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John Kwok (New York, NY USA)
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John Carter [Blu-ray + DVD]
John Carter [Blu-ray + DVD]
DVD ~ Taylor Kitsch
Price: CDN$ 14.93
32 used & new from CDN$ 7.88

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Ignored, Sadly Neglected, Instant Classic Of Science Fiction Cinema, July 3 2012
"John Carter" should have been among this year's highest grossing films. It is a cinematic homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs' "John Carter of Mars" series of novels, based primarily on the first, "A Princess of Mars", and one that remains true in spirit to Edgar Rice Burroughs, written by screenwriters, especially noted American fiction writer Michael Chabon, who are long-time admirers of Burroughs' classic space opera science fiction series. Much to its credit, the film is not only true to Burroughs's spirit, but it also remains quite faithful to the original source material itself. Director Andrew Stanton (who co-wrote the screenplay with Chabon and Mark Andrews) has wrought a most compelling film, filled with excellent special effects and great cinematography, but made especially noteworthy with the presence of an excellent cast. Canadian actor Taylor Kitsch is a credible, heroic John Carter, American actress Lynn Collins is a ravishingly beautiful and compelling Princess of Mars Dejah Thoris, and legendary American actor Willem Dafoe is an admirable Tars Tarkas (even if he is kept "under wraps" as Carter's faithful Barsoom (Mars) sidekick and friend). Don't believe any of the negative reviews which "John Carter" earned from skeptical film critics. It definitely ranks alongside Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy as among the most successful cinematic translations of fantasy and science fiction ever created; a far more enjoyable and memorable film than either the "Star Wars" prequels or "Avatar". Eventually I predict that "John Carter" will be recognized as the most neglected science fiction cinematic classic of our time.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
by Jonathan Haidt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.69
50 used & new from CDN$ 6.41

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Some Fascinating Premises That May Not Be Supported By Science, July 2 2012
As someone who views himself as a Conservative with a very pronounced Libertarian bias, I wanted to like Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind" when I first read it months ago. Haidt has written a very thoughtful, often insightful, look at moral philosophy and his effort in applying it to explain the philosophical differences between those who view themselves as Liberals and as Conservatives. If nothing else, Haidt has written one of the most fascinating books on the origins of morality and that, for this very reason alone, it deserves a broad readership. Indeed, some would say that he has offered a most compelling argument explaining how moral psychology accounts for politics, faith, and humanity's success in becoming the sole masters of Planet Earth. However, I think he emphasizes too much, the potential role that Group Selection may have in determining much of human behavior, by invoking it as the primary reason why humans tend to organize themselves into groups, and adhere to "group thinking" that reduces potential cooperation with those who are not members of the same group. (Coincidentally, Haidt's book has been published months after a controversial scientific paper in which its authors, most notably E. O. Wilson, the founder of sociobiology, have suggested that much of the decades-long research in Kin Selection - which is Natural Selection as seen via the perspective of individuals and their closely related relatives - is badly flawed, arguing instead for a renewed emphasis on Group Selection.) While Haidt does cite published psychological research - especially that by himself and his University of Virginia team of graduate students and post-docs - it is unclear to me whether that research has been done with a substantially large sample size of test subjects; one that is needed in order to assert that the statistically significant results truly meet all the implicit and explicit assumptions regarding both sample size and statistical analysis for the experiments Haidt has cited. I have no doubt that readers may find less compelling his arguments in the concluding chapter - based on the moral philosophy of Emile Durkheim - why social conservatives are far more likely to "...value the `binding' foundations of loyalty, authority and sanctity." [Pg. 321] Without a doubt, whether one agrees with Haidt or not, his "The Righteous Mind" has become one of the most widely discussed books this year; whether it is also one of the most influential remains to be seen.

A Primer of Population Biology
A Primer of Population Biology
by Edward Osborne Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 35.08
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Concise, Still Important Introduction to the Mathematical Foundations of Population Biology, June 30 2012
Still in print, unchanged, after forty years, Edward O. Wilson and William H. Bossert's "A Primer of Population Biology" is still a basic, important introduction to the mathematical foundations of population biology. It is replete with many examples of mathematical equations, including derivations of important equations such as the differential equation for equilibrium in the MacArthur - Wilson Theory of Island Biogeography. More than half of the book is devoted to basic concepts of population genetics, another third to basic concepts of ecology from elementary population growth to calculating r and k selection, and finally, a concluding chapter devoted to island biogeography, especially as seen through the MacArthur - Wilson Theory. Complicated concepts are explained simply via their concise prose, though potential readers should realize that this is a book that will be of interest primarily to students and scientists in population genetics, population ecology, conservation biology and related aspects of biology, including epidemiology and evolutionary paleobiology.

