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What books are you reading?

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Christensen - Beatles
Stein - The art of racing in the rain
Bowen - A street cat named Bob
Ayme - The man who walked through walls

Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Science Paperback - by David Lindley

Fantastic read but drops the ball a bit at the end.

Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed Paperback - by Dr. Jim Al-Khalili

Quite good so far -- tiny bit of history, mostly science.

See also my previous post on one of my favorite books about history of Quantum Physics: "Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate about the Nature of Reality" by Manjit Kumar

Anyone interested in science needs to read about the history of quantum physics -- it's amazing, inspirational stuff.

Yancey: Fifth first wave - contact with aliens - good, but not that good
Fools Crow: Tale about an Indian tribe - so-so, good if you like reading about Indian way of life
Faldbakken: The Cocka Hola Company, Macht und rebel, Unfun  -drugs, money, killing babies, sex with children, drinking, anarchy, lies, misanthropy ... - good, but not for those with a bas stomache
Wool - life in a silo in post-apocalyptic America - excellent

Anyone who likes good urban fantasy should look at The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. 

The Dresden Files are Jim’s first published series, telling the story of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard P.I.

--- End quote ---

The new book Skin Game just came out, and that's what I'm reading right now.


Lately anything and everything by Charles Stross. Especially good is his short story collection Wireless.

Stross does an occasional alternate history riff using themes from H.P. Lovecraft wedded to Cold War politics. The results are unique and chilling.

Here's some excerpts from the short story A Colder War which is included in the Wireless collection. A CIA analyst is preparing a brief for the Executive Branch that attempts to summarize a Soviet military program that threatens a form of spiritual destruction and suffering far worse than death itself. (If you like it or want to see more, a complete copy of this story can be read online here.)

The file he is reading frightens him.

Once, when Roger was a young boy, his father took him to an open day at Nellis AFB, out in the California desert. Sunlight glared brilliantly from the polished silverplate flanks of the big bombers, sitting in their concrete-lined dispersal bays behind barriers and blinking radiation monitors. The brightly coloured streamers flying from their pitot tubes lent them a strange, almost festive appearance. But they were sleeping nightmares: once awakened, nobody -- except the flight crew -- could come within a mile of the nuclear-powered bombers and live.

Looking at the gleaming, bulging pods slung under their wingtip pylons, Roger had a premature inkling of the fires that waited within, a frigid terror that echoed the siren wail of the air raid warnings. He'd sucked nervously on his ice cream and gripped his father's hand tightly while the band ripped through a cheerful Sousa march, and only forgot his fear when a flock of Thunderchiefs sliced by overhead and rattled the car windows for miles around.

He has the same feeling now, as an adult reading this intelligence assessment, that he had as a child, watching the nuclear powered bombers sleeping in their concrete beds.

There's a blurry photograph of a concrete box inside the file, snapped from above by a high-flying U-2 during the autumn of '61. Three coffin-shaped lakes, bulking dark and gloomy beneath the arctic sun; a canal heading west, deep in the Soviet heartland, surrounded by warning trefoils and armed guards. Deep waters saturated with calcium salts, concrete coffer-dams lined with gold and lead. A sleeping giant pointed at NATO, more terrifying than any nuclear weapon.

Project Koschei.

--- End quote ---

Puzzle Palace

Roger isn't a soldier. He's not much of a patriot, either: he signed up with the CIA after college, in the aftermath of the Church Commission hearings in the early seventies. The Company was out of the assassination business, just a bureaucratic engine rolling out National Security assessments: that's fine by Roger. Only now, five years later, he's no longer able to roll along, casually disengaged, like a car in neutral bowling down a shallow incline towards his retirement, pension and a gold watch. He puts the file down on his desk and, with a shaking hand, pulls an illicit cigarette from the pack he keeps in his drawer. He lights it and leans back for a moment to draw breath, force relaxation, staring at smoke rolling in the air beneath the merciless light until his hand stops shaking.

Most people think spies are afraid of guns, or KGB guards, or barbed wire, but in point of fact the most dangerous thing they face is paper. Papers carry secrets. Papers can carry death warrants. Papers like this one, this folio with its blurry eighteen year old faked missile photographs and estimates of time/survivor curves and pervasive psychosis ratios, can give you nightmares, dragging you awake screaming in the middle of the night. It's one of a series of highly classified pieces of paper that he is summarizing for the eyes of the National Security Council and the President Elect -- if his head of department and the DDCIA approve it -- and here he is, having to calm his nerves with a cigarette before he turns the next page.

After a few minutes, Roger's hand is still. He leaves his cigarette in the eagle-headed ash tray and picks up the intelligence report again. It's a summary, itself the distillation of thousands of pages and hundreds of photographs. It's barely twenty pages long: as of 1963, its date of preparation, the CIA knew very little about Project Koschei. Just the bare skeleton, and rumours from a highly-placed spy. And their own equivalent project, of course. Lacking the Soviet lead in that particular field, the USAF fielded the silver-plated white elephants of the NB-39 project: twelve atomic-powered bombers armed with XK-PLUTO, ready to tackle Project Koschei should the Soviets show signs of unsealing the bunker. Three hundred megatons of H-bombs pointed at a single target, and nobody was certain it would be enough to do the job.

And then there was the hard-to-conceal fiasco in Antarctica. Egg on face: a subterranean nuclear test program in international territory! If nothing else, it had been enough to stop JFK running for a second term. The test program was a bad excuse: but it was far better than confessing what had really happened to the 501st Airborne Division on the cold plateau beyond Mount Erebus. The plateau that the public didn't know about, that didn't show up on the maps issued by the geological survey departments of those governments party to the Dresden Agreement of 1931 -- an arrangement that even Hitler had stuck to. The plateau that had swallowed more U-2 spy planes than the Soviet Union, more surface expeditions than darkest Africa.

--- End quote ---

Stross! The man. :Thmbsup:


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