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Member Since 2013

  • 18 reviews
  • 46 ratings
  • 0 titles in library
  • 44 purchased in 2015

  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising: Tips on Defending Yourself Against the Coming Rebellion

    • UNABRIDGED (3 hrs and 7 mins)
    • By Daniel H. Wilson
    • Narrated By Stefan Rudnicki

    How do you spot a robot mimicking a human? How do you recognize and deactivate a rebel servant robot? How do you escape a murderous "smart" house, or evade a swarm of marauding robotic flies? In this dryly hilarious survival guide, roboticist Daniel H. Wilson teaches worried humans the secrets to quashing a robot mutiny.

    Gurmukh says: "Funny and Interesting Book"
    "Funny and Interesting Book"

    How To Survive A Robot Uprising is a humorous and informative look at current and theoretical future capabilities of robotics.

    This audio book is worth it's price just for the fascinating look at technology and the progress being made. But it goes further than that, and wraps it all up in a unique format, musing on how robotic capabilities and weaknesses will influence how we must fight them if the day ever comes when they rebel on us.

    The narrator for this audio book also reads very well, and his deep voice really adds to the books documentary-like feeling.

    I would like to share with you a few of my favourite quotes from the book:

    On Why We Should Be Concerned:
    "In Japan, fuzzy little real robots are delivering much appreciated hug therapy to the elderly. Children are frolicking with smiling robot toys. It all seems so innocuous. And yet, how could so many Hollywood scripts be wrong?"

    On Thwarting A Robotic House:
    "Stay focused, your house may play misleading sounds and voices, manipulate environmental conditions such as lighting and temperature, and even try to reason with you using evil robot logic."

    On Identifying Robots Disguised As Humans:
    "Listen to the subject's voice. Make sure that intonation and emotion in the voice are consistent with the situation. Set off an emotional response in the subject with compliments, jokes, or insults. Bolt immediately if you hear an impassive Austrian accent."

    "Try to evoke an emotion. Does the speaker mind when you intimately discuss the promiscuity of his mother? If not, you may be dealing with a very polite human, or a non-human. Either way it's a good idea to hang up the phone."

    On Emotions (how's this for logic?):
    "Never show fear. Robots have no emotions. Sensing your fear could make a robot jealous, and send it into an angry rage."

    It's a highly entertaining listen that is not only amusing, but actually deals with a lot of real science.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Manxome Foe: Looking Glass Series, Book 3

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By John Ringo, Travis S. Taylor
    • Narrated By L. J. Ganser

    Recovering from their first mission, the crew of the Vorpal Blade - humankind's first interstellar craft - is called into emergency action when an alliance gate colony is attacked. Who was the lethal alien enemy? What exactly happened at the colony? And dare the Vorpal Blade's battle-weary misfits engage a potentially superior force?

    TLee says: "Keeps me sitting in the car"
    "A fun book."

    I enjoyed this book in general. The whole series is a fun bit of fluff Sc-Fi. The reason I wanted to write this review, though, is to pick on a couple of things that annoyed me, though not enough to remove more than one star from the overall picture.

    The completely unnessary, tacked-on love story should have just been removed. Eric (Two-Gun) goes back home for a visit and starts catching the eye of this girl. They go on one date, and all of a sudden she's promising to not date other men and to wait for him to come home in spite of the odds against his survival.

    Okay, it's not too unrealistic for something like that to happen. Teenage girls (and boys too) often get swept up in their feelings of the moment and all that. But nobody else in the story seems to think it's a little too much. After she receives a message from Eric, Eric's mother asks her if she's going to be her mother in law soon, and she replies "I hope so!".

    Seriously? Nobody's saying, "Hey, you two have basically just met each other and been on ony one date! Don't you think you should slow things down a bit?"

    And the scenes where she's pining for him and watching a video montage to a song from the war on terror... kind of cringe-inducing. I guess it's just some video that gave the author the feels and he felt he needed to work it in. He should have reconsidered.

