Category Archives: Computers

A Review of Former.ly by Dane Cobain

Former.ly: The Rise and Fall of a Social Network

by Dane Cobain

Former.ly is a book about what happens behind the scenes at a new web startup. It is told in first person, from the point of view of Dan, who is hired as a developer at Former.ly. We see everything though his eyes. If he doesn’t see it, we don’t know about it until Dan hears about it.

It can be difficult to tell a story in first person, but Dane Cobain does a pretty good job of it. He lets us become immersed in the activities at Former.ly. But sometimes the action suffers, since we only see what Dan sees. Dan isn’t an action hero, he is a coder, but he is suspicious, and tries to find out what is really going on around him. He starts to wonder why people are starting to die around him, so he tries to find out, and that’s where the problems begin.

I enjoyed Former.ly. I think that Mr. Cobain has a big upside. He is an interesting guy. You should check out his website. http://danecobin.com. He writes stories, poetry, and music in addition to his longer works.

I give Former.ly 4 Stars out of 5, and a Thumbs Up! If you want to give a young British writer a leg up, you should give Former.ly a shot.

I received a Digital Review Copy from the author.

Book Description

DC_formerly05-1024x757When Dan Roberts starts his new job at Former.ly, he has no idea what he’s getting into. The site deals in death – its users share their innermost thoughts, which are stored privately until they die. Then, their posts are shared with the world, often with unexpected consequences.

But something strange is going on, and the site’s two erratic founders share a dark secret. A secret that people are willing to kill for.

Book Details

Paperback: 198 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 1, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1533051593
ISBN-13: 978-1533051592
Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
Shipping Weight: 9.8 ounces

About the Author

dane_cobainDane Cobain (High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, UK) is an independent poet, musician and storyteller with a passion for language and learning. When he’s not in front of a screen writing stories and poetry, he can be found working on his book review blog or developing his website, http://www.danecobain.com. His debut novella, No Rest for the Wicked, will be released by Booktrope in the Summer of 2015.

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A Review of Death Match by Lincoln Child

Death Match
by Lincoln Child

After I finished The Kraken Project by Douglas Preston, I went to look for a solo book by the other member of the Preston & Child writing team, Lincoln Child. I found this audiobook from 10 years ago, and it also had a computer program as a character in the book. Since it was written a decade ago, some of the technology seems kind of quaint, but that doesn’t get in the way of the story.

The story has good pacing and works really well in the audiobook format. I like to listen to audiobooks in the summer, since I can do yard-work, go for walks, take long road trips, or many other things while listening. Some books work better as print books, but this one worked very well as an audiobook.

It was interesting to compare the way Mr. Child handled his A.I. computer program with the rogue A.I. program that Mr. Preston developed in The Kraken Project. There were many similarities. The two partners may have discussed the plot-lines as they worked on White Fire, their last Pendergast novel. If you like an intelligent computer as a main character, then you should read both books. But don’t do like I did, read Death Match first.

Death Match is a mystery thriller, set in a high-tech company, Eden. They use a very sophisticated A.I. computer program to make the perfect match between their male and female clients. They charge $25,000 and have a money-back guarantee,  but no one has ever asked for a refund. All of the matches have worked so far. Everything is great, until one of the perfect couples (They matched at 100%) ends up dead, an apparent double suicide. Eden executives are concerned, so they hire an outside consultant, a psychologist, Christopher Lash. The story unfolds from his point of view. Another perfect couple is found dead, and the book gets more intense. Why are they killing themselves, or are they?

There are plenty of plot twists and surprises to keep you reading. The story moves along at a good clip, and the reader, Barrett Whitener, brings the characters to life. I enjoyed listening to Death Match. I give it 3 1/2 Stars out of 5. The ending was a bit too predictable, but everything still worked quite well, and it was a worthwhile 14 hours. I am going search out a few more solo works by both authors, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, since the Pendergast series is one of my favorites.

