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text 2019-06-10 11:36
The Flat Book Society: July's Vote Winner!
Skeletons: The Frame of Life - Jan Zalasiewicz,Mark Williams



We have a new selection for July! With a narrow margin, Skeletons: The Frame of Life won the vote for July's Flat Book Society read.


Here's what the publishers say:

Over half a billion years ago life on earth took an incredible step in evolution, when animals learned to build skeletons. Using many different materials, from calcium carbonate and phosphate, and even silica, to make shell and bone, they started creating the support structures that are now critical to most living forms, providing rigidity and strength. Manifesting in a vast variety of forms, they provided the framework for sophisticated networks of life that fashioned the evolution of Earth's oceans, land, and atmosphere. Within a few tens of millions of years, all of the major types of skeleton had appeared. 

Skeletons enabled an unprecedented array of bodies to evolve, from the tiniest seed shrimp to the gigantic dinosaurs and blue whales. The earliest bacterial colonies constructed large rigid structures - stromatolites - built up by trapping layers of sediment, while the mega-skeleton that is the Great Barrier Reef is big enough to be visible from space. The skeletons of millions of coccolithophores that lived in the shallow seas of the Mesozoic built the white cliffs of Dover. These, and insects, put their scaffolding on the outside, as an exoskeleton, while vertebrates have endoskeletons. Plants use tubes of dead tissue for rigidity and transport of liquids - which in the case of tall trees need to be strong enough to extend 100 m or more from the ground. Others simply stitch together a coating from mineral grains on the seabed. 

In Skeletons, Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams explore the incredible variety of the skeleton innovations that have enabled life to expand into a wide range of niches and lifestyles on the planet. Discussing the impact of climate change, which puts the formation of some kinds of skeleton at risk, they also consider future skeletons, including the possibility that we might increasingly incorporate metal and plastic elements into our own, as well as the possible materials for skeleton building on other planets.


I'm intrigued already, and hope the book will arrive in time (my library doesn't have this one). 


On a related but different note of Flat Book Society housekeeping, should I clear the current list of nominations completely or should we automatically carry over the top three books for the next vote?


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review 2019-06-10 06:12
Sourcery by Terry Pratchett
Sourcery - Terry Pratchett

Quirky and entertaining. 

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text 2019-06-05 12:30
Sourcery by Terry Pratchett - Update
Sourcery - Terry Pratchett

"The girl peered around a corner.


"We've lost them." she said.  "Stop shaking.  You're safe now."


"What, you mean I'm all alone with a female homicidal maniac?" said Rincewind.  "Fine."


She relaxed and laughed at him."



Can't really argue with that...

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text 2019-06-05 10:34
Sourcery by Terry Pratchett - Update
Sourcery - Terry Pratchett

"The air of expectation had even spread to the ravens who inhabited the Tower of Art, eight hundred feet high and reputedly the oldest building in the world.  Its crumbling stones supported thriving miniature forests high above the city's rooftops.  Entire species of beetles and small mammals had evolved up there and, since people rarely climbed it these days owing to the tower's distressing tendency to sway in the breeze, the ravens had it all to themselves.  Now they were flying around it in a state of some agitation, like gnats before a thunderstorm."


"These weren't ordinary ants.  Centuries of magicalleakage into the walls of the University had done strange things to them.  Some of them were pulling very small carts, some of them were riding beetles, but all of them were leaving the University as quickly as possible.  The grass on the lawn rippled as they passed.

He looked up as an elderly striped mattress was extruded from an upper window and flopped down onto the flagstones below.  After a pause, apparently to catch its breath, it rose a little from the ground.  Then it started to float purposefully across the lawn and bore down on Rincewind, who managed to jump out of its way just in time.  He heard a high-pitched chittering and caught a glimpse of thousands of determined little legs under the bulging fabric before it hurtled onward.  Even the bedbugs were on the move, and in case they didn't find such comfortable quarters wlsewhere they were leaving nothing to chance.  One of them waved at him and squeaked a greeting."


"A gritty noise made him look across the lawn. 

There was no natural explanation of this. With incredible slowness, easing themselves down parapets and drainpipes in total silence except for the occassional scrape of stone on stone, the fargoyles were leaving the roof.


It's a shame that Rincewind had never seen poor quality stop-motion photography, because then he would have known exactly how to describe what he was seeing.  the creatures didn't exactly move, but they managed to progress in a series of high speed tableaux, and lurched past him in a spindly procession of beaks, manes, wings, claws and pigeon droppings.


"What's happening?" he squeeked.


A thing with a goblin's face, harpy's body and hen's legs turned its head in a series of little jerks and spoke in a voice like the peristalsis of mountains (although the deep resonant effect was rather spoiled because, of course, it couldn't close its mouth)."



I love the mental imagery these paragraphs conjures up!

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text 2019-06-02 13:01
Reading progress update: I've read 377 out of 377 pages.
Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History - Jay Burreson,Penny Le Couteur

Well, this was fun. 


On finishing, I can at least say the following already: Except for the explanation of the reference to "Napoleon's buttons", there are no (seriously, none!) descriptions of fashion choices of any of the people mentioned in this book. Nor are there any ridiculous mentions of people's antics, nor stereotyping of any kind. 


For this alone, this book was a winner already. I really enjoyed this.

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