The Winner Stands Alone – Paulo Coelho

Book Reviewed: The Winner Stands Alone

Author:  Paulo Coelho

Contributor: Switler

Switler’s Rating: 3.5/5

GoodReads Rating: 3.4/5

Genre: Thriller/ Philosophy/ Spirituality

Review:

I have loved Paulo ever since I read “The Alchemist”. He has this amazing way of telling a story which has spirituality aspect. This book is no different.

The story is about a Russian millionaire, Igor, who is trying to win back the love of his life, his ex-wife, and in order to do that he is ready to do anything. Even kill! He is trying to destroy universes of people in order to send a message and while he does so, he comes across various individuals who have a very different and interesting tales of their own to tell.

This is no typical love story nor is it a typical thriller. It has some very unique aspects. First of all, it has Paulo’s style of story telling – being Spiritual and yet not being so Spiritual. Secondly, at times some of the things said by the characters are so true and extremely philosophical and yet the readers will find themselves nodding in agreement to those without even knowing. Lastly, Paulo takes time to develop each and every character, and makes them part of the story seamlessly.

The only part that has left me speechless (and I mean literally) is the end. As the story develops you will become totally engrossed and keep turning the pages. Luckily there are no predictable moments. But when you reach the end, you have no idea what you want the end to be. (At least I didn’t). And that’s where you are speechless. Whether you agree with it or not, it is bound to leave you thinking – about how people are, how things are, how circumstances change, how same thing is viewed by different people differently and yet both are right, and I can go on.

If you want a unique story telling experience, this books is the one you should read next! But, If you are looking for a typical fiction book, then this is going to disappoint you!

Happy reading! 🙂

 

Notable Quotes: 

“Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.”

==

“Whenever someone dies, a part of the universe dies too. Everything a person felt, experience and saw dies with them, like tears in the rain.”

==

“How can we be so arrogant? The planet is, was, and always will be stronger than us. We can’t destroy it; if we overstep the mark, the planet will simply erase us from its surface and carry on existing. Why don’t they start talking about not letting the planet destroy us?”

==

“Success is both an addiction and an enslavement…”

==

“This was, of course, an ambitious project, but she was sure she would achieve it if only through sheer doggedness. To do this she needed to purify her soul, and so she turned to the four forces that had always guided her: love, death, power, and time. We must love because we are loved by God. We must be conscious of death if we are to have a proper understanding of life. We must struggle in order to grow, but without falling into the trap of the power we gain through that struggle, because we know that such power is worthless. Finally, we must accept that our eternal soul is, at this moment, caught in the web of time with all its opportunities and its limitations.”

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On Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays – Stephen Hawking

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Contributor: Adarsh

Adarsh’s Rating: 3.5/5.0

GoodRead’s Rating: 4.0/5.0

Genre: Science, Autobiography

Review:

Stephen Hawking’s “Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays” published by Bantam Books is a collection of essays and speeches by Stephen Hawking during different times in his career, and like a cherry on top, it includes his 1992 interview with BBC Radio. Stephen Hawking believes that we are very close to solving the puzzle of the Universe and that there is no use for speculative Philosophers in today’s World. He considers them a hindrance to scientific progress (though I don’t agree with him). He sets the tone in the introduction itself, with the words:

“The scientific articles in this volume were written in the belief that the universe is governed by an order that we can perceive partially  now and that we may understand fully in the not-too-distant future. It may be that this hope is just a mirage; there may be no ultimate theory, and even if there is, we may not be able to find it. But it is surely better to strive for a complete understanding than to despair of the human mind.”

In the first two essays, “Childhood” and “Oxford and Cambridge”, Hawking tells us briefly about the first few years of his life, and he makes it out as unremarkable. One feature of Hawking’s writing throughout the book is that he maintains a largely impersonal tone, with an occasional sense of humor. This aloof attitude of his writing is further highlighted in his third essay (which is actually a speech transcript) – “My Experience with ALS”. This speech transcript describing Stephen Hawking’s unfortunate medical condition and its effect on him should arguably be the most attractive piece in the collection, given our morbid curiosity over other people’s lives. But Hawking uses an unemotional tone, and describes the events alone. He concludes this speech making an effort to give all his listeners hope with the words:

“I have had motor neuron disease for practically all my adult life. Yet it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family and being successful in my work. This is thanks to the help I have received from my wife, my children and a large number of other people and organizations. I have been lucky that my condition has progressed more slowly that is often the case. It shows that one need not lose hope.”

In the next two essays “Public Attitudes Towards Science” and “A Brief History of A Brief  History”, Hawking explains his belief that the public should be aware of the latest advancements in Science, and his own effort in making this possible by writing his most famous book – “A Brief History of Time”.  Hawking does not ignore the fact that though the book may be a best-seller, a lot of people use it to just adorn their bookshelves as a status symbol (The book lies untouched in my own bookshelf for about 7 years now. Note to self : Soon).

Starting with the  speech transcript “My Position”, where he temporarily lets go his composure and indulges in a self-confessed harsh attack on Philosophers (“They are not in touch with the present frontier of Physics”), the next few essays get into real Physics. Though I couldn’t understand the Physics part completely, I could get the broad ideas pretty well. This is largely due the fact that owing to their independent by-themselves nature of the essays, Hawking gives a general idea of the same concepts multiple times throughout the collection.

The final interview – “Desert Island Discs : An Interview” – is a delightful read. As a part of this very interesting show hosted at BBC Radio, the interviewer (Sue Lawley) manages to bring out different aspects to the very incidents that we encountered though Hawking’s own words. For example, in answer to a question, Hawking explains the feeling of hopelessness on discovery of his medical condition better than he does in his own speech. A more musically inclined person than me would even take the chance to approve (or disapprove) of Hawking’s taste in music. However my personal favorite in the whole collection is the essay titled “Is Everything Determined?”, where armed with no empirical data to support him Hawking  himself indulges in what he accuses the Philosophers of being guilty of – speculation. Touching over concepts of a pre-determined destiny, and the moral culpability of human actions in a pre-destined Universe, Hawking lets himself go (with an ironic sense of humour).

On the whole, “Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays” is a very good read (at least for a scientifically non-inclined person like me). Hawking’s writing is good and to the point, and his sense of mild humour ensures that all is not dull. Regardless of your agreement or disagreement (as in my case) with the statement from the book’s Introduction I have quoted above, I would suggest that you go for this one.

Notable Quotes:

“I have had motor neuron disease for practically all my adult life. Yet it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family and being successful in my work. This is thanks to the help I have received from my wife, my children and a large number of other people and organizations. I have been lucky that my condition has progressed more slowly that is often the case. It shows that one need not lose hope.”

“The scientific articles in this volume were written in the belief that the universe is governed by an order that we can perceive partially  now and that we may understand fully in the not-too-distant future. It may be that this hope is just a mirage; there may be no ultimate theory, and even if there is, we may not be able to find it. But it is surely better to strive for a complete understanding than to despair of the human mind.”

“They are not in touch with the present frontier of Physics”

 

Adarsh is a regular contributor to this blog. 
You can find other reviews and other ramblings here:  http://www.adarsh89.blogspot.in/