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    1. Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk, my take. Discussion welcome.

      Adjustment Day is a parody, at least I hope it is, of a United States dystopia. The concept is rather ambitious, but the author rises to the task. The prime conspiracy theory behind the book is...

      Adjustment Day is a parody, at least I hope it is, of a United States dystopia. The concept is rather ambitious, but the author rises to the task. The prime conspiracy theory behind the book is that throughout history, civilization has periodically weeded out young men of 18-24 through war and whatever other means available to keep society from returning to the dark ages. Who does this in the U.S? Why, your government, of course.

      In this version of the conspiracy, the young men turn the tables. Most of the book is about what happens after Adjustment Day. I've only read Fight Club and Choke by Palahniuk before this. All I can say is the cynicism and nihilism of those two books seems increased tenfold in Adjustment Day. Do you have a conservative conspiracy theory that you think about from time to time? They're all in here. I'd even bet that the author comes up with some you've never heard before.

      In a satire that is as biting as The Sellout, Palahniuk presents several characters who live through the aftermath of the event, including the originator of it. But instead of nobody talking about it, (like in Fight Club) everybody is talking about this new bizarre movement/social-political revolution. As you go down this rabbit hole of irrational rationalization, it's easy to lose sight of what is going on. Scenes and characters are switched at the beginning of random paragraphs, causing me to back up every few pages.

      A good example of Palahniuk's treatment of infrastructure is given by a new form of money that comes out of the movement:

      Officially, the order called them Talbotts, but everyone knew them as skins. Rumor was the first batches were refined from, somehow crafted from the stretched and bleached skin taken from targeted persons. People seemed to take a hysterical joy from the idea.
      Instead of being backed by gold or the full faith of government or some such, this money was backed by death. The suggestion was always that failure to accept the new currency and honor its face value might result in the rejecter being targeted. Never was this stated, not overtly, but the message was always on television and billboards: Please Report Anyone Failing to Honor the Talbott. The bills held their face value for as long as a season, but faded faster in strong light and fastest in sunlight. A faded bill held less value as the markers along the edges became illegible.

      Because the money had a shelf life, people had to work all the time. At the top of the hierarchy were the young men who had put their lives on the line during the Adjustment Day revolution. They would get the money from some source and give it away to their workers and people they knew, spending it all as fast as they could.

      If that sounds ridiculous, you haven't even scratched the surface of this world. Chief among the topics are racism and prejudice toward everyone you can imagine. All in all I found the book a little tedious. Palahniuk puts the crazy theories in the mouths of people who voice them so convincingly that it becomes surreal. If you're a fan of the author you might like it. But practically every paragraph seems engineered to be offensive in some way, to someone.

      Let's just hope Chuck is making all this stuff up.

      6 votes
    2. Reflections on Farenheit 451, published 65 years ago

      Finished this last night. It's been so long since I read any Bradbury for the first time. His style shows some age, but he's a really poetic and visionary writer. Published in 1953, this tale is a...

      Finished this last night. It's been so long since I read any Bradbury for the first time. His style shows some age, but he's a really poetic and visionary writer.

      Published in 1953, this tale is a battle between visual media and books, but taking the form of the fleeting versus the permanent, the here and now versus history, pop culture versus capital C Culture.

      In a way, its datedness is a strength, because of so much of Bradbury's prophetic vision and because of the way his 1950's idea of dystopia contrasts with the more numerous recent ideas.

      If there was ever an object lesson about filter bubbles, Farenheit 451 is it: recent enough to be relatable and distant enough to be outside our current filters. Readers should take note of this when relating and evaluating fiction and any work that lies outside their personal space. A valuable lesson in itself.

      So often we're totally unaware of the walls we create for ourselves, our comfort zone. It's precisely because they provide comfort that we tend to stay within them.

      And of course, Bradbury's whole novel is both about this issue and again a reference object for it.

      8 votes
    3. Irrational Exuberance by Robert J Shiller

      Irrational Exuberance is a seminal work on market valuations. First published in March 2000, it compared the US stock market valuations to historical market valuations using both the tradition...

      Irrational Exuberance is a seminal work on market valuations.

      First published in March 2000, it compared the US stock market valuations to historical market valuations using both the tradition price earnings (PE) metric as well as a cyclically adjusted price earnings (CAPE) measure. The conclusion was the US stock market was overvalued compared to earnings.

      A few months later, the dot com market crashed.

      Revised in 2005, it compared US housing prices to historical prices using Shillers' own inflation adjustments as well as by comparing housing prices to housing rents. The conclusion was the US housing market was overvalued compared to historical inflation adjusted prices and compared to current rents.

      A few years later, the US housing market crashed.

      Revised a third time in 2015, it concluded that bond yields were globally unattractive, the stock market was overheated, the global housing market was frothy, and only the US housing market seemed reasonably priced.

      The penny has not yet dropped, but that doesn't stop the media trotting out Shiller whenever the market drops a few percentage points.

      This book has created the Case-Shiller housing index, and has generated substantial debate about the usefulness of CAPE vs PE.

