Thursday, August 31, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Bobiverse Trilogy (We Are Legion, For We Are Many, All These Worlds)

The Bobiverse is a space opera trilogy consisting of three books (We Are Legion, For We Are Many, All These Worlds) written by Dennis E. Taylor.

We Are Legion is a pretty fun read. It is definitely space opera and based around an interestingly original premise: Bob wakes up and discovered he has basically been reincarnated as a machine intelligence (based on his original personality and brain scan). Bob basically gets hit by a bus walking back after he signs the contract to digitally preserve his brain after death.

The story moves forward with Bob becoming the animating intelligence for a spaceship that is exploring the galaxy looking for habitable planets for humanity. While this is going on Bob figures out how to clone (or more accurately, copy) himself. But these new copies are not identical to the original, and eventually the story splits multiple times as we start to follow what happens with these new Bob copies, who each get their own names and chapters.

I must admit the story gets a little bogged down in the minute details of space exploration at that point but here the fact that the author deliberately deploys humor (oftentimes quite nerdy in nature) is a key plus that kept me engaged in the story. I am curious to see how the story continues and concludes so I will probably read the sequels, eventually.

Title: We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse, #1).
Dennis E. Taylor.
Paperback: 383 pages.
 Worldbuilders Press.
Date Published: September 20, 2016.
Date Read: July 28, 2017.


OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.67/4.0).

Interesting and fun space opera

For We Are Many is the second book in the Bobiverse series. The key idea is the premise that consciousness can be stored and replicated in an electronic format. Additionally, the plot involves the exploration of the Galaxy and the colonization of multiple planets by the remnants of humanity, steered by artificial intelligences who are copies of the original Bob.

Another key storyline in this book is based around the discovery of a primitive alien species called the Deltans that is basically in the Stone Age stage of development. Bob spends a lot of his time following the Deltans and begins to come to terms with the fact that he is basically immortal which means he will eventually outlive most of the people (and aliens) he has grown close to.  

In addition to the benevolent aliens known as the Deltans, we are also exposed to another species, this time one which is incredibly malevolent. The Others, as they become known as, are sort of like interplanetary locusts. They enter a star system and strip of it all metallic elements, and they also kill any alien life but, ominously, remove the bodies. Eventually we discover that they are using the metals to build a Dyson Sphere around their home star, and it is presumed they use the alien bodies as a food source.

Overall, it's really hard to think of this book as a distinct story separate from the first book that precedes it and the one that succeeds it. In some sense, the trilogy as a whole makes up one complex story.

Title: For We Are Many (Bobiverse, #2).
Dennis E. Taylor.
Paperback: 321 pages.
 Worldbuilders Press.
Date Published: April 18, 2017.
Date Read: August 2, 2017.


OVERALL GRADE: A-/B+ (3.5/4.0).


All These Worlds is the third (and presumably, last) book in the "Bobiverse" series. The action follows seamlessly from the end of the second book For We Are Many. The premise of the Bobiverse is that an electronically replicated version of a human brain (which happened to have originally been in some dude named "Bob") is able to exist in perpetuity in computers. Bob has made multiple copies of itself and solved numerous technological issues to oversee the colonization of multiple habitable planets in our galaxy. The Bobiverse is the volume of space which copies of Bob (each of which is slightly different from the original Bob, and become their own individual personalities and computer-based intelligences) travel through. By Book 3 we have hundreds of Bob-copies running around the Universe, controlling ships and weapons. (Another key feature of the Bobiverse is the existence of 3-D printers, which can produce copies of many physical objects given the plans and the metallic resources, including making copies of 3-D printers!)

Humanity still exists, but it is trapped on an Earth which is slowly turning uninhabitable due to environmental changes (but too quickly for the .1% of humanity that remains barely alive on it). Some fraction of the Bobs spend a fair amount of their time managing the discovery, exploration and colonization of habitable planets in other star systems by humans, with the question of how to physically remove and save the remaining 16 million human beings marooned on our home planet becoming a central issue (colony ships can only hold up to 10,000 people at once, which means one need 1600 colony ship trips in order to save humanity).

