Monday, 21 January 2019

"The Greatest Show on Earth" by Richard Dawkins

Publisher:New York ; Toronto : Free Press, 2009.
Edition:First Free Press hardcover edition.
Characteristics: ix, 470 pages, 30 pages of plates :,illustrations (some colour) ;,24 cm

Publisher:New York ; Toronto : Free Press, 2009.
Edition:First Free Press hardcover edition.
Characteristics: ix, 470 pages, 30 pages of plates :,illustrations (some colour) ;,24 cm

This book examines the scientific evidence behind the theory of evolution, and why it has gained acceptance throughout all the interrelated disciplines of science as the only logical explanation for how all the various flora and fauna on this planet came into being.

In the first part of the book Dr. Dawkins' delves into the details that explain why evolution is the only acceptable answer, and he does this by producing evidence based on plant biology, the breeding of dogs, and various other animals which have been done by humans for thousands of years. In proceeding this way it makes the evidence for human evolution all the more compelling, as we are animals too.

Following this he takes us on an examination of the various branches of biology, such as palaeontology, anthropology, etc. and shows how these fields have benefitted by their acceptance of evolution, and sub sequentially how each of these fields have confirmed the theory.

Unfortunately most of the hard-core believers in creation will be unlikely to be swayed by these well thought out and logically presented arguments, but then again it is unlikely anything would be able to turn them.

An enjoyable read, and one that is recommended to all.

Monday, 14 January 2019

"Revolt in 2100" by Robert A. Heinlein

New American Library
Copyright 1954

This book is actually a collection of three short stories / novelettes. The first is entitled "If this goes on -", the second is "Coventry", and the third is "Misfit."

"If this goes on-" tells the tale of a futuristic society centred in what is now the United States, that had been taken over a number of years earlier by a theocratic government. It goes on to tell how a small revolutionary force manages to overthrow this dictatorial government. The main character is a guard assigned to the Angels of the Lord - the personal bodyguard to the Prophet, who falls in love with one of the prophets harem.

"Coventry" tells the tale of a young man who is convicted of a crime (minor assault) and who has to choose between either being psychologically re-oriented (brain-washed into conforming), or being sent to a special reservation  known as Coventry where many criminals, and those who choose to live life in their own way now live. This story follows the first in this book by a number of years as the Coventry is now the law that governs the land and which was put in place following the revolution.

The third story "Misfit" in this book tells the tale of a young man who is a new member of the Space Marines, and who is part of the crew that is being sent to the asteroid belt with the goal of moving an asteroid into earth orbit so it can be mined. It follows the first two by an unspecified time period. This young man Libby, has a talent for mathematics, that does him a good turn.

All three of these stories are interrelated with each other, and form a a good read, that would be recommended to anyone who appreciates classic science fiction.

Monday, 7 January 2019

"Star Talk" with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Publisher:Washington, D.C. : National Geographic, [2016]
Copyright Date:©2016
ISBN: 9781426217272
Characteristics: 302 pages :,colour illustrations

"StarTalk" is the companion book to the radio show and television program. It is hosted by Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium in New York.

The book itself is not a transcript of what took place on the radio or television program. It is more of a coffee table style of book that touches on numerous subjects and gives very concise explanations with regard to why they are true or untrue, work or don't work, and it debunks a number of myths as a bonus.

It is separated into four major sections space, planet earth, being human, futures imagined. It each of these there are 5 to 6 different sub-topics. For example in the space section there are discussions entitled: What do I pack for Mars? What do I eat in space? Can we use wormholes to travel? Who goes there? And are we there yet?

Each of these subtopics is then broken down into smaller discussions with contributions from authors, experts in the field, celebrities and so on.

This is an extremely good book, that is designed to answer questions that a teenager or younger child will have about various topics related to science. It would also be a great resource for students up to high school to stimulate their curiosity, or give them ideas for research paper topics.

I personally have not listened to the radio program but the television program which is produced by National Geographic is extremely interesting and quite humourous at times as well.

Monday, 17 December 2018

"The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins

Publisher:Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006.
ISBN: 9780618680009 
Characteristics: 406 pages ;,24 cm

This is the first book of Richard Dawkins' that I've read, and I found it to be very well written, and informative. Mr. Dawkins poses his arguments logically, and follow them through to their logical conclusions. He does tend to goober things a number of times, but when you consider how ingrained some of the beliefs in religion are this is likely a good technique as not all people will see the relevance with only one example.

I have read other authors on the subject of atheism, and the vast majority follow the same general format, however Mr. Dawkins goes into much greater detail and gives more examples of why certain beliefs may have arisen, why they are regarded as unchallengeable truths, and what non-believers can do to attempt to understand where proponents of the beliefs in question come from.

I believe this is a good book for the general reader, and would also make a good addition to most anthropology, sociology and possibly even history courses.

Monday, 10 December 2018

"Armada" by Ernest Cline

Publisher:New York : Crown, [2015]
Edition:First edition.
Copyright Date:©2015
ISBN: 9780804137256
Characteristics: 355 pages

As in "Ready, Player One" the general storyline is connected to the gaming world (one of Mr. Cline's passions), but this time rather than old style arcade games, the author puts you in the seat of a first-person flight simulator, and in the body of Zack Lightman, a high school student in Oregon that finds out rather suddenly that it isn't just a game.

At first he thinking he's hallucinating when he glances out the window in math class, and sees an unidentified flying object. But the problem is he can identify it. It is a ship he has encountered and destroyed hundreds of times when playing a game called Armada. It's a Sobrukai Glave fighter, which should only exist as so many pixels on his computer - but this one is real, and it wasn't likely to be dropping in to say hello.

