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Crystal Society (Crystal Trilogy Book 1)
Crystal Society (Crystal Trilogy Book 1)
Price: $5.00

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best sci-fi books of the decade, June 23, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I loved this book and can’t wait for the next one in the planned series. If you read no further than this, here’s the bottom line: Get it, read it, and reward it with good reviews. It deserves nothing less from fans of science fiction.

Okay, now for a little more detail. To start with, this book is a great read. It started off strong, got a little slow in the middle, but really took off in the last third. In fact, once I reached that burst of energy I found that I was much more interested in reading than sleeping, leaving me somewhat sleep deprived as I write this review. It's a remarkable achievement for a first-time author.

Second, it's good, solid, "hard" science fiction. Maybe I'm just set in my ways, but I don't have much patience with sci-fi books that start drifting into fantasy or pseudo-science when they need a deux ex machina to rescue the plot. To the best of my knowledge, everything in this book is either based on current science or quite credible for the target year given that science. No cheats here.

It also offers two of my favorite sci-fi themes: human-level+ AI and first contact. The AI is extremely well done, depicted as a society of agents with distinct motives (safety, understanding, acceptance, etc.) rather than a unitary mind. As a cognitive psychologist, I find this a very compelling description of the human mind (see Marvin Minsky, Society of Mind), and it’s great to see that evolved design used as a basis for building an AI. Also, the interactions among the various entities are quite credible, producing an well-thought-out and easy-to-read depiction of how the our own human motives conflict and resolve in their attempts to get what each of them wants. Max Harms has clearly done his homework here. Kudos.

I also appreciate that the AI stays true to its nature throughout the book. It’s hard to say more without any spoilers, but let me just say that there are some obvious ways in which the AI might have changed that could have made for a more “feel good” story, along the lines of the Pinocchio script, but Harms resisted the temptation to let his story drift into any of these well-worn tropes. I expect that the AI might change in some future stories in the series, but I don’t know; that’s part of the fun of this book.

As to the first-contact plot line, I’ve rarely seen it done better. The aliens he depicts are *truly* alien, to the point where it’s almost unnerving to read the dialog of the encounters between them, the humans and the AI. Harms makes the most of this strangeness, setting up a series of puzzling episodes that are resolved nicely once the nature of the aliens is understood. I can’t say more without spoilers, but if you like thinking about what an alien species might be like, you’ll definitely enjoy this depiction.

Another plus is that Harms clearly knows how to write a book that is part of a series yet provides full closure to all of its threads and dramas. I have complained in other reviews about writers who just stretch a single plot across multiple books, building each to a cliff-hanger in order to get you to buy the next book. Harms has such a rich story to tell that he can pack all kinds of themes and resolutions into this one book and still leave you looking forward to the next installment. I know I am.

One more point: A common complaint with ebooks is that the editing typically ranges from horrible to non-existent, and the reader is constantly being pulled out of the story to deal with syntax and spelling errors. Not this book. There are a few places where a sentence clearly got modified and an extra word was left in or a new word left out, and just a couple of typos jumped out at me, but for a single-author, non-commercial book, it is remarkably free of these kinds of errors. I only wish other authors could be as diligent.

In short, a great story that’s very well told. I’d say this is the best sci-fi book I’ve read since The Martian by Andy Weir, which started out as an ebook, got pulled and republished as a paper book, and then made into a really good movie. With a bit of luck and a bunch of good reviews, maybe Crystal Society will enjoy the same kind of success. I definitely hope so.


JETech Gold Slim-Fit Folio Smart Back Case for Apple iPad 4 & 3 (3rd and 4th Generation with Retina Display) / iPad 2, Black
JETech Gold Slim-Fit Folio Smart Back Case for Apple iPad 4 & 3 (3rd and 4th Generation with Retina Display) / iPad 2, Black
Offered by JEDirect
Price: $9.99
4 used & new from $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Good on every count., June 19, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It's an iPad cover, so there's not a lot to say about it. It's basically a clone of the original Apple design. But it's sturdy, looks beautiful, is more stable when on its stand, starts & shuts down the iPad reliably, and is a pleasure to hold. That last point surprised me. I'm amazed at how manufacturers are able to make vinly and related materials take on such a silky smooth finish, but they do it, and the technique was used here to great effect

Oh, yeah. The other plus is that it's a fraction of the price of the original Apple folio. So it's good on every count.


PKD Slim Bumper Gold Coating Frame Case for iPhone 6 / 6S Plus
PKD Slim Bumper Gold Coating Frame Case for iPhone 6 / 6S Plus
Offered by Sunnywoo
Price: $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Good looking and works great. Recommended., June 16, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought this case for my wife and she loves it. It lets the gold of her new iPhone shine through and complements it with a slightly deeper shade of gold around the edges. It is a soft plastic that is comfortable in the hand, but not so soft it makes the buttons mushy and hard to push. That was important to her because a previous case she bought had that problem & she hated it.


