Homo Deus [A Review]

Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads.com]

 

I think I prefer the first book (see my review for Sapiens).

For this second book, I actually like the little nuggets of fact and theory more than the book in its entirety. The first third of it read like a rehash of the first book, the second third was too philosophical for my liking, and the final  third depressed me. 

What surprised me was that the last chapter ended with two three-point summaries, where the author argues that the three most important processes in the world right now are (and I quote):

  1. Science is converging on an all-encompassing dogma, which says that organisms are algorithms and life is data processing.
  2. Intelligence is decoupling from consciousness.
  3. Non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms may soon know us better than we know ourselves.

According to Yuval Noah Harari, these three processes raise three key questions (and here I quote again):

  1. Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing?
  2. What’s more valuable – intelligence or consciousness?
  3. What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?

I suppose it’s good to have a summary at the end, but I thought the book ended rather abruptly, and I’d have preferred a more optimistic projection of the future. There are already too many dystopian views of technology and the future, and while Homo Deus does not exactly offer a pessimistic projection of what can possibly lie ahead, the arguments in it do point towards a possible future in which “free will” will cease to exist and Sapiens will be overwhelmed by data and algorithms. 

And so, if the author is correct, does it mean Sapiens will eventually cause our own extinction?

VERDICT: Read this book either for its nuggets (on historical developments, scientific developments and philosophical theories) or the detailed arguments behind the summary at the end of the book if you’re curious about them. Otherwise, I would suggest you find something that will give you a more optimistic view of our future.

Ash and Quill, The Great Library series #3 [A Review]

Ash and Quill (Book 3)

The Great Library series by Rachel Caine

  Image result for ash and quill

  [Image courtesy of Goodreads.com]

There is a fourth book?!?! 

I started the book thinking that it will be the third and last one in the series, and I was actually excited about it, because the first two were pretty decent and entertaining (see my review of the first two books). 

Well, this third book is also pretty entertaining, especially in the last quarter of it, when I was just turning the pages to get to whatever terrible thing Jess was planning to do in order to save everyone. Unfortunately, I knew I wasn’t going to get an answer in this book when there were only twenty pages left and Caine wasn’t any closer to revealing Jess’s plan. I almost groaned out loud when the story ended on a cliffhanger, with one line at the bottom of the page that said “to be continued in Book 4”.

I guess I just have to kick myself for not finding out more before diving into this series. Now I wonder when the next book will be out, and whether I will still remember the plot and characters by then. Oh well, at least the first three books were page-turners.

VERDICT: Yes, this is one of those ongoing and incomplete series as of today, and I suggest you wait till Caine has penned and published the last book before picking up Book 1.

Lieutenant Kurosawa’s Errand Boy [A Review]

Lieutenant Kurosawa’s Errand Boy, by Warran Kalasegaran

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   [Image courtesy of Epigram Books]

This has to be the first time in a long while since I read something local that’s as culturally rich as what I would expect from Suchen Christine Lim.

The dialogues were cleverly crafted to reflect the way locals thought and spoke. The emotions were described in a way that was believable, enough to persuade me to empathize with the characters. Warran Kalasegaran has also managed to combine his knowledge of Singapore’s history with his experiences with the Japanese culture to inject multiple dimensions to the story.

What really surprised me was the way the writer had kept me guessing which adult character the errand boy eventually grew into. 

The only thing that was nagging at me throughout the story though, was Papatti’s role in it. Other than helping to tell the errand boy’s tale and give one a peek into the early years when political uncertainty and racial riots plagued Singapore, I wished there were more in her own personal story.

The author description at the back of the book mentions that the writer has started working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I sure hope he will have time to continue writing new stories.

VERDICT: It’s pretty good for a first novel, especially when you can find history, culture and suspense all in one story.

End of Watch [A Review]

End of Watch, by Stephen King

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   [Image courtesy of Goodreads.com]

 

I love Stephen King’s books, and this one has not disappointed me. 

The pace of the book is so fast, that I would have devoured it in one reading marathon if I could, but of course family and work duties didn’t give me that luxury. In the end, frustrated from having to tear myself away from the book each time I had to put it down, I sacrificed two hours of my sleep and finished the second half in one seating. 

King writes in a way that few can, and draws me into his characters every single time I read him. His mastery of the language helps, because the dialogues he creates give life to his characters, and his no-nonsense way of delivering a scene means it doesn’t come with pretentious descriptions or snotty words that some writers like to produce (and which, more often than not, tend to irritate me so much that I will just dump the book).

Some may say this finale to the trilogy is not as good as the first, and I have to admit, the ending was rather predictable. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the book. It didn’t stop that chill running down my spine either. King knows his craft well, and in the last decade or so, he has been using that craft to write about horrors that can be very real in today’s world.

Oh, and besides that chill, King has managed to make me cry at the end.

VERDICT: Read it!!! Get the entire Bill Hodges trilogy, if you haven’t read the first two books yet.

The Stormlight Archive Book #1 and #2 [A Review]

The Way of Kings (Book 1), Words of Radiance (Book 2) 

The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson

  Image result for stormlight archive Image result for words of radiance

  [Image courtesy of Wikipedia]

This took a while because both books are huge volumes with more than a thousand pages each, and I was reading a couple of other books at the same time.

I had held off getting into this series for the longest time, until I saw the announcement that the third book is coming out end of this year. I mean, these are humongous volumes, and I don’t really relish the possibility that I will need to go through them again when the new book is out.

Being a Brandon Sanderson epic saga series, it does not disappoint. The pace is fast, the plot intriguing, and the characters likable. Plus, unlike other mega series like George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones (I really regret starting that one, because I cannot see myself getting it to the end, EVER, thanks to the author’s delay in getting the next books out), this series does not have too many characters, and so does not run the risk of confusing its readers after a while.

What’s interesting too is the fact that Sanderson writes about honor in a world that was betrayed by the very essence of it, and parts of that narration feels eerily close to what we see happening today.  

What irritates me though, is the fact that Sanderson tries to be so obscure and mysterious about the hidden powers behind what’s driving all the events that I get utterly lost at times.

I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that when the third book comes out at the end of the year, I still remember the characters and the plot well enough to enjoy it without wondering what’s going on.

VERDICT: If you don’t like long epic series that are not yet complete, stay away till the last book is out.