Mortal Engines (Mortal Engines Quartet Book 1) – Philip Reeve

“Crome smiles. “Do you really think I am so shortsighted?” he asks. “The Guild of Engineers plans further ahead than you suspect. London will never stop moving. Movement is life. When we have devoured the last wandering city and demolished the last static settlement we will begin digging. We will build great engines, powered by the heat of the earth’s core, and steer our planet from its orbit. We will devour Mars, Venus, and the asteroids. We shall devour the sun itself, and then sail on across the gulf of space. A million years from now our city will still be traveling, no longer hunting towns to eat, but whole new worlds!”

In a steampunk world, where cities are wandering the land using huge wheels and tracks, a boy becomes witness to the start of a new era. The focus of the book is the city of London, moving now on tracks over the land, swallowing smaller towns and looking for dominance in the new Municipal Darwinism.

In a steampunk dystopia, it’s town eat town world.

Thrown from London and thought dead, victim of fateful event, Tom, Third Class Apprentice to the Guild of Historians, is the protagonist of the story. His adventure brings him to air towns, baloons, pirate suburbs, anti-tractionists, who believe cities should not move, and encounters even cyborgs.

The story is creative, superbly written and the world created is truly a wonder. A film was released in 2018 following the book.

The book seems dedicated to young readers: the protagonist is a boy, many things that occur to him are due to simple luck and the story has many just-in-time moments. However, the intrigue is captivating and there is noir background to the adventure.

A great book to read, particularly for your readers.

The New Digital Age – Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen

There are an untold number of cultural similarities that have never been fully explored because of the difficulty of communication; in a future revolutionary setting, seemingly random connections between distant populations or people will entail knowledge transfer, outsourcing certain types of duties and amplifying the movement’s message in a new and unexpected way.

The book is written by the former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, and Jared Cohen, former CEO of Google Ideas, and presents a vision of the future.

This future is largely dominated by digital, including in the medical field, in house appliances, with driverless cars, new ways of a state to govern, all interconnected.

There are information privacy concerns, a discussion on Assange’s Wikileaks motives and Navalny’s corruption exposures.

The media is in the era of instant information. Trust is important to determine the veracity of news. News become instant and losses quickly it’s value. As anyone can become a source of news, veracity becomes more important.

An important point made repeatedly by the book is that anything written online remains forever. There is no erase button. No privacy settings or even deleting emails can block that [the book was written in 2013, before the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation].

States are much interested in the use of data and a fragile equilibrium is set between security concerns and individual privacy.

The book is very forward-looking and opens a few delicate debates. However, while putting forward many interesting ideas, I felt that I am reading nothing new. I struggled since 2016 to finish the book.

The Numbers Game – Chris Anderson, David Sally

It is easy…to think of soccer as a game of superstars. They provide the glamour, the genius, the moments of inspiration. They sell the shirts and fill the seats. But they do not decide who wins games and who wins championships. That honour falls to the incompetents at the heart of the defense or the miscommunicating clowns in midfield. Soccer is a weak-link game. This has profound implications for how we see soccer, how clubs should be built and teams constructed, how sides should be run and substitutions made. It changes the very way we think about the game.

Did you know that making your worst players perform better gets you more points than getting your best players improve?

Did you know that the wage bill of a club is the best indicator for the club’s performance?

Did you know that most goals have about four passes before the final shot?

The book analyses football statistics to the bone, looking at all factors: goals, finance, training, transfers, etc. While a bit dry for non-mathematical minds, it shows great understanding and research into the details of the sport.

Inspired by the famous Moneyball book and movie, based on the real statistician who transformed baseball, this volume does the same to football.

Pioneering football analytics

It looks at everything related to the game, from before the match, on the pitch, management and finally after the match.

Each phase of the game is researched in great statistical detail, showing the analytics that are now norm in the professional game.

While filled with charts and statistics, the volume is easy to follow and good at explaining facts, despite the mathematical language often used. Goals are the main target of analysis and other factors are brilliantly explained in their relation to the game. The only part that is maybe missing is the marketing part

Overall, the volume from Chris Anderson and David Sally  is an absolute treasure for football’s cerebral fans.

Japanese Destroyer Captain – Tameichi Hara

It was painful to consider that the nation which could produce the world’s greatest battleships was unable under pressure to produce a single satisfactory torpedo boat.

These are the memoirs of the only Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer captain at the start of World War II to survive the entire war. Tameichi Hara presents his memoirs, with the help of journalist Fred Saito and translator Roger Pineau.

The book focuses on the navy battles of the Pacific in 1942 and 1943 while captain Hara was fighting the US Navy in Guadalcanal and the Philippines, being involved in over a dozen major actions.

The stories are an unique view of the Imperial Japanese Navy, their tactics, problems, morale and weaponry. The writing is engaging, and the pace is surprisingly good for a memoirs book.

Tameichi Hara, a great mind, navigating difficult waters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Hara is not just as simple captain. He wrote the Japanese manual for torpedo tactics, the most advanced in the world at the time. He managed to keep his ship intact with no crew loses, in several military engagements, when Japanese destroyers where sunk or damaged at a high rate.