Keepons Ministretch Black Prevent Eyeglass Slipping Anti Slip Anti Slide Eyewear Sunglasses Spectacle Glasses Temple Tip Sports Ear Hook Sleeve Retainer (2 pairs)
Keepons Ministretch Black Prevent Eyeglass Slipping Anti Slip Anti Slide Eyewear Sunglasses Spectacle Glasses Temple Tip Sports Ear Hook Sleeve Retainer (2 pairs)
Offered by Keepons
Price: $8.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect solution with just a bit of customization, June 16, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
These things work great. The only problem I had was that I could feel the little "arms" that stick down from the frames and I found them uncomfortable. I solved that problem by cutting the arms off and abrading the rubber to smooth out the surface. There was still plenty of grip in the pads to work perfectly without them. Now my glasses always stay up where they should, even when I bend over to pick something up, and I never have to push them back in place any more. And if they seem a little nerdy to you, not to worry; they are hidden behinf your ears & no one can tell you have them on.

Great solution all around.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 28, 2016 3:45 AM PDT


SAVEICON Brown PU Leather Case Smart Cover 360 Rotating Stand For The Apple iPad 2 / 3 / 4 Generation with Retina Display, iPad 3 and iPad 2 with Sleep and Wake Function
SAVEICON Brown PU Leather Case Smart Cover 360 Rotating Stand For The Apple iPad 2 / 3 / 4 Generation with Retina Display, iPad 3 and iPad 2 with Sleep and Wake Function
Offered by SAVEICON
Price: $8.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Magnetic switch kept turning my iPad on & off, draining the battery., June 16, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is not a bad case for the money, and the stand feature is better than most. But there is a lot of "play" in the construction and the magnetic switch doesn't work consistently, often leaving the iPad on after I closed it. Worse, when I traveled with it, it seems to have been turning the iPad on & off because I started out with a full battery and it was half drained by the time I went to use it. I "solved" the problem during the trip by turning it off manually and then spinning the iPad 180 degrees and folding the case up backward (inside out) so the magnetic switch was out of play. As soon as I returned, I went back to my trusty Apple-clone case. It doesn't stand up as well, but it doesn't drain my battery either.


Seveneves
Seveneves
by Neal Stephenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.70
56 used & new from $7.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Everything you ever wanted to know about surviving in space and more. Way, way more., June 15, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Seveneves (Paperback)
I am a great fan of Neal Stephenson's work. Snow Crash is a classic, and Cryptonomicon is one of the most absorbing books I have ever read. So it puzzles and disappoints me to see how plodding this new book is. I like the premise and the science-based solutions seem genuine, but the story moves so slowly you can only see the action with time-lapse photography.

You are probably familiar with the writer's dictum "show, don't tell." Well, this book is about 70% telling, 20% dialog, and a mere 10% action. That makes it very easy to put down and not so tempting to pick it up again. I kept going to the end because I didn't feel it was fair to judge a book without reading it all the way through, but I confess that I did a lot of skimming when Stephenson launched into his long-winded explanations. There was way too much detail to hold my interest, and it is filled with phrases like "thus" and "in any case," which are pretty clear indicators that an explanation has gone on too long.

Mind you, I'm a scientist, and this stuff fascinates me. One of the best SF books I have read is "The Martian," and that one is *filled* with science (my favorite line is “I’m going to have to science the s*** out of this.”). But the science never gets in the way of the action in The Martian. If Seveneves had been cut by 1/3 or more and kept the story moving, it would have been a much stronger read. The fact that skimming the explanations didn’t take anything away from the story line is a good indication of how much could have been taken out.

Also, I agree with others that the book falls off badly in the third and final part. There is almost no movement here, and most of Part 3 is devoted to telling (not showing) us retrospectively what happened after the conclusion of Part 2. I think the book would have worked much better without Part 3.

I hope Stephenson's next book goes back to his strengths as a story teller. Anyone who can write a rollicking adventure like Cryptonomicon (which I highly recommend) clearly knows how to keep readers engaged in his tale.


The Critical Element (James Becker Suspense/Thriller Series Book 5)
The Critical Element (James Becker Suspense/Thriller Series Book 5)
Price: $3.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Slow and predictable with an irritating central character, April 30, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book seems like it ought to be engaging and suspensful, but it just doesn't come off that way. I read it to the end just so I could write an informed review, and it plodded the entire way. The plot was very predictable, and the story ended in the obvious way. The one thing that distinguished this book for me is that the central character is a jerk. He is constantly trying to be funny and clever when he is neither, and his end of any dialog is merely irritating -- both to the other characters in the story and to the reader. I can't tell if the author intended to write him as a smart ass or was actually trying to write a funny and clever character, but it doesn't matter. Either way, it just doesn't work. At least not for this reader.


