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Full title The Abominable Earthman [permalink]
Language English
Author Frederik Pohl (author)
Publisher Ballantine Books
Categories Anthology, science fiction and short stories
Publication year 1963
Pages 159
Synopsis

The Abominable Earthman contains five short stories, and one long-ish one (taking up the bulk of the book).

The Abominable Earthman, the titular story, is about what happens when green-skinned aliens conquer Earth in a short span of time, and the adventures of a small group of people who are trying to overthrow them.

We Never Mention Aunt Nora is about a most curious pregnancy and an aunt who we don't talk about...

A Life and a Half is about a very bleak future which runs very efficiently, alright, but about which something else is off.

Punch is a strange little story about benevolent aliens.

The Martian Star-Gazers reads like an anthropology report on the previous inhabitants of Mars.

Whatever Counts, the longest of the stories, is about a group of colonists and the crew who are hauling them to Aleph Four, a satellite of a Jupiter-like planet a long way off (the journey takes eighteen years). There's also a rhinoceroid alien race of graceful and fast creatures who lack any kind of subconscious who feature prominently (to say more would spoil).

Three Portraits and a Prayer is a very short story about a dying scientist, his doctor, and an evil millionaire.

Review

Unfortunately, almost all the short stories fell rather flat for me. It's all very well written, but some of the stories left me wondering what the point was. The Martian Star-Gazers stood out for me. There's not a whole lot of action in it, but the way it's written made it very interesting to read. It's written almost as thought it were a piece of anthropology, describing Martian mythology and the stars in their skies and what it meant to them. Whatever Counts, the longest story in the collection, also stood out. There aren't too many main characters and Pohl develops them in style: In the end, one really does care about them and their motives, and the aliens, the Gormen, are enigmatic and fit the story very well.

I can't recommend this one unless you really want those two stories. However, you're probably better off buying another Pohl collection with those two in them.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • The Abominable Earthman
  • We Never Mention Aunt Nora
  • A Life and a Half
  • Punch
  • The Martian Star-Gazers
  • Whatever Counts
  • Three Portraits and a Prayer
Full title Accelerando [permalink]
Language English
Author Charles Stross (author)
Publisher Ace Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 2005
ISBN 0-441-01284-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Online version Link
Pages 390
Synopsis

Manfred Macx, a heavily augmented transhuman in the early 21st century, is a visionary and a so-called venture altruist: He roams the world, giving ideas away for free and turning paradigms upside-down as a matter of course. The novel follows him towards a technological singularity, his daughter Amber through it, and her son, Sirhan, after it.

Review

This novel is somewhat special in that it is chuck full of jargon (e.g. 419) and techno-speculation (e.g. utility fog). Have a dictionary handy if you want to avoid being drowned in it. It's when you understand all of it, if only superficially, that the novel becomes the brilliant flair of wild ideas that it is.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Part 1: Slow Takeoff
    • 1: Lobsters
    • 2: Troubadour
    • 3: Tourist
  • Part 2: Point of Inflection
    • 4: Halo
    • 5: Router
    • 6: Nightfall
  • Part 3: Singularity
    • 7: Curator
    • 8: Elector
    • 9: Survivor
Full title The Alchemist [permalink]
Original title Alquimista, O
Language English
Authors Paulo Coelho (author) and Alan R. Clarke (translator)
Publisher HarperCollins
Category Novel
Publication year 1999
Original publication year 1988
ISBN 0-7225-3293-8 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 177
Synopsis

An allegorical story of a boy who follows his dreams and heart and eventually discovers his true self and finds his treasure.

Review

I found it a little too naive to be entertaining, but it's a cute story nonetheless.

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Full title American Poetry: An Introductory Anthology [permalink]
Language English
Author Donald Hall (author)
Publisher Faber and Faber
Categories Anthology and poetry
Publication year 1991
Original publication year 1969
Pages 192
Synopsis

As the title says, this is an introductory anthology to American poetry. The introduction devotes around three pages to a synopsis of a selection of the authors' lives, and the book itself has a handful of poems from each author.

Review

This book is pretty dated, but I still enjoyed the selection.

Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Anne Bradstreet
  • Edward Taylor
  • Philip Freneau
  • William Cullen Bryant
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • John Greenleaf Whittier
  • Jones Very
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Herman Melville
  • Walt Whitman
  • Frederick Goddard Tuckerman
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Sidney Lanier
  • Duncan Campbell Scott
  • Edgar Lee Masters
  • Edwin Arlington Robinson
  • Trumbull Stickney
  • Robert Frost
  • Vachel Lindsay
  • Wallace Stevens
  • William Carlos Williams
  • E. J. Pratt
  • Ezra Pound
  • H. D.
  • Robinson Jeffers
  • Marianne Moore
  • John Crowe Ransom
  • Archibald MacLeish
  • Phelps Putnam
  • E. E. Cummings
  • F. R. Scott
  • Hart Crane
  • Allen Tate
  • Earle Birney
  • Richard Eberhart
  • Theodore Roethke
  • Elizabeth Bishop
  • John Berryman
  • Irving Layton
  • Robert Lowell
  • Richard Wilbur
  • Index of Titles and First Lines
Full title The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Mariner Books
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 2004
ISBN 978-0-618-61916-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 623
Synopsis

A history book about life, in reverse chronology.

Review

This 600+ pages book could easily be called Dawkins' magnum opus. It's a history of life, written in reverse chronology, starting with humans and working backwards to the common ancestor to all life. The book is divided into chapters, called Rendezvous, and each rendezvous would be where two twigs on the tree of life meet. If you picture the tree of life, then the book starts at one tip of the tree, humanity, and moves progressively backwards (inwards) to the root of the tree. (Actually, this is slightly misleading. The entire tree of life is an unrooted phylogenetic tree, not a rooted one.) At each rendezvous, a joining pilgrim (sometimes several) gets a chance to tell its Tale, and the tale usually illustrates a point about biology. This is what makes this book such a joy to read. While you're reading you can (and are in fact encouraged to) imagine that you're on a pilgrimage (see subtitle), à la Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. But unlike The Canterbury Tales, this isn't a work of fiction, and you'll inevitably learn a lot of biology while you're at it.

In the book, like with most of Dawkins' books, he doesn't shy away from using technical words, but he's very meticulous about explaining ones that may be unfamiliar to the reader. Being a hobby etymologist, this is the kind of writing that I love. (The word 'Neanderthal', for instance, comes from Neander, the valley in Germany in which the original fossil was found, and 'thal', which is German for 'valley'.) And besides, it's a fun challenge for the reader to go look up the words she doesn't understand.

This is a thoroughly excellent and riveting book, but be warned that it's also a long and difficult book. Set aside a good chunk of uninterrupted time for it. I read about one-fifth of it (straight) in bed, and the rest during a thirteen-hour bus trip, and I was in a daze for a week. (Maybe partly because I read it on a bus, but mostly because the book itself is so eye-opening.)

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Full title Apocalypsopolis [permalink]
Language English
Author Ran Prieur (author)
Categories Apocalyptic and science fiction
Publication year 2004
Online version Link
Synopsis

An asteroid of respectable size plunges into the Pacific, starting the apocalypse. The novel follows a group of people through it.

Review

Overall the story is very gripping, but at times I felt there were too many characters to make each of them stand out, which made it harder to sympathize with them. The writing is good and the pacing is OK; I definitely recommend it.

Full title Around the World in Eighty Days [permalink]
Original title Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours
Language English
Author Jules Verne (author)
Categories Adventure and novel
Publication year 1873
Online version Link
Pages 256
Synopsis

Phileas Fogg, a London gentleman of the Reform Club (which is actually a real club), and his French valet, Passepartout, make a £20 000 bet with the other gentlemen of the Reform Club that circumnavigation of the Earth is possible in fewer than eighty days.

Review

One would suspect that the novel would be boring nowadays, when circumnavigation can be done in far fewer than eighty days, but this is not the case. It's not so much the feat itself as the sense of adventure that makes the novel really good (and there is plenty of adventure to go around).

Full title Asimov Laughs Again: More Than 700 Jokes, Limericks, and Anecdotes [permalink]
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Publisher Harper Perennial
Categories Anthology and humor
Publication year 1993
Original publication year 1992
ISBN 978-0-06-092448-5 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 341
Synopsis

Unlike Asimov's previous compilation of jokes, Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor, this one isn't divided into categories; rather, it's a long story of one joke flowing neatly into the next one, with banter inbetween.

Review

I like this style much better, as evidenced by the copious amount of dog-earing in my paperback edition.

Let me give you some samples.

One psychiatrist met another and greeted him with, "You're fine; how am I?"

A German was giving an impassioned speech at the United Nations and the interpreter was silent.

"What's he saying?" someone whispered to the interpreter.

"I don't know yet," said the interpreter. "I'm waiting for the verb."

An astronomer said, "What's the use!
Our classical knowledge is loose.
There can be nothing stupider
Than to name that world Jupiter,
When we all know it should be called Zeus."

"As for screwing," said Little Miss Muffet,
"I proclaim here and now that I love it.
I defy the authority
Of the Moral Majority.
They can take all their preaching and stuff it."

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Full title Asimov On Numbers [permalink]
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Publisher Pocket Books
Categories Mathematics and science
Publication year 1978
ISBN 0-671-82134-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 275
Synopsis

This is a collection of essays by Asimov on numbers and mathematics. It discusses how we got the concept of zero (from India via the Arabs), exponents, factorials, aleph numbers (there are actually different kinds of infinities), pi, imaginary numbers, huge numbers (like googol, but that doesn't even scratch the surface), the metric system (yum), and a host of other stuff. It also has an essay on animals and their sizes.

Review

As with most essay collections from Asimov, this one is a sure-fire good read. Asimov explains in detail (but not too painful detail) a lot of difficult mathematics, step by careful step. Unlike a lot of his other collections, this one feels a little miscellaneous, but that doesn't at all detract from its quality.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  • Part I NUMBERS AND COUNTING
    • 1. Nothing Counts
    • 2. One, Ten, Buckle My Shoe
    • 3. Exclamation Point!
    • 4. T-Formation
    • 5. Varieties of the Infinite
  • Part II NUMBERS AND MATHEMATICS
    • 6. A Piece of Pi
    • 7. Tools of the Trade
    • 8. The Imaginary That Isn't
  • Part III NUMBERS AND MEASUREMENT
    • 9. Forget It!
    • 10. Pre-fixing It Up
  • Part IV NUMBERS AND THE CALENDAR
    • 11. The Days of Our Years
    • 12. Begin at the Beginning
  • Part V NUMBERS AND BIOLOGY
    • 13. That's About the Size of It
  • Part VI NUMBERS AND ASTRONOMY
    • 14. The Proton-Reckoner
  • Part VII NUMBERS AND THE EARTH
    • 15. Water, Water, Everywhere—
    • 16. Up and Down the Earth
    • 17. The Isles of Earth
Full title Asimov's New Guide to Science [permalink]
Original title The Intelligent Man's Guide to Science
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Biology, chemistry and science
Publication year 1987
Original publication year 1984
ISBN 978-0-140-17213-3 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 880
Synopsis

This is a thick door-stopper of a book, dealing with all of science (and the history of science in general). It's divided into two major parts, The Physical Sciences and The Biological Sciences.

Review

Asimov wrote very well fiction, but I think non-fiction is where he shines, and this book is no exception. Go buy it, and get an overview of the vast fields of science!

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Full title Bad Science [permalink]
Language English
Author Ben Goldacre (author)
Publisher HarperCollins
Category Science
Publication year 2009
Original publication year 2008
ISBN 978-0-00-728487-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 370
Synopsis

Bad Science is a book almost entirely dedicated to the exposition of poor and damaging science reporting in the media, especially medical science. (Another major point of the book is focusing on specific people in the media who Goldacre thinks are doing a poor job or a disservice to the public.) This isn't all of the book, however: some chapters (The Placebo Effect and Bad Stats stand out) go into how medical science is actually done and what methods are used in clinical trials.

Review

I found the book both entertaining and enlightning, although the book is heavily focused on the UK. If you're from the UK then you'd probably enjoy this book much more than I did, being from Norway.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Matter
  • Chapter 2: Brain Gym
  • Chapter 3: The Progenium XY Complex
  • Chapter 4: Homeopathy
  • Chapter 5: The Placebo Effect
  • Chapter 6: The Nonsense du Jour
  • Chapter 7: Dr Gillian McKeith PhD
  • Chapter 8: 'Pill Solves Complex Social Problem'
  • Chapter 9: Professor Patrick Holford
  • Chapter 10: The Doctor Will Sure You Now
  • Chapter 11: Is Mainstream Medicine Evil?
  • Chapter 12: How the Media Promote the Public Misunderstanding of Science
  • Chapter 13: Why Clever People Believe Stupid Things
  • Chapter 14: Bad Stats
  • Chapter 15: Health Scares
  • Chapter 16: The Media's MMR Hoax
  • And Another Thing
  • Further Reading and Acknowledgements
  • Notes
  • Index
Full title The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature [permalink]
Language English
Author Steven Pinker (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Category Psychology
Publication year 2002
ISBN 0-14-200334-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 509
Synopsis

A very good synthesis of and commentary on the nature-nurture debate from the point of view of an evolutionary psychologist. The book is divided into six parts named "The Blank Slate, the Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine" (in which Pinker outlines the debate and discusses the three doctrines in the title), "Fear and Loathing" (in which he describes the reactions from scientists and lay people to the discoveries of the modern sciences of human nature), "Human Nature with a Human Face" (in which he discusses four fears — inequality, imperfectibility, determinism, and nihilism — that seem to flow from the dismantling of the three doctrines outlined in the first chapter), "Know Thyself" (in which he attempts to allay fears by making human nature explicit), "Hot Buttons" (in which he deals with five topics — politics, violence, gender, children, and the arts — and explain how the sciences of human nature touch on these), and "The Voice of the Species" (which is a single chapter where Pinker draws examples from poetry and literature to illustrate his main points and bring the book to a natural end).

Review

A very good book about human nature, and why gut feelings and folk theories on psychology are often wrong (or not right enough). This is the first book on evolutionary psychology I've read, so I had a little trouble keeping up with the parts of the book that described its history and methods, but I think I got the gist of those parts. I especially enjoyed the last part of the book, titled "The Voice of the Species", where Pinker quotes various poets and authors (such as Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, and Kurt Vonnegut), in passages illuminating human nature. I can wholeheartedly recommend this book!

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • PART I The Blank Slate, the Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine
    • Chapter 1 The Official Theory
    • Chapter 2 Silly Putty
    • Chapter 3 The Last Wall to Fall
    • Chapter 4 Culture Vultures
    • Chapter 5 The Slate's Last Stand
  • PART II Fear and Loathing
    • Chapter 6 Political Scientists
    • Chapter 7 The Holy Trinity
  • PART III Human Nature with a Human Face
    • Chapter 8 The Fear of Inequality
    • Chapter 9 The Fear of Imperfectibility
    • Chapter 10 The Fear of Determinism
    • Chapter 11 The Fear of Nihilism
  • PART IV Know Thyself
    • Chapter 12 In Touch with Reality
    • Chapter 13 Out of Our Depths
    • Chapter 14 The Many Roots of Our Suffering
    • Chapter 15 The Sanctimonious Animal
  • PART V Hot Buttons
    • Chapter 16 Politics
    • Chapter 17 Violence
    • Chapter 18 Gender
    • Chapter 19 Children
    • Chapter 20 The Arts
  • PART VI The Voice of the Species
  • Appendix: Donald E. Brown's List of Human Universals
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index
Full title The Catcher in the Rye [permalink]
Language English
Author J. D. Salinger (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Category Novel
Publication year 2010
Original publication year 1945
ISBN 978-0-241-95043-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 230
Synopsis

Holden Caulfield is doing poorly in school, being kicked out of school after school. This new school is no different: Caulfield is being kicked out, but doesn't want to confront his parents about it. He's naive yet street-smart and resourceful, and the book follows his exploits roaming around New York City doing nothing in particular, dreaming, exploring, and horsing around.

The title is referencing a dream that Holden has about catching falling bodies coming off a cliff into a rye field. Holden, when explaining this dream to someone, is misremembering a line from the poem Comin' Thro' the Rye: "If a body catch a body / Comin thro' the rye." The line is actually "If a body meet a body / Comin thro' the rye."

Review

A fascinating read. I especially liked the conversation in the beginning of the book between him and one of his teachers, Mr. Spencer. Mr. Spencer is trying to help Caulfield by giving him practical advice, but Holden is too distracted to really pay attention, in addition to not wanting to be there in the first place. It's funny watching him trying to worm his way out of it.

I think everyone can see something of themselves in Caulfield, even though one doesn't always empathize with him. He's not really a likeable character, but he's charming and funny, and his adventures around New York City makes for an enjoyable read.

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Full title Childhood's End [permalink]
Language English
Author Arthur C. Clarke (author)
Publisher Tor Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 2010
Original publication year 1954
ISBN 978-0-330-51401-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 256
Synopsis

The novel starts abruptly with two scenes of American and Russian astronauts preparing to embark on their different (irrelevant) missions, only to be halted by the sudden appearance of starships above major cities of the Earth. It's explained in short order how these benevolent aliens manage, in only a few years, to clean up our mess. War, disease, and want are all things of the past, and humanity now lives in peace with itself. Eventually the aliens make themselves and their plans known...

Review

This novel is considered by many Clarke fans to be his best (even Clarke himself considered it that, along with The Songs of Distant Earth), and I'll have to tentatively agree (the final verdict will have to wait until I've read more of Clarke's work). The story is engaging and spans many decades, the characters are interesting, the aliens' motives understandable (and even sympathetic), the pacing is good... The only complaint I have is that I wished it was longer. It feels like there should be more to this story!

Definitely go pick this up!

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Foreword
  • Earth and the Overlords
  • The Golden Age
  • The Last Generation
Full title Cloud Atlas [permalink]
Language English
Author David Mitchell (author)
Publisher Random House
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 2004
ISBN 978-0-375-50725-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 509
Synopsis

Six separate stories running from the late 1800s into the deep future are interwoven in various ways. The chapters first tell the first part of each story until the middle chapter, where then the second parts of the stories are told in reverse order (see the structure, you'll understand).

Review

I watched the movie before reading the book (in fact, watching the movie spurred me into reading it), so my review is naturally colored by that. I loved the movie, and the book is even better.

It's extremely well-written, and the tone of each chapter is fitting for the time period. The language of the chapters that take place in the future is also apt. An example from the chapter "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After", set in the deep future:

Yay, Old'uns' Smart mastered sicks, miles, seeds an' made miracles ord'nary, but it din't master one thing, nay, a hunger in the hearts o' humans, yay, a hunger for more.

I strongly recommend this novel. It's a joy to read from start to finish.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (Part 1)
  • Letters from Zedelghem (Part 1)
  • Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (Part 1)
  • The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (Part 1)
  • An Orison of Sonmi~451 (Part 1)
  • Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After
  • An Orison of Sonmi~451 (Part 2)
  • The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish (Part 2)
  • Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery (Part 2)
  • Letters from Zedelghem (Part 2)
  • The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing (Part 2)
Full title The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke [permalink]
Language English
Author Arthur C. Clarke (author)
Publisher Victor Gollancz Ltd
Categories Anthology, science fiction and short stories
Publication year 2001
ISBN 978-1-85798-323-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 966
Synopsis

A collection of virtually every short story of Arthur C. Clarke. See Structure for links to some of them.

Review

The stories are of varying quality, although most are very good (and some are truly excellent). As this is a compilation, it's hard to give a verdict, but I definitely recommend it to you if you're a Clarke fan.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Travel by Wire!
  • How We Went to Mars
  • Retreat from Earth
  • Reverie
  • The Awakening
  • Whacky
  • Loophole
  • Rescue Party
  • Technical Error
  • Castaway
  • The Fires Within
  • Inheritance
  • Nightfall
  • History Lesson
  • Transience
  • The Wall of Darkness
  • The Lion of Comarre
  • The Forgotten Enemy
  • Hide-and-Seek
  • Breaking Strain
  • Nemesis
  • Guardian Angel
  • Time's Arrow
  • A Walk in the Dark
  • Silence Please
  • Trouble with the Natives
  • The Road to the Sea
  • The Sentinel
  • Holiday On the Moon
  • Earthlight
  • Second Dawn
  • Superiority
  • 'If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth...'
  • All the Time in the World
  • The Nine Billion Names of God
  • The Possessed
  • The Parasite
  • Jupiter Five
  • Encounter In the Dawn
  • The Other Tiger
  • Publicity Campaign
  • Armaments Race
  • The Deep Range
  • No Morning After
  • Big Game Hunt
  • Patent Pending
  • Refugee
  • The Star
  • What Goes Up
  • Venture to the Moon
  • The Pacifist
  • The Reluctant Orchid
  • Moving Spirit
  • The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch
  • The Ultimate Melody
  • The Next Tenants
  • Cold War
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Security Check
  • The Man Who Ploughed the Sea
  • Critical Mass
  • The Other Side of the Sky
  • Let There Be Light
  • Out of the Sun
  • Cosmic Casanova
  • The Songs of Distant Earth
  • A Slight Case of Sunstroke
  • Who's There?
  • Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Orbiting...
  • I Remember Babylon
  • Trouble With Time
  • Into the Comet
  • Summertime on Icarus
  • Saturn Rising
  • Death and the Senator
  • Before Eden
  • Hate
  • Love That Universe
  • Dog Star
  • Maelstrom II
  • An Ape About the House
  • The Shining Ones
  • The Secret
  • Dial F for Frankenstein
  • The Wind from the Sun
  • The Food of the Gods
  • The Last Command
  • The Light of Darkness
  • The Longest Science-Fiction Story Ever Told
  • Playback
  • The Cruel Sky
  • Herbert George Morley Roberts Wells, Esq.
  • Crusade
  • Neutron Tide
  • Reunion
  • Transit of Earth
  • A Meeting With Medusa
  • Quarantine
  • siseneG
  • The Steam-Powered Word Processor
  • On Golden Seas
  • The Hammer of God
  • The Wire Continuum (with Stephen Baxter)
  • Improving the Neighbourhood
Full title The Complete Robot [permalink]
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Categories Anthology, science fiction and short stories
Publication year 1982
Pages 680
Synopsis

This is a collection of robot stories that he wrote between 1940 and 1976. They're not grouped chronologically, but by theme (and this works really well). The stories, of course, revolve around robots; non-humanoid, immobile, metallic, and humanoid (there's even an android in the last story, but I've already spoiled too much).