Most of the time the Bobs find aliens that are technologically inferior to humanity and cause no problem but eventually they run into aliens whom they call the Others who are building their own Dyson sphere (a gigantic habitable structure which surrounds a star) and are basically pillaging star systems for the resources necessary to create their own home. They are definitely Bad Aliens and thankfully since space is pretty big, the humans and Bobs can mostly avoid them, until time comes when they can't and The Others decide to travel to our solar system.

Overall, apart from the existential question of what will be done about the Others, and whether humanity be saved (come on what do YOU think will happen?) there is not much dramatic tension in this (or, frankly, any of the previous books) but as a trilogy the three books are a pleasant diversion, especially if you are a fan of stories about space opera, first-contact with aliens or interstellar exploration.

Title: All These Worlds (Bobiverse, #3).
Dennis E. Taylor.
Paperback: 282 pages.
 Worldbuilders Press.
Date Published: August 8, 2017.
Date Read: August 16, 2017.


OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.83/4.0).

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

2017 US OPEN: Sharapova-Halep, Federer-Tiafoe thrillers; Kerber Loses to Osaka; Nadal,Pliskova Cruise

Naomi Osaka defeated defending champion Angie Kerber in straight sets
Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep played one of the
most anticipated first round matches in years
The 2017 U.S. Open has begun and already there have been fireworks in the first two days. It began with the most highly-anticipated 1R match in years as #2 Simona Halep had the misfortune to be paired with wild card-granted 5-time major champion Maria Sharapova (returning from injury and 18-month layoff caused by a drug ban). Sharapova ended up taking out Halep in a high-quality 3-set match with multiple swings of momentum 6-4 4-6 6-3 in nearly 3 hours. But before that happened British hope Jo Konta was bounced from the tournament by former giant-killer Alexandra Krunic.

On Day 2, Japanese teenager Naomi Osaka overwhelmed defending champion Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-1. After winning two majors in 2016, 2017 had nothing but disappointment (and shame) at the biggest tournaments and the former #1 will likely fall out of the Top 10 as a result. The day ended with what should have been a routine encounter between #3 seed (and 5-time champion) Roger Federer and 20-year-old Francis Tiafoe turning into a 5-set thriller as the 36-year-old was either rusty or suffering from injury as he was only able to play high-quality tennis in patches. Tiafoe took the first set 6-4 after beginning the match with a break of serve in the first game (assisted by three consecutive errors by Federer). Federer then won the next two sets 6-2 and 6-1. The fourth set was on serve  early when Federer's game collapsed and he lost 5 games in a row to lose the set 1-6. The fifth set had an early break and hold by Federer to go up 4-1 and he served for the match (including getting to match point) at 5-3 and promptly lost his serve again. However two loose points by Tiafoe serving 4-5 brought double match point at 15-40 and although the youngster saved the first one, on the second he mangled a half-volley into the net to give Federer the escape he was looking for. Hopefully, Federer will use the rest because he will not make it to a semifinal showdown with Rafael Nadal if he does not significantly raise his level.

The #1 seeds Nadal and Karolina Pliskova cruised into round 2 without dropping a set. Hopefully I will see some good tennis when I go to the US Open for my traditional Labor Day weekend visit!

Friday, August 25, 2017

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Katherine Johnson (from Hidden Figures) Turns 99!

Katherine Johnson, the NASA “computer” whose life story was the primary motivation behind the hit book Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly turned 99 years old yesterday! She was played by Taraji P. Henson in the movie adaptation (see my review) that was nominated for multiple academy awards earlier this year. Last year NASA renamed a building after her on the occasion of her 98th birthday and before that, President Obama awarded her the National Medal of Freedom.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

TENNIS TUESDAY: Rafa Returns to #1; Dimitrov and Zverev Win 1st Masters Titles; Halep Misses #1 Again

Thanks to Roger Federer's withdrawal from Cincinnati after injuring himself in the final of Montreal Masters against Sascha Zverev, and the absence of Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic from the tour for the entire hard-court season to date has resulted in Rafael Nadal ascending to the top of the ATP rankings for the 4th time in his career.

