I love Stephenson - and this was another hit - absolutely loved it. The great thing about a good Stephenson book is it makes you think about the futurI love Stephenson - and this was another hit - absolutely loved it. The great thing about a good Stephenson book is it makes you think about the future in new ways, and this book was no exception.
It was really two books, and I certainly didn't see the second one coming. It starts out in modern times and then someone blows up the moon. We don't have time to find out who, as within a few years the fragments of the moon cause the worst asteriod shower earth has ever seen and wipe out all life in earth. We have time to send 1,500 people up into space - and this is their story.
The use of robots throughout the books was fascinating to me. Stephenson has clearly looked 10-20 years into our future and correctly predicted how it will go. From robot workers in space, nano-bots, nano-robot weapons, and more - we get a vivid portrayal of how robots might be a part of our future lives.
I thought the focus on use of whip technology in space was interesting. And of course, the whole notion of Cradle was just cool - though not sure about it's feasibility.
I couldn't put this book down. It was well written - even elegant in a way, as well as though provoking. I love post apocalyptic books as they are greI couldn't put this book down. It was well written - even elegant in a way, as well as though provoking. I love post apocalyptic books as they are great canvas's for humanity, and what matters. In Station Eleven an Ebola-esque virus (the Georgia Flu) knocks out over 99% of the worlds population. This story is told half right before the collapse, and half afterwards, and has several threads that tie together nicely.
Reading how civilization and infrastructure all die after the collapse is fascinating. One by one, cable tv, the internet, water, and power all eventually stop working. Nobody is alive to maintain them - or who even knows how. Other infrastructure like gasoline to power cars and airplanes, groceries, guns, and even clothing all become rarer and rarer commodities. Really makes you realize how much we are standing on the shoulder of hundreds of years of progress and knowledge, and how far into the middle ages we could easily fall. We really know nothing individually - our civilization is based upon the collective knowledge of billions.
If there is a motto of the book, it's probably this quote: "Because survival is insufficient". Humanity craves for more than survival - we crave for something more out of life. The story follows a caravan of actors and musicians who travel from town to town to play Shakespeare, and bring some art and a shared experience. Interesting that of all the artists from the past 400 years, Shakespeare is the one that survives and still resonates.
The storyline pre-collapse that follows Arthur and his three wives is interesting. I won't say much about it, other than Arthur, his wives, and the paparazzi-turned-jounalist-turned-paramedic-turned-doctor Jeevan, seem to all be searching for meaning in their lives. And ironically Jeevan seems to find the most, becoming a doctor after the collapse. Also, I'm glad I'm not a Hollywood celebrity. The conversation between Arthur and Jeevan where Arthur just wants to talk about anything but himself stuck with me - sometimes we are all sick of talking about ourselves.
Regardless of what you think about this book, one thing is for sure - after you put it down and walk around the world, you are full of a newfound appreciation and gratitude for everything. Hopefully that appreciation and gratitude will stick around a little - though I know it will fade as months and years go by.
What a fun series. I loved Wool, and Dust and Shift both gave us the backstory to explain the world and how it ended up. I think the first book was byWhat a fun series. I loved Wool, and Dust and Shift both gave us the backstory to explain the world and how it ended up. I think the first book was by far the best, but this gave us a nice conclusion.
(view spoiler)[It was the conclusion we wanted to see - the people finally get outside! My problem with this book is there were lots of holes. A lot of the other reviews have pointed this out too, and I'm not sure if the fact I know it was self-published is biasing me to say it could have used more editing, but feels that way a little. But the writing was great.
There were lots of things that weren't cleared up or never really fully made sense. The major one is why Thurman really felt the need to destroy the whole world - feels like there could have been a lot more to that. It also wasn't clear how he really accomplished that - was it all nuclear or was it nano? If nuclear, wouldn't the world really be a wasteland?
Whatever happened to silo 40 and other silo's that went dark? I was kind of expecting that they had already broken outside and would have been waiting there. Or perhaps they already went to the sea and Hugh will tell us their story later.
What happens to the other silos after silo one is destroyed? Didn't it power their server rooms and probably provide other stuff including guidance to the silo heads? Will they make the 200 years on their own?