Review

Some of these stories are amazing, and you should go pick up this anthology now. My favorites are A Boy's Best Friend, Victory Unintentional, Segregationist, Evidence, Feminine Intuition, and The Bicentennial Man.

Full title Cosmic View: The Universe in Forty Jumps [permalink]
Language English
Authors Kees Boeke (author), Els de Bouter (illustrator) and Arthur H. Compton (introduction)
Publisher John Day Company
Categories Children's and science
Publication year 1957
ISBN 0381980162 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Online version Link
Pages 48
Synopsis

Cosmic View is the inspiration for the 1977 IBM short video Powers of Ten. It's a pretty short book written for children (though it's very interesting for adults as well) about the relative sizes of things in the universe. The book differs a bit from the video, mainly in that it explores each scale at more depth.

The book starts out showing a girl in Holland, zooming outwards, each time by a factor of ten, 25 times (so that the scale ends up being 1:1025). Each image is accompanied by a bit of explanatory text. Halfway through, the book then zooms inwards, ending at a scale of 1012:1, about the size of an atomic nucleus.

Review

I found the book pretty fascinating, if a bit short and not as detailed as I'd wished it to be. However, I can't hold that against it as it's really a children's book. I can heartily recommend it.

Images Back flap of Cosmic View.Back of Cosmic View.Spine of Cosmic View.Front of Cosmic View.Front flap of Cosmic View.
Full title Cosmos [permalink]
Language English
Author Carl Sagan (author)
Publisher Ballantine Books
Categories Astronomy, biology, chemistry, history, physics and science
Publication year 1985
Original publication year 1980
ISBN 978-0-345-33135-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 324
Synopsis

Cosmos is, as its title suggests, a book about the Cosmos. It's based upon (and can be considered a companion to) the TV series of the same name. There are thirteen chapters, each corresponding to the thirteen episodes.

The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean is setting the tone for the rest of the book. Sagan discusses the Cosmos on its largest scales, putting the Earth in perspective. He then discusses early attempts to measure the size of the Earth.

One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue is about evolution and our own species. It discusses various potential biologies that could be evolved on other worlds and muses on the implication of all this.

In the chapter Harmony of the Worlds, Sagan really shines. This chapter deals with astrology, astronomy, and the histories of both. (Sagan was an astronomer.) He explains Kepler's Laws, goes into the geocentric vs heliocentric models of the Solar System, and the history of planetary observation and theory-making.

Heaven and Hell is all about comets and asteroids. Sagan discusses the Tunguska event and the impact craters on the Moon, among other things.

Blues for a Red Planet is about Mars in fiction and fact. He goes into the canali of Giovanni Schiaparelli and Percival Lowell, H. G. Well's The War of the Worlds, and the Barsoom novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He then discusses the Mars probes and the potential for terraforming Mars.

Travelers' Tales is about the sailing ships and the discoveries made during the Age of Exploration, with respects to astronomy and the study of the Cosmos.

The Backbone of Night is a discussion of myths from around the world on the creation and system of the Universe, veering into a discussion of the scientific explanations (and the evidence). There's a very charming three pages of imagined inner monolog by a curious and primitive ancestor dealing with his explanation for the stars. The chapter title is a reference to the name for the Milky Way that the !Kung people of the Kalahari desert use for it.

Travels in Space and Time is about the immensity of space and time. It begins with a discussion on constellations and astrology, and has a wonderful illustration of how a constellation (in the example, The Big Dipper) would look from other angles and in other eras. It then launches into an extended explanation of the speed of light and the various paradoxes attending it (such as time dilation).

The Lives of the Stars is about atoms, chemistry, and the lives of the stars (ahem), meaning the fates and types of stars (white dwarfs, neutron stars, supernovas, etc.).

The Edge of Forever lives up to its title. Its subject matter is the beginning of time, the extent of the Cosmos, and a very entertaining discussion on higher dimensions (reminiscent of, even directly referent to, Flatland). It also discusses mythological theories on the nature of time and the Cosmos.

The Persistence of Memory is about information, in the form of DNA and brains.

Encyclopaedia Galactica is really about galactic citizenship. It goes into UFOs, SETI, the Drake equation, and contact with other intelligent beings (what it would look like and what the implications would be). This is one of the more interesting chapters.

The book ends on a somewhat morose note with Who Speaks for Earth? The chapter deals with the planet and its various challenges, most conspicuously nuclear weapons and what to do about the potentiality of our destroying ourselves. After so many chapters of uplifting speculations and explorations of immensity, this chapter is a very sobering read.

Review

Where to start? When I watched the TV series in 2007 I was utterly blown away, and the book is even better. Being a book it's also much more detailed. If you've read anything by Sagan you know what to expect, but this work is simply breath-taking in its breadth and depth. It's personal, uplifting, educational, interesting... If you want to get a (biased, in a good sense) overview of the history of ideas and science, go read it.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  • I The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean
  • II One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue
  • III The Harmony of the Worlds
  • IV Heaven and Hell
  • V Blues for a Red Planet
  • VI Travelers' Tales
  • VII The Backbone of Night
  • VIII Travels in Space and Time
  • IX The Lives of the Stars
  • X The Edge of Forever
  • XI The Persistence of Memory
  • XII Encyclopaedia Galactica
  • XIII Who Speaks for Earth?
  • Appendix 1: Reductio ad Absurdum and the Square Root of Two
  • Appendix 2: The Five Pythagorean Solids
  • Further Reading
  • Index
Full title Cradle [permalink]
Language English
Authors Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee
Publisher Orbit Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 1989
Original publication year 1988
ISBN 0-7088-4318-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 374
Synopsis

This novel primarily follows three people: Carol Dawson, a journalist for the Miami Herald; Nick Williams, a diver, adventurer, and boat owner; and his partner, Troy Williams. Carol, interested in a curious incident of a beached whale and a rumour about a submerged Navy missile, decides to enlist the help of Nick and Troy.

Review

Unfortunately, this novel isn't so much science fiction as thriller and drama, which was a little disappointing. It would make a good movie I think, but as a novel the story isn't driven forward as it should, there is too much characterization (without meaning), and the ending fell absolutely flat for me. You can safely skip this one.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Endangered Species
  • Thursday
  • Cycle 447
  • Friday
  • Assembly and Test
  • Saturday
  • Repatriation
  • Sunday
Full title Dandelion Wine [permalink]
Language English
Author Ray Bradbury (author)
Publisher HarperCollins
Category Novel
Publication year 2008
Original publication year 1957
ISBN 978-0-00-728474-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 319
Synopsis

Originally a series of short stories, this novel is about quiet Middle American life in the fictional Green Town, Illinois. The story mainly follows twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding and his brother, Tom, with minor characters scattered about. The novel is about nothing in particular, except the musings of Doug about rather adult themes like life and death.

The title is a metaphor for good summer memories, and in the story it's a real beverage that Doug and his grandfather actually tap into bottles for the long winter ahead.

There is a sequel, Farewell Summer.

Review

Despite being well-written, I found this novel at times boring, and I was a little disappointed that it didn't go anywhere; there's no real story here. There are a few memorable scenes, however, like the meeting between the gang (Doug, Tom, and Charlie) and Colonel Freeleigh and between the young reporter and the old woman.

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Full title Dangerous Visions [permalink]
Language English
Authors Harlan Ellison (editor), Diane Dillon (illustrator), Leo Dillon (illustrator), Isaac Asimov (foreword), Brian W. Aldiss, Carol Emshwiller, Damon Knight, David R. Bunch, Frederik Pohl, Fritz Leiber, Henry Slesar, Howard Rodman, J. G. Ballard, James Cross, Joe L. Hensley, John Brunner, John Sladek, Jonathan Brand, Keith Laumer, Kris Neville, Larry Eisenberg, Larry Niven, Lester del Rey, Miriam Allen deFord, Norman Spinrad, Philip José Farmer, Philip K. Dick, Poul Anderson, R. A. Lafferty, Robert Bloch, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delany, Sonya Dorman and Theodore Sturgeon
Categories Anthology, science fiction and short stories
Publication year 1975
Pages 544
Synopsis

An anthology with short stories which each presents a "dangerous vision" (although I would call them "visions for thought").

Review

These thirty-two stories are all excellent in their own ways, but some stand out as superbly excellent. They are Shall the Dust Praise Thee?, Evensong, The Malley System, Carcinoma Angels, and A Toy For Juliette. Go buy this book.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Foreword 1: The Second Revolution
    Isaac Asimov
  • Foreword 2: Harlan and I
    Isaac Asimov
  • Introduction: Thirty-Two Soothsayers
    Harlan Ellison
  • EVENSONG Lester del Rey
  • FLIES Robert Silverberg
  • THE DAY AFTER THE DAY THE MARTIANS CAME Frederik Pohl
  • RIDERS OF THE PURPLE WAGE Philip José Farmer
  • THE MALLEY SYSTEM Miriam Allen deFord
  • A TOY FOR JULIETTE Robert Bloch
  • THE PROWLER IN THE CITY AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD Harlan Ellison
  • THE NIGHT THAT ALL TIME BROKE OUT Brian W. Aldiss
  • THE MAN WHO WENT TO THE MOON—TWICE Howard Rodman
  • FAITH OF OUR FATHERS Philip K. Dick
  • THE JIGSAW MAN Larry Niven
  • GONNA ROLL THE BONES Fritz Leiber
  • LORD RANDY, MY SON Joe L. Hensley
  • EUTOPIA Poul Anderson
  • "A Pair of Bunch"
  • INCIDENT IN MODERAN David R. Bunch
  • THE ESCAPING David R. Bunch
  • THE DOLL-HOUSE Jame Cross
  • SEX AND/OR MR. MORRISON Carol Emschwiller
  • SHALL THE DUST PRAISE THEE? Damon Knight
  • IF ALL MEN WERE BROTHERS, WOULD YOU LET ONE MARRY YOUR SISTER? Theodore Sturgeon
  • WHAT HAPPENED TO AUGUSTE CLAROT? Larry Eisenberg
  • ERSATZ Henry Slesar
  • GO, GO, Go, SAID THE BIRD Sonya Dorman
  • THE HAPPY BREED John T. Sladek
  • ENCOUNTER WITH A HICK Jonathan Brand
  • FROM THE GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE Kris Neville
  • LAND OF THE GREAT HORSES R. A. Lafferty
  • THE RECOGNITION J. G. Ballard
  • JUDAS John Brunner
  • TEST TO DESTRUCTION Keith Laumer
  • CARCINOMA ANGELS Norman Spinrad
  • AUTO-DA-FÉ Roger Zelazny
  • AYE, AND GOMORRAH... Samyel R. Delany
Full title The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist fundamentalism and the denial of the divine [permalink]
Language English
Authors Alister McGrath (author) and Joanna Collicutt McGrath (co-author)
Publisher SPCK
Category Religion
Publication year 2007
ISBN 978-0-281-05927-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 78
Synopsis

A review, synopsis, and a criticism of Dawkins' The God Delusion, The Dawkins Delustion? examines the issues raised there.

Review

The book is pretty well presented, but unfortunately it was very boring and lacks substance. It really could be shortened down to an essay. The main message from the book is that Dawkins' book doesn't take enough into account, and that his criticism of religion is unfounded.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  1. Deluded about God?
  2. Has science disproved God?
  3. What are the origins of religion?
  4. Is religion evil?
  • Notes
  • For further reading
Full title Discoveries [permalink]
Language English
Authors Alan Lothian (introduction), Arthur C. Clarke, Bob Shaw, Greg Bear, Ian McDonald, Ian Watson, Mike McQuay, Paul J. McAuley, Robert Holdstock and Tricia Sullivan
Publisher Victor Gollancz Ltd
Categories Anthology, science fiction and short stories
Publication year 1995
ISBN 0-575-06258-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 190
Synopsis

I can't remember where I got this book, but I reckon it's pretty rare to come across as it's not normally sold, but was given away free with the October 1995 issue of BBC Focus. It's an anthology of short science fiction stories from budding British authors.

Review

A few of the stories fell flat, but some are good (I really enjoyed Blood Music). If you happen to come across it, you might want to buy it, if only for its rarity.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  • Prison Dreams
    Paul J. McAuley
  • Blood Music
    Greg Bear
  • The Charisma Trees
    Robert Holdstock
  • Dark Night in Toyland
    Bob Shaw
  • Virtually Lucid Lucy
    Ian Watson
  • Morpheus
    Tricia Sullivan
  • Winning
    Ian McDonald
  • extract from Richter 10
    Arthur C. Clarke and Mike McQuay
Full title Døde menn går i land [permalink]
Translated title Dead Men Walk Ashore
Language Norwegian
Author André Bjerke (author)
Publisher Aschehoug
Categories Crime and novel
Publication year 2008
Original publication year 1947
ISBN 978-82-03-19323-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 272
Synopsis

A business man decides to re-purpose an old house on the southern coast of Norway to a summer hotel. There's a superstition among the locals that the house is haunted, and a gang of friends travel down to stay there. Scary things ensue...

Review

I don't normally read crime novels, but André Bjerke is really good at setting the mood, and he writes with wonderful wit, humor, and knowledge. (For instance, there's an Omar Khayyam poem in it!)

A riveting read, and definitely recommended.

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Full title Eaters of the Dead: The Manuscript of Ibn Fadlan Relating His Experiences with the Northmen in A.D. 922 [permalink]
Language English
Author Michael Crichton (author)
Publisher Arrow Books
Category Novel
Publication year 1997
Original publication year 1976
ISBN 978-0-099-22282-8 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 186
Synopsis

Being the inspiration for the movie The 13th Warrior, this is a story about an Arab's adventures with Vikings, battling a dangerous and mysterious enemy who might or might not be completely human, the Eaters of the Dead (which they do).

Review

I really enjoyed this one, mainly because of the intelligence and questioning nature of the protagonist, the Arab Ahmad ibn Fadlan (a real person). He is sent as an ambassador by the Caliph of Baghdad to the king of the Volga Bulgars, although he never reaches his destination, instead joining a band of Vikings in their quest to beat the wendol, as the Vikings call the Eaters. I give it a thumbs-up.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
    • Provenance of the Manuscript
    • The Vikings
    • About the Author
  • The departure from the City of Peace
  • The ways of the Oguz Turks
  • First contact with the Northmen
  • The aftermath of the Northmen's funeral
  • The journey to the far country
  • The encampment at Trelburg
  • The kingdom of Rothgar in the land of Venden
  • The events that followed the first battle
  • The attack of the glowworm dragon Korgon
  • The desert of dread
  • The Counsel of the dwarf
  • The events of the night before the attack
  • The thunder caves
  • The death throes of the wendol
  • The return from the North country
  • Appendix: The Mist Monsters
Full title Edgar Allan Poe Collected Stories and Poems [permalink]
Language English
Authors Edgar Allan Poe (author), Aubrey Beardsley (illustrator), Édouard Manet (illustrator), Gustave Doré (illustrator), Harry Clarke (illustrator) and John Tenniel (illustrator)
Publisher CRW Publishing
Categories Anthology, novel and short stories
Publication year 2008
Original publication year 2006
ISBN 978-1904919773 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 374
Synopsis

This is a collection of Poe's works. It's a big and beautifully-bound book, with illustrations for all the stories and poems.

Review

If you've never read anything by Edgar Allan Poe before, you're in for a major treat. I can highly recommend some stories: The Pit and the Pendulum (about a man being kept captive during the Spanish Inquisition), The Gold Bug (about a man discovering an ancient treasure map), The Premature Burial (about exactly what the title says), The Cask of Amontillado (about a drunk man meeting a horrifying death), The Tell-Tale Heart (about a murderer who hallucinates his victim's heart beat), and Shadow — A Parable (about whispers in the night, not to spoil it). I can heartily recommend this book, or any other Poe collection, for that matter.

Images Back flap of Edgar Allan Poe Collected Stories and Poems.Back of Edgar Allan Poe Collected Stories and Poems.Spine of Edgar Allan Poe Collected Stories and Poems.Front of Edgar Allan Poe Collected Stories and Poems.Front flap of Edgar Allan Poe Collected Stories and Poems.
Structure [Toggle visibility]

Tales of Mystery and Imagination

  • The Gold Bug
  • The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar
  • MS Found in a Bottle
  • A Descent into the Maelström
  • The Murders in the Rue Morgue
  • The Mystery of Marie Rogêt
  • The Purloined Letter
  • The Fall of the House of Usher
  • The Pit and the Pendulum
  • The Premature Burial
  • The Black Cat
  • The Masque of the Red Death
  • The Cask of Amontillado
  • The Oval Portrait
  • The Oblong Box
  • The Tell-Tale Heart
  • Ligeia
  • Loss of Breath
  • Shadow — A Parable
  • Silence — A Fable
  • The Man of the Crows
  • Some Words with a Mummy

Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque

  • Metzengerstein
  • The Visionary (The Assignation)
  • Morella
  • King Pest
  • The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall
  • Berenice
  • Mystification
  • How to Write a Blackwood Article
  • A Predicament
  • The Man that was Used Up
  • William Wilson
  • Eleonara
  • The Island of the Fay
  • The Balloon Hoax
  • The System of Dr Tarr and Professor Fether
  • Mesmeric Revelation
  • A Tale of the Ragged Mountains
  • The Spectacle
  • The Imp of the Perverse
  • The Sphinx
  • The Domain of Arnheim or the Landscape Garden
  • Von Kempelen and His Discovery
  • X-ing a Paragraph

Poems

  • The Raven
  • The Valley of Unrest
  • Bridal Ballad
  • The Sleeper
  • The Coliseum
  • Lenore
  • Hymn
  • Israfel
  • Dream-Land
  • To Zante
  • The City in the Sea
  • To One in Paradise
  • Eulalie
  • To F—S S. O—D
  • To F—
  • Silence
  • The Conquerer Worm
  • The Haunted Palace
  • Scenes from "Politian"
Later Poems
  • The Bells
  • To M. L. S.—
  • To— ("Not long ago, the writer of these lines")
  • An Enigma
  • To Helen
  • A Valentine
  • For Annie
  • To My Mother
  • Eldorado
  • Annabel Lee
  • Ulalume
Poems Written in Youth
  • Tamerlane
  • Sonnet — To Science
  • Al Aaraaf
  • Romance
  • Song
  • Dreams
  • Spirits of the Dead
  • Evening Star
  • A Dream within a Dream
  • Stanzas
  • A Dream
  • 'The Happiest Day, The Happiest Hour'
  • The Lake
  • To— ("The bowers whereat, in dreams, I see")
  • To the River
  • To— ("I heed not that my earthly lot")
  • Fairyland
  • To Helen
  • Alone
Poems Now First Collected
  • Spiritual Song
  • Elizabeth
  • From an Album
  • To Sarah
  • The Great Man
  • Gratitude To—
  • An Enigma
  • Impromptu
Additional Poems Attributed to Poe
  • Song of Triumph
  • Latin Hymn
  • The Skeleton-Hand
  • The Magician
  • Translation: Hymn to Aristogeiton and Harmodius
  • The Mammoth Squash
  • Oh, Tempora! Oh, Mores!
Full title The End of Eternity [permalink]
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Publisher HarperCollins
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 2000
Original publication year 1959
ISBN 978-0-586-02440-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 189
Synopsis

Mankind has opened Eternity, and a group of people there constantly interfere with the Centuries to iron out mistakes and keep mankind safe.

Review

I normally don't like time-travel stories because they're confusing. This one is also pretty confusing, but it's well-written confusion, and I can recommend it on that point alone.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Chapter One: Technician
  • Chapter Two: Observer
  • Chapter Three: Cub
  • Chapter Four: Computer
  • Chapter Five: Timer
  • Chapter Six: Life-Plotter
  • Chapter Seven: Prelude to Crime
  • Chapter Eight: Crime
  • Chapter Nine: Interlude
  • Chapter Ten: Trapped!
  • Chapter Eleven: Full Circle
  • Chapter Twelve: The Beginning of Eternity
  • Chapter Thirteen: Beyond the Downwhen Terminus
  • Chapter Fourteen: The Earlier Crime
  • Chapter Fifteen: Search Through the Primitive
  • Chapter Sixteen: The Hidden Centuries
  • Chapter Seventeen: The Closing Circle
  • Chapter Eighteen: The Beginning of Infinity
Full title The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason [permalink]
Language English
Author Sam Harris (author)
Publisher W. W. Norton
Category Religion
Publication year 2004
ISBN 0-393-32765-5 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 348
Synopsis

The central thesis in End of Faith is that faith is dangerous, because beliefs unsupported by evidence, when put into action, can't be reasoned with. Harris gives a lot of historical examples of this (indeed, the book has a pretty extensive bibliography in the back), and the book is peppered with endnotes (and a few pages-long ones, at that!).

The last two chapters are called A Science of Good and Evil (where Harris tries to map out an emerging science of morality) and Experiments in Consciousness (where Harris basically advocates meditation as a rational way of garnering knowledge about subjectivity, and where he doesn't reject the notion of consciousness surviving physical death). While I reject the notion that personhood survives death (that is, I think consciousness is dependent upon the brain being able to function properly and that when it eventually succumbs to decay, that'll be the end of us), I can wholeheartedly join Harris in admitting ignorance on that question.

