Monday, July 15, 2019

Dick, Philip K. The Man in the High Castle. New York: Mariner Books, [1962] 2011. ISBN 978-0-547-57248-2. The year is 1962. Following the victory of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II, North America is divided into spheres of influence by the victors, with the west coast Pacific States of America controlled by Japan, the territory east of the Mississippi split north and south between what is still called the United States of America and the South, where slavery has been re-instituted, both puppet states of Germany. In between are the Rocky Mountain states, a buffer zone between...

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Friday, July 12, 2019

Thor, Brad. Backlash. New York: Atria Books, 2019. ISBN 978-1-9821-0403-0. This is the nineteenth novel in the author's Scot Harvath series, which began with The Lions of Lucerne (October 2010). This is a very different kind of story from the last several Harvath outings, which involved high-stakes international brinkmanship, uncertain loyalties, and threats of mass terror attacks. This time it's up close and personal. Harvath, paying what may be his last visit to Reed Carlton, his dying ex-CIA mentor and employer, is the object of a violent kidnapping attack which kills those to whom he is closest and spirits him off,...

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Egan, Greg. Schild's Ladder. New York: Night Shade Books, [2002, 2004, 2013] 2015. ISBN 978-1-59780-544-5. Greg Egan is one of the most eminent contemporary authors in the genre of “hard” science fiction. By “hard”, one means not that it is necessarily difficult to read, but that the author has taken care to either follow the laws of known science or, if the story involves alternative laws (for example, a faster than light drive, anti-gravity, or time travel) to define those laws and then remain completely consistent with them. This needn't involve tedious lectures—masters of science fiction, like Greg Egan, “show,...

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Fourmilab reading list document tree is generated automatically from source documents kept as flat text files in a format similar to that of a Movable Type blog export file. These files are read by a Perl program called rlmake.pl which generates HTML files for the Web tree and compiles the various indices through which the list may be accessed (most recent, by year, month, topic, author, and title). The reading list management software is available for downloading and may be used in any manner you wish, but is utterly unsupported—you're entirely on your own. The Perl code will probably...

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Murray, Charles and Catherine Bly Cox. Apollo. Burkittsville, MD: South Mountain Books, [1989, 2004] 2010. ISBN 978-0-9760008-0-8. On November 5, 1958, NASA, only four months old at the time, created the Space Task Group (STG) to manage its manned spaceflight programs. Although there had been earlier military studies of manned space concepts and many saw eventual manned orbital flights growing out of the rocket plane projects conducted by NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and the U.S. Air Force, at the time of the STG's formation the U.S. had no formal manned space program. The initial group...

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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Suarez, Daniel. Delta-v. New York: Dutton, 2019. ISBN 978-1-5247-4241-6. James Tighe is an extreme cave diver, pushing the limits of human endurance and his equipment to go deeper, farther, and into unexplored regions of underwater caves around the world. While exploring the depths of a cavern in China, an earthquake triggers disastrous rockfalls in the cave, killing several members of his expedition. Tighe narrowly escapes with his life, leading the survivors to safety, and the video he recorded with his helmet camera has made him an instant celebrity. He is surprised and puzzled when invited by billionaire and serial entrepreneur...

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Friday, June 28, 2019

Yiannopoulos, Milo. Diabolical. New York: Bombardier Books, 2018. ISBN 978-1-64293-163-1. Milo Yiannopoulos has a well-deserved and hard-earned reputation as a controversialist, inciter of outrage, and offender of all the right people. His acid wit and mockery of those amply deserving it causes some to dismiss what he says when he's deadly serious about something, as he is in this impassioned book about the deep corruption in the Roman Catholic church and its seeming abandonment of its historic mission as a bastion of the Christian values which made the West the West. It is an earnest plea for a new religious...

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Kroese, Robert. The Voyage of the Iron Dragon. Grand Rapids MI: St. Culain Press, 2019. ISBN 978-1-7982-3431-0. This is the third and final volume in the Iron Dragon trilogy which began with The Dream of the Iron Dragon (August 2018) and continued in The Dawn of the Iron Dragon (May 2019). When reading a series of books I've discovered, I usually space them out to enjoy them over time, but the second book of this trilogy left its characters in such a dire pickle I just couldn't wait to see how the author managed to wrap up the story in just one...

