User Profile

Kevin B. O'Brien

Ahuka@bookwyrm.social

Joined 1 year, 2 months ago

Retired project manager, frequent contributor to Hacker Public Radio, formerly involved with Ohio LinuxFest and Penguicon. General enthusiast for Free Software and for Federated Media. Also a big History buff, and I listen to a lot of History podcasts. @Ahuka@octodon.social

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The Verge No rating

Outstanding history writing

No rating

I first encountered Patrick Wyman from his podcast The Fall of Rome, which I highly recommend. History is a funny thing, there are so many ways to approach a topic. Wyman's take in this podcast was to look at the lives of some ordinary people during the period when the Western Roman Empire was falling. For example, one episode looked at the life a Romanized Goth who was a soldier in the legions, and what life was like for him and his family. When that was completed, he started a new podcast called Tides of History, which I subscribe to. So when he published this book, I wanted to get it, and I am glad I did. This book looks at a 40 year period in European history, 1490-1530, and again he looks at key developments through the lives of individuals, but in this case not anonymous average people but …

Stop the Presses! (EBook, MysteriousPress.com/Open Road) 3 stars

There are few people Nero Wolfe respects, and Lon Cohen of the New York Gazette …

Readable but not outstanding

3 stars

The Goldsborough Nero Wolfe books are a little controversial among serious Wolfe fans. I would never claim that they match up to Stout's work, but I have derived sufficient pleasure from them to keep reading them. After all, it is the only way to get new Wolfe stories, and I am a big Wolfe fan. This book is a case of Lon Cohen asking a favor of Wolfe, and as Wolfe has asked many favors of Lon in the past he feels bound to help out if he can. The Gazette has an acid-tongued gossip columinst who has made a lot of enemies. But 5 in particular have made threats that are deemed serious. Lon would like Wolfe to look into it, and maybe help to protect the columnist. And when said columnist turns up dead from a gunshot wound, suspicions abound. Yet the police insist that it was a …

Living With Moore's Law (EBook, 2021, Dana Blankenhorn LLC) 5 stars

Moore's Law is the most important and most misunderstood fact of our lives. It has …

The Intersection of Technology, Science, and Economics

5 stars

This was a fascinating book. I first started following Blankenhorn when he was a reporter covering technology, particularly Linux and Open Source software. Then I added his blog to my feed reader, and it remains there to this day. Moore's Law is named for Gordon Moore of Intel, who once forecast that the number of transistors on a silicon chip would roughly double every two years, which is of course an exponential growth curve, and if you know anything about mathematics you know that exponential growth curves get insanely steep insanely quickly. In the real world, of course, that cannot persist. Some factor will step in to stop the exponential growth. But Blankenhorn expands on the notion and explores how something very much like Moore's Law happens in other areas. And the implications are important. For example, with the role that computers play in our economy, this implies a deflationary …

A fire upon the deep (2011, Tor) 4 stars

Thousands of years in the future, humanity is no longer alone in a universe where …

A Masterpiece of Science Fiction

5 stars

This is a masterpiece of a book, deservedly considered a classic. It starts with a group of human scientists re-awakening an AI, but everything goes pear-shaped very quickly. From there two plot lines proceed in parallel, one concerning a family from the group that worked on the AI, the other concerning a group of mixed human and alien beings that are trying to deal with the menace unleashed on the galaxy by this AI. The greatest fascination of this novel is the alien races. They are very disctinctly different, but Vinge makes them believable at the same time. The plot line of the escaped family takes them to a world inhabited by beings with group consciousness. They are like small mammals, but an individual of this species is not even conscious or intelligent. It is only when they they join together in groups of 5-8 that they become intelligent entities. …

Variable Star (Hardcover, 2006, Tor Books) 4 stars

Variable Star is a 2006 science fiction novel by American author Spider Robinson, based on …

A worthy effort from two good writers

5 stars

You don't know what to expect when one writer finishes a work started by another writer, particularly when that other writer is considered one of the greats in the field. Happily, Spider Robinson is a pretty darned good writer himself, as the Callahan's series demonstrates, and is a big Heinlein fan as well. So I was delighted to find that this book read to me like a Heinlein I had somehow missed reading that came from his prime period. It is rather like a typical YA novel that Heinlein wrote, and indeed that was its intended use, but somehow it got put aside in the form of detailed notes. So the characters and plot are all Heinlein, and like most of his YA novels it is about a young fellow (named Joel Johnston) who nearly finds himself married to the richest heiress in the solar system, but then decides he …

The Misadventures of Nero Wolfe (EBook, MysteriousPress.com/Open Road) 4 stars

A collection of parodies and pastiches from top authors in the mystery genre

Fun if you are a fan

4 stars

I quite enjoyed this book as a long time fan of Nero Wolfe. I read it on our long RV trip, when we also watched both seasons of the A&E series (outstanding), and the whole season of the earlier William Conrad version (watchable). I have read the Nero Wolfe Corpus several times, been a member of the Wolfe Pack, and currently host an email list devoted to discussions of the stories, though it has sadly drifted into silence. So you might just say I am a fan. This volume is inspired by the earlier Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes, and similarly contains a variety of partiches and parodies. There are some very good writers represented here, such as Lawrence Block, Loren Estleman, and John Lescroart. And because it contains short pieces, it is perfect for people like me that often have 3-4 books going concurrently. This is the kind of book …

