Monday, May 8, 2017

April 2017 Reading List

I'm a little late posting this. I've been spending too much time with baseball cards the past week.

It's 100 years or so after some virus (mutated, man-made, who knows?) ravaged the world, killing many people but particularly women. And even now, the virus almost always kills a pregnant woman and her child. There seems to be 50 men or more for each woman. There is little technology and some, like Etta, scavenge for useful items. A small clan run by women called Fort Nowhere, operates within travel distance of St. Louis (hence the cover picture). The clan was founded by the Unknown Midwife soon after the crises. St. Louis is run by male slavers. Conflict ensues. This was pretty good. There seemed to be entirely too much backstory for a standalone novel, and sure enough, it's the second book of a series.

I wanted to read this before I saw the Scarlett Johansson movie. Apparently the movie is based on an anime movie which was based on this manga. The movie has not been well received but we liked it. To me, the movie seems to be an origin story, set prior to this manga. The manga was originally published in 1989-1990. The graphics are stunning. There are 6 interlinked stories in the volume. The author depicts a computer saturated world in 2029, where the main character, Major Motoko is a cyborg (a human brain and spinal column) in a manufactured body. She works for a government security division. The stories examine what it means to be human in a world where computer-brain interfaces are common.

If you were a fan of "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, you should read this book. It's consists of excerpts of interviews with numerous people involved with the show, telling the story of how the show came to be and how it grew. I started watching the show around 2004, and missed the early days, especially when Steven Colbert and Steve Carell were mainstays of the show. It is mainly about Stewart's reign on the show. The earlier version with Craig Kilborn is glossed over and there's really nothing about the current version with Trevor Noah.

This book is similar to Robinson's epic "Science in the Capitol" series, in that it deals with the consequences of man made climate change. This book is a bit more localized, focusing on New York City in the year 2140, a city where lower Manhattan is under water but life goes on. It has an enormous cast of characters. The story is mostly realistic, in my opinion. If you read and liked the "Science in the Capitol" series, you'll like this.

Did you know that many scholars consider James Buchanan, the last president before the Civil War, the Worst. President. Ever? Well neither did I. In fact, I probably could not have told you anything about Buchanan. This was an interesting read.

I generally like John Scalzi and was looking forward to reading this but I was a bit disappointed. The Empire of the story is a far-flung human space empire connected by spaceships able to travel through something called the Flow. The Flow is some sort of science fiction concept allowing faster than light travel, without actually breaking the light speed barrier. The Empire is ruled by large rich mercantile families, the richest family of which is the Emperor's family. But something is wrong with the Flow and a scientist has calculated that within 100 years, the Flow will move around, cutting off all the human planets from each other. Clearly the beginning of a new series by Scalzi.

This is Volume 2 of the Ghost in the Shell manga. It's sort of a sequel but the circumstances of the main character, Motoko are way different. She still works security but now for a giant company. The graphics are still stunning but the stories were hard to follow. Motoko seems to mostly live in the network, but able to inhabit various mechanical bodies at will. One reason the stories were hard to follow was that a lot of time she was operating multiple bodies at the same time, while also being represented as an on-line "body". The last 20 or 30 pages was composed of complicated but beautiful graphics but I had no idea what was going on.

This is the book that came before "The Book of Etta". Jane (not her real name) is the unnamed midwife of the title. She's a neonatal nurse in San Francisco as the unknown virus is ravaging the world. She herself gets the virus but survives. She begins a journey across the country, looking for safety, finally ending up at Fort Nowhere, the last ditch stand of the US government's attempt to fight the virus.  A pretty good read.