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Keen AI Book Club

As part of our book club, we read a different book every month. The only rules are, that none of the members have read the book before and it can’t be work-related. We also try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction.

Read our reviews…

Blindsight

Fiction
Reviewed: April 2024
Suggested by: Tom
Readers: Amjad, Petar, Tom
Endorsements: 1/3

Notes:In April the Keen AI Book Club Read “Blindsight” by Peter Watts. We gave the book 1 out of 3 reader endorsements finding the story too hard to follow, especially in the earlier parts of the book, and feeling that some of the “hard sci-fi” concepts fell a little flat and shoe-horned in (To be fair vampires, space travel, multi consciousness, full virtual reality! Pick a lane!). That said we enjoyed the richness of the biology concepts and did find some parts of the book interesting but ultimately too much was going on with almost no story progression.”

An Immense World

Fiction
Reviewed: February 2024
Suggested by: Amjad
Readers: Amjad, Petar, Tom
Endorsements: 3/3

Notes:A fascinating journey through the sensory world (or umwelt) of other animals. An amazing collection of facts and insights on how animals sense and perhaps perceive the world from their point of view. We all enjoyed the book and would recommend it to others; you’ll come away knowing a lot more than you did before. We did feel however it was a bit too long and could have been shorter. One of the team, an avid gamer and proud owner of a 120 FPS monitor,  questions the claim that human vision runs at a maximum of 60 FPS!

We Are Legion (We Are Bob)

Fiction
Reviewed: January 2024
Suggested by: Tom
Readers: Amjad, Petar, Tom, Sarah
Endorsements: 4/4

Notes:This book starts great. “Bob Johansson has just sold his software company and is looking forward to a life of leisure. There are places to go, books to read, and movies to watch. So it’s a little unfair when he gets himself killed crossing the street.” – what a delightful introduction. The author has some really great concepts to explore Von Neumann probes, replication of consciousness (can it be a perfect copy?) and alien intelligences.

But after a while it just gets repetitive, how many ways can you describe the VR environments of each replicant (a copy of Bob’s consciousness on board a probe)? It feels like the concepts are pulled from other books or scifi shows. Through all of the astronomy jargon, we feel like the story is not developed enough. Half of us found that after the half way point, the monologue and descriptions got repetitive. None of us regret reading the book, but none of us remembered the ending either.”

Annihilation

Fiction
Reviewed: December 2023
Suggested by: Petar
Readers: Amjad, Petar, Tom
Endorsements: 0/3

Notes: “Despite one of the team members loving the film based on this book, the more we read the book, the less we wanted to watch it. The author should be praised for creating a sense of foreboding reflecting the strange Area X the book is set in. We thought that for a short book it felt particularly long. And one of us describes the audio book as: “The worst narration I’ve ever listened to, sounds like the narrator is just bored and wants to get the job done asap. And she’s a great narrator in other books.”

The Name of The Wind

Fiction
Reviewed: November 2023
Suggested by: Hamzah
Readers: Amjad, Petar, Tom, Hamzah
Endorsements: 3/4

Notes: “This book should come with a warning: “The first in an unfinished trilogy”. Despite this, “The Name of the Wind” is one of the most popular fantasy novels out there, and with good reason. The author does a brilliant job of creating a world with depth and an interesting take on “magic”. We all particularly enjoyed that the book is written from the perspective of the main character, which is not often seen in the fantasy genre. It’s not all perfect though as it can be slow in parts, and the author does rely on some of the more common fantasy tropes – hopeless romance, tough innkeeper etc., but on the whole these don’t take away from an overall good story with intriguing characters.

Despite all readers thoroughly enjoying the book, it doesn’t receive a unanimous recommendation as it is the first in an unfinished trilogy and until the last book is released (it’s been over 10 years since the release of the second book), new readers will have to be content with only being able to read part of the story.”

Cat’s Cradle

Fiction
Reviewed: September 2023
Suggested by: Amjad
Readers: Amjad, Petar, Tom
Endorsements: 0/3

Notes: “Google says 84% of people like this book but none of us really did so what does it say about us? It’s an interesting commentary on religion and the creation of a political system which is all very clever and insightful but we were hoping for a story about Ice 9. We didn’t get that, so disappointment bubbled up through the book club. Fascinating perhaps to read and discuss what the books says about religion, the use of science and the organisation of society but we didn’t really do that. We can’t recommend it as a sci-fi book but we’re told lots of people will enjoy it as a social commentary.”

