25. The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and in Life
, Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot (hc)
A quick and breezy guide to better comprehension of numbers like "this project will cost $x billion" or "we measured y% improvement over the course of the year". Unfortunately, I suspect the people who really need to read it won't, and many of those who do read it will find the material familiar. (They do a good job on the bibliography, though, including classics such as John Allen Paulos's Innumeracy
The authors do a BBC Radio show (which led to the book), and many of the examples are still British even in the US edition; I consider this a feature rather than a bug, myself.
Recommended as a quick library read, or a gift for that family member who keeps saying "but that program is so expensive!" about things which equate to about $2/week/person benefitting.
26. Saturn's Children: A Space Opera
, Charles Stross (ebook)
I was lucky to have switched to reading this just before upgrading my iPod touch to 3.0, since eReader broke
and wouldn't go back to the book list (it's fixed now).
Another solid effort, this one mixes a post-human robolife solar system with Heinlein's Friday
and Asimov's Three Laws. In some spots, it has a Galaxy Quest
-flavored tone of "poking fun, but with love" but doesn't fall into the trap of becoming an inside-joke fest. (Admittedly, the "Scalzi Endowment Museum" was made funnier by knowing about this museum visit
, but it's not a requirement.)
Definitely up with the other two 2009 Hugo nominees I've read (Little Brother
and Zoe's Tale
), it takes on questions of identity and the Meaning of Life while still doing the "romp through the solar system" well. Recommended.
, S.M. Stirling, Ed. (mmpb)
This mix of short SF and "science fact" articles reads like a theme issue of New Destinies
edited by Stirling. The lead story (Poul Anderson's "Snowball", which I suspect inspired the Shipstones in Friday
) is really the high point of the book; the articles on how coal-fired MHD should have Saved Us All, and if that didn't then fusion certainly would, are less so. Stirling's own story ("Roachstompers", which actually did debut in New Destinies
) of how cold fusion power ruined the global economy, resulting in the US's southern border becoming a war zone (apparently Pemex was the only thing keeping the Mexican economy running) has his usual deft grasp of peaceful intercultural and interracial relations, as well known by those who've discussed the topics with him on USENET.
RR42. The War God's Own
, David Weber (mmpb)
Second in his "Bahzell Bahnakson" fantasy series, which contrasts with his SF by having a protagonist who is actually generally distrusted by the rest of the universe (for historical/racial reasons) rather than having the Glow of Righteous Valor that causes even some of her enemies (the honorable ones, as opposed to the Eeeeeeevil Nasty ones) to respect her. Also, there are no huge broadsides of missiles.
A good light re-read, suitable for travel, which is why I brought it along.
RR43. Rude Astronauts
, Allen Steele (mmpb)
Short story collection (with some nonfiction as well) of his near-future space and alt-hist space writing, plus a few other pieces. (I tend to like his short stories better than I like his novels.) The alt-hist in particular is enjoyable, with fun parallels as well as differences (in this case, WWII ended not with nuclear bombs, but with intercontinental suborbital rocketplane bombers...and the first moon landing was still in July 1969, but with a whole lot more than two people present).
Recommended along with his later All-American Alien Boy