2012 Completed Books

Kinda looks like my library…

Here’s my list of books read for the year! Not bad, but not my best either.

January (3)
Swanzues by Gronk
Tuk Tuk by Will Kirkby
Necropolis by Michael Demprey

February (4)
The Information by James Gleick
Dance of the Damned by Alan Bligh
Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey
The Information Diet by Clay A. Johnson

March (3)
Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World
Nine Algorithms that Changed the Future by John MacCormick
Sixth Column by Robert Heinlein

April (3)
The People’s History of the United States of America by Howard Zinn
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

May (5)
Reap the East Wind by Glen Cook
Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht
Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath and Other Stories by H.P. Lovecraft drawn by Jason Bradley Thompson
The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity by John W. Loftus

June (6)
Not the Impossible Faith by Richard Carrier
Where’s my Cow by Terry Prachett
Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey
Reinventing Life by Jeffrey Scott Coker
Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds
The Witch Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Alice Murray

July (3)
Threshold by Caitlin Kiernan
The Color of Magic by Terry Prachett
The Light Fantastic by Terry Prachett

August (5)
God and the Folly of Faith by Victor J. Stenger
1493 by Charles Mann
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
Mort by Terry Pratchett
Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson

September (4)
Sourcery by Terry Pratchett
The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
Wyrd Sisters By Terry Pratchett
Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

October (1)
Several Short Sentences about Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg

November (2)
Meaning and Value in a Secular Age by Paul Kurtz
The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone

December (9)
The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer
1493 by Charles Mann
Guards, Guards! by Terry Pratchett
The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus
Bhavagad Gita trans. by Sir Edwin Arnold
New Atlantis by Francis Bacon
The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
All my Friends are Still Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John

2012 total: 48

2011 total: 50
2010 total: 69

Not a Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I picked this up on the Kindle either right at the end of November or the beginning of December last year. I knew enough from friends and acquaintances that the book heavily referenced video games and 80’s pop culture. I didn’t know much beyond that though. I dove in and quickly discovered just what Ready Player One is all about.

The book tells the story of Wade Watts, a destitute nerd barely ecking out an existence on a dystopic Earth where climate change and government inability to successfully manage a global economy has created vast disparities between people and where a fully immersive internet coupled with an addicting, and free, MMO called OASIS (think Second Life but fun(?)) that serves as most people’s panacea. Life sucks here so zone out and tap into a digital life that has more meaning. The co-creater of this digital utopia has died and left his controlling shares in the company that controls the game to whoever can solve the puzzle he’s designed within OASIS. Wadd Watts with the help of some friends end up claiming that prize and in doing so saves the OASIS from the evil corporation intent on turning the game into a cash cow.

Ready Player One is a fun nerd thriller; is nerd thriller even a genre? It should be one, there are enough of us… That deftly manages to use the tropes of the thriller genre to lead the protagonist and the reader through the mystery at the heart (the puzzles and riddles that need to be solved in order of Wade Watts to win the contest and claim control over OASIS) of the story without boring the reader. I didn’t have any issues with the story line. My complaints come largely from the lavish, and near constant, praise of 80’s pop culture and nerd culture (if it can even be called such a thing…) which quickly overwhelms every other aspect of the book. In fact, less than half way through the book I became suspicious that the whole story was a thinly constructed excuse to nostalgically ejaculate about the 80’s. I was there too, I remember those years. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t amazing either. A perfectly good book ruined by the author’s enthusiasm for a very niche subject area…


Final complaint: In the end, I couldn’t enjoy this book because it rewarded someone who wasted their life. It rewards this disturbing kind of obsessive compulsive expertism. That a decent, no, great substitute for making something of your own life is to catalog the minutia of someone else’s. Mr. Watts has no real skills. In this world he can not DO anything. What he can do is tell you, in excruciating detail, all about  the songs, movies, and video games of the 1980’s. I have hobbies and obsession too; but, I’m not kidding myself. I’m not deluding myself into thinking that those are a substitute for hard work and useful skills. It’s the latter and not the former that are going to feed and provide for my wife and I. I just seem to have a real issue with these kind of characters.

Maybe, because I see a little too much of myself in them? Maybe, because I can’t delude myself anymore that I’m not wasting my time?


DiMortuiSunt Book Giveaway #4

I only paid for one of these books, two of them are galleys
More Fantastic Genre Fiction!

How many weeks are in April anyway? Five! Man, good thing I have a seemingly endless supply of books here. Before we talk about the four books being given away next week let’s congratulate the winners: Luana, Adam, and Nicolas! I’ll be getting in touch with all three of you to get these books out to you!

Now for next weeks books, reviews as always from Sacramento and San Francisco Book Review:

Darkwar by Glen Cook

Glen Cook’s Dark War trilogy tells the story of a young primitive meth named Marika whose life is unalterably changed when barbarians out of the north destroy her village. This sets her on a path that will lead her into the stars. It also shapes the fate of her race and their planet.

“Caution was the strongest lesson Marika had learned. Absolute, total caution. Absolute total distrust of all who pretended friendship. She was an island, alone, at war with the world because the world was at war with her.”

Originally published in the ’80s separately, Darkwar combines the Marika stories into a single book.  The meth are a cat-like people with a strict hierarchical society in which males are subservient to females and all meth are subservient to the Silth, a sorority of mystic, magic-wielding meth who control the planet. Marika, after the destruction of her homestead and her worldview, finds herself a Silth novitiate just as the order of things on her planet begin to come undone, and she is drawn into the center of that change.

Combining fantasy and science fiction in this trilogy, Cook is a master at work. His books are always enjoyable while requiring the reader to think. Darkwar raises such diverse topics as gender roles in society and how the meeting of two alien races might have drastic impacts on the cultures of each race.

