Links and Descriptions from Amazon.com.
Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear
Never one to play it safe in his consistently inventive fiction, Bear takes the reader for a harrowing ride on a labyrinthine starship in his latest hard-SF-oriented novel. Bear’s protagonist is an amnesiac starship crew member just released from a deep hibernation state called Dreamtime. Naked, disoriented, and forced by extreme temperature and gravity fluctuations to find safety somewhere among a confusing network of passageways, the man eventually receives help from an odd assortment of fellow Dreamtime refugees. Taking stock of their surroundings, while avoiding onboard killing machines, the gang quickly realizes the starship has given them each a unique role to play, including discovering collectively why the ship has been seriously damaged and cast aside from its mission to seek out habitable worlds. Bear’s pithy, occasionally cryptic writing style perfectly captures the chaotic experiences and unsettling revelations the team endures, while putting an intriguing spin on the timeworn SF theme of interstellar planet hunting. One of Bear’s most thought-provoking and well-crafted novels to date. –Carl Hays
336 pages, ScienceFiction
In The Ocean Of Night by Gregory Benford
In the Ocean of Night presents us a world that is out of balance with humanity crowding earth and having too much of an impact on the world from an ecological standpoint. The book focuses quite a bit on the personal lives of the people in the story and in their development so this book is an unlikely starter for such a fantastic story that is told in the last 4 books of the series but in an interesting way many of the same themes are here. The book In the Ocean of Night was first a novellette published on IF magazine back in 1972 and then it was expanded into a full length book. So interwoven into this whole story of human overpopulation and 1960s style alternative lifestyle parameters (or natural lifestyle parameters depending on your inclination), the author weaves the beginnings of what will be a fantastic story set against the center of the galaxy. In the Ocean of Night though takes place on Earth mostly and you have to plow through the people and ecology and personal life stuff to get to the about 20 or so pages of interesting hard sci fi (for me).
448 pages, ScienceFiction
Timescape by Gregory Benford
Suspense builds in this novel about scientists, physics, time travel, and saving the Earth. It’s 1998, and a physicist in Cambridge, England, attempts to send a message backward in time. Earth is falling apart, and a government faction supports the project in hopes of diverting or avoiding the environmental disasters beginning to tear at the edges of civilization. It’s 1962, and a physicist in California struggles with his new life on the West Coast, office politics, and the irregularities of data that plague his experiments. The story’s perspective toggles between time lines, physicists, and their communities. Timescape presents the subculture and world of scientists in microcosm: the lab, the loves, the grappling for grants, the pressures from university and government, the rewards and trials of relationships with spouses, the pressures of the scientific race, and the thrill of discovery.
Timescape merits the tag “hard science fiction”; it tells the story of scientists, and readers can’t help but learn something about tachyons and physics while reading it. Yet much of the story is about humanity: the men John Renfrew and Gordon Bernstein and their relationships–between husband and wife, lover and lover, English working class and upper class, professor and student, and academician and colleagues.
Winner of the Nebula Award in 1980 and the John W. Clark Award in 1981, Timescape offers readers a great yarn, in terms of both humanity and science.
512 pages, ScienceFiction
I’m A Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson
Ex-expatriate Bryson, who chronicled one effort at American reentry in his bestselling A Walk in the Woods, collects another: the whimsical columns on America he wrote weekly, while living in New Hampshire in the mid-to-late 1990s, for a British Sunday newspaper. Although he happily describes himself as dazzled by American ease, friendliness and abundance, Bryson has no trouble finding comic targets, among them fast food, computer efficiency and, ironically, American friendliness and putative convenience. As he edges into Dave Barry-style hyperbole, Bryson sometimes strains for yuks, but he’s deft when he compares the two cultures, as in their different treatment of Christmas, pointing out how the British “pack all their festive excesses” into that single holiday. Bryson also nudges into domestic territory with regular references to his own British wife, the resolutely sensible Mrs. B. In a few columns, Bryson adopts a sentimental tone, writing about his family and his new hometown of Hanover. In others, he’s more sober, criticizing anti-immigration activists, environmental depredation and drug laws (though he draws out the humor in these as well).
304 pages, NonFiction
African Diary by Bill Bryson
Bryson visits Kenya at the invitation of CARE International, the charity dedicated to eradicating poverty. Kenya is a land of contrasts, with famous game reserves and a vibrant culture. It also provides plenty to worry a traveller like Bill Bryson, fixated as he is on the dangers posed by snakes, insects and large predators. It is also a country with many serious problems: refugees, AIDS, drought, and grinding poverty. The resultant diary, though short in length, contains the trademark Bryson stamp of wry observation and curious insight.
49 pages, NonFiction
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Before his return to the U.S. after a 20-year residence in England, journalist Bryson (Made in America) embarked on a farewell tour of his adopted homeland. His trenchant, witty and detailed observations of life in a variety of towns and villages will delight Anglophiles. Traveling only on public transportation and hiking whenever possible, Bryson wandered along the coast through Bournemouth and neighboring villages that reinforced his image of Britons as a people who rarely complain and are delighted by such small pleasures as a good tea. In Liverpool, the author’s favorite English city, he visited the Merseyside Maritime Museum to experience its past as a great port. Interweaving descriptions of landscapes and everyday encounters with shopkeepers, pub customers and fellow travelers, Bryson shares what he loves best about the idiosyncrasies of everyday English life in this immensely entertaining travel memoir.
324 pages, NonFiction
At Home by Bill Bryson
With his signature wit, charm, and seemingly limitless knowledge, Bill Bryson takes us on a room-by-room tour through his own house, using each room as a jumping off point into the vast history of the domestic artifacts we take for granted. As he takes us through the history of our modern comforts, Bryson demonstrates that whatever happens in the world eventually ends up in our home, in the paint, the pipes, the pillows, and every item of furniture. Bryson has one of the liveliest, most inquisitive minds on the planet, and his sheer prose fluency makes At Home one of the most entertaining books ever written about private life.
