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China Story · I re­cent­ly read Do Not Say We Have Noth­ing by Madeleine Thien. It was short­list­ed for, but didn’t win, the Man Book­er. It’s won­der­ful but it’s not her best; Dogs at the Perime­ter from 2011 is I think the best nov­el I’ve read this cen­tu­ry. Here­with notes on both ...
 
Other American Gods · I just fin­ished read­ing The Li­brary at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, who al­so writes geek books about Lin­ux and Apache and so on. I en­joyed it, it’s a page-turner. One of the re­view­ers on Ama­zon said “This is what Gaiman’s Amer­i­can Gods should have been.” I’m not sure I’d go that far, but both ad­dress the tricky prob­lem of di­vine per­son­ae lodged in Mid­dle Amer­i­ca ...
 
A Really Bad Year · I just fin­ished read­ing 1177 B.C.: The Year Civ­i­liza­tion Col­lapsed, and en­joyed it a lot. You might not though, un­less you’re in­ter­est­ed in the an­cient Near East (from Greece to Egypt in­clu­sive), or the prac­tice of ar­chae­ol­o­gy. Wel­l, or the large-scale sys­temic col­lapse of great em­pires ...
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Industrial Music · I just fin­ished read­ing The Song Machine: In­side the Hit Fac­to­ry by John Seabrook, which taught me that the big hits be­ing pumped at us via the big di­vas with the great thighs are most­ly the out­put of a re­pro­ducible mech­a­nized pro­cess, and the me­chan­ics are Swedes. No, re­al­ly ...
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Good Zombie Fluff · Zom­bie, as in sham­bling brain-eating un­dead. Fluff, as in a book that’s an evening’s worth of page-turning. Good, as in way bet­ter than it needs to be and will leave you smil­ing. I’m talk­ing bout Warm Bodies by Isaac Mar­i­on, which I rec­om­mend ...
 
Mid-life Stark · This is a quick note on Killing Pret­ty by Richard Kadrey, lat­est in­stal­ment in the ex­cel­lent Sand­man Slim se­ries ...
 
Meet Jude and Raziel · I re­cent­ly read When Every­thing Feels like the Movies by Raziel Reid (A.K.A. @ra­ziel­reid) and en­joyed the hell out of it. Then Raziel came to our book club meet­ing, which was weird but good ...
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Destroyer of Sleep · I was less than 100% ef­fec­tive at work to­day, be­cause I fool­ish­ly bought Ghost Fleet by P.W. Singer and Au­gust Cole, and read till 2:30AM. I just now fin­ished it. Is it a great book? No. But it’s a rip­ping naval yarn, an old-fashioned war sto­ry. Al­so: Rail gun! ...
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Phoenix Is Doomed · I re­mem­ber my first vis­it, play­ing mini-golf in the desert in the Eight­ies, foun­tains and wa­ter­falls ev­ery­where, think­ing “these peo­ple are crazy and this place can’t last.” The next day we had to run like hell for the air­port. Oh wait, this is a re­view of The Water Knife by Pao­lo Baci­galupi, which is ter­ri­fic ...
 
More Expanse! · I just fin­ished read­ing Neme­sis Games, the lat­est in The Ex­panse se­ries by Daniel Abra­ham and Ty Franck. Pre­dictably, it’s fun, and if you’ve read this far in The Ex­panse well then of course you’re go­ing to read this one; but it left me a lit­tle un­sat­is­fied ...
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Children in Combat · There’s strife in ev­ery fam­i­ly. The kids’ fac­tion is at a ter­ri­ble dis­ad­van­tage in strength and wis­dom, so they have to fight sneaky. The anal­o­gy with guer­ril­la war is ob­vi­ous, which gives me a chance to mix up fam­i­ly life and a book re­view ...
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Practical Time Travel · I just fin­ished read­ing Wil­liam Gibson’s The Pe­riph­er­al for the sec­ond time, and I rec­om­mend you do too: Read it twice, I mean ...
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Mitchell’s Marinus Books · Mitchell as in David Mitchell who wrote Cloud At­las. Books as in The Thou­sand Au­tumns of Ja­cob de Zoet and The Bone Clocks, which I’ve spent an un­rea­son­able num­ber of hours read­ing this last mon­th. Mar­i­nus is a char­ac­ter in both. They are huge, beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten nov­els that will take you places you nev­er could imag­ine and in­tro­duce you to peo­ple you’ll nev­er for­get. They’re al­so kind of flawed and slop­py; but you’ll have a hard time find­ing a bet­ter read among re­cent pub­li­ca­tion­s ...
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Women Speaking · I just fin­ished read­ing Un­speak­able Things: Sex, Lies and Revo­lu­tion by Lau­rie Pen­ny. And while it makes me ner­vous as hell to write about gen­der is­sues, si­lence seems less ac­cept­able ev­ery day ...
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Saint Hilda · Al­so known as Hil­da of Whit­by; she’s the pro­tag­o­nist of Hild, by Ni­co­la Grif­fith, which I just read and en­joyed huge­ly. On­ly I didn’t know Hild was Hil­da while I was read­ing it ...
 
Got Yer Space Opera Right Here · I re­fer to Ci­bo­la Burn, the lat­est from “James S.A. Corey ...
 
