Tag Archives: The Refugees

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 Reviews: “The Refugees” and “The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen made quite a spalsh with “The Sympathizer” in 2015, winning well deserved acclaim and a Pulitzer.

The Sympathizer is a fascinating confession set at the end of the Viet Nam War. The protagonist is a communist mole inside the South Vietnamese forces, and then amid the masses of post-war refugees. He is also mixed race, and in many other ways, a man in between, with feet partly in many camps, but not belonging to any.

He is also a man of two minds, capable of seeing any issue from both sides, as he says. He is a “sympathizer” is many senses, and that is why he gives us such a compelling story. We are able to grasp and sympathize with pretty much everyone in this confused and tragic period.

Actually, that’s not true. None of the Americans come off very well, and most are horrible. This is a pretty stinging and unpleasant view of the US, from the point of view of Vietnamese, and Vietnamese Americans.

As we pass the fiftieth anniversary of the American involvement with recollections and a certain amount of nostalgia for our innocent youth, this book is definitely bucket of cold water. As Nguyen said in a NYT op-ed, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington has not one name of the 200,000  South Vietnamese fighters  who died alongside the Americans listed there, let alone the millions of civilian casualties.

Viet Nam itself does not come off all that much better that the US. Both the winners and losers are badly shattered by decades of war, and atrocities abound. War is hell, and Viet Nam has seen hell.

And, of course, Nguyen gives us an inside look at the horrors of refugee life. Even after reaching relative safety in the US, these uprooted and defeated people feel homeless and unwanted.

The America found by the escapees isn’t pretty, most people simply wishing the Vietnamese weren’t here, and even nice people are clueless and cruel. Nguyen’s withering treatment of academia and the Hollywood version of the war is well aimed, and well deserved.

We would like to believe that, a generation later, the wounds have healed. Nguyen makes clear that this isn’t so.


This year Nguyen published The Refugees, a collection of stories about Vietnamese refugees in the US. These stories are dedicated to “all refugees, everywhere”, in a timely reminder that our current wars have created millions of new refugees.

The stories are mostly about family and memory and isolation. Every family is unhappy in its own way, and Nguyen gives us an assortment of ways to be unhappy. It’s a bit much to read all at once.

Most of the stories take place in California, though nowadays it is perfectly possible to visit Viet Nam, too. In fact, Americans can experience “war tourism” there, with bizarre “Viet Nam Land” exhibits.

What isn’t in these stories is much of a happy, successful integration into American life. Even the ordinary troubles of life take on a harsh and dark meaning for people who feel unwanted by both their old and their new country.


Altogether, Nguyen’s stories are not particular easy or pleasant to read.

I think he wants us to read these stories to understand the life of refugees, and the fact that our country created or at least magnified the disaster they had to escape, and also the limbo they escaped to.

These are not the stories we want to be true, and the immigrants have arrived under the worst possible circumstances. But it’s real and unfortunately true.

It may be significant that Nguyen writes in English, and teaches “American Studies” in California. I think I can see the thinking of of the Pulitzer and other awards:these are very American stories, stories of immigrants, and the reality of immigrant life. Nguyen is an American voice and these are very American stories, whatever that means to him, and whatever that means to us.


  1. Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer, New York, Grove Atlantic, 2015.
  2. Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Refugees, New York, Grove Atlantic, 2017.

 

Sunday Book Reviews