I found part three of the trilogy quite hard going.
Evidence-based self-help. Eric Barker examines the extremes of success and failure and draws on scientific research to reveal what predicates success and why it might come at too high a price to pay.
I have a rule: don’t read books about running companies. I made an exception for Good to Great, published in 2001, and a best-selling classic in its field. Jim Collins and his team try to find the secret recipe for building a great business by analysing eleven companies that have gone from good to great and identifying the key commonalities between them.
Level 5 leadership, getting the right people on bus, the hedgehog model and turning the flywheel are all concepts that make up parts of Collins’s secret to corporate success.
The book is written in a conversational tone and makes good use of vivid anecdotes to illustrate its concepts. This makes the occasional repetitiveness tolerable (“this company outperformed the market 27-to-1 between the years 19XX to 19YY”).
“Good to great” is defined as 15 years of “okay” financial returns followed by 15 years of outperforming the market many times over. I find the notion of measuring success solely based on shareholder value a bit galling, but Collins does make the point that without the information that is available on publicly traded companies, the evaluation of greatness would hardly be possible. As a sop to someone with my delicate sensibilities to financial instruments, the book does examine how the “good to great” framework applies to a successful high school running program.
Some have argued that it’s time to retire Good to Great from the leadership canon:
“Good to Great is a classic from a period when all business books were required to be upbeat, flattering their readers. Publishers didn’t expect to sell books that even suggested doubt or failure. […] The belief on which the book relies, that stock price alone anoints the great, makes reading it today feel inadequate, ideological, and naive. Good in parts perhaps, but not great.”
A holistic but practical guide to choosing and raising a puppy. The narrative of the life breeding German shepherds in a monastery is alternated with canine developmental theory and guides on how to train yourself and your dog.
A primer to systems thinking, Thinking in Systems is a staple of lists of books recommended to software engineers looking to improve their craft. Deservedly so, though I won’t lie: I found it a bit difficult to get into. Once beyond the basics of systems thinking, the book picks up.
As tends to happen when exploring a new discipline, I was surprised (and somewhat depressed) by the timeliness of Meadows’ application of systems thinking: criticism of GDP as a measure of society, the effectiveness of environmental regulations, the problems of media control. Remember, Meadows died in 2001.
If your interest has been piqued, Savikas’ review is good.
A political space opera murder mystery spy thriller. With musings about how certain technological advances would affect the concept of self and the notion of a culture defined and driven by poetic narrative thrown in for good measure.
Part three of the Interdependency series. Fast paced and a quick read.
Inspired by the Pike Place Fish Market, Fish! is a business novel in the vein of The One Minute Manager. Coming in at 100 pages, it’s a pamphlet of a book. The four principles of Fish! are:
A well-written and easily approachable argument for universal basic income. Bregman contends that utopias are necessary vehicles for society to progress, while hammering home the point that the left is — and has long been — utterly bereft of a vision to which aspire to.
Managing Humans is one of favourite books on engineering management. Short on structured, practical advice, it’s long on humorous stories and memorably named perspectives of situations you come across in worklife. Lopp’s latest book on management, The Art of Leadership is like a cross between Managing Humans and Camille Fournier’s The Manager’s Path. Split into three parts, the book covers behaviours needed by managers, directors and executives, respectively. While told in Lopp’s recognisable voice, it lacks the raw storytelling oomph of Managing Humans.
My favorite chapter is The Culture Creek. Built around a central metaphor, it revisits Lopp’s earlier thesis that origin stories are the bedrock of company culture.
Small town police noir told mostly and masterfully through dialogue.
A very different take on people management. The result of tens of thousands of surveys into workplace performance, the book’s central theme is that great managers avoid seeking uniformity. Build on an individual’s talents, not their weaknesses. Lead by outcomes, not by rote scripts or SOPs. Spend more time with your best performers than your worst. I also found the Q12 to measure a workplace particularly insightful.
I quite enjoyed Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter, so was happy to pick up a copy Recursion. Quick to read and gripping, it has some fresh ideas. However, true to its title, it has plenty of recursion, which gets a bit tiring towards the end.
A self-published little pamphlet that apart from production issues — spelling mistakes, awful typography, layout issues — is refreshingly to the point and coherent.
The hardest of hard scifi, Echopraxia gives no quarter in terms of exposition. My favorite section is the appendix where the author explains the science and origin of the various concepts explored.
