Miscellaneous Non-Computer Books
These are some of the books I've read recently and enjoyed or that are
long-time favorites of mine. Mostly these are science fiction titles.
J. K. Rowling
The Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling have become quite popular of
late, and justifiably so. They're children's books, but if you're an
adult, don't dismiss them out of hand for that, since they're quite
entertaining, with amusing characters and plot twists.
Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
This is the first book
in the Harry Potter series. It introduces Harry, an 11-year
orphaned wizard who lives with his extremely unmagical
aunt and uncle. When Harry learns of his heritage and enrolls in an
unusual boarding school for wizards and witches, he embarks on a
journey of discovery that brings him into a confrontation with
Voldemort, the evil wizard who killed his parents when he was an
paperback edition is also available.
Buy from Amazon
Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
This is the second
book in the Harry Potter series. The story picks up after Harry's
first year at the Hogwarts school. When Harry returns to school, a
mysterious force begins paralyzing students. Harry and his friends
investigate and ultimately confront the force, which has plans
beyond the school and its students.
Buy from Amazon
Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
This is the third
book in the Harry Potter series, and takes place in Harry's third
year at Hogwarts. Once again, evil is on the loose. Sirius Black,
convicted years ago for being Voldemort's accomplice, has escaped
from prison. Prior to this, Black was heard to mutter "he's at
Hogwarts" in his sleep, leading to concern that Black might try to
Buy from Amazon
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire The fourth
book in the Harry Potter series is now available. Harry's fourth
year at Hogwarts is marred by the plots of Lord Voldemort, and by
Harry's mysterious entry into the Triwizard Championship -- a
dangerous contest between three schools of magic. The cover calls
this book a pivotal one in the series, and it's right!
Buy from Amazon
David Brin has been one of my favorite science fiction authors for
several years, because of his ability to create fascinating aliens and to
construct plots that build almost imperceptibly in intensity, leaving one
unable to put the book down. Plan to read the final half of most Brin
books in a single sitting.
The Uplift Trilogy
Perhaps Brin's most famous
work is the Uplift Trilogy, which begins with Sundiver,
continues with the Hugo and Nebula award-winning Startide
Rising, and finishes with The Uplift War.
Startide Rising is the best of the three (with The
Uplift War coming in a close second), and you can read
Startide Rising before reading Sundiver without
fear of getting lost. (Aside from a few references, the cast of
characters in each book is entirely separate, although The
Uplift War deals with the consequences of events first
described in Startide Rising.) All three books are placed
in a universe in which most sentient races are uplifted,
or genetically engineered to sentience, by other sentient beings.
Humans are a wolfling species -- we have no patron to
bring us into the community of the Five Galaxies. Whether our
patron race abandoned us or we evolved sapience naturally remains
an unanswered question throughout the series. Sundiver
takes place only a few years after first contact, and involves an
experiment to explore the Sun using a combination of human and
Galactic technology. Startide Rising occurs some decades
later, and involves the flight of the Earth starship
Streaker from Galactic armadas intent on recovering a
secret discovered by the dolphin crew. The Uplift War is
set on an Earth colony world under siege by alien powers who want
to coerce Earth to reveal the secrets discovered by the
Buy from Amazon: Sundiver,
The Second Uplift Trilogy (aka the Uplift Storm
The Second Uplift Trilogy is much more tightly
interwoven than is the first; you really should begin with
Brightness Reef, continue with Infinity's Shore,
and finish with Heaven's Reach. Set on a hidden and
illegal colony world hosting several races, including humans, the
Second Uplift Trilogy continues to explore the consequences of
Streaker's discovery throughout the Five Galaxies. On the
Jijo colony, the roles of humans and aliens are oddly reversed,
with the humans possessing greater technology and learning. The
arrival of a Galactic ship holding aliens who claim to be
humanity's patrons causes quite an uproar in Brightness
Reef, and the plot thickens from there.
Buy from Amazon: Brightness
This book is part of no series. Set in 2038,
Earth begins with a search for a micro black hole --
within the Earth. The singularity had been released
accidentally, and was generally believed to be dissipating, but the
physicist who created it has his doubts about that, so the search
begins and leads to further discoveries that literally change the
planet. Earth may be Brin's most complex story to date,
and it's one of his best, in my opinion.
Buy from Amazon
Another singleton book, this one is
set on a remote colony world in which the colonists have adjusted
human biology to suit their ideology. Most of the population
consists of female clones, who form families specialized to engage
in particular economic and social roles. A smaller portion of the
population consists of what we would consider ordinary men and
women. The story chronicles the coming of age of two young women
who are unusual because they're identical twins, who plan to use
this fact to gain a leg up and found their own house. A visitor
from Earth, however, throws everybody's plans into chaos.
Buy from Amazon
Larry Niven, like David Brin, is one of my favorite authors because of
his creative aliens and future history, Known Space. Niven's plots tend
not to be nearly as complex as are Brin's, however, and his characters are
not generally as well-drawn. Nessus, from Ringworld and a few
short stories, remains one of my favorite alien characters, however.
The Ringworld Trilogy
Larry Niven's 1970 novel,
Ringworld, is considered a classic of science fiction.
It's the tale of an expedition to an unusual artifact: A huge
ringlike structure constructed around a star. Spun for artificial
gravity and hosting an atmosphere, the Ringworld contains more land
surface area than all the habitable worlds of a galaxy combined.
The story was continued in The Ringworld Engineers, in
which a return to the Ringworld reveals the structure is
unbalanced, destined to grind against its sun unless the explorers
can locate the structure's control center. The Ringworld
Throne is not nearly as compelling as either of the first two
books, but it's worth a read if you want to learn more about the
fate of the Ringworld's explorers.
Buy from Amazon: Ringworld,
Ringworld Engineers, The
Known Space Novels
Other novels in the Known
Space series include Protector, about a being who sets
forth to find a lost colony of its kind, only to discover Earth;
World of Ptavvs, about a mind-controlling alien caught in
a time suspension device and placed on display in a museum; A
Gift From Earth, about a new technology from Earth that upsets
a colony world's delicate social balance; and Flatlander,
a collection of murder mysteries featuring Gil Hamilton, a police
officer with a limited telekinetic third "arm."
Buy from Amazon: Protector,
of Ptavvs, A
Gift From Earth, Flatlander.
Niven short story collections
Much of Niven's
best work appeared in short stories published in the 1960s and
1970s. These works have been published in several collections, many
of which overlap one another. Tales of Known Space and
Neutron Star are a good introduction to the Known Space
universe. (Three Books of Known Space contains both
Tales of Known Space and two additional novels, World
of Ptavvs and A Gift From Earth.) Some stories from
these books, as well as various stories that aren't set in the
Known Space universe, appear in N-Space and
Playgrounds of the Mind.
Buy from Amazon: Tales
of Known Space, Neutron
Books of Known Space, N-Space,
of the Mind.
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