Tag Archives: Adam Christopher

Blog Roundup 2018: Books Reviewed

A regular feature of this blog is the Sunday Book Reviews, short reviews of books I read this year.  Most of the books were new or recently published.

This year I reviews 58 fiction and 18 non-fiction books. (This doesn’t count the many articles and reports I comment on throughout the year.)

This years reading included lots of favorites including Thomas Perry, Charles Stross, Joe Ide, Donna Leon, A. Lee Martinez.

There are also some new favorites I discovered this year, including Nnedi Okorafor, Edgar Cantero, Theodora Goss, Vivan Shaw.

Some highly recommended* books:

(*This is a highly unsystematic selection—these are all definitely worth your time, though there may be others in my list below that are even better.)

Non fiction

Stamped From The Beginning  (2016)  by Ibram X. Kendi
The Fighters by C. J. Chivers
Ada’s Algorithm (2014) by James Essinger
Crash Test Girl by Kari Byron

Fiction

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017) by Theodora Goss
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw
Circe by Madeline Miller

The Whole List

A list of all the book reviews (in no particular order…)

Fiction

A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman
Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk
Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Armistice by Lara Elena Donnelly
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Celestial Mechanics by William Least Heat-Moon
Circe by Madeline Miller
Constance Verity Saves The World by A. Lee Martinez
Dark State by Charles Stross
Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
French Exit by Patrick DeWitt
Good Guys by Steven Brust
Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? By N. K Jemisin
I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing by A. D. Jameson
I Only Killed Him Once by Adam Christopher
Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Kismet by Luke Tredget
Koko Uncaged by Kieran Shea
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
Make a Nerdy Living by Alex Langley
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Noir by Christopher Moore
Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne
Open Me by Lisa Locascio
Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams
Red Waters Rising by Laura Ann Gilman
Robots Vs Fairies edited by Dominick Parisien Navah Wolfe
Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Street Freaks by Terry Brooks
Tell The Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry
The Book of Phoenix (2015) by Nnedi Okorafor
The Cackle of Cthulhu edited by Alex Shvartsman
The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp
The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
The Final Frontier edited by Neil Clarke
The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley
The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross
The Man From The Diogenes Club by Kim Newman
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
The Pope of Palm Beach by Tim Dorsey
The Song of Achilles (2102) by Madeline Miller
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell
The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon
There, There by Tommy Orange
This Body’s Not Big Enough For Both Of Us by Edgar Cantero
Versailles by Yannick Hill
Who Fears Death (2011) by Nnedi Okorafor
Wrecked by Joe Ide

Non Fiction

Ada’s Algorithm (2014) by James Essinger
Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
City of Demons by Paul French
Crash Test Girl by Kari Byron
Darwin Comes To Town by Menno Schilthuizen
Failure is an Option by H. Jon Benjamin
How To Plan A Crusade by Christopher Tyerman
Nothing edited by Jeremy Webb
Ours To Hack And To Own edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider
Stamped From The Beginning (2016) by Ibram X. Kendi
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
The Earth is Weeping (2016) by Peter Cozzens
The Fighters by C. J. Chivers
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte
The Tangled Tree by David Quammen
The Wordy Shipmates (2018) by Sarah Vowell
Totally Random by Tanya Bub and Jeffrey Bub
When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney

Sunday Book Reviews

Housekeeping: Q3 Round Up

The third quarter saw continuing interest in freelancing, robots, dinosaurs, bees, and the cryosphere.

On the robot front, there is a burgeoning new topic of “robot social psychology”, (re-)discovering classic social psychological findings.  Amazingly enough, people interact with “humanoid” robots with similar heuristics, assumptions, and biases as they do with “humanoid” humans.

The exciting space news is asteroid missions, with JAXA’s Hyabasu-2 on station and dropping landers and NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex mission on approach. If all goes well, in the next few years we’ll get not one but two samples returned from these missions.  Cool!

Cryptocurrency and blockchains continue to provide fertile blogfodder.  As the year progresses, the competition for the ultra-coveted CryptoTulip of the Year award heats up.  Who will “win” this year?  Stay tuned for an exciting fourth quarter!


And, as always weekly book reviews.  (Actually, quite a few more than one book per week this quarter.)