Immensely enjoyable biography of Abraham Lincoln masterfully told with excerpts of contemporary writing. As someone who reads very little history, I am in awe of the volume of research that must have gone into this book.
I picked up this book in the early Aughts, read two-thirds, and finally finished it, some 15 years later, during lockdown. I can’t really recollect what I made of it when I first read it, but this time it was certainly a different experience, reading someone trying to describe how and why traditional forms of mass marketing wouldn’t work online, and what to do instead. Written in Locke’s characteristic, expletive laden voice (the author also has an alter ego called RageBoy), Gonzo Marketing is both punchier and more erudite than most business books. Sentences like: “As more companies graze their products on the pastures of civic concern, that concern is proportionally diminished,” made me smile with joy. But apart from a stroll down memory lane or a historical curiosity, I wouldn’t say the book is worth reading in 2020.
The carrot and the stick drives only extrinsic motivation, which can work for routine, unrewarding work, but fails in triggering intrinsic motivation. Tapping into intrinsic motivation requires autonomy (to decide how to tackle a task), mastery (to give pleasure of a flow state and gradual improvement), and purpose (to give your effort meaning). Drive is clear, persuasive and, at around 200 pages, commendably to-the-point.
A persuasive essay on the origins of agriculture. The author suggests hunter gatherers the world round likely practiced occasional “hobby farming,” which ultimately led to it being possible to over-hunt species to extinction. He further suggests that environmental changes in a specific region made hunting and gathering unviable, which led to a reliance on arable farming — after which there was no turning back.
A well written and rounded explanation of Scrum, the agile methodology.
Contemporary fiction, flawless prose and a dazzling portrayal of youth.
I like reading “old” books on software design and engineering because it helps show me that despite the seemingly relentless pace of change, many of the problems we face (as individuals and as an industry) have, in fact, existed for decades. It lets me better see my technology biases; that even though it can seem like “everyone” is doing this or that, it’s not actually true.
Why Does Software Cost So Much?, published in 1995, is a collection of Demarco’s essays, some of which stand the test of time while others don’t.
Funny and breathless but also in a way that reading too much in one sitting got a bit rich. Originally given to me as a gift by Vanessa years ago. When Kasia’s six-year-old daughter saw me reading it, her eyes got wide and she whispered to her mother: “Why is he learning how to be a woman?”
Two brief essays on organising from the women’s movement of the 1970s. Jo Freeman’s The Tyranny of Structurelessness outlines how the lack of a formal structure does not mean there isn’t hierarchy, just that it’s informal, thus harder to resist. Cathy Levine’s response, The Tyranny of Tyranny, is a more impassioned argument against turning to formal structures and instead developing alternative ways of organising and living.
Scarred by the traumas of ecological collapse, Earth takes a conservative view on technological and social progress. Earth’s former colonies, tiny oases of direct democracy and genetic wizardry, dot the moons of Saturn, Jupiter and outer planets, feel differently. Hard sci-fi with political intrigue that spans the Solar System.
A strange little book, The New One-Minute Manager is a lightly revised version of the 1982 original. Criticised as derivative, at least it aims to be approachable and simple — unlike many other pseudo-scientific management theories. While in narrative form, the pamphlet is essentially plotless, and uses a small cast of characters as ciphers who converse entirely in exposition.
How could life spring from inanimate material? Can you bridge physics to biology? Starting from Maxwell’s demons — a 1850s thought experiment involving the nature of the second law of thermodynamics and entropy — Paul Davies examines how energy-efficient processes from cells to genes link fundamentally with information processing.
An engineer’s guide to grow from mentor to manager to CTO. The chronological structure works nicely, and is supported by personal experiences of the author and other professionals. However, the scope of the book also means that each level is fairly brief, I would have loved reading more “war stories” and challenges that managers at different levels face.
The third volume of The Corporation Wars trilogy carries on directly from where part two leaves off. A few novel concepts are introduced but all in all, the action is wrapped up rather hastily and none too soon — all the factional jostling and fighting in frames action was getting a bit tired.
Volume two of the Corporation Wars trilogy reads as a continuous experience. More of the same, not much more to say.
Spontaneous consciousness as an infestation in exoplanetary mining robots, accelerationism as as political movement, earthlike lifeforms replicated from alien multicellular via directed evolution… Dissidence is the first volume of the Corporation Wars trilogy, and signature MacLeod.
A practical explanation on how a large software development project was run using using kanban.
