by Neil Gaiman (2011)
Publisher review: Days before his release from prison, Shadow's wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break. Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, American Gods takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You'll be surprised by what - and who - it finds there... This is the author's preferred text, never before published in the UK, and is about 12,000 words longer than the previous UK edition.
Started: Mar 17 2019
Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)
by Tomi Adeyemi (2018)
Publisher review: They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us. Now we rise. Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.
Started: Mar 08 2019
by Mary Robinette Kowal (2019)
Publisher review: Being a Lady Astronaut means being twice as dedicated, and twice as good as everyone else. And sometimes, handling a test run that has turned deadly serious. Mary Robinette Kowal visits an off-stage incident in her The Calculating Stars series.
My rating: ★★★★
Started: Mar 15 2019 Finished: Mar 16 2019
The Fated Sky (Lady Astronaut, #2)
by Mary Robinette Kowal (2018)
Publisher review: The Fated Sky continued the grand sweep of alternate history begun in The Calculating Stars. It is 1961, and the International Aerospace Coalition has established a colony on the moon. Elma York, the noted Lady Astronaut, is working on rotation, flying shuttles on the moon and returning regularly to Earth. But humanity must get a foothold on Mars. The first exploratory mission is being planned, and none of the women astronauts is on the crew list. The international Aerospace Coalition has grave reservations about sending their "Lady Astronauts" on such a dangerous mission. The problem with that is the need for midjourney navigation calculations. The new electronic computation machines are not reliable and not easily programmed. It might be okay for a backup, but there will have to be a human computer on board. And all the computers are women.
My rating: ★★★★★
Started: Mar 01 2019 Finished: Mar 15 2019
The Lessons of History
by Will Durant (2012)
The book was a mixed bag of some interesting and some hair raising ideas.
The Lessons of History is the result of a lifetime of research from Pulitzer Prize–winning historians Will and Ariel Durant. It is an accessible compendium of philosophy and social progress, a journey through history, exploring the possibilities and limitations of humanity over time. Juxtaposing the great lives, ideas, and accomplishments with cycles of war and conquest, the Durants reveal the towering themes of history and give meaning to our own.
I have many issues with the book but the biggest issue is that numerous theories and historical interpretations are put forward, but we are never given any proof or even supporting evidences. At most some historical facts are briefly mentioned as definite proof. Unfortunately stating a theory as a fact does not make it so. The reasoning behind it, the series of facts that led to that conclusion are to me more interesting that the conclusion itself.
Why does he categorize "financial independence of young people from their parents" as an immoral evil while "financial independence of a wife from her husband" as good? The two line argument that he uses to characterize the first as evil can as easily apply to the second. And why is "sexual liberation" immoral while 'birth control" good and advisable? Again I am not interested in somebody stating opinions as facts, I am interested in understanding their reasoning, but none or little is provided.
I enjoy reading books from people that I agree and from people I disagree with. I like to be exposed to new ideas and new line of reasoning, but this book presents very little (or nothing) in terms of reasoning, and a whole lot of claims. This is the main source of my disappointment with this book.
Last but not least, the book is marred by numerous xenophobic, chauvinist, and homophobic claims, again stated as self-evident facts.
Started: Feb 27 2019 Finished: Mar 08 2019
by Meg Elison (2018)
This short story was first published as part of Future Tense, a series of short stories about how technology and science will change our lives. The series is a collaboration among Arizona State University, New America, Slate, and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. The series features many prominent science fiction author, including some of my favorites. I had not read anything by Meg Elison, and I was quite curious as a result to read this story.
It turns out that the UC Berkeley graduate author is an excellent writer: in particular I loved her writing style and her world building. I am looking forward reading more by this author.
The story is set in a near future where an alien race has made contacts with human. As a result of this contact a lot of mixed race children are born... and unfortunately surrendered by their parents. This is the story of one of this kids, as her past catch up with her.
Started: Feb 27 2019 Finished: Feb 27 2019
by Stephen King (2018)
When I was a teenager I read a bunch of King's book. After a while I got tired of them, I started to feel them less novel and more of the same. I picked Elevation because of the rave reviews, and wow, I was not disappointed. It is, by far, one of the strongest book by the author. First of all, this is not even remotely an horror. It does have a fantastic element, but it is not really what make the book so interesting and original. The central element are people, their feeling, and their interactions.