      3 votes
    4. Daily Book - Stephen King: The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

      Book Plot: Spoilers The book opens by introducing the gunslinger, Roland Deschain, who is on a journey to find the Man in Black. As he ventures across the desert with his mule, he meets a farmer...
                                                                    Book Plot: Spoilers
      

      The book opens by introducing the gunslinger, Roland Deschain, who is on a journey to find the Man in Black. As he ventures across the desert with his mule, he meets a farmer who goes by the name of Brown with his crow, Zoltan. The gunslinger begins to tell of the time he spent in the town of Tull. When Roland first comes to Tull, he missed the Man in Black possibly by a week. It is later revealed to Roland by the barmaid, Alice, that during his stay the Man in Black brought a dead weed eater by the name of Nort back to life. Roland makes Sylvia reveal to him that she is pregnant with the Man in Black's child (more importantly the child of the Crimson King). Roland uses his gun and rips the unborn monstrosity out of Sylvia. Outraged, Sylvia convinces the entire town of Tull that Roland is the spawn of the devil. Roland guns down the entire town of Tull: men, women, children, and even his lover, Alice. The story refocuses on Roland at the dwelling of Brown. Roland goes to sleep and wakes up to Brown telling him that his mule died of heat exhaustion and wonders if he can eat it. Roland leaves on foot to continue his pursuit of the Man in Black.

      As his journey continues, Roland happens upon a way station and sees someone there in the distance. Roland believes this to be the Man in Black, but finds out it is a young boy by the name of Jake Chambers. Roland is near death when he arrives at the way station and Jake brings him jerky and water from an atomic slug water pump. Jake tells Roland that the Man in Black passed by a few days before. The way Jake talks reveals that he is not from Roland's world. Roland asks Jake about where he came from, but Jake cannot remember anything. Roland proceeds to hypnotize Jake and learn about where he came from.

      Jake reveals to Roland that he is from New York and was on his way to school when a man dressed like a priest snuck up on him and pushed him into the street. Roland believes this man to be the Man in Black. Jake is then hit by a car and dies, but not before the priest approaches him and blesses him.

      As they prepare to leave, Roland goes down to the cellar and encounters a demon speaking to him from a hole in the wall. After their palaver, Roland reaches into the hole and pulls out a jawbone. They then depart from the way station, and eventually make their way out of the desert into somewhat more welcoming lands. Roland awakes in the middle of the night to find Jake gone. Roland tracks down Jake and finds him about to be taken by the Oracle of the mountains. Roland uses the jawbone to lure the Oracle away from Jake. He then gives Jake the jawbone to concentrate on while he is gone and couples with the oracle himself in order to learn of his fate and path to the Dark Tower. Once Roland returns, Jake discards the jawbone. Come morning, they continue their trek to the mountains.

      Along the trek Roland tells Jake a bit about his past. He tells of Hax, the cook, who was hanged for being an aid to the enemy. Hax was to poison the town of Farson/Taunton. Roland and his friend Cuthbert overhear the plot and alert their fathers of the traitor. Hax is hanged and the boys are allowed to watch with permission from their fathers.

      Roland also reveals how he became a gunslinger at the age of 14. As he is walking home, his father's advisor Marten Broadcloak calls Roland to see his mother, Gabrielle, in Marten's bed covering her shame. Angry, Roland charges off to challenge Cort so he may receive his guns. He defeats Cort with the use of his hawk, David.

      Roland and Jake soon come to the mountains and enter a series of tunnels under the mountains riding on a mine cart. On their journey, they are attacked by a group of Slow Mutants. Roland battles the Slow Mutants and they move along without the mine cart. They eventually come upon the exit from the tunnels. Jake trips and is left dangling from the tracks. As Roland tries to help him, the Man in Black appears and tells Roland that if he saves the boy then he will never catch him. Roland decides to let Jake fall; Jake knows this and spouts, "Go then. There are other worlds than these." Jake then falls to his death as Roland goes to talk with the Man in Black.

      They meet in a golgotha and palaver. The Man in Black reads Roland's fate from Tarot cards. Roland's fate includes The Sailor, The Prisoner, The Lady of Shadows, death, life (which the Man in Black burns), and the Tower at the center of everything. The Man in Black tells Roland he is only a pawn for Roland's true enemy who now controls the Tower itself. The Man in Black tries to convince Roland to give up on his quest by creating a representation of the universe and showing him how insignificant he is. Roland refuses and is forced into sleep. When he awakens, ten years have passed and there is a skeleton next to him, which he believes to be the Man in Black. Roland departs from the Golgotha and sits at the edge of the Western Sea contemplating the next step in his quest for the Dark Tower.

      7 votes
    5. Daily Book: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson ( Hard Science Fiction )

      At some unspecified date in the near future, an unknown agent causes the Moon to shatter into seven pieces. As the remnants of the Moon begin to collide with one another, astronomer and science...

