’m taking courses in Business Management, so the jargon is fresh in my mind.)  Adjusting for that, the examples are interesting, both in the success stories and some of the failures.

The book covers a wide variety of subjects related to doing business in India, from making the right choice for country manager, through building an organization structure that works in the culture, to dealing with the endemic corruption and volatility of an emerging nation.

A fair amount of what the author suggests for success is obvious in hindsight–but in that position I would have had to figure it out by trial and error.  The lessons this book has are most relevant to the India market, but can be adapted to any emerging nation.  Even strictly local businessfolk should be able to find something they can apply to their situation.

There are notes and a good index at the back.  In addition to executives who may be headed off to India or other emerging markets, I would recommend this book to business students looking for something a little different to read and possibly cite.


Anime Review: [C] The Money of Soul and Possibility

Anime Review: [C] The Money of Soul and Possibility


Kimimaro Yoga is an impoverished college student, bitter about the suicide of his father, which he sees as abandonment, and working hard to make sure he has a financially stable future.  One day he is approached by a being called Masakaki and offered a deal.  If Kimimaro accepts a loan from the Midas Bank with his “future” as collateral, he can become an Entrepreneur, with access to the Financial District.  There he can engage in battle with other Entres, using Assets, personifications of their futures.  Kimimaro distrusts easy money, but is tricked into accepting anyway.

Then he finds out that when they said his future was the collateral, they weren’t being metaphorical….,

This is an eleven episode anime series and a bit of a mind screw,  The rules are never fully explained, several characters’ motives remain murky, and the ending is going to take some sitting down and thinking to puzzle out.  It’s also not about economics in the way Spice and Wolf was, so when people sling around financial terms, they’re not explained and often have little to do with their real world applications.

However, there’s a lot of allegorical economics going on, and students of such matters will be able to tell which theories the writers side with by the end.  Several of the characters, including Kimimaro, and his mentor/opposite number Mikuni are morally ambiguous.  Would you sacrifice the long term to protect what is precious to you now, or sacrifice the present to preserve the future?

It’s also very pretty, though those new to anime might find some of the color combinations overly garish.

There’s a fair amount of violence, though most of the “blood” is money, and it could be triggery for suicide, as this happens more than once.  Because of this and the need to understand basic economic principles to grasp the underpinnings, I’d recommend this for older teens and up.

Open Thread: Top Ten Posts So Far

HI folks!  Busy with homework at the moment, so a quick look at what you, the readers, have been clicking on.  The top eleven review posts so far are:

Created for me by Indigo Caldwell; please do not reuse without permission.
Created for me by Indigo Caldwell; please do not reuse without permission.
  1. Book Review: Ghosts in the Yew (that one day surge is still keeping it on top.)
  2. Comic Strip Review: Dick Tracy (thanks to the folks at Go Comics.)
  3. Manga Review: Ayako
  4. Book Review: Shanghai 1937
  5. Anime Review: Magi–Labyrinth of Magic
  6. Comic Book Review: Showcase Presents Showcase Volume 1
  7. Movie Review: Hissatsu (Sure Death)
  8. Manga Review: A*Tomcat
  9. Book Review: The Cat Sitter’s Cradle
  10. Comic Book Review: Batman Deathblow After the Fire
  11. Book Review: City of Nets

The last three were all tied.  Your thoughts and comments, anything you’ve been up to lately?


Comic Book Review: Jack Kirby’s The Demon

Comic Book Review: Jack Kirby’s The Demon by Jack Kirby and Mike Royer

Jack Kirby's The Demon

In the 1970s, the Comics Code eased up a bit, and horror comics again became a viable subgenre.  At DC Comics, most of their horror output was in short story anthologies like Ghosts or House of Secrets.  But as DC happened to have comics legend Jack Kirby working for them at the time, they asked him to do a horror-tinged comic book as well.

As Mark Evanier explains in his introduction, Kirby homaged an old Prince Valiant story in the design of the central character, Etrigan.  He also tied him into the Arthurian tales by having the Demon be a servant of Merlin, harking back to that character’s mixed parentage.  Etrigan was bound to the seemingly human Jason Blood, an immortal who repeatedly forgot his past and believed he was the latest in a long line of identical sons.  In the current lifetime, he had become a demonologist.

This proved to be due to Merlin’s secret influence, as the sorceress Morgaine le Fey was close to discovering the secrets of Merlin’s power.  Soon Jason had regained much of his memory and the ability to unleash Etrigan, although not to control him.  Etrigan was an anti-hero before they became cool in comics, decidedly demonic, but fighting against evil.