What going on? Zack doesn't know and keeps things quiet, while slowing thinking he's going crazy, until a couple of days later at school he and everybody is shocked when real life proof lands in front of him and the rest of the student body and he is recruited to defend the Earth.

Armada is a fantastic second novel, and personally I can't wait to see what Mr. Cline has in store for his next book. Rumour has it that may be being made int a movie as well.

Monday, 3 December 2018

"Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline

Publisher:New York : Crown Publishers, [2011]
Edition:First edition.
Copyright Date:©2011
ISBN: 9780307887443
Characteristics: 374 pages

I've read this book a couple of times, but never got around to reviewing it until now. Why? I have no idea, because I think it is a great novel (Ernest Cline's first by the way), and well worth the read.

The story is set in a dystopian but not too distant future (2044) where the planet has essentially gone to hell in many ways including: environmentally and socially. The unemployment rate is ridiculous, and so on. Pretty much everybody now lives and interacts though a virtual utopian world called OASIS. One of the inventors of OASIS has died, and has left his entire fortune to the one person who can solve a series of puzzles that he has built into the OASIS (an easter egg to those who are gamers). However, these puzzles can only be solved by an intimate knowledge of 1980s culture.

At the start of the story it has been a number of years since the inventor had died, and virtually everybody thought the puzzles would never be solved. But when the protagonist Wade Watts, stumbles onto the solution to the first clue and solves the problem. This triggers some unfortunate events such as his discovery that there are numerous people in the world willing to kill to learn the secret he has uncovered, and where this leads him is a fascinating look into 1980s culture in the form of video games, television, music, etc.

This book is well worth the read. It was made into a movie that was released in 2018 starring Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, and Ben Mendelsohn, but I haven't seen it yet so I can only hope that Mr. Spielberg has done a good job.

Monday, 26 November 2018

"Armageddon 2419 A.D.: The Seminal 'Buck Rogers' Novel" by Philip Francis Nowlan (1888-1940)

Publisher: New York : Ace Books
No other Publication data available

This is an excellent book that has been in my collection for many years, and I've read it a few times. It's one of those books where every time you read it you tease out some new little gem.

The frontispiece of the book reads as follows:

"The relation between this book and the nationally syndicated comic strip Buck Rogers is worth noting. Armageddon 2419 was originally the title of a long novelette that appeared in Amazing Stories in 1928. A sequel, entitle The Airlords of Han, appeared in that magazine a year later. Both works have been integrated to make the book you hold here."

"When the original magazine story appeared it caught the eye of the John Dille Company, a newspaper feature syndicate. They hired the author, Phil Nowlan, to write the continuity of a comic strip based on it. Considering Buck to be a shorter and more marketable name that Anthony, it was under the name Buck Rogers 2429 A.D. that the strip first appeared in newspapers in 1929. Each year the strip's title was updated by one to keep the five hundred years difference, until eventually the strip was stabilized as Buck Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century."

"During th first two years of syndication, the plot of the strip followed the adventures in this book fairly closely, but as time went on new adventures and characters were introduced, until today''s strip bears virtually no resemblance to the novel now reprinted"

"The role of Buck Rogers in the rise and popularization of science-fiction can scarcely be overestimated."

This frontispiece is signed D.A.W. - but there is no indication who this is.

Because this book was originally written in the early part of the 20th Century there is a considerable amount of racism incorporated into the storyline. As unlike the television series in 1979 (starring Gil Gerard, Erin Gray) where the antagonists are extraterrestrials known as Draconians (now there's an original name for you), in the book the antagonists are Mongolians (referred to an Hans), and it is not until the epilogue that you find out that the Hans are the product of interbreeding with a human-like race that arrived on Earth when a small planet or large meteor hit in the interior of Asia.

The nice thing about this storyline is that outside of the fact Rogers was in suspended animation for close to five-hundred years (in a collapsed mine shift), and the introduction of two special elements (inertron and ultron) there is very little to take this story into the realm of the fantastic and unbelievable. So if you can overlook the racism, then you find that the story itself is very well written, and well worth the read.

Monday, 19 November 2018

"Let's Go Exploring" by Michael Hingston

Publisher:Toronto, Ontario : ECW Press, [2018]
Copyright Date:©2018
ISBN: 9781770414136
Characteristics: 131 pages.

Calvin & Hobbes was a comic strip staple for 10 years, then it suddenly ended its run on December 31, 1995 much to the dismay of thousands of loyal fans. At its height it appeared in more than 2400 newspapers. Since he shutdown the strip the creator Bill Watterson has essentially kept out of the public eye, also much to the dismay of thousands of loyal fans. But can you blame him for this?

This book is an examination of the phenomena of the Calvin & Hobbes story, Mr. Watterson, and some of the struggles he had to put up with when he created this enduring strip. There is a fair amount of background information given in this book that goes into Mr. Watterson's life prior to C & H and how he got started, his love of Charles Shultz's "Peanuts", but it mainly discusses the role C & H has played in American culture. It also delves into discussions of how Calvin might really perceive the world: Is it just daydreaming, a mental illness, or just a commentary on child & grown-up relations?

"Let's Go Exploring" is a well written book, that should be read by all C & H fans, as well as those who are fans of other strips. Michael Hingston is an Edmonton author.

"The Greatest Show on Earth" by Richard Dawkins

Publisher:New York ; Toronto : Free Press, 2009. Edition:First Free Press hardcover edition. ISBN:9781416594789 Characteristics: ix, ...