Welcome back to my Genre Bingo Challenge. I’m happy to report that I have awarded two books in a row five stars. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, woohoo!
1. Upgrade by Blake Crouch is the novel I chose for the science fiction square. It also was my July Book of the Month Club pick. Oh my gosh, I loved this story! We follow along as protag Logan Ramsay gets involuntarily “upgraded” with a virus that alters his DNA. After initially feeling horrible, Logan begins to appreciate his enhanced status, even if only to track down the rogue scientist behind it. It was really neat how we witnessed Logan’s transformation via his improved chess games and other mental gymnastics. Wouldn’t it be awesome to instantly recall every word you’ve ever read, to quickly absorb dense text, and to accurately predict the behavior of others from minute changes in their facial expressions? The higher the IQ the better, right? Or perhaps not. Five stars!
2. Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness. I also gave this book 5 stars, but for entirely different reasons. I bought it by mistake for a philosophy meetup. We were supposed to read a different book by Godfrey-Smith, but I thought it was this one. I may buy the other one now since this one is so interesting. It certainly is not a fast, fun read like the novels I’m used to; it’s dense, scientific writing, and it took me a long time to get through (like 3 weeks!). I confess I read a poetry book in the middle as a palate-cleanser. Generally, when I’m reading a fast-paced romance or mystery/suspense novel, I don’t pause on each page to digest what I’ve read and think about philosophy ~ I just gobble up the words like potato chips until I’m done.
PGS begins at the beginning of life in the sea, of which there are no hard facts, just hypotheses. This is the opposite of what passes for nonfiction reading nowadays with people spouting opinions as facts and flinging out memes instead of trying to figure out what’s actually true. Real scientists don’t do that. They are open to new information and changes to interpretations they previously held. Other Minds is probably not a good choice for anyone who believes a supernatural entity created life by fiat, but it’s fascinating to someone like me who hungers for information about evolution. For example, why does the octopus, with its advanced nervous system, have such a short life (one to two years)? Generally, we see animals with more complex systems living longer than simpler animals. Different hypotheses are proposed regarding the octopus life span.
The book is mainly about the cephalopod class of animals (octopus, squid, cuttlefish, nautilus), but loads of other scientific data are present as well, including information about brains generally, consciousness, language development, etc. I highly recommend it to the intellectually curious among my readers. In a weird way, Other Minds was a great complement to Upgrade in that they both explored various aspects of mental development. I didn’t plan that, lol ~ I’m just trying to fill out my bingo card!
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