The book discussion thread

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@Hveðrungr You wouldn't by any chance have a philosophy book you could recommend to me?:) The topic does not matter, but perhaps a book that you thought was fascinating.

Hey sure. I assume from your reply to Brian that you are at least aware of the classics, especially the ones that are literature, and can read those autonomously if you want—and if you're not aware of them, Brian has recommended some. So I decided to name actual philosophy books that are all a) post-war, b) not literature and c) not an overview. Here's three I like:
 
i've been reading my classic award winning sci fi and this time its joe haldeman's The forever war. A military sci fi where humans fight the taurens. The story is narrated by William mandella; one of the few people to live through the entire war. The story covers his early days being conscripted through the elite conscription act and his entire 1000 year spanning career. Where he gets promoted not because of his talent, but simply because of seniority being one of the few soldiers to have being there from the start. What makes the story extra spicy is the severe impact of time relativity the soldiers experience. What might have been a year or 2 to William might be decades. Soon its centuries have passed and William becomes a fish out of water as the Earth he returns is much worse off and so much has changed he's very much a relic of the past and an alien to humanity.

its a well written book, certainly kept me engrossed and interested from start to finish as its interesting how things pan out throughout the centuries, how warfare, social norms etc evolve. its a sort of critism of the Military industrial complex as the war fuels all the actions and events back on earth. Especially the Elite conscription Act taking away humanity's best and brightest to fight and fuels ever forced expansion into the starts. Although i think the idea that Homosexuality is encouraged for population control is a bit far fetched ,sterilization /celibacy might have been more plausible. But doesn't bother me as the main story is about William's struggles to survive and his existence in an ever increasingly alien environment both in space and at home.

Roll on Forever peace. the sequel to Forever war.
 
I just finished The Souls of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery. She is a naturalist with degrees in journalism, psychology, french, and literature. She has been awarded three honorable doctorate degrees over the years and has written 36 books.

Following up on the philosophy chat from earlier what is interesting about this book is that I found it as a syllabus for a master's degree in philosophy. The reason I thought of looking there is that within a bachelor's degree, you get the framework for understanding the field of study, but within a master's degree you often find books that complement and expand on that theory with interesting and narrow subjects. So even if I do not have the educational framework in place from the get-go, I did find a lot of joy from reading this book, and especially fitting since I recently read a book about animal rights that was written by philosopher, Martha C. Nussbaum.

So, without more blabbering, what is the book about? Well, it is about several giant Pacific octopuses and Sy's meeting with them over several years, mostly in the New England Aquarium but also with trips to French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico. While she learns more and more about the octopuses we also get introduced to four completely different octopus personalities - gentle Athena, assertive Octavia, curious Kali, and joyful Karma. She writes splendidly and it is easy to get immersed in what is for most people an unknown world.

There have been a lot of studies about the lives of octopuses and while a lot of info, especially about those who live in the deep, is unknown, what they have learned from engaging with them in deep tanks gives a general consensus that these incredible creatures are indeed sentient. The way Sy Montgomery talks about them also compliments this and one I am 100% sure of myself.

They don't exactly use their brains the same as ours, since octopuses have brains in small clusters with one on each limb and a central brain on its mantle. Remarkably it seems that each brain can communicate both with each other and alone. Each limb has up to 250 suction cups and each can lift at least 15KG, so that is some serious power! Each suction cup can also work as a pitcher, which means they can unscrew stuff with ease and do more micro-adjustments, just like we can with our fingers. One of the more fascinating pieces of info Montgomery shared is that an octopus limb can not only regrow to some extent, but a missing limb also seems to do tasks on its own like moving a fish between its suckers and bringing it towards to head (that is now missing) An octopus can also detach its limbs if it feels that one of the limbs is not working correctly, like it is sick or perhaps just being in the way.

She talks a lot about how they have different personalities and I think she does this without trying too much to anthropomorphize them. I can understand this can be hard when you live so close to the subjects you are studying. Just think about how we often treat our dogs and cats not only as companions but also as part of our own family.

The way she talks about how they behave differently to each person they meet and how they may change colors from white (calm, content) to red (curious, joyful, angry) or a peripheral of other colors depending on the need to hide. In the deep tanks, they will come up when someone makes contact in the water, and with its suckers it will latch on and stay like this for a longer period, using the suction cups as a way to taste and communicate with the human. If the octopus does not like them, a quick jet of water in the face will take care of that.