The mystery of silo 17 and why the dead bodies at the top didn't rot was never really explained. I'm guessing they were kept whole by healing nano's, but it felt like there was more to that story.
I didn't understand why Anna didn't come back to life. If Thurman could do so after being killed by Donald, why not her? All the love stories (Juliet and Kyle, Donald and Anna, etc ended up sadly - I wanted one happy one. (hide spoiler)]
If anything, I think this book is about hope and resiliency. Jules and Donald and even Solo weren't perfect, and suffered through a lot, but the only thing that kept them going was hope of a better life, and determination to keep themselves alive. That determination defined them and was what we admired about them. The hope was what gave them their drive. Hope is a powerful and necessary part of human psychology. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Mark Watney is a steely-eyed missile man. A man's man. A badass mechanical engineer botanist astronaut who is stranded on Mars during a Nasa mission gMark Watney is a steely-eyed missile man. A man's man. A badass mechanical engineer botanist astronaut who is stranded on Mars during a Nasa mission gone wrong, and left to fend for himself. I listened to this on audio on a roadtrip, and it flew by - what a fun story. Not surprised at all it's being made into a movie directed by Ridley Scott starring Matt Damon. Also pretty amazing is that it was self-published.
There were two great things about this book: the humor and the science. The science appealed to the mechanical engineer in me - Watney is a bit like McGyver except he knows a lot more about chemistry and botany. I didn't double-check all the science, but loved the descriptions of all the math: calorie calculations, creating water, etc. Just fun stuff.
But the humor was top notch. Weir does a great job portraying a stranded man trying to remain upbeat by talking to himself in log entries. And the excellent audio narrator only made it better.
In the end, a well told story of survival against the odds. And one of belief - I liked the CNN Mark Watney watch - you could totally imagine how into this story the media would get. We humans love a good surviving against the odds story. ...more
**spoiler alert** The conclusion to the epic of Hyperion, and a worthy one at that. I loved this series, and didn't expect I'd find the love story of**spoiler alert** The conclusion to the epic of Hyperion, and a worthy one at that. I loved this series, and didn't expect I'd find the love story of Aenea and Raul so powerful.
In two words, this series was about evolution and love.
The Hyperion story is Yet Another Science Fiction Story About Artificial Intelligence (YASFSAAI) - but it's a damn good one, and more thought out and intricate than any I've ever seen. The Core is split into factions - the TODO - that fight and war amongst themselves, much as humans do.
The Core evolved from people. Core entities lacked empathy - or the ability to love - and were thus never able to evolve past being a parasite on humanity. (view spoiler)[The farcaster network was their first parasitic approach, the cruciforms were their second. (hide spoiler)]
It's kind of sad that the Catholic Church is the evil character in the book. But is equally clear that after a great traumatic event like the Fall of the Farcasters, humanity turns to fear and uncertainty, and thus to religion. Unfortunately, the people in charge of that religion are the wrong sort, whose goal is power rather than the good of humanity.
The curiously named "Void Which Binds" is the true all-encompassing force in the universe. It is described in the following quotes:
The one thing I never understood about this series is the Shrike. Why does he exist? In earlier books he's an evil entity. And now we learn something more about his relationship with Colonel Kassad, but not enough to explain his presence or why Aenea is able to rein him in - he almost becomes a good guy.
The thing I love most about this book, is that the true path, which Aenea is leading humanity on, can only be explained as a love story. Her and Raul's love is a worthy and necessary ending to The Cantos.
I really enjoyed this book. Some people told me that book 3 wasn't the match of books one and two, but I really quite enjoyed it. I'm struggling to puI really enjoyed this book. Some people told me that book 3 wasn't the match of books one and two, but I really quite enjoyed it. I'm struggling to put my finger on it, but I think the dynamic of Raul, Aenea, and A Bettik was a strong one - they clearly cared for each other, and you could see that they would even love each other in the future.
It had all the elements of a great epic: strong heroes on a mission that is important to humanity, an evil empire trying to stop them, and a mysterious force in the universe trying to help them. The world is almost 300 years after the fall of the farcasters, and is described in such a way as to almost be nostalgic. The hawking mat, all the characters and elements of Cantos, the consul's ship, etc.