The Iron Dream
The Iron Dream
by Norman Spinrad
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
9 used & new from CDN$ 15.10

5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic of American Fantasy Literature from Norman Spinrad, June 30 2012
Norman Spinrad's "The Iron Dream" is a book which still confounds many of its fans and critics. Some view it as an over-the-top critique of the worst aspects of fantasy and science fiction, as if it is "The Lord of the Rings" as channeled by LSD or some other mind-altering drug. Others, including yours truly, recognize this as a brilliant satire from Spinrad during one of the most productive phases of his literary career, critiquing Adolf Hitler and his genocidal Nazi political philosophy. That is the best means of viewing this fine work of fantasy, since much of it includes the text of the novel "Lord of the Swastika", a futuristic dystopian fantasy written by German-American science fiction artist and author Adolf Hitler, who had immigrated to the United States after World War I in 1919. (That Spinrad provides a fictitious biography listing Hitler's death in 1953 is something which most readers may ignore; I frankly don't think that's a coincidence since 1953 was also the same year in which another homicidal, megalomaniac dictator, Josef Stalin, died.) "Lord of the Swastika" concludes with a most intriguing afterword by New York University professor Homer Whipple which is a brilliant "deconstruction" of Hitler's mental state and of his Nazi philosophy, not of fantasy and science fiction, as some might contend. If nothing else, "The Iron Dream" reads like some hallucinatory version of H. G. Wells' "The Time Machine", but one in which Hitler's protagonist, Feric Jaggar, leads his stormtroopers against hordes of degenerate mutant humans; this is a most astute example of satire which has been an ever present theme in some of the great works of fantasy and science fiction published in the 20th Century. Although Spinrad's "The Iron Dream" may not be a literary classic directly comparable with George Orwell's "Animal Farm"; nonetheless it deserves ample recognition as an important work of fantasy and a notable part of Spinrad's extensive oeuvre of fine novels and short stories.

Spaceman Blues: A Love Song
Spaceman Blues: A Love Song
by Brian Francis Slattery
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Riveting Blend of Fantasy and Science Fiction Set Mostly in Brooklyn, New York, June 30 2012
Brian Francis Slattery introduces readers to a Brooklyn, New York unlike any other in his impressive debut novel "Spaceman Blues: A Love Song"; a most beguiling blend of comic book fiction, fantasy and science fiction from one of the most distinctive and original voices working not only in science fiction, but indeed, all of contemporary fiction today. In a literary style that echoes Thomas Pynchon and the latest Rick Moody, Slattery presents an apocalyptic vision of a near future Brooklyn on the brink of an alien invasion, rendered in a visual style that will remind readers of Jonathan Lethem's "Motherless Brooklyn" and "The Fortress of Solitude", but one that resonates more strongly as a superb American version of China Mieville's "weird fiction", instantly transforming Brooklyn into a fantastical realm that bears more than a passing resemblance to Mieville's New Crobuzon ("Perdido Street Station") and London ("Kraken"). However, Slattery's version of Brooklyn isn't nearly as nightmarish as Mieville's; instead, it is filled with ample doses of immigrant humor quite akin to what readers have come to expect from Gary Shteyngart ("Absurdistan", "Super Sad True Love Story"). What is especially impressive with Slattery's debut is that he somehow accomplishes all of this via a most economical literary style that others might find most daunting, but, in Slattery's hands, demonstrates just how accomplished a storyteller and prose stylist he is; this is an outstanding work of fiction by a mature writer, not a first-time novelist. I honestly haven't had as much fun reading a literary debut in years; the closest I can think of are those from William Gibson ("Neuromancer"), Matt Ruff ("Fool on the Hill") and Jonathan Lethem ("Gun, With Occasional Music"). Slattery is such an exceptional literary talent that mainstream "domestic realism" Anglo-American fiction writers and critics should sit up and take ample notice of the excellent high literary art being created by Slattery and his fellow crop of young American and British writers; exceptional storytellers and prose stylists who are interested in producing great works of fantasy and science fiction.

