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John Kwok (New York, NY USA)

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by Oliver Sacks
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.87
13 used & new from CDN$ 9.14

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative Overview on the Nature and Causes of Hallucinations from Oliver Sacks, Nov. 10 2012
This review is from: Hallucinations (Hardcover)
Widely acclaimed for both his superb literary talent and his excellent abilities in explaining the most difficult concepts in neurology and psychiatry, Oliver Sacks gives readers a most superlative overview on the nature and causes of hallucinations in his latest book "Hallucinations". As he notes in the introduction to his book which is indeed a most apt summation of it:

"I think of this book, then, as a sort of natural history or anthology of hallucinations, describing the experiences and impact of hallucinations on those who have them, for the power of hallucinations is to be understood from first-person accounts."

This is indeed a most accurate assessment from Sacks himself of his latest book, which covers virtually every aspect of hallucinations, except for those induced within those people suffering from schizophrenia, simply because they require ".....a book of their own, for they cannot be divorced from the often profoundly altered inner life and life circumstances of those with schizophrenia."

Drawing extensively on his personal interactions with patients, other medical reports and religious and artistic references, Sacks demonstrates how hallucinations can be viewed as an "essential part of the human condition." In his rather elegant, yet simple, literary style, Sacks explains the neurophysiology behind notable causes of hallucinations like the Charles Bonnet Syndrome, sensory deprivation, Parkinsonism, being delirious, narcolepsy, and even the existence of phantom limbs observed all too often by amputees. Sacks offers readers substantial detours into memoir in recounting his experiences with patients suffering hallucinations and even in fiction, in recounting clinical reports dating back from the 19th Century that resemble lost tales of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson written by Arthur Conan Doyle. With "Hallucinations" Sacks demonstrates again why he is among our foremost writers writing on science and medicine for a general audience; a book destined to be remembered as among this year's most notable new tomes of nonfiction.

The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns
The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns
by Sasha Issenberg
Edition: Hardcover
15 used & new from CDN$ 0.27

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inside Look Behind the Art and Science of Current American Political Campaigning, Nov. 10 2012
Published mere months before the American presidential and congressional elections of 2012, "The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns" is an insightful exploration of the recent history behind the application of behavioral psychology and statistical analysis in influencing the current state of American political campaigns, especially with regards to shaping campaign themes and messages and in enticing voter turnout. Sasha Issenberg's book is a very reasonable account of current American political campaigning and one which promises to be viewed by many as a journalistic landmark that will be read not only by a general audience but also by those interested in shaping further the future course of political campaigning here in the United States. Issenberg emphasizes the important research of Yale University political scientists Don Green and Alan Gerber in emphasizing the importance of direct, personal appeals, by campaign workers to potential voters. Applying insights derived from behavioral psychology, the research done by Green, Gerber and their students would have important impact on the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Issenberg describes how the use of statistical techniques derived from market research as well as from theoretical statistics would have important, dramatic impacts in data mining of potential voters which the Obama campaign used brilliantly in its 2008 campaign, as well as what may be occurring now within Romney's campaign. Without question, "The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns" is an important addition towards public understanding of modern political campaigns and one worthy of a wide readership.

Ship Breaker
Ship Breaker
by Paolo Bacigalupi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 21.99
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A Memorable Dystopian Tale of Survival from Paolo Bacigalupi, Oct. 28 2012
This review is from: Ship Breaker (Hardcover)
Presumably set in the same dystopian future as his critically - and popularly - acclaimed "The Windup Girl", Bacigalupi's "Ship Breaker" remains one of the best Young Adult dystopian science fiction novels of recent vintage and one with well-drawn characters and a superbly vivid prose style that will endear itself to audiences of all ages. On the Gulf Coast of Texas, in what was once the United States, a young teenage boy, Nailer, who works on a "light crew" combing wrecked, rusted oil tankers for precious copper wiring, stumbles upon a wrecked clipper ship whose only survivor, Nita, is a young wealthy heiress of one of North America's most prominent mercantile trading families. Opting to seek a future far more promising than his dreary present, Nailer embarks on trek with Nita towards the distant half-drowned city of New Orleans, escorted by a genetically modified hybrid human bred for war, Tool, hoping to find another clipper ship and a loyal crew working on behalf of her family. Theirs is a journey fraught with peril as they contend with murderous thieves and fanatical mercenaries, and the crew of an armored clipper ship loyal to her family's bitter rivals on a mission to find her at all costs. "Ship Breaker" is replete with much of the same visually arresting, descriptive prose found in "The Windup Girl", demonstrating once again, Bacigalupi's considerable talents as one of the premier literary stylists writing contemporary science fiction in the English language. This is a notable recent work of dystopian science fiction that should interest a readership extending well beyond science fiction.

