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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Magic for Nothing (InCryptid, #6)Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I may be incurring the wrath of fanboys and fangirls out there, but I think I like the 6th book better than all the other previous Incryptid books by McGuire. :)

Truly, it's just the right shape and mass of corny plotlines, that are soooo unbelievable, mind you, that still takes off as a yet another character novel with intrigue and spying and CIRCUS! Featuring yet another member of the Price family!

And yes, it's romance and the circus. It's true... so true... the monkey and the roller-derby girl, the guilt for bringing the Enemy to the doorstep of the innocent beasties as well as the bad, dual camp infiltrations, and.... HOT KNIVES ON THE TRAPEZE! WoooT!

And of course, the mice always seem to steal the show. :)

Corny? All of it? Yes. But damn if I didn't have the time of my life. :) I guess I *am* a townie.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Wolf's HourThe Wolf's Hour by Robert McCammon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Straight epic WWII historical adventure filled with heroism and sacrifice... or a sexed-up epic werewolf story from childhood through adulthood.

What do YOU prefer?

Fortunately, YOU don't have to make a choice! It's all here!

And guess what? This is all a huge tome with a very long and very adventuresome escapade revolving WWII from resistance fighters, going deep into enemy German territory, Russia, and back to England. It's a pretty wild ride and a ton happens. If you like your stories long and exciting and sexed up and very, very, wolfy, then you really ought to read this.

This is NOT your average UF fantasy and since it was written in the 80's it goes a long way to strive for realism and the exploration of what it means to be a man or a wolf, really rocking the Metallica theme and the lone-wolf idea that saves the world, too. And to make it even more impressive, it's very immersive as a historical drama, too, from '18 Russia to WWII.

Really, this is a force to be reckoned with.

They just don't write them like they used to. :)

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

This Census-TakerThis Census-Taker by China Miéville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't say that I'm completely satisfied with this novella, but I can say that I'm haunted by it. I'm haunted by all the little details that make up this world so much like our own, the hints of wars and magics and strange chemicals and vials and keys that provide people with purpose and a way out or through the labyrinths of their lives...

Not to mention a very Schrodinger's Cat view of reality, where murderers are and are not, where the murdered is and is not, where, perhaps, everything is rewritten and only census takers can determine the correct average.

Not that I'm truly or even likely getting the grok of this novel. I am just using my intuition. But it's possible.

We've got a murder mystery, first and foremost, and not even the MC, a kid who constantly doubts what he's seen, can really take the measure of it. No one in the town can, but everyone suspects everything.

And then there's the trademark monsters and monstrosities that Meivillé is so good at.

I can honestly say this feels like a more mature work from his earlier stuff, more willing to take the slow path while all the little details encroach upon us from the periphery.

I respect it. It also happens to be nominated for the '17 Hugos, and while I wouldn't put it at the top of my list, I totally agree it should be here. It's very impressive in its way even if I catch myself wanting a lot more than where it ended.

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The Ballad of Black TomThe Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nominated for '17 Hugos, I had to take it on, but like almost all of the stories nominated this year, I'm having a grand ole time.

This is a traditional tale of Cthulhu, only it's a damn sight less racist and the prose is as smooth as gin. It also doesn't fear to go the route of humanizing and demonizing at the very same time. Anti-hero? Oh, yes, please. Tommy is a real treat. I even got around to loving the detective. :)

Harlem in the 20's was a special time, and even a man with no musical talent could still make a living as a trickster with a guitar. :) The fantasy elements sneaks up on you within the lush period, and before we know it, we've gone from Gaimanish right to Lovecraft, and then right back to an introspective horror at what had been wrought. :) Totally delightful, very wicked. :)

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For We Are Many (Bobiverse, #2)For We Are Many by Dennis Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love reading great SF, but sometimes we just stumble across a novel or two that just make us beam with wonder and shared nerdiness and delight... and that basically describes these two Bob novels.

The scale is particularly delightful. You've gotta love a snarky nerd engineer-turned-AI distributed over 30 light years who's wondering what the hell the humans are doing. I mean, he's pretty well-adjusted, copying bits of himself into new iterations and letting them rename themselves as cultural nerd-pieces from the reader's culture.

But what's more, he's a pretty nice guy. He's doing everything in his ability to save stupid people and aliens and terraforming new worlds... while running up against an even bigger threat.

This second book can be seen as more of the same as the first book, but with one huge caveat. It's a character novel or (multi-character AND single-character) series. Confused? Don't be. It's all just Bob.

Of course, it looks like Bob has come up against something much bigger than him. And he's also considering a bit of a branching, I think. If he can't bring his crush along the immortality slide, then there's definitely other options opening up... :) A certain alien, perhaps? Humans are so untrustworthy with immortality... :)

Speculation. Just speculation. :)

Easily a series I'll always be chomping at the bit to get a copy of. :)

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You’ll Surely Drown Here If You StayYou’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay by Alyssa Wong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To say that Alyssa Wong can write is to say that the desert has dry bones.

What I really mean to say is that she can turn a whole town of the old-west dead into dancing corpses and then make you wonder if it is all in your very imaginative head... or whether you're really one of them, too.

Impossible, you say? Well, Wong has a knack for writing absolutely stunning fantasy that's both flashy (or in this case necromantic) and immense with importance while also writing on an entirely different level at the same time.

I love reading extravagantly fantastic fantasy like this. But wait! It could also easily be a purely psychological tale of grief and psychosis, of anger and coping after a mining accident takes out a whole desert community.


Which do you want? Both are awesome. AND YET WE GET BOTH AT THE SAME TIME! YAY! :)

*mind blown*

Totally cool. :)

Nominated for '17 Hugo for best Novella. You might say I'm tempted to vote this way. :)

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and WildflowersA Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hands-down, totally gorgeous, kick you in the crotch, will not dare to pretend you're a stupid reader, DANGEROUS story.

I love it!

There are way too few stories like this, full of heart and anger and frustration flowing incomprehensibly from either hyperbole or from gigantic world-destroying energies and permutations of time travel and godlike powers. Could be just one. Could be both. Who knows? From one way to read it, it could just be a pair of very volatile sisters that FEEL life so strongly, so loudly, so deeply, that it feels like the world is tearing up beneath their feet in a louder way than going super sayan. OR all these fantasic fantasy elements are perfectly real and they can reset reality after crashing it like a misplaced memory address in a computer.

