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Dark Emu : Black Seeds (2015, Magabala Books Aboriginal Corporation) 4 stars

Review of 'Dark Emu : Black Seeds' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

Certainly an interesting and important read, albeit a little taxing at times.

Pascoe is obviously passionate about this subject, one which deserves attention. He doesn't phrase his arguments as absolute truth, but vehemently requests deeper research into multiple aspects of per-colonial Aboriginal life and practice in an attempt to remove the (probably) fallacious historical account written by the 'victors', that is pervasive in today's collective understanding. This is to his credit.

On the other hand, his passion overflows a little too often and begins to proselytize. How wondrous such things must have been and how humble and magnificent other things were. Many cases in this book stem from second hand accounts, others are truly too simple (as in a passing phrase) of an account to warrant such diversions from the factual arguments Pascoe is making. It put me off in many places even though I'm sympathetic to his arguments. I …

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, …

Review of 'Why nations fail' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

A thorough investigation into a descriptive theory concerning the nation state and its endurance.

Not sure I can give this a thorough review though, since this really is a thesis concerning a non-trivial social theory, much of which I am not qualified to comment on or well read enough in this field to identify deficiencies in arguments.

Seemingly though, the text answers many concerns fired at other theories in this field quite well, and the authors give ample case studies (sometimes too many) to shore up their theory. If you're interested in a bit of social theory history, this book is actually laid out quite nice to give you context there, even if you skim over the model aspect of the work.

The final two or so chapters state, again at length, how and where to apply their theory, and why specific predictions are nonsensical, although some relative trending is …

The Master and Margarita (Paperback, 1996, Vintage International) 4 stars

The first complete, annotated English Translation of Mikhail Bulgakov's comic masterpiece.

An audacious revision of …

Review of 'The Master and Margarita' on 'GoodReads'

No rating

I'm not going to give a rating on this one because I didn't make it to the end before giving up. About 3/4 of the way through, I see no reason to finish.

This may be a Russian masterpiece, I just cannot tell. I cannot make sense of the English translation and it feels like I'm just reading disjoint words rather than sentenses, let alone a story. All of the supposed humour and satire is lost on me, and I seriously fail to see how non-russian speakers are rating this translation so high.

The Wizard and the Prophet (2018, Books on Tape) 3 stars

Review of 'The Wizard and the Prophet' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

Mann explores two opposing philosophical positions on how we should shape the future of our society and planet by following two lesser known pioneers of modern sustainability research.

To his credit, Mann mostly manages to keep the reader engaged as we cover a continuous stream of dry subject matter that spans most of this work.

Interesting it it's own right as a historical account of the hard and soft path value systems that battle for supremecy in our political and scientific landscapes, the book doesn't lay out too much more than that and perhaps an outlook would have been welcomed at the conclusion.

Whilst I haven't read into the author's credentials at all, from the places he has visited and the connections to the subject matter he obviously has, the fact that he only barely shares his own opinion on the subject matter leaves me thinking the book is a …

The Night Masquerade (2018, 4 stars

The concluding part of the highly-acclaimed science fiction trilogy that began with Nnedi Okorafor's Hugo- …

Review of 'The Night Masquerade' on 'GoodReads'

2 stars

First, a continuation of my gripes concerning the novella trilogy format: it was annoying to read books 2 and 3 back to back. You have a conversation at the end of book 2, and then 30 something pages later (but skipping over to book three) the conversation must be rehashed into a distant memory to 'refresh' the reader about what happened in the last installment. It happened literally yesterday - there is no need for a flashback sequence here.

Now, since the story is finished I can comment on it a little more. I think that this book was like the 3rd Lord of the Rings movie, where the big battle of the 2nd film was finished off right at the start, then for the next three hours everyone went home. There was no need for any of that.

