Sunday, July 29, 2012

More Reading

I don't actually read all the time. I do work (which does involve reading technical articles and books). I exercise -- biked 43.6 miles this morning, temperature not bad at all, but my legs are talking to me. There are actually several other blog posts rolling around my noggin, but, want to take these two books back to the library, so they go to the top of the stack.

"Black Hills", by Dan Simmons. Simmons has written award-winning science fiction, fantasy, mystery and horror. Lately he has been doing kind of magical realism with a lots of historical fun facts. "The Terror" was a British Northwest Passage expedition stranded in the ice (with weird eskimo gods running around), blogged here. "Drood" was cults in the London of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, who is the narrator (and author of "The Moonstone", considered the first detective novel).

This one is a young Native American who touches Custer right as he dies and who becomes infested with Custer's ghost. Several timelines, including one of Custer's, and the NA working on Mount Rushmore. I learned a lot about the Black Hills. In some ways tho, this novel seemed more straightforward than the prior two, which really kept you guessing as to what was going on. It also seemed a little shorter than it could have been (486 pages). There were a couple of threads, in particular that with the NA's wife, that seemed a little sketchy.

Still, Simmons cannot but produce a readable and enjoyable novel, which this is. I liked how he worked in a one sentence (anonymous) appearance by Richard Baedecker from "Phases of Gravity" (blogged here), and the Greek philosophy from "Ilium" and "Olympus". 4 stars.

"Eastern Standard Tribe", by Cory Doctorow (2004). I have been really enjoying his recent stuff, championing worker's rights for the digital. This story is more like a novella. The central character is reminiscent of Charles Stross's Manfred Manx -- every conversation winds up having several patentable ideas in it. It moves fast, a little sketchy, but great insight into modern tech. 4 stars.

Speaking of of Charles Stross, he and Doctorow are supposed to have a collaboration "The Rapture of the Nerds" out RSN. Definitely looking forward to that one.

Sunday, July 08, 2012


Just got back from the library, picked up 4 books. A new Dan Simmons, woo-hoo! The prior time I was there I only got into the B's before I had 2 books to read. Those were:
  • "Not Less Than Gods (The Company)", by Kage Baker. I think I've read most of Ms. Baker's Company stories. They're OK, semi-immortal superhero types are usually fun. This one is set in the 19th century, and kinds of twists itself around to get some steampunk thrown in. An OK read.
  • "The Sunborn", by Gregory Benford (2006). A sequel to "The Martian Race", which I enjoyed. Surprised I missed this, I normally keep up with Benford. This is a good read, with interesting ideas about non-CHON-based life forms.
I finished these while we were on a 4 day trip to Philadelphia for the wedding of an old, good friend of my youngest. She and I performed "Our Love Is Here To Stay". After six weeks of practicing on an electric guitar, all that the band there had was flattops. So lots of flubs chasing the flattop around my belly, but Christie sang beautifully, and the song was rich in emotional content and was very well received. That song was the last written by George Gershwin before his death. It first was used in a "Goldwyn Follies" movie in 1938. But it then got recycled as the main love theme of "An American In Paris" in 1951.

So on the flight home it was back to ebooks on the iPad.

  • "An Unexpected Twist", by Andy Borowitz. A whimsical short story about a near death experience that was a $0.99 kindle special. A quick and sweet read. He is very funny on Twitter (@BorowitzReport), and "The Borowitz Report" is a regular feature in Funny Times.
  • "The ChristWire Handbook". Based on a web site that satirizes fundamentalist christians so well that people didn't realize that it was a satire. I read the first two chapters, very funny. Probably read more in the future. This would make a good bathroom book -- I guess at some point there will be cheap tablets on the back of every toilet?!?!? This kindle book was a father's day gift from my oldest daughter - thanks!
  • "Religion for Atheists: A non-believers guide to the uses of religion", by Alain de Botton, who is a Swiss writer and philosopher living in Britain. I read the first chapter, disagreed with most of his premises and assumptions, and decided not to proceed further. I don't think we need religion for handling funerals, weddings or childbirth. I have been to totally non-religious versions of all of these and they work much better without having to artificially inject god into them. I did see a chapter named Community, and in raising our children without religion, I did miss the community that I had growing up, although we did have neighbors and the church of soccer. I will probably try the book again in the future. Also a gift from my oldest daughter.
  • "In Her Name: Omnibus" by Michael R. Hicks. Apparently three novels, "Empire", "Confederation", and "Final Battle", published as one ebook. Looks like it was $5.99 and I probably bought it based on the recommendation of some other sci fi author I follow. I almost put it down after the first page due to bad sentence structure. But it was the only thing I had to read on the plane, so I kept on. Not too bad really, it keeps you turning its 700 pages. Epic space opera, human confederation vs blue female warrior race of a 100,000 year old empire. Almost fantasy in that their empress has powers that are basically godlike. Oh, and the race is sexually compatible with humans -- so the "Avatar" movie fans will be into the blue warrior chicks -- who have upper and lower fangs for the vampire fans! Unfortunately as well, I believe it is showing "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" effect -- it has rape scenes, which I'd just as soon not have in my comic books. The ending of the book was really bad tho. It was like "OK, long enough, we're outta here!" What should have been at least several pages explanation of what was going on was instead a couple of shortish paragraphs. I guess I will rate it a solid "meh".