Grigor Dimitrov wins the Cincinnati Masters by defeating Nick Kyrgios in straight sets. Sascha Zverev won his 2nd Masters title of the year by defeating Roger Federer at the Montreal Masters.

Simona Halep faced off against Garbine Muguruza in the Cincinnati tournament with the #1 WTA ranking on the line. This is the second time this summer Halep has been one match win away from the top spot (previously if she had won the French Open final she would have reached the #1 ranking). This time she did not come close to achieving the result, managing to win only one game against Muguruza. Karolina Pliskova continues her reign at the top for the time being.

Somehow I missed the announcement that new mother Victoria Azarenka had split with Billy McTeague the father of her son, Leo, a few weeks after Wimbledon. But now the issue is front and center because the custody fight over their son is causing Azarenka to withdraw from the 2017 U.S. Open. McTeague is refusing to give permission for Azarenka to leave the state with their son, even though Azarenka said she would pay for McTeague to stay in a New York City hotel to continue joint custody while she competes in this year's tournament. That was deemed unacceptable by her ex, so forcing the tennis star to choose between her son and playing the last major of the year resulted in the withdrawal.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Happy Eclipse Day!

EYE CANDY: Chris Wells

Today's Eye Candy model is Chris Wells, who is a well-known underwear model.  He is 24 years-old, 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds. Here he is shown in Hunk2 underwear. Wells has an Instagram account (@itsme.chris) with over 15,000 followers.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

GRAPHIC: Confederate Statues Mapped In Time and Space

This post has an interesting graphic which demonstrates that statues commemorating the Confederacy (which was devoted to the maintenance of slavery and promulgation and prolongation of white supremacy) primarily happened in two waves, one around the establishment of Jim Crow laws in the 1910s and again in response to the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

This refutes the claim that these statues are primarily about "history and heritage" and supports the argument they are signals to Black people about the permanence of white supremacy.

Hat/tip to Axios.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

SATURDAY POLITICS: Republicans View Things Very Differently Than Democrats and Independents

Of course, for the last week the political world has been buzzing over the march by white supremacists and Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia and President Trump's widely panned response. However, it should be noted that this negative response to Trump's assigning equal responsibility to white supremacists and those who oppose them for the violence that occurred in Charlottesville (despite the fact that it was an avowed racist who has been arrested and charged with driving the car that killed one of the people protesting the white supremacists) is not universal. 64% of Republicans  agree (with Trump's statements that "both [sides are] equally [to blame]" while 66% of Democrats assign responsibility to the neo-Nazis, anti-semites and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville.

However, as I have blogged about previously on Saturday Politics Republicans have views about things that are very different from others, such as viewing discrimination against groups differently based on partisan differences as well as which groups suffer more discrimination than others.

Today's blog post is about how Republicans view many institutions (colleges and universities, labor unions, national news media and churches) very differently than others.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Children of The Divide by Patrick S. Tomlinson

This is a review of Children of the Divide, the third book in the Children of a Dead Earth series by Patrick S. Tomlinson, which began with The Ark and Trident's Forge

It's interesting that the word "children" plays such a central role in the description of the series and in particular in the title of the third book  Children of the Divide. I had thought that the use of this word was primarily metaphorical but by definition children are living representations of the future and even though the series is set far in the future from the reader's point of view, the central idea of the entire series so far is about the future of humanity and the use of "children" emphasizes this.

The first book was about the end of the 200-year journey of a generation ship ("The Ark") from an Earth (which was destroyed by a deliberately targeted black hole) to a new home planet named Gaia in the star system Tau Ceti. The second book (Trident's Forge) is about first contact between the humans and intelligent but technologically underdeveloped aliens and the growing pains associated with colonization as humanity adapts to living on a planet after only knowing life in an artificial environment.

Children of the Divide, the third book in the series builds on this background by focusing on the difficulties and conflicts that arise 15 years after the events of the second book. The human colony is more established and intertwined with the aliens (called Atlantians, after the name of the continent they are mostly found in).

