Books / Year 2001
Date: 2001-12-30 (permlink)
Author: Eric Hansen
Name: Stranger In The Forest - On Foot Across Borneo
Rating: 3.5 stars

Interesting account of jungle travel. I didn't like the "I learned to let go of my Western rationalism and accept their supernatural beliefs as true" thing at all, though. If he wants to believe that there are dragons living in some valley and that oddly shaped rocks give you luck, well, it casts a little doubt on the credibility of the other parts of the book as well. I somehow had the feeling that he was censoring some events, which is quite understandable, but still annoying.

Date: 2001-12-25 (permlink)
Author: Alpo Suhonen
Name: Kausi Sydämestäni
Rating: 1 stars

Unbelievable shit. I was expecting an insider's view of the north american professional sports world, from the viewpoint of the first european NHL coach, but no, instead I get endless psychobabble about how he's rich and doesn't really have to work hard at all and still he has all these imaginary problems. And if he really thinks Gretzky or Lemieux wasn't worth millions of dollars when they were 20 years old he's clearly totally insane.

Date: 2001-12-21 (permlink)
Author: Bertrand Piccard & Brian Jones
Name: The Greatest Adventure
Rating: 3 stars

Though the book is an interesting read, the authors (or just Piccard, probably) are quite self-delusional. Just the title alone confirms it, but there's even more evidence in the text itself. "We shall promote world peace" and other blather about how flying a balloon round the world somehow makes them better human beings. I'm not even going to mention the stupidly thrown in religious references.

Date: 2001-12-18 (permlink)
Author: Günter Grass
Name: Kissa Ja Hiiri (Katz Und Maus)
Rating: 3 stars

Nice glimpse in the lives of teenagers in wartime Germany. Still, for some reason I had difficulty getting started reading the book. Once past the first 50 pages it was easy going, though.

Date: 2001-12-14 (permlink)
Author: Tom Wolfe
Name: Hooking Up
Rating: 3.5 stars

Wolfe has a way of writing that almost makes you ignore the fact that you think his opinions are idiotic. Still, somehow, it's entertaining reading even though the man is a fan of McCarthyism and the Vietnam war. He even makes time for ridiculing the Vietnam war memorial in Washington, which I personally find a rather good example of modern art. And who could forget Wolfe's portrayal of sex among young people today? Too bad it doesn't have anything to do with reality...

Date: 2001-12-09 (permlink)
Author: Sally Armstrong
Name: Racers
Rating: 2 stars

Sometimes the last thing you want to read is an intelligent, thought provoking book. And, I'm glad to say, the book didn't disappoint. The book is clearly miscategorized, though; it should be in the Alternate Universes - Fantasy section. The rate and scope of errors in this book is simply amazing. I'm not even talking about all the F1 details she gets wrong, I'm talking about simple things like a driver finishing a race in second place, and later being congratulated for his fine third place. The point system apparently used in the book's F1 series would put NASCAR to shame in its complexity. The unbelievable winning streaks of drivers, chronological errors, going from "no points in F1 career" to "Monaco winner" in couple of races, etc etc etc. The errors just keep piling on. But, the book did its function, so I wasn't disappointed.

Date: 2001-12-05 (permlink)
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Name: Noidan Veli (Charmed Life)
Rating: Reread

Charming little book about what life could be like if witches really existed (I wonder if anyone ever said that about Harry Potter?).

Date: 2001-12-04 (permlink)
Author: Erkki & Ilona Kanto
Name: Miten Hollywood Valloitetaan
Rating: 1.5 stars

The content doesn't live up to the title. It's mostly stories of random people who happen to have something to do with Finland and how they're doing in Hollywood. The "we'll only say nice things about people who let us interview them, and only bad things about people who wouldn't talk to us" attitude is stupid, and makes you doubt if anything in the book is true.

Date: 2001-11-25 (permlink)
Author: David Trottier
Name: The Screenwriter's Bible
Rating: Unrated

Good information in there.

Date: 2001-11-22 (permlink)
Author: Naomi Klein
Name: No Logo
Rating: 6 stars

A good wake-up call for people that the corporations are taking over and we're not doing anything about it. I didn't even know places called "export processing zones" existed, and now that I know, I won't sleep easily until they're banished from this planet (I'm not attacking the problem on an interplanetary level yet. One thing at a time). Though I had my reservations about some of the things the WTO has done, they're now raised to a whole new level.

