Just bringing this discussion over to ning...

What books are you reading right now that don't have a narrative driven by images as well as words?

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Just last night, I reread Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife. It almost turned me into a legitimate math geek. My mathematical skills came to me in a very conceptual way. Memorizing those rules did nothing for me, but when I finally was able to look at them from the holistic view from the real world, it made so much sense. Suddenly math was easy. This kind of book was for me, from Zeno to Pythagoras to Hawking, this covers every Mathematician from every era, as they relate to the controversial concept of the number zero.

LOVE this book. Highly recommended for anyone who geeks out over things like chambered nautilus shells and pentagrams.

Playing role-playing games really helped out my math skills. The Pythagorean Theorem was invaluable when playing Champions.

Wandering Sensei said:

Just last night, I reread Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife. It almost turned me into a legitimate math geek. My mathematical skills came to me in a very conceptual way. Memorizing those rules did nothing for me, but when I finally was able to look at them from the holistic view from the real world, it made so much sense. Suddenly math was easy. This kind of book was for me, from Zeno to Pythagoras to Hawking, this covers every Mathematician from every era, as they relate to the controversial concept of the number zero.

LOVE this book. Highly recommended for anyone who geeks out over things like chambered nautilus shells and pentagrams.

While on vacation I made it through Red Harvest and The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett. I needed a break from that, and my brother lent me his copy of Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card which I had never read before. I am about halfway through it, but I want to finish the Studio book from above first. It was just too unwieldy to take on a plane.

Since last posting I've been continuing to read mostly mid-century SF works, including books by Murray Leinster, Frank Belknap Long, E.C. Tubb, John Wyndham, Jack Williamson, Clifford D. Simak, Sam Merwin, Jr. and James Blish, and stories by Leinster, Simak, Blish, E.E. Smith and others.

 

I've also read Return of the Opium Wars by Marshall Macao, which is from the "K'ing Kung-Fu" series, and The Liquidator (1964), a semi-comic spy novel by John Gardner which is the first in his Boysie Oakes series and which spoofs Ian Fleming's James Bond work. Gardner later wrote continuation books for the Bond series. I can see why he was chosen, as in this work his writing does recall Fleming's, but the book doesn't have the interest of Fleming's. A 1965 movie version starred Rod Taylor.

 

The Leinster novel was The Wailing Asteroid (1960). The book has elements in common with E.E. Smith's The Skylark of Space, to the extent that I wondered if Leinster was homaging the earlier work. However, once its heroes get into space it goes in quite a different direction. It also emphasises the danger to space travellers posed by the Van Allen radiation belt in a way which recalls the Fantastic Four's origin. The internet sources I found on the subject indicate this was a concern in the period but the belt isn't as great a threat as the novel implies. The novel was the basis of the film The Terrornauts (1967), which apparently departs from it somewhat.

 

The Tubb novel was Toyman, an early book from his "Dumarest Saga" series. This is the first of his books I've read; I was reminded of A. Bertram Chandler's work, except it lacks the sexual content Chandler's often has.

 

The Wyndham work was The Outward Urge (1959, 1961), the book version of which was published as by "John Wyndham and Lucas Parkes". According to Wikipedia the publishers decided to do this because of its differences to Wyndham's "John Wyndham" works. The book consists of a series of stories about humanity's expansion into the rest of the solar system. The best might be the Mars episode. The book originally had four stories; a fifth was added later.

 

The Williamson novel (originally published as by Will Stewart) was Seetee Shock (1949),(1) which has a lot in common with the later The Reefs of Space by Williamson and Frederik Pohl, which I reviewed in April. In the world of the earlier novel many asteroids are made of antimatter. The hero has been part of a project attempting to harness it. When the project is raided he receives a fatal dose of radiation. To prevent a war using antimatter weapons he has to find a way to complete the project before he dies.

 

The Simak novel was The Goblin Reservation (1968). This is set around a university of the future. The protagonist is an academic who has to figure out how to obtain for humans the stored knowledge of an ancient alien race. An element in the story is the existence of reservations for fairy-folk. One of the principal characters is a caveman known as Alley. The novel didn't win me over, but it has a very winning animal character in the form of an artificial sabretooth tiger which is the pet of the heroine and acts like a faithful dog.

 

I also read a collection of stories by this author titled The Best of Clifford D. Simak. My favourite from this is "Day of Truce" (1963), in which social breakdown has resulted in a situation where houses have to be fortified to protect them against savage juvenile gangs.