Here are the book reviews for the books that I mentioned in the review.
A Review of White Fire (Pendergast) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
A Review of The Kraken Project by Douglas Preston

Book Description
Release date: May 4, 2004

Lewis and Lindsay Thorpe were the perfect couple: young, attractive, and ideally matched. But the veil of perfection can mask many blemishes. When the Thorpes are found dead in their tasteful Flagstaff living room (having committed double suicide), alarms go off in the towering Manhattan offices of Eden Incorporated, the high-tech matchmaking company whose spectacular success, and legendary secrecy, has inspired awe around the world. The Thorpes, few people knew, were more than the quintessential happy couple – they were Eden’s first perfect match.

A short time later, Christopher Lash, a gifted former FBI forensic psychologist, receives an urgent plea from Eden to perform a quick – and quiet – investigation into the deaths. Lash’s psychological autopsy reveals nothing suspicious, but inadvertently dredges up the memories of a searing personal tragedy he has kept at bay for years.

The situation changes suddenly when a second Eden couple is found dead — by all appearances, another double suicide. Now Eden – particularly Richard Silver, the company’s brilliant and reclusive founder – has no choice but to grant Lash unprecedented access to its most guarded secrets if he is to have any chance of determining what is going wrong. The hidden world he discovers is a stunning labyrinth of artificial intelligence, creative genius, and a melding of technology that does indeed, to Lash’s surprise, deliver on Eden’s promise to its clients: the guarantee of a perfect, lifelong mate. But Lash’s involvement in the investigation becomes more personal and dangerous than he could have imagined, nearly as soon as it begins.

With tremendous imagination and skill, master thriller-writer Lincoln Child renders a setting too frighteningly believable not to be real. Infused with relentless suspense and a riveting pace, DEATH MATCH is Child at his best.

Product Details

Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (May 4, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385506708
ISBN-13: 978-0385506700
Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds

About the Author

Lincoln Child is the co-author, with Douglas Preston, of a number of bestselling thrillers including Relic, Riptide and The Ice Limit. Utopia is Lincoln Child’s first solo novel: he is currently at work on his second. He lives with his wife and daughter in Morristown, New Jersey.

The book description is from Amazon.  Death Match

A Review of The Kraken Project by Douglas Preston

The Kraken Project
by Douglas Preston

This book will grab you, and hold you hostage until the last page. You will finish it much faster than you thought you would, because you won’t want to put it down. If you start it tonight, better make sure that you don’t have to go to work tomorrow, because you may be up all night.

I have read most of the Pendergast series written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, but I don’t think that I have read any solo works by either of them. This felt like it could have been a standalone book, not part of a series. The story didn’t rely on any previous knowledge of Wyman Ford, but i liked it so much that I have put the previous books in the series on my “Books to Read” list. The more books I read, the longer it gets. How does that happen?

The Kraken Project is an exciting techno-thriller. It takes place in the near future, so there is a small increase in the state of technology, and a corresponding small amount of “suspension of disbelief”. Once you accept that a computer program could jump out of a computer, and actually act independently, traveling across the internet, and then find other devices that it could hide in, you are home free. This allows you to accept that Dorothy can become a complete character, and not just lines of code inside of a memory chip. Mr. Preston uses Melissa Shepherd to create Dorothy, a believable “Strong A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)” program. She is every bit as much of a human character as anyone else in this book, and you connect with her, and care about what happens to her. Shepherd and Ford work together to try to save Dorothy.

The story is exciting, and fast paced. There are a few separate story lines that all come together at the end in an explosive climax. It is an enjoyable thriller, with a message. It feels like there could be more coming soon.

I give this book 4 1/2 Stars out of 5, and a Big Thumbs Up! If you are ready for a straight forward story, that you won’t want to put down, this book will fill that need.

I received a copy of this book for free from Forge Books.

Book Description
Release date: May 13, 2014

Wyman Ford is back again in The Kraken Project, the thrilling new novel from New York Times bestselling author Douglas Preston.

