Springfield, OR, United States | Member Since 2011
For a book series with a rumored TV adaptation, the 3rd book arrived on Audible with little fanfare. I awaited and searched for release dates for months only to randomly discover it on Audible last week, lacking proper cover art or any features on the website. (For any audible employees reading, a favorite authors system would be great). That said its finally here and it's wonderful to have.
There isn't much reason to justify The Expanse if you've already read the first two books (and if you're like me, you've read the short stories. It's a rich and strangely believable universe of humans and space, where the fab team that make up James S.A. Corey never loose sight of the humans of the story. Having made my attempts at other popular sci-fi series, The Expanse feels rich, detailed and populous, without the extremes hardware worship or the obsessively dry space battles. Its easily my favorite series (besting my previous favorite of Peter F Hamilton's neurotically complex commonwealth series)
This go around rotates the cast, Bobbie and the wonderfully foul-mouthed Chrisjen are absent with new characters, Anna, an immigrant priest with strongly defined moral compass as much as James Holden, and Bull, a tough-as-nails chief security officer on the Behemoth, as replacements. True to form, each adds to the colorful and blossoming cast of The Expanse, although neither quite trump the cast they're filling in for.
Without spoiling much, the ride is exciting although doesn't quite hit the sensational horror of the first novel or the intensity of the second. This isn't to say its lost itself but the arch pertaining to the proto-molecule is largely explained, and while clever, isn't as surprising as some of the other twists in the previous books, especially in the wonderfully unpredictable fashion of the first two. I will give credit where credit is due, as the mystery isn't compounded into irrelevance not is it drawn out to insignificance. Pulling off the big reveal is always difficult and the Expanse does it well. Any additions to the series will now face a new arch.
The book's end stops a few chapters too early but the best entertainment always leaves you wanting more.
I look forward to seeing what the next books will be like.
Hard Luck Hank's namesake is finally coming to fruition, its been several decades since the events of the last book. Bellvale isn't the small space station of purely the dregs of society, but rather one of the remaining bastions of a once great empire. Garm is a shadow and hasn't been seen in 50 years. Bellvale is over populated, falling apart and Hank is one of the few forces keeping it from imploding.
Time hasn't been kind to Hank. If he seemed lumbering and oalfish in the first book, and painfully slow in the second book, he's now reduced to the ability to stand up if he falls under his own strength due to his own density.
This romp is a strangely dour as Hank has become increasingly fatalistic and nihilistic about his own situation. While Prince of Suck doesn't quite have the charm of Screw The Galaxy, it's a mild improvement over the second book, where any introduced character was seemingly killed off. It still feels meandering and isn't always abundantly clear where/what is going on but Campbell seems to be headed back to the right direction.
Liam Owen still is the right narrator for the job but there's something off in the mastering as often a high pitched ringing can be heard in the dialogue. It comes and goes, but is quite noticeable between my cheap $10 JVC marshmallow ear buds, my rather expensive Klipsch X11is earbuds and even over my iPhone's internal speaker. When I first heard it, I thought the noise was something in my car, which left me pausing and playing and soon realized it was the recording. It didn't quite break the book for me but certainly was annoying. Either Liam Owen was in a noisy environment, or his recording gear could use some fixing/upgrading.
Becoming Steve Jobs will not be the last biography written of Steve Jobs but it aims to be the last word, as a stubborn rebuttal to Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs. The Steve Jobs who was portrayed in Isaacson's book fit the popular conception of Jobs, a hyper intelligent, emotion driven man prone to fits of rage, anger and despair with little compassion for the people who surrounded him. Perhaps this is trite and the critics argue that a man prone to such fits could never operate such a wildly successful company. Several of Jobs' friends, Jon Ives included, complained about the treatment given to him by Isaacson, thus Becoming Steve Jobs aims to set the record straight, and reclaim the discussion.
However, Becoming Steve Jobs doesn't spend much time on Jobs' childhood, and speeds through the fabled early days of Apple to get his NeXT years where Jobs learned how to cope with his negative traits. This isn't meant to be the comprehensive biography but rather highlighting his self-actualization that took during those years. With this promise, the authors try to piece together the transformative process, try being the operative word.