Elevation is the moving story about a man whose mysterious affliction brings a small town together, a timely, upbeat tale about finding common ground despite deep-rooted differences. Although Scott Carey doesn't look any different, he's been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis. In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King's most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade (but escalating) battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott's lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face, including his own, he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott's affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.
I strongly recommend it.
Started: Feb 21 2019 Finished: Feb 27 2019
The Last Test
by H.P. Lovecraft (1928)
Years ago I decided to read the complete work of this author, a choice that I came to regret: while Lovecraft's contribution to the field is indisputable, and while a small number of his stories are good, the vast majority of his work is mediocre at best, and often marred by horrifying xenophobia. I thought I was done reading his work, when I came across this collaborations between Lovecraft and de Castro that I had previously missed. I decided to give it a try since in my experience some of the best of Lovecraft's stories are collaborations. This is a little bit of an exception though. The story is not horrible, and the xenophobia is less blatant than in the average Lovecraft's story, yet while entertaining, it does not offer anything memorable or remarkable. I did love to read a Lovecraft's story set in San Francisco, instead of the usual East Coast.
The story covers the "Clarendon affair", a fictional scandal which culminated in the death of genius bacteriologist Alfred Clarendon. His longtime friend and supporter, Governor James Dalton, and his sister Georgina, now Mrs. Dalton, know the truth, but they never speak of it.
Clarendon traveled the world seeking an antitoxin to cure the many fevers plaguing mankind. Monomaniacal and negligent of worldly affairs, he relied on Georgina to manage his finances and household. That their father had refused Georgina's hand to Dalton struck him as lucky, for Georgina's memories of her first love kept her single. Who else, after all, would have tolerated such eccentricities as his chosen servants? From Tibet, where he discovered the germ of black fever, he brought home eight skeleton-lean men, black-robed and silent. From Africa, where he worked on intermittent fevers among the Saharan Tuaregs (rumored descendants of the primal race of Atlantis), he acquired a factotum named Surama. Though intelligent and erudite, Surama's bald pate and emaciated features gave him the appearance of a death's-head...
Started: Feb 24 2019 Finished: Feb 26 2019
Played Your Eyes
by Jonathan Carroll (2018)
This is one of the most intriguing short stories I have read this year so far. It is hard to review without giving away too much, but this is the story of a woman bequeathed an odd fantastic gift by a former lover who broke up with her, then died: his handwriting. Why did he do this and what does it mean? Did he just gift her his handwriting or something more?
I am looking forward reading more by this author.
Started: Feb 23 2019 Finished: Feb 24 2019
by Max Gladstone (2018)
While I am not a big fan of superhero stories, I keep reading Wild Cards short stories as they get published by Tor. The Wild Cards series is a 25 years old shared fictional universe where superpowered people are the norm, set in an alternate history. Fitting In is the story of a previously famous super hero, Robin Ruttiger, as he tries to leave a normal life. He is a failed contestant of the superhero reality TV show, American Hero, and he now works as a high school guidance counselor to reluctant students. Things change, however, when a favorite bakery in Jokertown becomes a target of vandalism, and Robin realizes he can play the hero after all.
Started: Feb 20 2019 Finished: Feb 23 2019
An Acceptable Time (Time Quintet, #5)
by Madeleine L'Engle (2007)
One of the recurring issues I had with the Time Quintet series, was its often xenophobic content, and how the author continuously misused scientific concepts to make unrelated religious argument. While I love books that discuss theology and books that discuss science, misquoting scientific terms and theories to explain theological concepts that have nothing to do with those scientific terms and theories is cringe worthy to say the least. Good news: in this book the misuse is kept to a minimum, while the xenophobic elements are reduced.
Unfortunately there are still plenty of (different) issues, so many that I do not even know where to start.
* I agree with the author that different cultures have different customs and ethical systems, and that we should try to understand and respect that. I would have not picked "human sacrifice" as a way to convey this point though.
* The author seems to embrace some discriminatory and false anti-atheist stereotypes, including equating lack of faith with lack of morality.
* The author portrays science as dogmatic and incapable of accept what is in front of our eyes, while the very foundation of the scientific method is based on objective observation.
* While I admire people risking or sacrificing their life for the good of others, I do not see anything noble in Polly's throwing her life away in a known to be futile attempt to save the person that abuse her and traded her life for his own gain. The author frames Polly's decision as similar to the one of ישוע sacrificing his life to save humanity, while to me it reads like the actions of a woman that has been abused to the point of throwing her life away in an attempt to save her abuser.
