Endurance

Calling the event’s of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated Antarctic expedition an adventure hardly seems to do justice to the monumental, indeed super-human, feats accomplished by the crew of the Endurance. Alfred Lansing’s book of the same name is a riveting account of what is almost certainly one of, if not the most incredible story of survival against all odds.

The events described therein are almost too incredible to be believed, so extreme that it defies comprehension that any one could have survived them. Terrifying ocean crossings, crumbling ice floes, massive storms and unceasing Antarctic temperatures, Lansing makes you feel like you are right there with them. This book will absolutely drag you in and capture your attention completely.

Endurance is exceptional not only for the story that it tells, but the way in which is does so. All surviving members of the expedition were extensively interviewed about their experiences, and the journals of all members who kept them (of which there were many) were used as well. While the 2 year ordeal of the crew was full of hellish trials, the day to day lives of the men are captured incredibly well. Whether from a moment of intense fear and danger, or the boredom of life on Elephant Island, the personality of the men shines through. I finished this book with a sense that I “knew” the crew almost intimately, which given the size of the book and number of characters, is incredible.

I genuinely loved this book, putting it down was always difficult while picking it back up was very easy. Even knowing what happens, thinking back to any of the events portrayed I find myself just as excited and on-edge as I was when I was first reading. I really can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Advertisements

Neuromancer

I just got around to reading William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and while I may be 30 some years late to this particular party (fashionably late perhaps?), I can say with a great deal of confidence that its a spectacular book well worth reading.

I think a lot of people get caught up in the ‘science’ part of science fiction and forget that blinking lights and flashing consoles a good story does not necessarily make. The science is just the backdrop, it’s the characters and how they interact with that science which makes a compelling story, and as far as I’m concerned, Neuromancer passes this test with flying colours. But even more, the ideas running throughout, whether they be relating to advances in AI, body modification or something in between are not only intriguing in a purely academic sense, but have had noticeable cultural impacts well beyond its readership.

Looking beyond the content of the novel, the writing is definitely worthy of praise as well. The context of the story are presented seamlessly throughout, the most unusual concepts are made to seem completely mundane, because in this world they truly are. An understanding of the background is built piece by piece, but in a way that feels completely organic. As a friend of mine said on the subject: “No one ever stops to explain how their iPhone works”.

If you haven’t read Neuromancer, do yourself a favour and fix that.