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Francis Spufford: Red Plenty (2010, Faber and Faber) 3 stars

Review of 'Red Plenty' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

Spufford's writing style is exquisite. Some of the most unique and interesting prose I have ever read if you consider this book one sentence at a time.

Ultimately this fact made me rate the book itself 3/5 although it felt like a 2/5. I just could not get into it. Nothing engaged me, I drifted off reading and probably missed something important - but cared so little to go back and re-read that section.

Why? I struggle to pin that down. The concept and subject matter interest me. Having read a number of Russian texts about the period before, including the unabridged Gulag Archipelago, this one seemed right up my alley.

Fascinating in a way that I love the text and hate the story. will certainly try reading Spufford again.

Zach Weinersmith, Kelly L. Weinersmith: Soonish (2017) 3 stars

Review of 'Soonish' on 'GoodReads'

2 stars

Yeah, I think it's a decent book, but not pitched towards those knowledgeable in most of these fields at all. Of course the target audience is the general interested public, so my lowish rating is personal and does not reflect the content.

A number of well selected and researched topics covering a wide range of fields - well rounded in general. I found the humor dispersed through to be more comic relief rather that funny - this may have been a conscious choice, since the subject matter may get daunting for those readers coming across some of these concepts for the first time. My feeling however was that it was mostly cringeworthy all but once or twice.

There were some excellent Nota Bene however. If you're generally well read in the technosphere and happen across this book - skim through and read those for sure.

Kim Stanley Robinson, Kim Stanley Robinson: Ministry for the Future (2020, Orbit) 4 stars

Established in 2025, the purpose of the new organization was simple: To advocate for the …

Review of 'Ministry for the Future' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

In principle I should have really enjoyed this, but it was just a good book, not a great one.

KSR has done exactly what he set out to do, and does not deviate from his usual 'apply the technology & investigate deep character driven reactions'. Here he asks the question that ultimately is _the_important one of our times: how exactly do we get ourselves out of this climate mess?

I really can't fault any of this. The characters are interesting, the fact that we get to hear from many of the usually sidelined voices is great, there's a bunch of technology, humanity prevails albeit with a lot of sacrifice. What's not to like in a well written KSR story that follows this standard template?

After a lot of thinking on that I seriously cannot say. 'Nothing is wrong with that' is really the correct answer, but I just don't find …

reviewed Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (A Bantam spectra book)

Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (Paperback, 2008, Bantam Spectra) 4 stars

In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosaNostra Pizza Inc., but in the …

Review of 'Snow crash' on 'GoodReads'

5 stars

I knew nothing of the content of this book coming in, although it's been on my radar to-read for 20 years now. Being late to the party I suspected a somewhat dated cyberpunk hacker expose: similar to Gibson's Neuromancer.

This is true in some sense, although I don't think it dates as poorly as Neuromancer does. There's not a gigantic amount of technical jargon that's fallen out of use (PROM - programmable read-only memory) is perhaps the only concept that kids growing up now wouldn't understand directly (even though we still use it a lot in our daily lives, RFID for example).

What I wasn't expecting was the connections to ancient Sumer, religions and gnosis; language hacking, culture exploration and a whole raft (!) of other tropes tying together to uncover an answer to one of societies oldest questions.

A thrilling ride all in all.

The ending felt a little …

Douglas R. Hofstadter: I Am a Strange Loop (2007, Basic Books) 4 stars

Review of 'I Am a Strange Loop' on 'GoodReads'

2 stars

An exploration of consciousness by a prominent scholar in the field & an educational background similar to my own -- what's not to like? Well, for me, that was 'most of it' unfortunately.

The book was a slog to get through. I put it down about half way in and it took some time to come back and finish it of. I don't think that it was the subject matter; but the content, context and story telling that killed it.

VCRs, marbles, record players: I'm not that young that these things are before my time. For a book written in 2007 however these references still seem dated. That, for one was something that didn't mesh with me. Second: Hofstadter's heroes are not my heroes - and it seems you need to have a deep understanding of certain nuances & mannerisms of particular musicians that play Bach in the 'correct' way …

Dennis E. Taylor: Heaven’s River (Paperback, 2021, Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency) 4 stars

More than a hundred years ago, Bender set out for the stars and was never …

Review of "Heaven's River" on 'GoodReads'

5 stars

I was so excited when this came out that I dropped the other book I was reading. It certainly didn't disappoint. If you've read the rest of the series, then there's really not much to say about this book. It stayed on track, delivers everything you would come to expect from the bobiverse: humor, intrigue, exploration of exotic space-lands, political tensions and the odd space war. In general, the same excellence as the last installments.

The focus on rescuing Bender made the story perhaps a bit myopic for a universe of Von Neumann probes; which was acknowledged by a number of elder bobs throughout the story, many of which are gearing up for a second expansion of the borders of known space. That's perhaps the only missing aspect of the standard tropes one comes to expect from the bobiverse in this book.

The internal bobiverse conflict was, at least to …

Adrian Tchaikovsky: The Expert System's Brother (2018, 4 stars

Review of "The Expert System's Brother" on 'GoodReads'

2 stars

Novellas: awful format for sci-fi. Tchaikovsky does not have a bad idea here, nor has he written it poorly. That being said, its crammed into half the size it needed to be. There's no capacity for suspense, since every little dropped hint about what could happen in the future hits you like a truck. The plot is rushed, events occur with little time to sink in - because of this, everything is transparent. There are no twists and turns because you know what will happen before it eventually goes down two pages later.

