Book Review: THE GOD GAME – morality and A.I.

๐™”๐™ค๐™ช ๐™–๐™ง๐™š ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™ซ๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™š๐™™!
๐˜พ๐™ค๐™ข๐™š ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™จ๐™ž๐™™๐™š ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™ฅ๐™ก๐™–๐™ฎ ๐™ฌ๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™ ๐™‚.๐™Š.๐˜ฟ.
๐˜ฝ๐™ง๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช๐™ง ๐™›๐™ง๐™ž๐™š๐™ฃ๐™™๐™จ!
๐™„๐™ฉโ€™๐™จ ๐™›๐™ช๐™ฃ!
๐˜ฝ๐™ช๐™ฉ ๐™ง๐™š๐™ข๐™š๐™ข๐™—๐™š๐™ง ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™ง๐™ช๐™ก๐™š๐™จ. ๐™’๐™ž๐™ฃ ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐˜ผ๐™‡๐™‡ ๐™”๐™Š๐™๐™ ๐˜ฟ๐™๐™€๐˜ผ๐™ˆ๐™Ž ๐˜พ๐™Š๐™ˆ๐™€ ๐™๐™๐™๐™€.โ„ข
๐™‡๐™ค๐™จ๐™š, ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช ๐™™๐™ž๐™š!

Happy Publication Day to The God Game!

Charlie, founder of the Vindicators, a group of misfit teens at an Austin, Texas high school, receives an invitation to play the God Game. Spiraling downward since his mother died a year ago, he has nothing to lose by accepting, and his friends, the Vindicators, Peter, Vahni, Kenny, and Alex join as well.

Playing through their cell phones, the game overlays the real world with fantastic imagery, adding details like hanging vines in the school halls. When they play against imaginary beasts only to gain Goldz in the game which they can exchange for advantages, the God Game seems harmless.

But soon, it intrudes on the real world. They are asked to make illicit deliveries, perform errands, and complete tasks, after which they receive more Goldz and rewards like an ATM that dispenses cash freely. When they go against the game, however, they receive Blaxx, and the punishment might be more than theyโ€™ve bargained forโ€”how much further will Charlie fall before he can get himself and his friends out of the gameโ€ฆ if they game will even let them leave.

With short chapters and lots of action, The God Game by Danny Tobey is a quick and exciting read. Though the characters, who, if not always likeable, are interesting, are playing an AI game, the technology is subordinated to questions of morality. Before the Vindicators began playing the game, they each had secrets they considered shameful. The game further isolated them by requiring them to engage in behavior that ordinarily would be against their ethics. The pleasure of the book is both in the fascination of the gameโ€™s context and watching the characters handle the increasingly demanding and dangerous game while losing trust in each other.

At times, I thought Tobey shifted between points of view too quickly, without enough transition, and I was left with questionsโ€”such as how could so many people be playing an underground game. The book, though, was very entertaining, and I thought Tobey nailed the ending. The God Game is not just for readers who like books such as Ready Player One and Slay but also those who want to explore the impact of technology on morality or who just like a fast-paced, fun story.

Thank you to St. Martinโ€™s Press for providing me with an advance reading copy!

Book Review: THE NEW WINE RULES – A GENUINELY HELPFUL GUIDE TO EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW

๐Ÿท”๐™ณ๐š›๐š’๐š—๐š” ๐š ๐š’๐š—๐šŽ ๐š ๐š’๐š๐š‘ ๐š“๐š˜๐šข.”๐Ÿท

My husband works as a winemaker, and Iโ€™ve learned so much from him about viniculture and winemaking. Iโ€™m still such a novice when it comes to everything else wine-related, and at times, I find it intimidating.

Perfect for me, The New Wine Rules by Jon Bonnรฉ begins with the premise that drinking wine is a joyful activity and over time, a cadre of experts has diminished that joyfulness by creating an unnecessary mystique around wine tasting. Bonnรฉ argues that following a few principlesโ€”the new wine rulesโ€”will give everyone the knowledge he or she needs to select and enjoy wine.

Each rule is accompanied with a brief one to two page easy-to-understand explanation, and the book is gorgeously illustrated. Bonnรฉ explains the (un)importance of price, why red and white wine glasses differ, how to make good food-wine pairings, and more.

I recommend The New Wine Rules both for wine novices as well as experienced wine drinkers who want exposure to a new paradigm of thinking about wine.

If you are a wine drinker, whatโ€™s your favorite wine?

Book Review: NINE ELMS, promising series debut

ultralight_adjustmentsIn 1995, Kate Marshall, just promoted to Detective Constable, was assigned to the Nine Elms Cannibal case. A deraigned murderer abducted young women, strangled them with a cord tied with a distinct monkeyโ€™s fist knot, and took bites from their thighs, buttocks, and backs. On the night the fourth victim was discovered, Kate connected the clues and unmasked the killer, but in the process was brutally attacked. In the aftermath, Kate was embroiled in a scandal, was forced to leave the Met Police.

