Friday, August 11, 2017

A former librarian in 18th century China turned crime investigator


This novel is a first in a series that follows Li Du, a former librarian in forbidden city in imperial China. Li Du was dismissed from his post because he was a close friend with a person who was involved in conspiracy against Emperor Kangxi (Qing dynasty). Li Du was spared of his life because he did not know anything about conspiracy but sill exiled to the town in the periphery.
There, Li Du becomes involved in solving mysterious death of Jesuit priest and uncovers the plot that threatens his Imperial Majesty himself.
Very good book. Lots of interesting twists and turns. Nothing extra and nothing left out to complete the story.
highly recommended.

In this second book, Li Du travels to borderland between Tibet and China where in a small mountain village he becomes witness to another mysterious death of a Tibetan monk.
With help of his traveling friend, Hamza, Li Du manages to reconstruct events that led to death of a monk and not surprisingly reveals that even remote villages occasionally are part of covert affairs between big Empires. 
Again very good book. Highly recommended.
posted by David


Saturday, July 15, 2017

"The Mote in God's Eye" - review

Initially this book was interesting but later it became too boring. It is too long in my view.

I also think that the novel is unequally developed when it comes to advances in interstellar travel and biology. For example, when ship finds aliens and take their samples, they need to send it back to their planet to do a genetic analysis. It is highly unlikely that humanity could achieve an interstellar travel capacity and at the same time could not develop technology that could sequence alien biological forms on board of their ships.

posted by David


Sunday, June 11, 2017

"A Fire Upon The Deep" by Vernon Vinge

I am not sure whether to like this novel or not. I managed to read it fully so most likely I liked it though I skipped many pages filled with "descriptive" writings.

I find Skroderiders to be the most interesting among alien in the novel. I can not even understand what they look like but they were  fun to read. Actually, I did not understand much of the story related to "powers" or "blight" or anything to do with space fighting or anti-blight entity.

So, skroderiders are great, but the rest is too conventional or part of too much fantasy.

posted by David

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Three-Body Problem: chapter 3[the end]

This is a final chapter of "The Three-Body Problem" trilogy by Chinese science fiction author Cixin Liu. 

It is a mess. Very disappointing conclusions, ideas and story lines. It became more like a fantasy book rather than serious science fiction. 

First book is great. Second starts slowly but ends interestingly. Third one, starts fine but as it progresses more absurd it becomes.

posted by David

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Caleb Carr's "The Alienist": psychological analysis of violence in 1896 New York

This is an interesting novel about crime in New York in 1896. Theodore Roosevelt is a police commissioner at that time and JP Morgan, the "nose", rules the city.

The novel tells the story about series of violent crimes committed against juvenile boys prostitutes who represent underbelly of the city. New York's society does not even recognize their existence and crimes against them are not considered worthy of police investigation.

Criminology is in its infancy at this stage. However, using then newly developed science of psychoanalysis (people who practiced it were called alienists), novel's protagonists try to "reverse" investigate the crime and to come up with the psychological profile of the suspect.

posted by David


Monday, March 27, 2017

David Liss' "The Coffee Trader" - review

In this novel David Liss recreates Dutch Amsterdam at the time when the city represented center of commerce in Western Europe and where practice of religious tolerance was a norm (unlike most of other places in Europe).

The story focuses on Jewish diaspora in Amsterdam. Some of these Jewish people in Amsterdam came from Iberian peninsula where they were targeted by Inquisition. They brought with them their traditions and laws that were somewhat different from Jewish traditions observed by other Jewish migrants from Eastern Europe. 

At its core the novel is a fictional account of international trading scheme that eventually would make coffee a must to have household drink in Western Europe.

This is very interesting read with quite dramatic ending. 

posted by David

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"The Ten Thousand" - a Greek military adventure in Persian Empire

This novel tells us about the first military adventure Greek mercenaries took that led them deep into Persian Empire between 401-399 B.C.  

First half of the book is quite good and fast paced, however later narrative slows down and becomes overloaded with descriptive information.

