These stories appear to have been selected for their diversity rather than their overall merit. It's a good book to read if you want to be sure that y...moreThese stories appear to have been selected for their diversity rather than their overall merit. It's a good book to read if you want to be sure that you never read two stories in a row that are remotely like each other. (There's one exception--there are in fact two stories in a row written from the first-person perspective of homosexual men.)(less)
Let me start by being perfectly honest. I'm a Christian, and I also like books about the brain and physics. This can be challenging, because from a sc...moreLet me start by being perfectly honest. I'm a Christian, and I also like books about the brain and physics. This can be challenging, because from a scientific standpoint it sort of looks like there is nothing that suggests that our consciousness is anything besides an accidental side-effect of evolution, a sort of humming generated by the chemical impulses swirling around our forebrains. I was hoping to find out (yes: I can hear it now, the whole chorus of you, frowning upon me for seeking out evidence for an already arrived-upon conclusion) that scientific evidence itself suggests that there is something more to what makes us us than mere brain activity.
Alva's arguments, however, have nothing to do with metaphysics and everything to do with the definition of consciousness itself. This was why, while the book was fascinating, I also found it ultimately unfulfilling. He succeeds in demonstrating that a solid definition of consciousness (as he puts it: that the world shows up for us) must not limit itself to brain activity. But he does so with arguments that sometimes don't seem to follow logically until you read them two or three times, and even then seem questionable. One is left with the feeling that he has redefined what is meant by consciousness to encompass a larger picture of our experience in the world, and then triumphantly shown that according to this definition consciousness requires a world and our interaction with it.
It's a good book if you're interested in the definition of consciousness, and also a good book if you like to read interesting studies of sensory substitution and other such tricks that try to tease out its essence. But I can't wholeheartedly recommend it on the merit of its premise.(less)
I'm a bit of a sucker for books stuffed with slice-of-the-author's-life essays. Maybe it's the vicarious thrill, or maybe I think that I, too, could l...moreI'm a bit of a sucker for books stuffed with slice-of-the-author's-life essays. Maybe it's the vicarious thrill, or maybe I think that I, too, could learn to see my life through wittier and funnier eyes if I tried a little harder.
Crosley is a good writer, which is to say that she's good with words. Everything about this book seemed like it was something I would enjoy.
But while I liked it, I really didn't enjoy it all that much. It wound up sitting on the nightstand and losing the battle for pre-bed reading time; in the end it went back to the library at about 75% done without any real plans to finish.
Crosley is observant, but ultimately it's hard to connect with her stories. She feels a little aimless. The situations about which she writes don't have much natural tension, and on the rare occasion when she tries to draw deeper emotion or truth, it feels a little out of place. (less)
I put a hold on this book as soon as I heard about it. Cyber-crime novels are generally written by people who do not actually understand computers. Ma...moreI put a hold on this book as soon as I heard about it. Cyber-crime novels are generally written by people who do not actually understand computers. Mark Russinovich is an extremely talented software engineer with a popular blog in which he analyzes very complicated problems with remarkably alacrity. If anyone could write a cyber-crime novel that wouldn't require me to suspend large amounts of disbelief, it would be Mark.
Unfortunately, I didn't get around to finishing it before it had to go back to the library. Once the novelty (and at some points sheer delight) of the realistic setting wore off, it felt like any of a half-dozen pulp-fiction thrillers--all the characters are caricatures, the heroes young and sexy and infallibly competent, the villians dripping with greed and unpleasantness.
The story works best when it goes into depth about Jeff's analysis techniques. I'm a software engineer myself and the work can be very dull to describe to a layperson--but in Mark's capable hands, it sounds incredibly cool.
I did not finish this book, because I read the following text on page 22:
"I dissolve with pleasure into the wine, like a sugar cube with warm water po...moreI did not finish this book, because I read the following text on page 22:
"I dissolve with pleasure into the wine, like a sugar cube with warm water poured over it. The only way to convey the intensity of flavor in my mouth woud be to make the words on this page burst into flames."
Now I don't know a lot about writing but this short pair of sentences somehow manage to mix melodrama, a bad cliche, and a really weird metaphor into an unpalatable lump of awkward description. Does this make other people want to drink wine? Actually it does make me want a nice glass of Cabernet, but probably not for the reasons the author wanted. I'm sure this book has some interesting stuff (the part with the poop in the cow horn was OK) but I can't get past the writing style.
One thing I appreciated in the first twenty pages was the author's admission of wine's alcoholic content. She points out, and rightly, that the vast majority of "wine literature" sort of skips over that part, and acts as though it's just fancy grape juice with an innocent warm aftertaste. She says point-blank that she loves the buzz and that the alcoholic aftereffects are one part of the pleasurable experience of drinking wine for her. It's the same for me, of course, and I expect for most wine drinkers--finally, someone with some credibility admits what we're all thinking.(less)