Date: 2001-11-16 (permlink)
Author: Jari Tervo
Name: Taksirengin Rakkaus
Rating: 4 stars

Funny little stories about unlikely coincidences. I need to start reading more finnish literature, this is a refreshing change from the american perspective I'm used to reading about.

Date: 2001-11-10 (permlink)
Author: Jonathan Schaeffer
Name: One Jump Ahead
Rating: Reread

It's an even more interesting read this time around when I know so much more about artificial intelligence and game playing programs, having implemented a couple of them. Watching the arc of Chinook's progress is irresistible and keeps you reading way past your bedtime. The only thing I've changed my opinion slightly on is Marion Tinsley. I'm not in such awe of him anymore as I once was. As told in the book, competitive checkers has been dying for a long, long time, with nearly no new players in the last 50 years. Is it such a wonder then that one player could dominate all that time? If he was better than anyone else 50 years ago and kept playing against the same people since no new ones were joining the game, why would he suddenly start losing? Compared to chess, he had no real opposition coming up through the ranks.

Date: 2001-11-05 (permlink)
Author: Hanif Kureishi
Name: Musta Albumi (The Black Album)
Rating: 3 stars

Not as good as I expected. First of all, if Shahid is supposed to be so intelligent, why does he fall in with the religious people in the first place? I didn't feel that I really knew any of the characters at any point in the book, either. A bonus is the attention given to Prince, starting from the name of the book.

Date: 2001-10-26 (permlink)
Author: Anna-Leena Härkönen
Name: Kauhun Tasapaino Ja Muita Kirjoituksia
Rating: 3 stars

I'm sure she wrote these columns in an aggressive way, as the columnist market is not really looking for moderate, logical, scientifically argued viewpoints (neither is the world at large, sadly), but still, her views are just idiotic. And if half of what she says about her alcohol use is true, she qualifies as an alcoholic easily.

Date: 2001-10-23 (permlink)
Author: Kjell Westö
Name: Leijat Helsingin Yllä (Drakarna Över Helsingfors)
Rating: 4 stars

I gave this book four stars instead of five not because I didn't enjoy it for five stars' worth, but because I'm not sure if the book itself was the reason I enjoyed it so much. It could be that any other book that had similar themes and language would have been just as, if not more, fun to read, so I'm being wary here and only giving this book four stars.

The thing is, I don't read that much Finnish literature, so I'm not used to books mentioning places/things I have personal experience on. Then along comes a book where Latokaski, of all places, has several appearances, and Nöykkiö would have had too, had only the characters in the book remembered Selänne's childhood home correctly. That alone makes the book stand out from all the foreign books where things take place in cities I've never been in, and makes it a much more personal reading experience.

Sure the book is enjoyable to read, and possibly realistic, I have no idea if that truly is how those people lived in the past, but it also portrays quite well why the Swedish-speaking Finns have the reputation they have. No matter what they do, they never seem to have money problems. Several of the characters don't work for ages, yet still live near the center of the city and only worry about their relationships, not their finances. Everybody seems to know everybody, and jobs are gotten through mutual contacts etc. Finnish-speaking Finns are almost absent from the book, which is quite odd. Can they possibly live in Finland and not have actual contact with Finnish-speaking people? If so, all the more reason for abolishing the sacred position that the swedish language has in Finland. "One nation, one language" is a nice slogan. Now all we need to do is make it a reality instead of a fantasy. Who's with me?

Date: 2001-10-20 (permlink)
Author: Andrew Brisman
Name: American Mensa Guide To Casino Gambling
Rating: 3 stars

I'm going to move to Las Vegas and become a professional blackjack player! No, wait! Video poker player! No, wait! Real poker player!

Interesting reading about gambling strategies and probabilities of the various games available in casinos. I think I'll wait a bit before moving to Las Vegas, still...

