Tag Archives: Adam Christopher

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

Book Review: “Killing is My Business” by Adam Christopher

Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher

Adam Christopher is a prolific and imaginative writer whose novels read like comic books or graphic novels without the pictures. That’s deliberate and it really works.

Killing is My Business is another story about Raymond Electromatic, the last robot.

The technology in this story is a weird 1960’s Asimovian sort of robotics, with computers the size of buildings, spinning magnetic tapes, and rotary dial telephones. Ray is a strange super powered, nearly invulnerable robot with a sophisticated brain but memory limited to the capacity of one 24-hour tape cartridge.

A la 60’s LA Noir, and Ray is licensed PI, but employed as a hired killer. The result is a superpowered robot assassin who can’t remember yesterday, and who has to be briefed each morning to remind him of what’s going on in the case, and who the target for today is.

Given his almost total amnesia, and inhuman mechanical body, he doesn’t fit in sot society especially well.  Very Noir, no? And, by the way, he’s the last and only robot still at large. All the others were recalled and destroyed.

Does this all make sense? No.

“SET DISBELIEF = SUSPENDED”

This particular story involves even more mysterious assignment than usual. It becomes clear that his daily briefings are clearly edited, and that he is being manipulated by his programmer (Ada the supercomputer). He is dropped into a dangerous and inexplicable situation, and he struggles to figure out what is going on.

This isn’t the real 1960s, nor even authentic 60s fictional LA. It’s sort of nostalgia for an imaginary nostalgia. Fiction about past fictions. Or something.

I guess it’s kind of fun to try to fathom the weird LA setting and the rather alien people who live there, if you like that sort of thing. There is a lot of pseudo-retro banter, which I guess some people like. Given that the people and their motives are extremely shallow and opaque, I found it hard to be deeply interested in any of them.

Overall, the whole thing works because Christopher writes well. But I have to say that I like his other work better.

  1. Adam Christopher, Killing is My Business, New York, Tor, 2017.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

2016 Roundup and Books Reviewed in 2016

In 2016, this blog passed the milestone of posting at least once per day for1,000 days in a row! January 5 will mark three years of daily posts to this blog.

My blog may not be great, but it is consistent!  Or at least persistent.


Regular readers know that this blog is somewhat random, touching on any topic I find interesting enough or have something to say about. But some topics were visited more than once.

This year saw many posts on coworking and similar “co” movements (cohousing, platform cooperatives, the future of work, the sharing economy, etc.)

These posts give you a preview of a new book that is in preparation, titled, “What is coworking?” It should be available in early 2017. I.e, Real Soon Now.

I posted nearly weekly about cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology, and the communities that have risen around these technologies.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology has so many perspectives, it is hard ot keep track, but some of the topics overlap with coworking, the sharing economy, and similar “bottom up” movements.

Reflecting earlier research, I have also posted frequently about HCI, particularly wearables, and haptics. I know quite a bit about these topics, though the most important thing is that no one really knows how to use them well.

I posted nearly weekly about robots and bio-inspired design. Robots are really cool, though in this area I am just an enthusiast, not an expert.

Other general science-y topics have included dinosaurs (naturally) and animal intelligence. I have also posted frequently about space exploration and remote sensing of the environment especially observing the retreat of the ice.


I should note that I had been posting comments on items picked up from Wired magazine on line. In fact, I was reading Wired so regularly, I was just about to subscribe. But then they decided to close off access to me unless I accept their advertising or pay $1 per article. I might have subscribed to this deal, were it not for the fact that even the “ad free” option still wanted to aggressively track me. So I stopped reading Wired.

You know what? I never even noticed it was gone.

I think you miscalculated, Wired


On a less contentious topic. Following Sensei Dave Barry, I suggested a number of names for rock bands based on current topics and reading.

I suggested some band names with cryptcurrency themed names, including “Fintech”, and “Hard Fork” (not to be mistaken for “Haardvark”, which I have actually heard of.)

Other nerdy names might be Feather Evolutionor the Saturn themed “First Ring Grazing Plunge


Books Reviewed

As always, I posted short book reviews every week. In case it isn’t clear, these are all books I read this year.

In total, I wrote about 100 books (a happy milestone, purely by luck). The majority of the books are relatively recent, and, with only a few exceptions are recommended.

But if I had to pick a few “best” books, I would say:

Best Fiction: Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley

 An eagerly awaited sequel to the The Rook (2012), this is easily one of the most enjoyable and imaginative fantasies of the year.

Best Non-fiction: The Euro by Joseph Stiglitz

A timely and riveting explanation of what went wrong in the Eurozone, and what might be done to salvage the situation. Considering the subject matter, I was expecting difficult and obtuse reading. Instead, I found it clear and easy to understand, if hard to swallow.

Walking the Walk:  How to Make Money (and a whole lot more) by Sharing by Claire Marshall

In a totally category, “walking the walk”, there are quite a few  important books about how to live right, but  the 2016 nod must got to Sensei Claire Marshall.  Actually living for a month in “the sharing economy”, and now teaching that “we are happiest when we share”.

Other notable reads

I read new  books by old favorites by A. Lee Martinez, Charles Stross, Carl HIasson, Connie Willis, and others.

I started reading Donna Leon, and wrote about a few of her books (there are many more great novels on the back list to be read).

I found some great new favorites, including Guy Adams.

In non-fiction, there have been several great books about animal intelligence, by Jennifer Ackerman and Frans De Waal. Many new articles and books about dinosaurs are coming out.

