Read Books This will provide a list of the books I've read with a brief review. Users are blocked, contact me for access. I welcome discussions, but I'm tired of spam.

December 26, 2013

The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny

Filed under: Mystery,Series — Tags: — Randolph @ 9:01 pm

The Beautiful Mystery: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny

A murder has happened in a monastery. A very private monastery that never accepts visitors. The suspects are all monks, the only clue is a small piece of a Gregorian Chant, except it might be modern.

To complicate the investigation, Superintendent Sylvain Francoeur arrived bringing his own baggage from a prior book. His conflict with Gamache comes to a head, and now involves Beauvoir. Although this conflict beats up, it isn’t resolved and promises to continue in the next book.

The mystery is slow for much of the book, and isn’t one the reader can solve. Clues flow in throughout the book, and is solved suddenly. The book is more about the characters and the chants. The chants are a spiritual influence on the characters. The monastic life of the monks is forefront in the novel. The monks have a natural ability to read people and understand unstated feelings, which provides a challenge to Gamache’s investigation as their skill seems to surpass his own.

Best quote from the book:
Following the arrival of an envoy from the Vatican.
“Jeez,” said Beauvoir. “The Inquisition. I didn’t expect that.”
“No one does,” said Gamache.

ALthough slow in the middle, I found the book very enjoyable. A must read for Gamache or Louise Penny fans, but read them in order!

December 10, 2013

The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir by Ken Harmon

Filed under: Humor,Mystery — Tags: — Randolph @ 8:20 pm

The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir by Ken Harmon

This is humor at the expense of everything North Pole. It is a very light murder mystery in the noir style, with some rerences to Dashiel Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Almost every other sentence has some reference to a Christmas song, story, or legend. And the puns and jokes are numerous. The author makes frequent allusions to familiar, and not-so familiar books and movies. These aren’t the kind of symbols that get lost in the reading, these are the kind that pick you up like a rosy-cheeked rag doll and throw you in the road to get run over by a reindeer. That’s what these words do. Over and over.

We follow the exploits of Gumdrop Cole. Although not famous by name, he is responsible for starting the Coal Patrol. Those are the elves responsible for identifying bad children and giving them lumps of coal for Christmas. But things are changing, now he is out of a job. He decided to take matters into his own hands, and one of his ‘clients’ ends up being shot in the eye by a Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred Shot Range Model BB Gun with a compass in its stock. Gumdrop was framed. Clues point to Ralphie, and lead his investigations to the Misfit Toy Mafia, and his nemesis, Charles “Candy” Cane.

The book is a fun and quick read. The bad jokes almost get tiring by the time the book runs out, so the length is good. Sit back, take a weekend and read a little humor into your Christmas.

December 4, 2013

Science Fiction and Philosophy edited by S. Schneider

Filed under: Philosophy,Science Fiction — Randolph @ 8:11 am

Science Fiction and Philosophy edited by S. Schneider

This is another of the popular culture and philosophy books, but not part of that series. Perhaps comparing it to that series is a mistake, but it wasn’t quite what I expected. Although similar at some levels, it didn’t have the same depth as the other series.

The book posits that science fiction is closely tied to philosophy. Science fiction often poses questions originally posed by philosophy. Sometimes these questions are raised directly, and other times they just form a foundation for a story. One of the strengths of this book is that is lists the stories most of the works are drawn from, this makes for easy reference and one can find the books for more information.

One interesting approach taken by this volume is that each section begins with a science fiction short story that exemplifies the topic of that section. It really helps bring home the point.

The book touches on topics such as machine intelligence, the possibility of super intelligence, what machine ethics might mean, personality and personhood, and time and the logic of time travel. Naturally, the book discussed Asimov’s laws of robotics, why they are insufficient, and what is needed in their place.

A couple of the topics didn’t touch much on philosophy. The authors used the opportunity to discuss their own research and goals. I found these of interest, but overall detracted from the book. They felt out of place and sometimes didn’t even discuss real philosophy.

Although I found the book enjoyable, I cannot recommend it either as science fiction nor as philosophy. I’m inclined to seek another book on the same topic for comparison, I feel a much better job could have been done.

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