Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy

Life gets in the way sometimes with what we really want to do and the past year has been a killer in terms of my reading progress. With all that was going on, I struggled to get the desire to read. Books would take almost a month for me to get through and rather than enjoy the fact I finished it I felt more a relief that it was over. That’s not how reading should make you feel, so I took a break from reading. I went from 60+ books read a year to 11. The book that changed it all for me had been sitting on my shelf for some time.  I had eyed it off many a time, found out it was part one in a trilogy and even order parts two and three but it still sat unread. In my reading lul its size was a turn-off, then one night while searching Netflix unsuccessfully for a good sci-fi movie, I said screw it and picked up book one and I just couldn’t put it down. A cliche I know but considering the last few months, I had struggled to even finish a chapter per reading session not being able to put this down was a huge turning point.

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The Three Body-Problem initially caught my eye for two reasons, firstly a big recommendation from another favourite sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson was on the cover and secondly,  the title alluded to an actual scientific concept/problem in the real world. The book’s blurb confirms my reasoning for grabbing it.

In 1967, physics professor Ye Zhetai is killed after he refuses to denounce the theory of relativity. His daughter, Ye Wenjie, witnesses his gruesome death. Shortly after, she’s falsely charged with sedition for promoting the works of environmentalist Rachel Carson, and told she can avoid punishment by working at a defense research facility involved with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. More than 40 years later, Ye’s work becomes linked to a string of physicist suicides and a complex role-playing game involving the classic physics problem of the title.”

Well colour me intrigued, the book involves SETI a huge interest of mine. We begin with A nanotech engineer, Wang Miao being asked by the police to investigate a secret cadre of scientists after a raft of suicides. Wangs pursuit of this leads him to an online game. Wang soon discovers that the game is key to everything and somehow links to an impending extinction-level threat to humanity. A game linked to a potential extinction, how? I just couldn’t put the book down at this point.

Such a unique story, I love the crime drama like feel to it as the plot is slowly unraveled from the perspective of Wang but just when you think you have it all figured out a bombshell is dropped on you. There is also a great insight into the realities of choices and the impact ones upbringing can have on your outlook in life. Early on, I was at a loss as to what the extinction level event could be and going into that last few pages I still couldnt piece it all together and then bam they drop the reveal right into our laps and we now know we have 400 years to prepare for it.

I just couldn’t leave it there so I dove straight into the second book as soon as I finished the first – spoilers will follow

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There’s no messing around this book dives right in and deals with the extinction-level threat and how humanity rallies to deal with it. We have 400 years to prepare somehow against the alien armada on its way. The Aliens are revealed to be called Trisolaris, a fitting name since they come from a planetary system with 3 suns hence the name of the first book. What’s worse is Trisolaris spies are already among us. The Sophons can see everything……How do you organize and plan to prevent an event of this magnitude when your every move is being watched and countered before you start it. How can you organize governments and the people to plan for something that’s 400 years in the future? The solution is the Wallfacer project, four men granted unlimited authority to prepare for the coming invasion how they see fit. The caveat, they can’t write anything down or tell anyone their plan as the sophons will see it and sabotage it.

There is a lot of pessimism in this book. I’m not sure if this is an insight into, the Chinese view of the world, just specifically the authors, or if this was merely for the sake of the plot but it was slightly discouraging to think that someone could be this pessimistic about humanity and life in the universe. For me, as an optimist, I saw the whole dark forest concept as deeply depressing. That instead of a galaxy with life everywhere and interacting like a forest full of animals, we are led to believe that all life comes to a stark and inevitable realization that its kill or be killed so all civilizations stay hidden from others, hence a dark forest and if signs of another are seen it is exterminated

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The climactic battle and the stalemate reach at the end of the previous book almost wrapped things up so just when you think you know how this one will bring the story home it takes it off onto such a unique path, I was just left in awe

From the unique concepts and twists on usual stories and themes to accurate science mentioned. This book series ticked all the right boxes for me. I had some difficulty with the names in this book, mainly from a lack of understanding of how to tell a given name from a family name for the numerous Chinese character, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. It was also great to read a story where the world isn’t saved by the good ol’ US of A. This series was apparently the first books from the author to be translated into English, so I am hoping more of his other works will be translated too. Definitely becoming one of my favorite book series.