The God Engines by John Scalzi

John Scalzi isn’t the more recognized name in science fiction, despite having won awards in the field and having his first novel nominated for the Hugo.  Despite this he’s quietly built up an impressive body of hard science fiction.  Scalzi abandons this fertile and familiar turf in his latest piece of work, the novella The God Engines, an intriguing work of fantasy that somehow manages to center around interstellar travel, holy wars, and the role of the individual in society.  Scalzi somehow manages in a mere 136 pages to create believable, likeable characters who exist in a world that, while fantastic (spaceships travel by dominating captured deities and forcing them to move them through the stars), is both wonderful and convincing.  I have only two complaints with the book:  it ends far too soon and the conclusion is rushed as if Scalzi forced an ending on a story that needed several more pages to it.  In the future I hope Scalzi takes another stab at fantasy, one that lasts a little longer…

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro (review by Theresa Lucas)

A Boeing 777 lands at JFK International Airport and immediately shuts down. All communication is cut off, and when the first responders arrive, they find the plane sitting quietly, completely dark, with all the shades pulled down and the doors pulled so tightly they cannot be opened. Just as the rescue crew gets ready to cut into the plane, the door quietly opens, and the horror begins. Almost all the passengers onboard are dead, sitting in their seats with no visible signs of struggle or panic. And in the cargo hold, a very large coffin filled with dirt is discovered. The Center for Disease Control is called in to investigate, but the virus they find is more deadly and ancient than anything they could have imagined. Strange alliances form as it becomes clear that the people on the plane aren’t staying dead, and vampires are real. From the imaginations of Guillermo Del Toro, the director of Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth and author Chuck Hogan, The Strain is a good old-fashioned horror novel that reminds us vampires really are monsters – not the emotionally tortured souls of paranormal romance novels. The Strain is a very satisfying read that will quench your thirst for a well-crafted, suspenseful book.

Lastly, we have Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow

Sharp Teeth is an epic poem about werewolves in modern day Los Angeles. This book is actually more awesome than it sounds, and if it doesn’t sound awesome to you, you need to re-evaluate your literary standards. Epic, gritty, fast-paced and surprising. Barlow stretches both his subject and poetry in this inventive piece of fiction.

Sorry, I don’t have a longer review of Sharp Teeth, I never reviewed the book when I originally picked it up. It has been a couple of years at least since I read it last and I don’t think I could do it justice by winging it from memory. If I had to pick one book out of the four it’d be Sharp Teeth, it’s just so much more interesting than the other three.

You know the rules by now. Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered to win one of these books next Friday.

DiMortuiSunt April Book Giveaway #3

Technology Books!

Welcome to week three of the book giveaway here at DiMortuiSunt! Congratulations to Nicolas Rycar and Richard Smith for winning! This week I’m giving away three books (are you seeing a pattern?) all of which have something to do with technology. From my reviews at Sacramento and Portland Book Review:

Hacking: The Next Generation

Computer security has never been an easy job. The advent of the internet only complicated things, and now with social media it has become even more so. Hacking: The Next Generation is an in-depth, extensive look at how hackers are using new tools to get their hands on and in other people’s business. This book is not for the casual reader, and it isn’t even for the savvy computer user; IT workers, systems administrators, and computer security professionals are the target audience here. Dhanjani and Company go through the entire inventory of security breaching in this book, with real-world examples and sample code to show just how easy it is for hackers to get a hold of information in today’s world. Phishing, Social Engineering, Using Social websites for Data Mining, Cross-Site Scripting, Abusing SMTP and ARP, Blended Threats, Cloud Computing Vulnerabilities–it is all here with case studies and code. As computing becomes ever more complex and heterogeneous hackers and attackers will have an increasing array of options to use, security professionals need to be aware of these new threats and how the traditional methods (fortress like defenses) are ill equipped or, worse, completely unable to rebuff them. Hackers: The Next Generation is a guide showing where the hacking scene is now, where it is trending and how best to combat it.

The Net Delusion:

The Internet has been sold as a panacea for the world’s ills. Economic equality, totalitarianism, social justices are all problems that the Internet has been proposed to be an answer to. Much like its forebears: telegraph, radio, television, the Internet has failed to deliver on those promises. Despite this the Internet has eagerly been embraced by Washington D.C. as the weapon of choice against totalitarian regimes. Evgeny Morozov addresses these issues in The Net Delusion, a comprehensive look out how the Internet is not as simple a tool as politicians in the West believe it to be, how Authoritarian regimes can, and have, used the Internet to increase their hold on power, and how centering policy on technology blinds policymakers and citizens as to the nature of the issues they must deal with. Morozov’s culprits are cyber-utopianism and its child Internet centrism. The first is the belief that technology is always the answer to any problem and its offspring is the philosophy that the best answers to these problems should be addressed through the World Wide Web. Morozov thoroughly highlights the deficits of these views and reminds readers that “the promotion of democracy is too important an activity to run out of Silicon Valley.”

Cult of the Amateur  – I don’t have a review of this book (anymore.) I must have lost it somewhere along the way. I recall thinking Mr. Keen had an interesting take but was a little too worried about civilization falling apart. We do need professionals and they do need to be compensated for their work. I don’t think blogs or amateur created content  are going to replace them, unless of course the amatuers are doing a better job at a better value. A good read, just one I don’t agree with.

You can win one of these books by leaving a comment below. Next Friday, I’ll pick three winners at random from the comments and mail them a book. If you’ve already entered you can enter again. If you’ve already won you can still enter!

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