Townhouse Books

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Confusion :Neal Stephenson



This is the second book in a massive trilogy. I read Quicksilver over a year ago and my memory seems to have faded somewhat. From what I can remember The Confusion was easier to follow than Quicksilver, but I missed all the references to Cryptology. There was one notable cypto posrtion of the book when the evil French discovered how to re-encrypt a series of messages. Speaking of Jack's story: Since when is he an nypurzvfg?

I did get bored when Eliza started going on and on about money. I almost believe that I now have a thorough understanding of 17th century finance now. A lot of Jack's story was glossed over but I was glad to see that he was erhavgrq jvgu uvf puvyqera.

The end of the book was somewhat mystifying. I mean what in the world does it mean that Jack gur "Pbvare" vf orvat frag gb Ratynaq gb qrfgebl gur Zvag??

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

iRex : The iLiad

Starting my birthday wishlist early...

iRex : The iLiad:
The iLiad is a first generation electronic reader product. Availability as of April 2006.
Filed in del.icio.us:

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Eye of The Sibyl and Other Classic Stories

I've read lots of science fiction over the years but I tend to stick to books that are described as "hard science fiction" and rarely venture outside of the Niven, Baxter, Pournelle, and Gibson sections. Friends have often recommended Philip K. Dick's work to me, but I've only ever read a few of his books.

Not that I have a lack of excuses. Most libraries don't keep that many copies of PKD books on hand. They've only started republishing the PKD back catalog in the last 5 years, and so I completely missed out when I was first getting into science fiction (especially Niven) 15 years ago.

I bought The Eye of the Sybil mostly because I wanted to read the story "The Faith of Our Fathers". It appeared in an anthology edited by Harlan Ellison called "Dangerous Visions," the second sequel to which has been the source of intense controversy for the last 30 years.

Something I've found in this book, and which may be true of most PKD stories, is that rather than following the time honored sci-fi pattern of "it's the future and everything sucks," he uses the pattern "something strange just happened and it's obviously because there's a secret alien invasion going on, oh, and everything sucks, too."

It's very entertaining for the first dozen or so stories, but it starts to wear thin after a while. The Eye of the Sybil is worth reading, since there are some real gems here, but you may enjoy it more if you read it in short spurts rather than all at once.

Read it, you'll like it.


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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Shalimar the Clown: Salman Rushdie

Wow. Starts in the near present with India Ophuls, the product of a famous French ambassador's affair with a Kashmir peasant girl. India sees her father occasionally and is estranged from her stepmother -- as far as she knows, her birth mother is dead. After a shocking act of violence, the story moves back in time and shifts to Kashmir, where Shalimar the clown loves a dancing girl in a village untouched by the outside world. The outside world first intervenes into village life in the form of Max Ophuls, and then the war between India and Pakistan focuses in on Kashmir. This is classic Rushdie -- a barrage of perfectly sketched characters, some on collision courses and some following their own tangents. If you've read Shame, you remember that Rushdie can describe anger and vengeance and their effect on body and soul like no other author I know. He is so skillful at depicting the effect of world events (the Watts riots, the India/Pakistan conflict, the World Trade Center bombings) on individual lives. Good stuff!

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Shadow of the Wind: Carlos Ruiz Zafon

So there's a Cemetary of Lost Books in Barcelona, as the protagonist discovers at age 10 when his bookseller father inducts him into the select society who know of its existence. Each first-time visitor selects a book to take home, cherish, and protect. The book the protagonist selects is "The Shadow of the Wind," by an author he's never heard of. He reads it, and it's the best book ever, but no one has heard of the author and no other copies of the book seem to exist. As it turns out, a mysterious man is travelling across Europe buying every copy he can, and burning those he can't buy.
This is a great gothic mystery story. As the protagonist discovers more about his mystery author, the plot of the book, the life of the author, and the boy's real life become hopelessly entangled. The characters are interesting, and it dances on the edge of cheesy without ever falling into that trap. If anybody wants to read this, let me know & I will send it to you.

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Friday, January 13, 2006

A Million Little Pieces: James Frey (audio)


Well the current controversy over the book is really more interesting than anything I have to say. I will just mention that I listened to the author read the book, which has to be a much different experience than reading it. I found that he repeats phrases on a regular basis for effect. However, that effect comes across as too simplisitc sometimes. Not a cheery book so only read this book if you have a strong stomach.

The Smoking Gun report began it all
The Man who conned Oprah

Winfrey stands behind 'Pieces' author

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Year of Magical Thinking: Joan Didion

Joan Didion's unsparing memoir recounts the sudden death of her husband of 40 years, John Gregory Dunne, and the following year. In addition to that loss, their daughter Quintana was ill throughout the entire year and died shortly after the book was published.

Didion reflects on marriage, grieving, the hole in one's life left by the dead, writing, friends, her reluctance to clean out her husband's closet, because if she threw out his shoes, how could he come back? Numerous times I stopped to mull a sentence, and every few pages I stopped to gaze again at the back cover photo (below). It is an extraordinary book, painful in a way that is both honest and necessary.

I hung on to the book for a week or two after receiving it for Christmas, never sure if today was the day to begin what could be a dark read. A friend recommended reading it when I was in a bad mood and down on my life, saying that this is the kind of book that gives one perspective. He was wrong. What this book did is give me a sense of what is likely and in some ways hopefully to come. Didion didn't tell a story about the horrors of someone else's life, but articulates our own futures.

Life changes fast.
Life changes in the instant.
You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
The question of self-pity.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Prey: by Michael Crichton


I reserved this book from the public library, and when I went to pick it up i discovered that it was LARGE print. So I think this might have colored my thoughts about the books itself. For some reason Large print makes everything simplistic and childish, or is that just Micahel Crichton? I enjoyed the thought process that went into the novel. The defense department commissions tiny nano cameras to be built. The contractor keeps fiddling with them to make them work, until they are out of control and they start eating people.

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