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Here is some commentary on reads since 2015.

Author Title Comments Pub Read
Alan Dean Foster Relic Three legged aliens treasure and preserve the last human specimen until, with his help, humanity is restored.  This is a entertaining quick read.  Novel diction: chary, conurbation. 2018 2/19
Terry Brooks Street Freaks Terry would brook no more Shanara so he wrote a stand alone sci-fi novel about genetically and/or mechanically modified youths who rise up against the evil corporation that uses them as lab rats.  Terry's simple-speak approach comes off as juvenile without a fantastic setting. 2018 2/19
Janet Evanovich Hardcore Twenty-Four This Plum of a story features headless corpses, zombies, a boa constrictor, a professional demonstrator fugitive named Zero Slick and a cameo by Diesel.  The usual car totaling, junk food eating, granny gun toting, mortuary viewing, outrageous Lula outfits and Stephanie mangling is also included at no extra cost. 2017 1/19
Janet Evanovich

Turbo Twenty-Three

Steph and Lula go bounty hunting and their perp's stolen ice-creamery semi discharges a corpse dipped in chocolate and nuts.  Steph solves the case by getting overly involved and nearly killed by the Bogart Bar clown but the Morelli and Ranger posse gets her out of the mortuary ice box before she becomes a corpsickle herself. 2016


1/19


Fredrik Backman Us Against You In this sequel to Beartown the rivalry with Hed waxes and wains and rural Swedes demurely accept change and differences. 2018 12/18
John Scalzi The Consuming Fire Book 2 of the Interdependency continues this entertaining but increasingly predictable tale of intergalactic intrigue. 2018 12/18
Janet Evanovich

Tricky Twenty-Two

Stephanie does not contract the plague but the story is plagued by all the usual Plum doings: her car explodes, she gets nicked up, she eats donuts with Lula, she's off again/on again with Morelli, and she solves a criminal case faster than the police (and FBI, CID and Homeland Security) and another. 2015


12/18


David Reich


























 
Who We Are and How We Got Here

























 
Despite the professorial tone, this is an interesting book based on recent DNA testing of archeological remains that makes you wonder.  The ability to use microchips to separate microbe DNA from human DNA in old bones has led to an explosion of archeological data.  The data refutes pre-2009 migration theory and provides a somewhat blurry (due to several mixing episodes) improvement in modern human dispersal and linguistic roots.  Recombinant stretches of DNA are limited in number so we are related to a smaller fraction of the ancestors as we climb the family tree (fig. 1).  Africans have essentially zero Neanderthal DNA while the rest of the world has about 2%.  Neanderthals went extinct due to the infertility of hybrid progeny.  Some of our basic evolution was centered in Eurasia (not all in Africa).  Native Americans are distinctly related to ancient northern Europeans (fig. 2).  Natural events such as ice ages, formation of a glacier from the alps to the mediterranean, the sudden arisal of the congo river and a devastating pre-Vesuvius eruption, fomented cycles of segregation, recovery, funneled expansion and interbreeding among early humans (fig. 3).  "And archaeological evidence shows that one-meter-tall 'Hobbits' also persisted until around this same time [50,000 years ago] on Flores island in Indonesia."  Petrous [dense inner-ear surrounding] bones preserve DNA longer than any other ancient source.

         
                          Figure 1                                                   Figure 2                                                  Figure 3

Coincidence: Reich, like Yong, quotes Walt Whitman's poem, “Song of Myself,” which contains the line "I am large, I contain multitudes”.
2018


























 
12/18


























 
Jonas Jonasson


 
The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man The suitcase money runs out, so Allan and Julius escape in a hot air balloon, crash in the Pacific Ocean, get saved by a North Korean freighter, escape Korea with the briefcase containing 4 kilos of uranium, start a coffin business, escape the neo-Nazi that is angered by a coffin mix-up, and travel to Africa to gain tips on the clairvoyance business where they confiscate 400 more kilos of uranium bound for Korea (all of which they give to Merkel).

 
2018



 
11/18



 
Janet Evanovich


 
Notorious Nineteen, Takedown Twenty, Top Secret Twenty-One The dwarf, a butcher, an industrialist, a giraffe and a Russian hit man feature in Plum stories 19 to 21.  Every one of these involves her car blowing up, her apartment being invaded, her grandma attending a funeral home showing, her inability to commit to Morelli or Ranger, and eating junk food with Lula.

 
2011, 2013, 2014

 
11/18



 
L. E. Modesitt Jr. Outcasts of Order
 
Recluce 20 continues the story of a young black mage who courts a healer, a smith and a white.  They flee oppression together until a duchess ets them up for the next book. 2018 10/18
Fredrik Backman Bear Town Teenage hockey team mates, testosterone and tragedy make this his longest sob story yet.  Nobody seems to have Saabs in this book; besides, most athletes hide their tears and drive Volvos. 2016
9/18
Fredrik Backman The Deal of a Lifetime A short Saab story about a mogul who finally does a good deed.
 
2017
 
9/18
 
Terry Brooks The Skaar Invasion The 32nd Shannara novel and the second of the The Fall of Shannara series.  Brooks will not brook another Shanarra series, hence the series title.  Druidic Paranor is restored but evil is afoot.  An Ohmsteed is working on the weather...I guess that will quell the invisible vikings in the next episode. 2018 9/18
Daniel H Wilson Robocalypse
 
Archos, Nth edition computer program passes the event horizon, suborns household and military robots, declares war on humanity, and holes up in a radioactive a-test site in Alaska.  Archos' cyborg experiments backfire, and, with the help of brave resistance fighters and freed robots, people prevail. 2011
 
8/18
 
Ed Yong

























 
I Contain Multitudes
























 
I guess that the title was taken from Whitman's: "Do I contradict myself?  Very well then...I contradict myself; (I am large. I contain multitudes.)"  The subtitle, The Microbes Within, is a bit more descriptive.  The microbiome of each person includes millions of species of bacteria and billions of different viruses (mostly healthful phages that help maintain the balance of bacteria).  The same is true for many animals, although simpler animals tend to have fewer species of bacteria.  Some animals have incorporated bacteria DNA into their own make-up, allowing simplification of their biome.  A diverse biome is healthier in humans than a restrained one.

Novel factoids follow.  Every person aerosolises around 37 million bacteria per hour.  An open hospital window is healthier than a closed one.  Dog dust suppresses allergens.  Oxalate is found in beetroot, asparagus, and rhubarb, and at high concentrations, it stops your body from absorbing calcium, which congeals into a hard lump sometimes forming into kidney stones.  Human breast milk stands out among that of other mammals: it has five times as many types of HMO as cow’s milk, and several hundred times the quantity (even chimp milk is impoverished compared to ours).  However, even though rural villagers have more diverse gut microbiomes than urban city dwellers, chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas have even more diverse communities: since we diverged from our fellow apes; the human microbiome has been slowly contracting.

Even the most concentrated probiotics contain just a few hundred billion bacteria per sachet.  That sounds like a lot but the gut already holds at least a hundredfold more. Gulping down a yoghurt is like ingesting scarcity.  Given all the important roles that bacteria play in our bodies, it should be possible to improve our health by swallowing or applying the right microbes. It’s just that the strains in current use may not be the right ones.  So, perhaps a smarter approach to making probiotics is to create a community of microbes that work well together.  A team cultured a woman’s gut
bacteria and removed any that showed hints of virulence, toxicity, or antibiotic resistance. That left a community of 33 strains that, in a fit of whimsy, was dubbed RePOOPulate. When mixture was tested on two patients with C-diff, both recovered within days.

As well as thwarting dengue virus, Wolbachia stops mosquitoes from carrying the Chikungunya and Zika viruses or the Plasmodium parasites
that cause malaria.  Scientists are raising Wolbachia incorporated mosquitoes, releasing them, and finding that their brethren are only to happy to take in the Wolbachia.  It is conceivable that in the near future mosquitoes will stop being a vector for malaria, dengue, Chikungunya and Zika.

Novel diction: metagenomics, Micropia, biogeography of the human microbiome, microbe-associated molecular patterns, choanoflagellates, psychobiotics, bacteriocytes, bacteriomes, bacteriophages, human milk oligosaccharides (HMO's), B. infantis, dysbiosis, microbomania, sussed, holobiont, hologenome, symbiogenesis, diktat, bolus, bracovirus, eff, and gateau.
2016

























 
8/18

























 
Jane Hirshfield








 
Ten Windows (a sequel to Nine Gates)

 





 
Subtitled How Great Poems Transform the World this book seeks to show how poetry transforms the reader and, when multiplied, the world.  The first chapter, Kingfishers Catching Fire, includes excerpts from Gary Snyder's "Riprap" and Elizabeth Bishop's "At the Fishhouses" and exposes us to the eyes and ears of poetry - here the eye words that describe the physical evoke a larger vision and enhance the vision with emotion, and the ear words, through alliteration, shared consonants, diphthongs, alternating vowel sounds and interior rhyme, enhance the emotion of the poem in song.  Chapter 2 is full of flowery prose on how poetry speaks to the reader.  Chapter 3 is haiku.  Chapter 4 is on hiddeness (the unseen may be integral and/or key to the seen or might remain in shadow).  Chapter 5 is on uncertainty (overtly stated or a fuzziness that engenders thought).  Chapter 6 is on windowing (a word or phrase external to the rest of the poem that shatters or enlightens).  Chapter 7 is about surprise("the emotion of a transition not self-created).  Chapter 8 discusses American poetry and "plain-speak".  Chapter 9 transforms.  Chapter 10 ends with paradox and soda crackers. 

New diction: poïesis, tropism, amanuensis, contrapuntal, shikantaza, proleptic, pellucid, koan, solutio, reification, imagistic, enjambment, opprobium, muntin, staling, dialectical, synecdoche, villanelle, ghazal, priapic eros, paratactic, metonymic, ontological
2015









 
8/18









 
John Scalzi
 
Head On
 
Sequel to Lock In, a Hayden FBI agent investigates mis-doings among the Helkita League (like soccer but goals are scored by beheading opposing remote controlled threeps).  A cat makes it a true Scalzi novel. 2018
 
8/18
 
Fredrik Backman
 
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry This story only has Renault, Audi and Taxi but is still the grandmother of all Saab stories.  Almost 8 Elsa, when not in the Land-of-Almost-Awake, delivers her granny's apology letters to the loveable misfits in her building.  A good book despite the tears.
 
2013

 
8/18

 
Fredrik Backman Britt-Marie Was Here A Saab story about a mild mannered ex-housewife who receives help finding herself from the remnants of a ghost town and soccer.
 
2014
 
7/18
 
R.J.Theodore
 
Flotsam
 
A steam punk sci-fi novel with a cracked up planet that floats around in pieces, five races created by five gods, an attacking alien insectoid race, a salvage team crewing a steam powered airship for our heroic captain.  Cliff hanger ending assures a sequel. 2018
 
7/18
Andrew Tomes Are trees socialists? "Are trees socialists" is a web article that discusses complex mycorrhizae/tree source/sink relationships.
http://feedthedatamonster.com/home/2015/6/26/are-trees-socialists
2015 7/18
 
Sue Burke

 
Semiosis

 
Terran and Glassmade settlers struggle to find balance with alien vegetable intelligence.  Filled with the hope of bamboozling bamboo brains and floral chemicals, this is a good story infused with botanical optimism.  Sue is now on my "must read" list.
Novel diction: catabolism, mycorrhizae, zoochory (via indirect reference)
2018

 
7/18

 
Sylvain Neuvel Only Human
 
Book 3 in the Themis Files trilogy has Eva becoming a fictitious Ekt freedom fighter which ends up saving her adopted parents and Earth.  The book ends with an alien salutation: Eyaktept eket ontyask atakt oyansot ot.  Eyantsant eps. [I'll let you know if or when I have a translation.] 2018
 
6/18
 
Janet Evanovich


 
Sizzlin' Sixteen, Smokin' Seventeen, and Explosive Eighteen Stephanie, with the help of Rangeman and hobbits aplenty frees Vinnie from a ruthless Bulgarian mobster but bail bonds office is burnt down in 16.  A body is unearthed during office reconstruction and the office bus burns up (along with a few of Steph's cars).  Thank goodness that a Ferrari is used for bond so that Vinnie can use it to compensate the mob for filling a don's car with horse manure.  Steph goes to Hawaii but her boys fight there so she returns early only to accidentally get involved in an international hacking scheme but she out fights a hired killer and wins the day..."babe!"
 
2009 thru
2011

 
6/18



 
Dewey Lambdin
 
The French Admiral
 
Book 2 of the Alan Lewrie series wherein Mister Lewrie survives land battles with Colonial rebels and French regulars,earns a promotion, and is informed that his grandmother has sued for his re-inheritance and is cleared of rape charges.
Novel diction: phyz, loomhint, fasine, gabion, redan, feldwebel, tittuping and parbuckles.
1990

 
5/18

 
Bill Bryson


 
Seeing Further: The Story of Science & the Royal Society Summaries of writings by prolific Fellows (FRS); some historic (Newton, Boole, Franklin, Darwin), some neo (genetics, string theory, climatology), and some philosophical (rationalism vs. emperialism, creationism vs evolution, fossil fuels vs. renewable energy responsibilities).  A chapter on engineers was too civil for my taste (I guess the RSF isn't as mechanical as it used to be).  Note - a conclusion chapter is hidden in the addenda.
 
2010


 
4/18


 
Elizabeth Moon Into the Fire
 
Book 2 of Vatta's Peace has spaceship wreck survivors hospitalized for a fictitious disease and the Vatta Company comes to the rescue.  This is a good read, full of suspense and intrigue. 2018
 
4/18
 
Dewey Lambdin


 
The King's Coat



 
Book 1 of the Alan Lewrie series wherein Mister Lewrie survives naval battles with French, Spanish and (rebel) American warships, yellow fever, nasty officers and assorted ladies.

Novel diction: futtock shroud, preventers and parrels [rigged], weather earring, flogging sail, footrope, scantling, camel, black strap, cup-shot, loblolly, hobbledehoy, langridge, fugleman, sybarite, fubsy, jear bitts, slyboots and quoin.
1988



 
4/18



 
David Rosenfelt Collared
 
A baby and a border collie are abducted from a genetics company founder who arranged to put the blame on her ex with the help of a drug tycoon but Andy Carpenter and crew best them both without much court shenanigans. 2017
 
4/18
Alec Baldwin

 
You Can't Spell America Without Me A funny lampooning of Donald Trump by his SNL portrayer.

 
2017

 
3/18
 
 
Ian M Banks




 
The Hydrogen Sonata



 
Bank's swan song in the Culture series (he passed away suddenly), the story involves a female alien agent of a soon to sublime race who has two extra arms grafted onto her body so that she can play the hydrogen sonata on the eleven string (both are so hard to play that experts believe that the author was playing a joke).  With the help of a Cultured ship's avatar and extra dimensions, she foils her own government's attempt to screw up the subliming.

Novel diction: scrue [of rock], foveae, arbite, effete, immanentising, asceticism, lacunae, ruched [material]
2012



 

3/18




 
Duane Knudson Fundamentals of Biomechanics Text book on biomechanics including how muscles cooperate and antagonize; includes methodology for examining sports movements and training.
 
2007
 
3/18
 
L. E. Modesitt Jr. Mongrel Mage
 
Recluce 19: A young black mage matures quickly after his escape from and war with a brutal white mage supported regime.
 
2017
 
3/18
Christopher Burns

 
Noggintwisters: The Great Puzzles Large and Small A nice collection of logic puzzles, many of which I'd seen before or were purely algebra, but fun nonetheless.

