I didn't know this was still in print, especially not new editions. I've owned at least three full sets of the 1956 edition throughout my life, thoughI didn't know this was still in print, especially not new editions. I've owned at least three full sets of the 1956 edition throughout my life, though, and I can't imagine removing any part of it, just adding new pieces.
This isn't dry, abstract math. This is living, breathing, and accessible independent essays, explanations, biographies, histories, and snippets that touch on most aspect of the math community. Anyone can pick up a volume of this, browse for a few minutes, and find some section interesting and educational. It's perfect to just have on the shelf in easy reach and grab for a minute or two on a break.
That is the first line of Arcology and it's given two pages all to itself, emphasizing the difference in scale bet"This book is about miniaturization"
That is the first line of Arcology and it's given two pages all to itself, emphasizing the difference in scale between the large-format book and the small text.
Soleri's vision of arcology is usually relegated to the back corners of science fiction and the odd comment in newspaper reviews of architecture, usually indicating how far outside of the mainstream Soleri is considered to be. More attention is given to the culture at Arcosanti, where 20-somethings go to live, make bells, and work on his "urban laboratory."
As with most things, going back to the source reveals a different world than the third-hand repetitions found even in excellent reproductions. Reading Arcology for yourself, you find several interesting things.
First, the writing is enjoyable. Soleri makes comments about his "lazy Italian tongue" and his poor grammar, but he learned English at Taliesin West, serving tables and waiting on Frank Lloyd Wright. The people he learned the language from were some of the best--and most idiosyncratic--minds of the time. He never shies from complex sentences and making up words seems to be a hobby. If you only like the more modern style of short and declarative prose, you may find him tiresome, but if you are willing to dive into some nuanced language that focuses down to what it means, then he's a hoot to read.
Second, the book isn't at all about making big buildings or dehumanizing people. He starts with history--social, technological, and civil--and extrapolates to what he believes is an unavoidable step in human society.
The central argument is that all things evolve towards miniaturization, towards complexity, and towards increased duration, although the measurement of duration may be complicated. In general, he reduces these to increased interconnections between parts: cities from towns, computers from radios, and so forth. He considers this descriptive rather than prescriptive.
Given an assumption of this direction in growth, he asks how humans can increase interconnection between one another and with nature. To this he adds some values he would like to see evolve; these values are prescriptive: no poverty, live with access to and in harmony with nature, increased sense of community (although the perception of community size may change), separation of industry from living and socializing areas. The well-known arcologies come from this.
Throughout, the book is incredibly illustrated. The top half of most pages is given to illustrations and diagrams that relate to the text plus some full-page diagrams and pictures for complex topics. At the end of the book he presents 21 sample arcologies of varying size, each suited to one natural environment. These are concept diagrams, not blueprints, and lovely to look at. You can see how these captured the science fiction community's attention.
So if you - have any interest at all in arcologies, Soleri, architecture, urban design, big-system models of evolution, or an early view of how ecology can be integrated into life, - can enjoy reading some complex (but still somehow breezy and humorous) writing - want to look at pretty pictures and diagrams of (non-biological) evolutionary process and big buildings
then check it out. It's back in print and it's a fun read. Very quotable, too.
You may disagree with his urban design or his model of miniaturization, complexification, and duration; you may find some of his presentation very late-60s/early-70s (he's a bit woo-woo at times); and you may find he requires a few more leaps of faith than you're willing to take, but the book is interesting whether or not you agree with the conclusion....more
Reading Islands in the Net now, it may take a minute to figure out why it's a cyberpunk classic. There is very little VR, and what is there is not desReading Islands in the Net now, it may take a minute to figure out why it's a cyberpunk classic. There is very little VR, and what is there is not described in detail. Most of the book is off the grid (but then again, much of Neuromancer is, too). The heroine isn't a hack, programmer, or counterculture sympathizer, in fact, she's a corporate worker.
But read further in and you'll see that it's about the essential cyberpunk issues. Corporations consolidating power and those who don't get any. The impact of instant world-wide communication and what happens to those who aren't included. How technology and society change one another and how the morals of those involved matter. Whether the masses can threaten a global social order. What kind of crimes, if any, can be forgiven for the sake of technical or social genius.