      At some unspecified date in the near future, an unknown agent causes the Moon to shatter into seven pieces. As the remnants of the Moon begin to collide with one another, astronomer and science popularizer "Doc" Dubois Harris calculates that the number of collisions will increase exponentially. A large number of moon fragments will begin entering Earth's atmosphere, forming a "white sky" and blanketing the earth within two years with what he calls a "Hard Rain" of bolides; this will cause the atmosphere to heat to incandescence and oceans to boil away, destroying the biosphere and rendering Earth uninhabitable for thousands of years. It is decided to evacuate as many people and resources as possible to a "Cloud Ark" in orbit, including a "swarm" of "arklet" habitats that will be able to avoid the debris from the moon—both to attempt to preserve the human race and to give the remaining doomed inhabitants of Earth something to hope for, to prevent civil disorder from breaking out on Earth before its surface is destroyed. Each nation on Earth is invited to choose by lot a small number of young people to become eligible to join the Cloud Ark.

      The Cloud Ark is to be based around the International Space Station (ISS), currently commanded by American astronaut Ivy Xiao. The ISS is already bolted onto an iron Arjuna asteroid called Amalthea, which provides some protection against moon debris. Robots are used to excavate Amalthea to provide more protection in a project run by mining and robotics engineer Dinah MacQuarie. Technicians and specialists, including Doc Dubois, are sent to the ISS in advance of the Hard Rain to prepare it to become the headquarters of the Cloud Ark.

      The plan is that the Cloud Ark must be self-sufficient for 5,000 years and capable of repopulating Earth once it is habitable again. A Human Genetic Archive is sent to the Cloud Ark, with the intention that it will be used to rebuild the human population. Approximately 1,500 people are launched into space in the two years before the Hard Rain begins.

      Suspecting that some architects of the Cloud Ark are interested only in pacifying Earth's inhabitants with false hope (rather than creating an environment that will actually survive in the long term), a billionaire named Sean Probst realizes that the Cloud Ark will need a ready supply of water in order to provide propellant for the space station and to prevent it from eventually falling into the earth's atmosphere. He embarks on a two-year expedition to extract ice from a comet nicknamed Greg's Skeleton, using a nuclear reactor to provide power to bring it back towards Earth.

      The Hard Rain begins approximately two years after the destruction of the moon as predicted; human civilization as well as nearly all life on Earth is obliterated, although some try to take shelter underground (such as Dinah's father) or in the deep ocean (such as Ivy's fiancé). Markus Leuker, appointed leader of the Cloud Ark, declares all nations of Earth to be dissolved, and imposes martial law under the Cloud Ark Constitution. Despite a worldwide agreement that members of government will not be launched into space, the President of the United States, Julia Bliss Flaherty, manages to get herself sent to the Cloud Ark at the last minute. Shortly afterwards the main cache of the physical Human Genetic Archive attached to the ISS is ruined by the thrusters of an arklet passing too closely, leaving only samples that had been distributed amongst the arks.

      There is disagreement on the Cloud Ark about the best way to organize its society and avoid the debris of the moon. Some "Arkies" favor converting the Cloud Ark into a decentralized swarm of small space vessels at a higher orbit out of range of debris, rather than maintaining the central authority of the ISS. Doc Dubois wants to shelter in the "Cleft", a crevasse on the now-exposed iron core of the moon. Others want to go to Mars. Julia Flaherty starts to acquire a coterie of followers and encourages the proponents of the decentralized swarm plan.

      Sean Probst's expedition has succeeded, and he has brought a comet into an orbit that will soon pass by Earth. His radio has failed and he has built a replacement by hand, and is able to communicate with Dinah MacQuarie by Morse code. However, he and his party die of radiation sickness caused by fallout from their nuclear reactor long before the expedition is complete. Markus Leuker and Dinah travel to the comet with a small crew to take control of it and bring it back to the Cloud Ark, in order to provide sufficient propellant to reach the Cleft on the moon's core. Just before Dinah returns with the ice as the sole survivor of the mission, Julia Flaherty persuades the majority of the population to abandon the ISS and move to higher orbit in a decentralized swarm, and sends a preliminary expedition to Mars. In the course of their sudden, unauthorized departure the ISS sustains catastrophic damage to many sections. The surviving portions of the Human Genetic Archive are carried along with them, but due to the Arkies' ignorance, these surviving portions are discarded or ignored. Only the digital version of the Human Genetic Archive survives aboard the ISS. The ISS and remaining third of the cloud ark combine through reshaping the ice into a support structure, and is rechristened Endurance.

      During the three years that it takes for Endurance to reach the Cleft, the majority of its population die of various causes (cancer caused by cosmic radiation, suicide, bolide strikes, etc.); by the time they are within range of the Cleft, only about 30 survivors remain. Julia Bliss Flaherty's Swarm splits into two factions, who fight; Flaherty's faction is defeated. Running out of food, the Swarm resorts to cannibalism, and by the end of three years only 11 survive, including Flaherty and the leader of the opposing faction, Aïda. Aïda requests to reunite the remnant of the Swarm with the Cloud Ark before it reaches the Cleft, but secretly plans a battle for control of Endurance; as a result of that battle the population is diminished even further.

