The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Friday, 22 June 2012]

Book roundup, part six

Includes Search Inside Yourself, The Information Diet, Redshirts, The Gone-Away World, Wool, Leviathan Wakes, and Prince of Thorns. One of these may very well change your life.

Non-fiction

Search Inside Yourself cover

Search Inside Yourself, by Chade-Meng Tan ★★★★★

Search Inside Yourself could conceivably change your life. That’s no hyperbole.

Based on a course developed at Google (get the title?), the book explains mindfulness meditation and attention training in a scientific way without resorting to any of the woo that tends to lurk at the edges of books on meditation.

The book covers the basics of Vipassana meditation as well as techniques and exercises to help improve self-awareness and mindfulness, progressing in a logical way and with much of the focus on how mindfulness can help in the modern office.

My one quibble with this impressive work is the “funny” cartoons that were little but an annoyance. It would be nice if they released an edition without them. But it’s a small quibble.

Search Inside Yourself is highly, highly recommended. Get it.

The Information Diet, by Clay Johnson ★★★★☆

I bought The Information Diet even though it seemed kind of obvious. Spend less time consuming crap, duh. But it turns out to be a sophisticated and well-argued framework for how to deal with the sheer amount of stuff that wants us to consume it.

In the highest praise possible for a work like this, it’s making me re-evaluate my information consumption habits and I think I’m better off for it.

Highly recommended.

Fiction

Redshirts, by John Scalzi ★★★★☆

As the title implies, Redshirts is about the low life expectancy of the people who beam down to the unknown planet with the bridge personnel who take part in away missions for no reason in shows like Star Trek, which of course is the kind of thing anybody who’s ever watched Star Trek has wondered about.

But Scalzi didn’t just wonder, he went ahead and wrote a novel about it. Surprisingly for such a goofy concept, it’s very good. What Scalzi has done in Redshirts is to completely commit to the concept and take it seriously indeed.

In doing so, Scalzi manages to drag the reader along and do some pretty impressive hand waving to make things make a semblance of sense, but in the end, yes, it is a very silly conceit. But don’t let that keep you away from the novel. It’s a lot of fun and packs serious emotional resonance, especially the three codas at the end, which, well, let’s just say you’d have to be wired completely wrong to not get something in your eye.

In the end, Redshirts is really a master class on story and how to write characters with dignity. It’s impressive.

The Gone-Away World, by Nick Harkaway ★★★★☆

A mind-bending debut novel, The Gone-Away World features Armageddon, ninjas, special forces, an Evil Genius and, well, pretty much anything else you can think of, including some truly surprising plot twists. Imagine a mixture of Neal Stephenson, Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Ludlum with more than a dash of Pynchon and all of it very, very British and very humanistic and you have an idea of this novel.

The plot defies categorization and summarization, but just think of it as a big ball of weird energy, which, coupled with Harkaway’s tendency to use really big words, makes The Gone Away World obsessively engrossing. Your Kindle’s dictionary function will get a workout from this novel.

Note, though, that the beginning is weak, throwing you into a strange situation without enough background to really understand what the heck is going on or to care. But power through that and the novel kicks into gear and doesn’t let up.

Wool: Omnibus Edition, by Hugh Howey ★★★★☆

Brings to mind the classic sic-fi of the cold war with a clear, strong plot, uncomplicated characters and a shivering, paranoid world view. Wool takes place in an underground silo where the last remains of humanity are attempting to survive the aftermath of an apocalypse which has left the aboveground uninhabitable. But everything isn’t what it seems.

According to the book’s Amazon page, it started out as a haunting short story, which is now the first book, and after its success Howey added more installments. The Omnibus Edition wraps them up into a “normal” length novel.

I stayed up way too late to find out what was going to happen next.

Also a self-published steal at $5.99. Recommended.

Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey ★★★★☆

Very good space opera that takes place in the “middle future” where humanity has conquered the solar system and stands ready to begin to move outside it by hook and leaky space suit when an alien presence throws a spanner in the works.

The novel follows two main protagonists, a Buck Rogers-like do-gooder ship captain and a dark, obsessive detective. Both men start out straight out of central casting but are progressively fleshed out into interesting characters. There’s also a strong cast of supporting characters.

Leviathan Wakes mixes gritty space opera and noir detective story into something far greater than the sum of its parts and is full of nice little details that help animate the impressive world building.

Can’t wait to read the next installment in the series, Caliban’s War.

Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence ★★★☆☆

Good dark fantasy that’s hard to put down once you get over the sociopathic protagonist—very hard to like at first, but who really does grow on you as you discover his backstory.

Prince of Thorns is for the dark fantasy connoisseur.

(DISCLOSURE: All links go to the Amazon Kindle store and are affiliate links. If you buy one of the books through a link here I get a tiny kickback from Amazon.)

« La Jolla trip

 »


You like books? So do I!

Book roundup, part 27

Includes Hollywood Dead, Tales from the Loop, Things from the Flood, The Court of Broken Knives, and Port of Shadows.

Book roundup, part 26

Includes The Storm Before the Storm, White Trash, Calypso, Tell the Machine Goodnight, Prince of Fools, and Provenance.

Book roundup, part 25

Mostly excellent non-fiction in this installment. Includes Fantasyland, The Miracle of Dunkirk, Das Reich, The Undoing Project, Waiting for the Punch, Vacationland and Points of Impact.

