This book was a fabulous step back into big picture thinking, and an excellent reminder that your thoughts create the world. It's also the sort of volThis book was a fabulous step back into big picture thinking, and an excellent reminder that your thoughts create the world. It's also the sort of volume that one doesn't read once, but many times....more
This is a fun, trashy 1950s journalist-hunts-baddies romp. Filled with sensuous women, one - dimensional characters and a fairly convoluted story, donThis is a fun, trashy 1950s journalist-hunts-baddies romp. Filled with sensuous women, one - dimensional characters and a fairly convoluted story, don't expect much of this book. It's pretty bad even for total trash, but as far as junk food for the mind goes, it totally delivers....more
This is a book that anyone interested in science ought to read; yet I fear that it is also one that the militant atheistic sciencey types will immediaThis is a book that anyone interested in science ought to read; yet I fear that it is also one that the militant atheistic sciencey types will immediately disregard.
The Holographic Universe is an evaluative and rigorous examination of an alternative theory of physics. That is holographic or holomovement physics, which posits that the universe functions in a way similar to a hologram.
In doing so, Talbot gives us a foundational knowledge of elements of quantum physics that we require in order to understand the landscape. From here, the book runs us through a very complete examination of parts of reality that the theorem may be able to explain. It includes all of the 'uncomfortable' things about reality that mainstream science disregards, or at least, acknowledges exists but views as something that is unexplainable (and therefore probably a mental delusion).
Such things include out of body experiences, understanding of psychokinetic ability, understanding of dream worlds, different ways of examining the ability of people to manifest things in the real world, and an examination of physical health.
It is a highly engaging, extremely well referenced work. It is also extremely well argued. It is not, however, the type of work that insists on being the only perspective; in fact, there are many occasions, especially in some of the more challenging topics, where Talbot will argue other sides perspectives and points of view that are equally valid.
As for me, I kept copious notes throughout the reading of this book, now have a sizeable bibliography of works to follow up and read, and annoyed those around me by reading excerpts of parts I found particularly interesting. Which, given I am a lot more nerdy than them, was probably quite irritating.
This is a work highly recommended for the curious mind. If you are not open-minded about physics, then perhaps avoid this - if only to avoid your own discomfort. ...more
Sons of the Republic is a political/crime thriller of merit. Yet, most of that merit is because of its unusual setting: Taiwan.
First, a disclaimer. J.Sons of the Republic is a political/crime thriller of merit. Yet, most of that merit is because of its unusual setting: Taiwan.
First, a disclaimer. J.W. Henley is a friend of mine; in fact, he used to write for me when I was a publisher. He was also one of my favourite writers to deal with: Great work, consistent, mature style, polite, friendly, took criticism well. (Like parents, we say we don't have favourites but it's actually a lie.)
Now, that disclaimer out of the way, I was excited to hear that Joe was releasing his first novel. I knew the landscape of it, I knew that it would have a strong historical element. And yet I was still pleasantly surprised by this work.
Sons of the Republic is what I would consider a spy thriller. It's a genre in which it's tough to compete. There are Genius Level writers in this genre; amongst them two of my favourites: Le Carre and Deighton. Having said that, this is as far from a British spy/thriller as you can get. Henley is Canadian, and is embedded in the Taiwanese culture.
This alone was exciting for me. Even if this book were rubbish - which it's not - it has merit for the sheer amount of learning about Taiwan as a nation and a culture. I have a suspicion, Henley being the observational writer that he is, that his commentary about Taiwanese culture would be sharp and incisive. At various parts of my life I've studied elements of Asian history, from the Chinese Revolution to the roles played by nations during war. How the Kuomintang (KMT) and Chiang Kai-Shek played such a key role in Taiwanese history has never come to my attention. I'm grateful to have this gap closed in my own knowledge.
