Book Catch-Up

Posted by barb on Nov 24, 2005 in Books |

I haven’t been reading as much as I usually do, but I’ve read more than I’ve blogged here. Here are the books I’ve finished in the last few months:

The Annals of the Heechee
by Frederik Pohl

I had been looking forward to this, the last installment of the Heechee books (well, at least the last featuring Robinette Broadhead). Sadly, the book did not live up to my expectations. Not even close.

I found myself often annoyed with the constant harping on the fact that Robinette is now digitized — not a “meat person”. We get explaination after explaination that he moves at higher speeds and that the speeds of “meat people” is way too slow for him. I didn’t need it beaten into my head.

The story does wrap up (sort of) the questions of what the Heechee are hiding from.

The Chronoliths
by Robert Charles Wilson

In early 21st century Thailand, Scott Warden witnesses the sudden appearance of a 200-foot stone pillar inscribed with a military victory of “Kuin”…16 years in the future. The novel follows Scott over the next 16 years as he joins the team investigating these events and whether or not they can be reversed.

The story idea is compelling; however, it’s told from Scott’s “future” self. Annoyingly, he keeps forshadowing how much worse things are going to get. After the third or fourth time hearing “little did we know” or “that was only the beginning”, I was ready to toss the book. However, the story intrigued me enough that I wanted to finish it.

Dooms Day Book
by Connie Willis

In the future, the best way to study history is to go back in time. However, several eras are off-limits as being too dangerous. Kivrin was determined to go to the early 14th century, but it has been declared off-limits due to the plague and plague-related histeria. When the history board starts to open up a few decades in the 14th century, Kivrin leaves for the past as soon as she can.

When she gets there, though, she finds that the drop site had drifted in time more than any other drop had drifted, and suddenly she’s in one of the un-approved decades. In the meantime, back in her own time, an epidemic hits London, and no one has the time or energy to see that she is not where she should have been.

As usual, Willis weaves an interesting and intricate story.

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002
edited by Natalie Angier

Another great collection of science articles. A few noteworthy ones:

  • “Violent Pride” by Roy F. Baumeister – This article blows apart the premise that violent people have low self-esteem. This piece of “common knowledge” had not really been rigorously tested, and when a group does test it, they find that the agressive group actually has high self esteem.
  • “Welcome to Cancerland” by Barbara Ehrenreich – Ehrenreich examines the pink world of breast cancer after she is diagnosed with it
  • “As Good As Dead” by Gary Greenberg – This piece examines the fuzzy line between life and death and the ethics involved in declaring someone dead enough to harvest their organs.
  • “Why McDonald’s Fries Taste So Good” by Eric Schlosser – Interesting article on how flavorings are made and used. It’s surprising how flavorings are really the heart of the food industry, not the foods themselves.
  • “Shock and Disbelief” by Daniel Smith – This piece is about electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and how it has changed in the last 20 years. It also touches on the controversy and highlighted how today’s ECT is far removed from the horrors that most people have in their minds.

There was also one annoying piece, “Sound and Fury” by Garret Keizer, and I skipped at least one other piece after reading the first few pages. However, all-in-all, this was a better collection than the others I’ve read.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
by J. K. Rowling

It’s Harry Potter’s fourth year at Hogwarts, and by far his most dangerous so far. As he is forced to compete in the triwizard tournament, a dangerous tournament between the top three wizard schools in Europe, he faces challenges that test his skills as a wizard beyond what he was ever prepared for.

This is the best Harry Potter book so far in the series, and the darkest. I can hardly wait to read the next one to see where things go next.

Man With Farm Seeks Woman With Tractor: The Best and Worst Personal Ads of All Time
by Laura Schaefer

This is a collection of personal ads through history. Unfortunately, the best one was the one used for the title. All of the rest paled by comparison. It also seemed that Schaefer picked many ads from the same paper on the same day or week, leading me to believe that her research was a bit lacking. This collection is not worth the time or money.


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