 
 
2015


 
2/18


 
Benjamin Franklin










 
Autobiography











 
By the same wife he had four children more born there, and by a second wife ten more, in all seventeen, I the youngests son and youngest but two.  The Pennsylvania governor lies to Ben about supporting his printing career, including having him go to London to gather unpaid for equipment..."but I think I like a speckled ax best"...my son and I, on the way to London from Falmouth, only stopt a little by the way to view Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, and Lord Pembroke's house and gardens...postmaster general, House member, army colonel; facilitator of libraries, academy, poor hospital; invented the Franklin stove, chimneyed street lamps, lightning rod, street sweeping...his poor Richard says: A little Neglect may breed great Mischief: adding, for want of a Nail the
Shoe was lost; for want of a Shoe the Horse was lost; and for want of a Horse the Rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the Enemy; all for the want of Care about a Horse-shoe Nail.

A printing house is called a chapel because Caxton, the first English printer, did his printing in a chapel connected with Westminster Abbey.

Born to be a printer, Benjamin Franklin's usage is so succinct as to include quaint verbage that saves room in type set, such as 'd for ed, stopt in lieu of stopped, and chuze in lieu of choose.  Other novel diction includes apparitor, conventicles, burthen, riggite, nuncupative, furze, necessitous, crimp (shipping company agent), captious, purblind, pi (complete disorder), emolument, abbé, and Mickle.
2006












 
2/18












 
L. E. Modesitt Jr. Assassin's Price Imager Portfolio 11:  The Rex is assassinated and his mature son balances young love, governance challenges and royal betrayal to satisfaction. 2017 2/18
Nathaniel Charles Brahms Trapping of 1 μB atoms using buffer gas loading My nephew's doctoral thesis well describes cold magneto-optical trapping of Lithium, Copper and Silver atoms and the associated lab equipment challenges.  The math is beyond me but I still got some insight into atom trapping and I got to add some more words to my ken: ergodic, biconic and etaloning.  And I thoroughly enjoyed the appendix on building a cryogenic fast opening valve. 2008 1/18
Alan Dean Foster

 
Strange Music


 
The latest Pip and Flix novel has our hero traversing a pre-steam technology planet and communicating in sing-speech with his native guide to save a princess.

Novel diction: souk, coloratura, threnody
2017


 
1/18


 
Prof. Brian Cox





























 
Human Universe



to











 
Just have a look at something – the smallest, most trivial little thing – and enjoy trying to figure out how it works.  That is science.

Astronomers use a distance measurement known as a parsec – which stands for ‘per arcsecond’. This is the distance of a star from the Sun that has a parallax of 1 arcsecond. One parsec is 3.26 light years.

Using standard candles with known intrinsic brightness, the expansion of the universe has been measured using redshift to derive Hubble's Constant: H0 = 67.15 ± 1.2 (km/s)/Mpc. For every million parsecs of distance from the observer, the rate of expansion increases by about 67 kilometers per second.  [The expansion of the universe is now used to estimate its diameter at 91 billion light-years.]

Hydrogen atoms consist of two particles – a single proton bound to a single electron. Protons and electrons have a property called spin, which for these particular particles (known as spin ½ Fermions, named after Enrico Fermi himself) can take only one of two values, often called spin ‘up’ and spin ‘down’. There are therefore only two possible configurations of the spins in a hydrogen atom: the spins can be parallel to each other – both ‘up’ or both ‘down’, or anti-parallel – one ‘up’ and one ‘down’. It turns out that the parallel case has slightly more energy than the anti-parallel case, and when the spin configuration flips from parallel to anti-parallel, this extra energy is carried away as a photon of light with a wavelength of 21cm.



Cox gives a overview of the Standard Model Lagrangian which describes quantum field theory:
2015






























 
1/18






























 
Lev Okun

 
Energy and Mass in Relativity Theory E≠mc2, but rather E0=mc2 or E2=(mc2)2+(pc)2 is the gist of this book with quite a bit of other nuclear physics and math thrown in to keep it scholarly.  Mass does not increase with velocity.  Velocity has a relativistic effect on mass. 2009

 
1/18

 
Ian M Banks Matter
Culture book eight has a steam punk king assassination witnessed by a prince who flees to alien realms to seek allies whilst his Special Circumstances sister meets him half way and then they fight aliens.

Novel diction: mersicor [charger], caude and lyge, unkiltered, trous, furtle, unge or crile, roasaoril [plantations], silse [cloud], coarse-bonce [bumpkin], oublietting, [engines] blattering, bravards, quotidian [conduct], [dramatically] off-piste, sedulity, afap (typo?), adit
2008
1/18
Gardner Dozois (ed.)




















 
The Book of Swords




















 
A nice sword and sorcery short story collection.  K J Parker - The Best Man Wins: an old disgraced soldier come blacksmith forges a sword for a youth and teaches him to fence himself in; includes Ultramar, Aelian for “across the sea" (and an oil company with the best cliient I ever had in Forrest Hunter).  Robin Hobb (Megan Lindholm) - Her Father's Sword: forging makes a strong man mad.  Ken Liu - The Hidden Girl: the Hidden Girl is trained to kill from the 5th dimension but develops a conscience.  Mattthew Hughes - The Sword of Destiny: some of us are just not destined for magical adventure.  Kate Elliott - "I Am a Handsome Man," Said Apollo Crow: a muderously false lethario flubs a job from Caesar to steal a sketch book from the seeing Honeyed Voice suffragette.  Walter Jon Williams - The Triumph of Virtue: Goodman Quillifer is run over by the fleeing attacker of the emperess' lover's wife and is too successful in his subsequent investigation.  Daniel Abraham - The Mocking Tower: prince Aus and his thief mingle in a village adjacent to the shifting tower of his father's soul-sword and the Imagi Vert while old Au gardens.  C. J. Cherryh - Hrunting: The great sword Hrunting never failed a true hero except for Beowulf and Unferth’s grandson seeks to reclaim it from the Grendelskjar.  Garth Nix - A Long Cold Trail: Sir Hereward and his magically animated puppet chase a murderous godlet through the snow.  The puppet crafts a haiku instead of a gigue for a near-sighted God-Taker bearing knight.  Calvary emergence allows for retreat.  Ellen Kushner - When I Was a Highwayman: a gay blade lives with a grifter in Riverside and a lean summer leads him to highway robbery.  A little blood letting cures his ills.  Scott Lynch - The Smoke of Gold is Glory: an old thief recalls a long ago match with riddlesong, venom, and stone with three of his cronies in a dragon lair.  Rich Larson - The Colgrid Conundrum: a thief and his accomplice carry a "puzzle-box" to a lock breaker who negotiates assasination as her price.  Elizabeth Bear - The King's Evil: the brass Gage, Deadman and Dr. Lady Lzi wade onto a dangerous tropical hornets nest to free a corpse-king.  Lavie Tidhar - Waterfalling (A Guns and Sorcery Novelette): Gorel crosses a wasteland in search of Gorrel, his lost homeland, and more of his Black Kiss addiction until the falls.  Cecilia Holland - The Sword Tyraste: The evil King kills the sword maker and his son.  Vengeance and an evil sword become a brother's reward.  George R. R. Martin - The Sons of the Dragon: a Game of Thrones prequel; royal incest vies with church doctrine.

Novel diction: chevauchee, hayrick, mandiritto, volte, stramazone, jiedushi, pagoda tree, bhikkhuni, apsaras, erhus, arhats, erb, figmentia, arrogate, winkled, denarius, fug, farrago, meiny, simnel, galliard, rowelled, busk, equerry, small beer, cremello, younker, custrels, trulls, fuff, slattern, howster, horse pistol, carcanet, stew-dwellers, brehon, pabbi, sjaund, draugr, nithing, skjalds, riven, gallimaufry, morphew, megrims, toque, periapt, gaud, mangonel, glossolalia, knarr, undernmeal, destrier, septon, godswood, leal, samites, and wroth.
2017






















1/18






















Dennis E Taylor All These Worlds Bobiverse #3 is the end of the Others and Earth but humanity survives on multiple planets across the Bobiverse. 2017 12/17
Dennis E Taylor For We Are Many Bobiverse #2 replicates Bob across the galaxy just in time to save a sample of sentients from destruction by the Others.  Bob has great grandchildren but they are spread over a 100 light years of space. 2017 12/17
Dennis E Taylor We Are Legion (We Are Bob) Bobiverse #1 starts with a death that turns a computer icon into a brain in a box that pilots a space ship.  Like Sylvain Neuvel, Dennis E. (not Denise) is a programmer that enjoys pushing Sci-fi trivia into space opera.  A fun read. 2016 11/17
Ian M Banks











 
Look to Windward











 
This Culture book seven title comes from Eliot's poem, The Waste Land (as does the title Consider Phlebas, from the first book of the series).  A triumvirate tri-pedal association is organized by a Culture drone.  One is a fallen soldier reunited with his soul-mate but it turns out not to be his wife who had to leave him for dead on a caste war battlefield but an old general who shares his "soul-saver" (a little finger sized device that stores a personality or two in a solid state matrix).  Another is a composer that abhors his home system's caste system.  The third is tact incarnate.  Banks ponders life after death and immortality against a backdrop of cosmic remorse.  The major and general are joined in the soul saver by awakening memories of a nefarious and inclusive plot and an interdimensional nano-scale super bomb revealed in memories of training inside a Chtorr evoking kilometer sized telekinetic dirigible-like behemothaur that grows motive organisms and can plug into animals via stems (and implied brain roots).  The plot is uncovered by a poet residing in a fellow behemothaur that urges him to investigate the death throws of the trainer.

The novel is peppered with references to multi-light-year spaceship journeys, ordinary things like grazing animals, soaring birds, gondolas, bridges, furniture, party goers, nature and song mixed with musings on being.  It contains many zen-like passages like this description of the end of a funeral procession: "a silvery field shimmered in the air where the man's body was, then shrank to a point and vanished."

Novel diction: eructation, disseisor, poeglyph, frisson, and orrery.
2001












 
11/17












 
Michael Pollan






































 
The Botany of Desire






































 
"Yet evolution consists of an infinitude of trivial, unconscious events, and in the evolution of the potato my reading of a particular seed catalog on a particular January evening counts as one of them...

"The big thing the dog knows about—the subject it has mastered in the ten thousand years it has been evolving at our side—is us: our needs and desires, our emotions and values, all of which it has folded into its genes as part of a sophisticated strategy for survival...

"Through the process of coevolution human ideas find their way into natural facts: the contours of a tulip’s petals, say, or the precise tang of a Jonagold apple."

Pollan says in his prologue that plants developed organic chemicals to attract or repel animals because of lack of locomotion [but plants move, albeit slowly, via growth and spawning] and so desired human transport.

The first chapter begins with barefoot, Swedenborgian, land owner, Johnny "Appleseed" Chapman, who spread apple trees throughout the northwest via seed (not grafts) which generated mostly "spitters" which were still good enough for making applejack.  Some of the wild trees became the forebears of Delicious American apples.  "A century ago there were several thousand different varieties of apples in commerce; now most of the apples we grow have the same five or six parents: Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Jonathan, Macintosh, and Cox’s Orange Pippin.  Breeders keep going back to the same well, and it’s getting shallower."

The second chapter is about tulips (including the Semper Augustus, the greatest of 17th century tulip breaks which were eliminated along with the causitive virus), nature’s tropes.  "For a flower the path to world domination passes through humanity’s ever-shifting ideals of beauty."  Tulips originated in the Ottoman Empire, flourished in Dutch tulipomania and, after genetic manipulation, returned to the Turks to garnish lavish parties and harems.  "A theft lies behind the rise of the tulip in Holland."  Tulips, like apples, do not come true from seed—their offspring bear little resemblance to their parents.  "For Dumas the black tulip was a synecdoche for tulipomania itself, an indifferent and arbitrary mirror in which a perverse consensus of meaning and value came briefly and disastrously into focus."

Chapter three is about cannabis (as Dutch as the tulip due to the influence of the Amsterdam pot cafes) with a meme detour.  THC, like naturally occuring anandamide in the brain, causes short-term memory loss (and chocolate slows this process).  "The cannabinoid network appears to be part of that mechanism, vigilantly sifting the vast chaff of sense impression from the kernels of perception we need to remember if we’re to get through the day and get done what needs to be done.  'Awakening to this present instant,' a Zen master has written, 'we realize the infinite is in the finite of each instant.' Yet we can’t get there from here without first forgetting.  It is by temporarily mislaying much of what we already know...that cannabis restores a kind of innocence to our perceptions of the world...wonder."

The fourth and final chapter is on the potato.  Really, potatoes (albeit Monsanto genetically engineered and patented NewLeaf potatoes)?  Although the book is well written, it wanders into metaphysics and abstracts quite a bit, diluting the treatise.  "If the lumpish potato was base matter, bread in the Christian mind was its very opposite: antimatter, even spirit."  Some of the asides are unusual though: "...plant breeders have developed a luminescent tobacco plant by inserting a gene from a firefly."  "Once a transgene introduces a new weed or a resistant pest into the environment, it can’t very well be cleaned up: it will already have become part of nature."  Pollan says that the NewLeaf is healthier than a Russet because of all of the toxic chemicals used in Idaho potato farming.

Novel diction: bowdlerizing, heterozygosity, butternut tree, pachysandra, floraennui, iconography, enjambment, desiderata, panapathogen, impious, muntins, quotidian, allée, parterre, neem tree oil, chthonic, and Malthusian logic.
2002







































 
12/17







































 
Jane Hirshfield


 
The Heart of Haiku


 
A synopsis of Bashō haiku.  This poor 17th century Zen Budhist poet is credited with thousands of works and many methods to enhance the art.  Haiku (lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables) should evoke a season, be inspired my an image, include synaethesia and simultaneously point to the world and self.  Karumi is lightness, sabi is an alloy of beauty and sadness, wabi is the beauty of ordinary things and wabi-sabi is the Zen spirit.  Tanka adds two lines of 7 syllables to haiku and is renga when the two parts are by different authors (more stanzas can be added in a hot sake party game effort).  At its best haiku describes the vast and the minute in a simple natural scene in a way that allows the reader to interpret the physical and inner meanings. 2007
 


 
11/17



 
Arthur Conan Doyle











The War in South Africa, Its Cause and Conduct










Sir Arthur claims that Britain paid for South Africa and paid the white inhabitants for the emancipation of their slaves but the evaluation was all done in Europe without buy-in from the Afrikanders.  Much of the land was "left it untenanted, save by the dwarf bushmen, the hideous aborigines, lowest of the human race."  Boers populated the wide lands with a British allowance to Dutch law but when farms became vulnerable to tribal attacks the British annexed the area for the residents safety (this required 25 soldiers).  Independent states were established but treated as colonies.  Kruger became president for 15 years and there things festered.  Imperialistic Boers violated British treaties and British taxpayers had to foot the bill for peace forces (gold and diamonds weren't yet discovered).  The gold rush of 1886 put Boer dominance in jeopardy.  Doyle asks Americans how they might have reacted to a rebellious Dutch government in 1849 California.  The Anglos became distraught with paying almost all of the taxes without having a vote (invoking "the general rule that white men who are heavily taxed must have some representation").  The oligarchical Boer administrators got fat on their biased rule.  Incidents of maltreatment erupted and gross import of arms and munitions were discovered.  Guerrilla warfare lead to deprivation and one mans refuge was another's concentration camp.  The latter part of the book is Doyle justifying British treatment of Boer guerrillas, prisoners, displaced civilians, and conspirators (all of which he considers noble but resulted in many deaths from measles); the Boer's, of course, were vile, shot from under white flags and continuously murdered Kaffirs.

Novel diction: sjambok, suzerainty, obloquy, seriatim, peculation, franc-tireur, spoliation, cant, calumniating, calumny, sluit, spruit
1902













11/17













Amy Stewart

 
Wicked Plants



Journal-like entries on poisonous plants with a few associated anecdotes.  Reading this book might keep you out of every garden and make you wonder how animals survive grazing.