The NY Times lamented Becoming Steve Jobs with the following sentiment: "What they don’t have is a deep and consistent insight into what, beyond aging, was at the heart of this growth. This book also has no clear idea of what kind of readership it’s after.' Its a dead on summary, the book is a pleasant read, even enjoyable but slightly lacking new insight onto Jobs.
Becoming Steve Jobs suffers from slightly too much distance and perhaps, too much idolization from the man who famously denied the existence of his first born only to years later name a computer after his supposed child he refused to acknowledge. However, this isn't a book about his failures but rather his personal triumphs.
Even though equally flawed, Isaacson's Steve Jobs still is the best game in town with the rare direct access without any editorial oversight from the subject. Enjoyable but not terribly illuminating.
I'm not familiar with Douglas E Richards, so this was my first book by him I've read. The science is interesting, the concepts are more than enough to carry the the "techno-thriller" part of the book, but Quantum Lens read and felt like a poor man's version of Daniel Saurez's Influx.
The biggest dent in the story wasn't the theories presented but just the one-dimensionality of the characters. There's also a bit of wanton speculation on the nature of the universe, and when the main character explains it in a pseudo-quantum-science-meets-religion. Not a problem, and I was willing to bite for the sake of a good story. However, I expected the other main character be a bit of a rational anchor as one would expect as being another person of science, especially being a person specializing in brain psychology. There's also a timeout for a libertarian rant, again seems unanchored and immediately accepted by the second main character yet again, especially when said person is on the government dole and in the academia tract (who might be expected to take a slightly different position). I wasn't expecting for a full-fledged socio-political exploration on pseudo-religion vs science or libertarian vs socialism, just more depth from the characters. For a book about smart people, when it comes to interacting, they're pretty simple, and there isn't room for any debate... but this is a thriller so intellectual debates aside...
Why is the bad guy bad? World domination/sharia law. Why is the good guy good? Someone must protect the innocent people. Can the good guy hack beyond any logical comprehension? Of course he can! There's even a damsel-in-distress to toss into the mix, passed around as the bounty for the hero.
For a book that's quite heady, it's also an underhand pitch in character development. There's a minor twist which wasn't a surprise. I hoped that it actually was what being presented by the villain and not what I suspected, as it'd been less predictable. Had Richards been willing to make that turn, it would have made for a more interesting book, and justified the simple interactions previously as a condensed for the big reveal. Alas, it was not so.
It was enjoyable but risk-adverse, surprising for a book that takes risky leaps into science and religion. While iImay have spent almost the entirety of my review pointing out the negatives, I can't say I didn't enjoyed it. In the end, I was mostly disappointed as it simply fell short.
Having burned through a host of like minded books on the shadowy side of the internet (Spam Nation, Flash Boys, Countdown to Zero Day, Worm, No Place To Hide) all in the last 6 months, @War is the latest.
While it lacks the finesse and technical prowess of Kim Zetterman's Countdown to Zero Day, @War clearly chronicles the United States approach to digital security and warfare, following small vanguard in the US government.
It starts off by building initial successes of digital intelligence, particularly as seen in the "Surge' in Iraq and places the reader at first as the justifications as seen by the Bush Jr and Obama administrations, and carefully builds a case for the relentless assaults on cyber security, primarily by government sponsored Chinese hackivists, spies and agents. Harris displays a far reaching knowledge, exposing readers to the little known National Reconnaissance Office to the even lesser known private "security" firms Vupen, Endgame and Netragard, as exposed by other journalists like Andy Greenberg, and heavily borrows from Greenwald's investigation of the Snowden files.
Right about the point where Shane Harris starts to feel like he's cheerleading the surveillance state, he starts in by exposing the problems of the government over-reach, Harris starts to dissect the shaky future ahead from hoarding zero day exploits, with rogue corporations initiating retaliation hacks that reaks of William Gibson novel.
As a writer, Harris is to the point avoids over novelization that Mark Bowden was suspect to in Worm, but also lacking the urgency of Countdown to Zero Day. In the end, its the best game in town if you're looking to understand how we got from point A to B and strong piece of journalism, although slightly diminished by others who have gotten there first. The true gift is having a single book that pieces several major stories into one coherent narrative.
