This is a good book, but somewhat mixed by its nature. As the subhead says, it is a collection of essays by futurists, and they are both looking back on the Tofflers’ Future Shock, and looking ahead to the future. As such, the quality of each essay can vary. Some of them will be excellent, others might leave you wondering how this person got a reputation for insight, but on average they will make you think. There was only one essay that I started and abandoned two pages in. The other point that should be clear is that this is an optimistic book. The editor who put this together is the Executive Director of the Abundant World Institute. I am an optimist despite Covid-19, Trump, and all of the other evils of our time. The future is so bright I gotta wear shades.
That said, this is a thick volume, and not one that you would just sit down and read through like a novel. I would advise that you should dip into it for an essay or two at a time. Since I read on my Kindle, I tend to have several books I am reading at any time, which makes this easy.
This was not the best book I have ever read. The main premise is that design is very important, which is not something I disagree with, but the book is mostly a retelling of anecdotes of how the author used design to solve various problems. If you are a design junkie, pick it up, but if you pass it by I suspect your life will somehow be complete anyway.
This is the fifth an concluding novel in the series of the same name, The Tower and The Hive, and it wraps up that various plot lines. Overall is the final defeat of the Hive in what is a war of extermination where the only question is who will prevail. But there is still conflict to navigate here. As anyone who has studied the history of the two world wars of the 20th century will recognize, once the outcome on the battlefield is settled other scores come up as nations jockey for position. In this case, we have two allies, the Human Nine Star League, and the Mrdini, who both are looking to expand, and who settle planets with the same ecology. Deciding who gets what is problem, made even more difficult by the high birth rates of the Mrdini. And the family of telepaths that have led the fight for the Humans is trying to keep things together, but essentially they are just employees of Federation Teleport and Telepath, and their power is resented.
I listened to the audio book version of this novel.
Peter Cochrane was the head of the research labs at British Telecommunications, and this book is a series of short essays on his ideas about future technologies. Given that this book was assembled in 1999 (I believe the individual articles were written in the 1990s), events have overtaken some of his projections, but they are still interesting. At 2 pages per essay, this is a book best dipped into rather than read at one sitting. There are 108 of these short essays in this book.
This is the second of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, and it is not quite as good as the first one. It is quite easy to go too far into caricature with a character like Wimsey, and I think Sayers does so here. And it has a lot of the Golden Age tropes of mysterious goings on in the night with everyone keeping secrets. But at least there are plausible reasons why they are keeping secrets. Lord Peter’s brother, the Duke of Denver, is accused of murder when he is found bending over the body of Lady Mary’s fiance, with whom he had quarreled earlier in the evening. The man was killed with the Duke’s pistol, and all the Duke will say is that he was going for a walk (at 3am!). And why was Lady Mary up? IF you like golden Age mysteries, this will be satisfactory, and it is where Inspector Charles Parker of Scotland Yard begins to become part of Wimsey’s family, which is very convenient for future stories.
Rex Stout created two of the great characters in the genre of mystery, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. Nero Wolfe is fat (one-seventh of a ton!), mostly immovable, a gourmet, and an orchidist. Archie is the man of action, Wolfe’s eyes, ears, and leg man who can be relied on to bring back anyone Wolfe needs to talk to. The Wolfe novels frequently are inspired by events contemporaneous to their writing, and in this case it is about FBI.
Rachel Bruner has a problem with the FBI. She has been sending out copies of a very critical book, The FBI Nobody Knows. She is a wealthy widow and has sent out 10,000 copies to various influential people around the country. Now she believes she is being tailed, wire-tapped, and otherwise harassed by that same FBI. She hires Wolfe to take on the job of making them leave her alone. He agrees to take on the job, but then things get increasingly complicated.
This is one of the best Wolfe novels, so if you like mysteries you should pick this up. If you get hooked on Wolfe as a result, well, join the club. I’ve read all of them.
I imagine most people are familiar with this work, either from reading the original novel or from the recent film series. This book was written as a children’s fantasy by Tolkien back in the 1930s, and set the stage for the later Lord of the Rings. The plot is about a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who is invited to join a company of dwarves who wish to recover their treasure from the dragon Smaug. Bilbo, who had been a pretty simple home-bound soul changes dramatically through the events he experiences and becomes someone much different.
This book was lauded on its publication and deservedly so.
This is perfectly enjoyable, but neither his best nor his worst. As he tended to do later in life, this novel ties back to earlier work of his. Kettle Nelly Baldwin from the short story Gulf reappears as Friday’s “Boss”, for instance. As for Friday herself, she is an Artificial Person, created by genetic engineering, and the genes involved include those from “Mr. and Mrs. Joe Greene”, also from Gulf. She has enhanced abilities, and has been working for Baldwin’s organization as a “combat courier”. The setting is a Balkanized future North America where the nations we know have been broken apart into smaller splinters. One of the big themes of this book is the prejudice against Artificial People (APs), which Friday faces in various ways. She is attacked, goes on the run, and eventually makes it back to her organization, only to have The Boss die and the organization disband. But she has been given a bequest in his will which is specifically to finance her moving off-planet, which she eventually does.
Heinlein is kind of writer who provokes strong reactions, both for and against, in both readers and other writers. For example, see:
This is probably the best known of all Heinlein’s novels as it reached an audience far beyond the science fiction fans who normally picked up his books. It became so influential that in 2012, the US Library of Congress named it one of 88 “Books that Shaped America”. Set in a universe related to the one in his juvenile Red Planet(the Martians are clearly the same), it tells the story of Michael Valentine Smith, a child of two of the astronauts on a Mars expedition. He was born on the spacecraft, and is the only survivor of the expedition. Raised by Martians, he eventually is picked up by another expedition. Since he knows nothing of Earth, it gives Heinlein a chance to see our culture from the outside to some degree. Published in 1961, it became a text for hippies a few years later (some of whom made a “pilgrimage” to Heinlein’s home, which he did not encourage) because of its emphasis on free love and critique of religion. Other ideas include the notion of “water brothers”, and the introduction to the language of the verb “grok”, a supposedly Martian word Heinlein made up. It won the Hugo award, and was the first science fiction novel to enter the New York Times Book Review’s best seller list.
The real protagonist of the book is the older man Jubal Harshaw, and most people think this is Heinlein portraying himself to a significant degree. Harshaw is knowledgable guide for Smith, a loco parentis, and allows Heinlein to deliver pronouncements on the state of society, something he became more prone to do as he got older. I think this is a transitional novel, therefore, that takes us from the more hard science fictional writings of the early Heinlein to the more preachy works of the end of his career. That does not mean there is no science fiction in this work, or that there was no preachiness in earlier works. It is more a matter of emphasis. This is also the first of his novels where sex becomes a preoccupation, as it would remain for the rest of his career. Some people have said this is the beginning of Heinlein’s “dirty old man” phase, therefore. But in any case, Heinlein is always a great writer, and I have read all of his works multiple times.
I have seen some reviews that slammed this book for not being the last word on RVing, but in fact that was never the authors’ intent. They always said it was what they wished they had read before they got started. The ideal reader of a book like this is the kind of person who watches those Cable TV shows where people find the RV of their dreams in 20 minutes, then cut to them sitting on a perfect beach as the credits roll. If you watched that show, and got the thought that you wanted to do the same because it looked so good, this book is a very good first word, not a last word. All of the basics are covered, and pointers to more in depth material are given. So if you have been RVing for a while you won’t find much that is new here, but if you are just planning to start this is well worth picking up.