Stross’ (unfinished) Merchant Princes · I just fin­ished read­ing the three vol­umes of The Mer­chant Princes Om­nibus by Char­lie Stross: The Blood­line Feud, The Traders’ War, and The Revo­lu­tion Trade. They’re huge. They’re fun. There are more plot­lines left dan­gling than at the Season-3½ point in Lost. They’re good enough to have robbed me of con­sid­er­able sleep ...
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Good Books about Bad Places · Christ­mas was pop­u­lat­ed as usu­al with fam­i­ly and food and hap­pi­ness but this year I was steal­ing time from them (often sleep time) to read The Or­phan Master’s Son. The book’s an ex­plo­sion of pain and crazi­ness and love and strange, strange fla­vors, views from an­gles few could imag­ine at a place no­body read­ing it will like­ly  —  thank good­ness  —  ever see ...
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Space Operas! · Most geeks love ’em; some find the plea­sure a lit­tle guilty. Gleam­ing sil­ver in­gots of en­gi­neer­ing po­et­ry reach­ing up out of gravity’s mud car­ry­ing humanity’s sparks in­to space’s black­ness... and blow­ing each oth­er up! I’m here to rec­om­mend the work of “James S.A. Corey”, but the genre de­serves a lit­tle sur­vey ...
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History Mystery · I just fin­ished After Tamer­lane by John Dar­win, of whom I know noth­ing. It’s a 600-dense-page mon­ster and my impulse-bought-but-unread queue bulges be­hind it. It’s im­mense­ly am­bi­tious and I can rec­om­mend it for some if not al­l ...
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Tab Sweep · The tab­s! They mul­ti­ply like mag­nif­i­cent­ly mis­cel­la­neous mag­got­s! ...
 
