flaviomatani: (Book of G-Quan)
2017-09-10 12:02 pm

[ Books ] Lockstep - Karl Schroeder

LockstepLockstep by Karl Schroeder




Here is another interesting take on the old 'How can we have a space faring civilisation without Faster than Light travel?'. The author's solution is to make all the people populating those orphan planets he assumes there to be in the space between the sun and Proxima Centauri have a synchronised hibernation. They all go to sleep at the same time and sleep for 360 months for each one they're awake, while in the meantime their robots exploit and grow their resources and their ships take them while asleep on those journeys that take years in real time but only weeks to them. It's a good plot idea and although there are possible flaws it mostly works. The story, however, is a little weak and seems to be very much aimed at a teenage audience, complete with cute sentient pets and daring rescues. The characters also follow this trend and are a bit difficult to believe, in particular Toby's 'younger' (now much older) siblings. It is still a good read, however and I enjoyed it.

This was the set book for the Bibliogoth meeting for September 2017.



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flaviomatani: (Book of G-Quan)
2017-08-21 11:44 am

[ Books ] Walkaway - Cory Doctorow

WalkawayWalkaway by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


It took me a little bit to get into the world of the book, but once it grabbed me I couldn’t let go until I finished it. The high-tech near-future world of the book is in the hands of a few mega-rich and the rest struggle to survive. Four young people decide to join the ‘walk-aways’, people who leave mainstream society and set out on their own. The strife that follows, as well as the main cause of that strife (which you only find out half-way through the book) defines the plot of the book. Some of it really stretches your suspension of disbelief to almost breaking point but it all is quite well done and holds together. The main characters are well drawn, believable for the most part. I enjoyed this book a lot.



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flaviomatani: (Book of G-Quan)
2017-08-15 08:36 pm

[ Books ] A Study in Scarlet - Arthur Conan Doyle

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes, #1)A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


When reading my first ever Sherlock Holmes story I wasn't expecting a Western, complete with horses, desert, Mormons and six-shooters, to jump out of the book and take over one third of the story. I felt it was a bit meandering and also that the only character that was credible and felt like a human being rather than a plot device in the book was Watson. The resolution of the drama is, alas, predictable once you know where it's going. Holmes comes across (at least to me) as a rather unpleasant, arrogant character but done in somewhat thick brushstrokes. I enjoyed the book to a fair extent but cannot say it was my favourite or that it entices me to read more Sherlock Holmes stories.



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flaviomatani: (Default)
2017-08-09 12:18 pm

[ Books ] The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.' by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Stephenson goes back to the many worlds theory with a rather different take on it. The world is now devoid of magic because... ah, wait, that might be a spoiler. Quite short by Stephenson's standards at 'only' 700 pages, which might be the influence of the co-author, Nicole Galland. Who I had not heard about but looks interesting and whose work I will be checking out. The usual Stephenson slow build up -but not as slow as in some of his other books. Again, maybe Galland rather than Stephenson. Quite believable characters, for the most part, as well as plot (once you accept the basic premise of the book); the account of the ballooning bureaucracy surrounding the project and the way it operates is quite funny and rings, alas, very true.

I read the whole of this in six days or so, in one go, pretty much. 'Anathem' is still my Stephenson favourite (as is its world), in which I know I am alone but I enjoyed this a lot and will probably read it again at some point.



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flaviomatani: (Book of G-Quan)
2017-06-16 11:29 am
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[ Books ] Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


First, a couple of disclaimers: I am not a '80s or '90s computer game kid, I was never that very much into that. Second, I was never a Rush fan. So, the prospects were not good when Bibliogoth set this book for their June 2017 meeting. To my surprise, I enjoyed it. Given the many relatively obscure references to things that I'm not that very interested in that I did get, I wonder how many I missed -the book is a geekfest. Some of the corporate behaviour and the willingness of people to surrender real life for a virtual world don't look like they have to wait for 2144 to become real. The story works, the characters are often drawn with thick brushstrokes but again, they mostly work. I enjoyed it.



