This book is one of my all-time favorites, a bildungsroman of the techie world set between its two 1990s axes: Microsoft and Silicon Valley. My friendThis book is one of my all-time favorites, a bildungsroman of the techie world set between its two 1990s axes: Microsoft and Silicon Valley. My friends hear me make quips from this book far too often, perhaps my favorite being "Microsoft hired 3000 people last year and you know not all of them were gems."
The quick summary is: boy goes to work for Microsoft, boy leaves Microsoft for startup in Silicon Valley, and lives and learns as he and his friends -- his coworkers -- struggle to ship product. But it's not about the technology, and it's not about the business.
The technical aspects of the plot (such as it is) were laughable then and even more ridiculous now, but the dreams and aspirations and the surreality of life in both places -- and ages, as the characters grope through their 20's and growing up -- come through clearly. The book is an odd mixture of straightforward events, weird vignettes, and stream of consciousness observation of the totems and symbols of this weird, weird world, and somehow it works.
I can't tell you if this is really a good book, though, because I spent time at Microsoft in the early 1990's and I was a 20-something then and I moved to Silicon Valley in the late 1990's and this book just got it -- it understood what it meant to be in this weird culture and this weird place and this weird age where anything could happen if you just worked hard enough and you let your health go to hell and you got to be in on one-point-oh (1.0). It might be less a novel of growth for our times than a historical artifact, capturing that experience that was the 90s, or it might just be the novel that somehow captured my life.
All I know is that I keep reading it again and again and I still think it's good. ...more
I saw the movie "Raise the Titanic" way back when I was a little kid and had a fondness for the movie (which I suspect was a really, really bad movieI saw the movie "Raise the Titanic" way back when I was a little kid and had a fondness for the movie (which I suspect was a really, really bad movie given that it disappeared quickly and has never been seen since). Mostly I remember the Titanic surfacing and thinking "wow, that was cool." So I thought the book would be fun, too.
It's not. It's awful-terrible-horrible even by my standards for thrillers, which can be pretty good even when they're pretty bad. Now, I love a good thriller, but I had a hard time finishing this. It has paper-thin characters, cartoon bad guys, the completely random (yet boring) sex scene with the hero that makes no sense at all, repeated contrived near-death situations, and worst of all, the fun part -- raising the Titanic -- is finished pretty quickly.
An early variant of Stephenson's 'Snow Crash' writing style. More down-to-earth plot, set in the present rather than the near-future, but just as muchAn early variant of Stephenson's 'Snow Crash' writing style. More down-to-earth plot, set in the present rather than the near-future, but just as much fun. It definitely feels rougher and less polished than either Snow Crash or The Diamond Age, but it's great fun. And the description of trying to cross the street in Boston is worth the purchase price. ...more
This is one of my all-time favorite books. It combines a thought experiment -- what if humans weren't always gendered, and how would that change us? -This is one of my all-time favorite books. It combines a thought experiment -- what if humans weren't always gendered, and how would that change us? -- and a rollicking good story.
The gist of the background is that at some point in the past, humanity was seeded throughout the galaxy by an ancient race, and it was not until "recently" that the worlds of Man have come together again -- and we are still finding lost brothers and sisters in the void. One of these worlds is Gethen, also known as "Winter", which is a world that has human civilization surviving an Ice Age. But even more interesting than the world are the people who live on it: the people of Gethen are periodically hermaphroditic; 5/6 of the time they are completely genderless and then they go into heat (kemmer), during which they can either assume male or female roles -- so the average Gethenian can be both father and mother to a number of children. Genly Ai is the Earth human (male) who is serving as an ambassador from the other worlds of humanity, to see if the Gethenians want to rejoin their extended family.
LeGuin uses this setting to ask the obvious questions: what would people who are normally genderless be like? What kind of world and societies would they build?... but it's also a great story. The struggles of being different and the ability of people to disregard or downplay the evidence in front of them, to take the remarkable and use it for their own petty ends -- these are the struggles of Genly Ai as he tries to convince the Gethenians that there is a larger world out there and that it would welcome them. His efforts form the narrative backbone of the book even as the fundamental weirdness of the Gethenians makes you think on every page.
I've been reading Vinge's stories since the mid-80's and this is a really nice compendium of (almost) all of them -- most notably lacking his most famI've been reading Vinge's stories since the mid-80's and this is a really nice compendium of (almost) all of them -- most notably lacking his most famous, "True Names", which apparently the publisher wants to sell on its own for $10.
Personally, I found his early stories, while highly uneven and not as polished as the later ones, to be generally more fun -- or maybe it's because so many of the later stories are tied to books, and are (in hindsight) early explorations into those worlds, so they tend to feel lacking.