NASA is building a probe to be splashed down in the Kraken Mare, the largest sea on Saturn’s great moon, Titan. It is one of the most promising habitats for extraterrestrial life in the solar system, but the surface is unpredictable and dangerous, requiring the probe to contain artificial intelligence software. To this end, Melissa Shepherd, a brilliant programmer, has developed “Dorothy,” a powerful, self-modifying AI whose true potential is both revolutionary and terrifying. When miscalculations lead to a catastrophe during testing, Dorothy flees into the internet.

Former CIA agent Wyman Ford is tapped to track down the rogue AI. As Ford and Shepherd search for Dorothy, they realize that her horrific experiences in the wasteland of the Internet have changed her in ways they can barely imagine. And they’re not the only ones looking for the wayward software: the AI is also being pursued by a pair of Wall Street traders, who want to capture her code and turn her into a high-speed trading bot.

Traumatized, angry, and relentlessly hunted, Dorothy has an extraordinary revelation—and devises a plan. As the pursuit of Dorothy converges on a deserted house on the coast of Northern California, Ford must face the ultimate question: is rescuing Dorothy the right thing? Is the AI bent on saving the world… or on wiping out the cancer that is humankind?

Product Details

Series: Wyman Ford (Book 4)
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Forge Books (May 13, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765317699
ISBN-13: 978-0765317698
Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds

About the Author

DOUGLAS PRESTON is the author of The Monster of Florence, currently being developed as a film starring George Clooney as Preston himself, and the New York Times bestsellers Impact, Tyrannosaur Canyon, and Blasphemy. He is the co-author, with Lincoln Child, of the famed Pendergast series of novels, including such bestselling titles as The Book of the Dead and The Wheel of Darkness, as well as The Relic, which was made into a number one box office hit movie.

The book description is from Amazon.  The Kraken Project (Wyman Ford)

A Review of Ready Player One (Audiobook) by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton

Ready Player One (Audiobook)Ready Player One (Audiobook)
by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton

If you know who Wil Wheaton is, don’t read Ready Player One. Go out and get the audiobook! Wil Wheaton is Parzival (The avatar for Wade Watts in the OASIS). He brings this first person narrative to life. This book is a real geekfest. All the 70s and 80s music, movies, TV shows, and video-games, that are featured throughout the book hit home as massive connections. Space Invaders, D&D, Zork, MUDs, Pacman, Defender, Trash 80, Atari, Video Arcades, Rush, John Hughes, do all of these bring back fond memories? If so then this book will knock your socks off, but Wil Wheaton will incinerate those socks right off your toes. All of the geekness that was the secret pleasures of a whole generation is part of this book at every turn.

Ready Player One has all the elements of a classic adventure book aimed at a young adult audience, but then adds so much stuff that their parents will connect to, that the parents will probably like the book better than their kids. There is the competition that is the book’s main storyline, with side issues of overcrowding, destroying the environment, living inside a video game and never going outside, relationships between people who never meet except inside the game and more. Mr. Cline has written a wonderful first novel. He grabs you and won’t let go. He mastered the first person style and really makes you feel like you are Parzival.

This is a great book and even a better audiobook. I give them both 5 Stars out of 5 and I give Wil Wheaton’s performance TWO Huge Thumbs Up! This is one of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to.

I borrowed this audiobook from my local library.

Oh and one more thing, a special thanks to Sheila (Book Journey) for the great review of this audiobook Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Her review was the reason I got the audiobook. Thanks again Sheila.

 

Book Description
Release date: August 16, 2011

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

 

Product Details

Audio CD: 11 pages
Publisher: Random House Audio, Unabridged edition (October 8, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307913147
ISBN-13: 978-0307913142
Product Dimensions: 6 x 5.1 x 1.7 inches
Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces

About the Author

ERNEST CLINE has worked as a short-order cook, fish gutter, plasma donor, elitist video store clerk, and tech support drone. His primary occupation, however, has always been geeking out, and he eventually threw aside those other promising career paths to express his love of pop culture fulltime as a spoken word artist and screenwriter. His 2009 film Fanboys, much to his surprise, became a cult phenomenon. These days Ernie lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, their daughter, and a large collection of classic video games. READY PLAYER ONE is his first novel.

About the Reader

Richard William “Wil” Wheaton III (born July 29, 1972) is an American actor, blogger and writer, known for his portrayals of Wesley Crusher on the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, Gordie Lachance in the film Stand by Me, Joey Trotta in Toy Soldiers, and for his recurring role as a fictionalized version of himself on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

The book description is from Amazon. Ready Player One (Audiobook)

A Review of Game: A Thriller (Game Trilogy) by Anders de la Motte

GAMEGame: A Thriller (Game Trilogy)

by Anders de la Motte

The premise of Game is interesting. A new model of a smartphone is the means by which the Game Players interact with the Game Master. A text shows up on the phone giving the player a task. The player is asked if he is willing to attempt to complete the assignment. If he agrees, then he attaches the phone to his clothing, so that the phone’s camera is able to record the video of the results of his attempt. He is rewarded points, which translate into cash. His ranking is determined by the difficulty of the task and his style and ability to complete his assignment.

The real problem with Game is that the three main characters, HP (Hennrik Pettersson, the Game Player), Rebecca (HP’s sister, a bodyguard with the Swedish Security Police), and Mange (HP’s only real friend) are too flat. They have no real depth to them. You feel like the author has tried to fill them out, but it doesn’t really work. Therefore, you really don’t connect with them. Some of the plot’s story lines are too thin and unbelievable. There is a worldwide conspiracy behind the game that just doesn’t ring true. The combination of characters that you really don’t care about and an unbelievable story behind the Game, nearly kills the book, but something about the story is just interesting enough to keep you reading.

I give this book 2.5 Stars out of 5, which means that it is just below average, but if the premise sounds interesting to you, maybe you will enjoy it. I will go ahead and read the second volume in this trilogy, Buzz. Maybe Mr. de la Motte pulls everything together. If he does, I will let you know in early January.

I received this Digital Review Copy for free from NetGalley.com.

Book Description

Release date: December 3, 2013 | Series: Game Trilogy

Follow the rules and everybody gets hurt . . .

One Sunday morning after a long night of partying, Henrik “HP” Pettersson, a slacker with a lot of ego and very little impulse control, finds a cell phone of an unfamiliar make on a commuter train. Through insisting and slightly uncanny messages that refer to him by name, the phone invites him to play a game. HP accepts without hesitation.

The rules are that HP must complete tasks that range from childish pranks to criminal acts, as allocated by the mysterious Game Master. HP is the perfect contender—alienated from society, devoid of morals, and desperate for fame. His completion of the assignments are filmed and uploaded onto a protected server where viewers rate the Players’ performances.

The Game starts out innocently enough and then becomes increasingly risky, threatening the safety of someone close to HP. He is determined to become a superstar, but when the dark and tragic secrets of his family’s past are at stake, HP must make a choice. Will he suffer the humiliation of defeat, or will the need to win push him to the limit—no matter the cost?

First in a fast-paced and riveting trilogy, Game will leave you guessing. Follow the rules, and everybody gets hurt . . .

