Monday, July 31, 2017

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson - Book Report #193

On the 20th anniversary of the publication of Notes From A Small Island, Bryson revisits the U.K. by following a path of his creation.

The Bryson Line describes the longest distance between two communities using a ruler.

What I love about Bill Bryson is that his books are less about the locations he visits and more about the people he meets and those that have been influential in the places he chooses to visit.

He is terrific at describing his interactions with the person behind the counter or a fellow tourist.  He also makes the effort to research who a building is named after or how a museum curated the treasures he has come to see.

It's a wonderful way of looking at the world because people are people no mater where they live or when.  Thorough it all there is his biting wit that I find inviting.

The book was lovely.

Bill Bryson

The Bryson Line


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Prisons by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason

A prison planet revolts against it's keepers.

The success of the revolt hangs on the remoteness of the world and in keeping the prison's AI in control.  Guess how well that goes?

I enjoyed this story, it was well constructed and felt like it could easily be a movie.  I liked how the point of view changed from the AI to omniscient third person.

The twist worked for me and I found that I ripped through the story.

Well done.

Kevin J Anderson's website - http://www.wordfire.com/

Doug Beason's website - http://www.dougbeason.com/file/Welcome.html

Kevin J Anderson

Doug Beason


Monday, July 24, 2017

Just Cool It! by David Suzuki and Ian Hanington - Book Report #192

I had to slog through the first three chapters before I could enjoy what I was reading.

Suzuki has a long, rich history of making you feel shitty for being human and alive.  In this book he has taken a new direction; instead of beating you over the head explaining how thoroughly we've messed up the planet he now gives suggestions as to how to fix the problem.

Climate change is a big, messy problem but, interestingly, the solutions all exist, it's just a matter of will to fix things.

One observation really stuck out for me.  No matter where you fall in the climate change debate you can't argue with this:  even if we go all-in on expanding renewable energy and find that we were wrong about climate change we would find ourselves with a new alternative energy source AND fossil fuels.  We would have employed countless people, created new technologies, modernized our electrical systems and increased available power.  

There is no down side to this.

Suzuki and his co-author Ian Hanington, tackle solutions that can be applied to four general segments of human existence: Personal, Agricultural, Technological and Institutional.

It's that last category that is preventing us from really digging in and implementing solutions.  There needs to be political will to nurture and direct a new way of living on the planet.

I found the book to be well thought out, easy to read and understand.  It gave me ideas about changes I can make myself and opened my eyes to the infrastructure around me.

If you care about the environment or are simply interested in getting a better understanding about climate change this is a great place to start.

Recommended.

The David Suzuki Foundation website - http://www.davidsuzuki.org/

David Suzuki

Ian Hanington



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Someone Is Stealing The Great Throne Rooms Of The Galaxy by Harry Turtledove

This story was as cute as the hamster protagonist of it.

That's right - I said hamster.

It was delightful, irreverent and fun. 

The space cadet hamster is tasked to investigate the thefts. 

Lots of puns and playing with the tropes of the omniscient narrator. 

A joy.

Harry Turtledove's website - https://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/turtledove.html

Harry Turtledove


Monday, July 17, 2017

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers - Book Report #191

Oh my goodness - what a delight!

I've been reading for decades and there are only an handful of books that I can say I was sorry to come to the end of.  This was one of them.

It ticked most of the boxes that I am looking for in SF.  I love a lived-in universe and stories about people just trying to make a living I find particularly compelling.

The Wayfarer is a tunnelling ship that builds shortcuts in space/time.  This sounds very sci-fi, but in this book, it's just a way of life, a job and it is not that glamorous.  To paraphrase something from the story, "History remembers who fought the wars and signed the treaties but nobody remembers who built the roads."

I would have been content just to read about how hard it was to construct these tunnels, or to live on the ship and to keep it maintained.  But the author gave so much more.  Reading about the varied crew members and where they came from was equally fascinating.

There was a terrific amount of world building here but none of it felt forced or ever got boring.

Chambers has created a massive world, well, a galaxy actually that I look forward to visiting again and again.

Highly recommended.

Becky Chambers - https://www.otherscribbles.com/

Becky Chambers


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Aftermaths by Lois McMaster Bujold

What a wonderful story.

In the wake of a battle in space, a two-member crew are sent to a ship that has been destroyed to scan for and recover the dead. 

It sounds dark but is just the opposite. There is a quiet dignity and caring for the fallen that I found heart-warming. 

This is the kind of fiction that works for me.  It's about "people" living and working in the future. 

The best so far.

Bujold's website - http://dendarii.com/

Lois McMaster Bujold


Monday, July 10, 2017

The Truth by Michael Palin - Book Report #190

I'll start off by saying that I liked this book quite a lot.

There was a warmth to it that I enjoyed coming back to. 

The premise of a one-hit-wonder author having a lucrative offer fall into his lap from a position of obscurity felt a bit forced. But, since I read science fiction, I am comfortable with stories that start with "What if?"

All in all it was a lovely way to spend some time in the capable hands of an author I trust. 

There were some lovely English usage that made me very happy.  Palin can certainly turn a phrase. 

Would I recommend it?  Sure.  But it does play out a little predictably.

If you're interested in reading something cozy this book is a good choice.

Michael Palin's website - http://www.themichaelpalin.com/



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Terra-Exulta by S. L. Gilbow

This was an odd little story.  It is told in the form of a letter to the Galactic Society of Ancient Languages on how to translate Archaic Planetary English into Galactic Standard.

It told of an interesting story of colonists who have coped with and influx of indigenous life forms that caused people to become sick and die.  Strangely, the focus of the story is the creation of new words to describe the tragedy and how it is important to invent words well.

Like I said it was an odd story.  Kinda cold, kinda interesting, certainly different.

Gilbow's website - http://slgilbow.com/

S. L. Gilbow

Monday, July 3, 2017

Everything Bad is Good For You by Steven Johnson - Book Report #189

Steven Johnson the master of seeing what is underneath things and how they are connected.  Here he takes on the notion that pop culture is bad and making people dumb.

He makes a compelling case for the benefits of video games.  Not only do they improve the obvious, hand-eye coordination, but, especially with the first-person and simulator games, critical thinking and observational skills are exercised to a greater degree than people give credit.

He also takes on television, where the popular notion is that TV is just getting dumber and dumber.  The explosion of "reality" shows is often held as an example of this.  But there is something else happening in scripted television where plots are much more complex and demand a commitment from the viewer to keep up and to engage in a greater degree that the average sit-com demands.

And people are eager for this kind of engagement.  Console games are nothing like the coin-fed arcade games I grew up with.  The immersion is much deeper and this activates parts of the brain that benefit the gamer in other aspects of real life.

The book may be over a decade old but it is still relevant even if its references are a bit dated.  But those references, Lost and The Sopranos, are still being enjoyed today.  So there is something to be said about the quality of these shows.

Like anything Steven Johnson writes I come away feeling like I understand the world just a little bit better.

Recommended indeed.

Steven Johnson's website - https://stevenberlinjohnson.com/

Steven Johnson