The Core Dump The Core Dump is the online home of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American man living in the Sonoran desert. 2020-01-20T16:28:28-07:00 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Book roundup, part 30 Nic Lindh 2020-01-20T08:00:00-07:00 <p>Sci-fi and calamity to soothe the troubled soul.</p> <h2 id="non-fiction">Non-fiction</h2> <h3 id="the-end-is-always-near-by-dan-carlin-"><a href="">The End is Always Near, by Dan Carlin</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Dan Carlin is best known as the host of the immensely popular <a href="">Hardcore History</a> podcast. If you have somehow managed to miss Hardcore History, I highly recommend catching up.</p> <p>One of the recurring themes in the Hardcore History podcast is musing about how us modern people would cope with some of the horrific events of the past and trying to get into the heads of the people living through the events, like a Mongol invasion, or the fall of the Roman Empire, or a plague, or one of the other many, many awful things that have befallen people throughout recorded history.</p> <p><em>The End is Always Near</em> picks up on the same theme and focuses in on it.</p> <p>Carlin is a radio person, and you can tell he’s more used to talking his texts than having them read, but it’s still very interesting.</p> <p>If you’re a fan of the podcast you’ve probably already read <em>The End is Always Near</em> and if you’re not, the book does serve as an introduction to the podcast.</p> <p>I personally think Carlin is stronger in podcast form than text form, but <em>The End is Always Near</em> is well worth reading.</p> <h3 id="eat-the-apple-by-matt-young-"><a href="">Eat the Apple, by Matt Young</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Wow. <em>Eat the Apple</em> is the memoir of a marine who served three tours in Iraq, but it is also and more significantly a document of the frailty of toxic masculinity, mental health issues and the bravery to confront these issues.</p> <p>Young really goes out on a limb from a technical standpoint, working with different and sometimes very pyrotechnical narrative techniques in a prose style that is extremely self-aware.</p> <p>Self-conscious narrative techniques that scream “workshop” can ruin a book so hard, but in this case, they actually work.</p> <p><em>Eat the Apple</em> is not by any stretch of the imagination a fun read, but it’s important and real and very raw.</p> <p>It feels like an honest attempt at explaining a soldier’s mindset.</p> <h2 id="fiction">Fiction</h2> <h3 id="a-memory-called-empire-by-arkady-martine-"><a href="">A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>A Memory Called Empire</em> gave me really weird dreams. Not sure why, but the entire time I was reading it I had strange dreams. It might be because of the haunting prose style or the intricate society-building Martine performs.</p> <p>The novel takes place in the far future after humanity has spread out across space. The Teixcalaan empire is old, powerful, and decadent. An ambassador from a weaker society arrives to replace her predecessor who has passed away in mysterious circumstances.</p> <p>There is far future tech aplenty in <em>A Memory Called Empire</em> but the most fascinating to me is something called an Imago. Which is creepy as hell, but also makes sense within the society that invented it.</p> <p>With great prose, a fast-paced plot, interesting characters, and decadence aplenty, <em>A Memory Called Empire</em> is well worth reading.</p> <p>And now we wait for the second installment in the trilogy. Tick tock.</p> <h3 id="gideon-the-ninth-by-tamsyn-muir-"><a href="">Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Charlie Stross blurbed <em>Gideon the Ninth</em>: “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!”</p> <p>This is a surprisingly accurate summary. Yes, really. Though it doesn’t fully convey the sheer weirdness of this novel.</p> <p>If the blurb made you perk up, get it.</p> <h3 id="infinite-detail-by-tim-maughan-"><a href="">Infinite Detail, by Tim Maughan</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>Infinite Detail</em> has a lot to recommend it: An interesting thought experiment and a good story, delivered in precise prose about a near future where the Internet has been destroyed. This of course is the Y2K bug on steroids.</p> <p>It’s also mainly set in England with a throbbing soundtrack of jungle music. Yes, I’ve listened to a lot of jungle music since reading <em>Infinite Detail</em>. Life is weird.</p> <p>If you like cyberpunk, put this on your reading list.