Archive for January, 2007

Jan 31 2007

Startide Rising

Published by under Books

by David Brin

This is the second book in Brin’s six book Uplift series. In some review of the series, I read that the first three books are only loosely connected, but that the final three form a tightly linked trilogy. Previously, I read the first book, Sundiver. Sundiver was a mystery story set in a far distant future. Startide rising is more of an adventure story set in an apparently different far distant future. Characters and plot details do not overlap between the two books, but there are a few references that very weakly tie the second to the first.

Startide Rising is the tale of a ‘scout ship’ from a future earth. The space ship is staffed with a crew of dolphins, a few humans, and one chimpanzee geologist. Sounds goofy and out of context, it is. The “uplift” concept for which the series is named accounts for the presences of dolphins and the chimp. Both species are ‘clients’ of humans and through genetic engineering and training they have become highly intelligent. The ship and it’s crew accidentally make a discovery that many other older and generally more advanced races perceive as a potential key to unraveling the start of the uplift phenomena. This discovery makes the humans and their associates the prey in a hunt. All the other ‘spacefaring’ races want to capture the humans in order to learn the location of their discovery. Escaping such capture drives the book’s adventure story.

When evaluated against my criteria of how well does it explore a novel set of conjectures, I’d have to give it at best a C. However once I started, I wanted to see how the story developed, and how Brin would bring the various story lines together. Not profound or significant, but it was pleasant to read.

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Jan 18 2007

Loon Lake

Published by under Books

by E.L. Doctorow

I’ve liked other novels by Doctorow so I picked this book up at a big used book sale last December. This book was a mixed bag for me. Some good parts, but I didn’t really get into it. Put it down for periods of a few days several times which is not a good sign. If I get into a story I’ll consistently read it off and on around other activities till I’m done.

This book started strong. Good writing of thoughts and dialog from unnamed people so you had to figure out who was who and when was when since there was a lot of jumping back and forwards in time and location. But good reading. Overall, the book is a well told story but it has a few preachy section in the middle. Preachy on how one should live life as taught by a ridiculously wealthy man. Not bad advice from my point of view, but it seemed disruptive in the middle of the book.

In a nutshell, it is the story of a ghetto kid from Paterson NJ in the nineteen twenties, and focuses on one or two years when he is twenty something. He is the son of a couple who work in the textile mills which were in Paterson at the time. He’s strong willed and become a street kid, a delinquent, goes to New York, becomes a bum and hits the tracks. Along the way, he uses women who ‘belong to’ other men and typically gets information, money, and sex from them. He wanders to the Adirondacks, Loon Lake, where he lands on the estate of a very wealthy man. There he continues his ways and eventually runs off with a gangster’s girl (the gangster provides goons for the rich man). Interwoven is a story of a poet and drunkard who is kept on the estate by the rich man. The background is labor strife, union busting, and the disparities between the rich capitalist and the poor union people
An okay story, but not particularly recommended.

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Jan 01 2007

All Tomorrow’s Parties by William Gibson

Published by under Books

This is the first book I’ve completed in over three months, and I thought I’d read it once before. However after finishing it, I don’t think I ever did. Idoru is a similar book by Gibson and I think that is causing my confusion.

I liked the beginning of All Tomorrow’s Parties. While I’ve only read one Faulkner book, the beginning of this one reminded me of Faulkner’s style; as I understand it. Snippets of speech and interactions not laid out in a linear manner but moving along in parallel lines. Lots of ambiguity and wondering about who’s who and how they relate. That was the good stuff.

Parallel threads kept going through the book and they all came together on the Oakland-Bay Bridge. An imaginary, future, Bay Bridge which has been damaged in an earthquake, is closed to traffic, and became a squatters’ city. Nice invention that was, and a big part of the action takes place on and near that bridge.

After a good start, the author begins to throw in explanations of the past events and technologies; i.e. commentary on technology and events at the time he was writing. The book contained a bit too much lecture and explanation for me, but the end really left me cold. It seemed too improbable being based on an opaque “merging” of an artificially created entity, i.e. a computer simulation, with two guys on some drug that lets them see and feel the flow of data! This merger is somehow a critical step in the world heading toward a “nodal point like 1911″. This conclusion lost me on both ends. I’m not sure what happened in 1911 and I’m not sure what happened at the end of the book when the three ‘merged”. When it happens nothing changes. The story just ends.

Mostly fun, easy to read story. Definitely not great.

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