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Month: February 2014

Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky , Boris Strugatsky , and Olena Bormashenko

I want so much more!

Roadside Picnic is a collection of stories, they contain the same characters, but they happen at different times, sometimes decades apart. They are great stories, great beginnings of larger stories…

I would love to read a much longer story about Red Schuhart, he is such a great character and his story in this universe is so appealing to me.

Robert Forster does a great job narrating the audiobook.

I bought this audiobook from Audible and listened to it using the Audible app on my iPhone.

From the publisher:

Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those young rebels who are compelled, in spite of extreme danger, to venture illegally into the Zone to collect the mysterious artifacts that the alien visitors left scattered around. His life is dominated by the place and the thriving black market in the alien products. But when he and his friend Kirill go into the Zone together to pick up a "full empty", something goes wrong. And the news he gets from his girlfriend upon his return makes it inevitable that he’ll keep going back to the Zone, again and again, until he finds the answer to all his problems.

©1972 Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (P)2012 Random House

I rate this book a 10 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who loves science fiction.


One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

Man-o-man, I like me some Bill Bryson. I think I would buy audio recordings of his compilations of the nightly news…

Oh wait, I think I just did.

"One Summer" really does feel like a compilation of newspaper articles from around 1927 sprinkled with insights and ideas that only come from hindsight.

I enjoyed this book more than At Home, but less than A Short History of Nearly Everything.

If you enjoy learning about history, about the United States, and about trivia then I think you will love this book. Bill Bryson does a wonderful job narrating the book, bringing history to life, and making it interesting.

From the publisher:

One of the most admired nonfiction writers of our time retells the story of one truly fabulous year in the life of his native country – a fascinating and gripping narrative featuring such outsized American heroes as Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, and yes Herbert Hoover, and a gallery of criminals (Al Capone), eccentrics (Shipwreck Kelly), and close-mouthed politicians (Calvin Coolidge). It was the year Americans attempted and accomplished outsized things and came of age in a big, brawling manner. What a country. What a summer. And what a writer to bring it all so vividly alive for us in this certain best-seller.

©2013 Bill Bryson (P)2013 Random House Audio

I rate this book a 7 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone interested in history.


Metro: Last Light by 4A Games

I played the first Metro game, Metro 2033, and thought it was pretty good so when I saw Metro: Last light on sale at Steam I decided to give it a try.

The Metro games are based on books written by Dmitry Glukhovsky; which I have not read. After playing both of these video games I will probably not read them… It is not my kind of story. I am not really a big fan of the Horror-Survival genre but somehow I have found myself playing a few of them.

Metro: Last Light was ok but nothing great, I am surprised that it received Gamespot’s Editor’s Choice Award in 2013. I guess there weren’t that many good games in 2013.

In both of the games I was seriously annoyed by all of the cut-scenes and times that I was not in control of the character. It felt like there was very little time spent playing with a lot of time just watching, BORING!

To top it off there were no guns in the game that really excited me, they were mostly ok, but nothing special at all.

In 9 hours I played through the entire game at Normal settings and I really do feel like I spent as much time passively watching cut-scenes as I spent playing.

The graphics are gorgeous though, I played it on a Late 2013 27" iMac with very high settings and it was smooth and beautiful throughout.

From the publisher:

It Is the Year 2034.

Beneath the ruins of post-apocalyptic Moscow, in the tunnels of the Metro, the remnants of mankind are besieged by deadly threats from outside – and within. Mutants stalk the catacombs beneath the desolate surface, and hunt amidst the poisoned skies above.

But rather than stand united, the station-cities of the Metro are locked in a struggle for the ultimate power, a doomsday device from the military vaults of D6. A civil war is stirring that could wipe humanity from the face of the earth forever.

As Artyom, burdened by guilt but driven by hope, you hold the key to our survival – the last light in our darkest hour…

I rate this game a 6 out of 10 and only recommend it to the desperate.


The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

This is book 3 of the Gentleman Bastard Sequence books featuring the exploits of Locke and Jean. I really enjoyed the first 2 books, The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, and have been looking forward to the next in the series.

In this adventure we learn more about Locke and Sabetha’s history, I really enjoyed that part, for me it deepened Locke’s character and gave insight into his motivations and desires. But the Sabetha character felt kind of flat to me, like she was not as well thought out, or maybe that she was a very simple character when I was hoping for a complex character with a lot of depth and complex reasons for her beliefs and actions. In the dialog Sabetha spends a lot of time talking about being complex, but in action she comes across as being very simple and flat.

I also did not appreciate the story being split between 2 different timelines. The jumping back and forth is common to this series, but for some reason in this story I didn’t like it very much.

Michael Page turns in another wonderful performance. I will always think of Locke and Jean when I hear his voice.

I bought this audiobook from Audible and listened to it using the Audible app on my iPhone.

From the publisher:

After their adventures on the high seas, Locke and Jean are brought back to earth with a thump. Jean is mourning the loss of his lover, and Locke must live with the fallout of crossing the all-powerful magical assassins the Bonds Magi. It is a fall-out that will pit both men against Locke’s own long-lost love.

Sabetha is Locke’s childhood sweetheart, the love of Locke’s life, and now it is time for them to meet again. Employed on different sides of a vicious dispute between factions of the Bonds, Sabetha has just one goal-to destroy Locke forever. The Gentleman Bastard sequence has become a literary sensation in fantasy circles, and now, with the third book, Scott Lynch is set to seal that success.

©2008 Scott Lynch (P)2013 Tantor

I rate this book a 7 out of 10 and bet that if you read the first 2 books in the series you will not be able to pass this one up.


Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills by Professor Steven Novella

I believe that critical thinking is going to be the most important skill my son will ever have. The ability to think for himself and make good decisions quickly based upon what he knows while being able to change his decisions based upon new information when it is available.

Your Deceptive Mind is a part of The Great Courses: Professional series and is made up of 24 lectures given by Professor Steven Novella.

There are some nuggets of wisdom in these lectures, but I do not feel like there were any breakthrough ideas or innovations. Just a lot of reasons why most people have such a hard time thinking critically and being rational in their decision-making.

The contents are interesting and the professor is a very good speaker, but I do not feel like my ability to think critically has been much improved by listening to these lectures.

From the publisher:

No skill is more important in today’s world than being able to think about, understand, and act on information in an effective and responsible way. What’s more, at no point in human history have we had access to so much information, with such relative ease, as we do in the 21st century. But because misinformation out there has increased as well, critical thinking is more important than ever.

These 24 rewarding lectures equip you with the knowledge and techniques you need to become a savvier, sharper critical thinker in your professional and personal life. By immersing yourself in the science of cognitive biases and critical thinking, and by learning how to think about thinking (a practice known as metacognition), you’ll gain concrete lessons for doing so more critically, more intelligently, and more successfully.

The key to successful critical thinking lies in understanding the neuroscience behind how our thinking works – and goes wrong; avoiding common pitfalls and errors in thinking, such as logical fallacies and biases; and knowing how to distinguish good science from pseudoscience. Professor Novella tackles these issues and more, exploring how the (often unfamiliar) ways in which our brains are hardwired can distract and prevent us from getting to the truth of a particular matter.

Along the way, he provides you with a critical toolbox that you can use to better assess the quality of information. Even though the world is becoming more and more saturated information, you can take the initiative and become better prepared to make sense of it all with this intriguing course.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2012 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2012 The Great Courses

I rate this audiobook a 6 out of 10 and only recommend it to those who are looking for a scientific take on the mistakes people make when making decisions.