In the Ocean of Night (Paperback, 2004, Aspect) 3 stars

2019: NASA astronaut Nigel Walmsley is sent on a mission to intercept a rogue asteroid …

A setup for the series

4 stars

This is the kind of book that on its own is not a masterpiece, though it is interesting enough. The main character, Nigel Walmsley, is an astronaut who stumbles across an alien derelict and it changes his life. The setting is a future that has some elements of dystopia, but they are mostly offstage and just refered to in passing. Walmsley is Brit who is also employed by NASA and ends up working at the JPL in the middle of the book, then manages to get assigned to a moon base when more alien technology is discovered there. The way he gets involved in all of this stuff is just little unrealistic, but you have to suspend disbelief. The thing about this novel is that it is setting up the rest of the series. After all, the Galactic Center makes no appearance here, but it will show up later. So …

Calibans War                            Expanse (Orbit) 4 stars

An excellent continuation

5 stars

This continuation of the story of The Expanse universe maintains the pace set in the first volume, Leviathan Wakes. It also continues the writing technique of switching the viewpoint character with every chapter. This might sound confusing, but it works because the plot involves the interaction of different characters in different places on this wide canvas. Returning characters include Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante. And a wonderful new character, Chrisjen Avasarala, makes an appearance here. She is a very smart politician in the U.N. and she manages to play a crucial role in preventing an interplanetary war. Then there is the alien presence represented by the proto-molecule that was the focus of the first book. It is up to something, but just what? A little bit of that mystery is hinted at, but there is much more to come. Now at this point I should admit I …

Hero of Two Worlds (2021, PublicAffairs) 5 stars

Excellent history/biography writing

5 stars

I first encountered Mike Duncan through his amazing History of Rome podcast and fell in love with his style of historical presentation. Whe he released his first book, The Storm Before The Storm, which cames out of that podcast, I bought it and was not disappointed. When he finished with The History of Rome he started a new podcast, Revolutions, which covered a series of revolutions from the English Civil War, through the US, Haiti, Gran Columbia, Mexico, France, and up to Russia, the final one (still in progress as I write this.) I think he must have gotten intrigued that one person showed up in three revolutions, the Marquis de Lafayette, and then discovered that not much had been written in English about this fascinating and important figure. This biography follows Lafayette from his childhood through his adventures in America, the French Revolution, and finally the 1830s, up to …

Hero of Two Worlds (2021, PublicAffairs) 5 stars

Review of 'Hero of Two Worlds' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

I first encountered Mike Duncan through his amazing History of Rome podcast and fell in love with his style of historical presentation. Whe he released his first book, The Storm Before The Storm, which cames out of that podcast, I bought it and was not disappointed. When he finished with The History of Rome he started a new podcast, Revolutions, which covered a series of revolutions from the English Civil War, through the US, Haiti, Gran Columbia, Mexico, France, and up to Russia, the final one (still in progress as I write this.) I think he must have gotten intrigued that one person showed up in three revolutions, the Marquis de Lafayette, and then discovered that not much had been written in English about this fascinating and important figure. This biography follows Lafayette from his childhood through his adventures in America, the French Revolution, and finally the 1830s, up to …

The Pursuit of the Pankera (EBook, 2020, CAEZIK SF & Fantasy) 4 stars

Robert A. Heinlein wrote The Number of the Beast, which was published in 1980. In …

Review of 'The Fellowship of the Ring' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

In 1980 Heinlein published a novel called The Number of the Beast. It involved parallel universes, The World as Fiction, and dragged in Lazarus Long, as Heinlein seemed to do in most of his later books. While parts of it were fun, it was also confusing and disjointed in my opinion. I will read any Heinlein for the writing alone, so I am a fan (in fact, I was for a time the webmaster for The Heinlein Society), but I can see that some of his stuff is better than others. So when I heard there was an alternate version of this novel, I had to check it out. And The Pursuit of the Pankera keeps the same basic setting and has the same beginning as The Number of the Beast, but I think it is much better. The plot is a lot more cohesive and the novel just flows …

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part I (Paperback, 2015, MX Publishing) 4 stars

Review of 'The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part I' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

This series of Sherlock Holmes pastiches is quite good for the fan. It is not quite up to the standards of Conan Doyle, but then, what is? It is still an enjoyable return visit to 221b Baker Street, and deserves a place on the bookshelf of Sherlockians. I have purchased all of the volumes so far released in electronic form (pdf), since I am getting away from physical stuff as much as possible. Calibre does a reasonable job of taking the pdf and putting it on Kindle in the correct format. MX does these books as Kickstarters, which I am seeing more of for niche books.