Books Q3 2018

 

Non-Fiction

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
City of Demons by Paul French
Totally Random by Tanya Bub and Jeffrey Bub
The Tangled Tree by David Quammen
Nothing edited by Jeremy Webb
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
Ours To Hack And To Own edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider
Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

Fiction

Open Me by Lisa Locascio
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
This Body’s Not Big Enough For Both Of Us by Edgar Cantero
I Only Killed Him Once by Adam Christopher
Constance Verity Saves The World by A. Lee Martinez
Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne
Tell The Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams
Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen
Red Waters Rising by Laura Ann Gilman
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
There, There by Tommy Orange

Ideas for Band Names

Bison Calves of Banff
Flugroboter!
  (pron.: Floog-robotah)
Density Cusps

 

Book Review: “I Only Killed Him Once” by Adam Christopher

I Only Killed Him Once by Adam Christopher

In previous stories, the robot detective Ray Electromatic has faced weirder and weirder cases, and it seems clear that big, dark, dangerous things are happening—if only he could remember.  Classic Hollywood Noir crossed with Asimovian robotics, with the technical wrinkle that Ray has only 24 hours of episodic memory.  Every day is a new day.

A super powered, amoral, amnesiac robot is a pretty terrible private investigator, but an ideal assassin.  He’s also vulnerable to exploitation, especially by his secretary/boss supercomputer, Ada, who both manages his cases and keeps the archive of all his memories.

Ray’s beginning to suspect that things aren’t exactly how Ada or anyone says. But can he overcome his own limits to discover what’s what?  And, as in all Noir, what is the moral course?

Ray is every noir-ier than most noir protagonists. He isn’t the last moral man, he is the last robot, period.  And like a Noir PI, he is detached from humanity, however you define that.  Really, really detached.

Ray has to figure out who to trust in order to unwind the mysteries and conspiracies surrounding him, to punish the wicked and to save himself and the rest of us.

At the end, this is declared to be the last Raymond story.

We shall see.


  1. Adam Christopher, I Only Killed Him Once, New York, TOR, 2018.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

2017 Roundup and list of Books Reviewed

This year I continued daily posts, which I have done for just under four years now.  Overall, traffic to the blog was up about 18% over 2016.

As always, the coverage is mainly review and commentary on topics of interest to me, including “the new way of work”, robots, dinosaurs, cryptocurrency/blockchain, quantum cryptography, internet of too Many things, computer software in general, and so on.

This year I continued weekly posts noting and commenting on books I have read.  Most of the books were recently published, with a few older ones.   (Listed below.)

Throughout the year, I offered a number of “great names for a band”, in tribute to Dave Barry who pioneered the genre.  Most of these are “sciency”, inspired by technical articles I read and commented on.

Countershading
Banded tail
Dinosaur bandit mask
Paleocoloration
Beryllium hydride
Biomimetic Robotic Zebrafish
Chicxulub    [Note:  pronounced ( /ˈtʃiːkʃʊluːb/; Mayan: [tʃʼikʃuluɓ])]
The Chicxulub Event
We Are Children of Chicxulub
Thanks to Chicxulub
Brought to You By Chicxulub
Service Office Industry
Comfortable edgy fit outs
As Greenland Darkens
Recent Mass Loss
Larsen C
My Raptor Posse
A Rip of Raptors
Personal Raptor
The Robot Raptor Revue
Final Five Orbits
Kuiper Belt & Braces
A Belt of Kuiper
The Grand Finale Toolkit
Fog World Congress
Penguin Guano

Adelie Census
Fog Orchestra
Shape Changing Fog Screen
The Fog and the Eye
First Ringplane Crossing
Grand Finale Dive #2
The Grand Finale Toolkit
Last View of Earth
Final – and Fateful – Titan Flyby
Robots On Europa
Gay Robots on Europa


Books Reviewed in 2017

Overall I posted 79 book reviews, 58 fiction and 21 non-fiction.

In fiction, these include old favorites (Donna Leon, Charles Stross, Thomas Perry, Tim Dorsey, Ian McDonald, Gregory Maguire, Tom Holt).

Some new favorites include Richard Kadrey,  Viet Thanh Nguyen, Emma Straub.

I really liked Robin Sloan’s Sourdough, and Touch by Courtney Maum, but my best reads for the year have to be

Joe Ide,  IQ and Righteious.  <<links>> Righteous by Joe Ide

In non-fiction, I liked Weird Dinosaurs by John Pickrell and Eugenia Chengs Beyond InfinityHow America Lost Its Secrets by Edward Jay Epstein is both good and important.

