The Golden Torc and the Tell-Tale Brain

In trying to keep up with my GoodReads challenge (to read 20 books in half a year) I have been reading like mad these past weeks. Recently I have finished two very different books. One is a sci-fi/kind of fantasy book I have read a number of times and is from one of my favourite series. The other is a non-fiction book all about the human brain.

The Golden Torc by Julian May is the second in the ‘Saga of the Exiles’. While the first one really set up the story and characters, this one got the action going. The plot was moved on a considerable amount, with the characters being brought together and moved to places that would determine their fate. It brings to the forefront the pivotal figures, such as my personal favourite Aiken Drum, but at the same time manages to keep secondary characters consistent and entertaining. The entire series is impeccably researched while the amount of detail helps to really immerse you in the world that May has created. I also found that her ability to keep control of a large cast of characters that are well-rounded and keep you guessing is impressive. Definitely something I want to emulate. Admittedly the names can be confusing and all the plot threads can be hard to keep track off if you so much as blink but that is all part of the novel’s charm. Ultimately, from a writerly point of view, I find it incredibly informative as well as brilliant.

The Tell-Tale Brain by V.S. Ramachandran is completely different. I don’t often read non-fiction books cover-to-cover for fun, preferring instead to indulge myself in an alternate reality, but this one grabbed my attention. Essentially this book explores what makes the human brain so, well, human. A lot of it is based on Ramachandran’s own personal experience with certain areas, including phantom limbs and synaesthesia. Each chapter looks at something different which gives the book clarity as well as making it easy to pick up and read at any time. My personal favourite looks at how and why we developed aesthetic values, a subject that stretched over two chapters. Ramachandran keeps a conversational tone throughout, using anecdotes, examples and metaphors to explain numerous topics. However, it can be opinionated and often only explains one side of the argument. For instance there is plenty of debate over whether mirror neurons do exist in humans, but Ramachandran appears to present it as a known fact, so reading around the subject is essential. Aside from that, it is a very good book and certainly one for anyone interested in psychology out there.

With these additions, my GoodReads total has clocked up to 8 books out of the 20 I need to read by New Year. It is looking pretty good I think. These books are ones I would recommend to read. The Saga of the Exiles has been rereleased (which is something I found very exciting, despite having about 3 copies of each book in the house already) so definitely go out and get hold of that.

In unrelated news, I have added a links page in the top bar which will at some point include a number of links to awesome sites. At the moment it only has four, three of them being where you can find me elsewhere on the net for all those stalkers out there.



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