The Tor Danger · If you have a rea­son­ably full life, from time to time you have to look a temp­ta­tion in the face and say “no”. For ex­am­ple Tor.­com ...
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Other Elmores · El­more Leonard died. He was an aw­ful­ly good writer; I’ve read loads of his book­s, some more than once or even twice, and re­gret it not a bit. There have been lots of grate­ful obits  —  my fa­vorite is by Joan Aco­cel­la in the New York­er  —  and they all say you should go read Get Shorty and yeah, it’s good, you should. So here are some more that aren’t usu­al­ly in lists of his big hits but are re­al­ly good too ...
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Re-Enter Sandman · Which is to say, Kill Ci­ty Blues by Richard Kadrey is out; the fifth Sand­man Slim book ...
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Horror Story · I just read Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and it’s won­der­ful­ly done but I didn’t en­joy it. There’s a good chance you might, though ...
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Unmapped Lands · I ran across There­sa Couch­man on The Set­up (al­ways rec­om­mend­ed), which con­vinced me to buy The Un­mapped Lands, and wow, is it ev­er fun ...
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The Scalzi/Amazon Trap · I kind of liked The Android’s Dream and Red­shirts by John Scalzi. A cou­ple weeks ago I need­ed some light-ish read­ing so I picked up Old Man’s War, and the jaws closed on my wal­let ...
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Rock and Roll Story · I just fin­ished read­ing Blues High­way Blues by Eyre Price, which is said to be one of a se­ries called Cross­roads Thrillers. If you like ei­ther Amer­i­can mu­sic or crime fic­tion, you might like this. If you like both, your chances are pret­ty high ...
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Johannesburg Noir · Zoo Ci­ty is by Lau­ren Beukes, pub­lished in 2010; she’s writ­ten an­oth­er since then and I’ll make a point of read­ing it; which should be in­dica­tive ...
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Gun Machine · I orig­i­nal­ly no­ticed this beard­ed au­thor, an in­ter­est­ing voice on Twit­ter and wow, al­so ap­par­ent­ly a col­lab­o­ra­tor with Nick Cave in Grin­der­man and on the ex­cel­lent White Lu­nar. Oop­s, wrong. The War­ren El­lis who wrote Gun Ma­chine is quite a dif­fer­ent bloke from the Aussie-musician War­ren El­lis. That set­tled, on to the book, which is good ...
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Spies Love Books · Ac­tu­al­ly I should have com­mas in the ti­tle be­cause Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan is a book ini­tial­ly about spies but more about love and re­al­ly most­ly about book­s, and writ­ing them. Which some may call in­ces­tu­ous, but peo­ple who read books like books so why not? ...
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For Everyone · Our fam­i­ly gath­er­ing is small this year; on­ly five. Even at that size, when ev­ery­one likes the same book, that’s re­mark­able ...
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Four Not For Me · I’ve been read­ing lots this last year (less mu­sic, al­most no videogames) writ­ing here about the good ones, and most­ly silent about the oth­er­s. But there’s this cat­e­go­ry of books I didn’t like but you might, be­cause I think the fail­ing might be in me not the work. As in good, but not for me. Here­with, then, words on As­sump­tion by Per­ci­val Everett, Malarky by Anakana Schofield, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Book­store by Robin Sloan, and The Yid­dish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon ...
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Sandman Pricing · Back in Septem­ber I rec­om­mend­ed (al­beit in a sort of snot­ty tone) Sand­man Slim by Richard Kadrey. Short­ly af­ter that, I found out that it’s not just a book, it’s a se­ries. I’ve been read­ing it but I’ve stopped be­cause I think Amazon’s rob­bing me ...
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Hell’s Gladiator · I just read Sand­man Slim by Richard Kadrey, on a Twit­ter tip from @GreatDis­mal, whose ad­vice about books should al­ways be fol­lowed, ob­vi­ous­ly. It’s long and fun and ridicu­lous ...
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Cloud Atlas · This, by David Mitchel­l, came across my radar be­cause of the news around the forth­com­ing movie. In book form it’s called Cloud At­las: A Nov­el, but that’s a bit mis­lead­ing be­cause it’s ac­tu­al­ly six, wrapped up to­geth­er. I en­joyed it a lot but can’t give an un­mixed rec­om­men­da­tion ...
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Feegles · Lots of peo­ple I know, in­clud­ing my wife, keep telling me that I re­al­ly ought to like Ter­ry Pratch­ett, and I’ve tried a few times but haven’t. Ex­cept for I just fin­ished read­ing the Tif­fany Ach­ing books (“for younger readers”, it says) and loved them ...
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Kindle is Weird · The Kin­dle store is sort of like a quan­tum vac­u­um; items flick­er in­to and out of ex­is­tence, and when they’re there, their mea­sur­able at­tributes don’t stand stil­l ...
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Popular Metaphysics · I just read Why Does the World Ex­ist?: An Ex­is­ten­tial De­tec­tive Sto­ry by Jim Holt. It’s won­der­ful; will make you think, and en­joy your think­ing. Al­most any­one who’s both­ered to vis­it this hum­ble blog more than a cou­ple of times would en­joy it, I think ...
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Finding the Ways · I just read The Old Ways: A Jour­ney on Foot by Robert Mac­far­lane. It isn’t a per­fect book; but it’s a good one, which I en­joyed im­mense­ly be­cause I found a new way of read­ing ...
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Jerusalem Cartooned · I just read Jerusalem: Chron­i­cles from the Holy Ci­ty by Guy Delisle; it’s a “graphic novel” which would be a com­ic book if it weren’t a hard­cov­er and weren’t about one of the world’s Great Big Prob­lem­s. I rec­om­mend it to­tal­ly ...
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A Novel with Three Codas · I just read Red­shirts by John Scalzi, and en­joyed it huge­ly; to the ex­tent that the fam­i­ly on the oth­er side of the room won­dered why I kept cack­ling out loud, over on the so­fa ...
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Ghost Fluff · Ac­tu­al­ly, the ti­tle is The Ghost Writ­er; I first no­ticed it in a movie my neigh­bor on a plane was watch­ing and thought the vi­su­als were pret­ty good. Which is rel­e­vant be­cause the book turns out to be more or less per­fect air­line fluff: High ve­loc­i­ty, a pow­er­ful hook in­to the re­al world, and very com­pe­tent writ­ing ...
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Books Both Ancient and Modern · I don’t read lots of book­s; too busy with work and be­ing a Dad/hus­band/home­own­er/c­i­t­i­zen. But there’s al­ways one on the go, and so they add up. Some are airplane-ride fluff, but not al­l. As a con­se­quence I think about what it means for a nov­el to be “modern”; in par­tic­u­lar be­cause some re­cent highly-touted works have ir­ri­tat­ed me on ac­count of their overly-self-conscious moder­ni­ty. Among oth­er things, it’s ob­vi­ous that the term “modern” is strong­ly un­re­lat­ed to the year of pub­li­ca­tion ...
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Meta Magic · I just fin­ished Among Others by Jo Wal­ton, en­joy­ing it huge­ly. Not on­ly am I pret­ty sure that some of you would like it too, I can pre­dict who will and who won’t ...
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White Punks on Dope · I’ve been read­ing im­mense­ly more late­ly, but not re­view­ing much; not sure why. But A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jen­nifer Egan de­mands to be writ­ten about. Which lots of peo­ple have, it’s been re­viewed to death, most­ly pos­i­tive­ly, and won all sorts of prizes. It gave me as in­tense a book-reading ex­pe­ri­ence as I’ve had in years; I’m still not 100% sure I like it ...
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Who Buys Books? · In our fam­i­ly it’s most­ly Kin­dle these days. We share an ac­coun­t, and read on var­i­ous elec­tron­ic de­vices. This works great; re­cent­ly my wife and I read the In­spec­tor O nov­els, while my 12-year-old and I read The Hunger Games ...
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Story Pricing · What hap­pened was, this week’s Economist had a rave re­view of some­thing called Dogs at the Perime­ter, by a Madeleine Thien of whom I’d nev­er heard but who turns out to be from Van­cou­ver. And to have cre­at­ed a Dogs at the Perime­ter Tum­blr, which is full of se­vere for­mal beau­ty. So I thought I’d buy it, but the Kin­dle ver­sion was $18.03 and that both­ered me ...
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The Second Draft of History · The first, they say, is writ­ten by jour­nal­ist­s. Then there’s The 9/11 Wars, by Ja­son Burke, which dives deep on the con­flicts launched back on That Day ten years ago and takes the sto­ry right up in­to 2011. I think it’s prob­a­bly es­sen­tial read­ing for any­one fas­ci­nat­ed by these sad se­quences, es­pe­cial­ly those who might want to have pub­lic opin­ion­s ...
