This book is enormously fun, a page-turner, and in spite of all the fine, fine technical detail, I can only say, with considerable amusement, that thiThis book is enormously fun, a page-turner, and in spite of all the fine, fine technical detail, I can only say, with considerable amusement, that this is a character-driven novel. Because without that voice, without Watney, it would have been a seriously flawed near-miss.
Look, I get it that Martian dust storms have become a staple of SF, all the way back to ERB, but we know better now, and the opening scenario is just wrong. But everyone does it, everyone uses it, because it's just too cool not to, but with so much else so right it is an annoyance, hence my three stars instead of the five it really ought to get for everything else.
Sigh. I know most people just won't care, and probably shouldn't, because this is a great read. I suspect it will make a marvelous film....more
A clear, concise explanation of evolution: what it is, why it's true, how it works. Because of when it was written, there is considerable discussion oA clear, concise explanation of evolution: what it is, why it's true, how it works. Because of when it was written, there is considerable discussion of creationism and the comparison makes the case for evolution even stronger. (One might even say this would be a worthy way in which to do what the ID crowd wants, including creationism in science classroom discussion for precisely this reason, to show the difference between science and not science.) For those determined to cling to their beliefs, nothing here will be persuasive, but for those unsure how the argument matters, this is good material on which to base an understanding of the science....more
Chasing The Scream by Johann Hari. This is an overview, written somewhat novelistically, of the Drug War. If you always thought there was something noChasing The Scream by Johann Hari. This is an overview, written somewhat novelistically, of the Drug War. If you always thought there was something not quite right about national or international drug policy, this will reveal the reasons for that intuitive unease. We have been "fighting" this war for over a century now and all that has happened is that it has gotten worse---bigger, more expensive, insanely destructive. Hari went on a three-year journey to track down answers and came up with some amazing revelations. We have an insane drug policy.
This isn't all just one-sided, though---Hari has the same fears most people do and he examines those as well. This is not prescriptive other than that we need to stop doing things the way we have been, because all the evidence suggests it does not work. You may find your sensibilities and prejudices thoroughly shaken up by this book....more
Faith vs Fact by Jerry A. Coyne. Coyne is an evolutionary biologist whose previous book, Why Evolution Is True, is one of the best explanatory reads fFaith vs Fact by Jerry A. Coyne. Coyne is an evolutionary biologist whose previous book, Why Evolution Is True, is one of the best explanatory reads for the lay person since Stephen Jay Gould was around. In this he tackles the uncomfortable topic of the presumed compatibility between science and religion and methodically and logically demonstrates how this is at best unlikely and at worst a canard. Granted, I'm in sympathy with this view, seeing accommodationism as special pleading for the purpose of not making waves, but he makes a strong case how accommodationism is a misguided notion and can lead to---and has led to---calamities, tragedies, and idiocies (like the current plague of religiously-bent politicians in government).
Not likely to alter the view of the religiously minded in any fundamental way, it would be a good thing for them to read to come to terms where the two (in Gould's terms) "magisteria" consistently overlap with disastrous results.
He's not as rigid as Dawkins in his assessments of religion, but given the conclusions this might be a distinction without a difference....more