Bluescreen by Dan Wells

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I don’t usually read Young Adult, but I really liked this one. (As an aside, I’ve often wondered what makes a particular book YA and I’ve come across many different answers over the years. Some people would say that what distinguishes YA from other genres is that there’s less swearing, sex, and violence, however I don’t think this is it since many YA stories actually contain above-average swearing, sex, and violence. Some say the only thing that makes a story YA is if the main character is a young adult, but many sections of the Game of Thrones series are told from a young adult perspective and it’s not considered YA. Also, the Hobbit and other stories are considered YA even though they’re not told from a young adult’s perspective. Continue reading

Asimov’s May/June 2019

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The good thing about having a subscription to a print magazine is it encourages me to actually read it. I always mean to read internet-based magazines, but I often never get around to them. The problem with podcasts is I’m always falling behind the most recent episode. It’s especially hard to keep up to date with podcasts that have extensive back catalogs. I have a greater incentive to read a print magazine, though, because I’ve already paid for it, so not reading it would be wasting money.

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The Complete Colony Saga by Michaelbrent Collings

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“They were half-pinned under an SUV that was burning brightly, sending black puffs of smoke into the air like an old West smoke signal, like it was humanity’s last chance to ask for help.”

At the beginning of this series, almost half of the world’s population suddenly turn into zombies and start killing the other half, so there’s lots of gore. In fact, this is likely the most gruesome book I’ve ever read. Right off the bat, we smell “the pungent odor of bowels that had been purged in fear and death” and see a zombie “kneeling over a young girl, yanking loops of entrails out of her stomach.” Despite all the gore, the author is initially squeamish when it comes to swear words, although the cussing does increase as the series goes on. Continue reading

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Part 5 of 5

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This book covers many other things such as free energy, homunculus theory, vitalism, dualism, and pyramid schemes. An important take-away from the chapter on quantum woo is that quantum effects don’t apply to anything much bigger than an atom, so don’t believe anyone who tells you quantum effects apply to your day-to-day life. The chapter on N Rays demonstrates that intelligent people aren’t more likely to be good at critical thinking, just better at coming up with rationalizations. Continue reading

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Part 4 of 5

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Data mining is sifting through large amounts of data looking for anything that stands out, even if it happened by chance. Astrologers are often guilty of this, using one study to claim people born under certain signs are more accident prone. However, a single study doesn’t prove anything until it’s replicated. A followup study actually demonstrated that people born under different signs are more likely to have car accidents. Continue reading

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Part 3 of 5

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Cognitive biases are flaws in how our brain processes information and heuristics are mental shortcuts which are not always true. For example, we’re more likely to buy something that costs $19.99 rather than $20.00 due to our leftmost digit bias. Handedness bias makes right-handed people prefer the item on the right (and left-handed people the item on the left) when two similar items are presented. An example of framing bias is that we prefer something with a 90 percent survival rate over something with a 10 percent death rate, even though these are both the same. We also take bigger risks to avoid negative outcomes than to achieve positive outcomes. Continue reading

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe Part 2 of 5

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People will usually accept new information as long as it doesn’t conflict with an emotional belief that’s part of their identity. When this is challenged, they engage in motivated reasoning, defending their belief illogically and dismissing inconvenient facts. It’s triggered by cognitive dissonance, psychological discomfort which occurs when two ideas conflict. It’s human nature, but we can try to avoid it by not getting emotionally attached to factual beliefs that might turn out to be wrong. Continue reading

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe Part 1 of 5

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“So, while we cannot trust the stories we are told, tradition, faith, convenient or reassuring narratives, charismatic figures, or even our own memories, we can slowly and carefully build a process by which to evaluate all claims to truth or knowledge. A big part of that process is science, which systematically tests our ideas against reality, using the most objective data possible. Science is still a messy and flawed process, but it is a process. It has, at least, the capacity for self-correction, to move our beliefs incrementally in the direction of reality. In essence, science is the process of making our best effort to know what’s really real.” Continue reading

Asimov’s March/April 2019

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This issue is a tribute to Asimov’s former editor Gardner Dozois and features one of his stories, 1983’s “The Peacemaker” about melting icecaps leading to rising oceans. Several people reminisce about how funny and charming Gardner was. I wasn’t previously familiar with him, but he has more Hugo awards than anyone else, and it sounds like he was both a great writer and editor. Continue reading

Asimov’s January/February 2019

Another great issue full of many great stories. We get a mix of tales, some humorous, some horrific, featuring aliens, time travel, and space travel.

“How Sere Looked for a Pair of Boots” by Alexander Jablokov takes place in a world filled with many different types of aliens who use each other’s body parts, waste products, moltings, and parasites to trade with each other. Hey, everybody’s got something that someone else wants. Continue reading