Guest posting at A Dribble of Ink

I was thoroughly chuffed when Aidan from the Hugo-award winning A Dribble of Ink asked me to do a guest post for his blog. My initial ideas were a tad ambitious in the context of my current time constraints, but I ended up writing what I hope is a fitting tribute to South African speculative fiction and its fundamental role in getting me to read local fiction (because, sadly, there was a time when I avoided pretty much all of it). You can read my post here.

After reading some dreck this morning about how sff should only be for fun, never political, and always exactly the same as it was in the fifties, it occurs to be that my post might come off as having similarly apolitical sentiments. I sincerely hope not, especially given the novels I recommended, which are all political or progressive to some degree. If anything I feel that pleasure and politics are not mutually exclusive, and that a book can be entertaining or beautiful and still tackle weighty themes. Rather, my gripe with (English) fiction publishing in South Africa was that for a long time there seemed to be some kind of resistance to publishing anything that wasn’t deadly serious and unwaveringly realist. I was almost afraid to read an SA novel because it would no doubt be harrowing. It’s only recently that I’ve seen more variety, and it’s the publication of spec fic that encouraged me, first to give local fiction another chance, and then to read as much of it as I could find :)

The Just City by Jo Walton

The Just CityTitle: The Just City
Series: Thessaly #1
Author: Jo Walton
Published: 13 January 2015
Publisher: Tor Books
Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Genre: science fiction, mythology, fantasy
Rating: 8/10

Across the ages, a few hundred people pray to the goddess Athene to live in Plato’s republic, the Just City. In response, Athene conducts an experiment. She brings together all those who prayed to her, to design and build the Just City, of which they will be the Masters. She sets it on the island of Kallisti, also known as Atlantis, so that the city will be destroyed. No trace of it will be left to screw with history, but it could “leave legends that can bear fruit in later ages”. Using her time-travelling abilities, she helps the Masters collect all the literature they need, and rescue original works of art for the education of the citizens. To populate the City, they buy 10080 ten-year-old child slaves to train and educate to be their best selves, thus producing a just city ruled by philosopher kings.

Among the children is Athene’s brother, the god Apollo, in the form of a ten-year-old boy. Apollo couldn’t understand why the nymph Daphne would rather be turned into a tree than have sex with him and decided to live as a human to understand this strange idea that other people have their own desires that are just as important as his own.

Apollo – living as the boy Pytheas – learns a lot from his friendship with Simmea, a Libyan girl who loves the City and always strives not only to be her best self, but to understand what that means. Apollo and Simmea frequently clash with Kebes, a child who hates the City because no one ever gave him a choice about living there.

Kebes is in the minority because for most, the City is a utopia or at least a far better home than the times and places they came from. Maia, for example, used to be Ethel from Victorian England, where she was warned that her passion for reading and studying would cause her to be labelled a “bluestocking” whom no man would want to marry. In the Just City, however, she can do fulfilling work by learning and teaching what she loves most. Most women feel similarly liberated.

But it’s definitely not a utopia, as many realise from the very beginning. It suffers from the flaws and absurdities in Plato’s work, as well as the circumstances of its creation and simple human imperfection. Then, when Socrates is brought to the City against his will, he starts questioning everything about it in his classic style.

I’ll admit that I’ve never read a word of The Republic. Presumably those familiar with Plato will get a lot more out of The Just City, but I loved it anyway, and I think anyone who likes philosophy would enjoy it too. Much of the book is made up of philosophical debate, whether internal or between characters, as they reflect on the creation of the City, its ability to fulfil its ideals, and their own places in it. The City itself is a magnificent setting for a novel, with its beautiful architecture, fine art, delicious food and wine, expansive libraries… Basically, I want to live there, except perhaps for the bit about the naked wrestling and weird breeding practices (more about that later).

However, the most interesting thing about the novel is not the way the City lives up to Plato’s ideals but in the many ways it fails to be just or good, because these tend to be the most though-provoking aspects. Firstly, the way it was created leads to fundamental problems. The Masters are all people who prayed to Athena to live in Plato’s republic. The circumstances of history mean that most of the people who would have the education and inclination to do such a thing are men from the ancient world, most of whom are old and come from very conservative times. Thus the Masters suffer from a distinct gender imbalance and lack of diversity, so the City is heavily influenced by people who are used to being in power, have no respect for women, and think it’s perfectly fine to keep slaves. Even though Plato argued that women can be philosophers too, they end up having less say in the way the City is run, and their personal lives are affected by it. For example, it’s decided that the Masters should not have any children, but the responsibility for preventing contraception seems to be the women’s alone. When the issue of rape arises, the City suddenly seems a very backward place, not a philosophical utopia.

One of the biggest problems is the text that led to the whole experiment. All the Masters admire The Republic, of course, but many of its principles are what we would consider fascist. The children are not allowed to acknowledge the truth of where they came from; they have to repeat the Noble Lie of having been born from the earth in the City. All texts and artworks are carefully chosen to suit Platonic ideals. The children are forbidden from reading The Republic because it would reveal the extent to which the Masters (and the future philosopher kings) have to lie to and manipulate them. Slavery is forbidden, but only insofar as it is considered immoral for one person to own another; the work reserved for slaves still needs to be done. Athena provides robots from the future to do this, but this is only meant to be a temporary solution until the children have grown up and a worker class of inferior minds is identified. In fact, the Masters are expected to categorise all the children according to a hierarchical system, with the best philosophers at the top.

It gets worse. When the children get older and the girls reach childbearing age, the Masters start the breeding programmes that Plato described, and it becomes abundantly clear that “what Plato knew about love and real people could have been written on a fingernail paring”. Ditto for what he knew about what it’s like being a woman (i.e. a female human being and not, say, a baby-making machine).

So far I might have made this seem like a very cold, analytical novel, but it isn’t. It’s the characters who grapple with these issues in their daily lives, so that the philosophy becomes a very personal, engaging thing. I cared about all the POV characters – Simmea, Pytheas/Apollo, Maia – so I wanted to know how philosophy affected their lives and what they thought about it. And Walton has chosen characters that present some of the most interesting perspectives.

As one of the Masters, Maia experiences the deep-seated inequality among the people responsible for building the City, and worries about the way they’re raising the children. Apollo, as the boy Pytheas, experiences all this as a god in human form. He has all his memories and knowledge, but has none of his powers. He’s read The Republic and knows, for example, that Plato was wrong in his ideas about the soul. He can also compare being a god with being a human, and compare the way the gods think about humans to the reality of living as a human.

Simmea is essentially the City’s perfect citizen – highly intelligent, analytical, focused, hard-working, creative. She knows how much worse her life would have been if the Masters hadn’t rescued her, and she’s wholly invested in the core ideals of the Just City. At the same time, she’s smart enough to think critically about it, even if that if it means facing uncomfortable truths. Together, Simmea and Apollo also reflect on various kinds of intimate and sexual relationships, between themselves and with other people. The Just City doesn’t allow for any kind of close, long-term sexual relationship, which is terrible on the one hand, but also gives room to explore other ways that intimate relationships grow between people.

Then there’s Kebes. He’s an unlikeable oaf (especially since we never read from his POV) but he articulates one crucial problem – the children were not given any choice in becoming part of the Just City. At first it seems like Kebes is being unnecessarily rebellious, since the children were saved from slavery and now live what many would consider an idyllic life. But Kebes doesn’t seem so unreasonable when you consider the fact that no one is allowed to leave the City (and they’d have nowhere to go, either). In fact, he gets flogged for trying to run away. He’s considered a troublemaker by the Masters because he doesn’t buy into their idea of his ‘best self’ (another problem with the City – you can criticise it if you’re trying to make it better, but you don’t have the freedom to reject its ideals completely).

The story spans about a decade, pensively exploring its way this thought experiment. I know this sort of thing wouldn’t be for everyone, and lots of people might find it dead boring. It’s mostly ideas and debates, with a meandering plot. But that’s part of what I like about it. Intellectually, it’s very engaging, but I also find it to very soothing. It’s easy to follow the various trains of thought, to see characters backtrack through their thoughts to examine their assumptions, or see how a new experience changes the way they think. It’s a kind of meditation, but one that caters to a contemporary sff reader. I think the basis of its appeal is captured by Maia, when she expresses her admiration for Plato in response to Socrates’ criticisms of him:

I think he invited us all into the inquiry. Nobody reads Plato and agrees with everything. But nobody reads any of the dialogues without wanting to be there joining in. Everybody reads it and is drawn into the argument and the search for the truth. We’re always arguing here about what he meant and what we should do. Plato laid down the framework for us to carry on with. He showed us—and this I believe he did get from you—he showed us how to inquire into the nature of the world and ourselves, and examine our lives, and know ourselves. Whether you really had the particular conversations he wrote down or not, by writing them he invited us all into the great conversation.

