This topic is to note newly-published books (or older ones which have just come to the attention of those posting them) that appear to be of interest. Posting something here does not imply its recommendation, but simply that it looks worth checking out.
Note: Amazon’s handling of expansion of links posted to their site has been flaky in recent days. Usually, a link is expanded to a picture of the book’s cover, title and a brief description. This, like the decaying infrastructure of the country in which Amazon is headquartered, appears to be crumbling and you may see error messages instead of the proper link expansion. I will precede each link with the title and author, linked to the Amazon listing, to reduce confusion due to Amazon’s slow collapse.
The Origins of Woke by Richard Hanania
Social Justice Fallacies by Thomas Sowell
The Internet Con by Cory Doctorow
Code Red by Kyle Mills
Five Years After by William R. Forstchen
Beginning of the EMP attack on the U.S. series, One Second After.
(Amazon has become hopelessly shoddy. About 8 hours after posting this page, I brought it up in the editor and all of the books whose links didn’t embed originally were correctly embedded. I saved the page, and it looked fine. I then edited again to add a note, and one of the embeds failed. This just crap. Insanity is flushing again and again hoping the poo will go down the next time.)
(Updated to refresh Amazon embeds.)
Steve Sailer has reviewed Walter Isaacson’s Elon Musk in Taki’s Magazine, “‘Elon Musk’: Purge and Surge”.
As described by Isaacson after two years of following Musk around, the entrepreneur’s methods remind me of Stalin’s for growing the Soviet steel industry: purge and surge. Periodically, Musk somewhat randomly fires some employees to encourage the others, then leads the gung ho survivors on a Stakhanovite push for greater production for a couple of months. He then vanishes to one of his other enterprises, until he suddenly reappears with some crazy new self-imposed deadline.
One difference (besides not sending wreckers to Siberia, of course) is that Musk has the capitalist price system to direct his fury for streamlining his assembly lines in effective directions. While Stalin succeeded at getting the Soviet economy to smelt more tons of steel, communism was useless at producing complex desirable consumer goods such as Tesla electric cars.
In contrast, Musk obsesses over the cost of each part, relentlessly asking his underlings during surges why they can’t make each item more simple. Musk is convinced that the modern world is a victim of its own success, as rules for how to do each little thing pile up on top of other rules:
“This is how civilizations decline. They quit taking risks. And when they quit taking risks, their arteries harden. Every year there are more referees and fewer doers.” That’s why America could no longer build things like high-speed rail or rockets that go to the moon. “When you’ve had success for too long, you lose the desire to take risks.”
Isaacson sums up in his last paragraph for his genteel readers offended by Musk’s tweets (or Xs or whatever he calls them these days):
But would a restrained Musk accomplish as much as a Musk unbound? Is being unfiltered and untethered integral to who he is? Could you get the rockets to orbit or the transition to electric vehicles without accepting all aspects of him, hinged and unhinged? Sometimes great innovators are risk-seeking man-children who resist potty training. They can be reckless, cringeworthy, sometimes even toxic. They can also be crazy. Crazy enough to think they can change the world.
This is close to the heart of the problem in the health”care” industry. No One ever even looks at the accretion of rules upon rules upon rules to ascertain their cumulate weight. Over the course of my work as a physician, with every passing day I became less of an information gatherer and intelligent, rational agent and more a data-entry clerk and ventriloquist’s dummy. The result is that any actual human empathy and caring are anathema and must be excised from the system. To that extent, “mission accomplished”!
Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon by Michael Lewis was published today (2023-10-03).
This is the story of the spectacular rise and vertiginous fall of FTX and its eccentric founder (and Effective Altruism cultist) Sam Bankman-Fried, told by Michael Lewis, author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Big Short, and Flash Boys. From Amazon’s description:
When Michael Lewis first met him, Sam Bankman-Fried was the world’s youngest billionaire and crypto’s Gatsby. CEOs, celebrities, and leaders of small countries all vied for his time and cash after he catapulted, practically overnight, onto the Forbes billionaire list. Who was this rumpled guy in cargo shorts and limp white socks, whose eyes twitched across Zoom meetings as he played video games on the side?
In Going Infinite Lewis sets out to answer this question, taking readers into the mind of Bankman-Fried, whose rise and fall offers an education in high-frequency trading, cryptocurrencies, philanthropy, bankruptcy, and the justice system. Both psychological portrait and financial roller-coaster ride, Going Infinite is Michael Lewis at the top of his game, tracing the mind-bending trajectory of a character who never liked the rules and was allowed to live by his own―until it all came undone.
The Kindle edition arrived on my tablet today.
(Update to refresh Amazon link.)
Overlord by Kurt Schlichter, the eighth novel in the People’s Republic series, was published on 2023-10-01.
