Archive for the 'printed words' Category

LibraryThing

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

As someone who has too many books, LibraryThing is all kinds of awesome. I’m likely going to use it for my videogames, as well.

Related to this, I’ve recently begun reading and buying ebooks. I’m beginning to wonder how I’m going to catalogue those.

Perspective, meet paper

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m thinking about books I’ve read before – books I don’t normally recall during a normal day, good books, books I’ve read years and years ago, some as far back as fifteen years back. For example: Do androids dream of electric sheep by Dick and Gibson’s Neuromancer - well, Gibson generally, really. There’s a feeling that maybe I should revisit them. Some of it has to be just age and a general understanding of the world, a feeling that perhaps I’d understand the novels differently now, which I’m sure I would. After all, I was a teenager back then.

But the fact that this feeling has just now hit me, and across the board, not just with a given book, is what’s given me pause. I’m thinking it’s because of the traveling. I’ve visited countries I haven’t known before, alone, and met a lot of new people. I have widened my world view considerably, albeit in a corporate context and small doses. It’s hard to admit that I’ve been so tightly in my own confines that this little amount of travel would’ve opened me up, broadened my perspective, but it really feels like it. I really didn’t expect any new experience to open my existing heritage to this kind of re-interpretation, but what do you know.

Bookshelf: World War Z

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

Max Brooks’ novel of mankind’s aftermath of the so-called zombie war makes for absorbing reading. The work labels itself an “oral history” and makes every effort to read like an actual debrief of a war mankind barely survived. The concept is that zombies spread all over the world and mankind needs to fight them off.

Brooks uses an interview style which provides a perfect blend of narrative, discussion of “facts”, personal accounts and vivid imagery. I found myself forgetting its fictional nature many times, almost about to tell tales of the zombie war to people unfamiliar with the book. Brooks has conjured very effective scenes and people, stuff you like to tell to people, wondering if this is how it would play out. It’s certainly very believable.

They’re making a movie about this and for once I’m somewhat positive about a forthcoming film adaptation. With a documentary style it just might repeat the book’s effectiveness.

Bookshelf: Revelation Space (Alastair Reynolds)

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

It was interesting reading the Revelation Space series’ debut title last. Some parts of the whole felt better before reading it!

It is a fine scifi epic, competently written, although full of signposts to the effect of “this is my debut book” and “this is the world I created”. Some details are just naive and there is far too much exposition, especially toward the end. The closing is somewhat let down by over-explaining things.

In a way I liked the series more before reading this premiere part. Things like the Inhibitors, the Captain and the Caches and much of the characters felt better when you had to piece together the back story from clues. I’m recalling from the English editions here – I read the Finnish edition of Revelation Space, so pardon me if I got the terms incorrectly!

While Reynolds’ technique is not honed yet here, the story is brought to a suitably massive conclusion, with perfectly serviceable tying up of clues in the process.

Even a somewhat clumsy Revelation Space “new” space opera is still delicious. There are neutron stars, cultures destroyed aeons ago, plots spanning a million years, warping of time-space, computer matrixes with the power of gods, old-fashioned violence and cybernetic rats. I couldn’t put the book down for the last hundred pages or so.

Indeed, I feel like maybe I should embark on a re-read of the rest of the series now.

Bookshelf: That Old Ace In The Hole (Annie Proulx)

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

I got Annie Proulx’s That Old Ace In The Hole (2002) for Christmas from my parents. I didn’t know what to expect, since the author’s name didn’t ring a bell. Proulx won a Pulitzer for her novel The Shipping News, filmed by Lasse Hallström in 2001. I haven’t seen the movie. I have seen Ang Lee’s 2005 movie Brokeback Mountain, though, which is based on Proulx’s short story in a 2000 collection titled Close Range: Wyoming Stories.
It’s a very engaging tale, in many respects foremost a story. It concerns a man called Bob Dollar who’s scouting for real estate to buy – although actually he’s just lost and looking for himself. The plot itself is naive and I dare say consciously so. It all evokes an aura of a story you might hear told, much like many of the stories told to the protagonist over the course of the novel. It carries a tangibly strong feel, you really get a sense for the hot and arid desert towns depicted.

When I began reading the book, I really didn’t care for the setting, but it’s testament to the writing that now I find the desolate American deserts highly interesting. Recommended. Good summer vacation reading, somewhat out of place in the Finnish winter.

Bookshelf: Absolution Gap

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

Alastair Reynolds’ concluding work in his Revelation Space series is the first book in the series to feel like a sequel. Indeed, you won’t get much out of it without prior exposure to the overall story.

As usual, Reynolds has two main storylines interweaving though the book, set at different times but concentrating on the same location. This being a universe of slower than light space travel, those separating decades can evaporate over the course of one interstellar passage in cryogenic sleep.

