Here are my best reads in English during 2015. My total was 55 books and 16 of them were e-books. Find me at Goodreads!
- The Summing Up. W. Somerset Maugham 1938. An old writer and traveller looks back on his life and turns out to have settled upon pretty much the same philosophy as myself.
- Live and Let Die. (James Bond #2.) Ian Fleming 1954. Short and neat action novel.
- The Martian. Andy Weir 2014. Robinson Crusoe on Mars! With science! And jokes!
- Going Solo. Roald Dahl 1986. Youth memoir of a WW2 fighter pilot.
- Tour de Lovecraft - the Tales. Kenneth Hite 2008. Snappy and insightful commentary on the Sage of Providence's fiction.
- The Girl with All the Gifts. Mike Carey 2014. From a neat opening conundrum to the fungal zombie apocalypse!
- Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy From Mars. Daniel Pinkwater 1979. Funny and bizarre Young Adult novel.
- The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: a Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century. Ian Mortimer 2008. Making it all come alive. The people you'll meet are generally young, gullible and violent!
- The Reckoning: the Murder of Christopher Marlowe. Charles Nicholl 1992. Deep dive into Elizabethan sectarian-political spying. Could be improved with some trimming of peripherally relevant asides.
- Recovering Apollo 8. Kristine Kathryn Rusch 2011. Elon Musk-like space entrepreneur jump-starts a lot of tech through his ultimately pointless quest to salvage fictitious Apollo wreckage.
- The Ship That Sailed the Time Stream. G.C. Edmondson 1965. Time travel in a sailing boat. Entertaining though laddish.
- Ecological Imperialism: the Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900. Alfred W. Crosby 1986. He's eco-centric and he knows absolutely nothing about archaeology or paleoecological methods. But it's a compelling perspective nonetheless!
Dear Reader, what were your best reads of the year?
Here’s my list for 2014.
Yes, if I had to choose one, I'd choose The Martian.
Time travel stories are problematic from a credibility viewpoint (paradoxes, butterfly effect etc.). The simplest is to assume each time jump makes time/the world line branch off in the multiverse. But that also means you cannot get back to "your" future unless you can travel "sideways" to your own branch.
-- -- --
Depressing. A quarter of an average life span since the film Independence Day?
BTW Hugo Gernsback would have been furious about the plot flaws in Independence day, using the logic criteria he set up for stories75 years ago.
Unpublished Hemingway stories: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=3972
The worst story of 2015 is a book I started reading the last day of the year.
I strongly unrecommend the Norwegian young adult/teeenager book “Darlah – 172 timer på månen” (now being translated to umpteen languages), nominally science fiction but really a horror story in the worst tradition of “nevermind logic, just scare the readers”,
First of all- everybody dies. This is not a spoiler, because a bit into the narrative on the moon it is obvious this is going to happen.
Also, the story is highly derivative, without adding anything beyond the youth of the protagonists.
Alien baddie hictching a ride to Earth by killing human and taking his shape: The film based on a Philip Dick story (except that was a robot).
Alien killing humans and taking their place: “Who Goes There” by Campbell, a staple of SF for more than sixty years, filmed several times.
Alien sucking memories out of the brain of protagonist to mimic a close relative of the protagonist: “Solaris” (1961). Also, that old short story by Bradbury in Martian Chronicles in the fifties, where they land on Mars and are welcomed by what seems to be their own families (with lethal consequences).
The young Stephen King also wrote a short story along the lines of an alien parasite inhabiting body of astronaut, but that was Venus instead of the moon.
Supernatural thing with telepathic abilities and ability to remove evidence of murders: check. The entity clearly has the ability to reach backwards in time and provide omens. Also, since it can hack into a NASA computer it would have no problems using the rescue pod on its own. It could have travelled to Earth back in the seventies, if it had wanted.
It is obviously powerful on a level of a Lovecraftian entity, but without the unworldly horror of a Lovecraft story. Also, a Lovecraftian entity would be much, much more destructive. Killing a handful of astronauts, and their families back on Earth? That is no worse than the death toll of your average serial killer.
There is no explanation about its malignant nature, it is just a bogeyman motivated by abstract malice.
Charles Stross has shown it is possible to unite modern tech and Lovecraftian horror in an elegant way, so there is no excuse for the shoddy workmanship.
For some reason it has won a literary price for teenager books in Norway, they must be completely clueless of how unoriginal it is! I feel vindictive enough to contact the authors (and estate of dead ones ) whose copyright have been violated, just so they can sue the dilettante arse of the author.
I am not even going into the many mistakes about the space program and astronomy in general to be found in this book. The clincher is the gravity device in the lunar base (built in the 1970s!) apparently bringing indoor gravity up tp 1G ! That does it. This must not tbe allowed to stand…(sharpens knives).
(OT) this is a horror story in its own right:
‘Family values’ Republican: Men should be allowed to grab breastfeeding women’s nipples in public http://www.rawstory.com/2015/12/family-values-republican-men-should-be-…
Since I do not work with archeology and pre history but I am very interested in the subject I have the following:
-"The Bronze Age Murder", Jonathan Lindström. It is a detective story and a story about archeology history.
-"Danmarks Oldtid" Jörgen Jensen. It is a new overview version of Denmarks pre history, from stone age to viking age.
Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, William Deresiewicz. 2014
What's the Economy For, Anyway?: Why It's Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness, David K. Batker, John de Graaf 2011
One of the sources I use for books in English:
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, Stephen Greenblatt 2011
The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality, Richard Heinberg, 2011
The Wonderbox, Roman Krznaric, 2012
Doubt is Their Product, David Michaels, 2008
Adventures in the Anthropocene: A Journey to the Heart of the Planet We Made, Gaia Vince, 2014
The Meaning of Human Existence, E.O. Wilson, 2014
I enjoyed The Swerve! And Greenblatt's Will In The World is even better.