Artemis

⇒The author of The Martian takes us to a bubble city on the moon where a smuggler just might become a savior.⇐


Author: Andy Weir

(3.67 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Science Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 305 (Hardcover)

#Artemis


Hey, if you want to play life safe, don’t live on the moon.


I have had Artemis on my TBR for some time now, and I am glad to say that I finally added it to my “Read in 2018” pile because it was a really good book! In recent years I have shifted away from Sci-Fi novels. I called myself branching out into other genres after almost exclusively reading horror, thriller, and sci-fi for many years thanks to my Dad’s reading influence (and the free books he was lending me!). But I’m so glad I picked up this little gem of a book from my local Goodwill store and made it one of my November reads.



Check out the Goodreads blurb for Artemis:     Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. 
Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.


After reading this book, I read other reviews on Goodreads – which is often my habit. I just want to know if any number of people felt the same way I did about the book. Surprisingly, many of them said that this wasn’t the book that they were expecting. Those comments seemed to point to the fact that they didn’t want the sci-fi in this sci-fi novel. Hmmm… As for me, it was exactly the book that I was expecting: a science fiction novel.

He’s right, Dad. I am an asshole. But Artemis needs an asshole right now and I got drafted.

Artemis is the type of book that I read sci-fi for – it’s taut, smart, and still manages to weave saucy humor into every situation – no matter how life-threatening. 
Sci-fi can get technical and often it involves advanced science and math. Those weren’t my favorite subjects in school, but I love to see how those advanced concepts can be incorporated into a thrilling novel such as this one. Plus, it had maps! And who doesn’t love a great story with maps! Extra points!
Jazz Bashara, the protagonist, is brilliant but in an entirely underrated way. She is strong-willed and smart-alecky, but it only makes her more likable. If you’ve read other some of my other reviews, you know how much I appreciate an “average joe” hero. Her cohorts were varied and interesting, especially her Ukrainian super-hacker friend (what? Every hero needs one), Svoboda.

Artemis was intriguing, action-packed, and big-screen worthy. Four moon-sized stars for this genuine sci-fi story by an author who understands what the genres fans really need to make them happy!

Read an excerpt of Artemis here

(courtesy of andyweirauthor.com)


Andy Weir

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ANDY WEIR built a career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian, allowed him to live out his dream of writing full time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects such as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.


The Forbidden Place

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Something sinister is lurking in the mire of Mossmarken and it will take one woman’s curiosity and another’s memories to unlock some dark and deadly secrets. ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Grand Central Publishing, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Susanne Jansson

SmellRating3

(2.5 stars – Goodreads rating)

Publish Date: September 04, 2018, by Grand Central Publishing

Translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 352 pages

#TheForbiddenPlace  #NetGalley

The Forbidden PlaceSomething had pulled her in this direction, maybe for years. Something that she hadn’t listened to on a conscious level, but still somehow had followed. Like a yearning from the underground. A call from within.

OK, so I wanted this book to be so much more than it is. It is a crime mystery/thriller that has whisperings of something sinister and creepy underneath the surface. It is not a horror story, but I’m thinking that maybe it would have been better if it was.

Here’s the blurb:

In the remote Swedish wetlands lies Mossmarken: the village on the edge of the mire where, once upon a time, people came to leave offerings to the gods.
Biologist Nathalie came in order to study the peat bogs. But she has a secret: Mossmarken was once her home, a place where terrible things happened. She has returned, at last, determined to confront her childhood trauma and find out the truth.

Soon after her arrival, she finds an unconscious man out on the marsh, his pockets filled with gold–just like the ancient human sacrifices. A grave is dug in the mire, which vanishes a day after. And as the police investigate, the bodies start to surface…

Is the mire calling out for sacrifices, as the superstitious locals claim? Or is it an all-too-human evil?

A long time ago, people were sacrificed out there. And there’s always been talk about how people vanish without a trace around Mossmarken.

Although this is not a horror story in the true sense of that genre, the underlying tone of the story is dark and definitely includes paranormal phenomena from beginning to end. That’s the part I liked.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed the rest of it as much as I anticipated a truly creepy resolution. But neither of those things panned out for me with The Forbidden Place. The paranormal nuances were tossed off as kookery and the human antagonists just weren’t as interesting as they were set up to be.

It is not a bad book. The story flows and the characters develop along lines that make sense for each of them. The setting is atmospheric (I learned more about a bog than I really ever really wanted to know) and the ultimate resolution isn’t a dead giveaway (no pun intended).

Three stars for a book that is good, but lacking just a little bit of spark that would have made it really good.