I mean, WOW.

And it doesn't really end there, either, because the hints in the story and the revealed clarity of tragedy and hate and wild abandon in the face of wrongs done to us gives REALITY to either reading and it even choked me up.

Bravo, bravo, bravo.

This ain't a traditional story by a long shot, but it is a truly fantastic wild ride, like reaping the whirlwind from within the scythe. :)

Barring other reads, this might be my top pick for the short story Hugo noms for '17.

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The City Born GreatThe City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This '17 nom for the Hugos started out in a way that made me worry, just a bit, that it might not have the right SF or F twist to it that I was hoping for, appearing more like a love/hate letter to NYC, but, indeed, I should never worry.

This is Jemisin, after all.

It quickly became something reminiscent of pieces of Railsea with the tagging and the birth-pains of a city as it comes alive, gets consciousness, rises up with soul. What's more, it really does rise up with eldritch horrors and deep confidences, becoming a wild ride of fantasy and pure NYC flair... that is, if you're interested in being one of the hungry in the city and the flare is the spotlight of a cop car's spotlight. :)

I like the wild rides. I always have. And this story fits that fantastic bill. I'll even forgive it for hopping across the continent to give the angels a shot, too. :)

This is a worthy story, I think! :)

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The Art of Space TravelThe Art of Space Travel by Nina Allan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For a story set in the future with elements that make it sound like it's going to have some decent reveal with the second great Mars expedition, this story remains firmly in the realm of a character study, only.

There are parts of this that I do like, such as the writing and the character development, the stream of consciousness bits, the ruminations about her family and where she might come from, it is only this, however.

After so much build up, I kinda wanted something a little more juicy to sink my teeth into. Maybe I'm a spoiled reader and I don't have so much patience for super quiet stories that ramble on without giving me anything more than distant but very real-feeling hard realities contrasted against a hopeless-feeling optimism.

Did I like this so much? No. Not really. It was good for what it was, but I suppose I don't really like being shown normalcy so starkly against distant dreams. I like my dreams a little closer to the page, dragging me out of the regular and into the truly beautiful.

That being said, this story was nom'd for the '17 Hugos and it does have beauty to it.

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The Tomato ThiefThe Tomato Thief by Ursula Vernon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, a return to the old tales of the Coyote and the Raven, with a special appearance from a couple of dragons, a mule, and an old woman. :)

This is the first story I've ever read by Ms. Vernon, but I'm sure it's not going to be my last. There's a lot of old Soutwestern Tales in her and since I've spent most of my life submerged in that whole world, it kinda felt a bit like I was going home.

Bring on the trains and the mythology, I say, give me a tale of trickery and world-building in the grand old style, and set me back upon my feet to face the world and its constant change.

Nice. :)

And this story is also nominated for the '17 Hugos. Gotta catch up and pick the best of the year!

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Waters of VersaillesWaters of Versailles by Kelly Robson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's really amazing how many chicks you can pick up if you invent a magical toilet system in the 1740's. I mean, they fall ALL OVER YOU if you happen to be smart, Striving, and industrious about manipulating and enslaving poor water creatures. :)

I think this is a perfectly delightful French escapade full of wit, liaisons, and fresh toiletries. (Champagne showers not included.)

Honestly, though, I wanted to be more in the mood for this kind of tale.

I had to want to like highly coiffed and highly sexed misters and matrons, in other words.

Of course, if you ARE in the mood for it, however, then bon appetite! The rest of the story is rather good, too. :)

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That Game We Played During the WarThat Game We Played During the War by Carrie Vaughn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How we failed to lose. :)

This is a simple yet very warm tale and it comes laden with a ton of emotional baggage that doesn't overwhelm us, the readers... Rather, it leads us to a place where there is understanding and actual hope. It's like an inoculation against greater tragedy.

What? In a simple game of chess?

Well, yeah, made a lot more difficult when it's a metaphor for two whole countries fighting when one is made up of telepaths and the other isn't. :)

Pretty cool. We just have to roll with the premise, but hell, it's short and worthy to be a nom for '17 Hugos. Which, in fact, it is. :)

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Seasons of Glass and IronSeasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading to prepare myself for the '17 Hugo Nominations, this nom is available online.

It's a story of two females locked into rather interesting mythological stories, both of them trapped in both painful and degrading situations and eventually finding solace and freedom in each other.

The mythos, itself is a curious blend of old tales, such as having to wear out seven pairs of metal shoes before being able to break her husband's bear-curse or in the other case, having being forced upon a mountaintop, eating magical apples, while being insulted or having tons of suiters-who-are-sailors demand her hand in marriage.

Overall I was struck by the imagery and the juxtapositions while also feeling something for these women. Even more important than the myths, though, was the feeling of really emotional commentary upon being a woman in today's world, but that's just some serious subtext. I thought it was pretty awesome, actually, delineating the expectations of the sexes with each other and putting it upon magical situations and myths.

Of course, anyone can make the solid case that ALL myths do this to one degree or another, but this one is particularly modern in its take while feeling timeless.

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Touring with the AlienTouring with the Alien by Carolyn Ives Gilman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this online in preparation to know and judge which nominated novella should win the Hugo in 2017, fully prepared for just about anything.

Luckily, I really enjoyed this surprising little tale of alien abduction. Sort-of abduction. :)

Well, either way, the end was surprising and quite amusing and the whole concept of conscious vs unconscious thought processes as a difference between us and an entirely different alien species was really fascinating.

OR, you might as well read this as a roadtrip novella with some rather interesting companions. :)

No, this wasn't Starman. :)

Suffice to say, I LOVED the end. :)

On to the other nominations!

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Kill DecisionKill Decision by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my fourth by Daniel Suarez and I'm constantly surprised at how versatile he is.

This one is a straight Techno-Thriller, right down to the tight and crafty combat cell, nifty science-types, and even a great little section of programmers. But most of all, it's all about the explosions, the close calls, the gunfire, and the smells.

The smells? Oh yes. I won't give away anything plot related because learning and discovery is the name of the game for this novel... but suffice to say: swarming is a big thing. Whether computationally, socially, or otherwise.

Suarez is really great at seeing technology and taking the consequences one or seven steps further, grounding us in our world strongly, and then making us adapt or die. It's a blast.

But if I was to simplify the hell out of this novel, I'd just say, "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! :) It's Drones!"


