Friday, August 30, 2019

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, by Michael Lewis (author), Dylan Baker (narrator)

Simon & Schuster Audio, ISBN 9781442341265, October 2011

Published in 2011, when the financial crisis was still fairly fresh in everyone's mind and we had not yet reached as much recovery as we eventually achieved, this is in some respects a look into the past. Yet none of Lewis's observations from his travels through a developed world still reeling from that crisis seem to have been proven truly false. Each country got into trouble in the world of essentially free money in the madness of 2003-2008 by following its own weaknesses and temptations.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Tehanu (Earthsea #4), by Ursula K. Le Guin (author), Jenny Sterlin (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781501923920, June 2016 (original publication June 1990)

Twenty-five years ago, Tenar was a young priestess serving in the quite sinister Tombs of Atuan, and Ged was a powerful wizard. They escaped from the Tombs together--and then they parted company. Tenar chose the unmagical life of a farmer's wife, and Ged went on to become Archmage of Roke.

Now Tenar is a widow,who has taken in a child, Therru, badly maimed by fire. Ged is no longer a wizard at all; he poured out all his power in defeating a major threat to the world of Earthsea. Tenar takes Therru with her when the wizard of Gont, Ogion, who taught both Ged, and, for a time Tenar, sends word that he is dying, and asks her to come. This is the start of another great change in the direction of Tenar's life.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Passengers, by John Marrs

Berkley, ISBN 9781984806970, August 2019

It's near-future Britain, and self-driving cars with no human override have become the norm. They will soon be the only legal vehicles. There are a lot of benefits. Most importantly, because the cars communicate with each other, there is far less traffic congestion and far fewer accidents.

But what happens when something goes wrong? When there is a crash, and a Passenger or a pedestrian is killed? Who is at fault?

There's a jury system, and juries are composed mostly of experts and representatives of interest groups, with only one member of the general public.

This week, that member of the general public is Libby Dixon, a mental health nurse who deeply distrusts self-driving cars, indeed AI of all sorts, and does her best to minimize her use of it and exposure to it. Her first couple of days on the jury have not increased her trust, as they seem to rush through cases without sufficient evidence and always, always, the jury decides that a dead or injured pedestrian or someone whose property was destroyed by a car avoiding another car is the person ultimately to blame. And then all the techie goodness in their jury room is taken over by "the hacking collective."

Monday, August 26, 2019

Spying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures, by Nick Pyenson (author, narrator)

Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, ISBN 9780525630852, June 2018

Nick Pyenson studies whales--all cetaceans, in fact. Whales include the largest animals that have ever lived on Earth. We've interacted with them for much of our history.

But because they spend most of their lives underwater, and mostly don't have any regular need to be close to shore, we know surprisingly little about them. Which whales have the most oil or blubber is important for whale hunters, but not exactly a deep scientific insight, taken by itself. It doesn't tell us anything about how whales evolved, where they are and what they're doing in the great majority of their time that isn't spent anywhere near humans, or what their likely future in a changing world may be. Nick Pyenson has spent his professional life trying to answer those questions.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Epitaph (Doc Holliday #2), by Mary Doria Russell (author), Hilary Huber (narrator)

Harper Audio, ISBN 9780062373960, March 2015

Mary Doria Russell returns to the American West in the late 19th century. The Earp brothers have left Dodge and are now in Tombstone, in the Arizona Territory. Doc Holliday was running a saloon with Kate, and then in a sanatorium for his tuberculosis, and has been trying to raise the money to go back for the full year he's told he needs there. But Wyatt Earp has a tooth he needs pulled, and he doesn't really trust anyone but Doc to do it.

So Doc Holliday is in Tombstone, too, with the Earps again. And in Tombstone, the tensions and conflicts are at work that will lead to the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and the aftermath.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata (author), Ginny Tapley Takemori (translator), Nancy Wu (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781538584552, June 2018 (original publication July 2016)

Keiko Furukara is thirty-six years old, and was a misfit everywhere, in her family and at school, until at the age of eighteen she began working in a new branch of national convenience store chain Smile Mart. The store employee manual gives her a set of rules. The uniform relieves issues of how to dress during the work day. Her coworkers provide her with examples of how to talk--and what to appear excited, happy, or angry about. She learns the rhythms and needs of the store, and even working only part-time, she becomes the store's best worker, and outlasts fellow part-timers and a total of seven managers. She's on her eighth manager when she realizes her family and her small number of friends are really worried about her, and want her to adopt a more normal, and to their minds happier, lifestyle.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Foreverywhere,by Steve Burns (author, narrator), Steven Drozd (author), Gabe Soria (author), Carly Ciarocchi (narrator), Stephanie Mayers (narrator)

Audible Originals, August 2019

Mote the Unicorn, possibly the last unicorn anywhere, lives in the city of Anyville, and wants to start a band. This being Anyville, this isn't as unreasonable an ambition as you might imagine, although guitars and other string instruments are not something he can manage. Keyboard instruments, though, he's a wiz at.

In the midst of a very strange storm, he recruits a drummer, Rick the Giant. They find a manager, Betsy the Spider, who really digs their sound and is good at all the organizational and promotional stuff they aren't good at.

But they still need a guitarist.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Nailed (Alex Harris Mystery #8), by Elaine Macko (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Audible Audio, August 2016

Alex Harris runs a small but successful temp agency in her home town of Indian Cove, Connecticut. Her sister, Samantha, works for her, and the small number of Alex's office employees are a tight-knit little family. Alex also has a close extended family, including not just her and Sam's husbands, and Sam's two children, but the sisters' parents and grandparents.