Hear an excerpt of The Forbidden Place (via SoundCloud): Click here


About the Author

Susanne Jansson

Website

SUSANNE JANSSON was born in 1972 in Åmål, Sweden. She later moved to Gothenburg to work in advertising and then to New York to study photography. After returning to Sweden, she worked as a freelance photographer while studying journalism, and for the past twenty years she has been combining her work as a photographer with being a freelance journalist focusing on reportage and profile stories in areas such as culture, film, theatre and literature. She has also written crime short stories for weekly magazines. The Forbidden Place is her debut novel. Jansson lives with her family in Lerum outside Gothenburg.

(Bio taken from http://ahlanderagency.com)


 

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Vox

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Berkley Publishing, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Christina Dalcher

SmellRating3

(3.81 stars – Goodreads rating)

Expected Publication: August 21, 2018, by Berkley Publishing Group

Genre: Dystopian Fiction / Sci-Fi

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 336

#Vox  #NetGalley

VoxThink about where you’ll be — where your daughters will be — when the courts turn back the clock… Think about waking up one morning and finding you don’t have a voice in anything.

Let me get this out of the way first, and then you won’t have to hear anything else about my comparisons of Vox to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, because they really, really do have a lot in common: 

  • the oppression of women including the banning of reading, writing, and free speech
  • the vilification of Christianity
  • programming/reprogramming of the children
  • classification of women in terms of social standing & “virtue”
  • violent deaths for opposers
  • a mother attempting/considering escape for the sake of her daughter(s)
  • and an underground resistance movement

In addition, Dalcher also uses the flashback method (as Atwood did with Handmaid) to take us back to life before the new government created this new “Pure movement”.

Dalcher doesn’t shy away from the Atwood association though, and she lists her as a literary influence on Goodreads (along with Shirley Jackson and Stephen King). So, there!

Ok, so the two books are a lot alike; HOWEVER, there are also some key differences that made me view The Handmaid as scary but empowering, and Vox – not so much.

Monsters aren’t born, ever. They’re made, piece by piece and limb by limb, artificial creations of madmen who, like the misguided Frankenstein, always think they know better.

So here’s the plot summary: Dr. Jean McClellan used to be one of the foremost neurolinguistic scientists in the United States. Past tense, because ever since the new president took office and set up the loquacious Reverend Carl Corbin as a White House advisor, women aren’t allowed to speak, let alone work as scientists – or anything – anymore.

Women have been stripped of their careers outside of the home, all their bank accounts, cell phones, laptops, access to birth control, and – most invasively – their voices. According to the new government, the female population is only allowed 100 words a day. Any more than this and a band on their wrists administers a painful electric shock that increases in intensity with every additional word. The ultimate goal is to force women back into “more traditional” roles within the home: cooking, cleaning, and raising families – whether they want to or not.

Jean inwardly rails against the establishment, but she does so silently, until the day an opportunity presents itself that may offer a way for her and her daughter to buck the system and get to speak again. But will the cost be too heavy a price to pay? And is her husband truly being supportive or just secretive?

I’ve become a woman of few words.

OK, so I’ll review first and rant later.

This is a hard review to write. I have to separate how I feel about the subject matter from how I feel about the writing/plot development/characters/etc., and if you’ve ever reviewed any type of controversial book before, you know that is not an easy thing to do.

As dystopian novels go, this one was packed full of frustrating circumstances, despair, oppression, and all the negative emotions you can imagine a dystopian novel would contain. No, all the characters aren’t likable (even, surprisingly, the main character), and most of them aren’t given a whole lot of backstory, so don’t expect a lot of character development here. It’s a quick read and most of the true action is stuffed into the final few chapters.

But the premise is extremely compelling and it does draw you into the story easily. I did read this mostly in one sitting because I was so interested to see how it all played out in the end.

Vox certainly serves as a cautionary tale reminding us that evil ideas prevail when good people do nothing – especially when we don’t go out and vote! You know that totally “woke” friend who is always pushing everyone to call their congresspeople and to oppose this cause and that cause? Listen to her. If nothing else, this book taught me that much.

Did I love it? No. Was it worth a read? Sure. Of course, there are plot points that are infuriating and potentially dangerous in the wrong hands, but isn’t that almost a requirement for good dystopian fiction? This book made me angry, sad, frustrated and – at times confused,  but I left it knowing that someone’s words caused all those feelings in me, and isn’t that kind of the point of reading?

I wonder what the other women do. How they cope. Do they still find something to enjoy? Do they love their husbands in the same way? Do they hate them, just a little bit?

