Hugo nominees for 2018

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Lifehacker kindly pointed out that the Hugo nominees are out for 2018. They are:

  • The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi. I’ve read this one and liked it.
  • New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson. I’ve had a difficult time with Kim’s work in the past, but perhaps I’ll one day read this.
  • Provenance, by Ann Leckie. I liked Ancillary Justice, but failed to fully read the sequel, so I guess we’ll wait and see on this one.
  • Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee. I know nothing!
  • Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty. Again, I know nothing about this book or this author.

So a few there to consider in the future.

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The Collapsing Empire

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This is a fun fast read, as is everything by Mr Scalzi. The basic premise here is that of a set of interdependent colonies that are about to lose their ability to trade with each other, and are therefore doomed. Oh, except they don’t know that and are busy having petty trade wars instead. It isn’t a super intellectual read, but it is fun and does leave me wanting to know what happens to the empire…

The Collapsing Empire Book Cover The Collapsing Empire
John Scalzi
Fiction
Tor Books
March 21, 2017
336

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible—until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars. Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war—and a system of control for the rulers of the empire. The Flow is eternal—but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals -- a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency—are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse. “John Scalzi is the most entertaining, accessible writer working in SF today.” —Joe Hill "If anyone stands at the core of the American science fiction tradition at the moment, it is Scalzi." —The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition

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Gods of Metal

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In this follow-up to Command and Control, Schlosser explores the conscientious objectors and protestors who have sought to highlight not just the immorality of nuclear weapons, but the hilariously insecure state the US government stores them in. In all seriousness, we are talking grannies with heart conditions being able to break in.

My only real objection to this book is that is more of a pamphlet than a book, and feels a bit like things that didn’t make it into the main book. That said, it is well worth the read.

Gods of Metal Book Cover Gods of Metal
Eric Schlosser
August 6, 2015
128

'Sitting not far below my feet, there was a thermonuclear warhead about twenty times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, all set and ready to go. The only sound was the sound of the wind.' Seventy years after the bombing of Hiroshima, Eric Schlosser's powerful, chilling piece of journalism exposes today's deadly nuclear age. Originally published in the New Yorkerand now expanded, this terrifying true account of the 2012 break-in at a high-security weapons complex in Tennessee is a masterly work of reportage. 'So incontrovertibly right and so damnably readable.' Financial Times

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A Walk in the Woods

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I found this tale of Bill Bryson walking the Appalachian Trail (rather incompetently I must say) immensely entertaining. Well written, interesting, generally exaggerated, and leaving me with a desire to get out somewhere and walk some more. I’d strongly recommend this book to people who already care about bush walking, but have found other pursuits to occupy most of their spare time.

A Walk in the Woods Book Cover A Walk in the Woods
Bill Bryson
Sports & Recreation
Anchor
2007
397

Traces the author's adventurous trek along the Appalachian Trail past its natural pleasures, human eccentrics, and offbeat comforts.

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Leviathan Wakes

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I read this book based on the recommendation of Richard Jones, and its really really good. A little sci-fi, a little film noir, and very engaging. I also like that bad things happen to good people in the story — its gritty and unclean enough to be believable.

I don’t want to ruin the book for anyone, but I really enjoyed this and have already ordered the sequels. Oh, and there’s a Netflix series based off these books that I’ll now have to watch too.

Leviathan Wakes Book Cover Leviathan Wakes
James S.A. Corey
Fiction
Orbit
June 15, 2011
592

The book is the basis for the first season of The Expanse, a new original series premiering on Syfy in December 2015. Leviathan Wakes is James S. A. Corey's first novel in the epic series the Expanse, a modern masterwork of science fiction where humanity has colonized the solar system. Two hundred years after migrating into space, mankind is in turmoil. When a reluctant ship's captain and washed-up detective find themselves involved in the case of a missing girl, what they discover brings our solar system to the brink of civil war, and exposes the greatest conspiracy in human history. The ExpanseLeviathan WakesCaliban's WarAbaddon's GateCibola BurnNemesis Games The Expanse Short FictionThe Butcher of Anderson StationGods of RiskThe ChurnDrive

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Oryx and Crake

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I bought this book ages ago, on the recommendation of a friend (I don’t remember who), but I only just got around to reading it. Its a hard book to read in places — its not hopeful, or particularly fun, and its confronting in places — especially the plot that revolves around child exploitation. There’s very little to like about the future society that Atwood posits here, but perhaps that’s the point.