One of the major themes of the book seems to be how the universe can be incredibly harsh. This quote captures it nicely:
In harsh times, people often turn towards religion. Fascinating to see that after the Fall, after all the chaos and war and death that ensued, it was the Catholic church that rose to power, and goes onto to rule the universe. People are comforted by its ability to make the universe safe for them with the power of the cruciform.
One of the themes of the book is definitely fear. Fear of death in particular. De Soya fears each death he has, Raul came close to death on Mare Infinitus with the sharks. The Chitchatuk were interesting here - having to live a particularly fearful life, dependent on the thing that eats them for food (artic wraiths).
But love is the counter to the theme of fear. We keep getting hints that Aenea is the missionary from the human god and will show us all a better path through love. Raul follows her because he believes in her - and it's clearly foreshadowed they will love each other. ...more
A fun fast paced book that sucks you in right away and doesn't let go. The remnants of humanity live in a 150 story silo below the earth and can't leaA fun fast paced book that sucks you in right away and doesn't let go. The remnants of humanity live in a 150 story silo below the earth and can't leave as the outside is now toxic. This is a bit of an odd thing to have happened, but it gives us a nice palette to think about things.
Everything is rationed, including how many children you can have. People self-identify by their profession and where in the silo they live: farmers and mechanics in the lowers, IT in the mids, and professional class in the uppers. The working class wear color coded uniforms to easily distinguish them.
The book was a lot about control. How to control a contained civilization, and give them hope (eg a live feed of the outside) and yet keep them in harmony and doing their functions. Strange mechanisms of control were built all over the silo: communication was oddly limited given the IT resources they have - many messages had to be delivered by courier as emails cost valuable money to send. Most strange of all - there is no elevator, which forces anyone wanting to travel the length of the silo to spend 2-3 days on the journey.
The cleaning ritual was a strange bit of culture. (view spoiler)[Upon reflection, I can see why it was necessary. If people never go outside, uncertainty of it still being bad would creep in, and people would need to try it. As perhaps happened in Silo 17. (hide spoiler)]
I really liked the unraveling of Bernard, and how he went from repulsive/annoying, to understandable once you understood his role and responsibility. (view spoiler)[His role is to eliminate any doubt in the delicate balance of the silo. Opening the book up with the doubt of Holston was brilliant as it sucked you in immediately. (hide spoiler)]
I liked Juliet too - she was the right combo of being determined to do right, and having brains and grit. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
A hilarious romp through the known and unknown universe that exposes how ridiculous much of US copyright law is. Written by the founder of Rhapsody, wA hilarious romp through the known and unknown universe that exposes how ridiculous much of US copyright law is. Written by the founder of Rhapsody, who knows a thing or two about music and the copyright surrounding it. What I didn't expect from a book by an entrepreneur is a funny book - and this book is not bad. It is being compared to Hitchhikers Guide, which nothing can approach, but its not bad. My only gripe would be there are a ton of footnotes that attempt to extend the humor and most of them didn't work for me.
The basic premise of the book is brilliant; that aliens have been listening to - and thus pirating - our music since 1977, without our knowledge. Because US copyright law states that a single case of intentional copyright violation can be fined $150,000 - this means the entire universe is many times over in debt to humanity.
It's pretty ridiculous that the music industry got such a big fine to be passed. I think one of my favorite parts of the book was learning about the law firm that Nick Carter works for, and seeing a little under the hood of how they operate.
I first read this ~10 years ago and just re-read it as someone reminded me that it predicts the future of reading. And it does - what I love about SteI first read this ~10 years ago and just re-read it as someone reminded me that it predicts the future of reading. And it does - what I love about Stephenson is his high level of prescient-ness. In fact I think it also predicts a lot of the future of nanotechnology and entertainment.
The Young Ladies Illustrated Primer is a dynamic book with an AI in it. Imagine Alexa or Siri in 5-10 years, smart enough to make up stories on the fly and answer questions about or even redirect the storyline. The YLIP is designed in the book for a 4 year old girl, Fiona, but Nell and a few other girls end up with them also. Maybe this resonated with me as I have a 4 year old girl and wish this existed for her. What's particularly powerful about this, is the story was able to be adaptive to the problems in Nell's life, and give her strength and confidence at moments when she needed it. Some cool trivia: Project Fiona was the codename for the Kindle. There is now a building at Amazon in Seattle named Fiona.