Review

While I can't say the book was an entirely enjoyable read, it's definitely well-written and engaging. What turned me off was the incessant referencing to past atrocities. However, that was in part (I think) the intent of the book, and in that sense it succeeded. I can definitely recommend it, nonetheless.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  1. Reason in Exile
  2. The Nature of Belief
  3. In the Shadow of God
  4. The Problem with Islam
  5. West of Eden
  6. A Science of Good and Evil
  7. Experiments in Consciousness
  • Epilogue
  • Afterword
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
Full title The Epic of Gilgamesh [permalink]
Language English
Author Anonymous (author)
Categories Classic and epic
Publication year -700
Pages 128
Synopsis

Being one of the few surviving early epic poems in the world (dating to the third millennium BCE), Gilgamesh tells the story of Gilgamesh, a god-king of Uruk who the gods see as arrogant. They create Enkidu, a wild beast that eventually befriends Gilgamesh. They travel together to the cedar forest and battle Humbaba, a fiendish guardian. They successfully defeat him, but eventually Enkidu dies, and Gilgamesh becomes painfully aware of his own mortality. Not liking that, he sets out on a journey to find ever-lasting life.

Review

The paperback edition that I read is only 62 pages, so it's a very light read. The story is engaging, but not really engagingly written (doubtless because of its age and the act of translation). Nevertheless, I recommend it if only for its prominent status. (Note: There are several free online translations. I originally read it online, but I can't find the version I read, so you could Google it if you want. However, my guess is that a translation from a proper book is best.)

Full title Expanded Universe [permalink]
Language English
Author Robert A. Heinlein (author)
Publisher Baen Publishing Enterprises
Categories Anthology, science fiction and short stories
Publication year 2007
Original publication year 1980
ISBN 978-0-7434-9915-6 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 705
Synopsis

A collection of short stories and essays, the essays focusing for the most part on WWII and the atomic bomb.

Review

A really nice read. I especially liked How to Be a Survivor, Nothing Ever Happens on the Moon, and Paul Dirac, Antimatter, and You.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Life-Line
  • Successful Operation
  • Blowups Happen
  • Solution Unsatisfactory
  • The Last Days of the United States
  • How to Be a Survivor
  • Pie from the Sky
  • They Do It with Mirrors
  • Free Men
  • No Bands Playing, No Flags Flying—
  • A Bathroom of Her Own
  • On the Slopes of Vesuvius
  • Nothing Ever Happens on the Moon
  • Pandora's Box
  • Where To?
  • Cliff and the Calories
  • Ray Guns and Rocket Ships
  • The Third Millennium Opens
  • Who Are the Heirs of Patrick Henry?
  • "Pravda" Means "Truth"
  • Inside Intourist
  • Searchlight
  • The Pragmatics of Patriotism
  • Paul Dirac, Antimatter, and You
  • Larger than Life
  • Spinoff
  • The Happy Days Ahead
Full title Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain [permalink]
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 1987
Pages 385
Synopsis

Not a sequel to Fantastic Voyage, this novel revolves around neurophysiologist Albert Jonas Morrison and his crew's journey into the brain of a scientist by way of miniaturization. Morrison has some fringe theories on how the mind works and how it is theoretically possible to amplify brain waves and, in effect, sense thoughts. For this reason, his fellow scientists don't respect him very much, and for this reason, he is hired (read the book and you'll understand) by a team of Russian scientists who want Morrison and his computer to join them in a mission inside a man's brain to sense his thoughts.

Review

The story, in essence, is the same as that of Fantastic Voyage, except that FV is a straight novelization of the movie script (the novel appeared before the movie, interestingly) while FVII is the same story as Asimov would have told it. I prefer the latter because the conundrums of miniaturization are discussed in much greater detail as Morrison is extremely sceptical about it at first.

Full title Farewell Summer [permalink]
Language English
Author Ray Bradbury (author)
Publisher HarperCollins
Category Novel
Publication year 2008
Original publication year 2006
ISBN 978-0-00-728475-7 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 166
Synopsis

Farewell Summer is a sequel to Dandelion Wine, and takes place the following year (another summer). It continues the theme of a boy's childhood summer, and adds in a conflict (of sorts) between two generations.

Review

Like its prequel, I found this novel too a little boring, but the scene where the mischievous boys sneak into the clock tower was entertaining. I can't recommend this one, but if you liked the prequel, chances are you'll like this one as well.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • I. Almost Antietam
  • II. Shiloh and Beyond
  • III. Appomattox
  • Afterword: The Importance of Being Startled
Full title The Fifth Essence: The Search for Dark Matter in the Universe [permalink]
Language English
Author Lawrence Krauss (author)
Publisher Hutchinson
Categories Astronomy, physics and science
Publication year 1989
ISBN 0-09-174211-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 342
Synopsis

This book is in large part about particle physics, with the main theme being an exploration of dark matter and its implications. There are very few equations, and those are fairly simple to follow. However, there's a lot of physics jargon, making it a little hard to follow at times for the non-physicist.

Review

As a layman I found this book very interesting, although I feel someone with a deeper knowledge of physics (in particular particle physics) would enjoy it even more. Nonetheless, Krauss makes a valiant effort at explaining a very difficult subject. I especially enjoyed the long section about how we've modeled (and simulated) the formation of large-scale structure. It's really amazing how well gravity can explain large structures. If you're at all interested in dark matter, I heartily recommend this book, even though it's a little dated by now (for instance, it talks about the Superconducting Super Collider).

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface: A New Copernican Revolution?

Part I

The Stuff of Matter
  • Chapter 1: Making Something Out of Nothing
  • Chapter 2: Filling the Void

Part II

Weighing the Universe... and Coming up Short
  • Chapter 3: First Light on the Darkness
  • Chapter 4: Beyond Our Island in the Night

Part III

Why the Universe is Flat: The Big Bang, Large-Scale Structure, and the Need for Something New
  • Chapter 5: Cooking with Gas
  • Chapter 6: The Tip of the Iceberg

Part IV

The Neutrino Saga and the Birth of Cold Dark Matter
  • Chapter 7: The Obvious Choice?
  • Chapter 8: Cold Gets Hot

Part V

The Candidates
  • Chapter 9: All Roads Lead to Dark Matter
  • Chapter 10: Three Modest Proposals

Part VI

Desperately Seeking Dark Matter
  • Chapter 11: The Music of the Spheres?
  • Chapter 12: Of Thermometers and Radios
  • Epilogue: The Best of Times?
  • Appendix A: Orders of Magnitude and Scale of the Universe
  • Appendix B: A Really Brief History of Time
  • Notes
  • Index
Full title Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales [permalink]
Language English
Authors Groff Conklin (editor), Isaac Asimov (editor), A. E. van Vogt, Alan Bloch, Alan E. Nourse, Alan Nelson, Albert Hernhuter, Anthony Boucher, Arthur C. Clarke, Arthur Feldman, Arthur Porges, Avro Manhattan, C. M. Kornbluth, Cleve Cartmill, Damon Knight, David Grinnell, Edward G. Robles, Edward Grendon, Eric Frank Russell, Evelyn E. Smith, Frank M. Robinson, Fredric Brown, Fritz Leiber, H. B. Hickey, Howard Schoenfeld, Idris Seabright, Jack Finney, James Causey, James H. Schmitz, John D. MacDonald, John Lewis, John P. McKnight, Karen Anderson, Lion Miller, Mack Reynolds, Marion Gross, Mildred Clingerman, Peter Cartur, Poul Anderson, Ralph Williams, Robert A. Heinlein, Robert Sheckley, Roger Dee, S. Fowler Wright, Stuart Friedman, T. P. Caravan, Theodore Sturgeon, W. Hilton-Young, Walt Sheldon, Will Stanton, William Tenn and Winston K. Marks
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Categories Anthology, science fiction and short stories
Publication year 1963
ISBN 0-684-84296-3 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 287
Synopsis

Fifty short-short stories from fifty different authors are collected here.

Review

Almost all of the stories are truly excellent, and I have transcribed some of the best ones and put them on my Short Stories page (Men Are Different, Texas Week, The Haunted Space Suit, and Counter Charm). Go there for a sample before you buy the book. (You will buy it, remember.)

Images Back of Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales.Spine of Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales.Front of Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Prelude: Ballade of an Artificial Satellite — Poul Anderson
  • The Fun They Had — Isaac Asimov
  • Men Are Different — Alan Block
  • The Ambassadors — Anthony Boucher
  • The Weapon — Fredric Brown
  • Random Sample — T. P. Caravan
  • Oscar — Cleve Cartmill
  • The Mist — Peter Cartur
  • Teething Ring — James Causey
  • The Haunted Space Suit — Arthur C. Clarke
  • Stair Trick — Mildred Clingerman
  • Unwelcome Tenant — Roger Dee
  • The Mathematicians — Arthur Feldman
  • The Third Level — Jack Finney
  • Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful! — Stuart Friedman
  • The Figure — Edward Grendon
  • The Rag Thing — David Grinnell
  • The Good Provider — Marion Gross
  • Columbus Was a Dope — Robert A. Heinlein
  • Texas Week — Albert Hernhuter
  • Hilda — H. B. Hickey
  • The Choice — W. Hilton-Young
  • Not with a Bang — Damon Knight
  • The Altar at Midnight — C. M. Kornbluth
  • A Bad Day for Sales — Fritz Leiber
  • Who's Cribbing? — Jack Lewis
  • Spectator Sport — John D. MacDonald
  • The Cricket Ball — Avro Manhattan
  • Double-Take — Winston K. Marks
  • Prolog — John P. McKnight
  • The Available Data on the Worp Reaction — Lion Miller
  • Narapoia — Alan Nelson
  • Tiger by the Tail — Alan E. Nourse
  • Counter Charm — Peter Phillips
  • The Fly — Arthur Porges
  • The Business, As Usual — Mack Reynolds
  • Two Weeks in August — Frank M. Robinson
  • See? — Edward G. Robles, Jr.
  • Appointment at Noon — Eric Frank Russell
  • We Don't Want Any Trouble — James H. Schmitz
  • Built Down Logically — Howard Schoenfeld
  • An Egg a Month from All Over — Idris Seabright
  • The Perfect Woman — Robert Sheckley
  • The Hunters — Walt Sheldon
  • The Martian and the Magician — Evelyn E. Smith
  • Barney — Will Stanton
  • Talent — Theodore Sturgeon
  • Project Hush — William Tenn
  • The Great Judge — A. E. Van Vogt
  • Emergency Landing — Ralph Williams
  • Obviously Suicide — S. Fowler Wright
  • Postlude: Six Haiku — Karen Anderson
Full title Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions [permalink]
Language English
Author Edwin A. Abbott (author)
Categories Classic, mathematics, novel and science fiction
Publication year 1884
Online version Link
Pages 68
Synopsis

Flatland chronicles the adventure of A. Square, a being in Flatland. Flatland consists of only two dimensions, as opposed to Pointland, which consists of zero dimensions, Lineland, which consists of one dimension, and Spaceland (the one we inhabit), which consists of three dimensions. It describes at length the society in Flatland, and how they go about tasks that we Spacelanders find trivial. For instance, everyone is a Polygon. The more equal all its angles and the more sides it has, the higher its social rank. Lowest are women (or the Frailer Sex, as they are often called) who are mere Lines and have no chance of rising in rank. Then come the Triangles, which are men. Then Squares (of which the narrator, A. Square, is naturally a member), Pentagons, Hexagons, Heptagons, Octagons, etc. The more sides a Polygon has, the closer it gets to being a Circle. They're the top leaders of every aspect of Flatland's society.

Review

Flatland is a classic, and even though it's written in the 1880s in Victorian English, it's still eminently readable (and funny). You might have to read a little carefully at first to get used to the age of the language, but once you've picked it up you'll have no trouble enjoying this excellent story.

Full title Flatterland: Like Flatland, only more so [permalink]
Language English
Author Ian Stewart (author)
Publisher Basic Books
Categories Mathematics, novel and science fiction
Publication year 2001
ISBN 978-0-7382-0675-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 294
Synopsis

Flatterland is sort of an unofficial sequel to Abbott's classic Flatland, written in modern non-Victorian English. Although Victorian English gave the original a pretty classy feel, Flatterland doesn't disappoint. Its aim is similar to that of the original: To explain new mathematical concepts to lay people in lay language.

Review

The book succeeds brilliantly. It's filled with illustration to help visualize the concepts, and the stories around which the concepts are introduced are reminiscent of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (well, the fact that chapters have names like The Topologist's Tea-Party and Along the Looking-Glass probably helps), and this gives the book a whimsical tone (that's a benefit). Here's a sample:

"Is Planiturth's universe built from mathematics? Or is mathematics built by the minds of Planiturthians? Planiturthian mathematicians would like to think that their universe is built from mathematics, but that's only natural, after all. Planiturthian physicists would like to think that the Planiturthian universe is built from physics. Planiturthian biologists would like to think that the Planiturthian universe is built from biology. Planiturthian philosophers would like to think that the Planiturthian universe is built from philosophy. (Let me tell you a secret: it is. The fundamental unit of the Planiturthian universe is the philosophon, a unit of logic so tiny that only a philosopher could hope to split it.)"

The book also ventures a little into physics, explaining things like the Schrödinger's cat, the double-slit experiment, time travel, and forces. But the meat of the book is mathematics.

Images Back of Flatterland.Spine of Flatterland.Front of Flatterland.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • From Flatland to Flatterland
  • 1 The Third Dimension
  • 2 Victoria's Diary
  • 3 The Visitation
  • 4 A Hundred and One Dimensions
  • 5 One and a Quarter Dimension
  • 6 The Topologist's Tea-Party
  • 7 Along the Looking-Glass
  • 8 Grape Theory
  • 9 What is a Geometry?
  • 10 Platterland
  • 11 Cat Country
  • 12 The Paradox Twins
  • 13 The Domain of the Hawk King
  • 14 Down the Wormhole
  • 15 What Shape is the Universe?
  • 16 No-Branes and P-Branes
  • 17 Flatterland
  • 18 The Tenth Dimension
Full title Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity [permalink]
Language English
Author Lawrence Lessig (author)
Category Law
Publication year 2004
Online version Link
Pages 368
Synopsis

This is a book about copyright — what it meant originally, what it means now, what it regulated originally, what it regulates now — and about how new technology should force us to rewrite old laws so that common sense prevails.

Review

In my opinion, a must-read for anyone interested in freedom, culture, and copyright. Parts of the book are unfortunately very dull and not very well-structured (and also written in Lawyerese), but the subject matter is more important (besides, the parts that aren't dull are exceedingly good).

Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • PREFACE
  • INTRODUCTION
  • "PIRACY"
    • CHAPTER ONE: Creators
    • CHAPTER TWO: "Mere Copyists"
    • CHAPTER THREE: Catalogs
    • CHAPTER FOUR: "Pirates"
      • Film
      • Recorded Music
      • Radio
      • Cable TV
    • CHAPTER FIVE: "Piracy"
      • Piracy I
      • Piracy II
  • "PROPERTY"
    • CHAPTER SIX: Founders
    • CHAPTER SEVEN: Recorders
    • CHAPTER EIGHT: Transformers
    • CHAPTER NINE: Collectors
    • CHAPTER TEN: "Property"
      • Why Hollywood Is Right
      • Beginnings
      • Law: Duration
      • Law: Scope
      • Law and Architecture: Reach
      • Architecture and Law: Force
      • Market: Concentration
      • Together
  • PUZZLES
    • CHAPTER ELEVEN: Chimera
    • CHAPTER TWELVE: Harms
      • Constraining Creators
      • Constraining Innovators
      • Corrupting Citizens
  • BALANCES
    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Eldred
    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Eldred II
  • CONCLUSION
  • AFTERWORD
    • Us, Now
      • Rebuilding Freedoms Previously Presumed: Examples
      • Rebuilding Free Culture: One Idea
    • Them, Soon
      • 1. More Formalities
        • Registration and Renewal
        • Marking
      • 2. Shorter Terms
      • 3. Free Use Vs. Fair Use
      • 4. Liberate the Music—Again
      • 5. Fire Lots of Lawyers
  • NOTES
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  • INDEX
Full title Fremtiden [permalink]
Translated title The Future
Language Norwegian
Author Eirik Newth (author)
Category Science
Publication year 1999
Pages 254
Synopsis

This is a book about the immediate human future; its perils, its hopes, its possible solutions, its possible unfoldings.

Review

Like Asimov's Counting the Eons, this is an excellent book about the future of the world, but unlike Counting the Eons, the meat of Fremtiden limits itself to only a few millennia into the future; the beginning and ultimate fate of the Universe are discussed, but with far less detail than Counting the Eons and with far more emphasis put on the future of the human species and how it can survive (or become extinct). Especially eerie, I think, is the chapter discussing space lifts to geostationary space stations 36 000 kilometers above the Earth's surface. Reading about that gave me the same fuzzy feelings as seeing the space walk between the spaceships Alexei Leonov and the Discovery over Jupiter in 2010: The Year We Made Contact did. I mean, just imagine that! The book unfortunately contains a lot of typos, but I actually forgive him for that; the book is too interesting to dismiss on that ground.

Full title Fyrsten [permalink]
Original title Il Principe
Translated title The Prince
Language Norwegian
Authors Niccolò Machiavelli (author) and Trond Berg Eriksen (translator)
Publisher Kagge Forlag
Categories Classic and warfare
Publication year 2007
Original publication year 1532
ISBN 978-82-489-0659-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Online version Link
Pages 150
Synopsis

The Prince is the book which made the term "Machiavellian" enter language as meaning someone willing to ignore morality in favor of keeping power. The book is divided into many chapters, each dealing with a different aspect of keeping a prince in power.

Review

As I'm not a prince nor a real student of history, it didn't really speak to me, but it was an interesting read if only for the historical perspective.

Full title The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? [permalink]
Language English
Authors Leon Lederman (author) and Dick Teresi (co-author)
Publisher Mariner Books
Categories Physics and science
Publication year 2006
Original publication year 1993
ISBN 978-0-618-71168-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 434
Synopsis

Details the history of physics from Thales in antiquity up to the present.

Review

The title of the book refers to the Higgs boson, a particle now (at the time of writing, September 2009) being sought by the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) particle accelerator in Geneva. The book does a good job of explaining particle physics, and it's funny, too. The book is a little out-dated in that it refers to the now-cancelled SSC (Superconducting Super Collider) accelerator. There are some very entertaining passages in the book where Leon talks physics with an imaginary Democritus (Democritus of Abdera was the first Greek to suggest that the world was made of atoms), which I immensely enjoyed.

I heartily recommend this book if you want to learn a little bit of particle physics.

Images Back of The God Particle.Spine of The God Particle.Front of The God Particle.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • Dramatis Personae
  • 1 The Invisible Soccer Ball
  • 2 The First Particle Physicist
  • Interlude A: A Tale of Two Cities
  • 3 Looking for the Atom: The Mechanics
  • 4 Still Looking for the Atom: Chemists and Electricians
  • 5 The Naked Atom
  • Interlude B: The Dancing Moo-Shu Masters
  • 6 Accelerators: They Smash Atoms, Don't They?
  • Interlude C: How We Violated Parity in a Weekend ... and Discovered God
  • 7 A-tom!
  • 8 The God Particle at Last
  • 9 Inner Space, Outer Space, and the Time Before Time
  • Acknowledgments
  • A Note on History and Sources
  • Index
Full title The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Bantam Books
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 2009
ISBN 978-0-593-06173-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 470
Synopsis

A book about the evidence for evolution.

The first chapter begins by inviting the reader to imagine that they're a teacher of Roman history, and that they have to waste their time with a rearguard defense against people who try to persuade your pupils that there never was a Roman empire (which is akin to how biologists today have to spend their time).

The rest of the book is devoted to laying out the actual evidence for evolution, while debunking some claims against it (for instance, that there are missing links, which is simply based on a Victorian misunderstanding). I found the chapters dealing with radiometric dating and dendrochronology especially enlightening.

The last chapter takes the last paragraph of Darwin's On the Origin of Species and unpacks and explains it, with each sentence being a sub-heading.

Review

Dawkins says in the book that he wrote this book, a book about the evidence for evolution, because none of his other books explicitly lay this out (they only assume evolution is true). In contrast, this book lays it all out, in meticulous detail.

It's a relatively light read, but as with most books of this kind, you have to pay close attention when reading, or you might miss important points. I definitely recommend it.

Images Back flap of The Greatest Show on Earth.Back of The Greatest Show on Earth.Spine of The Greatest Show on Earth.Front of The Greatest Show on Earth.Front flap of The Greatest Show on Earth.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1 Only a theory?
  • Chapter 2 Dogs, cows and cabbages
  • Chapter 3 The primrose path to macro-evolution
  • Chapter 4 Silence and slow time
  • Chapter 5 Before our very eyes
  • Chapter 6 Missing link? What do you mean, 'missing'?
  • Chapter 7 Missing persons? Missing no longer
  • Chapter 8 You did it yourself in nine months
  • Chapter 9 The ark of the continents
  • Chapter 10 The tree of cousinship
  • Chapter 11 History written all over us
  • Chapter 12 Arms races and 'evolutionary theodicy'
  • Chapter 13 There is grandeur in this view of life
  • Appendix: The history-deniers
  • Notes
  • Bibliography and further reading
  • Picture acknowledgements
  • Index
Full title The Happy Atheist [permalink]
Language English
Author P. Z. Myers (author)
Publisher Pantheon Books
Categories Religion and skepticism
Publication year 2013
ISBN 978-0-307-37934-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 190
Synopsis

The Happy Atheist is Myers' first book. Readers familiar with his blog Pharyngula will know what to expect. The book deals with religion and atheism from a lot of different angles, and in essence it's a popular book written for a popular audience, using popular arguments. This is not to say that the book is simplistic, just that it isn't scholarly. If you want a preview of the book, read his essay "Planet of the Hats", which in the book is the chapter called "About the Author".

Review

I half-expected the book (having read Myers' blog) to be much more angry than it is. In fact it's a very funny, lively, and readable book, and at no point was I bored. (In fact, I had trouble putting it down. I didn't read it in one sitting, but two.)

