Home Bookmarks Papers Blog

Books

    1. An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir. A reasonably well written fantasy book.
    2. Nemesis games.
    3. Cibola burn, James S.A. Corey. 07/13/2014.
      This is the fourth book in The Expanse series, and probably the weakest of them all. Suddenly humanity can spread to the stars, and two different functions arrive to a planet, and immediately start fighting over it. The good is that there is the universe being way more complicated than humanity understand and handles, the bad is that, well, the end does not make too much sense, the story is somewhat weak, and its unnecessarily longer than it should be. Meh+.
    4. Forging zero, Sara King. 05/27/2013.
      Interesting universe and the story line is not bad. The universe does not quite make sense (too much senseless violence). Enjoyable. On the longer side.
    5. Terms of enlistment The writing is ok, but missing a spark.
    6. <Unraveling by Norris, Elizabeth. 05/22/2013
      Not horribel, but so so.
    7. Off to Be the Wizard, by Meyer, Scott
      This was kind of enjoyable. A bit geeky, but thats OK.
    8. The Rho Agenda: The second ship, Immune, Wormhole.
      These books are very popular on amazon, and they are not bad, and they are a fun read, but the SF value is so so at best.
    9. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance Authors:Lois McMaster Bujold.
      Not a deep book, but a fun read if you are into this series.
    10. The Adoration of Jenna Fox, The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson. 02/16/2013.
      What if one can be saved after a terrible excident by essentially replacing one body/brain almost completely. When is it still the original person. Not bad. The first book is better than the second one, which can be safely skipped.
    11. The Hydrogen Sonata, Iain M. Banks. 11/24/2012.
      What if a society creation myth - in fact its main religious text - was a joke played on this society by some other more advanced society. And if this society is about to move on into higher level of being (but is it really higher level of existence, or is it just death?), does it really needs to know the truth. What would one be willing to do and justify to supress this fact, since they are afraid it would ruin everything. And in the end, does it really matters? A truely interesting book, with likable and less likable characters. Much better than Iain M. Banks previous book. A rather restraint tour through the cliches of life, the universe, and eveyrthing else. No wonder that the book has some undercurrents so similar to the Douglas Adams book. A quote:

        The instrument, like the work, was near impossible to play acceptably, let alone perfectly, yet one demanded the other and the great Antagonistic Undecagonstringists (only a handful in the near millieon since the piece was written) had, allegedly, played and – even more annoyingly, as far as Cossont was concerned - left recordings of the complete work, to show it could be done.

    12. Overkill, by Robert Buettner
      Fun.
    13. slow river, by Nicola Griffith. (201@)
      Good read.
    14. West of Honor, by Jerry Pournelle. (July 2012)
      Skipable.
    15. Fireship, by Joan Vinge. (July 2012)
      A short novelleta on the connection between man and a computer, and how both of them would be dysfunctional when disconnected. Not bad.
    16. Redshirts by John Scalzi. (2012)
      What if you get stuck in the star-trek unierse. A very good explanation why star-trek,/a> is horrible SF. Not too deep, but worth reading.
    17. The Enemy at the Gate: Habsburgs, Ottomans, and the Battle for Europe, by Andrew Wheatcroft.
      A very interesting history book about the second Turkish attack on Vienna. A fascinating story about the limits of power, and goepolitical changes (essentially, the rise of Europe, and the slow decline of the Turkish empire). A true clash of cultures.
    18. Game change, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. A book about the election campaign of 2008 - Obama again McCain. Read it because of the hype, but was surprised by what a fascinating story this election cycle was.
    19. Inferno, by Max Hastings. Excellent book on World War II.
    20. Ready player one, by Ernest Cline. Excellent. I wish the guy wrote more books.
    21. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, by Simon Sebag Montefiore. 5/22/12.
      A fascinating book about, well, Stalin career. It is really hard to get the man from the book, but it brings to the forefront how strange the whole USSR was. Many chilling things, from using Terror and sending people to cities with quotas to kill certain number of "enemries" of the people (the quatas were always exceeded, BTW), to total lack of emphathy in fighting the Germans. Stalin was an interesting combination of a smart guy, with impressive memory and intelligence, and what can only be described as a monster.

      Maybe the most interesting thing in the book was about the German invasion of the USSR. Stalin knew it coming, but really really wanted it to happen a year or two later. So for longest time he was under denial that it is coming (like leaders in the west).

      He definitely deteriorated in the last few years of his life, with paranoia, and anti-semitism. He hated doctors because they told him that he is getting old and should be resting, and the rest, the rest is history. BTW, his daughter recently died in the US.

    22. Shadow of the scorpion, by Neal Asher. 9/5/09
      A somber version of the Culture books. Reasonably well written but somewhat predictable. Interesting aliens.
    23. Commitment hour by James Alan Gardner. 5
    24. Bloodrights, by N. Lee Wood. 7/28/06. 6.5.
      A fantasy book. You already should be wondering why I read it. Well, N. Lee Wood is one of my notable authors after her book "Waiting for the Madhi" - a near future SF about the middle east. Her book "Master of none" was also worth reading.
      In this book, she describes a gil that appears to a fighter that travels alone somehwere in the forest. She claims to be the illigitamate daughter of a dead king, and claim that she is the legal inheritor to his kingdom. The book is the her story of rising from nothing to the ruling of this kingdom. In the process, we encounter a poope like religious leader that manipulates everybody around him to his own political needs.
      While the book deteriorates to the regular fantasy settings, it has some advantages. First, it is ruthless and you feel that its heros are living in the real world. Secondly, I liked the end (there is a twist). Thirdly, it has a leading female ruler that is strong and likable.
      While not her best work, this book was worth reading. I hope her next offers would be better.
    25. Radiant, by James Alan Gardner. 6.5
      A well written SF space opera with interesting aliens, etc...
    26. Crabwalk, by Gunter Grass. 8/27/05.
      I liked it - although far from being as good as teh Tin Drum.
    27. Shadow of the giant, by Orson scott card.
    28. Singularity sky, by Charles Stross. 6. 4/14/05.
      A space opera in a rather itneresting world, where any research on forbiden topics (like time travel) is forceably enforced by the misterious S. The story is about a small planet being invaded by an advanced culture, which provides all its inhabitants with technology. The empire in control of this star interpets this as a war, and send ships to stop them, relying on a time travel trick to surprise them. However, the S uses various ways to prevent from that. An interesting discussion about foriegn culture and tyranny, and the right to intervene in the culture of other countires. Not up to the Culture standards, but not bad, nevertheless...
    29. Collapsium by W. McCarthy
    30. In the wake of the plague, By Norman F. Cantor
    31. Vulcan's Hammer by Philip K. Dick
    32. The battle that stopped rome 6.5
      A book on the Teutoburg forest battle between the roman empire and the german tribes, in which Rome lost three legions, and about its aftermath. Interesting, but slightly too long for a single book.
    33. The Gasp by Romain Gary. 7
      An interesting book speculating about what would happend if we would be able to capture the soul of pople just before their death, and the political implications. A very cold war type of book, but still amusing. Enjoyable.
    34. Master of none by N. Lee Wood. 10/8/04. 6.2
      A story of a guy that get stuck on a planet where the women are the dominant force of socient. An interesting book, which points out that in advanced society the difference between man and woman phsical abilities is completely unimportant, and as such society controled by women is as feasible as society controlled by man. Somewhat similar in spirit to "The gate to women country", but the gate for women country had a better story (conspiracy) going on. An amusing soap opera read, good at its league, but not outstanding.
    35. Momo by Emile Ajar (aka Romain Gary). 10/7/04. 7.5
      This is at least the second time I am reading this book. This is the story of Momo a kid growing up with Madame Rosa (alternative name for this book in english). Madame Rosa is a jew living in paris, which is an ex-prostitute, which is hosting kids of prostitutes. MR is a very complicated person, that have neuroses because of her survive of te Holocaust. This is a very touching story of Momo growing up, whie MR is physically deteriorating, as she get older. To some extent, this book reminds me of "Catcher in the rye", although I would rank this book as being better. There are numerous good quotes, like: "Of course her mind was never a hunder per cent at rest, because for that you've got to be dead. Life is alwasy a panic."