Kurt Schlichter’s People’s Republic series (link is to my review of the first novel in the series) chronicles, with wry humour, a future in which the current Cold Civil War between the Reds and the Blues (I’m old enough to remember when Commies were the Reds) goes hot.
As the third decade of the twenty-first century progressed, the Cold Civil War which had been escalating in the United States since before the turn of the century turned hot when a Democrat administration decided to impose their full agenda—gun confiscation, amnesty for all illegal aliens, restrictions on fossil fuels—all at once by executive order. The heartland defied the power grab and militias of the left and right began to clash openly. Although the senior officer corps were largely converged to the leftist agenda, the military rank and file which hailed largely from the heartland defied them, and could not be trusted to act against their fellow citizens. Much the same was the case with police in the big cities: they began to ignore the orders of their political bosses and migrate to jobs in more congenial jurisdictions.
With a low-level shooting war breaking out, the opposing sides decided that the only way to avert general conflict was, if not the “amicable divorce” advocated by Jesse Kelly, then a more bitter and contentious end to a union which was not working. The Treaty of Saint Louis split the country in two, with the east and west coasts and upper midwest calling itself the “People’s Republic of North America” (PRNA) and the remaining territory (including portions of some states like Washington, Oregon, and Indiana with a strong regional divide) continuing to call itself the United States, but with some changes: the capital was now Dallas, and the constitution had been amended to require any person not resident on its territory at the time of the Split (including children born thereafter) who wished full citizenship and voting rights to serve two years in the military with no “alternative service” for the privileged or connected.
The PRNA quickly implemented the complete progressive agenda wherever its rainbow flag (frequently revised as different victim groups clawed their way to the top of the grievance pyramid) flew. As police forces collapsed with good cops quitting and moving out, they were replaced by a national police force initially called the “People’s Internal Security Squads” (later the “People’s Security Force” when the acronym for the original name was deemed infelicitous), staffed with thugs and diversity hires attracted by the shakedown potential of carrying weapons among a disarmed population.
Life in the PRNA was pretty good for the coastal élites in their walled communities, but as with collectivism whenever and wherever it is tried, for most of the population life was a grey existence of collapsing services, food shortages, ration cards, abuse by the powerful, and constant fear of being denounced for violating the latest intellectual fad or using an incorrect pronoun. And, inevitably, it wasn’t long before the PRNA slammed the door shut to keep the remaining competent people from fleeing to where they were free to use their skills and keep what they’d earned. Mexico built a “big, beautiful wall” to keep hordes of PRNA subjects from fleeing to freedom and opportunity south of the border.
Here is Amazon’s summary of Overlord.
Kelly Turnbull is back in his eighth People’s Republic adventure, and this time everything is on the line for him and for Red America. A rogue general who wants Kelly in a grave has escaped into Blue America to execute a treacherous plan that will get him the revenge and the power he seeks. But Kelly Turnbull – and his loyal dog Gibson – are coming for payback, and they are bringing hellfire (and a lot of guns) with them.
From the jungles of West Africa to post-Second British Civil War London, from a desperate fight on a New Orleans causeway to riding the Underground Railroad backwards into the People’s Republic, and through a bloody rescue mission during a full-scale invasion of the island of Manhattan, Overlord delivers the action and the humor that People’s Republic readers demand.
I haven’t found the sequels to come up to the high standard set by the first in the series, but I’ve read them all and don’t regret having done so. I’ll be reading this one.
This is a dystopian/libertarian/teenage rebel vs. technology oligarch thriller set in a future where all of the worst trends of the convergence of Big Tech and Big Government have reduced the population to passive media consumers swaddled in an all-suffocating nanny state. But the preeminent tech barons were rebellious in their youth, and may have put a “kill switch” into the systems that enslave the population. To whom might it be entrusted, and what will they do with it?
Here is Amazon’s description:
Two tech trillionaires have monopolized the market with staggering advancements in robotics and computer science while arming the world’s worst governments with the most terrifying technology. Their plan, once every government on Earth has become dependent on their network, is to use a backdoor key that will unravel it all with a single switch: a handheld device they call “FreeWill.” One of these tech titans, however, has fallen in love with their global machine and no longer wishes to flip that switch. As a last resort, his partner hides the device with one random isolated teenager, who doesn’t know he has it, so that when the window of time arrives when it can be switched, her partner can’t stop it. His machine has one year to find the unlikely guardian she has chosen as we see through the eyes of that solitary teen a world where everyone strives to keep their social credit badge PURPLE and any deviation from acceptable thought can turn them MAGENTA, erasing them from society. The fate of the human race depends on whether one misfit teenager, who has no idea he’s now being hunted by artificial intelligence at every turn, will activate FreeWill.
This novel is very slow in getting going: the first half seems like an aimless tale of teenage anomie, but then things start to happen and before long it’s a page turner.
