Books read: May 2010

Books read: May 2010 (covers; thumbnails)

So here’s what I read in May:

Bloom County: The Complete Collection, Volume Two: 1982-1984 by Berke Breathed. See this post for volume one. The second volume brings us Bloom County as I first encountered it, as it settles into its big silly prime: Oliver’s computer hacking and Binkley’s anxiety closet (replete with Giant Purple Snorklewacker) make regular appearances, and Bill the Cat dies. Ack!

Ambassadors from Earth: Pioneering Explorations with Unmanned Spacecraft by Jay Gallentine: reviewed here.

Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper. Classic science fiction now in the public domain and available as an e-book in many formats; I read it on my iPad. Light and engaging, on a par with the best Heinlein juveniles (which we’ve been reading a lot of lately), the plot hinges on whether the little fuzzy inhabitants of a colony world are sentient or not. Highly recommended.

Blindsight by Peter Watts also deals with the question of sentience and intelligence but in a far more sophisticated manner. It asks whether it’s possible to be intelligent without being conscious by taking people on the outskirts of human intelligence — including a resurrected vampire able to outthink regular humans by several orders of magnitude, a “zombie” with half a brain, a person who’s deliberately subdivided her brain into four personalities and a person whose brain is not limited to the meat inside his skull — and throwing them into a first-contact situation with an alien intelligence for which inscrutable is an understatement. Not an easy book by any means, but a profoundly thought-provoking one with a strong theme. No surprise it made the Hugo ballot after Watts, fighting obscurity, threw it online for free.

Bloom County: The Complete Collection, Volume 2: 1982-1984 by Berkeley Breathed
Ambassadors from Earth by Jay Gallentine
Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper
Blindsight by Peter Watts