Product Details

Series: Game Trilogy

Paperback: 250 pages

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books; Reprint edition (December 3, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1476712883

ISBN-13: 978-1476712888

Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.7

Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces

About the Author

Anders de la Motte (b. 1971) made his debut in 2010 with [geim], which won the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ ‘First Book Award’. He is a former Police Officer and was until recently Director of Security at one of the world’s largest IT companies. He is currently an International Security Consultant. With his blend of fast-paced suspense, humor, and informed commentary on IT and social media, Anders de la Motte represents a distinct new voice in Scandinavian crime fiction: wild, playful and full of references to popular culture, including his literary cousin Philip K. Dick. (from GoodReads)

The book description is from Amazon. Game: A Thriller (Game Trilogy)

A Review of Erebos by Ursula Poznanski

Erebos softcover.indd

Erebos

Ursula Poznanski

Annick Press

Pub Date   Feb 1 2012

Nick Dunmore is on his school basketball team. His friend Colin Harris is also a member of the team. Recently Colin has been missing practice. In fact a lot of the team is absent. Coach Bethune is very angry. Nick wonders why Colin is skipping practice. He tries to get Colin to tell him what is going on. Colin says that he can’t tell him. But Nick knows that it has something to do with the dorky guys that Colin is hanging around with. Guys that he and Colin used to make fun of. So when Nick sees Colin passing something to a schoolmate, Jerome, he confronts Jerome and asks him what he received from Colin. Jerome refuses to tell him anything. Nick is sure that something is going on, so when Brynne offers him a game DVD, he takes it. He promises that he will follow the rules. The game makes the rules and all players MUST follow them or they will be out. Nick quickly gets deeply into the game. The game, Erebos, knows him. It can communicate with him. It gives him tasks to do, first in the game, then in the real world. It wants to control all the players.

Ms. Poznanski has written a very riveting novel. Its aimed towards the Young Adult crowd, but I was caught up into it just the same. The story is well written and believable. The story is structured well and the ending feels right. I haven’t played many computer adventure games, but this one sounds like one that would grab my interest.

I give this 5 stars.

I received a free e-book of Erebos from NetGalley.

Description

An intelligent computer game with a disturbing agenda.

When 16-year-old Nick receives a package containing the mysterious computer game Erebos, he wonders if it will explain the behavior of his classmates, who have been secretive lately. Players of the game must obey strict rules: always play alone, never talk about the game, and never tell anyone your nickname.

Curious, Nick joins the game and quickly becomes addicted. But Erebos knows a lot about the players and begins to manipulate their lives. When it sends Nick on a deadly assignment, he refuses and is banished from the game.

Now unable to play, Nick turns to a friend for help in finding out who controls the game. The two set off on a dangerous mission in which the border between reality and the virtual world begins to blur. This utterly convincing and suspenseful thriller originated in Germany, where it has become a runaway bestseller.

Product Details

Reading level: Ages 12 and up

Paperback: 436 pages

Publisher: Annick Press; Canadian and US rights only edition (January 19, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1554513723

ISBN-13: 978-1554513727

Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches

Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

About the Author

Ursula Poznanski was born in Vienna, Austria, where she still lives today with her partner and daughter. The older of two sisters, she enjoyed reading, music, cycling, and skiing when she was a child. Her favorite books were The Flying Classroom by Erich Kaestner, Mio, My Son by Astrid Lindgren, and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Ursula started writing when she was no more than seven or eight years old. She was fortunate in that she had teachers who encouraged her a great deal, and loving relatives who would read her essays to everybody who hadn’t managed to escape in time. She found it quite embarrassing, but it did not deter her from writing.

The idea for Erebos (Spring 2012) came from her penchant for stories that include a change of worlds. These usually come in the form of fantasies, but she wanted to tell a story where this actually happens. She loved the idea of a computer game dragging the player so deeply into a virtual world that it would affect his view of reality. She also wanted to write about manipulation and how it works.

What Ursula enjoys most about the creative process are those moments when it seems as if the book is writing itself. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it is pure joy.

Her advice for aspiring authors is to read a lot and write a lot. Don’t believe that success is going to come fast or easy, but carry on nevertheless. Love your story; don’t run after trends. Look for a good writing partner who tells you the truth about what he or she thinks of your work. Appreciate profound criticism.

Ursula’s interests, besides writing, include photography, music (although she doesn’t play an instrument, she has not given up hope that she may still do so one day), talking to interesting people, and traveling.