Book roundup, part 24

Lots of sci-fi in this installment. Includes Retribution, Boomerang, The Collapsing Empire, All Systems Red, and Ninefox Gambit.

Review: Novels of the Malazan Empire

A worthy inclusion to the Malazan canon and great high fantasy to disappear into in troubled times.

Book roundup, part 23

Includes a mea culpa, Hillbilly Elegy, Gulp, The Stars are Legion, and The Kill Society.

Book roundup, part 22

Lots of fiction series in this one. Includes Grunt, 1177 B.C., Louder Than Hell, Smarter Faster Better, The Hanging Tree, Death’s End, Chains of Command, and Who Killed Sherlock Holmes?.

Malazan Book of the Fallen

Hey kids, you like epic fantasy? ’Cause I've got some epic fantasy for you.

Book roundup, part 21

This installment features grimdark fantasy, peppy astronauts and the Roman Empire. Includes SPQR, And On That Bombshell, The Code Book, Schiit Happened, Beyond Redemption, The Severed Streets, The Martian and Veiled.

Book roundup, part 20

Includes The Antidote, One Nation, Under Gods, Losing the Signal, The Todd Glass Situation, The Last Policeman, The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, Beacon 23, Killing Pretty and Queen of Fire.

Book roundup, part 19

Lots of fantasy and sci-fi in this installment plus a book about sports! Includes Boy on Ice, Difficult Men, Restaurant Man, The Red Line, Cunning Plans, Seveneves, Nemesis Games, Bitter Seeds, The Mechanical, Angles of Attack, and City of Stairs.

Book roundup, part 18

Nic is sad about Terry Pratchett's passing. Includes No Land’s Man, Idiot America, Something Coming Through, The Burning Room, Foxglove Summer, and The Dark Defiles.

Book roundup, part 17

Things go dark and magical in this installment. Includes So, Anyway…, Yes Please, The Mirror Empire, London Falling, Broken Homes, Perfidia, The Peripheral, Burning Chrome, and the Bel Dame Apocrypha Omnibus.

Book roundup, part 16

Lots of good reads in this installment. Includes All Hell Let Loose, Metallica: This Monster Lives, 10% Happier, Onward, Echopraxia, Cibola Burn, The Getaway God, Lock In, The Red: First Light, Terms of Enlistment, and Lines of Departure.

Book roundup, part 15

Solid reads abound in this installment of the roundup. Includes Console Wars, Your Inner Fish, Flash Boys, Digital Wars, The Perfect Storm, Tower Lord, By Blood We Live, I am Pilgrim and Lexicon.

Book roundup, part 14

Some great reads and a huge disappointment in this installment. Includes The Loudest Voice in the Room, Hatching Twitter, Dogfight, Ancillary Justice, KOP Killer, The Circle, Working God’s Mischief and Where Eagles Dare.

Book roundup, part 13

Some solid reading awaits you in this installment. Includes The Outpost, Masters of Doom, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, The Everything Store, Bomber Command, Gods of Guilt, and Low Town.

Book roundup, part twelve

A slimmer-than-usual book roundup is heavy on the non-fiction, including several must-read titles.

Book roundup, part eleven

Another book roundup, including some stellar athletes and soldiers, what might be the most jaded, soul-weary protagonist ever, and some grimdark fantasy.

Book roundup, part ten

The Core Dump is back! Books were read during the hiatus. Includes The Coldest Winter, Oh, Myyy!, Tough Sh*t, The Revolution Was Televised, The Rook, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Gun Machine, Fortress Frontier, Standing in Another Man’s Grave, and The Memory of Light.

Book roundup, part nine

From a true patriot to a world-weary detective, a dead god, and a civilization about to sublime from the galaxy, this book roundup spans the gamut. Includes Where Men Win Glory, Wild, Inside the Box, The Black Box, Three Parts Dead, Red Country, and The Hydrogen Sonata.

Book roundup, part eight

From the heights of athletic excellence to the depths of depravity, this roundup includes The First 20 Minutes, Double Cross, The Heroin Diaries, Tattoos and Tequila, Dodger, Farthing, and Devil Said Bang.

Book roundup, part seven

Includes Wabi-Sabi, Making Things Happen, D-Day, Tallula Rising, Blood Song, The Americans and Amped. All in all, a happy romp through the meadows of literature.

Book roundup, part six

Includes Search Inside Yourself, The Information Diet, Redshirts, The Gone-Away World, Wool, Leviathan Wakes, and Prince of Thorns. One of these may very well change your life.

Book roundup, part five

Includes Shadow Ops: Control Point, The Night Circus, The Hunger Games, Quiet, The Science of Yoga, and Kitchen Confidential. Lots of good stuff in this one.

Book roundup, part four

Includes Angelmaker, The Magicians, Magician King, Iron Council, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Distrust That Particular Flavor, and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran. One of these is the most important book of 2011.

Book roundup, part three

Includes The Drop, Ready Player One, Moon Called, Among Others, Excession, Inferno, The Paleo Solution and I am Ozzy.

Book roundup, part two

Includes Sandman Slim, Snuff, The Cold Commands, Reamde, Goodbye Darkness, Steve Jobs and The Psychopath Test.

Book roundup, part one

Some books you might enjoy reading.