The bigger story pulls together the ongoing destinies of the Revelation Space central cast. It does so in a satisfying manner, but there is an undercurrent of wrapping things up, which takes away from the overall value of the story.

The other story is all about the titular Absolution Gap and is much more interesting than the overarching plot. it is set on a planet orbiting a gas giant. The gas giant has disappeared for an eyeblink some dozens of times over the past centuries. This has led to churches forming on the world, who take it as their duty to watch the giant, waiting for another disappearance, hoping to get a glimpse of the divine. They literally stare at the planet all the time, using machines, medicine and drugs to keep their eyes open.

However, because of orbital drift, the churches need to be mobile to keep the giant in their view at all times. This has lead to a mass of tracked cathedrals, making their way across the planet to keep as directly below the gaint as possible. The story concerns a girl who makesher way to the cathedrals to look for her lost brother, but stumbles upon much bigger things. The moving cathedrals make a stunning backdrop for pretty basic intrigue.

Reynolds is by no means running out of ideas, and Absolution Gap is filled with cool stuff and great moments. It’s just its attempt at providing closure which undermines it.

Bookshelf: Century Rain

Friday, January 12th, 2007

I picked up Alastair Reynold’s novel Century Rain at the airport. I quite like the author; I’m still going through his earlier effort, Absolution Gap. (And haven’t read the latest, Pushing Ice.)

Century Rain doesn’t take place in the same Revelation Space continuum as the body of his work does. It is much simpler in terms of plot complexity and characters than his space opera outings are.

The book was a good holiday read, easily digested. It didn’t always feel convincing, though: it seemed to lack a character or two and there was a bit of running on empty. The portrayal of Paris in the 1950s didn’t really hold, either. I felt the author was dropping French names to sound authoritative, without success. The future stuff held some crunchy bits, but overall I was a little underwhelmed. Not a bad effort, but I was expecting more. In the end, it feels like the author needed a break.

(Re-posted from my old game blog on January 16, 2006.)

Bookshelf: And The Ass Saw The Angel

Friday, January 12th, 2007

Over my holiday I read a book by Nick Cave which I got for Christmas from a friend. I had seen it on another friend’s bookshelf, but never got around to loan it. Which is just as well, I hate returning (good) books to their owners. I read the Finnish edition, Kun aasintamma näki Herran enkelin.

Cave’s writing is very fluid. The story drags in mud and ugly (very ugly) things, but the writing rolls on independent of its subject matter. I wouldn’t recommend this to everybody, but it’s very much worth checking out. It feels good to read, even if the portrayed proceedings make you feel ill. It’s all about one setting and one overall feeling to it, which pull the novel together much in the way of some of my other favorites, like James Ellroy’s American Tabloid. It’s more about the way it’s told than the story itself.

(Re-posted from my old game blog on January 17th, 2006)

Bookshelf: Pattern Recognition

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

William Gibson may need no introduction for the average tech-savvy people, but the cyberpunk movement’s creator’s outings since the famed Neuromancer (anyone remember the videogame?) have been lacklustre. So it was with interest that I noted his latest novel in Edge magazine’s typically noteworthy book pickings.

Pattern Recognition covers a lot of ground. It’s set in the world of the highest calibre marketing, in the contemporary world, with no science fiction elements of any kind. Almost every scene could be straight from his cyberpunk novels, highlighting how far we’ve technologically come in twenty years.

Not surprisingly for Gibson, the characters remain a bit sketchy. The protagonist, CayceP (by her internet handle) , is good, but the others don’t convince. I couldn’t get any grip on the mysterious Bigend, for instance, and the documentarist Damien with her vain Russian girlfriend is too much of a caricature.

Nevertheless, the plot remains highly interesting. It ends abrutply and in an unsatisfactory way, but this is clearly the intention. The themes and issues at hand are thoroughly contemporary; it feels very much a novel of the day. There is guerrilla marketing, jet-lag, memes, global branding, Apple, the emerging eastern Europe and vintage computer hardware.

I read it some years after publication, which may explain why some details feel a little pasted-on, if charming, like the way the characters are introduced by what you’d come up with if you googled them. On the other hand, had I read this when No Logo was still fresh, maybe it would’ve felt too much like a copycat work of what’s hot. Maybe the central theme of the 9/11 terrorist attack’s wake will feel too anchored in its own time in the future, but right now it feels suitably in the history and enough in the world of today.

Gibson has always been a brilliant moodsetter and this work is no exception. Every single location evocates a strong emotion and a vivid snapshot. The writing is always fluid and I’d say more refined than in his earlier work.

Some far-fetched elements aside – like the Russian sisters – Pattern Recognition is a very believable, very humane work. Yes, its cast is cut from the same fabric as the cyberpunk heroes were (apart from CayceP) and yes, it throws money, travel across the globe and technology around at wild abandon, but it never loses focus. Very much recommended.