H.E. Roulo Book Reviews

There have been several books recently that have impressed me. Since you may not follow my reviews on Goodreads, I thought I’d share a few of them here. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to read some amazing science fiction.

Project Hail MaryProject Hail Mary by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. It’s one of the best I’ve read recently.
I’m always impressed by stories where science and engineering are the tools that will save the characters, and those books feel rare or are sometimes apologetic. This book, about a science teacher assisting in a worldwide effort to discover why the sun is failing and what can be done, loves science with reckless abandon. Andy Weir’s writing style is tart and sweet, just as it was with “The Martian”.
With whiffs of Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” (which was made into the movie “Arrival”) and perhaps some Neil Stephenson “Seveneves” and Liu Cixin’s “The Three-Body Problem”, the tone is hopeful yet urgent.
It was a pleasure to read. The ending was satisfying and brought the whole book together nicely.

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)All Systems Red by Martha Wells
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you want to be entertained from the starting sentence straight through, grab Martha Well’s “All Systems Red” novella. It’s a fast-paced read about an unwilling security unit who really just wants to watch television and keep humans from getting themselves killed. Although it has hacked its governor unit, and therefore has free will, Murderbot hasn’t figured out what to do with that freedom.
The tone is joking with a darker undertone for poor Murderbot, who hasn’t reconciled saving dumb humans who won’t listen to it–and finds it even more mortifying when they do.
With a lot of action sequences and smartass comments, the read is quick. Be aware novellas 1-4 are short. The fifth installment is a full-length novel. I haven’t read 6 yet, but I hear it’s a novella as well.
Be ready to find a character you really like.

Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoy mind-bending books and movies. However, many stories involving time travel, alternate realities, or quantum effects tend to have one or two great ideas but fade out, hand wave, or become overly complex. I was impressed how Blake Crouch’s novel starts off with a clear idea and keeps that same clarity throughout. The book is enjoyable and sometimes moving. It isn’t so much about exploring the idea of multiverse as it simply follows one desperate and dedicated family man.
The premise of the story is that the main character has an enjoyable life with the woman he loves and a teenage son. He didn’t accomplish everything he might have, but he’s happy with his choices. His life blows up when a ‘him’ from another timeline swaps places, sending him to a universe where he didn’t choose family and instead dedicated himself to his career. From there, the author gives us something new in the level of simplicity and heart shown by the character. Although he realizes he has a multiverse of options, he wants *his* family back–and that leads to all the trouble.
A book well worth the read.
You might enjoy this if you liked The Time Traveler’s Wife, or The Flicker Men.

Bridge Makers: Becoming a Citizen FuturistBridge Makers: Becoming a Citizen Futurist by April Reagan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The idea of a citizen futurist was something I hadn’t taken time to consider before, although I am an optimist about how innovation can make the world a better place.

The book “Bridge Makers: Becoming a Citizen Futurist” takes time to identify what that is, why we need it, and how to become a better citizen futurist. It’s looking at our responsibility to improve the world around us, identify trends, and maintain optimism about possibilities. The author, April Reagan, drives home the point that the goal of companies and researchers don’t necessarily align with societal goals–rather, they’re usually building products and pursuing research. This means that our technological advancement can include unintended consequences.

I agree that we can support innovation as long as we remain diligent in advancing our notions of responsibility at the same pace we advance the tech. Sometimes, that gets overlooked as the pace of advancement is sometimes breakneck. As the author says at the end of Chapter 2, “…we do need a better system for discussing and creating a set of values that can be used for organizations to plan and make decisions that reflect what the people want.” Reagan, April. Bridge Makers: Becoming a Citizen Futurist (p. 44). New Degree Press. Kindle Edition.

The author brushes on fields that are likely to provoke change, like AI and Bioengineering, but the point of the book isn’t to say whether an advancement has value or explore the risks. Instead, it’s to convince the reader that they’re an active participant in the inevitable innovations to come. Our part includes such tasks as to step forward, identify what might be useful but overlooked, redirect what is harmful, find channels to be heard, and influence policy.

While I would have preferred fewer Merriam-Websters definitions, perhaps they were necessary to ensure we were on the same page with concepts that aren’t mainstream, yet. Overall I found the book a thought-provoking read that pulls together some familiar ideas that I hadn’t attached to each other before.

[Note: Just to be above board, I should mention I share mutual friends with the author.]

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