Hardluck Hank: Screw the Galaxy was a surprise sci-fi treasure, mixing the right amount of humor, sci-fi and inanity to make for a very entertaining book.
Basketful of Crap picks up years after the first book but doesn't quite have same lovable charm. The story doesn't pick up much on the previous rather-important-seeming adventure and sluggishly meanders. It never seems to have a clear direction. Also, Hank seems a little less refined. Characters seem less developed, Hank is a bit dopier, and many new characters feel introduced to be killed off.
Its not bad, but Hank doesn't seem to have evolved much, instead devolved into always dim-witted, always-hungry brute looking for nearest bathroom. It wasn't terrible, but just a bit of disappointment.
Liam Owen's performance yet again is spot on, in his Patrick Warburton inspired delivery for Hank.
Up Until Now accurately simulates the experience of being trapped broken elevator in one-sided conversation with William Shatner for 10 hours. Shatner's stories have the rhythm of free form beat poetry, meandering through Shatner's over-sense of self, lit through his mind's prism. From his refractions, Shatner attempts to tell his life story. Surprisingly, it's fantastic, and has a brilliance that's never seems quite intentional.
I was recommended it by brother to which my reaction was a resounding "Eh" as I wouldn't describe myself as fan of Shatner.... but when he mentioned the audiobook was narrated by Shatner, I was sold. It's probably one of the fully most realized explorations "Poe's Law" where the parodying and lines of reality are blurred. Between William's tendency to self-plug as an oft-joke (yet, it's not really a joke) and jumping between pivotable life events, you actually get a much more interesting read than a usual straight linear biography. It's funny, sad, serious, self-aggrandizing and mocking. I enjoyed it probably more than I should have...
Digital warfare generally conjures up bad science fiction imagery and seems more fanciful fiction than reality... However, that changed when Stuxnet was discovered, a carefully multiple pronged attack against Iran's secretive nuclear weapons program.
"Countdown to Zero Day" chronicles the discovery Stuxnet from its origins in Belarus, and follows the painstakingly detailed researched conduncted by a truly international cast, from Symantec researchers in the United States, Kaspersky Labs in Russia and security firms in India.
Kim Zetter carefully introduces the mystery of who wrote the Stuxnet virus and takes plenty of intermissions to explain the instability and insecurity of industrial control systems, and the very real threats they yield, as told by real world incidents, controlled tests and government experts assessment.
The book is measured, and isn't written as a fear-mongering piece, advocating more security but rather how the United States rushed head first into a new domain of espionage and war without ever fully considering the ramifications. It's painfully damning George Bush Jr and Barrack Obama's administrations.
Joe Ochman is almost a non-entity, transparently blending into the content and I mean this as a positive. I barely registered him as I was lost within the content. He's exceptionally easy to listen to, and never distracting. For a book that requires mostly narration, he's a great match.
Kim Zetter is extremely versed in his technology, and painstakingly details each major reveal in the case of Stuxnet as a hodgepodge of global researchers chase the rabbit continually further down the hole.Zetter isn't afraid to critique, often using quotes between security firms and government representatives to express the problematic nature of our digital platform. Towards the end, Zetter quotes and deconstructs the mantra, NOBUS (Nobody but us) used by the NSA, as an inherently flawed and naive view of cyber-security. Essentially, the inaction of government agencies to report weaknesses, flaws and glitches to save as a goodie bag for the United States puts everyone at risk as its arrogant to assume the United States will be the only ones who can use an exploit, and the "digital missiles" can be caught, deconstructed and fired back. In digital warfare.
Having read, Mark Bowden's Worm, about Conficker, Zetter avoids pandering and cuts into the technical aspects without apology. It's sure to alienate less technical readers. Those unfamiliar with patch Tuesday and the significance of out-of-band updates from Microsoft, or even what a zero-day exploit is, may want to start with Worm as a primer.
This book isn't for everyone due to the technical nature of it. I could easily see an average reader getting lost or eyes glazing over at times. As someone who's livelihood is tied web development, and followed stuxnet in the news, this book is fascinating. I remember clearly being blown away when the MD5 collision attack was discovered as it essentially confirmed that Stuxnet was made by nation-state actors.
