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Overdue book reviews

I’ve been meaning to write some book reviews for a long time, but haven’t gotten around to it. Today I finished yet another book I’d want to write about, so I decided to clear the backlog. Here goes.

A short history of nearly everything – Bill Bryson


This is the best book about science I have ever read, and that includes Asimov’s guide to science. Bill Bryson intertwines scientific fact, scientists’ life stories, and the impact of science on society in a seamless and brilliantly entertaining way. The book touches on areas as far apart as astronomy, geology, genetics and quantum mechanics. The discussion is never overly technical, (though I did get some revealing insights) and mostly shows science from a human standpoint. An important thing about the book: the author says (and I believe him) that the idea for the book struck him because there were so many things that science tells us (like homo sapiens first appeared 500,000 years ago, or that the world was once just a single continent) – but he had absolutely no idea how they managed to figure this out in the first place. And so his quest for the answers led him to write the book in which his thorough research including visits to many sites and interviews with many scientists figures.

Definitely recommended reading for one and all.

Rating: 5/5

The Axis trilogy – Sara Douglass


This tri-part story consists of the novels BattleAxe, Enchanter, and StarMan. A fantasy tale in which Humans are the dominant race in the beginning, but must unite with two other races according to Prophecy in order to withstand destruction. The plot is quite well done, with reasonable depth in politics, relationships, magic and battle. The first book was a little slow for me, but I got hooked onto the story and went through the latter two books at great speed. As I said, the plot is reasonably complex (each book is over 500 pages) without being an epic like the Wheel of Time series; and quite enjoyable for a fan of the fantasy genre. I especially enjoyed two things: battle scene descriptions and attitude transformations of the three races as they struggle to change beliefs strongly held for centuries.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

The curious incident of the dog in the night-time – Mark Haddon


A wonderful book; the reason for this post. I started the book about three hours ago and read it from cover to cover (it’s quite small). I wanted to write this while I was fresh with the book. Sometimes books make that kind of an impact on you, and this one certainly did. It describes a time in the life of an teenager, Christopher Swindon. Being autistic, he has an amazingly logical mind but little appreciation for uncertainty and anything that brings uncertainty with it – like human emotions, crowds and new places. Yet when he finds a dog who was murdered, he decides to investigate – and it brings lots of uncertainty and the attached turmoil into his life. The book is about how he deals with it.

It’s written in first person so you view the world from his perspective. The reviews at the back of the book call it all sorts of things, like “lovely, eccentric, intelligent”. I have just one word – scary. Christopher’s thought process is basically like a computer – or code – and perhaps because of that, I could identify so completely with it that I was literally hanging on and reading the book for dear life. It’s as if you let loose a robot in the real world – a very intelligent robot definitely – but nonetheless a being that expected the world to be ordered, governed by rigid rules and bent upon finding them, having only been used to a very narrow and controlled environment before. Except it wasn’t a robot but a life. The only times I stopped were to keep the book down and take a walk and calm myself because it’s just a story – and then I remember that there really are autistic people in the world. I’ve read Stephen King books and watched horror movies aplenty but no piece of fiction has ever scared me as much as this story did.

Enough said – you must put yourself in the shoes of this person who’s so different from all the rest of us, but yet essentially the same. An absolute must-read.

Rating: 5 / 5