An even more eclectic collection of essays from the inimitable Stephen Jay Gould. I picked this one up four years ago, and — despite enjoying it every time I picked it up — took this long to finish. Notable essays include “matching to type” (on human’s inability to think statistically), on the number of chromosomes and haplodiploidy, and loads of reinterpretation of historical record.
The third and by far the longest novel of the original Uplift trilogy. This one has neochimp protagonists.
A well-written primer on what business strategy is (and what it isn’t). Illustrated by real-world case studies and personal experience.
The second novel of the Uplift universe, the first starship crewed by neo-dolphins makes a discovery that has half the universe chasing them. More fun in an interesting universe where humans appear to be the exception to the rule of the evolution of intelligence.
A whodunit in space with humanity just having joined the ranks of the galactic society of races.
Phenomenal piece of nonfiction that weaves together the hair-raising accident of a Titan 2 missile silo with the history of nuclear weapons and the Cold War.
Space commandos with telepathic powers in an intergalactic war between two empires. The heroine is the heir to the Skolian empire who suffers from PTSD from being held as a psychic sex slave by the enemy Aristos. Yes, I know you’ll likely not be sold by this description.
Engagingly written and persuasive, this quick read will convince you of the value of using checklists to help manage complexity. A major theme, though little related to checklists themselves, is the value of building team cohesion (i.e. dealing with the different levels of power within a group of professionals), which reminded me a lot of Humble Inquiry (though through a very different approach).
The third edition has some new chapters and still is funny and captivating and sometimes even useful.
Sequel to Scythe, this YA sci-fi adventure novel has twists and turns but the only new examination of a post-scarcity society is through the internal monologue of a near-omniscient AI.
Social norms and power dynamics can hamper effective collaboration. Schein argues that humble inquiries, in which the inquirer puts themselves in a position of vulnerability, can build better relationships. The book is short, but it could be shorter.
Short, readable and loosely framed as a “business novel” (Sam, the protagonist, has just started a new job as a director of a software engineering group), BCD covers many key concepts and techniques of management.
Young adult scifi; eminently readable and interesting imagination of a post-mortality world.
If one day women woke up with superpowers, how would the world change?
Sequel to Sapiens, Homo Deus starts off slowly, sort of repeating Sapiens. I’m glad I persisted to the end, though, as the characterisation of modern Western ideologies as religions (liberal humanism, socialist humanism, evolutionary humanism) and the prediction of the rise of “Dataism” (which sees evolution as ever more complex data processing) are fascinating.
A well written, persuasive (if at times a bit formulaic) account of how depression and anxiety is misunderstood, mistreated and directly fed by our modern ways of living.
Set in the Revelation Space universe, Prefect Dreyfus returns in this space opera detective story.
A pamphlet that introduces the three titular methodologies and how they fit together.
You can tell that this book originated as an article for HBR; while long passages of evidence from related studies bolster the case of the author’s titular argument, if you already buy it, it makes for a tedious read. Thankfully, it’s only 200 pages, and the latter half, less bogged down by citations of tangential research, picks up pace.
A sci-fi novel told entirely through interview transcripts and journal entries.
A literary novel that describes the act and nature and feel of programming like nothing else I’ve ever read. Something like Lorrie Moore’s Anagrams meets J. G. Ballard’s High-Rise.
What can I say… Reamde bears all the hallmarks — both good and bad — of a Neal Stephenson novel. Gripping plot and interesting obsessions while overly long and descriptive in places.
A competent second novel of a space opera-esque series set in an intergalactic empire with politics and schemes galore.
A competent first novel of a space opera-esque series set in an intergalactic empire with politics and schemes galore.
A guide to recognising the different styles of technical leadership and how to overcome the challenges one faces.
A compelling investigative telling of the story of Theranos, the Silicon Valley biotech startup built on an audacious vision, deceit and dysfunction.
An eminently readable history of how trial and error — the evolutionary process — powers innovation.
Gripping and inventive. A quick read somewhat let down by the writing and the cloying pathos.
A satirical novel of the excesses of Silicon Valley. I don’t know if I’m too close or too far from this culture for the satire to hit home for me; as with Dave Eggers’s The Circle, I found the exaggerated start-up tropes unfunny and the jeopardy of the plot unmoving.
A loosely joined collection of fantasy short stories about a “witcher,” a sword for hire exterminator of supernatural pests. The stuttered, sparse exposition is reminiscent of the fairy tales that it borrows elements from.