The story of Sons of the Republic is one of discovery. Without giving the story away, the protagonist's father is murdered, and the son (Jason) is hell-bent on finding out why. Joining him in this brief, dramatic, and violent struggle, is his best friend Li-Yang Wang. The story starts slowly and winds itself up at a cracking pace, like all great spy books do. The set up is lengthy and essential. Outcomes from such stories are rarely long because once everything is in place, circumstances become strings of firecrackers.
And yet, for all of the great stuff in this book, it's not as good as it could be. I felt like I didn't really connect with the protagonist, that the protagonist's motive was pure but sterile. I connected more emotionally with Li-Yang Wang, a man with obvious pain and a deep, almost spiritual connection that drives everything he does. Jason was far less multidimensional.
There is also a feeling here that Henley struggled with marrying the story and the explanation of culture. However, that is less of a criticism about the writer than it is about the editor. For example, there are some pages where explanations of history or cultural elements interrupt the narrative, and could have been better handled by footnotes or end-notes - some method that allows the story to flow and gives the reader the option. It's significant enough to mention because it happens enough to paint the writer into the narrative. It is much more powerful when the writer is absent.
This visibility may also simply be because Henley is a Canadian expat in Taiwan: He's an outsider. He had to learn all of these things about Taiwan, too. It's possible that he is moved to educate other people about the nation. Sometimes that happens to the detriment of his creation.
Henley is, however, a young writer in terms of his book-publishing career. This is his debut novel, and as far as debuts go it is a meaningful, solid work that deserves attention. From here onwards, I hope that some of those elements of writer maturity come to the fore. If they do, then Henley will very quickly establish himself as a writer of note....more
Having devoured the first four books of the Night Watch series with nothing other than intense gusto, and having felt immensely satisfied by that all-Having devoured the first four books of the Night Watch series with nothing other than intense gusto, and having felt immensely satisfied by that all-too-brief period of feasting, seeing a fifth title in the series filled me with conflict. The feeling was at once joy at seeing Lukyanenko again in print, and so soon; and also disappointment.
You see, the fourth book was such a perfect tidying up of storyline that the entry of another title seemed forced. Or, rather, opportunistic.
Nonetheless, I bought the book, whose size was smaller than the other four titles, thus making even the physical book itself look uneasy in my bookshelf against its predecessors.
And for a while, even the warm familiarity of Lukyanenko's prose seemed somehow contrived. It took a while to find its feet, and the continual references to popular culture - in particular, to Rowling's Potter series, were superficial. Designed for a Western audience, perhaps, one that had salivated over the Night Watch series. One for which an editor not worth her salt had maybe suggested be thrown in.
Then again, maybe I have high expectations and am being unfair.
The work itself, once past the initial part of the story and has found its stride, fell back into the world that we know and love from the previous works in the series.
Lukyanenko's style is so easygoing, in fact, that suddenly I was more than halfway through the book. And then the book was over and I lamented that it was finished, as I had before, with his previous works.
It has to be said that, although I had waxed lyrical about the completion of the fourth book, Last Watch and its incredibly skilled tying-up-of-ends, there is one thing I must grudgingly admit. And that is that there were a couple of threads left danging, invisible until now: The nature of the Twilight. And the existence of Nadya. And how the two are inextricably linked through Anton Gorodetsky.
The elegance of Lukyanenko's construction is still undeniable, but The New Watch, as good as it is, lacks some of the passion of the rest of the series. You can't blame the translator either; Andrew Bromfield also worked on the previous titles.
While part of me is now hoping that book five is the last in the series, the very existence of the fifth has ignited the idea that maybe the series continuing wouldn't be so much of a bad thing. The risk, however, is that any more works would dilute further what is a frankly magnificent construction....more
This work is engaging, enticing, and magical. And it puts Baxter in a position where, dare I say it, his future works will be anticipated, but also clThis work is engaging, enticing, and magical. And it puts Baxter in a position where, dare I say it, his future works will be anticipated, but also closely watched.
As a critic, writing a review of anything authored or produced by a friend is fraught with danger. Many reviewers are unable to divorce themselves from their well-wishes of their friends, and can't put themselves in a position where they are disparaging the artwork produced by people with whom they have any kind of relationship.