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall
by Nancy Kress
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.41
32 used & new from CDN$ 5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Among the Best Examples of Recently Published Dystopian Science Fiction, Oct. 28 2012
One of science fiction's greatest literary talents, Nancy Kress, returns in this captivating, beautifully written, novella, " After the Fall, Before the Fall and During the Fall", about the aftermath of a near future ecologically-caused collapse of human civilization, resulting in a mere twenty-four survivors inhabiting "The Shell", an enclosed habitat constructed by aliens, the Tesslies, who have granted the inhabitants the ability to travel briefly backward in time, to kidnap youngsters as additional inhabitants of "The Shell", hoping to increase humanity's slim chance at survival. A brilliant mathematician and FBI consultant, Julie Khan, develops an algorithm predicting when future kidnappings will occur. Her own imminent fate as well as those of "The Shell" inhabitants will converge in surprisingly unexpected ways. Kress has offered a psychologically rich thriller, with characters as rewarding as Julie Khan and Pete, one of six children born within "The Shell". Hers is among the most emotionally gripping and plausible tales of a near future dystopia that I have seen published recently, and one worthy of a wider readership, including one that extends beyond a traditional audience of science fiction fans. Anyone interested in reading or writing dystopian science fiction should view Kress' latest work as required reading.

The Best Science Writing Online 2012
The Best Science Writing Online 2012
by Jennifer Ouellette
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.50
45 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Collection of Science Writing Online 2012, Oct. 24 2012
The scientific blogosphere has died. The scientific blogosphere lives. "The Best Science Writing Online 2012 (Open Laboratory)" is an amazing, quite eclectic, collection of science writing, covering everything from our current understanding of genomic data in molecular biology, to the intricacies of human behavior, and even the likelihood that there are some elementary particles in physics capable of exceeding the speed of light. Series editor Bora Zivkovic, Scientific American's blog editor, and editor Jennifer Ouellette have done a masterful job, along with their assorted collaborators, in sifting through some of the best science writing that's available now on the scientific blogosphere, from new bloggers to notable ones like P Z Myers, Chad Orzel and Brian Switek and highly regarded science journalists John Rennie (former Scientific American publisher), Carl Zimmer and Ed Yong. There's a fine introductory essay on the current state of the scientific blogosphere from Jennifer Ouellette, who notes that reports of its demise are quite premature to say the least. Former vertebrate paleontologist - now science writer and blogger - Brian Switek - well known for his Laelaps blog and his book "Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record and Our Place in Nature" - delves through fact and mythology regarding the Dodo, the "poster child of extinction", in a memorable essay ("The Dodo is Dead, Long Live The Dodo!") possessed of superb literary quality comparable with anything written by Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould. In an emotionally riveting, quite powerful, condemnation of the Nazi-like indoctrination of young school children on the "truth" of creationism by Answers in Genesis creationist Ken Ham, noted New Atheist advocate and biologist P Z Myers writes a latter day "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" letter addressed to "Dear Emma B", explaining the wonders of science to the brainwashed Emma B in a surprisingly quite respectful tone that is one of the finest examples of blogging posted by Myers at his Pharyngula blog. Physicist Chad Orzel, like Myers, a well-known science blogger, discusses the faster than light neutrinos experiments conducted at CERN ("Faster Than A Speeding Photon"). Devoted fans of well-known bloggers like Myers and Orzel, and science journalists Rennie and Zimmer, will find this volume worthy of attention, and so, too, I predict, will many others who value superb science writing, regardless of its source.