      The book is told from Momo point of view. It is very sad and very touching in the same time.

    36. The roots of heaven by Romain Gary. 8/8/04. 8.
      The settings are in Chat after WW II under french colonial control. The story follows a french guy named Morel, which tries to stop the hunting of elephants. He is being t4reated as weirdo, and is being ignored. As such, he becomes an outlaw, shooting hunters, burning down plantations that their owner killed elephants in big numbers, etc. The book essentially follows him through this period.

      But RG uses this canvas to draw a much larger picture. What is humanity? Why should one care about animals when there are bigger issues in life? Is humanity inherently good or bad? How does overcome loneliness? The book is written with a level of ambiguity and humour that enable the author to handle such topics without being pretentious. Overall, a very nice book.

    37. The return of Santiago, Mike Resnick. 4
      Long, predictable and silly.
    38. Remake, Connie Willis. 5
    39. My year of meats, Ruth L. Ozeki. 07/11/04. 6
      Romain Gary, said in one of his books, that beauty manifests itself mainly in motion. If so, then this book completely fails, as the characters move around in a strange jumps and unfathomable ways. This said, this is an interesting book - its basic premise is a documentary director (Jane) that gets hired to make a series of TV programs on Americans cooking meat to be shown in Japan TV on Saturday morning. This is all paid by BEEF EX (some organization of beef exporters). The program name is "My American wife". The program is supposed to show the right kind of meat being cooked, and families which are "well-rounded", etc. Naturally from day one, the directory has conflict with her employer what to show on TV. This book is mainly on this and on the events during this year.

      The saving grace of this book, is that it is funny (especially in the first third), the settings are interesting - showing the culture clash, and the writing style is interesting. Some of the characters are interesting, especially Jane and Akiko. The book also has a nice atmosphere achieved by quoting portions from The Pillow Book of Sei Shnagon (this is a diary of a prince that lived in Japan around 1100 yeara ago).

      This book fails on several fronts. First, it is a bit of a propaganda book against meat (growers are using growing hormones of beef. Some of them illegal but still being used and some of them have unclear effect. Those hormones when used on humans have bad impact that is well documents. There is some evidence that as such eating meat causes you to get a small portions of those hormones. Furthermore, they feed the beef antibiotics to make them healthy, however as a consumer we get those antibiotics, and as such it weaken the effectiveness of those antibiotics. [BTW, although the author does not mention it, the USA attitude towards beef is "dont ask, dont tell" - while in Japan they medically check every cow before slaughtering it, and in Europe it is done in large scale, in the US those checks are very rare and done on small scale.])

      Another failure is that characters that should be kept separated meet, making the story line unbelievable. Thirdly, the book is too sugary at times, and might cause diabetes mellitus. Finally, the characters are at times flat and two dimensional - "John" is the bad guy throughout (doesn't he have any positive features?), etc.

      The most memorable tidbit for me in this book, is when Akiko get married to John, he tells her that they should not have a baby, and as such they should use condoms. Next he tells her that his is now married and as such it is below his honor to buy condoms, and as such she should buy the condoms.

      So, overall, I thought after reading the first third of this book, that this was one of the best books I read in the last year. But now, after completing it, I feel that it is not that good. Still worth reading, but not much more than that.

    40. The Prince, Machiavelli. 6
      At some points interesting because of its historical value. But at points amazing by how wrong he was. For example, his recommendation to establish settlements in the occupied territories. As a success story, he gives the occupation of greece by the Turks (I think we have some historical prespective on thsi brilliant move, dont we?). (Not to mention settlements in some holy land.). In fact, at time, there is an urge to write a modern rebutal "The anti-prince", with entires like "Why starting a war is a political suicide.", etc. In short, the political world changed so much in the last 500 years, at least in the western world, that this book is no longer relevant.
    41. Between the strokes of night, Charles Sheffield. 6/18/04
      A science fiction book about the idea of immortaility achived by people going into "S-state", which is a kind of habirnation mode, where thigns go more slowly by a factor of 2000. This enables humanity to speed up things, and make travel between stars feasible. Some interesting ideas, but the book somehow lucks something. A bit too much of the "I have cool idea" phenomena. Oh well.
    42. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte. 5/26/0. 6.5
      Somewhat of a soap opera, but yet written in an interesting style. The bad is really bad, and the good is incompetent.
    43. Against all enemies, Richard Clarke. 5/21/04. 7
      Richard Clarke, was the advisor to the president on terrorism, when 9/11/01 attack happened. Furthermore, he served in a similar positio, starting with the previous Bush administration. This book is his memoirs of the 9/11 and related events. It is very well written, and very readable. Unlike usual such narratives, it is free of pomp, self importance, and patriotic glorification. This is foremost because RC was a bureaucrat.

      this book had received a lot of attention recently, because of the non-complementary things it says about the Bush administration. Although there are several reasons for the bias, it is hard, it is hard to dismiss RC opinion as just nonsense,

      Maybe the most interesting question, is why 9/11 was not prevented? This is especially important, considering the fact that both the CIA and the FBI had all the relevant information - they just needed to put things together. Indeed, the CIA knew that al-Qaeda operatives entered the US. However, the FBI did not know about it, because the CIA "forget" to inform them. In particular, the FBI was convinced that there are no sleeping cells of AQ in the US. Similarly, the FBI knew that strange things where going in some flight schools. This was known in the summer before, in a period where RC put all organization on high alert, and tried to make them report to him anything they knew about AQ.

      This underlines the reality depicted by this book - the failure was largely a bureaucratic failure, and emphasize for me the most interesting thing about this inside look in the US decision making mechanism - it is very complicated, bureaucratic, with different organizations having turf wars with each others, and sometimes such organizations are shackled by regulations to the point that they can not fill their tasks. Indeed, the CIA had such a bad record of intervention through the last 50 years, to the point that they flatly refused to get involved in any "dangerous" activity in Afghanistan. Thus, seriously limiting the ability of the US to act against AQ. For example, while the US could try and kill Bin Laden by a missile, the administration was essentially unable to convince the CIA to try and assassinate him.

      It is clear that RC admires Bill Clinton, because of his intellect, energy (reading and processing huge amount of information on a regular basis), and humanity. Furthermore, Bill Clinton, serving in the post cold-war period was quick to understand the new threats to the US. He understood that terrorism was one the main problems facing security after the cold war. Thus, anti-terrorism had high priority in the Clinton administration, and RC had direct high level access to the administration.

      On the other hand, when the new W. Bush administration came into office, it was mainly made out of people that served in the first Bush administration. Those were people that rose during the cold-war, and had cold-war mentality. As such, they considered the Clinton administration to have an obsession about terrorism, and gave the issue low priority. That was a tragic mistake. On the personal level, it meant that RC no longer had high-level access. His request for urgent meeting with the president or the principals committee (those are the secretaries of the various office - something like a government meeting in other countries) took around nine months to be arranged. RC thus had the experience of screaming that something big is going to happen, and being ignored by the administration.

      In particular, this seems to be the regular problem of intelligence organizations being too successful. Indeed, because of the Clinton administration relative success in limiting terrorism, by putting such big emphasize on it, the following administration had the impression that this was not a big problem.