There is so much more I could have talked about, like how they play, live alone before the last months of their life (they only live 3-5 years) when they mate, got blue blood, use wits to not only steal fish but even try to escape from the deep tanks using their enormous strength. How they can stand on two legs and run on the ocean floor, have venom, a "skeleton" made out of high-pressure water, taste chemicals in the water, have three hearts, and get through the smallest of holes as only the beaks have a hard structure, bring with them cover for protection if they need to hide and nothing is around, be playful and tease, how they can bring divers with them on underwater trips, see much better than we can, and have eyelids that look like open eyes. Colorblind but have beautiful camouflage colors.

Overall, this book was a joy to read and I think Montgomery did a great job of introducing us to this intelligent and awesome being. A few videos, one with Octavia the octopus she talks about in the book:

New England Aquarium clip
New England Aquarium clip 2
Playing with octopus
Octavia
Octopus Camoflague

She also has a new book that I am very much looking forward to be reading called: Secrets of Octopus (2024)
 
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@Frindis article for you:


And a video too—I'm like a mom to you :D

Octopus vs Underwater Maze 17m
View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7__r4FVj-EI


I've always been puzzled by science's dismissal of animal consciousness. Growing up among domestic and farm ones, it's always seemed obvious to me that they are individuals, and respond to different things in 'appropriate' ways. I recall being friendly with some, wary of others etc.
 
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@Brian Boru Double moms, I am happy!:) The link to the research from the article you posted was also mentioned by Sy Montgomery. Will be interesting to read about how they did the experiments.
I've always been puzzled by science's dismissal of animal consciousness. Growing up among domestic and farm ones, it's always seemed obvious to me that they are individuals, and respond to different things in 'appropriate' ways. I recall being friendly with some, wary of others etc.
Now you go tell them multi-billionaire cattle ranch owners in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Nebraska about their cattle being conscious:grin:
 
@Brian Boru Martha C. Nussbaum talked about similar in her book (Justice for Animals) about animal rights and she was met with an intricate web of lobbyists, and state/federal/local law to the point that it just got ridiculous. I believe cultivated meat will be the future, so the meat industry will have to follow whether they want it or not, but we are probably a long way from that being a realization.
 
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I've always been puzzled by science's dismissal of animal consciousness.

WE are not alone, its just easier to pretend we are. Hate to think what they think of humans

Trying to get Dune books off my brother, he has the first 5. We never bothered getting ones written by son.
 
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I believe cultivated meat will be the future

I've had quite a few synthetic burgers, they taste just fine—as in:
'Did you like that?'
'Sure'
'It was soy'.

WE are not alone

Yeah that was interesting when I read about it. I've seen similar re whales.


 
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Another book finished, this time its Forever Free by Joe Haldeman. Its the sequel to Haldeman's previous book, the forever war, William Mandela and Marygay Potter are married with 2 kids and living life in Paxton, a frontier town on the colony planet Middle finger. William is now living as a fisherman/science teacher and is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with peace time living. He decides to organize one last adventure and fresh start away from Man (the human hive mind entity).

The plan? Do what Marygay did: take a space ship (in fact the same ship: the time warp) and make a 10 year journey which would be the equivalent of moving forward 40000 years. Against all the odds, William succeeds in executing his plan, but less then a few months into their voyage, strange, random and unexplainable events start to happen. Things come to ahead when the antimatter fuel starts to literally vanish into thin air defying all reason and logic. Ultimately the expedition crew are forced to the escape pods and flee back to MF.

But when they return to MF (24 years into the future), things get even stranger; everyone (human and alien) have simply vanished like some sort of rapture has occurred. The expedition crew are quite literally the last humans (or man/tauran) in the galaxy. The rest of the story is William and survivors building society, trying to investigate what happened and making the trip to Earth to find answers.

I did find the story quite entertaining as its a sort of story of adventure and voyage spliced in with some mystery. Admittedly, trying to have a philosophical debate about life and the way science works may have been too big a subject and at the breakneck pace the story goes at the end it does fall flat or doesn't do anything insightful beyond

God or something like god (AKA the nameless) was the cause of it. When William tried to head to the edge of galaxy as part of his journey, the nameless perceived it like mice trying to escape the cage and opted to stop it. First by disposing of their fuel so they had to turn back. Then for personal reasons, decided to mess with them further (just to see what happens) by making everyone disappear or just randomly explode in front of them. defying all logic or reason. God decides to bring everyone back and leaves to do something else and come back in a million years to check up on the galaxy.

i suppose there is some sort of satisfying ending, but i can understand why some people felt the story was a bit naff especially near the end where various reasons and entities are just randomly thrown in to explain away things or just brings almost everyone back. Would i recommend it? i suppose as a concluding sequel to the forever war, sure. But just don't expect it to be about war or as compelling/outstanding as the forever war book was.
 
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Zloth

Community Contributor
I finished Terry Pratchett's Guards! Guards! and enjoyed it. It didn't seem as funny to me as I was hearing, but there were some good belly laughs for sure.

The Kindle version came through slightly odd. I was never able to tell how much was left in the book except at the home screen. One night, I thought the book was just about to wrap up and ended up staying up late to get to the ending - nope! There were no chapters, either, just breaks when the PoV switches to somebody else. That made it a little scary because, if I somehow lost track of where I was in the book, it would be awfully hard to find my place again without accidental spoilers.

That was my first Pratchett book and I liked it well enough to read more from Discworld, but I probably won't be eagerly hunting down every one of them.
 
I finished Terry Pratchett's Guards! Guards! and enjoyed it. It didn't seem as funny to me as I was hearing, but there were some good belly laughs for sure.

The Kindle version came through slightly odd. I was never able to tell how much was left in the book except at the home screen. One night, I thought the book was just about to wrap up and ended up staying up late to get to the ending - nope! There were no chapters, either, just breaks when the PoV switches to somebody else. That made it a little scary because, if I somehow lost track of where I was in the book, it would be awfully hard to find my place again without accidental spoilers.

That was my first Pratchett book and I liked it well enough to read more from Discworld, but I probably won't be eagerly hunting down every one of them.

One of the snippets of reviews often included on the back of the covers was: 'A complete amateur.... Doesn't even write in chapters'

I loved them as a teen. The first maybe 3 or 4 books are not as good IMO, but maybe theyre useful to see the evolution. He subverts sword and sorcery tropes in the first couple which is kind of fun initially. Later on he starts to throw in some more interesting themes, around Guards Guards actually. The Witches books with Granny Weatherwax and Watch books were my favourites as they went on, might be worth treating them as series within the series. I re-read Guards Guards probably last year and still enjoyed it so have to assume the others still hold up for me.


I rarely found them to be laugh out loud funny, but theyre clever and wise. A lot of things in them are puns on real life things that you maybe wont notice straight away or unless you happened to already know. He also never poked fun at people, dwarves, trolls or talking dogs for what they are, so he gets a lot of kudos for being way ahead of the curve there.
 
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I need to find a new book and now I'm thinking I might checkout this Forever War, suggested by @Johnway. Been about a month since I read anything, having finished All Quiet on the Western Front, a book I was kind of surprised I enjoyed as much as I did. Started reading it on the plane ride back form London and struggled to actually put it down. I had some thoughts about reading the sequel, but figured I didn't necessarily need more dour stuff at the moment, so haven't bothered.

I did try and read Dune next, but honestly, it's pretty boring.
 
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Another book finished, this time the spin off book from the forever war series, Forever peace.

Not really got much to do with the original book, but has similar anti war rhetoric. This time our story involved sgt Julian Class, part time soldier, part time science guy. The story is set in the not too distant future where the western powers are at war with the Ngumi, a rebel faction consisting of poorer nations in south America and in Africa. The haves vs have nots.

The story can be broken down into 2 key areas, Setting the scene for the socket tech and Julian's life as a "mechanic" and scientist at a university, his relationship with amanda and as well as his friends. The second half is using that same tech to achieve world peace by performing a bloodless coup whilst also stopping the Jupiter project, which if conducted, could spell the end of the world. At the same time a shadow group dubbed gods hammer does all in its power to stop them sending assassins and various agents to discredit the research and evidence.

The book was ok, its interesting story with the various tech and such. Not quite as good as the Forever war, but on its own it was alright.