Friday, June 2, 2017

May 2017 Reading List

Posts have been sparse lately as we've been traveling. Back to baseball card posts next week.

A science fiction coming of age story. Esme is the oldest daughter of Philip Coromina, the ruthless head of an interplanetary corporation which supplies weapons to the numerous warring factions in human space. When she is a young adult, her father contracts a deadly disease and she is thrust into a leadership role that she's been preparing for all her life but still isn't ready for. The story was OK but I found the character of Esme to be a constant whiner. Probably the beginning of a series.

Although written in 2010, I found this book on the impact of our digital culture to be still relevant. OK, 2010 isn't that long ago, but it terms of the development of social technology it might as well be another century. I never heard of Lanier but apparently he's been long involved in technology and web development so he has the background to know what he's talking about.

In a small California town, a guy, who was the chief suspect in a series of rapes, is found murdered. It appears that the murder was motivated by revenge. His victims and their significant others are the obvious suspects. Various characters tell the story as a first person narrative, moving from person to person, always advancing the story. The town's mayor, the detectives in charge of the case, several of the rape victims, the murdered man's wife, and several others are all give points of view. I thought it was well written, but the choice of narrative device did not work, for me, as a murder mystery.

I was 15-years-old during the 1967 Summer of Love and wasn't too personally involved. But Danny Goldberg is about 16 months older than me and was. He writes about the politics, the personalities and the music of 1967. I was aware of what was going on mainly through the media (which Goldberg rightly points out, distorted what was really going on). An interesting read for an aging baby boomer like me. I'm not sure that people much younger than me (like my kids) would be too interested.

I am not a big fan of alternate history but I like Benford. The cover says it all. The story is about Karl Cohen, a perhaps now forgotten, member of the Manhattan Project developing an atomic bomb during World War II. Cohen, who happens to be Benford's actual father-in-law, was an early proponent of the centrifuge method of separating uranium isotopes. In real life, this method was not favored but in the book, it is and leads to the development of a bomb in time to use during D-Day. The story is pretty dry and technical but interesting.

Ian Rankin has a large body of work about Scottish detective Inspector Rebus. I've read a few of them. Rebus is retired now, suffering from COPD (too many cigarettes) and boredom. He starts looking into an old case, the murder of a rock and roll groupie, that was never solved. It turns out his hobby investigation has implications for a current case being worked on by his former colleagues and he finds himself as an unofficial advisor to the police. Hanging over the story is a shadow on his lung seen in an X-Ray. Could this be Rebus' last mystery?

I got the Kindle version of this book for free through It was pretty simple minded military science fiction. After expanding through the galaxy for years, humans have run up against an implacable enemy which seems only intent on mankind's destruction. The main character is a ship captain who happened to be there when the aliens were first discovered and moves up through the ranks as he makes one fantastic tactical decision after another, saving the day for the humans. These brilliant moves however, are based on sudden visions of the future he has which tell him what to do. It was a pretty good read and I'll probably try to find the next part.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, we've been traveling. We were back on the East Coast visiting family and friends. At my sister-in-law's house, I admired a wooded sculpture on her mantle. Turns out it was made by the author of this book. Her husband helped get the book published. He had extra copies and gave me one. I grew up near Pennypack Park in northeast Philadelphia in the 1960s and spent a lot of time there so the book was very interesting to me.

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