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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Change AgentChange Agent by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have no problems raving about this book!

It has everything I'd ever want in a rip-roaring Hard-SF Thriller: a huge amount of genetic modifications and therapies gone wild and under the power of gangsters and the law, alike.

Ah! But this isn't just another cat and mouse hunt for wrongdoers. This is Daniel Suarez.

That means a lot of great tech and implications of tech and what's even greater? Great locations to get lost in, from Singapore to Thailand to Burmese jungles and even more.

Biotech has taken off in a really big way. Between automatic cabs made of shrimp shells to a flock of young Scarlett Johansens, Suarez keeps us on our toes and if you're not reading carefully, you'll miss a ton of these brilliant additions scattered throughout the ostensibly Thriller-esque text.

Who are you to completely edit my genetic code into a super-baddie? lol I want my desk job BACK! :)

Honestly, this is a fantastic hard-sf novel, people. It's perfectly engineered to feel like a police procedural turned nearly revenge-esque with a burly man with chameleon tattoos and a dwarf, both traveling through high-tech and squalor through countries much changed from our current ones, feeling a lot like Babylon Babies and The Minority Report the entire time.

Virtual realities that are beamed right into logical light structures for programming? Hell yeah. Laws and implications for such? Hell yeah. That's on top of the main genetic plot.

This is a rich idea novel as well as a fun-as-hell adventure. :)

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Just Add WaterJust Add Water by Hunter Shea
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG this was some hellishly wicked fun horror, like straight out of 1980's B-Movies with kids as protagonists and creepy crawlies ALL OVER SUBURBIA eating EVERYONE.

I mean, seriously, back in the day, I'd have gone NUTS over this if I'd watched this movie. So much blood and guts and sly humor and light commentary, this is pretty much a CLASSIC that brings me back to the goriest of all the cheese of my youth.

Classic, I say. :)

It's short and sweet and I'd go total cult-classic all over this if it had been made into a flick. Seriously. :)

For all you people who wanted something kinda like Stranger Things only turned into a straight alligator in the sewer story that eats practically everyone, STOP LOOKING. It's here! Have fun! :) :)

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

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An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a ScientistAn Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist by Richard Dawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is pretty much entirely an autobiography, giving us all the stray bits of Richard Dawkin's childhood through college and, later, his pet projects and his interest in programming before later publishing The Selfish Gene.

As a writer, he's always good.

He seemed to have a rather interesting childhood in Africa with loving parents, becoming a rather bullied child in school, getting heavily into religion among other things, including a rather unfortunate sexual event. At least it didn't seem to scar him.

He also took a rather indirect path to his studies, too, but I suppose this is also rather normal, being pushed one way or another by faculty and opportunity, but at least he eventually got into the mode, thanks to the theories that naturally dovetailed between programming and biology, to write his most famous book.

Pretty fascinating. I wouldn't say it's extremely so, but it was certainly edifying.

The first half of the book is his life, of course, but the later sections DO give you a pretty concise summary of the thought experiments and science that led up to the book, so be prepared for at least SOME rather intense science, even if most of the rest of the book is more personable.

Funny story: I read this without reading the blurb. And I thought it was just going to be another science book! Not an autobiography! I felt duped! :) lol live and learn, live and learn... :)

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And the Rest is History (The Chronicles of St Mary’s, #8)And the Rest is History by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a nightmare of a book. Truly.

I mean first you're already so heavily invested in these characters and then Jodi Taylor puts you through hell: the panini press, the cheese grater, and sets the oven at a temperature way too high for the meal at hand.

For all the laughs the author pulled off, and they were really quite great, and the really awesome history bits (because these ARE time-travelling historians seeing the real stuff up close), Taylor also has a knack with DESTROYING US, THE READERS.

I cried. It was horrible. Ugly. And it had nothing to do with an ornamental snake or tossed pets, either. It was ugly and sad and mind-numbing and made me walk around like a zombie for far too long, just throwing myself into the rest of the tale and the job, the job, the job, because I was right there with Max the entire time, just putting one foot in front of the other.

But for all that, (view spoiler)

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Heir of Novron (The Riyria Revelations, #3)Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes it feels like a very daunting task to judge the last two books in a six book series. The temptation is to say, "But look at the weight of the rest of the series!" And have myself say, "It must be judged in context to the REST of the story."

That's not really necessary in this case.

I'll admit something. Books one and two felt kinda boilerplate and nothing that special after having read a lot of similar buddy novels with rogues as main characters. The additions of the elves were only improved for me because I had read the prequel before starting this series. Books three and four were slightly better because of the slow burn of the two main characters, but sitting for a while before picking up the last two books seemed make the whole story fade from my mind in a whimpery way, alas, and it took some prodding from others to get me to pick up the remaining story.

The fact that the story actually ENDS and doesn't continue on as another neverending epic fantasy is a point in its favor, too, and so I picked these last two up and gave it a chance.

What can I say? Book five was a lot more fun than I expected. I really enjoyed the court intrigue, the funny setup that made nobility feel like imprisonment, and especially the end of the fifth book when old plot threads finally wrap back around and bring in the feels and the tragedy that I had been expecting from day one.

Five was a solid book. I really enjoyed it. It also helps to see the oncoming hoard and danger of everything unravelling.

Book six is more of an epic quest with magical items and dangerous locations all to boil down to a chivalric one-on-one battle. Honestly, it dragged a bit, returning to the old tropes with a vengeance, and while parts of it were rather great, such as the straight character-development bits, it didn't really grab me until rather late when all things were coming to a head.

That, and the dwarf, of course.

For a group of novels who's strengths were all in their characters, it sure took a long time for me to really get into the characters, but I'm very happy to say that I was by the end. :) It could have been better with the plot stuff, more interesting, less trope-y, but the final verdict makes me say that I'm glad I stuck it out and got through the end. It was satisfying.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Twelve DaysTwelve Days by Steven Barnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I admit that I've been a fan of Stephen Barnes for years, but I also admit that it's mainly been because of his co-authored works with Larry Niven. I think that's going to change after this!

This novel reads like a modern bestselling thriller that SHOULD be a modern bestselling thriller. It also has supernatural elements that are all tied to the dark side of the Kundalini and Hindu Yogis thrust upon the world stage as evil people and world leaders are murdered in gruesome ways.

