This book really intrigued me. I was taken by the story and the writing after a dozen of pages. Almost unavoidably, the ending was a bit of a let downThis book really intrigued me. I was taken by the story and the writing after a dozen of pages. Almost unavoidably, the ending was a bit of a let down, but that's probably only because my expectations had risen too high....more
This is a quick read. I think I read it in two short evenings. However, I enjoyed it very much, laughing time and time again. Still, if you like ThornThis is a quick read. I think I read it in two short evenings. However, I enjoyed it very much, laughing time and time again. Still, if you like Thorne's style, and I do, then it is money well spent.
As a disclaimer, I will add that I bought the (cheaper) ebook version and that I had not read his previous book. ...more
This is a beautiful book. For teaching kids Scratch, it is the perfect little book. Pedagogically, the book is almost beyond reproach, introducing newThis is a beautiful book. For teaching kids Scratch, it is the perfect little book. Pedagogically, the book is almost beyond reproach, introducing new concepts in a sensible manner, step-by-step.
It even goes beyond simple programming by adding bonus projects. I was impressed by the optional project involving a PicoBoard: you can make your program interact with a light sensor.
Disclaimer: I got a free review copy from the publisher. ...more
The Galactic Mage by John Daulton is a twisted, but fun story. We have human beings from Earth who were in contact with another human civilization acrThe Galactic Mage by John Daulton is a twisted, but fun story. We have human beings from Earth who were in contact with another human civilization across the galaxy. This civilization was apparently wiped out after it sent a warning. A fleet of ships from Earth is assembled to go investigate. Meanwhile, on a remote planet, a bona fide mage has decided to go explore space. He does so by teleporting himself (and his tower) in space. At first, the premise seems unbelievable, and it is, but it is fascinating to see how a mage might explore space. Without any scientific background, he is faced with several challenges such as unimaginable distances. Unfortunately, the novel never quite feels complete: many issues are left unresolved. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining book well suited for teenagers or people looking for a fun little book....more
In the Trilisk Ruins, Michael McCloskey describes a far future universe where human beings have encountered alien ruins on diverse planets. These ruinsIn the Trilisk Ruins, Michael McCloskey describes a far future universe where human beings have encountered alien ruins on diverse planets. These ruins have obvious commercial values: alien artifacts are immensely valuable. Meanwhile, the government has restricted access to these ruins to its own military. The main character is a xenoarchaeologist who is frustrated by the lack of access to these new findings. She decides to embark with a bunch of pirates/mercenaries who hope to visit new alien ruins before the military can get their hands on them. The novel touches on a common theme in scifi: it is unwise to put your military in charge of first contact with aliens....more
Unless you live under a rock, you have heard of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. They recently made a decent movie out of the first book.Unless you live under a rock, you have heard of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. They recently made a decent movie out of the first book. Like in What came after, the books describe a near-future dystopia where war and oppression have reduced humanity to few towns supporting a relatively wealthy capital. What I found interesting in these novels, is how the main character (Katniss) is an anarchist. That is, she cares for those she love (her tribe), but she is rather immune to big ideas and propaganda. This becomes clearer as the story progresses, and many people have hated the ending for this reason. The trilogy is reasonably priced: you can get all of it for under $20....more
I really enjoyed this book. This book is is clearly in the top 10% of the scifi books I read in the last few years. They could make a decent movie outI really enjoyed this book. This book is is clearly in the top 10% of the scifi books I read in the last few years. They could make a decent movie out of this novel. It is quite a ride and it never gets boring. I found the ending satisfying.
It is not hard scifi. There is little science, and no deep philosophy. But I stayed with the story because the writing is engaging. It is good fun.
There are some minor issues with this book. Firstly, there are a few typos. Nothing that prevented me from continuing to read, but enough that it would mildly annoy me from time to time. (Presumably, the author could fix this with a minor revision.) Also, some minor part of the story felt a bit contrived. (Hint: I expect life on different planets to vary quite a bit.)
Anyhow, overall, for $1, you cannot go wrong with this book. It is great value.
Disclaimer: I got this book free from the author (a gift worth $1). In exchange, I committed to writing a review....more
What came after by Sam Winston is an intriguing scifi novel. It describes a near-future dystopia where a handful of large corporations have taken overWhat came after by Sam Winston is an intriguing scifi novel. It describes a near-future dystopia where a handful of large corporations have taken over the USA. After being a puppet to powerful interests, the government has finally been abolished. In some sense, it is the anti-libertarian novel: what if we let the free market prevail? Eventually, some large corporations may become so powerful that they can use force to prevent competition. Though overall credible, I found the absence of any state a bit unbelievable because I view corporations and states as mutually supporting concepts: large corporations may try to control the state, but they rarely try to abolish it. The hero is out to save his daughter, at first, and then he becomes part of a larger fight. The writing is beautiful. Short sentences. Powerful text. An emotional roller-coaster. The novel would make a great movie....more
I'm giving it four star because I read it from start to finish and I had a good time.
