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CDRBill

CDRBill

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Design For How People Learn (Voices That Matter)
Julie Dirksen
The Seventh Book of Lost Swords: Wayfinder's Story
Fred Saberhagen
The War of the Worlds (Modern Library Classics) - 'H. G. Wells',  'Arthur C. Clarke'

Great story that still stands the test of time.

Fire Watch - Connie Willis

As with any collection of short stories, this is a mixed bag. I wanted to read the title story as it is supposed to be the start of Willis's time travel series. I wasn't really planning to read the other stories, but I am so glad I did. I will definitely be reading more of this author. 

The Penultimate Truth - Philip K. Dick

I really liked this book!

The East and West went to war and the population moved underground into living areas called "ant farms" where they have been for 15 years. Unbeknownst to them the war ended after only 2 years and the news they have been receiving all these years is propagandist lies. The surface, though decimated by the war, is perfectly livable but is controlled by a select few.  

This premise makes for a great story but it is full of neologisms, many of which are difficult to figure out.

Highly recommended!

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry - Neil deGrasse Tyson

What a great book! Tyson is one of a rare breed, a genius in astrophysics with a sense of humor that can explain very compex topics so that even a toad could understand. Ok, maybe that is an exaggeration but you get my meaning. This book only tickles the surface of current theory and knowledge of the universe, but it does it in a way that makes you hungry for more. Tyson has been called a rock star of science and rightly so. He knows how to draw you in and get you excited to learn more. But he is not too full of himself as you will see in the last chapter.

Highly recommended!!

The Book of Skulls - Robert Silverberg

As some reviewers have already mentioned, this book is hard to ascribe to any one genre. I wouldn't call it truly science fiction, but neither would I call it horror, as some have. And it doesn't truly fit the mold for fantasy. I would argue that is has elements of all three. One reviewer described it as speculative fiction.

 

Either way, to the story itself. This is a story about four college buddies and roomates (a Jew, a jock, a rich kid and a homosexual) on a road trip across the country in hopes of finding immortality. The trip is all based on a manuscript, the Book of Skulls, one of them, Eli, found and translated in the library. They are seeking the Brotherhood of the Skull monastery, which is reportedly located just outside Pheonix, Arizona. The idea is that a group of four is required, but the catch is one must commit suicide and one must be murdered in order for the other two to attain immortality.

 

The story is told as quick snippets from the viewpoint of each of the four main protagonists. For some reason, I really liked this style of storytelling although the story wasn't what I was expecting. Up until the end the story was all about the soul searching spiritual journey of the four protagonists. There was a surprise ending to the story, at least to me.

Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 1 - Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette

I had a hard time following the story line in this book. I hope volume 2 is better.

Helliconian Spring - Brian W. Aldiss

The central character in this book is the planet Helliconia. The story shows how the primitive civilizations and flora and fauna are influenced by planetary forces with seasons that last thousands of years. Readers must keep in mind that this book is the start of a trilogy or they will not like the ending.

All in all it is a good start and makes me want to read the next book in the trilogy.

A Game of Thrones  - George R.R. Martin

There have already been many good reviews written about this book, some praising and some condemning.

 

I myself loved the book and the way it is narrated by the different characters. Is it weird that my favorite character is Tyrion?

 

The story is about a kingdom in turmoil for the throne (thus the title) and the many high families involved, including the exiled children of the previous king. Add to that the Black Guard that stands guard at the huge ice wall protecting the kingdom from the Others. The ending of this book was a surprise to me. I can't wait to see what Dany will do!

This book leaves a lot of unanswered questions which leads in to the rest of the series which I will most definitely read. I just hope the last book does indeed bring everything to a close.

 

One note of warning. This book describes human savagery and butchery at it's worst with beheadings and war, descriptions of rape and debasement of women and the "lowborn". If you are sensitive to that sort of thing then this book may not be for you.

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life - Ed Yong

I'm not going to go into extreme detail about this book as others have written great reviews in that vain. Briefly this book shows how the "microbiome" has influenced life for billions of years, so much so that the heavy use of antibiotics and attempt at sterilization of our bodies and environment over the last 50-100 years may be hurting as much as helping. Our attempts kill the good microbes as well as the bad. So... the trick is determining what is the right level of sterilization we should shoot for.

 

This book does warn that much of the scientific work is still in its infancy but there are some promising trends. All in all I think this books makes the argument that we shouldn't look at bacteria as an enemy to wage all out war on, but more as companions both good and bad. Some we can, and have without even knowing it, form partnerships. I for one am glad some people already have this view else I would be able to drink my beer!

 

I can't recommend this book highly enough. There is no heavy technical or confusing jargon. It is a very easy and informative read with a little humor interspersed throughout.

Superman: Earth One - J. Michael Straczynski, Shane Davis

This is a great reboot of Superman's origin. The artwork was outstanding and I loved the storyline, especially the new take on the destruction of Krypton. I'm looking forward to reading volumes 2 and 3.

DC Comics Essentials: Batman: Earth One (2014-) #1 - Geoff Johns, Gary Frank

Loved this reboot of the Batman.

The Conan Chronicles: Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (Fantasy Masterworks, #16) - Robert E. Howard

You can never go wrong with Robert E. Howard's Conan stories. I have read these stories numerous times and every time I get completely lost in them. These stories have blood and guts fights and grand battles, damsels in distress, pirates, thieves, assasins, sorcerers with dark magic and supernatural beasts..... what more could you want! Highly recommended!!

The Conan Chronicles: Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle - Robert E. Howard

You can never go wrong with Robert E. Howard's Conan stories. I have read these stories numerous times and every time I get completely lost in them. These stories have blood and guts fights and grand battles, damsels in distress, pirates, thieves, assasins, sorcerers with dark magic and supernatural beasts..... what more could you want! Highly recommended!!

The Complete Chronicles of Conan - Les Edwards, Robert E. Howard, Stephen Jones

The Conan stories by Robert E. Howard are some of the best you will ever read. It is such a shame the Howard died at such an early age. I would love to have seen where he would have taken Conan.

I can't recommend these story highly enough!!

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein

This story is a sci-fi epic retelling of the American Revolution, only this time the people of the moon are rebelling against Earth and the Lunar Authority led by a sentient computer and a ragtime group of ice miner and farmers.

Heinlein gives the reader some interesting ideological viewpoints about government, people's rights vs. government, marriage and women's rights and empowerment.

This is classic Heinlein at his best and although the story may be showing it's age a little, it is still a very fun read.

The Citadel of the Autarch  - Gene Wolfe

This is the finale of the Book of the New Sun which is a part of the larger 12 volume Solar Cycle. As many have mentioned you can't read any of the four books on there own. All four volumes are actually one long continuous novel. I really liked how things were wrapped up in this final volume. However, I came away feeling that I still did not understand a lot of things. This by no means takes away from the quality of the story, but does mean that I will be re-reading this series at some point. Even the narrative on the last page recommends a re-reading! I will have to decide whether to do my re-read before I read the 5th volume/sequel "The Urth of the New Sun" and any of the follow on series, The Book of the Long Sun and The Book of the Long Sun.

 

f the follow on series are only half as good as The Book of the New Sun, I have some intensely enjoyable reading ahead.