September 29, 2013


Well, when he titled it My Brief History, Stephen Hawking wasn't kidding. It was very brief. It's difficult to review because I felt like it only skimmed the surface of his life. It started with his childhood and made its way up to the present and all of his scientific and personal victories in between. The illustrations were the icing on the cake (I'm a sucker for family photographs by the way) and lent a personal touch to an otherwise very straightforward autobiography. Hawking's writings are witty and self-deprecating and this was no different. However, I would have preferred that it wasn't written a little more personally. At times, it felt like he would get caught up in science excitement only to remember that he was supposed to be writing about himself. (Not that I don't like science excitement, guys.) I liked it but it didn't hold a candle to A Brief History in Time (which is currently residing on my desk at work 3/4 finished) in my opinion.

If you've seen the movie I, Robot or read the book Robopocalypse  then you're familiar with the concept of a world where Artificial Intelligence takes over and the human race is doomed. The difference between those two stories and the book that I'm reading is that Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era is a work of nonfiction. That's right: NONFICTION. James Barrat explores what will most likely happen once we've developed a self-aware AI that hones survival skills to outmatch those of the human race. Why wouldn't it do anything in its powers to survive? Would it stop to mourn human lives that it had to snuff out to reach its goals? Can machines even feel? I'm suddenly reminded of Bicentennial Man with Robin Williams and AI with Haley Joel Osment. Both of those movies simultaneously fascinated and horrified me. We created a life that so closely mirrored our own and yet they were vastly superior to us. We tried to keep them subservient while also imbuing them with human emotions. It was miserable on both sides and ultimately had unfortunate consequences. The thought that this could (and quite possibly already is) happen is frightening indeed.

September 27, 2013

From children's lit to autobiographies

Sky Jumpers may be Peggy Eddleman's debut novel but I certainly hope it isn't her last (especially with these characters and this world). It has been entirely too long since I read children's fiction and probably even longer than that since I really lost myself in it. The world that she created and the characters that inhabited it were so engrossing that I ripped my way through the book in no time at all. Sky Jumpers is an adventure set in the future when we've gone back to our agrarian roots and it is impossible to reach the level of industrialization we once took for granted. Fraught with danger and uncertainty, the world is a completely different place than the one we know. I wouldn't characterize this as a dystopian novel by any means. The world is far from horrendous and the characters are (for the most part) happy and living in harmony. Nothing is perfect, however, and that's where the excitement of the narrative comes into play. This would be an ideal book for children in late elementary and early middle school grades (or adults who enjoy children's literature).

I like to keep you guys are on your toes so my next book is by one of my scientific heroes, Stephen Hawking. My Brief History is exactly what the title implies. It's a short backstory about what shaped the man we know as Stephen Hawking. If you've read anything by Hawking (and remember I attempted to but got distracted) you'll know that he has a keen sense of humor which is already evident in the first chapter of the book. Autobiographies are a sporadic pleasure of mine and reading about scientific figures is most definitely one of my favorites (after historical figures like my bro Abraham Lincoln). I'm fairly sure that this book is going to rejuvenate my excitement for A Brief History of Time...

September 21, 2013

It's time (hardy har) for my review of All Our Yesterdays

If you're a fan of that particular area of sci-fi that focuses on time travel then you're going to enjoy All Our Yesterdays. It jumps between two narrative voices, Marina and Em, but it isn't a jarring transition which leaves the reader confused. There voices are very distinct but the story remains smooth despite the fact that time is not at all a linear concept in the story (or in reality). I'm having a difficult time describing this one without giving away key information... What would happen if you could go back in time and change things to make the world "better"? Do you think you could handle that level of power without letting it change you? What lengths would you go to in order to stop someone from making those changes if you knew they would make things worse not better? This may be a sci-fi novel written for young adults but the themes of the book aren't created with fluff and rainbows. The world is a dark place and a time machine isn't the solution. To know what I'm talking about (sorry it's so cryptic) you'll have to read this book. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman is a children's novel about a young girl named Hope that is growing up in a world where green bombs have destroyed pretty much everything. Hope is an anomaly. Her town is full of inventors and she's...not. Because of the green bombs many people have fallen seriously ill but luckily in her small town they have antibiotics. Unfortunately, bandits hear about these antibiotics and they decide to take them for themselves. It's up to Hope and her friend Aaron and Brock (who fall under the 14 year old limit for census counting) to make it to the next town over for help. Will they make it through the Bomb's Breath in time?