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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The yield curve is a measure of the sentiment of investors, particularly conservative investors who own fixed-income securities (bonds and equivalents). (Much of the financial press covers the equity [stock] markets and neglects the bond markets, but the bond markets dwarf the stock market in valuation. Bonds aren't [usually] exciting [and when they are things are generally unpleasant], so they don't get much attention, but if you're interested in the flow of funds [and you should be], that's where you ought to be looking.) The yield curve simply plots, for equivalent fixed-income (debt) securities (bonds), the relationship between the...

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Monday, June 24, 2019

Wright, Tom and Bradley Hope. Billion Dollar Whale. New York: Hachette Books, 2018. ISBN 978-0-316-43650-2. Low Taek Jho, who westernised his name to “Jho Low”, which I will use henceforth, was the son of a wealthy family in Penang, Malaysia. The family's fortune had been founded by Low's grandfather who had immigrated to the then British colony of Malaya from China and founded a garment manufacturing company which Low's father had continued to build and recently sold for a sum of around US$ 15 million. The Low family were among the wealthiest in Malaysia and wanted the best for their...

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Monday, June 17, 2019

Manto, Cindy Donze. Michoud Assembly Facility. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2014. ISBN 978-1-5316-6969-0. In March, 1763, King Louis XV of France made a land grant of 140 square kilometres to Gilbert Antoine St Maxent, the richest man in Louisiana Territory and commander of the militia. The grant required St Maxent to build a road across the swampy property, develop a plantation, and reserve all the trees in forested areas for the use of the French navy. When the Spanish took over the territory five years later, St Maxent changed his first names to “Gilberto Antonio” and retained title to the...

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Friday, June 14, 2019

Wood, Fenton. Five Million Watts. Seattle: Amazon Digital Services, 2019. ASIN B07R6X973N. This is the second short novel/novella (123 pages) in the author's Yankee Republic series. I described the first, Pirates of the Electromagnetic Waves (May 2019), as “utterly charming”, and this sequel turns it all the way up to “enchanting”. As with the first book, you're reading along thinking this is a somewhat nerdy young adult story, then something happens or is mentioned in passing and suddenly, “Whoa—I didn't see that coming!”, and you realise the Yankee Republic is a strange and enchanted place, and that, as in the work...

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Hanson, Victor Davis. The Case for Trump. New York: Basic Books, 2019. ISBN 978-1-5416-7354-0. The election of Donald Trump as U.S. president in November 2016 was a singular event in the history of the country. Never before had anybody been elected to that office without any prior experience in either public office or the military. Trump, although running as a Republican, had no long-term affiliation with the party and had cultivated no support within its establishment, elected officials, or the traditional donors who support its candidates. He turned his back on the insider consultants and “experts” who had advised GOP...

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Witzke, Dawn, ed. Planetary: Earth. Narara, NSW, Australia: Superversive Press, 2018. ISBN 978-1-925645-24-8. This is the fourth book in the publisher's Planetary Anthology series. Each volume contain stories set on, or figuring in the plot, the named planet. Previous collections have featured Mercury, Venus, and Mars. This installment contains stories related in some way to Earth, although in several none of the action occurs on that planet. Back the day (1930s through 1980s) monthly science fiction magazines were a major venue for the genre and the primary path for aspiring authors to break into print. Sold on newsstands for the...

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Zubrin, Robert. The Case for Space. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2019. ISBN 978-1-63388-534-9. Fifty years ago, with the successful landing of Apollo 11 on the Moon, it appeared that the road to the expansion of human activity from its cradle on Earth into the immensely larger arena of the solar system was open. The infrastructure built for Project Apollo, including that in the original 1963 development plan for the Merritt Island area could support Saturn V launches every two weeks. Equipped with nuclear-powered upper stages (under active development by Project NERVA, and accommodated in plans for a Nuclear Assembly Building...

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