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flaviomatani: (Book of G-Quan)
2017-06-13 08:57 am
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[ Books ] The Holy Machine, Chris Beckett

The Holy MachineThe Holy Machine by Chris Beckett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this one a lot, even though I prefer his Dark Eden series. A bit closer to allegory than I normally like but a very good story in a dystopian near-future which is different to other imaginings of it I've recently seen but one that is only just a little bit hyperbolic. It is not so much science-fiction as politics-fiction and society-fiction but then the best SF is.



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flaviomatani: (galaxy)
2017-06-08 08:59 pm

books and films... 'Interstellar', 'The Book of Phoenix'

Trying not to look at the news... ah, watched Interstellar. Only three years late. I be only a little musician so wouldn't really know but there might have been a few flaws in the physics there but it doesn't matter, it was a lovely story. Might watch it again tonight, to avoid watching the news. I have this sense of dread impending..

Also reading 'The Book of Phoenix' by Nnedi Okorafor. Quite good although it felt like it could have done with some more proof reading and sub-editing. Trying to think who it was that recommended me the author either here or in FB -if it was here, many thanks; it is a good story with just that proviso.
flaviomatani: (Book of G-Quan)
2017-05-16 08:27 am
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[ Books] Hunter - Chris Carter

The HunterThe Hunter by Chris Carter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A short story introducing Robert Hunter, detective, on his first day at LAPD. Brief, very well put together and enjoyable -if the account of a horrible crime, however fictional, can be said to be enjoyable...



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flaviomatani: (Book of G-Quan)
2017-05-16 07:45 am
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[ Books ] Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of EverythingFreakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I came to this book somewhat belatedly after it was recommended to me by a friend. It was a very interesting book even though I didn't always feel I could agree on what the authors were saying, or rather their conclusions, but what it posits is interesting, it does seem to provide useful tools for analysis of things that are not, prima facie, of an economic nature. It is also very entertaining and overall quite well written. Well worth a read if perhaps much more lightweight than you expect at first. There is also a danger, in these Trumpbrexited times, of dismissing experts almost out of hand. This is something that the manufacturers of 'alternative facts' would love you to do.



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flaviomatani: (Book of G-Quan)
2017-05-02 10:58 am

[ Books ] Station Eleven, by Emily St John- Mandel

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Another apocalyptic story told in two different time frames? This one works, though, at least for me. I could relate to these post-apocalyptic musicians wandering from town to town.

Things I didn't like: at first the strands of the story, told in two different time frames, feel like one is given the story as a shuffled deck of cards that one has to put in order. This is a device that looked clever and innovative when Cortázar was using it in the '60s but today perhaps not so much.

Things I liked: There was a lot that I did like. The characters and the situation felt 'real'. It makes you think, inevitably, on the ways our civilisation is fragile -a pandemic as described in the book is perhaps not very likely (or is it), but so many things could.

I enjoyed this book which a friend described as 'a most Canadian apocalypse story'. Will be seeking other work by the author.



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flaviomatani: (flavdblxp)
2017-04-25 08:44 am

The Better Angels

Perhaps a bit gloomy, that previous post.

OTOH, I've been reading Steven Pinker's 'The Better Angels in our Nature', where he posits that, contrary to our perception of these things, violence and war have been steadily decreasing along the last thousand years of history. He does support this with lots of stats and sources. So at least there is that. Progress may not be inevitable but it does nonetheless happen.
flaviomatani: (flav has  left the chat)
2017-04-10 05:24 pm
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[ Books ] The Caller - Chris Carter

The Caller (Robert Hunter, #8)The Caller by Chris Carter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Crime fiction is not normally my thing. This, however, grabbed me from the start -having said this, the first scene is the most horrific fictional murder scene I've ever read, pretty much. It is well written, though; most of the characters are believable and there were very very few moments making me step back with a 'you can't do this' or 's/he wouldn't do that, would s/he?' or making me suspend my... suspension of disbelief. It is very fast paced, never lets go (I'm not a fast reader and read it in five days). There are a few open questions -one, for instance.. why in this sort of novel is the victim always female?
In any case, a very good read if you can get past that horrific first scene. I'll be checking out more of Chris Carter's stuff.



