The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of 21: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions

This book, the basis for the movie “21”, is entirely SAFE for animal lovers because there are no animals in it. I’m recommending it because the story is interesting and well-told. I especially like the pacing, which is hard to manage in nonfiction. Mezrich does an excellent job, however.

For those who don’t know, “21” is about an unofficial (very unofficial) team of MIT students who figured out how to beat the odds playing blackjack in Las Vegas. I am not a gambler, and therefore I know nothing about blackjack, but the story still kept my interest to the point I had a hard time putting the book down. The protagonist, Jeff Ma, who is known in the book as “Kevin Lewis,” is likable without being so perfect as to be unrealistic. I think most people could relate to him and the highs and lows he experiences, first as he enters the world of card-counting high rollers, then as he attempts to integrate this side of himself into the rest of his life.

I have two quibbles, only one of which is with the book. Years ago, I lived near MIT and knew some students there. My observation is that the school presents a psychologically difficult environment, and no one I know who went to school there ever felt differently. I wish Mezrich had addressed this, because my reaction to Ma/Lewis joining the card-counters was “Of course he wants to do something, anything, to break from the unrelenting bleakness of MIT.”

The other quibble is that the movie’s cast wasn’t Asian enough. Yeah, the cast was probably pretty good, but most of the team, including Ma, were at least part Asian. This isn’t political correctness, it’s accuracy! But Hollywood powers-that-be seem to think the default American is a white male and the rest of us are just background. No, we are not.

Anyway, I highly recommend the book. It’s got all the elements of a good beach read or airport book, by the way.

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May 27, 2008 - Posted by | Book Reviews | , , , , , , , ,

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