The Sudden Appearance of Hope – Claire North

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Claire keeps one-upping herself with each new book and its unique plot. This time around we find our story revolves around a young woman named Hope. Hope is unique in the sense that when she was 16 people started to forget her. Now stay with me, for this does sound strange but for some reason, people that meet Hope are unable to make long term memories of her, so pretty much as soon as they look away they forget all about her. It really serves the story that Claire doesn’t try to explain how or why this occurs. The downside to this unique ability is the loneliness, Hope can’t have friends as they just forget about you and her family has no clue who she is, Fortunately, the story doesn’t harp on this too much but it does focus a lot on her loneliness but it isn’t an overly emotional book thankfully.

From this unique concept, a story is born. Imagine what you could get away with if people forgot who you were as soon as they can’t see you. Walk out of a restaurant without paying, go on a massive shopping spree, Rob a bank. Fortunately, Hope chooses a more interesting choice and becomes a Jewel Thief. It is in the process of stealing some jewels that the plot thickens when a woman in the same hotel commits suicide which brings to Hopes attention a social media app called Perfection.

Perfection is control, that pretty much sums it up. The app “suggests” to you what to eat, who to be friends with, what to wear, locations for holidays and then rewards you for doing them. It’s an advertisers dream, not to mention that it’s also linked to your planner, bank accounts and every aspect of your life. It’s truly a creepy big brother for the 21st century.

This app becomes the focus of Hopes anger and where our story really heats up. I really liked this story, even though I found it difficult to relate to Hope it didn’t detract me from the story. It also serves as a great warning on how much of our personal data we should let social media have access too. I can’t wait to see what Claire delivers next

 

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

Artemis – Andy Weir

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I was skeptical when I first heard that Andy Weir was writing another book, like how could he back up after the Martian was such an amazing hit. Since we are all expecting another blockbuster do we then run the risk of over hyping this book and then being utterly disappointed once its released? Heck even cover is made to mirror The Martian. Fortunately I managed to convince myself to approach this in a positive light and while I can’t help but make comparisons to The Martian, this on its own, is a fantastic book. I hope they make a movie of it too.

Andy creates a world slightly more removed from our own, than the world established in The Martian. Yet the concept of a moon base isn’t too far fetched to require that much of a stretch of the imagination. Hell, if there was a moon base i’d move there pronto! I liked the character and the strained relationship with her father. Great believable characters and quite factual in terms of launch site location benefits.

Can’t really reveal more without entering spoiler territory but its a great story and
Hopefully Andy keeps the ball rolling and has plans for a 3rd blockbuster already in the works

Origin – Dan Brown

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Dan brown has almost, I repeat, almost redeemed himself in my eyes thanks to this book. I was a huge Dan Brown fan since his early books. I loved Deception Point and Digital Fortress, which I had read before i had heard of Angels and Demons. Then the follow up to Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code rocked my socks off. The fact that the book also upset bible thumpers everywhere made me smile as well. But then instead of keeping momentum and releasing another kick ass book, Dan sold out and decided instead of upsetting (unintentionally) the church with another book he would write one that kisses its ass. I speak of the Lost Symbol, the third Robert Langdon book.

On initial reading its quite good, a nice adventure with secret societies but then as the book draws to a close, Dan throws a mud pie in your face with the worst ending in book history. The ending screams ass kisser and a sell out, in fact I couldn’t even bring myself to finish it. I just threw the book on the floor in disgust and left it there for several days. Don’t believe me that the book was an ass kissing attempt at the church in response for upsetting them in the previous books? Well the movie directors passed on it and went and made the 4th book into a movie instead.

As a result of my disgust from that ending I refused to get his 4th Langdon book, Inferno. It wasn’t until word of Origin (then untitled) being in the works, that a friend and I got discussing Dan Brown and after expressing my views, they pointed out that Inferno had nothing to do with the church and perhaps I should give it a go. It was in the same vein as the earlier books but it didn’t revolve around a secret society or the church. It did however, lift me out of my hatred for Dan. Once Origins title was released it was clear to me, religion would be involved in some aspect with the idea of the origins of life being discussed. Since there was zero chance of the book confirming fairy tales, I felt it was a good chance of upsetting the apple cart again so to speak.

While the book does sort of return to the earlier themes of church vs science, the secret society aspect was really lacking. It just doesn’t feel like a true Dan Brown novel without secret societies being the main concept. This book was also a little too Sci-fi, with the addition of AI in the plot. But it does raise the hope that his next book might return to his roots of secret societies, symbols and religion. All in all my bias aside, it was a pretty good book, the pace felt great. While the reveal was predictable, the twist was a nice surprise.

Dan Brown you have almost redeemed yourself from the mess that was The Lost Symbol….

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

Odessa Sea – Clive Cussler

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Picking up a book by your favourite author is like sliding into a warm bed in winter or that first sip of beer on a hot Australian summer day, its just fantastic. Speaking of which it is 42 ° C   (or 107 F) to you crazy yanks.

Another solid entry into the Dirk Pitt series (its number 24 by the way) It ha been 2 years since out last adventure with these heroes and after the first few pages it feels like no time has passed at all. With the introduction of his long lost kids a few books back they pretty much are in all the books now and its sticks to the same formula, the kids have one plot and Pitt has another but by the end it turns out they are intertwined. This is normally done well but this time each plot for me just felt forced, like they each could have been their own book since the connection wasn’t that strong at all, each could function without the other.

It was however refreshing to see that the crew on the NUMA vessel’s which normally are treated like red shirts from star trek (ie canon fodder) were actually treated like people for once and not just killed off.

I do like how his books always seem to include some real life event in them kind of ties them down to a specific time frame. For this one we deal with the Russian invasion and take over of the Crimea Peninsula
With his multitude of series running and it is no surprise that sometimes things feel “familiar” but that doesn’t deter you from enjoying the ride. Bring on book #25