-- William Gibson, All Tomorrow's Parties
Last year, one of my random whim purchases was John C Wright's The Golden Age, the first book of a self-same named trilogy. Taking place somewhere in the region of ten thousand years in the future, they are definitely Big Idea Books wrapped up in a shroud space opera.
Between watching Firefly and hocking up lungbabies, I sped through Chris Moriarty's Spin State. Got through it in most of a single sitting, in fact. Probably four or fives hours.
Pretty decent book, though it felt very amateurish in some spots. Many nifty ideas having to do with quantum teleportation and human memory. A lot of it is nothing new, though. Old-school pulp sci-fi ideas abound, but there are slivers are real originality and the borrowed stuff doesn't really detract from the story itself.
One of the things I liked most about it (and one of the things that is no doubt most problematic with it) is how Moriarty doesn't really define jargon or slang. It gives you a sense of how he's trying to make the book feel like something that's just happening, rather than abstracting the story and characters to simple objects that are being described. I'm sure this is a problem for people whose associative cognitive abilities are less than super, but I enjoy it. Scott Westerfeld is another author who does this sort of thing (req: Evolution's Darling).
The story follows Catherine Li, a UN Peacekeeper (in space) who fucks up during a raid, gets redirected to go play Space Marshall on a mine (which happens to be both her home planet and the only place in the universe where these magic crystals exist that allow for quantum-fu). Those bits of the book were very Outland. She then gets pulled into various conspiracies involving the UN security monkeys, the crystals, the AIs, and the miners.
You also have the now-passe fully-immersive VR experience (which felt very original in The Golden Age, but here was slightly confusing. Moriarty treats people who go online as if they're actually there. While this is interesting from a social perspective, it's mildly off-putting for the reader (admittedly this is the sort of thing I was just saying was neat with regards to jargon)), with the requisite wetware (and wetware hacking). There's also the community of mostly-free AIs trying to be more free (the switch-up here is that the AIs can slip into a human and use them as a proxy; makes for some happy fun sex scenes if nothing else).
In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon, a kind of post-modern science fiction and post-cyberpunk book, which treats a lot of That Which Came Before as being read and known, and simply uses it as building blocks to tell their own stories. I can't really say this is a bad thing, but it does give the book a much more pulp feel.
All in all, however, Spin State is a relatively quick read with an entertaining (and at times thought-provoking) story. Recommended.
I met up with the crew at Barnes and Noble the other day, and managed to find one whim buy as opposed to the half dozen I usually get.
(I'm pretty sure this book has been on my amazon.com wishlist for a while, though, so apparently it was less of a whim than I'd first thought.)
Within the first few pages of M. T. Anderson's feed, I was saying to myself "This guy had to have just gone to malls and listened to kids talk on cell phones. Flip to the author's note, and sure enough he had.
The book is written from the perspective of a teenager growing up in ultra-suburbia, in a world where any information is immediately accessable and Americans have completely given in to the wishes of their corporate masters.
Starting to sound like a cyberpunk book? It's really not. feed is written for kids 14 and up (though perhaps these days 14 year olds aren't kids anymore), and from what I've overheard of rage-inducing cellphone conversations on the train or on the street, Anderson hit the patois pretty well on the head. He's added his own little flourishes, to deal with the advent of a neural wetwire-enabled society, but mostly he just relies on present day moron-speak.
The feed in the book is your typical dictionary and personal assistant plugged directly into the users brain. Everyone in the story, except the requisite beautiful chick who was home-schooled as opposed to being raised in the corporate school system, has had feeds since they were babies. It's second natuer to them to think at each other, and to be inundated with advertisements from not only stores they happen to be passing, but from whatever profile their corporate "sponsor" has built for them over the course of their lives.
The ideas in feed are hardly new if you've been following science-fiction for the past, oh, fifty years, but they're presented in a way that will hopefully make them clear to kids.
In one of the opening scenes, the narrator catches his first look of the required beautiful, smart, broken girl and can't think of the words to describe why he finds her beautiful. He has to rely on the feeds dictionary functionality to supply him with the word supple.
Everyone in the book is afflicted with undefined lesions, which they immediately start accessorizing and using as fashion statements. Just as there's no real explanation of what the feed is, from the technical level, there isn't much expanation for the lesions. This follows through with how Anderson is presenting the book, however: You only get to see what the narrator and his friends find important or interesting, which is goddamned little.
The plot is how Anderson chooses to drive his ideas, which is fine, though there are a number of times I'd wish he'd have chosen to use some other vessel than the narrator. The kid annoyed the living piss out of me (certainly the point). It isn't until the last few pages, when we've hit the tragedy part of our story, that he finally starts opening his eyes to some version of the truth. This is one of my own failings: I hate stupid characters. Seeing as how the author went out and observed current suburbanite teenage behavior, however, I suppose I can't fault his conclusions.
Anderson's hand is pretty heavy throughout the book, especially with regards to just how incredibly stupid and lazy America has become. I again can't argue with the path we're on, and where it's headed, but some of the examples are just... asinine. Satire does that, though, so.
The rest of the world appears to not have gone down the same shitter as the U.S., as the "Global Allicance" is throughout the book threatening sanctions and finally war.
There are a few points where Anderson hit bang on, though:Pieces of the U.S. President's speeches scattered through the book and I'll be damned if the guy doesn't talk just like our current President. Well, we always knew Dubya was, like a, like, a futurianist.
Keeping in mind that while this book is targeted at young teenagers, there's quite a bit of swearing and minor sexual situations. Nothing they won't see on television (which may be the point, I suspect). There's also a few short questions at the end of the book, which also suggests to me that the book is meant for schools. How he's going to get it through the language filters, I don't know.
Overall, I'd say it was worth reading, and probably worth getting for your own young teenager or nephew or niece or whatever.
