arkadi cloud

tech, teaching, and books

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Coming into this book I already had a bit of a negative feeling about it. I dislike over-hyped books and movies; normies gushing over books usually gets me running the opposite direction.

Why did I read this book? My friend kindly lent it to me and it was sitting on my desk. It's the summer so I haven't been in the mood to really read any 'heavy' books, so I gave it a try.

Now everything you've heard about this book is correct, he name drops so many culture references that is tends to get annoying. Usually these things he talks about doesn't really add to the story except to give the reader some nostalgia. I'm currently listening to the 80s Ready Player One movie soundtrack, so I guess it's working?

The story is a trope we've seen before: misfit boy saves the world against evil corporation and gets the girl. It's not a complicated plot and it moves along quickly. Are the characters cardboard cut-outs? Yes but it's still a perfect summer read; the chapters are short, and it's like eating junk food – it makes you feel good.

There are lots of nerd and gamer references that I, as a former gamer growing up in the 80s, appreciated. In my opinion, I'd label this a YA novel in the same vein as The Maze Runner. It's fun to read. I'll probably forget the plot in a few days but hey, what are you expecting? This is not an award winning book for its writing. This is a summer movie. You know what will happen just a few pages in but you still want to go along for the ride.

I was expecting to hate this book but I actually enjoyed it. I was expecting to 'hate read' it then, write a nasty review but lookey what I wrote. It wasn't all that bad. I guess sometimes the normies can hype up books that are pretty good, but, for the record, I still hate Harry Potter.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #55 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #YA

Close Call for my Server – Always Keep Backups!

I had a close call this week with my Yunohost server which hosts all my essential services including WriteFreely, and Nextcloud. I had a few days of downtime before 'resolving' the problem.

Being the summer break, I attempted to try self-hosting a few more services on my Yunohost server.


The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

Ok so the moon is a penal colony. Not again right? But wait, this novel was written in 1967, so this concept must've been unique at the time. Well this is a novel about revolution in space. One of the main characters is Mike, a super powerful computer that has gained 'consciousness and builds up a friendship with the non-stupid computer technician Manuel. It's about politics as much as it is 'sci-fi'. It moves very fast and is written in a fast-moving style and you have little chance to admire the scenery. Heinlein is about the action!

I really enjoyed this book. I have read many books about the moon being a penal colony and how their is friction between the earthworms (people from Earth) and the Loonies (people from the Moon), but this is the 1st one I've read that takes you through a revolution of independence.

Also, look at these awards: * Hugo Award for Best Novel (1967) * Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (1966) * Prometheus Hall of Fame Award (1983)

I've read a few of these SF Masterworks but so far this is the most engaging one, compared to The Doomed City, and The Gods Themselves. I really enjoy the title too. I think this was one of the main reasons I initially was drawn to this book; never underestimate the power of a catchy title.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #54 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#BookReview #books #moon #SciFi

Not Forgetting the Whale by John Ironmonger

A story about a naked man washed ashore in a the tiny fishing village of St. Piran, and a whale.

This would be a great beach read! It's very easy to read, with funny characters...and um...features a whale. I won't spoil the plot of this story but it's very much a meaning of life, city vs. country folk, and fish out of water type of book.

Also, the cover art is whimsical, and beautiful.

Also 'bad thing coming' is a major theme of this story, so here are two good quotes about that.

Advice from Papa Mikkel...

'Give the crisis a score,' the old man would say. 'Mark it out of one hundred. Then look at the horizon as if nothing mattered, and ask yourself how much it would score tomorrow. And how much next week. And next year. Will they write about this matter in your obituary? Will anyone die? If not, you can turn to face it once again and recognise it for the imposter it is.'

A business man talking about oil to the main character of the book, Joe.

”...We've built the greatest society that mankind has ever known – a global society. We communicate across continents, we think nothing of jumping on an airline for a meeting in Zurich or Seattle or Shanghai. And yet all of this, everything we have created, rests upon a finite fluid resource that we're busy burning away. Did you ever think about this, Joe?”

“I'm thinking about it now, sir.”