I am not one of those. Let it be known: If I think something is shit, I will not hesitate to be honest about it, regardless as to whether the artist is a friend, a family member, or even my husband.
Baxter has an engaging style about his works, and his characters tread that very fine and difficult line between deep characterisation and the thinner, less satisfying, and less realistic characters common in pulp, trash, and junk food fiction. With each subsequent work, his control of this balance becomes more skilful.
In Bound you will meet familiar characters: Isiah and Petra we know from Realmshift and Magesign, and both make cameo appearances. But the protagonist is rather more familiar to me. He's a fighter, he lives in NSW, he lives outside the city, he leads a relatively simple life. Hi, Alan, I can see you waving from this guy.
The story has been spun in many different ways, in different tales, different forms, and in different times, formats, and mutations. Bound tells the story of Alex Caine and the remarkable powers he possesses, comes to possess, and that nearly destroy him. It's a battle of wills, and time, and space-time. We find characters like the Dark Sisters, who are reminiscent of the three witches from the film Stardust, yet in a far more alluring, and much darker form. And the antagonist is really an 'inanimate' object, and the battle of self.
The work is enticing, engaging and magical. I can't write much more than this without ruining the story for you.
As a reader, I do not consume particular genres. I'm not well read in dark fantasy as a genre, unlike possibly everyone else who has read and critiqued this work. I do, however, gravitate in a general sense, towards excellent Russian works. The writer Lukyanenko is an artist of remarkable talent. I mention this because Baxter's contemporary style is reminiscent of Lukyanenko (and his translater, of course). Whether Baxter's talent is as robust as Lukyanenko remains to be seen; I've yet to encounter an artist quite so talented as the Russian in tying up a story so well.
This is all very high praise. But the book is not without its problems. The relationship between Caine and Silhouette is pushed actually to its limits at about halfway through the book. The struggle Caine is experiencing, and the relationship with Silhouette stagnates before it finds its feet again. I actually found myself exclaiming aloud, "Yes, yes, we're past this already and we need to move on now."
This is not an idle comment. Similar issues with the characterisation were also in the Realmshift/Magesign works. The characters reach a certain limit ahead of the story and can't move until XYZ occurs - and this is where it happens. If this issue of character and story can be resolved in future works, then they will be much more powerful, and will stop pushing the reader out of the work. This may also come with greater exploration of the nature of character, too. Depth of character is difficult in an action story, but the two are not irreconcilable.
Bound is a very enjoyable work. I hope that the next two works are as powerful as this one. If they are, then Baxter will have delivered us a trio of works of sincere substance, and herald well for the future of his career with HarperVoyager.
For many, many years I have considered reading works by the Dalai Lama. Going hunting for them, I found more volumes than I could possibly buy all atFor many, many years I have considered reading works by the Dalai Lama. Going hunting for them, I found more volumes than I could possibly buy all at once, and so kind of went for a blind stab in the dark with The Art of Happiness.
It was a deeply interesting read, and a fast one: I finished it in only a few sittings.
However, if you are looking for a book written by the Dalai Lama, this is not one. Yes, a lot of the sentiments are direct quotes. Yes whole tracts of it originate with the Dalai Lama. But it was not authored by His Holiness.
It is, in fact, a book that was written by someone else who had hoped to gain from the Tibetan leader a handbook for happiness. Do this, this, and that, and bam! Happy. It was not the case that it ended up this way. As a result, the book is rather more like a work of creative non-fiction, where we follow the actual author around behind the Dalai Lama, and experience the author's frustrations with Buddhist philosophy. We also gain commentary that unpacks a lot of the Dalai Lama's teachings.
While it is dishonest in some respects that the book is promoted as being by the Dalai Lama, one could argue that it is the essence of the book that is by His Holiness, and that part of it is what counts.
This work steps you through the basic tenets of Buddhist philosophy, on a compare/contrast basis with Western philosophy and scientific thinking. In many aspects, the two are complementary - even supporting each other - though the Buddhist thinking is far simpler, far more elegant. Despite this simplicity, it will cause you to stop and consider. There were many points throughout this book at which I stopped and stared at the wall in contemplation.