September 19, 2013

I will never look at camping the same way again...

When I started The Troop, I wasn't entirely sure what kind of a horror story it would be. There was mention in the blurb that it was a bit Stephen King-ish (which I must admit is what drew me to it as I'm a huge fan of his). However, what kind of horrendous event could occur to a Boy Scouts troop on an island cut off from the mainland? O_O Let me first say that this is NOT a book for children...unless you want them to have nightmares for the foreseeable future (and you're okay with adult content like coarse language and mild sexual themes). I can't get into a lot of detail about what kind of bioengineered sickness the infectious man who happens on the island has but let me just say that it isn't one I would have ever dreamed up and it was plenty scary. I've been talking about this book all week and every time I mentioned the newest development I got varying degrees of shock and disgust. I LOVED THIS BOOK. If you like horror of the gory kind with a mix of the psychological thriller then you'll enjoy this one.

Next up is a young adult title that I had started a few weeks back but put to the side so I wasn't trying to read two books at once (something I frequently have to stop myself from doing when I get overexcited about a topic). The book is called All Our Yesterdays which was written by Cristin Terrill. Imagine a world where a time machine exists. A working time machine not just some movie prop that you wish worked but is really just a blue box the size of a tiny closet. What kind of havoc would be caused if this machine actually existed? Well, in this story the world is basically destroyed because of this invention and two people travel back to before it was invented with only one goal in mind: kill the guy that did the inventing. However, there's a snag: He's just a teenager. Not only is he just a teenager but he's a teenager with a crush on a girl who likes him back. And it's the like like kind too. ;-) Basically, the story seems to be about one girl's desire to kill who she envisions is the evil villain of her life while another girl just wants to keep the young love of her life safe. I'm up to chapter 5 and so far I'm feeling pretty good about it (not about the murder but you know the arc of the story).

I hope you're all enjoying the lovely fall weather (unless you're somewhere that doesn't have fall then I hope you're enjoying your weather whatever it may be)!!

September 13, 2013

Learning ALL the time

As the title suggests, I think it's important that we strive to continue learning new things. If you read Countdown you're sure to do just that. The book's title sounds rather ominous but the topic broached within its pages isn't fictional or even "this is a scenario dreamed up by the author with enough facts to make it sound plausible". No, the notion that there are too many humans jammed onto this planet draining the limited resources is one that most of us are aware of if not actively concerned about. Homo sapiens has fairly swarmed across the globe gobbling up as much arable land as possible and watering that land through any means necessary. The problem is we're stuck in a cycle. We have so many mouths to feed so we need to grow more food which means depleting more resources and using up more space. However, the more food we put in those mouths and the more we advance medically the more bodies there are to take up space and consume more food and create more bodies get where I'm going with this. I have vaguely thought about this before and wondered what the Earth could realistically sustain while we destroy habitats and cause entire species to go extinct. Where is the line? Have we crossed it already? READ THIS BOOK. I was so impressed by Weisman that I've already downloaded The World Without Us  in which he conducts a thought experiment about what would happen to the planet if all of humanity were wiped out. O_O That'll be down the road because I have another title that's practically begging to be read.

The next title that I allude to is The Troop by Nick Cutter. I was drawn in by this because it claimed to scare Stephen King. That sounds like a challenge that I want to take! It's about a Boy Scout troop that camps out on a deserted island and is beset upon by a stranger that infects one of them with some unimaginable horror. Soon there is frightening devastation (or so I'm promised). It's been awhile since I read a propor horror story so I'm pretty excited (and a little apprehensive I'll get nightmares but that won't stop me!). I can't wait to give you my review!

I hope you're all ready to get back into the swing of things now that summer is pretty much over. I especially hope you'll all continue to read even though free time might be shortened and your lives might be busier. Reading is a great way to unwind!! :-D