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Four Scifis · The electric-book-reading set­up on the home front is in rea­son­ably good or­der. The fam­i­ly shares an Ama­zon ac­count and a Kobo ac­coun­t, and both those ven­dors are gen­er­ous in the num­ber of dif­fer­ent read­ing de­vices you can have au­tho­rized at on­ce. Lau­ren and I both use An­droid tablets of one size or an­oth­er to read, and have few com­plaints. Al­so, we’re read­ing lots of book­s, so I should start re­view­ing a few. Just be­cause this is a batch re­view doesn’t mean that I’ll al­ways do that ...
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Theology Lessons · I got a pack­age in the mail to­day from Ox­ford Univer­si­ty Press, con­tain­ing The Ar­chi­tec­ture of The­ol­o­gy by Prof. A.N. Wil­liams of Cam­bridge University’s Fac­ul­ty of Divin­i­ty. This pleas­es me in­tense­ly ...
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100 + 3 Sci-Fis · I ran across Your Pick­s: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fan­ta­sy Books at NPR.org of all places. I en­joyed it, and im­me­di­ate­ly start­ed think­ing: “What’s missing?” ...
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Conundrum · On his tweet­stream, au­thor Wil­liam Gib­son linked to an in­ter­view he gave the Paris Re­view. He had me right away, nar­rat­ing the cooking-up of the term “cyberspace”. Then the text ran in­to a pay­wal­l: “To read the rest of this piece, pur­chase the is­sue.” ...
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On Books · I hard­ly ev­er vis­it book­stores now. On the oth­er hand, I’ve read more books since last fall than in the pre­vi­ous sev­er­al years; most­ly on my Galaxy Tab. I’m go­ing to miss book­stores, but maybe we’ll save some of the best ones. Just so that this isn’t all tech and biz, I’ve thrown in 21 cap­sule book re­views ...
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Bacchus, Golden · On the last day of 2010 we drove 976km from Cal­gary to Van­cou­ver. Along the way we stopped in Gold­en, BC for cof­fee and muffins at Bac­chus Books & Cafe, which I to­tal­ly rec­om­mend if you’re there, and it’s got me think­ing about the fu­ture (if any) of physical-media re­tail ...
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On Books · Un­til this mon­th, I’d nev­er even glanced at an e-book. Now I’ve read three and can’t stop think­ing about where this is go­ing ...
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Late But Essential Review · I read Michael Lewis’ The Big Short: In­side the Dooms­day Ma­chine months ago, and have been feel­ing guilty about not rec­om­mend­ing it, be­cause this ma­te­ri­al is sort of es­sen­tial for any­one who would like to un­der­stand how our econ­o­my end­ed up in the toi­let. Read on, not just for a (spoil­er: pos­i­tive) re­view, but for po­ten­tial­ly time- and money-saving ad­vice ...
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Robot Sex-slave Blues · Be­ing a re­view of Saturn’s Chil­dren by Charles Stross. Grant­ed, my ti­tle is a lit­tle lurid, but so is the book, and I mean that in the nicest way ...
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Paying For Books · Last evening I re­viewed a book by Charles Stross. To­day, I’d like to en­cour­age you to read his es­say The mon­e­ti­za­tion para­dox (or why Google is not my friend). It’s got me think­ing about how we can en­sure that writ­ers still write book­s. And al­so mea­sur­ing: I dis­cov­ered that, since 2003, I’ve writ­ten 1.22 mil­lion words in this space. Yow ...
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Summer Reading · I fin­ished David Foster Wallace’s In­fi­nite Jest yes­ter­day. If I could write like that, I wouldn’t write that. I’m glad I read it. I would nev­er dream of rec­om­mend­ing it to any­one ...
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If Your Job’s Just a Job · Well then, you’ll prob­a­bly re­al­ly love The 4-Hour Work­week, a 2007 book by Ti­mothy Fer­riss. On the oth­er hand, if you love your job and wish you could do more of it, there’s not much here for you but a few handy email-management hints ...
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Less Like Oration · Noth­ing is more worth study­ing than hu­man dis­course. We are the language-using species and if we don’t un­der­stand how we use it we’ll nev­er un­der­stand any­thing. Re­cent­ly, cour­tesy of the Net, we’ve been us­ing it in small­er pieces which re­quire small­er in­vest­ments of time and at­ten­tion. Th­ese are new things; are they good things? [Warn­ing: long.] ...
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Empty Walls · Con­sid­er three dif­fer­ent rooms you’ve nev­er vis­it­ed ...
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Green Eggs and Toast · “No,” you say, “It’s Green Eg­gs and Ham!” Well ex­act­ly, and right at the mo­ment it’s one of my 2½-year-old daughter’s bed­time fa­vorites. To the ex­tent she’s mem­o­rized it; and once a toddler’s mem­o­rized a book, you can branch out ...
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Author At Work · This seems news­wor­thy to me but no-one else has point­ed so I will. Wil­liam Gib­son, un­of­fi­cial­ly and with­out much fuss, is pre­view­ing his next novel-in-progress on his blog ...
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That Word · Our son, now aged nine, still en­joys a bed­time sto­ry, and I en­joy read­ing them. He’s per­fect­ly lit­er­ate but his reading-for-pleasure reper­toire is along the lines of Har­ry Pot­ter, As­ter­ix, and Garfield. So I aim high­er: Tolkien, Homer, Le Guin. Re­cent­ly we start­ed on Huck­le­ber­ry Finn ...
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Donkeyists · I have al­ways been sweet on don­keys. I’ve pub­lished some fetch­ing don­key pho­tographs in this space, and have vis­it­ed the Don­key Sanc­tu­ary in Devon on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sion­s. Here­with a donkey-centric book re­view, trav­el rec­om­men­da­tion, and French word that needs a bet­ter English trans­la­tion ...
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Solzhenitsyn · Alek­sander Isayevich was for me the most in­flu­en­tial liv­ing writer. In­flu­en­tial on me I mean, not on lit­er­a­ture or the world ...
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Tolkien at Bedtime · Our eight-year-old reads per­fect­ly well; most­ly child­ish trash, of course, which is per­fect­ly ap­pro­pri­ate. But he still likes his bed­time sto­ry, so we’ve been tack­ling larg­er work­s. We spent the last few months work­ing through The Lord of the Rings, and fin­ished it this evening. I’ve cer­tain­ly en­joyed it, al­though some­times the end­less de­scrip­tions of pas­toral beau­ty can drag a bit in spoken-word for­mat. Here­with a nifty Middle-Earth re­source and a quo­ta­tion from the book that touched me ...
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The Big Switch · Clear­ly, Ni­cholas Carr dis­ap­proves of much of the cul­ture in which I’ve im­mersed my­self and which I nearly-wholly em­brace, to which I would ap­ply la­bels such as “online” or “Web” or “Internet” or “Twenty-first century”. (Carr and I have writ­ten back and forth al­ready on the gen­er­al­i­ties.) So it would be rea­son­able to sus­pect me of bias in writ­ing about his re­cent The Big Switch—Rewiring the world, from Edi­son to Google. And in­deed, I do think that sev­er­al of its key ar­gu­ments are, well, wrong. But it’s a good book any­how; well writ­ten and ex­treme­ly ap­po­site ...
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Censoring Homer · Our son, now eight, can read per­fect­ly well (in three lan­guages) but still re­quires a bed­time sto­ry, which is OK be­cause Lau­ren and I both en­joy read­ing them. Giv­en the fact that he can now read all the cheesy pic­to­ri­als he likes for him­self, I’ve been en­forc­ing Big Se­ri­ous Book­s. So re­cent­ly it’s been the Odyssey, which ac­tu­al­ly hasn’t worked out that well ...
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All About Electric Text · This is not ex­act­ly a re­view of Yan­nis Haralambous’ Fonts & En­cod­ings; that would be the work of years, and I doubt there’s any­one in the world qual­i­fied to dis­cuss the whole thing, ex­cept its au­thor. This new O’Reilly book is about a thou­sand pages in length. It’s im­pos­si­bly am­bi­tious, ir­ri­tat­ing­ly flawed, and prob­a­bly on­ly com­pre­hen­si­ble to a single-digit num­ber of thou­sands of peo­ple world-wide; but for those peo­ple it’s an es­sen­tial book, you just have to have it ...
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Spook Country · This is the lat­est nov­el by Wil­liam Gib­son. It’s set in ear­ly 2006; there is some over­lap with the penul­ti­mate Pat­tern Recog­ni­tion. It doesn’t de­part sub­stan­tial­ly from the Gib­son id­iom. I liked it a whole lot, but I was cheat­ing ...
[7 comments]  
The Color · The world out­side the restaurant’s win­dows, be­yond words in a red plas­tic Can­tonese nei­ther of them could read, was the col­or of a sil­ver coin, mis­placed for decades in a draw­er. One guess whose new book I’m read­ing ...
[21 comments]  
Tab Sweep — The World · To­day we have chip­munks and hats and earn­ings and a nov­el ...
[6 comments]  
Shorter Potter · Peo­ple who’ve read Har­ry Pot­ter and the Bat­tle of Hog­warts Death­ly Hal­lows will prob­a­bly en­joy Pot­ter­dammerung. Those who haven’t: stay away, spoil­ers from end to end. Not to men­tion coarse lan­guage, emo jokes, and a dim view of Harry’s in­tel­li­gence.
 