    By the way, spoiler alert, though not by any means a big one, he asks her to marry him when he gets back and she says yes.


    Also, the dig against France at the end there was completely unnecessary and historically innacurate. It was just the authors feelings on the subject being thrown in ham-fisted.

    But like I said, it was an entertaining bit of sci-fi fluff overall. I'm just the kind of guy who loves to nit-pick.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Alexander McCall Smith
    • Narrated By Lisette Lecat
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Mma "Precious" Ramotswe sets up a detective agency in Botswana on the edge of the Kalahari Desert, making her the only female detective in the country. At first, cases are hard to come by. But eventually, troubled people come to Precious with a variety of concerns. Potentially philandering husbands, seemingly schizophrenic doctors, and a missing boy who may have been killed by witch doctors all compel Precious to roam about in her tiny van, searching for clues.

    Gene says: "Transcends its Genre"
    "Not what I was expecting"

    I'll say up front that this wasn't a terrible book, but it was certainly a puzzling one. I think it has a certain appeal to it, but I wouldn't consider it to be a "must read". In fact, I think you should probably understand the nature of this book a little better before you buy it, because if you expect it to be something other than what it is you're bound to be disappointed.

    One thing this book is most decidedly *not* is a good detective story. Every single case in this book is completely straightforward. There are absolutely no red herrings, surprise twists, clever maneuvers, or brilliant feats of deduction. All that ever happens is that Ramotswe gets a case, she makes some inquiries, figures out the truth, and solves the case.

    She's apparently smart and hard working, but a little amateurish - she gets caught twice while she's tailing a suspect, and at one point is even outsmarted by a teenage girl. The last case, the one revolving around the missing boy, was particularly silly since the clue that lead her to the conclusion turned out to have nothing to do with the boy whatsoever.

    The story starts out by talking a little bit about Ramotswe and her father and the situation that lead to her opening the detective agency. Then it narrates a certain case that she took up regarding a question of identity. After that, the book takes a puzzling turn and starts narrating the life story of Ramotswe father. Then that leads into the life story of Ramotswe herself. This goes on for quite some time.

    This part of the story wasn't completely uninteresting, but it did really throw me for a loop. I wasn't expecting something like that in a book that was supposed to be about a ladies' detective agency.

    After this the book settles down to narrate how Ramotswe set up her business, gets her first case, and how she builds her business through time.

    In spite of what some other people have said, this book is not character driven. The characters, for the most part, are completely flat and uninteresting. There's a little bit of depth to Ramotswe which comes from some of the things she went through as narrated in her life story, but during the rest of the book she experiences almost no character development. I think there may be some character development at the very end, which I won't reveal except to say that she changes her mind about something. But if felt abrupt, like it just suddenly happened without anything leading into it.

    What this book is, is a story about Botswana. Ramotswe is just there to be the eyes through which to observe the story of this land and culture. Her detective agency is the vehicle that moves the story along by allowing her to interact with all different sorts of people who make up Botswana society. It's a story about understanding life in this foreign country through the concerns of the people who visit Ramotswe to ask for her help.

    I think there's a ring of authenticity to the account, though I'd have to ask a Botswanan to be certain. The author isn't a native of Botswana, though he did live there for some years. Whether the story would sound authentic to a native's ears I cannot say, but it's certainly an interesting impression of the land and culture from somebody who has actually been there.

    If you're expecting a riveting detective novel, an intricate plot, or a cast of memorable characters, you're bound to be disappointed with this book. Don't buy it. But if you want to hear an interesting story about the life and times of the people of Botswana, then I think you'll get a good deal of enjoyment out of this book, and you certainly *should* buy it. It's easy to see that the book has a dedicated following of readers who've enjoyed it tremendously.