Specifically, however, this is a character and plot-driven novel in the very best sense. It's fast-paced and exciting, full of surprises and depth. But mostly, I'm impressed by the depth of knowledge Barnes has about fighting styles, esoteric meditations, and traditions.

Regardless, the craft in this novel is fantastic and fast and pretty damn gorgeous. It's more of a modern thriller, through and through, but that didn't bother me. This should be a huge crowd pleaser. If it isn't, then I'll be very surprised and rather sad.

This really should be a bestseller!

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The End of the DayThe End of the Day by Claire North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a fan of all kinds of literature, so this one struck me right off the bat as more of a literary fiction fare with a supernatural element than a straight SF or F like I'm used to with Claire North.

That being said, I would completely recommend this for anyone who's a fan of Terry Pratchett's Death and anyone who loves to glide across a very variable surface stretching across all continents and walks of life as Charlie The Harbinger, the One Who Comes Before (Death), hops from plane to plane, car to car, travel voucher to travel voucher, as he serves as a warning or a blessing to all kinds of people from all walks of life.

It's a courtesy, after all. One should always be polite about all these things.

We also get to see the modern helpers for the other three horsemen, too, but mostly, this aspect is not the most important in the novel. To me, I think the best part of this novel is the Life.

Charlie is the bridge, a normal human who took the job out of college, whose main qualification is his enjoyment of life. Isn't that cool? He looks forward. The fact that there are as many reactions to death as there are people doesn't bother him... much... except in fairly extreme circumstances, and there are a few of those.

This is foremost a character novel, not a plot-driven one. It's subtle and wide-ranging and surprisingly deep. It's a novel that dives into the human condition and keeps digging and digging and digging along this single path, always vacillating between joy and despair, purpose and meaninglessness, love and hate.

I honestly can see a lot of people not liking it because it isn't a streamlined "normal" expectation of a novel, but it *IS* a good one. It's one that brought me to tears. It jerked me about and sat on me and beat me up.

It also has Claire North's particular flavor, through and through. Clear, wide-ranging, brilliant, and glorious to behold.

I won't say this is exactly like her other novels or that it belongs to everyone, but it is a novel that touched me pretty deeply, and that's how I'm presenting my love. With respect and courtesy. :)

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Pretender (Foreigner, #8)Pretender by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'll just admit something to ya'll. This is my go-to series when I want to see great characters, great world-building, exciting politics and, of course, ALIENS.

The Atevi are hands down my favorite species of any series or franchise, and it's not because they're human-like black gods of such mathematical prowess as to make who university departments cower in fear, but because they're so *close* to us.

*close* But not THAT close. It's the differences that are a real killer. Just ask the Assassin's, Guild. Or the civil war or that niggling little feeling that a human can *just* about understand them at the core, but that understanding is nearly always *flawed* in such a way as to create world wars.

In this case, Bren, our wonderful interpreter and quickly-rising political nightmare, is caught in the middle of this world's civil war, with Tabini-aji struggling to regain control of the continent and space-footing.

It's full of great action and, dare I say it, TRAIN HIJINX. :) I really love this stuff. :) I have to say this one probably has the most action and political maneuverings out of all the other books, and I can't say it suffers any for it. Otherwise, it's pretty simple. :) And always fun.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of RetropolisSlaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis by Bradley W. Schenck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is another in the recently growing trend to update and display the adventuresome glories of the SF of yesteryear!

... and I have to admit that it's a rather fun ride. :)


Where else can you find a hero's name quite so dashing? And then there are the funny bits.. and there are quite a few funny bits. I personally LOVED the world's smallest Giant Robot. He not only grew on me, but he became a very cool and well-rounded character in his own right. :)

But mostly, this is all a straight adventure that takes us to through Spider Gods and massive robot slave empires and a perfectly reasonable main plot mystery revolving the lost jobs of the switchboard women who I could almost see wearing hairnets and be being totally 1930's prim.

But most of all, there is a lot of love for all the classic adventures and the time period, the optimism, the sheer delight of funny and sometimes really fascinating personal tech, the excitement and thrill of getting your ear blown off, the sting of rejection letters sent from fiction editors.

Not only is our intrepid hero a dashing private-eye-ish adventure hero, but he also writes. :) Gotta love it. :)


What can I say? I had fun. Very cool SF/mystery mashup that updates the tech but brings us right back into a more hopeful SF time.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Outsystem (The Intrepid Saga #1)Outsystem by M.D. Cooper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Honestly, this reads like a pretty good checklist for story items that seem to be very popular these days, all or mostly encapsulated in the flashy cover:

Hot Chick who's a Badass. A couple of thousand years in the future, with all the military hardware that'll bring. Terrorism. Military life. Spaceships. Snarky AIs. Fast-plot, episodic, steady increase, new challenges, cliffhanger.

If it hadn't been for the fact that it was a fine read, I'd also say it was pure boilerplate. I mean, it basically has all the checklist I'd look for in a grand 'ole space opera done to today's specifications, and so it is. It seems to be popular, too.

So why didn't I give it 5 stars? Because while it was entertaining and fast and popcorn fiction, there wasn't really anything to it that screamed originality.

Fun. Yes. Stand-out? I don't really think so. Fine to waste a lazy afternoon, but nothing I'd scream at people to read as if this is the second coming of whatever. Still, it's flashy and fast and snarky and that is the name of the game these days.

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The AffirmationThe Affirmation by Christopher Priest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, now, this is a rare gem! :)

The blurb does NOT do it justice. Rather, try to follow me here, because this could get rather twisty, but what we've got is what seems to be a rather self-absorbed man trying to come to terms with personal tragedy, writing a manuscript that is all about learning who he is and getting over a girl, but it soon becomes an adventuresome trip through a bunch of very interesting islands, him having won the gift of immortality through a lottery ticket.

The world-building is all kinds of wonderful and there's very little big action in the novel beause it's fully content to remain introspective, thoughtful, and exploratory. We have two women that feature prominently. One is in the past and the other is one he discovered on his trip through the islands on the way to the clinic that would give him his won immortality.

So far, so good.

However, this is where memory and reality start getting wonky. He discovers that the place he wrote of in his manuscript is all a lie, a fake, but it's our modern London. The islands are "real" in every sense of the word and the new girl and the clinic are getting increasingly frustrated with him, but to make things even worse, this "immortality" treatment makes you forget everything and you have to work your way back.

So should he trust the manuscript or the people who are nursing him back to health?