</p> <h3 id="thin-air-by-richard-k-morgan-"><a href="">Thin Air, by Richard K. Morgan</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Hakan Veil used to be an overrider, a Black Hatch man, sent along in cryosleep on cargo hauls between Earth and Mars and further into the solar system to provide security in case of mutiny.</p> <p>Now he’s a hired thug in a Martian slum.</p> <p><em>Thin Air</em> takes place in the same universe as <em>Thirteen</em>, but a century or two later. It’s solid and fast-moving, but it feels like Morgan tried to bolt on too much—there’s too much plot, too much violence, too much sex for what the story really needs.</p> <p>Nevertheless, Morgan knows how to take you away into his gritty, noir world of genetically modified people.</p> <p>Some restraint would have been nice, though.</p> <h3 id="permafrost-by-alistair-reynolds-"><a href="">Permafrost, by Alistair Reynolds</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>As you’d expect from Alistair Reynolds, <em>Permafrost</em> is very smart.</p> <p>This is a short novel (or perhaps a novella) with a very interesting take on time travel I’ve never seen before. One I can’t really describe without spoilers, and one with several very interesting twists.</p> <p>If you like time travel or Alistair Reynolds, this is well worth reading. And you should like Alastair Reynolds.</p> <h3 id="fallen-by-benedict-jacka-"><a href="">Fallen, by Benedict Jacka</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>This is the 10th novel in the Alex Verus series and it ably continues the story. Not much else to say, really. If you like the series you’ll like this.</p> <h3 id="the-october-man-by-ben-aaronovitch-"><a href="">The October Man, by Ben Aaronovitch</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p><em>The October Man</em> is a novella set in the <em>Rivers of London</em> universe, but changes things up by taking place in Germany with the German magic police.</p> <p>You obviously need to be up to speed with the universe for this novella to make any sense. It’s a nice little amuse-bouche while we wait for the next novel.</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> The links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny kickback, which motivates me to keep writing these reviews. It’s appreciated.</p> The master’s tools will never be used to dismantle the master’s house Nic Lindh 2019-12-21T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>The master’s tools will never be used to dismantle the master’s house.</p> </blockquote> <p>―<a href="">Audre Lorde</a></p> Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice Nic Lindh 2019-09-28T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.</p> </blockquote> <p>―Grey’s Law</p> Impressions moving from an Apple Watch Series 3 to Series 5 Nic Lindh 2019-09-27T12:00:00-07:00 <p>I’ve been using an Apple Watch since the device was first introduced. I still remember how excited I was by the potential of the—in retrospect woefully underpowered—Series 0.</p> <p>Let me preface my take on switching from a Series 3 to a Series 5 with my background with watches in general. Crucially for the discussion, I am the kind of person who has a neurotic need to know what time it is at all times.</p> <p>Ever since I can remember, I’ve worn a wrist watch. Either digital or analog, depending on the times, but always something on my wrist. And never an expensive brand like Rolex or Tag Heuer. I am not a fancy lad who is made out of money; I just want to know what time it is. Casios and Seikos were my speed.</p> <p>Since the Apple Watch came out, it’s what I’ve used. I don’t have a fancy-time alternative watch or anything like that. The Apple Watch is what’s on my wrist.</p> <p>So it was a bummer that despite the things the Apple Watch did so right and I loved so much, like notifications and activity tracking—hey, you have a freaking heart rate monitor on your wrist at all times!—it was terrible at being a bog standard normal watch.</p> <p><em>Just show me the time.</em></p> <p><em>No.</em></p> <p>Nevertheless, despite the annoyance of having to performing a spastic jerk every time I wanted to know what time it was—i.e. all the time—the other benefits of the Apple Watch were so great I was willing to overlook that particular—big—annoyance.</p> <p>A side note: A fun memory is a few years back when I drove from Phoenix to Los Angeles with my daughter and we got caught in terrible winds on the I-10 around Blythe with a sand storm that just obliterated visibility. I spent a lot of time driving very slowly with the steering wheel in a death grip and no visibility on that trip.