Images Back flap of The Happy Atheist.Back of The Happy Atheist.Spine of The Happy Atheist.Front of The Happy Atheist.Front flap of The Happy Atheist.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Morning in the Midwest
  • About the Author
  • The Joke
  • The Great Desecration
  • Get a Job
  • It's So Easy to Be Outraged!
  • I Am Not a Spoiled Child Having a Temper Tantrum
  • The Proper Fate for a Holy Book
  • Ask but Don't Tell
  • Dirty Words
  • The Top Ten Reasons Religion Is Like Pornography
  • The Purpose-Free Life
  • Happy Easter!
  • Afterlife? What Afterlife?
  • Soulless!
  • What Dreadful Price Must We Pay to Be Atheists?
  • Imagine No Heaven
  • Daughters of eve
  • Prometheus's Sin
  • So Alone
  • One Nation Free of Gods
  • An Embryo Is Not a Person
  • The Courtier's Reply
  • The Big Pink Guy in the Sky
  • The Karen Armstrong Diet
  • God's Little Crisis of Confidence
  • Laugher as a Strategy for Diminishing Religion
  • We're Happier out of a Straitjacket than in One
  • Marketing Godless Science
  • "Science Is What We Do to Keep from Lying to Ourselves"
  • Our Brains Are Full of Contradictions
  • Ken Miller, Poster Child for Compatibility
  • Religion Fails as a Source of Knowledge
  • Science as a Lever to Move the World
  • The Active Hand
  • The Proper Reverence Due Those Who Have Gone Before
  • Niobrara
  • We Stand Awed at the Heights Our People Have Achieved
  • Acknowledgments
Full title Hercolubus or Red Planet [permalink]
Original title Hercólubus o Planeta Rojo
Language English
Author V. M. Rabolú (author)
Publisher A. Prats Editor
Category Miscellaneous
Pages 52
Synopsis

The author claims that a planet, Hercolubus, is headed for Earth, and that this is something scientists deny. The author further claims that nothing we do can stop it.

Review

What can I say? I read it on a bus trip because I was bored, and I can't remember where I got the book. I can't recommend it. If you're interested, however, you might find out more about it online.

Images Back of Hercolubus or Red Planet.Spine of Hercolubus or Red Planet.Front of Hercolubus or Red Planet.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • Hercolubus or Red Planet
  • Nuclear Tests and the Ocean
  • Extraterrestrials
  • Life on Venus
  • Life on Mars
  • Interplanetary Spaceships
  • Death
  • Astral Projection
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Dear Reader
Full title The Human Body: Its Structure and Operation [permalink]
Language English
Authors Isaac Asimov (author) and Anthony Ravielli (illustrator)
Publisher Signet Books
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 1963
ISBN 978-0451617743 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 309
Synopsis

Goes through the human body, from head to torso, muscles to blood, skin to genitalia, explaining in good detail how it all works.

Review

As always, it's written in clear prose, and is easily accessible. If you have a moderate interest in human anatomy, this is the book for you.

Images Back of The Human Body.Spine of The Human Body.Front of The Human Body.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • 1 Our Place
    • Distinctions
    • The Phyla
    • The Development of Phyla
    • The Chordates
    • The Vertebrates
  • 2 Our Head and Torso
    • The Vertebral Column
    • The Vertebrae and Ribs
    • The Skull
    • The Teeth
  • 3 Our Limbs and Joints
    • The Arms
    • The Legs
    • Cells
    • Bone Structure
    • Tooth Structure
    • Bone Movement
  • 4 Our Muscles
    • Living Motion
    • Muscle Contraction
    • Striated Muscle
    • Tendons
    • Muscles in Action
    • Some Individual Muscles
  • 5 Our Lungs
    • The Entrance of Oxygen
    • The Nose and Throat
    • The Voice
    • The Bronchial Tree
    • Breathing
  • 6 Our Heart and Arteries
    • The Inner Fluid
    • The Circulation
    • The Heartbeat
    • Blood Pressure
  • 7 Our Blood
    • The Liquid Tissue
    • The Erythrocyte
    • Anemia
    • Leukocytes and Thrombocytes
    • Lymph
  • 8 Our Intestines
    • Food
    • The Mouth
    • The Stomach
    • The Pancreas and Liver
    • Absorption
    • The Colon
  • 9 Our Kidneys
    • Carbon Dioxide and Water
    • The Excretory System
    • Urine
  • 10 Our Skin
    • Scales and Epidermis
    • Perspiration
    • Hair
  • 11 Our Genitals
    • Reproduction
    • The Egg
    • The Placenta
    • The Human Female
    • The Human Male
  • Postscript: Our Longevity
  • Index
Full title The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits [permalink]
Language English
Authors Lewis Carroll (author) and Mervyn Peake (illustrator)
Publisher Lighthouse Books
Categories Nonsense and poetry
Publication year 1948
Original publication year 1876
Pages 46
Synopsis

A group of people (a Bellman, a Boots, a Bonnet-maker, a Barrister, a Broker, a Billiard-marker, a Banker, a Butcher, a Baker, and a Beaver) leave on a ship to hunt the eponymous snark, a strange creature which, if it is of the Boojum type, will make you vanish and never be seen from again!

Review

A very short, humorous, and entertaining absurd poem; the helmsman's brought a blank map (much easier to read, you see), the Baker forgets his name and luggage, the captain gives contradictory navigation orders, etc. Some words are just made up, like Snark, Boojum, and fromious. The general feel of the poem is of playful punning and light-hearted rhymes. I definitely recommend it, though since it's so short, there's not much to say about it.

Images Back of The Hunting of the Snark.Spine of The Hunting of the Snark.Front of The Hunting of the Snark.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • Fit the First: The Landing
  • Fit the Second: The Bellman's Speech
  • Fit the Third: The Baker's Tale
  • Fit the Fourth: The Hunting
  • Fit the Fifth: The Beaver's Lesson
  • Fit the Sixth: The Barrister's Dream
  • Fit the Seventh: The Banker's Fate
  • Fit the Eigth: The Vanishing
Full title I. Asimov: A Memoir [permalink]
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Publisher Bantam Books
Category Autobiography
Publication year 1995
Original publication year 1994
ISBN 0-553-56997-X [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 578
Synopsis

This is Asimov's third and last autobiography, started in early 1990 after a complicated operation, and finished in May 1990 (Asimov died in 1992). His two previous autobiographies are called In Memory Yet Green and In Joy Still Felt, and their titles, Asimov tells in this book, are from a poem by Asimov himself:

"In memory yet green, in joy still felt
The scenes of life rise sharply into view.
We triumph; Life's disasters are undealt,
And while all else is old, the world is new."

From this, Asimov wanted to call this third volume The Scenes of Life, but sadly that title didn't survive editorial tampering.

Review

This is a more or less chronological account of Asimov's life, arranged in 166 smallish chapters, each dealing with a different subject or person (Asimov had a lot of well-known friends), and everything is thoroughly entertaining. If you pick up this book, I promise you'll have a hard time putting it down.

Images Back of I. Asimov.Spine of I. Asimov.Front of I. Asimov.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  • 1. Infant Prodigy?
  • 2. My Father
  • 3. My Mother
  • 4. Marcia
  • 5. Religion
  • 6. My Name
  • 7. Anti-Semitism
  • 8. Library
  • 9. Bookworm
  • 10. School
  • 11. Growing Up
  • 12. Long Hours
  • 13. Pulp Fiction
  • 14. Science Fiction
  • 15. Beginning to Write
  • 16. Humiliation
  • 17. Failure
  • 18. The Futurians
  • 19. Frederik Pohl
  • 20. Cyril M. Kornbluth
  • 21. Donald Allen Wollheim
  • 22. Early Sales
  • 23. John Wood Campbell, Jr.
  • 24. Robert Anson Heinlein
  • 25. Lyon Sprague de Camp
  • 26. Clifford Donald Simak
  • 27. Jack Williamson
  • 28. Lester del Rey
  • 29. Theodore Sturgeon
  • 30. Graduate School
  • 31. Women
  • 32. Heartbreak
  • 33. "Nightfall"
  • 34. As World War II Begins
  • 35. Master of Arts
  • 36. Pearl Harbor
  • 37. Marriage and Problems
  • 38. In-Laws
  • 39. NAES
  • 40. Life at War's End
  • 41. Games
  • 42. Acrophobia
  • 43. Claustrophobia
  • 44. Ph.D. and Public Speaking
  • 45. Postdoctorate
  • 46. Job Hunting
  • 47. The Big Three
  • 48. Arthur Charles Clarke
  • 49. More Family
  • 50. First Novel
  • 51. New Job at Last
  • 52. Doubleday
  • 53. Gnome Press
  • 54. Boston University School of Medicine
  • 55. Scientific Papers
  • 56. Novels
  • 57. Nonfiction
  • 58. Children
  • 59. David
  • 60. Robyn
  • 61. Off the Cuff
  • 62. Horace Leonard Gold
  • 63. Country Living
  • 64. Automobile
  • 65. Fired!
  • 66. Prolificity
  • 67. Writer's Problems
  • 68. Critics
  • 69. Humor
  • 70. Literary Sex and Censorship
  • 71. Doomsday
  • 72. Style
  • 73. Letters
  • 74. Plagiarism
  • 75. Science Fiction Conventions
  • 76. Anthony Boucher
  • 77. Randall Garrett
  • 78. Harlan Ellison
  • 79. Hal Clement
  • 80. Ben Nova
  • 81. Over My Head
  • 82. Farewell to Science Fiction
  • 83. The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • 84. Janet
  • 85. Mystery Novels
  • 86. Lawrence P. Ashmead
  • 87. Overweight
  • 88. More Conventions
  • 89. Guide to Science
  • 90. Indexes
  • 91. Titles
  • 92. Essay Collections
  • 93. Histories
  • 94. Reference Library
  • 95. Boston University Collection
  • 96. Anthologies
  • 97. Headnotes
  • 98. My Own Hugos
  • 99. Walker & Company
  • 100. Failures
  • 101. Teenagers
  • 102. Al Capp
  • 103. Oases
  • 104. Judy-Lynn del Rey
  • 105. The Bible
  • 106. Hundredth Book
  • 107. Death
  • 108. Life After Death
  • 109. Divorce
  • 110. Second Marriage
  • 111. Guide to Shakespeare
  • 112. Annotations
  • 113. New In-Laws
  • 114. Hospitalizations
  • 115. Cruises
  • 116. Janet's Books
  • 117. Hollywood
  • 118. Star Trek Conventions
  • 119. Short Mysteries
  • 120. Trap Door Spiders
  • 121. Mensa
  • 122. The Dutch Treat Club
  • 123. The Baker Street Irregulars
  • 124. The Gilbert & Sullivan Society
  • 125. Other Clubs
  • 126. American Way
  • 127. Rensselaerville Institute
  • 128. Mohonk Mountain House
  • 129. Travel
  • 130. Foreign Travel
  • 131. Martin Harry Greenberg
  • 132. Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine
  • 133. Autobiography
  • 134. Heart Attack
  • 135. Crown Publishers
  • 136. Simon & Schuster
  • 137. Marginal Items
  • 138. Nightfall, Inc.
  • 139. Hugh Downs
  • 140. Best-seller
  • 141. Out of the Past
  • 142. Word Processor
  • 143. Police
  • 144. Heinz Pagels
  • 145. New Robot Novels
  • 146. Robyn Again
  • 147. Triple Bypass
  • 148. Azazel
  • 149. Fantastic Voyage II
  • 150. Limousines
  • 151. Humanists
  • 152. Senior Citizen
  • 153. More About Doubleday
  • 154. Interviews
  • 155. Honors
  • 156. Russian Relatives
  • 157. Grand Master
  • 158. Children's Books
  • 159. Recent Novels
  • 160. Back to Nonfiction
  • 161. Robert Silverberg
  • 162. Gathering Shadows
  • 163. Threescore Years and Ten
  • 164. Hospital
  • 165. New Autobiography
  • 166. New Life
  • Epilogue, by Janet Asimov
  • Catalogue of Books by Isaac Asimov
Full title Imperial Earth [permalink]
Language English
Author Arthur C. Clarke (author)
Publisher Vista
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 1997
Original publication year 1975
ISBN 0-575-60158-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 287
Synopsis

The year is 2276, and the furthest world colonized by mankind is Titan, the largest moon of Saturn (and one of the largest in the Solar System). Titan is home to a quarter of a million people, selected for intelligence, endurance, and any other characteristic necessary for such a mission. Among them is a powerful political trio, Malcolm Makenzie (the "grandfather"), Colin Makenzie (the "father"), and Duncan Makenzie (the "son"), Colin being a clone of Malcolm, and Duncan in turn being a clone of Colin. Duncan is sent as an emissary to Earth for the fourth Centennial of the United States. The bulk of the novel follows Duncan on his adventures on Earth.

Review

A good novel, but not excellent; the end of the book doesn't tie up enough loose ends, and the book is more about politics than science fiction. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I felt sort of cheated.

I'll still recommend it. There's a wonderful scene where Duncan's grandmother presents him with a set of pentominoes made of Titanite (a crystal native to Titan) and a ten-by-six box into which to fit the pieces (see the Wikipedia article for solutions).

Images Back of Imperial Earth.Spine of Imperial Earth.Front of Imperial Earth.
Structure [Toggle visibility]

I — TITAN

  • 1 A Shriek in the Night
  • 2 Dynasty
  • 3 Invitation to a Centennial
  • 4 The Red Moon
  • 5 The Politics of Time and Space
  • 6 By the Bonny, Bonny Banks of Loch Hellbrew
  • 7 A Cross of Titanite
  • 8 Children of the Corridors
  • 9 The Fatal Gift
  • 10 World's End

II — TRANSIT

  • 11 Sirius
  • 12 Last Words
  • 13 The Longest Voyage
  • 14 Songs of Empire
  • 15 At the Node
  • 16 Port Van Allen

III — TERRA

  • 17 Washington, D.C.
  • 18 Embassy
  • 19 Mount Vernon
  • 20 The Taste of Honey
  • 21 Calindy
  • 22 The Ghost from the Grand Banks
  • 23 Akhenaten and Cleopatra
  • 24 Party Games
  • 25 The Rivals
  • 26 The Island of Dr Mohammed
  • 27 Golden Reef
  • 28 Sleuth
  • 29 Star Day
  • 30 A Message from Titan
  • 31 The Eye of Allah
  • 32 Meeting at Cyclops
  • 33 The Listeners
  • 34 Business and Desire
  • 35 Argus Panoptes
  • 36 Independence Day
  • 37 The Mirror of the Sea

IV — TITAN

  • 38 Homecoming
  • Acknowledgements and Notes
Full title Infidel: My Life [permalink]
Original title Mijn Vrijheid
Language English
Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali (author)
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Categories Autobiography and religion
Publication year 2007
Original publication year 2006
ISBN 978-1-4165-2624-7 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 353
Synopsis

The first part of the book is all about Ayaan's upbringing in Somalia (and her later emigrations elsewhere), while the latter part is about her career in the Netherlands and beyond.

Review

Ayaan describes her life in such vivid detail that it's impossible not to be drawn in by her writing. I found the first part of the book, if not boring, then at least not gripping, but by the latter part of the book, I was totally absorbed. She writes with intelligence and wit, and hers is a most amazing story. Highly recommended reading.

Images Back of Infidel.Spine of Infidel.Front of Infidel.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Foreword by Christopher Hitchens
  • Introduction

Part I: My Childhood

  • Chapter 1: Bloodlines
  • Chapter 2: Under the Talal Tree
  • Chapter 3: Playing Tag in Allah's Palace
  • Chapter 4: Weeping Orphans and Widowed Wives
  • Chapter 5: Secret Rendezvous, Sex, and the Scent of Sukumawiki
  • Chapter 6: Doubt and Defiance
  • Chapter 7: Disillusion and Deceit
  • Chapter 8: Refugees
  • Chapter 9: Abeh

Part II: My Freedom

  • Chapter 10: Running Away
  • Chapter 11: A Trial by the Elders
  • Chapter 12: Haweya
  • Chapter 13: Leiden
  • Chapter 14: Leaving God
  • Chapter 15: Threats
  • Chapter 16: Politics
  • Chapter 17: The Murder of Theo
  • Epilogue: The Letter of the Law
  • Acknowledgments
Full title The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha [permalink]
Original title El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha
Language English
Authors Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (author) and John Ormsby (translator)
Publisher [e-book: Project Gutenberg]
Categories Novel, parody and satire
Publication year 2004
Original publication year 1605
Synopsis

Part 1

Alonso Quixano is a hidalgo (noble-born gentleman) from La Mancha who spends his time devouring popular romance novels (romance novels back then meant books of chivalry, unlike today). The novel opens with his becoming so obsessed with them that he starts deluding himself into thinking he's a knight-errant, a vagrant knight in shining armor slaying dragons, rescuing princesses, righting wrongs, helping the helpless, and, of course, fighting giants disguised as windmills.

Despite his being well-spoken, and in every sense rational, about this one point of being an old-fashioned knight he is stark raving mad; Don Quixote manages to rationalize (explain away) all his delusions, most of the time relying on a malevolent sage intent on enchanting everything from windmills (giants) to inns (castles) to a barber's water basin (the Helmet of Mambrino).

Very quickly (and later in the novel, often) Don Quixote gets into trouble. He is round and about seeking adventure when he comes upon some traders who are making fun of his beloved Dulcinea del Toboso. Not taking that lightly he engages them in combat, and is soundly beaten. A humble farmer from Quixote's home town, Sancho Panza, takes care of him and after being promised an island to rule over once they are done adventuring, Panza joins Quixote as his trusted squire, always being the sense to Quixote's nonsense.

This is an exceedingly funny novel. There are some scattered bits of seriousness here and there (even a novella quoted — or rather told by one of the characters — mostly in its entirety, taking up three chapters) but whenever Don Quixote re-enters the scene, expect hilarity to ensue.

Part 2

Coming...

Review

Part 1

Coming...

Part 2

Coming...

Full title Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor: 640 Jokes, Anecdotes, and Limericks, Complete with Notes on How to Tell Them [permalink]
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Categories Anthology and humor
Publication year 1971
ISBN 978-0-395-57226-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 420
Synopsis

As advertised on the front cover, the book contains 640 jokes, anecdotes, and limericks, complete with notes on how to tell them. The jokes are sorted into eleven chapters (Anticlimax, Shaggy Dog, Paradox, Put-down, Word Play, Tables Turned, Jewish, Ethnic, Religion, Marriage, and Bawdy), more or less successfully (apparently it's hard to classify jokes).

Review

Most of the jokes are pretty good, and some stand out. Here's a little selection:

Science has a language of its own which sometimes puzzles laymen. The word "obvious" is a case in point.

Thus a professor of physics, deriving some profound point of theory for the class, scribbled an equation on the board and said, "From this, it is obvious that we can proceed to write the following relationship —" and he scribbled a second equation on the board.

Then he paused. He stared hard at the two equations and said, "Wait a while. I may be wrong —"

He sat down, seized a pad and started to write furiously. He paused for thought, crossed out what he had written, and began over. In this fashion, half an hour passed while the class held its breath and sat in absolute silence.

Finally, the professor rose with an air of satisfaction and said, "Yes, I was right in the first place. It is obvious that the second equation follows from the first."

Two gentlemen, both hard of hearing and strangers to each other, were about to ride the London Underground. One of them, peering at the station they were entering, said, "Pardon me, sir, but is this Wembley?"

"No," said the other, "Thursday."

"No, thank you," said the first, "I've already had my little drink."

The Latin professor arrived home in a state of utter confusion, and much the worse for wear. His jacket was torn, his trousers muddy, his hat a battered ruin, his eyeglasses bent askew.

His wife ran to him, startled. "Septimus," she cried, "whatever has happened to you?"

"Why, my dear," said the professor, seating himself carefully, "I scarcely know. I was passing the corner of Second and Main when, without provocation of any sort on my part, I was suddenly assaulted by two hoodla."

The curator of one zoo was shipping several animals to another zoo, and wrote an accompanying letter which said in part, "Included are the two mongeese you asked for."

The curator paused. "Mongeese" looked funny.

He tore up the letter and tried again, saying, "Included are the two mongooses you asked for."

That looked funny, too.

After long thought, the curator began a third time and now completed it without trouble. He wrote in part, "Included is the mongoose which you requested. Included is also the other mongoose which you also requested."

Tell me why the stars do shine;
Tell me why the ivy twines;
Tell me why the skies are blue;
And I will tell you why I love you.

Nuclear fusion makes the stars to shine;
Tropisms make the ivy twine;
Rayleigh scattering makes skies so blue;
Testicular hormones is why I love you.

I highly recommend the book.

Images Back of Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor.Spine of Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor.Front of Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  • I Anticlimax
  • II Shaggy Dog
  • III Paradox
  • IV Put-Down
  • V Word Play
  • VI Tables Turned
  • VII Jewish
  • VIII Ethnic
  • IX Religion
  • X Marriage
  • XI Bawdy
  • Index
Full title Kilden [permalink]
Alternative title Brevet om fiskeren Markus
Translated title The Source; or, The Letter Concerning Mark the Fisherman
Language Norwegian
Author Gabriel Scott (author)
Publisher Aschehoug
Category Novel
Publication year 2009
Original publication year 1918
ISBN 978-82-03-19498-6 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 166
Synopsis

Follows the life of a simple fisherman named Mark, interspersed with his thoughts and commentaries.

Review

Even though the story is simple, it's very gripping. Gabriel Scott has a very engaging way of writing, and is especially good at describing situations.

Images Back of Kilden.Spine of Kilden.Front of Kilden.
Full title Kunstformen der Natur [permalink]
Translated title Art Forms of Nature
Language English
Author Ernst Haeckel (author)
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 1904
Online version Link
Synopsis

A beautifully illustrated book about the various life forms found on our planet.