Delicious storytelling. And it only gets much, much worse, speeding up the reveals in a way that's worthy for any fan of Philip K Dick OR very deep pyschological thrillers, reality benders, SF-element traditional fictions, or any wonderful texts that explore the nature of madness from within the mind of the insane.

Of course, this book is even more beautiful because there's NO definitive answer. Is this or that real? Is anything? Is he mad? Is the world he dreamed up (ours, btw,) fake?

Totally awesome.

This kind of read always gets my mind pumping, and even though the text itself is always as clear as glass, Christopher Priest manages to pull off one of the twistiest tales I've ever read. So good! :)

This is the third book I've read of his, from The Inverted World to The Prestige, and this one might be my favorite for it's equal portions of clarity and confouding reveals. In it's own way I think it's superior to The Prestige, even though I loved that one a LOT.

I don't know. Perhaps I just love reality/memory bendy stuff more than anything else. :)

Totally awesome. :)

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of TimeFrom Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time by Sean Carroll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is some very impressive stuff.

I've read a lot of nonfiction science books that sometimes had equations but mostly did not, but what I really wanted was a cohesive drive, an arrow to spear right through some of the biggest questions of our time... such as What Is Time.

Sean Carroll manages to keep things very sharp between what is perfectly understood and all of the theories that are somewhat understood, and the other Cosmology stuff that's mostly just baffling. :)

Any way you look at it, though, this is not a book that gets derailed or goes off into super strange directions. He lays out all the foundations, from the opening definitions of Time and what we think it means, from the average to the rather advanced notions of space-time and curvature, Einstein's energy equation, speed of light, diliation, moving all the way to Black Holes. This is very solid stuff.

Plus, we have a very coherent definition of Time as Entropy, showing us just how complicated it can get when time's arrow might just be the illusion that Hawking says it is. I really enjoyed that discussion.

Of course, we come up with lots of possibilities and digressions that are always explored in SF, too, but most of these are just bylines, moving quickly by the Grandfather paradox, etc, to get right back on the main track.

Yes. We have Equations. :) Fortunately, the author does a very good job about explaining them and even getting deeper into the extra areas that made this rather more interesting for me since I've read many science books and have heard most of this already.

I recommend this for anyone interested in Time. :) Not time management. Just Time. :) We do touch rather heavily upon Cosmology by the end, too, which was a blast and a half, getting into many-universes theory and string theory, to name a few. And he makes it clear! :)

Seriously. This was some sharp stuff. Very readable. It's not a general overview. You might say it's putting time's arrow right through the heart of a big question and staying on track all the way to the end.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ancient Heavens (War of Powers Book 7)Ancient Heavens by Robert E. Vardeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

As I was reading this, I was beset with a number of problems. The first being that it appeared to be tied to Vardeman's fantasy series, the second being that I was only given this book 3 days to read before it gets archived. So, freaking out, I made a couple of conclusions... the first being that I don't have to read the rest because this appears to be straight terraforming SF with no fantasy involved, and the second being a non-starter because I read fast.

That being said, I plowed through it with quite a bit of enjoyment!

This came out 5 years before Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars, but it shares SOOO MUCH IN COMMON that I was both nostalgic and rather amazed, making me think about all the other SF authors who had done terraforming fiction with so much science and verve and I just couldn't think of any, so now this guy has got my attention.

Vardeman got so much right! :) Of course, he's working with a nearby star system rather than Mars, but that doesn't matter to me. The fact that he focuses on both story and the science is the thing!

Yes, it kinda felt like a Greek tragedy at times and other times it felt like the blurb was going to make it a lot more cheesy by the end than it really was.. and that's another thing! I do NOT like the blurb here for this novel. It cheapens the fact that so much story actually occurs and the world-building is rather impressive if heavy-handed in places.

I'm giving a lot of that a big long pass, because I remember Red Mars doing a lot of the same damn thing and yet BOTH of these belong in the same category and same level of world-building. Granted, Red Mars is clearly the winner, but I am not going to ignore the fact that this was very decent and comes nearly to the same heights as the other, later, novel.

Hats off! Respect!

On a purely story note, however, there's a number of plot holes I wish weren't there, but none of them are so bad as to make me dislike anything as a whole. :)

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume OneThe Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume One by Neil Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm honestly boggled by how much I loved this collection of short stories. Clarke put together a really great anthology and I feel edified and thrilled about almost every single one of these.

There's a lot of extra-sol colonization stories, each and every one of them very different in tone and complexity, but all of these were pretty awesome. I was rather surprised and awed by the level of both science and the complexity of the stories.

There were also some really fantastic AI stories with one dovetailing into a robot story with "Today I am Paul" and especially that gem of a story, "Cat Pictures Please".

I've read a few of them from this collection already, but they're still great, like "Folding Beijing".

What I was pretty thrilled about, in general, was reading Geoff Ryman, David Brin, and Seanan McGuire, but I was even more pleasantly surprised by the stories by Yoon Ha Lee and Sean McMullen.

In fact, I think I've just discovered some of my absolute favorite new unknown authors through this book! It's crazy. I've been reading so many novels and just a handful of short stories all this time, completely missing out on a whole WIDE FIELD OF AWESOMENESS. I've got to get EVERYTHING by Sean McMullen now. It's crazy. This is like a NEED for me, now. :)

There were a few I didn't really care for, but I can't say they were written badly or they weren't that interesting because every story in this collection was interesting. It's just a matter of taste and subject matter. But there were over thirty great stories here and I think I'm in love. I think I'm gonna check out every single one of these collections that Neil Clarke puts together. If this is going to be a representative sample, I'm going to be in dog heaven. :)

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Unhinged (Unhinged, #2)Unhinged by Logan Keys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when we let down our nice hair and pull out our Horror obsessions, yo?

Hell, just let out your fascination for anti-heroes and a few plainly deluded villains play out and accept their carefully constructed reasons. It's okay. Enjoy this trip down the insane lane.

Some of these stories are just plain-jane serial murderers while a few are truly passionate, but my favorites are definitely "Static Obsession" and "Paid in Full", mostly because such things hit me close to home with my daughter in the latter and the plain creep-factor in the former. :)

Still, there's nothing bad to be said about a little bit of a demon in my life, either, or "Whistle" just knocking me out of my chair.

All I can say is Thank You, Logan, for indulging us poor readers with our crazy appetites. :)

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UnhingedUnhinged by Logan Keys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Logan's roots are showing!