Three words new to me: ergotism, lathyrism and uritication.
2009



11/17



Winston Chrurchill










London to Pretoria by Way of Ladysmith









Churchill's own telling of his adventures during the Boer War excluding the portion of his escape abetted by British sympathizers (to protect their identity since this narrative was published before the end of the drawn out guerrilla portion of the war) and with expansion of his time as a commissioned officer after his escape.  Churchill's style is typical of the period with long-winded British bravado and diction.  He, like other Royal combatants, gloried in the Empire and nobility of war, including trivializing great loss of human life for honorable achievements.  The story is often bogged down in martial details (even more so than Millard's accounting).  Churchill managed to keep his newspaper job whilst commissioned (despite a law being enacted prohibiting such due Churchill's prior pan of the Indian Company he had enjoined).  He might have learned a political lesson because in this book he praises the military and its leadership even in the throes of retreat and defeat.  He espouses the quality of life when it is at risk but his tasks seem to keep him well away from the danger of the front lines.  The British eventually root out the Boer.

Novel diction: votaries, cumbrous, enteric, inexpugnable, commissariat, laager, fillip, zarp, durbar, iodoform, cantonment, glacis, gymkhana, donga, rooineks, jingo, sangar, redounds, redan, nullah, presentiment, coign, re-entrants, crotchets, jibbing, field-cornet, Creusot shells, Majuba Day, Atbara zareba
1902











11/17











Candice Millard
Hero of the Empire
Subtitled, The Boer War, a daring escape, and the making of Winston Churchill this historical account of Churchill's news correspondence adventure in southern Africa focuses on his drive for notoriety and respect in his capture and escape from the Boers.  It is a brief story, though, that is extended with more telling of British military incompetence than I would have liked.  I learned that it is unwise to march into a well defended salient and that the British did not walk the talk of fighting to achieve equal rights for colored Africans (native Africans and large Indian populations remained in the fetters of discrimination after the Boer lands became British colonies, allowing for the development of apartheid in the later independent Republic of South Africa). 2016

11/17

Ian M. Banks


Excession



Culture series book five (oops, I should have left this one skipped) is a long convoluted story featuring an unexplainable phenomenon that pops into our space and there is a race to claim the associated technology that ultimately ends up in an arms race won by the Culture that pacifies the despotic Affronters and carries off an eccentric ship with its loved ones into an other-space.  I read all 480 pages and I still don't know what it was about.  But I enjoyed the Britishness of some of the ship Minds. 1996



11/17



Clive Cussler










Serpent











Book one of the NUMA Files features heroic marine scientists Kurt Austin, Joe Zavala, Gamay Trout and Nina Kirov.  After the disappearance of several archaeologists who found Columbian relics in Africa and Asia they seek to expose the evil conspiracy.  Leaning on a fanciful Arizona Romans find three develop an archaeological sting with a fake Old World relic "discovered" in the Tucson desert but the bad guys are on to them and it ends in a bust. Meanwhile, Gamay and Mayan Dr. Chi escape tomb raiders via limestone caves of Monterey.  Then they delve into the mysteries of the secret 5th voyage of Columbus (aka Chris Colon) and the 500 year old murderous Brotherhood covering it up.  They dive on the wreck of the Andrea Doria to retrieve an ancient tablet that was the reason for its sinking by the Brotherhood years ago.  That leads them to the Phoenician-Mayan tomb of Columbus, a treasure, and the dammed end to the Brotherhood.

Novel diction: hashshashin, thugee, chicleros, cenotes, torleta, autorimessa

"Founded by Dr. Clive Cussler, the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) is a non-profit, volunteer foundation dedicated to preserving our maritime heritage through the discovery, archaeological survey and conservation of shipwreck artifacts." - www.numa.net
1998











10/17











Marcus Chown Quantum Theory Cannot Hurt You The first half of this book is an interesting discussion of quantum theory along with uncertainty, wave interference, entanglement, colocation and multiple universes.  The second half is well written but is very similar to other discussions of cosmology - I wish he had kept it small all the way through. 2005 10/17
John Lescroart Dead Irish Book one in the Dismas Hardy series.  This multiple homocide story with a sad sack character study is a bit dismal but at least Dismas is a SF Giants fan. 1989 10/17
Ian M. Banks Inversions Culture series book six (oops, I skipped one).  This is a medieval tale joined by an apparent alien Dr. Vossil.  It is told in couplets with the doctor and a guard captain alternating as lead character.  Its a good novel with great dialogue, a final plot twist and some scattered ideology. 1998 10/17
Alan Dean Foster Empowered This short story is about a superhero with absolute control over plant life who seeks to do good but is brought down by litigation.
10/17
Yuval Noah Harari












Homo Deus













Professor Harari is on a safari.  He describes the rise of humanism and the fall of fundamental religions.  But attempting to realise the humanist dream will undermine its very foundations by unleashing new post-humanist technologies.  Harari describes modern brain science and technologies that make individualism less of an ideal.  He describes the potential of algorithms to become agents that make our decisions for us.  The new humanistic projects of the twenty-first century will be the gaining of immortality, bliss and divinity.  Techno-humanism agrees that Homo sapiens as we know it has run its historical course and will no longer be relevant in the future, but concludes that we should therefore use technology in order to create Homo deus.  According to Dataism, King Lear and the flu virus are just two patterns of data flow that can be analysed using the same basic concepts and tools.

Fun facts: In 1917 Marcel Duchamp took an ordinary mass-produced urinal, named it Fountain, signed his name at the bottom, declared it a work of art and placed it in a Paris museum.  A company named Bedpost sells biometric armbands you can wear while having sex that collects data such as heart rate, sweat level, duration of sexual intercourse, duration of orgasm and the number of calories you burnt to evaluate your sexual prowess.  As of early 2016, the sixty-two richest people in the world were worth as much as the poorest 3.6 billion people (half of the world's population).  Most scientific research about the human mind and the human experience has been conducted on people from Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (WEIRD) societies.  A company called ‘No More Woof’ is developing a helmet for reading canine experiences; the helmet monitors the dog’s brain waves, and uses computer algorithms to translate simple messages such as ‘I am angry’ into human language.
2016













10/17













Elizabeth Moon Cold Welcome Book one in a planned four book Vatta's Peace series is an excellent lifeboat and cold weather survival story.  It is a real page turner and one of her better novels.  I'm glad her family reinvigorated her output. 2017 9/17
Terry Brooks The Black Elfstone Book one in the The Fall of Shannara finale series.  Siblings with uncontrollable wish song magic, druid intrigue and a mysterious enemy army lead to the sinking of Paranor.  But the Blade remains to perhaps save the day by book four. 2017 9/17
Nick Lane



















































































The Vital Question


















































































How do bacteria relate to complex life?  Mitochondria and chloroplasts derive from bacteria and through endosymbiosis have left their bacterial essence to become members of eukyrote cells.  Woese's ribosome study gave us the three trees of life (bacteria, archea and eukyrotes).  Martin predicted that complex life arose through a singular endosymbiosis between two cells only (fig. 1).  Life became powered by protein gradients across membranes (proticity).  The vital question is really two: how did bacteria and archea join and how did they gain proticity?  The answers address complex life traits: the nucleus, sex, two sexes, and the distinction between the immortal germline and the mortal body.  Today, biology is information, genome sequences are laid out in silico, and life is defined in terms of information transfer.  Bacteria and archea have existed for about 4 billion years and eukyrotes a mere two billion years.  ‘Standard’ natural selection did not lead to a polyphyletic radiation after the Great Oxygenation Event.  All plants, animals, algae, fungi and protists share a common ancestor – the eukaryotes are monophyletic.  We don't see multiple origins of eukaryotic traits in bacteria.  If it happened once, why not twice (in 4 billion years)?  Nick thinks it was just a random and improbable stroke of luck.  Are retrotransposons, plasmids and viruses alive?  Redox moves electrons and protons creating huge voltage potentials across nM membranes and spin in the ATP synthase "motors" (fig. 2).  "The ATP synthase should be as symbolic of life as the double helix of DNA."  "The evolution of chemiosmotic coupling is a mystery."  Nick believes that there is sufficient evidence to disallow a primordial soup.  "There is no necessary relationship between the formation of RNA and a soup, but soup is nonetheless the simplest assumption, which avoids worrying about complicated details like thermodynamics or geochemistry."  Nick discounts life creation energy from lightning or UV (the first is insufficient and the second is too destructive).  Alkaline hydrothermal vents are formed from the 90°C off-gassing of olivine+water reactions and the waste products of this serpentinisation are key to the origin of life.  Alkaline hydrothermal vents provide exactly the conditions required for the origin of life: a high flux of carbon and energy that is physically channelled over inorganic catalysts, and constrained in a way that permits the accumulation of high concentrations of organics.  Organics such as nucleotides can theoretically concentrate up to more than 1000 times their starting concentration by thermophoresis, driven by convection currents and thermal diffusion in the vent pores.  In the absence of oxygen [as was the case in the Hadean oceans 4 billion years ago] the mineral walls of alkaline vents would have contained catalytic iron minerals, likely doped with other reactive metals such as nickel and molybdenum (which dissolve in alkaline fluids).  The formation of organic matter from H2 and CO2 is thermodynamically favoured (it is exergonic) under alkaline hydrothermal conditions, so long as oxygen is excluded (and needs only a specific kinetic stimulus to make useable organic chemicals and avoid immediate breakdown to methane gas).  In some places [at alkaline vents] there is a juxtaposition of fluids, with acidic ocean waters saturated in CO2 separated from alkaline fluids rich in H2 by a thin inorganic wall, containing semiconducting FeS minerals (see fig. 3).  This is an experiment going on right now [in Nick's lab and, because olivine and CO2 are common on exo-planets,] on as many as 40 billion earth-like planets in the Milky Way alone.  Why did life make membranes if the vents provided that proton exchange pathway for free?  To avoid equilibrium (proticity death), the energy potential must drive a pump and/or have a leaky membrane (see fig. 4).  Weak membranes leak hydrogen ions both ways but with a sodium antiporter you get selective ion movement, more power and a reason to form a less permeable membrane and freedom from the vent (see fig. 5).  Complexity appears to have been achieved by serial endosymbiosis.  [I wonder if Nick and his team might go back to the world of 2 billion years ago and look for a situation that might have encapsulated many bacteria and archaea and eventually dwindled down to eukaryotes.]  Introns space out exons (and here I thought it was Shell stations).  At the origin of eukaryotes, the endosymbiont unleashed a barrage of genetic parasites upon the unwitting host cell.  "These proliferated across the genome in an early intron invasion, which sculpted eukaryotic genomes and drove the evolution of deep traits such as the nucleus [and sex]."  In the early eukaryotes bacterial introns were invading an archaeal genome, with very different gene sequences. There were no adaptive constraints; and without them, nothing could have stopped introns from proliferating uncontrollably.  It seems likely that the first eukaryotes suffered a bombardment of genetic parasites from their own endosymbionts. The nucleus keeps ribosomes at bay and gives the spliceosomes the time required to cut out superfluous or injurious introns prior to translation and reproduction of genes.  The nucleus likely evolved from random excess limpid bags in the cell to neater arrangement that still allowed transport through the nuclear wall.  Sexual origin is an enigma but statistically sex and two sexes provides for variance in DNA and stability in ova mitochondria, allowing for step-wise competitive capability enhancement in complex organisms.  A low threshold for free-radical leakage rate gives a high aerobic fitness and a low risk of disease, but at the cost of a high rate of infertility and poor adaptability.  A high threshold gives a low aerobic capacity and higher risk of disease but with the benefits of greater fertility and better adaptability (see fig. 6).   Death is the ceasing of electron and proton flux, the settling of membrane potential, the end of that unbroken flame.
         
                             Figure 1                                                                 Figure 2                                               Figure 3

          
                               Figure 4                                                              Figure 5                                          Figure 6

Fun facts: Some plants like the sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) are even capable of thermoregulation, sensing changes in temperature and regulating cellular heat production to maintain tissue temperature within a narrow range.  In every millilitre of seawater, there are ten times as many viruses, waiting for their moment, as there are bacteria.  Methanogens get the energy and all the carbon needed to grow from reacting H2 with CO2.  Antioxidants are not especially good for you and do not diminish aging.
2015



















































































9/17



















































































Robert Silverberg A Hero of the Empire I decided to read this short story because the title is so similar to the current best seller about Churchill.  This story is about an exiled Roman who saves the empire from Islam by having Mahmud of Arabia Deserta murdered.
9/17
Neil deGrasse Tyson














Astrophysics for People in a Hurry














Often light and airy this cosmological essay has a heavy start with the hot Big Bang, cools a bit, gets cosmically dark for awhile (dark matter in Zwicky's fast moving sticky Coma galaxy cluster and dark matter haloes in Rubin's spiral galaxy works), then darker still (supernovae observations transform Einstein's Lambda into repulsive dark energy), then brightens into real matter (like Technetium which shouldn't exist in stars but does), rounds out and explores invisible light, and ends up waxing philosophical.

Cool earthly trivia from the book:

"Two varieties of sodium lamps are common: high-pressure lamps, which look yellow-white, and the rarer low-pressure lamps, which look orange. Turns out, while all light pollution is bad for astrophysics, the low-pressure sodium lamps are least bad because their contamination can be easily subtracted from telescope data. In a model of cooperation, the entire city of Tucson, Arizona, the nearest large municipality to the Kitt Peak National Observatory, has, by agreement with the local astrophysicists, converted all its streetlights to low-pressure sodium lamps."

"...the white paint used for telescope domes features titanium oxide, which happens to be highly reflective in the infrared part of the spectrum, greatly reducing the heat accumulated from sunlight in the air surrounding the telescope. At nightfall, with the dome open, the air temperature near the telescope rapidly equals the temperature of the nighttime air, allowing light from stars and other cosmic objects to be sharp and clear."

"...alien life forms from Europa would be called Europeans."
2017
















9/17
















Ian M. Banks

The State of the Art

Culture Series Book 4 is actually a short story compilation plus a novella that you can skip.  The short stories range from a smitten ent to Culture garbage accidentally landing on Earth.  The novella has a character from book 3 named Sma trying to convince a Culture citizen to give up his intent to become an Earther.  Sma discusses what makes beauty with the highly intelligent ship but it doesn't buy it. 1991 9/17


Ian M. Banks Use of Weapons Culture Series Book 3 - Our hero, Cheradenine Zakalwe, is a battle strategist who infiltrates a pre-contact civilization to extract his previous partner in Culture Contact Special Circumstances work.  We are kind of left wondering what was the point of the extraction, the war and the Culture involvement. 1990 9/17
Ian M. Banks The Player of Games Culture Series Book 2 - Our hero, Jernau Morat Gurgeh, is a game master.  The Culture convinces him to represent them in playing the game Azad (which is also the name of the associated pre-contact civilization that is pretty brutal and biased towards its 3rd gender).  The ruler of the Azad intergalactic empire is ruled by the winner of a periodic Azad game contest.  Despite murderous cheating on the part of the number one seated player (the current ruler of Azad), Gurgeh survives the firestorm and wins the game. 1988
9/17
L. Ron Hubbard








Sci-Fi & Fantasy Collection








Short stories: Beyond All Weapons, Strain, The Invaders, The Crossroads, Borrowed Glory, The Devil's Rescue, Danger in the Dark, The Room, He Didn't Like Cats, The Great Secret, Greed, If I Were You, A Matter of Matter, The Professor Was a Thief, The Tramp, When Shadows Fall.  Beyond All Weapons tells the story of a futuristic martian colony's unsuccessful rebellion against a [force field] shielded Earth and the evil North Pole regime.  Using a merchantman spaceship filled with cigars, engineers and extra-velocity-fuel, the rebels flee to Alpha Centauri, getting to close to the "wall of light" along the way.  Strain is about Saturnite torture.  The Invaders is about a heavy world technician who is assigned to de-worm a Black Nebula planetoid mine that has been under attack by monsters for 75 years.  The Crossroads has an old farmer's horse pull a carftful of vegatables towards town but they get inerrupted at an cross-dimensional-nexus and become filthy rich for moments and near death the next before BEM's fix the interchange and poof, farmer and horse get to mosey home.  Borrowed Glory has an angel give everything (youth, beauty, riches, love) to an old woman for 48 hours on a bet that it would make the old lady happy even after the lapse.  But she commits suicide before her love also reverts back to 66.  The Devil's Rescue is about the last man alive in a lifeboat near antarctica and is saved, while briefly aboard the Flying Dutchman, by beating the devil at Yahtzee.  Danger In the Dark has Billy buy a south seas island that comes with an angry 75-feet tall god.

