#BookReview: The Seventh Plague by James Rollins

Like Riding A Bike. It had been quite a while – and a few *thousand* books – since I read the prior book in this series. In the intervening years, I’ve started a few different bookish projects, begun reviewing every book I read, and even met Mr. Rollins himself a few years ago, just before the insanities took over the world. And yet coming back into the world of Sigma Force, to pick up here with Book 12 as I gear up to read an Advance Reviewer Copy of the upcoming Book 17, Tides of Fire, was truly like riding a bike. Even across all the years and all the books, Rollins told enough of the backstory here for me to be able to remember what was going on in this world – without rehashing every minor detail. For example, he would mention Monk’s prosthetic hand… without going into the details of that mission (book) and how he lost it. So this made it quite easy indeed to get into the groove of this particular book… and boy, what a book.

There have been several various scifi tales over the years seeking to explain some or all of the Plagues of Moses, and yet Rollins here manages to do it in a way I’d never seen before, while incorporating several other wide ranging myths and techs as well… as Rollins does. So while the driving force is the Plagues of Moses (and one of them in particular), we also see Nikola Tesla and some of the mysteries around his life. We see the mystery of the elephant graveyard. We even get appearances from both David Livingstone *and* Mark Twain. And cutting edge discoveries such as a strange new class of bacteria.

All rolled up into one action packed, near balls to the wall, globe trotting adventure trying to save the world before the forces of… well, misguidedness, let’s call it in this case… can try to destroy it in their hubris.

Truly a fun read, and one I’m glad I’ve come back to after all these years. Very much recommended.

This review of The Seventh Plague by James Rollins was originally written on June 3, 2023.

#BookReview: Escape From Model Land by Erica Thompson

Astrology == Mathematics. For Sufficiently Large Values Of 2 While Imagining Spherical Cows. Thompson does a truly excellent job here of showing how and where mathematical models of real-world systems can be useful, and where they can lead us astray – perhaps a bit *too* good, as at times she has to jump through a few mental hoops to excuse the inadequacies of preferred models such as those related to climate change and the spread of COVID. On climate models in particular, she actually raises one of the several points Steven Koonin did in 2021’s Unsettled – namely, just how wide each cell of the model is by necessity and how much variation there is within these cells in reality yet models must – again by necessity – use simply an average value throughout the cell. But she discusses a wide variety of models in addition to climate, and again, she truly does an excellent job of showing their benefits and how they can harm us. One star is lost due to the extremely short “future reading” section in place of a more standard bibliography (20% or so is fairly standard in similar nonfiction titles). The other star is lost because this book does have a robust discussion of the numerous COVID models and *I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT COVID*. I am waging a one-man war on any book that references this for any reason at all, and the single star deduction is truly the only tool I have in that war. Still, again, this book really is quite good – as a narrative alone, indeed better than the three star ranking would seem to indicate. Very much recommended.

This review of Escape From Model Land by Erica Thompson was originally written on July 15, 2022.

#BookReview: The Treeline by Ben Rawlence

Lyrical Anthropological Examination That Needs Better Scientific Documentation. When Rawlence is describing the people and peoples he is traveling to and among, he has such a lyrical quality to his prose here that it really is quite beautiful – these are the best parts of this book. However, Rawlence is also quite the pessimist about human action and survival, going on at one point to proclaim that Earth would be better off without humanity. While this is not an unheard of proposition, fantastical claims like that require substantial documentation – and documentation is what this text sorely lacks, clocking in at barely 10% of the overall text (25-30% being more “normal”, and I’ve read books making far less fantastical claims clocking in north of 40% documentation). Ultimately, your opinion of the book is likely going to depend on whether you agree with Rawlence’s politics and philosophies, though, again, the writing when he is *not* speaking to these really is quite beautiful. Still, even in what he does present and even with the lack of documentation, this is a book that needs to be read by most anyone speaking to any level of climate science, as he does bring up some truly valid points here and there. Recommended.

This review of The Treeline by Ben Rawlence was originally written on February 13, 2022.