Date: 2001-10-14 (permlink)
Author: Richard Russo
Name: Nobody's Fool
Rating: 5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Saw the movie years ago, got the book for reasons I've forgotten, and it's been sitting on my shelf ever since. Then, couple of days ago, I finally picked it up and started reading and was hooked in no time. The characters are amazingly lifelike, the plot did just what I wanted it to do at almost every point so none of the usual frustration set in, and the lesbian surprise at the end was enjoyable. I kept waiting for Mrs. Peoples to die because of the unfixed railing, though :)

Date: 2001-10-09 (permlink)
Author: Paul Argentini
Name: Elements Of Style For Screenwriters
Rating: Unrated

What can I say...not much that hasn't been said below several times.

Date: 2001-10-08 (permlink)
Author: John Irving
Name: The World According To Garp
Rating: Reread

The book catched my attention in the bookstore for some reason, then I saw that it had a new afterword, then I began thinking that I haven't read this in years, and never read any Irving in english, so I grabbed the book. The book is still fun, and the characters are unforgettable. The only thing slightly outdated is perhaps the war between the sexes, which just screams "seventies!".

Date: 2001-10-02 (permlink)
Author: Denny Martin Flinn
Name: How NOT To Write A Screenplay
Rating: Unrated

Yet another screenwriting book, and I'm running out of ways to say "fun and fast read"...

Date: 2001-10-02 (permlink)
Author: Jennifer Lerch
Name: 500 Ways To Beat The Hollywood Script Reader
Rating: Unrated

Lightweight, but occasionally useful, reading.

Date: 2001-09-29 (permlink)
Author: William Goldman
Name: Adventures In The Screen Trade
Rating: Unrated

Fun and interesting.

Date: 2001-09-28 (permlink)
Author: Thom Taylor
Name: The Big Deal - Hollywood's Million-Dollar Spec Script Market
Rating: Unrated

Fun and fast read that actually contains useful information.

Date: 2001-09-24 (permlink)
Author: Connie Willis
Name: To Say Nothing Of The Dog
Rating: 3 stars

Willis has a clear fascination with the combination of high-tech/low-tech. "Hey, let's make two books using the same time travel technology, but let's make the whole thing seem clunky and the action will take place only in the past!" Personally I grew tired of the illogicalities of her time-travel technology in the first book, and now a whole book of nothing but time-travel stuff, well...

Date: 2001-09-01 (permlink)
Author: Connie Willis
Name: Doomsday Book
Rating: 4 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

Strange book. Despite several major annoyances I'll describe later, overall I liked the book. But I think a lot of that is attributable to Agnes (I just looked it up by mistake, and Agnes was the patron saint of young girls. Adds a whole new layer to things...), she's just so endearing a character. She was the only one I really cared about.

On to the flaws. First, and most important, the description of the society at 2054 is totally absurd. Telephone lines cut off, no supplies being delivered, etc etc etc. Even in 1954 things wouldn't have gone so out of control. What's the logic in the phone lines cutting off, anyway? If people are sick and lying in beds they make less calls instead of more, so what exactly is it that supposedly jammed up the lines? I don't get it. Also, it takes them forever to figure out that the virus came from the dig and the reader has figured it out hundreds of pages ago. And what's up with Basingame? I kept expecting him to be found murdered in some lake or something, but the issue never got resolved. Very annoying.

I could go on about the flaws in the future part of the book, but let's move on to the past. I hated the way Willis kept portraying the people of the time as noble and goody-goody and saying that written history must be all wrong, as a way of trying to evoke our sympathy for them. I have no problem believing that people ran away from the plague; it's what I, and any sane person, would do. But no, Willis thinks everyone who does that is a shameful coward and the only right and honorable thing to do is stay and die along with the rest. I just don't see anything admirable in that attitude...

Date: 2001-08-25 (permlink)
Author: Al Alvarez
Name: The Biggest Game In Town
Rating: 3 stars

Slightly amusing little book about gambling and the world poker tournament.

Date: 2001-08-20 (permlink)
Author: Jane Austen
Name: Pride And Prejudice
Rating: 3 stars

As someone thought me prejudiced as I explained that I hadn't read Austen since I had a feeling I might not like it particularly, I had to try and see what the truth was. And the verdict is: it was much as I expected. The society portrayed in the book is so far removed from the one we live in that I couldn't extract much useful information from the book. I was just constantly annoyed by the limitations forced on the characters by the bizarre morals of the time, and the much ballyhooed wittiness of Elizabeth and Darcy, while fun at times, was sorely lacking most of the time.

