What I Would Like To Read This Year

1 02 2017

Even more of my books

Since joining Goodreads in 2013, I have enjoyed posting to the site what I have read, am currently reading, and want to read in the future. I don’t know exactly why, but it’s fun nonetheless. Every year since 2014 I have enjoyed the annual reading challenge the website puts up. How it works is that, you say how many books you would like to read in the year and you set that as your goal. Then when you finish reading a book, you make a note of when you finished reading it and then, as long as it’s in the current year, then it counts towards your reading challenge. The website keeps a track of the books you have read and how many, and then come the end of the year, if you are successful it will say that you succeeded. If you read more than the total number set, then even better. Since 2014, I have been successful year after year in the reading challenge, often setting myself the similar goal of about 10-15 books a year; well I am a slow reader, and so that I thought would still be a good amount. This year however I have reduced the number of books I want to read to eight.

Some of my books

During 2016, after a slow start reading one really good book, followed by a couple that were pretty low in enjoyment, I finally found my stride when I read the Anthony Horowitz Power of Five series (as well as a few Mr. Men books too). With the reading of the series going well, I had a thought. I thought that if I could finish the final book of the series; Oblivion before the end of the year, I might treat myself into reading another big book. Well, in the end I did not finish Oblivion until January. Anyway, that did not matter too much in the end, because I had another idea.

Some more of my books

In my big collection of books, there is quite a few I have collected which I have not actually read. Most of them are books that I have received as presents, or ones I have bought but not got round to yet. Anyway, some of these are kind of big; these include but are not limited to Next by Michael Crichton, Battle Royale by Koushun Takami and Stone Heart by Charlie Fletcher. Getting round to these books can be quite hard as they are not part of a series so can sometimes find themselves being muscled out of a reading schedule and then eventually forgotten. The other is due to their size, and when I have a high number of books I want to read in a year, it can feel impractical to read them as part of the challenge. So here is where my new idea came in. Not to slot them in as such, but to give them a level of commitment, and also give myself a shorter goal to work with, thinking that given how some of them are more than twice the size as other books I have read, I can then sort of fill the amount of time in with a much bigger book and give myself some slack by not committing to a high number. Therefore, what I did was slice the amount of books I read into near as half while also still challenging myself.

Hall Of Fame Book Shelf

As a result I have decided to read 8 books this year, but not only that, I have also chosen specific books I would like to read this year too. Instead of considering books like I have done in the past (so when I was reading one, I would think about the next one to read without any guarantee that I would); I have set aside a space on my book shelves and selected a group of books I want to specifically read, the plan being that when I finish a book, I can put it either in the hall of fame section (a section on my shelves where I put my absolute favourite reads: see above image), or somewhere else entirely on the book shelves, and then pick another from the specifically selected section, and carry on that way. The books I have chosen are as follows:

Books I want to read in 2017

Upon looking at that list, and the above picture, you may see that there are actually 9 books in that space. That is because I decided to include Horowitz Horror 1 by Anthony Horowitz; because (it nicely lines up the collection on display, but also) it allows me the option of reading a short story here and there instead of having to power through novels the whole time. The good thing about the books I have chosen too is that all of them but two are singular entries. Only 2 of the books (Steelheart and Stone Heart) lead into a series. Now while that is a bit of a dodgy game I have played with those two selections, by only having a couple, it allows me the chance to see if I like them before I continue the series, but also it means I am not necessarily muscling out the others either.

Steelheart and Stone Heart

That is my plan for reading this year. My plan for other books sort of comes in either next year, or when I finish the 8 main books here anyway (or if I dive into a series). Any books I buy/get/receive from here on in shall be put to one side for the time being for reading consideration another time, as right now I am both excited and optimistic of my chances of completing the reading I have selected for this year and since finishing Oblivion, I have already begun reading Burning Midnight, (because upon finishing Oblivion, I wanted to read something small). At time of writing I am nearly two-thirds through it. So with that going well, I am hopeful that I will accomplish my reading challenge for this year, plus get through the really big books too.

Burning Midnight

GENEPOOL

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Book Review – Prey

13 01 2016

Prey (Michael Crichton - 2002)

Title: Prey

Author: Michael Crichton

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 0007796420

I remember back in the early 2000’s first hearing about Nanobots. It was the very early 2000’s and Robot Wars and its spin-off Techno Games were at their height, and I even collected the magazine Real Robots. There was no better time to be a fan of robots, and I was one, it was great. Well; my dad was looking through the newspaper and showed me the article on Nanobots, and the only thing I really knew about them was how small they were. Sometime later, about a couple of years I think, I remember watching and seeing something on Have I Got News For You about Nanobots and how such a thing would be a threat to society as Nanobots could reshape an Atom into anything theoretically, but at the moment only really Grey Goo…or something like that. Since then Nanobots are something which has come up every now and then, but surprisingly not in a very big way, or from what I have seen. Yes, they have had appearances in Video Games, TV, Movies and Books; but have somewhat never really stood out among the pack, and whose appearance since the mid-noughties sort of disappeared. I just find it odd that in the technology driven world of today, the subject of Nanobots doesn’t come up all that often. Put the subject of Nanobots in the right hands however, and you can easily end up with something very realistic, very terrifying and very believable.

