Atmosphere, atmosphere atmosphere. First off this read dripped with atmosphere. It's a piece of Southern noir, often depressing and dark and at times...moreAtmosphere, atmosphere atmosphere. First off this read dripped with atmosphere. It's a piece of Southern noir, often depressing and dark and at times rekindles hope within the reader only to steal it away masterfully. Roy Cady, the antihero protagonist has committed horrible acts of violence as a mob enforcer for a brutal mob boss. Diagnosed with lung cancer at 40 and with nothing left to lose he rescues himself from a staged execution orchestrated by his boss. Roy isn't looking for redemption he just wants to live the last couple of days in whatever peace he can find, maybe visit his lost love from an entirely different period in his life but Pizzolatto hints at redemption when Roy rescues a young prostitute who was unfortunate enough to be at the scene of his planned execution. Roy protects her and quite reluctantly agrees to take her to Galveston TX. The story is about this journey. Will Roy find redemption? ah but that would be all to simple now wouldn't it?
It's a short read and study in Pizzolatto's unique ability to create an atmosphere of dread and despair while keeping the reader hooked on the story. This is very good noir. It's a short read, and if you loved True Detective you just might like this. (less)
Mukherjee provides one of the most animated, lively, gut wrenching and sublime accounts of the history of cancer and takes the reader through a survey...moreMukherjee provides one of the most animated, lively, gut wrenching and sublime accounts of the history of cancer and takes the reader through a survey of modern cancer research. First off I must say that this is science writing at its best. The motivations, hopes, dreams, fears, struggles, imperfections and the frailties of the scientists and activists involved in this crusade are laid bare. Science and the process of discovery is a uniquely human trait. I would go far as to say that being curious about something and trying to figure out a natural phenomenon is fundamental to the human condition. Mukherjee captures this essence beautifully, he may have been trained as an oncologist but he could have easily chosen a career in writing and been a prolific writer. The prose is beautifully written, never rushed, overtly optimistic or pessimistic, it recounts the very real human effort that a large group of scientists have put into this crusade (some may call it a war) over the centuries. Taking us through a journey that begins with Galen and the naturalists of the antiquities right down to the front lines of modern cancer research, Mukherjee does not forget to pause and reflect on the very personal nature of this war by recounting a number of experiences that he as an oncologist has had with his patients. The message is clear, while we are spending billions on cancer research we should never lose focus on the most important and fundamental aspect of this war - saving a fellow human being from a disease that destroys everything.
Mukherjee also talks about preventative as well as palliative medicine which is often neglected in the Western part of the world. Lung cancer for example can largely be prevented by not smoking and not inhaling other carcinogens. While this may seem obvious to some - remove the carcinogen and prevent the cancer - Mukherjee must be commended for bringing to bear the full authority of decades of scientific study in order to drive home the point that cancer can be prevented.
Probably the best piece of science writing I have seen all year. Quite fortunate to have been able to pick this up. Recommended highly if you enjoy reading science histories, or if you are interested in biology and medicine. 5/5 stars and much of that has to do with the really good writing and not just for the highly informative content. Finally I must add that this is a very human account of a crusade and war that all of us are part of. (less)
I'm still reeling from some of the fundamental questions raised by this book. Have you ever felt that while enabling as it may be technology tends to...moreI'm still reeling from some of the fundamental questions raised by this book. Have you ever felt that while enabling as it may be technology tends to limit the way we think and the way we define ourselves? Lanier starts off with a beautiful and insightful example on how music software was built and how MIDI came into existence. He argues (and won me over) that MIDI limits us and our capacity to make music because MIDI structures us to think of music in different terms as we think of music in the analog world. The classes, libraries and functions that MIDI relies on forces us to create, appreciate and manipulate music/notes in a particular way. The richness of the analog world is stripped away. Could we have come up with a better standard? possibly but the point Lanier makes is that just like the creator of MIDI did not anticipate such pruning of our musical repertoire people who build technological systems might not be entirely aware of how their technology reduces the richness of the world. A system is built and it becomes standardized. This is the ultimate nail on the coffin. Once standardized there is little room to explore alternatives. There ceases to be a cultural or financial incentive to do so. Lanier may come off as a Luddite to most tech savvy people out there but his central thesis is not aimed at hating technology rather it is a timely criticism of AI "culture" (much needed) and the current orthodox technocratic culture which Lanier likens to a religious group. Insightful and has some powerful ideas worth debating on. Lanier goes beyond criticism, he introduces a new direction where we as humans demand that technology be built and molded around our needs as opposed to adapting our brains and structures to suit the tech we use. Pick it up if you have been wondering as I have been whether facebook and twitter seems to be reducing who we are as human beings to our likes and statuses. (less)