Harry · I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a fine thing that a no­tice­able pro­por­tion of the whole world is go­ing to stop what they’re do­ing this week­end and read a book in­stead ...
[3 comments]  
Two From David · I’d like to en­cour­age you to read two things fea­tur­ing David Wein­berg­er. I’ve been mean­ing to post about his new book for some time, but just re­cent­ly ran across his “Web 2.0” de­bate with An­drew Keen over at the WSJ On­line, and if you care at all about this here Web thang, you re­al­ly ought to go take it in. Not be­cause it’ll ed­u­cate and in­form you (though it will) but be­cause it’s good fun. I find the Net-centered life suf­fi­cient­ly ful­fill­ing and self-supporting that I wouldn’t take the time to re­act to a provo­ca­teur like Keen, but it’s nice that David does so, while en­ter­tain­ing us ...
 
Finding Things · That’s the ti­tle of my chap­ter in Beau­ti­ful Code, which seems now to be out, not that I’ve ac­tu­al­ly seen a copy. What’s amus­ing me to­day is that Find­ing Things is the chap­ter they’ve picked to post as a free PDF down­load. So, in the event that you’re in­ter­est­ed in the sub­ject but don’t care about what Kerni­han and Bent­ley and Pet­zold and Stein and Don­gar­ra and Cantrill and Mat­sumo­to and all the oth­ers have to say, you can avoid­ing buy­ing the book and do­ing Amnesty In­ter­na­tion­al a fa­vor. I have to say that the Table of Con­tents looks pret­ty im­pres­sive.
[2 comments]  
NetNewsWire, Children, and Caesar · The prob­lem is, these days, that my in­put queues are jammed up. I’m read­ing Cae­sar: Life of a Colos­sus by Adri­an Goldswor­thy and it’s very good, but it’s aw­ful­ly big and thick and dense. And my time for read­ing is tight be­cause, af­ter al­l, I’m mar­ried with two chil­dren and al­so I’m try­ing to read the In­ter­net, or at least that huge lit­tle piece of it where peo­ple care about the things I do. And on that sub­jec­t, once again I just have to plug NetNewsWire. I’ve tried a ton of news­read­ers on a ton of plat­form­s. Google’s blog read­er is pret­ty good, and so are a cou­ple of the oth­er clients, but NetNewsWire just shows you more stuff in less time with few­er keystrokes. Years ago I pre­dict­ed that feed-reading would have been sucked in­to the brows­er by now, but I was wrong. So be­tween that and Cae­sar, and day-to-day job work, and a grungy un­ex­cit­ing com­pli­cat­ed fill-a-hole-in-the-ecosystem pro­gram­ming pro­jec­t, well, I have Wiki­nomics and Every­thing is Mis­cel­la­neous and REST­ful Web Ser­vices and the Pro­gram­ming Er­lang PDF star­ing ac­cus­ing­ly at me from the shad­ows. Blame Julius Cae­sar and Brent Sim­mon­s.
[7 comments]  
Hofstadter’s Loop · This is about I Am a Strange Loop by Dou­glas Hof­s­tadter; my dis­cus­sion is picky and pedan­tic and prob­a­bly far too long for any but his devo­tees; but then, their num­ber is many ...
[9 comments]  
Anansi Boys · This is the lat­est pa­per­back from Neil Gaiman. I read it on the plane back from DC and it’s good enough that I had to sit up late do­ing some work that I’d planned for the plane. Gaiman’s nov­els don’t Shift the Mass Un­der­stand­ing Of The Hu­man Con­di­tion or Plumb The Depths Of Post­mod­ern Sub­tex­tu­al­i­ty, but the peo­ple in them are al­ways re­al in­ter­est­ing and the things that hap­pen to them are en­ter­tain­ing and plau­si­ble (well, in the sense that sto­ries which rou­tine­ly in­volve gods and al­ter­nate uni­vers­es and the work­ing of mag­ic can be plau­si­ble). He’s got a de­cent blog too.
[6 comments]  
Grief Lessons · This is a re­cent book by Anne Car­son, a po­et and schol­ar of whom I’d pre­vi­ous­ly nev­er heard. The sub­ti­tle is “Four Plays by Euripides” ...
[1 comment]  
Hot Kid, Tonto Woman · I’d kind of got­ten off the book tread­mil­l, what with try­ing to read the In­ter­net in re­al time. But for some rea­son I’ve read a stack of books in re­cent week­s. One of them was The Hot Kid by El­more Leonard, who, Wikipedia tells me, has been pub­lish­ing nov­els since be­fore I was born. It’s pret­ty good and, like ev­ery book Leonard’s ev­er writ­ten, has flows of di­a­logue that pull you along and make you smile just at the joy of writ­ten spo­ken English, done well. It’s a pre-Depression gang­ster nov­el; the main char­ac­ters (and they’re all well-done) are syn­thet­ic, but Pret­ty Boy Floy­d, John Dillinger, Jay McShan­n, and oth­er re­al peo­ple of the pe­ri­od hov­er around the edges. I en­joyed read­ing it but have a gripe; too much re­al dum­b­ass gun­play, a big piece of the flying-lead plot is about Our Hero’s abil­i­ty to draw faster than the bad guys. There­fore, a point­er to an­oth­er Leonard, 1998’s The Ton­to Wo­man and Other Western Sto­ries, a col­lec­tion of nine­teen short-form Westerns writ­ten be­tween the Fifties and Eight­ies. The vi­o­lence is im­plic­it, threat­ened, scary, off-stage, and very re­al, but it doesn’t hap­pen much in the ac­tu­al nar­ra­tive se­quence. The prose is amaz­ing­ly lean; pared down al­most to the lev­el of a haiku. If you open this one up leave your­self two or three hours be­fore you go to bed, be­cause you won’t be clos­ing it.
 
