Michael Crichton – Prey

If book’s quality would be measured by extremely late reading and not being able to put book down and by reading it in 9 days (same size book would usually take me 4-6 weeks), then for sure, this is 10/10. Haven’t read much this year, but so far it a contender for best book. No surprise. Michael Crichton is recognized for his suspenseful thrillers and sci-fi novels. It’s weird that i have only read one of his books before, very very long time ago. I think it was Lost World from his Jurassic Park series. I’ve read it before i have even see any movie about dinosaurs with his adapted screenplays. A year or so ago i have watched Andromeda Strain movie based on his book. Remember seeing this in my childhood and being terrified. It’s an old movie, but very good. And then i saw he also did Westworld movie (long before it became TV series). So, i was looking what to read next the other day and decided to give a try his yet another bestseller. Prey doesn’t disappoint. Although it starts from a far and is not even close to sci-fi in the beginning. Yet, you quickly become attached to mundane daily routine of out of work dad tending to his family while mom is making money. Somehow it is very likable, with annoying kids, teenager tantrums, picking what food. Crichton is very good with internal monologues which somehow very seamlessly develop into dialogs. Haven’t seen such technique, where first one person says something, then main protagonist starts thinking in his mind, but by the end of his internal speech it looks like he is actually relaying everything to the other person and they respond. This makes book even more dynamic without unnecessary repeating of what character already thought of. Then of course tons of scientific information. And this time it is not just biology, genetics, but also nanotechnology and even computer programming. It’s truly fascinating how author manages to combine all of this and present in believable manner. Although, at times it does look like main hero just cannot not know something about distributed agent programming and analogues in real animal world, sometimes too quick to find solutions and so on. But not that much over the top to start cringe. Book starts like a fascinating puzzle, but by the middle of the book horror and thriller elements start to creep in and then you are afraid to read and afraid to put it back. By two thirds of the book i started to kind of figure out main mystery, but had two ideas. In the end it was combination of two. Which is kind of satisfying that you have guessed and still different. The end as usual (i hate myself for repeating this) is a bit weaker than the main book. It seemed that at the end enemy was not as terrifying and strong like in the middle. Although author still managed to inject a little twist and aha moment which is not that convoluted for most readers to grasp. So, in the end, it was a great experience with a slightly weaker but still satisfying ending. And now i will get some sleep, finally 🙂 9/10

Philip K. Dick – The Man in the High Castle

Heard a lot about this book and there were even a TV series based on this book almost 10 years ago. Have read something from this author many years ago and vaguely remember not being completely satisfied with his storytelling. This book is considered by many a masterpiece and it got some awards. I can agree that the idea is unique and fascinating. Alternative history, what would happen if. If Germany and Japan had won WWII and conquered USA and the rest of the world. As a backdrop of story it is a mind blowing premise. There is no exposition explaining everything. You slowly learn more and more with every page and chapter of this book as you follow story of a few characters. These people are very loosely related in the plot, some paths cross, some not. To make it even more fascinating, in this world exits a book written by some mysterious man, which depicts an alternate history (to the world in this book), when US and allies actually win the war. It is like opposite of the world we live in now, where allies won and people are wondering and writing about what the world would have been if Axis had won. The book is somewhat banned, but many and even Germans and Japanese are reading it. Learning more about this book and going further into plot some mystical undertones start to creep in little by little. Who actually wrote this book and what it is, why the world depicted in that book is so real? And.. there is no answer. The Man in the High Castle doesn’t provide one satisfying answer or conclusion or reveal. I see same sentiment in many reviews out where. The idea is brilliant, depicting of the world is great, but story and plot are not so much. Other than revealing some horrible Germany plans for world domination there is no grand finale, no mind blowing twist. Not that every book needs it. And i would be ok with no real end. But author makes effort to lead one of the characters to meet that person who wrote the alternate history book. And all of this just to learn that book wrote itself? With the help of some oracle (yet another book existing in this book, this is hard to write this review 🙂 ). And even then, reader can barely sense some sort of mystery behind all of this and the book abruptly ends. No wonder that first season of TV adaptation got so much praise and then everything went downhill with last two seasons. There was just no material or idea to work with further. Only buildup and no release. Overall, the book was fine, although i didn’t like most of the characters or cared about them, some plot lines were abandoned. Could have done with less of internal monologues. 6/10

Nancy Kress – Beggars in Spain

Second book i have tried from this author and so far i am loving her style and plots. This time unlike “An Alient Light” the story happens not on an alien planet with weird factions and culture, but it is not less interesting. Book starts actually in not so distant past for us now (but book was written in 1993, so it was a future for that time). On Earth, with currently existing geopolitical and economic landscape. But there are a few scientific breakthroughs at that time. Like very efficient and practically free source of energy that makes US as patent holder a very rich country and advancements in DNA modifications to create children with improved abilities. This is where it gets especially interesting as scientists find way to remove necessity for sleep. Which also brings improved health and reduces rate of aging. This creates a cast of people with lots of time to be active, improved IQ, healthy, essentially immortal. And then, similar like in the first book i have read, it all starts revolving around various social effects of such biological advancements. As expected, tensions arise both from envy and fear of such “freaks” among common people. Non sleeping are blamed to take jobs from regular people, conspiracy theories pop up constantly about them planning to take over the world. Some even get killed. This can be compared to actual events in human history when certain groups or races of people were being discriminated or isolated. Although in this case it is actually more advanced type of people who get such treatment. Nancy Kress managed to make me glued to the book with various events unfolding, with jumps 10-50 years to the future following same characters and watching how landscape changes, country evolves, conflict between sleeping and non-sleeping goes to the next level. As in the last book we learn about main characters emotions, internal tensions. It is not just dry recounting of events. But not too much as i sometimes found in the last book. Just enough to get attached to key figures, understand some of their feelings and motives. The most fascinating aspect in Beggars in Spain was the fact that self-isolated cast of Non-sleeping people managed to create even more advanced Super-human race among them and then they became kind of discriminated in their own community for being too weird and freaky. No matter how righteous a group of people might feel, they can always devolve into the same mentality that they were fighting against. Because people are people. The ending was a bit muted and i was expecting a more devastating outcome of the conflict between US government and Non-sleeping colony. Also at the end some events were happening a bit too quickly, like Super mutants finding a cure to their stutter and it is just gone on the next page after reading their troubled speech for a chapter. But that’s a problem with most books. It gets very interesting by the middle, but it is hard to get a very exciting ending. So it ends in a bit melancholic, and mildly optimistic vein. But nonetheless the book kept me captivated for the whole read. Even thinking what if we were really able to avoid sleep, how our lives would be then, with years of continuously being conscious, being able to work 12-24 hours a day. 8/10

Blog annual stats (v2023)

2023 is done. This year decided not to migrate to a new version of Google Analytics but ditch it completely. Matomo is more than enough for me. Don’t recall any hiccups with statistics or blog in general. Although i try to check it every few days after that SSL issue last fall. Not that many articles this year again, but i was reading much more, so a lot more reviews than usual. This helped balance out numbers as there were not many technology articles this year. But a few older articles, that started to get traction at the end of last year, blew up. Again, for reasons unknown to me. Last month i have decided to start doing book reviews in English. It seems easier for me to write about books like that. Wonder if that can get a bit more views.

  • Posted 17 entries (+3):
    • Technology – 3 (-3), dropped even lower; only posting about new Windows releases lately;
    • Reviews – 11 (+6), more books read;
    • Books – 11 (+7), unexpectedly to myself read a lot more this year and if i keep the pace, next year this number can grow even more; btw, actually read 13 books (one post was about a trilogy);
    • General – 2 (-), same posts about blog anniversary and yearly stats like every year;
    • Artwork – 1 (-);
    • Movies – 0 (-1), another dying category here; have not gone to Kinopavasaris movie fest this year again; only seen one movie this year (Oppenheimer), which was great, but didn’t feel like posting about it;
    • Board Games – 0 (-1), not playing, not watching videos about them or reading news;
    • Top 10 – 0 (-1);
  • Same like last year 1 comment approved that looked like real one. And that is on one of the articles that lead traffic recently (-).

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Roger Zelazny – Lord of Light

As an experiment this review will be in English.

Lord of Light is an interesting concept for a sci-fi book. Hinduism religion and mythology mixed with sci-fi elements. Although most of the time it feels more like a fantasy book with glimpses of technology based background. Which is ok, but based on the description i was expecting to learn more about how that human colony from dying Earth was established and evolved into such society like it is portrayed in the book and maybe learn more things about technological aspect of their tools and weapons. It seemed though that these people themselves started to believe they are gods, after being revived in new bodies thousands of times and being worshiped by others as divine beings. So, the book reads like some mesh of religious and fantasy mythos about gods clashing with each other, using regular people and indigenous creatures. Real events are intertwined with excerpts from religious texts. There are not that many arguments presented about opposing ideas. Most “gods” want to keep people (which are descendants and kids of their own) in medieval age, arguing that they want to protect regular people from a too fast technological progress. Which might have some merit, but i don’t remember any strong argument from that faction. So, it felt more like a selfish idea to keep people dark minded for easier control and keep them worshiping their gods eternally. The idea of technology allowing people to move their conciseness to a new younger body over and over again is not new, but when it is mixed with a religion that supports reincarnation, this is a very interesting mix. Structure of the book is also non linear. It starts with events near the end, then goes back and most of the book depicts that period and at the end it meets with the timeline from the beginning of the book. Again, interesting idea, but wasn’t something i have enjoyed. First part was too short and confusing. And later i was all the time afraid they will never go back to these events or that i have missed something. It wasn’t bad and i can see what effect it should have, but it didn’t feel that good or really necessary. It is often done in movies, but movies are a shorter media and it is easier to keep everything in mind. All in all, i liked the idea and some of the aspects of this book, but story itself wasn’t that engaging, i didn’t feel attached to any of the characters. And there were too much of magic/fantasy aspect than sci-fi to my liking. Could see how this old book influenced modern books, movies and other media. 7/10

A. E. Van Vogt – The World of Null-A (Trilogy)

Alfred Van Vogt turi ypatingą vietą mano fantastikos mėgėjo širdyje. Tai yra vienas pirmųjų fantastų kurio knygas skaičiau būdamas paaugliu ir kurios paliko didžiulį įspūdį. The Isher Emprire, Voyages of Space Beagle, Empire of Atom. Nors ir tada kartais skaitymas buvo labai sunkus dėl labai sudėtingų vidinių herojaus monologų persipynusių su psichologija ir morale. Taigi, kritiškai rašyti apie šio kūrėjo knygas yra sunku. Tuo pačiu atsiranda abejonės. O tai gal aš ne pakankamai protingas viską suprasti ir įvertinti? Dar prieš pradedant šią trilogiją skaičiau Wikipedijoj apie Van Vogto gyvenimą ir mačiau kad tais laikais jis turėjo aršų kritiką, kuris tiesiai sakė, kad visa Null-A trilogija yra totalus šlamštas. Na, taip stipriai nesakyčiau ir gal tas kritikas turėjo asmeninių reikalų su rašytojų, bet iš dalies sutinku. Labai trūksta struktūros ir krypties. Knyga ir herojai nuolat blaškosi tarp skirtingų vietų, siužetų, motyvų ir kartais lengva pasimesti. Ypač kai prie knygos vėl prisėdi po pauzės. O ir tenka prisiversti vėl pasinerti į šią istoriją. Ką parodo ir kiek laiko teko skaityt. Pirmą knygą perskaičiau per nepilnas 2 savaites, antra dalis buvo įveikta per beveik 3, o štai antrai prireikė net 2 mėnesių. Ir nepamenu, kad šias knygas skaityčiau naktimis vietoj miego, kas dažnai man yra įdomumo rodiklis. Tuo pačiu galima pasakyti, kad antra ir trečia knyga atsirado matyt po pirmos sėkmės. Nes pirmoje pabaiga gana aiški ir su tam tikra intriga. Bet nebuvo kažkokių užuominų kad veiksmas tęsis. Aišku, nėra dvi kitos knygos visiškai nuo nulio (haha) išvestos ir prideda naujų detalių ir išveda visą istoriją į naują tarp-galaktinį, milijonų metų istorijos lygmenį. Bet, iš esmės tai naujos knygos yra apie tą patį, tik šiek tiek kitame kontekste. Kas savaime nebūtų tokia didelė problema (nors ir prisidėjo prie nuobodulio pabaiginėjant trilogiją). Didžiausia problema man buvo rašymo stilius, kurį aš taip pamėgau nuo vaikystės.