And what's up with the language? How could I ever take seriously a book in which a wife calls her husband of over 20 years "Mr. Bennett"? Notice also that I referred to "Elizabeth and Darcy", that's only because I have no idea what Mr. Darcy's first name is. I was confused all the time with all the Ms. Bennets' and Mr. and Ms. Bingleys and Mr. Darcy and Ms. Darcy and a million others. Why on earth don't they use first names?

Date: 2001-08-15 (permlink)
Author: Tracy Kidder
Name: The Soul Of A New Machine
Rating: 3.5 stars

A fun and fast read, but I don't see anything Pulitzer-worthy in it. Maybe it's because the book is 20 years old and back then computers weren't such a big part of people's lives, so reading about them was exciting. The whole hardware part of the book is little more than a history lesson instead of cutting edge technology, and I think this has resulted in the book losing some of its appeal.

Date: 2001-08-07 (permlink)
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Name: Invisible Monsters
Rating: 4 stars

It starts out, not slow, but kind of self-evident. "Is that all there is to it?" Then, after a while, the surprises start to come. And come. And come. Did I mention the surprises?

Minutes after you've finished the book, there's a very strong urge to go back and read at least some of it again in light of the things that you now know that you didn't know on the first reading. But, unlike Fight Club, this reread is not an altogether positive experience. In FC, many things became much clearer and characters' actions more understandable when you knew what was really happening, but in this book, it's more like "Are these people absolute fucking idiots?" on the second reading. They just behave so stupidly that I at least couldn't really connect to any of the characters, they're just "things that do things in order to keep the plot going" instead of real persons.

Overall it'a a fun, in some places absolutely hilarious, read, just don't expect much more than that from it.

Date: 2001-08-05 (permlink)
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Name: Survivor
Rating: 4.5 stars

A satisfying romp through modern American belief systems, though the spectre of Fight Club is always lurking there just beneath the surface. Is cornflower-blue his favorite metaphor, and if so, what does it mean? I have no idea. Also, the phrase "People are always asking me..." stuck out like a sore thumb. A good writer shouldn't have to recycle his old stuff this much.

Another issue is his general cluelessness about other parts of the world. At one point in the book, 12 people die in an avalanche in Finland. As a lifetime resident of the above mentioned country, I can inform Mr. Palahniuk that avalanches are not a problem here. He's probably thinking about Austria or whatever. At another point, he indicates that steroids are easier to come by in Sweden than in USA. Nothing could be further from the truth, as several drugs that are illegal in these parts of the world are quite legal in USA and can be bought by mail. So, instead of Americans going to Sweden to buy steroids, it's actually the other way around.

Date: 2001-07-15 (permlink)
Author: Iain Banks
Name: Espedair Street
Rating: Reread

Was bored, had no new books that were screaming "read me! read me!", so reread this one. Some books slip your mind even before you've finished reading them, other books stay in your mind forever. This is one of the latter kind of books.

Date: 2001-07-08 (permlink)
Author: John Cleland
Name: Fanny Hill - Ilotytön Muistelmat (Fanny Hill - Memoirs Of A Woman Of Pleasure)
Rating: 2 stars

Just goes to show you what 250 years will do to a book's perceived value. This wouldn't stand a chance of being published today, it's so boring and stupid, but as it's OLD, it's for some reason I can't grasp considered a classic. Does that mean that 250 years from now Penthouse is considered to be classic too?

Date: 2001-06-28 (permlink)
Author: H.G. Wells
Name: The Time Machine
Rating: 3 stars

Yet another example of a book that's revered, even though were it to be published today, nobody would say anything positive about it. I'm all for keeping track of history and recognizing how science fiction was started and everything, but those aren't good enough reasons to lie and call this book a good one, because it's not by today's standards.

Date: 2001-05-27 (permlink)
Author: Greg Bear
Name: Darwin's Radio
Rating: 1 stars

A disgusting book. I have no idea why Bear writes science fiction if he hates the scientific worldview so vehemently. Go peddle your religious views somewhere else, please. The fact that this book won the Nebula award is bound to give me nightmares for the rest of my life.

