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Kian Ryan

kianryan@ramblingreaders.org

Joined 1 year, 6 months ago

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2024 Reading Goal

83% complete! Kian Ryan has read 10 of 12 books.

What was it really like to live through the 20th century? In 1910 three-quarters of …

A decade by decade breakdown of working class Britain, where it went right, and where it's gone horribly wrong.

5 stars

I picked this up from a charity book stall in a supermarket. I had no expectations.

What I got was a thoroughly detailed history and commentary of the working class, it's political power, how it's been treated by those with power, and when things and have gone well and poorly.

It's staggeringly good. I've spent a few months on it, because it's needed real attention to digest. If you have an interest in class and politics, and you're especially curious about how politicians and those with power treat the working class, and the effect it has had, this book delivers.

Natalie Haynes: Stone Blind (Hardcover, 2022, Pan Macmillan) 4 stars

Medusa is the sole mortal in a family of gods. Growing up with her Gorgon …

An absolute tragedy

5 stars

In 2008 Luciano Garbati created "Medusa with the Head of Perseus", and a modern version of the Medusa myth was lodged in minds, of a defiant strong woman taking revenge on her agressors.

That's not the Medusa myth Natalie Haynes tells.

Natalie tells the story of Medusa the victim, who did nothing wrong except exist and was tormented, tortured and then killed. Even after death, she's still a weapon, used by a cowardly mortal who solves all his problems with death. The Gods have done nothing but do what Gods do, which is use her as a pawn for her entire existence.

This is not a triumpant story, it's a story about the roles women play in society, and their relationships with Gods and men.

Cory Doctorow: Walkaway (2017, Tor Books) 4 stars

Walkaway is a 2017 science fiction novel by Cory Doctorow, published by Head of Zeus …

Leaves questions unanswered, and I'm ok with that

4 stars

Walkaway embaces the idea of non compliance and co-operation, building a better future by leaving the trappings of capitalism behind. It's distinctly post-capitalist novel, which makes a strong effort to embrace anarchist ideals. Some of those ideals extend beyond the now, and a lot of the ideas are really quite big. It also presents some really uncomfortable questions and ideas, that don't necessarily sit easily. Walkaway starts on the idea of walking away from objects and things, but gradually starts exploring the idea of walking away from your own identity. I'm not entirely sure if some of those questions were intentional, but they left me pondering for days at the end of the book.

Well done.

Agatha Christie: The Mystery of the Blue Train (Hercule Poirot Mysteries) (Hardcover, 1999, Tandem Library) 4 stars

Bound for the Riviera, detective Hercule Poirot has boarded Le Train Bleu, an elegant, leisurely …

My First Agatha Christie Book

3 stars

This novel has a reputation for being on the list of "worst Agathas". Unfortunately, this is my only exposure to Agatha Christie's written work. I've been familiar with the more popular stories through TV, film and radio, it was nice to be read a story I've not seen or heard before. However where I expect to be able to follow clues, and deduce the crime along with the protagonist, I don't feel like I can, and the revelation at the end of the book feels like it's been plucked almost from thin air. The relationships of the cast are interesting, more interesting than the crime, but since there's a crime to solve, solved it must be.

Robert Silverberg: Worlds Fair 1992 (1982, Ace) 2 stars

A high school boy's essay discussing the possibility of life on Pluto wins him a …

This is a very pedestrian YA story.

2 stars

This is a very pedestrian YA story. Teenage male protagonist wins a competition to work for a year on the 1992 World's Fair - held on a space station above earth. There's scratchings at the morals of exploration and exploitation, and while I recognise the novel was written in 1970, I'm still not convinced by the arguments from a 1970's viewpoint, especially in a YA novel.

Silverberg can very much write better. This was intended to be a YA novel, and is voiced like a Tom Swift novel. It talks down to the reader, makes the protagonist over-clever and puts him on a rollercoaster. He suffers a small heartbreak, but very quickly moves on, because he's going somewhere.

Possibly over-harsh, but they don't write them like this anymore, for good reason.

