Field of Science

What I read (2013)

(Grade A-F, no E's) Title-Author Additional thoughts

A- Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey. A great read. Completes the series and answers those questions that can be answered while throwing up their hands at the answers that could not legitimately be answered. Sometimes we just don't know.

A- Batman: A Death in the Family by Jim Starlin et al. I forgot about this story line. It looks like The Joker might kill Robin and fans were asked to vote: Live or Die. The epilogue to this story is also included, which is really just another story.  

B+ Calibans's War by James S.A. Corey. The sequel to Leviathan Wakes. Not as a good as the original but it moves the story forward.

B Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. Sometimes you just need a laugh and DEATH AS SANTA CLAUS IS HUMOROUS.

A Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. Not normally a fan of epic science fiction, but this was a realistic space opera. While dealing with a monstrous not understood space 'organism' sent billions of years ago, the story is really about people and human interactions. It's also a mystery.

C The Third Kingdom by Terry Goodkind. We begin to fall into the trap of having read this story before.

B+ The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind. I enjoyed the Sword of Truth series (some books more than others). This continues the tale by introducing a new threat to the hard won peace. Not as robust as some of the earlier stories, but there's enough new to be interesting.

C+ Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams. I really like this plot. Angels and devils acting at an almost human level dealing with souls. Here the angelic protagonist descends into hell, somewhat following Dante's layers to save his demonic girlfriend.

A Microcosm by Carl Zimmer. A great introduction to microbiology and the importance of this subject through the lens of a single (albeit important) bacterium.

F Shadow and Claw by Gene Wolfe. There were some interesting ideas in this story, but ultimately they did not coalesce into a compelling or even a good story.

C The Penultimate Truth by Philip K. Dick. A good short novel that reawakens the importance of science fiction in discussing the human condition. Stories like this can address concepts that are too loaded with political baggages to discuss in realistic terms.

A- World War Z by Max Brooks. Fun fun fun read. Reminded me in part of Bram Stoker's Dracula in how the story telling is done. Not sure how this was adapted into a movie, but I am sure I will only be seeing it on cable.

A Maus Vol I by Art Spiegelman. Everyone should read this book. Along with The Watchmen (I know these stories should not really go together) Maus reminded me of the value of the Graphic Novel as a literary medium. 

C Witch Wraith by Terry Brooks. A decent enough story, but I think I read this trilogy before albeit with different titles.

A Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. A compelling read on the post-presidential years of Teddy Roosevelt. I look forward to reading 'The Bully Pulpit', which appears to cast the relationship between Roosevelt and Taft in a more collegial light.

B Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. A nice story, not much else to say.

B+ Species: A History of the Idea by John S. Wilkins. Want to know how the species concept came to be and the historical baggage associated with it? Read this book. I wish more time had been devoted to modern ideas regarding the species concept, but there are many places to get this information.

A- Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King. A great collection of extremely dark short stories. Unlike many of King's stories, these explore the darkness of humanity. There are no supernatural or fantastical threads, with the exception of the devil as a plot device in one story (the story is about jealousy and greed). 

C Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg. A good premise and story. This tale takes place on a gigantic planet with billions of people. Everything is big, the mountains, the seas, the length civilizations have existed, etc. The problem is that the story does not convey this sense of size. We only know about it because Silverberg tells us directly, otherwise it is lost in the storytelling.

B+ Paleofantasy by Marlene Zuk. A great book that debunks pseudoscience, explains evolution, and describes the human condition in an easily digested book.

A- Wards of Faerie by Terry Brooks. I like Terry Brooks a lot, but many of his stories read as rehashes of previous stories. This one sets the table for a new adventure within the Shannara mythology, but ultimately (next book) becomes a rehash. 

D Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson. My own damn fault. The sequel to Gardens of the Moon, which other reviews suggested was much better than the original. It wasn't. It suffers from the same loss of thread and too many characters doing too many things without enough development to follow. At 800+ pages I expected better. 

A Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne. An extremely good book on evolution. A brilliant focus on islands vs the mainlands (an approach used by Darwin) to explain some of the vast evidence for evolution. The only critique I have is the heavy investment on sexually reproducing animals, but this is a problem throughout biological works. 

C- Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson. There is just too much going on and not enough story to be able to keep things straight. The plot seems interesting, but it often gets lost. Definitely in need of a good editor.

B+ Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. A devil working with an angel, enough said. Plus the book was kind of along the same lines.

C+ The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Not my usual fair, but my book buddy from Grumpy's has introduced me to some good books (The Passage), so I took her advice. Basically a love story, but with enough mystery and fantasy to make a worthwhile read. 

A The Red Knight by Miles Cameron. A great read! Numerous characters and plot lines that do not necessarily converge. Unlike other books I read this year, the multiple plots were not distracting and difficult to keep track. I look forward to reading the second book in this series, which came out a few days ago.

B The Endless Knot by Stephen Lawhead. Completing the trilogy. Overall an interesting story line, but everything works out too well for the protagonists, even if the associated people and communities are devastated.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. w00t!!1!1!1leventy1!! The series is over! I enjoyed the first few books, and then the series lagged greatly and the writing suffered. Brandon Sanderson brought the writing back to it's roots and I am glad he put Jordan's ideas into words for these last few books.

B+ The Wind through the Keyhole by Stephen King. A story within a story within yet another story type of story. A new Dark Tower story that has little to do with the actual story narrative but does establish more of the mythology of Mid-World.

A The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins. A reread. My favorite Dawkins book, much better than the excellent The Selfish Gene. As with many biologists, Dawkins only considers species from the standpoint of sexually reproducing plants and animals (in the book) and I have some issues with his thoughts on race. However, this is a must read for anyone even remotely interested in biology.

B The Silver Hand by Stephen Lawhead. A pretty easy read and an interesting plot. 

Damn! 32 books this year, not counting another graphic novel and a couple books I started but haven't finished yet. This is the first year that none of the books I read were books I read to my son. He is a voracious reader himself, but unlike his dad enjoys rereading books over and over. He completed the Eragon series and in currently on the last Hunger Games book. Again most books (25/32) were fiction I read to relax, including 2 by Terry Pratchett (I'm counting Good Omens co-written with Neil Gaiman). Of the remaining 7, 5 were about biology in nature and 2 were history (I'm counting Maus here, although both Maus and Colonel Roosevelt could be considered biographical). Need to complete some of the philosophy I started, although the Species book is philosophy, and read a classic or two, Dicken's Bleak House was a Christmas gift to myself.

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