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Book Review

Book Review: by Lang Reid

101 most influential people who never lived

There are many books concerning the most influential people in the world, be that 101 of them since time immemorial, or 100 of them last year, so I almost by-passed this book on the Bookazine shelves till I saw that this book was listing 101 most influential people who never lived! As the front cover proclaimed, “how characters of fiction, myth, legends, television and movies have shaped our society, changed our behavior, and set the course of history.”
“The 101 most influential people who never lived” (ISBN 0-06-113221-7, Harper Books, 2006) has been compiled by Allan Lazar, who is in retirement teaching dogs to play the piano and sing; Dan Karlan, a scientific computer programmer; and Jeremy Salter, a retired analytical chemist. A fairly diverse trio.
The compilers list the 101 in their ‘most influential’ order and do apply the rider that their opinions are totally subjective. And who is number 1? The Marlboro Man. This mythical character, born of Leo Burnett’s ad agency, has managed to kill millions. That is quite some influence. Incidentally, the book tells you of the three male models who were used in the advertising campaigns. They died from emphysema and lung cancer (of course).
Down in number 18 is one of my favorite influential characters, Mickey Mouse, with whom I share a birthday. But he’s older than me. Mickey was influential enough to get the American Congress to extend the copyright laws to make sure Mickey, the American icon, did not fall into ‘enemy’ hands!
Languishing down in number 56 is the Loch Ness monster, though there would be those who would take Messrs Lazar, Karlan and Salter to task over this. Generations of hairy-kneed Scots have attested to the veracity of the legend, but then again, what’s a legend?
Anyone with enough marbles to enjoy books would also have seen Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” in which HAL 9000 is the supercomputer guiding the astronauts through space. HAL develops a glitch, in that he adopts some human characteristics, such as paranoia and schizophrenia. HAL’s influence on our society has been so great that he is considered the 13th most villainous ‘person’ on the American Film Institute’s villains list.
Some influential people from the classics are included in the top 101 list, with Venus and Cupid, Helen of Troy, Icarus and Hercules all having their day of glory, or in their cases, many centuries of glory. Midas gets his mention for his foolishness by not thinking of the consequences before asking that everything he touched would become gold. Solid gold apples are difficult to digest.
For only B. 595, this is a fascinating book, both in the fictional list and in the ones that didn’t make the cut for the final 101, which includes Bugs Bunny and Walter Mitty.
I have two complaints, with the first being a lack of alphabetic index, meaning you are flipping back and forth all the time, and second is once again woeful paper stock. By the time you have read it twice the words will have worn off the page.