      By the time Endurance reaches the relative safety of the Cleft, there are only eight surviving Homo sapiens in space, all of whom are women. One, the sociologist Luisa, has reached menopause, and the remaining seven (Dinah, Ivy, Aïda, Tekla, Camila, Moira, and Julia) come to be known as the Seven Eves. The Human Genetic Archive has been destroyed, but they have sufficient resources to use the surviving genetics laboratory to rebuild the human race by parthenogenesis. They agree that each of the Seven Eves gets to choose how her offspring will be genetically modified or enhanced. Aïda predicts that, hundreds of years from now, this project shall result in seven new races.

      The narrative jumps to 5,000 years later. There are now three billion humans living in a ring around the Earth, and they have indeed formed into seven races, each one descended from and named after the Seven Eves who survived the events of Part 2. These races have quite distinct characteristics, including "Moirans" who can undergo "epigenetic shifts", radically changing their bodies in response to new environments. The iron core of the moon has mostly been used to build space habitats, but the Cleft itself has been turned into "Cradle", an exclusive piece of real estate attached to a tether that occasionally "docks" with Earth.

      Humanity has divided mostly along racial lines into two states, Red and Blue, which are engaged in a form of Cold War characterized by cultural isolation, espionage and border skirmishes, mediated by treaty agreements more honored in the breach than the observance.

      The orbiting races, the Spacers, terraform Earth by crashing ice comets into it to replenish the oceans, and seed the planet with genetically created organisms based upon re-sequenced DNA data saved from the escape to orbit. Once a breathable atmosphere is recreated, and sufficient plant and animal species have been reseeded, some members of the orbiting races ("Sooners") resettle the planet, in violation of treaty agreements.

      A "Seven", a group of seven people with one member from each race, is recruited by "Doc" Hu Noah, to investigate mysterious people who have been sighted on Earth. As the story unfolds, they discover that some humans did indeed survive the Hard Rain on the planet by living in deep mines ("Diggers"), while others survived in ocean trenches using submarines ("Pingers"). Although these survivors have also evolved socially and biologically to form two additional races, the survival of root stock humanity separate from the Seven Eves causes turmoil in Spacer high politics. Ground conflict eventually occurs because each of the orbiting camps (Red and Blue) wishes to establish a preferential or exclusive relationship with the Earthbound races: the Diggers, although descendants of Dinah's family, interpret the Blue state's presence on their territory as an act of aggression and develop an alliance with Red, prompting Blue to seek out an alliance with the Pingers on the strength of Ivy's connection with one of their founders. Matters are further complicated because the Diggers claim all of the Earth's land surface as their own, and initially hold the Spacers in disdain (despite their high technology) for having fled the planet eons ago.

      In an epilogue it is revealed that a separate, secret underwater ark had been created concurrently with the cloud ark, leading to the development of the Pingers, based on analysis of the "selfies" Ivy's fiance had sent her, using diagrams and sketches in the background as clues. Ty invites the surviving Seven (along with Sonar and Deep, representatives of the Diggers and the Pingers, respectively) back to apartments at his bar in the Cleft with the intent of forming the first "Nine".

      7 votes
    6. Daily Book: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson ( Hard Science Fiction )

      At some unspecified date in the near future, an unknown agent causes the Moon to shatter into seven pieces. As the remnants of the Moon begin to collide with one another, astronomer and science...

      At some unspecified date in the near future, an unknown agent causes the Moon to shatter into seven pieces. As the remnants of the Moon begin to collide with one another, astronomer and science popularizer "Doc" Dubois Harris calculates that the number of collisions will increase exponentially. A large number of moon fragments will begin entering Earth's atmosphere, forming a "white sky" and blanketing the earth within two years with what he calls a "Hard Rain" of bolides; this will cause the atmosphere to heat to incandescence and oceans to boil away, destroying the biosphere and rendering Earth uninhabitable for thousands of years. It is decided to evacuate as many people and resources as possible to a "Cloud Ark" in orbit, including a "swarm" of "arklet" habitats that will be able to avoid the debris from the moon—both to attempt to preserve the human race and to give the remaining doomed inhabitants of Earth something to hope for, to prevent civil disorder from breaking out on Earth before its surface is destroyed. Each nation on Earth is invited to choose by lot a small number of young people to become eligible to join the Cloud Ark.

      The Cloud Ark is to be based around the International Space Station (ISS), currently commanded by American astronaut Ivy Xiao. The ISS is already bolted onto an iron Arjuna asteroid called Amalthea, which provides some protection against moon debris. Robots are used to excavate Amalthea to provide more protection in a project run by mining and robotics engineer Dinah MacQuarie. Technicians and specialists, including Doc Dubois, are sent to the ISS in advance of the Hard Rain to prepare it to become the headquarters of the Cloud Ark.

      The plan is that the Cloud Ark must be self-sufficient for 5,000 years and capable of repopulating Earth once it is habitable again. A Human Genetic Archive is sent to the Cloud Ark, with the intention that it will be used to rebuild the human population. Approximately 1,500 people are launched into space in the two years before the Hard Rain begins.