This series has renewed my passion for reading once again

Bang! The Complete History Of The Universe – Brian May, Patrick Moore & Chris Lintott

Bang! The Complete History Of The Universe – Brian May, Patrick Moore & Chris Lintott
Brian May of Queen fame was actually studying a PhD in Astrophysics before his music really took off. Queen became one of the greatest bands of all so Brian abandoned his studies to focus on the music. Fast forward to 2006 and he decides to finish the PhD he started many years ago.
In 2006 as he was getting into the swing of Astrophysics again, he released a book with sir Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott. This book essentially reviews the timeline of events from the formation of the universe to its potential end. It is rather basic in its approach and doesn’t talk of equations or any hard science. For someone who has no knowledge of this topic its a great introduction to cosmology but a little too basic for my tastes.

What If? – Randall Munroe

What If? – Randall Munroe

Man this is one hilarious book, it is a collection of answers to absurd and weird hypothetical questions he has been sent via his website for his comic strip. Having a degree in physics and previously working for NASA before leaving  to work on his XKCD comic strip full time leaves Randall in a unique position to answer these questions

There is an assortment of hilarious hypothetical questions such as

  • what would happen if the entire human population met at one place and then jumped all at the same time
  • From what height would you need to drop a steak for it to be cooked when it hits the ground
  • Is it possible to build a jet pack using downward firing machine gun
  • If a ten metre wide drain opened at the bottom of the ocean how long would it take to drain all the oceans

There are many more hilarious questions many of which he adds his signature stick figure drawing too. He takes the time to detail his research into these questions and walks the reader through the process to find the answer.

Good for a laugh and an informative read, best of both worlds!

 

 

 

Bad Astronomy – Philip Plait

Bad Astronomy – Philip Plait
This was an interesting book, i actually got it because while i have quite a passion for Astronomy it gets rather repetitive during conversations having to constantly debunk silly ideas people have about Astronomy. Ideas such as is their sound in space? to the most infuriating, confusing it with the ridiculous hogwash that is Astrology.   I thought if i could find a book that answered all these i could just give them out.
Turns out (obviously) its much more fun to share knowledge and talk to people and debunk silly or misleading ideas than to simply hand over a book. Nothing to do with the fact there are people who simply just don’t like reading – a concept i just cant fathom. Interesting point i noticed was that many of the people who don’t read are also the ones who believe in Astrology
But this book does serve a purpose. It has a wonderful collection of ideas and misleading things popular culture has about science. From bad science in movies featuring explosions and sounds in space and lasers that can be seen and dodged once fired . To dispelling rumours about why the moon looks bigger on the horizon or what causes the tides.
Its a great quick reference guide to helping understand the reality behind some situations.  While anyone with a science background will already understand the reasons behind most of the issues, like why is the sky blue, Does water really spin opposite directions when draining in different hemispheres, Did the moon landings actually happen and why astrology is complete hogwash. There are a few unique surprises in there such as my favourite. The optical illusion of the moon looking bigger when its near the horizon, actually disappears and it looks normal when you bend over and view it between your legs. I so have to try this!!!
It is definitely a book for all types, a fun and yet informative read.

Seven Ancient Wonders – Matthew Reilly

Seven Ancient Wonders – Matthew Reilly
I have been a Matthew Reilly fan for awhile now and have managed to buy all his books, i just haven’t got around to reading them all. Specifically i hadn’t read the Jack West Jr series. They are action and adventure novels kinda like Indiana Jones. And until recently i haven’t been in the mood for it. I had imagined this series was similar to his scarecrow series in which it is just a collection of one off stories. But the Jack West series isn’t like that. It seems my run of picking up trilogies continues but unlike Star Wars Aftermath or Lost on Mars. This series has part two and three already released.
We find that Jack West Jr has been put in charge of a multi national task force with the aims of preventing the destruction of the planet. Lofty goals i know. The story is all based around an ancient machine used to protect the planet from a deadly solar flare. Solar flare plot is believable, there are big ones that could really mess up life on earth but ancient advanced civilizations i found a stretch. Yeah i know there is some evidence of many unknown ancient races and myths but i just find it hard to picture an even more ancient and yet advanced like western society civilization. Where is the evidence?  But anyway its a story so we can suspend realism for a moment. This ancient civilization much like our many known ancients civs were good at astronomy and knew of the impending doom and built a machine to protect Earth. In fact they used the machine in the past to protect earth and when they died off for unknown reason they left the machine for others to find
Long story short. The Egyptians knew about this, knew that the flare occurred regularly so they found the machine and built the great pyramid to use it. After the Egyptians saved the planet the broke the machine into pieces and hid it in the locations of the seven ancient wonders hence the book name.
Our story is simple jack must find the pieces and save the planet. Naturally there’s a twist who ever uses the machine will ensure his county becomes all powerful for a millennium. Which is why the Egyptians hid the pieces. So naturally there is a group of evil US forces trying to find the pieces and Jack and his team represent a coalition of small nations who don’t want the US to win.
After suspension of belief on a few plot issues namely advanced ancient civilization etc it is quite an Indiana Jones like  adventure finding the remains/locations of the ancient wonders and navigating booby traps all to save the planet quite a fun read and strangely for part one in a trilogy, wraps up plot ends quite nicely. Going to dive straight into part two to see how they continue on