More Jon Ronson! If you enjoyed The Men Who Stare At Goats you'll love this one. Same style in terms of prose. Fantastic subject matter. What are psyc...moreMore Jon Ronson! If you enjoyed The Men Who Stare At Goats you'll love this one. Same style in terms of prose. Fantastic subject matter. What are psychopaths and how are we any different? Could not put this down(less)
Some of the best science fiction stories are not about some incident happening in the far future or in space etc. they examine our pres...more[Some spoilers]
Some of the best science fiction stories are not about some incident happening in the far future or in space etc. they examine our present realities and the issues we face during our time. This was written in the 70s but the themes that it discusses have never been more relevant. This book deals with issues like invading/colonizing other cultures, racial prejudices, bioethics, sex and the nature of morality. In that respect it succeeds in not only giving the reader moments to "geek out to" with the tech jargon and moments that make you go "whoa thats cool" (some people do find war "cool"- interesting!) but also tells a compelling story which examines the broader issues that lead us to war and make us kill other human beings and the effect that war has on society. I guess the author was inspired by the events that led upto the Vietnam war (which had just ended several years earlier) and the subsequent mess that it turned out to be.
The futility of war and the draft is a very strong theme threading through this book. I also found it interesting how the author used the effects of relativistic time dilation as a metaphor to convey the isolation that Mandella feels. He uses this technique not only to convey desolation but also a whole spectrum of emotions familiar to the lonely. There are intense moments of violence, death and gore but the author manages to reach out to the reader and convey this feeling of longing and desolation. It moved me. I also loved the fact that this allowed the author to come up with a plausible mechanism to ensure that Mandella experiences the thousand year evolution of the war between the humans and the (initially pacifist/indifferent) "Taurans". This "thousand year perspective" is shared by only one other character, Marygay - by the end of the book and I found this really interesting and rather unsettling - it's also very very cool! Again the author has used this mechanism to convey a sense of dissonance between what a veteran experiences and how larger society has essentially moved on to other things during and after the war. Joe Haldeman tells us, well imagine, just imagine coming back to a society that is in the future, a world where you have no stake in, your family is long gone or moved on your lovers dead and your skills useless - this is what being a veteran of a long war feels like and it is extremely depressing. At one point Mandella explains to the reader the probabilities involved in surviving a particular time period in battle, "its like playing Russian roulette with a six shooter loaded with four bullets. And you have to survive 10 tries with this six shooter..." He does survive and the book does end on a happy note where Mandella is reunited with the only thing that seems to matter to him by the end of the book, his love (the only other human being/solider born during his time and lived through the thousand year war). The author must also be applauded for taking a rather straightforward idea in Physics - relativistic effects, time dilation etc - and exploring it to the extreme in many interesting ways. This unyielding exploration of this single idea would in the hands of a lesser author, be the bane of this book but Haldeman pulls it off masterfully.
No surprise that this won the Hugo AND the Nebula back in the 70s. Having said that I'm not a huge fan of military sci-fi, although I do enjoy it when the technical details of high tech cybernetic suits are revealed to me! but what I do find interesting is the examination of what war can do to the psyche of the warrior and its broader impact on all the stakeholders and in that respect this book does a superb job. The focus is on the human cost as a result of the mindless ambition of a military industrial complex of sorts. A lot dark themes are explore by the author. At one point the platoon is sent into battle by issuing a keyword designed to bring up false memories imprinted by post hypnotic suggestion. Memories designed to hate the enemy and thus turn the platoon into a well oiled killing machine hell bent on destroying the enemy. And this happens during the first ever interstellar battle. Suffice it to say that things do not improve as the war goes on for more than a thousand years.
It's nice to put down the heavy books I've been reading as of recent and go back to no nonsense good old fashioned nail biting stuck in space in the middle of a war-type science fiction story. Maybe I'm tired these days from reading a lot of academic literature and heavy "modern/post modern" fiction (read: quirky, smart, sweeping and or epic tales) but I couldn't put this down. It's a short read actually some 250 odd pages.