    Just know what you're getting into, and don't expect more from the book than it offers.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Walk the Plank: The Human Division, Episode 2

    • UNABRIDGED (39 mins)
    • By John Scalzi
    • Narrated By William Dufris

    Wildcat colonies are illegal, unauthorized, and secret - so when an injured stranger shows up at the wildcat colony New Seattle, the colony leaders are understandably suspicious of who he is and what he represents. His story of how he’s come to their colony is shocking, surprising, and might have bigger consequences than anyone could have expected. Walk the Plank is a tale from John Scalzi's The Human Division, a series of self-contained but interrelated short stories.

    Brian says: "Bad style - at least for audio version"
    "I Was Disappointed"

    When I downloaded the first book, I got the impression that these were self contained episodes. The first one was over 2 hours in length, and the story seemed to stand on its own.

    I foolishly didn't take notice of the length when I downloaded the second. I figured that if these were episodes in the vein of television series' that they would all be of similar length. I was wrong. Not only is this "episode" only 39 minutes long, it doesn't tie in with the first episode in any way at all! There's no context for what's going on here, and it just ends abruptly. It's abundantly clear that this episode DOESN'T stand on its own.

    Now, I'm sure that future "episodes" will tie these two incidents together, but that's not how episodes work! These aren't episodes at all, it's all just one continuous book that has been broken down into sections. It's a cheap trick which I imagine is intended to build anticipation but it ends up just being annoying.

    Sure, other books often require a continuation of the story, but in those cases they tend to end at some properly dramatic point. They don't just end in the middle of some minor challenge.

    There's no way I can give this story high marks - it's incomplete. If I'm a teacher and you hand me an incomplete essay, you'll fail. Same here. The performance was pretty good though, I found no fault with William Dufris.

    This may be a riveting story when it's complete, but right now it's not. Cutting up the story into sections like this really ruins the flow. It's complete nonsense.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Saturn Returns: Astropolis, Book 1

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 12 mins)
    • By Sean Williams
    • Narrated By Christian Rummel, Sean Williams

    In the 878th millennium of human history, Imre Bergamasc awakens after 150,000 years to the realization that he has been the victim of an elaborate murder plot - one that has destroyed the intergalactic transport milieu known as the Continuum. But now that Imre has been reborn, he will stop at nothing to help bring forth the rebirth of the galaxy.

    Steven says: "Slow to start, then a bit confusing"
    "Interesting, But A Little Confusing"

    I want to say upfront that I enjoyed this story overall. The technological concepts were very interesting, the plot was engaging, and the depiction of alternate modes of human existence was very provocative.

    That being said, there are some distracting flaws that really lowered my enjoyment of this story.

    First of all, while Mr. Williams made a good start on setting up this universe with technologies and alternative modes of human existence, he neglected to flesh it all out and explain it properly. It leaves the audience confused and bewildered at all the terms being thrown around.

    For example, how is a gestalt like the Jinc different from a Fort, which is also a group mind? How is it that Fort minds can span the entire galaxy when they can only communicate at the speed of light and there are only a few hundred "frags" altogether to cover that distance? How is Q-looping more desirable than other forms of communication for Forts?

    A lot of other details are glossed over as well, leaving only vague references for the imagination to work with. It makes a lot of the characters' motives and actions very hard to understand.

    And the character who speaks only in Gary Newman lyrics? That was a terrible idea! In the introduction, Mr. Williams said that he didn't want to reveal which character it was... but it becomes extremely obvious.

    Not to mention extremely annoying! Seriously, the guy drones on and on in nothing but reconstituted song lyrics... it adds nothing to the story except for the threat of a headache! If Mr. Williams was trying to be clever and profound, he failed.

    Because of these flaws, I took two stars off of my rating. But I still feel that this was a worthwhile buy for the reasons I mentioned earlier. I plan on buying the next book in the series and would recommend others listen to this book for themselves.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 26 mins)
    • By Farhad Manjoo
    • Narrated By Ray Porter
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Why has punditry overtaken news, with so many media outlets pushing partisan agendas instead of information? Comedian Stephen Colbert's catchword "truthiness" has captured something essential about our age: that people are more comfortable with ideas that feel true, even if the evidence for those beliefs is thin.

