Black Earth by Timothy Snyder

Black Earth Timothy Snyder

As we see flashes of an emboldened right-wing across Europe and the Americas, the thing that fascinates me most is how does a liberal, modern society transform into a population capable of killing on the scale seen during the 1930s and 40s.

Timothy Snyder’s book Black Earth gets closest to this answer than anything I’ve read previously, but what’s most disturbing about it isn’t the descriptions of violent death and acts of cruelty carried out by the Nazi’s, it’s that western societies are scarily close to repeating history.

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Omphalos by Ted Chiang

Pillars of Creation

Dr. Dorothea Morrell’s world is one in which the existence of god is an accepted fact with which all branches of science agree. Biology, physics, chemistry and archaeology all point to the fact that the world was created little more than eight millennia ago.

But when Nathan McCullough, the director of the Museum of Natural Philosophy, reveals a scientific paper that could shatter faith of mankind and the religious foundation of the scientific method, Dr. Morrell is at first sceptical but ultimately has her faith shaken to destruction.

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Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Exhalation Ted Chiang

I don’t remember how I came to buy Exhalation by Ted Chiang. It was likely the result of a late night, gin fuelled dive through the depths of some obscure subreddit which led me to pre-order a novel I’d never heard of by an author about whom I knew nothing. However it happened, last week a copy of Ted Chiang’s latest novel dropped onto my door mat and I managed, with relative success, to convience my wife that in fact Ted Chiang is one of my favourite writers. I had no clue who he was.

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Dune by Frank Herbert

Arrakis

It’s an Absolute Truth that Dune, Frank Herbert’s 1969 classic novel, is the greatest work of science-fiction ever put to paper. The sci-fi equivalent of Lord of the Rings, Dune is a without competition, a fully realised world of ecology, history, and human societies that interact and devour one another. Dune is the finest the genre has to offer, of that there is no doubt or argument.

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Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake rabbit

Oryx and Crake tells the story of Snowman, a strange, bedraggled loner who lives outside of what remains of human society as he struggles to stave off hunger and survive. To say much more would be to spoil the story, but Oryx and Crake is one of the most intelligent, clearly defined works of dystopian — or is it utopian? — science-fiction I’ve ever read. Atwood clearly understands not only the science of genetics in some depth, but also the worrying implications for the development of the human race.

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