The meat of The Hard Thing About Hard Things is made up of Ben Horowitz’s republished blog posts, sandwiched in some life lessons and narrative of his experiences founding and managing Loudcloud and VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. Written in a conversational tone, it’s a smooth read throughout, but the central “how-tos” of doing things that a CEO does are more hard going. While interesting as a glimpse into the problems faced by a CEO of a publicly traded company, the bulletpointy advice pieces lack any momentum to carry the reader on.
After reading What Technology Wants, I was looking forward to reading The Inevitable. As a long list of categorised trends, I found it hard going. My favourite parts were the couple of pages at the end of each trend, where Kelly imagines a possible future that trend could lead to.
The Haystack Syndrome starts promisingly with a scathing damnation of classic accounting practices and how short it falls in helping a business measure its productivity. (This is the classic Goldrattian argument of cost world vs. throughput world.) The philosophical examination of the difference between data and information is fascinating if somewhat of less practical use. The next topic, how to meet market demand with production capability is also interesting. Skip the rest of the book: how to create an information system to schedule manufacturing is just abstruse.
Japanese magical realism, I guess. Long, sometimes longwinded. And I’m not convinced by the author’s portrayals of women or sex.
A fascinating premise but despite the great individual ingredients — evolutionary theory, theory of intelligence and personal experiences — this (fortunately) short book strikes flat a note.
Space opera, huge timescales.
Special agents in space. Combat preparation and armament descriptions get tedious.
A sci-fi novel that very obviously has been translated from Chinese — giving it all the more character.
An odd collection of essays and stories. Coupland’s signature tone of voice and observations but not his finest work.
While aimed at non-programmers, I found the exploration of why software is the way it is fascinating.
Intriguing yet infuriating. The language in places is clunky and the descriptions long and plodding, yet the political landscape of an inhabited solar system and individual ideas of art and culture shine brightly.
Book three of MaddAddam trilogy.
Book two of MaddAddam trilogy follows the God’s Gardeners, a environmental revivalist movement. The religion — along with the sermons and songs — are particularly striking.
A well-written and intense apocalypse tale.
A book on leadership that sucks you in by its first-person narrative and sense of peril and progress. Delightfully light on exercises or morals. The leader-leader model springs fourth from many familiar sources — the same that have inspired agile, lean and devops. It finally made it clear why “empowerment” always felt so hollow to me.
Effortless geek-fi. Fun and fast-paced technothriller sprikled with 80s nostalgia for music to video and role-playing games to films.
The human race has disappeared with lone survivors emerging from time-stopped stasis fields. Did humankind wipe themselves out or fall into the singularity? How many humans are needed to rebuild the human race and achieve technological critical mass? Stasis-field technology allows for a different kind of time travel narrative: by skipping forward unlimited periods of time, humans can live in geological time.
Post-apocalyptic world, authoritarian peace enforcement, stasis-field technology.
Fascinating book positing technology as a product and continuation of evolution. Highlights include how Amish evaluate and select technology, how inventions happen independently, many times, and how the size of the rockets in our space program has been dictated by requirements of extinct technology.
The collected blog posts or MSDN columns from Eric Sink on running an indie software business.
Memoir of Sony co-founder Akio Morita with interesting views on product development.
Management as a business novel. Quick read, convincing points.
Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook is a deserved classic. With over fifty years since its publication, for the contemporary reader, the setting reads as period; but the ideas are as milestones for just how far we haven’t come. While not exceptionally long, the novel is broken up (on multiple levels) and is, like life, without plot, which can make it hard going at times.
A short but not very well written introduction to Jung’s work that — having been published in 1973 — relentlessly shows it’s age.
An eminently readable and fascinating history of genetics.
Well-illustrated presentation on the lack of gender equality. Adapted from a TEDx talk.
Gibsonesque sci-fi in a literary vein. Takes on the daunting task of imagining self-aware AIs as independent actors.
Written in the vernacular, I found this short novel challenging to break into. I persevered and by the end I found myself chilled and shaking with macabre pleasure.
Mildly interesting, the lessons are disappointingly varying in quality.
Part three of a scifi series. Tedious, long and boring.
Second volume of the Poseidon’s Children trilogy. Space opera with themes of speciation of AI, elevated cognition in elephants, extraterrestial species. Some surprisingly boring bits.
Total surveillance society, voluntary non-surveillance zones, human-animal mind links, commercially viable space launches.
Twilight Zone-like short stories. I liked that many of the stories take place in London and in the late 90s when you can still smoke everywhere.