      This book is most convincing when it discuss the mistakes that were done, and why 9/11 happen. RC describes in detail what he think should be done. He also portrays with great detail how the fight after 9/11 was butchered by the Bush administration. The invasion of Afghanistan was done with too small forces to really capture all the AQ people (interestingly, RC put less emphasize on Bin Laden, and more on the organization). Furthermore, the US failed to stabilize Afghanistan afterwards because of not allocating enough resources for it. Next, without any provocation (as far as the war against terror is concerned), the US attacked Iraq. A country which did not initiate any attack direct or indirect against the US since 93. Again, because of luck of resources, this occupation is going badly. RC is claiming that the administration in fact, did exactly what AQ wanted - by attacking Iraq, they had reenergized AQ. Indeed, the base problem of hatred towards the US that should be addressed to avoid future AQ (or similar organizations attacked) was only increased by the Iraq attack.

      In particular, RC speaks about solutions to terrorism that are not mainly based on violence - mainly education and modernization of the relevant countries in the middle-east.

      RC also points out that the creation of the Department for Homeland Security, might not have been the right move. At least in the short run. Indeed, previous experiences showed that new bureaucratic machinery sometimes takes one to two decades to start working properly. The DHS is exactly that - it is a new management to existing organizations. Running such a new department is a nightmare, one has to create the management structure, and procedures to perform things, etc. All those things takes a long time to do. (To be fair, the creation of the DHS was forced on the Bush administration by the Congress.)

      Interestingly, RC seems to emphasize the importance of stopping terrorism because of the loss of personal liberties that rises as a result of responding to such attacks. In fact, the book draws a complicated and involved picture of what considerations are involved in the war on terrorism. He is far from proposing a simple answers to the problem, and his analysis is usually interesting, and very rarely simplistic.

      The book have several minor things that were interesting:

      1. What was the intelligence operation against the Iranians that deterred them from carrying out terrorist attacks agianst the US? RC refers to this without giving any details.
      2. RC about getting the Army to do commando operations against terrorists:
          "The joint staff had an answer that they used whenever asked to do something that they did not want to do:
          1. it would take a very large force
          2. The operation was risky and might fail, with US forces caught and killed, embarrassing the President
          3. their "professional military opinion" was not to do it
          4. but, of course, they would do it if they recived orders to do so in writing from the President of the United States
          5. and, by the way, military lawyers said it would be a violation of international law. "
        I found this funny, as this exact mechanism is described in one of the episodes of "Yes, Prime Minister".
      3. Sometimes, the relevant organizations are completely clueless. For example, after the Tokyo subway chemical attack by the Aum Cult, the FBI discovers that the Aum has presences in the US, by checking the telephone book of Manhattan.
      4. Sometimes, the organizations are completely not ready for biological or chemical attacked. Quote (page 161):
          "Well, Colonel, let's start with anthrax. What is the size of our supply of vaccines?"
          "We have a horse," he replied with evident embarrassment. Noting my puzzlement he continued. "We have gradually shot this poor horse up with a lot of anthrax and she is now totally immune. We could use her blood to make tens of thousands o shots."
          There was only one response I thought possible. "We need you to get some more horses, Colonel."
      5. The FBI ability to act is limited because of Watergate, and the abuse of the FBI by Hoover.
      6. RC mentions (page 222) that the US used unmanned vehicles, with armament on them to hunt down AQ people in Afghanistan.

      One of the interesting features of this book, is RC willingness to admit failure. He sees failure as a mechanism to fix the broken things. This is a big contrast to the Bush administration, that seems to have a cultural problem in admitting any kind of mistake.

      Overall, this was a very readable and interesting book. It glimpses of how the US administration work are very interesting. The book is mostly empty of cliches, and it is an important testimony of what happened around 9/11. Unfortunately, for the most crucial question of whether we are safer today, than we were before 9/11, this book provides a negative answer (mainly because of the Bush administration response).



    44. Lies, INC or The unteleported man by Philip K. Dick. 5/16/04. 5
      The basic premise of this book is quite briliant: A breakthrough makes it possible to send people and material a long long distance away, unfortunately, because of "Theorem One" (or so the company creating it claims), on really long distances it is only one way from earth. Earth is suffering badly from over population, and it is strongly encouraged by this company that has a monopoly on the technology to emigrate to a planet called Whale's Mouth. Unfortunately, the trip is one way and people that travel it, send back glowing reports on what going on. But can they be trusted?

      (The book has direct heavy refs to the holocaust, where Jews that were sent to the concentration camps were required before death to send sometimes glowing letters to their families left behind, to encourage them to come to the camps.). So what is going on in this world WM? We dont really know.

      Then, the story continues by a guy that plans to take a direct space travel to get to this planet, although this would take 18 years. The company in charge tries whatever they can, to block him. But he almost succeeds in escaping.

      Unfortunately, at this point, the book looses it coherence, or I at least was unable to follows whats going on. With what seems like hallucinations induced by drugs, it seems like the people on WM experience illusions about what going on, except for a minority, which are only partially effected, and as such might experience one of several distinct parallel universe. The book from this point on essentially read like drug hallucination description, and I started skimming it. The last 10 pages are more concrete and definitely readable.

    45. A Maze of Death, Philip K. Dick. 05/14/04 6
      It is an alternative universe, where god really exists, and people get their wishes. In this case, a group of people ends up on a planet, but they immediately start killing each other. In the end, they all die. An interesting experiment about human behavior. Would we kill each other if we did not have to pay the price later? Do we hate each other that much? Can some situation bring us to some state (as PKD creates in this case). Interesting, if somewhat depressing.
    46. The Cosmic Puppets, Philip K. Dick. 3/14/04. 4.5
      The book starts with the idea that the hero Ted returns to the town when he is grew up, and that it is completely different than what he remembers. What follows is a rather not so interesting way of trying to explain it.
    47. The World Jones Made, Philip K. Dic. 3/3/04. 6
      A world where one has to choose between the current government which is Stalinist, and a new emerging force, lead by Jones which can read the future, but run his organization like Hitler. Interesting.
    48. Lord Foul's Bane, Stephen Donaldson. 3
      Fantasy junk.
    49. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte. 12/25/03. 6
      I liked the fact that it was more realistic than Jane Austen stuff. I did not like the religious bla bla that much.
    50. Barbarossa. The Russian-German conflict of 1941-45, Alan Clark. 12/25/03. 6.8
      This book describes the war in the eastern front, which gets little attention in the western chronicles. This book gave a more human face to Hitler than I encountered before, which was interesting. However, it was lucking in analysis and perspective. In particular, it failed to explain why the Germans got tempted into Stalingrad or in this sense the idiotic battle in Kursk. It explains the discords between Hitler, the party and the professional soldiers. But somehow, it lucked the cleanliness of well formed theory, but rather had some fragments that are still lucking.
      Nevertheless an interesting book, with very detailed and interesting description of the war i nthe east.
    51. Solar Lottery, Philip K. Dick. 5.
    52. We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, by Philip Gourevitch. 6.5.
      This is an interesting book describing the genocide in Rwanda of almost a million Tutsi by Hutu. The book is quite interesting in describing the genocide, and its aftermath. The genocide in Rwanda, is quite intriguing because unlike the Holocaust, here a very large fraction of the population was involved in the killing. How did this happen, what where the motivations, etc?

      Unfortunately, the book fails to answer those key questions. Gourevitch fails to answer those questions. Here and in some other points in the story, he takes the easy way out. Indeed, he put the blame on the Belgians for using divide and conquer, and suspicious racist theories, to put the Tutsis (minority) in charge of the Hutus. However, this explanation rings hallow and empty. The separation between the two groups was long before this point in time. And the tensions must have existed before.

      Secondly, the author fails to explains us the side of the murderers. Quite naturally, the murderers are not interested in speaking about it, and claim that nothing really happen ("there were some killings, but we were not involved"). He has one interview with one murderer, but he failed to make an effort in interviewing more people of this kind. This leaves the book somewhat lacking. His only explanation of hierarchical society, sounds weak.

      Thirdly, the author falls completely on one side (of the victims - the Tutsi), and in particular, he clearly admires one of their generals (general Kagame). This leaves us with the party line of one side, without details on what happening on the other side. In particular, he ignores or take lightly massacres performed by the RPF (the rebel Army that took over Rwanda after the genocide). This gives the book the feeling of a propaganda book, and not the book of an independent writer.

