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Review: Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea
Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book about nothing.

Literally.

Zero, like infinity, is a difficult concept to fully grasp, and Seife does a great job of pointing out the many ways and reasons this is so. He explores the way Zero has influenced culture, religion, and politics, dropping scads of interesting trivia along the way. I will never think of Pythagoras the same way again, after reading this book.

The book has a tendency to get a little heavy on the math, which is really to be expected in a book about a number, I suppose. The examples in the book are fairly easy to follow and the book has a logical flow, but math phobics might want to look for a different read. I found myself reading it in small doses, so that I could take time to digest the ideas that were presented, and so, though it was a relatively thin book, it took me some time to finish. I’m glad I took the time.

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Posted by on August 21, 2011 in review, Uncategorized

 

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Review: Practical Demonkeeping

Practical DemonkeepingPractical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really quite enjoyed this adventurous tale mixed with a small town story. I found it to be an inventive story with some exciting, if not humorous, twists on some old ideas. The wit practically oozes off the pages, and every character has a certain charm that rings with authenticity.

If I had any complaint about the story, it’s that it seemed, at times, to dwell on giving the back story on each and every character in the book. Stick with it, though, those back stories are relevant and necessary to the payoff at the end of the book. Moore has an excellent gift for building suspense and though the story wraps up quickly, it wraps up thoroughly.

It was an excellent read, and I’ll definitely be recommending it to my reading friends.

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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in review

 

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Lone Star Planet by H.Beam Piper

Lone Star Planet Lone Star Planet by H. Beam Piper

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a quick, fun read. It’s basically a western, a political satire, and sci-fi rolled into one. Being from Texas, I enjoyed the fantasy of Texas being its own sovereign planet, and the characterizations of the prominent figures could have been based on people I know very well. I know some of the intent was probably to poke a little fun at Texans, and our unique sense of justice, but I found myself fascinated with the prospect of some of the more outrageous parodies being implemented. The story has everything you’d pretty much expect; there’s intrigue, villainous rogues, lovable rogues, the Foghorn Leghorn type guy, the timid government officials, courtroom drama, and a gunfight or two. If this were a movie, you’d likely either mock it for its lack of substance, or laud it for its heaping helping of fun!

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Posted by on March 25, 2011 in fiction, review

 

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Review: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

The Merry Adventures of Robin HoodThe Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

I read the version available on Manybooks.net

Wow. The book is mostly comic relief, and I’d say that surprisingly Mel Brooks probably came closer to capturing Robin Hood than the newer movies have (I haven’t seen Erol Flynn’s Hood yet). The first part of the book is pretty whimsical and quite a bit repetitive, but somewhere around the 60% mark, it turns into a pretty stirring adventure and about 3/4 of the way through, it starts to make a gradual transition to something more mature and gritty. The 3rd act has some pretty tense moments in it, and I found myself genuinely fearing for the safety of some of the beloved characters I had come to know and love.

If you like upbeat, happy endings, I implore you, don’t read the epilogue. At least one villainous character gets his comeuppance in an undignified and much deserved way, but the ending is so terribly sad, and kind of depressing. I kind of knew this going in, but I read it through anyway, for the sake of completion. I wasn’t in any way prepared for the ending of this book. It was far sadder and unexpected than I had anticipated and yet, it felt complete. I’m not sure I would change the ending if I had the opportunity, somehow, it grounds the story in reality. I think it’s that sense of reality and mortality that makes the ending so poignant. It’s like you’ve watched this band of cut-ups, these Merry Men, grow and mature, and like all things in life, the world corrupts this idealism, and the whole thing feels tainted and paradoxically, fulfillingly unsatisfying.

I recommend the book.

If you want it to stick with you, I recommend reading the epilogue.

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Posted by on March 3, 2011 in review

 

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Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Little BrotherLittle Brother by Cory Doctorow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve always treated books much the same way I treat movies; the more popular it is, the less inclined I am to check it out. A couple of years ago, when Little Brother was still a new book, the hype was quite prominent, and I avoided reading it. Recently, I saw this nice hardbound copy at my local Goodwill, and figured it might be worth dropping $2 to check it out. I already had a free digital copy sitting on my e-reader taking up space until some unknown later date, but I thought a bound copy might be nice. Having the physical book in hand, I cracked it open to read a few paragraphs. Then I burned through the book, quickly (at least for me).

One of the blurbs on the dust jacket calls it an “important” book, and I’m inclined to agree. Somewhat familiar with Doctorow through sites like boingboing, I knew he was a tech savvy guy, but I was thoroughly impressed with his ability to readily break down some pretty complex technology into layman’s terms. His descriptions of how surveillance can be misused and applied as an invasion of privacy under the guise of protection was both frightening and all too familiar in a world that has trouble drawing the line between terror and freedom.

I’m recommending this book to everyone I know, not so much for it’s mostly believable plot, not for it’s fun and identifiable characters, or even for it’s great use of suspense. No, I’m recommending it because it’s a great reminder to remain vigilant when privacy and personal information is concerned.

I found the ending to be a bit rushed, and the characters to be a bit naive from time to time, but then I have to remember this is a YA novel and I might not totally identify with the protagonist on too many levels, being in my mid-30’s.

Any flaws in the book were really quite marginal, at best, and I heartily recommend everyone read this book–if just for the concepts presented within.

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Posted by on February 21, 2011 in better living, review

 

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