Quarantine Days: Book Report



Now that classes are over, what intellectual stimulation I get comes from books and jigsaw puzzles.  A few books I have been reading.

John Grisham, The Reckoning:  A murder/tragedy in three acts.  The main character walks into a church and guns down the popular preacher.  The central character is a war hero whose travails as soldier, prisoner of war, and guerilla fighter in the Philippines after the Japanese invasion form the core part one.  A why done it.

Isaac Asimov, Foundation: I found this science fiction classic pretty boring.  The hard science is either magic or overcome by events, character development is nil, and tense standoffs resolved by Deux Ex Machina.

Dan Simmons, Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion: Two self-contained volumes of a four volume series.  The reference to Keats in the titles of the book is not incidental.  Keats and his poetry are prominently mentioned.  The first volume is structured as a series of Cantos, pilgrims’ stories modeled after the Canterbury Tales.  The pilgrims in this case are off to confront a horrible menace known as the Shrike.  The tales themselves vary from gripping to tedious.  The author has a nice inventive flair in world conjuring, which sometimes is just distracting.

The second volume has a strong cyberpunk flavor which I tend to find tedious.

William Gibson, Neuromancer: The original cyberpunk novel.  A punk superhacker battles an oligarchic conspiracy.  Has its moments, but not really my cup of tea.  My computer tech’s favorite book.

William Gibson, Agency: I guess I like Neuro enough to go back for more.  The theme here is an artificial intelligence with agency as background to the adventures of more conventional humans operating in linked world lines.

Phillip Armitage, The Astrophysics of Planet Formation, 2nd ed:  OK, this is a textbook, but if you ever want a detailed discussion of the surprisingly intricate story of how quintillions of micron sized particles come together to make a planet, this is it.  Thanks to spacecraft explorations of asteroids, comets and planets, the discovery of thousands of exoplanets and protoplanetary nebulae, and generations of careful analysis of meteorites, we now know a great deal about this process, though important mysteries remain.  Lots of stability analysis of the Navier-Stokes equations and discussion of numerical simulations.  You should have a nodding acquaintance with partial differential equations to fully appreciate, but there is also lots of plain text explanation of what is going on.
(To be continued)

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