I quite enjoyed this book, I think Mukherjee has a real gift for breaking down complex and unintuitive concepts and ideas and presenting them both asI quite enjoyed this book, I think Mukherjee has a real gift for breaking down complex and unintuitive concepts and ideas and presenting them both as science and as products of individuals and their societies. My one complaint, and it's minor, is that this is an even more expansive undertaking than The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, basically covering all of modern biology while touching on things like eugenics, mental illness and a lot more.
It's tough to get that all into a cohesive narrative, and I think he does well overall, especially the links he draws with his own family history, but it doesn't quite have the immediate connection I felt with Emperor. Still, if you're curious about uh the foundation of all life on earth, and the future of humanity, (and my god why wouldn't you be?) you should definitely give this a read through....more
This was a real fun book, lots of weird cool science things and it's nice to see a look at military technology that's not geared to the biggest shootiThis was a real fun book, lots of weird cool science things and it's nice to see a look at military technology that's not geared to the biggest shootiest bits, but to all the rest, especially the immense work that goes into keeping soldiers alive. I think one issue I had with the book-which again I quite enjoyed-is just that in making such a wide survey of all the non shooty tech stuff it goes into each area without a whole lot of depth. One ironic exception being the parts about living in and escaping from submarines.
The other, larger, issue I have is just that the stakes are kept really low right up until literally the last few pages when Roach shows what it's like when people die. And that was something I'd like to have sprinkled maybe a bit more throughout the text. Because I hate fun mostly.
Still she's a great writer and it's fascinating materiel so by all means check it out....more
I liked this book! In brief, it's a ripping sci-fi yarn about a group of travelers aboard an inter-generational space ship, launched from earth to TauI liked this book! In brief, it's a ripping sci-fi yarn about a group of travelers aboard an inter-generational space ship, launched from earth to Tau Ceti, and trying to survive a desperately hard situation that they found themselves born into. It's partly about the pure technical challenges mixed with the human ones that make survival exponentially more difficult. It reminds me a lot of Seveneves in that way. But it's also a mediation on, well, why the hell do people keep launching grand quixotic adventures without thinking things through and in the process royally screwing their offspring who have to deal with the huge fucking mess that was left to them? A bit of a metaphor for global warming that.
It's not a perfect book, a lot of plot points get taken up then never dealt with, or just mentioned in an off-hand way, and that may be for the best, this kind of book could get too bogged down easily. The writing is solid , occasionally excellent, sometimes a bit clunky. The characters are repeatable normal people in exceptional circumstances although sometimes not so well distinguished.
But overall it worked for me. I like the obvious care and thought that went into it. I like how the author clearly thought, ok, here's the situation, it's a given, what are the ramifications? What really would it be like to live like this? I like the message too. (view spoiler)[I don't recall where I read it but someone calculated what it would cost to land a colony on Mars, call it a trillion dollars. Maybe 10 trillion. Some crazy fucking number that nerds are nonetheless all fucking gung-ho for doing, the argument being well we've fucked Earth so royally we need to go there for our survival. And destiny and ambition etc etc. But thing is, we could use those same resources to fix the Earth, fix every problem, lift 3 billion people out of poverty, and build a paradise. For probably 1/10th what it would cost to go to mars. So that's the message, we look to elsewhere, a new city, country, planet thinking if we go there, we'll win. But we won't. We can't escape ourselves, no matter where we run. And maybe if we looked after the Earth a little better, we wouldn't be so bad off. (hide spoiler)]
Anywho, it's good, if you like hard sci-fi and other books by KSR you'll like this too. Check it out.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Ultimately I really enjoyed this book. I wasn't sure I would in the beginning, for the first 30 odd pages I was worried it would just be a rambling seUltimately I really enjoyed this book. I wasn't sure I would in the beginning, for the first 30 odd pages I was worried it would just be a rambling semi-autobiographical mess of a thing and then it got PRETTY WEIRD and the narrator was all kinds of unreliable and I was hooked. But it's maaaaaaaaaybe a little offensive/possibly anti-semetic? That's not really something I feel qualified to speak on. Which is a point that one of the jewish characters makes come to think of it, making it (maybe?) only on a very meta level.
Reading all that up there kinda confirms the ambivalence I feel about recommending this to everyone. Then We Came to the End, which was the first book I read of this author, I recommend to everyone because it's great and if you've ever worked anywhere you'll relate to it. I wonder if this was something of an experiment to make a dude who's kind of alien and unappealing still pretty fascinating to read about.
So what the hell, check it out, it's odd and funny and moving and I liked it and you might like it too.