Read 1/2009 – Making Money

4 April 2009

Book: 1/2009
Title: Making Money
Making Money
Author: Terry Pratchett
Genre: Science Fiction
Why did you get this book? I like Pratchett’s sense of humour.
Did you enjoy the book? Yes, though not my favourite Discworld novel.
Was the author new to you? No. I have read all the adult Discworld novels up to this one.
Would you read something by this author again? Yes. I guess you could call me a loyal reader.
Are you keeping it or passing it on? I am keeping it.
Spoilers? Our hero, Moist von Lipwig postmaster general, has recently manged to get the post office running on time and in the process invented stamps. Now Ankh-Morpork’s absolute ruler, Lord Vetinari, thinks the Royal Bank needs shaping up. When Lord Vetinari asks you to do something you can refuse, in theory, but the consequences of refusal are not particularly attractive. One of Moist’s immediate challenges is to find out why the Royal Mint runs at a loss when they are the ones who manufacture coins? Moist has a challenge before him. His only previous experience with banks was in robbing them. And why is gold so valuable anyway?
Number of pages: 474
Total pages for the year: 474

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Read 21/2008 – Rainbows End

31 December 2008

Book: 21
Title: Rainbows End

rainbowsend
Author: Vernor Vinge
Genre: Science Fiction
Why did you get this book? It was a birthday present. After reading a review of Vernor Vinges Rainbows End over at From a Sci-Fi Standpoint I asked for any book by Vinge.
Did you enjoy the book? Yes. His vision of the near future was most interesting for someone like me who has worked on mainframe computers for over thirty years.
Was the author new to you? Almost. I have read his essay on the coming technological singularity.
Would you read something by this author again? Yes.
Are you keeping it or passing it on? I am keeping it.
Spoilers? The tale of a famous poet who loses twenty years due to Alzheimer’s. Fortunately for him medical advances cure him. Now he has to catch up with twenty years of technological advancement. In this strange new world computer power is built into your clothes and contact lenses add multiples layers of virtual reality over everything you see. Everything and everyone is connected and communicates using these multiple layers.  Technology has made it possible for marginal groups to gain weapons of mass destruction – our nightmare come true – and the need for security dominates society. People who can not adjust to this technology are cut off from sophisticated social interaction. Our poet has to relearn many things in order to adjust. The ending was rather abrupt and disappointed some. Vinge’s description of our near future compensates for this. I like this kind of hard science fiction. Its object is to speculate, to warn, to show options and to raise the important question – is this really how we want our future to be?
Number of pages: 381
Total pages for the year: 5541


Read 20/2008 – The Hobbit

20 November 2008

Book: 20
Title: The Hobbit

The Hobbit
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Genre: Fantasy
Why did you get this book? Tolkien was recommended to me by a friend. I bought this book in the early 1970s.
Did you enjoy the book? Yes. This is part of my project to revisit some of the first science fiction/fantasy authors I read.
Was the author new to you? No. I also have Lord Of The Rings and two or three other books by Tolkien.
Would you read something by this author again? Have done and will do again.
Are you keeping it or passing it on? I am keeping it.
Spoilers? The adventures of hobbit Bilbo Baggins. Of how he was hired by a company of dwarves as a burglar (even though he never knew he had that particular talent) on the recommendation of the wizard Gandalf. Of how he came into possession of the elven blade Sting that glows whenever the enemy is near. Of how he found the precious ring of power long possessed by Gollum. Of how he escaped from the goblins by using the ring.  Of how he rescued his companions from giant spiders and later from the wood elves. Of how he aided the dwarves in winning back their treasure that was stolen by the great dragon Smaug thereby earning his promised wage of one fourteenth of the profits. Of how he was rewarded by the dwarves leader Thorin Oakenshield with a coat of mail armor made of Mithril. Of how, in a vain attempt to stop an imminent war, he burgled Thorins greatest treasure the Arkenstone. In doing all these things he sets the stage for the greater adventure by his nephew Frode Baggins as told in the Lord of the Rings.
Finally a piece of advice from Bilbo:

Never laugh at live dragons

Good advice to all of us.

Number of pages: 279
Total pages for the year: 5160


Read 2008/19 – Slan

6 November 2008

Book: 19
Title: Slan
Author: A. E. van Vogt
Genre: Science Fiction
Why did you get this book? In my early days I liked van Vogts science fiction. I bought this book in June 1979.
Did you enjoy the book? Yes. This is part of my project to revisit some of the first science fiction authors I read. I recently read van Vogt’s The War Against the Rull
Was the author new to you? No. I have a fair few of his books.
Would you read something by this author again? Have done and will do again.
Are you keeping it or passing it on? I am keeping it.
Anything else? At the start of the story our hero Jommy Cross is a nine year old super human. He is a Slan – mutated humans with super human strength and intelligence. Slans are natural telepaths but are easily detected because of their golden hairlike tendrils. Slans are feared by humans and are hunted down and murdered by the human government. Those that survive are in hiding. Jommy’s deceased father was a brilliant scientist who made a scientific discovery the can save the Slans. Jommy is to inherit this discovery when he comes of age. Jommy lives in isolation with his mother – knowing no other Slans. At the start of the tale his mother is murdered by government agents. Jommy manages to escape but is captured by a greedy human woman who hides him in the hope of using his telepathic abilities to steal stuff that she can later fence. The tale tells of Jommy’s growth to maturity, his discovery of a tendril less Slan community that are secretly living amongst the humans. These tendril less Slans hate the tendrilled Slans just as much as humans do. Eventually Jommy gains his fathers invention and uses it to discover why the tendrill less Slans hate the tendrilled Slans. He eventually saves the day for Slans. Van Vogt first serialized this book in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction from September to December 1940. The science in the book is scratchy and shows it’s age. It was fun to revisit this book after so many years but it demonstrates how the quality of good science fiction has increased over the decades.
Number of pages: 156
Total pages for the year: 4881


