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Cynically Speaking

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The Dark Forest - Cixin Liu

Mr. Liu's second book in the Remembrance of Earth's Past series, "The Dark Forest" is better than first book.


The sociological concepts played out in "The Dark Forest" are fascinating and complex. More so than the 'Science'. Though the ending is abrupt, once you realize there was no other choice, given the sociology presented, it makes sense.


Forgive me if I am committing heresy, but these two novels very much remind me of Asimov and Clarke.

The Three-Body Problem - Cixin Liu, Ken Liu

"The Three Body Problem" is a science fiction book by Cixin Liu translated from Chinese.


Yes, that is correct, an award winning Science Ficiion novel from China. And it is about contact with Aliens a la SETI.


That's all I needed to know.


This is a trilogy and the first book is very good.


The bad news - the 3rd book is not available until August 30, 2016.

Life A User's Manual - Georges Perec, David Bellos

Mr. Perec's "Life: A User's Manual" has no protagonist. Except for, maybe, the building. The 10 story apartment building at 11 Rue Simon-Crubellier, Paris, France.


The building and its stairs, elevator, floors, basements, attic, apartments, bedrooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and every furnishing on and in each is the framework for 99 stories or tales. Oh, and the dwellers themselves.


But is the building, and it's architecture and modifications from the late 1800's through 1975 and the detailed contents of each room that are at the center of this novel.


Also important are puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles: the life's work of one of the inhabitants.


As we walk up and down the stairs and peek into the past and current lives of the inhabitants the stories get told. For the most part these are wonderful stories and while the center is at 11 Rue Simon-Crubellier the stories take us around the world, through two world wars and beyond.


This is not a difficult read though the detailed descriptions of paintings and mementos and tables and chairs and bed covers and...does get a bit tedious at times but the stories are not tedious and frequently you do not even know when one has started, nor when the story took place until the end. The narrations just flows along and the reader flows along with too.

Zer0es: A Novel - Chuck Wendig

I guess after terrorists the other 'bad guy' for thrillers is AI (Artificial Intelligence).  Mr. Wendig's "Zer0es" follows a formula but is fun to read. A bit over the top and no real surprises.  Unfortunately I read this too close after reading the 'Nexus' trilogy which is very similar and I was tired of the sub-genre.

2666 - Natasha Wimmer, Roberto Bolaño


While I canot call Mr. Bolano's last work "2666" profound it was very different.


The book is made up of 5 disparate sections which are only connected via a multitude of female murders in Santa Teresa Mexico. The fourth section of the novel is an accounting of the murders (serial killings) from 1993 to 1997.


This section, 'The Part About the Crimes', was the most challenging to read and the most interesting narrative style: a chronological listing of the murders with other stories, relating to some of the murders, woven within this listing. You have no idea what the relevance of these stories maybe to the murders, if any. And there are a lot of murders.


While I enjoyed Mr. Bolano's writing and stories I am left somewhat empty after completing "2666'. That's probably just me.


I have added Mr. Bolano's earlier work, "The Savage Detectives" to my wish list.


Apex - Ramez Naam

The 'Nexus Trilogy' is overall very entertaining. I enjoy techno/cyber thrillers more than straight up science fiction. However, by the third book things got away from Mr. Naam and I just wanted the ending. Too many almost endings as the antagonist gets away again.

That said, final resolution was satisfactory and many of the social issues of the 'singularity' were well presented.

Slade House: A Novel - David Mitchell

Mr Mitchell is one of my favorite authors right now (along with Robin Sloan [where is his new novel by the way?], Marisha Pessl, Haruki Murakami and Lauren Beukes).


If you haven't read Mr. Mitchell before do not start with Slade House. I would recommend "Black Swan Green" or "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet" or even "Number9Dream". Then "Cloud Atlas" then "The Bone Clocks" then you are ready for "Slade House".


I know sounds like too much work, right? Well, Just read one book by Mr. Mitchell and go from there.


On Goodreads I "Slade House" was listed in the horror genre for 'Best of 2015'. I guess that would be right; I am too close to Mr. Mitchell's world/works for me to see it as a horror but apparently I am in the minority. Mr Mitchell was recently interviewed on 'Fresh Air' with the title:


Soul-Sucking Vampires Of David Mitchell's "Slade House"



Moonlight Mile (Kenzie & Gennaro #6) - Dennis Lehane

And that concludes my reading of all six of Dennis Lehane's 'Kenzie and Gennaro' series.