Review of 'Space 2. 0' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

Published in Feb 2019, this book already seems out-dated. This is one of the main points the book is highlighting though: we're entering into a New Space Age and it's happening at break-neck speeds.

The book is written well, interesting, has everything you need to understand contemporary space activities (perhaps only up until around 2017 with any specificity). On the other hand though, if you're a space enthusiast - there's nothing new here.

So in the end, I'd highly recommend this to those with a new interest in space, and young adults who are looking to space as a future career path.

Martha Wells: Network Effect (2020) 4 stars

WINNER of the 2021 Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards!

The first full-length novel in Martha …

Review of 'Network Effect' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

This was fun, as all the Murderbot books have been. Quite happy to see a novel this time! There were no novella related shortcomings, although perhaps Wells' forte indeed lies in the thinner format. This book had multiple places where things were explained for the 15th time, or a joke was told over and over again. Don't get me wrong; this dry, smirk-worthy humor is what I came here for, but it got repetitive.

I certainly enjoyed the plot. It dug into the lore of the universe Murderbot exists within, and expands upon a number of old character arcs that were very welcomed. Murderbot itself begins to find a place in the world, even though it cannot be too sure of that.

The series now has a solid footing, with the characters ready to explore on their own terms, rather than being on the back foot all the time. Looking …

Review of 'Zendegi' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

This one was.. different. Not super spaced out hard sci-fi like most of Egan's work, but quite down to Earth and essentially near future. I was worried this may turn out to be another one of Egan's works I didn't like: Teranesia. I found it too close to home and too far away from Egan's wheelhouse. Happy that these first impressions were wrong.

The story is primarily set in Iran and steeped quite deep in Iranian culture, which for those not versed in it could be considered other-worldly enough to learn about customs and history, both of which Egan may have done really well throughout his own story telling. Maybe - I don't know. But compelling enough for me to hunt some of it down.

The science part of this fiction concerns digital brain analogues essentially. Not mind uploading, but some form of precursor synthetic mind. In general, the exploration …

Stanisław Lem: Solaris (Paperback, 2016, Faber & Faber) 4 stars

When Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its …

Review of 'Solaris' on 'GoodReads'

5 stars

When I first read Summa Technologiae I had never heard of Lem, but the power and timelessness of his intellect in that masterpiece of non fiction, and the small snippets he eludes to concerning what constitutes good science fiction there definitely put him on my radar.

Finally, I've managed to get around to reading what many consider his magnum opus. To put it mildly, I don't think that many, if any current sci-fi writers attempt to write about truly alien life the way Solaris did.

I think it's best not to speak much about the specifics that occur in the story. This is very much a piece that you'll want to read without knowing too much concerning the plot. Suffice to say though that it's incredibly well written. The characters are totally confused about what's happening, but you as a reader are not tangled up in their confusion if that …

Sam J Miller: Blackfish City (2018, Ecco) 4 stars

Review of 'Blackfish City' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

My thoughts about this book are quite torn. I loved many parts of it, but in total - not so much.

I think the genre here is something that authors really should begin to explore in depth: post climate-catastrophe society. Miller did a great job world building in that sense. I loved the complexity of Qaanaaq and the factions, politics, daily occurrences etc. Characters? I enjoyed most of their motivations - not all. There was quite an over-representation of LGBTQAI+ (which seems to be trendy at the moment), but didn't add any real unique perspective - seemed to be just ticking some arbitrary diversity box.

The middle section was fantastic. Where there was a bunch of stuff trying to be worked out over all the character's lives, what certain things were, where they came from, bridging these supposedly unrelated happenings and people together.

Then, it all fell in a heap. …

Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse-Five (Paperback, 1999, Chelsea House Publishers) 4 stars

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time, …

Review of 'Slaughterhouse-Five' on 'GoodReads'

1 star

I don't think that Vonnegut writes poorly, nor do I think this work lacks inherent interest. It's more-so that this, alongside Catch-22 and the like, is a genre I just can't get behind. I understand the need for anti-war fiction, indeed even fiction mostly accounted from real life witness. With that being said, it seems that once you've read one 'war is futile and nothing makes sense, but that's what war is all about' book, you've read them all.

Am I so far out of touch with those in the story that I just don't get it? Well, actually no, and I don't think that this would be Vonnegut's aim either. I hope that war has been made so redundant to me that the thought of going through something like this in life continues to be a totally alien concept to me and everyone else. But I'd also hope that …

Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 (2006) 4 stars

Fahrenheit 451 is a 1953 dystopian novel by American writer Ray Bradbury. Often regarded as …

Review of 'Fahrenheit 451' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

It must be close on 25 years ago that I first heard about this book, and now finally I can tick it off the list. Surprisingly also, this is the first time I've read anything by Bradbury, even though I have a number of his works on my shelves.

The book is such a classic, that I'd be surprised if people don't know the general premise, and of course in that sense there wasn't too much wow factor or plot twists that one uncovers here. With that said, it is wonderfully written. The clarity of the landscape the characters see themselves in is simple and clear to the reader. Depressing, vapid and shallow as one continues through the story as it becomes more and more fatalist.

Such a simple phrase, such a beautiful phrase, as Montag meets the group by the fire at the end:
"... and Time was there." …