Novelette diction: graps, cavil, raccil, juice wand, thick green britt, spavined, maunder, dolorously, purblind, topee

8/17












Leonard Mlodinow

























Euclid's Window


























Leonard is a Cal post-grad physicist but respectfully includes works from Cal Tech and Princeton in this heavy tome (its short but the subject matter of Witten's M- theory (based on 11 dimensions containing strings/branes) where space and time do not exist gets pretty heavy).  Pythagorus' older friend Thales is credited for originating the critical thinking of geometry (Greek for earth measure) and for recommending that Pythagorus visit Egypt.  Pythagorus mythologically was born of a virgin, had a vigil on a mountain, walked on water and returned from the dead...Jesus!  One of his students, Hippasus, was assassinated by the Pythagoreans for speaking the unspeakable: the length of a square's diagonal was irrational!  Roman emperor Justninian squelched the Pythagorean Society because he didn't like their long beards and hair, drug use and un-Christian beliefs.  Euclid's 300BC Elements on 13 parchment scrolls were survived by later editions and, in book form, remains a broadly read document on plain geometry.  Ptolemy III stole all of civilization's greatest writings for the museum at Alexandria that endured longer than any other center of learning and produced Archimedes.  Christians tore asunder the library and its last great scholar, Hypatia.  Rome and Greek logic fell into the dark ages which limned after Charlemagne revived science and the University of Bologna was established in 1088.  The plague slowed things down and it wasn't until 1370 that a clock struck 24 even hours in Paris (at Palais and Horloge) and macaroni and cheese was invented in Britain.  Whence came Oresme, the graph, the area under a curve and his Galilean Relativity.  200 years later Rene Descartes survived his mother at birth, grew up in a hospital, went to law school and slept in late every day of his life.  Rene chanced to meet mathematician Beekman while employed by the Dutch army (even though the war was on hiatus) and went on to publish Fermat's coordinate system as his own (which we still call Cartesian Coordinates despite the evidence to the contrary).  He used the coordinate system to simplify the definition of most geometric shapes (using equations with x and y instead of words).  He was very careful not to mimic Galileo and get imprisoned by the church so Discourse on Method took him 33 years to write.  Descarte was killed by a Swedish winter tutoring the Ice Queen - Sweden and France have kept his skull as a museum piece to this day.  Infinity symbol's Robert Walis considered Indian mathematicians works in restating Euclids 5th postulate.  Napolean's hero, Gauss, adds hyperbolic curvature to space in 1792 and his student, Riemann, gave us elliptic space curvature using differential geometry in 1854.  In 1905 Einstein made time and space relative (and speaking of relative it was interesting to read that Albert's son, Hans Albert, became a professor of civil engineering at Berkeley).

The two images make up a geometric Pythagorean proof.  The overall squares are of the same area.  Remove the four equal area triangles from both figures and you must be left with the same total area with the first figure containing two squares of area a2+b2 and the second figure containing the square with width equal to the hypotenuse and area of c2.

2001


























8/17


























David Rosenfelt Twelve Dogs of Christmas Rosenfelt is fine form with another great Andy Carpenter line (addressing a detective on the stand): "So let me see if I can sum up. She shot Mr. Hennessey, called herself from his house and then ran home to take the call, pausing to strip naked and dispose of her clothes somewhere you couldn’t find them, wiped the gun clean of prints and hid it in the basement rather than disposing of it with the clothes, washed her hands, got dressed, and then called 911? Is that the official police theory?"  As for the story, all that matters is that Pups ends it innocently with a snide "Lawyers" remark.
7/17
Alan Dean Foster Oshenerth A diver drifts off into an alien undersea world where she is magically transformed into a merperson to join in warding off an attack of crabs.  I guess Foster wrote this because he is an avid diver but the novel was a slow juvenile read with an oceanic dilution of plot.
7/17

Iain M. Banks







Consider Phlebas







Culture Series Book 1 - The Iridan empire clashes with the Culture empire.  Iridans are three legged giants and the Culture is led by machines.  Amidst the galactic space battle our hero, Bora Horza Gobuchul, the Changer from the asteroid Heibohre, leads a clandestine mission to secure a Culture [robotic] Mind that has learned to transcend hyper-dimensional space while underground.  Horza escapes drowning in a sewaged cell, attack from a Culture battleship that emerges from the sun, EVA in a power-exhausted spacesuit, conscription by pirates and time spent with that ordinary crew in the spaceship CAT (Clear Air Turbulence), temple lasers, megashipwreck, canibalism, Damage (emotional poker with a pot full of credits and Lives), Orbital (aka Ring World) destruction, hovercraft run-over, fusion engine generated plasma and steam, hurtling through laser blasted space dock walls, reunion with the Culture's ace agent, and battle with not-so-allied Iridans through tunnels spanning the core of a Dra'Azon Planet of the Dead allowing for..clickety-clack.. acceleration to the mega-train-wrecked and drone damaged climax.

Nicely coined sci-fi such as "stars around it wobbled and brightened in the lens effect of an imperfectly adjusted warp motor in cancel mode" permeate the empirical Culture story telling.  I'm putting the entire series on my must read list.
1987








7/17








Sylvain Neuvel Waking Gods Book 2 in the Themis Files.  Sylvain packs a lot of action into this episode with a dozen more robots, alien DNA and genocide, and a test tube baby hero.  The mysterious stranger winds some good yarns and the Quebecois refrains from swearing in French.  I have one criticism though: when Rose finds out that she got help getting into Berkeley she calls it the U. of C. instead of Cal (she could have just said that she was glad to be a Golden Bear). 2017

7/17

J.K. Rowling
A Casual Vacancy
There is nothing magical about this tragically depressing muggle chacter study.  Set in pompous Pagford, far Yarville, and the common Fields in-between, the story embarks with kind crew coach and parish councilor Barry Fairbrother passing from a stroke on the golf course, works through his ghost writing of literally everyone's sins, and dismally ends with rowers completely swamped by ruers.
7/17
L.E. Modesitt


Treachery's Tools


Tenth in the Imager Portfolio series with Alastar and Alyna in charge of the L’Excelsis Imageisle Collegium and providing counsel and covert muscle for the Rex in defeating rebellious High Holders and traitorous militias.  Westisle imagers join the rebellion and die along with 3 from the Collegium.  Two of the Collegium imagers have left school for reasons unrelated to the rebellion but get apprehended and blackmailed by the rebels who are completely destroyed including the Rex's brother who has murdered several of his won (and the Rex's) family members.
6/17



John Scalzi





The Collapsing Empire




The Interdependency series book 1: Wu clan Cardenia becomes Emperox after the death of her father and brother and barely survives an assassination attempt by the rival Nohamapetan clan who covertly support rebellion on planet End based on their incorrect belief that End will become the new galactic hub for "the flow" but Flow Physicist Marce is sent from End to Hub to inform the Emperox that End will also be cut off from the other planets because collapse of "the flow" and the Empire are imminent.  End might not become the new galactic hub but it is the only truly habitable planet in the empire since Earth was lost to "the flow" long ago.  "The flow" is the author's wormhole-like way of getting around the speed of light - spaceships can enter and exit at certain places and ride in the flow to bypass most of the space between ports.  Kiva Lagos is a foul mouthed space captain that sleeps around the universe but generally does the right thing and ties the extra-planetary-operas together. 2017





6/17





Ray Kurzweil
(Sun Systems founder)



















































































The Singularity is Near






















































































The Singularity is Near is a 2004 thesis paper on the exponential growth of technology and the incipient "singularity" (Vernor Vinge adopted the term in 1983 to mean the point in time when computers become smarter than people and technology growth appears almost vertical).  I am skeptical about futurists who extrapolate technology growth to specific outcomes (every ten years someone says we will have fusion power in ten years but we're still waiting) but Ray writes well and even quotes Yogi Berra: "the future ain't what it used to be."  Ray discusses six epochs: 1) physics and chemistry, 2) biology and DNA, 3) brains, 4) technology, 5) the merger of human technology with human intelligence.  [Ray says this will happen in the next few decades but he doesn't discuss damping factors such as supply and demand or the full gambit of legislation].  Ray paints a picture of a friendly robot brained future with foglets to simulate real reality (nanobots that could even model Yosemite in your backyard).  [Ray uses Pi as an example of incompressible data but Pi has often been mathematically described in repeating patterns.  Ray mentions evolution defying the 2nd law because it is not a closed system but recent studies show life's dynamically stability is in accord with the law.  It seems like Ray is equating computational power (computations per second) with intelligence - we still haven't made a machine as smart as an ant (although we're coming close to a electronic flatworm brain).]  Mr. Kurzweil discusses college experiments in nano-computing and even describes computation at the atomic level.  He suggests that Moores law will continue and that we will reach the singularity by 2045 by using conservative estimates of human computation measurement at 1EE17 CPS (Computations Per Second) and conservative numbers for projecting future non-biological computation speeds.  This "conservative" method rings of the old methods to determine how many alien civilizations that "must" exist in the universe and is subject to numerous error sources.  Despite this, Ray's predictions have been relatively correct for the last 10 years or so.  The section on brain scans and reverse engineering the brain are fascinating.  Ray discusses cloning of individual cells in the body as a means of extending life span.  He moves onto a discussion of self-replicating nano-machines including biologic based and hybrid constructs.  There is a potential for extreme competition from such that could threaten life so broadcast communication to the cellular automata is critical to avoid destructive mutation (although such might be subject to software viruses).  Ray discusses using nano-technology for environmental clean-up but ten years after he wrote this book there are reports that inert nano-particles (used in the cosmetics industry) are becoming a serious environmental pollutant (aggregating in fish).

The book is a longer read than I expected because of the many interesting references that I have been compelled to investigate on the Internet, like nano-thin P-V (re-energized at MIT along with regenerative organic P-V's in solution) and bubble fusion (disproved at Stanford).  Ray talks to Molly 2104 and Molly 2004 throughout the book to provide a layman's glimpse of the future.  Kurzweil has a vision of the future where we are all filled with nanobots: some replace our digestive processes, some replace blood, platelets, lungs and heart (being motile enough to go outside for a breath of air and deliver it to every cell), some replace hormone producing organs, skeleton, and parts of the brain.  Nanobots will make (some of) us amortal and our cyborg brains (with embedded VR phones) and morphable bodies will allow us to compete with super AI robots.  Tbe Drake Equation for the number of radio-transmitting civilizations = N × fp × ne × fl × fi × fc × fL is often computed to indicate millions of ETI's but I appreciate Ray providing reasonable term values and bases with a result of just one (us).  He then discusses using quantum entanglement or wormholes for FTL communication (and says that quantum entanglement is already being used in cyphering).

"Obviously, the cerebellum requires continual perceptual guidance from the visual cortex. The researchers were able to link the structure of cerebellum cells to the observation that there is an inverse relationship between curvature and speed when doing handwriting—that is, you can write faster by drawing straight lines instead of detailed curves for each letter.

"These 12 pictures of the world constitute all the information we will ever have about what’s out there, and from these 12 pictures, which are so sparse, we reconstruct the richness of the visual world [in reference to the human optic system].

"...emotionally charged situations appear to be handled by special cells called spindle cells, which are found only in humans and some great apes...

"Complexity theorist James Gardner...conjectures that it is specifically the evolution of intelligent life that enables offspring universes [in the multi-verse].

"[In] the “holographic universe” theory, the universe is actually a two-dimensional array of information written on its surface, so its conventional three-dimensional appearance is an illusion."

I should prefer to an ordinary death, being immersed with a few friends in a cask of Madeira, until that time, then to be recalled to life by the solar warmth of my dear country! But in all probability, we live in a century too little advanced, and too near the infancy of science, to see such an art brought in our time to its perfection.
                   —BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, 1773

Ray describes himself as a patternist, a resolution of the material and spiritual in future technologically enhanced life.  If one instantaneously replaces oneself with a copy then one ends and another begins, but if the replacement is slow, like in the continuous cell by cell and protein by protein replacement in our human bodies, then the pattern continues throughout with no discrete interruption and there is continuance of self (and self-consciousness).  So when man designed nano-constructs enters our bodies and replace cell functions we will continue even if our brains are peppered with the things.  Ray writes "the broadcast architecture is impossible in the biological world, so there’s at least one way in which nanotechnology can be made safer than biotechnology. In other ways, nanotech is potentially more dangerous because nanobots can be physically stronger than protein-based entities and more intelligent."  We can imagine a gray fog of auto-re-creating nano scale carbon and silicon constructs that might rise up and eat us all.  So I guess what we might need is friendly and secure remote controlled auto-created nanotechnology that is pervasive and can buffer other and potentially hazardous auto-created nano-technology.  Ray describes it like this: "A phenomenon like gray goo (unrestrained nanobot replication) will be countered with “blue goo” (“police” nanobots that combat the “bad” nanobots)."  Perhaps we can carry software that is impervious to remote hack and manages itself and its nano-bots with little need of our attention.  Maybe this will be in the form of some kind of healthful good smelling pixie dust that is spread in the air with gentle continuous supplemental inflow from new pixie dust canisters and intermittent blow down to absorbent containers that are recycled at nano clean and reset facilities.  I wonder what concentration of auto-created-nano-constructs might be able to flood the air and water and solid surfaces and if the constructs might damage the liquids and/or solids in our life cycle systems?  I think I agree with Ray when he says "in the end, it is only technology—especially GNR (genetic engineering, nanotechnology and robotics)—that will offer the leverage needed to overcome problems that human civilization has struggled with for many generations."

"It is precisely my thesis that machines of the 2030s and beyond will be of such great complexity and richness of organization that their behavior will evidence emotional reactions, aspirations, and, yes, history...Fundamental to this thesis is that as we apply our intelligence, and the extension of our intelligence called technology, to understanding the powerful patterns in our world (for example, human intelligence), we can re-create—and extend!—these patterns in other substrates. The patterns are more important than the materials that embody them."

In Ray's graphs of exponential growth of complexity and order he leaves out the big bang...he also says that only primates and monkeys physically gesture but dogs make all sorts of gestures (although they don't practice in front of a mirror as some primates have done).  He says the same about recursion but gray parrots seem to piece words together into phrases.  One of the companies that Ray discusses was Nanosolar that promised nano-based solar panel production but went bust after $400 million in investments and little output.  When it comes to human advances (especially with nanobots), Ray has left out the retarding factor of FDA approval: while experiments on rats can remain apace, profits that drive technology require human trials and public demand - these factors should greatly extend Kurzweil's timeline, pushing out the first amortality from 2050 to 2150 or later.  Ray even mentions this directly so I guess he is wishing legislation will change: "...we...need to streamline the regulatory process. Right now in the United States, we have a five- to ten-year delay on new health technologies for FDA approval (with comparable delays in other nations). The harm caused by holding up potential lifesaving treatments (for example, one million lives lost in the United States for each year we delay treatments for heart disease) is given very little weight against the possible risks of new therapies." Ray gave a reference to MIT’s OpenCourseWare which is claimed to allow anyone to take MIT classes for free...I tried it, but, for the classes I was interested in (like nano-technology), one has to buy the text books, which looked expensive on the OpenCourseWare website.  There are many free lectures on the site but often with gaps in the text book usage.