And then Alex's husband, Indian Cove police detective John Van der Burg, messes things up by showing up at Alex's office to arrest Sam for the murder of the building inspector who failed to pass the new sunroom addition to Sam's house.

Well, really, just take her in for questioning, because they have a witness saying that Sam had a loud confrontation with him the previous morning in which she may have threatened to kill him.

Monday, August 12, 2019

How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist & His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain, by Gregory Berns (author), L.J. Ganser (narrator)

Audible Studios, October 2013

Gregory Berns loves dogs. So does the rest of his family, but he's the neuroscientist, He decided he wanted to know if his dogs really loved him, and if he could determine how and why.

This led inevitably to training the newest addition to their family of six (two adults, two daughters, two dogs) a terrier mix they named Callie, to enter an MRI, assume a scannable position, and remain motionless for long enough intervals for useful brain scans.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Landlady (Tales of the Five #3.2), by Diane Duane

Ebooks Direct, May 2019

Segnbora tai-Enraesi has spent the last few years fighting a war against the Shadow, helping her husbands King Freelorn and Hereiss Hearn's son, consolidate power in Arlen, and learning to a sorceress and, at least partly, dragon.

Now her wife and liege-lady, Eftgan, Queen of Darthen, has set her a new responsibility, or at least, told her it's time to get on with the responsibility she's been dodging for a decade: taking up the duties of the Head  of House tai-Enraesi, one of the Forty Noble Houses of Darthen. It's one of the smallest and least significant, because of mismanagement by her father and grandfather. It needs to be brought back, and that means Segnbora has to start actively doing the work of the Head of House.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Wally Roux, Quantum Mechanic, by Nick Carr (author), William Jackson Harper (narrator)

Audible Originals, August 2019

Wally Roux is a teenage genius whose mother adopted him when he was an infant, and has just moved them from Maine to Savannah, Georgia. It is, in his opinion, lonely and boring at best. In addition to that, though, there's a strange space-time hiccup causing weird problems in his neighborhood. For instance, when he walks to and from school each day, he really is walking uphill, both ways.

After a chance encounter leads to him using his excellent mechanical skills to fix a bus engine, he starts thinking that maybe, with some study of quantum mechanics, he might be able to fix the the space-time malfunction, too.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Clockwork Boys (Clocktaur War #1), by T. Kingfisher (author), Khristine Hvam (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, July 2019 (original publication November 2017)

Slate is a forger and thief, Brenner an assassin, Sir Caliban a former knight-champion of the Dreaming God. In that capacity, he killed or exorcised, depending on circumstances, demons who had possessed people or animals. Then he got careless and a demon possessed him,and it was exorcised, but not until after he'd killed eight temple nuns.

They're all condemned criminals, but they've been offered pardons and rewards if they can successfully complete a mission to Anuket City, to find a wayto defeat the Clockwork Boys, giant centaur-like creatures apparently made out of machine parts, who are ravaging the countryside and threatening the kingdom that, however questionable their characters, our three criminals are subjects of.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Life and Other Inconveniences, by Kristan Higgins

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780451489425, August 2019

When she was eight years old, Emma London's mother committed suicide. With her mother dead, her father "unable to cope," and her maternal grandparents unable to take on a child because her grandmother, Joan, was beginning to suffer the symptoms of ALS, Emma was sent to live with her other grandmother, Genevieve London.

Genevieve had suffered her own losses, the disappearance of her other son, Sheppard, two years older than Emma's father, Clark, when Sheppard was seven, and the death of her own husband, Emma's other grandfather, Garrison, a few years later. One might think this common experience of loss would help the two bond, but Genevieve had responded to her losses by becoming very closed off and self-protective. She thought her duty to Emma was teaching her to be strong, pragmatic, and focused on success. When at 18, just about to go off to Smith College in the fall, Emma gets pregnant, Genevieve is disgusted, and kicks her out when she refuses to either have an abortion, or give the baby up for adoption.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

An Informal History of the Hugos: A Personal Look Back at the Hugo Awards, 1953-2000,by Jo Walton

Tor Books, ISBN 9780765379085, August 2018

This is exactly what it says on the cover, an informal history of the Hugo awards, from their initial creation in 1951 through the 2000 awards. It's a look at nearly  fifty years of what science fiction and fantasy readers who joined the World Science Fiction Convention, i.e., Worldcon, thought was the best in the field.

Jo Walton doesn't claim to have read all the Hugo winners, much less all the nominees. That wasn't the point. She takes the position that whether she read or didn't read something, and why, is itself a data point about the reception of these books and stories, whether the Hugos were capturing the breadth of the genre, and whether the books have lasted. Another set of data points is whether the individual books are in print, are they in her local library, and, given that her local library is the Montreal library, are they there in English, in French, or both languages. Also, whether they are still talked about in sf circles or elsewhere.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Will Travel for Trouble Boxed Set (#10-12), by Minnie Crockwell (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Minnie Crockwell, July 2019

Minnie and her ghost companion, Ben, who died while a member of the Lewis & Clark expedition, continue their travels, and continue to encounter untimely deaths that Minnie can't help investigating, and that Ben naturally helps her with, even as he tries to dissuade her from doing anything too dangerous.

In their first adventure included in this set, they're still in Alabama, but have moved on to a little beach house called Pelican Penthouse in Fort Morgan, due to the lack of any open spots in any RV parks. This time they don't find a dead person, which is a nice change of pace, right? Except they discover an unplugged freezer full of shark fins, and this of course leads to all sorts of trouble, including, of course, a dead body.