The shelves are almost up. Really. One way or another this room is going to be completed by Thanksgiving. In the meantime, the de-humidifier is running nearly 24 hours a day down in the basement, otherwise the books will just sponge up the water in the air. Here are my picks from (I would like to say from my shelves but…) the bins and boxes in the basement going into the weekend. Other selections from my reading list can be found here.
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A Mist of Prophecies: A Novel of Ancient Rome, Saylor, 2002.
This is an intriguing tale of historical fiction and could just as easily be found under mystery novels. Gordianus, a citizen and resident of Rome, possesses a unique talent for ferreting out secrets and solving problems in a methodical way. Today the term would be “private detective,” but in ancient Rome, he is known as “The Finder.” During the Roman Civil War, as the forces of Pompey and Julius Caesar fight a series of battles in the provinces over control of the Republic, Rome itself is a hotbed of intrigue as those left behind wait for word. In this tentative and treacherous environment, a beautiful young seeress is murdered in the marketplace. Possibly mad and claiming no memory of her own past, Cassandra – like her namesake – is reputed to have had the true gift of prophecy and, as a result, she became a confidante of the rich and powerful. Gordianus the Finder, who had become obsessed with the woman and her mystery, starts to investigate her murder. Gordianus is summoned to appear before Rome’s most powerful women, each one possessing their own interest in either discovering or concealing Cassandra’s murderer.
The Universe in a Nutshell, Hawking 2001.
Steven Hawking invented the genre of pop-science back in the 80s when he published A Brief History of Time. Regrettably, that seminal work remains a bit over my head. His follow-up effort, The Universe in a Nutshell, I found to be considerably more user-friendly. There are three major theories within the realm of physics which attempt to explain the universe.
Also known as Newtonian Physics, it asserts that all particles of matter in the universe act upon each other. In extremis, if you eliminated everything but two protons, and placed them a million light-years apart, their gravitational force will eventually bring them together.
It’s said that Einstein’s equation of E-MC2 has so many implications that only a handful of people understand them all. But here is the condensed version for the rest of us – reality is relative (see what I did there?) to the position of the observer. For example, a flight attendant is walking down the aisle of an airliner 10,00o above sea-level. Her speed is relative to whomever is looking. To a passenger, she is traveling at 3 miles per hour. To someone on the ground her speed is over 500 miles per hour (the speed of the plane). If one is observing from the moon, her speed approximates the rotation of the earth. From the perspective of one further out, her speed is equal to the Earth orbiting the Sun, etc.
3. Quantum Physics/Mechanics
Planck is usually considered the founder of this theory. The accuracy of speed and position are on a sliding scale. The more accurately you can measure one, the less accurately you can measure the other. Yeah, I don’t get it either, but apparently this explains a lot. All three of these theories are likely true. And each one contradicts the other two. Hence, tremendous research that has gone into String Theory and Dark Matter to come up with a way to unify all this. Great read.
Conan The Usurper, Howard & DeCamp, 1967.
Yes, I’ve read my share of pulp. This is a collection of 4 short stories re-writen and re-published a number of times starting in 1932 before landing in this particular form. Of the collection of the twelve “original” books, this is my personal favorite. Conan gains the crown of Aquilonia. Conan looses the crown. Conan gets the crown back, exacting vengeance on numerous treacherous conspirators along the way. What not to like?