The major action of the book is completely relevant today: global terrorism and the questions of social and economic breakdown in Africa. What is likely, what is preventable, how do they affect the rest of the world, and does anyone have both the power and the will to affect the issues?
The book is written in Stirling's slightly-dry style and the setting changes back and forth in ways that may large sections of the book less interesting to some readers. It's worth it and it's far from a slog, but be aware going in that it's best to either do it in one quick read or spread out over many days.
The story follows Laura Webster. She is a high-flyer rising in Rizome Corporation, a multinational megaconglomerate. (The pun on "rhizome" is no doubt intentional.) At the beginning of the book she's starting up a new subsidiary, a Lodge in Galvaston the company uses as a combination retreat, vacation spot, and meeting place for the most discrete business. Her architect husband designed the place and now spends a lot of his time playing Worldrun, a sim game of modern politics. Like most players he can't master the art of keeping Africa stable.
Laura and David--and their baby--become involved in Rizome business with offshore data pirates, learning the ins and outs of international banking crime. Along the way they meet other people sheltering offshore, criminal scientists and artists. As her involvement deepens she finds herself stuck between Rizome, the newly-recreated Church of Isis, terrorists, rogue states, African nationalists, American nationalists, rival multinationals, and the interests of her own family. Terrorist acts threaten the almost-one-world government, a meltdown of African societies threatens to both her safety and her morals, and the implications of the gulf between Net-haves and Net-have-nots, whether by reason of location, income, or literacy, rises to the world stage.
This is one of the few cyberpunk books written from the suit perspective, and it's a pleasure to see genuine idealism alongside power-plays in the zaibatsu....more
**spoiler alert** This review includes some spoilers.
Hawkes Harbor is in the "redemption tale" subgenre of vampire stories; unlike most, though, we ha**spoiler alert** This review includes some spoilers.
Hawkes Harbor is in the "redemption tale" subgenre of vampire stories; unlike most, though, we have multiple characters needing different kinds of redemption.
We follow our protagonist, Jamie Sommers, from age six to the grave. The book is structured in 4 intercut timeframes:
1. Jamie in his late 30s during a stay in an insane asylum. Narrated by his psychiatrist.
2. Jamie as a young man working his way around the world as a sailor, smuggler, and general adventurer in the 40s, 50s, and early 60s. Told to the psychiatrist in Jamie's more lucid moments.
3. Jamie living at Hawkes Harbor, a remote old mansion in a remote New England town. It is here, while hiding out from the results of his last sea adventure--one both profitable and tragic--that Jamie experiences the shock and subsequent decline that leads to his placement in the asylem. Told to the psychiatrist.
4. Jamie's life after he is discharged from the asylum and returns to Hawkes Harbor--back to the mansion and employer which caused his breakdown.
Events in any one timeframe are not presented in chronological order, so it can be a bit dizzying to read at first. Second readings are rewarding.
The action concerns Jamie coming to terms with his morality and his concept of human versus supernatural. Raised in a Catholic orphanage from age 6, he clearly remembers the priest confiscating an expensive crucifix his mother had given him--his "promise of heaven"--as donations to the church. After this, his faith in spiritual redemption is weak.
As a young man, Jamie travels the world in the company of an unscrupulous, but steadfast, friend; throughout the book he slowly reveals to his therapist how severe some of his crimes (and their punishments) were.
When Jamie finally breaks with his friend's ways (but not with their friendship) and goes to hide in Hawkes Harbor he accidentally awakens Mr Hawkes, the vampire who founded the town two hundred years before. Hawkes takes control of Jamie and sets about returning to his mansion and integrating himself into modern life. As his servant, Jamie is forced to help Hawkes commit atrocities and to protect a monster from discovery.
In a straightforward horror story, the climax of the book would come when Mr Hawkes, begins work on a ritual of some unknown purpose while Jamie becomes caught up in the kidnapping of a young girl from town. Her boyfriend, the son of the sherrif, is convinced Jamie has taken her. These events are destined, in any horror story, to clash in some way disasterous to the hero.