I took a lot away from reading this. I also concluded that war is pretty horrific and futile. In the hands of an author as skilled as Joe Haldeman it does appear that a military science fiction story CAN be used to convey the futility and horrors of war (as opposed to simply portraying cool gadgets and lots of gore), just like say a gut wrenching news report is able to.
One of the best war stories. Ever.
I'm sharing my retail quality copy here, contains an introduction from the author:
The book is ten chapters long and also includes a rather lengthy introduction by the author which serves as an abstract of sorts to the main prose. Ho...moreThe book is ten chapters long and also includes a rather lengthy introduction by the author which serves as an abstract of sorts to the main prose. However I found myself speeding through the chapters thanks in part to the thoroughly engrossing narrative - Rajan takes you through a chronological as well as a thematic survey of the events leading up to the recent financial crisis - and in part to the highly engaging academic discussion which focuses on the forces that shaped the crisis and how to overcome the problem. The book reads like a well formulated research paper with just the right amount of pacing and buildup (Rajan's famous paper during the early days of the financial crisis circa. 2007 essentially predicted the impending catastrophe and warned the financial institutions of the world during a now famous IMF summit).
But it would be erroneous to claim that this book is aimed at a technical audience well versed in financial economics and econometrics. Rajan spends adequate time explaining the key concepts in layman's terms in a very accessible way. I have some background in financial and business economics so I may be biased in my characterization but the theme of the book is easy enough to grasp to anyone with an interest in global finance and politics.
Rajan makes some very interesting claims, claims the are thoroughly developed and substantiated with detailed notes, references and bibliography. His research acumen shines in his terse yet cogent delivery of the material that he has worked on for years. The claim that education and the lack of it (esp. the discrepancy between jobs that require a highly technical college degree and the inability of a large amount of people to obtain such a degree) caused a measurable shift in the income of the middle class (stagnation and even a reduction in income) during the latter part of the last century which forced governments around the world (especially in the US) to address the income disparity by palliative myopic methods aimed at securing votes startled me. I was convinced more and more as Rajan continued to develop this idea in the first half of the book.
I have a lot more to read and probably reflect on. Will post a full review once I'm done. In the meantime do pick it up! If you 'enjoyed' the documentary Inside Job (Rajan is featured in it, along with many other prominent figures) you will definitely appreciate the attempt that Rajan is making in terms of illuminating the general public to the kind of short sighted, asinine, greedy and (probably) spiteful policies implemented by the US government (and many other governments) while in bed with the financial services industry. However Hanlon's Razor comes to mind immediately when reading the first half of the book: "Never attribute to malice what you can adequately explain by stupidity" ! (less)
The gold standard. The ultimate source. The starting point. Lucid, logical and engaging. Listened to the audiobook as well as read the text version. I...moreThe gold standard. The ultimate source. The starting point. Lucid, logical and engaging. Listened to the audiobook as well as read the text version. It may seem like a short introduction to Western Philosophy but the book is very thorough. Eastern Philosophy is discussed to some extent but the focus of the text is clear.
The evolution is traced carefully and clearly. I love this book and re-read it whenever I can simply to commune with Russell since the tone of the prose is personal and informal. (less)
I read this very very carefully. I'm a bit of an instrumentalist in that I used to believe (yes its faith) that technology is merely a slave and a too...moreI read this very very carefully. I'm a bit of an instrumentalist in that I used to believe (yes its faith) that technology is merely a slave and a tool to supplement human activities. I wasn't a complete determinist in that I did not believe that we would be taken over by machines ala the sexual organ argument of McLuhan but I do take the position seriously enough.
This is a fantastic read. Carr provides adequate bibliographic references to substantiate his claims and I was convinced by his arguments that we are able to form new "circuitry" in our brains. The neural plasticity theory is quite attractive in that I kept examining the metaphors that we have been using to describe the brain. Is human memory like computer memory? I found myself going over similar issues and re-examining some of the metaphors we use to describe the brain. The metaphors themselves are based on the technology that we build (bootstrapping - a kid that plays with lego goes onto be an engineer who builds new structures/technologies which feed into new lego toys and is picked up by the next generation of budding engineers - this my own example! )
Thoroughly engaging. I found myself lost in the historical anecdotes and clear crisp logical reasoning based on really great science. Carr brings together technology studies, media studies, linguistics, history and science and makes a convincing case for determinism (or perhaps something in between).
Highly recommended especially in this post web 2.0 age! The Shallows is up for a Pulitzer (I follow Carr on twitter and saw the update), perhaps it deserves one!(less)