Book Review: The Soul of a New Machine - Tracy Kidder

Book cover with circuitry design.

I hate it when I DNF a book. But "Soul of a New Machine" is just dull. It's sort of a hagiography of an obscure company which once made a 32 bit computer. All the men (and it seems to be mostly men) are in turns dull, agressive, or just dicks. As a sample quote: […]

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Book Review: Relic - Alan Dean Foster

Book cover - a human stands on a desolate moon looking at the Earth.

This is a decent slice of sci-fi. It's the sort of story that probably could have been written any time in the last 100 years. The sole survivor of the human race is picked up by friendly aliens and spends his life as a specimen of scientific and cultural curiosity. And then... events occur! It's […]

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Book Review: Understanding Privacy - Heather Burns

Book cover for Understanding Privacy.

Heather Burns has an absolutely deft way of turning the sometimes-dull world of digital privacy into entertaining, informative, and actionable prose. Too many of these sorts of books end up being a list of woes and end with "someone should do something, I guess?". Understanding Privacy is different. All the way through the mantra is […]

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Book Review: Red Side Story - Jasper Fforde

Book cover - a red land with a spoon in the foreground.

Fourteen years ago, I read Fforde's Shades of Grey and my life hasn't been quite the same since. It was a magical tale, almost totally devoid of exposition, building in an fantasy world like no other. Fans have been clamouring for a sequel ever since. The first few chapters of the sequel do an excellent […]

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Book Review: Fallen Idols - Alex von Tunzelmann

Book cover showing the disembodied head of Lenin's statue lying on its side.

"History is not erased when statues are pulled down. It is made." Some people celebrated when Saddam's statue was toppled in Iraq. Yet those same voices condemn the felling of Coulson, Rhodes, and a dozen other statues. Why? Alex von Tunzelmann has a knack for getting to the heart of history in an accessible manner. […]

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Book Review: The Doors of Opportunity

Did you know that a Suffragette invented the UK's electrical plug? Dame Caroline Haslett was an electrical engineer who foresaw the way that electricity could be used to remove domestic drudgery from women's lives. There is a slim biography of her, written by her sister, which is sadly out of print. Luckily, the book is […]

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Book Review: The Glass Hotel - Emily St. John Mandel

Book cover for the glass hotel.

This book didn't really resonate with me. I enjoyed both Station Eleven and Sea of Tranquillity, so I think I was expecting something in a similar vein. Instead of ethereal sci-fi, this is a tangled tale which feels like a mish-mash of half a dozen movies. The central premise of a Ponzi scheme which warps […]

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Book Review - Star Wars Propaganda: A History of Persuasive Art in the Galaxy

Book cover for Star Wars Propaganda.

This is a weird book. The politics of the Star Wars universe are rarely deeply examined. The various tax-related shenanigans of The Phantom Menace were derided by geeks but here become a potent source for art as a dozen artists reimagine classic propaganda posters from Earth and remix them with pop-culture. There are some stunning […]

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Book Review - Systems Ultra: Making Sense of Technology in a Complex World by Georgina Voss

Book cover for Systems Ultra.

Every technology is a transitional technology. This book makes the case that the complexity of modern technology is, well, complex! Systems are designed by so many people that their outputs are an utter mystery to anyone - even those deeply enmeshed within them. It is somewhat scattershot - leaping between sextech, payment processors, architecture, and […]

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Book Review: The End of Mr. Y - Scarlett Thomas

Book cover of a swirling vortex of words.

Oooh! This is an interesting slice of philosophical fiction. On the surface, it is a fairly standard story about a mysterious Victorian book which contains dark secrets and has since been lost to history. You probably know how it goes; our fearless heroine finds a long-lost copy, unlocks a weird world of intrigue, and is […]

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