Review

I wish I could read the original German, but I can't claim to have read the book. Maybe I'll someday find a good translation, but in the mean time, if you too don't read German, enjoy the wondrous images! See Kurt Stüber's wonderful 300 DPI scans, which are simply amazing.

Full title Livingstone: Oppdageren — Forskeren — Misjonæren [permalink]
Original title Livingstone, Trail Blazer for God
Language Norwegian
Authors Leslie Morrill (author) and Madge Morrill (author)
Category Biography
Publication year 1972
Original publication year 1959
ISBN 82-7007-004-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 224
Synopsis

A biography of David Livingstone, written as part novel, part history.

Review

The book gives a good account of the life of Livingstone, from his early years in Scotland to his arrival in Cape Town, South Africa, and his subsequent journey across Africa. However, the book I read is a Norwegian translation of the original, and it's evident that the translator made a poor job of it (never mind the simple spelling errors; if you're bilingual like me and read this book, you'll see that a lot of passages look like direct translations, instead of having been adapted to the language). The most damning part of the translation job is the way "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" is rendered. The accepted translation to Norwegian is "Dr. Livingstone, formoder jeg?". This book renders it "Dr. Livingstone, hvis jeg ikke tar feil?" which means "Dr. Livingstone, if I'm not mistaken?"

I might get my hands on the original English version, but until then, the only point on which I can recommend the book is that it's a nice, concise history of the man's life.

Images Back of Livingstone.Spine of Livingstone.Front of Livingstone.
Full title Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth [permalink]
Language English
Authors Apostolos Doxiadis (author), Christos H. Papadimitriou (author), Alecos Papadatos (illustrator) and Annie Di Donna (illustrator)
Publisher Bloomsbury
Categories Graphic novel and logic
Publication year 2009
ISBN 978-1-59691-452-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 347
Synopsis

A (very fictionalized) account, in comic form, of the life of Bertrand Russell. The book opens with one of the authors explicitly breaking the fourth wall, talking to the reader, and explaining the purpose of the work. The rest of the book follows an old Russell as he's giving a lecture in 1939, three days after Hitler's invasion of Poland, about his journey from childhood to established mathematician. It's this journey that forms the meat of the book.

Review

I really enjoyed this work, but not particularly being a fan of graphic novels, I don't know about the quality. In any event, if you want to learn about the life of Bertrand Russell, the history of logic, and something about the tortured lives of the early logicians (excluding the Greeks, of course), and you don't want to read a text book, this one's for you.

And besides, how often do you see a comic book with a bibliography?

Images Back flap of Logicomix.Back of Logicomix.Spine of Logicomix.Front of Logicomix.Front flap of Logicomix.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Overture
  • 1. Pembroke Lodge
  • 2. The Sorcerer's Apprentice
  • 3. Wanderjahre
  • 4. Paradoxes
  • Entracte
  • 5. Logico-Philosophical Wars
  • 6. Incompleteness
  • Finale
  • Notebook
  • Bibliography
Full title Lying [permalink]
Language English
Authors Annaka Harris (editor) and Sam Harris (author)
Categories Essay, philosophy and psychology
Publication year 2011
Original publication year 2011
Pages 66
Synopsis

Lying is a very short book about the implications and morality of lying. In short, Harris argues (successfully, in my opinion) that one should never lie, even about the smallest things, if what you're trying to do is build good relationships with people. He even goes into border cases, such as a wife asking her husband if she looks good in a dress (one can answer the sub-text of a question, not necessarily the literal meaning of it) and someone hiding a Jew when a Nazi comes a-knockin' on the door (in that case, you're not really trying to build a lasting relationship with the person).

Review

Sam Harris is a really talented writer, and reading his material is never boring. This book is no exception, and the fact that it's as short as it is, is a point in its favor. It's the perfect length when all you're doing is making an argument, not laying out in detail a theory. (I wish more writers would be similarly inspired to brevity.)

Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • What Is a Lie?
  • The Mirror of Honesty
  • Two Types of Lies
  • White Lies
  • Trust
  • Faint Praise
  • Secrets
  • Lies in Extremis
  • Mental Accounting
  • Integrity
  • Big Lies
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgments
Full title The Man in the High Castle [permalink]
Language English
Author Philip K. Dick (author)
Publisher Vintage Books
Categories Alternate history and science fiction
Publication year 1992
Original publication year 1962
ISBN 0-679-74067-8 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 259
Synopsis

The Axis powers of Japan and Germany win WWII and divide the world among themselves. The story follows a small number of characters in this alternate history. The title comes from a fictitious novel called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, written by Hawthorne Abendsen. Grasshopper is about an alternate history (from the novel's point of view) where the Allied forces won WWII. Being a heretical notion, Abendsen perpetuates a myth that he lives in a fortified house (castle); hence the title.

Review

It was a riveting read, but I was left wondering what the point of the novel was.

Images Back of The Man in the High Castle.Spine of The Man in the High Castle.Front of The Man in the High Castle.
Full title The Martian Chronicles [permalink]
Language English
Author Ray Bradbury (author)
Publisher William Morrow
Categories Anthology, science fiction and short stories
Publication year 2006
Original publication year 1950
ISBN 978-0-380-97383-5 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 268
Synopsis

A collection of short stories woven together into a coherent whole. The stories concern Mars, and humanity's efforts to colonize it.

Review

I really enjoyed all the "chapters" (short stories), but "Usher II" really stood out, being an homage to E. A. Poe. Definitely recommended.

Images Back flap of The Martian Chronicles.Back of The Martian Chronicles.Spine of The Martian Chronicles.Front of The Martian Chronicles.Front flap of The Martian Chronicles.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • January 2030: Rocket Summer
  • February 2030: Ylla
  • August 2030: The Summer Night
  • August 2030: The Earth Men
  • March 2031: The Taxpayer
  • April 2031: The Third Expedition
  • June 2032: —And The Moon Be Still As Bright
  • August 2032: The Settlers
  • December 2032: The Green Morning
  • February 2033: The Locusts
  • August 2033: Night Meeting
  • October 2033: The Shore
  • November 2033: The Fire Balloons
  • February 2034: Interim
  • April 2034: The Musicians
  • May 2034: The Wilderness
  • 2035-2036: The Naming of Names
  • April 2036: Usher II
  • August 2036: The Old Ones
  • September 2036: The Martian
  • November 2036: The Luggage Store
  • November 2036: The Off Season
  • November 2036: The Watchers
  • December 2036: The Silent Towns
  • April 2057: The Long Years
  • August 2057: There Will Come Soft Rains
  • October 2057: The Million-Year Picnic
Full title Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions [permalink]
Language English
Author Martin Gardner (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Mathematics and puzzle
Publication year 1965
Original publication year 1959
ISBN 0-14-02-0713-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 154
Synopsis

Based on articles written for Scientific American, every chapter has an addendum, explaining further points or elaborating new ones, and some chapters have letters from people sent in after the article in question was published.

Review

An awesome book with lots of interesting things. Read the chapter titles in the Structures for a preview.

Images Back of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.Spine of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.Front of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  1. Hexaflexagons
  2. Magic with a Matrix
  3. Nine Problems
  4. Ticktacktoe, or Noughts and Crosses
  5. Probability Paradoxes
  6. The Icosian Game and the Tower of Hanoi
  7. Curious Topological Models
  8. The Game of Hex
  9. Sam Loyd: America's Greatest Puzzlist
  10. Mathematical Card Tricks
  11. Memorizing Numbers
  12. Nine More Problems
  13. Polyominoes
  14. Fallacies
  15. Nim and Tac Tix
  16. Left or Right?
  • References for Further Reading
Full title More Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions [permalink]
Language English
Author Martin Gardner (author)
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Mathematics and puzzle
Publication year 1963
Original publication year 1961
ISBN 0-14-02-0748-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 186
Synopsis

This book is written in the same vein as Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.

Review

I truly loved this book. My favorite chapters are The Five Platonic Solids, Mazes, and Eleusis: The Induction Game.

Images Back of More Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.Spine of More Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.Front of More Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  1. The Five Platonic Solids
  2. Tetraflexagons
  3. Henry Ernest Dudeney: England's Greatest Puzzlist
  4. Digital Roots
  5. Nine Problems
  6. The Soma Cube
  7. Recreational Topology
  8. Phi: The Golden Ratio
  9. The Monkey and the Coconuts
  10. Mazes
  11. Recreational Logic
  12. Magic Squares
  13. James Hugh Riley Shows, Inc.
  14. Nine More Problems
  15. Eleusis: The Induction Game
  16. Origami
  17. Squaring the Square
  18. Mechanical Puzzles
  19. Probability and Ambiguity
  • References for Further Reading
Full title Mortality [permalink]
Language English
Authors Christopher Hitchens (author), Graydon Carter (foreword) and Carol Blue (afterword)
Publisher Twelve
Categories Anthology, autobiography, essay and memoir
Publication year 2012
ISBN 978-1-4555-2347-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 104
Synopsis

Mortality is a very short collection of essays that Hitchens wrote for Vanity Fair about his diagnosis of and living with oesophageal cancer. There are forays into other topics, but the essays mainly concern his living with cancer and all that that implies.

"To the dumb question 'Why me?' the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?"

Review

It's a very short book, but the essays are interesting. If you're familiar with Hitchens' output, then you know what to expect.

Images Back of Mortality.Spine of Mortality.Front of Mortality.
Full title Nightfall [permalink]
Language English
Authors Isaac Asimov (author) and Robert Silverberg (co-author)
Publisher Pan Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 1991
Original publication year 1990
ISBN 0-330-32096-3 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 352
Synopsis

Follows the planet Kalgash, a planet with perpetual daylight due to having six suns, through a devastating astronomical event that only occurs every 2049 years (termed a Year of Godliness by the book's religious fanatics, the Apostles of Flame). The Apostles of Flame propagate the idea that on a precise day (Theptar the 19th, as it happens), there will be total Darkness, everyone will go mad, and the Stars will shoot fires from the skies, all as a vengeance from the gods for the wicked and sinful ways of the planet's inhabitants. A band of scientists, initially opposed to the Apostles' ideas, eventually realize, through new evidence (archaeological and astronomical), that some of what the Apostles propagate is true. Unfortunately, the population at large believes neither the Apostles nor the scientists.

Review

Nightfall was originally a short story and people generally prefer the short story version because the book just draws it out. I will have to read the short story before I can draw a proper verdict, but I'll tentatively say, "read this book."

Images Back of Nightfall.Spine of Nightfall.Front of Nightfall.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • To The Reader
  • One: Twilight
  • Two: Nightfall
  • Three: Daybreak
Full title Odd and the Frost Giants [permalink]
Language English
Author Neil Gaiman (author)
Publisher Bloomsbury
Categories Fantasy and novel
Publication year 2010
Original publication year 2008
ISBN 978-0-7475-9811-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 127
Synopsis

A pretty short book about a boy's adventures in Asgard (land of the Gods in Norse mythology).

Review

The story is short, but thoroughly enjoyable. There's not much more to say since there's so little content.

Images Back flap of Odd and the Frost Giants.Back of Odd and the Frost Giants.Spine of Odd and the Frost Giants.Front of Odd and the Frost Giants.Front flap of Odd and the Frost Giants.
Full title The Old Man and the Sea [permalink]
Language English
Author Ernest Hemingway (author)
Publisher Arrow Books
Categories Adventure and novel
Publication year 2004
Original publication year 1952
ISBN 978-0-09-990840-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 99
Synopsis

The story of an old man setting out to sea, and his struggle when he catches the biggest fish of his life.

Review

This is a pretty short book, and a pleasant read it is. It's about an old fisherman in Havana, Santiago, whose luck has run out (he hasn't caught a fish in several months). He has a young apprentice who is then forbidden by his parents to fish with Santiago, because of his unluckiness. The old man sets off in his skiff alone, far out in the sea, and catches a marlin, the biggest fish he's ever caught. The fish is tenacious, and the fight with him lasts for two days.

If you want to know whether or not the old man succeeds, read the book. I definitely recommend it.

Images Back of The Old Man and the Sea.Spine of The Old Man and the Sea.Front of The Old Man and the Sea.
Full title The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Oxford University Press
Categories Anthology and science
Publication year 2008
Pages 395
Synopsis

This is an anthology book of post-1900 science writings (essays, anecdotes, poetry) written by working scientists, as opposed to written by non-scientists, and it is supremely excellent. Richard Dawkins has collected them, sorted them, and written introductions to each of them, which put them in context.

Review

I liked this book so much that I transcribed a few of these and put them on my Essays page ("On Being the Right Size", "One Self", an extract from Man in the Universe, "Seven Wonders", and an extract from The Periodic Table); you could read those if you want a short taste of what the book is about. I strongly recommend this book.

Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Featured Writers and Extracts
  • Introduction

PART I
What Scientists Study

  • James Jeans from The Mysterious Universe
  • Martin Rees from Just Six Numbers
  • Peter Atkins from Creation Revisited
  • Helena Cronin from The Ant and the Peacock
  • R. A. Fisher from The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection
  • Theodosius Dobzhansky from Mankind Evolving
  • G. C. Williams from Adaptation and Natural Selection
  • Francis Crick from Life Itself
  • Matt Ridley from Genome
  • Sydney Brenner Theoretical Biology in the Third Millennium
  • Steve Jones from The Language of the Genes
  • J. B. S. Haldane from On Being the Right Size
  • Mark Ridley from The Explanation of Organic Diversity
  • John Maynard Smith The Importance of the Nervous System in the Evolution of Animal Flight
  • Fred Hoyle from Man in the Universe
  • D'Arcy Thompson from On Growth and Form
  • G. G. Simpson from The Meaning of Evolution
  • Richard Fortey from Trilobite!
  • Colin Blakemore from The Mind Machine
  • Richard Gregory from Mirrors In Mind
  • Nicholas Humphrey One Self: A Meditation on the Unity of Consciousness
  • Steven Pinker from The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works
  • Jared Diamond from The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee
  • David Lack from The Life of the Robin
  • Niko Tinbergen from Curious Naturalists
  • Robert Trivers from Social Evolution
  • Alister Hardy from The Open Sea
  • Rachel Carson from The Sea Around Us
  • Loren Eiseley from How Flowers Changed the World
  • Edward O. Wilson from The Diversity of Life

PART II
Who Scientists Are

  • Arthur Eddington from The Expanding Universe
  • C. P. Snow from the Foreword to G. H. Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology
  • Freeman Dyson from Disturbing the Universe
  • J. Robert Oppenheimer from War and the Nations
  • Max F. Perutz A Passion for Crystals
  • Barbara and George Gamow Said Ryle to Hoyle
  • J. B. S. Haldane Cancer's a Funny Thing
  • Jacob Bronowski from The Identity of Man
  • Peter Medawar from Science and Literature, Darwin's Illness, The Phenomenon of Man, the postscript to Lucky Jim, and D'Arcy Thompson and Growth and Form
  • Jonathan Kingdon from Self-Made Man
  • Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin from Origins Reconsidered
  • Donald C. Johanson and Maitland A. Edey from Lucy
  • Stephen Jay Gould Worm for a Century, and all Seasons
  • John Tyler Bonner from Life Cycles
  • Oliver Sacks from Uncle Tungsten
  • Lewis Thomas Seven Wonders
  • James Watson from Avoid Boring People
  • Francis Crick from What Mad Pursuit
  • Lewis Wolpert from The Unnatural Nature of Science
  • Julian Huxley from Essays of a Biologist
  • Albert Einstein Religion and Science
  • Carl Sagan from The Demon-Haunted World

PART III
What Scientists Think

  • Richard Feynman from The Character of Physical Law
  • Erwin Schrödinger from What is Life?
  • Daniel Dennett from Darwin's Dangerous Idea and Consciousness Explained
  • Ernst Mayr from The Growth of Biological Thought
  • Garrett Hardin from The Tragedy of the Commons
  • W. D. Hamilton from Geometry For the Selfish Herd and Narrow Roads of Geneland
  • Per Bak from How Nature Works
  • Martin Gardner The Fantastic Combinations of John Conway's New Solitaire Game 'Life'
  • Lancelot Hogben from Mathematics for the Million
  • Ian Stewart from The Miraculous Jar
  • Claude E. Shannon and Warren Weaver from The Mathematical Theory of Communication
  • Alan Turing from Computing Machinery and Intelligence
  • Albert Einstein from What is the Theory of Relativity?
  • George Gamow from Mr. Tompkins
  • Paul Davies from The Goldilocks Enigma
  • Russell Stannard from The Time and Space of Uncle Albert
  • Brian Greene from The Elegant Universe
  • Stephen Hawking from A Brief History of Time

PART IV
What Scientists Delight In

  • S. Chandrasekhar from Truth and Beauty
  • G. H. Hardy from A Mathematician's Apology
  • Steven Weinberg from Dreams of a Final Theory
  • Lee Smolin from The Life of the Cosmos
  • Roger Penrose from The Emperor's New Mind
  • Douglas Hofstadter from Gödel, Escher, Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid
  • John Archibald Wheeler with Kenneth Ford from Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam
  • David Deutsch from The Fabric of Reality
  • Primo Levi from The Periodic Table
  • Richard Fortey from Life: An Unauthorized Biography
  • George Gaylord Simpson from The Meaning of Evolution
  • Loren Eiseley from Little Men and Flying Saucers
  • Carl Sagan from Pale Blue Dot
  • Acknowledgements
  • Index
Full title Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space [permalink]
Language English
Author Carl Sagan (author)
Categories Astronomy and science
Publication year 1994
Pages 188
Synopsis

Pale Blue Dot is about the Earth, humans, our place in the Cosmos, and the Solar System and our exploration of it. The title comes from the eponymous image taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. It tries to convey a sense of how small and fragile the Earth really is (if you want to get a real sense of it, I recommend Celestia), how the Universe really isn't made for us (sulfuric acid on Venus, for instance, or the black vacuum that covers most of the Universe), and how we've traditionally viewed the Universe. A large chunk of the book goes into explaining the exploration of our solar system and the findings we've made. It also advocates that we use the other planets as warnings for what may happen to our own if we spoil it (after all, so far this is the only place we've got).

Review

This is a very engagingly-written account of the history of space flight, as well as a beautifully arranged advocacy of prudence when it comes to dealing with our planet.

Full title The Planiverse: Computer Contact With a Two-Dimensional World [permalink]
Language English
Author A. K. Dewdney (author)
Publisher Copernicus
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 2001
Original publication year 1984
ISBN 0-387-98916-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 246
Synopsis

A group of computer programmers working under a professor discovers that the 2D simulation program they've developed, 2Dworld, is somehow connected with an actual two-dimensional world inhabited by intelligent creatures. They establish contact with Yendred, and through him, they learn a lot about his world.

Review

This book is a sort of unofficial sequel to Abbott's famous Flatland, and it's one hell of a riveting read. I'm having a hard time making up my mind as to which of the unofficial sequels (Ian Stewart's Flatterland and Dionys Burger's Sphereland) are the superior; they're all simply really, really good.

Images Back of The Planiverse.Spine of The Planiverse.Front of The Planiverse.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface to the Millennium Edition
  • 2Dworld
  1. Arde
  2. A House by the Sea
  3. On Fiddib Har
  4. Walking to Is Felblt
  5. City Below Ground
  6. The Trek
  7. The Punizlan
  8. Institute
  9. Traveling on the Wind
  10. High on Dahl Radam
  11. Drabk the Sharak of Okbra
  12. Higher Dimensions
  • Ardean Science and Technology
  • Acknowledgments
Full title Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar...: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes [permalink]
Language English
Authors Daniel Klein and Thomas Cathcart
Publisher Penguin Books
Categories Humor and philosophy
Publication year 2008
Original publication year 2007
ISBN 978-0-14-311387-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 215
Synopsis

The book is divided into ten chapters, each dealing with a different area of philosophy. The chapters explain concepts concerning each area, interspersed with banter and jokes.

Review

As many people have observed, a session of jokes can often illuminate a subject more than hours of discussion can, and this book is an example of that. The book is essentially a string of jokes with banter to connect them and explain the concepts introduced in the jokes. The explanations themselves are light-hearted and full of puns. An example of a joke illustrating the difference between what philosophers call essential and accidental attributes:

"Why is an elephant big, hairy, and wrinkled?"

"Because if he was small, white, and round, he'd be an aspirin."

And another on skepticism and the scientific method (or inductive reasoning, if you will):

A scientist and his wife are out for a drive in the country. The wife says, "Oh look! Those sheep have been shorn."

"Yes," says the scientist. "On this side."

In the section on the philosophy of religion are also jokes, of course, and I found this Jewish one pretty funny:

Two women are sitting on a bench. After a while the first woman says, "Oy!"

The second woman replies, "Oy!"

The first woman says, "All right, enough about the children."

And a final one, on the relativity of time:

A snail was mugged by two turtles. When the police asked him what happened, he said, "I don't know. It all happened so fast."

Go read it if you've got time to kill.

Images Back of Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar....Spine of Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar....Front of Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar....
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Philogaggin: An Introduction
  • I. Metaphysics
  • II. Logic
  • III. Epistemology
  • IV. Ethics
  • V. Philosophy of Religion
  • VI. Existentialism
  • VII. Philosophy of Language
  • VIII. Social and Political Philosophy
  • IX. Relativity
  • X. Meta-Philosophy
  • Summa Time: A Conclusion
  • Final Exam
  • Great Moments in the History of Philosophy
  • Glossary
  • Suggestions for Further Reading
  • Index
Full title Quirkology: The Curious Science of Everyday Lives [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Wiseman (author)
Publisher Macmillan
Categories Psychology and science
Publication year 2007
ISBN 978-0-330-44811-6 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 299
Synopsis

Quirkology is a word coined by the author, and is the study of the more quirky side of human activity. The book draws a number of conclusions, such as that women van drivers are more likely to take more than ten items through the express line at supermarkets, that words containing the letter K are funny, and that women's personal ads would garner more replies if written by a man (the opposite is not true).