Originally released in 2002 by Harper Collins; Prey is a Techno-thriller written by bestselling author Michael Crichton, whose previous works include The Andromeda Strain, Sphere, Jurassic Park, Airframe and Next. Much like many of Crichton’s works, Prey is a very science driven book that deals with the themes and ideas of it subject matter, backed up with tons of research and planning to not only produce a stunning piece of fiction, but also create the suggestion that such things are possible and are happening right now.

Unlike previous works of Crichton that I have read, Prey is told in the first person, whereas books like Jurassic Park and Micro are both third person. Prey follows the seven-day story of computer scientist Jack. He has been made redundant and is now working as a full-time father, looking after his children at home. His wife meanwhile is the Vice President of Xymos; a company based somewhere out in the Nevada Desert. Jack is beginning to find his wife rather hard to live with as she is starting to have a go at him for spending more time with their kids than she is. Meanwhile his family have started talking about strange men coming around the house. While all this is going on, out in the desert at the plant where his wife works, Jack is called in to help out when a swarm of Nanoparticles gets loose and every attempt to recover and destroy them has failed. As things begin to ramp up, Jack begins to learn the horrifying truths about both the Swarm and those around him, and soon is fighting for both his, and possibly humanities survival.

Prey deals with the subject of Nanobots, but not in the grey goo form. No, this story deals with the idea of using the latest technological discoveries to create new technologies and devices to better help mankind, and then what happens when such technology breaks loose from its programming and sets about becoming the new alpha predators. Prey is very different to the past experience I have had with Crichton. Just like Prey; Jurassic Park and Micro were very much about advancements in science and technology and what people will go to, to maintain control when they begin to lose it. Both of those books were focussed on a biological form of science, whereas Prey focusses more on the technological side than the biological side of scientific advancement. There is a lot more talk in this book about computer science than any form of biological standing. While it is certainly different in that aspect, much like Park still though, it goes into how easy it is to lose that control, but don’t think of that as some kind of Crichton Cliché, because the book does more than that. It starts out from the sane and believable world of a pressuring family life, to the in-depth loss of control in a hectic situation, to the near insane ending that just jumps off leaps and bounds until there is practically no-where else to go.

Prey is a big book, and follows the story of just one person, remaining entirely in first person all the way through. For a protagonist, Jack is a really connectable person. He starts off the book shopping for table placemats, and just grows from there. Much like his other books, the narrative is split into about three or four sections, each one highlighting a certain point. These get quicker as it goes along, but to begin with it’s just the story of a man who has lost his job and is trying to look after his family the best way he possibly can. As the early story develops, the issues between him and his wife grow, and you are brought into something of a domestic conspiracy as the book’s first bit builds to a crescendo that brings our hero into the real situation. This sets-up our hero and gives him something to live for and worry about while he’s away. Soon after though, he gets involved with the runaway swarm. Why is he brought into it? Because, ironically he has something to do with their creation in the first place. As a computer scientist; he worked on a program which becomes the main basis for the nanoparticle swarm. To begin with he tries to understand it best he can, but with issues all around him from several people it leads to him going from a consultant to a man of reasoning and action, but is then restricted on all sides, not just from the abilities of the Swarm, but the people he is working with. Eventually it leads him into the discovery of several horrible truths that lead to the action packed conclusion; along with some trademark Crichton clearing up of the facts, just to cover all the ground bases.

Prey is a really terrific read. I managed to obtain a copy of this in a book bundle from The Works for £5 (which included Next and Micro, although I already had Micro). It came at an interesting point for me as I was struggling with my current reads at the time, plus the obtaining of Prey got me all excited as to wanting to read another Michael Crichton book. I started with this one out of the two I hadn’t read in the bundle because this one had an essay at the front, and reading the point of view of Crichton in such a well written form as to the themes and ideas of the technology that inspired the book, is a great way to begin reading a book. Prey has been something of a breath of fresh air to me, as it is something very different to most other books I read all last year. Out of all the books (about 4 at the time) that I was reading, Prey was the book I most looked forward to reading a bit more of. It is a hard thing to describe, but the enjoyment I received from reading this book was unlike anything I have read in quite a while. Prey has a lot of personal issues and a background that is very easy to understand. It puts you in the situation that Jack is going through with impeccable description. It puts you in scenes from personal issues, to heightened moments of action. It also takes you on a journey of discovery and unleashes moments of mystery that make you want to keep turning the page to find out what happens next.

My feelings aside, Prey is a wonderful read. It has all the hallmarks of a Michael Crichton science fiction novel, while also delivering a constant punch of twists and turns as the book builds to its epic conclusion. While the book and its technology could be seen as a bit dated now, I don’t think that is necessarily the case. It makes the ideas of Nanobots a very serious and terrifying prospect, and one that should not be taken lightly to this day. It is very much a story of today, a world covered in people with electronic gadgets from iPod‘s and iPhone’s to Kindle‘s and even technology in devices that weren’t computerized before (like coffee machines). While it is not necessarily a story about the rise of neither machines nor computers, it is still a story about a serious threat; one that could easily lead from something found in our world today, and make humanity – not technology – obsolete.

GENEPOOL








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