But the book is interested in what follows, Jamie's slow and painful recovery from the physical and psychological trauma that results, Mr Hawkes' and his doctor-accomplice's reactions to Jamie's return. Jamie and the doctor work to redeem Hawkes, Hawkes and the doctor have very different ideas on how to take care of Jamie, and the doctor's own villany slowly dawns on her.
The real climax of the book occurs when Jamie, Hawkes, and the doctor finally bring their tensions to a head.
The book returns to Jamie's lost promise of heaven and the fate of his sailor friend. The real story is the redemption--or lack of it--that Jamie, Hawkes, and the doctor can find for themselves and one another.
It's also a great read. Well worth re-reading, too. Five stars for the subtle and believable changes in the relationship between Jamie and Hawkes and how their individual morals change. The last bit of the last star is for not everyone getting everything they want and not everyone growing the same amount. Redemption isn't the same to all people. ...more
Buy a good collection of Kafka's stories and put it in the bathroom.
If you've been led to believe that Kafka wrote drab stories about alienatiBuy a good collection of Kafka's stories and put it in the bathroom.
If you've been led to believe that Kafka wrote drab stories about alienation and angst (and that The Metamorphosis is a tradgedy), then take a magic marker, cross out the name on the spine, and pretend it's a weird book by Dave Sedaris or something. Kafka's stories are smart, often funny, quick to read, and as modern and relevant as ever.
In the bathroom you'll probably bypass the larger works (including The Metamorphosis) and discover his short-shorts. We call it "flash fiction" now: stories under a few hundred words and packing a poem-like punch into their lean frames. Kafka was a master of the form, but they are too short to use as an essay subject in high school, so too many people don't read them.
When you've adjusted to Kafka as an absurdist who actually likes people, then re-read The Metamorphosis (and finish it this time--it ends on an "up" note, much to most peoples' surprise) and strike out into The Hunger Artist, The Penal Colony, and the rest.
Treat this is a collection of fun, short, absurd, witty stories and forget everything your high school english teacher told you. He or she had't actually read Kafka in decades, after all. ...more
Donaldson says two interesting things about this book
One is that it's based on the Ring Cycle. Knowing that makes it a better read: these aren't humaDonaldson says two interesting things about this book
One is that it's based on the Ring Cycle. Knowing that makes it a better read: these aren't human beings running around in space; rather, they're heroes and gods disguised as humans. And some of the gods take a long, long view, even if it means sacrificing themselves.
The second is his distinction between melodrama--the interaction between villain, victim, and hero--and drama, where hero, villian, and victim change roles. When the victim takes charge of her own life and becomes the hero, you have real drama, and in the Gap series every major character is alternately villain, victim, and hero to almost every other character.
This can be hard to bear. The first book--The Real Story--takes a simple, one-page space opera tale (which was printed as an ad for the book) and tells it twice more, in more detail each time, showing that the notion of hero and villain is not simple and may be completely inaccurate. This book stands on its own without the next four, but they add to it immeasurably.
Over the next four books, these same three roles drift believably between the three extremely damaged people from The Real Story--the dour, antisocial pirate Angus Thermopyle, the dashingly heroic pirate Nick Succorso and his loyal crew, and poor Morn Hyland, the innocent and beautiful space cop caught between them.
The "gods" of the story--back at Earth and spacestations around it instead of in Valhalla--watch these three torment and save one another as they line up their own conflicts, using all three with the same ruthlesness gods always seem to.
It's a classic story told well. The space opera adaptation sits very nicely and the god characters (the UCMP executives planning to arrest, rescue, or kill the three main heroes at various times) work especially well given their source material.
This series has a much cleaner writing style than Donaldson's fantasy. Almost "breezy" at times, which doesn't make the content--violence more often emotional than physical, rape of bodies and minds, and casual corruption of society and spirits--any more palatable.