      Suspecting that some architects of the Cloud Ark are interested only in pacifying Earth's inhabitants with false hope (rather than creating an environment that will actually survive in the long term), a billionaire named Sean Probst realizes that the Cloud Ark will need a ready supply of water in order to provide propellant for the space station and to prevent it from eventually falling into the earth's atmosphere. He embarks on a two-year expedition to extract ice from a comet nicknamed Greg's Skeleton, using a nuclear reactor to provide power to bring it back towards Earth.

      The Hard Rain begins approximately two years after the destruction of the moon as predicted; human civilization as well as nearly all life on Earth is obliterated, although some try to take shelter underground (such as Dinah's father) or in the deep ocean (such as Ivy's fiancé). Markus Leuker, appointed leader of the Cloud Ark, declares all nations of Earth to be dissolved, and imposes martial law under the Cloud Ark Constitution. Despite a worldwide agreement that members of government will not be launched into space, the President of the United States, Julia Bliss Flaherty, manages to get herself sent to the Cloud Ark at the last minute. Shortly afterwards the main cache of the physical Human Genetic Archive attached to the ISS is ruined by the thrusters of an arklet passing too closely, leaving only samples that had been distributed amongst the arks.

      There is disagreement on the Cloud Ark about the best way to organize its society and avoid the debris of the moon. Some "Arkies" favor converting the Cloud Ark into a decentralized swarm of small space vessels at a higher orbit out of range of debris, rather than maintaining the central authority of the ISS. Doc Dubois wants to shelter in the "Cleft", a crevasse on the now-exposed iron core of the moon. Others want to go to Mars. Julia Flaherty starts to acquire a coterie of followers and encourages the proponents of the decentralized swarm plan.

      Sean Probst's expedition has succeeded, and he has brought a comet into an orbit that will soon pass by Earth. His radio has failed and he has built a replacement by hand, and is able to communicate with Dinah MacQuarie by Morse code. However, he and his party die of radiation sickness caused by fallout from their nuclear reactor long before the expedition is complete. Markus Leuker and Dinah travel to the comet with a small crew to take control of it and bring it back to the Cloud Ark, in order to provide sufficient propellant to reach the Cleft on the moon's core. Just before Dinah returns with the ice as the sole survivor of the mission, Julia Flaherty persuades the majority of the population to abandon the ISS and move to higher orbit in a decentralized swarm, and sends a preliminary expedition to Mars. In the course of their sudden, unauthorized departure the ISS sustains catastrophic damage to many sections. The surviving portions of the Human Genetic Archive are carried along with them, but due to the Arkies' ignorance, these surviving portions are discarded or ignored. Only the digital version of the Human Genetic Archive survives aboard the ISS. The ISS and remaining third of the cloud ark combine through reshaping the ice into a support structure, and is rechristened Endurance.

      During the three years that it takes for Endurance to reach the Cleft, the majority of its population die of various causes (cancer caused by cosmic radiation, suicide, bolide strikes, etc.); by the time they are within range of the Cleft, only about 30 survivors remain. Julia Bliss Flaherty's Swarm splits into two factions, who fight; Flaherty's faction is defeated. Running out of food, the Swarm resorts to cannibalism, and by the end of three years only 11 survive, including Flaherty and the leader of the opposing faction, Aïda. Aïda requests to reunite the remnant of the Swarm with the Cloud Ark before it reaches the Cleft, but secretly plans a battle for control of Endurance; as a result of that battle the population is diminished even further.

      By the time Endurance reaches the relative safety of the Cleft, there are only eight surviving Homo sapiens in space, all of whom are women. One, the sociologist Luisa, has reached menopause, and the remaining seven (Dinah, Ivy, Aïda, Tekla, Camila, Moira, and Julia) come to be known as the Seven Eves. The Human Genetic Archive has been destroyed, but they have sufficient resources to use the surviving genetics laboratory to rebuild the human race by parthenogenesis. They agree that each of the Seven Eves gets to choose how her offspring will be genetically modified or enhanced. Aïda predicts that, hundreds of years from now, this project shall result in seven new races.

      The narrative jumps to 5,000 years later. There are now three billion humans living in a ring around the Earth, and they have indeed formed into seven races, each one descended from and named after the Seven Eves who survived the events of Part 2. These races have quite distinct characteristics, including "Moirans" who can undergo "epigenetic shifts", radically changing their bodies in response to new environments. The iron core of the moon has mostly been used to build space habitats, but the Cleft itself has been turned into "Cradle", an exclusive piece of real estate attached to a tether that occasionally "docks" with Earth.

      Humanity has divided mostly along racial lines into two states, Red and Blue, which are engaged in a form of Cold War characterized by cultural isolation, espionage and border skirmishes, mediated by treaty agreements more honored in the breach than the observance.

      The orbiting races, the Spacers, terraform Earth by crashing ice comets into it to replenish the oceans, and seed the planet with genetically created organisms based upon re-sequenced DNA data saved from the escape to orbit. Once a breathable atmosphere is recreated, and sufficient plant and animal species have been reseeded, some members of the orbiting races ("Sooners") resettle the planet, in violation of treaty agreements.