Naomi Kritzer: Liberty's Daughter (Paperback, 2023, Fairwood Press LLC) 4 stars

Beck Garrison lives on a seastead — an archipelago of constructed platforms and old cruise …

A realistic near future vision, an excellent story

4 stars

An excellent commentary wrapped up in a well crafted story. Naomi Kritzer provides a realistic near future vision of an independant country established by those who feel they are outside of the responsibilities of society. Naomi manages to craft a story in this environment that feels balanced. Beck has only really known the world of this country, so the rules and social norms of this society are presented as normal. When something is wrong through Beck's eyes, we know it's wrong by her standards.

Brian Dear: The Friendly Orange Glow (2017) 4 stars

At a time when Steve Jobs was only a teenager and Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t even …

A piece of computing history that you may be unaware of

4 stars

Following the PLATO education project from it's genesis in the 1960s through to it's demise in 2015, "The Friendly Orange Glow" follows the people who developed, and used the system in it's various guises.

PLATO is a completely different take on computing compared to the work that was going on at Silicon Valley during the 1970s, with different audiences, different goals and ultimately different hardware. Those motivations brought some innovations that wouldn't appear again arguably for a few decades - touchscreen driven input, high resolution displays, notesfiles, multi-user games, real time chat. Many of these functions were built by the community that grew around the system.

The book goes to great length to detail the story of the people at the heart of the project, such as Donald Blitzer and users of the system, such as Brodie Lockard who was paralysed after a gymnastics accident and went on to author …

finished reading The Friendly Orange Glow by Brian Dear

Brian Dear: The Friendly Orange Glow (2017) 4 stars

At a time when Steve Jobs was only a teenager and Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t even …

Following the PLATO education project from it's genesis in the 1960s through to it's demise in 2015, "The Friendly Orange Glow" follows the people who developed, and used the system in it's various guises.

PLATO is a completely different take on computing compared to the work that was going on at Silicon Valley during the 1970s, with different audiences, different goals and ultimately different hardware. Those motivations brought some innovations that wouldn't appear again arguably for a few decades - touchscreen driven input, high resolution displays, notesfiles, multi-user games, real time chat. Many of these functions were built by the community that grew around the system.

The book goes to great length to detail the story of the people at the heart of the project, such as Donald Blitzer and users of the system, such as Brodie Lockard who was paralysed after a gymnastics accident and went on to author …

finished reading Worlds Fair 1992 by Robert Silverberg

Robert Silverberg: Worlds Fair 1992 (1982, Ace) 2 stars

A high school boy's essay discussing the possibility of life on Pluto wins him a …

This is a very pedestrian YA story. Teenage male protagonist wins a competition to work for a year on the 1992 World's Fair - held on a space station above earth. There's scratchings at the morals of exploration and exploitation, and while I recognise the novel was written in 1970, I'm still not convinced by the arguments from a 1970's viewpoint, especially in a YA novel.

Silverberg can very much write better. This was intended to be a YA novel, and is voiced like a Tom Swift novel. It talks down to the reader, makes the protagonist over-clever and puts him on a rollercoaster. He suffers a small heartbreak, but very quickly moves on, because he's going somewhere.

Possibly over-harsh, but they don't write them like this anymore, for good reason.

Naomi Kritzer: Liberty's Daughter (Paperback, 2023, Fairwood Press LLC) 4 stars

Beck Garrison lives on a seastead — an archipelago of constructed platforms and old cruise …

An excellent commentary wrapped up in a well crafted story. Naomi Kritzer provides a realistic near future vision of an independant country established by those who feel they are outside of the responsibilities of society. Naomi manages to craft a story in this environment that feels balanced. Beck has only really known the world of this country, so the rules and social norms of this society are presented as normal. When something is wrong through Beck's eyes, we know it's wrong by her standards.

E. L. Doctorow: World's fair (1996, Plume) 5 stars

This novel is about everything bar the World's Fair

5 stars

I'm researching World's Fairs and Expositions for a project.

A novel called "World's Fair" seemed like a sure bet.

Warning - the World's Fair only turns up at the very end of the book. If you're buying this based on the title, prepare to be a little disappointed.

However what this novel is, is an increadibly detailed snapshot of a Jewish family during the back end of the Great Depression, on the edge of the Second World War, from the viewpoint of a young boy. You get a day to day view of what life looked like, from the brands of record players through to the makes and the look of the cookers as the family move between homes. Styles change, and the family changes with them. This family changes over time, from younger and hopeful, to older and dare I say weary?

An excellent novel to get a …