Tag Archives: Daniel O’Malley

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: “Stiletto” by Daniel O’Malley

Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley

At last, the long awaited sequel to The Rook (2012 )!

If you haven’t read the first book, do so right now! I’ll wait….

After unmasking a deadly infiltration, Rook Myfanwy (rhymes with “tiffany”) Thomas and the Checquy, are now engaged in a tricky diplomatic effort to unite with their ancient enemies, the Grafters. The mysterious and irrational powers of the Checquy contrast with the astonishing advanced, but completely scientific, biotechnology of the Grafters (who certainly illustrate Clarke’s third law, “sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”).  both sides must overcome centuries of visceral hate and fear. Can peace prevail?

In the story we meet many fascinating characters, including two plucky young women, Grafter Odette Liliefield, an extremely skilled surgeon, and her minder Pawn Felicity Clements of the Checquy. We also learn much more about the supernatural history of England, and meet many, many interesting people, each unique.

Practically every page has several strange and wonderful magics and/or technologies, which are rendered ordinary by the aplomb of the people involved, the ordinariness of the settings, and by layers of bureaucracy and procedure. The latter are in place precisely to keep the magic in check and working for good.

The people are basically ordinary people dealing with extraordinary powers and situations, as best they can. Just like us, except with weird superpowers.

The story is chock full of crazy supernatural incidents, and the heroic responses of the defense forces, aided by the prospective Grafter allies (who are really, really, really good doctors).

Odette and Felicity must navigate not only desperate combat, but also her little brother, diplomatic meetings, an appearance at Ascot, and a terrifying full dress ball.

Underground forces seek to scuttle the diplomacy, and they are willing to deploy horrible attacks upon the secret agents and the public. The opponents must be uncovered and stopped, or there will be war, and mass deaths.  (Or worse than death–the side-effects of magic can be awful.)

This book was everything I hoped for, and worth the wait.  Seeing the shear density of wonders here, I can understand why this might take time to create! O’Malley has an amazing imagination, and a smooth, dry style that makes the most implausible magic seem mundane, and the most horrible disaster an occasion for courage.

Get it, read it, enjoy it.


  1. Daniel O’Malley, Stiletto, New York, Little, Brown and Company, 2016.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Books Reviewed 2015

Here is  housekeeping post, collecting all the books reviewed here in 2015.

Looking back at this list, I see that this year saw Terry Pratchette’s last book (a wrenching experience), and new novels by old favorites Stross, Perry, Macguire, Holt, Gaiman, among others. I also read older but still good histories by Goodwin and Graeber. I read several books about banking, Papal and otherwise, and overlapping works about Italy, fictional and (supposedly) real.

Over the year, I reviewed a sampling of important books about contemporary digital life, including cryptocurrency, the “sharing economy”, social media, and “mind change”.   These works covered a spectrum from enthusiasm to dark worry, giving us much to think about. There are many more I did not have time or energy for. (I will say more on this topic in another post)

Throughout 2015 I continued my ongoing investigation of the question, “what is coworking?”, including reviews of two recent (self published) books about coworking by practitioners. (More on coworking in another post.)

Shall I name some “Best Books” out of my list? Why not?

Fiction:

There were so many to pick from. I mean, with Neil Gaiman in the list, how can I choose? But let me mention two that are especially memorable

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Very imaginative and well written, and, for once, not so horribly dark. This book lodged in my memory more than others that are probably equally good.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Published a few years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. A wonderful, intricate story. The flight of the parrot is still in my memory.

Nonfiction:

There were many important works about digital life, and I shall try to comment on them in another post. But three books that really hit me are:

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
From several years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. Highly influential on the ‘occupy’ and other left-ish thinking. This is an astonishingly good book, and long form anthropology, to boot. Wow!

Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
An exlectic little self-published book about “home coworking”, which I didn’t know was a thing. Kane walked the walk, and made me think in new ways about community and coworking.

Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
Unexpected amounts of fun reading this short book. It does an old, graying nerd no end of good to see that at least some of the kids are OK. Really, really, OK.