Anything that might get the little bastards to start using actual words in something that resembles, distantly, a sentence. Anything that will get them to not simply accept the world as it is, where everyone is just a phone call or IM away, and where being marketed to constantly by a corporation is par for the course.
feed is obviously a direct attempt at getting kids to realize these things, and I certainly won't be to argue with any of the points. I had them all myself, when I was growing up.
I am exhausted, fully, and in more ways than one. Most of it may be attributed to the flu ravaging its way through my body, battling it out with my immune system, cellular mano a mano. Also there are my sleeping patterns, which as of late have become like the broken signal wave of some ill-tuned oscillator scope. Finally, I have just closed the last page on Neal Stephenson's latest foray into fiction, the second book of The Baroque Cycle, The Confusion.
I had a dream last night that people were making a fresco to commemorate Philip K. Dick, only he had refused to let anyone take pictures of his "reverse personality", so they had to reconstruct his image from descriptions.
I've been going through the Second Variety collection the last few days...
Picked up Sterling's Distraction yesterday as various humans who know how much I dislike his (Islands in the Net, etc) novels insist it's Good.
Thus far (about fifty pages in) I'm enjoying the story quite a bit, though his dialogue is still awful. I can never tell if he's doing it on purpose, or what, but real humans don't converse like his characters.
Stephenson has this problem somewhat, but it seems to work for me.
I expect I'll spam a review of it when I'm finished. Need to do that for Chandler's Goodbye, My Lovely, various PKD books, some other stuff I've read recently which escapes me at the moment.
Finished it this afternoon. I enjoyed it, though it still didn't top, in my mind, the Mejis sections of Wizard and Glass. Still, I enjoyed it a great deal, and it answers a lot of questions that King fans have been asking for the last, oh, over twenty years.
Most of it was not so surprising, though I had no idea that the names of the Guardians were actually pulled from stories King likes (Shardik the bear, for instance). I'm pretty sure I know where it's going (especially with what happened in the Dixie Pig, and the "mid-wives" of Mia's baby), but I have little doubt King will be pulling out all the stops for the last volume.
And yes, Stephen King is in the book as a character, but it didn't bother me like I really expected it to. The way he played it worked within the context of the series, and having read a good portion of his other work, it actually made some sense.
One more book... Who will cross the sea of roses and climb the Dark Tower? And what's at the top?
(I wonder what Robert -- tokage -- is up to. He was huge into King as well. And Sarah, who first told me where the man in black fled...)
Just finished the final volume of Transmetropolitan, which I started picking up three or four months ago at the behest of solios.
There is much goodness here.
If you enjoy comics and good story, I highly reccommend it.
I was very happy with the ending. A rarity.
Just finished readng Clive Barker's Abarat, Pete's suggestion. The story is very traditionally fairy tale-ish, only with that unmistakably perverse Clive Barker twist.
The story follows the adventure of the unfortunately named Candy Quackenbush as she skips school after getting in a fight with her ogrish teacher. Candy leaves the dull, abusive life of Chickentown (where all they do is raise chickens), Minnesota when she meets up with an odd creature named John Mischief, and his seven brothers (who live in his antlers).
After a battle introducing the very disturbing Mendleson Shape (who has four cruciform-swords growing out of his back), the Johns and Candy are swept away on an ocean (yes, in the middle of Minnesota) to the islands of the Abarat, where she's introduced to various factions at work there, and the many strange inhabitants.
There are twenty-five islands, one for each Hour, and one which is Time out of Time. Each island is always at whatever Hour it happens to be. Previous by some decades to the story, there was a war between the Day and Night islands, which is just a neat idea.
I actually tend to enjoy kids books, especially if they seem like they'll grow and become more mature as the characters (and the target readers) do. Probably the primary reason I love the Harry Potter books so much is that they get progressively more adult as Harry does.
I can definitely envision Barker doing the same thing with the remaining four Abarat books.
Barker includes a number (usually one for every two pages) of illustrations that are, generally, delightfully weird or just downright disturbing.
Overall, I enjoyed the book immensely and will impatiently await the second in the series, Days of Magic, Nights of War.
Pete also informs me that the books were commisioned by Disney, and that they're making rides and a movie out of them. I can't imagine how that's going to work out...
Just finished Perfect Circle by Sean Stewart. Yet another whim purchase gone right. Started it last night, and considering how little free time I've had the last few weeks, it's a quick read.
Very good read. Not as spooky as they try to make it sound. Stewart grabs you with his characters, very well-written, even (or perhaps especially) the dead ones. Falling in love with AJ would have been too easy for anyone, Texas kissin' cousins or no.
Extremely enjoyable read.
Pete insisted we head to the mall early as System of the World came out yesterday and I had mentioned I wanted to pick up a copy.
They didn't have that, but they did have the last Dark Tower book, which is fucking huge. It is weighted with explanations, I hope.
I had completely forgotten that it was due out... so happy.
I don't want to be at work. I want to be home reading.
I just closed the last page of The Dark Tower, but the spine is creased slightly and the back cover keeps coming open, revealing the illustration of Roland standing under a dead tree, its limbs twisting, suggesting a certain number... and Roland is holding a watch, and while you can't see them, a key, a rose, and a tower are engraved on the lid.
Thirty-four years later, and while I was afraid of the ending, I think, really think, that what King did was right.
It doesn't make it any less cruel, or less sad, but because he's Stephen King, and because no doubt he doesn't want to field any more angry fanmail than he has to, there is that little glimmer of hope...
How long was I waiting for this?
There was an old woman dying of cancer than wrote King once (I think this was in the afterword for Wizard and Glass), asking him to tell her how Roland's quest would end, because she didn't want to die without knowing. King, of course, had no clue how the quest would end. No idea at all.
I don't know how stories can become this important to us. Through all their flaws and crass prose, through the repetition, there is still something kindling, something that burns through and sets everything on fire. All I know is that more than anything I wish I could write something that would grab hold of someone so much it would be one of their dying wishes (ignoring just how fucked up that sounds, eh?) to learn how it all comes out.
There are no real happy endings... but then, in a truly good story, there aren't really any endings at all, are there?
Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.
Went to SFBC with Evan for some burritos. Not really lunch, not really dinner. Stopped by Borders and picked up Palahniuk's new book, Stranger than Fiction, and Pete Straub and Stephen King's Black House. Gloria has been harassing me forever to read the latter.
I finished Rise of Endymion (the last book of the Hyperion Cantos) last night, for perhaps the half dozenth time. Still as good as I remember, though again I wish that there had been more time spent on describing Aenea as just a person. The whole One Who Teaches thing came across, the whole love affair thing came across... but considering that the story was told from the perspective of her lover, it was sadly missing all the Little Things that make a character a real person. There were plenty of Big Moments rounding her and her quest out, but none of the little moments that people in love tend to share.
Plenty of sex, though. Go Raul.
I'm more than willing to admit that I may be so partial to the Cantos simply because of Aenea. I've mentioned before that I love anything with a strong female lead, pretty much, and there are plenty of those in this series.
While Pete was away for the weekend, I read the first hundred or so pages of the second Abarat book. Clive Barker is fucking insane. Yet another series with a strong female lead.
Finally started reading The System of the World, the last of book of the Baroque Cycle, and I think I'm going to have to put it off a bit. These books require my complete attention to even hope to grasp, let alone understand, and I just don't have the time or mental stability at the moment to invest in it. Maybe in a month or so.
So many good stories.
Picked up Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and DeLillo's Underworld at Barnes & Noble this evening.
Read the first page of both and immediately lost interest in them. I suppose I should perservere, however.
They just both really remind me of Lethem's Fortress of Solitude for some reason, which was immensely disappointing to me. If I had to point out what annoyed me about Fortress, I would be unable to do so, so it was probably a bunch of little things woven together that created a shit-quilt.
The previous DeLillo I read, White Noise, had what I felt to be stilted writing, but an interesting and very twisted story. So I'll definitely give Underworld a chance.
At Liz and Matt's behest, I finally read The Stars My Destination. I've been avoiding reading it since I first learned about Alfred Bester (Walter Koenig's character on Babylon 5 was named after him), and people equated him to PKD and Vonnegut.
But.. it was a pretty awesome book. Very noir, only with 1950s-style tech. Which makes it, as far as I'm concerned, cyberpunk. You have the supreme anti-hero (taken here much further than most cpunk authors do, as you see very early on, corporations and meglomaniacs, drugs, sex, murder...
Gaiman calls it in the foreword, too. At first I didn't really believe he could be right (Gaiman talking about cyberpunk is just sort of weird anyway for some reason), but he totally got it.
I highly reccommend it, but I'm glad I waited to read it. It isn't something I could have appreciated while I was in my Heinlein phase, for instance. (I've never left my PKD or Vonnegut phases.)
The way Bester deals with Foyle's various transformations comes across really well, which from people's descriptions I didn't think it would. But he never loses sight of his obsession, and when he finally does (as he has to), it doesn't feel forced at all... and even though a lot of what happens at the end is hinted to throughout the book, some of that felt really forced or tacked-on.
Even though the focuses are very different, it reminded me in a lot of ways of A Clockwork Orange (which I did not enjoy so much). More hopeful, though, as by the end of Clockwork I felt that Alex still hadn't learned shit about shit and I had just wasted a lot of my time on someone I wanted to punch in the head.
Liz also gave me two other 1960s books: The Weathermonger by Peter Dickinson and The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay.
First, though, I think I'm going to read The Thief of Always, which I've been told was Barker's prototype for the Abarat, and simply amazing.
Clive Barker is pretty nuts. But we all knew that.
The Thief of Always was a decent attempt at kids semi-horror, I think. I enjoyed it, but it never edged out of the "too cute" box for me to really get into it. Just because your theoretical target is children doesn't mean you can't be scary, or deal with Big Ideas.
That said, Barker obviously redeems himself here with the Abarat.
The book is illustrated by the author; the only one that really stood out to me was the second iteration of Mr. Hood, at the end of the book. The broken mirrors were very trippy (and more in line with what I expect from Barker after my brief forays into his work).
Regardless of my feelings on it being too cute, it was still a good story. Very quick read, too.
So the top shelf of my bookshelf is dedicated to my "yet to be read" queue. Let's have a look, shall we?
The books are sorted left to right by how long ago they were purchased or received... generally. Some of them are out of order, but not by much. Of course, because I'm an asshole, I read them right to left. So more than likely the books on the left will never be read.
- Shadow Claw, Gene Wolfe
- Perv, Jerry Stahl. (hidden by monkey)
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon. (hidden by monkey) Christmas present from my mother, because she thought the title was "cute".
- Coinlocker Babies, Rei Murakami. Purchased because I thought it was uh, Haruki Murakami and didn't realize my error til I was out the door... yeah. Not the same. Not the same at all.
- Sarah, JT LeRoy. I've read two of his other books, not sure I can take any more 13 year old boy getting fucked in the ass by truckers stories.
- Radio Free Albemuth, Phillip K. Dick
- Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby. the first few Hornby books were pretty good, right?
- Catch-22, Joseph Heller. Christmas present from Rik-u. One of these days I'll get to it...
- Song of the Silent Snow, Hubert Selby. I will probably never ever read this book.
- Feng's Space Bar and Grill, Steve Brust. Wrote To Reign in Hell, which was pretty decent. I'll finish this eventually.
- The Handmaiden's Tale, Margaret Atwood. Purchased at Michelle's insistence, couldn't get very far with it... I have serious issues reading women authors, unless they're minimalists. No doubt a feminist psychologist would have fun with that one...
- The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester. I'll finish this probably next month. Good stuff, just got shuffled about.
- True Names and Other Dangers, Verner Vinge. Purchased at solios's insistance. If the book didn't smell like bleach and candy, it would have been read by now.
- Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham. Another Rik-u Christmas present. I just can't seem to manage the motivation to read this. Probably the whole "OMG N OEZ THIS IS A CLASSIC U MUST READZ IT!" thing hanging over it. I'm really bad about that.
