Book Review: Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson

Cover of the book Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson
Last Year
by Robert Charles Wilson
Tor, 2016

This review was first published by Booklist on November 15, 2016.

People from the twenty-first century have opened a portal in rural Illinois that allows them to visit 1877. They’ve built a tourist resort called the City of Futurity, where wealthy individuals can experience the past and locals can catch a sanitized glimpse of the future. Jesse Cullum is a native of 1877 who works for the City. A man with a violent history, he meets and falls for a woman from the future. Meanwhile, someone is smuggling future technology into the past and sowing discord toward the City. Soon enough, it all starts to fall apart. There’s a lot going on in the latest from Hugo Award–winning Wilson. It’s an alternate-history novel, a time-travel story, and a whodunit all in one. It explores parallel universes, corporate greed, and culture clashes while critiquing the entitlement of modern society and our tendency to romanticize the past. Wilson wrangles all these threads with skill and vividly renders the reality of the past. The story is well paced, builds to an epic crisis, and makes for a satisfying read.

Book Review: The Social Organism: A Radical Understanding of Social Media to Transform Your Business and Life by Oliver Luckett and Michael J. Casey

Cover of the book The Social Organism: A Radical Understanding of Social Media to Transform Your Business and Life by Oliver Luckett and Michael J. Casey
The Social Organism: A Radical Understanding of Social Media to Transform Your Business and Life
by Oliver Luckett and Michael J. Casey
Hachette, 2016

This review was first published by Booklist on November 1, 2016.

Luckett and Casey are established authorities in the world of social media. If anyone can help us understand this digitally connected world, it’s them—and they don’t disappoint. They propose that the best way to comprehend the nature of social media is through the model of the seven characteristics of biological life. The book offers a deeply informed and nuanced portrait of the social-media landscape, supported by numerous examples. Although the outlook is hopeful, the authors clearly recognize the pitfalls and dangers social media presents and argue that we must guide its development if we want to make it better. The title implies that this will be a practical how-to manual for anyone who wants to take advantage of social media. It’s not. This is an overarching theory of social media, spanning disciplines from biology to anthropology to business to computer science. Whether or not you agree with their vision for what social media can be and do, this work offers a compelling model to understand what social media is.