Date: 2001-05-15 (permlink)
Author: Harry Turtledove
Name: Colonisation - Down To Earth
Rating: 4 stars

Finally, we're getting some action again in this series. It is kind of strange to find yourself rooting for all-out nuclear war, but it has a weird fascination. I wonder if other people feel the same way :)

Date: 2001-05-02 (permlink)
Author: Greg Bear
Name: Eon
Rating: 3 stars

I'm sure this book was considered to be breathtakingly visionary back in 1985 when it was published, but today the book's extrapolations of missile defence systems and "inevitable" war when USSR falls behind in the technology race and can't catch up just seem quaint, robbing the book of its most striking impact. What's left is fairly standard semi-hard science fiction, with boring characters, "inventive" aliens (is there anything more boring...) and the usual Bear phenomena of massive scale undertakings.

Date: 2001-04-27 (permlink)
Author: Greg Bear
Name: Moving Mars
Rating: 5 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

For some reason, it's much easier to criticize than to praise. It gets even harder when, overall, you liked a book, but can't quite put your finger on the exact reasons why you did, but could name a thousand things wrong with it. I think this is an excellent book and definitely should be on the "to-be-read" list of every self-respecting science fiction reader, but it's not that simple. I think the key to understanding the seemingly contradictory reactions I had to this book lies in the observation that Bear seems to have employed a kind of a brute-force approach to it. All great science fiction depends on evoking the reader's sense-of-wonder, and this book does it, on a magnificent scale. I didn't really think about what the title of the book meant, figuring it was just a symbolic name, but when they actually started thinking about moving a planet to a different star system, well...that's the stuff you're looking for in science fiction, the ability to think outside the envelope. The sheer scale of the technological wonders used in the book gives a warm fuzzy feeling to me, and makes up for the various flaws.

Yes, the flaws. I'm pretty sure this is by far the book with the lousiest characterisation I have ever given 5 stars to (if we exclude those books I wouldn't give 5 stars to anymore in my current scale). Casseia, as the main character, has the major flaw that she's not particularly likable. She starts out as young and naive, does stupid things, and, well, to me at least, remains that way to the end of the book (naive, not young). Sure, Bear uses fancy language to point out that he's entirely aware that what Casseia is doing is stupid and she's just not aware of it herself, the fact is I would still expect the leader of Mars to be quite a bit more cynical and not so trusting in other people.

Charles is even more annoying. Here we have a brilliant physicist whose work is going to change the world, and what does he do? Fall in love with some naive girl the minute he sees her, she dumps him, and he still thinks of her as his only true love for the rest of his life. So old, so boring, so cliche.

The ancient martian biology is unrealistic, has nothing to do with the main plot, and has a tacked-on feeling. And why oh why does every Mars-settlement book have to have its inhabitants share this near-mystical feeling for the planet? It's just a planet, nothing more, nothing less. How many of Earth's inhabitants wake up each day thinking "Oh what a marvelous planet this is that I live on"? Not many. I should think that people everywhere else have the same attitude, take most things for granted, and focus on their personal lives. Maybe the first-generation settlers would have some feelings for the planet, but children born there have never known anything else, and for them it's "just the way things are", exactly the same as here on Earth.

Date: 2001-04-23 (permlink)
Author: John Allen Paulos
Name: Numerotaidottomuus (Innumeracy)
Rating: 4 stars

Nice overview of how not knowing the basics of mathematics hurts people in everyday life, a point in which I've been a firm believer myself for ages, but have failed to convert the rest of the humanity to my view so far.

Date: 2001-04-21 (permlink)
Author: Ben Bova
Name: Venus
Rating: 2 stars

I can't believe this book was written in the year 2000, because it resembles a bad science fiction book from 50 years ago. Braindead, zero-dimensional characters combined with a truly corny plot result in a book that I read to the end only because I have strong moral difficulties leaving books unfinished.

At least one mystery is solved, though. I wondered at the beginning of the book how in the hell could Bova have written over 90 books as was loudly advertised, but after reading this, it's very clear. _I_ could write a book like this, and someone with a little more talent than me could churn out three or four of these each year. But I've often thought that "quality x quantity = constant" is a pretty accurate summary of authors' literary efforts, and obviously it's much nicer to read one great book than 10 mediocre ones, so I prefer authors who live by the "less is more" idea.