The Just City has a similar effect. For that, and it’s many other lovely qualities, I recommend it very highly.

Daily Reads: 27 January 2015

Glasses Journal It’s been a slow reading week, and I’m still busy with The Just City by Jo Walton and Sister Sister by Rachel Zadok. The one downside to moving back to Cape Town and studying/job hunting/enjoying being back in Cape Town is that it’s not easy getting used to having a ton of things to do other than read and blog. But it feels good to be busy, as long as I have a to-do list to stop my brain wandering :) And I rounded up a couple of great articles for today’s post:

Francine Prose warns us that they’re watching you read – Kobo recently released an analysis of trends in ebook reading, based on data gleaned from reading devices. You can read more about it at the Guardian, but the gist of it is that many readers don’t actually finish acclaimed bestsellers like Goldfinch or Twelve Years a Slave (although they’re still bestsellers). Prose considers the implications of this and what it might mean for the future of publishing. In the process, she throws out a couple of ideas that would look good in an sf novel (“Will it ever happen that someone can be convicted of a crime because of a passage that he is found to have read, many times, on his e-book?”).

Take a moment to consider the crucial role editors play in bringing you the books you love by reading “Stet by Me: Thoughts on Editing Fiction” (discovered via Aerogramme Writer’s Studio on Facebook). This amusing, honest article describes the delicate but mostly thankless job of getting books from authors to readers.

Not that it would downplay the rather more harrowing work of the author. Kameron Hurley’s recent blog post about working on her upcoming novel Empire Ascendant, depicts the editing process from her POV.

Now, after all that heavy reading, a list! Hurley shares a couple of upcoming sff titles she insists you should be pre-ordering. And I trust her judgement :)

Happy reading!

Daily Reads helps me organise my online reading and share my favourite posts with you. If you know of any good SF/F and other literary articles, link to it in the comments :)

Photography for this post is courtesy of Ruth Smith. You can view or buy her work here, or contact her at photobunny24@gmail.com.

Up for Review: Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

I love the title of this novel, although I kind of hope it doesn’t have anything to do with Walter Benjamin’s essay, because I tried to read that once and didn’t get very far (and if it does, I’ll feel obliged to try again). It also reminds me a wee bit of The Machine Dynasty series by Madeline Ashby, with its focus on intimate relationships between humans and androids.

Love in the Age of Mechanical ReproductionLove in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Judd Trichter

Set in a near-future LA, a man falls in love with a beautiful android—but when she is kidnapped and sold piecemeal on the black market, he must track down her parts to put her back together.

Bad luck for Eliot Lazar, he fell in love with an android, a beautiful C-900 named Iris Matsuo. That’s the kind of thing that can get you killed in late 21th century Los Angeles or anywhere else for that matter – anywhere except the man-made island of Avernus, far out in the Pacific, which is where Eliot and Iris are headed once they get their hands on a boat. But then one night Eliot knocks on Iris’s door only to find she was kidnapped, chopped up, sold for parts.

Unable to move on and unwilling to settle for a woman with a heartbeat, Eliot vows to find the parts to put Iris back together again—and to find the sonofabitch who did this to her and get his revenge.

With a determined LAPD detective on his trail and time running out in a city where machines and men battle for control, Eliot Lazar embarks on a bloody journey that will take him to the edge of a moral precipice from which he can never return, from which mankind can never return.

Judd Trichter’s Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is a scifi love story that asks the question, how far will you go to save someone you love?

 

Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction will be published on 3 February 2015 by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press.

