Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Information Flow

Neal Stephenson; Cryptonomicon (Avon Books; 1999; ISBN 0-380-97346-4; cover by Amy Halperin).

I first read this book in 1999 and it is the first book by Neal Stephenson that I had finished. To this date I have read neither Snow Crash or The Diamond Age (I will make it through both, someday...). I brought it with me to a tech conference during those heady days before the internet bubble burst (and darker things than that happened soon after that). I consumed it within two days. When the paperback came out and promised a sequel...of sorts, I bought them and consumed them as well.

Cryptonomicon runs two parallel stories, across time. One main thread follows a number of people on the road up to and the journeys during World War II. Historical figures such as Alan Turing mix in with fictional characters as they move from Pearl Harbor to England to Sweden and Finland to the Philippines and more. The second story follows a group, some of which are descended from members of the first group, as they build a technology start-up and jump from the United States to Japan to the Philippines. Real history and made-up history, nifty technology, buried treasure, kinky sex, true love, codes and computers and more.

This was my third run through the book, the first time since around 2000. Not only did it stand up well (even though the "present day" sections now feel more quaintly historical than the sections of the book set during WWII), but it managed to surprise me (again) and keep me captivated even when Stephenson has two character's expound for several paragraphs. The story never felt like it slowed, even then.

Still wondering about Enoch Root though. The Roman Catholic version of the Wandering Jew? Somebody who plays too much with lightning? Twins across generations instead of in one generation or what?

Good stuff. I have no plans to re-tackle The Baroque Cycle, in the near future, but this was a good warm-up.
Sleepless in California

Harlan Ellison; Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed (E-Reads Ltd. via Webscriptions; ASIN B003XREVCA; cover by Leo & Diane Dillon).

Made up of: Introduction (Marty Clark); You Don't Know Me, I Don't Know You; Stealing Tomorrow (Tom Reamy); Down the Rabbit-Hole to TV-Land; Revealed at Last! What Killed the Dinosaurs! And You Don't Look So Terrific Yourself; Epiphany; Rolling Dat Ole Debbil Electronic Stone; A Love Song to Jerry Falwell (in embryonic form and under assorted titles); Science Fiction: Turning Reality Inside-Out; Defeating the Green Slime; How You Stupidly Blew Fifteen Million Dollars a Week, Avoided Having an Adenoid-Shaped Swimming Pool in Your Backyard, Missed the Opportunity to Have a Mutually Destructive Love Affair with Clint Eastwood and/or Racqel Welch, and Otherwise Pissed Me Off; Fear Not Your Enemies; Face Down in Gloria Swanson's Swimming Pool; From Alabamy, with Hate; Leiber: A Few Too Few Words; Serita Rosenthal Ellison: A Eulogy; Centerpunching; Voe Doe Dee Oh Doe; Robert Silverberg: An Appreciation; Cheap Thrills on the Road to Hell; "True Love": Groping for the Holy Grail.

A relatively brief collection of essays by one of our soon-to-be-retired practioners of the short form in fiction and non-fiction. Sharp, biting, occasionally funny. Might be a tad intense to read one after the other. Ellison pulls no punches when it comes to science fiction, television, culture, education and more. Highly recommended, timeless. Mass media needs more biting, but intelligent spokespersons, not the idiots that currently inhabit it. Mass media needs to bottle or clone Ellison and make him available to counterpunch the spokescritters they currently employ.

Counts as twenty (20) entries in the 2011 Year in Shorts.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Earth-Crossing

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a accidentally-discovered Earth-crossing asteroid. What else lurks in the big dark?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Cool

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Cass A supernova and resulting expanding cloud of debris. What is cooling inside?

Friday, March 04, 2011

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Nearside!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a nice interactive map of the Moon ("mouseover" the image). Too bad we're too timid to go back!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

California Dreaming

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the California Nebula (NGC 1499).

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Time Marches On

Another month brings us...another Ansible!

Iain Banks is now a recognized tourist attraction in VisitScotland's latest guide to literary Scotland: 'Iain Banks (b.1954), novelist, author of numerous sensational works combining fluent storytelling, political engagement and moral indignation, and many science fiction novels.' (issued 21 February) [DH] At least the sf isn't sensational.


Tweets. The Ubiquitous Stephen Fry: 'Off to Washington DC for one of the weirdest gigs of my life. Playing Hamlet on stage. In Klingon. Mad but true.' (27 February) [MPJ]

Tweets. Ken MacLeod: 'the unit of space opera is the hamilton. One page = 1 millihamilton.' [BB]
Docking Station

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Discovery at dock.