Date: 2001-04-15 (permlink)
Author: Carl Hiaasen
Name: Sick Puppy
Rating: 4.5 stars

I think I'm finally getting comfortable with this whole Hiaasen formula. You're not _supposed_ to like the characters, which has taken me a while to figure out. If you try reading the books expecting that the "good guys" are just sandbagging it and hiding their true, nice inner selves, you're going to be disappointed and frustrated, since they stay just as mean and stupid to the end of the book. So you have to learn to take the characters as they are, with flaws and everything, and just enjoy the ride while it lasts. Which isn't long as this is a definite page-turner.

Date: 2001-04-13 (permlink)
Author: Maureen Gibbon
Name: Swimming Sweet Arrow
Rating: 4.5 stars

I would like to give 5 stars to this, but I just can't get myself to do it for a book as short as this one. It basically goes from start to finish, no detours, no nothing. As fascinating as the 4 main characters are, there's just too little material in there to treat this book with the same seriousness as bigger books.

Anyway, enough about the length of the book. This is a seriously fun reading experience. Not often, if ever, have I seen sex talked about with such frankness, and it's a refreshing experience. After this book I have the patience to stand another round of Hollywood films where a bare breast is equal to disrupting young viewers' moral standards for life.

Date: 2001-04-11 (permlink)
Author: Vernor Vinge
Name: A Fire Upon The Deep
Rating: 4.5 stars

It's a good book, but I'm not sure whether it's worth a Hugo award. A problem for me was the Tines. Pack minds are a nice idea, but 600 pages of them? The novelty wore off a long time before the end, and overall, I just don't think it's a very realistic concept. Thinking with the speed of sound? Probably plain impossible, I'd say. But it's a minor flaw, and the book was a fun read.

Date: 2001-04-04 (permlink)
Author: Terry Pratchett
Name: Carpe Jugulum
Rating: 2 stars

Sad, sad, sad. How the mighty have fallen, etc. One really has to wonder why Pratchett keeps doing these as it's so clearly obvious he has nothing interesting to say anymore. I don't think I laughed once when reading this book, which says it all, I think.

Date: 2001-03-31 (permlink)
Author: Jim Driver (editor)
Name: The Mammoth Book Of Sex, Drugs & Rock'n'Roll
Rating: 3 stars

Too light on the sex side of the equation and way too much general, boring music stuff. If I wanted to read articles like "What is skiffle?" and so on, I'd hardly expect to find them in a book labeled like this and with a backcover saying it "tracks the dark side of rock'n'roll" etc.

Date: 2001-03-24 (permlink)
Author: Matt Ridley
Name: The Red Queen - Sex & The Evolution Of Human Nature
Rating: 5 stars

Nice book, and I gained some interesting new insights into human nature and why it is the way it is, and how it came to be that way. Of course, the book is 7 years old already, so probably some of the things are outdated, but that can't be helped.

Date: 2001-03-08 (permlink)
Author: Michel Houellebecq
Name: Atomised (Les Particules Élémentaires)
Rating: 4 stars

A good example that the right cover can make or break your book. If this one didn't have a naked woman on the cover, I probably never would have noticed it at the bookstore. Now I did, picked it up for closer inspection, saw all the quotes about Houellebecq being the next Camus etc, and decided that what the heck, it's about time I read something other than British/American/Finnish literature. And it turned out to be a good choice. Interesting characters, fascinating events, and lots of different sex scenes. The only thing I didn't like about the book was the whole underlying ideology that real feelings don't exist in modern society, but I'm not sure if the author even intended that to be taken so seriously, maybe it was just an extreme version of some trends that can be found in today's culture.

Date: 2001-03-04 (permlink)
Author: Johanna Sinisalo
Name: Ennen Päivänlaskua Ei Voi
Rating: 4.5 stars

If this is what contemporary Finnish literature is like, maybe I should start reading more of it. Then again, if it was, this book wouldn't have been such a huge hit. But enough about generalities, let's get down to this book.

It was a pretty big surprise that the book was about gay characters. I'd read a lot of discussions about this book before, and I don't remember anyone mentioning it at all. Makes you wonder if it was kept purposely below the surface so that more people would be inclined to buy/read the book. As sad as it is, there are people in the world who would reject a book out of hand just because it centers around non-heterosexual people. Then again, there are people who would be more inclined to buy a book because of this, but I have a feeling this group is outnumbered by the previous group.

