**spoiler alert** Like many others, I gave myself a 50 book challenge for 2008. (Actually my personal challenge went from 1 Dec 07 to 30 Nov 08, but t...more**spoiler alert** Like many others, I gave myself a 50 book challenge for 2008. (Actually my personal challenge went from 1 Dec 07 to 30 Nov 08, but that’s a minor detail.) Unfortunately, I only got through 40 books in the past 12 months (though some were as long as several books); fortunately, most of those 40 were good, quality reads. I also managed to meet my commitment to read more fiction.
Though I enjoyed reading all of these books, by far my favorite of the year was Neal Stephenson’s newest book, Anathem. In fact, it is probably safe to say that Anathem has replaced Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon as my favorite work of fiction. The story is both broad and deep, as fans have become accustomed to getting from Stephenson.
Anathem is, in many ways, three books in one. If anyone were to make this into a movie, which I hope someone does, they should do it in three parts. The breadth and depth of the stories would crumble with anything less.
The first act is an introduction to Fraa Erasmas and the mathic world. Stephenson manages to keep you confused, curious, and frustrated - and thoroughly entertained - as we become comfortable with this strange yet familiar environment. The world that Stephenson creates in Anathem is at once very Earth-like and very Earth-different. There is familiarity in almost everything, and yet everything is different. For example, the concents are nothing more than monasteries, except that the inhabitants are theors, not enthusiasts (as it is here in our world).
Act 2 sees Fraa Erasmas and some of his new found Extramuros friends making their way across what is to Erasmas a strange, often frightening and dangerous world. Like the middle of any trilogy, there is a lot of explanation of what has come before and setting up for what is to come. Some reviewers have criticized this part of the book as slow and dragging down the plot, but to me it is an essential piece to understanding how Erasmas becomes able to face what is to come in Act 3.
Act 3 is the culmination of everything that Erasmas has learned, and has him questioning everything he knows and thought he knew. It’s hard to say more without giving away anything/everything. Suffice it to say, by the time you get to the end you’ll be ready to flip back to the first page and start all over again.
At its heart, Anathem is a reflection - a meditation almost - on the relationship between pure theory and the practical arts of engineering and technology, with a touch of skepticism and mysticism thrown in. It helped me realize - or, more accurately, remember - that what i really enjoy is figuring out where theory and practice come together in all the great achievements of the past and how I can use that intersection of theory and practice to achieve great things of my own in the future.
I first read the Forever War nearly 20 years ago and remember thinking what a great book it is. I recently heard (read?) that Ridley Scott is making a...moreI first read the Forever War nearly 20 years ago and remember thinking what a great book it is. I recently heard (read?) that Ridley Scott is making a film adaptation, and by chance I saw the book on the library shelf as I was browsing. Seemed like fate, so I'm reading it again.
Update: Just as good as I remembered. Even better maybe. Amazing how prescient Haldeman was, if not in technology then in politics and the reasons we sometimes go to war. Obviously told from the perspective of someone who didn't want to be in a war, so there is an inherent bias. It would be interesting to see the story told from the objective time frame of Earth as the centuries that this war span unfold.(less)
A good book, though not nearly as exciting or enjoyable as the first book, "Time's Eye." The experience of reading this book was very like seeing "Mat...moreA good book, though not nearly as exciting or enjoyable as the first book, "Time's Eye." The experience of reading this book was very like seeing "Matrix Reloaded"; good story, worth reading, but lacking just about everything that made the original so much fun.
Probably the best way to describe Sunstorm is as a straightforward action/drama. Some suspense in terms of the details of the final outcome, but no real doubt in how the big picture would turn out.
Looking forward to what book 3, "First Born", has in store.(less)
Just finished this book. I really enjoyed it, but am not reaally sure how to describe. In fact, it is nearly impossible to give any kind of summary wi...moreJust finished this book. I really enjoyed it, but am not reaally sure how to describe. In fact, it is nearly impossible to give any kind of summary without giving away key points. I can say that it is nothing like I expected it to be, not really what the liner notes led me to think it was. (Hint: it is not at all like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.)
Will have to give it a bit more thought before writing more about it.(less)
Not quite a short story, but not really a novel either. An entertaining story that at the end will have you thinking about the course your life has ta...moreNot quite a short story, but not really a novel either. An entertaining story that at the end will have you thinking about the course your life has taken in the past, and that it is taking into the future, and wondering what you might do if you could take a trip into the past or the future.
My favorite quote from the book: Four things do not come back: the spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity.(less)
An interesting, very enjoyable collection of geek-fiction and science-fiction short stories. From the very personal (what would it be like if you coul...moreAn interesting, very enjoyable collection of geek-fiction and science-fiction short stories. From the very personal (what would it be like if you could know and understand your unconscious/sub-conscious self) to the epic (what if God did participate in world affairs, but you chose to not love or worship Him) to stories about how you see the world effects your relationships with the world, there's a little bit of everything here.
Reminded me how much I enjoy short stories, not the least because I can start and finish them in a quick pre-sleep reading session.
Though marketed as a teen book, Little Brother is an excellent story for adults too. In fact, I would say that any adult who wants to get a better und...moreThough marketed as a teen book, Little Brother is an excellent story for adults too. In fact, I would say that any adult who wants to get a better understanding of teen geeks and hackers should read this book. It's fiction, but....
If you enjoyed Daniel Suarez's books Daemon and Freedom(tm), you will enjoy this. It is geek-fiction at its best. And, where Suarez gets a bit didactic, especially in Freedom(tm), Little Brother is all about the story. The technology and everything else is just a part of the story.
Little Brother has at its heart a bit of optimism. Not to say that the book is all fun and games and happy endings, it is most definitely not that. It is more the spirit of the main characters that keeps you hopeful throughout, though you really don't know where it is going to end up and - without giving anything away - you may not like where things do go.
Be warned, if you are a techno-phobe, this is hard-core geek fiction. Video games, hacking, Linux, hacking, security, cryptography, RFID (hacking) and more. The nice thing about this being a "teen" book, though, is that Doctorow takes the time in the story to explain most of these things. Through the eyes of the protagonist/narrator, of course, and all in the interest of moving the story along. Which it does.
Almost 400 pages, and I finished it in two days; for me, that means it was a very good book.(less)