In addition to Morgaine le Fay, the Demon battled other evil magic users and monsters, the most memorable of which was Klarion the Witch Boy.  Klarion was a chilling mix of adult cruelty and childish mischief, unpredictable but easy to trick.

Jason Blood’s supporting cast were Randu, a U.N. delegate with ESP; Harry Matthews, a tough-talking (but way out of his depth) advertising executive; and Glenda Mark, who at that point was just a pretty girl Jason dated.

This is exciting stuff, but like many new series of the 1970s, did not last long.  The story ends with the sixteenth issue and Glenda discovering Jason’s secret.,   Kirby’s art is at its best with the monsters and action scenes–women were never one of his strong suits.

Etrigan went on to many guest appearances and short-lived series, most recently appearing in Demon Knights. for that review.

For those interested in the character, or Jack Kirby fans, this is a must-read.

Book Review: Spur #30 Boise Belle

Book Review: Spur #30 Boise Belle by Dirk Fletcher


I’m not sure what this type of book is called in the marketing department, so I’m going to borrow a phrase from the pulps and call it “spicy Western.”   This is a subgenre of the Western, usually in long-running paperback series, in which a tough Western hero fights outlaws and other baddies, pausing every few chapters for fairly explicit sex scenes.  It’s plot with porn, rather than porn with plot.

And what is that plot, you ask?  Spur McCoy is a Secret Service agent who has come to the Idaho Territory to investigate threats against the governor, who is running for re-election.  He’s not sure if a rash of vigilante killings is related to this or not.  Spur’s slightly distracted by the governor’s lusty and barely legal daughter, and a pretty widow (whose husband was killed by the vigilantes in a mistaken attack.)  There’s also polygamous Mormons in the mix.

The local law enforcement has been lax in dealing with the vigilantes as they save the cost of a trial, but as Spur notes, once you let one bunch of people take the law into their own hands, other people want to get into the act.  More killings indicate there’s a new vigilante in town, with a very different agenda.

This isn’t a mystery; the readers are let in on what’s going on well before Spur figures it out.  Still, it’s a bit more complex plot than many of this subgenre have.

Sadly, the paperbacks are overpriced new; check garage sales and suchlike if you think this is the sort of thing you’d be interested in.

Open Thread: Job Hunting

Busy day today–off to Job Club in the morning, then a Veterans’ Job Fair at the U of M immediately afterwards–might make it home in time to change for Anime Club, plus do a little homework.

Created for me by Indigo Caldwell; please do not reuse without permission.
Created for me by Indigo Caldwell; please do not reuse without permission.

How’s your job search going?

Anime Review: Shiki

Anime Review: Shiki

Megumi, post vamping

Megumi Shimizu hates living in an isolated mountain town in the middle of nowhere.  She wants to move to the big city with its bright lights and fashion centers.  So she dresses like a fashion model and yearns for the hot big city boy who moved in last year.  She feels unappreciated by the hicks in her village, and wonders if she can get in good with the posh-looking people who just moved into the European-style mansion on the hill.

Yuuki Natsuno hates living in a hick town too.  Ever since his hippie wannabe parents moved the family here, he’s been looking forward to getting back out.  He’s trying to ignore the crazy stalker girl in the silly outfits, but she’s not taking the hint.  At first, he denies that the strange things going on in Sotoba are any of his business.

Dr. Toshio Ozaki doesn’t mind living in Sotoba, but he did back when he was a teenager.  Right now, he’s got other things on his mind.  Suddenly, a number of villagers are falling ill, suffering from a form of anemia that is invariably fatal.  It doesn’t seem to be caused by any known infectious agent, but if it’s not a disease, what is it?

Shiki is a horror anime (based on manga) about a small town that is rapidly being taken over by vampires (or “shiki” as they come to be called.)  And when I say “horror”, I don’t mean just the genre, I mean that it is genuinely horrific.  Both the shiki, who are not all bloodthirsty monsters at heart, and the humans, some of whom are bloodthirsty monsters at heart, find themselves doing anything they must to survive.  There’s a lot of blood onscreen, particularly in the second half once the existence of the shiki becomes more generally known.

There are a number of very good bits–the shiki are smart enough to only officially move into the neighborhood after the anemia cases start, to throw off the timeline for anyone who might guess the truth, and quickly replace the government officials who might alert the outside world.  Also, there are different types of shiki with slightly different rules, which hides some of the obvious patterns.  Dr. Ozaki, in turn, proves to be far more resourceful than he first appears.

