Flowers for Algernon is a beautiful, human book, with a little science fiction thrown in.
It examines morals and ethics without getting preachy—it’s a surprisingly easy read for such a thoughtful and deep book.
There are a few juicy scenes in it, which is why it’s occasionally removed from school libraries in Texas.
Flowers for Algernon is told through progress reports written by a low-IQ person who has an operation (we never learn the details) that quickly increases his IQ to genius levels. Unfortunately, his social and emotional skills do not increase at the same rate, and this causes hurt feelings all around.
Recommendation: Buy it. Seeing this on my shelf gives me a moment of pause, a two-second meditation, like briefly floating in a deep but safe ocean, before getting on with my day.
If, before sitting down to write 1984, George Orwell had decided to candy-flip (ingest LSD and ecstasy simultaneously), he might have ended up with something like Memoirs Found in a Bathtub.
Panda Ray is a rare beast: a fun and weird adventure for kids where there is no Chosen One. Thank God. I’m a little tired of the Hero’s Journey.
In The Drowned World, the sun’s become too hot (130°F on a good day), and the cities of the world are submerged. Humanity is now collected down in Antartica or above the Arctic circle.
(This was written in 1962, so way before the current climate change troubles.)
I learned about author Iain M. Banks when I was in San Francisco, swing dancing with a woman, who recommended him to me during a twirl. I paid her back by executing a successful “death drop” dance move on her. Amazingly, she did not end up with a cracked skull.
The Algebraist is not one of Banks’ popular Culture stories, taking place only a couple thousand years in the future instead of ten thousand, but it’s still fun.
Do Not Resuscitate is a story told by the aging Jim Frost, who’s being harassed by a daughter with control issues to get his brain downloaded and backed up. As he considers what this means about the impermanence of death, and how much he doesn’t agree with it, he tells the story of his life. He’s seen a lot of the world go to pot while transporting red coolers for a mysterious boss.
His Master’s Voice is a smarter book than I am a reviewer, so my vantage point is of a slow runner presuming to give a complete 3D perspective of a faster runner, when all I can see is his back.
Earth has received a mysterious message from space, and several thousand scientists are tasked with decoding it. They fail (this isn’t a spoiler—it’s revealed early in the book).
Cosmicomics is a wild imagination’s love letter to science. It’s a series of tales told by a creature named Qfwfq, who’s been around since before the universe began.
by Chris Moriarty is a hard sci-fi murder mystery set thousands of years in the future on an alien planet. If you can wade through the tons of jargon in the first chapter of so (I couldn’t on the first reading), it’s a fun ride.
A famous scientist is burnt to a crisp deep within a mine. Tough as hell, severely cybernetically augmented Li and her world-spanning, snarky artificial intelligence ex-lover must figure out why.
I liked the characters, the dark mines where a lot of the action takes places, and enjoyed the fast-paced plot twists, even if I did get lost a few times.
Bottom line recommendation: Buy it used or get it at the library.
The Martian is one of the most enjoyable science fiction books I’ve ever read. An astronaut is left behind on Mars, and must survive by himself for over a year, using only his wits and what was left behind by a few previous missions.
Author Weir does a masterful job in creating his highly likable, intelligent, and deeply human protagonist Mark Watney. The science in The Martian is hard and feels as real as stone.
This book is a great combination of man vs. nature à la Jack London, with the inventiveness of MacGyver, moments of laugh-out-loud humor, page-turning pacing, and plot twists that are surprising but in hindsight feel inevitable.
All in all, a good story well told.
Bottom line recommendation: buy this book and possibly frame it.