Monday, August 31, 2015

Code Breakers: Alpha by Colin F. Barnes ****

Code Breakers: Alpha by Colin Barnes is post-apocalypse, cyberpunk novel about super coder Gerry whose privileged position as an elite coder in the single domed city that remains after the Cataclysm suddenly comes to an end when the Death-lottery marks him for execution. Prior to that moment Gerry believed he and his family were exempt from the lottery and he gave little thought of the lottery or what existed beyond the confines of the domed city.

With this betrayal Gerry leaves the protection of the domed city and meets the beings living outside. Those who survive outside the dome are a mixture of human and code. One of the best part of Gerry's journey is the imaginative world where humans and AIs are integrated. The descriptions of thought as code and visa-versa are well done. The battles between human and code entities are both exciting and technically satisfying. 

SPOILER. the novel is more of a teaser than a novel without a resolution or conclusion.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ghost Track: Melissa by David Graffman ****

Detective Sergeant Leyland Francis and Chief Inspector Phil Mercer were old friends when Melissa Marshall turned up dead. Unfortunately for their friendship, but fortunately for their internal affairs nemesis Petunia Ferdinand, Leyland appears to have spoken to Melissa after the time forensics declared her to have been dead.

Ghost Track: Melissa by David Graffham is a buddy cop mystery full of familiar intrigues, including Melissa's very alive sister Felicity, internal police politics, and the Russian mob headed by Viktor Petrov.

In good mystery form, all these myriad plot line are tied together in the end.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Germ Warriors by Clint Willis ****

Germ Warriors edited by Clint Willis is an anthology of stories about epidemiology and diagnosis. If it was a TV series, it might be named: CDC: The deadly cases.

For example, the chapter on food-borne pathogens explored the ubiquitous nature (30-50% incidence in some cases) of e coli and salmonella with emphasis on the dual challenges of today's large-scale and international food market.

First, with food items, both fresh and packaged, being sourced internationally, it is impossible for the USDA to monitor quality. However, this is a bit of a red herring, as the USDA doesn't even have resources to monitor domestic food production.

The second point is that  the scale of operations magnifies problems and makes tracking difficult.
A single patty may mingle meat of a hundred different animals from four different countries. ... a single contaminated carcass ... can pollute eight tons of finished ground beef.
The chapter on the challenge of diagnosing rare diseases was one of the best. The example was a case of necrotizing fasciitis that "kills up to 70 percent of the people that get it."

This chapter introduces the Zebra problem:
an old saying taught in medical school: if you hear hoofbeats in Texas, think horses not zebras [Actually the phrase was coined by Dr. Theodore Woodward, professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, with no reference to Texas.]
For every case of necrotizing fasciitis, there are 3,000 cases of cellulitis with very similar symptoms.

In addition to necrotizing fasciitis, e coli and salmonella, the book covers ebola, plague, malaria, AIDS, Lassa virus, and mad cow disease. The anthology contains a diverse collection of (sometimes scary) stories of brave and dedicated medical scientists working to identify, prevent, and treat a wide collection of (fortunately) rare diseases.

Don't read it if you have unidentified symptoms or tendencies towards hypochondria.