Some saw in the mines scientific proof of biblical flood. Some credited coal with protecting people from the bubonic plague; others accused it of promoting baldness, tooth decay, sordid murders, caustic speech and fuzzy thinking.More recently many of us believed we could burn vast amounts of coal without disrupting the natural balance of the planet. No doubt we have still much to learn about coal, but at least we’ve been able to dispel many of the old myths.
The book talks about the history of coal, since Roman times to modern day. Barbara Freese talks about both the good and the bad sides of the mineral. As the author is an environmental lawyer, the book slightly tips on the bad side of coal, however the research is deep, insightful and entertaining.
Coal is appreciated by Ms Freese as the basis of the Industrial revolution and the rock that made the British Empire and the United States. It significantly improved living standards by increasing on a massive scale the efficiency of industrial processes.
On the other side, the bad environmental effects were constant, from the fumes and hard working conditions to current greenhouse gas problems.
The message of the book is that coal was never popular, but always useful. The author finishes the book on a positive note, such as using coal for in plastics and other alternative uses.
That’s what Society does–spread the blame so there is no villain, so it’s futile to even begin to find a villain, to find justice. It’s just machinery. Processes.
Rose petals of a thousand shades fall from the trees as Golds fight beneath them. They’re all red in the end.
Golden Son continues the Rising Red saga, with the protagonist, Darrow, now a Gold. Darrow is staring to navigate the difficult politics of being a part of the Society as a Gold, while trying to create a rift within it. He tries to use the fight between ruling families to create a civil war, weakening the Society from within.
The reader comes to know the final pieces of the puzzle, the ruler of the Society and her coterie, and the antagonist, a brilliant schemer.
The book keeps the same excellent level of writing, perfectly paced action, almost impermeable plot, depth of character and top class editing.
There is a slight drop in the quality of the plot, with a few turns of the action that raise browses.
However, the storytelling remains world class, creating one of the best sci-fi sagas in recent literature.
[Features picture: ESA, NASA and L. Calçada (ESO)]
I live for the dream that my children will be born free. That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them.’
‘I live for you,’ I say sadly.
She kisses my cheek. ‘Then you must live for more.
Red Rising is the first book and the eponym of the scifi trilogy by Pierce Brown. The saga follows the story of Darrow, a miner in the Mars deep-mines, some 700 years in the future. His kind has a hard life, toiling to extract precious minerals to terraform the world above, that they never see. However, is there more that meets the eye?
Humanity has evolved to colonize the solar system, but not beyond. The society is organized on a hierarchical caste-based system, colours being given by the role they fulfill in the society. Harsh life in the first colonisation of the Moon, centuries ago, made humans to specialize on different tasks and later being genetically modified to better fulfill their tasks. For example, Greys are policeman and soldiers, Blues are pilots are spaceships personnel, Yellows are doctors, and, on top of all, Golds, the leaders. On the bottom of the pyramid are the Reds, the miners and low jobs in general.
Darrow is a Red in the society’s hierarchical caste-based system, skilled in his job, young in age, but old according to his colour. His wife dreams of more, for her children to be free and have a better life, and she is killed by the society. She passes her dream to Darrow, who starts an epic struggle of guile, force and grit for a new society.
This is one of the best series of scifi saga, right next to Ender’s Game and The Hunger Games. Great ideas and plot, excellent writing, characters with depth and motivations, unpredictable plot and excellent pace.
Most impressive is the plot, which moves quickly, but with just enough detail to get to keep the reader immersed in the story. So many things are happening, but they are linear enough to be easily tracked by the reader. There are no parallel stories, the reader sees the world only through the eyes of the protagonist, which makes the complex story easy to follow.
Secondly, the motivations, the actions, the plot is credible and realistic. The protagonist is not the perfect guy, with the perfect plan. He sometimes loses, sometimes is out-foxed and out-maneuvered, with real consequences for him. Rarely there are plots with so few holes. Indeed, plot holes exist in the book, but they are few and far apart.