In the end, it's wild ride, stranger than fiction journey that involves international conspiracies, assassinations, wildly intelligent researchers across the entire globe. By the end, while you never learn who the faces are behind Stuxnet, you'll have zero doubts about which nations were behind it.
Harry Markopolos can be grating at times, between his overuse of "zingers" when describing the SEC ( "couldn't find a bee in a beehive"), overemphasis on his Greek heritage, and his reveling in his own self paranoia. Markopolos seems to reveling in the idea of himself as a pistol packing gumshoe, walking the lonely streets of NYC.... and yes, our hero does carry a side-arm, as he reminds us several times.
However, Markopolos does warrant some self-congratulation as he's the lone-voice who repeatedly tried to bring the Madoff Ponzie scheme to light. The book could have been one giant, "I told you so" instead reads a manual of how the SEC failed and surprisingly, some sound advice on how to fix it.
The book doesn't quite outstay its welcome but felt slightly more drawn out than necessary. During the entire book, probably the most fascinating factor is we never quite get to know Madoff, nor does Markopolos extrapolate or even infer what Madoff must have been thinking or feeling. Most of the book, Madoff is a distant figure, far off in an ivory tower. Harry never does face his foe, but instead his beast to slay is the SEC itself, the regulatory agency charged with managing the market.
Even with my fairly pedestrian understanding of the underpinnings of investment banking, it was interesting, damning, and enjoyable.
Lastly, Scott Brick's melancholy narration is perfect for the tone of the book, and helps take a little of the edge off Harry Markopolos . The only breaks in the narration are for the so-so cameos by the author and his crew, and a very painful five minutes when Michael Orcrant, reads his own words. Other than that, Brick is a winner.
The Abyss is the start of a third series all set in Hamilton's incredibly dense and imaginative Common Wealth, a futuristic society of humans set after humans have mastered worm hole travel and the ability to live indefinitely.
If you haven't read Pandora's Star + Judas Unchained and The Void trilogy, the Abyss isn't the place to jump in. The events of the The Abyss take place before and during the events of The Void, but from the perspective of the playboy capitalist, Nigel Sheldon, and a few new comers. The starts with Paula Mayo, the closest thing to a main character to the expansive cast as she's tasked with finding Sheldon on behalf of the Raiel to enter the Void. We're re-introduced to a few old faces but mostly a new faces.
The events take place within the Common Wealth, and the world of the Void, and a new threat, The Fallers.
The strength lies in the story's meta-fantasy and Hamilton's ability to world build a universe where the humans still feel human despite thousands of years of technology. I've yet to find a series that I can compare to Hamilton's Commonwealth. It's hyper sexed, crass, occasionally violent, dense, sometimes confusing with the amount of detail but ultimately the best series I can name I've read with some truly memorable characters
Caine Riordan, no matter the situation, always seems to have the upperhand, be it surprise assassination attempts or interstellar diplomacy, the point of exhaustion.
The book starts off a bit slow, a bit of "What does all this mean?" Caine, formerly a journalist and analyst wakes to find he's been woken from Cryosleep for 13 years and he's missing 100 hours (give or take) of his memory leading up to the events that put him in cryostasis.
From there, Caine is recruited into a shadowy organization without much choice. However, despite his disposition, rarely does Caine encounter a challenge he can't defeat.
The book stumbles a few times with the awkward timelines, revisiting events that unfold but adding details that weren't told first go around. You're not given the full story with a chance encounter, and then only when the book takes a giant leap forward we get the full scoop. It feels slightly haphazard and somewhat confusing. I imagine reading it perhaps it might be a little more natural.
The book goes in a few unexpected directions, in a good way but even in the most unlikely circumstances, Caine has an unnerving grasp. Other characters get a little more honest treatment, and the book really picks up after a hostage situation.
That said, occasionally the logic of the diplomacy seemed slightly off. Good, but not great. Gannon isn't afraid of complexity or depth which is appreciated. The end cuts off without much fanfare and we're reminded that we can continue in Caine's adventure in the follow up book and given a 15 minute taste of the sequel.
Overall, I enjoyed it but found myself backtracking a few times just to make sure I caught everything.
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