The Kindle edition is free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
I read Michael Lewis’ SBF book recently. Seems to be the perfect read on a long plane ride to Australia.
The first part of the book discussing the Jane Street internship and ways of working reminded me of the part of Ender’s Game where cadets were placed in squads performing training games in the zero-gravity “Battle Room”.
Contrary to Ender’s Game, the protagonist of Going Infinite comes out of Lewis’ book looking not great. The first part of the book glosses over the Jane Street interview and internship practices, sort of painting the image of selecting brainy applicants with sociopathic tendencies.
EA gets a bit of washing out and by the end it’s not clear to this reader if it does play any role in the whole debacle, or it’s just a nice plot twist. Interestingly, Lewis does not cover much of the more recent allegations concerning SBF acting as a de facto funnel for political contributions allegedly masterminded by his parents.
Although George Lerner - the psychiatrist hired by FTX - comes in focus in the second half of the book, there is little mention of the consistent drug use that was reported in the media.
Viewed through the lens of the recent guilty sentence in the SBF trial, it’s hard not to think that, in the end, Sam BF may have been just a useful dummy who got in way over his head and did not have the presence of spirit to steer away from this outcome.
Devon Eriksen’s Theft of Fire was published on 2023-11-10 in both paperback (linked above) and Kindle editions (not on Kindle Unlimited). The author describes the book, first in a planned series called “Orbital Space”, as in the tradition of hard science space opera of the Golden Age of science fiction. It has been receiving extremely positive reviews from beta readers and hard science fiction authors (many of the libertarian and anarcho-capitalist bent) who have read pre-publication copies. The book, which is 546 pages, around 150,000 words) has, in just two days after release, vaulted to #54 in Hard Science Fiction and #116 in Space Opera Science Fiction on the Amazon Kindle store. Here is Amazon’s description:
At the frozen edge of the solar system lies a hidden treasure which could spell their fortune or their destruction—but only if they survive each other first.
Marcus Warnoc has a little problem. His asteroid mining ship—his inheritance, his livelihood, and his home—has been hijacked by a pint-sized corporate heiress with enough blackmail material to sink him for good, a secret mission she won’t tell him about, and enough courage to get them both killed. She may have him dead to rights, but if he doesn’t turn the tables on this spoiled Martian snob, he’ll be dead, period. He’s not giving up without a fight.
He has a plan.
Miranda Foxgrove has the opportunity of a lifetime almost within her grasp if she can reach it. Her stolen spacecraft came with a stubborn, resourceful captain who refuses to cooperate—but he’s one of the few men alive who can snatch an unimaginable treasure from beneath the muzzles of countless railguns. And if this foulmouthed Belter thug doesn’t want to cooperate, she’ll find a way to force him. She’s come too far to give up now.
She has a plan.
They’re about to find out that a plan is a list of things that won’t happen.
I’ve already bought the Kindle edition, but have a few things to finish before I get to it.
This reminds me of a favorite paragraph from Tocqueville’s Democracy in America:
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd…
Independent publishing has sparked a new Golden Age of science fiction, reviving a genre which seemed increasingly moribund under the dead hand of legacy publishers more concerned with demonstrating their woke credentials than entertaining readers. These new authors are sparking a sense of wonder and portraying a hopeful and optimistic future and inspiring readers to go out and make that future happen. The discerning reader of science fiction today can choose from a collection of talented, imaginative, and prolific authors to such an extent that it’s like reading Heinlein, Bradbury, Clarke, Asimov, Pohl, and Doc Smith all in their prime, but with ideas and plots as new as today and tomorrow.
With his first novel, Theft of Fire, Devon Eriksen has jumped in at the top of the game, crafting a tale of “hard” science fiction (grounded in plausible science and technology, not magic swords and dragons wrapped in technobabble) with complex, believable characters who interact and grow throughout the tale, and an artificial intelligence who strikes me as far more likely to be what we’ll encounter in our own future than the cartoon tales of mindless monsters or transcendent deities sketched by self-styled “experts” in machine intelligence.
And, there’s plenty of action: space battles among fusion powered torch ships, rail gun duels, and a grand chase through the far reaches of the solar system at one percent of the speed of light. The stakes couldn’t be higher: a technology which could change everything and disrupt an entrenched corporate oligarchy or entrench their power forever, with the outcome in the hands of a space pirate (through lack of alternatives), a gene twisted and ruthless blackmailer already rich beyond dreams of avarice, and an artificial intelligence just coming to terms with her circumstances and power.
This is a glorious adventure and a delight to read. The conclusion isn’t a cliffhanger, but leaves the reader wanting to know where these characters go from here, for which we’ll have to await the promised sequel.
Update: Review is now live on Amazon. Yes, I tone down the edginess of my reviews a tad for a more general audience. (2023-12-02 22:32 UTC).