Richard Wiseman has spent twenty years studying these matters, but the book also briefly mentions other seminal studies in psychology (such as Milgram's obedience study and studies concerning memory and the manipulation thereof).

Review

I can thoroughly recommend the book, although as the title suggests, it's mostly about quirky little things about human behavior. The book wasn't all that interesting, but it's definitely entertaining.

Images Back of Quirkology.Spine of Quirkology.Front of Quirkology.
Full title The Reason-Driven Life: What Am I Here on Earth For? [permalink]
Language English
Authors Robert M. Price (author) and Julia Sweeney (foreword)
Publisher Prometheus Books
Categories Bible, philosophy, religion and skepticism
Publication year 2006
ISBN 978-1-59102-476-7 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 363
Synopsis

The Reason-Driven Life is written as a response and critique of Rick Warren's similarly-titled book, The Purpose-Driven Life. It's structured in much the same way as Warren's book, with 40 chapters meant to be read over 40 days. At the end of each chapter is a Point to Ponder, a Quote to Remember, and a Question to Consider. It's written mainly for Christians who have actually read Warren's book, which I'm not and which I haven't.

Review

It's a somewhat interesting read in that Price is a Bible scholar and really knows his stuff, however the book is meant for someone with a different mentality than my own. So I had to imagine I was a fundamentalist Christian for most of the book. The tone of the book is very respectful, though forceful and to-the-point (all this to say that it's a very personal and honest book). I imagine a wavering intelligent (fundamentalist) Christian would really enjoy it, and maybe even be deconverted by it. Go for it if you're curious, but if you're like me (skeptical and non-religious by nature) you can safely skip it! There are other, better, Price books.

Images Back flap of The Reason-Driven Life.Back of The Reason-Driven Life.Spine of The Reason-Driven Life.Front of The Reason-Driven Life.Front flap of The Reason-Driven Life.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  1. It Is about You
  2. You Are a Work of Art
  3. One-Track Mind?
  4. Sons of Dust
  5. My View Is God's View
  6. No Changes Are Permanent, but Change Is
  7. The Mystery of Everything
  8. God: Planned for Our Pleasure
  9. What Makes Me Sick
  10. The Achilles' Heel of Worship
  11. Becoming Imaginary Friends with God
  12. Providence and Superstition
  13. Worship That Creates God
  14. I Can't Get No Sanctification
  15. Joining the Sect
  16. The Greatest of These
  17. A Place to Conform
  18. Heretics Anonymous
  19. Price's Ten Commandments
  20. Healing Religious Divisions
  21. Damage Control
  22. The Character of Christ
  23. When Is a Religion Not a Religion?
  24. This Paper Idol
  25. Jesus with a Jackhammer
  26. Satan's Sunday School
  27. Temp Job
  28. Jerusalem Wasn't Built in a Day
  29. Service Industry
  30. Cut Out the Holy Ghost Noise!
  31. Cogs for Christ
  32. Being Who You Are
  33. How Twisted Texts Scream
  34. Meetings with Unremarkable Men
  35. Was Is Peace/Freedom Is Slavery/Weakness Is Strength
  36. Made into Missionaries
  37. Fabricating Your Life Message
  38. The Hidden Agenda of Witnessing
  39. Juggling Your Life
  40. Not without Reason
  • Bibliography
Full title Revolt on Alpha C [permalink]
Language English
Authors Robert Silverberg (author) and William Meyerriecks (illustrator)
Publisher Scholastic Book
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 1959
Original publication year 1955
ISBN 0-590-05435-X [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 118
Synopsis

Larry Stark, a Space Patrol Academy cadet on board the Carden, is completing his post-graduate space cruise (required to become an officer), a trip to Alpha Centauri's colonized fourth planet. Unknown to him and his crew, the planet is under revolt, and Stark is required to make some hard choices about where his loyalties lie.

Review

It was a very pleasant read; the book is definitely a page-turner, but the ending is rather sudden. I'd like to read more of what happens after the end.

A quote:

Larry caught glimpses of the great beasts living below—living without any suspicion that the planet was no longer theirs, that its possession was being contested by two groups of absurd pygmies from another star.

Images Back of Revolt on Alpha C.Spine of Revolt on Alpha C.Front of Revolt on Alpha C.
Full title Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life [permalink]
Language English
Author Stephen Jay Gould (author)
Publisher Vintage Books
Categories Religion and science
Publication year 2002
Original publication year 1999
ISBN 978-0-099-28452-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 241
Synopsis

This is the book in which Gould lays out in full detail his concept of NOMA, Non-Overlapping Magisteria, the idea that science and religion are masters over different (and mutually incommunicable) realms. It's an attempt to reconcile the recent intellectual hostilities between scientists and people of faith by appealing to NOMA, saying that there doesn't have to be a conflict.

Review

I'm not sure if this book is winning me over to Gould's way of thinking, but it's extremely well written, interesting, and full of siren arguments and pretty poetry. I can definitely recommend it if you're interested in the history of the conflict between science and religion.

Images Back of Rocks of Ages.Spine of Rocks of Ages.Front of Rocks of Ages.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  1. The Problem Stated
    • Preamble
    • A Tale of Two Thomases
    • The Fate of Two Fathers
  2. The Problem Resolved in Principle
    • NOMA Defined and Defended
    • NOMA Illustrated
    • Coda and Segue
  3. Historical Reasons for Conflict
    • The Contingent Basis for Intensity
    • Columbus and the Flat Earth: An Example of the Fallacy of Warfare Between Science and Religion
    • Defending NOMA from Both Sides Now: The Struggle Against Modern Creationism
  4. Psychological Reasons for Conflict
    • Can Nature Nurture Our Hopes?
    • Nature's Cold Bath and Darwin's Defense of NOMA
    • The Two False Paths of Irenics
Full title The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock'N'Roll [permalink]
Language English
Authors Joy Press (author) and Simon Reynolds (author)
Publisher Harvard University Press
Categories History and music
Publication year 1995
Original publication year 1994
ISBN 0-674-80272-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 410
Synopsis

Details the history of rock'n'roll from the perspective of gender and sex, and tracks musical trends from the beginning of rock'n'roll until the present.

Review

A good work with lots of wit and detail. I'm not that interested in the history of music (I just listen to it), so perhaps this book will be more interesting for someone whose interests lie in that direction.

Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction

part 1: rebel misogynies

  • 1 Angry Young Men: Precursors and Prototypes for Rock Rebellion
    Rebel Without A CauseLook Back In Anger•Jack Kerouac•Timothy Leary•Ken Kesey•Rolling Stones•
  • 2 She's Hit: Songs of Fear and Loathing
    •Rolling Stones•John's Children•Garage Punk•Led Zeppelin•Roxy Music•Tim Rose•Nick Cave•River's Edge
  • 3 Careers in Misogyny: The Stranglers and Malcolm McLaren
  • 4 Born to Run: Wanderlust, Wilderness and the Cult of Speed
    •The Doors•Rolling Stones•PiL•Gang of Four•Morrissey•Bob Dylan•Bruce Springsteen•Tom Petty•Iggy Pop•Lynyrd Skynyrd•Easy Rider•Neil Young•Kraftwerk•Hardcore Techno•
  • 5 Brothers in Arms: Combat Rock and Other Stories for Boys
    •The Clash•Thin Lizzy•Manic Street Preachers•Public Enemy•U2•
  • 6 Flirting With the Void: Abjection in Rock
    •The Stooges•Sex Pistols•Throbbing Gristle•Birthday Party•Scratch Acid•Grindcore•Alice in Chains•Nirvana•Henry Rollins•Devo•
  • 7 Wargasm: Metal and Machine Music
    •Futurists•Kraftwerk•Techno•Motorhead•Iggy Pop•Radio Birdman•David Bowie•Led Zeppelin•Young Gods•
  • 8 I Am the King: Delusions of Grandeur from Jim Morrison to Gangsta Rap
    •Jim Morrison•Sex Pistols•Guns N'Roses•Nick Cave•Lou Reed•Jane's Addiction•Eldridge Cleaver•LL Cool J•Miles Davis•Sly Stone•Gansta Rap•
  • 9 My Way: The Cult of the Psychopath
    •The White Negro•Jim Morrison•Charles Manson•Sid Vicious•Big Black•Slacker•Apocalypse Culture•

part 2: into the mystic

  • 1 From Rebellion to Grace: The Psychedelic Mother's Boy
  • 2 Back to Eden: Innocence, Indolence and Pastoralism
    •Mod•Marc Bolan•Incredible String Band•The Byrds•West Coast Psychedelia•Van Morrison•Pink Floyd•Dreampop•Rave•Ambient House•The Orb•Dub Reggae•Ultramarine•
  • 3 Starsailing: Cosmic Rock
    •John Cage•John Coltrane•The Byrds•Jimi Hendrix•Tim Buckley•Pink Floyd•
  • 4 Flow Motion: Can, Eno and Oceanic Rock
    •Can•Brian Eno•Robert Wyatt•Miles Davis•A.R. Kane•
  • 5 Soft Boys: Nostalgia, Incest and Zen Apathy
    •Jimi Hendrix•Morrissey•John Lennon•Elvis•My Bloody Valentine•

part 3: lift up your skirt and speak

  • 1 Double Allegiances: The Herstory of Rock
  • 2 One of the Boys: Female Machisma
    •Patti Smith•Chrissie Hynde•Kate Bush•PJ Harvey•Suzi Quatro•Joan Jett•Heart•Kim Gordon•L7•
  • 3 Open Your Heart: Confession and Catharsis from Janis Joplin to Courtney Love
    •Sinead O'Connor•Suzanne Vega•Joni Mitchell•Liz Phair•Lydia Lunch•Babes in Toyland•Tori Amos•Janis Joplin•Bessie Smith•
  • 4 Woman Unbound: Hysterics, Witches and Mystics
    •Lydia Lunch•Diamanda Galas•Stevie Nicks•Kate Bush•Siouxsie•Sandy Denny•Cocteau Twins•
  • 5 Who's That Girl?: Masquerade and Mastery
    •X-Ray Spex•Siouxsie•Grace Jones•Donna Summer•Annie Lennox•Joan Armatrading•Janet Jackson•Queen Latifah•Salt-n-Pepa•Grace Slick•Nico•
  • 6 Un-typical Girls: Post-Punk Demystification
    •The Slits•The Raincoats•The Au Pairs•Delta 5•Bush Tetras•
  • 7 What a Drag: Post-feminism and Pop
    •Altered Images•Madonna•Paris Is Burning
  • 8 There's a Riot Going On: Grrrls Against Boy-Rock
    •Riot Grrrl•Bikini Kill•Huggy Bear•
  • 9 Body's In Trouble
    •Mary Margaret O'Hara•Suzanne Vega•Hugo Largo•PJ Harvey•Throwing Muses•Babes In Toyland•Siouxsie•Hole•Lunachicks•
  • 10 Adventures Close to Home: Domesticity's Tender Trap
    •Kate Bush•Lunachicks•Throwing Muses•Siouxsie•Marianne Faithfull•The Slits•
  • 11 All Fluxed Up: Rebels Against Structure
    •Patti Smith•Joni Mitchell•Rickie Lee Jones•The Raincoats•Throwing Muses•Mary Margaret O'Hara•Dead Can Dance•Bjork•Diamanda Galas•Yoko Ono•
  • Afterword
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Full title Sherlock Holmes: Short Stories [permalink]
Language English
Author Arthur Conan Doyle (author)
Publisher Chancellor Press
Categories Anthology, crime and short stories
Publication year 2006
Original publication year 1985
ISBN 978-07537-0912-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 992
Synopsis

A collection of all of the Sherlock Holmes short stories in one neat volume.

Review

What struck me while reading the short stories is how ingenious Sherlock Holmes is. It's a very fun exercise to try to second-guess what Holmes' solution to each case turns out to be.

Images Back flap of Sherlock Holmes.Back of Sherlock Holmes.Spine of Sherlock Holmes.Front of Sherlock Holmes.Front flap of Sherlock Holmes.
Structure [Toggle visibility]

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

  • A Scandal in Bohemia
  • The Red-Headed League
  • The Case of Identity
  • The Boscombe Valley Mystery
  • The Five Orange Pips
  • The Man with the Twisted Lip
  • The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
  • The Adventure of the Speckled Band
  • The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb
  • The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor
  • The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
  • The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

  • The Adventure of Silver Blaze
  • The Adventure of the Cardboard Box
  • The Adventure of the Yellow Face
  • The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk
  • The Adventure of the 'Gloria Scott'
  • The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual
  • The Adventure of the Reigate Squire
  • The Adventure of the Crooked Man
  • The Adventure of the Resident Patient
  • The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter
  • The Adventure of the Naval Treaty
  • The Adventure of the Final Problem

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

  • The Adventure of the Empty House
  • The Adventure of the Norwood Builder
  • The Adventure of the Dancing Men
  • The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist
  • The Adventure of the Priory School
  • The Adventure of Black Peter
  • The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton
  • The Adventure of the Six Napoleons
  • The Adventure of the Three Students
  • The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez
  • The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter
  • The Adventure of the Abbey Grange
  • The Adventure of the Second Stain

His Last Bow

  • Wistaria Lodge
  • The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
  • The Adventure of the Devil's Foot
  • The Adventure of the Red Circle
  • The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax
  • The Adventure of the Dying Detective
  • His Last Bow: The War Service of Sherlock Holmes

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

  • The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone
  • The Problem of Thor Bridge
  • The Adventure of the Creeping Man
  • The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire
  • The Adventure of the Three Garridebs
  • The Adventure of the Illustrious Client
  • The Adventure of the Three Gables
  • The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier
  • The Adventure of the Lion's Mane
  • The Adventure of the Retired Colourman
  • The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger
  • The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place
Full title The Songs of Distant Earth [permalink]
Language English
Author Arthur C. Clarke (author)
Publisher HarperCollins
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 1998
Original publication year 1986
ISBN 0-586-06623-3 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 238
Synopsis

The Earth is swallowed in the explosion of the Sun in the year 3620, and the novel begins with the landing of the starship Magellan on the now-colonized planet of Thalassa, a world covered almost entirely in ocean except for three closely linked islands. They need to repair their ship for their upcoming journey to their real destination, a planet called Sagan 2, which, with their millions of colonists in cryo-sleep, they hope to colonize.

Almost the entirety of the novel takes place on Thalassa.

Review

A very beautiful novel full of memorable scenes. (The lifting of the kilometer-wide hexagonal ice blocks for the ship's shield comes to mind.) The pacing is good, the characters are well-developed, and the writing is excellent (but then again, this is a Clarke novel).

Images Back of The Songs of Distant Earth.Spine of The Songs of Distant Earth.Front of The Songs of Distant Earth.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Author's Note

I THALASSA

  • 1 The Beach at Tarna
  • 2 The Little Neutral One
  • 3 Village Council
  • 4 Tocsin
  • 5 Night Ride

II MAGELLAN

  • 6 Planetfall
  • 7 Lords of the Last Days
  • 8 Remembrance of Love Lost
  • 9 The Quest for Superspace

III SOUTH ISLAND

  • 10 First Contact
  • 11 Delegation
  • 12 Heritage
  • 13 Task Force
  • 14 Mirissa
  • 15 Terra Nova
  • 16 Party Games
  • 17 Chain of Command
  • 18 Kumar
  • 19 Pretty Polly
  • 20 Idyll

IV KRAKAN

  • 21 Academy
  • 22 Krakan
  • 23 Ice Day
  • 24 Archive
  • 25 Scorp
  • 26 Snowflake Rising
  • 27 Mirror of the Past
  • 28 The Sunken Forest
  • 29 Sabra
  • 30 Child of Krakan

V THE BOUNTY SYNDROME

  • 31 Petition
  • 32 Clinic
  • 33 Tides
  • 34 Shipnet
  • 35 Convalescence
  • 36 Kilimanjaro
  • 37 In Vino Veritas
  • 38 Debate
  • 39 The Leopard in the Snows
  • 40 Confrontation
  • 41 Pillow Talk
  • 42 Survivor
  • 43 Interrogation

VI THE FORESTS OF THE SEA

  • 44 Spyball
  • 45 Bait
  • 46 Whatever Gods May Be ...

VII AS THE SPARKS FLY UPWARD

  • 47 Ascension
  • 48 Decision
  • 49 Fire on the Reef

VIII THE SONGS OF DISTANT EARTH

  • 50 Shield of Ice
  • 51 Relic
  • 52 The Songs of Distant Earth
  • 53 The Golden Mask
  • 54 Valediction
  • 55 Departure
  • 56 Below the Interface

IX SAGAN 2

  • 57 The Voices of Time
  • Chronology
  • Bibliographical Note
  • Acknowledgements
Full title Sputnik Sweetheart [permalink]
Original title スプートニクの恋人
Transliterated title Supūtoniku no Koibito
Language English
Authors Haruki Murakami (author) and Philip Gabriel (translator)
Publisher Wings Books
Category Novel
Publication year 2002
Original publication year 1999
ISBN 978-0-099-44847-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 229
Synopsis

The story follows an unnamed narrator (simply called K.), a timid schoolteacher who is madly (and unrequitedly) in love with Sumire, an aspiring writer whose life tends to be topsy-turvy until she falls in love with a Korean woman, Miu, who is 17 years her senior. Miu is in the wine business, and as Miu gives Sumire a job in her company, they end up spending a lot of time together.

Review

This book is an enigma to me. I have to admit, I don't really understand the point of it, but nevertheless it made for very interesting reading. The pacing is good, the characters are well-developed, and the dialog is excellent. If you want an enjoyable "Huh?"-experience, I can heartily recommend it.

Images Back of Sputnik Sweetheart.Spine of Sputnik Sweetheart.Front of Sputnik Sweetheart.
Full title Starship Troopers [permalink]
Language English
Author Robert A. Heinlein (author)
Publisher Ace Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 1987
Original publication year 1959
ISBN 0-441-78358-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 263
Synopsis

A classic military SF book. An alien arachnid race launches a meteor upon unsuspecting Earth which crushes Buenos Aires, plunging the two races into war.

Review

There's a lot of monolog from the protagonist's teacher in History and Moral Philosophy, Jean V. Dubois. For me, this is really the meat of the book. The rest is character development and furtherance of the story.

There is a movie based on the novel with the same name, and it follows the novel really closely. The only things missing from it are the jump-suits the troopers wear and the so-called neo-dogs, dogs with their intelligence amped to approximately human retardedness level that are used for reconnaissance.

Images Back of Starship Troopers.Spine of Starship Troopers.Front of Starship Troopers.
Full title Stranger in a Strange Land [permalink]
Language English
Author Robert A. Heinlein (author)
Publisher Ace Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 1987
Original publication year 1961
ISBN 0-441-79034-8 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 438
Synopsis

A man born of human parents but raised on Mars arrives on Earth and goes on to learn as much about it as possible. He learns about religion and eventually founds his own church (which turns out to be more of a school than a church) where he teaches Martian so that Martian concepts can be readily communicated and understood; things like levitation, teleportation, and telepathy are available so long as you learn the language. The title is a reference to the Bible. From the KJV, Exodus 2:22:

"And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land."

This book is also the book from which the term 'grok' comes. See the Jargon file entry on grok.

Review

I think the portrayal of Michael (the man from Mars) as he learns more and more about Earth is very well-written and his progression is reflected in his speech pretty well.

Images Back of Stranger in a Strange Land.Spine of Stranger in a Strange Land.Front of Stranger in a Strange Land.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Part One HIS MACULATE ORIGIN
  • Part Two HIS PREPOSTEROUS HERITAGE
  • Part Three HIS ECCENTRIC EDUCATION
  • Part Four HIS SCANDALOUS CAREER
  • Part Five HIS HAPPY DESTINY
Full title Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Feynman (author)
Category Autobiography
Publication year 1985
Pages 205
Synopsis

The book is a fascinating look into the mind of one of the 20th century's top physicist, the eccentric free spirit Richard Feynman. It's a mostly chronological account of the interesting moments of his life, from his childhood when he fixed radios, to his mischief at MIT, to Princeton, to Los Alamos (where he worked on the bomb and cracked safes for fun), to Cornell, to Brazil, to Japan. The stories are engagingly told as anecdotes, which is partly why it's such an interesting read (and partly because the stories are inherently interesting).

Review

I think I can honestly say that this book is excellent all the way through. At no point was I bored. In fact, I grinned to myself at least three times and almost cried once (honest).

Full title Time Gate [permalink]
Language English
Authors Gregory Benford (author), Pat Murphy (author), Poul Anderson (author), Robert Sheckley (author) and Robert Silverberg (author)
Publisher Baen Publishing Enterprises
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 1989
ISBN 0-671-69850-8 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 277
Synopsis

It's the future, and simulating near-perfect replicas of people in software is routine. At first it's used for entertainment, simulating historical figures from the past, but it isn't long before things get interesting...

Each chapter is written by a different author, and deals with two famous persons from the past: Enter a Soldier. Later: Enter Another is about Francisco Pizarro and Socrates, The Resurrection Machine about Cicero and Bakunin, Statesmen about Friedrich Hohenzollern and Machiavelli, The Rose and the Scalpel about Joan of Arc and Voltaire (who, without spoiling too much, have a Great Debate), and finally How I Spent My Summer Vacation is about Queen Victoria and some unknown girl (to say more would spoil).

Almost all of the book is about the interactions between the historical figured themselves, and the interplay between them and their creators.

Review

A pretty interesting read. It's not every day you get to see Socrates trick one of the Spanish Conquistadors into one of his famous dialogues! The idea of the book is interesting, but I think the book would be even better if it were written by a single author. In fact, its multiple authorship detracts from the quality, I feel, but it's nevertheless worth a read.

