‘Short But Quite Useful’

Score: 4/5

Ukes are fun. They’re an instrument that’s hard to pick up without smiling. Inherently silly, they blend well with kazoos rather than flutes, shakers rather than drums.

But ukuleles are still musical instruments, and the same music theory applies. This book tries to bring across just enough music theory to make a ukulele player dangerous. There’s chord structure, scales, the circle of fifths, all explained well and from a ukulele perspective.

It’s a short book, but it covers a lot of ground. It doesn’t explain playing in different modes, which is a bit of a shame from my point of view because I’ve never understood it... Then again it’s not something I’ve ever wanted to do on a uke. They’re fun!

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‘At Least Something Happens’

Score: 4/5

I thought the previous book in this series was disappointing. At least this time something happens! OK, lots happens. We’re back with humanity-shaping events.

It’s the usual fun, with the usual suspects. OK, maybe a bit less of the usual ones and the introduction of some new ones. But it all has a familiarity to it (even the bad aspects of the science fiction prognostication) and that’s not wholly a bad thing.

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‘How Things Could Be’

Score: 4/5

Not may books are set in Belfast. (I know my reading skews towards local stuff but that’s a bias of mine, not the general availability of books.) So it was fun to read a ‘young adult’ book set around here, around now.

The book does a good job showing Belfast to the reader. Some places are recognisable, some places are made up, but the feeling of Belfast is nicely done. That’s not to say that Belfast is a nice place, but the characterisation of it here, and its people, works well. Our own particular brand of disfunctionality comes across but it also shows how not everyone buys into this disfunctionality and how some rebel against it.

And it’s a nice story.

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‘Enjoyable And Very Readable’

Score: 4/5

I enjoyed this. It’s not a complicated story but it’s an interesting journey. Very readable writing, I’m just not sure I’d seek out many more.

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‘Interesting And Useful Perspectives’

Score: 3/5

I’m not sure who recommended this book, or why. It’s not my usual kind of non-fiction book.

I did still enjoy reading it though. As the world becomes more polarised, how do we cope with such polarisation when people are going to (sometimes forcefully) disagree with you?

It’s difficult, and there’s no magic bullet. But there are some useful thoughts on the subject here.

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‘Kindof An Idiot Plot’

Score: 2/5

This was written the year before ‘Superintelligence’ came out, so I should maybe be more forgiving of the daftness around people cluelessly creating a powerful AI. Even so, they’re still pretty dumb.

I found myself saying ‘Why don’t they...?’ or ‘Can’t they...?’ a bit too much. There seemed easier paths to better outcomes for lots of the plot. And when it came to the AI, we have - in 2019 - put in a whole lot more thought to how to handle powerful AIs than the people living in this particular future. We haven’t solved the problem, but at least we’re asking some of the right questions. The people in this book are akin to someone saying: ‘Wait - you’re a bad guy. Should I have given you my only gun?’

If I try hard I can probably forgive the AI nonsense. But I don’t think I’d put any of the protagonists in charge of a ship, let alone an AI or the future of humanity.

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‘Twisty, But Less Fun’

Score: 3/5

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Th1rt3en’ by this author, so I grabbed a signed copy of this when it came out. Ah well. It turns out I think I prefer his thrillers to his mysteries. The thrillers involve watching someone cope with events, and he paces them well. I just didn’t enjoy this as much.

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‘Deeply, Deeply, Deeply Weird’

Score: 3/5

This one was weird, even for Chuck Palahniuk.

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‘Not A Lot Happens’

Score: 3/5

I mean, OK, the galaxy goes on, important events take place, but... This book just felt a bit like a placeholder. Like ‘Big Things’ happened before and ‘Big Things’ will happen again, but for now just relax a bit, it’s a slow news day.

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‘Fun, But Sometimes Patchy’

Score: 4/5

10 crime stories set around Christmas. Sounds fun, and it was sometimes. I enjoyed some of the stories, and it was certainly interesting to read one by Adrian Conan Doyle. Odd to see at the end that publication date varied from the 1950s to the last year or two.

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