Monday, September 28, 2015

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin - Book Report #145

Is there anybody who hasn't been touched by Steve Martin's work?  Stand up comedy, movies, books and music; this guy has pretty much done it all by following his passions and his heart.

This memoir chronicles his early years, from childhood to the height of comedy stardom.  In it he talks about his personal life without ever getting creepy about it.  His style is straight forward and honest much like he was telling you stories after dinner, in the living room.  His intelligence, thoughtfulness and humour seep into every passage making this a wonderful experience.

Hearing how he felt and dealt with lack of fame then and abundance of it was refreshing.  I was very happy to get the pay off I wanted from this: why did he turn his back so completely from stand up?  His answer is honest, intelligent, understandable and respectful to his audience.  I have come away from this only wanting to know more about this unusual man and with the desire to embrace the other aspects of his entertainment career, namely his novels and music.

I experienced this as an audio book and I recommend anybody to do so as well.  There are many benefits from this format; firstly it is read by Mr. Martin with his rich, warm voice, plus he also replays some of his best bits on stage and some things that did not make the show.  With his ability to deliver lines, you don't want to leave it to yourself to get it right.  The added bonus of the audio book are the musical interludes between chapters and the short performance at the end, all performed by Martin.  The audio book is a very rich experience.

Better yet buy the paper book and the audio version, it would make a terrific set.



Monday, September 21, 2015

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - Book Report #144

This novel has been on my radar for a while.  When I heard Steven Spielberg was set to direct the movie version (2017) I decided it was time to read it.

The story takes place in the near future (2044) where climate change has destroyed the economy as we know it today.  There is more poverty than North America is used to and people escape their unhappy lives through a virtual reality version of Second Life, known as the OASIS.



That time period's Steve Jobs, who created the OASIS, falls ill.  Upon his death it is revealed that he has left his vast fortune hidden somewhere in the OASIS.  But it's not THAT easy, whoever is lucky enough to find it has first to find three hidden keys to unlock three hidden gates where he or she will be challenged solve the various puzzles and tasks within the gates.

The story begins five years after the "game" was revealed and no one has found the first key.  Our narrator is Wade Watts, a teenager who lives in "the stacks", poverty stricken and living without his parents in an aunt's trailer.  Life is not pleasant for Wade and he spends as much time as he can in OASIS within the relative safety of his secret lair buried deep within a pile of junked cars.


The story leaps off the page in a very cinematic way making it easy to envision Spielberg's touch.  The novel is steeped in 1980's pop culture and video game history.  What I found interesting is that the book is considered YA making me wonder what the appeal could be to Millennials with such a dense reference to those days.  It felt like it was written for me by an author who is only 7 years younger than me.

And yes, I got almost all the references and enjoyed this story very much.

I certainly recommend it.  It is an easy read and flows quickly.  There is not a lot of dialog but the narration is effortless.

The author's website is here:

http://www.ernestcline.com/

Ernest Cline



Friday, September 11, 2015

Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku - Book Report #143

Once again, in an effort to see the good in the world, I turned to Kaku's book about the future.

He covers eight broad subject areas, looks at where the technology is today and a year or two from now.  Then he takes on the futurist role and expands the subject to the near future (present to 2030) followed by mid-century predictions (2030 to 2070) and ending with speculation on the far future (2070 to 2100).

The book looks at the future of:

The Computer
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Medicine
Nanotechnology
Energy
Space Travel
Wealth
Humanity


He ends the book with a bit of creative fiction; a day in the life of a regular office worker which brings all the technology discussed and shows how he interacts with it.

I liked the book but I did not love it.  But that's not really a flaw of the author or the book, it's just that some areas, like nanotechnology and space travel, are either in their infancy or have been so neglected that it's difficult to believe some of the changes predicted.  Some of the topics lent themselves to believable extrapolation while others felt like pure guesswork. 

Each topic is its own entity and does not lead into the next, meaning you can pick and choose which chapters to read without losing anything by skipping one or reading them out of order.

The strength of the book is that it will give you a sense of wonder and hopefulness for the future.

Now if only we can get humanity to just get along with each other we can get down to the business of creating the future depicted by Kaku.

You can find the author's website here:
http://mkaku.org/