Sebastian and Fred · That would be J. Se­bas­tian Bach and Fred­er­ick II Ho­hen­zollern (AKA the Great) of Prus­si­a, who fa­mous­ly met in 1747. The King pro­posed a Roy­al Theme and asked Bach to ex­tem­po­rize fu­gal­ly; Bach did so on the spot, some­what, and a few weeks lat­er sent Fred­er­ick The Mu­si­cal Of­fer­ing. This episode ap­peared at the be­gin­ning of Gödel, Escher, Bach, and now finds it­self at the cen­ter of an­oth­er book: Even­ing in the Palace of Rea­son by James R. Gaines, of whom I’d nev­er pre­vi­ous­ly heard. It’s pret­ty good; read on for some re­marks on the book, Fred­er­ick, Se­bas­tian, and the Of­fer­ing ...
 
Next Gibson · Over on his very-intermittent blog, Wil­liam Gib­son is ap­par­ent­ly float­ing frag­ments of what­ev­er it is that he’s cur­rent­ly writ­ing. At­mo­spher­ic, as al­ways.
 
Two Lives · This is the lat­est by Vikram Seth, best known for A Suitable Boy. Seth is one of on­ly two or three au­thors whose new works I buy on sight, with­out wait­ing to read re­views (mind you, since he on­ly pub­lish­es ev­ery decade or so, this is not an ex­pen­sive habit). I have on sev­er­al oc­ca­sions said that I think that Seth the great­est liv­ing writ­er of English, and may say so again. This book, a dou­ble bi­og­ra­phy of his Indian-born den­tist un­cle and Berlin-born Jewish aunt and the middle-class English life they built on the wreck­age of ter­ri­ble war wound­s, phys­i­cal and spir­i­tu­al, is not per­fec­t, but it’s very good and you prob­a­bly won’t re­gret read­ing it. Here­with some re­marks on the book and a fun­ny sto­ry about the time I met the au­thor ...
 
Minor-League Epiphany · On Satur­day night, Septem­ber 10, 2005, the Van­cou­ver Cana­di­ans played the Spokane In­di­ans in Game 3 of the North­west League cham­pi­onship se­ries, tied 1-1. That’s Single-A bal­l, near the bot­tom of the pro-baseball heap, but it was quite an evening ...
 
Feeling Sad? · Or, if you’re not, have you no­ticed peo­ple around you act­ing kind of gloomy? Par­tic­u­lar­ly young peo­ple? Have you re­cent­ly found a pic­ture of an at­trac­tive English­wom­an in your book­ish child’s room, with “Murdering bitch!” or “Ava­da Ke­davra to you too!” scrawled on it? Which is to say, the lat­est Har­ry Pot­ter, well, it’s not cheer­ful at al­l. That aw­ful English­wom­an re­marked in­sou­ciant­ly that she was think­ing of start­ing on the se­quel next year... in the in­ter­im, she is a ma­jor Bringer of Un­hap­pi­ness to Chil­dren of all ages, and I think she should get a move on. And if she can’t en­gi­neer a hap­py end­ing I urge the House of Com­mons to im­pose a re­al­ly fright­ful pun­ish­men­t. Some­thing me­dieval, in­volv­ing dank mossy dun­geons and rusty iron im­ple­ments.
 
