Charles Stross’s Singularity Sky – 50 book challenge

Singularity Sky
Stross, Charles
Singularity Sky is one of the nominees for this year’s Hugo Award for best science fiction novel. While it was a good read, I don’t think it is quite up to that caliber. Definitely worth your time if you are a science fiction fan. It explores a couple of different themes in interesting ways, although they don’t quite all hang together. On one hand, it’s a story of the collision between stagnant culture and a post-Singularity information culture. That sets up a bunch of neat ideas worth thinking about. On the other hand, there’s also a sort of love-story between two agents behind enemy lines thing going on. These two major threads connect loosely, but not as well as you’d like. Overall, Stross is a very inventive mind and I’ll be looking for his other work as it comes to market. In the meantime, I’ve started reading his blog, Charlie’s Diary, which is equally stimulating

Elizabeth Moon’s Trading in Danger – 50 Book Challenge

Trading in Danger
Moon, Elizabeth
I’m a fan of Elizabeth Moon’s writing for no logical reason I can discern. Trading in Danger is an interesting mix of military and mercantile science fiction. It moves along at a good clip, although the heroine tends to be obtusely stupid at various points to string out her troubles. It does have some good passages on stepping into new leadership positions. Not one of Moon’s better efforts.

Richard Morgan's Altered Carbon – 50 Book Challenge

Altered Carbon
Morgan, Richard

This was getting lots of buzz in different places that I trust. I picked it up and browsed it in the book store and put it back several times before I finally decided I was going to read it. Glad I did.

What makes good science fiction work, and the reason I continue to make it such a major component of my fiction reading, is to make plausible hypotheses about a technology innovation and then be relentless in pursuing that “what if” wherever your understanding of behavior and society leads. Morgan does exactly that. If technology could give you a real-time backup brain that essentially lets you cheat death (but not pain), where does that take you? To some frequently nasty but compelling places.

John Brunner's Shockware Rider – 50 Book Challenge

Shockwave Rider
Brunner, John

Long before William Gibson launched the genre of “cyber-punk”, Brunner was writing about the impact of information technology and accelerating change on society. This is Brunner’s effort to understand what Toffler’s Future Shock might feel like in human terms. To me, it’s one of the more effective examples of why someone once described science-fiction writers as the “advance planning department for the human race.” And it’s a hell of a good story, besides.

I re-read this story every couple of years and still find it compelling. I marvel at Brunner’s ability to extrapolate how the collision of technology and human nature is likely to play out. This time I picked it up again because of a recommendation from Evil Genius Chronicles to check out some music written as a backdrop to the story, which was also worth the download.

David Allen’s Ready for Anything – 50 Book Challenge

Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life
Allen, David

I’m definitely a fan of David Allen. His first book, Getting Things Done, should definitely be on your reading list, as should his new blog. Ready for Anything is an organized collection of David’s periodic essays and reflections on getting things done. Each is only a page or two long, but contains distilled wisdom and helps prod backsliders like me into action.

David Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself – 50 Book Challenge

The Man Who Folded Himself
Gerrold, David

This is a book that’s been recommended to me off and on over the years. It’s in print again and after getting hooked on Gerrold’s War Against the Chtorr series last summer I read this back in January. I think I like Heinlein’s “By His Bootstraps” a little bit better, but this is definitely a keeper in the time-travel sub-genre. What it does nicely is to explore the human dimension relentlessly.

Dan Brown's Deception Point – 50 Book Challenge

Deception Point
Brown, Dan

More from Dan Brown. He’s not Tom Clancy quite yet, but he’s working in territory that I find interesting in its own right. Here he explores how power and scientific knowledge interact. For those, like me, who bias toward science and the rational and don’t naturally pick up on the human and the natural, Deception Point helps you remember why those with high EQs are typically in charge of those with high IQs.

Dan Brown's Digital Fortress – 50 Book Challenge

Digital Fortress : A Thriller
Brown, Dan

I thought The Da Vinci Code was ok but ultimately implausible and I thought the ending was pulled out of a hat. On the other hand, there’s no question that Dan Brown can write a good page turner, so I went looking for his earlier books (what can I say, when it comes to reading I am a gourmand not a gourmet). Digital Fortress was Brown’s first book, I believe, and I found it much more satisfying than the Da Vinci Code. What I found particularly interesting is how he explores how technical plausibility collides with the human dimensions of fear and paranoia in large organizations. His canvas here is the NSA, but the lessons are worth thinking about in more mundane contexts. So you get a nice thriller that moves and some food for thought about how digital technology affects big organizations. A nice twofer.

Heinlein's For Us the Living – 50 Book Challenge

For Us, The Living : A Comedy of Customs
Heinlein, Robert A.

I’ve been a Heinlein fan almost from the time I could read. I probably started with Rocket Ship Galileo when I was 10 or 11. The reviews of this lost first novel are accurate. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this to someone who wasn’t already a fan. But it is fascinating to see the origins of so many of the ideas and stories that came later. Got it as a Christmas present and finished it as the New Year began.

Wild Eastern Standard Tribe remixes

Wild Eastern Standard Tribe remixes. Trevor Smith has whipped up two amazing remixes of Eastern Standard Tribe, my new novel. The first is a “speed-reader,” based on the research of Xerox PARC researcher Rich Gold, which flashes the book, one word at a time, up on the screen, at a high rate of speed. It is astonishingly readable, and makes you feel like you’ve found a back-door to your brain’s comprehension nodes. The second is a “PurpleSlurped” version of the book, in which every paragraph is given its own link, so that one can easily refer to a specific passage of the text. Link (Thanks, Trevor!) [Boing Boing Blog]

Cory has put his newest book out there for all of us to play with. My old eyes will be reading the dead trees version I suspect, but I still appreciate having both the bits and the atoms available.