In summary, if you like Vinge's novels, read this book. If you didn't, but you thought he had some neat ideas, read this book. If you don't know Vinge, I don't think this is the right place to start....more
Fourth in the Ringworld series and theoretically a culmination, but never put it past Niven to find something else to mine. Not the best but it's alwaFourth in the Ringworld series and theoretically a culmination, but never put it past Niven to find something else to mine. Not the best but it's always fun to visit the Ringworld. ...more
Have you ever watched a sequel to a movie that you really liked, and partway into it realized that the whole purpose of the movie was for the stars toHave you ever watched a sequel to a movie that you really liked, and partway into it realized that the whole purpose of the movie was for the stars to have a paid summer vacation? (Yes Ocean's Twelve, I'm looking at you.) The plot is thin, marginal characters from the original show up, there are a lot of exotic locales and gratuitous makeouts between characters (onscreen or off), and basically everyone in the production, if not the audience, is having fun.
The Gripping Hand is that concept applied to science fiction novels. Take one of the best science fiction novels ever, bring back characters important and marginal, visit several more fun-but-only-tangentially-related places in that universe, and have a lot more partying and sex. Oh, and have a feel-good but thin plot to tie it all together. Then, sell it to all your fans who loved the first book and watch the royalties flow in.
An entertaining, if infuriating, end-of-the-world thriller. While it stands OK on its own, it is definitely part of a trilogy, and leaves a lot of topAn entertaining, if infuriating, end-of-the-world thriller. While it stands OK on its own, it is definitely part of a trilogy, and leaves a lot of topics (intentionally) unexplored. It is also definitely a thriller rather than science fiction -- the Grand Conspiracy that brings about the end is far more organized, and far more successful, than one would really expect.
This book focuses on the end of the world as we know it and what happens immediately after; there is an unorganized unfocused group called Daybreak that hates the Big System and wants to bring that down; they are portrayed as being across the political spectrum but mostly lefty hippie types. The odd thing is that it starts out examining the end of the world and winds up being a political machinations thriller that takes place in a world going from the 21st century to the 18th. ...more
An amazing book when I was 18 and felt that I had the world at my feet and could do anything. After realizing that I was almost certainly not destinedAn amazing book when I was 18 and felt that I had the world at my feet and could do anything. After realizing that I was almost certainly not destined to be one of the great power brokers of the world who's not bound by the rules, just one of the peons to be controlled by those power brokers, the heartlessness and poison of her philosophy became apparent.
I give it 3 stars because it was remarkable when I was 18. It's just not anymore.
Written while (after?) Robinson got to participate in the Antarctic Writers' and Artists' Program down South. It is a classic Kim Stanley Robinson booWritten while (after?) Robinson got to participate in the Antarctic Writers' and Artists' Program down South. It is a classic Kim Stanley Robinson book with engaging characters, a multi-layered plot, and amazing surroundings -- but it's definitely not his best work. Then again, "not his best work" is still eminently readable and remarkably good.
The plot loosely centers on an Antarctica of the early 21st century and the machinations as the Antarctic Treaty comes up for negotiations again. As is often the case, Robinson's plot, while interesting and (reasonably) coherent, is really an excuse to meet interesting characters and an amazing place. And, as always seems true with Antarctica books, the Ice itself is the main character. ...more
I can't explain why I like this so much; it's written like (and by an author of) TV shows -- but it's just enjoyable, perfect escapist fluff, and deliI can't explain why I like this so much; it's written like (and by an author of) TV shows -- but it's just enjoyable, perfect escapist fluff, and delightful to do so. You have your near-human bad guys (with all the fun animalistic stuff thrown in), your tough-as-a-machine-in-more-ways-than-one captain, the idealistic-but-world-weary XO who can't decide if he wants a captaincy or not, the near-omniscient computer, and there's just enough background to make it a fun read without bogging anything down with reality.
A great way to spend a few hours when you don't want anything substantial....more
While I'm on the subject of fluff... My favorite Tom Clancy book -- it avoids all the troubles of political machinations and diplomatic cooperation andWhile I'm on the subject of fluff... My favorite Tom Clancy book -- it avoids all the troubles of political machinations and diplomatic cooperation and gets us into a nice big war with a minimum of plot. A reminder of the "good old days" when all we had to worry about were state actors (damn commies!) and teenage boys wanted a reprise of WWII but with the latest goodies.
Obviously completely dated now (what's the Soviet Union?) but still near the top of my "complete fluff escapism" list.
It was a fun and enjoyable read, but I can't help but feel I've read this book before. Wearable computers and network jockeys battle over the fate ofIt was a fun and enjoyable read, but I can't help but feel I've read this book before. Wearable computers and network jockeys battle over the fate of the world in a manner familiar to anyone who's read Marooned in Realtime or A Fire Upon The Deep, and while the superficial time setting is different than those two -- our near future, before the "Singularity" of technology takes humanity to the next level, rather than the deep future -- this Vinge fan thinks it seems a little too familiar. It's not that it's bad; it's a well-told tale and the characters are fun. The most fun bits are biologic - real proof that the next century will be genomic like this one was electronic. ...more