 

Links
Author’s website (not exactly active)
Judd Trichter on Twitter
Judd Trichter on Facebook
Publisher

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustTitle: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Author: Claire North (pseudonym for Catherine Webb, who also writes as Kate Griffin)
Published: 8 April 2014
Publisher: Redhook Books
Source: own copy
Genre: science fiction
Rating: 9/10

As I go through my notes and highlights for The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August I realise that this is *the* best book I read last year. It’s elegant and beautiful and pensive, which is not something I can often say of books that also happen to be fantastic thrillers. I kind of want to read it again right now, but I’ll settle for writing a review that I hope can convey what a wonderful book this is.

At the end of his eleventh life, Harry August is about to slip into his usual cosy, morphine-induced suicide when a little girl arrives to tell him that the world is ending. Both he and the girl are kalachakra – those who journey repeatedly through their own lives. When they die they return to the time and place of their birth and live again, with all the memories of the lives that came before. Because Harry is about to die and travel back to his birth in 1919, he can send the message about the impending apocalypse back through time, as later generations of their kin have been doing.

Harry’s first question is, why does it matter that the world is ending? Everything dies, after all. But the problem is not only that the world is ending, but that it is ending faster – it happens earlier and earlier every time. The fact of this suggests that one of the kalachakra is causing it by using their knowledge of the future to change the past. And as the apocalypse moves back in time it permanently kills kalachakra along the way, because if they ever fail to be born once, they are never born again.

It’s only about halfway through the book that we see Harry start to deal with this issue because for him it poses a complex ethical dilemma that the reader can only understand by first learning the story of his previous lives. So Harry takes us back to his very first birth and on through the lives that follow.

This is a fascinating and engaging story in itself specifically because Harry carries the increasing weight and knowledge of all his previous lives with him (it’s partly this factor that makes the novel superior to Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which is based on a similar concept). In addition he is something known as a mnemonic – a kalachakra who remembers everything with perfect clarity. This has several advantages, one of which is that it makes Harry an excellent narrator who can capture the essence of what it means to kalachakra.

Naturally, it’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s an extremely difficult thing to deal with at first; in his second life he goes mad with the memories of the previous one, and commits suicide at age seven. In his third life he turns to religion for answers and, finding none, turns to science in his fourth life. There’s no rush – he has centuries to ponder existence. With his knowledge of the future and his accumulated education, it’s easy to become wealthy in later lives, but that doesn’t save him from having to live through childhood over and over again. It also raises some uniquely disturbing problems. How, for example, does the mind deal with pain and trauma in this scenario? When you cannot forget anything, and you have centuries of experience from which the most horrific moments never fade?

In addition to these sorts of psychological conundrums, Harry is faced with a multitude of ethical questions. What should he do with his knowledge of the future? Should he help people, or is it dangerous to interfere? Could he change history or is he ultimately powerless? But if he can’t or shouldn’t change the world, then what is the point of him, and of the kalachakra?

These questions plague Harry for much of the book. He gets some insight when he joins The Cronus Club, a global network of kalachakra whose main purpose is to use their abilities to generate enough wealth to support new and existing members (e.g. extracting young kalachakra so they don’t have to waste decades pretending to be kids). The Club is very strongly opposed to changing history because doing so ended the world once before. Harry initially agrees, arguing that “[c]omplexity should be your excuse for inaction” (52). But as Harry goes from one life to the next, he becomes unsure – what does any of this mean if they never choose to act, to change things?

These ideas aren’t just food for thought – they are integral to the second part of the novel, as are Harry’s experiences (some of which are pretty harrowing). Having told the most important parts of his life story, Harry then moves on to the pacier business of investigating the impending apocalypse, and the novel goes from being a kind of philosophical historical sf to a literary sf thriller. Although Harry is, in most ways, a pretty ordinary guy, being able to educate yourself for centuries and use knowledge of the future to get rich means that he has considerable skills and resources for mounting an investigation. He also happens to live at the right time in history to do something, and being a mnemonic gives him a unique advantage that determines the way things play out.