A hippy-ish classic on understanding that our reality is interpreted (stimulus—interpretation—response). Demonstrates how taking responsibility for your own emotions and providing feedback for others is crucial — for example, in self-organising teams and agile working.
Ever so cleverly written satire of “post-racial” America. Didn’t really get it, didn’t really find it funny. Must not be black or literary enough.
The fascinating history of information from jungle drums to Shannon’s information theory, from France’s proto-telegraph system to quantum computing.
An enthralling takedown of management theory as a science, from Taylor’s jawdropping fabrications to Tom Peters’ inane business-self-help gurudom. The historical critique, which can get a bit heavy, is carried along very cleverly by the author’s own hilariously narrated experience as a management consultant.
The interweaving lives of villagers days before Kenya’s independence.
Nonfiction narrative of John Githongo, a whistleblower on Kenyan government corruption. But more than this, it’s also a wide-ranging introduction at the history and culture of Kenya.
Early Hemingway short stories; the voice is there but not his greatest work.
Part pondering meditation on reality and consciousness, part recipe for creating artificial life.
I struggled to get into this novel, the first half is composed mainly of letters. By the second half the author finds her voice and the narration blooms to include art criticism.
Imagine reading a three–four page interview on the role of tech lead. Now imagine repeating this another 34 times.
An academically cited look at what influences our thinking (the titular tenet being that scene-setting factors have significant impact). Interesting and somewhat incredible.
Big thoughts and little thoughts presented and then polished in meandering essayistic prose. Irritating and brilliant, I put it down for a few months only to pick it up and finish it with gusto.
Hard-cum-epic scifi starting from the present day and ending 5000 years in the future. I’m struck by how much Stephenson has matured as an author.
Funny and fast-paced experiences of 50-something journalist trying to reinvent himself as a marketer at HubSpot, a dysfunctional startup.
A history of the human species, Sapiens is compelling, intriguing and aimed at a mass audience. It’s examples and elaborations are a bit repetitive.
Evolution of homo sapiens with a scifi treatment with a solution to the Fermi paradox. Great treatment of non-human characters.
An eminently readable history of McKinsey & Company.
Much more enjoyable plot that Vinge’s earlier Zones of Thought novel. Great treatment of non-humanoid aliens as protagonists.
A essayistic overview of how new technologies might evolve and change our society. The first-person tone helps make the density and breadth covered manageable.
Military space scifi. Part three of the Black Fleet Trilogy.
Military space scifi. Part two of the Black Fleet Trilogy.
Military space scifi.
Steampunkish and original, yet I struggled to finish it. The only Reynolds novel I’ve not liked.
Part memoir, part musing of how the “third wave” of the Internet will play out, the Third Wave is confusing in structure and slim in practical prediction.
A sequel and much worse for it; it’s devoid of everything that made the first novel somewhat interesting.
Hero gets unfairly fired from his own company and gets helped up a beautiful geek-chic goddess; obviously he gets the girl. Pure comic book fantasy from start to finish.
Cleverly structured and sparse writing; a spy classic with literary oomph.
A shallow look at how the world is changing and how robotics, software, big data and genomics are the future. I don’t think I learned anything new.
Some fantastic sci-fi ideas, the main plot gets rather boring. Rare exploration of non-humanoid races and explanation of the Fermi paradox.
A haunting dystopian novel that sets the reminiscence of growing up in an English boarding school in sharp contrast of the looming, terrible truth.
Short and strange.
A brief, interesting take on how advertising and marketing has changed.
Even more difficult to get into than usual for Gibson.
The only good thing about this “scifi novel” are the explanations of how DNA and the fundamental forces work. I’ve read business novels with more thrilling narratives.
Melancholy, sweeping and so literary that it feels odd to call it scifi.
How to bring technology products to a mainstream market. While somewhat dated — it was published in 1991 — it still has plenty to offer.
The second novel that reading as an ebook didn’t do justice.
Lyrical and sometimes poignant, the story of a married couple whose field of gravity pulls and swings other lives into their wake.
A rambling near-future novel filled with interesting little gems of technological innovations. Flat on plot and characters.
An enjoyable standalone scifi novel that explores the notion of starfaring sentience in a vast universe and the effects of relativistic faster-than-light travel.
A standalone parallel worlds novel. Very enjoyable.
Breathless and absurd. I didn’t really enjoy it.
All too often, I find the best books I’ve read the least possible to summarise.
Reading Pitch Anything at the same time as Non-Violent Communication definitely added to the sleaze factor. But it’s an interesting formula/theory of influencing people.
