Field of Science

What I Read (2016)

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

A        Injustice: Gods Among Us Year 1. In general, when the video game comes first, the next media manifestation sucks. Think of all the video game to movie travesties (I'm looking at you Super Mario Bros). However, this graphic novel (a compilation of the first year of the comic book series) based on the Mortal Combat style video game is a success. Like Watchmen, it deals with some interesting issues.

C        Die Trying by Lee Child. Another pass the time 'thriller'. Not that thrilling really, but an easy quick read to pass some time.

C-       John Constantine: Hellblazer Vol 1. Meh, better have some knowledge about John Constantine coming into to this or it's not going to be easy figuring out what's going on initially. Last story and a half seemed not related to the overarching arc of the story, but tacked on to add some filler.

C-       The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin. Had to go back and see what I rated the first in this series (FYI an A), because  I was not a fan of The Obelisk Gate. Maybe I forgot too much of the earlier book, but this one provided little to no context for much of the previous book. (A brief synopsis or some character conversations to orient the reader of last years' book would be helpful.) Basically two independent stories moving along in parallel.

A-       The Sandman: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman.  I enjoyed this story a lot. In general I like stories that interconnect two different worlds, particularly the 'real world' with a fantasy world. But also, this story had some great characters.

B-       Chimera by Mira Grant. Well my opinion of the second book seems justified by this book. I liked the way this story culminated, but I think the second and third books could have been merged to make a more concise flowing story.

B+      Night Stone by Rick Hautala. Classic Indian burial site horror story. Not a feel good happy ending, and considering that this was written in the 1980s not par for the course. Also, Hautala gets a nod because I knew him (my mom worked with his wife) and he gave an aspiring author (me, age 9) a collection of books for my birthday (including Nightshift by Stephen King and October Country by Ray Bradbury).
C        Severed Souls by Terry Goodkind. Enjoy Goodkind's Sword of Truth books and I think I enjoyed this one when I read it, though I recall getting bogged down with the flight from the half-men. It just kept going and going, got to the point of being more of the same. The reason I scored this lower is I had to look up a synopsis to remember some of the plot lines of the book, not a good sign.

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard. Knew little of James Garfield and now I know more. Wonderful weaving of the politics and medical science of the time, especially the motivations of individual people. While Alexander Graham Bell is an central character in the narrative, he doesn't actually contribute except as a historical notation (albeit an important notation).

A-       Dust by Hugh Howey. Great conclusion to the series. Kind of a happy ending if you forget about all the horrible things. Overall a good evaluation of the human condition both good and bad. Some issues were never resolved adequately in my opinion, like why were women and children frozen in Silo 1 or why other Silos had to be killed off instead of simply being ignored moving forward.

F        Darwin's Black Box by Michael Behe. Not really any redeeming qualities to this book. Behe's writing is condescending and he treats his audience like children. The book is more propaganda than scientific analysis. After a brief intro where the word 'literal' is misused. Following chapters are supposed to establish the idea of 'irreducible complexity' at the molecular level, but basically the point is that if we don't understand every possible thing, then the god-of-the-gaps argument is true. Some chapters are supposed to address the idea of intelligent design, but are rewordings of god-of-the-gaps argument. I am sure this book appealed to creationists and still does.

A-      Shift by Hugh Howey. A great sequel (more of a prequel), provides much of the backstory for how the apocalypse came to be. It's depressing in large part, but we are talking about the end of civilization. It ties into Wool well and provides a solid foundation for the last book Dust.

A        Wool by Hugh Howey. A great and in my opinion excellent world built by Howey. Life in a gigantic silo to survive a 'dead' earth. I whipped through this book in no time and am looking forward to picking up the second and third of this trilogy.

C+      The Sorcerer's Daughter by Terry Brooks. Definitely a Shannara book (maybe its a 'familiarity breeds...' issue), although I rank it higher because there are some novel aspects to this story, including a not so neatly packaged happy ending for some of the protagonists. 

A        Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. A suspenseful and exciting mystery by Stephen King. No magical or fantastical forces at work in this story. Not really surprised, because it seems much of the 'horror' in King's work are the human kind.

B-       Galilee by Clive Barker. An engrossing story about two families, one mortal and the other less so. I began this book many years ago, but gave up on it for unrelated reasons. An enjoyable story that I didn't score higher because I found the ending describing how the families became entwined rushed.

C       Killing Floor by Lee Child. An average read to pass some time. Pretty obvious who the bad guys were and what the motivations were. Kind of expected more from the initial Jack Reacher franchise.

A-      Morning Star by Pierce Brown. I truly have enjoyed this series. Like with The Expanse series, I enjoyed this trilogy tremendously although I'm not usually a fan of space operas. Unlike The Expanse series, this reads more as a fantasy that takes place in space instead of different kingdoms on a single world. There are orcs, trolls, gnomes, elves, etc. although with different names. Regardless of genre placement, I highly recommend the books.

B       The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey. Another solid sequel in this series (3/3 so far). While using the same world established and grown in the first two books, this has a different feel to it. Only aspect I didn't quite follow, which dropped it out of the A category (spoiler alert) is why did it take so long for the Southerners to realize how desperate they were to have to resort to stealing a golden egg.

A-       Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Do you sense a trend with this string of A-'s? A thoroughly enjoyable read. I read the Author's preferred version, because why wouldn't you? World building exploring the border between reality and slightly not-reality reminds me of several Clive Barker stories. Hell, even some Stephen King stories. Great characters.

A-       Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick. Blade Runner was a great movie. This book was better, but different. I don't see how you can compare the two. I love that the movie is different enough to work in that medium compared to this book which works so well in this medium.

A-       Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey. A great sequel! Probably feeling better when I wrote this to score it higher than the original installment, which I enjoyed a lot. What stuck with me in this book was that it is centered on dealing with problems arising from the solution to the problem in the first book. Even our solutions, which completely solve a problem, are not without consequence.

C       The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. I know this novel is considered by many to be a major contribution to our literary time. Hell it even put a permanent death sentence on Rushdie, but I don't see it. I think the biggest contribution to society this book makes is uncovering the extreme danger of fundamentalist religion 20 years before it was obvious to America.

B       Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. An enjoyable romp, especially the prologue/backstory.  I started this book many years ago, probably as a late teen and didn't get into it at all. Not sure why, but I thoroughly enjoyed it now.

A       Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Of all the crap I was forced to read in high school, The Scarlet Letter or Fountainhead (neither of which I actually finished reading), why wasn't this a must read. Great exploration of the human condition and how fragile our hold on civilization may actually be. (I'm looking at you Ammon Bundy and Donald Trump.)

C        The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein. The first book started and finished in 2016. Stranger in a Strange Land is one of my all time favorite books. I was extremely excited to read another Heinlein, however this did little for me. Don't really get the point of the ending.

B+      A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. An engrossing layperson approach to what we know about the universe and our place in it. Engaging writing with intimate descriptions/discussion of/with the scientists on the ground. As a biologist, I was disappointed with many factual errors in the sections on biology, but the main points held up. I assume the astrophysicists and geologists felt the same way about the description of their fields as well. 

D        After Alice by Gregory Maguire. Alice in Wonderland was a delightful jaunt. After Alice was forced and tedious. Tim Burton's take on Alice was infinitely better, at least there was a story.

28 books, including several graphic novels that I know rankles some readers as not being literature.
Of the 28 books: 25 were fiction for fun, 1 was philosophy, 1 was history (although not academic), and 2 were science(ish). I was on pace to complete close to a record number, but the fall semester is a killer time wise for me. I have three books I'm in the middle of.

No comments: