Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt For The Lost Franklin Expedition by Paul Watson

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Books about polar exploration always draw me in and the Franklin expedition would have to be my second favourite polar story after Shackleton of course. There’s just something about the whole age of heroes that draws me in each time. Men risking their lives for science (and celebrity status) is just a thing that’s not done anymore. The age of physical discovery is over, we don’t have these expeditions off to fill in an area of the map any more. Science is now done in the lab and on computers. I really wish that I live long enough to see this same race to explore take up once again but this time in space.

This book is split pretty much into three parts, the first part tells the story of the organisation of the expedition, Discussing the politics and bureaucracy in getting it all organised and then follows the progress if the expedition once it finally gets going and goes as far as known records show.

Once our records of known events are finished the story then switches back to England and the push by his wife to try and ascertain what has happened. The immense struggle she faces to get the Admiralty to do anything is covered by the many letters she wrote and then finally once she succeeds the story covers the many searches carried out and what limited findings they made.

The third and final part deals with recent events starting with the man who delved into Inuit stories to put the final pieces of the puzzle together and then on to the expeditions that finally found the ships as a result of Inuit stories.

Of course, there is still plenty of mystery around the expedition, most bodies still remain missing. Perhaps global warming and the receding ice sheets may reveal its final stories soon enough, in the meantime, this book serves as an excellent source to raise ones knowledge of events surround this expedition. It is well written, Paul really manages to capture the frustration felt my franklins wife as she struggled for years to get the Admiralty to do something. I really like how the book lists its sources where possible and even includes several pictures in the middle. A great read for sure,

 

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

The Light Between Oceans – M. L. Stedman

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I saw a poster for this movie near my work and it spoke of moral dilemma, that alone was enough to get me intrigued. I then checked with a few people to make sure it wasn’t just a boring love story, which thankfully it wasn’t.

Tom, having returned from the horrors of war just wants some piece and quite and to get away from society, so he takes up a role of lighthouse keeper on remote Janus Rock off the coast of Western Australia.

His life is quite disciplined on that island, everything gets reported and logged and he forms a rigid routine, to fill in the time between the quarterly supply boats. On his not so regular visits to the mainland he falls for a woman Isabel. Whom he eventually marries and brings back to the island.

After miscarriages and still births, Isabel is soon at wits end, when on the breeze she hears a babies cry. A boat has washed ashore on their island with the dead body of a man and a baby crying. Isabel still reeling from her most recent loss convinces Tom to betray his principles and not report the boat and pretend the baby is there. A few years later when they take some leave on the mainland the real consequences of their actions dawn on them.

What then follows is a battle between what feels is for the best and what is right. A lot of the reviews i read really disagreed with Isabel’s actions later in the book, but i’m the opposite, i think her actions were natural and realistic, its is Tom’s actions that i have issue with. I just cant understand the reasoning behind them. its this thought provoking struggle that makes me like this book so much. On a separate note this definitely goes in the pile of the book is better than the movie

The North Water – Ian McGuire

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it wasn’t just merely a sailing adventure but a murder mystery and conspiracy all wrapped into one bundle, up in the frozen north. I think the author really set the scene quite well and as such the story really drew me in. Just imagine setting sail for a journey lasting several months into the far north to hunt whales knowing there was a murderer on board with you. Yes there is a bit of violence in this book, and i’ve seen some reviews complain of it but it is about hunting whales and a murder so you cant expect it to be a tea party with everyone eating scones. I think the book is essentially making us ask ourselves which is more harsh the cruel and unforgiving frozen north or human nature at its instinctual basics.

I have read quite a few books that suffer from lulls in the drama between key scenes but this book just doesn’t stop, it just keeps the story going, there are no lulls and the fast pace keeps you from wanting to put the book down for a break. Such a great read!

The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

136538I have often heard of The Little Prince, so when I decided to increase the number of “translated” books I own. I thought i’d give this one a try. Yet as I worked my way through the story I found myself asking what the heck is this about, It read like a kids book, with matching pictures and i had trouble connecting with it as such.Some crazy trip to different planets with bizarre and weird occupants, was very reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson.

After finishing it i was still at a loss to describe the book, i have never had to delve deeply to discover what a book was about. In general a book conveys a story but this story didn’t make sense, so i reached out online to try and find help in understanding this story. I remember i used to mock my Shakespeare obsessed, socially quirky English teacher back in high school because she was always trying to over-analysis a story by asking what did the author mean, what concepts was he/she trying to convey. I was like chill Miss he just wrote an entertaining story about adventure why ruin it by over-analysis. But now with this book i needed that over-analysis to figure out what was going on.

I had found a place to discuss this book but before i could even start, The first thing i read was by a woman who wrote, (SPOILER ALERT) firstly are you aware the little prince dies at the end? I mocked her to myself and thought no he didn’t he goes home. But then she goes on to say to reread the book but with the eyes and mind of an adult.

As i begun this second read through, it occurs to me that since i initial thought it was a child’s story i read it as such. So as instructed i approached it differently and it was as if the curtains had been pulled down from my eyes. It was as if the story was like one of those crazy 3D images where on the top is one picture but if you look hard underneath is another. This book is like that, on the surface its a child like bedtime story but if you look through the narrative you see a cleverly crafted world beneath trying to teach a lesson.

Every planet The Little Prince visits has its own Moral, it shows just how weird adults and their behaviours can be to a child. The lamplighter, who follows his orders to the letter without question giving him only 1 minute of free time a day, The business man, so busy counting stars he fails to live his life, or the drunkard who drinks to forget the shame of drinking. Such behaviours to a child come off strange and weird and yet to an adult they are somewhat familiar.As adults we can sometimes get so caught up in what society expects, we forget to think about what we want or whats truly important.

Then we come to the fox, how can a child’s story have such a profound impact on an adult. but yet here i am reading of a fox who tells me that true beauty is invisible to the eyes. Society drills into us so much that looks and appearance are all that matters but when you come to the heart of it that’s all bullshit, its whats underneath that’s truly important

Now i come to the sad part, originally sad because i thought the story was over and the Little Prince goes home but really its much worse than that. The Snake is society, the little prince a child. Society promises the world to a child and in the case of the book, the snake tells the prince i’ll help you get home. But in reality, all society does is kill off the innocence and purity of a child. The Death of the Little Prince corresponds to the death of the child in each of us. We become mindless automatons in society lacking imagination and focus on materialistic things rather than fun. We do things because they are expected of us or because we “have to” not because we want too.

This isn’t really a children’s book, its for us adults who still can remember being a child and have that knowledge that we can never really go back to that time of innocence and youth. This book tells us its important to hold onto that memory and that we don’t have to listen to the Snake. There are still parts of the book i cant quite understand or determine the morals and perhaps that is because society hasn’t fully changed me and i still have a little bit of my inner child still alive in me….

 

Touch by Clair North

22314178I have read quite a few books (who hasn’t) probably a couple of hundred and I can count on one hand the number of books that made me lose sleep and hide from society. I’m not talking from fear or sadness, I’m talking about a book that hooks you in so bad that you lie awake at night wondering what happens next, you cancel social engagements to allow time to read. You call in sick to work to ensure you don’t run out of time and have to leave the book at a crucial point because it’s time to go to work.  This author has written two of these books.
Claire north is just a pseudonym for Catherine Webb, who in her teens wrote a lot of YA books, then when she hit 20 she started writing adult fantasy and so her publisher said its pseudonym time (kate Griffin) to ensure readers don’t get confused. Later on as she wrote books of a completely different style of writing and content it was time for a new name (Claire North) As someone who judges books by covers, and googles authors before picking up a new book this makes a lot of sense. If when I first saw 15 lives of harry august and then googled her name, if I saw she wrote YA I probably wouldn’t of grabbed the book. So kudos to her publishers I am the very type of person they thought of when saying its pseudonym time.
Touch is an amazing roller-coaster of a story, the plot is unique enough to pique my interest and her writing clever enough to keep me wanting more. It isn’t so much so the character I love but the story, I mean just wow. Kepler, is brutally murdered but in the last moments reaches out to the murderer, when suddenly the unthinkable happens, she switches. Kepler is now in the killers body. Kepler now has the ability to jump from one person to another and we are now drawn into a world where people are paid to allow someone to “reside” in their body. A secret society if you will, But when one such body is brutally murdered, Kepler soon finds out not everyone is happy with the idea of this ability

Claire delivers another knockout story, the level of depth she brings into the world is stunning. After I read her first book I went out and bought all the books by Clair, so I cant wait to dive into her next one

The Terror – Dan Simmons

The Terror – Dan Simmons
Found this book while filling in time at a book store. I recognized the authors name and picked it up to check it out. It’s the authors take on what happened to the lost Franklin Expedition to discover the Northwest Passage. The blurb on the back caught my attention with the whole the crew are pursued across the ice by The Terror.
It got me thinking back to his previous book i had read The Abominable, that books blurb gave the impression the climbers were stalked by a Yeti, but the truth was far from it. So i anticipated a similar deception here. I assumed instead of a monster, “The Terror” that the author described was death. chasing them across the ice as each man succumbed to starvation.  Since all the men died i felt this would probably be the case.
To test this i decided to get the book not from there of course, pfft Dymocks is a rip off. I scanned the book on my app and when i got home bought a copy from Bookdepository.com. $4 cheaper than Dymocks and free shipping.
Once the book arrived i dove straight in. Well unlike his previous book it wasn’t a metaphor, something is actually pursuing the men. This increased my interest ten fold. Man this book was good, the level of suspense, you really feel on edge like the men would be, ever wary of the nearby threat.
Was loving it till about halfway when a local native to the region started displaying some magic spiritual mumbo jumbo crap, when i first read that part i thought i had daydreamed it, it was so out of the blue. I went back and read the preceding pages to check, nope the author did indeed throw in some strange mumbo jumbo. I thought i can deal with it ill just ignore it and revel in the suspense side of things but as it drew to the end that spiritual mumbo jumbo just went down right crazy and for me it ruined a solid book. It was just over the top unbelievable stuff. like seriously a native who kisses polar bears and when the bear kisses her it blows into her mouth and plays her vocal cords like a flute?? what crack was this author on.
Loved the suspense and setting of this book but the ending just killed it for me, With the ridiculous mumbo jumbo. That aside if you read 3/4 of the book and skip the polar bear symphony and then finish there by saying then they all died its brilliant.
 Tongueless people who make music by kissing polar bears and all that other spiritual voodoo stuff, like really?? Try harder and be a little more creative  next time Mr Author