- Singularity Sky, Charles Stross. Amazon whim buy from a couple weeks ago. Will get to it eventually.
- Underworld, Don DeLillo. Bought this around New Years. Not sure what I was thinking. I managed to get through White Noise somehow, though the particulars of that effort elude me. The hundred pages describing a fucking baseball game may deter typical readers. Myself, I got through the baseball game part first and then put it down.
- The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler. I have no idea why this isn't read yet. I have no excuse.
- The Beach, Alex Garland. I liked The Tesseract so I picked this up somewhere. Still haven't got more than twenty pages into it.
- Chandler: Stories and Early Novels, Raymond Chandler. This is, as you can probably tell, a collection. I need to be less lazy. This is good stuff.
- Chandler: Later Novels and Other Writings, Raymond Chandler. See above.
- Hammett: Complete Novels, Dashiell Hammett. See above. Man, I suck.
- Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami. Murakami and I see to be mood partners... I love pretty much all of his work, but I can't just pick it up and read it, usually. I either have to be in some unfamiliar place (big surprise), or just in a disjointed sort of mood.
- Chapterhouse: Dune, Frank Herbert. The last book of the Dune series. Gods allow me to finish this series without going totally fuckin' apeshit. The fifth book, Heretics of Dune has yet to be acquired. Not a problem, though, as there's plenty of God Emperor to get through.
- Pashazade, Jon Courtenay Grimwood. The first book I read by Grimwood, ReMix was pretty freakin' super. Nice mix of Euro cyberpunk and trippy demi-sci-fi going on. The later books in that "series" were not nearly as awesome. I read the first twenty or so pages of this one a few nights ago and have high hopes.
So. Yeah. All this does is make me feel like a slacker. Meh.
The monkey was a birthday present from Michelle. Heh.
So God Emperor of Dune sure was crappy.
It was okay up until the point it became an engine for Frank Herbert to whinge on about sex and lost love.
Why must authors take a somewhat interesting idea (prescient kid with the genetic memory of all of his ancestors takes the reins of humanity's fate in his hands for several thousand years) and make it fucking stupid in ways that are not only completely avoidable, but ways you'd have to go out of your way to run into them?
I would suspect I was just focusing on the stupid sex/love stuff, perhaps unfairly, except that it was hammered into the reader for the last third of the book.
kthx! No doubt I will trudge on with Heretics but only after a respite in the form of Pashazade and perhaps one of the Chandler collections.
Just finished House of Leaves. It took me long enough to really Get It. It wasn't until Navy is in the house, burning the book for light as he reads it, page by page... 736 pages minus the 26 he read presumably before going back into the house.
That was when it all finally clicked.
Often I get annoyed by the epiphany, figuring out the "trick" of a story.
But even figuring it out (and having it all confirmed reading the mother's letters in the appendix), there was still a number of levels left, a lot of complexity still there.
The annoying text layout being explained as it was was also very satisfying.
I am surprised by how much I enjoyed this.
And Poe's Haunted seems so much... more now.
Something I caught... on p. 320, first paragraph:
"Regrettably, Tom fails to stop at a sip. A few hours later he has finished off the whole fifth as well as half a bottle of wine. He might have spent all night drinking had exhaustion not caught up with me."
Typo? An ommission by Zampano? Johnny unable to not transpose "me" for "him" out of guilt for what happened to Lude?
Questions! Go MZD.
Just finished The Professor and the Madman, which on the heels of Homicide might suggest some sort of new trend in my reading habits... I tend to stray from anything resembling histories, though I've said on numerous occasions that I wouldn't mind reading up on a few of those war things.
The book tells dual stories: On one hand you have the tragic tale (though certainly less tragic than some so afflicted) of the schizophrenic Dr Minor, a retired Army surgeon who served during the Civil War, and on the other, you have the building of the Oxford English Dictionary. The editor during this period, Dr. James Murray, plays a significant role in the book as well -- one I wouldn't have minded reading more about. Especially his earlier years, teaching himself whatever caught his fancy.
A relatively short read, clocking in under three hundred pages, I was somewhat surprised by how much I enjoyed both the story of the mad Dr. Minor and the OED. I'm certainly not someone who has ever just opened up a dictionary and started reading words, and while I often find myself wondering how in the world a certain word or phrase ever came to be, I haven't ever made a jump into actually looking it up.
Overall, The Professor and the Madman is simply a facet into the 70+ years the OED took to get published, but one that can be used, no doubt, to generate further interest in its history, and into the period of history which caused it to come to be.
Worthwhile, pleasant, quick read.
(Total books read this year: 25. bah!)
I've been reading Cryptonomicon for the third (or fourth?) time, as it's something I'm guaranteed to enjoy. I just got past the bit where Detachment 2702 is in Italy sowing misinformation.
Bobby Shaftoe and Enoch Root are at the observation point above the bay talking about their previous mission, which involved dumping a guy mocked up as a German, with papers written in German, out of a plane into Axis-controlled territory.
"Fortunately," Root continues, "I am somewhat familiar with the language."
"Oh, yeah -- your mom was a Kraut, right?"
"Yes, a medical missionary," Root says, "in case that helps dispel any of your preconceptions about Germans."
"And your dad was Dutch."
"That is correct."
"And they both ended up on Gaudalcanal why?"
"To help those who were in need."
"I also learned some Italian along the way. There's a lot of it going around in the Church."
"Fuck me," Shaftoe exclaims.
"But my Italian is heavily informed by the Latin that my father insisted that I learn. So I would probably sound rather old-fashioned to the locals. In fact, I would probably sound like a seventeenth-century alchemist or something."
"Could you sound like a priest? They'd eat that up."
"If worse comes to worst," Root allows, "I will try hitting them with some God talk and we'll see what happens."
Now, I hadn't caught the "seventeenth-century alchemist" comment the first few times I'd read the book. Considering that I'd started The Baroque Cycle sometime before going back and reading Crypto again, that's pretty silly of me.
See, the thing is, Enoch Root is a seventeenth-century alchemist, in The Baroque Cycle.
I love this book.
Every time I read Stephenson books, I am reminded of how much I fucking love them. Having only read The Baroque Cycle the once, with many months between each of the books, I am somewhat excited to see if they hold up as well as Cryptonomicon in terms of sheer re-readability. I am almost certain that they do.
I'm about halfway through Charles Stross' Iron Sunrise, the sequel to Singularity Sky (which I enjoyed a great deal -- a good fun scifi romp). I've been noticing some oddities in his prose and terminology however:
- The term "warblogger" is used instead of "war correspondent".
- The London Times is referred to as "the blog.
- Chapter 17 is titled Set Us Up the Bomb: An All Your Base reference for those of you who have somehow managed to forget the last four or five years.
- One of the characters actually says they've been "grepping the newsfeeds". grep is a UNIX tool used for searching text files.
Stross' books alternate between hard scifi and silly fun, so I'm not at all surprised at the above, I guess. It's just sort of... jarring.
I just started A Fire Upon the Deep yesterday, and wow.
Vernor Vinge is so very totally awesome.
Y'know, some authors are just good, like say Vernor Vinge or Paul Di Filipo or Stephen King. Others are a goddamn inspiration, like William Gibson, Philip K Dick, Neal Stephenson, or Neil Gaiman.
I started reading Anansi Boys last night.
Yeah. It's freakin' great.
Finished Anansi Boys last night. There are more than a few simularities to American Gods, from a plot/character perspective, but the tone of the book is markedly different. At it's core, it's a story about Anansi's son, not Odin's, and the writing reflects that.
Also, it seemed rather short.
I enjoyed it, it was a lot of fun, but it didn't give me the same happy that American Gods did. Definitely worth reading, though.
About halfway through A Feast For Crows, the fourth book of A Song of Ice and Fire. So far it's been a lot of manuevering and scheming. Tyrion has yet to make an apperance, and one of the more likeable characters from the previous book was killed with a word, in trade for a sad little lordling, and didn't get a chance to show up at all.
Martin really likes fucking with his readers.
So while there's a lot of "How can we screw over the good guys even more?", one can only hope it's all in preparation for when Dany finally returns to Westeros to take the Iron Throne back. At which time there will be supreme ass-kicking and hopefully some goddamn Justice.
Assuming Martin doesn't decide to just kill her and her dragons in the next book.
According to Pete, this book ended up being so long that he cut it in half -- A Feast for Crows takes place entirely in Westeros and the Braavos Islands; the next book, A Dance with Dragons, will apparently take place entirely in the eastern kingdoms and focus on Dany.
My biggest complaint about Feast is an almost complete lack of Jon Snow and Brandon Stark. We're given no clue as to what's going on with the Others, and we only have sailor rumors as to what Dany and her armies are up to in the east. It's certainly necessary that all these pieces be put into place, and it should only be taken as a compliment I'm pissed off about not getting any Jon, Brandon, Dany, Tyrion, etc, etc, time. Thankfully there's a lot of Jamie.
It's worrying that right now my favorite character is someone who started off as an obvious villian, but has become someone you really root for, and hope they can redeem themselves. It's rare that you see character development go in this particular direction, and almost never done so well. Yeah, Jamie, I'm talking about you. You fucker.
I'm reading Gridlinked by Neal Asher at the moment, and wow, cats, whoever edited this book must have spent a good ten seconds on it. I'm confused how the author could have overlooked some of this stuff.
The story itself is mediocre, as are the characters and the prose itself. I suppose it could get better, but what it really could have done with is a good deal of Editing with a capital "What the fuck? Cut this, fix this, and rewrite all of this."
That said, I've spent maybe two hours on it and I'm almost done. Something to be said for a simple little scifi romp. First book of the new year, too. Go fig.
Finished reading Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton the other day. It just felt like a re-hash of The Night's Dawn Trilogy, Fallen Dragon, and large chunks of The Hyperion Cantos (though that might just be because Simmons did it so well it's hard not to view expatriated AIs, worlds connected via wormhole gateways, yadda yadda, without thinking of Hyperion). Ozzie's walking the "Silfen Pathways" was nothing at all like Raul Endymion's traveling the old World Web planets on his quest to get back to Aenea.
He also seems to have ripped the Skoderiders (the plant aliens) from Vinge's Zones of Thought books.
Plenty of the characters were the same typecast as from Night's Dawn as well, which was super annoying. How many rich girls put down on their luck by The Man turned Super Evil Bitch turned Heroine can you do?
So... 900 pages of regurgitation? The reviewers comparing it to the Dune or Foundation series must have been thinking of the later, gods-awful books.
Reading through In the Country of the Blind, by Michael Flynn, now. It seems to have an interesting premise at least, and The Wreck of "The River of Stars" was definitely good enough to give him another look.
Started reading the The TCP/IP Guide by Kozierok the other day. I'm not incredibly far into it (chapter five), but so far it could have more aptly been titled:
Which certainly isn't a bad thing. The text itself is very approachable. It would probably make a good textbook, or at least reference work, for a networking class.
I think my favorite bit is he goes out of his way to explain the why of things. For instance, notes on why ISO is ISO and not IOS (International Organization of Standards; actually not an acronym, taken from the Greek word isos, which means "equal"), or why hexadecimal is hex and not sexademical (as the convention is to use the Latin prefixes and not the Greek ones; IBM in the 50s decided that sex- was too risque and went with hex instead. "IBM being IBM -- especially back then -- everyone else followed suit.")
Little things like that make it worth reading to me. Good stuff so far. Apparently yet another good buy from No Starch Press.
I left work around 1600 yesterday, feeling like crap. Got home, crawled into bed, and read Max Barry's Company. It's The Big U for business. I enjoyed it quite a bit, even if Barry does have a problem with re-using characters. Old Max seem to have a worrying hard-on for the ultra-ambitious super-bitches with a three letter name, though.
The Big Secret (which wasn't so much foreshadowed at as explained with monkeys -- yay, monkeys!) is handed out on page 100. You spend the next 200 pages watching the protagonist, Buy Mitsui-- err, Jones, deal with the fact and how he's going to set things right. It's hard to tell if Barry was trying to keep it all somewhat plausible (he certainly has the ability to make things very implausible while still working in the story) enough to be even more disturbing, or if he felt that the events in the book were all he really needed to get his point across.
Or perhaps this isn't actually a work of fiction at all.
Having worked for a few incompetently-managed organizations myself, I can attest that some of what happens certainly seems possible; when I started at Cisco, I sat around for three or four weeks with absolutely nothing to do. I had no real access, no machines to maintain, nothing. I spent two weeks "spec'ing machines". That is, when I could find a chair. Some days all the chairs would be taken, some days there would be a dozen extras. Either they migrated or there were pinhole cameras watching my reactions every morning.
Reviewers are suggesting that if you're currently reading a book on management, put it down and pick up Company. I would add the caveat that you have to have a decent sense of humor for that to do any good. And well, MBAs being MBAs and marketroids being, well, marketroids...
Finished Cell a few hours ago. Very quick read. I don't particulary feel one way or another about it... It's Stephen King writes about telepathic zombies. It could also be referred to, perhaps, as The Stand: Very Lite Edition (With Added Zombies).
Essentially, some sort of signal is transmitted through the cell phone network, turning everyone who hears it into a bunch of psychopaths. They start attacking people around them, each other, etc. Eventually they start displaying some rather odd behavior and talents. We follow the protagonists as they escape from Boston and make their way north, to where one of their families hopefully managed to avoid what everyone starts calling the Pulse.
My favorite part, because I'm a nerd, is when the geeky twelve-year-old boy is explaining why he thinks the Pulse wiped everyone's brains out like a computer and they're all "rebooting."
"You study this stuff?" Clay asked.
"It's a natural outgrowth of my interest in computers and cybernetics," Jordan said, shrugging. "Also, I read a lot of cyberpunk science fiction. William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley --"
"Neal Stephenson?" Alice asked.
Jordan grinned radiantly. "Neal Stephenson's a god."
I thought that bit was fun, anyway.
Wait for the paperback, read it on the train.
Just realized I hadn't talked about Hammerjack. It's a very bad rip of Neuromancer, and a bad example of cyberpunk. Cyberpunk is not hard science fiction. Explaining (very badly, and showing you have no idea what you're talking about) what your hackers are using to hack into things is just going to create problems for your story. It's pointless, it won't hold up to time, and you come off sounding like a fool. Trying to describe networks in biological/ecological terms is laudable, but you sound all the worse when you can't pull it off.
I thought about enumerating all the plot points ripped from Neuromancer, but I'm having trouble caring enough to remember them. There were at least half a dozen major rips-offs. I don't mean ripped-off in the sense that Gibson's Neuromancer is the definitive work in the genre and thus everything that comes after is going to be derivative in some way. No, I mean he lifted actual plot points and devices, covered them in crap, and dumped them into his word processor.
The fact that the two authors on the blurb are Neal Asher (Gridlink) and Richard K. Morgan (the Takeshi Kovacs books, which are amazing in their mediocrity, yet I continue to read them for some reason, and Market Forces, which was Morgan trying really hard to write a Max Barry book or something) should have warned me, but eh. I would dump Morgan, Asher and now Giller into the unCyberpunk genre, but it brings to mind the whole 7-Up Un-Cola thing, and I happen to like 7-Up.
I'm not sure what annoys me more: The fact that this book got published, the fact that I read it, or the fact that there's going to be a sequel.
Probably that last bit, yeah.
A couple weeks ago I saw that Scott Westerfeld, who had written several ultra-violent scifi books back in the day, as well as Evolution's Darling (a book I enjoy quite a bit, but which has many scenes of what amounts of nano-tentacle AI-driven sex) and the Succession space opera series (one of which is called The Killing of Worlds), had started writing fiction for teenage girls.
Oh, I thought to myself, I gotta get me some of that.
Not too shocking, I suppose, but I really liked the first book in his latest trilogy, Uglies. It describes the typical dictato-utopia of the post-apocalypse, but he manages to pull it off so well not only do I not mind, I dig it. Even the annoying slang ("littlies", "uglies", "pretties") stopped being so annoying about a third of the way through.
The idea is that on everyone's 16th birthday they get made pretty: They have an operation which makes them absolutely perfect, physically. New pretties go live in New Pretty Town, across the water from Uglyville, and pretty much just party for a couple years. Eventually they become Middle Pretties and go live in the suburbs.
The world is cut up into various cities, as all the nation-states have long since collapsed (the citizens of the old U.S. are referred to as "Rusties", as all of their works are little more than rust), and each has its own particular philosophy.
The protagonist, a girl named Tally, is just a few weeks away from her own operation when she meets a girl named Shay. Tally is the typical ugly: She wants her operation; like most uglies being pretty is all she's ever wanted, even while mocking their happy-go-lucky lifestyle across the river. Shay is different: Some of her friends defected to go live in the wilderness, to a rumored place called the Smoke, and she wants to join them. She finally does, leaving a note for Tally (who definitively does not want to go) with instructions on how to find her.
Tally of course gets picked by the pretty cops and is coerced into going and finding Shay and bringing in the rest of the Smokies.
I think what I liked most about it that when Tally is fucking up, she knows she is: She has no delusions about it. When she's confronted with the (somewhat obvious to the reader) truth about the pretty operation, she doesn't shy away from it. She's a tough little nut, and hard women are the surest way of making sure I'll like a story.
It's a very quick read, and enjoyable in the same way that His Dark Materials was, though without the scope or, I think, the heart of HDM. Lyra was another tough little girl, but flawed in so many believable ways you couldn't help but love her. Watching Lyra grow up through the series was very literally awe-inspiring and I hated Pullman at the end of the books, even as I was staring at the last page for minutes after finishing it, hating more than it was over. I can't think of anything in the "young adult" genre that even remotely compares to His Dark Materials (or any other genre, frankly; HDM is just awesome), but this Westerfeld series isn't anything to scoff at.
The next book in the series is called, not surprisingly, Pretties, and I've already ordered it. The final volume, Specials, will be out in May, and it has been pre-ordered.
(I have a stack of about fifteen books on my shelf at work, waiting to be brought home. I have another ten or so stacked up here. I just don't seem to have much time to read anymore...)
After spending literally twelve hours with my head stuck in code, I gave in and finished off Westerfeld's Uglies trilogy. The last book, Specials, came in earlier this week, but I've been too busy to do any real reading. Also, I accidentally spoiled a bit of it and was afraid he was going to make me really angry.
It's a pretty kick-ass piece of young adult fiction, I gotta say. I was very happy with it, all around. Got through it in around three hours, so I'm sure I'm going to have to go back and read the whole series again at some point. I wasn't too sure if the tunnel-vision about the rest of the world (you only interact with the rebels and one other city) in the series was intentional because that's how the characters saw things (which seems likely), or simply because most cities were like New Pretty Town, only somewhat less... extreme. I suppose both. I wouldn't have minded a bit more exposition there, though.
The nicest thing about Westerfeld's YA books -- and this might be odd for me to say -- is that he doesn't talk down to his audience. Sometimes he goes a little overboard with the Youth Culture stuff (although in Uglies it was a major plot point), but he is really all about writing good fiction with good messages, and not spoon-feeding it to his readers. Other books aimed at teenagers aren't quite so awesome about that aspect of story-telling. You can also tell, reading his blog, that he really enjoys catering to this particular audience. Dig around, he explains why. It's certainly reasoning that's hard to ague against.
While I definitely enjoyed the series, I can't help but wonder what he could have done with it if he'd written it as adult fiction... something along the lines of Evolution's Darling or the Succession series. I suspect it would have been damned icy.
Regardless, though, highly recommended if you're into teenage girls going on crazy adventures, enduring extreme relationship issues, having their brains screwed with, and generally saving the world.
Kinda stuff that makes me miss Buffy. Mmf.
I'm almost done reading The Draco Tavern, by Larry Niven. It's a collection of short stories narrated by the proprieter of the bar the book is named for; it's the only place on Earth where visiting aliens can pony up to the oak plank and order... whatever it is that gets them off.
The stories are for the most part entertaining, though there are a few .. I'm not sure what to call them. King did it in Cell with his references to Sluggy Freelance and cyberpunk authors. In gaming or comics, it's called fanservice. I suppose the term applies just as well to science fiction.
Anyway, in one of the stories, an alien astrophysicist is on Earth trying to get people to wonder where all the missing mass is. He's convinced that the most advanced of the various races, the Chirps, is using "vacuum energy" (from the creation/destruction of virtual particles) to power their drives, because there's no mass, in their starships, for fuel.
So this alien is sitting in a bar, playing Grim Fandango, on a PowerBook.
If some other author, maybe Lethem (back when Lethem wrote quirky science-fictiony type books and wasn't trying so hard to be Don DeLillo), had written that, he could have pulled it off. But not Niven. It just felt sort of awkward, like the first time you hit on a girl. You're pretty sure you're fucking up badly, but it's far too late to pull stick and get the hell out. Or maybe when you're sitting in a train station and suddenly realize that for the last two minutes you've been humming along to Ashlee Simpson and everyone is staring at you, but no one is saying anything. (Except maybe in New York City, where you'd be berated appropriately by anybody in hearing distance, regardless of the person's age or race. Even Granny's would give you shit about it in New York.)
Or maybe it's just kind of creepy, like how Third Eye Blind has that song where he's all checking up on Suicide Girls forums. At first you're like "ha ha, that's pretty funny," and then you realize the guy is old, and it's just really kind of gross. Or like that Ben Folds song where he's singing about how it sucks to grow up and he doesn't want to grow up and goddamn dude, just like, go back to singing about abortions or angry dwarves and shit, please. I could get into that.
Though now that I think about it, being 26 and still watching anime and listening to music that kids with stupid haircuts are listening to... that's pretty fucking creepy, too. But I don't live in my parent's basement (they don't even have a basement, ha ha), so it's a couple orders of magnitude less creepy. Or so I've been telling myself every morning where I actually manage to crawl out of bed, mostly to stop the inconsolable weeping.
But yeah, overall. It's entertaining. The book, I mean. Except for the WTC story. That, again, was kind of awkward, though in a totally different way. Maybe like humming an entire Ashlee Simpson album, in church, or a high school boy's locker room. Hmm.
Just finished Scott Westerfeld's The Last Days. Very quick read, very entertaining. It would have been way more awesome if he had made it a trilogy like Uglies or The Midnighters, but it's hard to really complain. It was Good.
If you are not reading Westerfeld, you probably should be.
After work tonight I had to go fix a box at ATX which had blown a drive. By "fix" I mean I just pulled the drive and stopped all the services that lived on it. It's the old mirrorshades box, which sees only little use these days. I'll have to go sort it out tomorrow. The only partition on the blown drive that matters is
/var/spool (and of course all the system was really doing is MX...), and it shows up half the time so hopefully I'll be able to just throw it in the freezer and copy or something.
It may motivate me to throw Solaris 10 on the box and move the rest of the MXes I have to support over to it (philtered, ghetto, PWF). Yay for zones, maybe.
After getting the box online, I walked down to Borders to pick up some books to tide me over while waiting for the rest of the Peter Watts books to come in (Blindsight is a GREAT read. You should all go read it. It is free. But then you should buy it because reading stuff online sucks and it is absolutely worth giving him money for.)
Apparently a "new" PKD book came out last month: Voices from the Street.
I stopped by Borders yesterday to stock up on fiction, which is lucky as I'd gotten woken up around 0600 this morning by some system crying about nothing. Having been woken up three hours before that for similar reasons (Must. Fix. Alerting. Again), you'd think I'd go back to sleep. But no, that was evidently not in the cards. Thankfully there were books to consume.
Among other things, got another John Scalzi book, which closes out the Colonial Union series. The Last Colony is some damn fine story-telling. Weirdly, I had just re-read the first two books, Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades, over the last week without realizing another had come out. Serendipilicious.
The Scalzi books are highly recommended.
Even more weirdly, one of my whim purchases, Time's Child, is written by Rebecca Ore, who currently works at Drexel here in Philly.
Pretty sure this is the first time that's happened. Odd.
And another "Old Man's War" universe book: The Sagan Diary. A novella-length story told from Jane Sagan's perspective through her diary.
The reviews certainly suggest it is something I will enjoy.
Charles Stross had a short story collection republished last year: Toast. It's stuff from the 90s, and overall it's some great stuff. The first entry in the collection (Antibodies) is definitely my favorite, though. Also has the story that became the first chapter of Accellerando (a novel I definitely did not care for; but the spiritual sequel, Glasshouse, got pretty damn awesome if you let it). Ex-KGB sapient space lobsters. No. Really. It works much better standalone, I think.
I ordered copies for random people. I should do that with Meiville's Looking For Jake which is also full of some amazing stories.
I think I need to go back and re-read Stanislaw Lem's The Cyberiad. I was relating one of the stories to #215 and managed to get it completely backwards. Oof.
Old age. Memory is sliding even further into nowhere.
I will be taking copies of Fight Club and his (newly delivered to me) Rant
Peter Watts previews:
I've just finished reading a draft of R. Scott Bakker's soon-to-be-released Neuropath. Holy shit.
No. He sets it a mere decade into the future, in the context of a serial killer police procedural. Instead of aliens and freaks he uses sexy FBI agents and divorced psychologists. This guy is basically writing about Blindsight-type issues, but is aiming them squarely at a da Vinci Code audience. He is dealing with the same existential questions, but has rendered them accessible for beach readers. He has done exactly what I would have done, if only I'd been smart enough.
Peter who? Peter fuckin' awesome Watts, is who. You should all read his work.
I've read a handful of the books on the list, and have looked at most of them on amazon. Social consumerism is really creepy.
That list also reminds me that I'm really looking forward to the next book in the Jump 225 series.
At First BBQ Of The Summer (pt. 1) yesterday, Nick Kirsch mentioned that Max Barry (Jennifer Government, Company) had written a blog post reviewing books he has not actually read, and why.
I find it somewhat hilarious that I have yet to read Phineas Poe for the exact same reason.
I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to books I have not gotten around to reading, for one reason or another. Some have been on there for years. When it comes to my reading list, seniority obviously does not matter.
Also happy to say that Max Barry is back on my daily reads, even if he gave a positive review to Hammerjack, which was pretty awful.
Not sure how he managed to sneak off my bookmarks.
The only good thing going right now is I have found a little bit of time, among the retarded amount of work I have been doing, to start reading Pattern Recognition again. Partially in preparation for the release of Spook Country, but mostly because it is so very full of the good.
Gibson's prose is one of the few things that almost makes me glad I have such an awful memory. It means when I read a passage and think "That is beautiful. I want to remember that", I can't. When someone asks me to quote my favorite lines, I typically can't. "I can't remember anything specifically, but trust me, it's amazing" is sometimes not very convincing.
It also mean, however, that whenever I re-read one of his novels I have no choice but to approach the work almost completely fresh, in terms of the writing itself. I remember plot points and characters, I remember what happens but individual lines, paragraphs, that make me close the book for a moment, just to reflect on them, are always new.
And that's something worth having.
...as if reflected off wings of receding dream.
William Gibson Agony Podcast Interview
it's funny, when gibson talks, and i remember this from his talk at the library a few years ago...
he really understands what the interviewer is trying to ask even when they're being vague
and answers the question above and beyond what anyone could have even imagined
his insight is uber
I hadn't thought of it that way though, in regards to interviews.
he just answers questions above and beyond and gives insight into his comments more than probably anyone i've ever heard
he's just very far from snooty
where he is in the position of being allowed to be snooty
I love that he's sticking with the PKD theme for the latter series.
Makes me want to go and re-read The Sagan Diary.
After months of Amazon recommending it to me, I finally got around to picking up and reading The Yiddish Policemen's Union. I am not awake enough to write a real review, but suffice to say it was highly enjoyable.
If you enjoy quirky noir, you'll love it.
I'll definitely be picking up Chabon's other books.
Palahniuk's new book, Snuff, came in earlier this week. Via courier. From amazon. Very weird, that.
The book is ... I dunno. It's not bad. It's somewhat entertaining. But it feels like a half-assed effort, compared to Rant (which actually felt like a Work as opposed to this, which in the author's words is just a "fast, dirty book").
I'm not sure I'd recommend anyone bother reading it, honestly. Unless you aren't tired yet of Palahniuk talking about sex juice, in which case, this is all for you.
Or if you need 101 ways to refer to masturbation. Never know when that level of uniqueness might be socially useful.
A few months ago, I picked up ReWired, a "post-cyberpunk" collection. There's some good stuff in there (along with some annoying stuff, coughDoctorowcough), such as Michael Swanwick's The Dog Said Bow-Wow, a really, really fun story of two transhumanist con artists. I enjoyed the story enough I picked up one of his collections, and a few of his other books.
(Apparently, I'd read some of his stuff before, even: He co-wrote Dogfight with William Gibson.)
Last week I finished Stations of the Tide, which was excellent. An incredibly tight (around 250 pages!), well-told story with some really great ideas.
I have more of his books on the way, and I would really suggest you check out the above link to The Dog Said... and then start ordering his back catalog.
You might want to check out the stories he has online, as well.
(Also, he's a Philadelphian!!)