<<links>>

But at the top, I’d probably pick

The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone

List of Books Reviewed

Q4

Fiction

First Person Singularities by Robert Silverberg
The Adventurist by J. Bradford Hipps
Artemis by Andy Weir
Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire
Willful Behavior by Donna Leon
A Selfie As Big As The Ritz by Lara Williams
Righteous by Joe Ide
Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson
The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson
Border Child by Michel Stone
Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
The Muse by Jessie Burton
Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Non-fiction

Napoleon in Egypt by Paul Strathern
After Piketty edited by Heather Boushey, J. Bradford DeLong, and Marshall Steinbaum

Books Reviewed In Q3 2017

Fiction

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
The Answers by Catherine Lacey
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
The Management Style of Supreme Beings by Tom Holt
The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross
Shiver Hitch by Linda Greenlaw
Dichronauts by Greg Egan
Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher
The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess
Standard Hollywood Depravity by Adam Christopher
Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher
Will Save Galaxy For Food by Yahtzee Croshaw
Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
Arlington Park by Rachael Cusk
Transition by Rachael Cusk
Death at La Fenece by Donna Leon
A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon

Non Fiction

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
Weird Dinosaurs by John Pickrell
Made With Creative Commons by Paul Stacey and Sarah Hinchli Pearson
How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg
Beyond Infinity by Eugenia Cheng

Books Reviewed Second Quarter

Fiction

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier
The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente
Touch by Courtney Maum
Mother Land by Paul Theroux
Walkaway by Cory Doctorow
Startup by Doree Shafrir
Off Rock by Kieran Shea
The Wrong Dead Guy by Richard Kadrey
Earthly Remains by Donna Leon
The Underwriting by Michelle Miller
Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald
Huck Out West by Robert Coover

Non-Fiction

Half-Earth by Edward O. Wilson
The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams
Solve For Happy by Mo Gawdat
The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone
Lenin on the Train by Catherine Merridale
The Spider Network by David Enright
Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton

Books Reviewed Q1 2017

Fiction

Revenger by Alistair Reynolds
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Girls by Emma Cline
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
The People’s Police by Norman Spinrad
IQ by Joe Ide
Clownfish Blues by Tim Dorsey
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Empire Games by Charles Stross
The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
The Golden Gate by Robert Buettner
The Old Man by Thomas Perry
Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson

Non Fiction

The Caliphate by Hugh Kennedy
The New Better Off or Reinventing the American Dream by Courtney E. Martin
How America Lost Its Secrets by Edward Jay Epstein
Valley of the Gods by Alexandra Wolfe
Wonderland by Steven Johnson
Measure for Measure by Thomas Levenson


That’s all for 2017!  Happy New Year!

 

Roundup: Books Reviewed In Q3 2017

This quarter saw a few interesting ideas about coworking, ever weirder computer security threats, and the rapid approach of Quantum Computing and Quantum Cryptography.

Dinosaurs and birds remain interesting.

There was a never ending drum of dubious Blockchain technology, dubious Internet of Things technology.

And, as usual regular book reviews.

Fiction

Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
The Answers by Catherine Lacey
Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
The Management Style of Supreme Beings by Tom Holt
The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross
Shiver Hitch by Linda Greenlaw
Dichronauts by Greg Egan
Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher
The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess
Standard Hollywood Depravity by Adam Christopher
Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher
Will Save Galaxy For Food by Yahtzee Croshaw
Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
Arlington Park by Rachael Cusk
Transition by Rachael Cusk
Death at La Fenece by Donna Leon
A Sea of Troubles by Donna Leon

Non Fiction

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
Weird Dinosaurs by John Pickrell
Made With Creative Commons by Paul Stacey and Sarah Hinchli Pearson
How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg
Beyond Infinity by Eugenia Cheng

Finally, I suggests a bunch of “great names for a band”.

“Service Office Industry”
Comfortable edgy fit outs”
As Greenland Darkens
Recent Mass Loss
Larsen C
My Raptor Posse
A Rip of Raptors
Personal Raptor
The Robot Raptor Revue
Final Five Orbits
“Kuiper Belt & Braces”

“A Belt of Kuiper

“The Grand Finale Toolkit”
“Fog World Congress”

Book Review: “Seven Wonders” by Adam Christopher

Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher

Another one by Adam Christopher from a few years ago.