I would not recommend this book to anyone, especially not to a child.
Started: Feb 05 2019 Finished: Feb 21 2019
by H.P. Lovecraft (2012)
Years ago I decided to read the complete work of this author, a choice that I came to regret: while Lovecraft's contribution to the field is indisputable, and while a small number of his stories are good, the vast majority of his work is mediocre at best, and often marred by horrifying xenophobia. I thought I was done reading his work, when I came across this collaborations between Lovecraft and Whitehead that I had previously missed. I decided to give it a try since in my experience some of the best of Lovecraft's stories are collaborations. The Trap is not an exception: while it is not a masterpiece, and while some xenophobic attitude ruins it for me, it is entertaining and it has an interesting plot.
This is the story of Canevin, the narrator, that settles as a school tutor after many travels to far away lands that open his mind to the mysteries of the paranormal. He finally get a chance to take out of storage an antique mirror that he found in an abandoned estate house... but the mirror is not just what it appears to be.
Started: Feb 17 2019 Finished: Feb 18 2019
Under the Spinodal Curve
by Hanuš Seiner (2018)
In a near feature metallurgists souls can be separated from the body and sent inside metals to manipulate them Metallurgists to craft the nano-architecture of metal alloys into perfection. Doing so leaves the body without a soul, inhabited by an echo of their soul until their are reunited few month later... if the soul decides it want to do so, erasing all the memories of its echo.
Near the vast steelworks of Karshad, a journalist has fallen in love with the residual personality of a metallurgist...
Started: Feb 16 2019 Finished: Feb 17 2019
The Heart of Owl Abbas
by Kathleen Jennings (2018)
I did not like this story for the same reason I hated Lovecraft's dream cycle stories: while they may be poetically and beautifully written, but I am not fond of ornate and oneiric storytelling. It's just a type of story and a kind of style I cannot stand (but tons of people love, I am just not one of them).
In The Heart of Owl Abbas a composer in an unstable city-state accidentally discovers the perfect singer for his work, that turns out to be a clockwork man. It starts composing songs, inspired by its voice.. and doing so he sows the seeds of revolution.
Started: Feb 15 2019 Finished: Feb 16 2019
The Minnesota Diet
by Charlie Jane Anders (2018)
This short story was first published as part of Future Tense, a series of short stories about how technology and science will change our lives. The series is a collaboration among Arizona State University, New America, Slate, and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. The series features many prominent science fiction author, and the author of this story, Charlie Jane Anders
, is no exception: she won the Nebula award for best novel and she is a personal favorite.
The story is set in a future where augmented reality is mainstream, and in the Utopian city of New Lincoln, built using GM self-repairing bio materials. In this city a group of friends spend their days fine tuning apps and their free time hanging out in virtual reality spaces. One day the fully automated city food supply chain breaks down.
The author explores how frail our modern supply chain is, as demonstrated by the New York City's food shortage that occurred in few days after Hurricane Sandy hit. But the author also touches a lot of other interesting themes: like what is living life in the tech bubble, how reliance on pure algorithms may have unintended consequences, and how people reacts in the face of emergencies.
: Feb 14 2019 Finished:
Feb 15 2019
AI and the Trolley Problem
by Pat Cadigan (2018)
I have been wanting to read something by Pat Cadigan for a while now, but I never had a chance before. I do not know how this compare with the rest of her work, but I quite enjoyed it. AI and the Trolley problem is a story about the relationship between the humans on a British airbase and the AI security system that guards that base. When a group of humans are killed, the question is who is responsible and why. Based on the title, can you guess the rest of the story?
Started: Feb 12 2019 Finished: Feb 13 2019
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
by John Carreyrou
I am usually not into non-fiction books that focus and explore real world crimes, but this book was a big exception. It was extremely fascinating, and imporrible to put down. I read the bulk of it in 2 days.
Bad Blood is the full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar biotech startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end, despite pressure from its charismatic CEO and threats by her lawyers.
In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup "unicorn" promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at more than $9 billion, putting Holmes's worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: the technology didn't work.
In Bad Blood, John Carreyrou tells the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley.