In addition to Stiglitz, Robert J. Gordon’s book on economics was good.

At a more personal note, there were a number of ebooks about “the new way of work”, by people who are  definitely walking the walk, including Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski, Sebastian Olma, and Anastasia Cole Plankias.


For reference here is a list of the books reviewed in the fourth quarter:

Fiction

1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflottz by Kerryn Offord and Rick Boatright
A Second Chance by Jodi Taylor
Crosstalk by Connie Willis
Curioddity by Paul Jenkins
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
For a Few Souls More by Guy Adams
Hag-seed by Margaret Atwood
Pirate Utopia by Bruce Sterling
Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride
The Terranauts by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Nonfiction

Best State Ever by Dave Barry
Pax Romana by Adrian Goldsworthy
The Euro by Joseph Stiglitz

And here is a consolidated list from Q1, Q2, Q3:

Fiction

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
A Question of Belief by Donna Leon
A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor
At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
Beastly Things by Donna Leon
By Its Cover by Donna Leon
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
Coconut Cowboy by Tim Dorsey
Empire State by Adam Christopher
Falling In Love by Donna Leon
Inside a Silver Box by Walter Mosley
Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
Made To Kill by Adam Christopher
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen
Monstrous Little Voices edited by David Thomas Moore
Once A Crooked Man by David McCallum
Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen
Rewired edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel
Robot Uprisings ed. by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams
Save Room For Pie by Roy Blount, Jr.
Slade House by David Mitchell
Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley
Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
The Assistants by Camille Perri
The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black
The Clown Service by Guy Adams
The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan
The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
The Golden Egg by Donna Leon
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson
The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez
The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray
The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams
The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross
The Path by Drew Magary
The Rain Soaked Bride by Guy Adams
The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales
The Underground Railroad by Colin Whitehead
The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon
Vinegar Girl by Anny Tyler

Non fiction

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans De Waal
Chaos Monkeys by Antonio Garcia Martinez
Coworking: Building Community as a Space Catalyst by Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski
Coworking: How freelancers escape the coffee shop office and tales of community from independents around the world by Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski
Digital Nomads: How to Live, Work and Play Around the World by Esther Jacobs and André Gussekloo
Dude, Where’s My Drone: The future of work and what you can do to prepare for it by Liquid Talent
Hedy’s Folly by Richard Rhodes
How to Make Money (and a whole lot more) by Sharing by Claire Marshall
Inventology by Pagan Kennedy
Labor of Love by Moira Weigel
Magic and Loss by Virginia Heffernan
Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle
Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery and Billion-Dollar Deals by John LeFevre
The Farm on The Roof by Anastasia Cole Plankias
The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman
The Global Code by Clotaire Rapaille
The Invention of Nature: Alexander Humbolt’s New World by Andrea Wulf
The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J. Gordon
The Serendipity Machine: A Disruptive Business Model for Society 3.0 by Sebastian Olma
The Tyrannosaur Chronicles  by David Hone
Tribe by Sebastian Junger

 

2016 Wrapup

 

Housekeeping: Books Reviewed Second Quarter 2016

In addition to posts about Blockchain technology, coworking, and robots, I posted brief book reviews for 22 books and ebooks in the second quarter.

Here is a list, in no particular order.

Fiction

Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley
Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor
The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
Save Room For Pie by Roy Blount, Jr.
2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
By Its Cover by Donna Leon
The Golden Egg by Donna Leon
The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzales
The Decent Proposal by Kemper Donovan
Empire State by Adam Christopher
Rewired edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen
The Clown Service by Guy Adams
The Rain Soaked Bride by Guy Adams

Nonfiction

Labor of Love by Moira Weigel
Coworking: Building Community as a Space Catalyst by Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski
Coworking: How freelancers escape the coffee shop office and tales of community from independents around the world by Angel Kwiatkowski and Beth Buczynski
The Farm on The Roof by Anastasia Cole Plankias
Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance, Debauchery and Billion-Dollar Deals by John LeFevre
Digital Nomads: How to Live, Work and Play Around the World by Esther Jacobs and André Gussekloo
The Rise and Fall of American Growth by Robert J. Gordon

For reference, the list from Q1 is here.

Book Review: “Empire State” by Adam Christopher

Empire State by Adam Christopher

This 2012 novel is an ambitious “comic book without pictures”, with all that implies. Simple yet imaginative plots, shallow but memorable characters, abstract setting.

Cartoonish. Fun.

If you were expecting something more, you will be disappointed.

I wasn’t disappointed. Christopher did a good job of spinning his tale, which isn’t actually that complex except for the fact that it is a completely alternative world. Like the best comics, the situation is morally uncertain, and the very imperfect characters are mostly just trying to muddle through against long odds. (It doesn’t help to have so many doppelgangers running around to confuse the question of good guy versus bad guy.)

Many of the technical details are unrealistic but fun. The flying suits are implausible—outside a comic book. The various “ironclads” are hard to believe, but awesome to imagine. The travel between alternative dimensions make no sense at all. And so on.

But who cares?

Creating a “comic book without the pictures” is not a trivial as it may sound. Christopher does a good job of describing the wonderful pictures, while keeping things simple enough to zip along. Leaving out the pictures is actually really important because, like radio, we have to imagine it in our heads. Honestly, if they ever do make a comic out of this story, it will surely not live up to what I saw in my head.


  1. Adam Christopher, Empire State, Nottingham, Angry Robot, 2012.

 

Sunday Monday Book Reviews