These are early horror stories, four of them in all, and they're full of good eats, a little cosmetics, and, of course, meatloaf. Everything goes down better with meatloaf.

I kinda begged Logan to get this back out there, and I'm super glad I did, because, well... HORROR! Does there really need to be an excuse?

Just a warning to all you kiddies out there: this is for adults. You better not be sneaking a peek here. If you do and you get caught, well, maybe you'll get a little visit to "The Last Rainbow".

Or who knows? You might find yourself sitting around a nice lady's table in "Violent Delights". Maybe that wouldn't be so bad. The meatloaf IS really good. And NO, it's NOT made of the same stuff as what we had to eat in Snowed. Whatever gave you that idea? Sheesh. Young people these days.

I think it's time that early works get another day in the sun, don't you? Damn, I love horror. :) It makes me feel so naughty. :)

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or DayDusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So. A ghost who suicided is forced to work as an operator at a suicide help hotline. Sounds like a neat setup for a joke, right?

Partially. The thing is, this UF is a ghost story where the ghost is just trying to get by, dealing in the coin that only she and her ghostly friends can spend... Time. Time and Ghosts. I guess Alan Moore has it right that we become creatures of the fourth dimension after we die! :) Or something. :)

But even though this is a pretty cool UF setup and I love the idea, we've also got witches. All kinds of witches. Corn witches, Water witches... and of course they prey on the ghosts and the power struggle can become quite predatory in that the poor ghosts can be trapped in mirrors.

Also cool.

It reminds me a damn lot of Angela Slatter's great fantasy stories, only a bit more accessible and mainstream.

The personal small-town nostalgia is nearly as heavy as the pathos of the main emotional arc, and I'll be honest... I probably would have enjoyed this more as a full novel with a longer, more developed end. Maybe not as a series, despite Seanan's proclivity with writing great series, but as a straight novel, I think this could have been a lot more solid and satisfying.

As it is, I'm just fine with the end, I just think it might have been a tad less easy. :)

Still, Seanan's a great writer, no doubting this!

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Exiles of Ascension (Absolute Knowledge Book 0)Exiles of Ascension by Drew Cordell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been getting into the Absolute Knowledge series quite a bit, but is it a far stretch to say that I've been loving the prequels a slight bit more? Probably not, but here's the reason: I love world-building.

I'm hooked for world-building, and this piece sets up an entire realm that has remained outside of the events that have transformed the Earth... outer space! :) No major AI to stand over their shoulders. In fact, it feels more like I'm being set up for even greater things to come.

This short piece is good and it has cool action and events, but I'll be honest... if it wasn't for the fact that it's all tied to the rest of the series, in context, it probably wouldn't feel that special.

It's the mystery that makes it fun as hell. :)

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From HellFrom Hell by Alan Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm torn on this one. I mean, sure, it's Jack the Ripper and Alan Moore and it's supposed to be this grand masterpiece, but to me it just feels mostly like some kind of disjointed hodge-podge collection of personas that simultaneously lift up and denigrate both the East Side women and everyone else, nearly randomly, until much later in the comic when things finally tie together into a mystical extravaganza that is both surprising and feeling rather out of place.

What do I mean? Well, throw out the movie version, for starters. Keep the bits about William Gull, REALLY emphasise the importance of Masonic conspiracy theories and the connection to the crown, and then, after you're thoroughly grounded in all the blood and gore and the feeling like nothing really matters, top it all off with a dose of Alan Moore's more odd explorations in the human psyche and/or WOW mysticism.

Fortunately, I've read Jerusalem.
From Hell goes there, serving as a freaky introduction to life without time, magical incantations, demons, and the power of location upon magic.

This part is worth all the apparent slog of most of the rest of the comic. (At least for me, but I love literature of ideas and oddities and complex plots.)

Will people hate me if I was rather bored with long segments of this story? That I only really started perking up to it with Gull's becoming Virgil?

Still, in the end, I really liked it and I thought it was rather cool how all the well-researched conspiracies tied it back in. I did, however, have a hell of a time with reading the text. It hurt my eyes.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

The AlterationThe Alteration by Kingsley Amis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Off With His Balls!!!"

Or maybe, another alternate title, "What PKD would have written if he was mired in Lutherism and he wanted to write something to counteract the hedonistic oddity that was Gravity's Rainbow"

Seriously, this is what Philip K Dick would have written if he was focused on Popes and the total emasculation of humanity. And rather than Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, we've got a ton of snipping or at least talk of snipping going on. :)

Let me talk about the world-building. It's all way below the surface, with most of the action focused on this poor kid who's about to get his balls chopped off for the sake of his beautiful singing voice, but right below this is a bunch of straight homages to alternate histories and even a direct love letter to PKD's The Man in the High Castle, only taking the switch back WAY in the past, keeping science a dirty word and the Holy Roman Church in high supremacy.

Pretty cool, right? Well, yeah, I guess it would be based on just this description, but it really just feels like a "Poor me, I'm about to get snip-snipped, all the adults around me are acting REALLY strange, and now I'm getting asked questions like 'Do I play with myself and have you ever wondered what it would be like to do that with a girl?'"

Ahem. This is such a penis-oriented 70's novel. Like, totally. But it's really focused not on the bright side of parading about with a boner, but rather, the fear of losing that big "B" forever. Alas.

And it only gets really funny by the end of the novel with the global implications.

Too bad we didn't get a bit more of that earlier on, right? Alas.

Still, it's a pretty cool book on the straight traditional fiction front, with a lot of characters and grounded explorations, but the SF portion is still kinda light. That's my main complaint. Oh, plus, all the little crazy strangenesses that have crept into Political Christianity over the last six hundred years. :)

I don't know if I'd really recommend this for anyone except fans of The Man in the High Castle and people who like weird major twists in Catholicism.

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Collector (Titanborn Universe Book 0)The Collector by Rhett C. Bruno
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was pretty sweet! Mystery, cool SF elements, and even better world-building for the rest of the Titanborn series.

And, I think it can be read with or without foreknowledge of Titanborn even though the main character from Titanborn is also in this one. Why? Because it brings out some of the most interesting aspects of the corporate world that has made the Collectors a going thing after the destruction on Earth. It also brings out the personal things I loved about the gritty Malcom in Titanborn, too.