      On the other hand, the description of the inability of international help organizations to really help the problems, and in particular their direct help to Hutu Power (i.e. the genocide murders hiding in refugee camps), and their inability to demilitarize those regions is quite well described. Also, the hypocritical of all the main powers (US, France) is quite shocking. In particular, the help that France gave to Hutu Power during the genocide, is amazing.

      So overall, this is an interesting book, but it suffers from some serious shortcomings.

    53. Napoleon as military commander, James Marshall-Cornwall. 12/8/03. 7.5
      The book follows Napoolean from his beginning to his fall. Well written and interesting.
    54. Probability Sun, Nancy Kress. 12/7/03. 5
      A standard space opera. Mostly harmless.
    55. Path into the unknowns, the best of Sovient Science Fiction. 11/22/03. 6.8
      A collection of short russian science fiction of various authors. Nice, but no exceptional stories. The best story is probably "The Boy" by G. Gor, which is a quite nice story from the point of view of a boy. I liked this story because it is written in the confused way which is similar to the twe I was thinking in certain age.
    56. The uncertainty principle, Dmitri Bilenkin. 11/11/03. 8
      A short collection of short stories, some of them very good. This book belongs to "best of russian SF" serires, and the stories were very good. Nothing amazing, but several things that are thought provoking and interesting. Unfortunately, detailing them would ruin the pleasure of reading them.
    57. The time wanderers, Arkaid and Boris Strugatsky. 11/07/03. 7
      An interesting book, written as a colleciton of reports, wrttien by a worker in a special institute that investiages the signs of interventions by a superior calture in the current culture. Written in a very interesting way, and very insightful towards the end. Interesting questions about the interaction between super beings and regular beings, and love.
    58. The final circle of paradise, Arkadi and Boris Strugatsky. 11/07/03. 6.9
      A guy returns to a city. The city looks very peaceful, but he is looking around for some excitement. He finds it, but the city looks out of sync. He start asking around, and discover that there is a new drug in town, called slug. He succeeds in getting it, and then he discoveres that it the perfect drug. And second, that the drug is very easy to manufecture. He sees it as the end of humanity, as everybody will get drugged and would lose interset in life and the universe. It turns out that he is in fact a secret egent, but his supervisors dont want to buy his story. Tehy prefer to believe in a conspiracy than to face the reality of a new unstopable drug. Well written if a bit slow. Interesting, as this is written a mystery that we flow as it unfolds.
    59. Prisoners of power, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. 10/06/03. 6.2
      A guy in charge of investigating unknown space, lands on a troubled planet, and start trying to figure out how to fix things, after his spaceship is being blown up. This is a book in the tradition of space opera, with a twist. An enjoyable read, but not an exceptional book.
    60. Noon: 22nd Century Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. 9/27/03. 7.5
      A very nice collection of short science fiction stories woven together. Written from Russian prespective, it is quite amusing. The stories are quite imaginative, and are very good in any absolute standards.
    61. The Evolution Man, Or, How I Ate My Father, Roy Lewis. 9/1/03. 6
      An amusing book about the first intelligent man that invented the fire and his family. There are allegories to contemporary life. Reasonably short.
    62. The First World War, John Keegan. 8/30/03. 7
      A good book on WW I. There is something depreseing in the fact, that wars, most glorified with terms like courage, genius and loyalty, in the end, boils down to a cold and predestined calculation of which side has more resources and soldiers.

      It is very striking that the same mistakes of WW I were made in WW II by the germans (i.e., involving the Americans in the fighting).

      Additionally, I was impressed by how many of my previous knowledge turned out to be false. The Russians while collapsing towards the end of the war, put up a good fight. The british and the US had only small armies before their participation in the war started. etc.

    63. The Fountains of Paradise, Arthur C. Clarke. 8/10/03. 5.2
      Boring and predictable. The usual writing style of ACC without any saving grace. The vision is not that interesting, and the story is not that interesting. About the construction of a space elevator using super strong ropes.
    64. I'm a stranger here myself, Bill Bryson. 8/7/03. 7
      A colleciton of articles written by the author as he resettles in New England, after living in Britain for a long time. Well written and interesting, giving several observations about life in the US that are interesting and somewhat insightful. His humour, while amusing, is quite predictable...
    65. The science fiction hall of fame, Volume III, Arthur C. Clarke and George W. Proctor. 6/22/03. 7.5
      A good collection of science fiction stories.
    66. Give war a chance, P. J. O'Rourke. 5/11/03. 6.2
      A collection of article on various thingies by a journalist. Most of the events he dicussed took place in the eighties and early nineties. While I found his writing amusing and funny at time, most of his writing is not very insightful. First, because the articles are mostly on foriegn affairs, but he clearly lucks the basic empathy to really understan complicated metters he discusses. The second reason is that he is emposing american world view on what he sees. Thus, the fall of the Berlin wall is the victory of the US over the Russians (I would think the west Germans had also something to do with it). Thirdly, his sense of humour becomes predictable after a while.

      Also, he has some minor observations that he presents as a big insights (for example, some people on the left are complete gagas - like we did not know it from the time when they supported Stalin).

    67. Three men in a boat,
      Three men on the bummel. Jerome K. Jerome. 5/9/03. 8.5
      A somewhat forget classical work, which is both funny and insightful. Both books describe the traveling of three people, one in the rivers of England, and the other in the black forest in germany. This is used by Jerome as a launching ground for his various observation about life, the universe, etc. He has very insightful discussion of both Britain and Germany. The book is also very funny with various sketches which are very funny and amusing.
    68. This immortal, Roger Zelazny. 5/06/03. 6.5
      This book had won the hugo aware for best novel. It asks the question of how a depricted humans can defend the earth against a somewhat friendly aliens. The main hero of the book is a rather old guy (immortal), and his efforts to preserve the earth. While suffering from the regular superhero problem, this book is quite interesting in its writing style. A combination of an SF book, together with a greek mythology book, it tries to convey an interesting new approach to things.

      Overall an interesting book, but its drawbacks coondemn it to its relative anonymity.

    69. Counter-clock world, P. K. Dick. 4/30/03. 6.7
      This is a strange book. Starting on a very simple idea (time going backword suddnly instead of of foward), it developes it into a complicated discussion of what is death (well, people are startingg to come back to life), and whether the establishment can have any tolerance to the coming of a magnetic religious leader that is about to come alive. It is interesting that this book, like a lot of other of pkd books, ends in defeat. It is inherently because pkd believes that there is no victory to be gained. Life is but a turture, where the stakes are set against you, where winning means losing, and losing means, well, losing.

      It is interesting how this book transforms itself from a book with a trick, into a rather thoughtful book. It seems to say, that even if redemption would come, we would never notice, and we would tear it apart in our effort to keep the current balance of power.

