Sunday, August 9, 2020

Network Effect


I completely forgot that Network Effect, the fifth Murderbot Diaries book by Martha Wells, was coming out this spring.  I also forgot that I put it on hold at the library.  So I was pleasantly surprised to get it last week! :)

I wasn't sure where this book would be taking Murderbot.  I thought the story ended quite nicely in book 4.  It starts out with Murderbot being contracted out to provide security for some of Dr. Mensah's family on a voyage.  Everything is going fine until their ship returns to Preservation space and is attacked by what looks like ART (from book 2).  While trying to protect Amena (a teenager from Mensah's family - I'm not 100% sure of what their relationship is as Amena keeps calling Mensah "second mother"), Murderbot and Amena are forced to flee the ship and end up on ART.  Unfortunately, ART is gone and there are strange grey people (possible aliens, or humans who have been modified by an alien remnant) on board.  After admitting to deleting ART, they get more than they bargained for with Murderbot destroying them (they mistakenly thought Murderbot was a human). 

Network Effect took a lot of crazy twists and turns.  Some of the other humans from the Preservation mission got trapped along with them (their ship got pulled into the wormhole that the aliens took ART's ship through). ART hid a backup of himself for Murderbot to find.  Looking for ART's crew leads everyone to the planet where the grey people are from, which was a lost colony with quite a history.  Half of ART's crew were sent down to the planet, while the other half remained on a shuttle as hostages.  ART and Murderbot decide to make Killware as a last resort, which ART ends up deploying onto the shuttle.  The Killware is a copy of Murderbot's personality, and ends up calling itself Murderbot 2.0.  Meanwhile Murderbot 1.0 went down to the planet to save ART's crew but ends up getting captured itself, which leads to a battle against the enemy targetControlSystem.  Luckily Murderbot 2.0 found its way to Murderbot 1.0 to help.

Despite all the fun stuff happening, I had a really hard time reading this book.  The middle, when everyone was trying to figure out what was going on and where the missing crew was, really dragged (as did Murderbot and ART's feud).  Unfortunately it took me a lot longer to read this book as a result (all the other Murderbot books I couldn't put down; this one I had a hard time picking back up).  That being said, it was an interesting story, and I am looking forward to Murderbot #6 (ART asked Murderbot to join it on its next adventure, and Murderbot decided it wanted to, as long as it can come back to Preservation to visit Mensah.  This was the first time Murderbot knew what it wanted).

Also I forgot to mention, Murderbot 2.0 helped another SecUnit hack its governor module on the shuttle to help rescue ART's crew there.  This new SecUnit, which called itself Three, wants to help Murderbot too.  So I'm quite interested to see what happens with a second rogue SecUnit!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020


Wow.  That's all I can say after reading Tara Westover's memoir Educated.  Here's the summary from Goodreads:

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag". In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes and the will to change it.

Educated is quite the story.  Not only did Westover manage to educate herself without ever attending elementary or high school, she also did so while dealing with physical and emotional abuse from her brother.  

The book is at times very hard to read (particularly some of the details of what her brother Shawn did to her), but the book itself is well written and overall easy to read.  I loved Westover's descriptions within the book, particularly of her mountain home in Idaho.  The phrases she used were beautiful and very evocative.

This is an incredible story and I'm very glad to have read it!

Friday, July 3, 2020

Who We are: Reflections on My Life and Canada

Elizabeth May's Who We Are: Reflections on My Life and Canada is another book my brother lent me quite some time ago.  May wrote it just before the 2015 election, reflecting on the changes Prime Minister Stephen Harper had enacted since becoming Prime Minister, both in terms of gutting Canada's environmental protections, and in terms of politics (how particularly under him, MPs are no longer representing their constituents, but are instead reprimanded severely for not towing the party line).  May looks at her own life, at what brought her to helm the Green Party of Canada, while also examining what Canada was, and what Canada can be once again.

For the most part I enjoyed May's writing.  But I did find I got bogged down in the middle of a lot of her chapters, often from having to flip back to see either who or what organization she was talking about.  I really wish there had been a listing of people and places rather like a Shakespearean dramatis personae (I have this problem a lot with nonfiction books).  But all in all, I'm glad to have (finally) read Who We Are; it's an eye-opening book into just what exactly is happening to Canadian politics in the modern world.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life

Just before the pandemic hit, the library got a brand new copy of Shakti Gawain's Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life.  I snagged it because visualization is the final part of the meditation method Emily Fletcher shared in Stress Less, Accomplish More; visualization is the part of the method that I feel the most lost with, so I thought a book on it would be worth reading.  I did start it back in like April, but I kind of lost interest; I restarted reading it about a week ago, and finished it yesterday.

Creative Visualization gives you the basics of how to use creative visualization within your life (basically, by changing the way you talk to yourself and believing that the universe is plentiful for everyone, you can start to manifest your desires in your own life).  Gawain then gives you a whole bunch of tools to help you bring creative visualization into your life (through using writing, creating vision boards/treasure maps, using mantras to help you change your negative self talk, etc). 

I found the book a bit tough to get through though.  It's not the type of book that you can easily read from cover to cover in one sitting.  For me, it was like I could only read so much of it before having to go off and do something else (almost like I needed time to really consider what was being said). I did like that she gives you so many different tools to try; you can easily choose one or two that sound interesting to you, and ignore anything you don't like the sounds of.  

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Overlord: The Undead King

After finishing Iraq Under Siege, I wanted to read some fiction.  So I chose to read Overlord: The Undead King by Kugane Maruyama, a Japanese Light Novel (translated) that a friend lent me sometime ago. 