      A "Seven", a group of seven people with one member from each race, is recruited by "Doc" Hu Noah, to investigate mysterious people who have been sighted on Earth. As the story unfolds, they discover that some humans did indeed survive the Hard Rain on the planet by living in deep mines ("Diggers"), while others survived in ocean trenches using submarines ("Pingers"). Although these survivors have also evolved socially and biologically to form two additional races, the survival of root stock humanity separate from the Seven Eves causes turmoil in Spacer high politics. Ground conflict eventually occurs because each of the orbiting camps (Red and Blue) wishes to establish a preferential or exclusive relationship with the Earthbound races: the Diggers, although descendants of Dinah's family, interpret the Blue state's presence on their territory as an act of aggression and develop an alliance with Red, prompting Blue to seek out an alliance with the Pingers on the strength of Ivy's connection with one of their founders. Matters are further complicated because the Diggers claim all of the Earth's land surface as their own, and initially hold the Spacers in disdain (despite their high technology) for having fled the planet eons ago.

      In an epilogue it is revealed that a separate, secret underwater ark had been created concurrently with the cloud ark, leading to the development of the Pingers, based on analysis of the "selfies" Ivy's fiance had sent her, using diagrams and sketches in the background as clues. Ty invites the surviving Seven (along with Sonar and Deep, representatives of the Diggers and the Pingers, respectively) back to apartments at his bar in the Cleft with the intent of forming the first "Nine".

      4 votes
    7. Daily book: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

      How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe Charles Yu's debut novel, How to Life Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, could be described as a story about contemporary family life...
                                                   How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
      

      Charles Yu's debut novel, How to Life Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, could be described as a story about contemporary family life disguised as science fiction. It concerns a young man who has spent most of the past decade in a small time machine in his job as a time machine repairman. He makes calls on people who have rented time machines for recreational purposes but have become stuck in time and must be rescued by him. As the novel progresses, it is revealed that this man's name is the same as that of the author, Charles Yu. The protagonist is a lonely and rather sad fellow, who spends much of his non-working hours drifting along in his capsule, thinking about his past and his parents, especially his father who disappeared long ago. Accompanied only by his dog and a computer that has the pixilated face of a female and a cartoon-like voice, Charles hopes to one day locate his father in some alternate universe to which he apparently has traveled in a time machine. Charles's parents, a few clients, and several street performers are the only other humans that he encounters during the course of the story. He makes one trip to a city in Minor Universe 31, a residential and entertainment world made mostly from a science fiction "substrate," where the company for which he works is headquartered. His objective is to have maintenance work done on his time machine and when he goes to pick it up, he encounters his future self. Panicking, he draws his service revolver and shoots his future self in the stomach, just as his future self is attempting to tell him that the key is the book. He has no idea what this means as he stumbles into his time machine and races away. On the capsule's console, he finds a manual-type book that has the same title as the novel.

      With the help of his computer, he realizes that he must read the book and make amendments and additions to it as he goes along. At some point in the future, he must give the completed book to his past self, who then will shoot him and begin the rewriting process again in an endless cycle. Charles realizes he has become stuck in a time loop. By the rules of time travel, if he changes anything that happens during this loop, he risks entering an alternate universe from which he might not emerge. Under the circumstances, escaping the time loop appears to be extremely difficult. He may be doomed to spend the rest of his life in the time machine, writing the book, giving it to himself, shooting himself, and starting the cycle again. The book is a manual about time travel, but it also offers advice on how such a traveler should live within or use time wisely. The main use of Charles's time is in thinking about his father and mother, but he begins visiting periods in his past in his time machine, watching his younger self interact with his parents. Eventually, he discovers that the book given to him by his future self is literally the key, because it holds a key that unlocks a box that his mother gave him, inside of which his father left clues to where he went in time. This inspires Charles to realize that he can break out of his time loop through the power of his mind and memory. He does so and rescues his father from the past time in which he is stuck. As the novel ends, it looks as if the family has a chance to regain normalcy and move forward with a better understanding of how to cope with the difficulties of life by facing the problems of the past with courage and honesty.

                             Praise
      

      “Glittering layers of gorgeous and playful meta-science-fiction. . . . Like [Douglas] Adams, Yu is very funny, usually proportional to the wildness of his inventions, but Yu’s sound and fury conceal (and construct) this novel’s dense, tragic, all-too-human heart. . . . Yu is a superhero of rendering human consciousness and emotion in the language of engineering and science. . . . A complex, brainy, genre-hopping joyride of a story, far more than the sum of its component parts, and smart and tragic enough to engage all regions of the brain and body.”
      —The New York Times Book Review

      “Compulsively rereadable. . . . Hilarious. . . . Yu has a crisp, intermittently lyrical prose style, one that’s comfortable with both math and sadness, moving seamlessly from delirious metafiction to the straight-faced prose of instruction-manual entries. . . . [The book itself] is like Steve Jobs’ ultimate hardware fetish, a dreamlike amalgam of functionality and predetermination.”
      —Los Angeles Times