Despite not being a happy fun story, the book made me think about things like genetic engineering in a way I didn’t before and I think that’s what Atwood was seeking to achieve. So I’d have to describe the book as a success.

Oryx and Crake Book Cover Oryx and Crake
Margaret Atwood
Fiction
Anchor
2004
376

A novel of the future explores a world that has been devastated by ecological and scientific disasters.

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High Output Management

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A reading group of managers at work has been reading this book, except for the last chapter which we were left to read by ourselves. Overall, the book is interesting and very readable. Its a little dated, being all excited with the invention of email and some unfortunate gender pronouns, but if you can get past those minor things there is a lot of wise advice here. I’m not sure I agree with 100% of it, but I do think the vast majority is of interest. A well written book that I’d recommend to new managers.

High Output Management Book Cover High Output Management
Andrew S. Grove
Business & Economics
Vintage Books
1995
243

The president of Silicon Valley's Intel Corporation sets forth the three basic ideas of his management philosophy and details numerous specific techniques to increase productivity in the manager's work and that of his colleagues and subordinates

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Bad Pharma

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Another excellent book by Ben Goldacre. In this book he argues that modern medicine is terribly corrupted by the commercial forces that act largely unchecked in the marketplace — studies which don’t make a new drug look good go missing; new drugs are compared only against placebo and not against the current best treatment; doctors are routinely bribed with travel, training and small perks. Overall I’m left feeling like things haven’t improved much since this book was published, given that these behaviors still seem common.

The book does offer concrete actions that we could take to fix things, but I don’t see many of these happening any time soon, which is a worrying place to be. Overall, a disturbing but important read.

Bad Pharma Book Cover Bad Pharma
Ben Goldacre
Clinical trials
2012
430

"Medicine is broken. While patients trust that their drugs are safe and regulated, and doctors attempt to prescribe the most effective cures, the global pharmaceutical industry is a 600 million dollar business rife with corruption and greed" -- Blurb.

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Downbelow Station

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As I write up comments on books I’ve read in the last little while but left lying around my desk instead of blogging and filing, I find this book sitting there taunting me. I really wanted to like this book, I was quite excited when I bought it. However, Its Cherryh at her worst — wordy and kind of goes nowhere. There’s an interesting idea here, but the book needs to be half its current length. I got half way through and gave up. A disappointment.

Downbelow Station Book Cover Downbelow Station
C. J. Cherryh
Fiction
DAW
1981
439

The station at Pell's Star, traditionally neutral, holds the key to victory in a struggle between the decaying stellar empire of Earth and the rebel forces of the colonies, in a twentieth anniversary edition, complete with a special introduction by the author, of the classic science fiction novel. Reissue.

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Killing Floor

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I’d seen the Reacher movie (it was ok, but not amazing), but was trapped in an airport with a book too close to the end for comfort. So I bought the first Jack Reacher novel. I’m impressed to be honest — its well written, readable, and not trying to be Tom Clancy. Where Clancy would get lost in the blow by blow details of how military hardware works, this story is instead about how the main character feels and where their intuition is up to at that point. Sure, he explains that the shot gun pointed at his is dangerous, but doesn’t get too lost in the detail.

I enjoyed this book, and its a well written mystery tale. I’ll read more from this series I am sure.

Killing Floor Book Cover Killing Floor
Lee Child
Georgia
Random House
2010
525

Killing Floor is the first book in the internationally popular series about Jack Reacher, hero of the blockbuster movie starring Tom Cruise. It presents Reacher for the first time, as the tough ex-military cop of no fixed abode: a righter of wrongs, the perfect action hero. Jack Reacher jumps off a bus and walks fourteen miles down a country road into Margrave, Georgia. An arbitrary decision he's about to regret. Reacher is the only stranger in town on the day they have had their first homicide in thirty years.The cops arrest Reacher and the police chief turns eyewitness to place him at the scene. As nasty secrets leak out, and the body count mounts, one thing is for sure. They picked the wrong guy to take the fall.

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