Print Story Industrial Magic and Light
By TheophileEscargot (Fri Dec 16, 2022 at 11:25:03 AM EST) Reading (all tags)

What I'm Reading
"Pre-Industrial Societies" by Patricia Crone
. Book rounding up what pre-modern societies are like in general terms. Slightly academic but still accessible. Pretty good for explaining how theym differ from the modern world.

"Being Better: Stoicism for a World Worth Living In" by Kai Whiting, Leonidas Konstantakos
. Good book explaining Stoicism with more of an emphasis on the social and communal aspects than usual. Also has some information on lesser known stoics like Panaetius and Sphaerus,

"It's All in Your Head: Stories from the Frontline of Psychosomatic Illness" by Suzanne O'Sullivan
. Excellent book by a neurologist explaining psychosomatic illnesses with a set of case studies from her own career.

Makes some good points, in particular that while fakers exist, they are very rare, and most people sincerely believe in their conditions. For instance, people who have psychosomatic seizures every few weeks or months often get them when the electrodes are on in a hospital ward, even though statistically that's very unlikely, and it's the electrodes that reveal the seizure does not have a physical cause.

Another point is that contrary to preconceptions, doctors are reluctant to diagnose psychosomatic illnesses, as it's far worse for your reputation to miss a physical condition and diagnose a mental one, than it is to order a battery of extra tests looking for a physical illness in a psychogenic case.

Finally, if a psychogenic illness is diagnosed early, it's easier to treat it with therapy. If people have years to build an identity around being in a state of disability from it, it's much harder to treat.

Overall, excellent book.

"One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time" by Craig Brown
Short book about the Beatles, that instead of a full narrative focuses in on different snapshots at moments of their career. Well written and interesting, manages to give some new insights while still being short and snappy.

"When We Cease to Understand the World" by Benjamín Labatut
Wonderful book that looks at the lived of several scientists with troubled minds. The section on Fritz Haber was particularly good.

"Inhibitor phase" by Reynolds, Alastair
Science fiction novel in the Revelation Space universe, picking up the story again. Good book with conflicted and ambiguous characters.

"Brief Cases" by Jim Butcher
"Side Jobs" by Jim Butcher
Two collections of short stories in the Dresden Files series. Pretty good if you like the series, expanding the universe and looking at some of the minor characters in more depth.

"The Last Graduate" by Naomi Novik
"The Golden Enclaves" by Naomi Novik
Second and third books in the "Scholomance" series. One of the best fantasy series I've read in ages. It takes a new angle on the magical school genre: in this world magical children are prey to a diverse set of monsters call maleficara or mals. To keep them somewhat safer they live in an automated boarding school, but the monsters are still there and they have to constantly be alert to the threats.

What makes the series great is that the world building, the factions and the politics are so realistic. There are privileged and less privileged kids, but here if you sit at the wrong lunch table you might get killed.

Absolutely worth reading, but with a strong continuing story it needs to be read from the start in order.

"The Freeze-Frame Revolution" by Peter Watts
Novella about an attempted revolution on a spaceship where the crew spend most of their time in hibernation on a mission run by an AI. Starts well but I found the ending a bit weak.

"The Hands of the Emperor" by Goddard, Victoria
Fantasy novel that left me with definitely the most mixed feelings ever. Cliopher Mdang, the chief minister to a sacred and emotionally isolated king takes him on a holiday and starts to build a relationship with him.

It has several great positive points. It's entirely peaceful without the usual clichés of fantasy battles and wars. The world building is good. The characters are presented empathetically and their relationships are the focus.

But it had two big negative points for me. The king and his minister use their absolute power over a hierarchy to make their world a better place. They are uncorrupted by their power and never need to exert it in ugly ways by sending out armies or putting people in prison. It's very much the great liberal fantasy: hierarchies of power would be just fine if only there were people like us at the top of it.

The second is that the basic conflict is extended and implausible: it keeps going on and is pretty hard to believe in the first place. Somehow the people in Cliopher's family in have never found out that he's the second most powerful person in the world and think he's wasting his life when he could have just come home.

Overall, flawed but interesting.

"Klara and the Sun" by Kazuo Ishiguro
Classic Kazuo Ishiguro with an android gradually revealing details of a future world to the reader.

"The Sword in the Stone" by T. H. White
Classic children's novel which I read to the kid. He enjoyed it and didn't guess the end kept asking when King Arthur was going to show up. This book exists in various versions, I read him the original version which I read when I was a boy. The kid seemed unfazed even by the chapter on the Anthropohagi which was taken out of later sections.

"This Charming Man" by C. K. McDonnell
Second volume in the "Stranger Times" series of urban-fantasy-comedy novels about a newspaper that's a kind of cross between the Fortean Times and a tabloid. Entertaining.

"The Men from P.I.G and R.O.B.O.T" by Harry Harrison
Another book I loved as a kid, Harry Harrison's only juvenile that I'm aware of. Two novellas only loosely stitched together. He found it hard to get into at first while it was apparently about a simple interstellar pig farmer, but got into it once the action started and the Porcine Interstellar Guard was revealed.

"Project Hail Mary" by Andy Weir
Return to form by the the author of "The Martian", great hard science fiction with a character on a desperate space mission. Great science, good tension, and decent plotting. I enjoyed it a lot.

"Such a Fun Age" by Kiley Reid
Kind of an issues-based novel which starts with the black babysitter of a white child being harassed by security in a supermarket. Fairly well done but I found the more obnoxious characters a bit hard to take. By the end like Dr Manhattan, I was "tired of these people, tired of being caught in the tangle fo their lives".

"Detransition, Baby" by Torrey Peters
Novel where a transwoman is approached by an ex, a former transwoman who is now living as a man again, with a curious proposal. I liked this one, seemed witty and insightful.

"Swallows And Amazons" by Arthur Ransome
Another childhood favourite I read to the kid. He liked this one from the start, though he was surprised to find out how old it was.

"Justice Society of America: Black Adam and Isis" by Geoff Johns
"Hawkeye Vol. 1: My Life As A Weapon " by Matt Fraction
Two comics which I got out of curiosity about the source material of a movie and a series. Hawkeye wasn't bad, but couldn't get into Black Adam at all.

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Industrial Magic and Light | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden)
Project Hail Mary by hulver (4.00 / 1) #1 Tue Dec 20, 2022 at 03:35:15 AM EST
I enjoyed it, but the aliens were entirely too human for me. Their language is just English using notes instead of words, with the occasional "Oh this is untranslatable". I think I'd been spoiled by reading "Children of Time/Chaos/Ruin" before, where the struggles with translating an alien language are a large part of the book.
Cheese is not a hat. - clock
Yeah, translation was a bit too easy by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Wed Dec 21, 2022 at 12:17:26 PM EST
But it sped things up. And hey, maybe humans just have unusually complicated languages and the rest of the galaxy does things more simply.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
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Industrial Magic and Light | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden)