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Kalifornia: A Novel
Kalifornia: A Novel
by Marc Laidlaw
Edition: Hardcover
40 used & new from $0.06

5.0 out of 5 stars A Dizzying Fast-Paced Satrical Cyberpunk Novel from one of the Literary Movement's Masters, June 26, 2016
This review is from: Kalifornia: A Novel (Hardcover)
"Kalifornia" is a dizzy, fast-paced, fictional deconstruction of postmodern American society from Marc Laidlaw, among the major figures in the 1980s cyberpunk literary movement in Anglo-American speculative fiction. In many respects, it should be seen as quite prescient in its depiction of mid 21st Century reality television, with Laidlaw introducing us to the trials and tribulations of the FIgueroas, the "first family" of "wired" - via artificial nerves - virtual reality. The book opens with Poppy, the only Figueroa still "wired", giving birth on California's bicentennial birthday, to Calafia, the first "wired" newborn, during a live "wired" broadcast seen by millions. Abducted by a secretive cult of Kali worshippers, young Calafia - or Kalifornia as she is renamed by the cult - realizes she can manipulate others through her "wires", and soon takes over the cult. Meanwhile, the governor of California, RevGov Thaxter Halfjest, has an agenda of his own through which he hopes to manipulate Kalifornia, and through her, rule the world. Laidlaw's near future novel lacks the grittiness and realism found in William Gibson's best cyberpunk/post-cyberpunk speculative fiction, but it's still a wild, entertaining, ride that remains a memorable fictional satire of contemporary American society and culture. It's definitely the funniest cyberpunk/post-cyberpunk speculative fiction novel I've read - and I note this having just read it again for the third time - and one that remains a neglected classic by one of cyberpunk's most notable writers.

The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe
The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe
Offered by Hachette Book Group
Price: $16.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing Book That Seeks to Tie Jazz Music with Physics, June 2, 2016
This is a surprisingly fascinating and extremely well written book that is really more about the author's dual passions about physics and jazz music than solely as a superb popular science account on contemporary physics, for which there are other, more insightful, works from the likes of Brian Greene and Lee Smolin, among others. Still, this is a notable introduction to modern theoretical physics, in which Alexander, a tenured professor of physics at my undergraduate alma mater, uses his knowledge and love of music to convey insights on various aspects of physics, ranging from string theory to cosmology. Like his colleague cell biologist Kenneth R. Miller, Alexander does a fine job in making difficult concepts easily explainable, even if they may not be as detailed in their explanations as those from Greene, Smolin and Lisa Randall in their respective books. Regardless, I think this is a notable effort from a debut scientist author. It will win the hearts and minds of those who are very passionate about physics and jazz music. Those who focus on the autobiographical aspects of his book will find rewarding, his personal trajectory from the rap and drug-infested streets of the Bronx to the hallowed halls of the Ivy League. "The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe" should be viewed as among the notable popular science books published so far this year.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 9, 2016 5:19 PM PDT

The War on Science: Who's Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It
The War on Science: Who's Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It
by Shawn Lawrence Otto
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.40
59 used & new from $9.10

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Book on Science Denialism in America, May 30, 2016
“The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do About It” should be viewed as the definitive book on science denialism in America and belongs on the bookshelves of anyone in government or politics seeking to make public policy decisions that require sufficient knowledge, understanding and appreciation of science, including medicine and technology. This is no mere sequel to Otto’s earlier – and still terrific – “Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America”. Instead, what Otto does here is to cover both the history and philosophy behind science denialism, doing an exemplary job in describing how the scientific method actually works, and in praising Karl Popper’s philosophy with regards to testing scientific hypotheses. He also reminds us of science’s importance – especially with regards to basic research – in promoting democratic values, which even scientifically-literate Founding Fathers like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson understood and appreciated, realizing that they were creating a democratic republic that would promote the growth of scientific knowledge, with that knowledge used to further our country’s economic success; a point which others, most notably Kenneth R. Miller and Niles Eldredge, have emphasized in their own noteworthy books on evolution denialism, by pointing out that failing to deter and to defeat science denialists – in this case, Intelligent Design creationists and other, so-called “scientific” creationists – has grave implications for ensuring America’s future economic and intellectual success as a preeminent global economic, intellectual and cultural power.