Started: Feb 05 2019 Finished: Feb 12 2019
You Know How the Story Goes
by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2018)
You know how the story goes is a short horror story that uses a variation of a well-established genre trope: somebody takes a chance and pick up a hitchhiker after midnight when they need some company. Then of course, the hitchhiker will disappear. But this time the role are reversed: the narrator is the hitchhiker, a young men stranded without a ride back after a night at the club. He eventually managed to get a ride from an unusual driver... and there’s a tunnel up ahead.
Started: Feb 04 2019 Finished: Feb 05 2019
The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #13)
by Lemony Snicket (2006)
I started reading A Series of Unfortunate Events back in 2006. I went through the first few books, enjoyed them, but I never completed reading the series back then: the first few books follow a similar plot structure and I was getting a little bored with it. Last year (2018) I decided to restart the series and complete it. Soon I discover that I had left just before things get more interesting: after the first few books the framing story starts emerging and slowly takes over. Each volume become more fun and interesting until book 12, where a lot of revelations are expected and (almost) none are given. I assumed the author was setting up the stage for the grand finale, book 13. I was expecting resolution and revelations, but even less are given. We are told that mysteries are nested inside mysteries, and the explanation of anything is another long story in itself rooted in even longer stories. There is no beginning and there is no end. While I appreciate the philosophical argument, I cannot stop feeling let down and cheated. While the book is well written, intriguing, and original, it is nevertheless disappointing.
Started: Jan 28 2019 Finished: Feb 05 2019
by Emily St. John Mandel (2017)
Mr Thursday was initially published as part of Future Tense, a series of short stories about how technology and science will change our lives. The series is a collaboration among Arizona State University, New America, Slate, and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. This story explores time travels and some of this paradoxes (I cannot say more to avoid spoilers). It is enjoyable and well written, and the characters are interesting.
Started: Feb 03 2019 Finished: Feb 04 2019
by Abbey Mei Otis (2010)
Interesting deeply allegorical and unfortunately timely story, set in a near future where extra terrestrial sentient being have come to live with us on Earth. Not surprisingly racism takes route quite quickly, and things escalates. As Wiesenthal famously said, for evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing. This very short story is very disturbing: it very adroitly shows how (unfortunately) easy it is to rationalize and to dismiss what is happening in those situations, how easy is to do nothing without feeling any guilt, or spending any thoughts of it.
Started: Feb 03 2019 Finished: Feb 03 2019
by Lavie Tidhar (2018)
YiWu is an interesting mix of science fictional and fantastic elements. In a highly technological future when man has colonized the solar system there is a lottery that promises, a prize, to turn your dreams to reality. This is the story of a humble shopkeeper in Yiwu, that earn a living selling lottery tickets. Until a winning ticket opens up mysteries he'd never imagined.
Started: Feb 03 2019 Finished: Feb 03 2019
Mother of Invention
by Nnedi Okorafor (2018)
I had read and deeply loved Dr. Okorafor's work before and I was eager to read more. This short story does not disappoint: as usual the world-building is exquisite and the characters are intriguing. I would love to see this short story expanded into a longer format, since there is so much to this story that cannot fully shine in mere 15 pages. I cannot wait to read more by this author.
The story is set in a future Nigeria, deeply transformed by the GMO industry, where Anwuli find herself shunned by society, family, and friends when her boyfriends turns out to be already married. Pregnant, she find refuge in Obi 3, the sentient home built by her ex...
Started: Feb 02 2019 Finished: Feb 02 2019
The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)
by Mary Robinette Kowal (2018)
It has been a while since I have enjoyed a book so much. It's is extremely enjoyable, fast paced, exquisitely and adroitly written. The amount of the research that went into this alternative history novel was clearly quite a lot: the United States of America of the 50s and of the space race it's perfectly recreated while never sounding even remotely didascalic. The characters are very interesting, complex, and far from the usual stereotype.
Reading this book was an emotional roller-coaster. It starts with an impossible to put down, breathtaking, super fast paced escape from a meteorite blast. It would fit perfectly in a Hollywood blockbuster! Then the thrills of the age of the space race, with all the excitements and the fears of the times. And last but not least, the maddening gender and ethnicity base discrimination.
This is an amazing book, and it will be at the top of My Hugo Award for Best Novel ballot. I really cannot wait to read the sequel!
The story starts on a cold spring night in 1952, when a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.
Elma York's experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition's attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn't take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can't go into space, too...
Started: Jan 11 2019 Finished: Jan 31 2019
The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #12)
by Lemony Snicket (2005)
I have been working through the entire A Series of Unfortunate Events series, and I have enjoyed each book. This penultimate book is no exception: it is quite entertaining.