The book practically shows how the power of air took over the power of navy, how warplanes gradually got the upper hand over warships.

Towards the end of the war, he accepted a suicide mission, as captain of the light cruiser Yahagi, accompanying battleship Yamato in its last attack.

What logic can make a human being to accept almost certain death, when everything else is lost? Captain Hara beautifully describes the situation and the facts with great precision.

The book is superbly researched, the Japanese actions being verified with accounts from the Allies. Those are some great memoirs, on par with the ones of Heinz Guderian, another great innovative mind. While Hara was the master of torpedo, Guderian was master of tanks, both ending on the same during and after the war.

Horus Rising (The Horus Heresy PART 1) – Dan Abnett

You are walking along the shores of a lake,’ Sindermann said. ‘A boy is drowning. Do you let him drown because he was foolish enough to fall into the water before he had learned to swim? Or do you fish him out, and teach him how to swim?’
Loken shrugged. ‘The latter.’
‘What if he fights you off as you attempt to save him, because he is afraid of you? Because he doesn’t want to learn how to swim?’
‘I save him anyway.

It’s the 31st century and the martial society of humanity, the Imperium of Man, is expanding in the galaxy. The story follows the military feats of the “Luna Wolves” Legion of Space Marines. Their leader is Horus Lupercal, recently appointed Warmaster, general chief of Imperial military forces. Horus is one of the Primarchs, genetically engineered lieutenants of the Emperor. We find about his actions through the eyes of Captain Garviel Loken, leader of the Luna Wolves’ 10th Company.

The book sets the stage for the Chaos’ plot to destroy the mysterious founder and leader of the Imperium, the Emperor of Man. This story is followed in the next 49 books of the famous series.

Lupercal, lupercal, lupercal!

This is the beginning of the famous Warhammer 40,000 military scifi, a dystopian future galaxy-spanning war. Books, board games, figurines, video games, comics were all developed in this fascinating environment.

The plot itself is absolutely fantastic, building the base for a great military saga. There are obvious inspirations from Starship Troopers of Robert A. Heinlein. The recent Red Rising saga seems to take some inspiration from the Warhammer universe as well.

However, the military heavy element of the book might be hard to digest for many. The book has many plot strands, characters, sub-plots. However, the writing is fluid, the universe makes sense in itself, and the moral and ethical questions that are asked are mind blowing.

Overall, a great book for the fans of the military scifi and a must read for all passionate about the Warhammer universe .

Blackout – Marc Elsberg

When the lights go out one night, no one panics. Not yet. The lights always come back on soon, don’t they? Surely it’s a glitch, a storm, a malfunction. But something seems strange about this night. Across Europe, controllers watch in disbelief as electrical grids collapse. There is no power, anywhere.
A former hacker and activist, Piero investigates a possible cause of the disaster. The authorities don’t believe him, and he soon becomes a prime suspect himself. With the United States now also at risk, Piero goes on the run with Lauren Shannon, a young American CNN reporter based in Paris, desperate to uncover who is behind the attacks. After all, the power doesn’t just keep the lights on―it keeps us alive.

The book is a dystopian thriller starting from a cyber attack on the EU electricity grid. The protagonist, an Italian IT specialist, tries to solve the crisis by finding how the system was affected and going to authorities. The pace of the book is fast, by quickly changing the locations.

The premise of the book is jaw-dropping: a EU-wide electricity blackout. The Austrian author carefully researched the subject and the potential outcomes of such a crisis. The book is full of  excellent logical consequences of such an event.

What if the electricity grid collapses?

However, the quality of the writing itself is not great. The translation from German is not perfect and there is too much said and too little shown. There are also some plot holes, the solution focusing too much on individual characters, while in reality there is more of a team work.

I really enjoyed the book, despite its drawbacks. A great analysis showing the vulnerabilities of a vital system, our electricity.

50 Successful Ivy League Application Essays – Gen Tanabe, Kelly Tanabe

“IT APPEARS ALL YOUR CELLS ARE DEAD.”
Only shock prevented the tears from streaming down my face. My cells were dead. After being accepted into the competitive Stanford Institutes of Medicine Summer research Program (SIMR), and spending approximately 170 hours of the past month manipulating human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), I was back to square one—with only one month of my internship remaining. How in the world was I going to make up for lost time?

This is a book presenting, as the title says, 50 essays that made the applicant being accepted at some of the top universities in the world, with fierce competition. After each essay, the evaluators’ comments are included.

The essays were absolutely fabulous. It was a pleasure to read life stories and motivations condensed in only 1 page. While still young and lacking a certain complexity of vocabulary (we are talking about 18-year olds!), the perfect organisation of information, of the message, of presenting someone in the best light, was amazing.

I was particularly impressed by the title of some stories, such as Puzzle and Science Sparks, which made the reader interested and wanting to explore the text. There are so many beautiful turn of phrases, motivations and development stories that it is simply inspirational to discover them.

The book has also 26 solid advices on writing, which can apply to everyone holding a pen or using a keyboard.

Overall, a beautiful and inspirational read.