Book review: “Saturn Run” by John Sandford and Ctein

Basic Info

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Summary

In the year 2066, a spaceship is spotted entering orbit around the planet Saturn. The world’s major superpowers, the United States and China, race to be the first to get to Saturn in the hopes of gaining access to alien tech that would be years – maybe centuries – ahead of anything on earth. Two very different ships set out, one Chinese and one American. What they will find at Saturn and whether either crew will ever return intact is unknown.

Meanwhile, back on earth, the political machines of both the Americans and the Chinese have agendas that may well prove more dangerous than anything the explorers may encounter in space.

Thoughts

I read this book because it was recommended to me as being similar to The Martian by Andy Weir. I was disappointed. While there was some science, the book focused more on politics, especially between the United States and China (in the future years of 2066-68). Only a handful of the characters got fleshed out enough to come to life, and I found most of them unlikeable. This is the only book I’ve read by John Sandford, so I can’t say how it compares to the rest of his work. The concept behind the story is very interesting, and I appreciate the hard work that must have gone into making the science plausible, but I found the story itself to be somewhat dull and the characters and plot frustrating.

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Book review: The Positronic Man by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg

Basic Info:

  • Title: The Positronic Man
  • Authors: Isaac Asimov; Robert Silverberg
  • Published: 1992(UK); 1993(US) by DoubleDay
  • My source: Public library

 

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Summary:

Several hundred years in the future there are nearly as many robots on earth as there are humans. Andrew Martin is a robot of the NDR series – your basic household helper – yet he’s also unique. Something about his positronic brain has given him abilities no other robot has. He’s creative, thoughtful, and self-aware, and over time he realizes that his ultimate desire is to become a man — to be human, and to be recognized as such.

Thoughts:

An intriguing short novel. Not a lot of action or drama; more philosophical. It reminded me of some of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes about Data. At first, I thought that this book was much older and that it must have been the inspiration for Data. In fact, while Asimov’s writings were a major inspiration behind Data’s character, The Positronic Man was written in 1992, well after TNG was underway. I should say that I haven’t read anything else by Asimov, and this was a good introduction (although it is a collaborative work with Robert Silverberg). I’m interested in exploring more of Asimov’s writing.

Book review: “Deep Down Dark” by Hector Tobar

 

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Title: Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free

Author: Héctor Tobar

Published 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Format: Audio CD

Source: Public Library

Summary: In August of 2010, a mine in Chile collapsed, burying 33 men deep underground. Miraculously, all were rescued an amazing 69 days later. This book tells the story of who the 33 men were, how they came to be working in the mine that day, and how they all survived in challenging conditions for an unprecedented length of time.

Thoughts: It was interesting, but not a “must read.” Not every book can be the most amazing book ever, and this is what I would categorize as a worthy filler — something interesting to fill the space between the last amazing book and the next, which I hope I’ll discover soon.

It’s certainly an intriguing story, but I felt it suffered from being too thinly spread between too many viewpoints and perspectives. However, given that this is a true story about real people, and not a novel, I think Tobar did a commendable job of relaying the experiences of the miners and the surrounding events and circumstances with clarity and respect. The reader for the audio edition (Henry Leyva) also did an excellent job.

Rating: ★★★★

 

Book Review: Life on the Edge: The Coming Age of Quantum Biology by Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili

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McFadden and Al-Khalili present the lay reader with a fascinating and engaging explanation of how quantum physics might help explain life. From the nano-machine-like workings of enzymes, to the astonishing efficiency of photosynthesis, and many other examples, the authors describe how quantum physics can help us understand when classical physics cannot.

The book begins by explaining a bit about what quantum physics is. Central to the book is a challenge of the belief that quantum physics only work at the scale of the tiniest particles and only at extremely low temperatures – in other words, not anywhere near the temperatures friendly to life. Yet at the atomic scale, many processes within living organisms, such as photosynthesis, seem to rely on a quantum nature.

If you enjoy books like Stephen Hawking’s classic A Brief History of Time, you will probably enjoy Life on the Edge. It has plenty of nerdy science “wow” factor, and aims for accessibility without crossing into condescension.

  • Overall rating: ★★★★½
  • Subject: ★★★★★
  • Pace: ★★★½
  • Style/tone: ★★★★★

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books (bloggingforbooks.com) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.