Book Recommendations of 2017

Here is the complete list of books I’ve recommended in my weekly book recommendations I started in October. I listed more than one a week on a few occasions. Next year’s list will be a lot larger.

Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The Martian by Andy Weir

Our Story Begins by Tobias Wolff

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

The Eyes of God by John Marco

Myths of the Norsemen by H.A.Guerber

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson (plus Poetic Edda)

Mythos by Stephen Fry

Yes Man by Danny Wallace

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Book Recommendation of the Week

This weeks book recommendation is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It’s a dystopian novel that was written in the early 1930’s but is still an excellent read. I think I read it in just a few days. Somewhat science fiction and futuristic while somewhat retroactive, it does a great job of criticizing humanity in many ways. An early scene in the book, perhaps the opening scene, has been highly influential on recent fiction and film. Give it a shot if you haven’t already.

Since this will be the last book recommendation of the year, I will be putting up a list of every book I’ve recommended this year shortly. I know a book a week is a lot and I hope I can keep up a weekly recommendation for the entirety of 2018. I’ll let you know if I need to slow down. I’ve read a lot, but we will see.

Specks of Data

Charles walked in with a cup of coffee and a sigh of exhaustion.

“What’s it look like today?” he asked. “Things hadn’t been progressing well the last few decades.”

“Well, they keep killing each other,” Viktor said matter-of-factly.

“I meant, has anything new happened?”

“Not really.”

Charles sat down at the console next to Viktor. His shift was just starting but he already wanted a cigarette. He purposely didn’t bring any to prevent the slippery slope of indulgence. It’s been two days since he decided to quit and he meant to follow through. He sipped his coffee and settled in for the sixteen hour shift. The first half with Viktor, the second with Genly. Then eight hours off for sleep and relaxation. He hated sticking to a twenty-four hour cycle, but his assignment included adjusting to a daily schedule similar to that of the planetary cycle he was observing.

Another long day of keeping watch and he doubted anything interesting would happen either.

“How long ago did they develop close range space travel?”

“Only a few generations.”

Charles sighed, “And they’ve already given up it seems. I wish they’d do something productive or it’s just going to be wash here too.” He leaned back and put his feet up.

“You never know. They haven’t passed the critical mark yet. They could become a valuable addition.”

“Ha, and you, me, and Genly will all be able to go home before we hit two hundred runs, right?”

Viktor waved the comment away. They passed the time in silence. Charles grabbed another cup of coffee to combat the lack of sleep. Viktor had almost dozed off when Genly came in to relieve him. Genly looked like he had just woken up himself.

“This lack of sleep will be the end of me,” Genly said, “How much longer do you think it’ll be before they blow themselves up?”

Charles smiled. “I said the same thing. Viktor seems to think they can make it.”

“Viktor’s only been around for a few jobs. He still has hope. He told me they still tell everyone that the success rate is still thirty percent. This is his his third run? By the numbers he was given, I’d be bit hopeful too. But we know better. I was a little hopeful too when I first started. You remember don’t you?”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. It’ll only be a matter of time before he realizes these things don’t always work out.” Charles remembered his first assignment. It was a planet near the outer rim. It was nearly the perfect distance from a young star. Everything seemed right, but the simulation showed what almost every simulation afterwards showed. That intelligent life had a tendency to destroy itself.

The door opened and Jensen walked in.

“We’re still a long way from making a decision just yet,” Charles said.

“Doesn’t matter. Give me an update.”

Charles sat up and looked over his console. “Roughly nine billion people. Still separated into small groups. Still killing each other.” He looked over at Genly while saying it. Charles kicked back again and popped a piece of candy in his mouth before continuing, “About ten percent actually have a workable system to keep each other alive while another sixty percent claim they do. The remaining thirty percent are indifferent. Starvation is still ongoing. Distribution of supplies is still unacceptable. Pollution has slowed but is still rising at an unsuitable rate. It’s too early to tell, but they may have given up on exploration after a meager attempt. Religion is still a subject of contention and so on.”

“But it hasn’t failed yet?” Jensen asked.

“Well, no,” Charles admitted, “but at it’s current course it most likely will.”

“Doesn’t matter. They want to proceed with this installment. Keep it running for another few centuries and notify me if anything drastic changes. In the meantime, prepare for a new run. File F117_2. I’ll send it over shortly. It’s a small planet near the core that could be populated sooner than later. Run it and give me updates every eight hours.”

Jensen headed for the door stopped when Genly asked, “Another 24 hour cycle sir?”

“No, thirty-two.”

“At least we have that going for us,” Genly said, mostly to himself before cycling through his console.

Jensen was half out the door when Charles yelled, “Hey! Why the fuck do we run these if no one bothers to look at the data?”

“Because there are more factors than just data gathering,” Jensen said before the door closed.

“More factors my ass,” Charles muttered to himself, “The whole point of this is to reduce unnecessary installments, but they don’t care when they’re tired of waiting.”

“Who knows, maybe they will pull it off. You said yourself it was too early to tell,” Genly said.

“Yeah, maybe.” His craving for a cigarette increased tenfold. The only reason he didn’t have one going already was because he didn’t have one. “Genly?”

