Saturday, April 25, 2009

March/April Bookmarks Magazine

Here are the books that look good from Bookmarks Magazine.

Book of Chameleons - Jose Eduardo Agualusa
Deathe with Interruptions - Jose Saramago
Elegance of the Hedgehoge - Muriel Barbery
Metropole - Ferenc Karinthy
Little Giant of Aberdeen County - Tiffany Baker
Gridlinked- Neal Ahser
Suicide Collectors- David Oppengaard
Daemon - Daniel Suarez
Lush Life - Richard Price (Clockers)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

History of Computers and the Internet

When I am in the mood to read about the history of computers and the internet, here are two books to try.

Dealers of Light - Michael A. Hiltzik

Where Wizards Stay Up Late - Katie Hafner

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

by Robert A. Heinlein
Years ago Robert A. Heinlein was one of my favorite authors and even though this book had been sitting on my shelf for many years I hadn't gotten around to reading it. I finally read it as a book selection for my book club, the first sci fi book ever in its 8 year existence- and I didn't even select it. Published in 1966 it is described as "His classic, Hugo Award winning novel of libertarian revolution." The moon was used as a penal colony by Earth but was also responsible for growing a large percentage of the food consumed by the Earth. The story is of a lunar revolution by a computer, a computer technician, a scholar and an agitator to free its citizens from the control of the Warden and the Lunar Authority.

I must say that I had a very hard time getting into the story at first because of the writing style. For some reason the dialog was not written in complete sentences and the lack of articles or pronouns was hard for me to read. I knew what it was saying it just seemed wrong and took me out of the story. About a 100 pages in however either the author gave up this style or I became engrossed in the story line and failed to notice it any more and from then out I loved it. My favorite character was the self aware computer Mike who was instrumental in the rebellion but also had a fascinating personality. The computer's quest to understand humans, such as his attempts to understand jokes, made for an interesting meditation on what it means to be human. This is a novel of ideas, especially about politics and different forms of societies but the novel also had plenty of suspense and action.

I enjoyed this book but it does not rank up there with some of my favorite Heinlein such as Stranger in a Strange Land, Time Enough for Love, the Cat Who Walked Through Walls, Friday or Job. I was very supprised that my book club's first foray into sci fi was successful and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

April Wishlist

When ever I come across a book that I would like to add to my wish list at work I email myself the info. This is my accumulated list from emails from July 08 to present. It appears to be heavy on sci fi and antarctica.

Blood and Ice by Robert Masello

City of Dreaming Books – Walter Moers

– Charles Stross

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town
– Cory Doctorow

Alchemy of Stone

Secret History of Moscow – Ekaterina Sedia

Antarktos Rising – Jeremy Robinson

Raising Atlantis – Thomas Greanias

Terra Incognita, Travels in Antarctica – Sara Wheeler

Antarctic, Life on the Ice (Traveler’s Tales) – Susan Fox Rogers

Alfred Bester – Stars My Destination, Demolished Man

Shadow of the Scorpion (Polity Novel Prequel) – Ken Asher
1st Polity Novel – Gridlinked

The Android’s Dream – John Scalzi
Also Old Man’s War.

Stealing Light - Gary Gibson

The Culture series by Iain M. Banks - First one Consider Phlebas

Love in the Ruins - Walker Percy

Fallen Angels - Niven/Pournelle

Altered Carbon

by Richard K Morgan

I read Altered Carbon for Carl V’s SciFi Experience but then life got crazy and I didn’t get a chance to write a review. It is hard scifi combined with a classic noir detective novel. (I have seen someone else refer to it as cyber pulp which fits exactly.) Takashi Kovac, a former envoy, gets hired by a very wealthy Meth (a person who lives a very long time) on Earth to find out if he really committed suicide or whether it was murder. The gentlemen isn’t dead in any case because his consciousness is backed up periodically and he has cloned bodies on the ready to slip into but he cannot remember what happened between his last backup and his death.

I really enjoyed it but was a little disappointed that it was really just a detective story that happens to be set in the future. I would have liked a little more emphasis and exploration of the interesting world that the author created and the implications for the new technologies. The memories of a person are stored in a stack and those memories can be resleeved, as long as the stack is not destroyed, either in a clone of your body or a totally different body. Of course for the super rich you can have remote back up of your stack and can go on indefinitely . People no longer have to travel. You can just have your consciousness transmitted and then placed in another sleeve. If you are convicted of a crime your stack is placed in storage and your body can be rented out to others for use. Of course the ordinary deceased citizen may find his family hard pressed to afford either a synthetic body for him or a virtual world to inhabit or be stuck in storage until they can save enough money for you to be resleeved.

I enjoyed the fast paced convoluted plot and the author’s view of the future. The characters were not particularly well developed but then again neither were Dashiell Hammett’s. I especially liked the Artificial Intelligence that ran the hotel in which Kovac stayed. I found the hints about Kovac’s past on Harlan’s world very interesting and was disappointed that the events of the novel were confined to Bay City (obviously San Francisco). It was not quite what I expected but I did enjoy it. Someday I would like to read the sequel, Broken Angels that takes Kovac on adventures outside of earth and supposedly deals with some of his back story.