592 pages, NonFiction
The Petting Zoo by Jim Carroll
When poet, musician, and diarist Jim Carroll died in September 2009, he was putting the finishing touches on a potent work of fiction. The Petting Zoo tells the story of Billy Wolfram, an enigmatic thirty- eight-year-old artist who has become a hot star in the late-1980s New York art scene. As the novel opens, Billy, after viewing a show of Velazquez paintings, is so humbled and awed by their spiritual power that he suffers an emotional breakdown and withdraws to his Chelsea loft. In seclusion, Billy searches for the divine spark in his own work and life. Carroll’s novel moves back and forth in time to present emblematic moments from Billy’s life (his Irish Catholic upbringing, his teenage escapades, his evolution as an artist and meteoric rise to fame) and sharply etched portraits of the characters who mattered most to him, including his childhood friend Denny MacAbee, now a famous rock musician; his mentor, the unforgettable art dealer Max Bernbaum; and one extraordinary black bird. Marked by Carroll’s sharp wit, hallucinatory imagery, and street-smart style, The Petting Zoo is a frank, haunting examination of one artist’s personal and professional struggles.
336 pages, Fiction
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Released from prison, Shadow finds his world turned upside down. His wife has been killed; a mysterious stranger offers him a job. But Mr. Wednesday, who knows more about Shadow than is possible, warns that a storm is coming — a battle for the very soul of America . . . and they are in its direct path. One of the most talked-about books of the new millennium, American Gods is a kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth and across an American landscape at once eerily familiar and utterly alien. It is, quite simply, a contemporary masterpiece.
624 pages, ScienceFiction
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
Why are lovers quicker to forgive their partners for infidelity than for leaving dirty dishes in the sink?• Why will sighted people pay more to avoid going blind than blind people will pay to regain their sight? • Why do dining companions insist on ordering different meals instead of getting what they really want? • Why do pigeons seem to have such excellent aim; why can’t we remember one song while listening to another; and why does the line at the grocery store always slow down the moment we join it?In this brilliant, witty, and accessible book, renowned Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert describes the foibles of imagination and illusions of foresight that cause each of us to misconceive our tomorrows and misestimate our satisfactions. Vividly bringing to life the latest scientific research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, Gilbert reveals what scientists have discovered about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future, and about our capacity to predict how much we will like it when we get there. With penetrating insight and sparkling prose, Gilbert explains why we seem to know so little about the hearts and minds of the people we are about to become.
336 pages, NonFiction
Shopgirl by Steve Martin
Mirabelle is the “shopgirl” of the title, a young woman, beautiful in a wallflowerish kind of way, who works behind the glove counter at Neiman Marcus “selling things that nobody buys anymore…” Slightly lost, slightly off-kilter, very shy, Mirabelle charms because of all that she is not: not glamorous, not aggressive, not self-aggrandizing. Still there is something about her that is irresistible. Mirabelle captures the attention of Ray Porter, a wealthy businessman almost twice her age. As they tentatively embark on a relationship, they both struggle to decipher the language of love — with consequences that are both comic and heartbreaking. Filled with the kind of witty, discerning observations that have brought Steve Martin critical success, Shopgirl is a work of disarming tenderness.
144 pages, Fiction
Embassytown by China Mieville
In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak. Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.
368 pages, ScienceFiction
Kill Me If You Can by James Patterson
Matthew Bannon, a poor art student living in New York City, finds a duffel bag filled with diamonds during a chaotic attack at Grand Central Station. Plans for a worry-free life with his stunning girlfriend Katherine fill his thoughts–until he realizes that he is being hunted, and that whoever is after him won’t stop until they have reclaimed the diamonds and exacted their revenge.Trailing him is the Ghost, the world’s greatest assassin, who has just pulled off his most high-profile hit: killing Walter Zelvas, a top member of the international Diamond Syndicate. There’s only one small problem: the diamonds he was supposed to retrieve from Zelvas are missing. Now, the Ghost is on Bannon’s trail–but so is a rival assassin who would like nothing more than to make the Ghost disappear forever. From “America’s #1 storyteller” (Forbes) comes a high-speed, high-stakes, winner-take-all thrill ride of adrenaline-fueled suspense.
384 pages, Fiction
America Alone by Mark Steyn
In “America Alone”, Mark Steyn uses his trademark wit, clarity of thought and flair for the apocalyptic, Mark Steyn to argue that America is the only hope against Islamic Terrorism. Steyn addresses the singular position in which America finds itself, surrounded by anti-Americanism on all sides. He gives us the brutal facts on these threats and why there is no choice but for America to fight for the cause of freedom – alone.
224 pages, NonFiction
After America by Mark Steyn
In his giant New York Times bestseller, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, Mark Steyn predicted collapse for the rest of the Western World. Now, he adds, America has caught up with Europe on the great rush to self-destruction.
It’s not just our looming financial collapse; it’s not just a culture that seems on a fast track to perdition, full of hapless, indulgent, childish people who think government has the answer for every problem; it’s not just America’s potential eclipse as a world power because of the drunken sailor policymaking in Washington–no, it’s all this and more that spells one word for America: Armageddon.
What will a world without American leadership look like? It won’t be pretty–not for you and not for your children. America’s decline won’t be gradual, like an aging Europe sipping espresso at a cafe until extinction (and the odd Greek or Islamist riot). No, America’s decline will be a wrenching affair marked by violence and possibly secession.
400 pages, NonFiction