Thursday, October 12


I am cursed with a peculiar ailment of the mind: I read books very, very quickly. I get most of the detail from them, at least as long as I have the book in my hands; some things I miss, but I trap some of those on the next read through, which has the advantage then of being at least partially new.

For whatever reason, I've been reading a lot of books from the library in the past few weeks: here are some capsule reviews of my first time through them. Maybe I'll reread them in a year, see what's changed.

Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson — Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, stars go out, Earth is encased in a pseudomembrane that causes time on the inside to pass at 1 second for every 3.17 exterior years, boy gets girl back. Good science, better characterization, weak plotting at the final reveal.

Newton's Wake, by Ken Macleod — Earth goes through a singularity event that leaves the people left behind warring over weird and wonderful posthuman artifacts, not the least of which is a wormhole network and a gentle but firm refusal for causality to be violated even though faster-than-light travel is possible. A good space-opera romp, pleasantly absent of Mr. Macleod's eye-rollingly leftist politics.

The Thousandfold Thought, by R. Scott Bakker — Third in a Tolkien-scale fantasy epic, the conclusion to a tale that, while suffering a few of the standard high-fantasy delusions, manages some pretty interesting gyrations. Tedious in places; gripping in others. the latter outweight the former by a considerable margin.

Glasshouse, by Charlie Stross — Stross's books tend to be answers to hypothetical questions. "How would an interstellar metacivilization uninterested in faster-than-light travel but happy to use faster-than-light communication survive past the collapse of its member civilizations?" (Singularity Sky.) "What would conflict between weakly godlike posthuman Grand Intelligences look like to humans caught in the middle of it?" (Iron Sunrise.) "How would the world's governments react to the discovery that demons are real, and they can be summoned by doing a specific kind of mathematics?" (The Atrocity Archives.) "How does a society that allows perfect copying of humans, transporters-that-replicate, feel like to its members?" (Glasshouse.)

More to be added.


JeremyHussell said...

A fair number of Ken MacLeod's books don't have eye-rollingly leftist politics. This may be a case where we're mistaking the characters' politics for the author's politics. Evidence: The Stone Canal, which features a completely capitalist society. It's set in the same universe as The Star Fraction and The Cassini Division, both of which feature idealistic communism.

On the other hand, I might be better off using a different, less political series, as an example, since both societies mentioned are so libertarian that they begin to resemble each other.

And on the gripping hand, a brief review of Ken MacLeod's Usenet postings has convinced me that you're probably right about his personal politics after all. (Note the groups he posts in the most.)

Point conceded.

Pharaohmagnetic said...

I notce that you conspicuously left out Charles Stross' Accelerando. It deserves a full-size blogpost, so I'll get to that soon.