New diction: epigenetic, stochastic, connectionism, backpropagation, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, confabulations, engineered negligible senescence, autologous, angiogenesis, diamondoid, respirocytes, microbivores, protofibrils, prosodics, vasculoid, proteomics, biocyberethics, proactionary principle, neuromodulators.

6/17























































































L.E. Modesitt Recluce Tales
Short stories set in the Recluce universe.  There are a couple of stories in the book that are outstanding and a few that really only help flush out the Recluce timeline. 2017
5/17
David Rosenfelt

Outfoxed


Bookie 14 in which Andy Carpenter has to give up sports betting as his adopted son is quoting book at school.  They have to sit in 35 yard-line seats instead of the family 45 yard-line box and in the commoners concession stand line they are threatened by mafia muscle prompting Andy to go after Petrone.  After a bunch of mob hits including Willie's old prison pal Russo, Andy and team prove their tech client innocent allowing a reunion with a Tara Foundation prison program dog.
5/17
John Scalzi Miniatures A collection of amusingly absurd very short Sci-fi stories.
5/17
Ken Follet










































Edge of Eternity










































I ought to simplify this synopsis (some day).

Book 3 of the Century Trilogy is another 1,000 page tome and involves the grandchildren of the primary characters of The Fall of Giants.  Maud's granddaughter, Rebecca, discovers that her husband is Stazi and throws his cherished matchstick model out the window and, with the aid of two Berlin border Vopos, he retaliates by breaking her younger brother's guitar.  Lev's grandson, George, is a half-black Harvard law school graduate who gets on a Greyhound bus to peacefully protest southern segregation.  George's bus ride next to pretty Maria goes smoothly until they are beaten and fire-bombed by a mob while Alabama state police stand-by until they call out "you've had your fun, now go home."  Grigori's granddaughter Tania extracts an old typewriter from a box of cat food and types up a two-page issue of Dissidence for her handsome colleague, Vasili, to copy for distribution at the Mayakovsky Square poetry session where they are arrested.  Tania's politico twin, Dimka, and her uncle General Volodya, get her out of a KGB jail.  Dimka and Tania sink the Dissident typewriter but Tania still gets sent to Cuba.  George is hissed and cheered at his graduation ceremony and afterwards George is offered a job interview with Secretary General Bobby Kennedy.  George helps out Jack by escorting the Marquands to Bobby's White House office so that Jack can avoid a photo with an inter-racial couple.  Hans blocks Rebecca from getting another job and then his colleagues erect the Berlin wall to keep her from "illegally emigrating".  Maria loses her virginity to President Kennedy.  Bobby tells George to see MLK to distance Martin Luther from his lawyer who the FBI accuses of being communist.  Ethel is daymed into the House of Lords and this time on the Parliament stairs Fitz shakes hands with her grandson.  Bernd is severely injured during his escape from East Berlin with Rebecca.  Dimka covertly ships nuclear missiles to Cuba which the CIA discovers prompting the famous Kennedy Cuban missile crisis speech on black and white TV.  Walli escapes East Berlin twice with a guitar and a gunshot wound, leaving behind a pregnant Karolin.  George gets his left arm hurt twice in his passive attendance of civil rights meetings (symbolic of left wing struggles, I guess) and Kennedy pushes for legislation to end segregation and pseudo-legal black vote inhibition in the south.  Cousin Willi joins the Plum Nellies (nee Guardsmen) in a bar gig with fifteen years old Dave Williams in Hamburg but a jealous guitarist rats out under-age Dave and they all go back to England.  The evening that Dimka kisses Nina at an after-work gathering he has a son with his new wife Natlaya and they name him Grigor.  Tania's influence keeps prodding Dimka to support reform but he cautious and does not make much progress.  Jasper Murray, makes 50 pounds betraying family secrets to the press so he can fly to Washington DC in time for MLK's "I Have A Dream" speech (he makes 25 pounds for his coverage).  Walli meets Evie's boyfriend, and subject of Jasper's article, pop music star Hank Remington.  MLK's Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Sunday school gets fire bombed killing several children and the southern police have no suspects.  Lenny loses the Plum Nellies because he is too old fashioned and they record a hit single (written by Hank) and appear on TV without him.  Dave is amped and vamped despite leaving school and leaving home.  The Plum Nellies are almost goners but Walli writes a hit song about missing his daughter.  Tania visits Vietnam where the Viet Cong manipulate the Americans and Soviets to their end purpose.  Kennedy is assassinated and George goes to console Maria.  Johnson gets an anti-segregation and equal rights bill passed but does poorly with Vietnam.  Tania visits her dissident friend in Siberia, gives him a meal and underwear and sneaks his writings into a literary fair in East Germany.  Dave sees legal discrimination in a London gay bar with his drummer and then experiences better relations with Beep Dewar in America.  Jasper betrays Willi and publishes an article about Walli's Berlin-walled-offed separation from Karolin and Alice.  Karolin marries a clergyman and Walli goes wild with groupies.  Dave flies to England for Lady Eth's funeral and upon his return to SF he finds that Beep has succumbed to pot, LSD and Walli (and so ends Plum Nellie...for awhile).  Walli gives his first political speech.  Dave buys a Napa vineyard for $55,000 and starts his own TV show.  Jasper gets drafted and survives two years with US Ranger war criminals in Vietnam which gives him cause to join the anti-war bandwagon.  George is still hoping for Bobby to win a presidential race against Johnson and Nixon but Bobby and MLK are killed, Johnson doesn't run and we get Tricky Dick until the Watergate scandal.  Dave pushes his sponsor to allow an inter-racial kiss (on the cheek) to air and it turns out to be the right thing to do.  Lev contritely meets his son Volodya at his brother Grigori's death bed.  The pope is Polish.  President Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor attend George and Verena's wedding reception.  George gets a seat on the Congressional intelligence oversight committee.  Vasili finishes a fictitious novel about Pat Nixon's 24 hours in Moscow and makes a play for Tania which just chases her away to Poland where Lec Walesa's Solidarity union is repressed by the communist government and Tania's short term Polish boyfriend turns out to be a traitor.  Tania finally succumbs to Vasili's wiles.  Walli beats the "horse" (heroin) and meets his daughter.  The Soviet Union economy becomes untenable when they start taking out western loans to pay the interest on western loans so they stop support of the Warsaw Pact nations.  The Berlin Wall falls not because of Reagan, SDI, Cuba, Korea, Vietnam, Solidarity or activism but just because of money.  Epilogue: Maria marries George when she retires at sixty and George cries when Obama is elected.

5/17










































Ken Follet


Winter of the World

Book 2 of the Century Trilogy begins with Maud writing for a gossip magazine entitled The Democrat where she lampoons Hitler but I can't say what happens after because I decided to skip ahead to book 3 and move this long novel down on my "to read" list (probably behind Follet's Pillars of the Earth).



Ken Follet

The Eye of the Needle Hitler's most trusted spy's wake of death and destruction is a thin trail to be followed by a British history professor who volunteers for MI5...but it is beauty that slays the beast.  This welcome quick 300 page read is a decent intermission before tome 2 in the Century Trilogy.
3/17
Luisa Espinel


Canciones de mi Padre


The daughter of Frederico Rondstadt wrote this 1946 University of Arizona dissertation on Mexican/Arizona folk music including student tunes, danzas and Italian influenced picaresque tunes from Todillas (one to three performer musical plays).  Love, rattlesnakes, firewater, Herod and Judas make it into the lyrics but I couldn't get the family to listen to Linda Ronstadt's album of the same title on the way to Petie Ronstadt's concert at his cousin's Tucson Street Fair.
3/17


Arika Okrent

















In the Land of Invented Languages
















"A zippy trip through the history of man's attempts to overcome the curse of babel."  Esperanto is the most commonly spoken artificial language and it is even sung at Esperanto congresses.  There were many other artificial languages developed at the turn of the century (some quite bizarre) but the effort fell out of vogue with the intellectuals when English became the dominant international language with the solidification of the British Empire.  A snippet tells of the survival of Simplified English in some foreign broadcasts (limited words and no passive voice).  The book gains feeling during the sometimes blissful history of Semantography despite Karl Bliss' grumpy disappointment with the successful use of his symbols (retermed Blissymbolics) to teach children afflicted with cerebral palsy (as opposed to use as an ideographic universal language transcending words).  Loglan ends in a split with the birth of its "illegitimate" (according to Brown) child language of Lojban which survives trademark legal battles between Loglan's Brown and Lojban's Bob and Nora LeChevalier (Brown's ex-wife married Bob in a Lojban ceremony).  Brown also invented a boardgame "Careers" (marketed by Parker Brothers) where winning is based on reaching monetary, fame and happiness point goals.  Loglan was supposed to be based on logic to test the Whorfian premise that language limits thinking, so shouldn't Star Trek switch character names between Spock and Whorf?  Klingon is the only invented language to retain trademark status (mainly because noone wants to fight the Paramount lawyers).  Laadan has words that sound like proper nouns in P. C. Hodgell's Kencyrath series (like rathom and ramimeth).  Tolkien developed several languages with proto-language history as the defining quality of his fantasy races in his latter Lord of the Rings.  The appendix lists 500 invented languages which is indicative of the lure of linguistics and the imagination.

Novel diction: opuscule, utopy and ergativity.

I wondered if Arika knew about mp3's of songs in artificial languages (like Sylvain Neuvel's mp3 of the Ewok celebration song) and she gave me this link: William Weir and linguist Arika Okrent (who has a first level certification in Klingon) discuss the origins and meanings of constructed languages in song.  It includes We Will Rock You in Klingon.  In the comments of this podcast site is a Youtube link to a Shatner movie in Esperanto.

3/17


















Mark Twain


Pudd'nhead Wilson

The story was written in 1893 but takes place around 1850 in a fictitious town in Missouri.  Pudd'nhead is actually the second smartest man in town.  A 1/20th black slave woman swaps her child with her master's and 20 or so years later she blackmails her own son with that secret.  Angelo and Luigi, twins from Italy, are experienced in tomfoolery...
3/17
Fredrik Backman




And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer And Longer

A short novella in which Noah is transported by his grandfather to places unknown and must find his way home with a map, compass and imagination.  Grandpa believes in math and Noahnoah.  "Grandpa always calls him 'Noahnoah' because he likes his grandson’s name twice as much as everyone else’s"...and says...“Have I ever told you about the time I went to the doctor, Noahnoah?  I said, ‘Doctor, Doctor, I’ve broken my arm in two places!’ and the doctor replied, ‘Then I’d advise you to stop going there!’ ”  In a hospital room, son Ted almost startles Granpa out of the tiny round square in his brain (which has been getting smaller).  The dragon in the square sneezes a slew of bitty notes into the air and Grandpa tells Noah that those are his ideas and that they have been blowing away for awhile now.
3/17




David Rosenfelt




Who Let The Dog Out?




Book 13 Excerpt: "I don’t talk to Laurie about Ricky’s baseball-soccer decision, because the coverage has given me an idea. And to make it work, I need to go drink some beer."  Andy still does his best work at the sports bar.  Dog Zoe is stolen from the Tara Foundation and her chip leads Andy and Willie to a murder and diamonds.  Several chemists are murdered to cover up their recipe for ice.  A jewel thief framed for one of the murders is exonerated when Andy and team uncover a terrorist plot to invade Ashby, Maine (the arms dealer is also a diamond smuggler who had the ice machine competitors offed).  The afterword includes a blurb on Rosenfelt's Dogtripping about his move to Maine with 25 Goldens...thank goodness that Maine was saved for his Retreivers.
3/17





P. C. Hodgell







The Sea of Time








Book 7 of the Kencyrath.  Jame's mission leads her sledge caravan across the desert to the temporal sea of tears where she slays a giant crocodile and makes it's highly valued armor her own.  They escape the 3,000 year old fall of Tishoo, losing their trade goods but not all of their lives.  Jame returns to score a winning goal in a cadet rugby contest that maims a few horses.  The numerous and miscellaneous gods are represented and appearing everywhere.  Kendar voice can cause Kencyrath to obey and blood bonding causes loyalty and servitude...and now we find out that male Kendar can nurse children when the mother is unavailable.  The storytelling hieratically switches from Jame to Tori and does some back story interweaving with previous novels in the series with more wolver component.  At one point Jame is walking around with a temple in her pocket due to the effects of The Change (which also causes some trees to uproot and walk about except for the valuable ones that the King's men have anchored down).  The Change passes and well armored and mounted Jame defeats late Knorth Lord Gerridon's haunt which halts the Karnids' storming of Kothifir's Undercliff.  Jame is ordered home to Gothregor.
3/17








Ken Follet
























Fall of Giants
Synopsis























Fall of Giants is 1,000 pages long and set in Wales, England, Russia, Germany and the U.S.A.  We learn about World War I through the senses of several people that are related by blood, sex, marriage, nobility and governance.  Follet tells about how ignoble senior nobility was at that time.  The noble Fitzherberts and laboring Williams are mostly Welsh but Lord Fitz of Aberowen is married to a Russian Tsaress, Bea.  Fitz discretely has an illegitimate son with maid Ethel Williams.  Fitz's sister Maud secretly marries good mannered Herr Walter von Ulrich who is ordered back to Germany to fight the French and British and whose command is finally defeated at the Marne when the U.S. enters the war.  Fitzherebert visits Russia with Bea just before the war, accompanied by an American presidential aid Gus who witnesses Russian foundry worker Grigori defend a peasant girl Katerina from a vicious police molestation.  Grigori had earlier seen Bea supporting punishment of peasants including his family.  Grigori's brother Lev impregnates Katarina, almost gets caught stealing and uses Lev's freedom money to flee poor Russia for rich America; Lev gets married to Olga, a Russian mobster boss' daughter, then gets caught cheating and is forced into the army to a mission which abets the Welsh Rifles in Russia whose ranks include Aberowen Pals Sergeant William "Billy Twice" Williams, brother of Ethel Williams.  Ethel's brother works Fitz' coal mines and the front lines of Major Fitz' zealous but ill-managed command of the Welsh Rifles.  Billy Twice is heroic in battle and becomes a sergeant and the Aberowen Pals are sent to Siberia to support resistance to Lenin's Bolshevik take over after Fitz and Bea flee the killing of her family in Russia by peasants who also get the land from the government.  Billy uses code to send military information to his sister Ethel who acquires a nice house in London to raise Fitz' son and becomes a coeditor with Fitz' sister Maud.  Billy gets a court-martial sentence of 10 years reduced to 1.5 years time served thanks to Ethel's journalistic crusade against the improper war in Russia.  Grigori becomes a soviet hero helping Lenin to rise but barely able to save Lev from Lenin's secret police who execute anyone who even inadvertently hears an opposition speech.  Billy marries Ethel's boarder, has a boy and gets elected to Parliament alongside his sister Eth (nee Ethel).  Eth(el) gets some satisfaction out of looking Fitz in the eye as an equal politician and forces Fitz into shaking hands with their son on the Parliament stairs.

More details here.

Novel diction: bannickers, banksman, onsetter, hock, mulligatawny, peripatetic, equerry, tantalus [the tantalus being a silver container with decanters of brandy and whiskey], firedamp, afterdamp, benison, extempore, knout, canaille, Taffy (as an insult), palliasses, puttees, volteface, pusillanimity, ebullient, exiguous (from TV while I was reading the book), spinney, cloche, gewgaws, scurrility, and sententious (from a Shakespearean example of scurrility usage).