My girlfriend called this series "books about what it means to be human." That says it all right there, the good and the bad....more
This series is somewhat infamous: it's widely regarded as brilliant (which it is), it's widely considered depressing (which it can be), the hero is ofThis series is somewhat infamous: it's widely regarded as brilliant (which it is), it's widely considered depressing (which it can be), the hero is often unappealing (which is the point), and many find the trilogy at least 25% too long (which is true). Plus, the follow-on trilogy tells almost the same story with almost the same point to it.
So, what's the fuss about?
Covenant isn't "Tolkien with the serial numbers filed off." That it holds together with a complete fantasy story in a clear, magical fantasy world and you never once want to compare it to Middle Earth is a good enough start to recommend reading it. Covenant is a fantasy The Stranger, taking a disaffected character who denies all responsibility in his life and feels completely disconnected from the world around him and giving him the power of life and death.
The character Thomas Covenant is definitely unappealing. I put the book down and had to restart it 3 times after a scene in the first book where he--refusing to believe that the woman he was with was anything other than a dream--committed a rape. The morality of how you treat not-real people is a regular theme of Donaldson's and this is his first and harshest demonstration of the subject. It's not easy to read and it's not easy to go on with a protagonist like that.
Watching him slowly learn guilt, remorse, and repentence takes the next two-and-a-half books. As many people comment, that portion of the story is a downer.
Alongside the moral tale we have the fantasy epic: a modern American man returning to a fantasy world (The Land) several times seeing the consequences of his involvement in their epic battle against their own satan-figure: Lord Foul, who wants to break the Arch of the World and release himself into our universes.
Everyone in The Land believes that Covenant is the "White Gold Wielder" who carries power strong enough to break the arch or to stop Foul. This sets up the fantasy/action story, where the people of The Land try to convince Covenant to learn to use his powers and to use them for the greater good and Foul tries to get the power.
Since Covenant only visits The Land when he's suffered a head injury or some other strange type of sleep, he believes The Land is a fantasy of his own imagination.
The people in The Land don't understand why he doesn't believe in them, but they do see how broken he himself is and realize that he won't be able to help them unless he heals from his personal traumas and builds some positive self-concept.
It's a strange twist on the "apprentice who just needs confidence" trope and his mistakes during the early period are all the more appalling because he doesn't feel guilty.
Throughout the book, there is not one scene in The Land that doesn't include Covenant. At the end, we are left with no proof one way or another that The Land is a real alternate world where Covenant travelled. Perhaps his Unbelief at the beginning was correct. The existential element of the story asks why we care which is real; he does what he does and the morality comes from his making the choices.
That's heady stuff for a lightning-bolt-slinging fantasy series and it's not for everyone. It isn't modern "dark fantasy" with supposed anti-heroes who are just ashamed of being good at heart, it's real fantasy where the character development is on as epic a scale as the good-vs-evil plot.
This isn't bus reading and no book is right for everyone, but it's an audacious and brilliant series that flexes fantasy's power to drive character. It's also a fun read with the single scariest magical nasties in the genre (the Reavers).
The second series? It's different on the moral tale while following the same general plot arc, showing how the character involved changes the story. Not worth reading for everyone, but worth a shot if you like the first or if you are interested in the structure of fiction....more
If you're only going to read one Lem in your life... ...seek medical help. There are several essential Lem books and stories.
And this is one of them. BIf you're only going to read one Lem in your life... ...seek medical help. There are several essential Lem books and stories.
And this is one of them. Both of them. Something like that. It's an essential Lem book of essential Lem stories.
The basic outline is simple: two robot inventors (they are robots and they invent robots... whether they invented themselves is indeed an open question) appear, one or the other or both, in some fashion, in a series of stories set in a universe of robots. The inventors--friends, rivals, and each the only one capable of understanding the other's genius--are Nasrudin-like figures, both wise and fools, both creating problems and solving them, meeting common (robot) folk and uncommon (robot) world leaders.
They try to one-up one another, they try to help one another, and through it all they teach by doing and do by teaching. Maybe the comparison to Mullah Nasrudin is more apt than I'd realized.
If Mullah Nasrudin were two space-travelling robot inventors....
Yeah, that's the book.
And btw, it's hilarious, it's a quick read, and it's really easy to get ahold of....more
It isn't the world's most challenging puzzle. It isn't a very hard maze.