Otto shows how moral ambivalence over the development of atomic weaponry, and fear of the military-industrial complex, sowed the seeds for much contemporary American science denialism, transforming the once pro-science Republican Party, whose luminaries included such notable scientists as distinguished astronomer Edwin Hubble, into an intellectual backwater dominated increasingly by those skeptical of science within the Religious Right, aided and abetted, oddly enough, by the emergence of postmodernist relativist philosophers like Jacques Derrida who had no understanding or appreciation of science. It is this thinking which Otto contends has established one of the three main fronts in the war on science; the others are ideological and industrial, borrowing heavily from Postmodernist thought. Postmodernists like Derrida dismissed scientific claims for objectivity via the scientific method, and instead, saw science as myths to preserve or acquire power; clearly a less than desirable aspect of identity politics; a point of view that would become part of the mindset of right-wing Intelligent Design creationists, as well as progressive anti-science movements like vaccine denialism. It is within this academic environment that philosopher Thomas Kuhn developed his concept of “scientific revolutions”, which Otto notes persuasively is one worthy of dismissal simply for relying upon Postmodernist thought.

In his chapter entitled “The Ideological War on Science”, Otto describes how faith-based ideological warfare is being conducted not only on whether one should teach as science, biological evolution and contemporary evolutionary theory, but even, on a more personal level, adequate sex education for teenagers. In each and every case, he demonstrates how religious thought has too often been heeded, resulting in dismantling credible science education, including sex education, and harming greater public understanding of the science behind biological evolution. My only cautionary note here is that Otto is not giving credit where credit is due to theistic scientists like Brown University cell biologist Kenneth R. Miller and religious leaders like the Dalai Lama who recognize that their respective faiths should endorse greater public awareness and understanding of science, with the Dalai Lama famously noting that if Buddhism is wrong and science is right, then Buddhism should conform with science. I also suspect that Miller and former National Center for Science Education director Eugenie C. Scott’s efforts in engaging with religious leaders – other notable instances include Michael Zimmerman’s Clergy Letter Project and noted evolutionary ecologist Edward O. Wilson’s efforts at reaching common ground with those creationist-leaning Evangelical Christians interested in preserving Earth’s biodiversity - may ultimately be more successful than the “slash and burn” tactics advocated by some militant New Atheists, including one notable figure interviewed by Otto.

Otto devotes a surprisingly large portion of his chapter on “The Industrial War of Science” to the rise of modern advertising in the United States, but it’s a history worth noting, since that includes numerous efforts by industry to cast ample doubt on “unsettled” science, whether it is smoking as a primary cause of cancer – which was recognized as early as the 1930s by the Nazis, who banned smoking in public places – or ongoing debates over the “reality” of climate change. Otto describes how industry has been successful in casting ample doubt on the “reality” of climate change, which he regards as the newest form of science denialism, much younger, in fact, than the vaccine denialism of disgraced ex-doctor Andrew Wakefield and his intellectual forebears in Great Britain, including an early episode in the middle of the 19th Century. Much of his discussion on contemporary climate change denialism deals of course with political intrigue in the Bush and Obama administrations, and especially in the United States Congress, with Otto offering us a cautionary tale regarding how pervasive scientific ignorance exists within the halls of Congress as well as within the White House.

Regardless of whether one agrees with Otto’s encyclopedic overview of science denialism in the United States, there should be agreement that Otto has clearly thought long and hard about what needs to be done, going as far as offering battle plans for politicians, journalists, scientists and the general public to help combat and eventually, defeat, the ongoing war on science in the United States, which has its parallels overseas, in Great Britain, the rest of Europe, and, to an extent, in South Korea and much of the Muslim world. He calls upon politicians, including local ones, to acquire credible science advisors. One important bit of advice that Otto gives to journalists is that they need to cease striving to be “objective” when dealing with vaccine denialism, evolution denialism and climate change denialism, especially since overwhelming scientific evidence supports those critical of these science denialist movements. He also urges scientists to become more politically involved, as a means of furthering greater public understanding of science and perhaps, more importantly, to ensure that the United States remains the democratic republic founded on its core values, including knowledge and appreciation of science. To his everlasting credit, Otto has written one of the most important – and necessary – books of our time, describing how we can win the ongoing war against science, and one that deserves a wide readership from a vast audience, not only those of us concerned with fostering greater scientific literacy here in the United States.

Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life
Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life
by Edward O. Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.74
84 used & new from $13.09

5.0 out of 5 stars An Impassioned Plea to Preserve Earth's Biodiversity from the Greatest Evolutionary Ecologist of Our Time, May 26, 2016
Noted evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson has written a polemic, but a polemic based on his life-long work in ant systematics and evolutionary ecology, that offers some glimmer of hope. This is a surprisingly terse book from Wilson, but one of sufficient length that it may serve as a rallying call to anyone who has some interest in conservation biology - which he should be viewed as its "godfather" - and a keen desire to preserve much of Earth's biodiversity for future generations of humanity. Divided into three sections, Wilson seeks to enlighten the reader on the nature of the problem, how this relates to Earth's current biodiversity, and then, a general overview on what should be done to preserve Earth's biodiversity. In the first section "Part I: The Problem", Wilson describes how and why current biodiversity losses should be seen as a "Sixth Extinction", equivalent in its severity with the five major mass extinctions known from the Phanerozoic Eon (approximately the last 543 million years of Earth's history). Those familiar with Elizabeth Kolbert's "The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural Hisotry" might regard Wilson's descriptive prose, repetitive, in its bleak picture of current biodiversity loss, but it is a picture well-informed by Wilson's own decades-long research in conservation biology and systematic zoology, especially of ants. In "Part II: The Real Living World", Wilson's enthusiastic eloquence is at its finest, as he describes vividly, ecosystems in the deepest parts of the world's oceans and even in the Earth's crust that are largely unknown to all, but the most informed readers familiar with relevant aspects of ecology, molecular biology and geology. He also identifies major ecological habitats on Earth that he regards as reclaimable, ranging from the Californian Redwood Forest to the Amazon River Basin, the flatlands of Northeastern Europe and the Congo Basin, to name but a few. In "Part III: The Solution" Wilson advocates for his "Half-Earth" biodiversity preservation plan, but it is a plan that may seem to many, an impassioned plea, instead of an extensive plan designed to preserve Earth's biodiversity in more or less its current form for centuries. He does note the ongoing digital revolution as a means of not only cataloging all of Earth's biodiversity but in providing us a future in which human civilization's "ecological footprint" will be greatly diminished via the development of new technologies that will not only stem the rapid declines in biodiversity loss but also antrhropogenic global warming. With "Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life", Edward O. Wilson may have written his valedictory address to the public in the hope of fostering greater public understanding and interest in the science behind studying and halting Earth's biodiversity loss. A valedictory address that should be read by a wide audience, not only here in the United States but also elsewhere around the globe, noteworthy for Wilson's superb prose and storytelling talent.

City of Blades (The Divine Cities)
City of Blades (The Divine Cities)
by Robert Jackson Bennett
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.78
71 used & new from $3.48

5.0 out of 5 stars Quite Possibly the Finest Epic Fantasy Published This Year, May 21, 2016
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"City of Blades" is a worthy sequel to "City of Stairs", introducing us again to General Turyin Mulaghesh, the hero of the "Battle of Bulikov", noted extensively in Robert Jackson Bennett's first novel in his "Divine Cities" trilogy. General Mulaghesh may be the most foul-mouthed, injured (one-armed), military leader ever encountered in epic fantasy or science fiction, and, to his credit, Bennett excels in introducing us to Turyin Mulaghesh's early history, which she ponders as she deals with her "exile" to the recently conquered city of Voortyashtan, once the city of the god of war and death, a loyal supporter of her old friend, Shara, now the embattled Saypuri prime minister. In his highly descriptive prose, Bennett introduces us to yet another compelling cast of characters whom Turyin interacts with, while realizing that something dangerous is reawakening beneath the streets of Voortyashtan; an unearthly power that may be the most dangerous threat ever faced by Mulaghesh and her fellow Saypuri soldiers. Once more he excels in exceptional world building of the highest order, while filling in ample details not only in Mulaghesh's personal history, but of the recent history of Saypur and its rapidly expanding empire. With "City of Blades", Bennett has written the second riveting novel in what promises to be the best recently published epic fantasy trilogy, as well as a notable new work of speculative fiction worthy of attention by a large readership, not merely fans of Bennett and other notable writers of epic fantasy.

In the Vale of Cashmere
In the Vale of Cashmere
by Thomas Roma
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.23
63 used & new from $13.93

5.0 out of 5 stars Dignified, Respectful Photographs of a Remote Corner of Prospect Park and Those Who Frequent It, May 19, 2016
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Honoring the memory of a close friend who had introduced him to this secluded corner of Prospect Park before dying from AIDS in 1991, noted photographer Thomas Roma set out on a nearly four year odyssey to photograph, at first, the gay men who frequent this space, and then, the surrounding naturalistic beauty of the space itself. These are images that are replete with respect and dignity of those whom Roma was able to photograph using his tripod-mounted hand-made medium format camera, that in the words of O. Winston Link - the author of the book's introductory essay - question whether one can have privacy in public spaces and whether queer behavior can be tolerated in a space that is as remote, but still public, as the Vale of Cashmere. If nothing else, these imagines will show those willing to view them, both the artificial - but sitll naturalistic - beauty of Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux's favorite public park, Prospect Park, which they designed after finishing their elaborate, magnificent design for Central Park, as well as the predominantly dignified portraits of those frequenting this relatively secluded public space. "In the Vale of Cashmere" is the companion volume to the show - of the same title - that was on display at the Chelsea (New York, NY) located Stephen Kasher Gallery from October 29, 2015 through December 19, 2015.

by Steve Toutonghi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.39
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Memorable Futuristic Exploration of the Nature of Identity and Technology, May 19, 2016
This review is from: Join (Hardcover)
Quite possibly one of the best debut novels of 2016, "Join" is the best debut speculative fiction novel I have seen from a mainstream literary fiction writer, with Steve Toutonghi worthy of substantial admiration for superb world building and in creating a believable dystopian near future. In "Join" he explores philosophical issues related to the nature of identity and our current concerns with technology. Simply for these two reasons alone, "Join" is worthy of a wide readership, that should include long-time fans of speculative fiction as well as those who tend to read only work by mainstream literary fiction writers. Much to his credit, Toutonghi deserves ample praise for creating a plausible near future that remains consistent with science and technology, unlike for example, a highly praised debut speculative fiction novel published several years ago by another mainstream literary fiction writer who wrote about epidemiologically implausible word viruses in a rather minimalist Art Deco-inspired alternative history future.

Where I would find fault with Toutonghi's brisk, fast-paced storytelling is having as lead characters, Chance, Leap and Rope, who are not especially intriguing or memorable as characters worthy of the reader's attention. Toutognhi's most notable character emerges towards the end of the book, Hamish Lyons, the mysterious leader of those humans ("ferals") unwilling to embrace the mental and intellectual possibilities made possible by the JOIN technology. This stands in sharp contrast with, for example, with such memorable characters as the ageless spy Edie Banister, the heroine of Nick Harkaway's "Angelmaker" and Flynne Fisher and Ainsley Lowbeer in William Gibson's "The Peripheral"; Gibson's latest novel is especially worthy of note here since he offers readers two compelling versions of the near future that are replete with the gritty realism that is surprisingly lacking in Toutonghi's "conceptual powerhouse" - as's reviewer dubbed it - of a novel. Despite the flaws in character development, Toutonghi has written still, a thought-provoking fictional meditation on the nature of identity and technology that definitely deserves a wide readership.

The Lost Time Accidents: A Novel
The Lost Time Accidents: A Novel
by John Wray
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.00
75 used & new from $11.67

5.0 out of 5 stars An Exhilirating Blend of Science, History, Philosophy and Fiction Worthy of Exceptional Praise, May 17, 2016
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This is a most beguiling, truly imaginative, mess of a novel, and I use the word "mess" to praise John Wray's superb storytelling craft and prose, worthy of comparison with the likes of Italo Calvino, William Gibson, David Mitchell and Haruki Murakami. It is an impressive fictional trek through 20th Century European and American history, cloaked as a genre-bending cross between time-travel speculative fiction and film nourish crime thriller; a trek seen through the eyes of a family of liars, thieves and murderers, who regard a former Swiss patent clerk, one Albert Einstein, as their family's most despised enemy, believing that only they themselves, not Einstein, truly understand time and the known physical laws of the universe. Much of the family's saga is seen through the eyes of young Waldemar "Waldy" Tolliver via a series of letters to his lover Mrs. Haven, that other reviewers recognize as memorable love letters to the craft of writing fiction. Named for his wickedly brilliant grand uncle Waldemar Toula, Tolliver discovers that he has left the flow of time itself, set up in a different reality where time doesn't exist. In the course of trying to reconnect with time itself, Waldy Tolliver will take us on a mesmerizing trek through some of the dark corners and recesses of Central European history, especially in the years leading up to and during World War II, when his relative Waldemar Toula discovers how to jump back and forth through time, recreating the fatal discovery made by his father Ottokar in Znojmo, Moravia, near the dawn of the 20th Century. Miraculously, Wray has written a spellbinding work of fiction that delves deeply into history, philosophy and physics that may interest anyone who has enjoyed reading not only the writers I have cited, but also such eminent scientist authors as Brian Greene, Stephen Jay Gould and Carl Sagan, treating us to a riveting fictional celebration of the rise of modern physics. With "The Lost TIme Accidents", John Wray has written the most impressive melding of science and fiction I have read since James Morrow's vastly underrated "Galapagos Regained"; without question, Wray has written one of the most important American novels published not only this year, but maybe, in this decade, that, like Morrow's "Galapagos Regained", does a remarkable job in melding science with fiction.

[Laptop Cooling Pad] E-PRANCE® X5 15-17 inch Gaming Laptop USB Fan Cooler with 4 Fans at 1200 RPM, Ultra-Portable, Light Weight and Whisper Quiet
[Laptop Cooling Pad] E-PRANCE® X5 15-17 inch Gaming Laptop USB Fan Cooler with 4 Fans at 1200 RPM, Ultra-Portable, Light Weight and Whisper Quiet
Offered by E-PRANCE
Price: $49.90
2 used & new from $19.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Quite Possibly The Finest Laptop Cooling Pad I Have Ever Used, May 17, 2016
By far the best laptop cooling pad I have used, and one that is extremely robust and well built in its construction. It is also among the quietest, and has done a fantastic job in keeping a 14 inch laptop quite cool during weeks of testing. I can't think of a better laptop cooling pad that is as well designed and as well built as this E-Prance Laptop Gaming Cooler Pad. I remain indebted to the manufacturer for providing a free sample for review, but this did not influence my favorable assessment of this laptop cooler pad. Instead, it's due to weeks of successfully testing it with my laptop that persuaded me that this is indeed the finest laptop cooling pad I have ever used. Gaming enthusiasts will find much to rejoice in this laptop cooling pad, but this is a pad I can recommend highly to anyone thinking of getting one.

Price: $9.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Cyberpunk Meets Pop, April 25, 2016
This review is from: Superhuman (MP3 Music)
Cyberpunk meets pop, rock and classical in cellist/composer Martin Tillman’s superb new album “Superhuman”. Tillman cleverly plays with and merges different musical genres, ranging from industrial techno-pop to what sounds like a futuristic homage to Byzantine or Medieval Roman Catholic sacred music on “Involuntary Midnights” sung by renowned contemporary music vocal ensemble Anonymous 4. It’s Karlheinz Stockhausen and Gyorgy Ligeti merged seamlessly together by a Brian Eno-like musical wizard familiar with William Gibson’s near future cyberspace landscape. Tillman has assembled a superb assortment of some of the finest studio musicians residing primarily in the Los Angeles area, ranging from long-time Elton John collaborator – now musical director of the Elton John Band - guitarist Davey Johnstone, guitarist Graham Russell (“Air Supply”), David Paich (long-time “Toto” keyboardist), drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (best known for his work with Frank Zappa, Sting, and Joni Mitchell, also an in demand studio musician featured on most of the songs on Sara Bareilles’ “Kaleidoscope Heart” album), and bassist Leland Sklar, with orchestral arrangements performed by the City of Prague Symphony Orchestra.

“Superhuman” sounds like a vast, epic-like, soundtrack for a yet to be made fast-paced Hollywood thriller science fiction film, like the forthcoming sequel to Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”, especially the album’s last track, “The Invisible Shield of Strings and Bows”. It’s an extremely memorable, compellingly listenable, album that should draw ample interest from a diverse range of musical audiences, not just those familiar with instrumental techno-pop music or long-time admirers of Tillman’s exceptional skills as a superb classically-trained cellist and composer. Among my favorite pieces are “Wonder”, a fast-paced ode to techno-pop music, the previously mentioned “Involuntary Midnights”, “Cracked Diamond”, a riveting musical dialogue between solo cello and an entire orchestra, “Celluloid Spaces”, noteworthy for its brilliant playing by Davey Johnstone on acoustic and electric guitars, “Zero Gravity”, which I regard as Tillman’s 21st Century reimagining of Gustav Holst’s “Neptune, the Mystic” from “The Planets” suite, and last, but not least, the “The Invisible Shield of Strings and Bows”.

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