I’m in the habit of posting reviews for all the books I read, having done it all throughout 2005, so I’m posting this one too, which I posted over at Allconsuming.net, even though it goes against the principle of saying nothing at all if you have nothing to say. But if it saves time for someone for whom this book is not really worthwhile, it’ll be worth.
Not a diss on Pickover, by the way: as you can see from his site, the guy’s published a lot, and I’m sure he’s made a tidy profit doing so. But his prose is workmanly, and his subject is less than mind-expanding for someone who’s read enough SF to see some of his points coming from a mile away.
Anyway, here’s what I posted on Allconsuming:
I read this hoping for, you know, some insights that I hadn’t yet achieved myself during my years of reading SF and science popularizations. There were a few, but not a lot of them, to be found in this book.
While Pickover is quite sensible in the science he discusses, enough so that I did learn a few things, he seems to have some rather idiosyncratic taste in SF, and hardly chooses the best examples around for non-Earth life. Even though the book is dated, there were more interesting examples in SF lit by 1998 than the ones he chose to highlight.
I also couldn’t help feel a little embarrassed at his inclusion of somewhat detailed information from one of his own books.
I also found the illustrations included to be, well, sometimes downright silly and childish, and at other times not really useful. If the art inside were more like the cover art, it might have been a different story.
Probably for a non-SF specialist, this could be an interesting read. I gleaned some interesting science tidbits… but I suspect there are better books out there on the same subject. I won’t likely be keeping my copy, though.
Next, I think I’ll try throw in a fiction book that isn’t short stories into the queue. I’ve been reading a lot of short stories and nonfiction lately, and feel like a novel. But soon, I’ll be reading the short story collection Lime got for me yesterday, Haruki Murakami’s After the Quake. I am very eager to dig into it, even if it is a littel dated. Murakami ages well, in any case.