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Posts about books (old posts, page 59)

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)

Liu Cixin

2006


Quite an astonishing book, combining science fiction with social commentary and Chinese history in a seamless and rather stunning way.

This book has some really quite visionary passages, drawing deeply on cultural history and the farther reaches of mathematical physics. It also has some resonances from the SF classics, especially (and perhaps surprisingly) The Forever War, with its central problem of how to fight a war in the face of travel times long enough to render your weaponry obsolete? Liu's solution is brilliant: find a way to stall your enemy's scientific progress, using both scientific and social weapons, with the latter also having eerie resonances in modern social-media commentaries. An excellent and thought-provoking start to a trilogy.

4/5. Finished 16 May 2019.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

The Devil's Disciples

The Devil's Disciples

Anthony Read

2003


A history of Nazi Germany from the different perspective of the first tier of Hitler's followers, mainly focussing on Goebbels, Goering, and Himmler. That's actually a slight limitation, in that there are huge contributions from other, second-tier Nazis that remain to be explored, and that might have made this book even more distinctive. But it still manages to put a lot of detail into the personal lives and deeds of its chosen subjects which are often missed in more "standard" histories, and this sheds a lot of light onto many of their motivations and key decisions. A very useful addition to the literature.

4/5. Finished 13 May 2019.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Manchester's Ship Canal: Th Big Ditch

Manchester's Ship Canal: Th Big Ditch

Cyril J. Wood

2005


A detailed history of the Manchester Ship Canal, lavishly illustrated from across the years.

I grew up alongside the canal, and there's plenty here I didn't know. It would have been better to have more depth in a lot of places, especially in terms of construction techniques and the history of some of the areas such as Old Quay docks in Runcorn and Dock Office in Manchester. (The latter had a mainframe computer for running the payroll, I remember.) It's a great reminder of the ways in which these huge industrial projects shaped the North-West, and I share the author's happiness that the canal system is gradually being restored and put back to work.

4/5. Finished 28 April 2019.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

Matthew Walker

2017


An enthusiastic paean to sleep and all it can do for us, from the perspective of a sleep scientist. If there was ever any doubt of the benefits of sleep – and the damage done by denying oneself or others of it – then this is it.

It's a refreshingly un-preachy book, presenting both the latest science and some prescriptions for those who find sleep difficult. Along the way there are some side-swipes at those to claim to do well on only four hours a night (the science clearly says otherwise), as well as at the educational system for forcing early hours onto teenage brains working to a different rhythm. While I suspect the situation is better in the UK and Europe than in the US, there still seems to be a good argument for changes in timetabling even at university level to accommodate the physiological limitations of younger students,

4/5. Finished 28 April 2019.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

Earth Abides

Earth Abides

George R. Stewart

1949


One of the earliest examples of post-apocalyptic science fiction. It's awash with ideas and thoughtful analysis of the challenges that might face a remnant of humanity living in the wreckage of a disaster – even one that, in this case, didn't involve a war.

It's not a book that's aged well, though. Stewart isn't a natural fiction writer, and his characters never become anything more than two-dimensional stereotypes both in terms of their reactions and their relationships. In that sense it's inferior to, for example, A Canticle for Leibowitz or Damnation Alley, but enjoyable nonetheless.

2/5. Finished 10 April 2019.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)