 

The Merwin novel was The House of Many Worlds (1951), one of two works he wrotes about two agents of an organisation which sends them to different parallel Earths to resolve crises. The novel depicts three different versions of 20th century North America and is subtler than it might be in how it varies the alternate worlds from the real world. I enjoyed the novel, but was slow getting through it for some reason. I read it in a 1983 Ace edition which also contains its sequel, and which actually has a cover by Frank Brunner, but I didn't recognise his work.

 

The Blish novel was Earthman, Come Home (1955), which is placed third in his "Cities in Flight" series. The book is really a fixup novel composed of four stories, "Okie" (1950), "Bindlestiff" (1950), "Sargasso of Lost Cities" (1953) and "Earthman, Come Home" (1953), and is set in a far future in which cities governed as city-states wander the universe looking for work. According to the introduction the series began with the first version of the "Earthman, Come Home" chapters, which the longtime editor of Astounding, John W. Campbell, Jr, rejected because he wanted the story's universe developed more. The isfdb tells me "Okie" and "Bindlestiff" appeared first, followed by "Bridge" (1952),(2) then "Sargasso" and "Earthman", then "At Death's End" (1954). "Bridge" and "At Death's End" became the book They Shall Have Stars a.k.a. Year 2018!, which came out in 1956 and is placed first in the series. The Triumph of Time a.k.a. A Clash of Cymbals first appeared in 1958 and is placed last. A Life for the Stars, which is placed second, first appeared in 1962 and was serialised before being published as a book.

 

Aside from Earthman I read a collection of Blish's stories titled A Dusk of Idols and Other Stories. The story I liked most from this was "King of the Hill" (1955), which is from a short series of Blish's about a private organisation that advises the government called the Civilian Intelligence Group. Another story from the series is "One-Shot" (1955), which can be found at Project Gutenberg.

 

Among the other stories I read were the contents of Lambda I and Other Stories, a collection of British SF stories edited by John Carnell. According to the isfdb the first edition of this had slightly different contents to the Penguin editions, one of which I read. I found "Lambda I" (1962), by Colin Kapp, the outstanding one. It is set in a world in which people use craft that go out of phase with the world as we know it for long-distance transportation. A passenger liner is trapped in an alternative phase state, and two men pilot an unstable early craft on a rescue mission. For the book's other contents see the isfdb.

 

I also read a short novel by Matthew Reilly called Hell Island (2005), in which a unit of marines fights (spoiler warning) an army of intelligent gorillas on an island in the Pacific. This was probably written for pre-adult readers, although it isn't labelled as such. It reads just like an action film.

 

(1) The first part of the magazine version appeared in the issue of Astounding Science Fiction for Feb. of that year; I don't know if it will have actually come out the previous year.

(2) Likewise this story appeared in the Feb. issue for its year.

I started reading Alpha, Greg Rucka's new novel. It features Jad Bell, a Delta Force operative, a new character who will apparently be appearing in a series of novels. The plot revolves around a terrorist plot in a Disneyland-style theme park. I've liked all of Rucka's novels, and this one is very enjoyable so far.

Just wanted to mention that I finished Alpha, and it was terrific! If you have enjoyed his Atticus Kodiak novels I'm sure you'd enjoy this.

1776 by David McCullough

more of an in-depth look at a few key characters (George Washington, Nathaniel Greene, British General Howe) and moments (the siege of Boston, the battle of Brooklyn) than the primer/overview I was looking for, but still good enough that I read 160 pages over the weekend

Oh, I really enjoyed 1776 when I listened to it a few years ago.

And I definitely want to read Alpha!

But right now I'm taking a short break from Westeros before diving back in to A Dance With Dragons by reading Skinny Dip, by Carl Hiaasen. Yay, Florida nutcases!

I'm finishing Mockingjay and will start Les Miserables soon...will try to finish it before the film in December.  Wish me luck.

Right now I am reading Gotcha! Capitalism by Bob Sullivan. It basically tells you how you are being screwed by large corporations with hidden fees and such. How to get some of that money back, and also who to pick your fights with. As some are easier (credit card companies and grocery stores) are easier to get money back from than others (cell phone companies and banks). Each industry has it's own chapter, but I already see 2 that don't apply to me: credit card companies and home phone companies

I just started The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I'll have to go visit Bob's thread when I've finished it. It starts out pretty slow: I'm 75 pages in, and I've only just met the title character. But there's lots of other characters and plot elements that will probably be important later.

The Brothers K by David James Duncan. Just started it.

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