    Saud says: "Check Your Perspective"
    "Very interesting book, but a little lacking"

    "True Enough" provides an interesting analysis of how modern media has made it hard for most people to separate fact from propaganda. The examples are compelling, and the analysis is fairly well reasoned.

    The author seems to have some left leaning biases that creep into his general arguments. But as he admits in the book, we all have our biases that colour the way we view the world. You really can't get away from that.

    I can't help but think that the author has missed much of the point of the issue he's arguing... or at least has fallen short of it.

    He points out, correctly, that there are people and organizations out there who are actively trying to shape the public discussion in their favour. This is often done surreptitiously, using nefarious means.

    It is, indeed, true that we should expect people and organizations supplying us with information to disclose who is funding them. The public deserves to know if there's a possible conflict of interest.

    But the book seems to suggest that this is the crux of the problem that needs to be addressed. But in reality, it's only a symptom of the problem.

    The author correctly points out that the increased availability of information overwhelms people, and pushes them towards choosing only sources of information that agree with their pre-conceived notions.

    But the bigger problem is why people feel overwhelmed by all the choices of information out there. The fact is that most people are just ill equipped deal with it. And the reason is that they're not trained in formal logic and critical thinking.

    Some discussion of this aspect would have addressed the issue more fully. I would also have welcomed some discussion of how we can resolve this lack, and perhaps some suggestions for those wishing to become better critical consumers of information.

    But disappointingly, the book stopped short of that. Still, I recommend the book for it's interesting analysis and case studies.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  • Gregor and the Marks of Secret: The Underland Chronicles, Book 4

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Suzanne Collins
    • Narrated By Paul Boehmer
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    For generations, rats have run the mice out of whatever lands they've claimed, keeping them constantly on the move. But now the mice are disappearing, and the young queen Luxa, who credits them with saving her life, is determined to find out why. Gregor joins her on a fact-finding mission, and when the true fate of the mice is revealed, it is something far more sinister than Gregor or Luxa have imagined.

    Gurmukh says: "Thoroughly Enjoyable"
    "Thoroughly Enjoyable"

    I enjoy complex and intricate young reader's books, and these have so far lived up to my expectations.

    Character development is handled brilliantly. The plot is fresh. I came away wanting to hear more about the characters and their lives.

    There are some interesting points to mention. I'll limit myself to minor plot points, no major spoilers.

    It's interesting that the underland word for "human" is "killer". They seemed uncomfortable with that, but it makes sense.

    Not because I think humans are especially violent compared to other species. In most aspects, we're just an unremarkable species. We're not very strong, fast, or massive. We don't have any interesting body parts like wings or claws. We can't fly or burrow or spin webs. Basically all we have to distinguish ourselves are our tools. And the most distinctive and interesting tools we have are our weapons of war.

    Even if the underland humans kill as much or less as the other animals, it would be a stretch to expect them to be named after their screwdrivers or shovels. I wonder now if this was the type of reasoning that the author went through. Could be... or maybe she just wanted to portray humans as being an especially violent species.

    I also found it very interesting that much of this latest book seemed to be inspired by history and the second world war.

    The Bane seems to be the rat version of Hitler, uniting the rats in an attempt to perform genocide on the mice - a transient species of intellectuals with no fixed home who are blamed for the current conditions that the rats find themselves under.

    And his plan for killing them is to trick them into entering a volcanic "gas chamber".

    And there's the classic question "If you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby, would you?". It's very interesting that these books touch on the underland version of that question.

    It's an excellent read, I recommend it.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Mary Roach
    • Narrated By Sandra Burr
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    The study of sexual physiology has been a paying career or a diverting sideline for scientists as far-ranging as Leonardo da Vinci and James Watson. The research has taken place behind the closed doors of laboratories, brothels, MRI centers, pig farms, sex-toy R&D labs, and Alfred Kinsey's attic.