Despite the totally unrealistic plot and clunky and contrived characters, I enjoyed this business novel about software development.
A readable company biography of Amazon. Paints a picture of a company moulded very much after the image of its founder, Jeff Bezos.
Life in pre-apocalyptic Orange County, CA.
Life in post-apocalyptic Orange County, CA.
A short piece of science fiction. The free-to-download ebook comes packaged with a talk on how DRM hinders creators and an interview of Doctorow.
Yet another cheesy “business novel.” A guide on how to make your business sellable with a light narrative veneer. A quick read and I liked it!
Literary scifi set in Hackney, London. The fantastical sometimes obscures the plot. Interestingly, upon republishing the novel, the author cut back heavily on the “literary bits.”
Funny if peculiarly simplistic tales of advertising.
After starting the sequel, I decided to reread this. Enjoyed it perhaps even more than the first time!
Unpublished, rather unremarkable collection of short stories.
Fascinating yet repetitive exposition on how innate talent is overrated, and mindset can dictate your chances to succeed.
Classic Vonnegut, if less lyrical than some of his novels.
In one sentence: a limitation cannot be diminished by technology without an accompanying cultural change.
The Goal for devops. Easy to get into and hard to put down. Not as fundamental as The Goal.
As the sequel to Wool, it lacks much of the ambiance.
Great scifi despite the language being a bit too descriptive.
An interview packaged into an ebook, each section foot ended with links to related articles.
Modern spook-thriller sci-fi with MacLeod’s trademark scenes of Edinburgh and a tapestry of political theory and history.
The sequel to The Goal, it reads well and offers tantalizing methods to analyze and plan for action.
Space opera in a human-seeded, post-Singularity universe where backups and resurrection are everyday technology.
The Goal is a business book written as a novel. And while yes, the characters are incessantly conversing in exposition and consequently paper-thin, the format succeeds in making it an absorbing read. I guess we just can’t help how our brains are wired.
Final in a trilogy that I found started slowly but picked up momentum as it went on. The philosophical undercurrents were interesting if a little shallow.
As in the original Star Wars trilogy, the middle one is the best.
With the narration split between two corners of the universe and 100K years, it starts slow. But as the first of an excellent scifi trilogy, stick it out.
Abandons Hyperion’s frame story structure while employing an unique twist on a omnipotent narrator. The full scale of the Hyperion universe blooms.
Classic sci-fi with a literary bent. Resurrected 18th century poets meets religious ethics meets Canterbury Tales.
Very English, and kinda fun if you know London.
A poor thriller notable only for being one of Crichton’s pen-named earlier novels.
An eminently readable collection of Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker articles.
An exposition of Mormonism, its bloody history, and the extremism of its breakaway fundamental sects.
An illuminating and enthralling investigation into how the credit crisis came about and a look at the rare and colorful personalities who recognized the lunacy of it as it was happening.
Highly recommended, proportionately disappointed. As the first of a very successful sci-fi series, I can only hope it gets better.
An immensely readable digest of the wisdom of a veteran of development better known by his online nom de plume, Rands (of Rands in Repose).
Hard science sci-fi, a bit heavy on military jargon.
Marketing, sercret brands; nice ideas yet ultimately flat.
Ambitious, heavy, neolexic, ontological.
Long-future scifi. Fast-paced, great tech, doesn’t explain a thing (this is a good thing). Interesting concept of how sensory filtering technology can reimpose privacy.
Ad legend Ogilvy’s rules of the trade. Written as if dictated. Interesting and mostly relevant, but amusing and quaint even when dated.
A searing, overwhelming, and suspiciously plausible take on how corporatism took over the world.
Brooding and ominous, dulled only by its opaqueness.
A bit more character-drive, it ends smack-bang up against a wall.
Book three is the turn of the Revelation Space series.
Not as good as the Revelation Space series’ eponymous first novel.
Fantastically complex far-future scifi.
Classic sci-fi short stories skipping along the future history of the Revelation Space universe.
Beautifully drawn and studiously researched, wish the topic hadn’t been so extremely specific.
Intriguing notions of the nature of time, nice writing, some great sci-fi concepts and terminology, but way too long.
Classic cyberpunk set in the Middle East. Written in 1986, the style is concise and nearly perfect.
Standard fantasy gets even weirder with vampires, transmogrifying human-spiders and flying monkeys.
Only so-so fantasy.
