I've never quite read a book like Solaris and neither have I ever felt so ambiguous about a books evaluation. Having been made into two movies (one aI've never quite read a book like Solaris and neither have I ever felt so ambiguous about a books evaluation. Having been made into two movies (one a Tarkovsky classic, the other trash) Solaris is probably the most famed piece of work from the Polish author Stanislaw Lem. While I've heard that lot of Lem's other work has comedic undertones, Solaris is relentlessly serious.
The story is centred around three scientists, and their continuous research into and attempt at communicating with extraterrestrial life. The particular alien in this novel takes the form of an entire ocean. Unlike an ordinary ocean however, the ocean across the planet of Solaris is supposedly sentient and 'communicates' by morphing into contiguous and seemingly physical shapes. Though scientists and learned folk for generations have failed to accurately determine what the heck the ocean is trying to say so a lot of the work is in vain. This is where Kris Kelvin flies into the planet to assist the two remaining scientists in their research.
As the crew explore and probe deeper into the ocean's sentiency however it seems to respond by intruding into their innermost psychology and hidden aspects of personality. As a result it confronts them with their deep-seated traumas and repressed thoughts - manifested in Kris Kelvin as the materialisation of his dead lover Harey, who a few years back committed suicide. From that point on Kris Kelvin wrestles emotionally with this apparition and flirts between falling in love or destroying it.
On the one hand there were some genuinely interesting philosophical themes here such as communication and the persistence of individuality but the story itself, especially the latter half, was just so dull and pedantic. The novel itself is fairly short but it didn't feel that way at all. It definitely did drag on. The scientists are painstakingly stupid too. It was fairly obvious from about half way in that Harey would have to be destroyed. Lem is considered one of the geniuses of science fiction, and Solaris one of the stalwarts of the genre so I may come back to it at some point but for now I can't say I was particularly impressed. ...more
I'm not a scientist. Aside from reading the occasional book about evolution or space my last scientific education was over a decade ago now. A few dayI'm not a scientist. Aside from reading the occasional book about evolution or space my last scientific education was over a decade ago now. A few days ago I picked up this book and approached it with the expectation that I would learn a bit about physics and the creation of the atomic bomb. What the Nobel Prize winner Mr Feynman teaches however, is something far more valuable. Upon reading, you swiftly learn that the late Richard Feynman was unlike most other people. Through his meandering stories and anecdotes across America, Brazil and Japan you realise that he was brash, frank and often even flippant in conversation. This brashness more often than not led to hilariously bizarre situations. His most enduring and prominent attribute however, was his curiosity. This book is filled to the brim with tales of Feynman's wit and natural inquisitiveness. Feynman successfully argues that it was this curiosity, and not natural genius or great effort that lead to his success.
Bradbury's short stories based on various human missions to Mars are both engaging and poetic. Most of the stories are written from an original perspeBradbury's short stories based on various human missions to Mars are both engaging and poetic. Most of the stories are written from an original perspective. Instead of the eeriness or violent reprisal associated with a lot of science fiction, Bradbury offers points of view which give the reader greater context into the idea of extraterrestrial life....more
My first foray into Rimbaud's poetry. I've been picking at this, delving in and out for almost a month now. I find it hard to properly review poetry,My first foray into Rimbaud's poetry. I've been picking at this, delving in and out for almost a month now. I find it hard to properly review poetry, or at least to designate it with a sterile star rating. However, in this collection Rimbaud paints some beautiful pictures. All before the age of 21 too. I need to go through this again. ...more
As part of my seemingly endless struggle to eat up all the little nuggets of Star Wars goodness Disney spew out, I’ve taken it upon myself to ‘read’ tAs part of my seemingly endless struggle to eat up all the little nuggets of Star Wars goodness Disney spew out, I’ve taken it upon myself to ‘read’ the latest selection of canon fiction. I say ‘read’ when I really mean that I just listened to the audiobook at the gym and while shopping for a new tie. So while other gym-goers were smashing bench-press sets to the latest grime albums (or whatever the Japanese equivalent is - please enlighten me) I was surreptitiously taking in a story set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
Ashoka, written by E.K. Johnston and read by Ahsoka’s voice actor from the Clone Wars and Rebels series, has all the trappings of a usual Star Wars story. Fear, loss, just the right amount of political intrigue, shady smugglers, bad dudes wearing surprisingly fashionable jet black robes, incompetent rank-and-file stormtroopers and of course the overarching theme of redemption (because thats what Star Wars is really about right guise?).
The story itself focuses on padawan Ahsoka and her life as a surviving Jedi after the infamous order 66. Ashoka is riddled with feelings of regret and shame for having left the Jedi Order and at times blames herself for some of the misery inflicted (see where redemption might come in again?). Essentially in hiding with an alias, she lands up on an outer-rim planet and through a series of escalating but not wholly improbably events, ends up once again a target of the Empire. I had a few minor issues with the pacing of this novel however. The action starts of at a fairly sluggish pace which to be frank isn’t totally unbelievable considering the predicament. It does pick up though, and builds to quite the crescendo. For avid Star Wars fan, it also provides some juicy morsels of backstory by filling in some of the gaps between the movies and the TV series.
Considering the relatively poor level of some of the other canon novels I’ve read so far, I felt that Ahsoka was written pretty well. The author really manages to etch out a multi-faceted character. Ashoka is resourceful, courageous and heroic while also wrestling with uncertainty, disenchantment and genuine anxiety. The plot itself is decent, but Ahsoka’s character development is really the highlight of this novel. ...more
I wasn't a huge fan but I did like Mary Roach's writing style. With a lot of the subject matter being pretty dry, she managed to talk about specificitI wasn't a huge fan but I did like Mary Roach's writing style. With a lot of the subject matter being pretty dry, she managed to talk about specificities and curiosities of sex with an air of brevity and humor. Bonk was so interspersed with jokes and witty remarks that it seemed to ride the border line between a genuine scientific piece of work and a comedic book. For the most part this was OK but it did become a little tedious towards the latter half of the book.
Honestly though I didn't really go in for the content. While the author has clearly done her research, none of it seemed particularly groundbreaking or interesting. I wasn't wowed by any overarching conclusion to the book. After finishing, it didn't seem to me that Bonk really set out to change opinions or provide fresh insight but merely to act as a bit of a historical compendium of the science of sex....more
In this short book, Sam Harris offers up a fairly simple, yet sturdy refutation of free will while arguing that a non-theistic position necessitates dIn this short book, Sam Harris offers up a fairly simple, yet sturdy refutation of free will while arguing that a non-theistic position necessitates determinism. In addition, our opinions on punishment and reward must change as a result. If we accept Harris' conclusion then we would be wrong to reward those that do good, or punish even the most brutal murderer. While I'm fervently in the determinist camp, I don't feel like Sam Harris really delved enough into Compatibalist theory. File this one under 'good introductions'. ...more