Book 213: The Frozen Sky by Jeff Carlson

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The Frozen Sky by Jeff Carlson

Finished reading on May 27th, 2016

Rating: 5/10

I had never heard of this book or the writer when someone I’d only met once before handed me this book and said I should read it and give it back to him when I’m done.

The cover caught my attention first because it had Europa on it and I had just mentioned Europa in a presentation half an hour earlier. After the initial reaction of ‘oh, that’s cool’ the thought in my head was that it didn’t look like a book I would pick up if there hadn’t been Europa on the cover.

So obviously, Jupiter’s icy moon Europa has a part to play in this book – there’re teams of people working on Europa after they’ve discovered life there.

Initially I found the plot quite difficult to follow, because of how it begins out (in order not to give any spoilers I’ll be general) – something happens and then you kind of return to the past and after you get to the point with what the book began with, you continue on with the story.

In the book artificial intelligence has quite a big role to play, it’s 22nd century, nanotechnology can heal people etc.

The main problem in the book is the lifeforms – are they intelligent or not and how to prove it one way or another and how people on Earth might benefit from either option. So it kind of goes into ethics.

It’s very much a plot-driven novel, you find out minimal information about the characters, but it didn’t really bother me, as all I really wanted to find out was whether the life there is intelligent or not.

I do think I would have liked to have more details – just in general, because I found only being able to imagine what was going on with the alien life under the ice, bot not what went on with the people, what their landers looked like etc, and I also didn’t imagine any generic people around, so in that sense the book could have been better (or I could have just imagined the details myself – duh!).

So was it even necessary to have everything happen on Europa? It could have been on any icy moon that could have an ocean under the ice – you don’t learn anything more about Europa, the characters never mention having a good view of Jupiter or the other moons or anything (I do get that they’re all really interested in what’s under their feet, but seriously? ) Nothing really wrong though, the smaller gravity was mentioned, but didn’t seem to play much of a part in anything the humans did.

In a way I feel now that it was good that I knew nothing at all about the book and I just read it in a bit over a week, I feel that now anything I read where the setting is Europa, I have high expectations.

It’s not a funny book, it’s not really too dramatic either, not romantic, although there seems to be a couple forming, and the sci-fi aspects are being set in the future and on Europa, a bit more advanced computers,and alien life. I’d classify it as a bit of light reading (light gravitation wise 🙂 ).

Book 140: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

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Finished reading on May 11th, 2014

Rating: 9/10

I, Robot tells a story of the rise of robotics from the point of view of Dr. Susan Calvin, a robot psychologist, who is being interviewed after a long and eventful life about her experiences with different kinds of robots throughout the late 20th century and first half of 21st century, as she is telling about the past in about the year 2050.

It is a science-fiction novel, with interesting characters and deep philosophical questions about artificial intelligence.

The book is a compilation of short stories about different robots, all of which have for some reason played a part in Susan’s life.

For example there’s a robot, who is a nursemaid for a small girl. The girl doesn’t want to play with other children, but rather prefers to spend time with one of the most advanced household robots of the time, but troubles arise when the girls mother decides that in order for her to grow up normal, they have to get rid of the robot, which leads to questions such as can a robot or artificial intelligence (AI) be someone’s friend, should or could it be treated as a person or as a household appliance?

As time passes, there are more advanced robots developed – one who can read minds for example,  or an AI that can build a spaceship for interstellar travel. They aren’t random characters in the book, but rather every incident and robot raises questions, as they all have to obey the three laws of robotics, which Asimov constructed. That aspect makes the book a thrilling psychological piece, as the reader is following the robot psychologist’s thoughts and actions, and we see what kind of problems might arise.

Certainly an enjoyable book, especially as one of the main human characters is a strong and smart female figure, who is in a lot of cases the one who comes up with a valid reasoning or solution for a situation.

Although the collection was first published in 1950, and the stories themselves separately between 1940 and 1950, it doesn’t read as too implausible, although that level of technological achievement doesn’t seem to have been achieved just yet.

I found it interesting, as some of the “robots” are in fact really powerful computers, but they still obey Asimov’s laws of robotics, most importantly the robots seem able of individual thought. Having just last week seen the movie Transcendence, I find myself thinking whether or not there will ever be such level of technology that could actually follow Asimov’s laws of robotics, and in case of the singularity (not the physical kind, but the technological where AI becomes smarter than a human brain) in the movie – is that an AI and could be considered a robot, or is it still a human and more like a cyborg although stuck in a computer?

To get back to the book – it’s an excellent read, I’d highly recommend reading it.

Apparently the 2004 movie “I, Robot” was inspired by this book, I haven’t seen it myself, but from what I’ve read of it, there are some of the characters who make an appearance in the book, but otherwise isn’t anything like the book.

Book 22: The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle

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The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle

Finished reading on 27.12.2012

Rating 9/10

The Black Cloud was such a great book – it was short (some 200 pages), it was exciting and as always – almost anything to read is great when you’re sitting on a bus filled with people you’d want to hide away from, (possibly under a seat, but it’s unpractical for reading – not enough space and a bit dark).

It’s a sci-fi book about what would
happen if the Solar System happened to come across a dense large cloud. It’s a nice thought experiment really, with some interesting physics behind it – the cloud can either freeze the Earth and rob it of the sunlight, or it can burn it and leave without an atmosphere… and what if it were’nt just a molecular cloud, but instead something unexpected like another form of life, although a huge one of those?

I really enjoyed the book and to any science fiction fan, I’d highly recommend reading it.