I do not think there will be a seventh; though as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle showed us not even death can prevent a detective series from continuing.


There is no question that Mr. Lehane can write and create great characters and I like Detective/Mystery stories. Kenzie is right there with my favorites Holmes, Bosch and Corey with the added wrinkle of Ms. Gennaro and that relationship.


I enjoy Mr. Lehane's seedy Boston setting and characters and how nothing is as it seems until the end and similar to Bosch resolution does not mean satisfaction.

The Incarnations: A Novel - Susan Barker

I enjoyed the concept and stories in Ms. Barker's 'The Incarnations'.  While I did not like any of the characters in the novel I did care about Driver Wu, his wife and child.


The book reminded me of a large part of David Mitchell's 'Ghostwritten' and I like the freedom incarnations give to an author and what can be done with the storytelling.


Be aware, this novel contains adult themes.

Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson

So, I've consumed 3,000+ pages of Mr. Stephenson this year [I read 'Quicksilver' in early 2014 otherwise add another K], and there is no doubt the man spin a tale.


While I (and most others) call the Baroque Cycle ['Quicksilver', 'The Confusion' and 'The System of the World'] historical novels, 'Cryptonomicon' is not. It is just a novel.


Published 16 years ago in 1999 it does not feel dated in the least.  We are still facing several of the same issues today with regard to security and privacy.  That is the underlying theme as the book bounces back and forth between WWII and the present.


This book does contain some math concepts, but none are very long or complex and do not slow the story down [DISCLAIMER:  I am not the right person to be objective about the mathematics :)] but it does introduce the concepts of information theory and cryptography which should be important to everyone in our world today.


If you enjoy world-hopping techno-thrillers with quite a bit of levity, this is for you.

The System of the World - Neal Stephenson

The third book in Neal Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle is the best.  Strangely enough Daniel Waterhouse, my least favorite protagonist, is the star and leads us to an exciting conclusion.


The Baroque Cycle is a collection of eight books in three volumes; an opus of 3,000 pages to the Age of Enlightenment.  This is historical fiction, regardless of Mr. Stephenson saying it is science fiction (because of some alchemical slight of hand), that spans the world, though primarily England and Europe, from the 1660’s through the early 18th Century.


I will miss Eliza, Jack and Daniel and plan to re-visit them in a couple of years.

The Water Knife: A novel - Paolo Bacigalupi

So, I was thinking "The Water Knife: was not as complex [Read 'as good'] as "The Windup Girl", and as such not as good. Then I went back and read my comments (I would not call what I do a 'review') and saw I gave "The Windup Girl" three stars.


And here I am. "The Water Knife" is straight forward thriller in the West-Southwest US set in near future where water rights are the life of a city/state.


While the book is classified in the sub-genre of 'cli-fi' I did not find it overbearing. The stimulus of dystopia in fiction changes as the threats to our culture change. Dickens is remembered as a social commentator but many of his works exacerbated the industrial revolution's pollution and government much in the same way as today's dystopian novels.


Then what about all the great dystopian fiction during the Cold War and nuclear holocaust? "On The Beach", "Dr. Strange Love" and yes, "Planet of the Apes".


Don't let a good book go unread just because of you may not agree/believe the cause of the dystopia.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin

A very good story.  There are no bad people in this short novel.  Just a story about a man who owns a bookstore and those he is influenced by and those he influences over the span of about 20 years.

Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

A really good post-apocalypse story. Interesting literary technique in how the book focuses on several individuals who all know the protagonist, who dies, from a heart attack, the day the pandemic begins.


The story unfolds going back and forth between 20 years after the pandemic and 20 years before the pandemic to give you the back story on the individuals who know Arthur Leander.


Using the combination of a symphony and Shakespeare travelling troupe 20 years after electricity stopped working gives the story a unique feel to otherwise familiar story.

The Digital Sea - Thomas K. Carpenter

Good cyber-punk. Not great cyber-punk, but if you enjoyed "Snow Crash" and "Neuromancer"/The Sprawl Trilogy then you will like this.

The Difference Engine - William Gibson, Bruce Sterling

Reviews of this work are mixed. And now I know why.


The middle third of the book left a lot to be desired. But I trudged through and can now move on to better things.