Winter Journal
Winter Journal
by Paul Auster
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 29.99
10 used & new from CDN$ 5.22

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alas This Isn't "Angela's Ashes", Oct. 24 2012
This review is from: Winter Journal (Hardcover)
"Winter Journal" is replete with Paul Auster's exceptional prose; a memoir that will remind his most devoted fans of his fiction. However, for those seeking to understand his literary craft, they won't find it in this mercifully terse memoir. In a year that has seen the publication of very good to great autobiographical essay collections from the likes of Rick Moody ("On Celestial Music: And Other Adventures in Listening") and William Gibson ("Distrust That Particular Flavor"), "Winter's Journal" reads as a work of nonfiction in which the author seems more intent in displaying his literary craft, not in offering readers something fascinating and profound of note with regards to understanding that author's entire body of work. Both Moody and Gibson's recently published books give readers ample opportunities to understand them both as people and as writers; instead, I think some will be as bewildered as I was upon finishing "Winter Journal", which I must regard as an enigmatic work of nonfiction written by someone often hailed as among our finest contemporary American writers of fiction. In stark contrast with Auster, I have derived better understanding of the personal motivation behind the literary craft of writers as diverse as Michael Chabon ("Maps and Legends"), Jonathan Franzen ("The Discomfort Zone"), and Pete Hamill ("A Drinking Life"), as well as Rick Moody and William Gibson, from reading their memoirs and nonfiction. Without question, Auster is at his best in recounting the life and death of his mother, in writing that will resonate with those readers familiar with Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes"; Auster is at his worst in offering a chronological history of his current and former residences that often read as passages almost devoid of emotion, instead of using those pages as a means of providing readers ample insight into his raison d'etre for writing. Needless to say, "Winter Journal" is a memoir not worthy of comparison with "Angela's Ashes", but rather instead, remains but a poor shadow of it.

The Night Circus
The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
Edition: Hardcover
19 used & new from CDN$ 3.40

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intoxicating Blend of Historical Fiction and Fantasy, Oct. 23 2012
This review is from: The Night Circus (Hardcover)
An intoxicating blend of historical fiction and fantasy, "The Night Circus" is one of the most impressive literary debuts I have read recently, marking the advent of an important new voice in fantasy and mainstream literary fiction; Erin Morgenstern. It is a boldly imaginative work encompassing fantasy, romance and historical fiction by someone who is both a great storyteller and an exceptional prose stylist. Compellingly readable and impossible to put down, Morgenstern takes readers on a whirlwind journey spanning across two continents and decades of time within the tents of the mysterious and magical Le Cirque de Reves with a most compelling cast of characters ranging from its eccentric owner Chandresh Christoph Levevre to its most devoted fan and clockmaker Friedrick Stefan Thiessen, and last, but not least, the contortionist, fortune-teller and magicians of the circus itself. This is an epic tale of love and a titanic battle of wits between two young illusionists, Celia Bowen and Marco Alasdair, engaged in a relentless competition of magic overseen by their enigmatic, mercurial masters; a game in which only one of them can survive, a game witnessed by the entire circus and its fans, as they conjure exceptional feats of magic, and a game which defines their lives and threatens their unexpected, quite passionate, love for each other. A game which is the latest in a series of competitions that have lasted for decades, between Celia's father, Hector Bowen, the magician Prospero the Enchanter, and the elusive, enigmatic man in the grey suit. With "The Night Circus", Morgenstern has written a tale as captivating and mesmerizing as any written by the likes of Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin, China Mieville, and Haruki Murakami; it is indeed a work of genius which will be compared favorably with theirs as an instant classic of fantasy and mainstream literature.

The Miracle Inspector
The Miracle Inspector
by Helen Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.22
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.79