Read 2008/18 – The War Against the Rull

16 October 2008

Book: 18
Title:
The War Against the Rull

Author: A. E. van Vogt
Genre: Science Fiction
Why did you get this book? In my early days I liked van Vogts science fiction. I bought this book in June 1979.
Did you enjoy the book? Yes. This is part of my project to revisit some of the first science fiction authors I read.
Was the author new to you? No. I have a fair few of his books.
Would you read something by this author again? Have done and will do again.
Are you keeping it or passing it on? I am keeping it.
Anything else? This novel is based of a series of stories that first appeared in Astounding Science Fiction. It consists of six connected tales about an interstellar conflict between humans and the Rull. The two species are fairly evenly balanced technologically – the Rull have a more mature technology while the humans are more innovative. The humans are losing ground. Our hero Trevor Jamieson is head of the Science Department searching for advances that will give humans the edge in the war. The stories tell of two of his discoveries that should help humans get that edge. Jamiesons first and most prominent discovery is of a race of sentient beings who are telepaths. Unique in the galaxy because they are able to communicate with non telepaths. Our heroes problem is that these creatures are hiding the fact that they are sentient and are violently hostile to the human setlers on their planet. Jamieson manages to convince a captured juvinile to cooperate. The tales in this book were originally written in the between 1940 and 1950. They have aged surprisingly well all things considered. Computers are pretty much unknown – he mentions a paper tape teletypewriter. The vanishingly small role women have in the book seems archaic. When his eight year old son is to participate in one of the cultures growing up rituals – he has to be out alone all night – his concerned wife phones him. His response is:

“How about you going out and doing some shopping? That’ll take your mind off him for the rest of the afternoon anyway. Spend -” he made a quick calculation, took another look at her face, and revised the initial figure upward – “what you like. On yourself. Now goodbye, and don’t worry.”

Number of pages: 156
Total pages for the year: 4725


Read 2008/17 – There Will Be Time

6 October 2008

Book: 17
Title:
There Will Be Time

Author: Poul Andersen
Genre: Science Fiction
Why did you get this book? I like Poul Anderson’s work. I bought this book in May 1979.
Did you enjoy the book? Yes. I was revisiting an old favorite.
Was the author new to you? No. I have a few of his books.
Would you read something by this author again? Have done and will do again.
Are you keeping it or passing it on? I am keeping it. This is one of the books I revisit every decade or so.
Anything else? Suppose you were born with the ability to travel in time. This raises a few questions. How do you manage to grow up without being persecuted because you are a freak? Are you the only one? If not; how do you find the others spread through time and space? How do you finance the search? How do you learn to communicate with people in civilizations so remote from your own that you can barely comprehend them? What use (besides getting rich) is the ability to travel in time anyway? This is the tale of such a person. Jack Havig is born with the ability to travel at will through time. He learns the hard way to keep his talent secret. With the help of his future self he manages to grow up. He prepares himself for the search for other time travelers. After finally hooking up with a group, he comes to the realization that they are a bunch of thugs. Eventually he realizes that he has to neutralize the threat to humanity that they represent. And of course he figures out what use time travel is.
Number of pages: Ca. 189
Total pages for the year: 4569


Read 2008/16 – Gulliver’s travels

22 September 2008

Book: 16
Title: Gulliver’s Travels

Author: Jonathan Swift
Genre: Fantasy
Why did you get this book? This was an audio book downloaded from Librivox.
Did you enjoy the book? I guess. The intention was to revisit, as an adult, one of the fantasy books I read as a youth.
Was the author new to you? Not really.
Would you read something by this author again? Probably not. It would be way down on my list.
Are you keeping it or passing it on? I will keep it until I need the space on my hard drive.
Anything else? Gulliver’s Travels was first published in 1726. It tells of Gulliver’s misadventures as a ship’s surgeon and later as captain. He relates the tale of four voyages. On his first voyage he is ship wrecked and washed ashore in Lilliput. The inhabitants of Lilliput are one twelfth the size of human beings. On his second voyage his ship is driven off coarse and he is abandoned on the island of Brobdingnag whose inhabitants are ten times the size of humans. On his third voyage his ship is attacked by pirates and he is marooned. He is rescued by the inhabitants of the flying island of Laputa. On his fourth and final voyage he is attacked by his own crew and abandoned in a landing boat. He arrives at the country of the Houyhnhnms where intelligent talking horses are the rulers. In this county the humans, known as Yahoos, are degenerate savages and the horses are amazed at Gulliver’s ability to learn their language. The book is a satire on human nature.
Number of pages: Ca. 193
Total pages for the year: 4370