Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review of "The Singer from Memphis" by Gary Corby

I already mentioned in my previous posts that I really liked an Athenian mystery series by Gary Corby. The author is able to present the complex historical events in simple language. No prior subject-matter knowledge is required to fully immersed and experience ancient Greece on the eve of birth of democracy.

This latest novel in this series is the best so far, in my view. What is unique about it compared to previous books is that it is very funny too. We follow the main characters into ancient Egypt. Along the way we encounter Persians from Achaemenid Empire who are about crush local rebellion, an assassin from Sparta and the head of Egypt's powerful Public service, the oldest system of bureaucracy in the world.

As a history goes the author got all major events right. Though, when it came to scenes about mummy preparations for afterlife, I found one major discrepancy between this novel and another famous novel called "The Egyptian" by Mika Waltari.     

In summary, I highly recommend to everyone to read these series.

posted by David  


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Psychological trauma in "The Demolished Man" by Alfred Bester

This is a short but quite dramatic book. I liked it. It is fast paced novel and it is finished before it becomes boring. 

Set in 24th century it depicts society where some people are selected for their ability for extrasensory perception (basically mind reading). These people are called Espers.

In this society no premeditated capital crime has been recorded for 70 years due to fact that "planning" stages of the crime are easily "peeped" by Espers and prevented.

So, the book is about a rich and powerful, but mentally disturbed person who decides to murder his rival business cartel head.

Story develops quite rapidly and its plot resolution is quite different from what one would expect, one might even say slightly anticlimactic or even confusing.

Still I would recommend it for its shortness and fast pace.

posted by David Usharauli

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hello "Aurora" and goodbye "Aurora"

I hardly recall any sci-fi books I read that starts so good and finishes so unremarkable. But this is exactly how I felt when reading Kim Stanley Robinson's "Aurora".

Now I can understand why this novel had 3.7 rating in Goodreads (in my view less than 4 usually indicates really low quality, though even some with 4.25 rating can be really unremarkable).

Even name "Aurora" is kind of misleading because very few pages are dedicated to Aurora itself (Earth-size moon in Tau Ceti).

Most of the book is about how to get from Tau Ceti back to Earth. So many things make no sense, the most obvious one a "failure" to check Aurora for any biological activity. Wouldn't this be a number one priority when landing on a new planet?

What about medical progress in 26th century? The author imagines that by that time people are using 3D printers to print almost anything, including printers themselves, and re-create weather patterns found on Earth, but for some reason in medicine we are still cannot "cure" cancers?

What about people who were left in Tau Ceti to build the new settlement? They simply disappear from the novel, even though whether they have managed to survive for next 180 years (the time it took for a ship to come back to Earth) it would have been most relevant part of the story?

In sum, more asynchronous novel  is hard to find.

posted by David Usharauli          


Thursday, July 14, 2016

"Ancillary Mercy" is about AI and surely it feels as if written by AI

Finally finished Ann Leckie's "Ancillary Mercy". One could rarely find worse writing than this one. These series is about artificial intelligence, AI ships, in a far away galaxy, and curiously enough, except the first volume, both 2nd volume and this 3rd one truly feel as if written by today's AI machine.    

It is obvious without novel ideas Ann Leckie's writing lacks quality. I admit that first volume in these series was quite good, mainly due to fact that it was there when we were introduced to some new ideas and new world, but once ideas were exhausted it became absolutely unintelligent rubbish.

I can't believe that both 2nd and 3rd volumes of these series has been nominated for Hugo awards (1st actually won it). This is too much. Neither volume have any redeeming quality to justify their inclusion in such award.

posted by David Usharauli


Friday, July 8, 2016

Cool and not cool stuff in "Rainbows End" by Vernor Vinge

I think this sci-fi novel was a winner of Hugo award in 2007. Guess what? It was a big disappointment. This is why people don't trust reviews and nominations anymore. I forced myself to read though half the novel and I can't imagine how anyone could nominate it for any award.

Set in the near future this novel depicts what now we may call Internet-of-thing world where people are constantly connected to Internet with google glass-type wearable devices and communicate with each other using silent messages <sm> </sm>.

These ideas sound cool but the plot and people involved in are totally non-cool. Writing style is unnecessary difficult as well.

In summary, this is a situation when cool concept is transformed into an unreadable book due to poor plot and character development with occasional total nonsense and "what is this guy is doing here" stuff.

posted by David Usharauli   

Monday, July 4, 2016

"Gene Jockeys": first 5 DNA recombination drugs that created biotech industry

In "Gene Jockeys" Nicolas Rasmussen revisits evens that led to development of the first 5 major biotech drugs [based on DNA recombination] that created new biotech industry.  

These 5 recombinant drugs were insulin, human growth hormone, interferons, erythropoietin and tPA. Several pioneering biotech companies such as Genentech, Amgen, Genetics Institute, Biogen, Cetus and events and people who led drug development are being discussed, frequently in too much details.

The author tries to explain how economical context drove biotech frenzy in early 80s and how within 15 years it became transformed from "open" science-driven industry into closed patent courts-supported closed monopoly environment.

It was so revealing to know that all these 5 drugs were simultaneously pursued by several biotech companies as if they were eavesdropping on each other's work and did not have any original ideas themselves.

posted by David