Images Back of Time Gate.Spine of Time Gate.Front of Time Gate.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Enter a Soldier. Later: Enter Another, Robert Silverberg
  • The Resurrection Machine, Robert Sheckley
  • Statesmen, Poul Anderson
  • The Rose and the Scalpel, Gregory Benford
  • How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Pat Murphy
Full title The Truth About Chuck Norris: 400 Facts About the World's Greatest Human [permalink]
Language English
Author Ian Spector (author)
Publisher Gotham Books
Category Humor
Publication year 2007
ISBN 978-1-592-40344-8 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 161
Synopsis

A compilation of the funniest Chuck Norris facts, with illustrations.

Review

A good read if you're just looking for something to pass your time.

Images Back of The Truth About Chuck Norris.Spine of The Truth About Chuck Norris.Front of The Truth About Chuck Norris.
Full title The Tyrannosaurus Prescription: And 100 Other Essays [permalink]
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Publisher Prometheus Books
Categories Anthology, astronomy and science
Publication year 1989
ISBN 0-87957-540-7 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 323
Synopsis

A collection of 101 essays divided into seven sections: The Future, Space, Science, SciQuest, "Foreword by Isaac Asimov", Science Fiction, and Personal.

Review

Almost all Asimov essays are excellent and when you pick up an anthology of them you're almost bound not to be disappointed, and this book is no exception except for the section "Foreword by Isaac Asimov", which is simply a collection of forewords to various books. This isn't too bad in itself (in fact, they are all rather well-written), but I, at least, when reading positive forewords and blurbs and reviews, positively want to get the book being foreworded/blurbed/reviewed. Other than that section, I can thoroughly recommend the book. (For a taste of the book, read What Is the Universe?)

In the introduction Asimov says that the title of the eponymous essay (The Tyrannosaurus Prescription) is whimsical, but I disagree. It is actually a prescription for an ill, and it's not at all whimsical. Read the essay if you want to find out why I think so.

Images Back flap of The Tyrannosaurus Prescription.Back of The Tyrannosaurus Prescription.Spine of The Tyrannosaurus Prescription.Front of The Tyrannosaurus Prescription.Front flap of The Tyrannosaurus Prescription.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction

THE FUTURE

  • 1 Our Future in Education
  • 2 Filling the Brain Gap
  • 3 The Global Computerized Library
  • 4 What Computers Won't Do
  • 5 The Future of Handicraft
  • 6 The Future of Chemical Engineering
  • 7 Men and Marriage

SPACE

  • 8 The Lure of Exploration
  • 9 Our Second World
  • 10 All Aboard for Phobos
  • 11 What Do We Do Next in Space?
  • 12 Adventure in Space
  • 13 The Distant Flights
  • 14 The Telephone in Space
  • 15 The Average Person as Astronaut
  • 16 Other Intelligent Life?

SCIENCE

  • 17 Giant Jupiter
  • 18 Pluto, the Constant Surprise
  • 19 A Hole in the Sky
  • 20 Our Changing Perception of the Universe
  • 21 What is the Universe?
  • 22 The One-Man Revolution
  • 23 The Fifth Force
  • 24 Two at a Time
  • 25 Ozone
  • 26 The Ravages of Nature
  • 27 The Double Discovery of Evolution
  • 28 Master Lizard, the King
  • 29 The Hot-Blooded Giants

SCIQUEST

  • 30 The Absent-Minded Professor
  • 31 Playing It Safe
  • 32 The First Scientist
  • 33 Tough Luck
  • 34 To See Is Not Enough
  • 35 The Race for Honor
  • 36 Thoughts in Prison
  • 37 Getting Started
  • 38 The Moon Hoax
  • 39 Scientific Heretics
  • 40 Gold from the Sun
  • 41 The Joys of the Unexpected
  • 42 Facing the Giant
  • 43 Scientists Are Human
  • 44 Sometimes It Takes Time
  • 45 Learning Science
  • 46 Self-Correcting
  • 47 The Knowledge of Good and Evil
  • 48 Science and Technology
  • 49 Missed Opportunities

"FOREWORD BY ISAAC ASIMOV"

  • 50 Shuttle
  • 51 The Good Deed of Voyager 2
  • 52 The Longest Voyage
  • 53 Spreading Through Space
  • 54 First Contact
  • 55 Welcome, Stranger!
  • 56 The Lost City
  • 57 The Bitter End
  • 58 The Tail Wags the Dog
  • 59 The Ifs of History
  • 60 The Sorry Record
  • 61 Cleverness
  • 62 In Days of Old
  • 63 Nonviolence
  • 64 Empires
  • 65 The Last Man on Earth
  • 66 Image of One's Self
  • 67 Psychology
  • 68 Show Business
  • 69 Super
  • 70 Larger Than Life
  • 71 Science Fiction Mysteries
  • 72 The Science Writer
  • 73 The Scribbling Scientists
  • 74 Neanderthal Man
  • 75 The Nonhuman Brains
  • 76 Computer Envy
  • 77 Dogs
  • 78 Dragons!
  • 79 The New Beginning
  • 80 Valentine's Day
  • 81 Hobgoblins
  • 82 All the Ways Things Can't Happen
  • 83 Is Fantasy Forever?
  • 84 Wishing Will Make it So
  • 85 Wizards
  • 86 Witches
  • 87 Curses!
  • 88 The Forces of Evil
  • 89 Monsters
  • 90 The Power of Evil
  • 91 The Devil

SCIENCE FICTION

  • 92 Science Fiction Finds its Voice
  • 93 The Five Greats of Science Fiction
  • 94 The Success of Science Fiction
  • 95 Science Fiction Today
  • 96 The Feminization of Science Fiction
  • 97 Back Through Time

PERSONAL

  • 98 Our Shangri-La (with Janet Asimov)
  • 99 The Tyrannosaurus Prescription (with Janet Asimov)
  • 100 Ellis Island and I
  • 101 Seven Steps to Grand Master
Full title The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature — Being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion Delivered at Edinburgh in 1901–1902 [permalink]
Language English
Author William James (author)
Categories Philosophy, psychology and religion
Publication year 1902
Online version Link
Synopsis

This is the manuscript version of a series of lectures that the Harvard psychologist and philosopher William James gave in Edinburgh between 1901 and 1902 (the so-called Gifford series of lectures given annually at a number of Scottish universities). It explores, as the title implies, varieties of religious experience, from different parts of the world in different times and by different means (although, perhaps only to modern readers, the absence of a full discussion on animistic or primitive or tribal religion is conspicuous). These lectures contain a plethora of case studies, excerpts, and poignant vignettes on whatever the subject happens to be, which really helps give the expositions more context.

Review

I think I will have to re-read this book eventually, as I don't feel I can give a proper review not having really understood it completely.

Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • LECTURE I: Religion and Neurology
  • LECTURE II: Circumscription of the Topic
  • LECTURE III: The Reality of the Unseen
  • LECTURES IV AND V: The Religion of Healthy-mindedness
  • LECTURES VI AND VII: The Sick Soul
  • LECTURE VIII: The Divided Self, and the Process of its Unification
  • LECTURE IX: Conversion
  • LECTURE X: Conversion—concluded
  • LECTURES XI, XII, AND XIII: Saintliness
  • LECTURES XIV AND XV: The Value of Saintliness
  • LECTURES XVI AND XVII: Mysticism
  • LECTURE XVIII: Philosophy
  • LECTURE XIX: Other Characteristics
  • LECTURE XX: Conclusions
  • Postscript
Full title What Is the Name of This Book?: The Riddle of Dracula and Other Logical Puzzles [permalink]
Language English
Author Raymond M. Smullyan (author)
Publisher Dover Publications
Categories Logic and puzzle
Publication year 2011
Original publication year 1978
ISBN 978-0486-48198-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 241
Synopsis

A book of puzzles, a lot of the A-always-lies, B-always-tells-the-truth variety.

Each section introduces the topic under discussion with a story, with small vignettes strewn between the puzzles themselves to give context.

The last chapter is a more free-flowing story-telling chapter, with a complete explanation of Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem.

Review

There's not all that much to say about this book. I found it an interesting read, and it's fun to try the puzzles out on friends. Go buy it if you like these kinds of books.

Images Back of What Is the Name of This Book?.Spine of What Is the Name of This Book?.Front of What Is the Name of This Book?.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction

Part One: Logical Recreations

  • 1. Fooled?
  • 2. Puzzles and Monkey Tricks
  • 3. Knights and Knaves
  • 4. Alice in the Forest of Forgetfulness

Part Two: Portia's Caskets and Other Mysteries

  • 5. The Mystery of Portia's Caskets
  • 6. From the Files of Inspector Craig
  • 7. How to Avoid Werewolves—And Other Practical Bits of Advice
  • 8. Logic Puzzles
  • 9. Bellini or Cellini?

Part Three: Weird Tales

  • 10. The Island of Baal
  • 11. The Island of Zombies
  • 12. Is Dracula Still Alive?

Part Four: Logic Is a Many-Splendored Thing

  • 13. Logic and Life
  • 14. How to Prove Anything
  • 15. From Paradox to Truth
  • 16. Gödel's Discovery
Full title What We Believe But Cannot Prove: Today's Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Certainty [permalink]
Language English
Authors John Brockman (editor) and Ian McEwan (foreword)
Publisher Pocket Books
Categories Anthology and essay
Publication year 2005
ISBN 978-1-4165-2261-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 266
Synopsis

This book is a collection of very small essays by a bunch of leading scientists, philosophers, writers, and intellectuals on the title question. The topics range from artificial intelligence to consciousness to epistemology (and a lot in between).

Review

This was an immensely satisfying read. You get a lot of perspective just reading the speculations of these people. I highly recommend this book!

Images Back of What We Believe But Cannot Prove.Spine of What We Believe But Cannot Prove.Front of What We Believe But Cannot Prove.
Full title Why Evolution is True [permalink]
Language English
Author Jerry Coyne (author)
Publisher Oxford University Press
Categories Biology and science
Publication year 2010
Original publication year 2009
ISBN 978-0-19-923085-3 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 309
Synopsis

This book lays out in a systematic way the evidence for evolution. The first chapter, What Is Evolution?, lays out the basics tenets of the theory. The second, Written in the Rocks, are about (as you might guess) fossils and how they give good evidence of evolution (which wasn't available in Darwin's time). The third chapter goes into vestigial organs and functions, and the various bad designs we find in nature. The rest of the book lays out evidence from the geobiography of life, sexual selection, and so on.

The book is a response to the (on-going) anti-evolution tendency, and directly answers criticisms from that wing, in a detailed and interesting way.

Review

One of the better books on evolution I've read. If you're looking for an explanation of exactly why scientists believe the theory of evolution best explains the adaptations in life (as opposed to intelligent design), then this book is for you.

Images Back of Why Evolution is True.Spine of Why Evolution is True.Front of Why Evolution is True.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  1. What Is Evolution?
  2. Written in the Rocks
  3. Remnants: Vestiges, Embryos, and Bad Design
  4. The Geography of Life
  5. The Engine of Evolution
  6. How Sex Drives Evolution
  7. The Origin of Species
  8. What About Us?
  9. Evolution Redux
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • Suggestions for Further Reading
  • References
  • Illustration Credits
  • Index
Full title The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts [permalink]
Language English
Author Maxine Hong Kingston (author)
Publisher Vintage Books
Category Memoir
Publication year 1989
Original publication year 1975
ISBN 978-0-679-72188-8 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 209
Synopsis

This book is part-novel and part-autobiography, interspersed with Chinese folktales. It describes life for a Chinese-American woman living in California.

Review

The style of the narration (with fantastic tales woven seamlessly into the main autobiography) was at first a little confusing, but one soon gets used to it, and then the book becomes a delight to read. I can definitely recommend it, though I prefer the more traditional form of autobiographical writing.

Images Back of The Woman Warrior.Spine of The Woman Warrior.Front of The Woman Warrior.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • No Name Woman
  • White Tigers
  • Shaman
  • At the Western Palace
  • A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe
Full title Words in Genesis [permalink]
Language English
Authors Isaac Asimov (author) and William Barss (illustrator)
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Categories History, religion and science
Publication year 1962
Pages 233
Synopsis

Asimov explains, as the book is titled, the words in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

Review

This is actually more than simply a list and explanation of the words used in Genesis. It goes into great detail into important verses in Genesis, explaining the history behind the verses as well as the etymologies of the words used (Asimov was Jewish by descent and spoke Yiddish, which helps). There are even appendices with maps of the relevant areas of the time, and genealogies of antediluvian (pre-Flood) and postdiluvian patriarchs.

Images Back flap of Words in Genesis.Back of Words in Genesis.Spine of Words in Genesis.Front of Words in Genesis.Front flap of Words in Genesis.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Author's Note
  • Introduction — The Bible
  • 1 In the Beginning
  • 2 The Garden of Eden
  • 3 The Descendants of Adam
  • 4 The Flood
  • 5 Abraham
  • 6 Isaac
  • 7 Jacob
  • 8 Joseph
  • Appendices
  • Index
Full title Words of Science and the History behind Them [permalink]
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Categories Encyclopedia and science
Publication year 1959
Pages 266
Synopsis

An alphabetical listing of common words in science, with one page of explanation for each of them.

Review

Asimov explains a whole bunch of common scientific words, from abacus to zodiac, in great detail and with particular care to their etymologies (it should be no surprise that many of today's English words are derived from either Latin or Greek, and this book makes that point more than clear). The book is in a sense an encyclopedia, and it can be read straight through or used as, well, an encyclopedia.

Images Back flap of Words of Science and the History behind Them.Back of Words of Science and the History behind Them.Spine of Words of Science and the History behind Them.Front of Words of Science and the History behind Them.Front flap of Words of Science and the History behind Them.
Full title Zima Blue and Other Stories [permalink]
Language English
Authors Alastair Reynolds (author) and Paul J. McAuley (introduction)
Publisher Victor Gollancz Ltd
Categories Anthology, science fiction and short stories
Publication year 2010
ISBN 978-0-575-08455-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 455
Synopsis

A short story (and novella-length) anthology from Alastair Reynolds.

The Real Story is about a journalist's quest to unravel the real story behind the first Mars landing.

Beyond the Aquila Rift is about what it means to be lost. Really lost.

Enola is about a little nomad girl's affinity for a machine (and mutatis mutandis for the machine), and what that implies.

Signal to Noise and Cardiff Afterlife are two connected stories about what happens when you make contact with parallel universes.

The next three stories, Hideaway, Minla's Flowers, and Merlin's Gun, are the longest in the anthology and form a chronological trilogy (despite being written out of order). The first one is about a so-called swallowship (huge spaceship) on the run from an alien enemy known as the Huskers. The other two are a continuation of the first, but I won't say anything about them except that all three concern the same protagonist, Merlin, and his quest for his Gun.

Angels of Ashes is a weird piece about religion and statistics (ehr, more or less)

Spirey and the Queen is about a faux war over a planetary accretion disk.

Understanding Space and Time is about one man's quest to, well, understand space and time.

Digital to Analogue is a conspiracy/thriller tale set on Earth in the nineties, and is the least science fictional (not to mention the least space operatic) one in the collection, and is about a memetic virus spreading through the club scene.

Everlasting is about the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum physics. Specifically, one man's (pretty weird) take on it.

And finally, the eponymous Zima Blue is about a pretty eccentric and long-lived artist's quest to connect with his roots.

Review

I enjoyed almost all the stories in this collection, and before I praise this collection any further, I have to get it out of the way: Angels of Ashes and Digital to Analogue fell entirely flat for me! The ones that stood out, however, more than made up for it. In particular I immensely enjoyed the Merlin trilogy (Hideaway, Minla's Flowers, and Merlin's Gun). They are truly epic in scale, and brilliantly captures the sense of the lone ranger on a quest. Understanding Space and Time, another wonderful story, is also epic, but in its own way. I hope I'm not spoiling anything by saying that it reminded me of Asimov's The Last Question, both in form and content. (Read them both and you'll understand.) The last two items, Everlasting and Zima Blue, also had me hooked, the former for its weird speculations (and the experimental testing of said speculation...), the latter for its musings on time and memory, and the sympathy you get for the protagonist, the eccentric artist Zima.

All in all, if you enjoy pointed SF vignettes or space opera novellas, go buy this book!

Images Back of Zima Blue and Other Stories.Spine of Zima Blue and Other Stories.Front of Zima Blue and Other Stories.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction by Paul J. McAuley
  • The Real Story
  • Beyond the Aquila Rift
  • Enola
  • Signal to Noise
  • Cardiff Afterlife
  • Hideaway
  • Minla's Flowers
  • Merlin's Gun
  • Angels of Ashes
  • Spirey and the Queen
  • Understanding Space and Time
  • Digital to Analogue
  • Everlasting
  • Zima Blue
Full title Letters to a Young Contrarian [permalink]
Language English
Author Christopher Hitchens (author)
Publisher Basic Books
Categories Journalism and philosophy
Series Art of Mentoring (1/14)
Publication year 2005
Original publication year 2001
ISBN 978-0-465-03033-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 141
Synopsis

A collection of imaginary letters to a young contrarian. The beginning of each letter imagines that the reader has sent a reply to the previous one, and the current one is a reply to that, so that reading the book seems to be a conversation. The book deals with how to be a public intellectual with contrary views, and how to deal with all the hardships that come with that obligation.

Review

It's a very short book, and once started, it's very hard to put it down. Hitchens is a very eloquent writer, besides being knowledgeable and engaged. In the book he deals a little bit with his public confrontations (his criticism of Mother Theresa and Henry Kissinger, for instance), really as examples for pontificating on the life of a contrarian. There's a little part of the book that I liked where he explores various words for a contrarian, such as rebel, revolutionary, and an "angry young man".

Images Back of Letters to a Young Contrarian.Spine of Letters to a Young Contrarian.Front of Letters to a Young Contrarian.
Full title Letters to a Young Mathematician [permalink]
Language English
Author Ian Stewart (author)
Publisher Basic Books
Categories Mathematics and science
Series Art of Mentoring (11/14)
Publication year 2007
Original publication year 2006
ISBN 978-0-465-08232-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 203
Synopsis

Letters to a Young Mathematician is written as an update on G. H. Hardy's classic A Mathematician's Apology, but the book is not an exercise in apologetics.

"Attitudes change. No longer do mathematicians believe that they owe the world an apology."

It follows an imaginary girl, Meg, from her school years through her ensuing career, and each chapter is a letter to her at crucial steps in her career. Some parts are musings on math (pure vs applied) while others are specific career tips (solitary work vs collaboration). The book is virtually devoid of any actual math, so I think it's safe for mathophobes. In fact, for this very reason, it might even help to partially cure the phobia of those unfortunately inflicted.

Review

I really liked the light-hearted way the book is written. Perhaps someone who is planning on embarking on a mathematical career would enjoy it even more.

Images Back of Letters to a Young Mathematician.Spine of Letters to a Young Mathematician.Front of Letters to a Young Mathematician.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface
  • 1 Why Do Math?
  • 2 How I Almost Became a Lawyer
  • 3 The Breadth of Mathematics
  • 4 Hasn't It All Been Done?
  • 5 Surrounded by Math
  • 6 How Mathematicians Think
  • 7 How to Learn Math
  • 8 Fear of Proofs
  • 9 Can't Computers Solve Everything?
  • 10 Mathematical Storytelling
  • 11 Going for the Jugular
  • 12 Blockbusters
  • 13 Impossible Problems
  • 14 The Career Ladder
  • 15 Pure or Applied?
  • 16 Where Do You Get Those Crazy Ideas?
  • 17 How to Teach Math
  • 18 The Mathematical Community
  • 19 Pigs and Pickup Trucks
  • 20 Pleasures and Perils of Collaboration
  • 21 Is God a Mathematician?
  • Notes and References
Full title Biomega 1 [permalink]
Original title バイオメガ
Transliterated title Baiomega
Language English
Authors Andrew McKeon (editor), Mike Montesa (editor), John Werry (translator) and Tsutomu Nihei (creator)
Publisher VIZ Media
Categories Cyberpunk, horror, manga and science fiction
Series Biomega (1/6)
Publication year 2011
Original publication year 2004
ISBN 978-1-4215-3184-7 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 218
Synopsis

First book in the series. Introduces Zoichi Kanoe, an agent of Tao Heavy Industries, and Fuyu Kanoe, his AI sidekick.

Review

I immensely enjoyed this. High-paced action, check. Good story, check. SF background, check.

Images Back of Biomega 1.Spine of Biomega 1.Front of Biomega 1.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • #01
  • #02
  • #03
  • #04
  • #05
  • #06
  • #07
  • #08
  • #09
  • #10
  • INTERLINK
Full title Use of Weapons [permalink]
Language English
Author Iain M. Banks (author)
Publisher Orbit Books
Categories Novel, science fiction and space opera
Series Culture (3/11)
Publication year 1990
ISBN 1-85723-135-X [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 368
Synopsis

The Culture hires a mercenary, Cheradenine Zakalwe, to do their dirty work, while Zakalwe tries to piece together a terrible secret in his past.

Review

Banks fans apparently see this novel as the epitome of Culture novels. I hated it, save for the weird party in which people deliberately mutilate themselves and the curious method by which Zakalwe's body is being rebuilt after he's been beheaded. Why do I hate it? The structure. The story follows two threads, one going forward in time and another going backward; the chapters alternate between these two. I wasn't too confused by this, but I was annoyed. Perhaps I should re-read it. If you plan on reading the Culture novels, don't start with this one.

Images Back of Use of Weapons.Spine of Use of Weapons.Front of Use of Weapons.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Acknowledgment
  • 'Slight Mechanical Destruction'
  • Prologue
  • 1. The Good Soldier
    • One
      • XIII
    • Two
      • XII
    • Three
      • XI
    • Four
      • X
    • Five
  • 2. An Outing
      • IX
    • Six
      • VIII
    • Seven
      • VII
    • Eight
      • VI
    • Nine
      • V
  • 3. Remembrance
    • Ten
      • IV
    • Eleven
      • III
    • Twelve
      • II
    • Thirteen
      • I
    • Fourteen
  • Epilogue
  • Zakalwe's Song
Full title Inversions [permalink]
Language English
Author Iain M. Banks (author)
Publisher Orbit Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series Culture (6/11)
Publication year 1998
ISBN 1-85723-763-3 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 406
Synopsis

The chapters alternate between telling the story of Vosill, a king's physician, and DeWar, a Protector's bodyguard. Vosill and DeWar reside on opposite sides of a mountain where they tend to their masters (in their own ways), and although they never actually meet, there is subtle evidence that they know each other (but to say more would spoil).