But even knowing the way to the center and back, I love to travel through thisIt isn't the world's most challenging puzzle. It isn't a very hard maze.
But even knowing the way to the center and back, I love to travel through this book, wandering from room to room looking at the scenery and enjoying the sense of space, the changing light, and the wry jabs from the narrator.
I never bothered looking for the "hidden puzzle" with the cash prize (puzzle-books with cash prizes were a fad when this came out), but I expect it was a let-down anyway.
Take a look at this if you want to solve the maze or if you want to explore the world. Take it slow and appreciate the rooms. Imagine the people coming and going and make up what other rooms are in the building.
It's a blast.
Oh, the maze itself: quite solvable. Yes, it does kind of cheat, but the cheat is clearly marked and feels entirely fair to me....more
This is a review of the Anthony Villiers trilogy, not just this volume. You can read the books in any order without losing any plot, although there arThis is a review of the Anthony Villiers trilogy, not just this volume. You can read the books in any order without losing any plot, although there are some amusing references from book to book. As the books go on the tone changes, but I'll discuss that below.
If you only read one book in the trilogy, this should be the one. It's the one I read first and it stands alone extremely well. Being the middle in the set it has the best of both ends of the tone shift that affects the run.
Samuel R Delaney intruduced book one (Star Well) begins with a note. It summed up the series nicely: [Star Well] is something I have never seen in science fiction before. It is the first in a series of novels that examines the proposition that the world is composed of small communities of mutual interest. When the pith of that statement is bared as astutely as it is in this novel, it does not matter which "small community" you belong to..."
The series follows the adventures of Anthony Villiers: "By avocation he was a traveller. By profession he was good company." He is also Viscount Charteris, although he rarely uses his title. It is a classic space opera setting: aristrocrats travel between worlds, the Emperor manages the next slow decline of humanity into decadence and apathy, and gentlemen of means play complicated games across dozens of worlds in between duels with energy pistols or old-fashioned swords. Aliens that integrate well into human society are appreciated; other aliens are Restricted.
Villiers is a gentleman in "reduced circumstances": he travels following his stipend from port to port so his father can keep him on the move. His travelling companion is Torve, a Trog. Trogs are one of those Restricted aliens. Only a handful have travel permits. Torve is not one of those handful. But Torve is an artist, and his muse requires him to travel. The confluence that results whenever bureaucrats question Torve--an always polite, six-foot tall, very literal-minded, furry frog whose philosophical system denies the concept of causality--are things of beauty.
Proceeding from book to book, we get closer and closer to Villiers' own community. The Star Well is a swashbuckling tale of space pirates, con artists, and g-men. The Thurb Revolution is slower-paced; Villiers meets up with an old friend--another aristrocrat--and decides to go camping. Of course, that camping trip leads to a two-world student rebellion, the downfall of a world-wide children's author, a meeting with God, and a change to the line of imperial succession. Masque World puts Villiers among family and imperial delegates, trying to find his elusive stipend check while the people go into hiding from a local fraternal organization's annual game of Marvels and Wonders. And Torve encounters the first bureaucrat who won't simply refuse to believe that he exists.
Oh, and through all three books he wants to know why there's an assassin after him.
These are hilarious books. The humor generally consists of the characters' ability or inability to interact with different communities/cultures (Villiers' most redeeming quality is the fluidity with which he crosses community lines--and take that as you will) or the author's wry and astute observations about the characters, their circumstances, and the reader's own expectations.
The Thurb Revolution opens with these words:
Night is irregular. What is not done in the daytime becomes possible at night: murder and sex and thought.
Among the few practical and practicable writing books, this is a classic.
Knight was a fabulous short writer. With many authors that doesn't translateAmong the few practical and practicable writing books, this is a classic.
Knight was a fabulous short writer. With many authors that doesn't translate to writing good writing advice, but Knight as also introspective, insightful, and interested in theory. The book contains both cognitive models to help organize thinking and steps/processes to help get stories done.
The book begins with a great introduction on "Three Reasons I Should Not Have Written This Book" two being myths/half-truths about whether writing can be learned and one being the belief that learning about writing stifles creativity. Knight addresses them without dismissing them entirely. He admits to his personal dogmatism without claiming either to be right or to have minimized it in the text. And he gives several practical and practicable techniques for reading a book on writing.
After those incredibly educational three pages, we get to the actual material :-)
The sections of the book are interesting: 1. Developing your talent as a writer (21 pages, 5 exercises) Motivation, stages of development, observation
2. Idea into story (75 pages, 2 exercises) Getting ideas, research, constraints, conflict, plot types, theme, meaning, some excellent and detailed examples
3. Beginning a story (47 pages, 4 exercises) Five questions about your story, four decisions to make
4. Controlling a story (29 pages, 9 exercises) Being interesting, compression, surprise, tone, voice, style, dialog
5. Finishing a story (9 pages, 1 exercise) What to do when stuck, targeting a market, working with editors
6. Being a writer (16 pages) Bylines, work habits, drugs and alcohol, reading, networking, spouses/partners, etc.
That's an interesting layout: it's both structured/linear/small-chunk (idea, beginning, "controlling," and finishing) as well as theoretical/cognitive and large-chunk/big picture (developing talent, "controlling" as a metaphor, "being a writer"). That's both part of Knight's talent as a writer and part of his message for writers, that the small and cognitive details are equal to the larger structure and more fuzzy concepts like voice, style, structure, and character. The exercises, examples, and suggestions complement this.
The book is written in very small sections, many no more than a page, that pack a lot of training into a small number of words--sometimes almost covertly.
A major part of the value of the book is in Knight's rare ability to cover multiple elements of the process of writing at once. In his classes on managing a school classroom and in his classes on public speaking, Michael Grinder uses the "ABCs" of kinds of teaching: teaching Attitide, teaching Behavior (or skill), and teaching Cognition. Very few teachers do all three well and extremely few combine them into one. Knight does that here.
In a TusCon panel on writer's block, I presented the model that a writer needs five things: motivation to write, conviction that the story is worth writing and they can write it, decision to write the story and about the elements of the story, creativity to create the story, and a process to write. Most writing books cover one or two (Writing Down the Bones covers motivation and conviction, the Fundamentals of Fiction Writing series cover decision and process, etc). Knight covers each of these both explicitly in their own sections and implicitly/covertly in his presentation.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden and her husband, Patrick, have been fixtures in the science fiction community for decades. They have published and contributed tTeresa Nielsen Hayden and her husband, Patrick, have been fixtures in the science fiction community for decades. They have published and contributed to important fanzines through the community's rocky 70s and 80s. They then settled into editor positions at Tor, a major publisher of SF/F.
Making Book is a collection of Teresa's essays, fanzine contributions, and stories. It covers a lot of ground: her famous story of being formally excommunicated from the Mormon church, an essay about the trials and tribulations of working on the other side of the financial aid counter at a university, and the also-famous (and hilarious, and fascinating, and informative) guidelines for copyeditors editing science fiction or fantasy for the first time.
Throughout, Teresa's wit and knowledge show and through the essays, stories, and reports she and her husband wrote we get a glimpse into a world of authors, fans, and publishers that no longer exists in the same form but which still influences science fiction today.
Even if you don't care about SF, the stories and the humor are worth reading. The copyeditor section is brilliant and educational for anyone interested in writing or language. In short, it's a great read. ...more
This book concerns a line. Our line is trying to get the attention of the dot he loves. The dot falls in love with a squiggle.
It is, in short, a classic love triangle. Ha! Get it? A triangle! I kill me!
Ahem... back to the review.
The book's point is about the line's self-concept and self-esteem. He sees the squiggle as everything he can't be (and he truly can't). By the end, he learns what he can be instead, and he gains the confidence to show the dot and the squiggle what he's made of.
It's a silly book, it's a book about love, it's a book about confidence, it's a book about math, and it's a book about being yourself.
Give it to kids and read it yourself if you're feeling down or lost. My beat-up copy has gotten me through a dark night or two. And reading it with my girlfriend always reminds us how to share ourselves with each other....more