On the other hand, many of the character designs are silly-looking, particularly some people’s hair.  Megumi has the excuse of being a wannabe fashionista, but some of the others–wow.  One of the female vampires dresses in fanservice outfits almost exclusively, although that may be overcompensation on her part.  Some vampire fans may be frustrated by the relatively slow opening; it takes several episodes before the action parts of the plotline kick in.

If you liked Salem’s Lot or are a vampire story fan in general, I can recommend this as a good example of the genre.  The gory bits, however, mean that this is not suitable viewing for small children or the sensitive.

Book Review: Dark Waters

Book Review: Dark Waters by Robin Blake

Disclaimer:  I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.  My copy was an Advance Reading Copy, and there may be minor changes in the final product.

Dark Waters by Robin Blake

It is the Year of Our Lord 1741 in the small but bustling English town of Preston.  Attorney and coroner Titus Cragg is shocked but not surprised to find his drunkard uncle-in-law has fallen into the river and drowned.  The coroner’s jury rules it an accidental death, and that seems to be an end of it.

But then a man falls dead under suspicious circumstances just before a hotly contested election is scheduled, and it just so happens that he shares strong political beliefs with the first to die.  Is there a political conspiracy afoot?  Mr. Cragg must unravel the riddle with the help of the young and scientifically inclined Dr. Luke Fidelis before there’s no more room to store the bodies.

This is the second historical mystery featuring the team of Cragg & Fidelis; I have not read the first.    There are author’s notes at the end concerning the politics and monetary system of the time, which enhance the value of the book. The characters are likable, and the plot moves well.

Trigger Warning:  period slut-shaming.

This is good of its kind, and I recommend it to historical mystery fans.

Note:  I have reviewed another book titled Dark Waters; there is no connection beyond the titles.

Book Review: The Jewels of Aptor

Book Review: The Jewels of Aptor by Samuel R. Delaney

The Jewels of Aptor by Samuel R. Delaney

This is the first novel by Samuel R. Delaney, published in 1967.  He was one of the first successful African-American science fiction authors, as well as one of the first openly gay SF writers, and certainly the most successful person so far to be both.  He’s associated with the New Wave movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, although this particular novel is closer to the old model of SF.

Geo, a poet, his sailor friend Urson, and a Strange One thief nicknamed Snake are recruited by the White Goddess Argo to travel to the semi-mythical island of Aptor and steal a jewel from the Dark God Hama.  Along the way they are joined by another sailor, the “Negro” Iimmi who has been to Aptor before.  Soon they are dealing with monsters, cults and ruined cities.  And of course, the quartet has not been told the entire truth about just why Argo wants those jewels.

While the setting looks at first glance like fantasy, it is indeed science fiction, as is made clear by a ruined city with a cracked nuclear reactor in it.  Some things don’t quite make sense in the history timeline, and that’s a plot point.

Some points in the novel are suggestive if one knows the author’s history; “Black Dude Dies First” is inverted, with the first person on the voyage to die being a pale-skinned man named “Whitey.”  Iimmi turns out to be well-educated for a sailor, being on sabbatical from his college studies.  And there’s a distinct lack of the kind of perfunctory hetero romance subplot that often got shoved into science fiction stories of the period.

Oh, there’s a pretty damsel, but by the time our heroes finally meet her, she’s in the middle of her own escape, not very much in distress at all.  Much more time is spent on the men’s strong friendships.  Still, most of the time it’s a fairly conventional fantastic adventure story.  (You can even see traces of The Lord of the Rings.)

A confusing prologue is referred back to at the end, with a bit of the changes in thinking caused by paradigm shifts that would become a major theme of Mr. Delany’s work.

Like many first novels, it’s not quite up to the standards of the author’s later work, but it’s good of its kind and well worth looking up at your library.

Open Post: Wedding

Open Thread: Wedding

Clip art from Word

Went to my cousin’s wedding on Sunday; she married a Norwegian guy.

Big church service with the families showing off their musical talents and my cousin’s father the preacher giving the homily.

Got to ride in a stretch limo for the first time to and from the reception.  Considerably less comfortable than a city bus.

Reception was on a boat that went up and down the river.  Got to sit with the parents of the bride as I was a singleton.  Chocolated fruits at each place setting, along with a complimentary toothbrush and toothpaste (more important with the wedding cake as some layers had very purple frosting.)

Got home very late.

How have you folks been?

Your thoughts and comments?

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