Who knew finance was so violently hilarious?
A fascinating look at how little changes can have large-scale social effects. Covers most of psychology’s most interesting 1960s experiments. Definitely better than his later books.
Posited as Ned Kelly’s journals written for his daughter. Exceptional tone, vivid exposition.
A Canterbury Tales-esque knitwork of horrid little stories based on urban-legend-worthy facts, fears and freak accidents.
Fragments of the lives of disaffected LA rich. Unremarkably classic Brett Easton Ellis.
A strangely “small” fantasy epic. Enjoyable and above most of the dreck, yet not great. (BTW, I recommend reading the hilarious Amazon reviews moaning about the main characters are gay.)
A fascinating imagining of the birth of profiling as a technique to catch a serial killer in 1890s New York.
Some great myth and language-to-godhood ideas, but ruined by the painfully choppy flashback-narration.
A very long, quixotic revenge story.
Vowell as a tour guide to American history, pointing out strange, amusing and poignant connections.
While its first edition title, “My Job Went to India (And All I Got Was This Lousy Book): 52 Ways to Save Your Job,” is still recognizable, The Passionate Programmer contains sound advice and perspective for programmers. The practical exercises may be helpful to some.
The bleakness of the milieu accentuates the beauty of the characters and the language. Unasked questions left unanswered.
An awesome non-fiction novel intertwining the World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893, and the story of H. H. Holmes, one of America’s first serial killers.
Not nearly as absurd as popular recollection would have it.
Man turns into bug, freaks out family, dies in allegory of alienation.
Pre-Victorian society is surprisingly alien. But then so are most religions.
Brilliant concept, passable writing.
A violent and foreboding paen of hubris and despair, The Damned Utd fictionalizes, in parallel, the rise and fall of football manager Brian Clough.
Definitely a Coupland novel.
A fascinating look at how communication tools have and continue to change society. Much is familiar from Shirky’s talks at various conferences (Aula, Gel).
Doesn’t really stand out, though has it’s moments.
Certainly not one of Irving’s best.
Not as good as the first Gentlemen Bastards novel, but enthralling nonetheless.
Gentle and Irvingesque, a temperate Auster.
What sold me was the blurb on the cover by George R. R. Martin. Fantasy, yet eminently readable.
Standard fare for Morgan’s near-future scifi action.
Forceful, yet overshadowed by its infamy.
A cyberpunkish, somewhat unbelievable novel of hypercapitalism and the falling apart of a marriage.
The Prestige’s finest merit is that it inspired a great (eponymous) film. Otherwise the broken up narrative is contrived and dull.
Morgan’s third Takeshi Kovacs novel, Woken Furies is cyberpunk in the classic vein.
Published in 1968, Stand on Zanzibar is experimental, prescient, and way too long.
Daemon has some great ideas, uses existing yet fantastic technology brilliantly. While it reads smoothly, the excitement and characters are rather lackluster.
Puhekielellä kirjoitettu romaani mustalaisperheestä 60-luvulla. Lopussa pikakelataan 15 vuoden yli ja päädytään ihmeelliseen mustalaisväestön integrointiprojektiin, joka huipentuu hämmentävään mustalaisten pelastukseen.
Stylistically unremarkable, socially unfamiliar, yet haunting.
Flips between several points of view of people at a gangbang. Short and a quick read, but not Palahniuk’s finest work.
A quick jaunt in a scifi tomorrow. My first ebook.
A collection of Egan\’s short stories. The tagline says it best: \”science fiction for people who like science fiction.\”
Still true to his Heinleinian roots, Scalzi\’s The Last Colony is a quick and fun read with a cast of rote characters in sticky pickles. While better than The Ghost Brigades, I now wonder if there wasn\’t something in my tea when I so highly appreciated Scalzi\’s debut, Old Man\’s War.
Like the Salt Plains, White Noise is breathtaking in its beauty, deft in its bleakness, and unrelentingly flat.
A chillingly paranoid novel dealing with genetic research. Both absurd yet based on thinly fictionalized true stories.
One of Coupland’s better novels, Miss Wyoming is especially reminiscent of both Chuck Palahniuk and Brett Easton Ellis. Are we sure these guys aren’t just one guy?
Gaiman returns to gods and myths his second adult novel, a tangled yarn of characters that finally find resolution in the center of a spider’s web.
First contact in a scientifically plausible future world where vampires are an extinct subspecies of humans.
A sequel of Forever War, the origins of the universe turn out to be a scifi writer’s joke.
