Review: How We Got to Now

How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson
How We Got to Now
by Steven Johnson

Title:  How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World
Author: Steven Johnson
Published: 2015
ISBN-13: 9781594633935
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Twitter:  @StevenBJohnson

Steven Johnson picked six topics we take for granted in our modern-day lives and explores how these topics became so important.  For instance, he tells the story of standardized time by first telling the story of sea trade and railroads and multitudinous time zones until someone had the idea of synchronizing our clocks.  Which then led to even greater discoveries and implementations.

I’m a big James Burke fan.  My favorite episode of Connections was the one in which he explained how Jacquard weaving patterns led to Hollerith computer cards which led to modern computer programming.  I’m also a history nerd and love multi-disciplinary works like Johnson’s.

The topics are relevant and interesting.  Johnson’s writing style makes some the complexities easy to understand, and offers up intriguing anecdotes about how things like Clean came to be such a big deal.

One of the best things in this book is Johnson’s reminders that innovations don’t happen on their own.  Creativity builds on the work of others, often over many years of trial and error

The Six Topics are:
1. Glass
2. Cold
3. Sound
4. Clean
5. Time
6. Light

Review: Baby You’re a Rich Man

Baby You're a Rich Man by Stan Soocher
Baby You’re a Rich Man
by Stan Soocher

Title: Baby You’re a Rich Man: Suing the Beatles for Fun and Profit
Author: Stan Soocher
Published: 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1-61168-380-5
Publisher: ForeEdge

This was a LibraryThing Advance Reading Copy, which I received in exchange for an honest review.

I was looking forward to learning more about behind the scenes Beatles.  Reading about the lawsuits against them, and the people who got rich from these suits seemed a fascinating way to go.  Not so much.

Stan Soocher’s deeply researched book does tell every single detail (or so it seems) of the convoluted legal world of The Beatles from their first manager, Brian Epstein, to their last, Allen Klein.  But after a while, it reads like a laundry list of industry moguls suing each other and The Beatles in a frenzy of mean-spirited greediness.  Some of the lawsuits seem to be filed out of spite.  Those are just the outsiders.  The suits between the members of the group are a reflection of their evolution from  young Liverpool lads to mature artists realizing that many of the events happening to them are neither what they expected, nor what they wanted as artists.

The most interesting part was the intertwined lawsuits against John Lennon and Yoko Ono.  Not only was J. Edgar Hoover’s campaign to have Lennon expelled from the US for his vocal political views against the Viet Nam war, but Yoko’s ex-husband was playing games with custody of her daughter with him.  Lennon and Ono were caught in a Catch-22 of suits which hampered their ability to resolve anything.

The odious Allen Klein looms large for much of the book, finding new and distasteful ways to put more of The Beatles’ money into his own pocket.  It was almost a never-ending litany of fleecing his clients by law suit.

Soocher’s detailed writing tends to be dry.  Not quite completely boring, but not quite enthralling either.

 

What’s Up With all Those Reviews?

I have the week off so I’m concentrating on getting things virtual, and non-virtual, cleaned up.  There are a lot of drafts of reviews cluttering up backstage, so I’m updating them a bit and scheduling them for publishing during the next so many consecutive days.

It won’t be that my output has increased, there’s still a stack on my desk to be reviewed.  And they won’t be as detailed as some of the recent reviews because some of these are from two years ago.  *GASP*

I was still getting used to the idea of writing reviews thinking I had anything to say about the multiplicity of books surrounding me.

Truth be told, I still wonder whether I have anything to say.  But I keep writing the reviews because it’s fun for me.  And now, I’m starting to get requests from authors to review their books which I find flattering beyond belief.  Jeeples!!!

Thank you for reading.  Thank you for your requests.  I’m so grateful to have so many books to read and write about.

Review: Sand

Sand by Hugh Howey

Title:   Sand
Author:  Hugh Howey
Twitter: HughHowey
Published: 2014
ISBN-13: : 978-1328767547
Publisher:  Mariner Books
Publisher’s Blurb:
The old world is buried. A new one has been forged atop the shifting dunes. Here in this land of howling wind and infernal sand, four siblings find themselves scattered and lost. Their father was a sand diver, one of the elite few who could travel deep beneath the desert floor and bring up the relics and scraps that keep their people alive. But their father is gone. And the world he left behind might be next.

“It was strange how tense one could become while surrounded by the banal.  It was the waiting, waiting.”  (p. 78)

Hugh Howey shot to the top of my favorite authors’ list with his Wool trilogy.  His dystopian world-building is solid, as are his characters and their relationships to each other, and their harsh living conditions.

In Sand, Colorado has been covered by … sand.  Familiar city names have become bastardized versions of themselves.  The biggest lost city was once Denver but is now Danver.  Danver is El Dorado.  Everyone’s heard the myth that lost treasure can be found in Danver; enough wealth to make life worthwhile, if not pleasant.  Pirates and sand divers from all over have searched for Danver to no avail.  Until one day …

The main protagonist, Palmer, is a highly skilled sand diver.  Able to go deeper than most others, his talents are well known.  He and a friend are hired by a group of brigands to dive and bring back proof that this location is the mythical Danver.

It is indeed.  And then everything goes wrong.  Because, the brigands don’t want the buried treasure, they want something more valuable and dangerous.  Power.

And thus we have another dystopian political thriller.  A good one, albeit a little light on the details of how Colorado became the sand covered danger that it has become.

Sand’s main protagonist is brother to three siblings, abandoned by their father who left for another not-so-mythical destination, No Man’s Land.  It’s supposed to be a better place where the rebels are gathering to join forces and devise a way to take Colorado back from the greedy forces in power.

And while that’s a common theme in political thrillers, Howey manages to give it a twist, and make it much more interesting.  I like his world-building a lot, and the quirks he gives his characters are really entertaining.

Sand is about more than survival, though.  It’s about community, family, and trust.  It’s about figuring out who we are and what matters.  And that’s what resonated for me.