    70. The man who japed, P. K. Dick. 4/24/03. 5.2
      A standard book about opresive society, with the difference that a guy decides to make a huge joke of things, suggesting to solve everything using "active assimilation". More detials would ruin it. Not bad, but not worth the read either.
    71. Eternal frontier, James H. Schmitz. 1/12/03. 7
      A rather big collection of short stories. This is the 6th reissue of his writings. Containing nice stories but nothing spectecular. The big Terrarium is about a bunch of people and some aliens finding themselfs caught in somre experimentation lab being run by a childish "alien". Ther are a lot of other stories, but I am too lazy to summerize them all.
    72. Clans of the Alphane Moon, P. K. Dick. 01/01/03. 6.8
      A divoce story set in a science fiction setting. With a question of whether a society made out of psychotics can survive, and about hatered of marriage. An interesting story, if defenitely not a master piece.
    73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett. 12/31/02. 7
      A standard TP book in the disc world. Vimes is being moved in time to the time he joiined the city guards. Of course, the city is about to fall into disarray because of stupid ruler. Amusing.
    74. The Zap Gun, Philip K. Dick. 12/28/02. 6.5
      A rather funny depiction of the cold war, when the two sides continue building more and more descructive weaponds, which are infact only for showoff, and not really working. Till, the unlucky day that earth is being invaded by aliens, and earth need to start supplying real weaponds. Unfortunately, it turns out that the two greated experts are in fact a sham. The story is reasably short and have several suprising ideas which are reasonably funny.
    75. In Enemy Hands, David Weber. 12/03/02. 5.5
      A reasable, but somewhat pumping lemma oriented book. A standard space opera, with the bad being too bad, and the good being too good. In addition, standard theft of ideas forom history, with X being stalin, and Y being Gebels, and so on. Disappointing.
    76. Ten Top Stories, edited David A. Sohn, 11/29/02. 8
      A short collection of short stories, some of them very good. In particular, I liked (but already read) "flowers for algernon". Another excellent story is "So much unfairness of things", by C. D. B. Bryan. This is a short story about a guy cheating in a latin exam. Another reasonably good story, is "See how they run" by George Harmon Coxe, about a guy running a marthon for the first time and his motivations. Avoid the intorudction.
    77. Eye in the sky, Philip K. Dick. 8
      One of PKD best books. Well written, deep, and amusing. It is now well accepted that each one of us is living in their own paralel world, bla bla bla (insert philosophical discussion). But what if thsoe parallel worlds are not similar, but are completely different?
      In this book PKd takes un in a trip through sebveral of those worlds. The result is a very amusing and funny look in reality, and a deep insight about the difference between people worldview.
      A very surprising and rewarding book.
    78. A night in the lonesome October, Roger Zelazny. 5.5
      This fantasy book, describes London in the middle of the nineteen century, from the viewpoint of a dog which is a helper of a "player" in a magical game played among several people. The dog is serving as intelligence corp for the the guy, and a guard.

      While the book is written in an amusing way, it is hard to credit it with anything higher than amusing.

    79. Emma, Jane Austen. 9/26/02. 7
      A good JA book, with funny observations about life, and societ. Nothing too deep about the storyline itself, which is completely predictable, and somewhat forced. Enjoyable, but thats about it. I still consider Pride and Prejudice to be her best book.
    80. Persuasion, Jane Austen. 9/8/02. 6
      A standard JA book. Except for implicit criticism of her society treatment of women, toward the end of the book. There is no special distinction in this book. The interesting thing, is how much technology had effected our social life (i.e., birth control). The funny thing is that the implicty description of the society described in JA book, is a society, which in our standards, ones lives short savage, empty life. Where somebody unmarried at 27, is almsot an old maid, already losing their buety. Another funny thing, is the description in the book of the people taking reasonably short walks (like a mile), and the heroine being very tired by this.
    81. Now Wait for Last Year, Philip K. Dick. 9/4/02. 7.5
      A complicated and interesting book, which well written. A combination which is quite rare for PKD. It is quite hard to describe this book, it has several story lies going on simultenously, with Humans aligning themselfs with the Starman agains the reegs (a type of aliens), in a hopeless war, were the humans want out, but can not because they would immidiately controled by the aliens. With a leader that pospones dealings with the Starmans about their demands (Could you please give us another 2 million people to fight in the war? Thanks) by killing himself again and again, getting a fresh version of himself from parallel universes, and so on. (Not to mention addiction to a drug that make you travel in time, and so on.)

      But in the end, this is a book about humanity. Can a person change himself, and what one is willing to sacrifice so that he/she remains human. The end of the book is somewhat similar to Personal Matters by Oe. The only complaint about this book, is that the main character Erik is a bit one dimensional. Too many things are going on, and his character suffers.

      Overall, an interesting and very readable book.

    82. Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen. 8/31/02. 5.5
      Except for the briliant beginning of the book, where a wife and husband decide how much money to allocate to his mother and sisters, the rest of the book is less interesting, and is somewhat predictable.

      What I find bothersome about JA books, is the inability of her heroins, to control their life by their own work, and creation. This is of course, not their shortcomings, bu rather the result of the society JA lives in, where money, and blue name, determined everything. As such, the women in JA books, are no more than ducks in a shooting range. Compelled to be attractive whether they like it or not, slaves to the porpuse of success, by the only mean possible, marraige. (Interestingly enough, JA never married.)

      This book si a bit of a soap opera, with somewhat predictable story. Interestingly enough, her (side) characters are not completely one dimensional. A character might be silly, but it might gain some redemption by humanity.

    83. Mansfield Park, Jane Austen. 8/27/02. 6.3
      Jane Austen books are simiilar to american movies. In american movies, the movie has always a good finish. In JA books, the book always end by the heroine getting merried. And although there are a lot of things to redicule in JA books, despite this, they are pleasure to read, with nice descritiption of people, and jems like: "IF X was not making 10,000 pounds a year, he would be a very silly man". Story wise, this book is lucking, but as mentioned before, her human portraits are comopenseting for that.

      So, what is negative? To start with, her humor is sometime of the cheapest kind, making fun of the easiest material, used throughout history: human stupidity. She very rarely make fun of cleverness, which is in need of humor as much as stupidity. But the worst shortcoming of her books, is the limited world view they present. For example, in Mansfield Park, after Fannie refuses to married H, she is sent back to her "poor" "loud" family, where they have 10 people in one home (with at least two floors), and only (and I repeat only) two servants. Indeed, a very limited definition of poorness. Furhteremore, her unfavourable descriptions of the this very poor family, luck basic understanding of relation between the avliability of researouces and quality of life.

      It is somewhat funny, that she is descripting only the high society, while we now know, that they engine of society, and the motivating force is the middle class.

      So, overall, an enjoyable read, but the book is limited by the author limited experience and world exposure.

    84. Martian Time slip, Philip K. Dick. 8/20/02. 5.5
      A man is being haired to communicate with a Schizophrenic boy. Instead of the reality forcing itself into the boy, the fears and the alternate boy universe sip into the reality of the people around him. An interesting, but not an easy read book, about reality. The book, as some of the other PKD books, is somewhat defused, and unfocused.
    85. Podkayne of Mars, Robert A. Heinlein. 8/17/02. 4
      One of Heinlein Juvenile books, but without the charm and elegance of the other ones. Also, RH has big problems handling female storyteller, and overall, the story is neither interesting, nor too logical.
    86. Achilles Choice, Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. 9/10/02. 4
      Bad. Only for teenager, and even then only if their brain is more than half dead.
    87. Dr. Bloodmoney, P.K. Dick. 8/10/02. 6.5
      There was a nuclear accident, followed a decade later by a nuclear war. The story describe the day of the war, and the life of some of those people six/seven/eight years later. Unlike other the day after the war books, PKD is completely uninterested in describing the daily life after the bomb. He is more interested in the humans, and their behaviour, once the advanced society we live in colppse.

      There are a lot of interesting people in this book. From Edie, the seven year old that has her brother inside her, to Hoppy, the handicap that have telekensis abilities, to Bonny, which is a living person, oblivious to the sarrow around her.

      It is unclear what PKD try to say in this book. For a PKD book this is a pretty positive book. Despite mutations (both socially and physically), humanity survives.

    88. We can build you, P.K. Dick. 7/26/02. 5.
      A weird if somewhat unfocused book by PKD. A company starts building simulacra (human duplicates) of some civil war people. Are those robots humans? In fact, those robots seems to be more human then the real humans in the book. The main guy falls in love with the teenager daughter of his partner, which is both mentally ill and vicious.

      This is a below average book of PKD. Without focus, real story, or ideas, it drifts on and on. It has an interesting take on celebrities, but thats about it. As any book of PKD it leaves your restless about reality. With a country that hospitalizes everybody in mad houses, and in which sanity is just so minimal.

    89. The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass. 7/18/02. 9.
      This is physically a long book (590 pages in small print in large format), and as GG is the master of the phrase and paragraph, it is a slow read.

