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Joined 1 year, 1 month ago

A mix of academic (philosophy, cognitive science, some science and technology studies) and science fiction or fantasy. A bit of pop science for giggles. Just getting started here, and slow to get going...

Academic tastes: Enactive approach, embodied cognitive science, ecological psychology, phenomenology Fiction: Iain M. Banks, Ursula le Guin, William Gibson, Nnedi Okorafor, China Miéville, N.K. Jemisin, Ann Leckie

Love space opera but mostly disappointed by what I read there. Somehow didn't read Pratchett until recently, and now methodically working my through in sequence (I know sequence is not necessary, but ...).

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Marek's books

A Memory Called Empire (Paperback, 2020, Pan Macmillan) 4 stars

Won the 2020 Hugo for Best Novel. Ambassador Mahit Dzmare is posted far from her …

A galactic-spanning empire, where the people are more important than the galaxy-spanning. Superb, personal, space opera.

5 stars

Blurbed by Ann Leckie and reminiscent of her. A brilliantly written story with an rich cast of very human characters, in the throes of a series of events that are at once in human and also very banal – superbly demonstrates how the shifting of empires is something that happens at a very human scale, not by demigods or titans, but by people.

An example of space opera in the vein of Leckie, and Dune. That was one aspect of it that I could have done with a little more of, though that's probably a mood and taste thing. The world building is done well, and weaves the epic and prosaic, the exotic and banal, deftly, and with grace. There's plenty around the edges to make you feel that things extend much further than shown.

reviewed The Embodied Mind by Francisco Varela

The Embodied Mind (2017) 5 stars

A classic. Transformative in more ways than one.

5 stars

This is a difficult text, one that rather relentlessly strips away various assumptions and groundings that are taken as given in modern Western life, and replaces them with a scientifically infused awareness and appreciation for the dynamism and groundlessness of mind, world, and experience.

Demanding, but repays effort. One of several seminal texts for a whole approach to cognitive science, but considered first among them.

This is a revised edition, but the revisions are very light - the biggest changes are three new introductions to the text, including two by the surviving authors.

I was re-reading this as part of an online seminar series working through it chapter by chapter.

Hidden Systems (Paperback, 2023, Penguin Random House LLC, Random House Graphic) 5 stars

Excellent graphic work telling the story of the internet, electrical, and water systems on which we depend.

5 stars

Wasn't actually sure what I was getting when I ordered this, but I'm no an infrastructure kick so this one came as a double-purchase with Deb Chachra's "How Infrastructure Works" (that one's a couple of books down the queue still).

"Hidden Systems" is a graphic telling of the stories of three things we depend upon utterly, but probably spend little time considering how they work in real-world concrete terms: the internet, electricity, and water.

Easy to read, beautifully, and simply designed, and providing a genuinely superb sense of both the scale of these systems and how their many parts inter-connect, "Hidden Systems" is very much worth your time (and it won't ask too much of it, though there's plenty here to look back over more than once).

Nott's explicit goal is to allow us to think in clear and honest terms about the physical and human efforts, costs, and outcomes …

The Priory of the Orange Tree (Hardcover, 2019, Bloomsbury Publishing) 4 stars

A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of …

Lots to like here, but ultimately not as good as I wanted, and had hoped.

3 stars

It's been a long time since I dipped into the epic fantasy genre (I burned out on the meanderings of the Song of Ice and Fire after A Feast for Crows, and don't think I've been back since).

There is a lot to like about this book. It is epic, and it is fantasy, and the world-building is both rich and not beholden to the standard tropes of medieval (or even early modern/17th century-esque as this seems to be) societies. It's a world that doesn't have the typical misogyny or homophobia by which some authors announce the authenticity of their settings, and is better for it. Nothing about such things really adds realism to a setting, while realistic relationships between people certainly does.

The point of view characters are for the most part sympathetic and sometimes noble, though sometimes a little too much so.

While I welcome the overall positive …

A Spectre, Haunting (Hardcover, 2022, Head of Zeus) 5 stars

In 1848 a strange political tract was published by two émigrés from Germany. Marx and …

Miéville lending his powers of rich, deep, but accessible writing to an introduction to communism (and the Manifesto).

5 stars

Miéville has an absurd talent in leading the reader through difficult, (in his fiction, typically surreal) terrain, but keeping them not only interested but invested.

He plied the same trade with his novelised history of the Russian revolution, in "October". Here, a commentary and introduction to Marx & Engel's seminal Manifesto. It's a relatively brief tour through various aspects of the text - the genre of manifesto, common criticisms and their weaknesses, stronger criticisms and weaknesses in the text. I'm left with a much more nuanced, rich, and inspiring notion of communism than I had (I didn't know much), but without any sense of naivete about work, effort, or vigilance involved in it.

If you are at all curious, and certainly if you're invested in social justice, and the problems of contemporary society, it is highly recommended.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold (Paperback, 2021, Hanover Square Press) 4 stars

In a small back alley of Tokyo, there is a café that has been serving …

Charming and sweet, if a little on the nose at times.

4 stars

The premise, there's a seat in a coffee shop that allows you to travel to any other moment in time. The constraints - you can't leave the seat, and you only have as long as a cup of coffee stays warm.

The rules of the café are a bit silly, and repeated a few too many times, but the characters and the themes of the book are warm as a good cup of coffee, charming as a small out of the way café, and mostly very sweet in a way that coffee isn't. A time travel story that makes the simple point that what we really want when we fantasize about doing it is not a change to change the world, but to speak with someone.

Worth the short read.

reviewed The World We Make by N.k. Jemisin

The World We Make (Hardcover, 2022, Orbit) 4 stars

All is not well in the city that never sleeps. Even though the avatars of …

Closure, satisfying, but you can feel the author's struggle with it.

4 stars

Jemisin has a talent for characters you can care for and care about, and a smoothness to her writing that makes difficult ideas and abstract notions seem intuitive. All of that is on show here, and at a pace to get a story done before the world (our one) takes itself to pieces.

Its predecessor, The City We Became is a better book. It takes more time to develop the characters, their cares and arcs, though we barely get to see one of the most interesting ones (I won't go into too much detail in case you haven't read that one). We see them here, but mostly in small snatches of narrative and events rather than as a full point-of-view thread through the book. This is still a rollicking good read and a full, rich story, though. That the book isn't quite what it could have been is just made …