Head On

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A sequel to Lock In, this book is a quick and fun read of a murder mystery. It has Scalzi’s distinctive style which has generally meshed quite well for me, so it’s not surprise that I enjoyed this book.

 

Head On Book Cover Head On
John Scalzi
Fiction
Tor Books
April 19, 2018
336

To some left with nothing, winning becomes everything In a post-virus world, a daring sport is taking the US by storm. It's frenetic, violent and involves teams attacking one another with swords and hammers. The aim: to obtain your opponent's head and carry it through the goalposts. Impossible? Not if the players have Hayden's Syndrome. Unable to move, Hayden's sufferers use robot bodies, which they operate mentally. So in this sport anything goes, no one gets hurt - and crowds and competitors love it. Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field. But is it an accident? FBI agents Chris Shane and Leslie Vann are determined to find out. In this game, fortunes can be made - or lost. And both players and owners will do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.John Scalzi returns with Head On, a chilling near-future SF with the thrills of a gritty cop procedural. Head On brings Scalzi's trademark snappy dialogue and technological speculation to the future world of sports.

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Caliban’s War

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This is the second book in the Leviathan Wakes series by James SA Corey. Just as good as the first, this is a story about how much a father loves his daughter, moral choices, and politics — just as much as it is the continuation of the story arc around the alien visitor. I haven’t seen this far in the Netflix series, but I sure hope they get this right, because its a very good story so far.

Caliban's War Book Cover Caliban's War
James S. A. Corey
Fiction
Orbit Books
April 30, 2013
624

For someone who didn't intend to wreck the solar system's fragile balance of power, Jim Holden did a pretty good job of it. While Earth and Mars have stopped shooting each other, the core alliance is shattered. The outer planets and the Belt are uncertain in their new - possibly temporary - autonomy. Then, on one of Jupiter's moons, a single super-soldier attacks, slaughtering soldiers of Earth and Mars indiscriminately and reigniting the war. The race is on to discover whether this is the vanguard of an alien army, or if the danger lies closer to home.

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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.

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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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