The science in this sci-fi was quite far into the fiction …

Binti (2017) 4 stars

It's been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University. A year since …

Review of 'Binti' on 'GoodReads'

2 stars

Well, I thought I'd finish out this novella series. Again, I think that the format is not for me. This story may be interesting in its entirety, but I can't really comment too much on what is effectively just the middle part all that objectively.

There's some coming of age stuff, making choices you deem as right, but disappoint those around you. There's some ancient mysticism that turns out to be tech (which is generally a theme I like), there's tradition and interstellar war. On the surface this should be totally enjoyable and relevant to my interests. I need more of the context though I think. Let's see what I feel after finishing the next installment.

Hyperion (Paperback, 1990, Bantam Books) 4 stars

Hyperion is the tale of seven people who make a pilgrimmage to a terrifying creature …

Review of 'Hyperion' on 'GoodReads'

2 stars

Joe Valdez (a reviewer here on Goodreads) summaries my take on this book well with a single point: "[Dan Simmons'] great thinkers are not my great thinkers".

I just couldn't get into any of it. The stories weren't poorly written, they just weren't engaging at all. References to other real world authors and works that I've either read and felt were lackluster in their own right, or others that I have not yet read but certainly don't have high on my priority; continuously bombard the reader throughout. There were at least two novel things that I haven't much come across in a sci-fi novel before: heavy religious tones and poetry. Turns out this is also an unabridged list of things I don't enjoy in a sci-fi novel. Either that or I just don't tend to jive with Simmons' writing (this is the first of his work I have read).

Temporal …

The Gulag Archipelago (2007, Harper Perennial Modern Classics) 4 stars

Review of 'The Gulag Archipelago Volume 3' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

I'm very glad I kept at these volumes back-to-back. Since the subject matter is so difficult and ... unabridged, the momentum was necessary. Of course, Solzhenitsyn has done a fantastic job at keeping the reader motivated to read, not out of duty but of interest in his prosaic style.

This volume, somewhat unlike the first two, is a little milder in its content - since it discusses the death of Stalin and a subsequent relaxation of many decrees. Additionally, we hear of escape attempts, uprisings and those who fight back.

The most shocking (perhaps surprising is a better word) aspect to me was that of the exile life. Seems like those sentences were possibly harder for many than being thrown directly into a labour camp to begin with.

If you managed to get through Vol I&II, then yes - do keep going. As much as one can 'finish' a story …

The Gulag Archipelago (2007, Harper Perennial Modern Classics) 3 stars

Review of 'The Gulag Archipelago Volume 2' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

I'm not sure what more I can say about this volume that I haven't already expressed in my review of the first volume.

It's difficult not only from the depressive and shocking nature of the content, but as well as reading it as a non-russian with only a spattering of knowledge about this era. But I do feel far more confident this time round. I follow the stories, I know the vernacular, I know the timelines & things get worse - but I'm no longer surprised.

There are definite repetitions in this volume that, word for word, you read in the first volume. I guess, at each of these junctures we get an elaboration on each topic, but it makes such a long work even longer.

The most interesting part would have to have been the exposition of the thieves law and how they came to essentially run the camps …

The Singularity Trap (2018, Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency) 4 stars

Review of 'The Singularity Trap' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

I think D. Taylor has a knack for writing Average Joe stories where they get wrapped up in some fantastic voyage. This was an enjoyable read and true to form, however I think I was enjoying it far more before they found the artefact.

I would have actually loved to hear a space miner story. This is the near future day to day that authors should begin to explore.

I guess what happened afterwards was not so much the story telling that got me down - that, like all of Taylor's works is light hearted and fun, sprinkled with a sense of 'oh, shit!'. But, the endgame and ultimate fate of the universe just doesn't make sense.

If you're going to speak about the drake equation and the Fermi paradox, then solve that by using 3 great filters - fine. I follow you there. But you can't just say "this …

Review of 'The Gulag Archipelago Volume 1' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

This is a rough, but important read. Written by a Russian, for Russians; it is not so easily accessible for those of us outside of that locale both spatially and temporally. I'd suggest that those who wish to embark on this journey already have an invested understanding of Russian revolution history of the early 20th century, otherwise you'll end up missing some of the conceptual framework that Solzhenitsyn takes for granted that you know.

