Saturday, August 13, 2005

Five Books

I mentioned in my last post (published about 10 seconds ago) that I read 5 books during the course of my vacation. They are:

1) The Darkness That Comes Before - I picked up this book about a month ago based on a pretty nifty looking cover and a number of reviews that hailed the author, R. Scott Bakker, as the next George R. R. Martin. This is apparently the first book in the Prince of Nothing series, and after reading the first book I will definitely pick up the second. I know at least a few people don't like to start unfinished series: if you're one of those people, don't buy this. But this is the first fantasy novel I've read in awhile that for once doesn't feel like a new spin on Medieval Europe... if anything, it feels Middle Eastern. Also, the comparison to Martin (author of the Song of Ice and Fire series, the best fantasy since Tolkien for my money) works here in the sense that Bakker knows how to draw a truly visceral response from the reader. Excellent stuff.

2) Perdido Street Station - The second book by China Mieville, a relatively new face in the sci-fi genre, and the first book I've ever read by him. A coworker (Jason) lent me this book, saying it just couldn't keep his interest. The prose is thick and murky like New Crozubon itself, the fictional city in which this novel occurs. There are a lot of really terrific and original ideas packed into this book (a love story between a human and a bug woman, a machine called the crisis engine, ex-cons called "Remade" who have genetic alterations forced upon them by sadistic judges, etc.), but in the last 150 pages the whole thing sort of falls apart... one gets the sense Mieville wasn't quite sure how he wanted to finish it. The ending is ultimately unsatisfying, due in large part to the introduction of a wandering deus ex machina character called the "Weaver", that seems to be able to just do whatever it feels like doing, ignoring all of the carefully crafted reality we've spent most of the novel piecing together. I'll definitely read Mieville again though, because some of the ideas are too good to ignore, but I don't know that I'd heartily recommend this particular book.

3) The Mythical Man Month - A series of essays on the pitfalls of software engineering from the venerable Frederick Brooks, a lot of this book is still relevant even though it was published close to a quarter century ago. It goes to show that even though the technology has changed, humans really haven't as much as one might think.

4) Prometheus Rising - Robert Anton Wilson definitely isn't for everyone, but after reading and very much enjoying his Quantum Psychology a good while back, I wanted to read a little more. Wilson is the rare philosopher who is also a very engaging (and funny) writer, and I recommend this to anyone smart enough to recognize they haven't gotten the world completely figured out.

5) The Devil Wears Pinstripes - A light and easy series of essays by's Jim Caple about the New York Yankees and why they suck. Hilarious.

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