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review 2015-09-12 23:44
Contact
Contact - Carl Sagan

Synopsis: A radio astronomer at a remote observatory makes a discovery of alien proportions.

 

I wrote out a whole review about this book....and then my connection gave out when I hit post...because I'm cabled in tonight and FUCK. So I'm rewriting this again and trying to figure out what I wrote.

 

Anyway, Contact does not have a problem with pacing. It's slow and steady, almost from start to finish. And when I say slow, I mean slllllllooooowwwwww. Your gonna hear about everything you have no interest in. This is includes the protagonist's childhood, school life, college days, relationships with friends, colleagues and her love life. Also religion. Your gonna hear about religion, more specifically about how science attempts to deal with it.

Basically, everything your not interested in while the plot line that is interesting plays out.

 

Thats Sagan's game here. He's written about an amazing scientific discovery and he's going to go through everything that surrounds it. Whats more he's not pulling any punches to make it more interesting. The book is slow, stodgy and generally abit dull

(I did find the part with the Machine when they finally get it going to be pretty neat)

(spoiler show)

It's this way because thats how the scientific process is. While scientific discoveries may be fascinating, or lead to other things that are, the scientific process itself is often tedious, slow and dull. Sagan was writing this to be true to science and thats very clear. But if it was ever meant to make it interesting to anyone, it's a failure.

 

The other thing is that he puts forth several agendas in the book. These include SCIENCE IS AWESOME! and women's rights to later on trying to address the gap between science and religion. I don't mind any of these agenda's, but I would have appreciated it he would have kept them out of the fiction.

 

General rating: 3 1/2

Epic rating: 1

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review 2015-08-21 22:40
Freakonomics
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything - Stephen J. Dubner,Steven D. Levitt

Synopsis:

 

Look your guess is as good as mine as to what this book is about. It doesn't have much of a unifying theme (even the authors say that), so I'm kinda at a loss to say what it is about exactly.

 

I'm not really sure what to say about this book. An economist who doesn't know anything about economics (he says this in the introduction) takes questions, pulls them apart, and analyzes data troves to find answers that seem unrelated. The best I can figure is that he's a pattern analyst with an unusual way of looking at data. Between each chapter there are short excerpts from a New York Times article written by the book's other author mostly about how great/brilliant the first author is. *headscratch*

 

That said he does pose interesting discussions on several different oddball topics. The only unified theme to the book, however, seems to be turning conventional wisdom on it's head.

 

General rating: 3 1/2

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review 2015-07-02 20:13
The Prophet
The Prophet - Kahlil Gibran

Synopsis: A holy man of some sort, due to depart on a boat shortly, dispenses wisdom to townsfolk gathered to see him off on topics such as love, religion, beauty, and death among others.

 

This is Kahlil Gibran's best known work, and despite being so short (readable in about 1 - 2 hours) its very intense. Its the sort of book that if if you want to understand any of it, you have to slow down and read it carefully and think about what your reading.

 

He's very prosaic with his writing, there's a lot of old school classical charm to it, but the real value here is both what he says and doesn't say.

 

"And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.

For in the dew of little things the heart finds it's morning and is refreshed."

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review 2014-06-11 09:03
2312
2312 - Kim Stanley Robinson

Well for a blog that is supposed to be multi-genre and focused on epic, this is completely the wrong book to start that off with. Its bad timing partially, but going into this I knew that epic isn't a genre so much as a trait shared by many genres. Epic action, epic horror, epic survival, epic romance...any one of those could be featured here. So trying to pick out which ones will fly with the theme and which one's will fall is a challenge (and then there are the books which I know won't be epic, but which I want to read and review anyway; maybe a separate account for them)

 

So what I've decided to do is give my reviews (from now on) an epic rating and a general rating and see how that works.

 

So....on with the review.

 

The plot begins with the funeral of the protagonist's grandmother, Alex, a 190 year old woman who was a charismatic scientist, researcher, leader and pillar of the solar system's community.

 

We're introduced to Swan Er Hong, our protagonist, an artist who formerly designed 'terrariums', hollowed out asteroids used for transport, agriculture, livestock, vacations, and the housing of wildlife no longer sustainable on Earth (which has been flooded due to greenhouse effect; agenda much?). She's also a resident of Terminator a city on Mercury which rolls along a track to stay in the habitable shadowed side of the planet while the other side is routinely baked. On one level, I can relate to Swan; she's fiercely independent, impulsive, and she doesn't like being like everyone else. Despite that I didn't really care for her as a character, even though I'm often similar.

 

Robinson is quite thorough with his character development, something that tends to lack in many things I read these days. He doesn't stop with just the main protagonist either. For example, the book features an inspector whom I continually pictured being a miniature Hercule Poirot (there is a sort of class of people in the novel referred to as smalls). Robinson's descriptions of the surroundings, the various planets and cities that the book visits, are likewise very verbose and the imagery evocations all of this brought me were a joy to read.

 

Swan is soon set off on a meandering journey that includes stops all over the solar system in places like Venus, Mars, Titan (a moon of Saturn) and, of course, Earth. This is unfortunately where things go bad. You see there's precious little to do with the overarching conspiracy plot for long periods of time, spanning many chapters in between the interesting parts. In between this stuff whats going on? Well she's flying around on terrarium through space poaching animals, trekking through an underground utility cavern beneath the surface of Mercury with her pal Warham, and re-populating Earth with animals from those terrariums in space. Now some of this might sound interesting, I mean I get it, caverns on Mercury? Cool, I guess. But Robinson turns things that should have been 3 or 4 pages at most into 15 or 20 page chapters sometimes. ***** this man has an indelible grasp on boring.

 

Near the end, the conspiracy plot picks up finally, but he still manages to make it boring (there is barely even a hint of action within this book) and when the conspiracy is finally unearthed and figured out, it turns out to be pretty damn lame for a futuristic sci-fi novel.

 

He does introduce some interesting ideas. The idea of hollowing out asteroids for travel and agriculture and whatnot is creative and I don't think I've ever heard of it before. At one point he even discusses a 'sexliner'. Its a terrarium for well, you get the idea, (designed to look like a caribean resort, no less). I wanna see that happen in the future. The idea of a moving city that has to stay in the shade is pretty neat too. While we're at it, Robinson also seems to have a thing for making up new gender lines and sexual identities many of which sound weird and interesting (unfortunately, most of them are not discussed within the book). The list includes feminine, masculine, androgynous, gynandromorphous, hermaphrodite, ambisexual, bisexual, intersex, neuter, eunuch, nonsexual, undifferentiated, gay, lesbian, queer, invert, homosexual, polymorphous, poly, labile, berdache, hijra and two-spirit.

 

General rating: ***1/2

EPIC: 1/2 (if that)

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