Date: 2001-03-04 (permlink)
Author: Harry Turtledove
Name: Colonization - Second Contact
Rating: 3.5 stars

And so, the epic continues. It's nice to return to a world you know so well, and see new events unfold, but somehow the lack of warfare makes the book in some way not as fascinating as the Worldwar series was. There's no conquering nations and then humans fighting back and then lizards conquering it again and so on, this time it's just characters in different places around the world doing random things. Could be it's just a slow start to the new series, and the action takes off in later books. I sure hope so.

Date: 2001-02-24 (permlink)
Author: Iain Banks
Name: The Business
Rating: 3 stars

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

The first 200 or so pages have this book aimed straight at a five star rating, but then it all goes downhill. The stupid fascination with Thulahn and the attitude that being a backward third world country is somehow admirable and good is sickening, and that's not even the worst of it. The plot goes nowhere after a very promising setup in the first half of the book, and Kate's final decision makes me so mad that it's frustrating. To quote Kate herself, it's "just another example of the same old sad self-sacrificial martyrdom crap".

Date: 2001-02-22 (permlink)
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Name: Taru Sormusten Herrasta (The Lord Of The Rings)
Rating: Reread

One of a kind. All the other books are fine and dandy, but LotR is what Tolkien is all about. He probably spoiled my enjoyment of every other fantasy book out there, since most of them just seem like pale copies of Tolkien, but I don't mind, I can just save my time and not read them in the first place :)

Date: 2001-02-22 (permlink)
Author: Richard P. Feynman
Name: The Pleasure Of Finding Things out
Rating: 3.5 stars

Some good stuff in there, but too much of the material I already knew from other contexts. And there were some disturbing comments about women there that I'm not sure I'm entirely ok with...

Date: 2001-02-08 (permlink)
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Name: Hobitti (The Hobbit)
Rating: Reread

This review contains spoilers. Click here to show it.

I've always liked the battle at the end the best. Everytime they're on the verge of losing, fresh reserves pour in from somewhere and tilt the balance back towards winning. The only negative part is that Thorin dies...I still almost cry when reading that. Overall, the book is a nice introduction to Tolkien, but nowhere near the level of seriousness that Silmarillion or LOTR has. That doesn't make it any worse though, just different in style.

Date: 2001-02-02 (permlink)
Author: J.R.R. Tolkien
Name: Silmarillion
Rating: Reread

I'm not stupid enough to think that there's anything I could say about Tolkien that hasn't been said by others long ago. He's in a class of his own. It's been years since my last reading, so it's high time I read the books in proper order.

Date: 2001-01-28 (permlink)
Author: John L. Casti
Name: Paradigms Lost - Tackling The Unanswered Mysteries Of Modern Science
Rating: 3 stars

Not really the book I expected it to be. It's dry, it focuses on entirely different things than I would've focused on if I were discussing the same topics, I didn't like the author's personal opinions all that much, and for that matter, I still have no idea even after reading this book that I should have any confidence in him. What has he done? He's a teacher in some Austrian school. Apparently that's all that he's accomplished in his life. Call me odd, but I want something more than that before I'm ready to give any weight to his own, personal, not-founded-upon-facts opinions on things like AI, existence of ETI, etc.

Date: 2001-01-17 (permlink)
Author: Fjodor Dostojevski
Name: Pelurit (Igrok)
Rating: 2.5 stars

This is not a bad book, in the way that it would be hard to read. This book just flows along, and you're never too bored with it. The problem is that there is absolutely no reason not to feel sad when you have to stop reading it for whatever reason. The whole thing is just so lightweight, and not understandable for me, 150 years after it was written. The characters are all part of that great 19th century class of people, "can get by without doing any real work ever", and spend their time socializing with other people of the same class. They just seem so unreal in this day and age that I couldn't really connect with any of them.

Date: 2001-01-05 (permlink)
Author: Alfred Bester
Name: The Demolished Man
Rating: 4 stars

It does have a plot that just keeps ticking along and some of the telepathic conversations are amazing, but somehow it just doesn't click. It's somehow antiquated, the characters seem a little too one-dimensional and cliched, and the portrayal of women seems a little off too. Still, a fun book to read, but not earth-shattering material.