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dark Side of P. G. Wodehouse Courtesy of Helen Smith, Oct. 20 2012
This review is from: The Miracle Inspector (Paperback)
Welcome to the dark side of P. G. Wodehouse; those of you who are accustomed to his clever, wickedly funny writing will find much of it in Helen Smith's near future dystopian thriller "The Miracle Inspector". While I will confess that I have never acquired a taste for Wodehouse's comedic fiction, Smith's novel reads like the unexpected love child of Wodehouse mixed with Kurt Vonnegut and Philip K. Dick in this subtle, surprisingly compelling, near future dystopian SF novel that is among the better examples of recent dystopian fiction I have encountered, and one that is far more compelling than anything I have read written by writers on my side of the Atlantic Ocean. Smith paints a vividly disturbing, but still engrossing, depiction of a near future Great Britain undergoing a harsh, quite precipitous, decline in which the country has been separated between a barely civilized rural landscape noted for its vigilante justice despite the presence of United Nations peacekeepers, and a totalitarian London in which women are denied the right to work outside their homes. Thinking they might find a happier, more fulfilling life for themselves in rural Cornwall (the southern end of the island of Great Britain), a young couple, Lucas, "the Miracle Inspector" working for a government ministry, and Angela, his almost simple-minded, wife, begin plotting their escape. What ensues is an almost relentless litany of tragic errors as their best laid plans are torn asunder by unexpected circumstances. Smith excels in depicting a near future Great Britain not so dissimilar than the present, creating a near future world in which the present is merely prologue to a surprisingly credible future, via a most simple, yet still descriptive, prose. Readers intent on reading a far more dramatic vision of a dystopian future will miss the subtle, often sly, social commentary that lurks within the pages of Smith's novel; hers is a vision that is quite compelling in its own right, and one as noteworthy as Gary Shteyngart's in his P. G. Wodehouse Award-winning novel "Super Sad True Love Story".

Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems
Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 29.00
39 used & new from CDN$ 2.22

5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of the Beginning and the Latest Poetry from Ursula Le Guin, Oct. 16 2012
"Finding My Elegy" is a literary celebration of Ursula Le Guin's decades-long oeuvre in poetry, demonstrating that she is as much a master of this genre as she is of speculative fiction and fantasy. If nothing else, this relatively slim volume should demonstrate her considerable range and talent as a poet, drawing originally from the fantastical realms conjured in her "Ekumen" and "Earthsea" novels and stories, and then, later, drawing on subjects as diverse as her longstanding love of nature and her intensely felt commentary on social and political affairs both here in the United States and abroad.

One of my favorite poems, her ode to the great classical singer Ian Bostridge, demonstrates the intense richness and the elegant simplicity of her literary craft:

Lieder Singer

To Ian Bostridge

He stands by the piano, tall and lean
in black, unsmiling. His hands are tense.
Men are unlikely instruments.
A piano too, a strange awkward thing.

He looks out through the audience
waiting for the accompanist to begin
the running rolling subtle Schubert tune
His gaze changes as he starts to sing.

Now he sees nothing. Is he seen?
Where is he now in these long-drawn laments.
these soft rejoicings in a summer dawn?
Like Echo hidden near the hidden spring,

unbodied to music, he consents
to be nothing but voice, the rest is gone.

Sweet Tooth: A Novel
Sweet Tooth: A Novel
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Hardcover
15 used & new from CDN$ 2.88

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Elegant, Suspenseful Literary Thriller from Ian McEwan, Oct. 16 2012
This review is from: Sweet Tooth: A Novel (Hardcover)
Ian McEwan has conjured a most riveting blend of literary fiction, historical fiction and espionage thriller in his latest novel, "Sweet Truth", which is as much a celebration of early 1970s Anglo-American literature as well as a spellbinding espionage thriller of the kind readers might expect from John Le Carre or Ken Follet. Drawn upon a relatively little known aspect of British espionage history, McEwan's new novel is a riveting tale of love and betrayal, espionage and one's own identity. A young Cambridge University student, the literary minded and mathematically inclined Serena Frome, is recruited by MI5 - Great Britain's equivalent of the American FBI - in identifying potential writers who could work on behalf of the Conservative British government on a public disinformation campaign against Britain's left-wing opposition. She soon identifies a likely prospect, the young writer Tom Healy, becoming both his muse, and eventually, his lover, sharing his passion for superb contemporary Anglo-American literature as he writes a potential award-winning dystopian fiction debut novel. Narrated in first-person by Frome years after the events chronicled in "Sweet Tooth", readers are treated to a rapidly spiraling web of deceit as Frome struggles to keep her secret identity as a MI5 agent from Healy, as she retains an intensely intellectual and sexual-charged relationship with him. Much to my amazement, McEwan also treats readers to the best fictional depiction of the Monty Hall problem in probability theory I have encountered, and one especially memorable for its revealing insights pertaining to Frome's behavior. Without question, McEwan's compellingly readable new novel should be viewed as among this year's best and one probably destined for consideration for many of the major awards bestowed upon contemporary Anglo-American literature.

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