Review

This isn't a Culture novel per se. It isn't even a science fiction novel, per se. The entire story is set in something resembling medieval Earth, with kings, generals, horse riding, and concubines. That having been said, there are subtle hints at the novel's SFness, but to pick them up you need to read the previous Culture novels.

Overall, I really enjoyed it, despite its non-SFness. I think Vosill may have saved it.

Images Back of Inversions.Spine of Inversions.Front of Inversions.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Prologue
  • 1. The Doctor
  • 2. The Bodyguard
  • 3. The Doctor
  • 4. The Bodyguard
  • 5. The Doctor
  • 6. The Bodyguard
  • 7. The Doctor
  • 8. The Bodyguard
  • 9. The Doctor
  • 10. The Bodyguard
  • 11. The Doctor
  • 12. The Bodyguard
  • 13. The Doctor
  • 14. The Bodyguard
  • 15. The Doctor
  • 16. The Bodyguard
  • 17. The Doctor
  • 18. The Bodyguard
  • 19. The Doctor
  • 20. The Bodyguard
  • 21. The Doctor
  • 22. The Bodyguard
  • 23. The Doctor
  • 24. The Bodyguard
  • Epilogue
Full title Look to Windward [permalink]
Language English
Author Iain M. Banks (author)
Publisher Pocket Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series Culture (7/11)
Publication year 2002
Original publication year 2000
ISBN 0-7434-2192-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 483
Synopsis

During one of the most violent skirmishes in the Culture-Idiran War, a binary star system is blown up, and as the light from that event reaches the Orbital Masaq', the renowned composer Mahrai Ziller (an alien, a Chelgrian) is slated to conduct his latest masterpiece in coincidence with it. Meanwhile, another Chelgrian, the Major Quilan, is tasked with a mission (and a cover-story for that mission) whose objectives are unknown to him but which are gradually revealed (both to him and the reader).

Review

As this is a Culture novel I could almost have recommended it without reading it, and the verdict after having read it is still the same. This is an excellent story, one of political intrigue, love lost, secret missions, espionage, and huge sceneries. I particularly enjoyed the light-hearted chapters about Uagen Zlepe and 974 Praf, the former a human-turned-simian scholar (and an all-around twitchy and funny character), the latter a pterodactyl-like sentient creature and Zlepe's companion (also pretty incompetent and funny because of that). Their extremely serendipitous doings and fallings (don't ask) did much to lighten the otherwise heavy mood.

Images Back of Look to Windward.Spine of Look to Windward.Front of Look to Windward.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Prologue
  • 1 The Light of Ancient Mistakes
  • 2 Winter Storm
  • 3 Infra Dawn
  • 4 Scorched Ground
  • Airsphere
  • 5 A Very Attractive System
  • 6 Resistance Is Character-Forming
  • 7 Peer Group
  • 8 The Retreat at Cadracet
  • Dirigible
  • The Memory of Running
  • 9 Pylon Country
  • 10 The Seastacks of Youmier
  • 11 Absence of Gravitas
  • 12 A Defeat of Echoes
  • Flight
  • 13 Some Ways of Dying
  • 14 Returning to Leave, Recalling Forgetting
  • 15 A Certain Loss of Control
  • 16 Expiring Light
  • Space, Time
  • Closure
  • Epilogue
Full title Speaker for the Dead [permalink]
Language English
Author Orson Scott Card (author)
Publisher Tor Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series Ender's Game (2/6)
Publication year 1994
Original publication year 1986
ISBN 0-812-55075-7 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 382
Synopsis

The book follows a family on the Catholic colony planet Lusitania and centers around the xenologers who find an intelligent porcine alien race there which does some (to them) bizarre things. In a manner that I won't spoil, Ender is entwined into the story.

Review

I like Speaker for the dead better than Ender's Game. There are more major characters, which is good, but also many more minor characters, which I didn't like. But the porcine alien race, which the inhabitants of Lusitania call pequeninos, were interesting enough to save the book for me. I also think Ender is an excellent speaker, and he's a likeable character.

Images Back of Speaker for the Dead.Spine of Speaker for the Dead.Front of Speaker for the Dead.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  • Some People of Lusitania Colony
  • Pronouncing Foreign Names
  • Prologue
  • 1. Pipo
  • 2. Trondheim
  • 3. Libo
  • 4. Ender
  • 5. Valentine
  • 6. Olhado
  • 7. The Ribeira House
  • 8. Dona Ivanova
  • 9. Congenital Defect
  • 10. Children of the Mind
  • 11. Jane
  • 12. Files
  • 13. Ela
  • 14. Renegades
  • 15. Speaking
  • 16. The Fence
  • 17. The Wives
  • 18. The Hive Queen
Full title Ender's Shadow [permalink]
Language English
Author Orson Scott Card (author)
Publisher Tor Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series Ender's Shadow (1/4)
Publication year 2000
Original publication year 1999
ISBN 0-812-57571-7 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 469
Synopsis

Ender's Shadow follows Bean, a friend of Ender's in Battle School, as he grows up on the harsh streets of Rotterdam, gets accepted by the I.F., and is taken to Battle School. From there it's basically another view of Card's first book in the Ender series, Ender's Game.

Review

Card is very good at drama and dialog, and I think this book showcases that very well. I also like the characters he develops very much. A good read.

Images Back of Ender's Shadow.Spine of Ender's Shadow.Front of Ender's Shadow.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Foreword
  • I. URCHIN
    • 1. Poke
    • 2. Kitchen
    • 3. Payback
    • 4. Memories
  • II. LAUNCHY
    • 5. Ready or Not
    • 6. Ender's Shadow
    • 7. Exploration
    • 8. Good Student
  • III. SCHOLAR
    • 9. Garden of Sofia
    • 10. Sneaky
    • 11. Daddy
    • 12. Roster
  • IV. SOLDIER
    • 13. Dragon Army
    • 14. Brothers
    • 15. Courage
    • 16. Companion
  • V. LEADER
    • 17. Deadline
    • 18. Friend
    • 19. Rebel
    • 20. Trial and Error
  • VI. VICTOR
    • 21. Guesswork
    • 22. Reunion
    • 23. Ender's Game
    • 24. Homecoming
  • Acknowledgments
Full title Shadow of the Giant [permalink]
Language English
Author Orson Scott Card (author)
Publisher Tor Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series Ender's Shadow (4/4)
Publication year 2006
Original publication year 2005
ISBN 0-812-57139-8 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 371
Synopsis

The story of Ender's jeesh (comrades) is further elaborated, taking place entirely on Earth.

Review

I hesitate a little to classify this as science fiction, because it feels more like a political thriller. It was a good read, but in the end I was left disappointed. I'm no Card fan, but if you are, perhaps you'll get something more out of it.

Images Back of Shadow of the Giant.Spine of Shadow of the Giant.Front of Shadow of the Giant.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  1. MANDATE OF HEAVEN
  2. MOTHER
  3. COUP
  4. BARGAIN
  5. SHIVA
  6. EVOLUTION
  7. AN OFFER
  8. ENDER
  9. PENSION
  10. GRIEF
  11. AFRICAN GOD
  12. ALLAHU AKBAR
  13. FOUND
  14. VIRLOMI'S VISITORS
  15. RATIFICATION
  16. JEESH
  17. BOATS
  18. YEREVAN
  19. ENEMIES
  20. PLANS
  21. PAPERS
  22. RUMORS OF WAR
  23. COLONIST
  24. SACRIFICE
  25. LETTERS
  26. SPEAK FOR ME
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Full title Frankenstein [permalink]
Alternative title or, The Modern Prometheus
Language English
Authors Mary Shelley (author) and Margaret Brantley (supplemental)
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Categories Gothic and novel
Series Enriched Classic
Publication year 2009
Original publication year 1818
ISBN 978-0-7434-8758-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 323
Synopsis

An explorer of the North Pole picks up a weary and battered Victor Frankenstein. Victor is on the run from his creation, who is trying to kill him. The captain of the ship listens to Frankenstein's story (which makes up the meat of the novel).

Review

What struck me about the novel was how mild-mannered, eloquent, and initially innocent Frankenstein's so-called monster is. The monster spends a good chunk of the novel in the forest, trying to make a living, and he meets a family living in a forest cabin.

This novel is a classic, and extremely well-written. I heartily recommend it. If you're not versed in Victorian English I recommend that you get a version with notes to explain language usage. Otherwise, a lot of things won't make sense.

Images Back of Frankenstein.Spine of Frankenstein.Front of Frankenstein.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  • Chronology of Mary Shelley's Life and Work
  • Historical Context of Frankenstein

Frankenstein

  • Notes
  • Interpretive Notes
  • Questions for Discussion
  • Suggestions for the Interested Reader
Full title Flood [permalink]
Language English
Author Stephen Baxter (author)
Publisher Victor Gollancz Ltd
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series Flood/Ark (1/2)
Publication year 2009
Original publication year 2008
ISBN 978-0-575-08482-7 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 538
Synopsis

The book's first two chapters are over briefly, describing how a group of four hostages (Lily Brooke, Piers Michaelmas, Helen Gray, and Gary Boyle) are rescued by AxysCorp after five years of imprisonment in various cellars in Barcelona by a Christian extremist group called the Fathers of the Elect (who don't play a prominent part in the story). Lily, Piers, Helen, and Gary vow to stay in touch after their long imprisonment, and the rest of the book is about a world-wide flood which seems to be rising inexorably, and without an end in sight. The chapters alternate between the characters and events haphazardly.

Interspersed between some of the chapters are small vignettes, excerpts from Kristie's journal, describing how the situation looks on the ground in various parts of the world as it floods. At some points in the book there are edited world maps showing the effects of a sea-level rise of a certain magnitude above the 2010 datum.

Review

This is a long novel, with lots of space to really flesh out the characters and paint a picture of how a world-wide flood in the not-too-distant future would look. And what a picture Baxter paints! This really is more of a thriller/drama than science fiction, although the SF is there in the form of speculations about what causes the sea too rise so drastically, but it's really the human drama that is the main driving force of the novel.

Go read it!

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Full title Ark [permalink]
Language English
Author Stephen Baxter (author)
Publisher Victor Gollancz Ltd
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series Flood/Ark (2/2)
Publication year 2010
Original publication year 2009
ISBN 978-0-575-09413-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 537
Synopsis

Ark picks up where Flood left off. Unfortunately, the cover art sort of gives the ending of Flood away (although it's not that much of a spoiler, really). It follows the exploits of the survivors of the world wide flood, both on Earth and on the spaceship.

Review

Like the previous book, this one is excellent. It's thick, and uses the space well to flesh out the characters and describe the drama. If you liked Flood, then you'll like the sequel. The ending was particularly satisfying.

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Full title H. P. Lovecraft Omnibus Vol. 2: Dagon and Other Macabre Tales [permalink]
Language English
Authors H. P. Lovecraft (author) and August Derleth (introduction)
Publisher Voyager
Categories Anthology, horror and short stories
Series H. P. Lovecraft Omnibus (2/3)
Publication year 2000
Original publication year 1965
ISBN 978-0-586-06324-8 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 512
Synopsis

This collection contains a bunch of short stories, as well as a very interesting essay by August Derleth called Supernatural Horror in Literature. Also in there are some stories under the heading Early Tales and four really small stories under Fragments, stories not really completed (and therefore not that interesting).

Most of the stories are first-person accounts of some horrible fate befalling the protagonist (such as Dagon, The Temple, and Imprisoned with the Pharaohs) while a few are third-person narratives over a span of time (like The Doom that came to Sarnath, The Cats of Ulthar, and The Quest of Iranon).

Review

This collection represents my first foray into Lovecraft's literature (except for The Call of Cthulhu, which I read ages ago). As I'm not really well read in horror literature, I don't know how it stacks up against other authors, but I know I like it! Lovecraft has a very peculiar way of writing, and virtually every story manages to draw you in and keep your attention throughout. Also, most of the stories have a twist at the end that's not always easy to predict, which makes them all the more enjoyable.

This collection, as opposed to the first and third in this series, is a little bit special in that there are a lot of stories, so if you don't have that much time to read, this book is excellent. The stories are short and almost all are engaging and very fun to read.

Images Back of H. P. Lovecraft Omnibus Vol. 2.Spine of H. P. Lovecraft Omnibus Vol. 2.Front of H. P. Lovecraft Omnibus Vol. 2.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction, by August Derleth
  • Dagon
  • The Tomb
  • Polaris
  • Beyond the Wall of Sleep
  • The Doom that came to Sarnath
  • The White Ship
  • Arthur Jermyn
  • The Cats of Ulthar
  • Celephais
  • From Beyond
  • The Temple
  • The Tree
  • The Moon-bog
  • The Nameless City
  • The Other Gods
  • The Quest of Iranon
  • Herbert West - Reanimator
  • The Hound
  • Hypnos
  • The Festival
  • The Unnamable
  • Imprisoned with the Pharaohs
  • He
  • The Horror at Red Hook
  • The Strange High House in the Mist
  • In the Walls of Eryx
  • The Evil Clergyman

Early Tales

  • The Beast in the Cave
  • The Alchemist
  • Poetry and the Gods
  • The Street
  • The Transition of Juan Romero

Fragments

  • Azathoth
  • The Descendant
  • The Book
  • The Thing in the Moonlight
  • Supernatural Horror in Literature
Full title Halo: The Flood [permalink]
Language English
Author William C. Dietz (author)
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series Halo (2/7)
Publication year 2003
Pages 352
Synopsis

A spaceship, The Pillar of Autumn, takes a wrong turn in hyperspace (called Slipstream Space in the Haloverse) and ends up having to crash-land on a ringworld nearby. John-117 (a super soldier popularly called Master Chief, in a battle armor) is tasked with the safe-keeping of the ship's enigmatic AI, Cortana, and the novel chronicles his attempts at rendezvousing with The Pillar of Autumn after having used an escape pod to disembark from it.

Review

The book is a straight novelization of the game, and it suffers a bit from that fact (if you've played the game then you know that a good deal of the game is repetitive shooting). A good chunk of the book is devoted to viewing the action from other perspectives, which is good. In the end, though, it's a mediocre book. I can't recommend it if you're not a Halo fan.

Full title Rama II [permalink]
Language English
Authors Arthur C. Clarke (author) and Gentry Lee (co-author)
Publisher Bantam Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series Rama (2/4)
Publication year 1990
Original publication year 1989
ISBN 0-553-28658-7 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 466
Synopsis

Seventy years after the first book, a second Rama spacecraft enters our solar system, and an expedition is again sent to rendezvous with it. They board it as easily as the first crew boarded the first spacecraft, but they soon discover a few differences between the two craft.

Review

This book (and the subsequent ones) contains a lot character development, as they are written primarily by Lee. In this one, it doesn't seem to be going anywhere, but it takes off eventually, really.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Rama Revisited
  • 1 Rama Returns
  • 2 Test and Training
  • 3 Crew Conference
  • 4 The Great Chaos
  • 5 After the Crash
  • 6 La Signora Sabatini
  • 7 Public Relations
  • 8 Biometry
  • 9 Diastolic Irregularity
  • 10 The Cosmonaut and the Pope
  • 11 St Michael of Siena
  • 12 Ramans and Romans
  • 13 Happy New Year
  • 14 Good-bye, Henry
  • 15 Encounter
  • 16 Rama Rama Burning Bright
  • 17 Death of a Soldier
  • 18 Postmortem
  • 19 Rite of Passage
  • 20 Blessed Slumber
  • 21 Pandora's Cube
  • 22 Dawn
  • 23 Nightfall
  • 24 Sounds in the Darkness
  • 25 A Friend in Need
  • 26 Second Sortie
  • 27 To Catch a Biot
  • 28 Extrapolation
  • 29 The Hunt
  • 30 Postmortem II
  • 31 Orvieto Prodigy
  • 32 New York Explorer
  • 33 Missing Person
  • 34 Strange Companions
  • 35 Into the Pit
  • 36 Impact Course
  • 37 Marooned
  • 38 Visitors
  • 39 Waters of Wisdom
  • 40 Alien Invitation
  • 41 A Friend Indeed
  • 42 Two Explorers
  • 43 Exobiological Psychology
  • 44 Another Lair
  • 45 Nikki
  • 46 The Better Part of Valor
  • 47 Progressive Matrices
  • 48 Welcome Earthlings
  • 49 Interaction
  • 50 Hope Springs Eternal
  • 51 Escape Harness
  • 52 Flight 302
  • 53 Trinity
  • 54 Once a Hero
  • 55 The Voice of Michael
  • 56 An Answered Prayer
  • 57 Three's Company
  • 58 Hobson's Choice
  • 59 Dream of Destiny
  • 60 Return to Rama
  • 61 Endangered Spacecraft
  • 62 The Final Hour
  • Acknowledgments
Full title The City and the Stars [permalink]
Language English
Author Arthur C. Clarke (author)
Publisher Victor Gollancz Ltd
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series SF Masterworks
Publication year 2001
Original publication year 1956
ISBN 978-1-857-98763-8 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 255
Synopsis

The story takes place on Earth several billion years in the future. It revolves around the huge city of Diaspar, which has cloistered itself under an artificial roof. No one can leave the city, and no one even wants to. People are no longer born naturally, but emerge from the Hall of Creation. They live for centuries, and when they decide it's time to "die" they simply choose which memories they wish to keep, and are then stored in the Memory Banks, to return centuries later from the Hall of Creation. These Memory Banks also house the patterns for everything in the city (buildings, furniture, what have you) so that when one wishes something (a chair, for instance), one simply asks for it and it will materialize. As a by-product, nothing ever wears down; the city (and its inhabitants) are practically immortal.

Into this mix emerges Alvin, a Unique (meaning it's his first life). These aren't unheard of, but they're very rare. The story is really about Alvin and his adventures to unravel the secrets of the city's (and Earth's) mysterious and myth-laden past.

Review

I thorougly enjoyed it. If I have one complaint it's that I wish we learned more about the Invaders, but this doesn't detract from the story (for reasons which I won't go into due to the spoiler potential).

Images Back of The City and the Stars.Spine of The City and the Stars.Front of The City and the Stars.
Full title A Fall of Moondust [permalink]
Language English
Author Arthur C. Clarke (author)
Publisher Victor Gollancz Ltd
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series SF Masterworks
Publication year 2002
Original publication year 1961
ISBN 978-0-575-07317-3 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 224
Synopsis

It's the near future, and the Moon is a place for tourism. The novel opens with Pat Harris, skipper of the boat Selene, enjoying a cruise with his two-dozen-or-so passengers across the (fictional) Sea of Thirst. At the time of the novel's writing in 1960 it was reasonably assumed that the so-called "seas" of the Moon consisted of very fine dust. Selene, therefore, was imagined as a ship capable of crossing these seas. However, like an ant falling into an antlion's trap (the analogy is one of the character's), Selene sinks into the Sea of Thirst, and the rest of the novel is concerned with, alternately, the people aboard, the search party above, and the various other interested parties (TV crews, overseers, and what have you).

Review

An immensely gripping novel! To call it science fiction is technically correct, but the SF serves merely as the backdrop for the human drama. And what a drama it is! Go pick this up!

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Full title Odd John: A Story Between Jest and Earnest [permalink]
Language English
Authors Olaf Stapledon (author) and Adam Roberts (introduction)
Publisher Victor Gollancz Ltd
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series SF Masterworks
Publication year 2012
Original publication year 1935
ISBN 978-0-575-07224-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 208
Synopsis

John Wainwright is born several months late, a seemingly normal child who, it's quickly discovered, is anything but. His mental powers are off the charts, and he learns at a tremendous rate. As a consequence of all this accelerated mentation, his physical body's maturation is severely hampered such that by age 16 he looks like a ten-year-old.

As John learns quickly, he very soon becomes bored with whatever object is holding his attention. For instance, he soon tires of language:

It had ceased to be a new art, and had become merely a useful means of communication, to be extended and refined only as new spheres of experience came within his ken and demanded expression.

The novel follows him throughout his life, narrated by a free-lance journalist friend of his. The book proposes to be published long after the events contained in it. In fact, the end of the novel is flatly stated in the first chapter (but not to worry, I won't spoil it; I'll let Stapledon do that).

Much of the novel is spent ruminating on what it means to be superhuman (they call themselves supernormals and Homo superior). From our narrator's perspective, many of Odd John's actions seem flat out amoral, and even though John can't properly explain the situation to the narrator (for the simple reason that John's logic is superior to his), one nevertheless is left with a feeling that maybe John is right.

Review

I immensely enjoyed this novel. It's really interesting to follow John through his life, and Stapledon does a wonderful job of conveying the various parts of John's life to us, through a sympathetic and competent narrator. I have only one complaint: The latter parts of the book are about John's voyages around the world to find fellow-supernormals to populate and keep his Colony running. I wish this part comprised more of the book, as I think those chapters were the most interesting. Nevertheless, I can thoroughly recommend it!

Images Back of Odd John.Spine of Odd John.Front of Odd John.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  • I John and the Author
  • II The First Phase
  • III Enfant Terrible
  • IV John and his Elders
  • V Thought and Action
  • VI Many Inventions
  • VII Financial Ventures
  • VIII Scandalous Adolescence
  • IX Methods of a Young Anthropologist
  • X The World's Plight
  • XI Strange Encounters
  • XII John in the Wilderness
  • XIII John Seeks his Kind
  • XIV Engineering Problems
  • XV Jacqueline
  • XVI Adlan
  • XVII Ng-Gunko and Lo
  • XVIII The Skid's First Voyage
  • XIX The Colony is Founded
  • XX The Colony in Being
  • XXI The Beginning of the End
  • XXII The End

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