However, in this book the story primarily revolves around inter-generational and cultural conflict, human-Atlantis, father-son and parents-adopted child.

One key feature of this book which seemed to be executed more effectively this time than in the second book, was the depiction of the gender-neutral nature of the aliens. In Trident's Forge, this seemed like an unnecessary affectation but for some reason in the third book the regular use of ze/zer/zers to describe the main character of Benexx, an Atlantian teenager works well. (It may just be that as a reader I have grown more accustomed to the idea of of non-binary gender identities since I read Trident's Forge.)

Other key developments in the story involve the discovery of an alien artifact, a terrorist attack on the anniversary of First Contact, an important kidnapping and a violent riot between aliens and humans.

Overall, this was a thrilling entry in the series. These books are a compelling combination of science fiction and mystery thriller. I thought the Children of a Dead Earth series was a trilogy but it seems like there will be more books forthcoming as there are developments at the end of the third book which raise issues that question the existential premises the story is based upon.

Title: Children of the Divide (Children of a Dead Earth, #3).
Patrick S. Tomlinson.
Paperback: 400 pages.
Date Published: August 1, 2017.
Date Read: August 6, 2017.


OVERALL GRADE: A- (3.83/4.0).


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

REPORT: No Educational Achievement Gap Between Multiracial and White Students

A new report published by the Brookings Institute, a liberal think-tank in Washington D.C. claims that there is educational gap between multiracial and white students. This would seem to contradict the race-based theories  trying to explain the achievement gaps which are often found when one analyzed educational attainment data through a racial and ethnic lens.

Here's an excerpt from the report, authored by Jonathan Rothwell, an Economist who works at Gallup

Despite the growing number of multiracial students, almost no attention has been given to their educational outcomes. But gaining a better understanding of how multiracial students perform may cast useful light on the causes of race gaps more generally. My analysis shows that:
1.    Students of multiracial identity are from families with lower socioeconomic status than whites; 
2.    They attend schools that are far more integrated with whites and Asians compared to blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, and Pacific Islanders 
3.    Multiracial students have the same average test scores as whites on math, science, and writing; 
4.    For reading tests, multiracial students outperform other groups, including Asians; and 
5.    These results contradict the controversial hypothesis that between group differences in IQ result from genetic differences between races.
These findings suggest that the race gaps in academic achievement in the United States are the result of inequality, especially in terms of access to educational opportunities, and therefore could be closed under fairer political, social, and economic arrangements.
This is just more evidence about the socially constructed nature of race and the arbitrariness of racial categories. If "white"

Monday, August 14, 2017

EYE CANDY: Nathan Owens (3rd time!)

Nathan Owens has appeared as Eye Candy before (June 12, 2017 and March 14, 2011). According to Model Mayhem, Nathan is 33 years old, 6-foot-2 and 184 pounds. And hella phyne.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

2017 HUGO AWARDS: Jemisin Wins 2nd (Consecutive) Best Novel Award

The 2017 Hugo awards were announced last night in Helsinki, Finland and N.K. Jemisinlast year's winner for The Fifth Season, won again, for the second book in her Broken Earth trilogy, The Obelisk Gate. Jemisin, who last year became the first African-American woman to win the prestigious best novel award, has now won two in a row, the first time that has happened since Lois McMastr Bujold won in 1991 and 1992 for two entries in her longrunning Vorkosigian saga, which won the new category of Best Series this year.

When I looked at the Hugo award nominations for Best Novel this year, my choice for the win would have been Cixin Liu's At Death's End. However, Jemisin would probably be my second choice, so this is a happy result! Jemisin was not present in Helsinki to accept her award, so my childhood friend, Dr. Karen Lord, a successful science fiction writer in her own right, accepted on her behalf (see picture at the top of this post)!

Book 3 in Jemisin's Broken Earth series, The Stone Sky, will be released on Tuesday August 15.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

MadProfessah is on vacation

Posting may be even more intermittent than usual as I am now on vacation in Europe (southern Italy and Berlin, Germany) for the next week or so.

Check out my Instagram and Twitter pages for more frequent updates.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin