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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
The Flanders Panel - Arturo Perez-Reverte My friend Cathy (also a chessplayer) told me I had to read this, and she was indeed right. I couldn't put it down, and finished it in about a day. It's... well, what is it? I read it as a kind of postmodernist reimagining of Alice Through The Looking-Glass. Other books I immediately thought of were The Name of the Rose, Gödel, Escher, Bach and Luzhin's Defense.

Formally, it's a very stylized murder mystery. Julia, the sexy but childlike Alice figure, is a Madrid art restorer. She receives an unusual commission, a 15th century painting of a chess game. There are multiple layers of reference: two of the people in the painting are playing chess, while the third one, a mysterious lady in black, watches. But they are also identified with the pieces, since it turns out that the picture contains a hidden message about the relationships between them, coded in the position of the game itself. Which in turn is reflected in the mirror shown on one side of the painting.

The rest of this review is in my book What Pooh Might Have Said to Dante and Other Futile Speculations