Finally, the writing style is head and shoulders over similar novels, with great grammar, well-researched Latin references and excellent use of English vocabulary. It is clear that the book had a great editor, helping the writer to identify weak points of the story and keep the plot progressing steadily.
No wonder the book was Goodreads choice for 2014. There was a bid war for film rights between some of the largest film corporations around (which made the author a multi-millionaire in the process) and likely there will be a movie in the making. A book to read, even if not a scifi fan.
There’s another element in the euro crisis, another weakness of a shared currency, that took many people, myself included, by surprise. It turns out that countries that lack their own currency are highly vulnerable to self-fulfilling panic, in which the efforts of investors to avoid losses from default end up triggering the very default they fear.
This is an economics book by the Nobel awarded economist, Paul Krugman, where he presents his neo-Keynesian ideas in dealing with the 2008–2012 global recession. Krugman sees as the solution to economic crisis an increase in government expenditure, to balance the consumer decline in purchasing and reignite the economy. Government expenditure is made by the central bank (Federal Reserve in the US) creating money, with which governmental bonds, for example, are purchased, which in turn are used to make governmental projects or purchases.
In the European Union, the central bank bought eurobonds and company bonds, that is corporate debt, debt used by companies for investment or keeping production, in order to stop the vicious circle.
The US indeed had an expansionary economy, but Professor Krugman considered that the level of government expenditure was not enough to alleviate the consequences of the economic crisis. Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve Chairman, was a history economist and an expert in the Great Depression.
For the austerity policies adopted in several countries of the European Union, he considered that they only create unnecessary pain, calling for the stop of austerity and the end of economic depression.
His economic ideas are drawn from the Great Depression that took place mostly during the 1930s, of which Keynes considered that the government should intervene and balance the private production with public demand, until the economy is reignited. Indeed, largely until the New Deal of President Roosevelt, the Federal Reserve focused mainly on keeping the federal budget and the inflation in check. To recall, the New Deal created numerous public projects, such as government buildings, airports, hospitals, schools, roads, bridges and dams, around 35,000 overall.
A critical review comes from the Austrian school of economy, which notes that, despite significant spending from governments, the crisis continued, hence the measures were inefficient. Furthermore, the reasons that created the crisis will not be corrected, if the government kept pouring money.
Professor Krugman got his Nobel prize for his contributions to New Trade Theory and New Economic Geography.
The book manages to give a solid macro-economy insight into the world economic crisis of 2008-2012, while having an attractive writing style.
The new officer AIs were the state of the art in quasi-sentient computers, and the designers had decided that giving them a soothing, human-sounding voice and an active personality would reduce stress on officers in the field. I can’t speak to the psychology of the officer corps in general, but the damned thing creeped me out. And it talked too much.
Marines is the first book of the Crimson World series, a military sci-fi saga with assaults on planets, marines, decrepit governments and futuristic technologies. The book follows the astonishing rise through the ranks of Erik Cain, from a gang member and low strata to major in the space marines.
Jay Allen creates a dystopia, 250 years in the future, where Earth superpowers fight in space among themselves for colonies, resources and warp gates access. Society returns generally to feudal politics level, with a tightly controlled population and only token elections. In this environment, the army provides a refuge for those willing to be in a meritocratic system, a brotherhood of arms.
The author promotion of military values is visible throughout the book, rarely any officers or troops being unfit for job. The highest sought-out skill is military experience. Politicians are disdained. Colonists are brave people, willing to preserve democracies and the main reason of the protagonist’s motivation to fight.
The book is well-written, engaging, with good depth of characters. The universe is well described and the author tries to explain why things are as they are are, which adds to the depth of the book.
A drawback is the nearly perfect career of Erik Cain, who skyrockets through ranks without enough explanation why. He tops the academy (how? why was he special?). He displayed brilliance on the field (how? what others would do normally and he did differently and exceptional?). In this respect, I recommend the Man of War series or Star Carrier, also on the blog, who really kept the reader guessing.
