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Joined 4 months, 3 weeks ago

A mix of academic (philosophy, cognitive science, some science and technology studies) and science fiction or fantasy. A bit of pop science for giggles. Just getting started here, and slow to get going...

Academic tastes: Enactive approach, embodied cognitive science, ecological psychology, phenomenology Fiction: Iain M. Banks, Ursula le Guin, William Gibson, Nnedi Okorafor, China Miéville, N.K. Jemisin, Ann Leckie

Love space opera but mostly disappointed by what I read there. Somehow didn't read Pratchett until recently, and now methodically working my through in sequence (I know sequence is not necessary, but ...).

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Marek's books

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The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water (Hardcover, 2020, Tor) 4 stars

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, …

Rich in character and heart despite its brevity.

4 stars

I'm new to Zen Cho, but this certainly ensures I'll come back. A #wuxia (or potentially #xianxia) novella, about a bandit crew dealing with the sudden imposition of a new member.

Funny, endearing, and with a lot of heart. Well recommended.

The Poppy War (Paperback, 2018, HarperCollins Publishers Limited) 3 stars

A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired …

A dark, grim tale of violence, injustice, and the horror of revenge

3 stars

Content warning Spoilery review. Dark, striking, fantasy.

Echopraxia (2014) 3 stars

A follow-up to the Hugo Award-nominated Blindsight, Echopraxia is set in a 22nd-century world transformed …

Second guessing first contact

4 stars

The follow up to his 2006 "Blindsight", "Echopraxia" is yet quite a separate narrative from its predecessor. There is some connecting tissue, but this is quite a different tale, and you'd miss very little if you read it by itself.

The story is set in a triple aftermath. First contact has left humanity with species-wide existential angst; a separate set of crises have left the world (already reeling from climate apocalypse), struggling with a very science-fictiony, rather than horror, undead problem (two of them, actually); and more locally, a violent confrontation leaves the protagonist and a group of strange maybe-trans-human allies in a race across the solar system.

While "Blindsight" went outward, this book heads mostly inward, toward the sun, and a station upon which the world relies for its energy. And something's not quite right...

As with the first book, the tale here is one of disorientation. The protagonist …

Blindsight (Firefall, #1) (2006) 4 stars

Blindsight is a hard science fiction novel by Canadian writer Peter Watts, published by Tor …

The uncertainty of first contact, amid the uncertainty of human contact.

4 stars

Content warning Mildly spoilery review, no details

Red Team Blues (2023, Doherty Associates, LLC, Tom) 4 stars

Martin Hench is 67 years old, single, and successful in a career stretching back to …

Enjoyable Silicon Valley thriller

4 stars

I haven't read everything by Doctorow, but have been reading him long enough to see what I think is an interesting progression in his writing. His work in the last few years (from the exceptional "Walkaway", to the superb novella collection "Radicalized"), has seemed increasingly readable and smooth. I think it's probably no coincidence that the stories seem to be getting a little shorter too (mostly, "Walkaway" has a certain heft).

His latest, "Red Team Blues", is a financial tech thriller set in Silicon Valley, in which an itinerant, grizzled forensic accountant, Marty Hench, is drawn into a hunt for crucial McGuffin, one that threatens the foundations of a cryptocurrency network.

Hench as a character is a nice clash of genres. On the one hand, he's a like a gritty noir detective - a loner, connected but never settled (literally, he lives on a tour bus), no time or patience …

From What Is to What If 3 stars

The founder of the international Transition Towns movement asks why true creative, positive thinking is …

Some nice ideas and enjoyable notions in a pleasant mind-opener

3 stars

A paean to the imagination, and the importance of re-organising our civic, educational, and political institutions to encourage and facilitate people's imaginations.

The basic message of it the book is that climate change, and other major, indeed existential, problems are not problems of technology, they are problems of imagination. The worst of the challenges are made worst by the constraints we put on ourselves in the way that address them, and the range of positive outcomes is much more broad and diverse than we have so far given credit.

Inevitably, the book is a little preachy at times. I also personally find the occasional foray into neurobollocks (the insistent belief that some particular part of the brain is the magical part that we have to 'protect' from abuse or damage, in this case, the over-worked hippocampus), very off-putting.

At its best, though, it provides a host of concrete examples of …

The Penguin Book of Dragons (Paperback, 2021, Penguin Classics) 3 stars

Some interesting pieces in a disappointingly eurocentric collection

3 stars

This is a collection of texts from classical, medieval, and more recent sources, with stories of dragons.

I got it with an interest in finding new sources for a richer and more diverse view of how dragons are portrayed, and what kinds of stories they populate, than you might pick up from the modern fantasy genre.

While there are some lovely details here, including a wealth of material to help you understand where the various aspects of the typical fantasy dragon originate, the source material is very narrow. Just a single section of the book (plus one other chapter), 8 segments of 49 in total, are from non-European sources. This is quite a disappointment and feels like a real missed opportunity.

Titanium Noir (2023, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 4 stars

Cal Sounder is a detective working for the police on certain very sensitive cases. So …

An enjoyable, dark thriller in a weird world

4 stars

None of Harkaway's books are quite like one another, and they're all worth your time.

Like the pulp that inspires it, Titanium Noir is a short piece that rolls along a brisk pace. The protagonist, Cal Sounder, is a bridge between two worlds. He lives and works as a detective, doing private work and consulting for the police of Chersenesos, but has ties to the level of society occupied by those so obscenely wealthy their very being is a mixture of unsettling and glamorous both for the other characters and for us readers. When crimes involve one of these hyper-rich, Sounder is brought in to smooth things over. The book starts with Sounder arriving on scene for a crime much too complex and messy for the easier fixes he's used to.

Sounder navigates a crime, a world, and a story in which power is manifested very directly as something brutal …

The Physicist and the Philosopher (Paperback, 2016, Princeton University Press) 4 stars

On April 6, 1922, in Paris, Albert Einstein and Henri Bergson publicly debated the nature …

A rich, nonlinear history of the struggle for the mindscape of the 20th century.

4 stars

This is a superbly presented history of the long-running debate on what is ostensibly about the nature of time, but in fact is substantially about the relevance and value of different ways of understanding the world, and the extent to which science and philosophy in particular are valid modes of investigating the world and experiences.

Though Bergson and Einstein are at its centre, they are just the core of a complex set of relationships. Canales teases apart several strands - the people (almost entirely men), the institutions, the technologies and objects, historical events - that all play a role in how the debate unfolds over decades. The chapters are kept relatively short and focused, and the narrative shuttles back and forth across time and social groups. (Though it is anchored by a particular date when the Einstein and Bergson met, the 6th April 1922, the richness of the discussion happens …