April 16, 2009

Great Read: Robert J. Sawyer’s Mindscan

Posted in Books tagged , , , , , , at 8:17 pm by myrlinn

Robert J. Sawyer has been on my radar ever since I read Hominids, a scifi novel about a neanderthal parallel world. Didn’t quite enjoy the sequels, but I LOVED Hominids.

So, when I saw another Robert J. Sawyer at the library, I had to check it out. And I really, really enjoyed this one: Mindscan.

It’s a story set in the near future, where a new technology has allowed people to have their minds copied into an android body. The original (biological) version of the person is sent into retirement ‘paradise’ on the moon, while the copied version stays behind to carry on the person’s life. Which all led to the issue of whether the ‘copy’ is the same person as the ‘original’, with many of the dimensions explored within the setting of a court case. And that’s where the strength of this book lies — the debates as the lawyers on both sides argue the case for the “personhood” of the copied version are certainly thought-provoking, and provocative.

February 17, 2009

Ever thought about how it’s time for a homo sapiens upgrade?

Posted in Books tagged , , , , , at 8:35 am by myrlinn

Over dinner the other day, my friends were talking about how working life today is so stressful. Life is general really, with so much to do, and so much that you can do that it feels like you need more minutes in a day.  So much to experience, to learn, so little time.

As so often happens to me, I chanced upon a book in the library that sounded fascinating – Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio – and once I read it, I realised that it connected to what my friends and I had been talking about!

Darwin’s Radio explores the idea that our genetic code may be “upgraded” in response to environmental, social, physical and other stresses. That life has been stressful for quite a while now that it’s time we get an evolutionary response in the form of a new human species. Fascinating!

Now I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel Darwin’s Children

August 8, 2008

Mysteries: Sujata Massey’s “The Pearl Diver” and Nury Vittachi’s “The Feng Shui Detective”

Posted in Books tagged , , , , , at 10:57 am by myrlinn

I was with my friend last weekend, and turns out she’s been reading a lot recently. And she talked about how much she loves mystery stories like Agatha Christie’s series. She likes them for their cleverness. I read a lot of them at one point, probably because it was exciting trying to figure out the end before you come to the end.  Today, I remember her stories more for the colourful characters Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Hmmm… maybe I need to reread some of her books.

Anyway, back to the point of this post:  My friend’s remarks must have been on my mind when I visited the library this week. I don’t think it was a coincidence that in my browsing, I picked up a mystery novel (which I hadn’t been reading much of lately, being more fascinated with scifi in the past months). It was by author I’d never read, much less heard of.  But the blurb sold me on it – the half-Japanese, half-American main protagonist, and the promise of background details of Japan.

And I must say was pleasantly surprised! Sujata Massey’s The Pearl Diver makes for a really fun read, and moves along at a good pace. She’s no Agatha Christie in terms of the sophistication of her plot. But she more than makes up for it with her believable contemporary characters, and the fairly convincing details of Japanese culture and food. She’s probably the first mystery writer I’ve really enjoyed in quite a while (from what I remember, my last obsession was Dick Francis — loved the details of the horse racing world).

Talking about mysteries with elements from eastern cultures, I remember enjoying Nury Vittachi’s  The Feng Shui Detective probably a couple of years ago. The main character is a feng shui master who gets drawn into various mysteries, and solves them.  Not amazing, but definitely enjoyable! Funny (in a slapstick kind of way), and it makes for a nice change of pace from the usual mystery stories to find a main character that’s a feng shui expert. And since I’m currently living in Singapore, the fact that it’s set here is another plus point.

As an aside: I used to love mystery novels when I was younger, but in recent years, I’ve been more drawn to TV dramas when it comes to mysteries. I love CSI, for example. Not in an obsessive manner, but I do usually enjoy it. Strange, though. Last night, I happened to watch an episode of CSI Miami, and I found it strangely dissatisfying — a man who’s allergic to the sun and becomes so crazed that he becomes a killer? So lame! But I guess after so many seasons, that’s to be expected.

July 16, 2008

Isabelle Allende’s “The Stories of Eva Luna”

Posted in Books tagged , , , at 9:09 am by myrlinn

I’ve been reading quite a few collections of short stories recently, for very practical reasons. I’ve been rather busy writing recently, and short stories allow me to actually still READ (I’m not terribly good at reading a novel a few pages at a time — I race through it so that I can get to the end, or… resort to reading back to front if I’m too busy).

Anyway, to my surprise, I’m actually enjoying a few of the short story collections I’ve been reading. Well, perhaps not Banana Yoshimoto’s Lizard. But Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting was a stimulating read.

The book I really want to mention though is Isabel Allende’s The Stories of Eva Luna. picked it up at the library. I loved, loved, loved it. Allende blends together the fantastic and the real in such vivid language. Her characters are intriguing, odd, even. Which suits me fine, because I happen to like odd and quirky. And her plots skirt the boundaries between fantasy and reality. Fascinating! I can’t wait to go check out another Isabel Allende book from the library.

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