Though fast-paced and enjoyable enough, still a somewhat disappointing sequel to the fantastic Old Man’s War.
Heavy on math, imagined physics and what-if evolution of human society, Diaspora is an episodic novel short on characters and, well, traditional plot devices.
Interstellar intrigue and some nifty gadgets, Android’s Dream is a runaway-thriller in a lo-sci-fi setting.
It is interesting to note that Haldeman’s novels have not recurring themes, but recurring settings and backstories.
Richard Morgan’s debut novel is a solid cyberpunk thriller. Rather low on the exploration on the effects of tech advances, it nevertheless is introduced Gibson-like and deftly. When the richest individuals can extend their lifespans indefinitely, how does this affect their minds? Interplanetary travel is possible through “needlecasts” in which consciousness is transferred into bodies (e.g. of convicts), called “sleeves”.
Haldeman revisits the themes of his most successful novel, The Forever War.
A crisply written classic scifi novel originally published as short stories in scifi magazines. The author, a Vietnam veteran, envisions a future where interstellar war is the only constant. Fighting for control of wormholes, single military missions last centuries, and the world they return to is never the same.
A deftly written piece of science fiction with a great nod towards Robert A. Heinlein.
What if your mother was a washing machine and your father was a mountain? And what if the brother you’d killed came back with nothing on his mind except killing you and your all your other brothers?
Set in the far future and endowed with some great technological suppositions and a nicely developed “future history”, Glasshouse (like all too many scifi novels) is short on stylistic or artistic merits. Blobby characters with adolescent emotions and sex scenes. Maybe futurepeople never grow up?
Compared to Ellis’s earlier works, Lunar Park feels like a smaller novel. The style also feels more mature. Unfortunately, neither of these notions struck me as an improvement.
I enjoyed Fight Club (though, seeing the movie first, I thought it was better). Lullaby and Diary were basically entertaining, if repetitive.
So my expectations weren’t high for Rant — but boy, was I in for a treat. The first portion reads as a story of a strange kid-cum-cult-figure. And from there it goes totally off-the-hook scifi.
Palahniuk’s cultural research and signature observations on modern life aren’t as rough on the surface, the repetition’s been curtailed, and the writing is quicker, smoother, and more outside than inside.
The second book I’ve recently read that’s been expanded from a single article, The Long Tail suffers from repetition and circuitous treatment of the main themes. While the concept of long tails is fascinating, I found it hard to keep interested and finish the book.
Like most of Coupland’s other novels, jPod was a quick read. Better than some, though not as good as maybe Generation X and Shampoo Planet. I especially enjoyed the humorous references to and appearance of the author.
I great read, well written and fascinating. There was some repetition due to the book’s structure, but it didn’t distract too much from the whole.
Another great novel by Gibson. I think I will end up missing some of the future in Gibson’s work, but I totally agree with Gibson’s notion that “the future” is already here.
Turned onto the Washington trilogy by my sister, I thoroughly enjoyed the surprising satirical nature of Duluth. Great intertextualism and wonky takes on literature theory. Funnily enough, my sister couldn’t get into Duluth at all, and abandoned it after chapter two.
After finishing the book (which was a quick read, and okay), I googled some of the main characters’ names. As I had presumed, others had done all the sleuth work for me.
The third and final volume in the Lovejoy At Large omnibus, I was glad to be done with it. As much as I liked the Lovejoy TV series, the lonewolf, womenizing and women-striking Lovejoy of the novels just isn’t the same.
Detective novel set in a future with some great technological advances. What if you could copy yourself and send this copy to work instead? What would you do if physical danger wasn’t a risk, just have a copy take the risk and download the experience afterwards? But what if you wake up and you’re the copy?
Oh man, I liked this book! I’d never heard of Sherwood Anderson before (being the literary ignoramus I am) but this book totally made me a fan. The introduction was also pretty funny. It explained who Anderson was and how he never knew how to write a novel. The writer of the introduction, Malcolm Cowley, suspected Anderson didn’t quite grasp time and this is why Anderson’s stories sometimes jump, without warning, decades forwards or backwards in time.
I read this book in Finnish. A diary of sorts (Buk says plainly that he wrote it because he was contracted to do so), it was a quick read. Buk’s day to day life is similar to the world of his “fiction”, but his active presence in the narrative has a definite quality of banality to it (as do all diaries, I suppose). He talks about his death often, he can’t get over the fact that he has lived into his seventies. (March 2003)