      “Douglas Adams and Philip K. Dick are touchstones, but Yu’s sense of humor and narrative splashes of color–especially when dealing with a pretty solitary life and the bittersweet search for his father, a time travel pioneer who disappeared–set him apart within the narrative spaces of his own horizontal design. . . . A clever little story that will be looped in your head for days. No doubt it will be made into a movie, but let’s hope that doesn’t take away the heart.”
      —Austin Chronicle

      “If How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe contented itself with exploring that classic chestnut of speculative fiction, the time paradox, it would likely make for an enjoyable sci-fi yarn. But Yu’s novel is a good deal more ambitious, and ultimately more satisfying, than that. It’s about time travel and cosmology, yes, but it’s also about language and narrative — the more we learn about Minor Universe 31, the more it resembles the story space of the novel we’re reading, which is full of diagrams, footnotes, pages left intentionally (and meaningfully) blank and brief chapters from the owner’s manual of our narrator’s time machine. . . . . Yu grafts the laws of theoretical physics onto the yearnings of the human heart so thoroughly and deftly that the book’s technical language and mathematical proofs take on a sense of urgency.”
      —NPR

      “How to Live Safely is a book likely to generate a lot of discussion, within science fiction and outside, infuriating some readers while delighting many others.”
      —San Francisco Chronicle

      “An extraordinary work. . . . I read the entire book in one gulp.”
      —Chris Wallace, GQ

      “A great Calvino-esque thrill ride of a book.”
      —The Stranger

      “Science and metaphor get nice and cozy in Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. The novel joins the likes of Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story and Jillian Weise’s The Colony, fiction that borrows the tropes of sci-fi to tell high-tech self-actualization narratives.”
      —Portland Mercury

      “A brainy reverie of sexbots, rayguns, time travel and Buddhist zombie mothers. . . . Packed with deft emotional insight.”
      —The Economist

      “A funny, funny book, and it’s a good thing, too; because at its heart it’s a book about loneliness, regret, and the all-too-human desire to change the past.”
      —Tor.com

      “A keenly perceptive satire. . . . Yu’s novel is also a meditation on the essentials of human life at its innermost point.. . . Campy allusions to the original Star Wars trilogy, a cityscape worthy of the director’s cut of Blade Runner and a semi-coherent vocabulary of techno-jargon cement these disparate elements into a brilliant send-up of science fiction. . . . Perhaps it would be better to think of the instructional units of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe in terms of the chapters of social commentary which John Steinbeck placed into the plot structure of The Grapes of Wrath.”
      —California Literary Review

      “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is the rare book I pick up to read the first several pages, then decide to drop everything and finish at once. Emotionally resonant, funny, and as clever as any book I have read all year, this debut novel heralds the arrival of a talented young writer unafraid to take chances.”
      —largehearted boy

      “A wild and inventive first novel . . . has been compared to the novels of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Jonathan Lethem, and the fact that such comparisons are not out of line says everything necessary about Yu’s talent and future.”
      —Portland Oregonian

      “Bends the rules of time and literary convention.”
      —Seattle Weekly

      “Getting stuck with Yu in his time loop is like watching an episode of Doctor Who as written by the young Philip Roth. Even when recalling his most painful childhood moments, Yu makes fun of himself or pulls you into a silly description of fake physics experiments. In this way, he delivers one of the most clear-eyed descriptions of consciousness I’ve seen in literature: It’s full of self-mockery and self-deception, and yet somehow manages to keep its hands on the wheel, driving us forward into an unknowable future. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is intellectually demanding, but also emotionally rich and funny. . . . It’s clearly the work of a scifi geek who knows how to twist pop culture tropes into melancholy meditations on the nature of consciousness.”
      —io9

      “Funny [and] moving. . . . Charles Yu’s first novel is getting ready for lift-off, and it more than surpasses expectations which couldn’t be any higher after he was given the 5 Under 35 Award . . . How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe is one of the trippiest and most thoughtful novels I’ve read all year, one that begs for a single sit-down experience even if you’re left with a major head rush after the fact for having gulped down so many ideas in a solitary swoop. . . . Yu’s literary pyrotechnics come in a marvelously entertaining and accessible package, featuring a reluctant, time machine-operating hero on a continual quest to discover what really happened to his missing father, a mysterious book possibly answering all, and a computer with the most idiosyncratic personality since HAL or Deep Thought. . . . Like the work of Richard Powers . . . How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe fuses the scientific and the emotional in ways that bring about something new.”
      —Sarah Weinman, The Daily Beast

      “One of the best novels of 2010. . . . It is a wonderfully stunning, brilliant work of science fiction that goes to the heart of self-realization, happiness and connections. . . . Yu has accomplished something remarkable in this book, blending science fiction universes with his own, alternative self’s life, in a way, breaking past the bonds of the page and bringing the reader right into the action. . . . Simply, this is one of the absolute best time travel stories . . . even compared to works such as The Time Machine by H.G. Wells or the Doctor Who television series.”
      —SF Signal