</p> <p>When we got to L.A. I looked at my watch and saw that it had given me credit for four hours of exercise.</p> <p>That was an exhausting drive.</p> <p>Still, not being able to just glance at my wrist to see the time was annoying. So when Apple announced the Series 5 has an always-on display, for me, it was a no-brainer to upgrade from the Series 3.</p> <p>So how much difference is there from a Series 3 to a Series 5?</p> <p>A lot. First off, the always-on display is obviously a huge difference in itself. It also means I’m thinking of the device as a watch more than I used to. And I’m thinking more about which watch face I’m using—now it’s visible all the time as opposed to lighting up for an info-dump when I need to see the time or a notification.</p> <p>Apple did something extremely clever with the always-on display in that it uses the light sensor to always be just the right amount of brightness. It’s visible outside in the blowtorch Phoenix sun, and visible but not glowing in the dark room where I’m typing this. The adjustments are simply spot on to where you stop thinking of it as a screen and more of a physical thing.</p> <p>Same thing when you shake it, baby: The face comes to life and gets brighter, but it’s not overwhelming.</p> <p>It’s impressive how Apple tuned the brightness.</p> <p>The other major difference from the Series 3 is the screen size. Going from a 42 to 44 millimeter screen doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, and that the screen now goes closer to the edges also shouldn’t. But boy howdy, in comparison with the Series 3 this screen is massive. Massive, I tell you. It’s a whole different experience. So much more substantial, for lack of another term.</p> <p>The Series 4 and Series 5 screens are absolute units.</p> <p>It sounds frivolous but at least for me it makes the screen feel like it has room to breathe. It didn’t feel cramped on the Series 3, but now I realize it was.</p> <p>The last major difference is the same thing that happened somewhere on the evolutionary path of the iPhone, I forget exactly which iPhone, where at some point the pixels got close enough to the screen, and the processor got fast enough, that interacting with the device felt like you were touching a thing, manipulating a thing, instead of sending commands to a thing.</p> <p>The 5 feels like that. The pixels are so close and the responsiveness is so smooth it feels like you’re touching the watch software directly.</p> <p>It’s a beautiful thing.</p> <p>So, all that being said, should you upgrade?</p> <p>From a Series 0 or 1 or 2? I definitely recommend it.</p> <p>From a Series 3? Unless you really want an always-on display and would enjoy some more screen real estate, probably not.</p> <p>From a Series 4? Really depends. How much of a neurotic need do you have to know the time at all times?</p> <p><em>Finally, it’s a real watch!</em></p> Plans are worthless, but planning is everything Nic Lindh 2019-09-08T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Dwight Eisenhower</p> Often injustice lies in what you aren’t doing, not only in what you are doing Nic Lindh 2019-08-21T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>Often injustice lies in what you aren’t doing, not only in what you are doing.</p> </blockquote> <p>―Marcus Aurelius</p> Die in a ditch Nic Lindh 2019-08-13T12:00:00-07:00 <p>I’ve lived in America well over 20 years. I’m proud to be a naturalized American citizen. I want nothing but the best for America.</p> <p>One of the things I have failed to understand about America is the American attitude to healthcare.</p> <p>Granted, this is painting with an <em>extremely</em> broad brush—there are many attitudes to healthcare in America; what I’m talking about is the one that shows up in the political discussion. Obviously I’ve been aware that the American healthcare system is terrible for a long time, but like most young people I was immortal once. I knew things like pre-existing conditions existed, and I knew that was terrible, but obviously it didn’t affect me since, again, I was immortal. As young people are.</p> <p>Now I’m at an age where I’m most certainly not immortal.</p> <p>The number one cause of bankruptcy in America is health care bills. You get sick in America and you’ll get soaked, even if you have “good” insurance. Everybody knows this.</p> <p>But somehow it’s OK. It’s normal that a serious illness will wipe you and your family out financially. You’d saved for your kid’s college? Yeah, no, that money is gone now. Shouldn’t have gotten sick.