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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 State of the Art  - Iain M. Banks The first two stories are OK, but nothing special.

The third one is quite funny. I can't count the number of times I've seen a hapless spaceman get rent limb from limb by a bug-eyed monster. But what's the monster's motivation? Banks comes up with a lovely answer.

#4 is also a nice perspective flip in a classic SF scenario. The guy in the space-suit needs to walk a long way across the surface of a hostile planet to reach safety. We always see it from the guy's point of view. How about the suit?

#5 is amusing too. I liked the alien speech translator:

'First person singular obtaining colloquial orgasm within a Caledonian sandwich,' it said, then looked annoyed, and spoke incoherently into a grille set in its belly, which replied. It looked up and said, 'Sorry. As I was saying, I come in peace.'

We're always getting problems like that.

#6 is a bit too cute. The ending was nice though.

#7 is the title story: when the Culture visits Earth. It's not the most successful Culture story. Banks gets too indignant about our obvious failings, and there are a lot of rather dull discussion scenes. Enough good ideas though that it's still worth reading.

#8 is an unusual experimental piece, only half-successful.

All in all: not as good as most of his stuff. I can see why he usually sticks to novels, he's not a natural short-story writer.