Category Archives: Books

The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu, (Translator Ken Liu)

No. Many of the best scientists can be fooled by pseudoscience and sometimes devote their lives to it. But pseudoscience is afraid of one particular type of people who are very hard to fool: stage magicians. In fact, many pseudoscience hoaxes were exposed by stage magicians.

This is an amazing hard scifi book by the Chinese author Cixin Liu, masterly translated by Ken Liu, discussing human nature and communications beyond the solar system.

An engaging and creative plot, accurate use of mathematics and astrophysics, great character development makes this volume one of the best scifi books in the last years. The book won the prestigious Hugo and Nebula scifi book awards.

The book is the first part of the the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, which expands the theme of human resilience and entrepreneurship.

The plot is skillfully developed as a detective story around the experiences of Wang Miao, a nanotechnologist in current day China,  involving a computer game and an old research station. The book starts with the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the development of a secret research stations and we are gradually brought to present life and introduced to the scientist Mr Miao. Shi Qiang, the cunning detective who guides the protagonist, is a superbly created character, down to earth and creative.

Overall, an exceptional hard scifi book, with a well-built, engaging plot and memorable characters, deserving all the praise it got in the last years.

La grande histoire de la Belgique – Patrick Weber

Bourguignonne, espagnole, autrichienne, française, hollandaise… la Belgique possède la plus singulière des histoires, aussi passionnante qu’un roman d’aventures. Des siècles de guerres, de mariages diplomatiques et de luttes religieuses qui ont semé la graine d’un royaume né d’une révolution romantique en 1830.

Le livre présents l’histoire du territoire qui fait maintenant la Belgique, en commencent avec la Belgique celtique jusqu’à contemporanéité. L’histoire a un point de vue classique, focussé sur la succession des chefs politiques, mais fait parfois des mentions aux développements sociales et économiques.

Patrick Weber fait une très compréhensive et entrainante présentation de l’histoire de ce pays. Tous les périodes sont présentes : la Belgique preféodale, féodale, bourguignonne, espagnole, autrichienne, la Belgique dans le sillage de la révolution française, la Belgique néerlandaise, la révolution belge, Leopold le Ier, Leopold le IIème, Albert le Ier, Leopold le IIIème, Baudoin, jusqu’à Albert le IIème.

Des petits sous-chapitres sont inclus avec des détails des différent provinces ou villes belge, dans la période que le chapitre présent.

On peut comprendre mieux maintenant la signification des nommes des stations de métro à Bruxelles : Toison d’Or, Joséphine-Charlotte, Mérode, Simonis et autres.

C’était un très bon livre, facile à lire, en sélectant les détails importants de l’histoire belge, en essayent d’être neutre politique (même que l’auteur parait être wallon), je recommande à tous.

Full Spectrum Dominance – William Engdahl

For the faction that controls the Pentagon, the military industry and the oil industry, the Cold War never ended. It went on ‘below the radar’ creating a global network of bases and conflicts to advance their long-term goal of Full Spectrum Dominance, the total control of the planet: land, sea, air, space, outer space and cyberspace …

The book discusses the military strategy of the United States in modern times, which the author describes it as “Full Spectrum Dominance”. This strategy means a total dominance of the United States over all fields: military, culturally, in space, energy, etc.

The book presents many captivating and forceful arguments, showing deep thinking over some events that shook the world. The research is extensive, but some conclusions seem at times far fetched.

Not everything he says is wrong though. If Engdahl’s book is read in parallel with The New Digital Age by Jared A. Cohen and ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, many of the possibilities and opportunities created by digitalisation may well be used for military purposes.

Engdahl is a profound thinker, using a realpolitik analysis apparatus to make a critique of the neo-conservative military doctrine. Pentagon is seen as a cunning force, having no scruples in imposing its will.

The author, William Engdahl, is an American writer with a degree in engineering and jurisprudence from Princeton University and a graduate study in comparative economics at the University of Stockholm. He is an original thinker, writing and commenting on the major events in the world.

Make your bed – Admiral William H. McRaven

None of us are immune from life’s tragic moments. Like the small rubber boat we had in basic SEAL training, it takes a team of good people to get you to your destination in life. You cannot paddle the boat alone. Find someone to share your life with. Make as many friends as possible, and never forget that your success depends on others.

The book is a powerful and succinct self-development book by the retired 4-star admiral, William McRaven. He gives several life advices based on his experience and SEAL training.

Admiral McRaven was the legendary head of the US SEALs, during the bin Laden operation. Apparently, he was much appreciated within the US special operations forces. His book is not a memoirs, but just a sum of good life advice.

