I find science fiction fascinating. I’ve written in the past about why I read it. The main reason – it has an uncanny ability to foreshadow the evolution of technology. I’m regularly amazed by an author’s capability to imagine the future.
A case in point is a recurring theme in my science fiction reading – artificial intelligence (better known as AI). In my opinion, we are at the early stages of artificial intelligence. Narrow AI is already here and integrated into our daily routines, whether it be internet searches, directions, or predicting weather patterns. The question is if and when AI becomes more general, and eventually turns into superintelligence. Superintelligence is that point beyond the singularity where machines become smarter than humans at a runaway pace. Predictions abound regarding what happens at that point from catastrophic, apocalyptic outcomes to a wondrous society where all the problems of today have been solved.
In my latest science fiction read, Post-Human (the Omnibus Edition), David Simpson imagines a story arc for AI that starts in the not so distant future and evolves from there.
My reading list is downright crazy. There are over 220 books on my “Want to Read” list on Goodreads. I do my best to prioritize the list every year, but even then a book can sit on it. Such was the case with The Jennifer Project by Larry Enright.
I first came across the book in March, 2017. I’m almost positive it came through an Amazon recommendation or one of their daily deal emails. The description looked good with numerous references to artificial intelligence (AI), so it fit in with my favorite reading genre – science fiction.
I put the book on my 2018 reading list, but it was pretty far down the queue. I moved it up considerably in 2019, but still wasn’t able to get to it. It finally made it up to the top of this year’s list, and I finished it last month.
One of my favorite authors is Blake Crouch. Ever since reading the Wayward Pines trilogy, I’ve made an effort to keep at least one or two Crouch novels in my reading list at all times. So far, I haven’t met a Crouch novel that I didn’t like.
Abandon was the latest book of his that I read. It’s written in classic Crouch style. He doesn’t waste anytime drawing you into the story. He builds the characters on the fly. There’s also a lot of time shifting, which is another characteristic of his writing. There’s also a lot that’s different, which I liked.
In somewhat of a coincidence, the last story left for me to read in Amazon’s Forward Series was The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay. I didn’t plan it that way. It just kind of happened.
Reading a short story is different than reading a long form novel. The author has a limited amount of pages to develop characters and explore a topic. It means there are usually fewer characters, the pace of the plot tends to be faster, and the author leaves it up to you the reader to fill in more of the details. In a well written short story, the ending is typically a stunning plot twist or reveal – the more unexpected the twist, the better. It’s not unusual for the ending to be abrupt, lacking closure. One gets to use their imagination to create their own ending, or to debate possible endings with others who have read the book.
Some are put off by this format, but I like it, a lot.
I enjoy discovering authors, especially those who are somewhat new and under the radar. It provides a great source of new books for my reading list that I can generally trust. Every year, I like to have a book by these authors on my list.
I don’t have a long list of these authors. Names that come to mind are Hugh Howey, William Hertling, A.G. Riddle, Blake Crouch, and Daniel Suarez. There are also classic authors like William Gibson, Isaac Asimov, and Philip K. Dick.
I expect that I will soon be adding Eliot Peper to the list.
I first discovered his work in 2015 with the Uncommon Stock trilogy. I liked that trilogy, so I read his follow-up Cumulus, which was also quite good. When Bandwidth was made available for free through Amazon Prime’s First Reads for April 2018, it was an easy decision to grab a copy. It took me a while, but I finally got around to reading it at the end of last year.
I’m a fan of the short story format. It’s impressive when an author tells a captivating story with well-developed characters in a condensed number of pages. I’ve also found it a great way to explore new authors to get a feel for their writing style.
So in the breaks between books on my reading list, I’ve been working through the short stories in the Amazon Forward series. I’ve read four of the six stories, and recently finished the 5th – Ark by Veronica Roth. If the author sounds familiar, she wrote the Divergent series of books that was made into a series of movies starting back in 2014.
When in between books on my reading list, I’ve been taking a break to explore the works in the Amazon Forward Collection. So far I’ve read Summer Frost by Blake Crouch, which I really liked, and Randomize by Andy Weir, which was decent. For my next selection, I chose Emergency Skin by N. K. Jemisin.
Business books are generally very dry. Most times it feels like you’re reading an academic textbook or business journal article. Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with that style. You can learn a lot from a good business book. I just find that it’s more enjoyable and easier to read a business book that teaches its concepts through an engaging, interactive story.
The first business book I read that was written in this style was The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. He used a fast-paced fictional story to show how his Theory of Constraints principles were applied to make a factory more efficient. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already. Since then, I’ve read a number of other business stories, including my latest read, The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon.
Ever since reading Wool, I’ve been a fan of author Hugh Howey. I’ve read quite a few of his works including Sand, Beacon 23, Hurricane, Half Way Home, and numerous short stories. They vary in terms of genre, though he has a tendency to lean more towards science fiction, which is how I discovered him. What I find distinctive about his writing is how immersive and engaging his stories are. He has a knack for building vivid environments in your mind, developing relatable characters, and telling a story.
Every year, I do my best to have a least one Hugh Howey book on my reading list. For 2019, that book was Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue.
One of my all-time favorite books is Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. I loved how he showed that life’s real adventures are the ones that don’t rely on technology. They occur when we connect with and engage our friends to help us solve problems and find the answers to what we’re looking for.
Given how much I liked his debut novel, I was looking forward to reading his second book, Sourdough, or Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market. It was released in 2017 and languished on my 2018 reading list. A nudge from one of my top recommendation sources, Brad Feld’s blog, nudged it to the top of my reading list earlier this year.