The book reads generally as an intro to the series, with a rushed plot and some, but could have been more, description. Maybe next books in the series will have a more twisted plot.
I hit play on the CD player to fully set my trap, and Lady Gaga burst forth. A little bit of me died right then. I’m not saying she sucks or anything, I just think she’s a tad bit overplayed. Flavor of the month if you will. That’s not a pun regarding her likely fate as zombie food somewhere out there either.
Dark Recollections is the first book in a zombie series, following the adventures of the protagonist, Adrian, after a zombie apocalypse. The first book is a survivalist story, where Adrian, a former soldier, manages to escape the zombie rage and fortify a school campus as a strongpoint and safe house against zombies. He is alone, but has plans to contact other survivors, story that follows in the next book.
The volume reads as a journal, where Adrian presents the events or recalls how he got into and cleared the campus of zombies. The action sequences are beautifully paced, with several chapters presenting the view of other characters as well.
The survival of Adrian is based on planning, luck, pragmatism and optimism. In the immediate aftermath, many people commit suicide in the face of a crumbling world and civilization. Adrian’s first kill was his mother, so the need to quickly adapt to the new reality was a prerequisite for survival from the beginning. Adrian also conscientiously decides to go alone for a while, with no other people in his compound; he would have accepted friends or acquaintances, but no newly-met people.
The drawbacks of the book is that the plot is quite straight-forward: in essence, a positive story during a catastrophe, where the protagonist survives almost unscathed to everything and has virtually perfect conditions, including physicality, to survive. He even has the prescience to buy guns in the same day as the zombie outbreak. No one invades his campus while he is away. The book is quite immersive, with detailed presentations of the world after the zombie apocalypse, but it could go even further, for example, what happened to the governmental structure, such as the army. Also, the protagonist has no hard moral decisions, except one: not looking for his girlfriend, but even there, there are arguments for his decision. Finally, there is no hard science. While, indeed, a zombie-based story is a quite a stretch of imagination, more detailed data on the aftermath, like One second after, could have brought greater depth to the book.
Overall, an entertaining book for those evenings when the reader wants a relaxing time. For the fans of the genre, one of the best zombie books after World World Z.
The arguments in Whitehall concerning the weight of the rocket lasted throughout July and well into August. Herbert Morrison was near panic: on 27th July he was wanting the War Cabinet to plan immediately for the evacuation of a million people from London…
The book is a World World II memoir of Reginald V. Jones, responsible to anticipate and counter the German science applications in warfare, mainly air, and create new technical aids. Those weapons included radio navigation, radar, navigation for the Allied Bomber Offensive, and the V-1 and V-2 rockets.
R.V. Jones’ position in the British war effort, both in the Intelligence Section of Britain’s Air Ministry and in the MI-6, allowed him to be at the forefront of the technical war between NAZI Germany and the United Kingdom. He is now considered the father of technical and science intelligence and CIA has an award with his name.
The author’s account reveals much of the battles’ details fought with the technical minds in Germany, but also the experience of the war, the bureaucratic fights inside the various British ministries and his interactions with the British Prime Minister, of whom he was a great admirer.
The memoir is read as a wartime scientific detective story, with a strong espionage background. For example, he reveals how the V-1 (flying bomb) and V-2 rockets were assessed in terms of warhead capability and production. He fought with his own expert councils and with some ministers panicked of a possible mass attack over London. By looking at aerial photographs, the messages from the ultra secret decipher service at Bletchley Park; the spy reports; prisoners’ interrogations and others, he was able to correctly put together the puzzle of the V-1 and V-2 rockets and find counter-measures for them.
His battle was different than the ones with tanks and land offensives, but not less important. Without him and his counter-measures, the bombing of Britain in 1940 would have been a lot more accurate and the German air force would not have sustain the crippling losses.
This book is widely acclaimed as one of the best memoirs of the World World II, from one of the highest ranked positions in the British intelligence. I sincerely recommend it to all readers interested in history and science.