As I’ve said before I’ve spent most of the last 3 weeks when not at work either walking or reading so here is a quick review of the books I’ve finished.

Gunpower – A History of the Explosive that Changed the World by Jack Kelly. This is a well written and fascinating resource which views world history through the lens of this single substance from its discovery in China to redundancy in the last 100 years. Full of interesting stories and something to potentially refer back to in future. It does make me wonder how world history could be told through the story of other discoveries. I have seen similar works based around the use of steam but that is really the last 500 years or less. Something like metallurgy or ship design would work well I think.

The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell. While containing some interesting insights I was mostly disapointed in the book considering the huge hype it has received over the last few years. I was less than inspired by the early sections on Connectors, Mavens, etc but the latter cases (esp Broken Windows) were quite interesting. I would recomend Freakonomics to people over this though.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. A book of extremely good short stories covering both hard SF (with a strong mathamatical bent) and deep religous / philosophical musings. I think both

and especailly

would like this.

The Temp by Serena Mackesy. Unusual for a me a real-world moden day setting about every-day people. This significantly put me off for the first quarter when I really didn’t like any of the characters. It significantly picked up later on though and even though by the end it was simple all round wish-fulfillment by the end (including one of the sweetest lead-ins to a relationship I’ve seen anywhere) it still made me smile when it was all resolved. Thanks to

and

 for recommending this (many years ago from the latter).

Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay. This is book two of the Sarantine Mosaic duology based losely on the city of Byzantium at its height (with several changes plus some nods to pagan magic). Unlike

 I very much liked the conclusion of this series. I thought this book was stronger than Sailing to Sarantium in many ways with a very rich tapestry of characters, including new ones such as the doctor introduced in this one, that meshed together very well. One of my favorite characters dies 2/3rds of the way through but even then I realise that it has to happen to push the plot where it needs to go. All in all I would strongly recomend both of these books and since Tigana, the only other book I have read by Guy Gavriel Kay, is also excellent I should look into other works by him.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Again I was disapointed by this book. Not in any way because it is bad but simply due to its excessive over-hyping to date. Really it is little more than a collection of probablistic arguements against God coupled with an average list of the hideous contents of the Old Testiment and rather obvious statements of how humanity doesn’t need God for morality, etc. I guess since I have read a lot in this area already most of it is old hat to me but I can see how it may seem radical to some people.

I have bookmarked various bits of each of these books to come back to and my, or may not, post more about them at some point. I’ll leave you with a quote from Lord of Emperors where the Empress of the Sarantine Empire says “Perhaps the chroniclers, the painters, sculptors, the historians, perhaps they are the read lords of emperors, of all of us, doctor. It is a thought.”

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