3/17
























P. C. Hodgell

Honor's Paradox


Book 6 of the Kencyrath series.  Jame survives her second year as cadet and graduates by fighting her brother to a draw in a final contest.

Novel diction: trock (to give and receive reciprocally as in trading chores), hobbledehoy, mewed up, and mummery.

2/17


P. C. Hodgell

















Bound In Blood


















Book 5 of the Kencyrath series.  Unlike book 4, this episode isn't all that exciting except for an author's game called Gen that sounds like a blind game of Stratego (you have to memorize all of the piece positions after set-up and then flip them over) but with hazard cards for hazard evaluation instead of the mine rules.  You create your own hazard cards and they can be quite fantastic and/or alien.  The story has Jame help a colleague with willow foot root removal, ride her ivory armored and fanged equestrian rathorn to divert a stampede that saves an adversarial tribe (she learns though that the tribe harbors a more likeable secret matriarchal society) and play capture the flag with aggressive cadets and castle phantasms.  Jame finally renders an ancient coat infused with a malevolent spirit that is held fast by blood in the coat fabric; she watches while tendrils keep the phantasm from escaping a fireplace pyre.  The tendrils are formed of the spirits of hair of many ancestors that have been used to mend the coat over the millennia: "it was a hair-loom, not just an heirloom" (I kid you not, its right there on page 273).  The next day we bought an Airerloom bed and its pretty nice.

What Jame says about the Kencyrath game Gen:
The Gen pieces were smooth, flat, river stones about two fingers' width across, and one thick. On their bottoms were indicated their rank or status: one commandant, three ten-commanders, three five-commanders, and twenty-four cadets—in essence, three ten-commands and a master-ten. Added to these were four hunters, four hazards, and one flag. The goal of Gen was either to capture this last or to end play with a higher count of survivors than one's adversary. Strategy and tactics were called for, but also memory: once the pebbles were in place, the player had to remember what each one of them represented, as well as what one deduced about the opposing pebbles by their movement and effect.
– Jame's narration, Bound in Blood,
"Chapter XIII: A Day in the Life", VI

2/17

















Lois McMaster Bujold












Penric's Demon, Penric and the Shaman, and Penric's Mission











Three fantasy novellas filled with magic, mysticism and medieval terminology.  Any really good fantasy should incorporate demon possession at the beginning and Lois does not disappoint.  Pen's possession has a dozen previous lifetimes and a host of spells (some fit for garderobe talk).  Benighted at a local castle and set upon by rascally nobility he escapes via sorceried use of the demon hot foot and unbuckling and eventually finds his way to a seminary.  Now Learned Penric, he assists a Locator in finding a fugitive shaman who ultimately receives Pen's ethereal and mountain climbing aid in freeing two other shaman souls.  Time passes and Pen is commanded to carry a missive into foreign territory where he is discovered, brain bashed and ensconced in an oubliette.  Demon ensorcled trepany relieves his edema and makes a blinded general and a spy see reasonably.

Diction includes garderobe (castle privy), benighted (overcome by nightfall), impiety (perceived lack of proper respect for something considered sacred), severally
(separately or individually; each in turn)
, withal (as well, nevertheless), withy
 (a tough flexible branch of an osier or other willow, used for tying, binding, or basketry)
, cobochon (shaped and polished but not faceted gemstone), loured (looking dark and threatening as a stormy sky), frank (mark of postage or allow to pass freely), jink (sudden quick change of direction), ambit (scope, extent, bounds, reach), plinth (stone base), peculation (embezzlement), attainted
(
subject to attainder
, the forfeiture of land and civil rights suffered as a consequence of a sentence of death for treason or felony; or affect or infect with disease or corruption)
, postpandrial (after meal), frisson (a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear), traduce (
speak badly of or tell lies about someone so as to damage their reputation)
, gull (to fool or a gullible person), postilion (a guide that rides on a coach horse), ossify (to harden a position)...

2/17













David Rosenfelt


Hounded



Book 12 has another friend put in jail and fighting a conspiracy.  This time a little boy comes attached to the dog that stays at Andy's house during the trial.  By the by, Edna (Andy's secretary) is coming off of a crossword competition performance high but still has enough energy to help watch the kid.  Andy's team finds the poison pill trail and an organized criminal debt pays off big at the end of the tale.  Then Andy marries Laurie at the sports bar with Tara as the maid of honor and they adopt Ricky.
1/17


David Rosenfelt

Unleashed


Book 11 has voir dire questioning (so do the other ten but its the first time I noticed this legal term).  How many assassinations can Rosenfelt fit in one story?  The bad guys frame Sam (Andy's accountant/hack master) and, of course, while Sam awaits trial in jail, with Tara consoling Sam's dog Crash, the Carpenter team up-ends the heavily armed and cold-blooded terrorist conspiracy, saving the day and making the FBI look good.
1/17

Lois McMaster Bujold


Amoeba




Five early short stories: 1) an alien comes to a harried housewife's door to trade bio-statis field generators and a focus enhancer beam for ammonia and bleach, 2) the neat neighbor lady drives a man to drink (and sell her household goods when she is gone for a day), 3) a trans-dimensional garbage chute and reversal of fortune, 4) a dream machine recording star has writer's block until the physical world bumps into her, but her gentleman friend's mendacious reassurance and a henchman's solopism gets her through the no harm, no foul situation and back to her pseudo-reality, and 5) mortuary affairs reclaim space battle corpses.  The afterword includes a nice brief on the cover art by Caryn Babaian who uses sketching to help teach community college biology.
1/17



Lois McMaster
Bujold
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen The 15th in the Vorkosigan saga involves a 60-ish royal redhead who wants to retire to have a second round of family life (in this future birth is ex-vitero and with the right genes life expectancy and physical fitness can extend past 100).  I hadn't seen the word sororal (sisterly) in print before but its easy enough to deduce its meaning but not so with uxorial (wifely).  Lois calls the story risible but it read more like an opium dream.
1/17

Fredrik Backman A Man Called Ove Sweet sentimentality (like Swedish fish) fills this sob Saab story of a good man and his struggles with feelings, people and a couple of cats. The book was made into a chick flick.
1/17
Addy Pross



A Roadmap Toward Synthetic Protolife

Dr. Pross must be a decent bloke as he responded to my email with an attached article that expanded a bit on the lab problem of synthesizing life (thanks Addy).  It reaffirms DKS as a new lab launch point.  Here is an excerpt.

"That principle, governing all material change, whether in the ‘regular’ physicochemical world or the replicative world, may be formulated as follows: systems will tend from less stable (persistent) to more stable (persistent) forms, or, more concisely: nature is directed toward more persistent forms."

1/17



Addy Pross












What is Life?  How Chemistry Becomes Biology









I found this book to be well written and informative.  It thoroughly explains a new hypothesis on the chemical origins of life: whence the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) might have been a complex muddle of chemicals which is still reacting today in the form of life.

Life is complex, diverse and unstably homochiral (right handed sugars and lefty amino acids) while the inanimate is understandably uniform, law abiding and stably heterochiral.   Life appears to be teleonomic despite the arisen physics of an objective universe.  Systems chemistry is a holistic approach that allows for populations of chemical species and networks.  In this study an alternative to the second law of thermodynamics is postulated: Dynamic Kinetic Stability (DKS).  The precursors to life, like life itself, are thermodynamically unstable, especially after the evolution of metabolic function, but multiplied and survived as part of their DKS.  A sequence of replication, mutation, complexification, selection, evolution, given the right medium, indicates that abiogenesis is not only a possible reaction outcome but a probable reaction outcome.

"Life is not a thing but a process."  Although individuals exist and are a survival advantage, and synergy exists but is not required for all individuals, life is really the community of all living things and the DKS of life is dependent on the aggregate.  Viruses may lack metabolism but are integrated into the overall network of living things, so perhaps they are also life.  The definition of life from Addy: a self-sustaining kinetically stable dynamic reaction network derived from the replication reaction.

1/17












Clifford Pickover




Immortality





Another romp around a theme that might include amortality.  The book is a collection of scientific thoughts on immortality and is heaping with great quotes to help get you thinking.  Cliff suggested this book because I liked his Drugs, Sex, Einstein and Elves and it is almost as free flowing despite the gravity of the theme; it is an enjoyable read with many interesting tidbits and intriguing quotes sprinkled thoughout (especially those hidden at the end of the notes and references sections and one reference to spindle cells).  In the "about the author" section, Cliff indicates that one of his next book topics will depend on reader response to a list: 1) Matrioshka Brains, 2) Carolingian Renaissance, 3) pareidolia and Marian apparitions, 4) Gram-schmidt orthonormalization, 5) Phyllodocida, 6) Turangalila, 7) factorion 40,585, 8) Egil Skallagrimsson, 9) aposiopesis and asyndeton in literature and life, 10) calipee, and 11) Olaf Sporns' connectome.  I chose calipee.  How about you?
1/17





David Rosenfelt Leader of the Pack In book ten, Marcus mangles the mafia, the doggie detective devices are delinquent and the bad guys only kill 50,000.

1/17
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Danger! and other stories
This short story compilation starts with a fictional narrative intended to warn England of the risk of submarine warfare against commercial shipping which was prophetic for 1915.  The stories then become more fantastic and even manic but slow at the end to a nice little Indian story.  Edwardian English diction includes scapegrace, dingle, dukker, choomer, mort, chal, furze, distrait, beck, deal chair, truckle-bed, wicket gate and billy-cock hat.
12/16

David Rosenfelt One Dog Night
In book nine Tara gets another live-in companion and Andy frees Tara's original owner from a partly underground deadly high level conspiracy.

12/16
Janet Evanovich Eleven on Top, Twelve Sharp and Lean Mean Thirteen Steph gets lucky again and survives kidnappers, killers, grave robbers and gangsters (with a little help).
12/16
Janet Evanovich To The Nines and Ten Big Ones Book nine has Stephanie surviving a partially on-line psychotic killer competition and the family remaining in good humored disarray.  Book ten has her surviving a gangland contract and Sally the cross dresser acting as Valerie's "Kloughnish" wedding planner.
12/16
Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mandilow A Briefer History of Time

A brief on physics history, relativity, the four forces, quantum mechanics and string theory.



12/16


Lilith Saintcrow

Roadside Magic and Wasteland King
Book 2 and 3 of the Ragged and Gallows series stretch the blighted plot from the sidhe realms of Summer and Unwinter to pierce the veil to the fall and spring of Halves Jeremiah Gallows and Robin Ragged (who are robed in chantments and armed with magic lance and spell song).  Well seasoned with fae denizens and vocabulary, the fairytale twines around the mortal world and the in-between (like the Gobelin market, dwarve halls and the Dreaming Sea).  The more-than-real to real scene changes include clever short asides of fae influences on mortals.
12/16


David Rosenfelt New Tricks and Dog Tags Waggy is supposedly from man-made genetic material but still gets along with Tara in book 7.  In book 8, Milo the police dog is a thief, a hero and a biscuit bonanza for Tara.  Conspiracies are uncovered, Andy and company survive murder attempts and the clients' dogs are happy to have their owners freed.
11/16
Patrick Rothfuss The Slow Regard of Silent Things The foreword says you might not want to read this book, the afterword explains that it is not a proper story and should have been trunked, and it might not be for everyone, but its a fresh novelette that brings life to the inanimate and the shyest of beings.
11/16
Patrick Rothfuss
The Wise Man's Fear
Book 2 in the Kingkiller series (no king killing yet).  Kvothe goes to school, survives multiple adventures and earns a reputation including a bad foretelling from a faerie oracle.  This is a tome of a novel but it runs like the favorite at Pimlico.  I guess that I will learn to play Tak which is the author's game played in his rowdy pubs and elitist mansions and is sold on the Internet.
11/16

Luke Mastin



The Physics of the Universe (Difficult Topics Made Understandable) Luke has written and published a nice web site that discusses relativity, black holes, the big bang, quantum mechanics, and abiogenesis in reasonable language: https://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com



11/16



Clifford Pickover
Surfing Through Hyperspace
A brief jaunt through 4-D Euclidean space makes one think out of the tesseract (4-D box).  Cliff notes that 4D beings could see all of 3D space including the insides of objects (since they can view from "out of plane" using the 2D analogy).  His "Not-X-Files" agents hunt down 4D beings who appear in our space in 3D sections and can disappear unless nabbed in a hyper-trap.
10/16

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


Beyond the City




This is a free book from project Gutenberg.  Set upon a cottage field turned over to three new homes sharing a tennis court, with good old English dialogue, which includes pot shots at Robert Browning and the Victorian woman's plight and suffrage.  The romantic hopes of two daughters and two sons are temporarily interred into a family plot but civility finally prevails.  Some of Doyle's Beyond the City very velvety Victorian vocabulary that was novel to me: tompion, zenana, seamew, chloral, arnica and defalcation (plug for the muzzle of a gun to keep out dust and moisture, the part of a house for the seclusion of women, seagull, trichloroacetaldehyde which was mixed with water as a sedative, a toxic herb which was used in a highly diluted form to ease swelling, and misappropriation of funds held by an official).
10/16




John C. Wright One Bright Star to Guide Them This is a short story about battling evil creatures of the dark ages in modern Brighton and Dover with a talking Holy black cat named Tybalt.  Pretty good jot.

10/16
Janet Evanovich Visions of Sugar Plums Stephanie dreams about seizing Sandy Claws from his helpers with the help of a super hero and the usual cast.  Maybe Janet ate too many Christmas cookies when she cut out this cute little seasonal novella.
10/16
Clifford Pickover


Archimides to Hawking


This is a set of multi-page historical blurbs on our world's most memorable scientists and their discoveries with interesting snippets on the age of each discovery, some topical quotes and disparate "conversation starters".   The International Astronomical Union General Assembly rates the importance of many scientists by the size of the lunar crater assigned to their name (I doubt that I will ever crater).  A to H is better than his Math Book (equally full of equations) and is a thought provoker (albeit with a encyclopedic bent).  Cliff includes a blurb on a Hawkings "law" that says each equation included in a book halves its sales, dooming A to H and the Math Book to oblivion.