The Baudelaire orphans are taken by Kit Snicket to the last safe place, a very peculiar hotel organized as a library, where both noble and villains volunteers are going to meet soon. They disguise themselves as Baudelaire, and are tasked by Kit to identify noble and villain volunteers. As it become soon clear, the task is incredibly difficult, since we live in a world where nothing is just black or white.
The book features many of the characters that we have previously encountered, and a lot of mysteries are resolved, but many more are encountered. This said, this is the book I liked the least so far: while a lot of things happen, the plot is relatively thin. There are also few points where the characters' actions seem illogical and/or out of character. I am assuming the author is setting up the stage for the next book, that is the last. I am looking forward reading it.
Started: Jan 10 2019 Finished: Jan 26 2019
A Model Dog
by John Scalzi (2019)
A Model Dog is science fiction short-story full of John Scalzi's hallmark biting humor, sarcasm, and wit. This is the story of an overworked computer engineer that is tasked to worked on the latest whim of his crazy CEO. It is also a sarcastic reflection on today's Tech sector.
An entertaining short story, perfect for your commute or a short plane flight.
Started: Jan 25 2019 Finished: Jan 25 2019
by Ian McDonald (2018)
The book cover describes this book as a love story with a science fiction element. This is not even remotely a love story. Interestingly enough, while I do not like romantic stories, I strongly believe the book would have been much better if the romantic element was moved front and center and expanded.
Despite the misleading description that does great disservice to the book (since it sets the wrong expectations and attracts the wrong readers to it), I found the novella beautifully written, enjoyable, and original.
The story is set in different epochs.
In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers. Brought together by a secret project designed to hide British targets from German radar, the two founded a love that could not be revealed. When the project went wrong, Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found.
In today's world a used book dealer who specializes in World War II books stumbles across a love letter between Tom and Ben written during the war. He tries to trace the men, and with a little help ends up finding photos of the couple that shouldn't be possible.
If you like science fiction and/or historical novels, this book is for you!
Started: Jan 06 2019 Finished: Jan 10 2019
The Weapon of a Jedi: A Luke Skywalker Adventure
by Jason Fry (2015)
I was looking for a light and short read while traveling, and this seemed to fit the bill. It is far from being a masterpiece, and it's not really memorable, and it does not really offer some interesting insight to the Skywalker saga, but it is enjoyable and entertaining.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.... The rebel alliance has destroyed the Empire's dreaded death star, but the galaxy remains convulsed by civil war, and the Imperial starfleet is hunting the rebels throughout the galaxy. Luke Skywalker, the pilot who destroyed the Death Star, is now hailed as a hero. But Luke seeks only to support the freedom fighters, serving the Rebellion behind the controls of his X-wing fighter. Even as he flies alongside the pilots of Red Squadron, Luke feels stirrings in the mystical energy field known as the Force. And this farm boy turned fighter pilot begins to suspect his destiny lies along a different path....
Started: Jan 01 2019 Finished: Jan 09 2019
The Prisoner of Limnos (Penric and Desdemona, #6)
by Lois McMaster Bujold (2019)
I have grown fond of the Penric and Desdemona
series, and I particularly liked the previous installments of Nikys' story arc started inPenric’s Mission
and I was looking forward reading this latest installment. I was not disappointed: the novella is quite entertaining, and it brings the arc to a satisfying conclusion.
In The Prisoner of Limnos
temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news: Nikys's mother has been taken hostage by her brother's enemies at the Cedonian imperial court, and confined in a precarious island sanctuary. Their own romance still unresolved, Nikys, Penric, and of course Desdemona must infiltrate the hostile country once more, finding along the way that family relationships can be as unexpectedly challenging as any rescue scheme.
: Dec 30 2018 Finished:
Jan 06 2019
by Richard Parks
This novella was initially collected in "Fantasy: The Best Of The Year (2005 edition)" and later released on the web in PDF format, and as an audiobook. It is the story of a very powerful mage with a very bad reputation, hiring a very adroit thief. The thief is very wary, he does not want to do anything with the mage. But the wizard managed to entice him leveraging on his desire for new challenges... and some threats. It will turn out that the motivations of both characters are not the ones we are led to believe at first. An entertaining short story, a nice read for a raining day.
Started: Dec 30 2018 Finished: Jan 01 2019