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Windows 11 Moment 4 and 23H2

A few years ago i have already complained how confusing Windows 10 and later Windows 11 development become when they have introduced a bunch of channels (Beta, Canary, whatever) and it was hard to navigate and understand what feature lands in which version and when. In the past year Microsoft have also introduced Moment updates to Windows 11, when they would release a small set of new features and improvements with a regular monthly update without posting any news articles or blog posts. It becomes harder to track new features as only IT enthusiast websites and Youtube channels seem to comprehend what is happening with Windows. A few bullet points:

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8 years

8 years mark. Blog is slowly turning into books reviews page. Already posted 9 reviews since new year and at least a few more coming. Meanwhile the most popular posts here are some random tech posts that bots for some reason like to crawl, i guess (like tweaking Japanese language support in Windows). I know the stats are not quite real as many visits are seconds long and probably by bots, but still kind of fun to see what gets more hits.

Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles

Gal bus nepopuliari nuomonė, nes ši knyga yra tikriausiai laikoma mokslinės fantastikos klasika. Bet čia ne pirmas kartas kai pasaulio pripažintos knygos nesurezonuoja su manim kaip galbūt tikėjausi (kaip pvz. Selindžerio Rugiuose prie bedugnės pasirodė nuobodi, neaišku apie ką, kažkokio susireikšminusio paauglio sapalionės). Šį kartą nėra taip jau blogai. Kaip dažnai būna, knygą skaitau be problemų ir nėra taip, kad norėčiau mesti, bet viduje jauti augantį nepasitenkinimą.

Taigi, pirmą pasirodė keista knygos struktÅ«ra. Kas tapo aiÅ¡ku, kai knygą pradėjus pasiskaičiau daugiau internete ir pamačiau “fix-up” žodį. Taigi knyga gimė kaip atskiri ir mažiau susiję apsakymai, galbÅ«t spausdinti kokiame nors žurnale kas kelis mėnesius ir pan. Vėliau visą tai buvo surinkta į knygą-rinkinį. Nors stilius iÅ¡laikomas ir istorijos vaga irgi tęsiasi chronologiÅ¡kai. Bet tuo pačiu istorija Å¡okinėja prie visai atsitiktinių personažų, grįžta atgal ir pan. Vientisumo trÅ«kumas jaučiasi visos knygos skaitymo metu. Bet tai ne didelė problema.

GalbÅ«t, kadangi knyga paraÅ¡yta seniai, gal dėl to kad gal autorius dar ir poezija domėjosi ar tiesiog Å¡io autoriaus toks stilius, bet tekstas yra pernelyg prisodrintas poetiÅ¡kumo ir detalių. IÅ¡ pradžių galvoji, na gerai, čia gal apraÅ¡o detaliau aplinką, čia gal koks bÅ«das sustiprint įvykio efektą. Bet po to supranti, kad visa knyga yra taip paraÅ¡yta. Trumpai galima pabandyt apibÅ«dint taip “Jis žiÅ«rėjo į dangų lyg pamiršęs kas pats yra, kaip iÅ¡alkęs žmogus į duonos gabalėlį, lyg pernakt suÅ¡alusi gėlė į kylančią saulę, lyg alkanas Å¡uo į kaulą, lyg, kaip, kaip, kaip..”. Na čia aiÅ¡ku ne taip poetiÅ¡kai kaip knygoje, bet esmė panaÅ¡i. Ir tai ne vienas kitas toks sakinys skyriuje, bet vos ne kiekviena pastraipa. Su laiku pradeda labai įgrist, ypač kai yra koks nors įdomesnis posÅ«kis knygoje ar atomazga ir turi perlipt per šį kalną palyginimų, sinonimų ir alegorijų. Rimtai, jei tokius nukrypimus apkarpius, knyga gautųsi dvigubai, o gal ir trigubai trumpesnė.

Pati fabula įdomi. ApraÅ¡yti Marso gyvenimą pradedant marsiečiais, parodyt žmonių atvykimą ir kuo tai pasiverčia, ir galiausiai Žemės pabaigą neiÅ¡vengiamo branduolinio karo ugnyje. Knyga turi melancholiÅ¡ką prieskonį, kurį sustiprina aukščiau apraÅ¡ytas alegoriÅ¡kas ir poetiÅ¡kas stilius. Žmonija viską sunaikina, tyčia ar netyčia. Bet Marsas toliau egzistuoja, o jo kalnai tokie gražūs, mįslingi, žydri ir raudoni, tvyksantys kylančios saulės spinduliuose… C’mon! Kiek galima? Gal prie esmės pagaliau?! 🙂 7/10