And who doesn't like a gritty mystery full of all the things that makes PKD great, all wrapped up in a bow that points a huge arrow at so many of life's injustices?

No spoilers, but this is the kind of thing I wished I saw more of in From Ice to Ashes, the actual sequel to Titanborn. :) It might be a personal preference thing with a bit of attachment to the MC. :)

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The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite PlanetThe Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet by Neil deGrasse Tyson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Like all of Tyson's books, it's very well written, explaining any number of difficult subjects with clarity and ease, but unfortunately, with this subject, we devolve into a catalogue of cultural significance for the poor demoted Pluto and a very long list of rather humorous emails and letters all sent to Tyson because of his role in the decision.

If that's what you're looking for, then, by all means, enjoy this book!

But if you're looking for an in-depth rather than an adequate focus on Pluto rather than our cultural reactions to the planet, then perhaps you should look elsewhere.

I'm not saying this book wasn't fun... and the politics of science and all those pooooooor schoolchildren writing Tyson was both humorous and slightly off-putting at the same time... but it wasn't so much about science as it was about justifying (rightly so, in my opinion,) the need to pluto Pluto. RIP.

Or rather... go play with your new Kuiper buddies. ;)

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And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of DeadAnd You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead by Brooke Bolander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've only just discovered Brooke thanks to people at Goodreads and I can tell you that I'm super thrilled and not merely because it's filled with tons of f-bombs. :) Her characters are not only gritty but realistically hard-bitten and delightfully crass and full of shit. It's a delight!

Seriously, though, this story is much more than meets the eye, from uploaded consciousnesses into meat shells, a cool cyberspace adventure, mobsters, hitmen, and even a travel to the underworld to bring her love back from the dead, pure Hades style, going all Orpheus and Euridice on us.

Did I say I loved this? Then again, I'm a total absolute sucker for retellings of Greek legends in a hardcore, take-no-prisoners, cyberpunk mindspace gore-strewn nightmare of computation. :)

Bravo! :)

The end may be a bitch, but then, so was the original.

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Monster CallsA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fear of loss.

I've read a lot of great books about the fear of loss, but none so pure and heartwrenching and clear as this. Of course, I'm biased because I love fantasy and myth and outsider kids and all tales that aren't afraid to GO THERE with the really difficult stuff. But even so, I still think this was a wonderful book. :)

Of course, this book leaves the fantasy interpretation open to the reader to discard as they wish, so we're open to plenty of interesting interpretations. But more than anything, it's the grief and the expectation of loss and the rage that got to me.

Secondly, I think it was the storytelling within the story. I'm a sucker for nested tales.

But the end? It goes there. Hard.

I'm so glad I finally read this. :)

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Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic EvolutionOrigins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution by Neil deGrasse Tyson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Almost all of my stars on this one is for the ease for which Tyson explains the cosmos, the clarity, and the breadth of astrophysics itself.

The one star that's missing is just because it's all stuff I've read before. :) In other words, it's great if you're looking for an introductory and nearly math-less course on everything from the Big Bang to the formation of the planets to the building blocks and observed results of our search for extra-terrestrial life.

That's it. It's a great refresher, too, if that's your thing, and as for the tidbits like how we're figuring out and classifying the planets turning around other stars, there's even a great explanation for that, too. Hint: doppler shift. :)

All in all, it's very well-written and enjoyable if not crammed with surprises. It's meant to put our feet firmly in the science of we know well and of the others, the ones we understand more or less well, we qualify that we're always on the search for new and better questions in a game of controlled ignorance. :)

I totally recommend this for laymen and the curious.

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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing NumberThe Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World's Most Astonishing Number by Mario Livio
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, I was expecting something a bit more exciting because of my natural love for Phi, simply because, you know... SPIRALS are EVERYWHERE, Dude.

Still, the author does a palatable job of giving me a fairly decent history of mathematics from the focus of the Golden Ratio, the Golden Triangle, the logarithmic spiral, the Fibonacci sequence... all of which is, of course, the same thing, expressed slightly different with a ton of additional cultural significances.

No surprise here. This is Phi.

However, I did take umbrage against some of the side explanations early on for why ancient or apparently unsophisticated tribes didn't have numbers that counted past four. I mean, sheesh, if we went purely by the mystical importance that the Pythagoreans placed upon the first couple of numbers, we might also believe they couldn't count past five. It's a mistake of the first order, taking a little bit of data and coming to enormous conclusions based on our own prejudices.

That's my problem, I suppose, and he does at least bring up the option that the ancient peoples might have been working on a base four mathematical system, but for me, it was too little, too late. I cultivated a little patience, waiting until we get further along the mathematical histories past the Greeks and into the Hindus and the Arabics where it got a lot more interesting, and then firmly into known territory with the Rennaisance.

Most interesting, but also rather sparse, was the Elliot wave and the modern applications of Phi. I wish we had spent a lot more time on that, honestly.

But as for the rest, giving us a piecemeal exploration of Phi in history, art, and math, this does its job rather well.

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Monday, April 3, 2017

The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without DesignThe Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design by Richard Dawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As the title's extension spells out, this is a definitive (as of '87) rebuttal against all comers in favor of Darwinism, but don't let my saying so prove it. Read it for yourself.

All his arguments are crystal clear, but he takes extra time to caricature the caricature of Darwinists, pointing out exactly how the ad absurdum argument really works while also elucidating the fine points of what Darwinism IS versus what it is NOT.

He steps us through the first third of the book showing us how Selection works: from an energy standpoint, a competition standpoint, and a sexual standpoint... from the basic building blocks of proteins to more and more complex forms of DNA and the combo cells that collect all the wonderful multicellular creations, including bacteria, that eventually wind up creating us. The descriptions are quite beautiful and clear and all the while, we've got all the foundations for life... without Intelligent Design.

The argument is simple, of course. If we can explain everything, and I mean everything that is life and physics, then what purpose does adding a superfluous layer to the explanation serve?

This is ten years worth of hate mail for the author, people. He has been beset on all sides with genuinely curious and well-meaning seekers of the god-fearing sort and inundated with screaming lunatics telling him he'll burn in hell for his first book, The Selfish Gene, which, by the way, didn't really give a rat's ass about creationism or the people who support it. It just laid out a very cogent theory that fit all the copious mountains of data in biology. And yet, after that point, a Mr. Dawkins who professes not to want or need a PR team or lawyers, decides to put his foot down and tackle the problem that has reared its muti-angled head in his direction and DEFEND Darwinism.

