Mini Reviews

Hi guys!

Let me begin by wishing everyone Hapy Holidays! =)

As mentioned in my last such post, hopefully I can resume reviewing properly with the coming of the new year. In the meantime, here are my latest mini reviews.

- AI 2041 by Kai-Fu Lee and Chen Qiufan (Canada, USA, Europe) 8/10

The press release for this book really piqued my curitosity and I knew I had to give it a go. I was a bit worried that the translation from Chinese to English would be an issue, but it was not to be. Other than a few odd turns of phrase, every piece reads quite well.

Here's the blurb:

In a groundbreaking blend of science and imagination, the former president of Google China and a leading writer of speculative fiction join forces to answer an urgent question: How will artificial intelligence change our world over the next twenty years?

AI will be the defining issue of the twenty-first century, but many people know little about it apart from visions of dystopian robots or flying cars. Though the term has been around for half a century, it is only now, Kai-Fu Lee argues, that AI is poised to upend our society, just as the arrival of technologies like electricity and smart phones did before it. In the past five years, AI has shown it can learn games like chess in mere hours--and beat humans every time. AI has surpassed humans in speech and object recognition, even outperforming radiologists in diagnosing lung cancer. AI is at a tipping point. What comes next?

Within two decades, aspects of daily life may be unrecognizable. Humankind needs to wake up to AI, both its pathways and perils. In this provocative work that juxtaposes speculative storytelling and science, Lee, one of the world's leading AI experts, has teamed up with celebrated novelist Chen Qiufan to reveal how AI will trickle down into every aspect of our world by 2041. In ten gripping narratives that crisscross the globe, coupled with incisive analysis, Lee and Chen explore AI's challenges and its potential:

- Ubiquitous AI that knows you better than you know yourself
- Genetic fortune-telling that predicts risk of disease or even IQ
- AI sensors that creates a fully contactless society in a future pandemic
- Immersive personalized entertainment to challenge our notion of celebrity
- Quantum computing and other leaps that both eliminate and increase risk

By gazing toward a not-so-distant horizon, AI 2041 offers powerful insights and compelling storytelling for everyone interested in our collective future.

I loved how thought-provoking many of the stories turned out to be. What makes this collection so special is the fact that you have an expert explaining the technology of each tale at the end of each one. Lee does a great job "dumbing down" everything so that readers unfamiliar with the concepts involved can understand everything. At first, I believed that every story would take place in China, but I was wrong. The locales range from India to Nigeria, from Korea to Japan, from China to Qatar, from Sri Lanka to Iceland, from San Francisco to Australia. These short fiction pieces are meant to convey that this AI resolution will be global.

Preaching to the choir, I felt that too often Lee looks upon these upcoming changes wearing rose-tinted glasses. Given his background, his optimism is understandable. Yet there's no denying that Qiufan's stories make you think and stay with you afterward.

AI 2041 should definitely be on your radar.

- The Sicilian by Mario Puzzo (Canada, USA, Europe) 7/10

Given that it supposedly ties in with The Godfather, I was super excited to read this novel. Unfortunately, the whole Michael Corleone in Sicily gimmick was just a poorly conceived way to try to make more money. Michael's presence serves very little purpose and in the end it's just a disappointment.

Salvatore Giuliano's rise and fall was compelling enough on its own. Puzzo didn't have to try to tie it up with The Godfather. Ultimately, it hurts The Sicilian and make it a less interesting read.

- Different Seasons by Stephen King (Canada, USA, Europe) 8.5/10

I've never read any of King's short fiction collections, which is why I elected to give this one a shot. Comprised of four novellas, two of which where turned into great movies, it seemed that I couldn't go wrong.

I was aware that Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and The Body would be good. I mean, the movies were and the books are usually better. And this certainly was the case once more, especially with The Body. No one can write kids or teenagers quite like Stephen King. I was a bit surprised by how disturbing Apt Pupil turned out to be. This story of a kid blackmailing a Nazi in exile really had an impact on me. It's like a punch in the gut. The Breathing Method provides an anticlimactic close to the book, through no fault of its own. But with the first three novellas being homeruns, this last one just couldn't hold a candle to the others.

Don't know where to begin with Stephen King? Different Seasons showcases the author writing at the top of his game.

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