Superfluous Matter Matthew Lausch's Blog http://matter.sawkmonkey.com Books - Catch-up!! Thu, 03 January 2019 09:01:00 PST I failed almost completely at blogging for most of last year, but that doesn't mean I didn't read anything. In the hopes of returning to more regular posting this will be a quick catch-up post listing all of the books I've read since my last book post in April.

  • The Gunslinger (revised edition), by Stephen King
  • The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King
  • The Waste Lands, by Stephen King
  • Wizard and Glass, by Stephen King
  • The Little Sisters of Eluria, by Stephen King
  • The Wind Through the Keyhole, by Stephen King
  • Wolves of the Calla, by Stephen King
  • Song of Susannah, by Stephen King
  • The Dark Tower, by Stephen King
  • The Dark Tower Omnibus Edition (comic), by Robin Furth
  • Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer
  • Authority, by Jeff VanderMeer
  • Acceptance, by Jeff VanderMeer
  • Star Wars: Ahsoka, by E. K. Johnston
  • The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red, by Martha Wells
  • The Murderbot Diaries: Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells
  • The Murderbot Diaries: Rogue Protocol, by Martha Wells
  • The Murderbot Diaries: Exit Strategy, by Martha Wells
  • The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
  • The Oracle Year, by Charles Soule
  • The Seamstress, by Frances de Pontes Peebles
  • Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje
  • The Power, by Naomi Alderman
  • Disobedience, by Naomi Alderman
  • Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler
  • Bloodchild, by Octavia E. Butler
  • Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler
  • Parable of the Talents, by Octavia E. Butler
  • Wild Seed, by Octavia E. Butler
  • Mind of my Mind, by Octavia E. Butler
  • Clay's Ark, by Octavia E. Butler
  • Patternmaster, by Octavia E. Butler
  • Watching Porn, by Lynsey G
  • The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi
  • Machine Learning, by Hugh Howey
  • Paper Girls, issues 1-20 (comic), by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
  • Sex Criminals, issues 1-20 (comic), by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
  • Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Infinity Gauntlet (comic), by Jim Starlin
  • We Stand On Guard issues 1-6 (comic), by Brian K. Vaughan
  • The Poppy War, by R.F. Kuang
  • Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King
  • Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz
  • The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg, by Deborah Eisenberg

The main take-away from this list for me is that eBooks from the library dramatically increase the amount of reading I do. So that's pretty great. More specifically I'd like to call out a few items from the list for special mention.

I re-read the Gunslinger books for the n-th time and still really enjoyed them. I hadn't re-read anything in quite a while and was pleased to find I still like to do that.

I can't believe I'm just finding Octavia E. Butler. She's fantastic. Superb writing all around. I'm going to read the rest of her books soon. Her short stories in Bloodchild were especially enjoyable, and I really liked her "Parable" books too. Her Patternist series was epic!

My favourite standalone books of the year were Warlight (Ondaatje continues to be fantastic), The Seamstress (surprisingly gripping), and The Power (really interesting ideas). And if you string them all together the Murderbot Diaries novellas make an excellent full-length novel that was super fun.

I'm currently in progress on the enormous collection of short stories from Deborah Eisenberg. They're excellent but it's a long and dense collection so I'm moving slowly. I'd compare them favourably to Alice Munro -- excellent stories about real people and their feelings.

More reading to come!

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December 29, 2018 Wed, 31 December 1969 16:00:00 PST NIKON D90 -- f/9.0 -- 1/320s -- 18mm

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December 29, 2018 Wed, 31 December 1969 16:00:00 PST NIKON D90 -- f/8.0 -- 1/250s -- 18mm

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December 22, 2018 Thu, 18 April 6830 15:45:50 PST NIKON D90 -- f/5.6 -- 1/800s -- 200mm

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Tinymoons Travel Journal Fri, 30 November 2018 20:59:00 PST Sarah and I had a wonderful wedding back in May, but with family visiting from out of town and immigration details to sort out we chose to postpone our "real" honeymoon until 2019. Instead we went on two "tinymoons" within the United States, one to Utah and the other to Asheville, North Carolina.

I've just posted a combined travel journal for the two trips, check it out!

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September 9, 2018 Mon, 18 April 3583 15:36:51 PST NIKON D90 -- f/7.1 -- 1/200s -- 18mm

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September 8, 2018 Thu, 18 April 5765 15:36:43 PST NIKON D90 -- f/10.0 -- 1/400s -- 18mm

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May 28, 2018 Wed, 18 April 3021 15:27:55 PST NIKON D90 -- f/1.8 -- 1/125s -- 50mm

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Books - Sapiens and Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari Fri, 06 April 2018 22:41:00 PDT My mom recommended these two books to me, and apparently they've also been featured on reading lists from all sorts of famous people.

In "Sapiens" the author examines the history of our species, from emergence in Africa to the present day, focusing on the major revolutions (cognitive, agricultural, industrial, scientific, etc) and how they shaped us into the dominant life form on the planet. His primary thesis is that we are separated from other animals by our ability to cooperate flexibly in large numbers. This ability arises from our capacity to believe in things that exist purely in our imaginations (e.g. god(s), nations, money, human rights, etc). Such concepts provide a unifying force that binds together groups of people, even when the people in a group don't directly know all of the others in the same group. It's a pretty interesting theory, and one that is hard to dismiss after his extensive presentation of the history of our species.

In "Homo Deus" he projects his theories into the future, discussing how we might change and what new "religions" might evolve as the unifying force to replace the liberal humanism we have now. Much of the book is devoted to the idea that technology will become better than humans at almost everything, so we will have to find meaning in other places.

The books are on the long side, and can be repetitive and hyperbolic, but all of the predictions are hedged and alternate possibilities are regularly presented. All the predictions seemed reasonable, which means they're probably wrong and will feel dated a few years from now. But the historical analysis seemed pretty good.

I enjoyed the whirlwind trip through 70,000 years of homo sapiens and in particular I liked how equally he treated all of the stories we've told ourselves over the millennia. The various religions, ideologies, beliefs, and systems of our history are all arbitrary and fictional but yet so powerful. They are the things that propelled us to where we are, and new fictions will be required to keep us moving forward in the future as we deal with advanced computational systems, genetic and biological engineering, climate change, and whatever else happens next. Fun stuff.

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Books - The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi Thu, 01 March 2018 08:28:00 PST I snagged this book from the library after seeing it recommended in a few places. It's a dystopian near-future look at what the American Southwest might be like when water truly becomes scarce (as is likely to happen in light of climate change). Living in California, the world of the book definitely resonated with me and I found myself thinking about it long after I was done.

It was an exciting read, but for the first time ever I found bits of the book to be too violent. I'm not sure if it was especially bad, or if my tolerance has changed. I just remember being unsettled at a couple points by the descriptions. Still worth a read, just be warned.

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