With that being said, the translation is done very well, and Solzhenitsyn must be commended for writing what must be some of the toughest paragraphs put to paper in a manner that is respectable to those that were trod underfoot, whilst not leaving out anything that he could corroborate happened. All the while making such a dreary and somewhat repetitious set of situations have their time in our memory, so the collective conscious learns and hopefully …

Caliban's War (Paperback, 2012, Orbit Books) 4 stars

We are not alone. On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches …

Review of "Caliban's War (Expanse 2)" on 'GoodReads'

5 stars

The writing style of this series is impeccable. Crass when it needs to be, as well as funny, disjoint, confusing & tense - all these threads woven into a fantastic web of intrigue and suspense. Sometimes a character's disposition or emotional state is given in a five sentence paragraph for dramatic effect. It's incredibly surprising how such a small set of words can be constructed in such a manner that seems to never have occurred to me to arrange like that, yet convey such an impressive statement of fact and emphasis.

And then, we have such a thrilling story going on with characters, vernacular and hard sci-fi themes deeper than many contemporary sci-fi stories even begin to attempt.

These are the first set of books I'm reading after seeing the TV adaptation, so I'm not going to comment on much of the story here, since for the most part I …

Aurora (2015, Orbit) 4 stars

A major new novel from one of science fiction's most powerful voices, Aurora tells the …

Review of 'Aurora' on 'GoodReads'

4 stars

A thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking account of a generation ship and its crew, on the way to Tau Ceti. Mostly narrated via the ship itself as it increases its capability and grapples with consciousness, or intelligence, or being - mostly humanity.

Some of the concepts and dangers brought up throughout are akin to KSR's other works, although a generation ship brings about its own unique issues. Zoodevolution seems like such a crazy problem to have to deal with.

I'm torn about the ending. Actually, it seems really laclustre. I want to know about the colony, I don't much care about beaches in this context. Reintegration isn't really explored as much as other themes, so why is an entire section devoted to this? The troubles of star people living at their destination, how that feels: fine. But it felt like this could have had a really decent 'the journey is …

21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018, Jonathan Cape) 4 stars

21 Lessons for the 21st Century is a book written by bestseller Israeli author Yuval …

Review of '21 Lessons for the 21st Century' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

Harari's first two powerhouses: Sapiens and Homo Deus were two books I thoroughly enjoyed. This one, at least to me, missed the mark a little - although I'm struggling to find out why. Sapiens was almost an archetypal story, which is where it gained its power and prominence. Homo Deus, as I stated in my review of it, fell a little flat in the early portions but made up in the discussions of a post-liberal democracy technological future.

Where did 21 lessons go wrong? Why was it wrong? Well. Much of it was perhaps talking about things that are obvious, but could not be considered archetypal. Thus I was not hit in the face with the realisations and acceptance of every page turn like Sapiens. It was more of an "I know this, we struggle with this, because this is fundamentally a Value, and it's not a thing we can …

Packing for Mars (2011, Norton) 4 stars

Space is devoid of the stuff humans need to live: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh …

Review of 'Packing for Mars' on 'GoodReads'

3 stars

If you got a copy of this book by reading the title and neglecting to read beyond that, you may not be in for what you expect. Mars specifics are not really spoken of at all. This book is an investigation into the more mundane but necessary requirements of human space flights lasting longer than a brief jaunt around the world and back. How long can a human stay in the same clothing without turning into a fungus, what's the best way to take a dump, is it possible to then eat those feces to save on launch weight? These kind of questions.

In general, this is a great foray into some of the more eyebrow raising aspects of the early to present-day design and engineering of space bound systems, including eye witness testimonies and interesting quips from historical transcripts that idiosyncratically brings some of the heroes of the Apollo …