A Sense of Direction
A Sense of Direction
by Gideon Lewis-Kraus
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 22.80
31 used & new from CDN$ 1.18

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Travel Memoir on One Young Man's Search for Himself, June 29 2012
This review is from: A Sense of Direction (Hardcover)
One of the best examples of travel memoir which I have read over the last few years, Gideon Lewis-Kraus's "A Sense of Direction" is a fine literary debut that ranks alongside great travel memoirs like Susan Gilman's "Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven". Hoping to escape a most banal existence as a young American expatriate living in Berlin, Gideon teams up with a friend on a series of treks across Europe, starting with their epic journey retracing the route of an old Roman road in Spain. These are journeys not just through the physical landscapes of Europe, but also those within Gideon's soul, as he learns how to deal effectively with the yin and yang of desire and discipline. Told strictly from a first-person account in compelling, often elegant, prose, "A Sense of Direction" will be most uplifting to those interested in reading it. Its underlying message of a young man seeking to make some sense out of his life is one surely to resonate with many readers who will be enthralled with Gideon's brilliant, witty and often humorous account. Without a doubt, "A Sense of Direction" is a notable memoir worthy of the favorable praise it has earned from the likes of Gary Shteyngart, Dave Eggers and Sam Lipsyte.

Wildlife
Wildlife
by James Patrick Kelly
Edition: Paperback
19 used & new from CDN$ 1.74

5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Great Cyberpunk Novel is this Generations-Spanning Saga, June 29 2012
This review is from: Wildlife (Paperback)
The last great cyberpunk science fiction novel, James Patrick Kelly's "Wildlife" is a compelling, memorable, exploration into the future of computers and biotechnology and its unforeseen impact on humanity. Covering three generations of the Wynne family, "Wildlife" still seems prophetic in its fictional coverage of biotechnology and artificial intelligence, in a dark, nightmarish future far more realistic than anything I have read in recently-published post-cyberpunk novels. Kelly's Wynne Edwards is one of cyberpunk's most fascinating protagonists; the product of an odd experiment conducted by her father, Tony Cage, the most famous and wealthiest designer drug artist. She must contend with the unexpected future shaped by the release of the computer program "WILDLIFE"; the culmination of the latest advances in artificial intelligence and biotechnology; hers is a journey that will span across decades around the globe. Kelly's novel is a most memorable exploration into what it really means to be human, told in a fast-paced style of luminous, descriptive prose demonstrating that Kelly isn't just a cyberpunk fiction writer possessed with notable ideas, but also one who must rank as among science fiction's most important prose stylists. Without question, "Wildlife" should be viewed as required reading for those interested in cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk science fiction demonstrating that Kelly isn't just a cyberpunk fiction writer possessed with notable ideas, but also one who must rank as among science fiction's most important prose stylists. Without question, "Wildlife" should be viewed as required reading for those interested in cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk science fiction.

Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology
Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology
by James Patrick Kelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.36
37 used & new from CDN$ 6.86

5.0 out of 5 stars A Most Compelling Slipstream Short Story Collection, June 28 2012
Slipstream exists between the interstices of fantasy and domestic realism; not quite fantasy, not quite domestic reality literary fiction, but one in which its adherents understand the importance of adding aspects of realism to a broad literary canvas of fantasy and science fiction, while adhering quite loosely to the time-honored conventions of these genre fiction tropes. Noted science fiction writers and editors James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel offer a most compelling collection of short fiction from notable mainstream literary writers Aimee Bender, Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem who are themselves well versed in the language and literature of science fiction and fantasy to those who have written almost exclusively in these genres, ranging from the likes of Ted Chiang and Kelly Link to Karen Joy Fowler and Bruce Sterling. While the respective styles of these writers are literally all over the literary landscape; theirs are engrossing tales about hope and despair, love and loss, and life and death, replete with ample doses of realism and fantasy unconcerned with any need for compelling world-building of the kind found in latter day classics like Lev Grossman's "Magician" novels or William Gibson's "Cyberspace" trilogy. Many of these should be viewed as "experimental" works of fiction far removed from their best known literary works. Founding cyberpunk writer Bruce Sterling offers a tale greatly divorced from the realism present in much of his work; a beguiling fantasy, "The Little Magic Shop", about one man's obsession with a life-prolonging magic potion. Jonathan Lethem presents a horrific morality tale, "Light and the Sufferer", that merges the gritty realism of his novels "Motherless Brooklyn" and "The Fortress of Solitude" with an acutely felt blend of horror and fantasy not normally found in his fiction, as if he is channeling his innermost Edgar Allen Poe or Clive Barker. Michael Chabon's "The God of Dark Laughter" reads as an electrifying mix of Neil Gaiman and H. P. Lovecraft, in a literary style that owes much to Ray Bradbury's "The Invisible Man". These superb stories are interspersed with excerpts from an online discussion by several posters on the definition of slipstream and its implications for both mainstream literary fiction and traditional fantasy and science fiction.