Now, one thing I love is that Harry doesn’t simply decide to save the world because that’s what you do. He can act, but he needs to decide if he will, and how. At this point it’s abundantly clear that life has very different meaning for kalachakra. Pain is significant but death is not because it just leads to rebirth. They don’t generally care about the deaths of normal, linear people, because those people will all be back again in the next cycle of their lives, even if the world is totally destroyed. They take the permanent deaths of kalachakra very seriously because the kalachakra are special, but for centuries Harry has been questioning their importance, their meaning. And when the importance of the kalachakra is called into question, we return to the question Harry posed at the very beginning – why does it matter that the world is ending? If it’s ending because one of the kalachakra has chosen to act on their knowledge and experience, is that necessarily a bad thing? The kalachakra are essentially immortals but they’re just cycling through the same lives. Are they seriously going to sit around preserving the status quo forever?

Harry wrestles with these issues as he investigates the accelerating apocalypse, and it all comes to bear on his decisions when he finds out what’s going on. This is the best thing about this book – the way Harry’s lives build on one another to drive his decisions and thus the story. The author takes the idea of the kalachakra and delves into the depths of what it means to her main character. The narrative is suitably non-linear, so that we get a sense of how Harry experiences time – all those lives piled up, cross-referencing each other across centuries. Then she puts him into a dire plot in which the things we’ve learnt about him are crucial to the understanding the choices he makes and the eventual outcome.

And it’s magnificent. Everything comes together beautifully. The slow and thoughtful first half transitions into a page-turning thriller. Harry comes up against an opponent who becomes both a friend an an enemy, someone he admires as much as he fears, and who forces him to grapple with all the questions he’s been asking about himself and the kalachakra. It’s such an accomplished novel – superbly written, poignant, sometimes heartbreaking, utterly absorbing. I want to relive Harry’s lives again, and again.

Daily Reads: 19 January 2015

Hey everyone! Apologies for my recent blog silence, but I have finally moved back to South Africa from Ethiopia (YAY!) and I’ve been extra disorganised as a result. But I’m slowly getting back into my routine, and I’ve got some cool stuff planned for Violin in A Void. This includes lovely professional photography by my sister Ruth (contact details at the end of this post).

IMG_3392

I’m currently reading The Just City by Jo Walton, and Sister Sister by Rachel Zadok, whose gorgeous cover Ruth captured in the picture above. You can get a better look at the artwork on the publisher’s page here, and several people have been telling me that Zadok’s novel is just as wonderful.

But before I go and curl up with that again, here are some daily reads for you.

In “A Matter of Gaze” Foz Meadows offers some practical ways of thinking about the male gaze, and formulates a companion test for the Bechdal as a way of assessing the way women are portrayed in film. A very useful article especially if, like me, you feel strongly about these issues but sometimes struggle to think about or discuss it in a clear, analytical way.

Following his article on why you should write in your books with a pen, Tim Parks wrote an article on how to read critically. I’ve already found it quite helpful in turning my attention to little details that I might not otherwise have noticed, and appreciating writing that seemed lacklustre at first glance. A fantastic tool for writing reviews!

Speaking of which, I recently read some articles on negative reviews, which, as regular readers may have noticed, I have no qualms about writing. Some people don’t like them or don’t like posting them, but these articles argue in their defence.

The G from the blog Nerds of a Feather invited other reviewers to give their opinions about the positive value of negative reviews. If you want to see me get a little ranty about this, check out my comment below the article.

Litreactor also has a post about why readers don’t owe it to writers to finish books they don’t like and how it’s ok to review a book you didn’t finish (provided you review it honestly as a dnf – did not finish). Although I usually slog through books I don’t like, and sometimes get a bit annoyed with dnf reviews of books I loved, I have to agree here. A dnf review can’t offer a valid assessment of a book as a whole, but readers still get a worthwhile opinion from a review that says a book was so bad/slow/boring etc. that the reviewer couldn’t bear to finish it.

What do you think? Is it ok to write dnf reviews? Do you find that opinion helpful? Do you read/write negative reviews, or do you think it’s better to either be more diplomatic or simply keep snarky opinions to yourself?

Daily Reads helps me organise my online reading and share my favourite posts with you. If you know of any good SF/F and other literary articles, link to it in the comments :)

Photography for this post is courtesy of Ruth Smith. You can view or buy her work here, or contact her at photobunny24@gmail.com.

Mind-Bending Reads of 2014

As I said in my Best Novels of 2014 post, last year was a great year for reading, so much so that I want to do another list. There were a couple of books I read that didn’t make my list of favourites, and that I might not even have liked as much as books that didn’t make either of these lists. Nevertheless, there was something special about each of them – they offered things I’d never encountered before, gave me interesting idea to ponder, showed me different ways of doing things, or made me question my own assumptions and biases.