Now for the rant – and, don’t worry, I’ll keep it short. I’ll just put it right out there: I’m a Christian. I NEVER push my beliefs down anyone’s throat nor do I devalue anyone else’s faith. So, it was VERY painful to read this book and see all the many, many, many times the main character maligned Christianity as a religion and its followers as a whole. There was no separation of “these certain religious fanatics” or “a specific group of extremists”. No. It was the entire religion and everyone who believes in it. That made me angry and it separated me from the story. I couldn’t relate to the characters, who were obviously suffering and deserved my sympathy, because of that gross and blatant injustice.

And I’m personally astounded by all the times Christianity is portrayed as the villain in mainstream media without anyone condemning that practice. We will defend the rights of Islamic Muslims to not be categorized as terrorists and the rights of Catholic men to not be pigeonholed as pedophiles, etc., but with Christians, hey! it’s free game! I take issue with that.

You obviously don’t need to be told that all Christians are not extremists. All Christians are not judgmental separatists who dream of a controlled society where diversity is non-existent. Most Christians are just hardworking, God-loving people who are just trying to live good, compassionate, charitable lives. To lump us all with the images of a few power-hungry radical individuals was a gross misrepresentation, and I take exception to that.

OK, rant over. But know, that while I did harbor that resentment throughout the book, I did not rate the book based on my personal feelings about the subject matter. And I’m not attacking the author either for the opinions of her main character!

Phew, I feel better getting that out of my system!

According to my personal rating scale, I gave Vox 3 stars: “This book was alright. Might be worth reading for most, but there are several things about it that will keep me from recommending it to all.” Three stars is not necessarily a bad rating from me. Lots of what I read ends up in this category. It was a solid book and will appeal to a vast majority of readers. If you pick this one up, here’s my two-cent advice: Read it for what it is, try hard not to compare it to other stories, and find at least one character you can relate to. Good luck!

Release day for Vox is August 21st so pre-order now! Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


About the Author

Christina DalcherChristina Dalcher

Website

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Christina Dalcher earned her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from Georgetown University. She specializes in the phonetics of sound change in Italian and British dialects and has taught at universities in the United States, England, and the United Arab Emirates.
Her short stories and flash fiction appear in over one hundred journals worldwide. Recognitions include the Bath Flash Award’s Short List; nominations for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions; and multiple other awards. She teaches flash fiction as a member of the faculty at The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency represents Dalcher’s novels.
After spending several years abroad, most recently in Sri Lanka, Dalcher and her husband now split their time between the American South and Naples, Italy.
Her debut novel, VOX, will be published in August 2018 by Berkley (an imprint of Penguin Random House).

(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)


 

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Illuminae

by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
SmellRating4
(4.32 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published October 20, 2015, by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Genre: Fiction / Sci-Fi / YA

Format: Paperback

Page Count: 599 pages

#Illuminae #IlluminaeFiles


Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)I am the ship and the ship is I. If I breathed, I would sigh. I would scream. I would cry.

If a nuclear missile hits a battleship in the dark void of space and there are less than 1,000 people on board (but 99% of them are afflicted with a zombie virus), does it still make a sound?

Kady Grant is about to find out.

Her only resources are her techy brain, her trusty datapad, and the possibly insane (definitely murderous) AI system with a God complex known as AIDAN.

I know them. All of them. Better than they know themselves. All this in the time it takes God to blink.

I don’t know what you were doing when you were 17 years old, but I wasn’t exactly a tech-savvy hack-master with the capability to rescue thousands of people and escape a cadre of virus-riddled infectants who are bent on revenge. I mean, if you were that bad-ass then please accept my congrats and a standing ovation. However, I get excited when I can just get Microsoft Word to perform correctly.

So, Kady Grant has a lot on me. She escaped the BeiTech Industries attack on the colony established on planet Kerenza, and now all she has to do is survive so that she can tell the story of that attack to the Universe.

BeiTech killed the people of Kerenza, and if you find this, you have to tell the ‘verse what happened.

This was a book like none I’ve ever read before. The events that play out in deep space between the Alexander fleet (including ships Alexander, Copernicus, and Hypatia) are relayed to us via intercepted emails, IM chats, transcribed video surveillance, classified office memoranda, etc. The 6000+ people on board the three vessels are flying for their lives from the one remaining BeiTech battleship, the Lincoln, that is bent on eliminating all witnesses.

AIDAN has also let loose a squad of passengers infected with the fatal and mind-bending  Phobos Beta virus, and now they’re spreading it to others on board. There’s chaos among the stars and eventually, it all comes down to 17-year old Kady to save everyone.

They don’t need this girl in neuroprogramming, they need her in psych ops, eyeball to eyeball with the guys who need to see things a little differently.