    Mary Roach, "The funniest science writer in the country", devoted the past two years to stepping behind those doors. In Bonk, Roach shows us how and why sexual arousal and orgasm can be so hard to achieve and what science is doing to slowly make the bedroom a more satisfying place.

    Gurmukh says: "Absolutely Wonderful!"
    "Absolutely Wonderful!"

    Bonk is one of those rare books that is wonderfully new and different from anything else I've read in it's field.

    The author does not shy away from any related subject matter in her search for knowledge, even those that may make many people uncomfortable. As a result, this book is a treasure trove of information that few other people are comfortable even bringing up!

    And the frankness with which she does bring them up is tremendously refreshing. Who else have you ever heard talk about experiments in manipulating the genitals of chimpanzees to gauge their orgasms? What other sex documentary has ever gone into detail on the methods for arousing female pigs? (They're the only animal other than humans who enjoy having their nipples being manipulated, BTW.)

    I've never before heard such in-depth descriptions of the surgeries available for penis implants and the science behind them. She observes an actual surgery and apologizes for descriptions that will cause many men to cross their legs in discomfort. But to me the descriptions only enhanced the story.

    If you're at all uncomfortable reading anything I just wrote, this may not be the book for you. This book, instead, is for those of us who are curious enough about these amazing and fascinating aspects of science and biology that concerns of "ickiness" take a back seat to a thirst for knowledge.

    This book is a wonderful narrative of a journey through the world of sex research, including explorations of related side industries and events as part of a search for knowledge encompassing a wide variety of aspects of human sexuality.

    The people are portrayed as vividly as though you'd met them yourself, and every situation is narrated with frankness and wit. I very highly recommend this book to anybody looking for knowledge about sex that only a few are brave enough to tell you.

    41 of 41 people found this review helpful
  • Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 37 mins)
    • By Gary Marcus
    • Narrated By Stephen Hoye

    Are we "noble in reason"? Perfect, in God's image? Far from it, says New York University psychologist Gary Marcus. In this lucid and revealing book, Marcus argues that the mind is not an elegantly designed organ but a "kluge", a clumsy, cobbled-together contraption. He unveils a fundamentally new way of looking at the human mind - think duct tape, not supercomputer - that sheds light on some of the most mysterious aspects of human nature.

    Joshua Kim says: "Elegant"
    "An Interesting Overview"

    Kluge is an interesting overview of the makeup of the human mind and how it may not always operate as we would hope.

    I listened to Kluge shortly after also listening to Gut Feelings by Gerd Gigerenzer of the Max Planck institute. I highly recommend reading them both in quick succession because they each advance arguments that conflict with the other and help put some perspective on both of them.

    In Kluge, Marcus does a good job of illustrating many of the ways that our human brain, as well as the way we think falls short of perfection. Understanding our shortcomings is important, not to mention highly interesting.

    But I can't help feeling that he's showing some of his own mental shortcomings in his arguments. He laments, for example, that we have an inefficient memory system, and argues that we would be better off with a "postal code" type system that would enable total recall.

    However, he fails to consider the cases of people with exceptional memory and how they fit into the equation. The oversight seems to be his own case of confirmation bias, one of the examples of "kluginess" he details.

    Gigerenzer's book does examine cases of such exceptional memory and illustrates that there appear to be some significant downsides - a fact that deserves to be explored in greater detail.

    Kluge also lists some arguments counter to his, which are summarily dismissed. But the book doesn't address any of Gigerenzer's studies that show significant benefits to mental heuristics that rely on ignorance rather than solid data.

    At times Kluge also seems a little overly critical, such as when it puts forth the notion that the species could benefit from a pill to cure procrastination.

    But in general, Kluge outlines many interesting flaws in general human reasoning. I particularly enjoyed many of the tips for better decision making in the final chapter.

