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Seveneves: A Novel
Seveneves: A Novel
by Neal Stephenson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.83
118 used & new from $7.35

27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The End of My Fandom, May 26, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Seveneves: A Novel (Hardcover)
I fell in love with Stephenson a year or so after Snow Crash was originally published. The Diamond Age remains one of the best SF novels I've ever read, and I've read five or six hundred of them. I followed Stephenson's work eagerly, buying each title as soon as it came out.
And this book is what stopped me. I think I'm done after years of disappointments.
The odd thing isn't that Stephenson is a bad writer. It's that somehow he's *become* one after a brilliant start. Seveneves is neck-deep in technical analysis, scientific calculations, and engineering detail. This makes for dreary reading; its power to fascinate ebbs quickly as the scientific matter drags on and on. It's remarkable, in fact, how boring the destruction of Earth turns out to be. This isn't helped by two-dimensional characters and remarkably clumsy dialogue and psychologizing (three pages of explanations of, say, why Race A feels this way about Race B, in the middle of a purported dialogue between A and B).
The whole thing is an unwelcome return to the "hardest" SF of years gone past: barely-disguised technical manuals written by engineers with misguided "creative" yearnings. A lot of it, in fact, reads like something on the Aspie spectrum (and I don't mean to disparage people on that spectrum...I have tendencies myself...but it tends to make pretty poor fiction). I had hoped Stephenson was not going to end up producing unreadable doorstops like Charles Stross does. But that's what's happening, and it's been happening for a long time.
This book is just not alive. For an example of a living book, turn to Ready Player One (or Snow Crash or The Diamond Age). If you like your SF harder, try Peter Watts (Blindsight being an unacknowledged masterpiece).


Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner's Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis (Human Technology Interaction Series)
Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner's Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis (Human Technology Interaction Series)
Price: $15.65

1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars WARNING! I returned this e-book because it was not ..., October 21, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
WARNING! I returned this e-book because it was not compatible with any of my Kindle devices--a DX or 2nd-gen, Kindle. It was only compatible with Kindle for PC. If I wanted to read on my desktop, I wouldn't have bought a Kindle in the first place. I only discovered this when I tried to Manage my Content.

One star for the incompatibility--no reflection on the content. (I thought the content would be OK, so I bought the book :) .) I'd appreciate some kind of warning somewhere on the page...and hope this doesn't happen again.


Sketching User Experiences:  Getting the Design Right and the Right Design (Interactive Technologies)
Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design (Interactive Technologies)
by Bill Buxton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $30.64
104 used & new from $11.17

111 of 122 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where's the Beef?, June 18, 2009
I'm a user experience and interaction design professional, so here's my take from a slightly more informed perspective. As of 2009, this book is frequently recommended for UX practitioners through the UX Book Club movement.
What's good about the book is that it's shiny. It's stirring and inspiring, and offers a lot of wisdom along the way about the nature of the best design processes and the importance of lightweight sketching and trying, trying, trying. It will make you feel very good about design, whether you do it or know people who do, and I think that's why it's caught on so much with the UX Book Club.
On the other hand, many UX people want their books to provide useful frameworks or other practitioner-focused guidelines. This one doesn't, really. This is not a problem if you're looking for a more theoretical treatment of design. Of course, most practitioners aren't--many of them, underscoring one of Buxton's main points, sneer at "theory" in an excellent demonstration of what's wrong with designers. The problem is when a book suggests it's one thing but is actually another. Of course, a "theory" book would sell about as well as cold dog poop, so...

It's got a stunning design-related bibliography for the serious practitioner or researcher, and good tips for people starting out. It may well remind you of the right answer as you read. It's not going to make you a designer; arguably, it may not even make you a better designer in most situations. I can think of about a dozen UX books you should buy before you get this one. It's worth reading, but I don't know about a purchase. To paraphrase the author...it's designed right, but I don't know if it's the right design, or if it presents itself accurately as what it really is.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2011 8:02 PM PST


The Course of the Heart
The Course of the Heart
by M. John Harrison
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.95
92 used & new from $0.01

10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not For the Ordinary Reader, October 5, 2008
Be aware that many of the low rankings on this title are the work of disgruntled members of the same book club, who despite claims of literary sophistication seemed to have missed the boat on this book. They didn't just miss the boat, they showed up at the bus station. Net-search on the Course to find a number of blog reviews discussing the Amazon situation.

That said, this book is extraordinary, as is Harrison, whose forty-year career deserves far more attention. The point of most of his fiction is that reality, not fantasy, is real, and many "fantasy" fans find this difficult to bear. Philosophically, this is an examination of one of the most important ideas in Western culture, Platonism, coupled with Freud's "reality principle" and a deep understanding of literary art. It's not light reading, and it's not chummy; it won't sidle up to you and flatter you with "likeable characters" who are but caricatures of your own foolish prejudices and fantasies, or "plots" that are sublimated rehearsals of your greed. But it will remake the world for you, and show you that the world is the world and the world in words is also the world. Nabokov did this too. Harrison is an extraordinary writer.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 29, 2012 5:42 AM PST


The Five Faces of Genius: Creative Thinking Styles to Succeed at Work
The Five Faces of Genius: Creative Thinking Styles to Succeed at Work
by Annette Moser-Wellman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.00
100 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful With An Asterisk..., November 9, 2005
But so are most books of this type. The book's best feature is a nice combination of detail with theory. There are lots of exercises and a generally cheery "you can do it!" tone. That's good, but the book's recurring emphasis on developing multi-modal approaches to problem-solving is better (i.e., creativity means trying approaches you're not as familiar with). Concluding sections on interacting with people of dominant types that differ from you, and how to sell your ideas to them, is probably worth the cover price alone.

The author loves examples. These examples are not always correct (salons peaked in the 1700s, not the "seventeenth century" to cite one of more than a dozen examples), nor do they fit as neatly into their creative categories as the author supposes. In part, though, the reader comes to see this as the unique characteristics of a certain creative style--seeing this and making allowance for it is good practice for the rest of the book. After all, true creativity is aware of variant creative modes, especially in colleagues or even competitors.

The morning after skimming the entire book I began to experiment with some of its suggestions. Within two hours I had come up with a metaphor that will solve one of the most intractable process problems for my company--an idea that literally took my breath away, on something I'd been struggling with for months. I put a lot of work in; this book didn't give me any answers. But in a sense it reminded me of the answer, or gave me ideas about how and where to look for the answer. I was a college football player already, to use a metaphor, and this was a long look at a pro playbook. It won't work unless you're playing college ball; if you're a top pro player, you should look at something more advanced. But if you want to develop a basis of creative talent, this'll help.


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