In Overlord, Momonga is one of the last players of a virtual world that is being shut down.  He stays in the game until the last minute, wanting to enjoy all that his guild had built during the game's heyday.  But when the servers shut down, Momonga finds himself still his character in what looks like the game world.  The NPCs who were always silent are now talking and have the backstories and personalities the guild members wrote for them (including the last minute change Momonga made for Albedo, which he feels incredibly guilty of).  Now Momonga needs to figure out where they are and whether or not he can trust all of the NPCs; he must now be the Overlord in truth!

I found Overlord a bit slow going in the beginning, even though it was necessary to set up the game world of Yggdrasil before everything became real.  But once the servers went down and the NPCs came alive, the book became super fun! I loved Momonga's attempts to appear outwardly calm and collected for everyone while internally he was freaking out.  I also loved that Maruyama included an intermission part way through the story that showed what the main NPCs were thinking of Momonga.  The end fight was also incredibly fun, where Momonga is trying to be super cautious but discovers that whatever world this is, he's so much more powerful than everyone.  It's a very fun story, and I'd love to read more!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Iraq Under Siege: the Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War

Continuing with my reading of books people have lent me, this time I chose Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War, edited by Anthony Arnove. My brother lent this to me quite some time ago, and I admit I had a hard time psyching myself up to read it because I knew it would be pretty heavy.

Iraq Under Siege is a collection of essays from people protesting the lengthy sanctions that were imposed on Iraq by the UN Security Council after the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.  Initially the sanctions were going to be lifted after Iraqi forces withdrew from the area, but the sanctions ended up in place until after the Invasion of Iraq in 2003.  Many of the authors visited Iraq during that time (this is the first edition of the book, so prior to 2000 when it was published) and saw firsthand the devastation the sanctions and wars had wrought on the civilian population and infrastructure of Iraq.

While a very interesting and alarming read, I did find the book to be a bit repetitive by the end.  The same statistics and sources were used by many of the authors. 

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Life in a Thundering Bay: Voices from Thunder Bay's Past

My dad lent Life in a Thundering Bay to me a few months ago.  It's a collection of stories by people who lived in Thunder Bay over a century ago.  Right when he gave it to me, I flipped through it and found JC Banks mentioned; I'd read about Banks' experience in the Great Storm of 1893 at work, so it was really neat to see him mentioned (and to actually already know about him!)

This book is a collection of seven stories, one epic poem, and an article about the names of places around Thunder Bay.  The stories are from the earliest days of the then twin cities of Fort William and Port Arthur; the editors chose stories they found particularly intriguing.

The first story is an account by Catherine Moodie Vickers of going to see Kakabeka Falls (from a letter she wrote to her mother).  At that time it was an overnight canoe trip (whereas today you can jump in a car and be there in about 20 minutes from Thunder Bay).

The second story was Fred M. DelaFosse's account of his adventuring days as a remittance man (he was relying on money sent from home to support him).  He set out from England with a friend, who quickly decided this wasn't the life for him, and so remained in Fort William and Port Arthur on his own for a year or two.  He has many adventures in the lumber camps and working on a survey team.  This story sort of reminded me of Bertie from Wodehouse's Jeeves series (if Bertie decided to go off on his own adventuring), esp the last bit "I had started in with an overweening pride of my nationality and in the belief that an Englishman was the superior of any creature on earth. I had discovered...that even in the outer ranges of civilization, there was being reared a race of men who could hold their own in the company of Englishmen or anyone else. I returned home a chastened individual" (42); that last bit about being chastened reminds me of the story in Carry On, Jeeves when Bertie had to survive on his own in a hotel without Jeeves; he learned something of what it must be like to be on your own without a servant.

From there we get a short account about the Northern Hotel by Captain Walpole Roland.  Then there was an excerpt byW.S. Piper about his search for the "Lost Mother Lode" silver mine.  This story was from the book The Eagle of Thunder Cape, which originally captured the editors' interest in these stories.  I wasn't a huge fan of this one (I felt like Piper and his friend, Edward were really just using people - they were solely focused on seeing what help those people could give them for finding the silver mine).  But then about halfway through, Chief Eagle, an Ojibway chief, visits with them in their tent and tells them some fascinating Ojibway stories about their beliefs and the Dog Lake/Thunder Bay area.  I also had no idea about the Dog Lake effigy before reading this story!

Next is a short tale from Eugenie Robin about McKay (the same man that Mount McKay is named after) and his partner Fraser bringing an Ojibway girl to Loch Lomand where she's hoping to find her betrothed.  Then there's the story about Silver Islet, and what William B. Frue did so they could mine it.  I knew some details of this story, but reading it as a whole, it's quite remarkable!  And that brings us to the final story, which is "The Great Storm" by J.C. Banks, which tells of his ordeal through the storm of 1893.

The epic poem"The Legend of Thunder - How Thunder Bay Obtained Its Name" by H.R.A. Pocock was included in a book by Captain Roland (Algoma West); it tells the legend of how how Thunder Bay got its name.  I was so surprised that there was an epic poem written about Thunder Bay!  It was quite a unique read. :)

The final article in this book was Mary J.L. Black's "Place Names in the Vicinity of Fort William."  This was super interesting!  As the editors say, it was a daunting task for her to have tracked down the meanings of some of these Ojibway words!

While the volume as a whole is quite fascinating, as with any anthology-style book, you will like some authors more than others. I also need to mention the odd formatting Tania L. Saj and Elle Andra-Warner chose; some passages were randomly bolded in the text, while others were left in normal typeset, but then bolded and set on their own page elsewhere.

A passage bolded in text.

Passage in the text.

That same passage on its own page.

It was quite distracting when it happened, especially the random bolded sections in the text.

Other than that, I did enjoy reading this book.  And now I know a little more of the history of the area. :)