The action is constant and fluid, and the format of Illuminae will keep you turning pages long past your bedtime. Even now, AIDAN’s creepy voice (as I imagine it) is ringing in my head, “Am I not merciful?

Although there were familiar themes present (AIDAN is obviously 2001: A Space Odyssey -inspired; HAL could be “his” generation 1.0), that doesn’t take anything away from what makes this book remarkable.

Read it.

Illuminae is followed by Gemina (published in 2016) and Obsidio (published in 2018), and each book in the trilogy focuses on the same invasion of Kerenza from the perspective of a different pair of surviving teenagers. If you’re into science fiction and lots of YA action (with just a touch of romance), you’ll enjoy this futuristic space adventure.


About the Authors

Amie’s Website

Amie’s Twitter

Jay’s Website

Jay’s Twitter

Amie Kaufman is a New York Times, USA Today and internationally bestselling author of science fiction and fantasy. Her multi-award winning work has been published in over 35 countries and is in development for film and TV. A couple of her career highlights so far include professional wolf-howling lessons, and working as a story consultant at NASA.

Jay Kristoff is the #1 international, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE, THE ILLUMINAE FILES, and THE LOTUS WAR. He is the winner of five Aurealis Awards, an ABIA, has over half a million books in print and is published in over thirty-five countries, most of which he has never visited.

(Bios courtesy of Goodreads)


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The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story

by Douglas Preston
Rating: Gold-star-star-no-background-clipartGold-star-star-no-background-clipartGold-star-star-no-background-clipartGold-star-star-no-background-clipart

(3.91 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published January 3, 2017, by Grand Central Publishing

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: Kindle Edition

Page Count: 336

30636125No civilization has survived forever. All move toward dissolution, one after the other, like waves of the sea falling upon the shore. None, including ours, is exempt from the universal fate.

In 1995, Douglas Preston and co-author BFF Lincoln Child took us on a journey to the jungles of Brazil where artifacts were found and returned to the US along with a deadly beast called Mbwun. Mbwun then began hunting and killing humans for their hypothalamus. It was all frightfully creepy and thrilling. Fictional, but still thrilling.

Over two decades later, Preston takes us back to the dark, dangerous jungle but this time, in real life. Armed with a Nikon camera, plenty of Deet, and some snake gaiters, Preston takes off in a rickety plane following a dream and some pictures of impressions in the earth taken by NASA’s LIDAR machine. This is the true story of his harrowing trip to Mosquitia, deep inside the Honduran interior with a group of archeologists, scientists, photographers, and “money men” to rediscover La Ciudad Blanca (The White City), previously known as the Lost City of the Monkey God. Mbwun, thankfully, wasn’t a threat to this expedition; however, there were many other all-too-real hazards the group faced in the sweltering wilderness of Central America.

It was truly a lost world, a place that did not want us and where we did not belong.

Preston was on site as a correspondent for National Geographic magazine. The expedition’s efforts to prove the city existed, find the city and then get permission from the unstable Honduran government to actually go there turned out to be only a small portion of the challenges they faced. The “lost” city was reputed to have been immensely wealthy and well-stocked with treasure and priceless artifacts. Those claims were nearly impossible to verify, however, due to its remote location and the various bands of murderous drug cartels and criminal gangs that surrounded the area. Not to mention that invasion of the city was rumored to result in a lethal curse.

Preston also tells of the deadly snakes, the inhospitable spider monkeys, campsites blanketed with cockroaches, sucking mud holes, relentless mosquitos and sand flies, and roaming jaguars that stalked the camp every night. And just like in Relic, after the expedition was over, the team managed to bring a little something back with them.

OK, no, it wasn’t Mbwun, but it wasn’t just lovely pictures either.

‘And then,’ said Nash, ‘you intruded. You were a mistake.’ By invading the valley, we were like clueless civilians wandering onto a battlefield and getting shot to pieces in the crossfire.

This was a great book even for devout lovers of fiction like myself. There was mystery, danger, political corruption, drug smuggling, an intriguing archeological find, and then to top it all off, a pesky infectious disease. A little something for everyone.

Once upon a time, Preston managed to make history museums even creepier for those who get skittish in half-lit rooms surrounded by dusty, dated artifacts. This time, he manages to scare the heck out of all of us – not by fear of a deadly, hypothalamus-eating sci-fi beast, but by fear of the effects of uncontrollable, unrelenting deforestation and the inevitability of the next inescapable, deadly global pandemic.

Happy reading!