More importantly, if you apply the principles to yourself, you will find yourself calmer, and you will find yourself yielding better relations with people around you, seemingly without effort.
As an entry into the basics of Eastern and Tibetan Buddhist thinking, this is a nice doorway. It is not, however, enough simply to read this book. To derive anything from it, one must read, consider, and apply.
Applying any of the principles presented in this book takes enormous effort, because it requires you to challenge your default reactions, and to focus on compassion - even when you're reeealllyyy annoyed or angry. When you start to get a grip on it, your relationships with people will all improve: You start to relate to people as humans, rather than as how you perceive them to be.
I guess the question really is whether any Western reader has the stamina to apply it, or is willing to relinquish his or her pleasure in favour of happiness. Chase happiness rather than pleasure, connect with all people as humans, practice compassion. It doesn't sound like much at all, yet the impact is enormous.
There is much to consider in this book. In fact, almost two days later, I am still ruminating on its argument. And that alone is a measure of a book that needs to be shared....more
This book was total trash. The characters were one-dimensional, the plot thin, the title a bit of a punchline at the end. The story was utterly predicThis book was total trash. The characters were one-dimensional, the plot thin, the title a bit of a punchline at the end. The story was utterly predictable, and I couldn't read it without both crisps and a cup of tea.
And for all of these short-comings it was a splendid, brainless romp of a whodunnit. It was so good that I couldn't put it down and, in fact, read it as fast as lightning.
So it was great, and it was awful. Where else does one put it but three stars?...more
Christopher Knight and Alan Butler's story is an intriguing scientific journey. While the very title of the book, Who Built the Moon?, may cause yourChristopher Knight and Alan Butler's story is an intriguing scientific journey. While the very title of the book, Who Built the Moon?, may cause your hackles to rise with indignation, it's at once a challenge to your open-mindedness, and extremely ballsy.
Knight and Butler became curious about the origins of the moon. Their quest to discover the moon's origins took them (and subsequently, you, as you read this book) to some far out, apparently unrelated, and yet deeply interesting places. You will learn about units of Sumerian measurement, and why they are central to understanding astronomical anomalies. You will learn, as you read, to unravel your own prejudices and follow the path of exploration.
I know very well that those who staunchly defend Science will instantly guffaw at the notion of the moon being built, it is those self-same people who ought to be able to follow the evidence in all of its forms, and be curious about the outcome. At its heart, scientific enquiry requires a sense of adventure and a good imagination.
It's a difficult subject, and Knight and Butler handle it with clarity, simplicity, and skill. When we got into discussions about quantum mechanics, mobius twists, and the nature of what I will render as 'multiverses' rather than 'multiple universes', that's really the only point in the book wherein the content became challenging enough to exercise my brain to the point where it hurt. The remainder of the subject matter was adroitly handled, with a careful simplicity that deserves applause.
But I do have questions. I question the notion of a human-created moon, because it would suppose that at some point we will come to a place where the moon is either threatened or does not exist. I wonder whether anybody has picked up where Knight and Butler have left off, mapping genomes to pixels. I am curious to know what impact this work, and the hypothesis (and results) it presents, have had any impact on communities at all. And if it hasn't, why hasn't it?
You can tell I haven't started querying the internet yet.
The only irritating thing with this book, given its beautiful framework of argumentation, was the unnecessary and annoying gaps in the proofing. It's tough to give a lot of credit to a work wherein the word 'physicist' is repeatedly misspelled. Still, we plough onwards. The work is good enough that we can overlook this.
I'm not going to cast here the argumentation in the book. Instead, I will merely exhort you to find it and read it. It's easily enough read in one sitting, if you have the luxury of uninterrupted time.
To conclude this piece, I'll take a quote from the book:
"...if someone refuses to look at obvious patterns because they consider a pattern should not be there, then they will see nothing but the reflection of their own prejudices."...more