As usual I have read quite a few books this year.

Here are some highlights of books I read this year:

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham – love this author (The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos are two of my all time favourite sci fi books) and this book, while taking a while to get going, ended up un-put down able. A great exploration of unfounded intolerance, and relevant today as when it was written.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher – which I wrote about before, is a tour de force in modern teen fiction. Better than SE Hinton – and my teenage self is properly upset I have written that statement. Highly recommended.

Archangel by Robert Harris – any novel which can make me interested in post WW2 Russian history must be doing something right. This is a real page turner from the opening right up to its fabulous, if ambiguous, conclusion. Some of Harris other works I have found slow, or the world building more attention grabbing than the plot (Fatherland), but this has it all going on.

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds – in a future where faster than light travel is impossible a house of long living clones travel the galaxy in cycles, spending vast aeons of time in suspended animation, holding reunions every few millennia. The scope of this novel is breathtaking and while it feels like it wanders off from the plot towards the end, maybe the real point of the novel is how even hideous events lose their horror after 17,000 years or so. Up for debate, which only adds to the positive feelings I have towards the book – still deciphering meaning long after reading is always a good sign about a book.

Please feel free to share your views on these books in the comments and also any novels you read this year, either ones published this year or otherwise.

Happy reading in 2018.

Advertisements

Of all the teen read I read when i was an actual teenager, Rumblefish by S E Hinton stood head and shoulders above the rest.

The Motorcycle Boy was the coolest character in literature as far as I was concerned.

The film version only helped the reputation of the book.

And there was a deeper meaning around the Rumblefish of the title, a metaphor for people.

But browsing in a book shop looking for Christmas presents I found 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

The back page blurb drew my interest. A dead girl, Hannah Baker, explains from beyond the grave why she was driven to take her own life.

I read the whole novel in a couple of days. The pace of a thriller, the structure of the 13 stories which contribute to her decision.

I loved the book from start to finish. Asher’s prose is tight, just enough description to set the scene and excellent characterisation throughout, Clay who listens to Hannah’s tapes is totally believable.

Asher’s premise was genius and like when I read the brilliant One Day by David Nicholls, I wished I had thought of the concept .

I was sorry to reach the end of the book, felt bitter sweet about the whole novel, especially the way Asher ended the novel (no spoilers, but I think understand why he concluded in the way he did).

After reading 13 Reasons Why I reread Rumblefish, to get some perspective, comparing this new novel to my old favourite.

I still love Rumblefish, the Motorcyle Boy remains an important character in American literature (a sort of junior Dean Moriarty, in my mind) but 13 Reasons Why is a more complete novel. Highly recommended.

I need to watch the tv series based on the book. Hoping it is in the same league as the film adaptation of Rumblefish.

The Hobbit turned 80 this week and here is my blog post titled “An unexpected change of pace” from a couple of years ago where I re-read the classic novel by Tolkien.wp-1455455294830.jpeg

Recent events in Barcelona (thoughts with all those affected) got me thinking again about how I consume news.

I first wrote seven years ago about social media versus traditional news outlets as a source of news – blog post here.

I no longer look at news websites on a daily basis. In fact only during the football season do I look on such sites – and this is only to look at Spanish and German results, a somewhat obscure use of such a sprawling resource of information.

Last weekend I choose not to listen to the radio while driving (schedule nowhere near as good as during the week) and instead listened to Led Zeppelin IV, which |I forgot how much I liked, so kept on listening repeatedly all week as I drove.

Only after I saw reactions on Facebook to the events in Barcelona did it occur to me I hadn’t consumed any news this week I hadn’t found on social media.

I almost never read national newspapers (If I have an empty Sunday I may be the Sunday Times, but that is maybe a couple of occasions a year). Only rarely do I read a physical copy of the local paper where I live. I follow them on Facebook and I can see anything relevant to me in my stream, so why spend the 95p?

And it took a terrible event the week I skipped radio for me to notice this media was my main source of news these days outside social media. And I only catch those bulletins because they interrupt the music I listen to while driving.

But doesn’t your job involve monitoring the media for your organisation, you probably won’t ask, Well, yes it does. But I let Google Alerts take care of the media monitoring for me. Every mention pops right into my inbox and so far the alerts I have set up have never failed me.

By not watching TV news, nor reading print or websites direct, the editorial choice about what potential news stories I am served comes from the algorithms of Facebook and Twitter. I have no complaints about what I see in my feeds. But, is that because these algorithms serve me exactly the news I want because they know me, or is it because I don’t know what they don’t tell me? The answer to this is unclear to me.

What is clear as social media becomes my gateway to the world is my choices about who to follow, what I like, comment on and share feed into these algorithms which shape how I see the world.

Some of you may already have heard of Ready Player One. It is a speculative fiction novel which was released a few years ago with the name Ernest Cline on the cover.

The book is apparently being turned into a movie by no less a genius than Steven Spielberg. I see a massive box office hit.

The narrative contains a series of puzzles which need to be solved to inherit ownership of the VR system the whole world uses. There is a rival conglomerate trying a hostile takeover via attempting to win the contest.

After finishing the novel I was pondering some issues I had with it, these are around lack of depth of characters as well as a tendency towards telling not showing and it occurred to me all the gripes I had with it were the same as I had with The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

The plot of Ready Player One is straight out of the Dan Brown play book and the style of writing is quite similar in my opinion.

It is not unusual for novelists trying a different genre to be asked to use a pen name so the change in direction does not effect sales of future books back in their usual arena. Speculative fiction would be a new genre for Brown as all his works I am aware of are current day thrillers.

I may be way off base here, but did Dan Brown write Ready Player One under the pen name Ernest Cline?

If he did, is there some puzzle within the novel which can be cracked to solve the identity of the writer – from what I know of him, that would be very Dan Brown.

Feel free to prove me wrong in the comments section…

Enfield Council is to use Artificial Intelligence as part of its customer service, planned to go live in Autumn 2016.
The story is relatively straightforward in terms of innovation and positive customer experience.
But read down to the end and note the quote from the council’s opposition.
UK local authorities are facing huge financial pressure at present, so is there anything in the concerns in this article about reducing the staff numbers?
Is the opposition quote reactionary or prophetic?
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

The Swiss referendum on the basic income was backed by just under a quarter of the country’s population.
So, while it will not be introduced, a large minority of the voters see a need for it as a way of dealing with the rise of automation.

%d bloggers like this: