Today's book review is Relativity by Robert J. Sawyer.
This book is a potpourri of some of Sawyer's short stories, some of his speeches and opinion pieces, some of his articles about writing, and a 24 page autobiography.
I have read a few of Sawyer's novels, and I've found all of them interesting; even when there have been some issues of believability with the premises, he's managed to make the story good enough to keep me from really worrying about the issues until after I've finished the book. I had never heard him speak until this fall at Windycon, where I learned that he is a wonderful speaker, who can be funny and engaging and genuinely thought-provoking in front of a crowd.
The short stories were quite readable, pithy, good stories.
The speeches and opinions get a little repetetive, since they weren't intended to be read as a blob, and his ideas are interesting. I don't agree with everything he says, but he manages to present even ideas that I can't fully agree with in such a way that I have to think about them, which is the point. He makes a strong point of rejecting faith and basing his beliefs and understanding of the universe on what he can find rational proof of, and in his agnosticism (as he points out, atheism -- the certain belief that God does not exist -- is as much a matter of faith as is beliving in a religion) he is coming from someplace pretty close to where I am coming from. I find it ironic that, though he denies holding any beliefs based on faith, he has an innate optimism that things will turn out well that certainly appears to spring from nothing but faith. Right or wrong, though, his opinions are well expressed and interesting.
Finally, the series of short articles on the craft and business of writing are quite good. I've never had really serious ambitions of being a writer, but he manages to give me quite a push in that direction; after reading those pieces, I feel more inspired to be a writer than I have (at least consciously) for a long time. At the same time, I think they would all be very good practical advice for someone who was seriously trying to get started as a writer.
In all, the book makes me feel that I now know Sawyer better than almost any writer I've never actually had a personal conversation with, and leaves me hoping to actually have such conversations with him in the future. 9 out of 10.