Here they are, in the order that I read them:

LagoonLagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

I’ve enjoyed Okorafor’s short stories but I struggled to connect with Lagoon, partly because it’s got loads of characters who you never get to know well enough, and partly because the story just failed to satisfy. That said, it very satisfyingly takes the epic alien invasion narrative out of the usual US setting (I get very very tired of these stories always happening in the States) and places it in Lagos, Nigeria, where the city’s chaos is deemed more suitable to the aliens’ plans. Okorafor lovingly depicts a city both frightening and fascinating, and weaves in local folklore and mythology. I particularly liked the part about a dangerous road depicted as a literal monster that eats the people and vehicles travelling on it. Lots of readers loved this book and despite my reservations I’d still encourage others to give it a shot.

The Mirror EmpireThe Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

I’ve only recently started reading epic fantasy with any kind of regularity, and since politics has never been my strong point I often struggle to focus on those aspects of the plot. It’s particularly difficult in The Mirror Empire because Hurley is so incredibly inventive and works damn hard to avoid all the tired traditions of the genre. So there’s a lot of wildly imaginative, totally unfamiliar stuff to take in, along with a very complicated political plot involving diverse nations and peoples with varying social structures. But the things that make it a challenge also make it an amazing book that feels like nothing else I’ve ever read. Hurley builds a whole new world from the ground up. Instead of horses and forests, there are bears and carnivorous jungles. Instead of misogynist feudal societies there is an egalitarian polyamorous society based on consent, a society that recognises multiple genders, and misandrist matriarchy full of female warriors and male concubines. There are vegetarian cannibals, a magic system based on astronomy… Basically, if you want epic fantasy with a strong emphasis on the fantasy, then you should read this book.

The Three-Body ProblemThe Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

As with The Martian, I tried to challenge myself by reading hard sf, while also expanding my reading with Chinese sf. This one proved to be a much more demanding, with some very technical content that went waaay over my head. It’s also a historical novel, with parts of the narrative set during China’s Cultural Revolution and lots of references to that period and Chinese culture. This could make the book pretty alienating at times, but I still enjoyed it. The real drawcard is an epic story of first contact deeply influenced by the horrors of the Cultural Revolution. The story moves slowly, but when it’s good, it’s magnificent. The only reason I didn’t rate it higher is that it’s has a lot of flat characters, including an incredibly dull POV character who is little more than a tool to move the plot around. Still, The Three-Body Problem sets a thrilling story in motion, and I’m looking forward to the sequels, which several people have suggested I will enjoy much more.

We Have Always FoughtWe Have Always Fought by Kameron Hurley

Yes, Kameron Hurley has two entries on this little list. I would recommend this book to ALL sff readers and writers. Seriously, EVERYONE. Kameron Hurley won a Hugo award for her essay “‘We Have Always Fought': Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative”, on false assumptions about the roles of women in history (eg. that women don’t fight in wars), and the subsequent depiction of women in sff. This book is her collection of blog posts about sff, writing and publishing, most of which are similarly political. And it is a brilliant, eye-opening, mind-broadening read. Hurley points out how unthinking some genre stories can be, while offering myriad ideas for thinking more acutely about character, race, gender, worldbuilding, plot, etc. Reading it might make you feel frustrated to notice how wide-ranging these problems are or make you feel disappointed in favourite stories you’ve never questioned before, but it’ll also help you appreciate authors who think beyond the norms and make the effort to write better worlds.

This book also gave me even greater appreciation for Hurley’s novels, which I already admire. She often writes with unflinching honesty about the difficulties of writing fiction, getting your work published, and trying to get it sold. Along the way she offers loads of insights into her own novels, frequently making me want to go back and look at something I missed or reassess something I judged unkindly (like my annoyance with a sickly, disabled protagonist in The Mirror Empire). I didn’t put it on my list of favourites only because some of the essays are a bit boring, and can get a bit ranty and repetitive, tending to blur into one another if you read it cover to cover. That doesn’t make this any less of an absolute must-read.

Do you ever try to expand your reading? Did you read any eye-openers last year?