The Core Dump

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

[By Nic Lindh on Sunday, 20 July 2014]

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.


Console Wars, by Blake Harris ★★★☆☆

The story of how Sega rose to challenge Nintendo’s market dominance in the early 1990s. Well researched and sourced and tells the story of an interesting era in video console gaming.

The book is upfront about how much time has passed since the events it chronicles and that quotes are mostly made up and intended to capture the essence and spirit of conversations rather than being verbatim, which is fine, but unfortunately Harris is far from an Elmore Leonard, so most of the conversations read awkward and odd, which detracts from the immediacy of the narrative in a fatal way.

Console Wars could also have benefited from another proofreading pass—there are instances of missing words and misplaced quote marks in too many places. Though unless you’re plagued with a proofreading eye that won’t shut off, it won’t bother you.

Despite its faults, it’s worth reading for a very interesting look at a pivotal time of video gaming.

Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin ★★★★☆

A wonderful journey back in time through our and our ancestors’ anatomy, Shubin shows how we can trace the shape of our bodies—especially the arms—back through the mists of time.

Your Inner Fish is a wonderful read, unravelling evolution through time with joy and wonder. Highly recommended.

Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis ★★★★☆

This book made me very, very angry, and it will probably do the same to you. As usual, Lewis writes with flair and draws out the human drama in what could be excruciatingly dry material, this time about high frequency trading. Which as it turns out is a parasite on the stock market and thus on our entire global economy.

Flash Boys is required reading.

Digital Wars, by Charles Arthur ★★★★☆

Chronicles the battle between Apple, Google and Microsoft for the future of computing, focusing on search and mobile.

Digital Wars is well sourced, especially inside Microsoft, and reads almost like a techno-thriller in its descriptions of the thinking inside the companies.

Arthus is best sourced inside Microsoft, which is good since that’s the company I’ve paid the least amount of attention to over the last 10 years, and he answers the question of how Microsoft managed to miss the boat so badly in both search and mobile and how it’s attempting to turn things around in those sectors.

If you’re at all interested in the business side of technology, Digital Wars is a given.

The Perfect Storm, by Sebastian Junger ★★★★☆

The tragic story of the Andrea Gail which perished with all hands in the Atlantic “perfect storm” of 1991. It’s a fascinating book that discusses the fishing culture of Massachusetts, the mechanics of fishing boats, the physics of waves, the meteorology of storms, the resources of the coast guard, and the lives of the men aboard the Andrea Gail as it went to its tragic end.

The Perfect Storm is a tragedy, a page turner, and an education. You should read it.


Tower Lord, by Anthony Ryan ★★★★☆

Now, this is how you do page-turner fantasy. The follow-up to the excellent Blood Song, Tower Lord continues the story of our hero Vaelin, but expands to the greater struggle in which he’s involved and the secondary characters (some already known and some new) who also play big parts in the larger war to come.

Now, Tower Lord is not as good as Blood Song, let that be said up front. But then, Blood Song was one-in-a-million. Tower Lord moves the story forward and feels a lot like a David Gemmell novel (which is high praise indeed) in its relentless pace and addictiveness. There are way worse authors to emulate, and Tower Lord keeps you turning the pages to the end.

As a sidenote, it’s great to read a story instead of “I wrote down my awesome D&D campaign” which too much modern fantasy consists of. So if you liked Blood Song, get thee to Tower Lord, and if you haven’t experienced Blood Song yet and you like fantasy, run don’t walk to click that mouse.

By Blood We Live, by Glen Duncan ★★★☆☆

The third book in Duncan’s gritty reboot of the Werewolf mythos is as full of gore, sex and literary allusions as the previous novels in the series, The Last Werewolf and Talulla Rising, but while as enthralling and likely to keep you up past your bedtime as the other ones, By Blood We Live stretches the mythology past its breaking point.

There’s (clears throat) prophecy and visions and Oldest Vampire Ever Who is Tired, and it does indeed feel, well, tired.

Nevertheless, if you liked the previous novels, you’ll enjoy this. Just not as much as the previous awesome novels.

I am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes ★★★☆☆

I am Pilgrim should be with you the next time you’re on an airplane or on the beach. It’s a huge, sprawling techno-spy novel and murder mystery rolled into one.

The novel reads like a gritty reboot of classic Robert Ludlum with some Tom Clancy thrown in for good measure.

It’s far from perfect, though: The plot relies enough on coincidences and chance encounters to make you roll your eyes and most characters stay two-dimensional. And if you’re a nerd like me the novel also hurts from some utterly ignorant techno-movements where hard drives start flashing red lights because the CPU is stressed too hard. Ay, ay, ay. Those moments make you doubt all the other Tom Clancy-style Cool Tech Things that happen in the novel.

But be that as it may, it’s a damn fun ride that will have you turning the pages way too late into the night.

Bonus fact: Hayes co-wrote the script for The Road Warrior.

Lexicon, by Max Barry ★★★★☆

Taut and fast-paced with an interesting conceit, but plagued a bit by a confusing plot.

The idea is that our brains are hard-wired to respond to certain words in a way that bypasses our conscious thought and will—anybody who masters the difficult art of using the right words can make anybody do anything.

So naturally there’s a secret organization that rules the world and finds children it trains to become masters of this art.

And then, not surprisingly, things go horribly wrong…

« There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong...


You like books? So do I!

Book roundup, part 29

A sci-fi and fantasy heavy installment that includes The Valedictorian of Being Dead, The Mastermind, Broadsword Calling Danny Boy, Tiamat’s Wrath, The Raven Tower, The Liberation, The Light Brigade and Cryptonomicon.

Book roundup, part 28

Includes The Incomplete Book of Running, Aching God, The Murderbot Diaries, Lies Sleeping, The Consuming Fire, and Rendezvous with Rama.

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.