January 1, 2015 at 7:45 pm #202110
I made it through 17.5 books, or 70% of my goal for 2014. My goal for 2015 is my usual 25. Hopefully I spend more time reading and less time distracted by the Internet this year. Lousy internet, stop distracting me! :angry:January 18, 2015 at 3:24 am #236254
1. Thomas Pynchon – Bleeding Edge (2013)
It is 2001 in New York City, in the lull between the collapse of the dot-com boom and the terrible events of September 11th. Silicon Alley is a ghost town, Web 1.0 is having adolescent angst, Google has yet to IPO, Microsoft is still considered the Evil Empire. There may not be quite as much money around as there was at the height of the tech bubble, but there’s no shortage of swindlers looking to grab a piece of what’s left.
Maxine Tarnow is running a nice little fraud investigation business on the Upper West Side, chasing down different kinds of small-scale con artists. She used to be legally certified but her license got pulled a while back, which has actually turned out to be a blessing because now she can follow her own code of ethics—carry a Beretta, do business with sleazebags, hack into people’s bank accounts—without having too much guilt about any of it. Otherwise, just your average working mom—two boys in elementary school, an off-and-on situation with her sort of semi-ex-husband Horst, life as normal as it ever gets in the neighborhood—till Maxine starts looking into the finances of a computer-security firm and its billionaire geek CEO, whereupon things begin rapidly to jam onto the subway and head downtown. She soon finds herself mixed up with a drug runner in an art deco motorboat, a professional nose obsessed with Hitler’s aftershave, a neoliberal enforcer with footwear issues, plus elements of the Russian mob and various bloggers, hackers, code monkeys, and entrepreneurs, some of whom begin to show up mysteriously dead. Foul play, of course.
With occasional excursions into the DeepWeb and out to Long Island, Thomas Pynchon, channeling his inner Jewish mother, brings us a historical romance of New York in the early days of the internet, not that distant in calendar time but galactically remote from where we’ve journeyed to since.
Will perpetrators be revealed, forget about brought to justice? Will Maxine have to take the handgun out of her purse? Will she and Horst get back together? Will Jerry Seinfeld make an unscheduled guest appearance? Will accounts secular and karmic be brought into balance?
Hey. Who wants to know?January 21, 2015 at 10:19 am #236255
2. Stephen King – Mr. Mercedes (2014)
In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.
In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.
In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.
Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.
Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.January 24, 2015 at 3:34 am #236256
3. Blame It On the Dog (Forward Motion Anthology 2014) – J.A. Marlow, editor
A fun read. Strangely, a surprising number of stories included cats — not a criticism, I just find it amusing.
(P.S. I’m the guy whose story in Cat Eyes contained one dog and zero cats, so there’s that.)January 28, 2015 at 4:33 am #236257
4. Flashforward – Robert J. Sawyer (1999)
Two minutes and seventeen seconds that changed the world
Suddenly, without warning, all seven billion people on Earth black out for more than two minutes. Millions die as planes fall from the sky, people tumble down staircases, and cars plow into each other.
But that’s the least of the survivors’ challenges. During the blackout, everyone experienced a glimpse of what his or her future holds—and the interlocking mosaic of these visions threatens to unravel the present.January 29, 2015 at 3:18 am #237886
Did you ever watch the series Flashfoward? If so, how does the book compare?January 30, 2015 at 1:58 am #237924
I watched the first bunch of episodes and liked it a medium amount but lost track of the show and didn’t see most of the remainder before it was cancelled. The TV series had almost nothing in common with the book beyond the premise of everyone in the world having a vision of the future. The TV series is a police procedural set in the USA, and probably an attempt to develop another show in the vein of Lost. The book is hard SF set at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in which the scientists involved are trying to understand what happened and deal with the repercussions on their lives & loved ones.
If you like your science fiction with plenty of science, this is a good book for you. Also, although it was written in 1999 and set in 2009, and I read it in 2015, the author was pretty good at extrapolating the future.January 30, 2015 at 2:39 pm #237953
It does sound interesting. Thanks!February 14, 2015 at 6:30 pm #236258
5. The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey – Walter Mosley (2010)
A major literary event-nothing short of a “tour de force” (New York Times) by the acclaimed and beloved author.
Marooned in an apartment that overflows with mementos from the past, 91-year-old Ptolemy Grey is all but forgotten by his family and the world. But when an unexpected opportunity arrives, everything changes for Ptolemy in ways as shocking and unanticipated as they are poignant and profound.February 19, 2015 at 6:49 am #236259
6. A Deeper Sea – Alexander Jablokov (1992)
In the year 2015, dolphin researcher Colonel Ilya Sergeiivitch Stasov pushes scientific experimentation beyond all ethical limits. And with one shocking act of extraordinary cruelty, the barriers impeding human/delphine are broken down…forever.
Five years later, the world is at war — and Stasov has transformed intelligent, ocean-dwelling mammals into cybernetic weapons of destruction. But the dolphins have their own agenda, one that transcends human greed and petty hostilities — leaving a guilt-ridden scientist to suffer the damnation of an altered reality…and ultimately rocketing him toward the stars.February 25, 2015 at 2:07 pm #236260
7. The Other End of Time – Frederik Pohl (1996)
Sent to investigate alien signals warning of the destruction of Earth by the malevolent Horch, a group of astronomers led by Dan Dannerman is taken prisoner by aliens with their own diabolical plans for Earth, but these aliens have underestimated the ingenuity of their human captives.March 22, 2015 at 2:29 am #236261
8. The Embedding – Ian Watson (1973)
Ian Watson’s brilliant debut novel was one of the most significant publications in British sf in the 1970s. Intellectually bracing and grippingly written, it is the story of three experiments in linguistics, and is driven by a searching analysis of the nature of communication. Fiercely intelligent, energetic and challenging, it immediately established Watson as a writer of rare power and vision, and is now recognized as a modern classic.March 22, 2015 at 11:35 pm #236262
9. What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions – Randall Munroe (2014)
From the creator of the wildly popular webcomic xkcd, hilarious and informative answers to important questions you probably never thought to ask
Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have an enormous, dedicated following, as do his deeply researched answers to his fans’ strangest questions.
The queries he receives range from merely odd to downright diabolical:
• What if I took a swim in a spent-nuclear-fuel pool?
• Could you build a jetpack using downward-firing machine guns?
• What if a Richter 15 earthquake hit New York City?
• Are fire tornadoes possible?
His responses are masterpieces of clarity and wit, gleefully and accurately explaining everything from the relativistic effects of a baseball pitched at near the speed of light to the many horrible ways you could die while building a periodic table out of all the actual elements.
The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with the most popular answers from the xkcd website. What If? is an informative feast for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical.April 2, 2015 at 8:53 pm #236263
10. Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
National Book Award finalist, New York Times bestseller, Globe and Mail bestseller, and a Best Book of the Year in The Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Time magazine
The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb. News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.
Civilization has crumbled.
A band of actors and musicians, called the Travelling Symphony, move through the territories of a changed world, performing concerts and Shakespeare at the settlements that have formed. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe. But now a new danger looms, and it threatens the world every hopeful survivor has tried to rebuild.
Moving backward and forward in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: celebrated actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan, a bystander warned about the flu just in time; Arthur’s first wife, Miranda; Arthur’s oldest friend, Clark; Kirsten, an actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed “prophet.”
Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the fragility of life, the relationships that sustain us, and the beauty of the world as we know it.April 18, 2015 at 6:30 pm #236264
11. Ready Player One – Ernest Cline (2011)
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
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