Get it here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Half Price Books


About the Author

856_large_1pOWfr_Ul2zJNWebsite

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Facebook

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After unaccountably being rejected by Stanford University (a pox on it), Preston attended Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he studied mathematics, biology, physics, anthropology, and geology, before settling down to English literature. After graduating, Preston began his career at the American Museum of Natural History in New York as an editor, writer, and manager of publications. Preston also taught nonfiction writing at Princeton University. His eight-year stint at the Museum resulted in the non-fiction book, Dinosaurs in the Attic, edited by a rising young star at St. Martin’s Press, Lincoln Child. During this period, Preston gave Child a midnight tour of the museum, and in the darkened Hall of Late Dinosaurs, under a looming T. Rex, Child turned to Preston and said: “This would make the perfect setting for a thriller!” That thriller would, of course, be Relic.

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Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Rating: 
( 4.14 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 2, 2017, by W. W. Norton Company

Genre: Nonfiction

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 222


32191710At one time or another every one of us has looked up at the night sky and wondered: What does it all mean? How does it all work? And, what is my place in the universe?

Nonfiction. Even that title sounds boring, doesn’t it? It’s not even a thing – it’s a non-thing. It’s not a personal rule, but I tend to shy away from nonfiction – simply because it’s… real.

Reading has been my method for escaping from reality for as long as I can remember – not that my reality was fraught with danger or discontent in any way whatsoever. But it was occasionally. Very. Boring.

I am an only child. And while I had cousins and plenty of friends in my neighborhood and at school to play with, there were many times when the house was too quiet, my mom was too busy, and there were too few channels on TV. So, I turned to books to fill the void. And once I did, I was hooked.

Around the same time that I was discovering my love for reading, my grandparents gave me a big picture book about the universe. There were huge, glossy, color-filled pages showing off the beauty of Saturn, the power of a supernova, and the amazing size of distant stars like Rigel and Betelgeuse (one of my personal favorites btw). Once again, I found myself hooked – on space.

That mild (but consistent) obsession with all things “astro” has lead me to add shows like “Space’s Deepest Secrets”, “How the Universe Works”, and “Cosmos” to my DVR on a regular basis. And it was “Cosmos” that introduced me to Neil deGrasse Tyson. His charismatic manner and conversational tone made understanding astrophysics less of an unattainable goal for a liberal arts major like myself. I wanted to know more about the stars and more about this man who made it so easy for me to grasp concepts about space-stuff like I never had before.

The cosmic perspective opens our minds to extraordinary ideas but does not leave them so open that our brains spill out, making us susceptible to believing anything we’re told.

My dad loaned me this little book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. In it, deGrasse Tyson brings the stars into reach of the “common man” – or rather, anyone who doesn’t also hold a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. I’ve been so enamored with deGrasse Tyson’s field of science (and his brain) for a while now, so I dove right in to it – not even really registering that it is nonfiction (except to maybe a flat-earther).

The tone of the book is technical but conversational. Some scientific topics and theories are hard to explain without sounding a bit obnoxiously erudite; however, deGrasse Tyson’s humor easily tempers all that and brings us all to the table as equals. But don’t take that to mean that he “dumbs-down” the information in any sense. He just includes references and comparisons that bring complicated themes into better focus.

Ignorance is the natural state of mind for a research scientist.

I also really appreciated the fact that he is notably transparent about how much scientists still have yet to learn about our own solar system and the universe at large. The book expresses more than once that advances we have made in understanding the space we occupy have changed human thought drastically in only a few decades, and that we should continue to expect that same level of knowledge-shift as scientific methods and tools improve.

We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out – and we have only just begun.

This book, as advertised, is a quick overview of the wonders and mysteries of astrophysics, and in the end, I found it to be not enough. I could have used a few more chapters covering black holes, the theoretical 9th planet, our sun’s current life cycle, and future plans for interstellar travel.

Welcome to the Universe just may give me what I need. Published in 2017 and co-authored by Neil deGrasse Tyson, who acts as director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History; J. Richard Gott and Michael A. Strauss, both professors of astrophysics at Princeton University, it touts itself as “an astrophysical tour” and even has an accompanying website at Welcome to the Universe. Intriguing topics include “Our place in the universe”, “Is there a black hole in our backyard?”, and “Do we live in a multiverse?”. Another one added to the TBR pile!

 Astrophysics for People in a Hurry earned a healthy 4.5 stars from me, and after reading it my admiration of Neil deGrasse Tyson – and my IQ – rose a few notches. Signing off from this little person in the Western hemisphere of the 3rd rocky planet from our sun, in the Milky Way galaxy, on the Orion Arm, in the Local Group of the Virgo Supercluster, in the Observable Universe.

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Get it here: Amazon ; Kindle ; Barnes & Noble

And check out NDT’s radio show StarTalk online at https://www.startalkradio.net/ or wherever you subscribe to your podcasts.