Seven Wonders (2012)  is the pure white powder—a superhero comics without the pictures. We know that Hollywood can’t get enough comic book stories these days, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that screenwriter Christopher seems to like this style, and is pretty good at it.

Seven Wonders is pretty well written, an alternative world filled with wonder and superheroes—lot’s of them. There are hundreds of superheroes and a few super villains, with costumes and preposterous names. No two super beings have the same powers, so it is all quite exhausting to keep track of.

Unfortunately, these beings are comic book grade characters; shallow, stupid, and violent. Much of the dialog is idiotic. The alternative world is long on wonder and short on logic. Nothing makes sense, and the plot of the story is pretty pointless.

I read it right through. Did I like it? Not a lot.

The story itself is comic book level silly. Nothing of interest happens, though a lot of people get hurt and killed. Lot’s of flashy violence, not much meaningful talk or action.

The story itself is complicated and rather dark. Hewing to the comic genre, there are lots of fist fights, and not a lot of thinking-before-you-punch. There are only fragments of love stories, which last a few pages before someone kills someone, usually for almost no reason.

For that matter, there seems to be no normal life in this world. Families, friends, jobs—these are just the civilian background upon which the mighty superheroes play out their games. And there are a lot of civilian casualties.

The super beings appear to be scheming dunces. Every one of them is keeping secrets from their own allies, and they seem to lack any sort of understanding of people or strategy. Their vast technological and magical capabilities seem to give them little intelligence about the city, its people, or the various crimes and threats out there.

In short, these are highly unattractive and less than heroic heroes. Perhaps that’s the joke, but if so, it’s an awfully long and tedious joke.

Throw in the hazy line between good guys and bad guys, and their tendency to switch sides, and its no wonder that some of the civilians have a rather cynical attitude.

Enough already, Bob.  This story obviously isn’t my cup of tea exactly.

But Christopher does exhibit a fine, if rather limited imagination. Given his other works, I have to assume that the limitations of this book were intentional, staying within the boundaries of comiciness. I’m not sure that a comic without pictures is an especially great format, at least not for me. If I’m doing to read 300 pages of prose, it might be nice to have a bit more substance.

I can’t resist a comparison to Valente’s Refrigerator Monologues, which plays with the same comic-iness, but has a lot more interesting characters and situations. A lot more.

This book is not terrible, but it’s not Christopher’s best work, as far as I’m concerned.


  1. Adam Christopher, Seven Wonders, Long Island City, Angry Robot, 2012.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Book Review: “Standard Hollywood Depravity” by Adam Christopher

Standard Hollywood Depravity by Adam Christopher

Raymond Electromatic was introduced in Made To Kill  and Killing is My Business. Ray is the last robot in a strange 60’s SciFi Noir LA. Superpowered and invulnerably strong, Ray has a significant weakness: his memory tape only lasts one day. He can’t remember anything before this morning, except what he reads or is told by Ada, the supercomputer who directs him.

Ray works as a contract killer, apparently without anyone noticing what the only seven-foot metal man in the city is up to. Whatever.

Standard Hollywood Depravity is a“bonus” novelette about Raymond Electromatic that seems to be set between the first two books. (His amnesia makes it difficult to be sure the order of his cases.)

This little story is actually my favorite so far.

Once again, Ray is on the job, and discovers that something complicated is going on. The assassination is to be done in a Go Go club, which turns out to be filled with gangsters. He has little information about who’s who and what’s what, but it is quickly apparent that his simple assignment is far from simple.

The story is more interesting because Ray actually meets and collaborates with his target, Honey. She’s a resourceful and plucky young woman, daughter of a local mobster. Honey is infiltrating the meeting for her own reasons, and leaps to the mistaken assumption that Ray is her backup on whatever she is doing.

Intrigued, and thinking that there may be profit here, Ray hesitates and delays the hit. As the evening unfolds, Ray is thrust into the middle of a major scam that could well end in gang violence.

Ray is supposed to programmed to be an efficient and unquestioning killing machine, but  in this story we see signs that it is not that simple.

We don’t know what’s going on with Ray, but we have to suspect that he is being lied to. What happens to a robot if he can’t trust his programming?

There is more to come in the third novel.


  1. Adam Christopher, Standard Hollywood Depravity, New York, TOR Books, 2017.

 

Sunday Book Reviews