      “Within a few pages I was hooked. . . . There are times when he starts off a paragraph about chronodiegetics that just sounds like pseudo-scientific gibberish meant to fill in some space. And then you realize that what he’s saying actually makes sense, that he’s actually figured out something really fascinating about the way time works, about the way fiction works, and the “Aha!” switch in your brain gets flipped. That happened more than once for me. There are so many sections here and there that I found myself wanting to share with somebody: Here—read this paragraph! Look at this sentence! Ok, now check this out!”
      —GeekDad, Wired.com

      “In this debut novel, Charles Yu continues his ambitious exploration of the fantastic with a whimsical yet sincere tribute to old-school science fiction and quantum physics. . . . A fascinating, philosophical and disorienting thriller about life and the context that gives it meaning.”
      —Kirkus, starred review

      “With Star Wars allusions, glimpses of a future world, and journeys to the past, as well as hilarious and poignant explanations of “chronodiegetics,” or the “theory of the nature and function of time within a narrative space,” Yu, winner of the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35 Award, constructs a clever, fluently metaphorical tale. A funny, brain-teasing, and wise take on archetypal father-and-son issues, the mysteries of time and memory, emotional inertia, and one sweet but bumbling misfit’s attempts to escape a legacy of sadness and isolation.”
      —Booklist

      “This book is cool as hell. If I could go back in time and read it earlier, I would.”
      —Colson Whitehead, author of Sag Harbor

      “Charles Yu is a tremendously clever writer, and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is marvelously written, sweetly geeky, good clean time-bending fun.”
      —Audrey Niffenegger, author of Her Fearful Symmetry and The Time Traveler’s Wife

      “Funny, touching, and weirdly beautiful. This book is awesome.”
      —Nick Harkaway, author of The Gone-Away World

      “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is that rare thing—a truly original novel. Charles Yu has built a strange, beautiful, intricate machine, with a pulse that carries as much blood as it does electricity.”
      —Kevin Brockmeier, author of The View from the Seventh Layer and The Brief History of the Dead

      “Poignant, hilarious, and electrically original. Bends time, mind, and genre.”
      —David Eagleman, author of Sum

      4 votes
    8. Daily Book - Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Sleeping Giants is a science fiction novel by Sylvain Neuvel in which an unknown interviewer and scientist Rose Franklin attempt to decipher the alien origins and purpose of a giant robotic weapon. Told by way of case files – transcripts, diary entries, and other documents – the novel spans the course of four years, beginning with a prologue set when Rose is 11 years old.

      When the novel begins, Rose takes out the bike she has received for her birthday, only to fall into a massive hole near Deadwood, South Dakota, in which is a giant hand. Seventeen years later, Rose now spearheads the effort to determine what the hand is, and to crack the code of the symbols featured on it. At the same time, two American pilots, Kara Resnik and Ryan Mitchell, testing Syrian airspace for radiation, return over Turkey when another body part appears beneath them, activated by the radiation they trail. Because of this, Kara and Ryan are tasked to be a part of Rose’s team. A French-Canadian linguist, Vincent Couture, is brought on board to help decipher the symbols. Scouring the globe, the team completes the robot.

      The team is watched over, protected by, and instigated by an unknown interviewer (to whom the files belong and who appears in most of the files speaking to the members of the team). The interviewer has immense power that spans presidential administrations, and indeed he only has two equals: the sitting president and an unidentified subject whom he meets in Washington D.C. The unidentified subject turns out to be the descendant of alien soldiers who came to Earth as the most far-flung colony of their alien empire, to guard it against the threat of invasion using giant war machines. When the danger had passed, they left one robot behind in pieces so that when humanity advanced enough technologically, it could operate the robot on its own and prove worthy of alien contact – or destruction. The ability to master the atom for war is the sign of humanity’s advancement, and progress by the 2010s has allowed the robot to be found, reassembled, and activated, for it uses radioactive material as fuel. The aliens are now watching to see what becomes of the robot they left behind.

      Kara and Ryan become pilots for the robot, but they are unable to make much progress because the robot only responds to Kara. When Vincent attempts to operate the robot, he is successful, meaning he and Kara are both descendants of the aliens – the only ones who can operate alien machinery because of their genetics. As a result, Greek geneticist Alyssa Papantoniou is brought on board to study Vincent and Kara. But a testing accident on the robot destroys part of Denver International Airport, kills hundreds (seemingly including Rose), and exposes the top secret project to the world. The United States then goes public with the truth about the robot, and sinks it in the Puerto Rico Trench so no country may harness its destructive power. Secretly, the interviewer oversees a consortium of nations other than America which buy into a project to recover the robot.

      The new secret project is overseen by Alyssa. But when the project is exposed because of Alyssa’s incompetence, the United States must intervene – now holding the moral high ground – to take custody of the robot – with everything happening at the workings of the interviewer. The United States then gifts the robot to the UN to form the Earth Defense Corps, a multinational effort to prepare for potential alien invasion. As the novel ends, in an epilogue, Rose wakes up on the side of a road in Ireland, with no memory of the project and no memory of the past four years – though she does remember everything before.

      6 votes