He does so beautifully, I might add.

Every step of the way, he defines the complaints with due diligence and proceeds to demolish them sonar-producing batlike grace, with light humor, sharp intellect, and sometimes he makes of his opponents an overzealous meal.

Can you blame him? Granted, by this point it's only been a decade of Creationist hate. Give it a decade or a decade and a half more before we see a truly flame worthy attack from Mr.Dawkins. I'm looking forward to seeing some of it in his books. I hope it's there and not just in his interviews which I still haven't seen. Alas.

Seriously, though, this book is pretty wonderful for its lucid and quoteworthy passages and vivid descriptions of how Darwinism works, from gene level to the kinds of time-spans that can only be described as geological when it comes to real changes in evolution. I particularly loved the fact that he used computer terminology to describe how our genes are nothing more than complex computers. I've heard this before, of course, but the way he laid it out was particularly enlightening.

This stuff is pretty damn great. Just from the science viewpoint, even leaving out the whole defense, it's well worth reading and not nearly as acerbic or rabid as certain other mass-produced troll-attacks make him appear. But then again, I've only read one of his later books, the The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True, which was just a charming bi-modal description of science versus magical thinking which also happened to "gently" draw people away from having to add that extra layer of explanation to reality. :) I guess I'll see what the other books bring, no?

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Selfish GeneThe Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Color me very impressed. I can now see why this is considered to be one of those hugely popular science books I keep hearing about and the reason why Dawkins has become so widely known and/or respected with or without his notoriety.

Indeed, the pure science bits were pretty much awesome. We, or at least I, have heard of this theory in other contexts before and none of it really comes as much surprise to see that genes, themselves, have evolved strategies that are exactly the same as Game Theory in order to find the best possible outcome for continued replication. Hence: the selfish gene.

Enormous simple computers running through the prisoner's dilemma with each other, rival genes, and especially within whole organisms which could just be seen as gigantic living spacecraft giving the genes an evolutionary advantage of finding new and more prosperous adaptations.

Yup! That's us!

I honestly don't see the problem. I love the idea that we are just galaxies of little robots running complicated Game Theories that eventually turn into a great cooperative machine where everyone (mostly) benefits, with plenty of complicated moves going way beyond hawks and doves and straight into the horribly complicated multi-defectors, forgivers, and other evolutionary styles that depend on the events that have gone before and the pre-knowledge (or lack of) a set end-date for the entire experiment... in other words, our deaths, whether pre-planned or simply the entire mass of genes just coming to realize that it's no longer in their best interest to keep pushing this jalopy around any longer if they're not getting anything out of it... like further replication. :)

Even when it's not precisely sex, it's still all about sex. :)

Of course, what I've just mentioned isn't the entire book, because, as a matter of fact, the book walks us through so many stages of thought, previous research, developments, mistakes, and upgraded theories and surprising conclusions based on soooooo much observable data that any of us might be rightfully confounded with the weight of it unless we were in the heart of the research, ourselves.

It's science, baby.

Make sure you don't make the data conform to your theory. Build your theory from observable data. Improve upon it as the building blocks are proved or disproved, keep going until it is so damn robust until nothing but a true miracle could topple it, and then keep asking new questions.

The fact is, this theory has nothing (or everything) to do with our lives. We play Game Theory, too, in exactly the same way every gene everywhere does, but we just happen to be able to make models on top of the situations and we're able to choose whether to see through the lies, the hawk strategies, or when to stop cooperating if the advantages work out much better for us if we did. We, like our genes, can choose long-term cooperative strategies or play everything like a Bear market. :)

Even this book says that it's very likely that Nice Guys can win, but just like our lives, the gene lives keep discovering ever more complicated strategies and all eventual strategies become more and more situational.

Isn't that us, to a tea? I wonder if most complaints about this book stem from complaints about Game Theory rather than the perceived conclusion (much better spelled out, not in this book, but in later books)... that atheism rules the day. It really isn't evident here. Instead, we have a macrocosm mimicking the microcosm and no one wants to challenge their comfortable world view.

Things aren't simple. All choices to betray or cooperate are then met with situation and memory and ever complex meta-contexts, the difference between us and genes being that we're self-aware and the genes are not.

Yes, yes, I see where the arguments can start coming out of the closet about self-determination and such, but that's not really the point of this book at all. The point is that it's a successful model that accurately describes reality. It has nothing at all to do with the macro-world except obliquely, and makes no value judgments on our art, our beliefs, or how we think about ourselves except in our uniquely stubborn and self-delusional ways that love to take things out of context and apply misunderstood concepts to our general lives and wonder why everything gets so screwed up. :)

But then, maybe I'm just applying my own incomplete models to yet another and we lousy humans still lack WAY TOO MUCH data to build a really impressively improved model. :)

Come on, Deep Thought. Where are you? :)

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic QuandariesDeath by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a very fun read for all you science nerds... not only being clear and humorous but wide-ranging and careful to build up a number of those necessary building blocks of knowledge but doing it precisely in order to slam you with the good stuff later.

Like how you'd DIE IN A BLACK HOLE... :)

To belabor the obvious by the title. :)

Seriously, this book gives us a ton of great ways to die and not just by black hole. I really appreciated that. :)

I'd characterize this book as an easy to intermediate stage science book that's very far from being dull and it has a minimum of equations. I'm sure everyone has heard of thermodynamics and E=MC squared and Drake's equation, after all, but what really thrilled me about this was the truly wide array of subjects and Tyson's conversational tone.

You can tell he is still a very, very good science teacher. :)

I can almost hear him say, "Let's throw out the crap, folks, let's dive right into the good stuff." And he does, ranging from the Big Bang to the Heat Death, kinds of possible life on planets, the building blocks we need to understand science, including a great "stick" analogy for understanding the universe without computers, and he even gets into a bit of politics and religion because let's face it: it's a hot discussion item. But thankfully, it's only there as an afterthought.

I wanted science and I got science, exploring the planets, the sun, even quasars, and especially Black Holes. That's the yummy stuff, after all.

10/10 Black Holes agree! Nom nom nom nom nom.

I totally recommend this for both laymen and the intelligently curious and for anyone else who just likes a bit of the good (science) life. It really, really helps that Tyson's a great writer and clear as glass. The light passes right through it without slowing down at all! Can you believe it?

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