The Martian – Andy Weir

The Martian – Andy Weir
All of a sudden this book started showing up all over Goodreads and many of the online bookstores i visit, i mean like over the top kinda in you face showing up. I get everyone thinks its a good read but no need to shove it down my throat. Now granted this is a book that i would of picked up and read even if i had never seen it talked about anywhere else. I mean come on a man stranded on Mars, that’s all i read and i’m like i want this book!
Now im not a person that listens or even reads reviews whether its film or book because i have very particular tastes why would some hack sitting in an office be able to tell me if its a good book or film, most critics of movies will talk about cinematography or the score, likewise for books the rave about character building but serious i don’t care about any of that for me all that matters is the story! for that reason alone i ignore all reviews and just read the blurb to find out what its about and make my decision there,
Having read this book i can now see why everyone was so hyped up about it and why i was seeing the book discussed everywhere. it is nothing short of literary gold. i cant specify what it is that gets me so excited about this book, but i found  myself constantly smiling or laughing out loud on the train when reading this, much to the amusement of people sitting near me. Some authors put their characters up on a pedestal and they do nothing wrong and speak entirely appropriate all the time. Nope not here, this character felt real because he spoke like a real person, he used humour when nervous he swore, he cracked jokes. I can probably best showcase this by highlighting a part in the book that just made me laugh. After contact with earth is established the media starts running nightly news bulletins about our lost astronaut friend – Mark. They are discussing with a psychologist what they think would be going through his mind right now trapped on Mars all alone – the book then moves to Marks POV and we see he is thinking about comic books and why Aquaman can control whales when they are mammals not fish. Where the author comes up with this stuff i have no idea.
The book isnt overly technically but it does talk alot about the machinery he uses to stay alive and it is very scientifically accurate. As such i just could not put this book down, well i kinda had to when i got off the train but as soon as i was home again i picked it up and plowed through to the end. After finishing it i just had a big smile on may face not many book can have that affect on me where you really and truly root for the character. I have read that a film adaptation is being filmed right now starting Matt Damon – cant wait for that
I will definately be looking into seeing if Andy has any other works as this is now defiantely one of my all time favourite books

The Cloud – Ray Hammond

The Cloud – Ray Hammond

Part of me keeps telling myself, to stop buying books just because of there cover. Most of the time the author doesn’t have much say in regards to the cover. So it isn’t always a true reflection of the story nor represent an image that actually takes place in the story. but it can contain powerful images that capture your imagination. I am probably fortunate that for most of the time choosing books by the cover has worked for me.

For the fact that the front cover had an image of a storm in a cars rear view mirror yet the back cover blurb talked of a storm in space, is what really peaked my interest. The book was reasonably priced so i thought why not.

The book starts much like many others in regards to a signal received from space such as contact or species. However the difference here is the signal is not decoded but yet we still reply. I took issue with this. Why/how would we respond to a message when we didn’t know what the message was about. In reality i am sure we would wait until the message was decoded before replying. A signal received from space in essence is a sign of intelligence, it show a lack of intelligence to reply without understanding the message.

The story then moves forward in time. the reason of course is the source of the signal is like 15 light years away, so it takes 15 years for our signal to get there and then 15 years for the response to come back. So just when we thought we would hear a response back the original signal switches off… This is when the cloud is detected. While not wanting to give too much away. It is interesting to note that we always seem to picture a signal from space with allot of fear. Is it just a plot device or do we truly believe that if we hear anything from another civilization that they would be aggressive and want to attack. To be honest this is highly doubtful as the length of time required for interstellar travel is enormous. Its dubious at best that someone would go through the centuries long journey just to attack. what would be the tactical point in that?

It is interesting to note that even in real life we only talk of receiving a signal and not sending. Granted we have sent one signal called the Arecibo message but that was aimed at a target more that 25000 light years away and was more a test of equipment than an actual attempt to communicate. My point is if we are only listening, who’s to say that other civilizations are only listening. If no one is talking how can we hear them.  (we can ignore the fact that all our TV transmission are being through space right now)

This story was still a great thrill ride, and has quite a heart pounding race to the last second kind of finish to it. thoroughly enjoyed it, and will keep an eye out for this authors works in the future