</p> <p>The thing is that among first-world nations, this only happens in America. Any other developed country and a serious illness or injury will of course suck and you will lose some income, but you won’t get wiped out.</p> <p>Only in America.</p> <p>So why is that considered OK?</p> <p>I understand of course that some people are making a lot of money off the current system and that those people are of course interested in preserving it.</p> <p>And are able to hire people to defend it. Money talks. Money doesn’t shut up.</p> <p>And some people have the ludicrous notion that getting sick is somehow a moral failing or a punishment from God. I very much doubt those people’s opinions can be changed.</p> <p>I’m not even talking about how to get to a system that doesn’t cause people to go bankrupt from medical care, but the completely demoralized attitude toward it.</p> <p>In the political discussion, a healthcare system that keeps people from going bankrupt if they get sick is treated as some kind of fairy tale. It’s just crazy to think people could get treatment without losing everything. Crazy. And I can’t understand how the discussion can stay like that.</p> <p>The rest of the industrialized world has healthcare where people don’t go bankrupt. Why can’t America? And why can’t America even acknowledge that as a goal?</p> <p>How is it that the last super power on Earth, the richest country on Earth, the country that put people on the mother-effing moon, can’t have what every other industrialized country has?</p> <p>And how can Very Serious People Who Understand Policy argue with straight faces that this is impossible to change without being laughed out of the room?</p> The big thieves hang the little ones Nic Lindh 2019-05-31T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>The big thieves hang the little ones.</p> </blockquote> <p>―Czech Proverb</p> Book roundup, part 29 Nic Lindh 2019-05-14T13:00:00-07:00 <p>Another sci-fi and fantasy-heavy book roundup. Almost like the state of the world is really bad and somebody is attempting to take his attention away from it with fantastic tales.</p> <h2 id="non-fiction">Non-fiction</h2> <h3 id="the-valedictorian-of-being-dead-by-heather-b-armstrong--"><a href="">The Valedictorian of Being Dead, by Heather B. Armstrong</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Brutally honest and raw, <em>The Valedictorian of Being Dead</em> chronicles Heather B. Armstrong’s life with treatment-resistant depression and the experimental brain flatline treatment that finally gave her relief from the disease.</p> <p>Yes, brain flatline, as in, the brain has no activity. Scary stuff.</p> <p>It’s a gripping read.</p> <p>Armstrong is of course more well-known as Dooce, the original queen of the mommy bloggers, who I used to read even though mommy blogging in and of itself is not interesting to me. Armstrong’s voice, writing skills, and uncomfortable honesty made her blog a must-read.</p> <p>And so it is with <em>The Valedictorian of Being Dead</em>.</p> <h3 id="the-mastermind-by-evan-ratliff-"><a href="">The Mastermind, by Evan Ratliff</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p><em>The Mastermind</em> reads like a techno-thriller but is instead a well-documented report of a talented and ruthless programmer who built a globe-spanning crime syndicate, a high tech Mafia.</p> <p>There’s everything you want in a techno-thriller—drugs, murder, yachts, and strong encryption certificates.</p> <p>The story is indeed hard to believe, that a programmer from the south of Africa managed to create a massive crime syndicate through sheer dint of programming skills and aggressive sociopathy, but it is fascinating.</p> <p><em>The Mastermind</em> is a solid page turner.</p> <h3 id="broadsword-calling-danny-boy-by-geoff-dyer-"><a href="">Broadsword Calling Danny Boy, by Geoff Dyer</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>If you’re of a certain age you were lucky enough to watch <em><a href="">Where Eagles Dare</a></em> at an impressionable time of your life.</p> <p>If that is you, <em>Broadsword Calling Danny Boy</em> will make you very happy indeed.</p> <p>The book is what it says on the tin: An obsessive scene-by-scene rehash of the 1968 Manly Men WWII movie featuring a bleary-eyed Richard Burton and a stoic Clint Eastwood, written by a talented critic who knows—of course he knows—this is not a good movie, but who loves it anyway.</p> <p>I had such a good time reading this. Broadsword calling Danny Boy, indeed.</p> <h2 id="fiction">Fiction</h2> <h3 id="tiamats-wrath-by-james-s-a-corey"><a href="">Tiamat’s Wrath, by James S. A. Corey</a>★★★★☆</h3> <p>The penultimate novel in the brilliant Expanse series, <em>Tiamath’s Wrath</em> does a great job of turning up the stakes for the last installment in the series.