10/16




Patrick Rothfuss



The Name of the Wind



A blast from the (recent) past and I am back with Bast, the young pan in the Rothfuss short story, The Lightning Tree, from a month ago (fortunately that pre-read didn't ruin anything for this Kingkiller Chronicle book 1 other than showing us that Kvothe is Bast's teacher).  Kvothe first learns the name of things from a guy without eyebrows named Aberny (the eyebrow-less guy was Burns in the Sleeping Giants).  Kvothe (pronounced like quoth...the raven "Nevermore") is an inn keeper who is mysteriously strong and tells his life story to The [royal] Chronicler.  This was another book with a chronicler that I couldn't put down (the other was Sleeping Giants which is written up just below).  Its a wonderful story with wonderful characters, physical and spiritual growth, challenges, journeys...and magic.  Kvothe is a gifted and orphaned gypsy boy who survives hard streets to rise up in an arcane academy.
10/16





Sylvain Neuvel







The Sleeping Giants







A wonderful novel.  I got this book (based on a recommendation on the internet) before Judi and I left for Montreal to celebrate our 21st anniversary and I started reading it on the next to last day of our visit only to discover that the author is a Quebecois and lives in Montreal (he responded to my email with recommendations for poutine cafes in our Griffintown location).  Sylvain is a doctor of linguistics (and programmer), and a primary character in the novel just happens to be a Quebecois linguist who gets the girl and because his legs get crushed under the bumper of the girl's jealous special op's ex-boyfriend he gets to drive the legs of a giant alien (Grendizer inspired) robot (the girl gets the top).  The interplay of military queries and diary philosophy reminds me of David Gerrold's Chtorr series - in fact, this is the best science fiction novel I have read in 20 years just because of fun and wit projected in the journal narrative and dialogue.  The next book in the series is due out in early 2017 (it will probably beat the publication of David Gerrold's supposedly finished 5th Chtorr novel).  Sony bought the movie rights before Del Rey bought the rights to this book and its pending sequel.  I pointed out a couple of minor flaws in Sylvain's website and he replied that he'd fixed one and would get to the rest after he finished an interview (since book 2 is already with the editors he must be working on book 3).  Sylvain's web site has all sorts of fascinating stuff on linguistics (although the demo of his Whole Word Morphology program is still pending).
10/16









Bill Bryson













A Short History of Nearly Everything











Bill writes about the Big Bang, Earth's composition, the unlikelihood of life, cells and DNA, evolution, the rise of humanity and closes with a note on the extinction of species.  There might be as much as 100 trillion tons of bacteria living underground in subsurface lithoautotrophic microbial ecosystems (or SLiME for short).  Some bacteria are very hardy and scientists resuscitated 250-million-year-old Bacillus Permians that was trapped 2,000 feet deep in a Carlsbad salt deposit.  Of 30 billion estimated species that have lived on Earth, fossil records have been discovered for only about 250,000 (95% of these are from under water and almost all fossils are very partial): scientists are patching together the tree of life with only spotty evidence for some x %.  Species extinctions have been somewhat cyclical due to global warming, global cooling, changing sea levels, oxygen depletion in the seas, epidemics, giant methane leaks from the seafloor, meteor and comet strikes, hypercanes, huge volcanic upwellings, catastrophic solar flares, and man-made species-cide.  Extinct species include guinea pigs the size of rhinos and rhinos the size of two-story houses.  And yet, that still leaves many species alive and we have "discovered" only about 3% of them.  There are species committees for Spermatophyta (chrysanthemums), Pteridophyta, Bryophyta, Fungi, and others, all reporting to the Rapporteur-General.  They better work fast as, thanks to mankind and nature, 10's of thousands of species disappear annually.  All of this life is made of cells that have been compared to complex chemical refineries and vast, teeming metropoles.  Cell propagation depends upon DNA and proteins.  Evolution and differentiation depend upon genetic mutation which generally occurs due to once in a million DNA replication errors (called Snips).  "[Proteins]...allow themselves to be phosphorylated, glycosylated, acetylated, ubiquinated, farneysylated, sulfated and linked to glycphosphatidylinositol anchors, among a rather lot else."  Even though we have transcribed the human genome, we don't really understand how it works...most seems like filler and all of it is interdependent with almost no "words" standing on their own.
10/16













Terry Brooks The Sorcerer's Daughter The evil sorcerer and a shape shifter get their due.  The sorcerer's daughter finds true love at the cost of first love.  This Shannara novel seemed formulaic.

9/16
Clifford Pickover
Archimedes to Hawking
This beats the Math Book because it gets more physical (physicists can beat mathematicians with one arm behind their back....given the right connectivity and wrong uncertainty).  Diamond (ice) would make the perfect chip (strategically doped with boron for semi-conductivity) because of its strength, high heat conductivity and low electrical conductivity...maybe De Beers will make diamond wedding rings that double as hand held computers some day.
9/16

Clifford Pickover
The Math Book

A chronological collection of one page blurbs on mathematical discoveries.  Primes, positions, geometries, ratios, infinities and the infinitesimal progress from imaginable to only computer enhanced comprehensibility over human history.  What will self aware computers do with math in the future - will they formulate a GUTS equation that is the universe?  Then will we not exist only in the mind but also in a silicon chip?  Or maybe on a tortilla chip with a little guacamole?
9/16

Clifford Pickover

Spider Legs


An odd Sci-fi horror story co-authored with Piers Anthony.  The pycnogonids (sea spiders) are horrific and I accept the science (fiction) behind their colossal state but the Xanthian characters are a bit naive (naming the ferry boat captain Calamari highlights their artificiality); perhaps this was an attempt at juxtaposition but it comes off more like "just a position" and doesn't quite feel right.  The plot, Newfoundland setting, and relationships with physical difference acceptance make the novel a fairly good read in spite of the youthful characters and unbelievable ending.  [I saw a sea spider at the Montreal insectarium.]
9/16


David Rosenfelt
Dead Center, Play Dead
In book 5, Andy Carpenter doesn't make it to trial this time but he manages to get another innocent killed before resolving another serial crime.  The dog is fine.  The wheel of fortune also survives (the one in the story doesn't involve Pat Sajak or Vana White).  Book 6 is a remix of the conspiracy formula but this time it includes a retrieval of a golden witness and Andy logging a felon.
9/16

Janet Evanovich

Hot Six, Seven Up, Hard Eight

Stephanie had another car burn up, solved another mystery, had Joe Morelli say he'd marry her and helped Granny get a driver's license.  Three new characters are introduced:  Moon Man, Dougie the Dealer and Bob the Dog with Bob being the smartest of the bunch.  Steph doesn't have the heart to shoot an 80-year-old mobster.  Ziggy, Benny and Ranger don't need a key to enter Steph's apartment.  Steph's sister moves in with her parents along with her two kids (one of them acts like she's a horse just like in Janet's bio).  In #8 Steph gets burned but Ranger makes things even, with Morelli abiding.
9/16


Clifford Pickover











Drugs, Sex, Einstein and Elves










A strange title but it is apt for this jumble on thinking and Proust.  Many scientists believe that the mind must be freed from the limits of language (via drugs, meditation, art or disassociation methodology) to conceive new thoughts about the universe.  Some cultures have no words for colors, some have no tense or no verbs: scientists conjecture that these odd language users brain works differently.  The logophiliac author is interested in computer writing, odd writings lacking certain letters, writing using strange word selection rules and utter amphigory.  He restates that English is a most useful language because of the specificity of it's 800,000 words (many borrowed from other languages) despite the fact that even a very smart and educated person is likely to use no more that 60,000 words (7.5%).  DMT is produced by the pineal gland and by some south american plants (concentrated into the drug ayahuasca for psychodelic trips) - CP says that DMT may allow psychonauts to think abstractly and "get past the edge of possible understanding in such far-flung fields as multidimensional superstrings, parallel universes, loop quantum gravity, motivic cohomology, Langlands’ Functoriality Conjecture, large and inaccessible cardinals, and non-abelian reciprocity."  CP says that DMT users and Bonnet People (macular degenerates and optopalegics) often see elves with pointy hats and suggests that this might be a connection with other realities or dimensions.  Eminent people often have children with mental problems and/or alcoholism and the genes for schizophrenia might be closely related to genes for creativity.  Since everything can be expressed in numbers (genetic codes, people, events, the universe) and Pi contains every possible combination of numbers, we are all in Pi (for some its apple pie and for others its rhubarb pie).  Einstein's brain was missing for years before being discovered in a mason jar under a beer cooler in Kansas and his eyes that were in a New Jersey vault for years are now in hiding.  Will computers attain consciousness?  Let's get Einstein's parts to look into it.
9/16












Issui Ogawa

The Next Continent From 2010 and in classic science fiction form, this Japanese author details out a moon base mission like an entertaining engineering specification.

8/16
Paula Guran (ed)






The Year's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas 2015




A collection of Sci-Fi novellas.  Yesterday's Kin by Nancy Kress is about space-borne spores and extra-solar humans who have long lost cousins on Earth (okay but not something to write home about especially if you have to pay for interstellar postage).  The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss is about a young Pan "working" at a village inn and conducting his juvenile business at the lightning tree (a pretty good yarn).  Dream Houses by Genevieve Valentine is gross (definitely skip this cannibalistic space story).  The Mothers of Voorisville by Mary Rickert is demonic and engrossing (you might skip this one too).  Claudius Rex by John P. Murphy is sarcastic detective noir with a cranial AI twist (fun Sc-Fi).  In Her Eyes by Seth Chambers is about a bendy shape shifter and the fella lucky enough to know her many forms.  The Churn: A Novella of the Expanse by James A. Corey is about future Baltimore and its seedy under-belly and reads just like 1920's Chicago but with a couple of comments about space being the way to get out of the racket. The Things We Do for Love by K. J. Parker is set in the iron age when a thief can't shake his witchy woman nor understand love.  Where the Trains Turn by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen is a Finish product about a seemingly psychotic boy who really knows that trains transcend tracks and chuff dread.
8/16







David Rosenfelt








Open and Shut, First Degree, Bury the Lead, Sudden Death






Andy Carpenter isn't as funny as Stephanie Plum even if he is also working for law and order in New Jersey.  In book one, he interrupts a tryst with his investigator to become unseperated but becomes exunseperated just before ruining his old family life.  He's grumpily ironic and kinda funny.  Instead of a gun toting granny he's got a dog named Tara (so he can't be all bad).  In the courtroom his questioning is more like witness manipulation but judge Hatchet sustains it.  When it comes to extracting the truth, Carpenter nails it, even at interpersonal expense.  In book two Andy wonders if he can get a sarcasm patch to help ween him off and wonders how his secretary makes not doing any work look so professional.  She needs to be professional because book 2 is another set-up job to solve and co-workers are in jeopardy.  The Jersey shore makes Andy see the ocean as half empty...but his stories are full..of sarcasm, suspense, plot twists and...dogs.  The back cover of book 3 has praise from Janet Evanovich: "Absolute fun...Anyone who enjoys the Plum books will enjoy this novel."  Jerseyites really stick together (and seem to use the word skippee)!  That's okay because I found out that the Tara Foundation in Rosenfelt's novels is real (he's saved over 4000 dogs from the pound) with 12 of them in his own house (and Winnebago).  I thought Rosenfelt would stick to the successful "make fun of Jersey" format in book 4 but it starts with a brief visit to L.A. where he can use his experience as a film company manager to take jabs at Hollywood (and my beloved Lakers)...then back to the formula (including sports, Jersey, frame-ups, sarcasm, dogs, murder of another innocent employee and a late plot twist).
8/16
Jared Diamond




Guns, Germs, and Steel, The Fates of Human Societies


Chapter 1 reminded me of Sapiens but Chapter 2 delved into the authors special knowledge of Polynesia and extrapolation of islander 500 year history to propose profound pivotal events in more ancient Eurasia.  Eurasia was blessed with a broad Mediterranean climate zone that allowed the spread of the Fertile Crescent annuals farmer package of wheat and barley along with early domestication of cows, pigs, goats and sheep.  The Eurasian sedentary and populous community catalyzed invention.  The widespread Eurasian animal husbandry led to a fertile ground for disease and human immunity development, leading to the smallpox and measles pandemic in the Americas shortly after Europeans got there - which blazed their trail to conquest.  Multiple European states drove invention to use more competitively than historically unified China which dissolved her powerful fleet in the 1400's whereas Columbus was able to find a patron state on his fifth try.  The book is a bit academic but still a reasonably fun read from this Bruin professor.
8/16






Jonas Jonasson



The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden


Somewhat like The Orphan Master's Son at the onset but in Soweto (not Korea) and not dark.  A coincidence arose in chapter one where Jonas mentions Leopold II enslaving the Congo just like in the Tarzan movie I saw with the Gardner's last week.  Another coincidence occurs when Jonas discusses Ras Tafari - I've a Rastafarian friend with a wonderful Rottweiler named Irie.  A South African girl prodigy survives apartheid and coincidence positions her to secretly facilitate Botha's a-bomb development and to learn Chinese.  Meanwhile, Holger 1 and Holger 2 (number 2 didn't exist officially) lost mum and da to a familial and inept vendetta with the King of Sweden.  The girl's three Chinese friends arrive in Sweden in an a-bomb crate.  The girl and Holger 2 watch over the bomb for 20 years when they finally manage to send it off to the president of China.  Then they have a baby and live happily ever after.
8/16




Jean Johnson
The V'Dan, Book 2 of the Salik War series 1% science fiction, 1% supernormal, 1% Hawaiian and 97% internecine squabbling over Jungen marks.  This was as silly as when the president of E&L made the piping department head wear long sleeves to cover his tattoos acquired in USN service.  Book 1, The Terrans, was less of a diatribe and more entertaining.

7/16

Janet Evanovich High Five
Stephanie Plum, the bombshell bounty hunter, brings down Uncle Fred's killer with a little help from her pistol packing grandma.

7/16
Celia S. Friedman Legacy of Kings A dragon queen or two, desert sheiks, witchery united and a grand finale.  Okay.
7/16
Jonas Jonasson
Hitman Anders and the Meaning Of It All A female ex-priest and a male ex-receptionist practice give and take with the help of hit man Anders and Swedish criminality, and eventually marry and settle down in a little fishing hut.  Their journey is full of witty irony and improbable luck similar to that of the 100-year-old man.

7/16

Jonas Jonasson


The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared A long title for such a fast paced novel.  Jonas says that once he had the title he just had to write the story.  I can't give away any of the plot or action as that might ruin the punch lines strewn throughout Allan's incredible life story (yes, it's fiction) and his centenarian adventure.  I am sorely indebted to my dad for recommending this book (the soreness is in my ribs and belly from laughing so hard) - thanks Dad!


6/16



Celia S. Friedman Wings of Wrath
Possessed dragon riders, a pregnant queen's quest and the death of three more protagonists.

6/16
Michael Pollan


















The Omnivores Dilemma


















Corn (Zea mays) is dependent on human action for proper seed germination and it has been so for milennia.  Corn (and only a few other plant species like sugarcane) generates C-4 compounds from photosynthesis (instead of C-3) which is a big advantage in sunny, dry climates.  Ancient Mexican stories described the populous as corn people.  We are corn.  North Americans contain enough carbon-13 (the same C-4 characteristic of corn causes accumulation of the carbon-13 isotope) to evidence a complete food chain (i.e. processed foods and corn-fed omega-3 deficient beef and salmon) dependent on the modern hybrid #2 corn food system.  The explosive growth of commodity corn past international demand is due in part to re-purposed WWII ammonium-nitrate synthesis and the policies of Rusty Butz (Sec. Ag. 1976).  Since we are corn, and corn is fed petroleum based nitrates, we are also oil (a barrel per cow).  The current oil bubble may be nothing compared to the potential corn bubble since corn is grown throughout the US with 50%+ subsidy and unrecoverable loans (unless, perhaps, we swap HFCS for mass quantities of resistant [non-nutritive] starch and better managed ethanol before subsidies move away from cheap food).

Pollan writes "five blocks from Whole foods...in Berkeley...People's Park today is the saddest of places, a blasted monument to sixties' hopes that curdled a long time ago...People's Park marked the 'greening' of the counter-culture...and, eventually, to the rise of organic agriculture and businesses like Whole Foods."  Pollan then describes how "organic" is mostly just as industrial as any other foods with unenforceable soft legal language, corporate consolidation, animal cruelty and no energy savings, but with more polyphenol production, and negligible synthetic fertilizer and pesticide use.  He also claims that converting all corn fields to well-managed polyculture pasture might reduce greenhouse gas emmissions by a third in the US (much more than any solar power program and with tastier and more healthful food in the result).  He then visits a couple of holonistic farms and extolls the virtues of their complex grass based ecosystems, and the attended food and animal health enhancements.

Pollan's book has a 3rd section on hunter-gatherers but I got enough of that from Mr. Harari.  He takes an aside to poke fun at old diets including the chew-chew diet popularized by Horace Fletcher, the Great Masticator.  The diet talk is a segue from hunter-gatherer to modern food views: veganism vs. animal management and species survival.  The book ends with a social dinner of wild El Dorado morels, wild Sonoma boar, wild Berkeley bread yeast, a tart of a neighbor's Bing cherries and several bottles of home made wine.