      The story is an autobiography of Oskar Nazareth. Oskar is born sometime in the twenties in Danzig (a border city between Poland and Germany). His story, is the story of Germany taken over by the Nazis, going into world war II, and the recovery after. The name of the book comes from a tin drum that Oskar receives as a gift for his third birthday, which he would (almost) never stop playing.

      As such, Oskar, is the ultimate outcast, in early age he rejects society, the standards of society. He decides to stop growing at age three, and remains a dwarf. In the same time, society rejects him. He moves through society freely without limits, being ignored by it, and observe whats going around. In the same time, he protects his freedom with his mighty whistle that can destroy everything.

      Oskar is very likable in the beginning, but as time passes, the reader realizes that Oskar rejects not only the society, but also reality itself. He has a limited ability for social interaction. The only people that he seems to be in sync with are dwarfs like him. Nevertheless, at times he seems to be the only sane person around.

      GG provides very penetrating descriptions of the middle class in Germany before the war. The book contains a lot of very powerful/insightful/funny scenes. Sometimes a few words convey a complete complex idea. For example, discussing his father draft to the army in WW I:

                
               The two of them were both convinced that this          
               time Jan would have to go, that they would surely
               send him off to cure his ailing chest in the air         
               of France, famed for its iron and lead content.  
      
      The story itself is long and winding. From Oskar early family history, through his early childhood, the death of his mother, and his two fathers (Oskar blames himself for all three deaths), to the war days, where he becomes a leader of teenager gang, to his trip through Europe as a drummer in a group of Dwarfs, to the days after the war. Through this very hectic time in history, Oskar remains to a large extent unmoved. He gets rid of his pain through playing on the drum.

      However, ultimately, what Oskar really wants is simple happiness, and his failure to get happiness, is the force behind the story.

      It is natural, to try and think that Oskar represents Germany. Indeed, he is a dangerous monster. He start growing a bit only after WW II, when things are "improving". This might be somewhat simplified, but is surely correct on some level. He also represents the natural wish of never growing up, and always staying a child throughout our life. But, the story represents, the sad and high price one has to pay for such commodity.

      The story itself is told while Oskar is hospitalized in a mad house. It is unclear whether he is insane, or all the people around him are insane. In particular, it is pretty clear that his nurse Bruno is insane.

      The story itself does not directly touch the story of the Holocaust, but there are a lot references, and ultimately, it is the story of WW II. To make things even more symbolic, I read large fractions of this book while traveling through Germany. However, I think that reading this book as only a book on WW II is to miss the bulk of this book. For example:

                 Mr. Matzerath has just seen fit to inform me that this
                 partisan, unlike so many of them, was an authentic
                 partisan. For - to quote the rest of my patient's lecture
                 - there is no such thing as a part-time partisan. Real
                 partisans are partisans always and as long as they
                 live. They put fallen governments back in power and over
                 throw governments that have just been put in power with
                 the help of partisans. Mr. Matzerath contended - and this
                 thesis struck me as perfectly plausible - that among all
                 those who go in for politics your incorrigible partisan,
                 who undermines what he has just set up, is closest to the
                 artiest because he consistently rejects what he has just
                 created.
      

      Overall, this is a complicated book that defies easy summaries. It has the quality of other masterpieces of being very good while not enabling one to pinpoint why it is so likable. Probably the most impressive thing about this book is the alien (or outcast) look into the (German) society provided by Oskar. It is a unique point of view that I did not encounter before.

    90. The Simulacra, Philip K. Dick. 7/16/02. 6.5.
      A very grim view of the future, written in 1964. The president wife, Nicole, is the real ruler of the US (which merged with Germany). Every four years, the public go on elections to choose the new husband of Nicole. Nicole of course, spends her time having special evenings in the white house, shown live on the only TV channel available. The only hope for the regular person to escape their life, is either to appear as a promising talent in those special talent shows, or to escape to Mars, using a very dangerous and cheap vehicles. To complicate things, the government has access to time machine, so they can view the future, and prepare accordingly.

      The book starts, following, Dr. Superb, the last psychiatrist, as the psychology is being disallowed in favor of medicine, a law passed by a drug company. As time passes, we learn more and more about the fakeness of the government. First, the president is just a robot (i.e., simulacra), and later we learn that Nicole is also unreal. Nicole is being controlled by a secret committee. But the government seems to be unable to control strange forces, and the collapse of the government, as the government try to free itself of the control of the multinationals. The end, is very pessimistic.

      The interesting thing about this story, is its statement about the fakeness of governments. Is the government in the US not a fake also, to some extent?

    91. The quantum rose, Catherine Asaro. 5/25/02. 4
      A standard romance, set in sf settings. Except for that it is just the standard fantasy story about a princess, and her hard time to find her prince. Spiced in with genetics that force the princess to be good to her kidnappers, The universe is very similar to Joan D. Vinge universe - a fallen empire, a backward world, with no technology, but old technology that some chosen people can operate, and a semi strong female role. Sound somewhat similar to the `snow queen', isn't it?

      I am completely shocked that this book got the Nebula award this year. The only interesting fact about this book is the author, which seems to be an interesting person (PhD in physics and previously a dancer).

    92. Radio Free Albemuth, Philip K. Dick. 5/25/02. 6.6
      Starts with a brilliant description of the culture around Berkeley, and steadily but slowly deteriorates. In the end, the book is somewhat similar to `1984'. The story: A corrupt and populist president takes over the US turning it into a dictatorship, similar to WW II Germany, or Orwell version. The story follows a friend of PKD (which is one of the people in the story) which hears voices from outer space from benevolent aliens. The aliens instruct the guy to put hidden lyrics into an LPs, so that the people will revolt.

      Overall, an interesting read, but definitely not one of his best works.

    93. Diplomatic Immunity, Lois McMaster Bujold. 5/11/02. 5.5
      Disappointing. Yet another book in the never-ending series about Miles. Miles is now sent to resolve the problem in a far away space station of a disappearing soldier, and the stupid response of the Barayyar army. But, it turns out that in fact, this is just the tip of the iceberg, and in fact, the real problem is with Catenga, and its renegate. The book has the feeling like the author got bored i in the middle, and decided to speed up things. In particular, the end is very compressed and predictable. As for miles, he is stuck inside the regular story of trying to discover who murdered him, 24 hours before he dies. This is an old idea, and was better performed by other people.

      I wish the author wrote the next book on Ivan. He starts to emerge as the most interesting person around Miles.

    94. Bouncing off the moon, David Gerrold. 4/15/02. 4.2.
      A sequel. Intended to a younger audience. Overall, it is pretty boring. The story does pick up in the last fifty pages. Had been much better if written as a short story.
    95. Galactic pot-healer, Philip K. Dick. 4/20/02. 6.
      Joe is a pot-healer - he takes broken pots and put them together. He lives in his small office, without work, spending his life away playing a game with other people across the globe - they translate expressions back and forth, and have to recover the original meaning (for example: "car comeback" is enter). The country he lives in is essential a police state, with huge number of people unemployed.
      Then, Joe is being contacted by a divine creature that needs his service to recover some cathedral. in a faraway planet. Joe travel to this planet and story is the story of this project.
      While the book starts strong, it decays into the regular PKD mishmash, fortunately, the end is good. Overall, readable but nothing outstanding.
    96. The river of time, David Brin. 4/6/02. 5.5
      A collection of short stories. Nothing outstanding.
    97. Raising the Stones, Sheri S. Tepper. 3/31/02 6.2
      An interesting if somewhat naive look at religious fanaticism. The book describe a fanatic cult and their war with everybody around, and the life from a viewpoint of a women. The religion/cult is very similar to Islam in some senses. What the book fail to do, big time, is to explain/understand the sources of religious fanaticism. Failing that, the book becomes simplistic and somewhat mush. Understanding the source of the problem is the only way to solve the problem.
    98. War for the Oaks, Emma Bull. 3/22/02. 4.6
      A silly fantasy book. The book looked potentially interesting, as it try to be fantasy in our own world. But, it just the regular fantasy stuff. Too bad.
    99. The right to arm bears, Gordon R. Dickson. 3/10/2002. 6
      A pretty silly but fun SF book intended to fifteen year old males, A space opera about how humans are handling a bear like aliens which are relatively primitive. The lone hero saves a gentle maiden kind of story. A good way to empty brain.
    100. Tea with the black dragon, R.A. MocAvoy. 2/24/025.9
      A relatively short book, written in good taste, and with certain unique style. A bit of Chinese philosophy, a bit on computer technology (outdated by now, of course), and a very little bit of fantasy. Essentially a detective story.