One of the pieces of magic of the Young Ladies Illustrated Primer was that for Nell and Fiona's editions, there were live actors ("ractors") on the other end, reading all the lines 1 on 1. This put a level of personalization and human connection into the story for the girls that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. Learning about the marketplace of ractors was particularly interesting and it's hard to think such a thing won't exist in 2-5 years as VR takes off. Would you rather watch the movie Harry Potter or live act out the scenes with 2 friends as Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and have professional actors play the other characters? You can imagine this being a big form of entertainment of the future.
The nanotechnology described in the book was also fascinating. Describing a world of robots and drones too small for the human eye to see, doing tasks and even fighting each other. Massive wars we perceive as "particularly dusty days". Poisoning or taking control of another person is as easy as getting them to inhale or injest some nanobots. The drummers were a particularly interesting notion of hive-mind, connecting multiple humans together through nanobots attached to their synapses on their brain. And then of course you have nanobots creating other bots, which led to this great quote:
But of course the biggest implication of nanotechnology is the ability to manipulate molecules and thus - given The Feed (which I somehow provides a stream of molecules & energy for manipulation) - you can make anything in a Matter Compiler (MC). This is kind of like what they had in Star Trek, and what 3D printing gives us .0001% of today.
The book is largely about what would happen to society if MC's were invented and much of the need for farming, manufacturing, etc was eliminated. Poverty would become even more prevalent, as would crime, governments would collapse, and of course, a class divide would emerge as never before, driven by those who have technology and those who don't. And of course, badass engineers like Hackworth will rule the day (kind of). I suppose in a way the book is about the fear of what will happen if technology progresses too far and leaves masses of humans without a purpose in life. Parking lots and chaos.
I cracked and finally picked this up. Very enjoyable quick read - couldn't put it down - it was like crack.
I'm a bit bothered by the lack of backstorI cracked and finally picked this up. Very enjoyable quick read - couldn't put it down - it was like crack.
I'm a bit bothered by the lack of backstory of how Panem and the Hunger Games come about. It is just kind of explained away in a few paragraphs and we are left to accept this very strange world where teenagers are pitted into an arena each year to kill each other? I was expecting it because I've seen Battle Royale, but I would have appreciated knowing more of the backstory of how the world could have come into such a odd state.
I suppose what makes a book like this interesting is thinking about the strategy of it all. The players are going to be statistically encouraged to band together because they will last longer that way, but by definition of course any partnership will be broken, and the drama of how that unfolds is always interesting and full of friendships broken and betrayal. Each character approached the game in their own way. Some banded together in larger coalitions, some were loners initially and banded together later. And some were just loners, like Foxface. A lot depended on your survival skill: could you find food and water on your own? Self-dependence is highly valued - and of course our hero was strong there.
All in all, a fun read, but I feel kind of dirty for having read it. ...more
As an engineer I couldn't help but love this book. It's full of logic games! The 3 rules of robotics are a very rich medium for lots of fun puzzles, aAs an engineer I couldn't help but love this book. It's full of logic games! The 3 rules of robotics are a very rich medium for lots of fun puzzles, and I very much enjoyed reading them. I think the book originally came out in serial form, as it was broken down into short stories or capers. Kind of reminded me of Sherlock Holmes - another favorite of mine.
Examining robots also gave a canvas for defining what it is to be human. I loved the robot religion story. Robots with a superiority complexes - but thank goodness for that first law or it would be a Terminator-style story.
According to Asimov's predictions, in 2009 the robot revolution should be in full swing. But I don't see a lot of robots around. Anyone have a good prediction on where we are with robots? When will we have pet robots and robot laborers? ...more
I enjoyed every second of this book. I haven't read a time travel book in a long time, but loved this one, as the descriptions of London in 1812 wereI enjoyed every second of this book. I haven't read a time travel book in a long time, but loved this one, as the descriptions of London in 1812 were very rich. I loved how Lord Byron and other famous poets were running around, and the descriptions of all the beggars were fascinating. Add in some ancient Egyptian magic and you've got a great book!
Random sidenote: It's interesting to think that back then poets were the rockstars of the age, as the only form of mass-media was newspapers, so those who mastered the written word could be broadcast much further than any musician or actor. How times have changed!...more