Saturday, April 30, 2016

Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

I can't say enough good things about Jason Matthews' contemporary USA vs. Russia spy novel Red Sparrow. Thoroughly enjoyable, written by a guy who seems to know what he's talking about, everything good about Cold War spy fiction but set in contemporary times, compelling plot, enticing characters. I could go on.

Trained at the notorious Sparrow School as a seductress spy, Dominika Ergova is targeted at American CIA operative Nate Nash because the Soviets - I mean Russians - think he might be running an agent deep within the KGB - I mean SVR. Dominika is a woman on a mission, trying to prove herself and right past wrongs. Nate is a man starting to doubt his abilities. Their paths cross in an unexpected way.

One quirk of Matthew's writing is how he ends each chapter with a recipe of a dish featured in that chapter. For example, Moscow Airport Cuban Sandwich is featured in a scene where Nate is flying out of the country.

Jason Matthews has a page on his publisher's website here. I originally heard about Red Sparrow via a review in the Wall Street Journal, bought the book, and let it sit on the shelf for a couple of years. Installment #2 in of the Dominika/Nate series, Palace of Treason, was published last summer and its now on my to-read list.

Jason Matthew's Red Sparrow is a very enjoyable book and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good espionage thriller.

"Nothing can be said about writing except when it is bad. When it is good, one can only read and be grateful."

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

The best people possess a feeling for beauty...

We're a third of the way through 2016 so it might be a wee bit late to look at MIT Technology Review's list of 10 breakthrough technologies for 2016, but the one that stands out for me is their citation of Slack on a list that includes genetic engineering of immune cells.

Five characteristics of a good team, from Google and Lencioni: trust, accountability, structure, commitment, results.

Got 2 hours and 40 minutes? Watch a real-time video recreation of the Titanic sinking.

Kylo Ren outtakes from The Force Awakens.

Nakaniwa is a cool animated music video. I'm getting a Matisse cut-outs vibe.

Trying to decide whether to pull the trigger on the new album On by Jane Getter Premonition. The musicians are stellar.

Brian Eno's latest album, The Ship, is now available.

I'll give a thumbs up to the beginner's guide to ambient music. Eno & Budd's The Pearl is excellent. One that's equally good is their Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror.

Two thumbs up to KoMaRa and their live performance from earlier this year.

Waiting patiently for my CD of In Praise of Shadows by Eraldo Bernocchi and Shinkiro to arrive.

If you find yourself in the theater to see Finding Dory (the sequel to Finding Nemo) pay attention to the short feature, Piper. There's no dialog and the soundscape was composed by Adrian Belew of King Crimson fame. More here.

A diagram and timeline of an integrated plan for space exploration from Rockwell in 1989. We're supposed to have a moonport by now.

Now this is truly something. In the movie Gravity, I always wondered who the hell Sandra Bullock's character was speaking to on the radio toward the end. Now we know. Someone created a short film, Aningaaq that shows the other side of the conversation. And it's good. Really good.

Is it a painting or a sculpture? Donald Martiny pays homage to both. 
Why you should sleep naked. You, not me. And the sea cucumber should probably don a pair of shorts because the pearlfish likes to sleep in its anus.

How often should you clean your home? Including your sheets if you sleep naked. Bath towels after 3 uses.

What typeface are you? Sadly, I'm Times Roman.

Ladies, would you dare to wear the zipper dress?

Art does indeed change lives.

Craft pr0n: glass blowing.

Aviation pr0n: ultra-stable HD video of a Saab Gripen.

Can you identify any language just by looking at it written?

This is kinda disturbing. The Szondi Test reveals your repressed impulses by which photo of a psychopath causes you the most aversion. It tells me that early in my childhood I repressed impulsiveness, irritability, and outbursts of anger and aggression.

Take this with a grain of salt but 50 Cent is going to be in 2018's Predator sequel. This news is not a selling point for me but whatevs.

Economic espionage sponsored by the Chinese government is costing U.S. corporations hundreds of billions of dollars and more than 2 million jobs.

Take one Nonara a day and your farts will smell like flowers.

...the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed. ~Ernest Hemingway