      The story: Liz, computer programmer gets into trouble after she get involved in stealing from a bank she was working for (writing their security system). In distress she asks her mother to come over, and her mother meets in a hotel in SF, a Chinese guy named Long. The mother suddenly disappears, as she is searching for her daughter, and Mr. Long, goes on a hunt to try and save them both.

    101. Agent of Vega, James H. Schmitz. 2/5/02. 7.5
      The fifth book in the re-release of the stories of James H. Schmitz. I read several of those stories before. although the stories are not bad, this is definitely not his best stories.

      The truth about Cushgar (very good) tell the story of what happens when a special agent get out of control. The Custodians tells about extremely dangerous aliens that want to rent their services in various local wars on earth, but first decide to occupy a local asteroid. Gone fishing is a about a guy being sent to a far far away planet alone so that he can not interfere with some organization activity (which he was trying to take over). The beacon to elsewhere is about a rebelling group that decides to build a weaponed factory in the far far past. Unfortunately for them, things did not work as well as expected (pretty interesting).
      The end of the line is about a small group of brainwashed genetically modified humans being sent to spread the decaying humanity around.
      Watch the sky is probably the best story in this book. Describing when somebody in a very remote world, fake finding a weapon of the aliens fighting the humans, so to make this world important, and remove it from its current hole status. Things get complicated when it turns out that the weapon was faked. Somewhat similar to P.K. Dick story Total Recall. Agent of Vega is about a special agent fighting his arch nemesis. Unfortunately, the story is not well written.
      The Illusionists - How do you get rid of somebody that control the whole world using his Psi power, when you don't know who he is, and you are afraid he will kill everybody?
      The second night of summer Is about preventing the invasion of strange aliens from parallel universe, without anybody suspecting that anything unusual is going on.

    102. Emerald Eyes, Daniel Kes Moran, 1/9/02. 4.8
      A standard superman "science-fiction" book. Baah.
    103. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett. 1/7/02. 5
      Another Terry Pratchett book.Somewhat below average. Some places are amusing, but mostly it drugs on and on without a point.
    104. Tangled up in blue, Joan D. Vinge. 1/3/02. 5
      Revisiting the snow queen book from a different angle. Not too deep, but not to shallow. Swim only if you addicted. I still think Catspaw is probably her best book. Too bad she could not carry it through with this new book. But I am still hoping for a good book. Unlike Larry Niven, I did not lose my belief that it might be her next book.
    105. A personal matter, Kenzoburo Oe. 1/3/02. 8.5
      Just imagine. You are married, but the relationship with your wife is in tatters - still standing, but not firm. Your wife is about to have a baby, and she does, and the baby is defect. Probably a retard, more probably a vegetable for the rest of his life. What do you do? What if the doctors told you that they are willing to just let the baby have minimal food, and let him die, without making a real effort to maintain him alive. So what do you do?
      Well, on one hand, it is a murder. On the other hand, the other option is so expensive: living with vegetable/retard child is so consuming.
      This is the story of Bird, the hero of this book. The book describe Bird struggle for a week or two, to make a decision, while his baby refuses to die despite the minimal food. Bird is a failed person. And his shortcoming, together with his troubled relations with his wife and his environment make his decision so much harder, To complicate things, he has an affair during this week with a friend, while he stays away from his wife, which is in the hospital.
      As a reader, I did not like Bird. His decision is so hard, and his behavior is somewhat disgusting. He is the anti-hero, trying just to survive, and finding himself in the middle of a huge decision that suddenly makes anything else in the world unimportant for him.
      This is all about the price of such a decision. This is an autobiographical story, based on the real story of Oe son. This is to some extent a prequel to his book "The silent cry", and while this book does not enjoy the complexity and deepness of the book "the silent cry", it is interesting and provoking. The main difference, is that in the silent cry, it is easier to identify yourself with the hero. And the silent cry is not as "predictable" as this book is. The silent cry also acts in several levels, with several stories going on. This story is simpler, but it still reaches out to your soul, and you still wonder, what have I done if I were Bird?
    106. The faded sun trilogy, C.J. Cherry. 12/29/01. 4.5
      Books: Kesrith, Shonjir, Kutath.
      A fanatical alien race is for all proposes wiped out. The two remnants remain, go the trip to find their original star, followed by the humans and other aliens that want to wipe them out. Now, add all predictable nonsense together with the pumping lemma, and you get this book.

      This is just a pathetic ripoff of Isaac Asimov "Foundation" trilogy, with the grand vision, Frank Herbert "Dune" without the genius and clever background, and David Brin "the uplift ware", without the interesting aliens.

    107. The last unicorn, Peters Beagle. 12/29/01. 6.5
      The last unicorn in the world realizes she is the last one, and goes on a quest (as all fantasies) to find them. In the process she will be turned into human, and into unicorn again, she would acquire sadness and love which unicorn can not feel, etc.

      While this is a standard fantasy book, it is ok because the author has sense of humor, is self aware, and in a few places it has short bursts of magic. A good fantasy book, but nothing much more than that.

    108. The blue sword, Robin McKinley. 12/21/01.5
      A standard fantasy taking place long after "the hero and the crown". I was disappointed how much this was just standard fantasy. In a sense it was just the same book as the previous one with minor updates and changes...
    109. The collected stories of Vernor Vinge, 12/10/01. 7
      Contains almost all the short stories of Vernor Vinge. Essentially covered by the previous books. Does not contain the story "True Names". This book was recently released, and as such is very easy to get.
    110. The hero and the crown, Robin McKinley. 12/9/01. 5
      A well written, but standard, if somewhat short (which is good) fantasy book. About the regular ugly duck becoming the fighting, dragon slaying, beautiful princess. Which is not quite human, A good entertainment, little content.
    111. Flow my tears, the policeman said, Philip K. Dick. 11/29/01. 5
      A somewhat pointless book. A famous TV star find himself in a parallel universe where he does not exist. This is some-kind of Stalinist USA of the future, with all the related fears. Overall, this book is considerably less effective or interesting than his other better work.
    112. From these ashes, Fredric Brown, 11/25/01. 8.5
      The ultimate collection of Fredric Brown short SF stories. A lot of gems here. A superset of "and the good laughed", mentioned below. This is a new release of his stories, ensuring that his stories remain in print. This is one of the best collection of SF stories I read.
    113. Look to windward, Iain M. Banks. 11/21/01. 6.7
      A recent new book by Banks, which revisited his universe: "The culture". While the book is definitely not perfect, suffering from being too long, and predictable, it is nevertheless interesting: (i) Are we still human?, (ii) How should an advanced culture respond to a terrorist attack? Even if it failed? Does eye for an eye, soul for a soul work? What is the point of creating, if somebody can do it much better than you can do, etc.
      Much more than previous books, there is a clear influence of other authors. In particular, a fire upon the deep, and the reality dysfunction.
    114. Catch 22, Joseph Heller. 11/2/01. 7
      I had tried reading this book several times, and failed. This time, insisting on success and reading it in Hebrew, I succeeded. This book is reasonably funny, making fun of the stupidity of war, politics in the army, and madness of war. So far so good. However, it is too long, have a lot of repetitions, and drugs on and on sometime without end. Finally, the author really did not know how to finish the book. So overall, this book is a semi classic, and the title definitely become famous. But the book is not a master-piece, but I am happy I am done reading it.
    115. Harry potter and the goblet of fire (book 4), J.K. Rowling. 8/26/01. 5.5
      A disappointing book with 796 pages that clearly suffers from the pumping lemma (little contents, a lot of pages). Considerably less entertaining than the previous book. I doubt if I read the next book in the series.
    116. The gate to women's country, Sheri S. Tepper 7/17/01. 7.5
      You see, man are the source of all evil and wars. Without men, peace would rule - women's country. A somewhat interesting idea. Somewhat naive and very shaky, when you think about it, but interesting starting point for a SF book, and Tepper get the full mileage out of this idea, except in the end, where things are being made over explicit and predictable. Somewhat worried that the reader might not get it, SST spells it out in detail. A pity, it could have been even better.

