Book Review: Perihelion Summer by Greg Egan

Cover of the book Perihelion Summer by Greg Egan
Perihelion Summer
by Greg Egan
Tor, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on March 15, 2019.

Once again, Egan (Phoresis, 2018) demonstrates his mastery of short-form science fiction. In Perihelion Summer, he takes on climate change from a unique angle—a micro-black hole passes close to Earth, changing its orbit and making the seasons more extreme and deadly, with swaths of the planet rendered uninhabitable. A group who built a self-sustaining aquaculture rig in the Indian Ocean to ride out the black hole now find themselves needing to navigate dangerous seas in search of survivable temperatures. Egan packs quite a lot into such a short book: science and engineering, family relationships and personal conflicts, global politics and danger. He presents a human tapestry in a time of disaster through evocative highlights of how people adapt to sudden crisis. This is a warning for how bad things could get if climate change is left unchecked. It’s a cautionary tale of the need for us to be prepared. But it’s also a beacon of hope—a story of survival at great cost. Difficult and painful as it may be, we find a way.

Book Review: The Science Fiction Fanzine Reader: Focal Points 1930–1960 edited by Luis Ortiz

Cover of the book The Science Fiction Fanzine Reader: Focal Points 1930–1960 edited by Luis Ortiz
The Science Fiction Fanzine Reader: Focal Points 1930–1960
edited by Luis Ortiz
IPG/Nonstop, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on March 15, 2019.

The Science Fiction Fanzine Reader offers a fascinating look into the culture of early science fiction fandom during its first three decades. Given the cheap and ephemeral nature of these fanzines, this book is the culmination of a remarkable research project by Ortiz (Emshwiller, 2007). He collects dozens of articles, editorials, letters, and commentary written by sf fans between 1930 and 1960, as well as a handful of pieces where fans reflect back on their early days in fandom. It’s an engrossing glimpse into the mindset of sf readers in the middle of the twentieth century. This isn’t a straight history—readers need to have a solid knowledge of the history of science fiction and fandom in order to get the most out of it. The selections don’t seem to be in any order—they’re not grouped by theme or chronologically, which obscures broader patterns within the history of fanzines. Still, this book is for committed historians of the sf genre.

Book Review: Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf

Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf
Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World
by Maryanne Wolf
Harper, 2018

I picked up this book expecting an exploration of the neuroscience and physiology of the effects of reading on the brain, and how reading in print and digital formats differ. I got that, and so much more.

Wolf presents a balanced account of the different effects of different mediums, both negative and positive, and how we might use this knowledge to do better for our children and ourselves. It’s a welcome perspective.

It’s also a deeply humanist and moral meditation of the capacities of the human mind and the importance of storytelling. It’s a clarion call to fulfill the responsibility we all bear toward our fellow human beings and to the future. This is a work of tremendous empathy and passion.

It may well be one of the most important works of our age.

Continue reading “Book Review: Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf”

The Problem of Confidence in Hiring

I’ve gotten to sit on a handful of hiring committees in the past few years. I’ve noticed I tend to pay attention to candidates’ confidence. Confidence matters to me.

But I’ve also realized confidence is a problematic metric when it comes to evaluating potential hires.

I believe confidence is important. Especially for library staff who work with patrons—for anyone who works in a customer service position: you need to be confident in your ability to handle whatever comes up. You need to have the confidence to remain calm and effective in high stress environments. An air of confidence creates a good atmosphere for our patrons. So I look for confidence in interviews. I’m struck when candidates display confidence and poise and I note when they seem nervous or hesitant.

But there all kinds of ways confidence is a poor metric.

Continue reading “The Problem of Confidence in Hiring”

Book Review: We Are Mayhem by Michael Moreci

Cover of the book We Are Mayhem by Michael Moreci
We Are Mayhem
by Michael Moreci
St. Martin’s, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on March 1, 2019.

Moreci’s second novel in his Black Star Renegades series (Black Star Renegades, 2018) is even more compelling than its predecessor: action packed and funny, with more emotional resonance. We Are Mayhem deepens established characters’ relationships and explores how they inhabit their world. The narrative follows two alternating story lines—Cade, searching for answers to help him control the Rokura, and Kira, leading the rebellion against Praxis. Each chapter ends with a cliff-hanger, and there are several surprise reveals and an unexpected ending. Though occasionally the novelty of Moreci’s characters and ideas outpace his unsophisticated writing style, readers who are hooked will be eager for the next installment.

Book Review: Titanshade by Dan Stout

Cover of the book Titanshade by Dan Stout
Titanshade
by Dan Stout
DAW, 2019

This review was first published by Booklist on March 1, 2019.

**STARRED REVIEW** Titanshade is a city running out of oil, and there’s a scramble to find alternative energy sources. When a delegate central to delicate negotiations is brutally murdered, it threatens to upend the future of the city. But no one knows who wanted the delegate dead or why, and a disgraced cop must descend into a complex underbelly of crime and political machinations to uncover the truth. What he discovers could cost him what he holds most dear. Titanshade is entirely unique: it’s a gritty noir murder mystery on an alien world with multiple species, a strange form of sorcery, a powerful religion, and large-scale political intrigue. And it’s set in the 1970s, with pay phones, 8-track tapes, racial tensions, and arguments about disco music. What’s amazing is how good it is at being all of these: the genuinely compelling mystery lives in a hugely original sf world and an immersive historical milieu. Moreover, debut novelist Stout is smart enough to let his characters live in this world without trying too hard to show it off. The setting just is, without effort, and that makes it eminently believable. This book should appeal equally to both sf fans and noir aficionados.