30 December 2011

Fiction Roundup

1Q84, by Haruki Murakami. As usual with Murakami's books, explaining the plot is neither necessary nor helpful. And, as usual, 1Q84 is endlessly imaginative, entertaining, and a pleasure to read. The story seems to hang together better and have more of a resolution than Murakami's others. Also, there are a number of structural symmetries that add some interesting layers. All in all, somewhat haunting, and recommended.

The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson. I felt a sudden urge to re-read this one while on vacation, and fortuitously, I found a copy in a used bookstore. A bespoke book-like educational device, originally commissioned for an aristocrat's daughter, instead falls into the hands of a girl who lives in the slums. One of the science fiction novels that not only presents a plausible extrapolation— a story of what we could do with technology— but is almost begging to be read (in places) as an example of what we should do with technology. Touching, and perhaps my favorite Neal Stephenson; recommended.

REAMDE, by Neal Stephenson. A computer virus triggers a chain of events in a WoW-like computer game, which causes the Russian mob to start a manhunt… and that's to say nothing of the Islamic terrorists… Stephenson's prose is characteristically fun to read at a local scale, but the world he builds here does not possess the same level of sheer awesomeness as much of his previous work. The final showdown, too, is just too long. It is, however, an enjoyable read.

A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge. Humans playing with fire (in the form of computer software) get burnt when they instantiate a super-intelligent entity. One expedition is forced to crash-land on a world of primitive dog-like beings. Vinge's brand of transhumanism, as well as his many inventions for this story (for example, the Tines, the dog-like creatures, which have a distributed pack mind of sorts), make for a fun read. However, I soon got tired of Vinge's flowerly and/or pretentious prose, inserted in places where human readers are meant to be incapable of actually comprehending the transcendent premise. In a way this genre seems to be a form of literary cheating. I could have forgiven that, but a book that is so epic in scope seems to me to also require a much better conclusion than this one had. It was, though, enjoyable enough that I am reading its sequel.

1 comment:

  1. Prequel? (A Deepness Upon the Sky?)

    AFUTD was one of those books that has about 5 times as many ideas as a similar-lenth book by most authors, but makes most of them work anyway. Perdido Street Station is another.

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