Iron Sunrise · This is the lat­est from Char­lie Stross, and it’s what space opera ought to be. It’s got in­ter­stel­lar Nazis, a star ma­li­cious­ly blown up start­ing on Page One, de­tailed de­scrip­tions of how you go about dy­ing when your star blows up, killer robot dogs, a whiny but ap­peal­ing teenage Goth­ick chick named Wed­nes­day, a first-rate deus ex machi­na, a hard-drinking in­ter­galac­tic war­blog­ger (no, re­al­ly, he gets the girl even), uh did I men­tion the re­al­ly re­al­ly evil Space Nazis? And you know what? The sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief hold­s. Plus, the char­ac­ters are ap­peal­ing and the sto­ry moves right along. OK, well maybe the de­noue­ment is a lit­tle forced and overex­tend­ed, with U. Por­tia Hoescht out of char­ac­ter. Com­pared to the pre­vi­ous Sin­gu­lar­i­ty Sky, the at­mo­spher­ics are maybe a lit­tle weak­er, but the sto­ry­telling is a lot stronger. Plus our friends Rachel and Martin from that book are back; plus there are ob­vi­ous­ly lots of se­quels in the pipeline. I sure en­joyed read­ing it.
 
FSS: Aberystwyth At Dusk · Fri­day Slide Scan #3 is from 1988: a dark wa­ter­front in Wales, and a side-trip in­to the Black Book of Car­marthen ...
 
Singularity Sky · I’ve no­ticed that there’s some Net buzz build­ing around Charles Stross, au­thor of this 2003 sci-fi nov­el, which is pret­ty good, but I bet he can do bet­ter. [Up­date: Devin Daw­son pro­vides a link to Stross’ blog, and Kel­lan Elliott-McCrea to A Cold­er War, a nifty on­line nov­el­et­te] ...
 
Strange & Norrell · That would be Jonathan Strange & Mr Nor­rell by Su­san­na Clarke, an im­mense­ly large nov­el whose stylish white-on-black and black-on-white cov­ers are oc­cu­py­ing miles of shelf-space ev­ery­where. Sum­ma­ry: it’s a good book. Here­with notes plus ram­blings on trav­el and read­ing ...
 
Real World Web Services · This is an O’Reilly book by Will Iver­son, whom I don’t know. Giv­en my fre­quent pub­lic grum­bling on the sub­jec­t, I thought I should give it a se­ri­ous look ...
 
Lustre-Lustrous · I am the lucky own­er of one of the plates used to print the orig­i­nal 1928 ver­sion of the Ox­ford English Dic­tionary, a tro­phy of the years 1987-89 when I worked full-time on a sideshow of a sideshow of the pro­duc­tion of the OED Se­cond Edi­tion; this fragment’s ti­tle is the range of words that were on that page. Here­with a brief vi­su­al es­say on the plate, which sur­pris­ing­ly in­cludes a curvy fash­ion shoot ...
 
Cabinet · This is about a mag­a­zine that you’ve prob­a­bly nev­er read, but might want to have a look at ...
 
Chaitin! · Fol­low­ing a point­er from Slash­dot, I found a re­view of Gre­go­ry Chaitin’s new book Me­ta Math!, a copy of which he’s placed on the Web. Here­with three rea­sons why I’m go­ing to have to buy the book ...
 
Wolfe’s Latest · I just fin­ished read­ing The Knight, by Gene Wolfe, one of on­ly two or three liv­ing au­thors whose works I’ll pick up with­out re­gard to re­views or word-of-mouth ...
 
Moneyball · I sus­pect I’m one of on­ly 100 lit­er­ate base­ball fans in the world who hadn’t al­ready read Michael Lewis’ Money­ball, but now I have, and if you’re one of the oth­er 99, you should too. A few words on the book and on books and Lewis and the A’s and or­thog­ra­phy and all that ...
 
3 Views of Mount Fuji · What hap­pened was, tired in an air­port look­ing for lightweight read­ing, I grabbed The Last De­fend­er of Camelot, col­lect­ed late works of Roger Ze­lazny, who was at the cen­tre of the SciFi uni­verse a few decades back. It has a piece called 24 Views of Mount Fu­ji, by Hoku­sai which won a Hu­go in 1986 and as a sto­ry is on­ly OK but as a nar­ra­tive wrapped around a fa­mous set of pic­tures it’s aw­ful­ly good. On im­pulse, I typed “hokusai 24” in­to Google, to dis­cov­er that there are 36 pic­tures in the orig­i­nal se­ries, but that Tim Ea­gen, back in ’98, poked around the Web and as­sem­bled the 24 im­ages from the Ze­lazny sto­ry; a fine piece of cu­ra­tor­ship and re­al­ly an es­sen­tial com­pan­ion to read­ing the sto­ry. Look­ing at one of them, I thought: I’ve been there. There’s an amus­ing nar­ra­tive to ac­com­pa­ny the views ...
 
History of the Present · That’s the ti­tle of an ex­cel­lent 1999 book I’m now read­ing, by Ti­mothy Gar­ton Ash. It is real-time re­portage fo­cus­ing around the great tran­si­tion from pre- to post-Cold War that hap­pened so unimag­in­ably fast, start­ing in 1989, be­fore our watch­ing eye­s. But the His­to­ry of the Pre­sent is what blog­gers are writ­ing, too; and Ash says some things that any­one who’s do­ing it should con­sid­er very care­ful­ly ...
 
Surprise! · Just got back from see­ing Master and Com­man­der. The the­atre was jam-packed; mind you it was Satur­day night, but stil­l, the movie’s been out for ages. I’m pleased it’s do­ing well be­cause it’s very good in­deed. Here­with a few notes on the movie, and more on the books be­hind it; if there are any book-lovers read­ing this who haven’t yet dis­cov­ered Pa­trick O’Brian, do your­self a big fa­vor and read on. Plus I close with the oblig­a­tory geek-interest side-notes. [Up­date: The Gun­room lives!] ...
 
