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MICROWORLDS

WRITINGS ON SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

Ten essays, 1971-83: ranging from autobiography through analyses of the underpinnings of sf to examinations of specific authors and works—delivered in thunderous yet calculated tones, and a welter of academic polysyllables. The autobiographical piece is most engaging and revealing—with Lem candidly discussing his upbringing, his Jewish heritage, the German and Russian occupations of Poland, his own sf. Elsewhere, he demonstrates his formidable intellect and his self-imposed conceptual limitations: he finds fiction without intellectual challenge boring (and has no patience with the notion of fiction as entertainment); in his view, sf works in which neither the objects nor the ideas have any basis in reality are merely "empty games." Later, however, Lem cogently discusses sf's various time-travel motifs—notwithstanding his previous denunciation of "empty games" where "impossible time-travel machines are used to point out impossible time-travel paradoxes." "The primary unsolved problem" of sf, he writes, is "the lack of a theoretical typology of its paradigmatic structures"—yet he fails to demonstrate why this lack is so damaging. On the incestuous nature of Western sf, he's devastating: "critiques are not produced independently, but are written by either the authors or the editors of anthologies, who evaluate each other's works." (He also blasts publishers and editors for camouflaging advertising as criticism.) For all these reasons, sf is trashy and apt to remain so. Moving on to specifics, Lem shows himself to be a penetrating but often arbitrary and petulant critic. Just about the only Western sf author he approves of (Ballard and Bradbury rate a maybe) is Philip K. Dick—who "tries to probe the neglected, latent, untouched, as-yet-unrealized potentialities of human existence." A. E. van Vogt's work is condemned as "stupid lies" without a shred of evidence or analysis; Borges, Lem determines, "has suffered from a lack of a free and rich imagination." He criticizes Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon for what Leto thinks Keyes' should have written; the Strugatsky brothers' Roadside Picnic—which Leto not only analyzes brilliantly, but finds enjoyable—comes in for similar treatment. Clearly, there's some ax-grinding going on. In sum: guaranteed to offend and provoke.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1984

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1984

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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