Dark Matters: A Science Fiction Thriller (Dark Matters Trilogy Book 1)
Dark Matters: A Science Fiction Thriller (Dark Matters Trilogy Book 1)
Price: $2.99

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another good sci-fi book that lacks an ending, April 25, 2016
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I liked this book, and I'll say more about that in a moment. First, I have to get a big negative out of the way. The book introduces a number of plot lines and gradually begins to weave them together in some promising ways, and then it just stops. No ending. No resolutions. No answers. Just a single line of foreshadowing and then... nothing.

This is a really lame way to tell a story. There is nothing wrong with setting up a series, and I actually go out of my way to favor series books because if I like the first book then I know I can go back and spend some more time with the characters and the story line. But when I buy a novel, I expect it to contain a complete story. It's okay to leave some open story arcs to be continued in the next book, but to read all the way through a book and then find that it ends without resolution is deeply unsatisfying, at least to this reader. I have read a few other books that do the same thing lately, and I find myself wondering if some of these first time authors understand what it means to create tension in a story line and then resolve it. There are actually two parts to this, not just one. And requiring us to wait and buy the next book in order to find out what happens strikes me as amateurish at best and self-serving at worst.

Other than being incomplete, this is a pretty good book. It has an interesting and timely topic. In fact, it has two of them: dark matter and the nature of the universe forms one engaging theme, and the fundamental problems of getting a democracy to work in the face of uninformed voters and greedy politicians forms another. Both sets of topics are well developed as far as they go, and the chapters are nicely seasoned with some excellent quotes from great minds regarding the challenges these issues present. The quote from Einstein is one of my favorites (“Two things are infinite: the universe, and human ignorance, and I’m not sure about the universe.”) and it speaks directly to the story lines.

The book sets a pretty good pace, and there were sections in which I definitely did not want to put it down. But there are also a lot of places that are pretty slow going. When the characters need to move to another location, for example, we often get a detailed account of their movements that doesn’t contribute anything to the story line. In such cases, the characters might be better moved with a simple one-liner such as “When they reached the lab...”.

Given all the positive reviews this book is getting, I realize that my review will be a minority report. But let me be clear; this is a good book, and if you’re into sci-fi and/or thrillers, you’ll likely enjoy it. If it weren't for the lack of an ending I would have given it four stars rather than three. It’s just one reader’s opinion, but I prefer novels that resolve their story lines, not just set themselves up for the next book in a series.


Memory Foam Contour Pillow, Queen Size Bed Pillow for Side Sleepers by Aeris - Machine Washable White Plush Velour Cover - Helps to Ease Neck Pain -Unlock the Secret to Restful Sleep Now!
Memory Foam Contour Pillow, Queen Size Bed Pillow for Side Sleepers by Aeris - Machine Washable White Plush Velour Cover - Helps to Ease Neck Pain -Unlock the Secret to Restful Sleep Now!

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best pillow I've ever found for avoiding neck pain, April 3, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have a neck injury and I've been on a mission to find a pillow that would ease the pain. I have tried a variety of different kinds, including polyester, feathers, down, shredded regular foam, shredded memory foam, and solid memory foam, with a variety of different thicknesses and contours. I have found that in order to get relief from the pain (and avoid creating more for the following day), I need to have a pillow that supports my neck well and keeps it aligned with my body. Of all the pillow types I've tried, contoured memory foam works much better than anything else. I have tried a number of pillows within that category, and this one is clearly the best. I'm a side sleeper, and I find that the high-side of this pillow is just right for supporting my neck at the right level, and the trough is at the right level for supporting my head. This is a difficult balance to find: many contoured pillows I tried either didn't go high enough to keep my neck level, and those that did had deep contours that caused my head to tile downward into the pillow. For my size and body type (5'10", 180 lbs), this pillow provides very balanced support.

But wait, there's more! This pillow is wonderfully soft and luxurious. That's a big plus for me because, here again, there's tradeoff to be made; getting good support usually requires a firm pillow. Some of the ones I tried that provided support I needed felt like I was sleeping on a padded board. Finding a pillow that's soft and gentle while also giving the right amount of support for both the neck and the head has not been an easy process, but this one does it all, and I'm sleeping great now.

So, at least for now, my mission is accomplished; this is an excellent pillow that supports my head and neck perfectly, and I no longer wake up with pain during the night or the next morning. If your needs are similar to mine, I strongly recommend you give it a try.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 3, 2016 10:18 PM PDT


Sleep Creations Aerus Natural TM Memory Foam Contour Pillow
Sleep Creations Aerus Natural TM Memory Foam Contour Pillow
Price: $48.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Too small & too hard, April 3, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This pillow didn't work for me for two reasons: It was too small and too firm. When I tried to sleep on it, my head felt like it was going downhill and landing on a rock. For a smaller person (I'm 5'10" & 180 lbs) who likes a really firm support under his/her neck, it could be just fine.


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