Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

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!

 

Housekeeping: Books Reviewed Q1 2017

As I generally do, I have collected all the books I reviewed in the first quarter of 2017, in no particular order.

The week of February 20 was “book week”, with a book review every day, including longer reviews of five non-fiction books (starred).

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

 

Book Reviews

 

 

Book Review: “Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

By this point, Neil Gaiman no doubt takes on whatever projects he wants to, and in this case he wanted to go back to the original sources of Norse Myths, and retell them.

I can’t speak to his use of the sources, but the result is a nice little collection, smooth and easy.

There is some interesting and beautiful material here, such as the idea of the Mead of Poetry. But mostly the stories are about theft, lies, revenge, and bad things happening to nice people. Bummers all around.

I think these stories may have been aimed at younger readers. There is some violence and dark material here, but it is handled very gingerly. I know Sensei Neil can go way, way darker than this. And he can go way, way, way more poetic.

And this would be a potential criticism of this book: the stories are fanciful, but there isn’t really much meat here. He hews closely to the spirit of his sources, which are incomplete and do not completely make sense. It’s hard to fathom the motives and actions of these gods and giants, and their magical powers are pretty arbitrary.

What do the gods and giants aim to do? Why is Loki such a nasty bit of work? How can supposedly far-seeing Odin be fooled so often?   Everyone seems to have astonishing magical powers, except when they don’t. For that matter, the dialog is dull and idiotic.

It’s baffling, dull, and depressing. No where near the best of Gaiman.

Still, Neil Gaiman on his worst day is still readable.


  1. Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology, New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 2017.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Housekeeping: Books Reviewed in First Quarter 2015

These are the books reviewed here in the past quarter.

Non Fiction

Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner
Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols
Live Right and Find Happiness by Dave Barry
Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling
The Age of Cryptocurrency by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik and David C. Thompson
The Social Labs Revolution by Zaid Hassan
The Ugly Renaissance by Alexander Lee

Fiction

Candy Apple Red by Nancy Bush
Electric Blue by Nancy Bush
Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
Mort(e) by Robert Repino
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey
String of Beads by Thomas Perry
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 Wild Ways by Tanya Huff
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Ultraviolet by Nancy Bush
We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler

 

Sunday Books: “Trigger Warning” by Neil Gaiman

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

A wonderful collection of short works by one of our contemporary masters. The prolific Neil Gaiman is one of the finest and most imaginative writers in the English language today.

This collection of mostly previously published pieces is diverse, but mostly in the Gaiman wheelhouse of fantasy and ghosty stories. These are not for children, and not necessarily nice, and not necessarily with happy endings.

In fact, from any other hand, I’d probably never read them.

But Mr. Gaiman. Oh, Mr. Gaiman. He does it so well, so easy, and so clean. I wish I could write like this.

This is a short review for his “short fictions and disturbances”, because there isn’t much that needs to be said. Get it. Read it. You’ll be glad you did.


 

  1. Neil Gaiman, Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances, New York, HarperCollins, 2015.

 Sunday Books