Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review: Static by Eric Laster

Synopsis:

When Curtis Brooks starts receiving phone calls from his older brother Wilt, who’s been dead a week, he’s sure it’s to help him find evidence that will lead to a murderer’s arrest. But Wilt claims he wasn’t murdered; his calling, meant to help him adjust, is standard protocol for newly deceased at the Aftermart—a kind of inescapable, ever-expanding Walmart filled with discontinued products.

Wilt’s death ruled a homicide, Curtis embarks on a dangerous plan to find the killer, which soon has him scheming against a billionaire and floundering toward love with his brother’s ex-girlfriend Suzy, all while struggling through high school and his single mom’s poor choices.

Why does Wilt help Curtis win over Suzy, even as he organizes a rebellion at the Aftermart? Who’d wanted him dead? Curtis risks his life to answer these questions, in the process forging a bond with his brother unlike any they’ve ever had.


Details:

Published April 12th 2016 by Automatic Publishing

Available: Amazon | The Book Depository (affiliate links)

My Review:

This heartfelt novel deals with a lot of serious and dark themes in a way that is poignant while retaining the darkish sense of humor of the protagonist. Curtis's main problem in the story is, on the surface, dealing with his brother's calls from a strange sort of after life that seem to be leading Curtis to find out how his brother passed away. It looks like murder at the hands of some seriously dangerous people involved in some dark and seedy activities.

The book engages readers by looking into some of the darker parts of human nature as Curtis encounters these individuals. It also explores topics that many young adults will relate to as he struggles with his parent's divorce when he was young, taking medications for conditions that are never quite explained to him - but that help with his hyperactivity and aggression. He also has to deal with his own choices. Will he compromise what he believes to be right or will he let the darkness and heaviness of it all draw him into the same bad choices of those around him?

Curtis's interactions with Wilt in his afterlife experience are interesting, but to me they weren't the driving force of the book. Though, in the context of the book, they actually did take place, they served the same purpose that hallucinations or dreams would have served. They helped him deal with his grief, solve problems, and provided and element of mystery and even humor to the dark life that Curtis is left to deal with.

Young Adult Notes: contains graphic mentions of sexual content, mild language, mild violence and graphic animal violence.

Source: I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Review: Pinpoint: How GPS Is Changing Technology, Culture, and Our Minds by Greg Milner

Synopsis:


In the tradition of The Information and The Shallows, Pinpoint tells the story of GPS and how it is affecting our brains, our technology, and our culture.

Over the last fifty years, humanity has developed an extraordinary shared utility: the Global Positioning System. Omnipresent, free, and available to all, GPS powers everything from your phone to the Internet to the Mars Rover. Greg Milner tells the sweeping story of GPS from its conceptual origins as a bomb guidance system to its present ubiquity. While GPS has revolutionized methods of timekeeping, navigation, and seismological prediction, it has also altered human behavior, introducing phenomena such as “Death by GPS,” in which drivers blindly follow their devices into deserts, lakes, and impassable mountains. Milner also shows the desperate vulnerabilities in the system we now use to predict the weather, track prisoners, and land airplanes. Delving into the neuroscience of cognitive maps and spatial recognition, Milner’s inventive and timely book is at once a grand history of the scientific urge toward precision and perfection and a revelatory philosophy of how humans understand themselves in the world.

Details:

Publication date: May 3rd 2016 by W. W. Norton & Company

Available: Amazon | The Book Depository (affiliate links)

My Review:

As someone always concerned about privacy while at the same time wanting to utilize the latest in technology, I found this book to be a fascinating and enlightening read. The ethics of GPS as regards privacy and Fourth Amendment rights had been something that had long been bothering me, and I was happy that Milner covered the topic in this book.

The author takes readers on a journey through the beginning of how humans navigated and saw the world into how the use of GPS began with mainly military intentions. Something that we take for granted today was something that many in the Air Force and other scientific fields had to find for in the arena of funding and at conception level.

The reason I was most interested to read this book and was not disappointed, was the coverage of how GPS is changing the way we think. My best friend lives 50 minutes away from me, and I would not be able to get to her house despite going there many times because I rely solely on my phone to get me there. I have mental maps of other places I frequent in the DFW metroplex area, but I am sure, like the test subject mentioned in several research cases, I could have a vaster and further reaching conception of the area if I didn't use GPS to get me to certain places at certain times.

My husband and I always joke about the incident in the office where Michael literally drives his car into a lake because the GPS told him to do it, but surprisingly incidents like this have happened, some with deadly results.

This book is definitely worth reading for those who are concerned about privacy, like the history of technology, or simply would like to know more about how the brain processes information. I liked that Milner, though his subject is heavily scientific, kept things mostly on an accessible level for all.

Source: I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.