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flaviomatani: (Default)
2017-04-09 11:25 am
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(no subject)

Today I'll be attending the Bibliogoth meeting. There is an FB event for this, here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/664614903749416/

We'll be discussing Kate Morton's 'The Secret Keeper'. My review of this book (as much as it is a review) on Goodreads is here:

The Secret KeeperThe Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I often find it difficult to 'get going' with a book and often find the beginning quite hard going, while I get into the universe of the book and get to know the characters. This didn't happen in this one, I liked it immediately. It did get rather heavy going in the middle -perhaps too much detail about the quest of the modern day protagonist about the incident she witnessed as a child and the life of her mother as a young woman in the London of the Blitz. As it approaches the end it does pick up pace and it did grab me in such a way that I read the last third of the book in one night and one day (I'm not a fast reader). The twist at the end was, for once, truly unexpected, at least for me, although looking back the author had left enough clues. I really liked it.



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flaviomatani: (harpya3)
2017-03-14 06:23 pm

[ Books ] Blue Remembered Earth - Alastair Reynolds

Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidon's Children #1)Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Loved this book, a science fiction novel with a slightly unusual setting: a mid-term future in which Africa is one of the world powers and humanity conquers (and exploits commercially) a good chunk of the solar system. There are a few inconsistencies and loose ends but on the whole the story is solid, nd well told, the characters (at least the main personas) are believable. It does stretch at times your suspension of disbelief but this is something I often find in SF. The author admits that some of the 'science' he posits is made up but a lot of what this future brings is believable, apart from the political distribution of power, which looks mightily improbable from the point of view of this 2017 in which dark forces seem to get the upper hand in the world. I found it a very good, enjoyable story. And there are elephants, what more could you ask



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flaviomatani: (B5)
2017-03-14 07:34 am

[ Books ] Blue Remembered Earth - Alastair Reynolds

Blue Remembered Earth (Poseidon's Children #1)Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Loved this book, a science fiction novel with a slightly unusual setting: a mid-term future in which Africa is one of the world powers and humanity conquers (and exploits commercially) a good chunk of the solar system. There are a few inconsistencies and loose ends but on the whole the story is solid, nd well told, the characters (at least the main personas) are believable. It does stretch at times your suspension of disbelief but this is something I often find in SF. The author admits that some of the 'science' he posits is made up but a lot of what this future brings is believable, apart from the political distribution of power, which looks mightily improbable from the point of view of this 2017 in which dark forces seem to get the upper hand in the world. I found it a very good, enjoyable story. And there are elephants, what more could you ask



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flaviomatani: (seventhseal chess)
2017-02-20 05:42 pm

[ Books ] Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Snow CrashSnow Crash by Neal Stephenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is the second time I read this, this time for the February meeting of Bibliogoth. Had forgotten quite a bit about it; I've learnt since that it was to have been a graphic novel, which makes sense -some of the characters, the action and the settings are almost in primary colours, low res comic book style. It works though. The main characters I find engaging and credible (if some of the action scenes a little less so and the names I found slightly annoying at first -Hirohito Protagonist?), the depiction of the internet as a virtual world wasn't that off the mark -and this was written in 1992, before the internet as we know it today became widespread, still in the time of connecting to BBSs using dial-up modems. I may have enjoyed it more this time round. I still prefer Anathem but I suspect I'm quite alone in this.



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flaviomatani: (book of g-quan)
2017-01-07 10:53 am
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[ Books ] Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I loved this. I don't think it was flawless, but I loved the story, its world and characters. The device of making the protagonists live in a time loop (or 'time slip' in the book) where they have to live (but not relive) the same day over and over is not new (yeah, Groundhog Day, etc) but I felt it was effective, even though there might be a few loose ends and maybe one continuity flaw -and the use of language (American & British English in the 1940's sometimes feels wrong and a few terms used are anachronisms, wouldn't have been in use at the time) grates a bit at times. But such a lovely story.