Fifteen years later, Kate, a recovering alcoholic, was finding some peace as a lecturer at a small seaside university where her class was always in demand. Her ordered existence, however, was upended when the local forensic pathologist asked her to consult on a case. The young girlโ€™s body had a cord tied with a monkeyโ€™s knot and bites were taken from her backside. A copycat was at work.

With her research assistant Tristan Harper, an insightful ally with a sullied past, Kate becomes caught up in the investigationโ€”but she doesnโ€™t realize that the copycat is determined to succeed where the Nine Elms Cannibal failed and make sure Kate doesnโ€™t survive this time.

An entertaining introduction to a new series, Nine Elms has great and disturbing characters, interesting settings rendered in detail (for example, a psychiatric hospital), and poignant moments. However, some aspects of the plot didnโ€™t quite ring true, and some situations seemed resolved too easily (such as a political conflict at the university), and I though the writing was a bit choppy at times. Still, I was very captivated by Kate and Tristan. Their partnership shows lots of promise for future stories, and I and look forward to the second Kate Marshall book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer/Amazon Publishing for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: INSIDE THE HOT ZONE – you’ll wish it was fiction, but it’s a true account

 

Happy Publication Day to
Inside the Hot Zone: A Soldier on the Front Lines of Biological Warfare
by Mark G. Kortepeter

Inside the Hot ZoneMost people who know about the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland have seen it in movies or (like me) read about it in books. USAMRIIDโ€™s is charged with researching countermeasures against biological warfare and investigating disease outbreaks or threats to pubic health. Scientists there work with the most dangerous substances on the planetโ€”such as anthrax, smallpox, Ebola, and the plagueโ€”to keep others safe from them.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Mark G. Kortepeter was literally inside the โ€œhot zone,โ€ first, as Medical Director of USAMRIDD, responsible for the health of the employees working in the facility, then in the Virology department doing direct research, and finally as the deputy commander making daily operational decisions. His seven-and-a-half year tenure began in 1998, so he was on the front lines as USAMRIDD was alerted in the aftermath of 9/11, called to assist in the FBI investigation of anthrax letters, and deployed to protect soldiers serving in the 2003 Gulf War from potential bioweapon attacks.

Inside the Hot Zone operates as a memoir of Kortepeterโ€™s time in the trenches and as revealing account of the inner workings of USAMRIID. Deftly weaving science and politics, Kortepeterโ€™s book is astonishing and frightening both for how much we know about potential bioweapons and, even more, how much we donโ€™t know. Washington squabbles, bureaucratic hurdles, and internecine conflicts often impeded effective operation of the organization.

Though Kortepeter highly identifies as a solider, his account doesnโ€™t shrink from criticizing the armed forces apparatus, especially in the case of Bruce Ivins, a USAMRIID scientist accused by the FBI of sending the anthrax-laced letters in 2001 and believed by many of his colleagues to be innocent. He also reveals the frustrations of taking orders from commanders who donโ€™t understand the science or medicine behind what they are demanding. Additionally, his account touches on the affect his all-consuming career had on his family.

Reading Inside the Hot Zone, you forget itโ€™s nonfictionโ€”and then you hope that it is the stuff of imagination. Instead, Kortepeterโ€™s account is an all to true engaging if disturbing narrative and recommended for anyone interested in germ warfare or USAMRIID.

Thank you to NetGalley and University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: ETERNAL SHADOW, a good story with problematic execution

Williams, Trevor - Eternal Shadow (2)Samantha Monroe, a scientist at SETI, identifies a signal that can only be first contact. She immediately contacts her boss, the unflappable Jennifer Epstein, and colleagues at other facilities, who confirm her readings. But, as they are hopefully watching, what they assume is an alien entity consumes Pluto, and it doesnโ€™t stop at the former planet. Earth is in the crosshairs, and the scientists estimate they have only ten years before the alien ship reachesโ€”and destroysโ€”the planet.

Epstein marshals a hand-picked team to save the world, but changing political priorities and a fringe cult, the Seven Trumpets, encumber her progress. Only South African Muzikayise Khulu, CEO of Khulu Global, has the resources necessary to research and implement a solution, but his motives are less than altruistic. And as Epstein and Monroe work more closely together, their personal feelings intrude on their professional relationship.

Eternal Shadow is Trevor Williamsโ€™s debut novel, and the story is interesting, plus I appreciate that the main characters are women and people of color. However, the execution of the narrative has several problems that prevented me from fully enjoying the book. The pacing and proportion of scientific exposition to narrative felt off to me, and the dialogue was awkward, partly because it didnโ€™t ring true and partly because it lacked contractions. Additionally, a number of stylistic and grammatical errors were in the copy of the book I read, which, granted, was an advanced readers edition and may have been corrected before publication. Finally, I wish my two favorite characters (whose names I donโ€™t want to mention due to spoilers) didnโ€™t have nearly as much time in the book as I would have liked, but the ending hints at a sequel.

The author has great stories to tell, and with experience, I hope his style becomes more polished!

Thanks to NetGalley and Trevor Writes for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.