Scenes from Village Life
Scenes from Village Life
by Amos Oz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.56
42 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spellbinding Collection of Short Stories on Israeli Life with Universal Appeal, June 28 2012
One of the great writers of our time, Amos Oz explores the vicissitudes of life within a rural Israeli village in "Scenes from Village Life", exploring universal themes of loneliness, fear, despair and love on an intimate stage that should resonate with readers around the globe. While he succeeds in exploring some of the difficult issues with regards to Israel's right to exist and its uneasy co-existence with its Palestinian Arab neighbors, Oz's most noteworthy achievement is his compelling portrayal of life in the century-old village of Tel Ian with the key observant eye of a resident photographer and with the soulful lyricism of a poet, rendering it in surprisingly terse prose via the elegant English translation from the original Hebrew prose by Nicholas de Lange. "Scenes from Village Life" should be viewed as a novel; each chapter devoted primarily to one or more characters, as if these are different, still interconnecting, scenes in an elaborately updated tragicomedy of errors written by none other than Shakespeare himself. "Scenes from Village Life" opens with heartfelt odes to loneliness and the need for companionship in the stories "Heirs" and "Relations". "Digging" explores the unlikely friendship that blossoms between a forty-something single woman, her elderly father, and their young Arab handyman, a university student interested in writing a book about them. The collection's emotional masterpiece is "Lost"; a surprisingly terse ode to Oedipal love between a high school student and a beautiful librarian more than twice his age. Oz has wrought a most compelling collection of short stories worthy of a broad readership; a compelling literary affirmation of his well-deserved status as one of our finest living writers.

Bring Up The Bodies
Bring Up The Bodies
by Hilary Mantel
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.67
20 used & new from CDN$ 4.18

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Historical Novel of the Year from Booker Prize-winning Novelist Hilary Mantel, June 28 2012
This review is from: Bring Up The Bodies (Paperback)
Recognized by none other than Time magazine literary critic Lev Grossman as one of the finest novels published this year, Hilary Mantel's "Bring Up the Bodies" is a compelling tour-de-force of a political thriller set in Henry VIII's Tudor Dynasty England, describing in vivid detail, the still mysterious circumstances leading towards the sudden downfall and execution of Henry's second wife, Anne Boleyn; their daughter would become Elizabeth I, the "Virgin Queen", admired by the likes of Sir Walter Raleigh and William Shakespeare. Mantel's latest is that rare breed of historical novel and political thriller, replete with the dazzling, lyrical prose and a most riveting plot that earned the Man Booker Prize for its predecessor, "Wolf Hall". Like its illustrious predecessor, "Bring Up the Bodies" is a riveting character study of Henry VIII's Secretary to the King and Lord Chancellor, Thomas Cromwell, newly appointed head of the Church of England, mere months after the executions of Bishop of Rochester John Fisher and Lord Chancellor Thomas More. In a literary style as compelling as any of John Le Carre's Cold War thrillers, Mantel transforms Cromwell into her George Smiley, compelled to make political alliances with the very enemies he has despised for years, merely to do his King's bidding; he is dealt with the difficult and unenviable tasks of removing the brilliant, sharp-tongued, Anne Boleyn from her throne and terminating the Boleyn family's newly risen prestige and influence at the Court, which have occurred at the expense of the "Old Families" with their valid claims to Henry's throne, and other major figures of English nobility. Like George Smiley, Cromwell has become so exasperated and weary of the Tudor Dynasty's court intrigues, that he advises his son to stay clear of it, offering him opportunities to miss the executions of Anne Boleyn and her closest male friends, falsely accused of treason against King Henry himself. With "Bring Up the Bodies", Mantel demonstrates anew that she is one of the finest historical novelists writing in the English language, a notable prose stylist, and a most compelling spinner of tales. "Bring Up the Bodies" seems destined to become a candidate for the next Man Booker Prize as well as other notable literary honors on both sides of the Atlantic; there are relatively few contemporary English language writers who could match her superb gifts for storytelling and writing prose.

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