This is a mini-review for an actual book consisting entirely of reviews of non-existing books. Just finished reading Stanislaw Lem's "A Perfect Vacuum", and I've no idea how to rate it. It's brilliant, imaginative, extremely creative and at times abstract, bizarre and profoundly philosophical. I think the most amazing feat of all is that, despite all the brilliance, the book manages at the same time to be tedious and dull as well. That was definitely worth reading, but perhaps it was better stick to a single chapter a month to let each, uh, "book review", sink in.

Just finished Startide Rising by David Brin. What a load of bullshit that was. Unexplained technology and magic abound, alien races waging boring wars and all sharing the same baseless superstitions, lazy storytelling with far too many coincidences explained away as "it was fate". Not exactly scientific for . 😞

Just finished Ribofunk by Paul Di Filippo, a collection of 13 short stories set in a biopunk future: There's some AI, drugs, environmentalism, a lot of outrageous body modifications, and filled to the brim with every possible combination of genetically engineerd animal/human splices - either enslaved to humanity or rising up against them. The stories aren't very special on their own, but the world-building is amazing - and it's a crazy fucked up world indeed. :blobcataww:

"Before us reared the tallest building in all of old Nuevo York, what used to be old man Trump's very HQ, before he was elected president and got sliced and diced like he did."

- Ribofunk, Paul Di Filippo, 1996

Finished "A Fire Upon the Deep" by Vernor Vinge. I was worried that this would be pretty soft Sci-Fi. Sure enough, it's chock-full of aliens with cultures and ethics suspiciously close to current humanity, there's faster-than-light-travel and even a complete medieval fantasy world. Yet everything fits together so well and the story more than makes up for the rather implausible setting. I can't imagine a better mix of medieval and epic . A very entertaining read!

Finally finished the two sequels to Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space; Redemption Ark & Absolution Gap. Complex stories, highly imaginative, but rather weaker than the first novel. It was basically more of the same, but with some drawn-out, unnecessary and highly unlikely subplots thrown in. With 650+700 pages it was also rather long-winded. Still had some fun and interesting things to offer here and there, so, overall, it was an okay read.

Finished Eden by Stanislaw Lem. What an... odd book. It suffers from consisting largely of abstract and hard-to-visualize descriptions of an alien planet, and the conclusion is typical of Lem: Humans are too biased to make sense of aliens. Not his best work, but still an excellent and wildly imaginative trip.

Finished The Net Delusion by Evgeny Morozov. I'm not sure what to think. On the one hand, the topic is very interesting: A rational discussion on the impact of the internet on global politics, how it has been used to both aid and harm authoritarian governments, filled to the brim with relevant and scary anecdotes. On the other hand, it's overly repetitive and spent too much time ranting on incompetent politicians. It was a good read, but not an easy one.

Just finished the book. The story was excellent, everything else was... okayish. The jokes and writing style got a tad tiresome after a while, and this book had nothing to offer in the way of interesting new insights or social commentary (which is what makes most SciFi extra enjoyable for me). It would have been a whole lot more interesting if humanity on earth got extinct while saving one man on Mars, but nothing so drastic happened. It still works fine as entertainment, though.

"One thing I have in abundance here are bags. They're not much different from kitchen trash bags, though I'm sure they cost $50,000 because of NASA.
[..]
Also, I have duct tape. Ordinary duct tape, like you buy at a hardware store. Turns out even NASA can't improve on duct tape."

- Andy Weir, The Martian

Just finished the book. That was absolutely brilliant. Fun writing style, realistic physics, intriguing characters, actually alien aliens and an epic (back)story spanning millions of years.

Quite in the same style as Cixin Liu's novels, but a bit less over-the-top. Similar to some of Stanislaw Lem's novels, too, but slightly less grim. I'm definitely going to read more from Alastair Reynolds.

"'I expect,' Volyova said, 'that you're one of those otherwise rational people who pride themselves on not believing in ghosts.'"
- Alastair Reynolds, Revelation Space

The two sequels to Margaret Atwood's Orix & Crake (The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam) were pretty disappointing. The characters weren't as interesting, there weren't many new developments, it felt rather long-winded, the antagonists have only gotten shittier (for no reason whatsoever, we never get their part of the story), and there's a bunch of forced drama mixed in for good measure.

Such a pity, the first novel was brilliant.

"The net has always been just that - a net, full of holes, all the better to trap you with."
- Margaret Atwood, MaddAddam

Her descriptions of hacking tend to be pretty off, but at least she's correct with that analogy.

Just finished G.H. Hardy's "A Mathematician's Apology" and found it… surprisingly dull. I did not care much for its main premise (after all, I don't care to justify doing the things I enjoy - enjoying something is justification enough as far as I'm concerned), but I did like reading his occasional strong opinions on other fields and professions. He also touches upon a few interesting philosophical questions, but unfortunately doesn't elaborate on those.

Just finished Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood. The cover has two green rabbits and a butterfly, suggesting a cute children's story. The first page has photo of its author, a very friendly looking woman, to reinfoce that suggestion. Then you start reading and it's a dark and dystopian novel about bio-engineering, corruption, ecological disaster and humanity's near-extinction. All told in a witty and engaging style. Brilliant!

Just finished The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder, what an excellent read!

Despite describing the development of a late 70's computer, I found many aspects of it relatable to how we develop and think about computers nowadays. And despite how everyone working fanatically on the development of that computer is portrayed as a hero, I personally identified the most (by far) with the guy who quit the team halfway.

Finished "The Tangled Lands" by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell, a collection of 4 short stories set in a fantasy world where humanity is forced to limit their use of magic in order to survive. Nicely dark and disgusting stories about corruption, poverty and cruelty. It was okay, but it wasn't Sci-Fi and lacked a strong connection with our current world. Bacigalupi has written better (and much more disgusting) stories.

Just finished Douglas Hofstadter's "I Am a Strange Loop". I was surprised at how many of the ideas and arguments were not at all new to me - it turns out one can already learn a great deal of philosophy from (other) sciences and science fiction. While the book felt a tad long-winded and slow at times, the ideas were wonderfully described, presented and argued. Can recommend.

Just finished The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. It was... okay-ish. It had a few interesting insights and odd things here and there, but overall left me pretty empty. Not a big fan of the constantly shifting narrative, either.

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