Loved the use of the old, black and white photographs. The author explains that the photos were actually at the origin of the story.

The only thing I'm finding ever so slightly annoying about this kind of story: Modern fantasy comes in threes. At the end of the book you're left on a 'fermata', a suspension point if not a cliffhanger, thenthey pimp the next instalment of the story and the film I didn't know had been made of the book. You know there's going to be a second book (they tell you and give you half of the first chapter) but from all the precedents, you also know there's going to be a third one... it's very worth a read, though; a lot of fun.

This book was the set reading for the Bibliogoth meeting for January 2017.



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flaviomatani: (book of g-quan)
2016-12-19 11:53 am

[ Books ] Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge

Rainbow's EndRainbow's End by Vernor Vinge

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Overall I liked this near-future story, although I did feel the characterisation was far from perfect and I had difficulty connecting to many of the characters, who often felt (to me) less like 'real' human beings and more like plot devices.

The story has a long build-up time, setting up the world and the characters in it, before things actually happen. In this sense it reminded me of some works by Neal Stephenson, although I didn't feel it was quite as successful as Stephenson in its world-building but the world itself, with its many layers of augmented reality, feels like only a small exaggeration of current trends. One of the ways I feel this is the case is the 'belief circles', where people choose what they will believe in and their virtual world will reinforce this view and discard all others, regardless of any evidence on the contrary in the 'real' world. Now, why does this ring some sort of familiar bell in this post-fact world...



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flaviomatani: (book of g-quan)
2016-11-24 10:42 am
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[ Books ] Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge, The Better Angels in our Nature by Steven Pinker

Juggling two books at the moment. One is the book set for the next Bibliogoth meeting, 'Rainbow's End' by Vernor Vinge. For some reason I had to look up the name of the book and of the author, they don't seem to stick in my mind. It's ok. It is a near future semi science-fiction novel with a large world threat, a blurring between reality and virtual space (to call it something), a conspiracy that includes a sarcastic talking virtual bunny -and a 75 year old adolescent. Finding it difficult to warm up to any of the characters, in part perhaps because most of them are rather unpleasant people in small, mean ways. Also, up to the point where I am in the book (about 40%), not a lot has happened.

The other book is 'The Better Angels in Our Nature' by Steven Pinker. His thesis in this book is that, contrary to what we feel after reading the news and examining recent history, this epoch is the least violent time in the history of humankind. It is a very interesting book and I have a lot of time for Pinker but making slow progress as I have it in paper copy (from the library), it's a bit heavy to carry around (most of my reading these days lives in my phone and my iPad as ebooks). I'll probably buy it as an ebook as I am finding it interesting but I carry too much stuff around to add nearly 1 Kg more that I also have to clumsily take out of my bag when in a tube train, instead of taking the phone out and just picking up where I left. I love paper books, but between the practicality of ebooks and my diminishing eye-sight I'm finding, as I'd said, that I do almost all my reading in electronic form.
flaviomatani: (guitar)
2016-08-01 03:57 pm
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[ Books ] Súperextragrande - Yoss (José Miguel Sánchez)

SuperextragrandeSuperextragrande by Yoss

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I read this book in the original Spanish language edition. I really wanted to like this book. A short science-fiction novel by a Cuban author -a novel perspective on the genre, at least for me. I didn't dislike it but I often found my suspension of disbelief ... suspended. I didn't quite get the author's sense of humour -but that's me, so YMMV. The basic premise is a sort of galactic vet who specialises in gigantic creatures of the cosmos, and his various adventures involving them -and the females of several pan-human species -the former, an excellent idea. The former rather bored me and made ,e think of 1950's pulp sci-fi comics. Worth a read, although it didn't quite do it for me. Again, YMMV and the author and book have received quite a few awards.



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