Mythos

Fiction
Reviewed: August 2023
Suggested by: Tom
Readers: Amjad, Petar, Tom
Endorsements: 3/3

Notes: “We definitely agreed that this book is worth a read. You learn a lot about Greek mythology, which some of us didn’t know, and the writing style is entertaining in a quintessentially Stephen Fry way. We highly recommend listening to the audio book as the narration makes it excellent.”

The Knife of Never Letting Go

Fiction
Reviewed: June 2023
Suggested by: Petar
Readers: Amjad, Petar, Tom
Endorsements: 0/3

Notes: “We loved the concept, the world and some of the characters. We all hated the way it finished, thinking ‘FFS!’ which left it hard to recommend. The author seems like he’s trying to build a “Hunger Games” like trilogy but we’re not sure leaving the first book unfinished is the best way to do it.”

Alchemy

Non-fiction
Reviewed: May 2023
Suggested by: Sarah
Readers: Amjad, Petar, Tom, Sarah
Endorsements: 1/4

Notes: “This book may leave you with a sour taste if you are into numbers and like approaching problems scientifically. We enjoyed the book’s short chapters and a few of the points which Rory developed throughout. However, we found that the points did not ‘stick’ with us as well as other books we have previously read, and felt that some chapters were not quite long enough to develop a good enough understanding.

Imperium

Fiction
Reviewed: March 2023
Suggested by: Amjad
Readers: Amjad, Petar, Tom, Saad
Endorsements: 4/4

Notes: “It was easy to read with a fluid storyline. We noted that it was hard to keep up with the character names because of their similarity and complexity. The first half of the book was more enjoyable than the second, and with a small break, continuing to read the trilogy is not unimaginable to all. The book is not written from the perspective of the main character and we found that this added depth to the story.

Roadside Picnic

Fiction
Reviewed: January 2023
Suggested by: Petar
Readers: Amjad, Petar, Tom
Endorsements: 0.5/3

Notes: “It is a gritty, sombre, sci-fi novel that explores the physical and philosophical struggles of a man who battles with the events of the zone. Though it’s relatively light on sci-fi, the book presents some exciting ideas about alien contact, the artefacts they’ve left behind and the bigger picture underneath it all that is interwoven with the day-to-day lives of people. It’s not the easiest of reads, it’s not the most exciting of developments and it ultimately leaves you with very little closure… but there is something about it that leaves you with a deeply visceral sensation, a mixture of despair and hope.

The Joy of Small Things

Non-fiction
Reviewed: December 2022
Suggested by: Sarah
Readers: Sarah, Petar, Tom, Saad
Endorsements: 1/4

Notes: “The book is full of short chapters which are convenient to read on-the-go. However, if read at once, the book becomes too long and repetitive. Each reader found something relatable or funny in the book. We would only really recommend this book for short term reads and it is definitely not as catchy as a well-written sci-fi book.”

Old Man’s War

Fiction
Reviewed: November 2022
Suggested by: Amjad
Readers: Amjad, Petar, Tom
Endorsements: 3/3

Notes: “A good storyline which also develops nicely over the next couple of books and would make an interesting movie. Especially for a scifi book, it is easy to read and without any complicated concepts to wrap your head around. Every couple of chapters, someone dies in a bit of a gruesome way and although the book includes some more gloomy parts, it is nothing too serious.”

The Ninth Metal

Fiction
Reviewed: October 2022
Suggested by: Amjad
Readers: Amjad, Petar, Tom
Endorsements: 1/3

Notes: “Not bad, not great. A story full of clichés that explores interesting ideas but lacks any real depth. The book focuses more on the sub-plot of the rivalry and internal conflicts surrounding Frontier Metals, rather than Hawkin’s story. It’s an easy read but not satisfying, which is reinforced by the disappointing ending. Also contains questionable Starburst thermodynamics!”