</p> <p>Decades have passed since the previous novel, and the intrepid crew of the Rocinante are feeling their years, but still do their best to fight the fascist empire that has taken over human space, and which is not only being all kinds of unpleasantly fascist, but also upsetting whatever creatures or forces or whatever it is that exterminated the creators of the protomolecule. Yes, these particular fascists are on purpose poking their fingers in the metaphoricalleye of <em>those</em> beings.</p> <p>Which sets us up for an intense final novel in the series.</p> <p>Good, good stuff.</p> <h3 id="the-raven-tower-by-ann-leckie-"><a href="">The Raven Tower, by Ann Leckie</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>A who-dun-what in a fantasy setting narrated by a God. And it works! <em>The Raven Tower</em> is a page turner loaded with emotional weight and written in Leckie’s typical smooth, buttery prose.</p> <p><em>The Raven Tower</em> is immersive and ambitious and will keep you turning the pages way too late in the evening.</p> <h3 id="the-liberation-by-ian-tregillis-"><a href="">The Liberation, by Ian Tregillis</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>The third and final installment in The Alchemy Wars trilogy brings it to a satisfying and bloody conclusion. If you like the series, it’s a given read.</p> <p>The Alchemy Wars is alternate history which posits a world where Christiaan Huygens (real-life historical figure and all-around one of the smartest people who <em>ever</em> lived) invented Clakkers, a kind of mechanical humans. Clakkers are strong and tireless and have a built-in compulsion to serve their human masters.</p> <p>With Clakkers at their command, the Dutch then proceed to take over the world.</p> <p>The Clakkers, however, are sentient, and their compulsions to serve work through hurting them. Give a Clakker an order and it is in increasing pain until it has obeyed.</p> <p>A lot of the emotional weight of the series comes from the fact that the Clakkers are sentient, suffering slaves at the hands of human masters who <em>choose</em> to not recognize the sentience of their slaves since it would be an inconvenience for them.</p> <p>You know, Dutch people.</p> <p>The Alchemy Wars is interesting, thought-provoking alternate history with heaping helpings of emotional poignancy as well as horrific violence.</p> <h3 id="the-light-brigade-by-kameron-hurley-"><a href="">The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p><em>The Light Brigade</em> is near-future dystopia where corporations rule the world and are also grasping for a colonized Mars, a Mars that has broken off from Earth.</p> <p>In order to bring independent Mars to heel, the corporation research departments have come up with a way to literally turn soldiers into light so they can be transported those distances and back to fight.</p> <p>But some soldiers take poorly to the conversion and end up having … issues.</p> <p>The novel follows one of the soldiers with issues and her struggle to understand her own glitches and learning how the world she thought she understood and believed in actually works.</p> <p>If you’ve read any of Hurley’s previous works, you have already correctly guessed <em>The Light Brigade</em> is dark, cynical and violent—par for the course for Hurley. It’s also anchored by an interesting thought experiment I’m not going to spoil here.</p> <p>But in the end it just doesn’t congeal. Some interesting characters, some interesting world building, but it feels a bit like a re-tread, like I’ve seen permutations of this story before.</p> <p><em>The light Brigade</em> is a solid read, but not up to Hurley’s usual standard.</p> <h3 id="cryptonomicon-by-neal-stephenson-"><a href="">Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Almost 20 years later, Neal Stephenson’s <em>Cryptonomicon</em> is still fantastic: As a WWII yarn, a late-90s zeitgeist, an elaborately plotted page turner, a crypto primer, and a nerd-positive statement.</p> <p>It is also a brick, so take your time. Holy smokes, Stephenson can churn out a lot of words.</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> The links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny, tiny kickback, which motivates me to keep writing these reviews. It’s appreciated.</p> Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable Nic Lindh 2019-03-22T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.</p> </blockquote> <p>―Kenneth Galbraith</p>