6/16



















Celia S. Friedman Feast of Souls
Magicians and dragons (who eat souls), witches, a holy lineage (protectors) and mad kings round out the cast which is large enough to survive the death of three major characters.
6/16

Yuval Noah Harari















Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind














Multiple species of humans coexisted for millennia but the population explosion of Homo Sapiens consumed the other species (through dilution and/or homicide). The rise of Homo Sapiens communities with stabilizing myth and depressed individualism led to dramatic megafauna extinction and agrarianism; then came governance, money and religion.  The incongruence of good and evil in war torn monotheism (regardless of the polytheistic content such as saints and spirits) has led to interfaith acceptance: "Syncretism, in fact, might be the single great world religion."  I am impressed not just with Harari's command of history but with his writing skill: Harari's original is in Hebrew and he later translated it to an enjoyable English read.  The illustrations are also worthwhile.

Zheng He's flagship of 1432 next to that of Columbus

6/16
















Elizabeth Moon
Crown of Renewal
The fifth and final novel in the Paladin's Legacy series.  The bad guys get it.  Humans, mages, gnomes and elves live happily ever after.  She leaves some mystery at the end which might be resolved later in Finding Dorrie (Dorrin Verrakai is a primary character who completes a quest and becomes a demigod but at series end she is left to seek out her calling...or a sequel).
6/16
Lynne Truss








Eats, Shoots & Leaves







A panda eats, shoots and leaves.  No one was injured in the Panda encounter but we've to point with more precision and when it comes to the all important apostrophe, Lynne writes, "if you still persist in writing, 'Good food at it's best', you deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave."  This seems more than grave but surely the Apostropher Royal, Sir D'Anville O'M'Darlin' will insure the apostrophic balance.  Ms. Truss also decries, after describing the modern allowance of reduced comma usage, "people who put in all the commas betray themselves as moral weaklings with empty lives and out-of-date reference books".  My morality might be imperiled by an extraneous traitorous comma, but its okay because I'm American and not held to the standard of the King's English.  Sir Roger Casement; however, being Irish, was held to the standard, and "hanged on a comma" in 1916.  Lynn also reminds us that "there are now Knightsbridge clinics offering semicolonic irrigation - but for many it may be too late."  Perhaps that is why the annotators at C. F. Braun and Co. (circa 1980) would not allow me either a colon or semicolon in any company documents and published instructions on how to end a list reference with a period.  Followed by the list (for Carl's sake!).  At least I wasn't sucked into the ellipsis (or as Lynne Truss calls it, "the black hole of the punctuation universe").  This book is fun, brief and to the point!

6/16








Adam Johnson







The Orphan Master's Son







The anonymous and robotic orphan master's son, Jun Do, survives archetypal training, travel and made-up heroics to gain the family and name of Ga, including Sun Moon, the woman that is literally tattooed on his heart, before he turns the tables on his fearless leader to satisfy his existential quest.  Set in a putrid, inhuman, brain-washed and senseless North Korea (with a jaunt to Texas) this long story will leave you hollow and wondering if you should next read Schindler's List.  Kim Jong-un (aka Baby Face) got mad at Sony for The Interview and he will boil when he gets wind of this Stanford professor's depressing fictional rendering of his DPRK.

From the urban dictionary: Ga (Guh), adj. Originating from the youth of South East Washington DC, it is the most creative yet simple term to refer to someone as dumb, retarded or a jackass.

From Wikipedia: Gallium (elemental symbol Ga) has no known natural role in biology.

6/16








Elizabeth Moon
Limits of Power

The fourth novel in her Paladin's Legacy series.  It had been several years since I read the third novel but it came back in a flash as Ms. Moon's writing is the kind that stays with you.  She weaves her craft with middle age characters and intrigue.  She writes great soldiers (being one herself).  I've enjoyed every book that she's ever written.
5/16

Hope Jahren




Lab Girl





Two chapters into Holy Sh*t, the history of swearing, I stopped because I didn't want to read about Abraham's oath to sacrifice his son (I almost enjoyed the first chapter about tawdry Roman graffiti on Pompeii latrine walls).  I  started reading Lab Girl and right out of the chute (in the introduction) the author relates her 4-year-old day dream of Abraham stabbing Isaac with an extended slide rule.  I kept on reading and it wasn't that bad.  Lab Girl is a quick read with many interesting botanical blurbs and humorous dialogues with her homeless employee/colleague (but unfortunately it also riddled with her manic fits).  On her professional web site I found an interesting journal entry about identification of an ant robbery caste.

P.S. My mom's book club enjoyed the book immensely and Mom came away from the meeting with several pages of quotes.  The botany blurbs fared well.

5/16





Wilkie Collins


Woman in White



This story first read as an English periodical serial, then it was edited and published in book form in 1860 to become a best seller.  Wilkie's battle with laudanum addiction merited several pages in the Drugged volume and set the character for Mr. Fairlie in Woman in White.  His brilliant Victorian prose makes the read delightful but makes what might be a 100 page mystery, five-fold.  A typical Wilkie posing: "Are we, I wonder, quite such genuine boys and girls now as our seniors were, in their time?  Has the great advance in education taken rather too long a stride; and are we, in these modern days, just the least trifle in the world too well brought up?"
5/16



Brian Aldiss



Cryptozoic!



Written in 1967, this novel has long been on my list to read.  Time travel is invented in 2090 but it is really mind travel as the body stays in a clinic with a plasma drip.  Book 1 is about an artist hanging out in the past seeking inspiration only to be crushed by the realization that the mind-traveler grocery store owner is a better artist.  Part 2 starts with a trip back to 2093 and induction into a dictator' program involving killing mind-travelers in the past and ends with a dialogue about time actually traveling backwards with "The Dark Lady" jumping into their mind-travel locale to confirm such and to celebrate the death of a time-traveler which is actually his birth (far out).  Aldiss is from Devon, England and writes with interesting English diction.
4/16



Alexandra Horowitz

Inside of a Dog (What Dogs See, Smell, and Know) The book explains doggy-ism from the point of view of an animal behavior scientist and her dog Pumpernickel.  I knew dogs lived in a world dominated by smell (I often refer to it as smell-o-vision) but did not consider all of the implications of how a dog perceives the world (with differences from humans in perspective, senses and mindfulness) and how domestication has made dogs different from almost every other animal (they don't really exist as a species separated from humans).  The book is an easy read and effective (or affective) in making one think more about enjoying dogs behaving like dogs.
4/16


P. C. Hodgell

To Ride a Rathorn

Couldn't put this one down.  All of the convolutions seem to come together and the action is fast paced.  It seems an odd coincidence that Jame deals with a new phantasm named the White Lady just after I started reading Woman in White (I usually read 2 books in parallel).  Another game of the gods of coincidence is that there is a carnivorous sheep (the kaliram) that has mutated on Adiamante's Old Earth that uses a mind blast to paralyze prey and the rathorn is a carnivorous horse with ivory horn and armor that can also stun people with telepathy.
4/16


L.E. Modesitt Adiamante
Telepathic environmentalists restoring post-apocalyptical Earth survive a revengeful attack from twelve (impenetrable  and immutable) adiamante space ships while espousing their theory of unantagonistic governance.  A brief but substantial read.
4/16
Peter Daempfle




Good Science, Bad Science, Pseudoscience and Just Plain Bunk

This book focuses on scientific thinking with the goal of increasing STEM student population (through acquisition and retention).  In the beginning of the book the author discusses philosophical analysis and seems to have predicted Trump by quoting "thus, when a person is illogical, cannot reason, or cannot consider key points in the argument, the debate is useless."  Later he writes "...this has led to an explosion of increased belief in pseudoscience, bad science and outright lies about science.  Information is freely given now as never before with little guidance and grounding in a largely scientifically illiterate public.  As discussed earlier, the declines in science literacy endanger public health and decision making.  All of this stems from an increased reliance on the media curriculum" - basically blaming TV and the Internet for the "dumbing down" of society.  He goes on to write that "there are many threats to science; one major roadblock to to its progress is an elevation of the nonintellectual."

4/16





P. C. Hodgell

Seeker's Mask


#3 in the Kencyrath series is a bit weird in parts (weirdingstrom mists, walking trees, moving castles, sands that turn to seas and back, and wolf-men), is a bit convoluted in parts (political hierarchy, religious manifestations, a clandestine women's world and inter-species chivalry), and is a bit fun in parts (a frog god catching flies, bats in the belfry and in people's shirt, and a mischievous sneeze breeze specter named Old Man Tishooo).  For fans of fabric there are phantasms that peer out through tapestry warp and woof.
4/16


P. C. Hodgell
God Stalk and Dark of the Moon
#1 & #2 in the Kencyrath series.  The first book is a bit confusing with dozens of gods and monsters, a thieves guild, political intrigue and Jame fresh from an otherworldly venture and suffering amnesia but it gets clearer and the second book is a page turner as Jame fights with and against phantasms while her twin brother leads a host of a few thousand knights against a savage horde of millions (guess who wins).
3/16

Richard J. Miller





Drugged: The Science and Culture Behind Psychotropic Drugs



Part technical pharmacology and part ancient to recent history about the discovery and actions of brain drugs (pharmaceuticals, street drugs, religious hallucinogens, smoking, potables, etc.).  Story telling includes Schumann, British poetry, impersonated first person narrative, ancient religion, stealing the tea plant from China and a letter about laudanum found in an antique book.  One chapter on stimulants describes that several xanthine psychostimulants are found in coffee, tea, kola and chocolate with caffeine being one found in all four preparations (studies show that caffeine reduces fatigue and increases cognition, confusion and anxiety).  A typical tech excerpt (after discussing ATP and P1 receptors in the brain): "P1 adenosine receptors represent the major sites of action of caffeine and related methylxanthines" or (in a later paragraph) "the actions of hallucinogens, antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs involve these same important neurotransmitters...following their release as neurotransmitters, biogenic amines are taken up again into nerve terminals using specific reuptake transporter molecules, each with their own unique expression pattern and substrate quality".
3/16






Amy Stewart The Drunken Botanist Everything you ever wanted to know about the growing, history and taxonomy of the plants used to make and/or flavor wine, beer and booze.

3/16
Ralph Macchio Samurai Cat
3 book series from Epic Comics in which a sword wielding and armored cat dispatches monsters, demons and Uzi toting pig warriors to avenge his lord.

3/16
Janet Evanovich



One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to get Deadly, and Four to Score Stephanie Plum, her family and associates are pretty funny.  Heigl does a good job in the film adaption of One For the Money (which includes excerpts from the other books in the series to flush out the characters) so I had to give some of the original novels a read.




3/16





Alan Dean Foster
The Force Awakens and Luana Novelizations: the first for the latest Star Wars movie and the latter his first novelization for a movie that the internet referenced as "a movie you should die before you see" (Alan says that he took some liberties on Luana to make it his own female Tarzan story and The Force Awakens is as close to the movie script as was his first star wars novelization for which he gave author credits to George Lucas because it seemed right).
2/16


Alan Dean Foster The Deavys
Come on, it might be juvenile fiction but you gotta love Pithfwid as the feline familiar and a twin-and-a-half that floats above the bed!  Alan Dean Foster can write anything!
2/16

Gini Koch
Touched by an Alien Sci-fi romance with questionable science but with an unexpectedly quick pace.

1/16
L. E. Modesitt, Jr. Solar Express LE's latest about the relationship development between a moon based astronomer and the rocket jockey who investigates an alien space artifact.
1/16
J.K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith The Silkworm


Now his PA is becoming a detective too.  I can't wait for the next novel in the series (hopefully with less gore).



1/16


J.K. Rowling as Robert Galbraith The Cuckoo's Calling

Awesome detective.  I never read Harry Potter but JK creates great characters.  I needed an English to English dictionary at times.



12/15


Paula Hawkins The Girl on the Train Twisted NY Times best seller with kind of an eh ending.

12/15
David McCullough The Wright Brothers Really about the Wright family.  I didn't know that Orville and Wilbur invented the wind tunnel to come up with reliable wing geometry.

12/15
David Gerrold Space Skimmer
Harsh planet Streinveldt bred Mass, the only one of his breed with the vision to look beyond its dreary skies.

11/15
Bill Bryson One Summer: America 1927 Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth and President Calvin Coolidge.  A good yarn about an odd year in US history spun by Bill Bryson (whose book, A Walk In The Woods, was turned into a rather slow movie)
11/15
Elizabeth Moon Moon Flights
Short stories that just fly by.

11/15
John Ringo

A Hymn Before Battle

Book 1 in the Legacy of the Aldenata series...it's very gory so I don't know if I'll make it through all 5 books (or the numerous spin-offs) but it is well written and a good page turner.  It's fun to read about the 2000 version of a high tech future with "the latest 20-inch flat screen monitors" and FTL spaceships...old Sci-Fi is still good it just requires acceptance of more than futurism (who doesn't still love Burroughs and Verne).
10/15

Rudy Rucker
Postsingular

I had this on my must read list for a decade and I finally got to it and was bit disappointed (I was hoping for something like Rudy's Ware series but this was more like Rudy the mathematician takes Peyote in Big Sur and dreams up nanobots, multiple dimensions and ESP forced on the world by corrupt government...oh well.
10/15

Lilith Saintcrow Trailer-park Fae Well written fantasy with minimal plot but I think it has room to grow as Lilith develops this Gallow and Ragged series.  I look forward to the next episode.

10/15
Daniel James Brown The Boys in the Boat Awesome story (except for Cal getting beat by the Huskies in multiple crew championships)!

10/15
Anthony Doerr All the Light We Cannot See A blind French girl and an Nazi orphan brought together by radio.  A fast read but an unsatisfying end.

9/15
David Gerrold

A Covenant of Justice, Book 2 of The Trackers series A good conclusion to the series.  Space vampires and bad-ass trackers, then...(from 1994).



8/15


Mark Miodownik Stuff Matters If you're an engineer you'll enjoy this well written and narrated story about the material science of some common (and some not so common) stuff.
8/15
David Gerrold

Under the Eye of God, Book 1 of The Trackers series A good read full of David Gerrold whit and philosophy.  Two bad boys track down a badder bounty hunter (from 1993).



8/15


John Scalzi
The Human Division More in the Old Man's War series

7/15
L.E. Modesitt Heritage of Cyador Another great read in The Saga of Recluce series (2015).

7/15
Robert L. Wolke


What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained Nothing really about Albert but this is still a good read about the science of cooking (2015).




6/15


Terry Brooks The Darkling Child Another Shannara book and still a fast paced fantastic fantasy read (2015).

6/15
Warren Fahy Fragment
Life from the evolutionary path of the mantis shrimp (which isn't really a shrimp).  Full of creative life-forms.  I guess a movie is in the works (Fahy is a screenwriter).
5/15
John Scalzi Lock In People living in machines and other people's bodies due to a crippling disease makes a detective's job complicated.
5/15







"A hot author (at 251°C) can cut a book to order or order a bookie to cut him some slack at the track."
-Solomon Tall (11/29/2017)

"You can't always book a cover by it's judge said the woman taking orders mostly for blue ribbon quilter works."
-Solomon Tall (2/1/17)

The great thing about reading heavy tomes in the e-book age is the seeming lack of gravity in the effort."
-Solomon Tall (12/7/16)

"The only thing worse than buying a book and realizing that you've read it before just as you get to the good part is then remembering that it wasn't really all that good any ways."
- Solomon Tall (7/8/2016)

"The secret to cooking a book is to wilt the leaves and thicken the binding with a reduction of red octopus ink."
- Solomon Tall (6/26/2016)

"There's nothing better than a fine yarn unless you're a sheared sheep in winter."
- Solomon Tall (8/16/2015)

more Tall-isms here

Copyright © 2015 by Joe Pivetti