      Too bad it would be hard to support this theory. Women are as warmongers as man (being from the middle-east, I know). War is just the extrapolation of survival traits into the level societies. Without wars, we might be peaceful, but we will be no better than the dodo. And the survival of the fittest, is the only reason we are intelligent, and can complain about it. Finally, I have no belief in grand conspiracies. In the real world, only simplicity works. Conspiracies are always too complicated and they get eroded by reality. The only times that avoid the eroding of times are good ideas. Well, ideas.

    117. Crystal Express, Bruce Sterling, 7/12/01. 7.4
      A collection of short stories. The stories are reasonably good but flawed. The logic of some of those stories just do not make sense (shapers/machinists), making the regular problem of over simplifying reality (thats why dune is relatively good - its reality is so complicated that it is mystical). The figures in the book are really irritating, I doubt there is any story here that I would remember a month from now.
    118. Taltos, Steven Brust. 7/1/01. 6/10.
      A standard book in his series about Vlad the assassin. In this books, Vlad and Morrlan go back and save Ailerea from the dead. So exciting. (some of his other books were OK).
    119. The Dragon Never Sleeps, Glen Cook, 6/25/01. 6/10.
      Story: A humanity spread over large fractions of the galaxy is ruled by a tyranny of guild ships. The ships seems to be invincible. There are several cute ideas, among them is the idea of recording the crew, so that if somebody dies, you just remanufacture him/her. Thus, you get ships with essentially the same crew for millenniums.

      An interesting space opera. Unfortunately, the aliens and situation is not that believable. Dan Simmons had done better job in his series (This day all gods die). Cordwiner Smith has better humanity in similar settings. The tyranny for the sake of tyranny is not that convincing. I especially distaste the super genius theory. It is just historically false.

    120. The Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Elizabeth Moon, 6/21/01. 4.5/10.
      A sheepfamer's daughter run away from home and becomes a soldier in an army. From this point on, this is a standard fantasy: the work up in the morning, the rode their horses till the afternoon, the fought in the afternoon, and then they had dinner and went to sleep. Now repeat this for 506 pages.
    121. The Invincible, Stanislaw Lem, 6/16/2001.
      Read it before in Hebrew.
    122. The nine billion names of god, Arthur C. Clarke. 6/14/01. 6.2.
      A classical collection of short stories. Contain several reasonable stories: The nine billion names of god, Rescue party, Superiority (i.e., demonstrates the first rule every programmer knows: "if it is not broken, don't fix it."), the star. None of those stories are outstanding, and Clarke had wrote better short stories. For me, Clarke is a mystery. I never understood why he became so famous. There are better authors, with better ideas. Oh well.
    123. A game of thrones, George R. R. Martin. 6/10/2001. 6/10.
      A standard fantasy, with the regular fascinating politics of a dictatorship. The only difference is that the true histories in the real world are considerably more interesting than such books (see for example, Assad biography or Japan history - for such examples of politics). The book is well written, but is so longgggggggggggg. Why is this book so popular is unclear to me.
    124. What mad universe, Fredric Brown. 6/10/2001. 6.3/10.
      A man is being transformed into a parallel universe. The parallel universe looks like a standard SF parallel universe with FTL, horrible aliens and son on. Our hero have to survive this "mad" universe. Some of the ideas of the parallel universe are really interesting, especially the mistout (big cities are covered by total black mist at night to defend them from attack from detection from outer space). Overall a slightly amusing, but somewhat standard soap opera in space.
    125. The stainless steel rat for president, Harry Harrison. 5/25/2001. 5.2/10.
      This is the first time I read one of those books which is part of a large collection about the SSR. This reminded me of HASAMBA (a children book in Israel) and of James Bond books. Pretty boring, and nothing too interesting.
    126. Threats... and other promises, Vernor Vinge. 5/25/2001. 7.2/10
      Another collection of short stories of Vernor Vinge. Apartness is a somewhat tedious exposition of South Africa past. Conquest by Default - deals with the question of whether anything can survive under immense pressure for change from the outside. The solution suggested looks like the only logical solution. Just Peace - A single man sent from the future to handle the "barbarian tribes". Unfortunately, the ties have nuclear bombs, and a horrible hostile environment around them. While the story itself is semi lame, the ideas them selfs are very interesting. Original Sin - Probably the best story in the book - what happened when humanity encounters a more intelligent but more shortly lived aliens? How does humanity handles it? Very similar to Niven & Pournel book Moot in Gods Eye. Very interesting type of aliens. The Blabber - this story is set in the same universe as the author excellent book: "A fire upon the deep". The book is better.
    127. Star smashers of the galaxy rangers, Harry Harrison. 5/19/2001. 4/10
      Supposedly making fun of space operas and the superheros in SF - this book is suppose to be a funny SF book making fun of this ridiculous things in SF. This book is full of a superheros rebuilding 747 into a space airplane in half and hour (only two of them), and similar nonsense. Making fun of bad literature is neither hard, not too interesting, and this book just gets tedious and predictable after the first 75 pages. What a waste of time.
    128. True names... and other dangers, Vernor Vinge. 5/16/2001.
      This is a collection of short stories. Similar in spirit to Marooned in real time, and the peace war. Nice stories and worth reading.
      What makes this collection special, is the story: True names. This is a story widely considered to be the one predicting the internet (written 1979 - which is very late). He got a lot of things wrong, but a lot of them right: importance of anonymity, the rift between government and regular users, and the disability of government to have a technological edge over computer nerds. (BTW, this is the first clear mention of an internet agent).
      Also the other stories are also very much worth reading. An excellent book. Too bad it is so rare: 8.5/10.
    129. The best of Fredric Brown, edited by Robert Bloch.
      This is a small collection of his short stories. Very good and very amusing, but lack some of the other excellent short stories (see entry below). Good stories in this collection: Jaycee, Answer, Star Mouse, Letter to a phoenix, Armageddon). A very good and amusing read.
      8/10
    130. And the gods laughed, Fredrick Brown
      See also: From These Ashes: The Complete Short SF of Fredric Brown
      This book is a collection of his short fiction. Unfortunately, this book was printed with only 2000 copies, so finding a copy is hard. Fredric Brown is known to most SF readers because of his short story "Arena". This book contains at least several stories as good as Arena, and some of them are very memorable - what happened if we connect all the galaxy computers together and asked them if there is god? What if women could have babies without the male participation (Jaycee)?
      Fredric brown is extremely good in short fiction. There are numerous stories in this book which are only two pages long. And they are still interesting. Anyway, I read SF for the ideas, and if you can tell me the idea in half a page, instead of 20, I would be thankful for saving my time. Unfortunately, payment to authors used to be by words.
      I guess this is as a good excuse as any to mention some very good short stories SF authors: Cordwainer Smith, Stanislav Lem, Philip K. Dick and maybe the closest to Fredrick Brown: James H. Schmitz (The Witches of Karres).
      Also worthy of honorary mention is Larry Niven.
      8.5/10.

Last modified: Wed Aug 19 21:04:35 CDT 2015