    Overall, Kluge is a good read. I recommend it to anyone interested in human thought.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Natalie Angier
    • Narrated By Nike Doukas

    Buckle up for a joy ride through physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and astronomy. Drawing on conversations with hundreds of the world's top scientists and her own work as an award-winning science writer, Natalie Angier does the impossible: she makes science fascinating and seriously fun, even for those of us who, in Angier's words, "still can't tell the difference between a proton, a photon, and a moron".

    Paul says: "Far too cute"
    "Very Enjoyable!"

    The Canon is a wonderful listen. The science was fascinating, the tone lighthearted, and the narrator was pleasant to listen to.

    Reading other reviews here and elsewhere, though, it seems clear that there are many aspects that you'll either love or hate, depending on your preferences. There doesn't seem to be any in-between. Many of the aspects of this book that other people complain about are things that I found very enjoyable.

    Some people, for example, are put off by the author's use of puns. I personally felt that the puns were a delightful addition. Few of them were laugh-out-loud funny, but most of them at least made me smile. I felt that they were included tastefully and didn't get the impression that they were excessive in any way.

    I personally would not say that the use of puns detracted from the contents.

    Some people were put off by the narrator's voice. I personally found her voice to be very pleasant. I don't think there's any way to really quantify this disagreement, so I'll refrain from listing the qualities they found distasteful and my response of qualities I found pleasant.

    I guess you either like her voice or you don't. I recommend listening to the sample provided above and deciding for yourself.

    Most of the things other people complained about in this book are aspects that I thoroughly enjoyed. Many people seem to agree with me, judging by the reviews. If you find yourself nodding along to the complaints, then this may not be the right book for you. Otherwise, I highly recommend checking the book out for yourself.

    To move on to other, less divided, aspects of the book - I really enjoyed how she put in a section on probability theory and understanding randomness. It's an important subject that often gets ignored.

    Some areas, such as quantum physics, get a little detailed. But it's not a subject that can be easily simplified.

    Overall, though, I finished the book with a smile on my face. I highly recommend it.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 46 mins)
    • By Christopher Moore
    • Narrated By Bill Irwin
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready

    Just why do humpback whales sing? That's the question that has marine behavioral biologist Nate Quinn and his crew poking, charting, recording, and photographing very big, wet, gray marine mammals - until the extraordinary day when a whale lifts its tail into the air to display a cryptic message spelled out in foot-high letters: Bite Me.

    Jill says: "Entertaining story, as usual!"
    "Passable Read"

    I wouldn't say this is one of Moore's best books. It didn't grab my funny bone and leave me smiling in the same way that "Dirty Job" or "Lamb" did.

    Christopher Moore is really good at creating interesting, memorable characters. I wish he'd put his usual amount of effort into that aspect for this book.

    Kona, the fake Hawaiian/Jamaican Surfer Dude is up to standards for sure. But most of the rest of the characters have nary an interesting personality quirk between them.

    The "Old Broad" is also an interesting character, but she's hardly even in the story. A few other ancillary characters show some promise as well. But as far as the main characters go, they're not much to speak of.

    The general ideas expressed in the book are amusing. For example, the notion that all Killer Whales are named Kevin, and biological technology that involves a lot of sphincter usage.

    In general, though, I felt that this book just didn't live up to Christopher Moore's other works. It just didn't have the same humour and soul that I've enjoyed from his other books.

    But the plot was interesting enough, as were the ideas and settings. So I can't say that I regret buying this book.

    The narrator did a passable job. He's okay at voices and his rhythm is good. He'd be better if he could narrate in less of a monotone.

    I understand there's a version of this story narrated by Fisher Stevens. I really like some of Stevens' voices - but his rhythm is terrible, and he often assigns the exact same voice to different characters making it hard to differentiate between them when they're having a conversation.

    I personally appreciated having a different narrator for this book. I'll admit though, it's hard to find the perfect narrator. It's a very difficult skill.

    All in all, I'd recommend buying this book. Even though I'm more lukewarm about it than Moore's other books, I still believe that it's a worthwhile read.

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful

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