The book is really a biography of a kid that was raised in a boriI'm giving it four star because I read it from start to finish and I had a good time.
The book is really a biography of a kid that was raised in a boring Florida town who moved to LA after many decades to pursue a creative career. In practice, he is a web designer who spends some of his time on his own projects.
The book contains advice on how to run a small freelance business, on how to come to terms with your desire to be creative and so on. It is interesting and inspiring.
The writing is solid, even if it is informal....more
Until recently, we had economies working on credit, not currencies. Currencies only become popular undeWell written and engaging.
My executive summary:
Until recently, we had economies working on credit, not currencies. Currencies only become popular under militaristic empires. When these empires collapse together with their gigantic armies, we go back to a credit system. Credit systems are decentralized and support trust-based trading. Currencies are the basis for what we call "markets" today, that is, anonymous state-supported trade systems. The move to a fiat currency in the 1970s, according to Graeber, is actually a natural evolution... it is a prelude to the collapse of the currencies and of the American military empire. If you follow his model, we are headed straight for a decentralized credit-based system with small armies, modest governments. ...more
I just finished Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley. Because I am an overly pessimistic individual, I expected to hate the book.
I loved the book.
I shouldI just finished Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley. Because I am an overly pessimistic individual, I expected to hate the book.
I loved the book.
I should point out where I read the book, because context is important in this case. I was in Berlin. My hotel room was about 50 meters away from Checkpoint Charlie the central point of the cold war. I was within 2 minutes the remains of a train station where thousands of Jews were sent to their death. I was near the remains of the Berlin wall built to prevent people from escaping communists. Berlin could easily be the mecca of pessimists.
Ridley is a very specific optimist: he believes that innovation is an almost unstoppable force. Food and energy shortages? We will invent new ways to produce more food and energy than we need. Effectively, human beings have become better at almost everything: producing goods and food, taking care of each other, learning, sharing and so on.
But he is also a pessimist: he believes that if we stop innovation, we suffer. We must constantly out-innovate our problems. We will soon run out of food, energy and breathable air if we keep doing the same thing at a greater scale. Only by inventing drastically better technologies and organizations can we hope to prosper. Innovation is required for our survival. Civilizations eventually collapse, when they become unable to innovate around their problems.
But where does innovation comes from? Ridley believes it comes from trade, taken in the broadest sense of the term. Traders are people who carry ideas from people to people. They are like bees in that they allow ideas to have sex… Traders allow people to specialize and to focus on perfecting ideas. Without trade, we would all need to be self-sufficient. Condemned to self-sufficiency, we would not have time to improve our methods nor share our ideas. Interdependency makes human beings better.
How do you get more innovation? Do you have your governments entice researchers like myself to pursue “strategic” research? Absolutely not. Governments cannot create innovation. Instead, they should limit the wealth they extract from the economy by remaining small. Other institutions like banks should also be kept in check. In effect, central planning, wherever it comes from, should be avoided as it stops innovation in its tracks.
Hence, civilization comes in as a result of trade, because it can siphon the newly generated wealth. It wasn’t the Jewish traders in the 1930s who drained the wealth out of Germany. With their various enterprises, they were the source of much of the wealth that the state was extracting. They were not the parasites.
Ridley does not have much faith in science as a source of innovation. Most innovations comes through tinkering and trading ideas. Science and law come after the fact to codify what was learned. In effect, science may support innovations and inventions, but it is not the causal agent. What you want is trade and the freedom it brings. I share his vision. After all, Russians had top-notch scientists, but they were still unable to innovate in most fields.
He sees a cycle, where innovation creates value which is then captured and killed by bureaucrats or obsolete corporations. But innovation always reappears elsewhere. He believes that the best place to be right now is on the Web. One day, governments and corporations will kill Web-based innovations, but by then, a new frontier will have opened.
Ridley predicts the fall of corporations and the rise of bottom-up economics where individuals freely assemble to create value. Apple, Google and Facebook will soon collapse, faster than comparable companies a century ago.
This book also explains why Germany is at least marginally richer than the United Kingdom even though the United Kingdom won the two last great wars and Germany lost. Winning is overrated. Wealth cannot be put into boxes and piled up. Had you confiscated all the computers from 1970s, you would hold a collection hardly more valuable than a single iPad.