Monday, 18 February 2019

"The Green Hills of Earth" by Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)

Publisher: Signet
Copyright: 1950

The Green Hills of Earth Is Robett Heinlein's third collection of short stories that form the backbone of his Future History. This volume includes the classics "Delilah and the Space-Rigger", "Space Jockey", "The Long Watch", "Gentlemen, Bd Seated", "The Black Pits of Luna", "It's Great to be Back", "-We Also Walk Dogs", "Ordeal in Space", "The Green Hills of Earth", and "Logic of Empire".

As in the other two volumes readers will meet relatively important characters that appear in Heinlein's later works primarily his novels. It is my opinion though, that at least one of the stories in this book should have been included in the first volume, and that is "Logic of Empire" which mentions the character Nehemiah Scudder, who later becomes the First Prophet. The actual story of Scudder was never written by Mr. Heinlein, because (as he explained in the second book) he began to hate the character so much that he decided to never write it. In any case the story of Scudder is what leads to stories such as "Revolt in 2100", "Coventry" and a few others.

Being a dedicated fan of Mr. Heinlein I highly recommend these books, as they do form the basis of his universe and you will understand where he's coming from (and where you are headed) a lot better if you have read them.

Monday, 11 February 2019

"The Man Who Sold the Moon" by Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)

Publisher: Signet
Copyright: 1950

The man who sold the moon is the first of the three volume collection of short stories by Robert Heinlein that begins his future history series (I reviewed the second "Revolt in 2100" a couple of weeks ago). This volume includes the stories "Let There Be Light", "The Roads Must Roll", "The Man Who Sold the Moon", "Requiem ", "Life-line ", and "Blowups Happen".

All of these stories are set in what is now our recent past, but as they were written in the early 1950s a possible future as far as the author was concerned.

The stories themselves deal with topics such as power generation / renewable energy, the first spaceship to the moon, the dangers of nuclear energy, and mortality - quite a mix.

It is interesting to note that "Life-line" was the first story Robert A. Heinlein sold, and which was published in the August1939 edition of Astounding, which was then edited by John W. Campbell Jr. who is responsible for discovering many of what are now considered to be the classic science fiction authors.

Monday, 4 February 2019

"Double Star" by Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)

Publisher: Doubleday, Garden City, New York
Date: 1956

The novel Double Star is a classic Heinlein science-fiction story, that tells the tale of an out of a work actor who is hired rather clandestinely to impersonate a very famous and important  person.

In actuality the story is primarily about political events that surround and are a result of the expansion of the human race to the other planets. It deals with other touchy topics such as race relations, and racism as well.

Being written in the 1950s, readers of current science fiction will note many discrepancies with regard to life on Venus and Mars etc. but this is really what gives the story both it's background and its flavour. Back then we didn't know, but it was postulated that Mars and Venus could possibly be inhabited, as well as some of the other planets. After all American astronomer Percival Lowell was sure that there were canals on Mars (and published three books on it between 1895 and 1908), and Venus was so shrouded in clouds (and still is), we didn't know.

A very good read, that used to be considered juvenile science fiction, but now-a-days is simply a classic.

In the next few weeks I am going to concentrate on reviewing a number of the classic science fiction stories, that for some unknown reason a lot of people have never heard about.

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 (1907-1988)

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.

"The Green Hills of Earth" by Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)

Publisher: Signet Copyright: 1950 The Green Hills of Earth Is Robett Heinlein's third collection of short stories that form the ...