Slowsilver · My per­son­al read­ing metabolism has been suf­fer­ing for quite some time from se­vere con­sti­pa­tion in­duced by Neal Stephenson’s Quick­sil­ver. This book is very large and not a snap­py read and I felt guilty about start­ing oth­er things un­til I’d fin­ished it. Now I have ...
 
Entropy · In this uni­verse, life in gen­er­al con­sti­tutes a los­ing bat­tle against en­tropy, with in­tel­li­gence per­haps our best tac­ti­cal as­set in that strug­gle. Re­cent­ly we launched a do­mes­tic counter-offensive; here­with some bat­tle­field re­portage ...
 
Xenophon · A few months back I talked up Herodotus; on today’s Clas­sic Authors Hit Pa­rade is Xenophon, whose Con­ver­sa­tions of Socrates car­ried me most of the long way from Van­cou­ver to Heathrow to­day (these new Power­books get two hours max, four if you turn the screen off and use it as a mu­sic box). The Socrates is a bit of a plod­der, but here­with an un­abashed rave over his An­aba­sis, a to­tal­ly un­be­liev­able true sto­ry well-told, and some gen­er­al re­marks as to why you might want to read these long-dead writ­er­s ...
 
A Slim Book of Verse · It is old, but pleas­ant to the eyes and fin­ger­s ...
 
The 1975 Idea-Futures Market · There’s been much ado in re­cent days over DARPA’s no­tion of set­ting up a fu­tures mar­ket where peo­ple could spec­u­late on the like­li­hood of geopo­lit­i­cal events: ter­ror­is­m, re­bel­lion, death, and so on. The os­cil­lat­ing waves of opin­ion were kind of amus­ing: ini­tial puz­zle­men­t, fol­lowed by re­flex­ive hor­ror and de­nun­ci­a­tion, with re­cent­ly a few qui­et voic­es say­ing “Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea.” This note is to point out that the idea goes back at least as far as John Brunner’s 1975 sci­fi nov­el Shock­wave Rider, which some of you might en­joy read­ing for its own sake ...
 
Jesus’ Son · By De­nis John­son, pub­lished 1992. Sto­ries lav­ish­ly praised by ev­ery­one in­clud­ing John Updike, some pub­lished in the New York­er no less, de­ranged nar­ra­tives out of al­co­holism and drug psy­chosis shot through with veins of the purest gold, gold­en lan­guage I mean. Wil­liam Bur­roughs ter­ri­to­ry here, on­ly West Coast ru­ral not Man­hat­tan, and kind of lin­ear. But once is enough ...
 
Archie and Nero, et al · I whiled away sev­er­al qui­et hours this hol­i­day (in Canada) week­end read­ing three of Rex Stout's “Nero Wolfe” nov­els that I ran across in a used book­store that leapt in front of me dur­ing a rou­tine shop­ping trip. For the huge num­ber of peo­ple too young to know about Archie and Nero, an in­tro­duc­tion. For the afi­ciona­dos, if any, a schol­ar­ly in­ves­ti­ga­tion of The Of­fice Lay­out Is­sue, and a point­er to a re­al DVD bar­gain ...
 
Sahara Unveiled · Sa­hara Un­veiled, by Wil­liam Langewi­esche, is a fine book. He trav­eled around and across the Sa­hara by lo­cal tran­sit and writes about it beau­ti­ful­ly. He likes the peo­ple and re­spects but does not ro­man­ti­cize them. This is a harsh un­beau­ti­ful land­scape and the writ­ing is of­ten that way. There are sur­pris­ing il­lus­tra­tions of pet­ro­glyph­s ...
 
Carl Hiaasen and Meta-Journalism · This note is to rec­om­mend books by Carl Hi­aasen, with a brief re­flec­tion on the fu­ture of jour­nal­ism pro­voked by his lat­est, Bas­ket Case ...
 
Herodotus · For some time now, Herodotus' His­to­ries, in the Aubrey de Sélincourt trans­la­tion, has been my bed­side book, and I just got to the end; this is my sec­ond time through the His­to­ries, and I wouldn't be sur­prised if I vis­it it again. I think there's lots in here for just about ev­ery­body, but any­one who cares about his­to­ry in the large would I think be mes­merised. I'll de­scribe the book briefly and out­line some of the rea­sons I like it so much. Al­so I'll trace a line of de­scent in­to some ex­cel­lent con­tem­po­rary fan­ta­sy writ­ing, and won­der about par­al­lels with the cur­rent Mid­dle East im­broglio ...
 
Iraq: Blame it on Lawrence's Bosses · I saw the pic­ture be­low in some on­line pub­li­ca­tion, and it struck me that quite like­ly, very few peo­ple know where Iraq came from. The pic­ture shows the del­e­ga­tion of Emir Feisal at the Ver­sailles con­fer­ence post-Great-War; the fel­low just over Feisal's left shoul­der, with two bands around his kaf­fiye­h, is T.E. Lawrence, a.k.a. Lawrence of Ara­bi­a. And there­in hangs a hell of a tale ...
 
"Pattern Recognition" by William Gibson · You have to cred­it Gib­son with, if noth­ing else, ex­treme courage. He has a proven gift for in­vent­ing al­ter­nate re­al­i­ties that huge num­bers of peo­ple are will­ing to buy his books about, and af­ter a cou­ple of decades of that, here he is with a linear-narrative type thriller set firm­ly in 2002 ...
 
Doesn't Anyone Read Out There? · (O­rig­i­nal­ly post­ed in Usenet's net.­books.) ...
 
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