last week

A fanciful and light-hearted tale of a jobless future

Prominent and knowledgeable people including Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have been warning us for years about the danger of artificial general intelligence. They envision a point at which AI will surpass the cognitive abilities of the smartest human and start becoming even smarter at an exponential rate. Other observers see a more immediate threat […]

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a couple of weeks ago

Russian history through indirection in “A Gentleman in Moscow”

When historians look back at the twentieth century, they invariably designate the Russian Revolution of 1917-20 as one of the seminal events of the period. And it’s hard to dispute that judgment. Arguably, the Bolshevik takeover in Russia set in motion other world-shaking episodes, including the Nazi defeat in World War II, the arms race […]

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a couple of weeks ago

Political philosophies clash in this new space opera

Violations of the laws of physics notwithstanding, there is a truly excellent reason to read this intriguing new exercise in space opera. It’s one of the best explorations I’ve ever come across in the genre about politics and political philosophy. (Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars trilogy offers much the same.) Oh, the book is about […]

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last month

An alternate history of the Manhattan Project

Three-quarters of a century after the conclusion of World War II, debate still rages about the nuclear weapons program that was one of the war’s most shocking aspects. Continuing controversy about the bomb’s first use, of course. Still unresolved questions about the extensive Soviet espionage that delivered the secrets of the American Manhattan Project and […]

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last month

Alternate feminist history by a gifted science fiction author

What is history, and how does it work? We know, of course, that history isn’t fixed and immutable. It’s subject to the revision and reinterpretation of successive waves of scholars. Sometimes the fresh approach is based on new information that comes to light. But more often what we call history is merely a story historians […]

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last month

Time travel dominates this tale of First Contact

Feedback is the third of the eleven First Contact novels published to date by the gifted Australian science fiction author Peter Cawdron. Like the others I’ve read, it’s a serious effort to explore the scientific issues raised by the expectation of encountering extraterrestrial intelligence. Unfortunately, it’s the least successful. Although First Contact is at the […]

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last month

Ken Follett sets up the Kingsbridge Trilogy in a prequel

For decades Welsh novelist Ken Follett was best known for his bestselling thrillers, beginning with Eye of the Needle (1978), which established his reputation as a master of the craft. A decade later he indulged his longstanding passion for the architecture of classic European cathedrals when he published Pillars of the Earth (1989), the inaugural […]

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last month

Michael Crichton’s literary exercise in human conflict

When he died in 2008, Michael Crichton (1942-2008) left behind a literary legacy that had captured the imagination not just of the public but of Hollywood as well. Some of the best-remembered films of recent decades include stories based on Crichton’s twenty-six novels, including Jurassic Park and its sequels as well as The Andromeda Strain. […]

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