Rich Dad Poor Dad

Non-fiction
Reviewed: September 2022
Suggested by: Tom
Readers: Sarah, Petar, Tom
Endorsements: 1/3

Notes: “Rich Dad Poor Dad received a mixed reception among our book club readers. As expected, it is a book about getting rich, nothing more nothing less. We are sure that if you follow the lessons and rules of the book, they likely lead to success. But at what cost is often questionable. The writer makes little to no attempt to make getting rich sound appealing or fulfilling. In fact, it often makes you feel like Poor Dad has the right attitude and thoughts towards a fulfilling life, even if he does not have the right attitude towards becoming rich.”

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Fiction
Reviewed: August 2022
Suggested by: Saad
Readers: Petar, Amjad, Tom, Saad
Endorsements: 0.5/4

Notes: “It is an important work of literature, but not one we enjoyed reading. It gripped us at certain parts and felt like a chore at others. The story takes a long time to get to the point, and then it felt flat. We certainly would not recommend this as an audiobook as the dated language and long sentences make it harder to follow. Nevertheless, the way Oscar Wilde describes scenery is wonderful and it paints vivid mental pictures.”

Why Has Nobody Ever Told Me This Before?

Nonfiction
Reviewed: July 2022
Suggested by: Tom
Readers: Petar, Amjad, Tom, Saad
Endorsements: 1/4

Notes: “It does a good job as a manual and self help guide, but is not great as a book to read for fun or curiosity. Covering various topics, there’s probably something in it for everyone, but it’s more like a textbook you refer to when you need a useful toolbox to brush up some knowledge. Perhaps listening to it as an audio-book is better than reading it.”

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

Fiction
Reviewed: June 2022
Suggested by: Amjad
Readers: Petar, Amjad, Tom, Saad
Endorsements: 2/3

Notes: “This book is hard to follow at the start, but gets better as you read it. We would describe it as a slow spy novel with an unpredictable story-line. Its language is a little outdated and it has interesting trends like frequently mentioning drinking or the Germans always offering food to Leamas (one of the main characters).”

The Anthropocene Reviewed

Non-fiction
Reviewed: May 2022
Suggested by: Tom
Readers: Petar, Amjad, Tom, Saad
Endorsements: 1/4

Notes: “Slightly depressing with each chapter needing a few minutes to thought about. The personal experiences may not be for everyone, but can make for a interesting read.”

The Kaiju Preservation Society

Fiction
Reviewed: April 2022
Suggested by: Amjad
Readers: Petar, Amjad, Tom, Saad
Endorsements: 4/4

Notes: “Fun, light-hearted perfect for a flight. Good world-building without going over the top. Good to see bad guys get their comeuppance.”

Bullshit Jobs

Non-fiction
Reviewed: March 2022
Suggested by: Petar
Readers: Petar, Amjad, Tom, Saad (DNF x3)
Endorsements: 0/4

Notes: “The book could have been 80% shorter and would be much better for it. With no loss of useful information. Maybe the book itself is irony. 80% of it adds no value so by its own definition its bullshit.”

“Just finished chapter 3 of bullshit jobs, do people recommend powering through I feel its super repetitive and while the stories he talks about are interesting it all seems to end up with the same points and arguments. Please tell me it gets better.”

Klara and The Sun

Fiction
Reviewed: February 2022
Suggested by: Tom’s Uncle
Readers: Petar, Amjad, Tom, Saad (DNF)
Endorsements: 0/4

Notes:
“Story is vague rather than mysterious. Lots of interesting potential topics but none taken, just alluded to.

An Inspector Calls

Fiction
Reviewed: January 2022
Suggested by: Tom
Readers: Petar, Amjad, Tom, Saad
Endorsements: 4/4

The Scout Mindset

Non-fiction
Reviewed: December 2021
Suggested by: Tom
Readers: Petar, Amjad, Tom, Saad
Endorsements: 4/4

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Fiction
Reviewed: November 2021
Suggested by: Arttu
Readers: Amjad, Tom, Saad, Arttu
Endorsements: 1/4

About Sarah Bauroth

Sarah is passionate about sustainability, championing environmental causes to protect our natural world. She is excited by the potential of AI in supporting these goals.

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