“Yeah?”

“You got a smoke?”

“No, sorry.”

“No, it’s alright. I don’t need it anyway.” Charles began making preparations for the next run. He was almost done when file F117_2 popped into the system from Jensen. He sighed, opened it, and reviewed the material. Everything seemed good. Perhaps this one would prove successful. “Maybe,” he said under his breath.

“What?” Genly asked.

“Nothing. Just looking at the new run.”

“And?”

“Its got potential. Let’s see what happens.” He initialized the sequence and pressed the start button.

 

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas! Thank you to everyone who has been reading. I hope you have a great time during this holiday season and forget every stress-inducing thing for awhile, at least long enough to remember what life is all about.

To quote J.R.R. Tolkien, “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

I hope you are enjoying some good food and spending time with the ones you love, as I am about to do. See you later.

A Brief Respite

He was alone on the road. He carried a sack with a small round of cheese and a half loaf of stale bread harder than the packed dirt beneath his feet. He used a walking stick and wore a long, tattered red cloak that covered a meager shirt and pants and it barely kept the wind from blowing clean through his bones. There wasn’t much to him in truth. At least physically. His once thick beard was now white and thinning as his hair had done a few decades prior. He was old, but through the years he had been attentive and sought knowledge in everything. Therefore, despite his vagabond appearance, his eyes were quick and bright, and his mind doubly so.

His boots were worn near through the sole, but he kept treading along. He would need a new pair come winter if he could scrounge enough money to buy some. This he doubted this would be possible as winter was approaching and he was about to be robbed. They were still hanging back a distance, but they began following him a half mile back. They hid in the trees, but his quick mind picked out the smallest unnatural sounds. Or rather, human sounds. There were three of them by his calculation. He may have been able to teach two a lesson. Three were a bit much and he didn’t have the energy today so he waited patiently for them to suppress their cowardice long enough to attack him. Perhaps they’d leave him be, but that thought was left on the road a quarter mile back.

He didn’t say a word or change his gait though he did stop once already thinking that doing so would tip them off, but they proved less intelligent than he first realized. So he waited. After another half mile, he began to grow impatient and was ready to have it over with so he stopped at a suitable stone by the road and pretended to catch his breath. It worked.

Two of the young men burst out of the trees. The old man never turned to face them. He didn’t feel up to acting like a scared old traveler today. The larger of them drove a knife in his back. He felt the iron split his flesh and push further into his torso. He found the attack quite rude but didn’t complain. He let out a small umph and fell to the ground. He could now act dead and get the mugging finished with no further effort on his part.

“Why’d you do that Tom?” The youngest of them said as he caught up.

“Shut it. He can’t struggle now can he? Search him Dil.”

“Why do I have to search him? You’re the one who ran a knife in him. Where’d you get that anyway?”

“Don’t worry about where I got it. Just search him. Be quick about it. Someone might be along soon.”

“I ain’t touching him now. He’s all bloody, and blood don’t come off the hands to easy.”

Tom growled, “I got to do everything? Fine. None of you is getting anything off him then.”

He rolled the old man’s body over and searched the bag. Inside was the small wheel of cheese and the hard, half loaf of bread. He searched the pockets and felt around the cloak and found nothing.

“Nothing! What a waste.”

“I told you he wouldn’t have anything good,” the youngest chimed in.

“Shut it!”

The old man nearly laughed but held back as he was supposed to be dead. They would soon lose interest or finally hear the soft sound of hooves on dirt behind them. The sound had grown steady, but Tom and Dil began bickering. Only when the younger boy hushed them did they notice.

“Back to the cabin, and not a word of this to anyone or I’ll whip you,” Tom said and they all jogged back into the woods.

The old man sat up, reached an arm back, and pulled the knife out. No blood flowed from his thin body. He examined the knife briefly before tucking it away then he picked up his travel sack and started walking. He was surprised. Normally the victim of a mugging isn’t better off for it, but they were young and inexperienced. The boy, Tom, hadn’t even searched him thoroughly or else he may have found something of value. He thought it unfortunate he never heard the youngest boy’s name, but his thoughts were interrupted when the wagon finally caught up to him.

“Where to, traveler?” The rider asked. He was a man of middle age. The wagon was full of fresh cut hay and pulled by a lone mule.

The old man looked toward the road. “I’ve been going this way awhile now. I’ll probably keep at it a bit longer.”

The wagon rider smiled. “I can take you as far as Smaltin if you’d like to give your feet a rest.”

“How much?” the old man asked wearily.

“No cost for kindness.”

“A welcome gesture. Thank you.” The old man climbed up and took a seat.

The driver took up the reigns and they wagon began its slow roll forward. “What brings you all the way out here, traveler? We don’t get many visitors. Especially this time of year.”

“I’m just seeing the world one more time, that’s all. A lot can be learned from the road, and a lot can be remembered.”

“You’ve seen a lot then?”

“Aye, too much maybe.”

“Mind telling a story for the ride?”

“I thought there was no cost for kindness?”

“None at all. Just a good way to pass the time.”

“Very well. Have you heard the one of the knight who soaked in dragon’s blood?”