#BookQuotes Not Forgetting the Whale

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #53 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris

I've read many historical accounts of the Holocaust. I've watched movies. It's something so terrible to even imagine and yet as humans we are curious to 'experience' it through media.

The writing isn't especially amazing, but that story is quite interesting. It is a powerful love story of luck, determination, amidst the horror of the concentration camps of WWII. It doesn't have to be so well written because all the movies and books I've read (Schindler's List, Unbroken, Photographer of Mauthausen etc) give your mind adequate imagery to add to this story.

”...a man who lectures on taxation and interest rates can't help but get involved in the politics of his country. Politics will help you understand the world until you don't understand it anymore, and then it will get your thrown into a prison camp. Politics and religion both.”

Rating: ★★★ Book #52 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview

China Dream by Ma Jian

We all have regrets, it's hard to move on in life unless you make piece with them. You can't just pretend they didn't happen, but usually we learn from the mistakes in our past. What happens when a whole nation is made to forget though? What happens when a nation doesn't learn from their past mistakes? China is a nation built on forgetting the past and this novel explores this dichotomy of this forced 'forgetting' in China.

Being a Chinese official is a tough life between juggling the mistresses, hiding bribes, attending dinners, lieing and you still even have to do the job you were appointed to do. This story is about one official who keeps having flashbacks to the Culture Revolution as he sees parallels of the past in the present. He wishes he could just forget, but things aren't that easy. Can he carry on with suppressing the evil for the past, or will it tear him apart?

This booked reminded me of another ludicrous look at the insane world of Chinese politics, Party Members by Arthur Meursault.

If you want a non-fiction read about how one of the most pivotal moment's in China's recent history has been buried, then read The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited by Louisa Lim.

PS don't you love the cover art? It was made by another Chinese dissident, Ai Wei Wei.

Rating: ★★★★★ Book #50 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #China

Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific by Robert D. Kaplan

First off, this book has wonderful cover art. I got the hardcover version, and although this book is slim, it packs a punch. It also has two very detailed maps of the South China Sea (SCS) region in the beginning of the book that shows the competing claims by all countries.

The book begins with an overview of the region and the current situation. Many nations are flexing their muscles to (re)gain control of 'islands' in the SCS. Some of these islands are very tiny and even covered by water most of the time. The countries in the region, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, want control of these islands because of the possibility of oil and gas hidden in the sea floor. Along with oil and gas, the fishing rights around these islands is very important.



Yes, Amazon is evil. I don't like using their products but there is nothing else as good as keeping track of books I read. They have the largest, most up-to-date book database and the most functional website compared to the alternatives.

What do you use GoodReads for?

  • Reading reviews of books
  • To remember books I want to read ('Want to Read' shelf)
  • Keeping track of what I've already read ('Read' shelf)
  • Seeing what my friends are reading
  • Participating in The GoodReads Reading Challenge

The Doomed City by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

This is a sci-fi book that is actually a criticism of Communism. Published in 1972, it's about The Experiment, where people have volunteered from different countries, Nazi Germany, Russia, America, and are forced to live in a city whose rules are made by The Mentors but they make no sense.

“The Experiment is the Experiment,” said the Mentor. “It's not understanding that is required by you but something quite different.” “What?” “If one only knew...”

Now this book is a weird read. It's funny in its absolute absurdity at times, very Kafkaesque. I think that this book must've been more powerful if you read it in Russian and had lived in a Communist country. This book is still interesting, weird, and sometimes laugh out loud funny but it also doesn't make sense at times. I think some of the allusions went over my head.

I understand the historical importance of this book, which is well explained in the prologue and epilogue of this book, but it's still a weird book that was difficult to read and understand.

“Everything in the world is worth no more than shit,” said Izya.

3 stars for the book, 1 star for the historical importance.

Rating: ★★★★ Book #49 in my My 2019 Reading Challenge

#Books #BookReview #SciFi

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

This book looks at 21 things the humankind has to consider, change, and contemplate so that we avoid extinction and irrelevance by the 22nd century and beyond. Harrari has a knack for making astute observations and predictions about the future in a humorous way. You wouldn't think this sort of book would elicit laughter, but at times it did. He tears down almost every religion, and ridicules the other self-destructive tendencies humans have to make his point.