Now President of the University of Texas at Austin, the author based his book on the commencement speech at the university in 2014.

His first advice is to start the day with an accomplished task, such as making the bed. Each accomplished task gives confidence and pulls another accomplished task in the day and so on.

I find his advice useful and wise. Success brings success indeed.

The biggest critique to the volume is its brevity, at only 173 small pages with large font. However, the book seems written by the admiral himself, as the style of writing is rather simple and straightforward; but nonetheless elegant.

The book has a beautiful hard cover, a timeless masterpiece.

A book I fully recommend reading for its beauty, simplicity and wisdom.

Shatterpoint – Matthew Woodring Stover

Jedi do not fight for peace. That’s only a slogan, and is as misleading as slogans always are. Jedi fight for civilization, because only civilization creates peace. We fight for justice because justice is the fundamental bedrock of civilization: an unjust civilization is built upon sand. It does not long survive a storm.

If there is one word to describe the book, that word is tense. The novel is situated in the Star Wars universe, during the Clones War, set after Attack of the Clones. It follows an adventure of the Jedi Master and senior member of the Jedi Council, Mace Windu.

Windu receives a troubling message from his former padawan, Depa Billaba, who is fighting to establish peace on Windu’s home planet of Haruun Kal.

Mace Windu, more than a fighter, a deep thinker caught in a web of darkness.

Windu comes to the planet and a series of adventures and troubles start for our hero. The book is tense, psychological, gradually the action picking up pace towards the end.

Matthew Stover is a good storyteller and adds depth and memorability to characters. There are many wisdom gems throughout the book, that makes the reader think of the role of the Jedi.

As a side note, shatterpoint is apparently a Force ability that can sense the importance of an event. An interesting idea.

Overall, I liked the book. It was a bit too tense for a relaxing reading, but enjoyable and with a fluid plot.

[Feature picture is a superb drawing by DarthTemoc called This is called Vaapad]

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Habit 6: Synergize

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

This is a self-development book with a huge success since it was released in the 1989. Like many self-development books, you are right both if you think it works or of you think it doesn’t.

The author encourages the reader to divide its life into personal and public spheres and try to improve both by using the good habits he describes. There is no study or research behind the results, except the author’ personal experience and common sense. His Christian belief and principles, clearly confessed in a short paragraph at the end of the volume, is the basis of his philosophy.

While now synergize and proactive are overused, back in the day they were innovative concepts. Much in vogue in the business schools, the book was popular with managers and people who just want to improve.

There is nothing new or exceptional in the author’s advice, but just common sense for an active and fulfilling life. The relationship with family, kids, relationships at work are important. Being humble and organized are vital in Stephen Covey’s philosophical system.

At times, the book seems to force the reader into buying more; being too commercial and aggressive. The advice seems shallow sometimes, without research to back the statements. The arguments appear exaggerated in some circumstances.

The author passed away in 2014, after an accident, unfortunately.

Overall, an interesting book, useful for those who want to find their way in life or who are at cross roads.

 

Revan (Star Wars: The Old Republic, Book 1) – Drew Karpyshyn

If they managed to kill you, then you weren’t worthy of serving me,” Nyriss explained. “If you killed them, then you proved that they were a waste of resources. Either way, I would be left with the most suitable candidate for the job.

The book comes from an exceptional writer, Drew Karpyshyn, the brain behind storylines such as Knights of the Old Republic, Darth Bain trilogy, Jade Empire, Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effects 2. He builds exceptional plots, creates memorable characters and has a beautiful story writing.

In Revan, Karpyshyn continues the story of the hero from Knights of the Old Republic, in the Star Wars universe. Revan, our protagonist, is now married, quietly settled on Coruscant, outside the Jedi Order. But he senses a menace coming and goes to prevent it. Meanwhile, a young Sith Lord is building his reputation as an efficient assassin with good political instincts. The Emperor patiently builds his web against the Republic. What will the outcome when their paths intersect?

The book is superbly written, with a great plot. While Revan does not do much, he inspires others. He is not the saviour, the perfect character, but a human with great will.

The Star Wars universe is brilliantly constructed, with just enough descriptions to give a vivid image, without being too long. The planets of Dromund Kaas, Nathema and others have strong individual features.

Compared with the personage in the legendary video game, Revan as a hero is disappointing. He is not the infallible warrior and great strategist anymore, but still holds great wisdom and willpower.

The book is the first a series, being continued by Annihilation, where the nephew of Revan is not a Jedi, but an intelligence operative of the Republic.

Overall, Revan is an excellent reading, less entertaining than Darth Bane, for example, but still recommended for the fans of the universe.