List of books reviewed in 2015

Fiction

A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen
Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick
Candy Apple Red by Nancy Bush
Chicks and Balances edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers
Corsair by James L. Cambias
Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright
Diaspora by Greg Egan
Distress by Greg Egan
Electric Blue by Nancy Bush
Forty Thieves by Thomas Perry
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
Mort(e) by Robert Repino
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey
String of Beads by Thomas Perry
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine ed. by Jonathan Strahan
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick
The Future Falls by Tanya Huff
The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt
The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Ultraviolet by Nancy Bush
We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
Witches Be Crazy by Logan J. Hunder
Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Non Fiction

Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner
Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
God’s Bankers by Gerald Posner
LaFayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx
Live Right and Find Happiness by Dave Barry
Merchants in the Temple by Gianluigi Nuzzi
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield
Mindsharing by Lior Zoref
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
No More Sink Full of Mugs by Tony Bacigalupo
Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling
Pax Technica by Phillip N. Howard
Peers, Inc by Robin Chase
Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
Speculative Everything by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Age of Cryptocurrency by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
The Next Species by Michael Tennesen
The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik and David C. Thompson
The Social Labs Revolution by Zaid Hassan
The Ugly Renaissance by Alexander Lee
Twentyfirst Century Robot by Brian David Johnson
Women of Will:  Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays by Tina Packer

 

Book Reviews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books Reviewed Third Quarter

Books Reviewed Third Quarter

A bit of housekeeping:  here is a list of all the book reviews that appeared in this blog in Q3 2015.  Mostly new or recent releases, with a few old but good thrown in.

Fiction

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen
Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick
Chicks and Balances edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman 
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore  
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine ed. by Jonathan Strahan
The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley 
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu 
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis 

Non fiction

Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield 
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Peers, Inc by Robin Chase
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin 
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
The Next Species by Michael Tennesen 

 

Book Reviews: Three Old But Good Books

Here are three books in the category, “if you haven’t read these, go get them immediately and read them right now.” I believe these all won awards, too, but that’s not important. Just read them.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

One of the best books of the Twentieth Century, not least because it was a collaboration of two of the finest writers of the 20th.

These two master story tellers recount the coming of the end of the world (much on our minds as the millennium approached). In this case, the world apparently will end in neither water nor fire nor ice, but in irony.

Who can forget the Four Motorcyclists of the Apocalypse, marvelously updated to the late twentieth century, or the reaction of Satan’s representative to software licenses:

Crowley had been extremely impressed with the warranties offered by the computer industry, and had in fact sent a bundle Below to the department that that drew up the Immortal Soul agreements, with a yellow memo form attached just saying: ‘Learn, guys.’

Underneath the slapstick and satire there is a steely core of humanity and the beauty and morality you expect from these gentlemen.

Awesome.  Thank you, sirs.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

O’Malley is an Aussie and a civil servant and gives us a very peculiar tale from the hidden magical government of England. Go figure.

This story follows a rather bad couple of weeks in the life of Myfanwy Thomas (rhymes with ‘Tiffany’), who wakes up with no memory and a letter to her from herself.

She has to quickly learn that she is part of a secret organization (the Checquy) in constant battle to protect Britain from supernatural attacks.

The tale is wonderfully funny, as the supernatural is wild and very weird and her side is—wait for it—a bureaucracy. She must unravel a massive conspiracy and unmask the evil doers, within and without her own organization. Who is who and what is what? And for goodness sake, what are the rules, anyway?

This is a great yarn, and we come to really like Myfanwy and want her to come out OK.

Evidently, a sequel is in preparation, though who knows when it will appear.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

This is one of several novels about time travelling academic/time police, which includes several stories and Doomsday Book (1992).

This particular story was inspired by Jerome K. Jerome’s gentle Victorian novel Three Men in a Boat (which I have never read myself).

These stories involve time traveling Oxford historians, who visit past eras and live among the natives, attempting to blend in. This is a perilous game, both for the traveler and because a mistake might rip apart time and space. In particular, you mustn’t contaminate either the present or the past by transferring objects.

To Say Nothing of the Dog involves an emergency foray to the Victorian era by an underbriefed student who must try not to stumble and also to find his contact and try to fix the potential rend in time.

The story is a beautiful homage to Jerome’s story, and filled with comically English Victorians. It would all be lovely if the fate of the continuum wasn’t at stake, and if we knew what the heck is going on.


 

  1. Daniel O’Malley, The Rook. Hachette, New York, 2012.
  2. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, New York, Workman, 1990.
  3. Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog, New York, Bantam Spectra, 1997.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Eagerly Awaiting Next “Rook” Book

Earlier I commented on the surprising Hugo award for Red Shirts.  It comes to my attention that, in contrast, the Aurealis Awards (Australia) seem to have their heads screwed on right, selecting The Rook as best Novel.  Congrats, and well done.

Perhaps there is some sort of issue with national borders, but I was kind of surprised this book didn’t receive more attention and nominations.

I loved The Rook and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel. (Are you listening, Daniel?)

If you haven’t read it, buy it, read it.

More later when the sequel arrives.