History tell us that Greek forces were hired by Cyrus who wanted to challenge his brother, then a Persian King. However, during the decisive battle near the ancient Babylon, Cyrus is killed and Greeks end up in the middle of the Persian Empire with their leaders betrayed and murdered. Thus begins famous retreat towards Black Sea under the leadership of Xenophon, who one studied with Socrates. Greeks are constantly tested in each region they pass by local hostile forces and Greek military training and tactics reveals its superiority. These experiences were later used by forced led by Alexander the Great.   

posted by David


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"from ALCHEMY to IPO" - review

I found this title "from ALCHEMY to IPO" when browsing website. It  was published in 2000 and recounts some of the details of how biotech industry came to existence in late 1970s in USA.

The author, Cynthia Robbins-Roth, as she writes, was one of the early employees of biotech pioneer Genentech (at the time of the book publication though she had her own biotech consultancy business). Genentech is considered even today after 40 years since its foundation a leading biotech company and consistently ranks as one of the best, if not the best place to work for biotech oriented researchers.

Regarding this book. It is quite superficial and takes overly positive look at the industry. It lacks critical assessment. It is for readers who do not look for understanding but rather for general information regarding what is biotech and how it started out.       

posted by David

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review of José Carlos Somoza's "The Athenian Murders"

By most part this novel was very interesting to read.
Story covers two time periods: 4th century Athens and much later period, I am not exactly sure whether it is present time or far in the future.
The novel begins with translation and analysis of ancient Greek novel of unknown author that is carried out by a narrator-translator.  
As narrator translates chapter after chapter he becomes more intrigued and obsessed with what he believes is a hidden message of the novel. The novel itself is a story set in 4th century BC Athens. At this time, Athens is ruled by oligarchy imposed on Athens by Sparta following its defeat in Pelopennesian War.
The novel opens with discovery of a dead body of a young Athenian man. Two people, one private investigator and another philosopher, work together to uncover mystery behind this and other similar murders.
In the end, the story resolution and its explanations is a little bit unconvincing and confusing. However, I would still recommend this novel. First it describes Athenian culture at the middle of 4th century. Second, it analysis and contrasts both  philosophical and practical approach to life.
posted by David

Sunday, February 19, 2017

"A Conspiracy of Paper" - 1st financial bubble in European history

Set in London in the beginning of 18th century this mystery novel describes fictionalized account of financial machinations that later has became known as bubbles.

Ben Weaver has become involved in investigation of what appears to be an accidental death of his father, a stock-jobber (as stockbrokers were known initially).

As investigation progresses, Weaver realized that his father was murdered by people who wanted to protect their illegal activity related to forged paper funds. If knowledge of existence of such falsified papers would become a public knowledge it could have created a panic and collapse of newly developed financial market based on selling and buying companies' shares/funds.    

This is fast paced novel, full of twists and turns and the real perpetrator of crimes would not become known until very end.

A good read indeed.

posted by David

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Shinju: the conspiracy of 21 against Shogun

This was an interesting book. I liked the main character, an idealistic and non-conformist detective who uncovers political conspiracy by investigating what appears on the surface a "double forbidden-love suicide", shinju. 

This detective, Sano Ichiro, did not back down under political pressure and until very end it appeared he is going to lose his life as well, besides have already been dismissed from his job due to insubordination. 

However, by exposing conspiracy against Japanese Shogun Sano Ichiro regains his prestige and name.

posted by David

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Year of the Hyenas" and end of the bronze age

This is quite entertaining piece of historical fiction that describes the final days of Pharaoh Ramses III reign. It was time of general decline of bronze age society and ancient Egypt was no exception. 

The plot of the novel is a power struggle for succession between Pharaoh's sons involving reigning Queens and several noblemen. Novel follows investigation into mysterious death of a aging priestess. Semerkent, the Clerk of Investigations and Secrets in ancient Egypt, is a main protagonist. He will uncover major plot that links priestess death to the threat of elimination of Ramses III.

As historical novel goes, it is fun  to read and recommended for general knowledge audience.

posted by David